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Meet Lamar Burns

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Born: Wrightsville, GA
Occupation: Retired, civil service

Note: this is from a longer piece of recorded oral history I did with my dad, who is the best storyteller and baddest-ass badass I know. He was born in Wrightsville, Georgia and later moved to Warner Robins to work at the base, where he met my mother. The two of them moved to Macon after they got married, and have lived in the same little house in Bloomfield for 45 years. –Traci Burns

All the friends I used to have, they’re dead now. The things I was doing back then, the kind of life I was living, it was dangerous. The friends I had, they didn’t have no sense. They didn’t have sense enough to know that you can’t just keep doing and doing, you got to take care of yourself and do a little at a time and last a lot longer. Or else do it all and be gone. Where they’d go out four or five nights a week, I’d make my week at work, go out on Friday and Saturday, and Sunday I’d come home and stay with my mama and eat them good groceries and I’d be ready to go to work on Monday. I tried to tell them, that hard living would kill a bear. You can’t do it. You got to take care of that old body some, look after it and give it so much time every day. Everybody should.

***

We went to a square dance and we had a borrowed car. There was four of us – me and some guy, the guy that owned the car’s brother, and then two more friends. We were drinking. We were coming home from a square dance and the dang state patrol stopped us. I seen ‘em, they turned around and I knew they was coming. We had some liquor in the car. I pulled over, slipped back and got in the back with the other three. The car was left running and all of us was sitting in the back. The state patrol come up and shined his light in and didn’t see nobody, then they shined the light in the back and it was four somebodies back there. He said he’d been a state patrol twenty years and he never had stopped a car before that didn’t have a damn driver. He wanted to know who was driving it and wouldn’t nobody admit it. Finally I recognized the state patrol – I was working at the VA hospital and he’d been a patient in the hospital, plus he’d married a girl from my hometown of Wrightsville. He recognized me, so I told him I was driving. He let us go, but he didn’t let me drive. He said “You sit right where you at, let one of these older fellers drive.” That was one nightmare that we got by, but we got by.

Another time we went to a dance – the only time I can ever recall getting my brother to go out. He got high, and I thought he was too high to drive and I asked him to let me drive him home. He did, and on the way between Cochran and Dublin I failed to dim my lights to an automobile and come to find out it was the State Troopers. I drove on down, stopped, and was taking a pee on the back bumper and I seen the lights pull up and I just kept letting it flow. It was two State Patrol and I told them what happened and they politely led me away and locked me up and let my brother go on home. My brother come got me the next morning, though. He come got me out of jail.

My daddy used to make moonshine in Wrightsville. I put him in the business. I give him the money, and I give him a car. I’d bring the liquor back on weekends. I’d bring two cases back, and the man that run the station down there – I lived on the dormitory on base – I’d pull up there and tell them I wanted to fill my car up with gas, and they’d get the liquor out, and they’d take out part and just give me the rest in cash. Anyway, I kept a gallon in the dormitory, and I kept the happiest maids. They’d all be gathered in my room when I come home. They’d shine my shoes. We lived right up from the civilian club, and that good liquor – whoo! – you could take one drink of it and feel it in your toenails.

One Christmas I got high as a kite and was headed home down Davis Drive from a dance, and I met the cops and run them off the road. They went in a ditch. I straightened up and was going on ahead and here they come to pull me over. They said that I got out of the car and walked up to them – I’m six foot two – and they said I stood between them, put my arms around each one of them, and said “Could you fellas show me a place where I could spend the night?” and they said “Yes sir, we certainly can.” They locked me up. I had on a new sportcoat and a new tie. It was cold out, and that liquor had me embalmed. I laid down and they said – they told the judge this, they said I was the sweetest drunk they’d ever locked up. My only request was “Would you fellas get me up at seven where I can be to work by eight?” and they said “Yes sir, we will,” and really and truly they come and woke me up at seven. I still had my necktie on and it wasn’t even wrinkled.

Right after this, me and my buddy had gotten a blind date and we taken the girls down there to a club on Highway 96, and I’d been drinking and he had too, but they was in the back, and coming back, the blue lights got behind me again. I said “Lord have mercy, they can’t get me again. It ain’t been two weeks since the last time. They’ll put me under the jail.” So I thought real quick, and I told that girl, my date, I said “Pretend like you’ve got appendicitis or something.” She laid down and went to groaning and moaning, and the troopers pulled up side of me and I said “I got somebody sick here, we need to get to the hospital!” and they said “Follow me!” Right through Warner Robins I went, wide open. When we got to the back of the hospital, I tried to jump on the ramp with the girl, and she weighed about as much as I did, and I fell. The troopers helped me get her in there, they was standing in there waiting, and there was a phone booth right there at the emergency room. I made like I was calling Dr. Albert, I had my hand on the phone, you know, I wasn’t really talking to nobody, but I stuck my head out and said “He said he’d be here about thirty minutes! Thank you fellas, preciate it!” and they left. In the meantime they had that girl in there with a white sheet over her and they was working on her. I said “Betty!” – her name was Betty, I still remember it – I said “It’s okay!” and she come out from under that sheet so fast. Them damn emergency room people like to died. I got a bill from my insurance for an emergency room visit after that.

Your mama straightened me up. I realized it was time to be a man and forget all that stuff. I was a man and I needed to start acting like one, for my mama, for my wife, and then you come along and I had to straighten up for you, too. I just decided to be a man and start looking after myself and doing what was right. I’m still trying.

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