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The Idle American
"Remembrances of Rolling Thunder..."
Wednesday, April 3, 2013 • Posted April 3, 2013

Unlikelihood hardly ever deserves bold-face emphasis as much as a classic car for sale now in May, Texas.

It’s a 1958 Chevrolet Impala, and when May School Superintendent Don Rhodes saw it at Rick’s Automotive, he quickly stopped, eager to closely examine the immaculate vehicle.

Licking his chops and shifting his memory into overdrive, he thought of his very own ‘58 Chevy, a carbon copy of the one now for sale. He and his twin, Ron, pooled resources to share the $600 cost of their ’58 Impala in the summer of ’65. He winced at today’s price tag—$32,000….

    *****

It was the third vehicle the twins purchased jointly, starting at age 14. In the fall of ’66, when they were students at Cisco Junior College, Ron’s part-time job in Cisco and Don’s in Rising Star necessitated a “fleet” expansion. Don wound up with the Impala, and Ron bought a used Volkswagen.

The Chevy got gallons per mile and the VW, miles per gallon; so what? Gasoline cost 25 cents a gallon.

Besides, Don figured, the sleek Impala with long tail fins, continental kit, leather seats and two-toned bronze and white paint would turn more girls’ heads than Ron’s bug….

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Fact is, he’d already spotted the lass he wanted to impress. She was a senior guard on the Rising Star High School basketball team that was to play at a tournament in Early on a December night in ’66.

Don, 19, was contemplating the “oohs and ahhhs” from students—particularly Sue Harris—when he glided to a stop at the tournament.

His plans turned to clabber when an act of “brotherly love” passed all understanding….

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Ron requested a car swap for a trip to Abilene. Don agreed without a whimper. Shucks, he’d show off his automobile another time.

No one needed to know his conveyance was a slug bug. For one evening, his “need for speed” could be postponed.

Mother Nature would have the last laugh, though. During the game, a “blue norther” blew in. Headed north on Highway 183 for the 30-mile return trip, Don floor-boarded the VW, finally reaching a top speed of 30 MPH….

    *****

Soon, the team bus easily passed his struggling bug. He scrunched down, hoping to “remain anonymous.”

The “scrunching” didn’t work. Sue spotted him and waved when the bus was alongside.

The good news is that he took advantage of the bus’ draft to reach 50 MPH for the rest of the way. Even better is that two years later, he and Sue were married. Come June, they’ll observe their 45th wedding anniversary….

    *****

Don started at May as a math teacher and during his 38-year career there, he “coached and principaled”—plus a ton of other chores—before becoming superintendent nearly 33 years ago.

The district serves a big chunk of Brown County and enrolls 270 students. About 300 people live in town, where Ricky Enriquez operates the only ongoing business. May’s considerable vitality is measured by its school, three churches, community center and volunteer fire department.

Rhodes is revered for what he does—both at school and beyond….

    *****

He and Sue, in charge of the library since 1981, are deeply immersed in the community. They’ll serve as long as they look forward to work each day. Folks there hope that’ll be a long, long time; the names “Rhodes” and “May” are synonymous.

They’ve laughed together—and cried together—particularly on that April day in 1995 when the Rhodes’ son, Ethan, was killed in an auto accident on a slick road not far from home. He was 17—three weeks before graduation.

Across the street from the Rhodes live David and Allison (their daughter, a 5th grade teacher) and three grandchildren—Hannah, Eli and Isaac, in the 8th, 9th and 10th grades, respectively. It’s an “early to rise, late to bed” kind of home, what with all the school and church activities….

    *****

The Rhodes own a 12-year-old van and a 2007 pick-up. Still, he’s got that ’58 Impala down the street on his mind.

If Jay Leno, king of classic cars, should drive through May, look out. He’s about to leave The Tonight Show, so he may turn to expanding his collection.

There could be a bidding war, with $32,000 as the starting price….

    *****

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Twitter: @donnewbury. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

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