Sometime ago I told you a story about Grams and how she almost drowned in 3 feet of water in Kailua Bay in Hawaii. I do believe that we can’t, nay shouldn’t, always be the heroes of our own stories. It’s just not healthy. Occasionally, we need to the butt-end of the joke. It keeps us honest. You know what I mean?
Well, Big Guy tells this story on himself and it never fails to have me rolling on the floor. Here goes:
Big Guy grew up on the west side of Los Angeles. Not the posh-y side, he was further south in the working class section: closer to Inglewood than to Brentwood. As a child, he used to play around the oil wells of the Baldwin Hills. Oil was discovered there in the early part of the 20th century and it was abundant for many years.
When Big Guy was a teenager, the oil wells were a nice secluded spot were he could take his dates who were one in the rhythm with the pumps (if you get my drift). He still has fond memories of a certain “Sweet Lorraine.” So, Big Guy was well-acquainted with the oil fields.
When he grew up, Big Guy bought his first home in Ladera Heights which was just south of the Baldwin Hills oil fields. Close and yet so far away. The backyard of his property was terraced down the hillside. There were steps leading down to the bottom of the property.
One Saturday, Big Guy decided that he had better clean up the foliage out back and so he went out with a rake and started to work. It wasn’t long before he noticed, under the leaves and debris that there was something black and tar-like oozing up out of the ground. He bent over to touch it. It reminded him of the La Brea Tar pits, which is on top of a huge repository of oil.
Now, some of the people in the area where Big Guy lived had been paid by oil companies for the right to slant drill on their land. They received monthly checks for just living over an oil field. Suddenly, it hit Big Guy like a bolt of lightening: I’m sitting on an oil field! My property is over an oil field! I’m an oil baron!
He could feel his heart start to pound. “Oil! My own oil well!” Then, he thought, “I must calm down. It probably won’t be a big oil field. I probably won’t be a millionaire, maybe just a thousand-aire. Why, I’d settle for, say, $50,000 a year. I’m not greedy, not really.”
As he calmed down, he thought, “Who can confirm this for me?” He remembered that his neighbour, Marcel, a few doors up worked in construction of some kind. Marcel wasn’t an engineer, but he might have some knowledge of how these things work. So, Big Guy climbed the stairs and went up the street to get Marcel.
“Marcel, could you come look at something I found in my backyard?” “Sure,” said Marcel and off they went. They clamoured down the hillside and when they got to the bottom, Big Guy pointed proudly to his black ooze and said, “Well, Marcel, what do you think?” Marcel kneeled down, took a leaf and spread the ooze around. “”I think that you’re talking very big bucks here, my friend.”
Big Guy was thrilled. “Just what I thought. It’s oil, isn’t it?” I have an oil field!” Marcel looked at Big Guy and said, “have you lost your mind? I mean, it’s going to cost you big bucks. What you have here is break in your sewer line. Can’t you smell it?”
Big Guy’s head started whirling about. “What? What smell? It smells like the tar pits!” “The hell is does, it smells like sewage, my friend. Don’t you know that all of our sewage drains out the back of our properties to the bottom of the hill?” Big Guy was gutted, “I thought that it drained out the front and went down a sewer line in the middle of street.” Marcel shook his head, “Nope, sorry, it follows gravity. Makes sense, don’t you think?”
It all made too much sense. Big Guy had gone from wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, to moderately well-off, to breaking the piggy bank open to pay the plumber all in the course of an hour. And pay he did. Big Guy spent the rest of the weekend digging a trench back into the hill following the sewer pipe hoping to save a little on the bill, but when the plumber came out on Monday the patio had to jack-hammered.
No oil. No cowboy hat. No monthly stipend. No nothing. All he got was a big fat bill from the plumber and a new sewer connection. Some days it doesn’t pay to rake the leaves.
Please give what you can to Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders).
*Gee but it's tough to be broke kid
It's not a joke kid,
It's a curse,
My luck is changing it's gotten from simply rotten
To something worst
Who knows someday I will win too
I'll begin to reach my pride
Now that I see what our end is
All can spend is just my time
I can't give you anything but love, baby.
That's the only thing I've plenty of, baby.
Dream a while. Scheme a while.
We're sure to find,
Happiness, and I guess
all those things you've always pined for.
Gee I'd like to see you looking swell, baby
Diamond bracelets Woolworth's doesn't sell, baby.
'til that lucky day you know darn well, baby.
I can't give you anything but love.
Music: Jimmy McHugh
Words: Dorothy Fields