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Sunday, bloody Sunday

One of my 5,000 or so pet theories is that every adult male has a scar on his chin. If not every male, then at least every one who was once a real boy, a “Look, Ma, no hands” boy, spelled B-O-Y.

I have a doozy of one, but because it’s obscured by my facial plumage, I never think of it. Last Sunday, however, it was the featured attraction of my visit to The Village Mercantile. Actually, the visit turned out less a visit than an unguided tour in The Time Machine.

It started simply enough. I popped in to pick up a book Jenn X had for me. When I turned to leave, I found myself face-to-face with a stranger, who cut right to the chase.

“You write for the Enterprise, right?” she said.

Assuming she didn’t confuse my writing with Jack Drury’s, and my picture with Lynda Peer’s, I pled guilty as charged.

“I’ve been reading it for years,” she said. “I love all the stuff about town from the old days.”

“You from town? I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“What’s your name?”

“Rickard,” she said.

“Rickard?” I said. “Was your dad Tex Rickard?”

“Yes,” she said.

In a flash, that stranger was a stranger no more. Instead, she was Caroline Rickard, a quintessential cutie from my Gilded Youth.

Caroline was my age; her sister Ree was two years older, and her brother Buzz was an old man, maybe four years older than me.

Her parents were lovely people — always warm and friendly. Her dad drove the Railway Express truck and everyone referred to him by his nickname, Tex. Did he come from Texas? I’ve no idea. And while Tex Rickard sounds like the name of some country music star, it was actually the name of the early 20th century’s most famous boxing promoter.

Caroline went to St. Bernard’s, so I didn’t know her from school. Instead, the nexus of our acquaintanceship was The Ritz. No, not the elegant NYC hotel, but a small beach on Ampersand bay, so dubbed by Tex, and where a bunch of families whiled away idyllic summer days. My fam and the Rickards were among them.

The Rickards moved to Malone and while talking to Caroline I remembered the last time I saw her — irony of ironies! — was on a one-time visit to the Malone beach in 1959.

Also while talking to her, I suddenly noticed I was stroking my chin — something I never do. But why, and why then, I wondered?

And then it hit me — the scar!

A fall from grace

Caroline had nothing to do with the scar … but her dad did.

This Tale of the Scar begins in My Home Town on a sunny fall Sunday in 1951 at Adirondack Tire, then at 117 Broadway. Adirondack Tire, later taken over by the Mace family, was then owned by the Kerr brothers, Bill and Earl. To me they looked like twins — two completely bald guys who smoked cigars and each owned a fat boxer named Karo.

My bro, being two years older, said they didn’t look identical, especially since one did the actual recapping work and always wore a black t-shirt, and the other was behind the desk, wearing white shirt and tie. Mind you, I was only 4 when this epic unfolded, so I’m sure he was right, but in my memory they’re one and the same.

Anyhow, my father liked to stop in and shmooze with them from time to time, which is what he was doing that day. To little kids few things are worse than standing around, listening to old men talking old man stuff (though I confess, for reasons that probably would’ve landed me on a shrink’s couch today, I loved the smell of cigar smoke and tires).

So my bro and I were milling around in front of the building, and when we got tired of milling, we decided to sit on the fence. The fence was made of pipes a foot in diameter, and my bro hopped up on the top one as gracefully as a circus acrobat. I followed suit, but with one glaring difference: He stayed firmly anchored atop the pipe; my stay was tenuous … and temporary. I sat there for a couple of wobbly and very long seconds, and then pitched forward on the asphalt, taking it on the chin — figuratively and literally.

Once I recovered from the initial shock, I realized blood was running down my chin and my shirt and puddling on the ground. I went into total hysterics and screamed my way into the building.

Needlework

I was a mess — freaking, shrieking and peaking. But luckily, a cooler head prevailed. What to me looked like a fatal wound was small potatoes to my father: He was an eye surgeon who’d been in the Army in WWII, so on a wound scale of 1-10, my chin may have rated a .03 to him, if that. He herded me and my bro into the car, drove home, and told my mother he was taking me to the office to stitch me up.

As soon as we headed to the office, my mother’s phone rang. It was Tex Rickard. He had some kind of eye irritation that he’d tried to ignore till Monday, but it had turned into a raging infection. My mother told him to drive to the office, and she’d call my father and tell him, and so he’d be ready for Tex when he arrived.

Which, as it turned out, was only half of the equation: While my father was ready for Tex, Tex was completely un-ready for the scene he landed in. There I was stretched out on the waiting room table, whining, puling, gasping, blood running down my face, snot pouring out my nose.

“OK, Tex,” said my father, “time for you to be an O.R. nurse.”

Tex just stood there, flummoxed.

Being an O.R. nurse in that situation didn’t require any medical training or experience. In fact, Tex’s role was ridiculously simple (at least in theory): All he had to do was hold me down long enough for my father to do his stitchery.

Alas, poor Tex.

Alas, poor me.

While I don’t remember the whole experience I remember a couple of graphic scenes. One was my father holding a large curved needle that looked about as big as a ten penny nail.

The other was Tex, holding me in place firmly, but not painfully. And while he was doing that, I started to calm down. It wasn’t due to his method of restraint, but due to his eye: It looked like something scripted by Edgar Allen Poe and designed by Boris Karloff. It was half-shut, but bright red and goopy, with a bunch of sickly green glop oozing out each corner.

I stared at it in mind-numbing amazement. It looked like an eye, kinda sorta — but not like any eye I’d ever seen. It was all so weird I forgot about myself, my near-fatal wound, my father’s embroidery — all of it. I was in an altered state — hypnotized and overwhelmed by the eye that wasn’t an eye.

And then, before I knew it, my first experience with major surgery was over, and I was sitting in the waiting room, wiping the tears, snot and sebaceous secretions off my face and feeling my pulse and psyche return to normal.

Meanwhile, my father was ministering to Tex in the examining room, blessedly out of my sight — and me equally blessedly out of theirs.

Finally, the business with Tex was done, we said our goodbyes and headed to our cars. Then my father, as a peace gesture and for healing balm, took me to the Altamont Dairy Bar for an ice cream cone. Which I thought that was only fair.

But I also thought if he’d wanted to be completely fair, he should’ve brought Tex with us for a hot fudge sundae.

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