My dad, James Lee Avent, chewed Reynold’s Natural Leaf plug tobacco for over 70 years, but I am assuming he started at the age of 18.
I have many memories of my father but one of my favorite memories was when I was 15 years old and had just got my driving license. My dad was not too keen on the idea of me driving, especially his green Chevy pickup truck that he referred to as “The Mean Six.”
One Saturday afternoon after a hard day of my dad working outside, he asked me to go to Big Star and get him some Reynold’s Natural Leaf. I was really surprised and excited by this unexpected trusted task he had asked of me.
Yes, a minor could buy tobacco for their parents with no questions asked back then. The cashier knew it was for my dad.
He handed me a $20 bill and said you can get a drink and a snack, but bring back the change. Back then, $20 was a lot of money. I was hoping to drive the truck “The Mean Six” but he said, “you better take your mom’s car and be very careful.”
I pulled up at Eastgate Shopping Center and the first thing that I saw was a carnival on the far side of Cinema Six where Dollar General is located now. Being a curious 15-year-old, I just had to go look around and see what the carnival was all about.
I came upon a shooting ducks booth and the top prize was a big ole Boom Box that played cassette tapes. Back in the ’80s, every teenager wanted a big ole boom box, and I know I sure did. I just had to try to win it because I know I was a pretty good shot.
I handed the carnival worker the $20 bill and he said,” You’re going to be our big winner today, I can see it in your eyes.”
He kept encouraging me until the $20 was no more. I did win a small prize – a goldfish in a cup.
Disheartened over the boom box, I gave the fish to a friend when I was leaving.
I still remember the long ride home tobacco less, moneyless, prideless and knowing my dad was a no-nonsense, stern man, I had a good idea my day was going to end with a “big boom” and not the kind that plays cassette tapes.
I pulled in the driveway and he was still working outside. I got out of the car and told him everything that happened and how the carnival worker kept encouraging me until the money was gone and that I didn’t win the big ole boom box.
He stood there with his eyes firmly looking into mine. After a few tears and what seemed to be forever, he finally spoke, and said, “Son people can talk you out of anything if you let them. Always have your guard up if you want something the best thing to do is work for it and earn it. You were taught a pretty good lesson today.”
My dad’s serious look turned into a smile and he said, “Hop in ‘The Mean Six’ and I’ll let you drive. We’ll go get that snack and Reynold’s Natural Leaf.”
I still remember that day like it was yesterday and I realize now, I was the big winner on that unexpected day. I saw the love and understanding in my dad’s eyes and that’s a prize that will never fade away.
That Christmas, this then-15-year-old boy finally got a big old boom box.
Mickey Avent is a life-long Oxonian and a Justice Court Judge in Lafayette County.