"One foot on the brake and one on the gas, hey!
Well, there's too much traffic, I can't pass, no
So I tried my best illegal move
A big black and white come and crushed my groove again"

- Sammy Hagar - "I can't drive 55"

          How NOT to run from the Mississippi Highway Patrol

Just outside Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Highway 49
July 1986

There is an ancient proverb that says "In order to be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid". Well, I was young but I’ve never thought of myself as stupid at any age and I guess that is everybody’s story while hindsight is always 20/20.

It was July 1986, my junior summer heading into my senior year of high school.  One week before I had taken possession of one very smurfy black and gold, 6.6 liter powered, WS6 suspension equipped, 1979 "Bandit" Special Edition Pontiac Trans-Am with factory Fisher T-tops, a big 6.6 liter V8 under the hood and the WS6 performance option.

I had barely owned the car a week and already I had put over a thousand miles on it just cruising, getting the feeling for the car, driving the hell out of it, etc. The more I drove it, the more I was amazed at the capabilities of the big cube motor and more than capable WS6 suspension setup of this car. Overall, it was loads better than my ’78 Chevy Camaro Rally Sport; it had fifty-three more cubes under the hood and that gave it enough torque to jerk an elephant through a keyhole.

I was in love with one very seriously bad ass car.

I was cruising in the TA, coming up Highway 49 North, heading to Hattiesburg. I was returning from a long day of visiting some know-wells on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The T-tops were off, the 403cid V8 was rumbling nicely under the hood, and I had some Sammy Hagar "Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy" cranked really loud on the Kenwood stereo system that I had just had transplanted from the '78 Camaro Rally Sport. The sheer overload of big throaty rumbling V8, wind through the T-tops and Sammy Hagar screaming out some sort of love tune was a match made in heaven, heavy metal hard rocking bliss. I was tapping my fingers on the thick padded Formula steering wheel, cruise control set at 70mph and not a care in the world but to get back home before dark which was itself rapidly approaching.

I reached down and grabbed my glass bottle of Pepsi, unscrewed the metal cap, and took a long swig of the still somewhat cool cola. I looked down at the clock on the radio face. It was 7:55pm by the green numbered digital clock on the stereo face, the sun was setting through the trees to my left and I stared into the sunset … lost in a day dream. Something on the other side of the median, going fast in the opposite direction, stared back at me and snapped me back to my senses.

A dark gray Ford Crown Vic, with Mississippi Highway Patrol markings and a bubble gum machine on top.


At that time, the speed limit on Highway 49 was still only 55mph. I looked out the window at the other side of the highway just in time to see the dark gray MHP Ford Crown Vic pass the other way. The trooper behind the wheel was staring straight back at me.

"Aw, damn.  That’s not good." I said laughing flatly.

I looked down, saw the speedometer buried more than three quarters of the way to the right and knew I had been caught, dead bang to rights. Fifteen miles an hour over the posted limit and me being a teenager driving a black and gold Pontiac Trans-Am. Yeah, I saw what was going to happen in the next few minutes. I was going to get a ticket from hell with a big cop smile to go along with it …

Or was I?

A really calm feeling came over me then, a feeling that I was totally in control and totally indestructible. Maybe it was The Force. I don’t know but one thing was for sure; after my little head gave me the idea of how to get out of the speeding ticket, my big head took over from there. A speeding ticket would probably cost me all of my paycheck plus make my insurance go up plus get my dad on my ass for driving fast and throwing money down the toilet by giving it to the MHP. I worked part time at County Market, a big discount grocery store  in Hattiesburg.  I made about $35 a week, so a $70 ticket would cost me two weeks pay and I'd already worked my ass off this past two weeks just to make what little bit I got to carry home.


I had other plans for that hard earned money.

Getting caught tonight just wasn’t going to happen.

"Well, you’re definitely going to work hard for this one, bro!" I shouted to my law enforcement adversary as I settled back in my seat.

I slammed the glass Pepsi bottle down between the passenger seat and the center console, the black vinyl seat material held it tight. I didn’t have time to bother with the metal screw on cap; thank God I hadn’t bought a TA with a cloth interior. I scanned the rear view mirror, side view mirror and then turned around in my seat like a jet fighter pilot caught in a dog fight would. I was straining against the seat belt to throw my head back over my left shoulder as far as I could turn it, looking back past the long door of the Pontiac, past the side sail panel of the car, looking for the MHP unit to see what he was doing. The MHP unit was definitely in pursuit, the blue lights were going and the trooper was racing away from me, looking for a place to cross over the highway to my side. I thought back, really calmly, to where he could flip flop across the median and cross over to my side to give pursuit. It would be about a mile and a half back at the earliest, if I judged right. He couldn’t cross the median before then.  Mile and a half behind me, mile and a half plus what distance I could cover ahead of him. That gave me a few minutes head start. Good enough, I decided.

I had about a mile and a half to go before I got to the intersection of Elks Lake Road and Highway 49. There was an old drive in theater there, a package store, a Chevron gas station, and a little vacant strip mall with about four abandoned micro stores.  In fact, I couldn’t ever really remember any businesses ever having established their selves in that strip mall … it had always seemed like some kind of bizarre failed venture, an economic afterthought on the landscape but the overgrowth behind the strip mall let a car or truck get back there behind the empty stores and offered one hell of a sweet make-out spot to bring a date.   If I could time it right, I could whip around the back of the abandoned strip mall and hide there from the MHP unit when it passed by and he wouldn’t even see me pull the trick off.

My black finger-less gloved hand slipped from the steering wheel to the gear shifter as my right foot went straight to the floor. The big 403 cubic inch V8 under the hood screamed as the four barrels of the Rochester Quadrajet opened wide. The last bit of sunlight glinted off the large three-toned gold Firebird decal that blazed across the top of the hood. The shaker scoop slammed hard to the right in its hood opening as the accelerator met the carpet on the floor. I slid back in my seat as the power from the big cube motor came on strong and even, effortlessly accelerating the old Pontiac up to speed. The THM350 transmission kicked down from third gear to Super and then back up to third as the speedometer needle crossed the north side of the eight zero range and moved into the nine zero speed range. The 403 under the hood produced a primal, feral note that mixed beautifully with the wind that came screaming over the windshield and in through the open roof slots. The speedometer needle slipped past the one zero zero mark and like that Neal Young song "Hey hey, my my", it headed towards the black. The highway vanished beneath the front end and hood of the Trans-Am, the centerline like the blade of a band saw in action. Air building up under the hood was streaming out the side extraction vents, preventing high speed compression and underhood lift. The car felt rock steady, like it was on rails ...

God, I loved this car!

So smooth at speed, so capable, so dependable, so easy to drive fast with confidence.

The speedometer needle continued to move down into the right side of the gauge, into the black numberless area of the speedometer. I watched the tach after 100. The tachometer was hovering around four grand and climbing as well into the yellow. I slapped the radio off, killing Sammy Hagar just as he screamed out "Your love is dri-ving …!" and concentrated on doing just that… driving! If this was going to work, I couldn’t afford to be distracted by anything.  I was cutting it pretty fine as it was and if I didn't pull this off then a ticket was going to be the least of my worries for a long, long time to come.

A quick scan in the rear view and side view mirrors showed no sign of pursuit, yet, but that wouldn’t last long if the trooper was determined to nail me.  State troopers could be ruthless and quite determined in their pursuits and hauling in a kid in an old black Trans-Am would have been worth any trouble, probably even some bragging rights with his buddies. It was getting darker and even though I didn’t see blue lights behind me in the mirrors, that didn’t mean the trooper wasn’t back there, somewhere, closing fast. I had a small advantage and if I kept my wits, I could win this little contest of reflexes and brains. At triple digits, I had covered the distance from the start of my run to the intersection in less time that I had guessed I would. I saw the intersection appear up ahead, more rapidly than I would have anticipated, and I let off the gas, placing my foot over the brake pedal to cover it. The Trans-Am started decelerating, the nose of the heavy Pontiac dipping noticeably. I waited, watching and judging, juggling my timing. I would have to make a quick right hand turn and some fancy steering to get out of this but I had confidence in my own capabilities as well as that of the Trans-Am.

This was an awesome machine.

My money had been well spent.

There was an out-of-sight, fully hidden place set at an angle behind the package store where you could pull back there and watch the back of the Chevron and the highway. It was off the parking lot, hidden back in the shadows of the building, big enough for the Trans-Am to get into and hide at night, even from people in the parking lot just a few hundred feet away. It was the ultimate make-out place with just a hint of public voyeurism thrown in, dangerous in a provocative / exciting way. I’d used it a few times before when making out with members of the fairer sex, I knew the spot well. I was about to use it again for a far different purpose than it had ever been used for before.

The intersection was about half a mile ahead and the TA was still doing the better part of ninety miles an hour, thanks to the aerodynamics and the high gears in the rear end.  I waited until my speed fell to below eighty.  My gloved hand clicked the shifter indent and slapped the selector backwards from "D" to "S" and the big V8 roared even louder as the power train was forced to downshift. The tachometer jumped a good thousand revs as the transmission went from third gear to second gear. The speedometer fell more rapidly now and the overall feeling was of a more comfortable performance envelope, something I could more readily manipulate to my advantage. I liked it, a lot. This car had a lot of guts to it.

I waited, judged, prepared all the while my speed was falling below sixty. I cut the apex of the turn hard, doing a long bank into the turn, turning the wheel into a gentle turn off the highway. I applied the brakes to the point of almost locking up, let off of them, and then pumped them repeatedly, riding the threshold of braking.  Powered four wheel disc brakes clamped down, bleeding speed in a predicable and controllable way. The fifteen by eight inch snowflake aluminum wheels and Firestone performance radial tires dug in and stuck like nails. The big TA left the highway in a much more graceful manner than I would have guessed, locking my seat belt solid and inertia pushing me against the driver’s side door. It gave me pause enough to praise the WS-6 suspension setup and realize that even as good as the factory setup was, there was room for improvement in the long run. The car and I entered into a decreasing graduated right turn that eventually went forty-five degrees from where I was originally headed. The four wheel disc brakes of the WS-6 suspension package and the bigger sway bars were simply incomparable to the front disc, rear drum and the wimpy sway bars found on my old ’78 Rally Sport.

This TA was one serious handler with the power under the hood to back its tough image up!

I was careful to control the brakes and tires, to keep them from breaking loose and to prevent any slide across the pavement if I could help it. I also didn’t want to leave any fresh tire marks, tire smoke or indications on the pavement that the MHP unit could easily follow, and I kept the tires from screaming in the turn through a coordinated combination of brake pedal manipulation, manual gear selection of the THM350, and hard, quick but precise steering. The TA left the highway and turned onto the start of Edwards Street with just the hint of rubber squealing, no more than normal for someone leaving the turn at a little above the rated speed. Nobody at the Chevron even looked up as the TA passed by on the street beside the station. My speed was hovering around 45 miles an hour or down to the local speed limit. The turn had been rated at 20mph according to the yellow and black sign at the entrance to the turn. Letting the TA coast in Super gear, I turned the steering wheel gently, losing speed as I passed by the Chevron and headed for the stores of the abandoned strip mall a few hundred feet away. When I wasn’t casting a shadow on the pavement due to the white spots at the Chevron, I slapped the light switch on the dash hard against its rest, killing the quad halogens in the hawk-like nose of the TA, plunging the area ahead of me into darkness and merging the TA in with the shadows.

My eyes squinted, and I went more on memory than anything else as I entered the side parking lot of the abandoned stores of the little failed strip mall at a speed that would not attract undue attention from the customers or workers at the nearby Chevron gas station. I looked over my left shoulder and then my right shoulder, rising some out of the seat, balancing myself on my elbow planted on the center console but still held in by the seat belt, looking for my pursuer.



He’d be here any second though, his own engine was probably screaming hell bent for justice. In the time it took for me to scan left and right, I had covered half of the parking lot of the abandoned strip mall at an ever decreasing speed, coasting down from thirty-five to just below thirty. I cut the wheel gently and eased the TA slowly around the side of the strip mall, waited for the end of the pavement and felt the front tires bump off the pavement onto the softer surface. I turned the wheel again to the left, gently, slowly, feeling the resistance as the tires left asphalt for hard pack ground and gravel. I shifted down from Super to first gear and felt the Pontiac lug down and slow even further, the gear shifter all the way back in the console selector housing. I maneuvered the Pontiac easily into my chosen spot, using the floor mounted emergency brake (my left hand holding the release handle out as I bent over the steering wheel) using my left foot to apply the emergency brake instead of the main brakes, pumping it to slow the car to a stop. I didn’t want my taillights to give me away. The Pontiac came to a slow stop with gravel crunching under the Firestones. I shoved the gear selector up into neutral, ratcheting it through the dual gate design, letting go of the emergency brake release and jamming the emergency brake to the floor with a satisfying "crinnnnnchh".  The TA rocked twice on its suspension as the emergency brake bit fully and then was still. It was quiet then, very damn quiet and all I could hear was the sound of my heart pounding in my ears. I breathed in counting to three, held it for three, and let out again for three. Doing this twice brought my heartbeat back down to manageable levels and cleared my head.

And the TA and I waited and watched, there in the shadows. Black on black, the exhaust burbling authoritatively as only a set of dual turbo mufflers can.


The car and I sat there in the abandoned space behind the strip mall. Just the trees, the back of the vacant stores, and the darkness of the shadow cast by the building itself, as illuminated by the white spots of the gas station nearby blazing over the roof of the abandoned strip mall. There in that small spot, motor idling, I was completely invisible. I sat, took a deep breath, and listened. I heard the sound of a siren, muted at first, off in the distance, a warbling wail that was all too familiar. Soft at first, then louder and then growing louder and more angry with each heart beat. It was getting louder and louder, almost matching what I felt was surely my pulse rate. I looked back over my shoulder quickly to make sure I hadn’t left any tell-tale signs of my passage, there were none that I could see, not even tire marks where the heavy Pontiac had left the parking lot surface for the unpaved ground.


This was either going to work or it wasn’t.

I was either going to be really happy with a story to tell or sitting in jail waiting on my parents to bail me out.

Like all things in life, it was a gamble and I was anxious to see how good a gambler I was at such an early age.

I gripped the steering wheel with one gloved hand, the console mounted gear shifter held tightly with the other. Hell yeah, I was alive at that moment. If this didn’t work, I was in big time trouble. Serious big time trouble.

But …

If it did work …

The warbling siren grew louder, almost like it was right on the other side of the strip mall parking lot. A chill ran through me as a little bit of doubt began to creep in. What if the MHP knew of this make-out spot? What if someone else had tried this trick before? I leaned my head back on the high back custom vinyl seat and reached over for the glass bottle of Pepsi, lifted it out from between the side of the center console and the passenger seat cushion, and took a long drink out of it.

I didn’t realize how dry my throat was and I almost seize-coughed as the Pepsi swished around in my mouth. I leaned over, spit the mouthful of warm Pepsi out against the side of the building, watching it slowly run down the faded, chipped and cracking beige paint, soaking into the hot and thirsty bricks. Bored, I took another swig. I turned to stare out the front windshield of the idling Pontiac, downing my third swallow. The siren was a deafening scream now and I watched as the MHP Crown Vic seemingly exploded out the side of the Chevron gas station in front of me and several hundred feet to my left, but it was an optical illusion generated by the play of the flashing blue lights on the huge glass front windows of the gas station and the high speed of the MHP unit. The highway patrol blew by the front of the Chevron gas station in a roar, flying down the highway, lights flashing, siren wailing, heading away from me at an angle and I watched it go, glass bottle to my lips ready to take another shot.

"Go, cat, go!" I thought and laughed. "Don’t stop for nothing!"

The highway patrol unit never slowed down, never tapped his brakes, and I watched as the flashing blue lights vanished down the road, and the siren soon faded into silence. I held the Pepsi bottle out the window, turned it upside down, and poured the rest of the now luke-warm soda out on the ground next to the Pontiac, listening to it fizz as it hit the ground. Then I high arced the bottle over my head and onto the roof of the abandoned buildings, hearing it land and roll around on the tar paper roof. Soon it clanked next to another glass bottle and made a distinct sound. There were a lot of bottles up there on that roof, I’d used this place many times before.

I reached up and rubbed my gloved hand across the dash over the engine turned aluminum dash instrument pod, patting the dash of the Pontiac and caressed the steering wheel.

"Girl…" I said to the TA. "You and I are going to have some adventures."

I laughed, depressed the gear selector switch, moved the gear shifter up into reverse, looked over my shoulder, and backed out of the spot I had just months before been occupying for a wholly different reason. My heart was slowing down, and the chemicals racing through my body were like the nectar of the gods. It was incredible, I had actually pulled off a stunt of epic proportions. I backed the Pontiac out completely the way I had entered, dropped the transmission into drive, turned the wheel, and slowly left the parking lot, using the vacant buildings as cover. Once I was back on Edwards Street, I reached up and brought the headlights back on, turning up the radio again to a more normal volume and watching my speed. I took the long way home that night, going through the old part of town. An extra thirty minutes out of the way, but it kept me off the highway and the major roads, just in case my adversary had gone into the city to go prowling for me. I bet he was pissed.

I never got in trouble over that.

I never heard anything, no state troopers or local law enforcement came knocking on my door to haul me off in handcuffs and I considered it to be just a learning experience to pay more attention behind the wheel when I was raising hell.
 I didn’t think anything else about that incident, it was just something that had happened.  I'd made a decision and everything had turned out all right.

Fast forward to four months later.

My senior year in high school.

Being somewhat of a loner and an outsider, I of course attract the same kind of non-cheerleader / non-jock outcasts and misfits who gravitate to me. I meet a guy named Chris. Funny, that seems to be a popular name around here. He owns a ’75 Monte Carlo that he’s going to shoe in a ’70 solid lifter LT-1 into when he gets the chance. He loves my Trans-Am, so we start swapping tales of our car adventures and one day during break, the ‘me vs. MHP’ story gets told much to the obvious pleasure of the hair band angst filled outcasts that meet with me every day at the same time. Chris has a Cinderella "Night Songs" T-shirt on under his denim jacket.

"You outran the highway patrol?!" he asks.

"Yeah." I say softly, not exactly proud of what I see as a story that is going to be blown way out of proportion when it makes the full circle.

"Wow!  That's pretty tight!" he muses over that, the others are in awe as well.

And I have to retell parts of the story, adding more detail, keeping my group totally enthralled until the bell rings and we have to go back inside. I don’t think anything about it.  Soon the story gets to be the talk of certain circles in high school, and I find myself, my outcast loner self, being invited to the more ‘popular’ events. I’m the one always at the home foot ball game, relaxing on the hood of my TA near the chainlink fence, watching the game as the motor pings and cools, me with legs down the hood and my back and head up against the front window glass, arms folded, leather jacket or denim jacket, just being what I thought was ‘cool’. I usually drew a crowd who stayed near me or pulled their cars up next to mine and we would all watch the game and just hang out. I was the first there, the last to leave.

Kind of like a magnet.

So it went most of my senior year.

In the mid-spring my friend Chris gets his graduation present early; it’s a 1981 three tone Smurf blue Camaro Z28, T-tops, posi, automatic, 350 under the hood with the factory "air induction" solenoid activated scoop, factory five spoke aluminum wheels. It was smurfy. We used to race some on the back roads, his 350 powered Z28 never could catch my 403 powered Trans-Am. It used to make him mad to no end, all the time he would be claiming he would outrun my ass as soon as he dropped his solid lifter LT1 into his Z28.

Life was life, that big six point six liter V8 under the TA's hood gave his small block Chevy 350 fits, left and right, believe me. He never pulled on me, not once. We started swinging wrenches at his parents house, at my house, and just hanging out together.   A few weeks later I went away with a group of friends to Florida for Spring Break, taking the TA and enjoying cruising the beach in it. When I got back, I found out that Chris had apparently tried to outrun a highway patrol but to a much lesser degree of success than I had enjoyed …

His particular tale goes something like this ...

It was late one Friday night, the last weekday of the Spring Break week, and just after dark. Chris was coming back from the Gulf Coast, about the same spot on Highway 49 South that I had been just nine months ago.  Just like me, Chris had been speeding, pegging out his Z28 and just enjoying the power of his car, not really paying attention to anything around him. His '81 Z28 was sure faster than his '76 Monte-Carlo and Chris had a lot heavier foot than I had ... he also had a lot less experience driving, especially driving fast and hard.

Chris looked over, saw a highway patrol unit sitting in the median, and remembered my tale of running from the cops. Well, he decided that if I could do it in a Pontiac Trans-Am that he could certainly do it in a Chevy Camaro Z28.

He punched the accelerator to the floor and the solenoid activated  hood scoop flipped open, sucking in cold air from the boundary layer at the base of the windshield, feeding the Rochester Quadrajet under the hood. As he ran from the pursuing MHP unit, he came upon the exact same intersection that I had. Only this time, Chris made a left hand turn across the intersection, across four lanes of traffic, breaking his rear end loose and leaving long tire marks across the highway from the start of the turn until the end where he almost lost it turning onto Elks Club Road.  His rear tires smoking, he barely managed to keep the car under control, manhandle the steering wheel to get straight again and then head down Elks Lake Road as fast as he could build speed.

Giving the Z28 all it had, he came upon a dirt road and decided to duck down it to hide. He slammed on brakes, leaving long tire marks again on the asphalt and lots of tire smoke, cut the steering wheel to the right, slid on the dirt road, and roared down it about three hundred feet before he came to a stop and killed his lights, foot still resting on the brake pedal. Chris then held the steering wheel in both hands, staring back over his shoulder, and his blood ran cold when the MHP unit casually pulled in right behind him.

What had happened?

He had done everything like I had, so how did they catch him and not catch me?


He didn’t do everything like I had, in fact, Chris had made a lot of mistakes, the first was leaving so many fresh dark skid marks to clearly mark his direction of travel. He should have just gone ahead and painted big orange or white arrows on the pavement showing where he was going. The second was to run down a dirt road where his high speed passage would raise a large dust cloud in his passing, telling the officer exactly where he'd gone. The third was to sit there, three hundred feet down that dirt road, headlights off, but with his foot on the brake pedal, clearly illuminating his red brake lights in the dust cloud there in the Mississippi dusk.

The MHP hadn’t had to work too hard to track down Chris and the next thing he knew, he was on the far end of a rough cuffing and sitting in jail.

The funny thing about this story is that Chris’ mom, at that time, was the radio dispatcher for the Hattiesburg police department, and when all of this was going on, she was listening in on the chase over the radio. When the MHP officer called out the tag number of the vehicle he was pursuing, as well as the make and model, she immediately recognized it and went ballistic. Well, the MHP hauled Chris down to the HPD jail and booked him on several charges, and his mom, in her police uniform, was waiting on him when they brought him through lockup.

It wasn’t pleasant, so he told me, but after everything blew over, he and I had a long laugh about it. Stupid teenage kid stuff. His remark about hiding in the dust cloud with his foot on the brakes and the rear tail lights illuminating the dust cloud made me laugh out loud. I think he realized that was probably the biggest mistake he had made. He was lucky not to get seriously hurt the way he had been driving.

So, whatever happened to Chris?

After high school graduation, Chris and I kind of drifted apart. He went to Mississippi State University up in Starkville while I stayed further south and went to Hinds Junior College in Raymond. We met once while he was passing through Raymond and we went out and parked his '81 Z28 and my '79 TA in a big open field at night, had a few beers, shot some whiskey, sat on the hoods of our cars, our backs to the windshields, and just caught up on old times, chased memories, watched some storm clouds pass over, etc. Being all alone in a new town, off at college my first year, it was good to see a familiar face. Chris left that night, and that was the last time I ever saw his smurf blue 1981 Z-28.

About three years later, I met Chris again.

Life had not been kind to him. I was in my junior year of college, dating a girl rather seriously, and I had just purchased a white 5.7 liter TPI powered 1989 Chevy Camaro IROC-Z. On our way to my girlfriend's parents’ house in Flora, I had caught a nail in my rear tire. I stopped by the local Goodyear tire center on 40th Avenue to get the nail removed and the tire plugged before we went on the trip. When the manager took my work order, he called in a mechanic to patch my tire.

That mechanic was my old friend, Chris.

It was a small world.

Chris had dropped out of college. He had lost the Z-28. And here he was, working full time at a tire service center to make ends meet, and my high school friend, my friend that I hadn't seen in several years was about to repair my tire. It was kind of awkward, seeing my friend doing menial labor like that, him being an employee and me a paying customer, but he seemed happy and all he wanted to talk about was cars. I thought for sure that Chris would have been halfway through engineering school by then because Chris was a smart kid, he just had his priorities in the wrong place sometimes.  He spent too much time swinging wrenches, not enough time with his nose to the school books and it had come back to haunt him.

After the left rear Goodyear Eagle Gatorback was patched and put back on the IROC-Z, Chris and I talked. His Z-28 was gone, it had been stolen and demolished before being recovered. When I asked for the details, the story went like this…

Chris liked to party hard.

He had met some friends, followed them back to their apartment, and they began to act like sponges dropped in a bucket of liquor. In a short time, people came in and out of the apartment to the party like it was a train station. Chris kept drinking, and drinking, and drinking and finally passed out in a corner of the living room of the apartment. By this time the alcohol was running a little low and a beer run was planned by his friends. Chris’ good friends decided that they would take HIS Z-28 on the beer run, since it was such a cool looking and sounding car, so they got his keys from his passed out dumbass, popped the T-tops off of the car, and drove it like hell down to the local convenience store. Being somewhat wasted themselves, they had long ago thrown common sense and sobriety to the wind. Since they had cash in hand, and they couldn’t make up their mind what kind of booze to get, both of them would have to go in. Obviously, the car would be okay sitting right out in front of the store, so this led to a great idea of leaving the keys in the Z28, the motor running, the car unlocked, and the T-tops off while these three mental giants went inside to buy more beer. Ten minutes later Chris' three friends emerged from the convenience store loaded down with three paper sacks each of beer and wine coolers and discovered that they had no ride back home.


The Z-28 that they had left in front of the store, running, unattended, windows down, T-tops off, was gone.

Chris woke up from his drunken stupor the next morning to hear the worst news of all; his car had been stolen!

Three days later, the smurf blue 1981 Chevy Camaro Z-28 was recovered by the county sheriff’s department. It had been twatted up in a ditch, it was a total insurance write-off. Chris’ aftermarket stereo system and his entire cassette tape collection were the only things of value in the car, and needless to say, both of those were gone.

I didn’t see Chris for about a year after he changed out my tire for me. The next time I saw him was in early 1992, he was now married to a girl that worked at the local Taco Bell and he was going to be a father. He was still doing full time mechanic work, but he had gone to another garage and wasn't at the Goodyear store on 40th Avenue any more.  Chris was driving a brand new 1992 Chevy Beretta GTZ, powered by the Oldsmobile DOHC Quad 4 engine with a 5 speed stick.  I guess he was making good money to buy a car like that.  A few weeks later I ate at the Taco Bell on Hardy Street ... Chris' wife took my order and she was very pregnant.  Together Chris and his wife lived in a run-down mobile home in a run-down trailer park on Martha Street, on the outskirts of a very old run-down section of Hattiesburg, just off of East Hardy Street.

I felt sorry for Chris ... I really did.  

He was my age and already a father, living in a trailer in a trailer park.

I couldn't begin to wrap my head around being in his shoes.

Our lives had really turned out like night and day.

The last time I ever saw Chris was late 1994, a little over seven years after we had first met at the beginning of my senior year at Petal High School.  Chris no longer had the GTZ.  No, now he had an old '71 Plymouth Road Runner with a transplanted 440cid big block V8 under the hood and a Torqueflite three speed automatic transmission.  I don't think there was one panel on the car that matched the color of any other panel.  The interior, if you could all it that, was minimal enough to have made a Spartan cry ... bare metal floors, seats that were torn, no headliner, no seat belts, no radio ... just the center console and dash, door panels and rear shelf.   Chris had heard that I was in town for a few days so he came by to look me up. He pulled up at my parents house in his Road Runner which honestly looked like an extra from the Mel Gibson movie "The Road Warrior."  Chris and I talked for a long time, just standing there in the front yard and the driveway of my parents' house.

He wasn't married anymore.

He was divorced.

He had joined the Navy but had gotten a dishonorable discharge which he didn't go into much detail about.

We talked about cars and high school and college and caught up on old times.  We talked until the sun started to go down at which point he said he had to leave before it got dark since he didn’t have any lights hooked up on his car and since he didn't have any lights hooked up on his car he couldn’t drive after dark.
 When I asked him what was wrong with his lights on his car, he told me he had a short in the wiring.  He had a short in his wiring because he had wired his lights up so that he could turn off the tail lights with a rocker switch on the dash when he wanted to outrun the cops and something had shorted out all the lights so he couldn’t drive at night now until he fixed it.

Simple problem, he said, he just didn’t have any time that day to fix it and since he worked so much and since he drove the car only during the day, it really didn’t matter until he could get around to fixing it.  Maybe this weekend he'd have time ...

He showed me his Road Runner and he bragged a lot about the power of the big Mopar under the hood.  He'd put a lot of money into the big engine and when he left, he waited until he was three blocks away before he stomped the accelerator to the floor.  I heard the big block motor roar, I heard sticky tires screaming as they friction burned and melted on fresh black asphalt, and with that sound of old style performance roaring away into the distance, I kind of realized, sadly that I would never see Chris again.

It was just a feeling, right then and there, but it was a sure feeling, one you could bank on.

To this day, I still wonder what ever happened to Chris. He had a lot of hard knocks in life, I'll give him that, but a lot of the situations he found himself in were simply situations that he had gotten himself in through no fault other than his own.  A lot of his situations could have been easily avoided with a little fore-thought and / or a little common sense.   Looking back at our friendship spread over the last seven years I honestly hoped that somehow Chris would manage to turn things around and pull out of what I considered to be a self-inflicted nose-dive into oblivion.

Chris was a good friend, he was truly one of those kind of friends who just rode off into the sunset one day never to be heard from again ... in fact, he wasn’t even at our ten year high school reunion in 1997 and no one knew where he was or what had happened to him.


Chris in his '81 Z28 at my parents' house

Chris behind the wheel of his Z28

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The '81 Z28 and the '79 "Bandit" Trans-Am parked in front of my parents house, circa Spring 1987

The '81 Z28 and '79 TA

Guess which one was faster ...?  Heheheheheheh!