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"I hitchhiked to California from Chester several times. There were so many cars on the road that my thumb would swell up to the size of my fist. Eventually I bought a used T-Model Ford that me and my musician buddy first drove to California in 1930. We played string music and took up a collection at various places. It took us about six weeks to get there, but we weren't in a hurry. We took in pretty good money.
"It seemed like every time I went to California or anywhere else in the T-Model Ford it would break down. One time in Louisiana, while me and my musician buddy were on our way to California, one of the tires on the T-Model blew out and I had to get a new one. I spotted a Catholic church off in the distance and the priest lived behind there. I told my buddy that I was going to see if I could beg $2 off the priest. I went to the priest’s house and knocked on the front door. A woman came to a little peek-hole in the door and slid back a little panel.
"You know that priests are called 'Father,' but I got tangled up in it, so I said, 'Is the Lord here?' She replied, 'Oh, you mean the Father. Yes, he’s here.' 'Well, I'd like to see him,' I said.
She went off and soon the priest came back to the little peek-hole. I told him that I wanted to get a couple of dollars. He asked me what I wanted with the $2. ‘To help me buy a car tire. I can get one for $4, and I have $2,' I answered.
'Why don’t you get a $2 tire?' he asked. 'This one is better,' I replied.
"We talked on a little while and he said, 'By gosh, we are going to have supper down here about 7 p.m. Will you come for supper?' 'Yeah, yeah. I'll come,' I answered. ‘Well, I be darned if I’m gonna give you the $2 when you come. You be here not later than 15 after seven.'
"I went back and told the man at the tire store to stay open so I could get the tire, and brought my buddy back with me. We went back to the priest’s house, but the priest already had eaten supper. He told the woman to let us in, and she took us to the dining place – a very large wooden table. The priest was so drunk that he was about ready to pass out. He staggered from one room down into the room where we were and said, 'Boys, help yourself to that cask of wine over there.'
"I didn’t know what to think. I had never drunk any wine at suppertime before. He told the woman, 'Give them anything they want. If we ain’t got it, go out and get it! By gosh, they are eating at my table now!' He staggered around and finally got to the doorway and got to laughing. He said, 'Boys, I bet you don’t know what I’m laughing at.' 'No sir, I don't,' I replied. 'I’m laughing cause I got something good to eat and you are sitting at my table eating it. By gosh, help yourself.'
"He went off and reckly scrambled back to where we were and said, 'You were wanting $2, were you?' I said, 'Yes, I shore do.' 'You go around playing music for people, but you won’t make them pay you enough, and then you run to me to get money for a tire. By gosh, I've got it too. You don’t believe it!' He pulled out two one dollar bills and said, 'Get yourself a good one.'
"The last we saw of the priest he was staggering off down the hall laughing."
To be continued.
Etters, 73, is a Chester native and an occasional contributor to The News & Reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.