The Zany Adventures of John Colbert II
The Zany Adventures of John Colbert II
By Owen Oates
In 1960 Jim Greene decided or was told to replace all the temporary PIs in Florida with permanent ones. He or somebody could not read the Castro situation correctly and had kept 13 border patrol stations in Florida occupied by 200 or more PIs on temporary duty at $12 per day for two years. A lot of wasted money. In September John and I were shipped over as permanent replacements. I went to Ft. Pierce and John to Miami. It was great duty (except for the heat) and a great place to live and work and play.
John did not get along with his supervisors in Miami, nor with his roommate, Bill Clausen. He needed a friend and someone to give him a little sympathy and someone to drink with. He sought a benison from me. John was in a league all by himself with regard to beer drinking. I couldn't hold that much nor did I want to. I was in the fortunate position of knowing a pilot that flew out of Ed Treat's flying service to the Bahamas about once a week. He could and did bring me back a gallon (five fifths) of Haig & Haig Gold Star for $18. I gave him $20 and forgot the change and could, in that way, offer my friends good whisky and little cost.
I lived on the beach at Ft. Pierce in a small group of apartments at 415 Hernando in a one-bedroom apartment. The bedroom had twin beds and could accommodate John when he came up. John came up often. After about a year at Miami he was disgusted. He would call me up, find out if I was home, and come up. The Sunshine State Parkway had just been completed from the Mixmaster in Miami to Ft. Pierce. It was 120 miles of four lane concrete highway with a grass divider in the middle. The roadway was without faults. John had a new Ford Thunderbird and he liked to drive fast. He didn't bother to keep time because he was usually sloshed when he started out. Didn't matter anyway.
One weekend John called and said he was on his way up. That was a Friday afternoon and about dark he arrived at my door. He went through the few beers I had in my icebox, and then we started in on the Haig. Two days of this went on except for the times we went out to eat. John didn't eat much when he was drunk. His eyes would cross and he couldn't read the menu. Sometimes he would ask the waitress but usually he would get into it with her. He would tell a dirty joke or ask her a personal question and she would leave.
Then, on Sunday night, John's weekend was over. He started back to Miami. He was loaded up on good Scotch when he stopped at the entrance to the parkway to get his ticket (The parkway was a toll road). He left about dark and came back through the same toll booth about half an hour later holding his ticket and two dollars. The girl took the ticket, looked at it quizzically, and asked him where he thought he was. "Miami, of course", John answered. She called the highway patrol and told John to park over there. The highway patrolman got his story and called me. I went out to see what was happening.
I had made a good friend among the highway patrol, a trooper named Peterson. I rode with him often at night, telling our Miami radio operator where I was and telling him that I could be contacted in car # 265 on the H.P frequency. I asked the trooper talking to John to call Peterson if he was on duty. He was and came up there zip-zip. Peterson was a loud guy who was always joking around and when he found out what had happened he had a good laugh on John. I asked him to parole him to my custody. Peterson agreed and let me take him home and put him to bed. He did and Peterson put the car in the parking lot of the employees manning the toll booth.
John sobered up Monday morning and called in sick. It took him awhile to get himself together but he did and left again for Miami about noon and made it safely this time. A few days later I ran into Peterson. He told me that he had gone down the parkway after we broke up and discovered what had happened. John was headed south on the inside lane at probably a high rate of speed when he went to sleep. His car angled off the roadway into the grass median. Just as it hit the bottom of the median the left front wheel ran over the iron grating of a drain. All that part of Florida is low-lying and drains were installed every mile or so on the parkway to handle those South Florida rains. When this happened, when the LF wheel dropped an inch or two onto that grating, the rear of the car skidded to the right as if to continue on to Miami. When the car passed over the grating and the rear of the car had done a 180, John woke up. The car was now back on the pavement and John just straightened up and drove on. But he was driving North without knowing it.
So he came back through the Ft. Pierce tollbooth without any sense of the time elapsed. He didn't understand all this until I explained it to him. He was nonplussed. John was a fool whose antics made life a little more interesting for me. He never quite understood that his shenanigans were outside the realm of normal behavior. His stunts were outrageous, as we will see in a later story. _______________
Don't tell me cocaine is habit-forming. I've been taking it for 17 years and I ought to know---Talulla Bankhead