I remember back when I first started on the police department and was put into the car with the Whizz. On Sunday there would be local people playing baseball in the park at Hardy Avenue. Whizz and I would pull in and watch as much of the game as we could. Being on a Sunday, most of the time we would get to watch much of the game.
There was a man who rode a bicycle that had two small kegs mounted on the rear. Shorty, as he was called, was a very small man. We often wondered how he rode the big bicycle with the two kegs on it. He would fill the kegs with ice and sell cold water at the ballgame.
Shorty would have to get up on something in order to get on the bicycle. His feet would barely touch the pedals. He would jump off the bicycle and run along beside it when getting off. Shorty would always give the Whizz and me a cold cup of water on a hot day.
Whizz drove the patrol car into the park one Sunday morning and got us parked in a spot where we could get out when necessary. We talked to some of the people who were gathering and found out that the Rome team was playing a team from Villa Rica. They began to arrive and started to do a little practice. The Rome team wore red pullovers. The team from Villa Rica wore blue.
This was a game like you did not see then — or now — even if you paid for it. This was a game where each team put everything they had into it.
The Whizz and I made a bet. We were big betters and we put our money into the ashtray where the winner could reach in and get it. We bet a coke on the game. Big money. Cokes were a nickel apiece back then.
That was one of those days when nothing was going on so we sat there and watched the game. About the middle of the game Shorty filled up two cups of cold water and brought it over to us. He talked to us a few minute until he saw a customer at his water kegs.
I remember that Shorty emptied his kegs several times that day. He would get on his bicycle and head up the road. It wouldn’t be long before he was back with his keg full of water. He must have emptied his keg at least four times.
He came over to the car and, kidding, said, “you fellows want to escort me to the bank?” and showed us a sack full of change. Shorty was a good sport. Whizz reached in and got our dime out of the ashtray and said with a laugh, “keep an eye out so no one will rob me of my winnings.”
On the corner of Hardy and Myrtle was a small store. In the summertime they would fill a big wooden barrel full of different soft drinks and pour ice over the top of them. When you reached in and got one, it was what we called back then iced cold.
That day, the Whizz pulled in front of the store and handed me the dime. “Since I am buying, you can go get them,” he said. “No cakes or cookies,” I asked, taking the dime. I went in and got the drinks and as I came out the door Shorty went by on his bicycle. He blew his horn at me. Shorty had a horn on his bicycle that sounded like a duck quacking.
The Whizz and I watched a lot of games on Hardy Avenue and at each game Shorty was there with his water kegs.
One day, the Whizz and I had just got into the patrol car and started to pull out from the station when we got the call. It was a Sunday morning and the weather was beginning to cool down. The dispatcher gave us a call that someone had hit a child on a bicycle at Myrtle and Pennington Avenue.
With lights and siren we got to the accident scene just as a ambulance arrived. We moved in and helped get the small body onto the stretcher. I remember looking at Whizz and shaking my head. The small body that we put on the stretcher was Shorty.
With the ambulance on the way to the emergency center, we began to do our report. We called for a pickup truck to come and carry the bicycle to the station. With the on-scene investigation over we started to the hospital emergency room. We entered the emergency room and a nurse who I will call Stella met us. She shook her head. “He died on the way in.”
I looked at the Whizz, and I knew what he was feeling. Shorty had been a friend to the both of us.
We had told the driver of the car to go to the station and wait for us. We took the information at the emergency room and headed for the station. While the Whizz took the information and made the report, I went out back to look at the bicycle.
The car had hit the bicycle on the front wheels. This turned the bicycle around in the road, and the back end of the car again hit the front wheels. As if by some kind of miracle, the kegs had stayed attached to the back of the bicycle.
I walked over and turned on the spicket of one of the kegs. I stuck my finger in the water and smelled it. I then turned the other one on. I stuck my finger into a stream of something that had a light yellow look. I smelled my finger. It was not water. I smiled to myself and went inside.
I met the Whizz coming down the hall. “I need to look at the bike,” he said. I walked back to the bike with him. I had believed that the chain had came off the brake and Shorty had run into the car, unable to stop.
If he had tried to stop it with his legs they would not have been long enough to touch the ground.
Whizz and I agreed on what happened. The accident had been unavoidable.
I motioned for the Whizz to smell of the water in the keg. He stuck his finger under the fluid, then smelled it. A smile came on his face and he began to laugh. All the time that we knew Shorty, he had been selling homemade brew.
He had water in one of the kegs and the brew in the other. He would give us a glass of water out of the water keg. He would give his customer the brew out of the other keg. He was a smart little fellow. We had a laugh out of it but never told anyone how Shorty had put one over on all of us.