Fast times at Dawson High

Thursday, September 5, 2019
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Dino Dave’s Adventures

Some kids grow up a pauper, some kids grow up a prince. But some, the luckiest of them all, grow up kitty corner from Dawson County High School during written history’s greatest decade. This kid was me. John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane” blasted out of a Burt Reynolds’ wannabe Trans-Am at least once a day accompanied by a squeal of the tires. Aquanet stock was on the rise and kids would walk by with Empire Strikes Back shirts while the Rose Theater would finally show it six months later. Yes, the Litmus test said “1982.”

These were action packed fast times at Dawson high. I’d always make sure I was outside playing when the last bell of the day rang. “Smokers Alley,” the hangout for the kids who lettered in smoking, was only 10 feet from my swing set. I would try and listen in and sometimes learn a new word for the day. The smoker kids must sure like Italian food, because they would always talk about marinara. If I was lucky, I’d even get to witness a fight or two.

Then I would look for the “Brown shadow.” Grant who lived a block away, never walked by without his hot girlfriend close behind him whose last name was Brown. Sometimes I would press my face against the screen door and make my nose look like a pig as the kids walked by. Guaranteed laugh from everyone.

Or sometimes the marching band would practice “We got the Beat” marching around my block with some girl in front throwing a stick in the air whose only purpose was just to get our attention. That’s all it took to get our attention in the 80s, was a girl throwing a stick in the air. I would follow that band around the block in my totally awesome big wheel Green Machine. If you don’t know what a Green Machine is just google “Big, Green, Sexy, Toy” and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Anyway, growing up across from the high school as a wide-eyed 10-year-old boy was everything I could ask for. There was one day that stood out in particular.

I heard a large teenage cackling from a crowd across the street. I threw down my hot wheel and ran towards the window in a Pavlonian response to the high school excitement. There, in the middle of Kendrick Avenue was a large circle of high schoolers all hollering, laughing, screaming and cackling. “It’s go time!” I thought and ran out the door to see what today’s high school action was about.

By the way, don’t google “Big, Green Sexy Toy” to see what a green machine looks like. I just did that, and it didn’t turn out how I planned.

Anyway, I ran to the circle of high schoolers and weaved my way under the legs to the middle to see what the commotion was about. In the center of the crowded circle was a half dead bull snake clinging to life. The boys would kick it or mess with it and each time the crowd would scream. This snake was in trouble and after watching Marlin Perkins of Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom” last Saturday morning wrestle a 25 foot Anaconda, and “Beastmaster” the week before, I knew exactly what to do. I jumped in and grabbed the bull snake by the back of the neck with my left hand and the rest of the body with my right. Then the crowd gave the biggest roar yet!

My once altruistic behavior towards the snake now realized all the adoring eyes of the cool high school kids. The cheers grew louder as I walked around with this poor bull snake and my ego got bigger. In that moment I may have well been Gene Simmons. I’ll never have to put my nose to the screendoor again. I think I saw the Brown shadow take her eyes off Grant for a minute and twinkled her eyes at the 10-year-old beast master. With all eyes upon me, I then raised the snake above my head and yelled “ARE YE NOT ENTERTAINED!!” and the crowd roared! (ok, I’m exaggerating a bit, but not too much). I snapped out of my moment of glory and focused back on the poor snake. I started moving through the crowd with the dying snake in my hands and they parted like the Red Sea as I headed home. Luckily, we had an empty trash can available just like the one Oscar the Grouch lived in where I set the snake down safely. It was barely moving. Mom saw me and screamed. “How do you know that’s not a rattlesnake!!”

“Geez mom!” I hissed back, “I know the difference, I’m not an idiot!”

I didn’t really know the difference.

Miraculously, Oscar the snake made a full recovery after about a month in the trash can. I took Oscar down by the creek at the little league fields and tearfully set him free. There was no Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook the kids have these days to document it. Just a Firebird driving by in the distance playing John Cougar Mellencamp. “Oh Yeah, life goes on..long after the thrill of living is gone…”

Dave Fuqua is a Glendive native. You can find out more about him at . He can be reached at