Birth control can certainly be a problem, but the noninvasive kind? That never would have occurred to me–except for a rhythm method user missing a beat, of course–until now.
As a result of this evening’s reading, I’ll be requesting permission from our local newspaper to reprint Dick Geary’s latest column in its entirety. That’s something I’ve never done before despite presently having more than a thousand posts of my own on this website.
Before I spring Geary’s column on our readers, a bit of backstory:
Dateline: Deer Lodge, Montana, February 25, 2019. Outside, snow keeps piling up and overnight temperatures keep dipping below zero. Running necessary errands, I’d been to Anaconda where downtown intersections preferred serious winter drivers and more than a few cars required a push from voluntary mules, otherwise known as men. I’d even taken advantage of a golden opportunity to play mule once before managing to make it out of town. All four snow tires on my 1970 Impala got great workouts.
Back home, the streetside mailbox yielded two weekly issues of our local paper, the Silver State Post. Later, when chores were finished for the evening, I settled in to read both issues from cover to cover.
The Silver State Post is the best weekly paper I’ve encountered in my seventy-five years on this Earth. Local coverage is outstanding. Best of all, however, is Dick Geary’s column. He writes in stream-of-consciousness fashion, but what a stream. Remembrances of the past, always informative, sometimes poignant, occasionally downright hilarious. Dick is a few years younger than I am, and while I can’t claim to know the gentleman personally, we grew up not far from each other. Both of us sprouted and ripened on working ranches, though my father’s rattlesnake-and-barbed-wire operation west of Drummond was much smaller than the comprehensive Helmville operation Dick describes.
Due to the way the county lines ran, we attended different schools. That said, I’m familiar with both his home town and his “high school town,” which happened to be…Deer Lodge. In my teens, I chased girls here more than anywhere else, mostly because the lovely young ladies in my home town of Drummond knew me too well. I had a smart mouth in those days. Think Eddie Haskell of Leave it to Beaver. My first wife was from Deer Lodge and Dick Geary undoubtedly attended Powell County High School in the same class, since they were both seniors in 1965.
Hey, I could ask my ex. If we were on speaking terms.
Dick’s column is the highlight of the newspaper, at least for me. The February 13 article was about sheep, which my father did not raise–though he did have me skin one that died while being transported for hire in his stock truck. So much for my experience with sheep.
Ah, but February 20! What a gem! By the time I got toward the middle of Geary’s unique tale, I was laughing out loud. By the time I finished, I would have fallen out of my recliner if it hadn’t had arms to restrain my out-of-control mirth.
Here’s the full text of Mr. Geary’s “Country Musings” column, reprinted with permission from the Silver State Post. (Note: The paper’s website URL is sspmt.com for those who’d like to check it out.)
The incident that put a cap on his business venture
by Dick Geary
I’ve always kept myself on the outer edges of society, preferring to observe its actions and ideas with a soft contempt, always keeping my “ironic distance” from the point of my own contrived superiority. I think this trait began in the spring of 1965, when I was a senior in high school.
In those days, Lawrence Welk and Art Linkletter ruled the TV world. The supposed moral decay of the later 1960s hadn’t yet reached Montana. It was then that I saw through the arbitrary standards imposed on us by others.
As teenage boys, our priorities were beer, sex, and cars, all tolerated somewhat by the adult world. Given the morality of the day, I think we could have purchased opium easier than we could buy a mere condom. That’s what got me in trouble.
A friend once mustered the courage to walk into a drugstore and ask for a couple condoms. The pharmacist merely walked into the back and called the boy’s parents. That’s what we faced.
But the summer of 1964, before school started, I was browsing an old OUTDOOR LIFE magazine, and noticed a tiny advertisement that read: “Sundry rubber goods. Write for brochure.” So I did, and it answered my condom hopes.
When I got back to Deer Lodge for my senior year, I ordered a dozen of their best. The condoms came in small tubes that fit perfectly into the shell loops of my duck hunting coat. So I was off to school to get into the condom business.
The profit margin was 300%. I paid $6 per dozen and sold them in 15 minutes for $18. I was both rich and popular. Life was good.
For three months I had a monopoly on the business, but an acquaintance asked if he might get the brochure and start his own latex venture. There was room for both of us, so I agreed.
I was selling the top of the line, and only a dozen at a time. The other guy ordered by the gross, and in a matter of weeks there were cheap condoms hanging on classroom doors and rolling down the halls. It was anarchy, so I retired from the business out of fear I’d be exposed as the condom pusher I was.
On New Year’s Eve a friend of ours got hauled to jail for alcohol possession. When they asked him for his wallet, he put it on the counter where it sprang open to expose a half-dozen cheap condoms. The kid had never had a date in his life, but he was ready.
So the investigation was on. They found the people who flooded the market with cheap condoms, yet with only 400 students in the high school, and maybe 5,000 people in the entire town, it took them until April to run me down.
I was in Vocational Agriculture class when the cops walked in. They were in uniform, armed, and both weighed over 200 pounds. I weighed less than 90 pounds, and didn’t have a weapon, so I knew escape was impossible.
They put me between them and we walked to the principal’s office. We had to pass in front of the study hall, so my arrest was common knowledge in a matter of minutes.
The principal was a kind, very intelligent man, and he appeared to see my situation as a nuisance of no real importance. Even at my naïve age, I thought the same.
But the cops had their jobs, so they questioned me as to how I got my start in such a nefarious business. I was comfortable as I told them how it happened.
Then we all sat in silence. They didn’t know what to do with me. I had signed the order form I was going to use as being over 21 years old. The cops had it because the other cowards had given it to them.
Misrepresenting my age was illegal, but that was unimportant to the police. Their problem with me was a moral one, and they wanted to find the source of the evil that had dominated the high school for weeks.
So we sat. Finally, they said I could go back to class, and I was a free teenager again. But I was out of the condom business.
I think that’s what planted the seed of disdain for societal standards in me. I entered a world of skepticism, and it set the tone for my life.
They told me that the incident caused turmoil both in the school and in Deer Lodge. I’m sure they thought I was probably a Communist, bent on destroying America’s precious morals from the inside.
I know I prevented any number of hurried and unwanted marriages, but that was forgotten in the midst of the uproar I caused. Self-assumed moral superiority allows people to feel better about themselves when they have nothing to offer the world, save judgments and opinions.
Maybe this is one of those stories where you “had to be there,” but I don’t think so. If this post doesn’t get some lively comments from readers, I’ll be honestly surprised.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Dick Geary was out of line in his senior year or in developing skepticism, considering the experience he had as a senior. In truth, I was also known at times as a problem child in high school. Yet Mr. Geary and I possessed wildly different perspectives. His adventure–or misadventure, depending on how you look at it–stemmed from a naturally entrepreneurial nature while my “black marks” were powered by something else entirely. Two examples:
In one case, four of us high school boys in Drummond, Montana, lifted our music teacher’s 1959 Volkswagen Bug bodily and set it up on the sidewalk when no one was looking, just because we’d given up on the grander idea of figuring out how to get the 1,600 lb. vehicle up on the roof of the school. The car was new and different in those days. We were hazing it.
Another time, during my senior year in December of 1960, the high school administration let each class know that we’d be having an afternoon get-together in the auditorium prior to letting school out for Christmas holidays. Each class was invited to act out a skit of its own devising, subject to prior approval by the Superintendent. We had to dance around the truth to get approval without letting the boss man know what we were really planning for a punch line. For some reason, he didn’t seem to entirely trust us. Thankfully, seniors went last. One boy strode onto the gym floor, announcing loudly to the rest of the students and faculty assembled in the bleachers, “The Viper is coming in ten years!”
Moments later, a second boy followed suit. “The Viper is coming in five years!”
Then a third. “The Viper is here today!”
That was my cue. Wearing my letterman’s sweater, I marched out like Alexander conquering kingdoms, left hand holding a brown paper bag, right hand in the bag, grasping the contents just so. “I’M THE VIPER!” I bellowed, “ANYBODY VANT A VIPE?” With that, I yanked the full roll of toilet paper from the brown bag, kept a firm grip on the leading edge with thumb and forefinger, and smoothly threw the roll forward so that it traveled a good forty feet across the gym floor, unrolling merrily all the way.
Most of the boys thought it was an “okay” skit. Most of the girls didn’t like it at all. The Superintendent was incensed. “He wants to see you,” his office girl told me as we were all dismissed and I was bolting for the door. I ignored her, made it to the bus, and by the time school started again in January, he’d cooled off.
The parallel is interesting. In jest, I offered a free hygiene aid (toilet paper) to fellow students in 1960, a few years before Dick Geary began churning out initial profit and eventual condemnation as the birth control king of his school. Clearly, we’re both health oriented. But my stories can’t hold a candle to his. Geary stands as the uncontested two-county Champion of Unintentional Comedy for the early sixties, at least in my book.
The whole time I was reading his column, I kept yelling to no one in particular, “I never came up with anything that good!”