Back in 1958, when I was fifteen years old, I made the most critical and important decision in my youthful life. I made the choice any all-American fifteen-year-old farm boy would have made. It was time for me to get my first kiss from a girl.

You see, I had a crush on Mary Sue!

Mary Sue and her brother Woody lived with their mother next door to my Aunt Rose Gamble, in the duplex house just off Kirkland Street in my hometown of Abbeville, Alabama.  What better reason could a country boy have for going to town to see a favorite aunt…especially if Mary Sue happened to live just across the hallway?

Mary Sue’s brother was several years older than me. We really had nothing in common, but as soon as Momma and I arrived at Aunt Rose’s home, I would conjure up an excuse to run next door and see my good friend, Woody.

Funny thing! I always said I was going to see Woody, but I never wanted him to be home. I yearned only to see Mary Sue, and I hoped her mother would be inspired by my arrival to step across the hallway to visit with my Momma and Aunt Rose.

Since my scheming often paid off, I can truly say my visits with Mary Sue only remained in the platonic stage. I never tried stealing a kiss, but I can’t deny I had been having a lot of thoughts about the possibility. In fact, ruminating over how I was going to get my ‘first ever kiss’ –I was certain it would come from Mary Sue. My problem was, 1958 had quickly turned into late fall, and I would soon be sixteen.  I had wasted nearly a year pondering about fifteen being the right time to really be an all-American man!

And then it happened! The Baptist church in town announced they would be sponsoring a teenage social at Mathison’s Pond. After so much planning, plotting and scheming, at last it seemed the wait and anticipation would be over!

The pond was north of town on what is known as the Screamer Highway. This was a straight-away road from town that crossed right over the top of the dam at Mathison’s Pond. Nearby was the Mathison’s cabin with a well-lit clearing easily patrolled by adult chaperones, and therefore an ideal place for a Baptist youth social

The church socials of my youth were not quite as suffused with righteousness, or hell-fire and brimstone harangues as you might imagine. But for darn sure though, the chaperones didn’t just let us play fun games, like ‘spin the bottle’. If risqué games had been an option, pubescent boys like me wouldn’t have had to resort to such devious and sinful actions as I was willingly considering.

The night of the social, most of the kids stayed close to the cabin, being fully illuminated by the brightly shining lights that surrounded the Mathison’s cabin. They were acting, I suppose, like good little boys and girls. Meanwhile, I was scheming to put my plans in motion! But for the life of me—I couldn’t come up with a feasible plan as valuable time was ticking away because there was no escaping the curfew hours that teenage socials were subject to in 1958.

Knowing the chaperones would be suspicious of any boy and girl couple who drifted away from the group and the glaring lights illuminating the area, I figured if I asked Mary Sue directly, she would decline taking a walk alone with me down to the dam. I figured if I could ask someone else to join us, then I would just have to entice the third person to head back to the cabin.  I knew the dam would be in total darkness and well beyond the lights of the Mathison’s cabin. But now, it didn’t matter if the dam was ten yards or ten miles away, I had a major problem to resolve.

Who could I enlist to fill out the threesome? Suddenly, just as my prayers of wishing and hoping were approaching curfew time, the solution was in full view. Mary Sue and Libby C. were in deep conversation standing in the middle of the yard, under a brightly shining over-head light. I knew Libby wouldn’t be afraid of the dark, and I figured her courage would embolden Mary Sue to take a walk.  More importantly, I was counting on the fact that Libby was a tomboy. She was already sixteen, and one of the few high school students who had a personal car. Libby knew more about crescent wrenches and how cars are repaired and serviced than a professional mechanic. Libby could fix anything! Now I was hoping she could solve my major problem. Plus, I figured she had no interest in what was really on my mind for this trip to the dam.

Without any hesitation, I made my move.  Strutting over in what I intended to be a nonchalant saunter, I said, “Why don’t you girls take a walk with me down to the dam? Won’t take but a minute, and we can come right back.”

My plan fell right into place. The two agreed to take a walk with me. It seemed like only a few moments, and we found ourselves on top of the dam. We were standing ‘smack dab’ in the middle of the Screamer Highway. Knowing that a car could come along any minute and hearing the other kids back at the cabin laughing and talking, I didn’t hesitate to put the final part of my plan into action.

I blurted out, “I’m going to kiss one of you, so ya’ll decide which one it’s going to be and let me know.”

I had no doubt hearing my pronouncement; Libby would be heading back to the cabin –maybe to show off a new wrench or how to change the oil in a car. This would leave Mary Sue and me standing in the dark – bells and whistles going off in our heads.

I took a few steps back to give them plenty of room to decide what the forgone solution would be. With heads bent together, Mary Sue and Libby whispered together for what seemed like an eternity. I couldn’t exactly make out what was being said, but I did notice the discussion between them seemed to grow more and more animated.

Finally, I thought I heard Mary Sue say, “Okay, then I win!”

My heart skipped a beat. My dream was coming true. But I thought I heard a word of disappointment from Libby!

But as I stood there in the darkness, standing in the middle of the Screamer Highway, Mary Sue started walking in my direction. But as she neared, she just kept on walking. She walked right past me and was headed for the cabin where I heard the other kids having a good time.

I said, “Mary Sue, where are you going?”

Over her shoulder, she replied, “I’m going back to the cabin. I won!”

At this point, I’m compelled to leave my readers in suspense. After all, southern gentlemen should never kiss and tell. And I am a southern gentleman!

I will say that sometime later that night I succeeded in having my first kiss, and from a very nice girl. I closed my eyes and puckered my lips and leaned my head forward. I ran smack dab into the bridge of her nose. On the second attempt, I got it right!

As a gentleman, I cannot tell you who the girl was.  For details like that, you’ll just have too drive to my old hometown. Look up a special woman who can, if she wishes, answer any questions you might have about a special dark night in 1958, standing in the middle of the Screamer Highway, during a church social.

And if you happen to be having car trouble, she can fix that, too.

“If women didn’t exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning.”-Aristotle Onassis

Cary Lindsay

Cary Lindsay is a native of Abbeville, Alabama and a former executive for a major textbook publisher. He serves as a reader for the Chautauqua Literary Prize for the Chautauqua Institution in New York.

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