A Tale by J.T. Hilltop’s Son
Growing up in the 90’s was quite a challenge. I mean the generation before had it so easy, Rock concerts every weekend, smoking weed wherever they wanted, and the only threat they got from their parents was a haircut. I’ve been told by my old man that my Grandpa used to chase him around with scissors. I mean shit dude, I can’t get away with half the shit my Pops did. He told me he used to roll joints during study hall but I can’t even carry rolling papers anywhere near school. Which brings me to my first brush with the law and the night my Dad had to come pick me up at the police station. Funny thing is my old man looks more like a criminal than I do. Oh sure my pink Mohawk looked rad and bad and all but my Dad used to be a biker outlaw. Well maybe not an outlaw biker exactly but he was a hippie tree hugging Harley owner and he still looks the same, just like a fossilized version. He’s still got a ponytail but not much on the top so he covers it with a bandana and he’s an ultra liberal peacenik. My step Mom on the other hand is not quite so liberal. Dad calls her his counter-balance, like he brought them close to the edge and she kept them both from falling over it. So I’m glad the cops called him first and not my step Mom. That night my rebel Dad came to pick me up from the cop station in a beat up VW. I had the distinct feeling he was no stranger to cop stations back in his day.
So what was my big infraction that led to handcuffs and a free ride to the cop station? I was busted for what I mentioned earlier, carrying rolling papers on school grounds. And what is significant about being on school grounds? Why it’s a drug free zone of course. Apparently that makes the crime of possessing paraphernalia for the purpose of having a good time a major offense. Dad came in looking all concerned and worried talking to the cops as if I had broken some felony weed law or something. I was praying it was just one of his little tricks to get us out of there.
Once we were out of the precinct parking lot he asked me in his calm hippie Dad voice what happened. I told him my version of the truth because we have always had a very honest relationship like that. I explained to him how we were smoking a joint before the dance at the High school and the cops came running over. Camron through his bag of weed and Stephanie tossed the joint long before they got there and it pissed them off. Not finding anything they searched us all and I had rolling papers in my pocket so they took me to the precinct for possessing drug paraphernalia on school property. A drug free zone. Straight away he gave me the like it or not its still illegal lecture, and the not ever on or near school property lecture. We drove in silence after the semi-lecture for a minute until he said, “ You mean drug free zone isn’t where you get free drugs?” He scoffed then continued, “Paraphernalia? Rolling papers? Are they fucking kidding?” The two of us laughed and my old man ran off some of his corny old cop jokes, like someone stole the toilet from the cop station and they have nothing to go on, or he points to the back seat and says he picked up a dozen donuts in case I was in serious trouble. He always admitted he felt pot should be legal like alcohol even though he doesn’t smoke it anymore. That is to say he tells me he doesn’t smoke but I have my suspicions, every once in a while I feel like my stash is a few bowls light. Anyway, bottom line my old man wasn’t a big fan of cops busting kids for having fun. I suspected my step mom Jenny felt different.
When we got a block away from home and he said, “I’m gonna have to act all mad at home cuz I gotta at least pretend to be a responsible adult and Jenny will be expecting me to ground you. I’ll need to issue some form of punishment, she’ll think that’s important but I mean fucking A, rolling papers is a fucking crime now? Look Ian, I get that it seems unfair. In fact is unfair, but that’s how the games of the establishment are played little cool man, you don’t try to beat the law, you work around it. You gotta fool them at their own game. Give them enough of what they want and let them think they have the upper hand. If you fight them they just use stronger punishment, that’s their warped mentality, to punish you harshly until you break. So here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna tell Jenny that you just made a small mistake because you were unaware of the consequences of smoking marijuana. You haven’t committed any bad crime and no one got hurt and education will work better than punishment. So you will write me a four page report, two pages on the physiological consequences, and two pages on the consequences marijuana can have on society. That way you will learn the err of your ways!” That man was a fucking genius!
We drove home and I went straight to my room. Dad explained to Jenny what was up and downplayed the incident. She apparently agreed that the report would be the best punishment and so it was set. He used that report when he and I had to go in front of the town board and they were so impressed they dropped the charge and expunged my record completely. Man I really adored that man. He could spin a story like nobody’s business. So I knew that night when he came into my room to talk about the whole situation it was a perfect time to distract him by asking him about his youth. He loves talking about his younger days in the “turbulent sixties.“ One character in particular I had always wanted to know more about was his best friend. I only met him a few times when I was young but Pops tells me he came over all the time when I was a baby. I didn’t remember that and I don’t even know his real name. My big sister and I just called him “Uncle Goatleg”. That alone had to be a good story.
“Hey Pops, you know you’ve always been so honest with me and I know you smoked back in your day, but whenever I think about what it must have been like for you growing up the one name that keeps coming to my mind is Uncle Goatleg. All I remember about him is this really nice guy with long hair and a very long beard who rode a motorcycle and drank a lot of beer. I think I remember you always being happy when he was around and I figure you call him Goatleg because of his limp. I assume it was caused by a motorcycle accident or something cause I vaguely remember your motorcycles and the two of you giving me and Molly rides wearing football helmets. Why was he called Uncle Goat-leg?” I could see a huge smile on my dads face as he reminisced. From what I recall Uncle Goat-leg was as tall as my dad and very muscular. He had very thick curly reddish brown hair that danced down over his shoulders. My dad always had a short beard, but Goat-legs chinstrap was very long. The full rust colored hair sprouted from his chin and went clear down to the middle of his chest. The hair on his face was so thick I can’t say for sure if he even had lips. Santa would have been jealous at how beautiful that beard was. Like I said, he has a bit of a limp, and he walked with the assistance of the coolest walking stick I’d ever seen. A dark red hardwood cane carved with the most magnificent black and yellow cobra snake. The head of the snake lay right at the handle with it’s mouth wide open and fangs showing so he could hold his hand inside the snakes mouth. I recall the detail of the snake as almost mesmerizing, the tiny scales, the flared head and sharp teeth were kind of menacing and I’m sure I stared at it every time he came over. Without really ever knowing Uncle Goat-leg I admired him greatly and wished he had come around more often.
“Holy shit uncle Goat-leg! I’m surprised you remember him. His biker name was Redbeard, his real name was Kevin, and we called him Uncle Goat-leg because of you and Molly. He injured his leg in a motorcycle accident. Yeah, he and I rode together a few years before I had to sell my bike. Kev had a gorgeous tricked out Harley shovelhead. What a beautiful bike. Me and Kevin go all the way back to kindergarten where we got into a fistfight over some toy or something. It was the first fight for both of us and we got sent to the principals office. While waiting, we glared each other down still pissed, and then Kevin says “I hear the principal looks like a grasshopper. A fat bald grasshopper.” I broke out laughing because he really did and we both making cricket noises and acted the fools. All through school we called him ‘Grasshopper’. We became best friends instantly and learned we only lived three blocks away from each other. Stayed best friends until he left. We did everything together rode bicycles, went to the beach, dances, girls, rock concerts, everything. We were together all the time just about all the way through school. We even learned to drive in the same car, your Uncle Jack’s Barracuda. When the time came we went to buy our first motorcycles at the same place.” I wasn’t sure what I wanted to hear more, the story of their friendship or the story of why Uncle Goat-leg left but I opted for the latter. “When did he leave and where did he go? Why did he go? Did he ride away on his bike? Do you know where he is now?” Pops chuckled, “Slow down son, it’s a bit of a story. Let me get us something to drink.” As he got up he smiled and his chuckling voice trailed off, “Always with a million questions Ian.”
When he came back a few minutes later he had a large mug of beer for himself and a soda for me. “Hey, can I have a beer?” I got the you know better than that look as he smiled. “Not this time Ian, but someday soon we’ll share a few. Tonight is all about how Uncle Goat-leg got his name. I perked up instantly. “Who started me or Molly? How old was I? Did he have the cane then?” Dad took a long swig of his beer and shook his head, “One question at a time Bud. He came over one night and you were like two and a half years old. You were full of questions even back then. You asked him over and over what happened to his leg, why does he limp, was it from the motorcycle, non stop questions. Kevin laughed and rolled up his pant leg to show you his disfigured and scarred leg. You said ’Ew gross, it looks like a goats foot.’ We laughed our asses off and then he roared, ‘Yea Ian, Uncle Goat-leg, that’s my name. I’m your Uncle Goat-leg.’ Every time he came over after that we called him Uncle Goatleg. You and your sister are the only two people in the world he’s let call him that.