Norris Chambers Old Timer's Tales


by Norris Chambers


           In an era when toys were scarce some of us came up with the idea of making a tractor out of the works from an alarm clock. The mechanism for a wind up alarm clock was rectangular in shape and had several flat round gears inside. The big power spring moved very slowly and each meshing gear increased in speed. The last action on the chain was the balance wheel. It went back and forth, powered by one of the gears and an escape wheel actuating a small vibrating spring. Each time it moved back and forth it clicked and another second was measured.

            Embedded in this long chain of geared wheels was one that protruded slightly out of the open edges of the rectangular frame. When the balance wheel was removed this wheel rotated at a relatively slow speed. Some of the other wheels were slower or faster. The mechanism could be placed on its side and that wheel would provide traction, causing it to crawl along a little faster than a snail’s pace. It was a lot of fun to see them move along.

            I’m telling you all this so you will understand what happened when one of the boys brought one to school one day. I believe we were in the fifth grade that year. We had a nice middle-aged lady for a teacher that year. Her name was Leona Marshall.

            A girl by the name of Mary June sat in the seat in front of me. She had long, blonde curly hair and it usually appeared to be well groomed. Some days it even had a colorful ribbon delicately displayed.  I was guilty of dipping a strand or two in the ink well occasionally, but generally had been pretty well behaved.

            A boy by the name of Mike Barron sat behind me. He was not so well behaved. Many times he punched me with a pencil, tickled my neck with a feather or something that tended to bother me. But that was part of a day’s operation and I tolerated his aggravating annoyances. Another boy whose name was Billy sat in front of Mary June. He was a little on the mischievous side, but seldom did anything serious.

            On this day Mike had one of those alarm clock tractors. He wound it up tight and pushed it in front of my face. The wheels were turning and making a little noise.

            He held the clock monster with his left hand and was punching Billy with his right. It appeared to me that he was going to hand Billy the package.  I moved sideways while the thing was moving forward. The teacher was busy writing something of the blackboard and hadn’t seen the activity in our area.

            Mary June was sitting low in the seat and the monster brushed against her curly. blonde hair. Some of the strands apparently made their way through the thin frame to the whirling gears inside. Before I realized what was happening something inside was pulling the hair inside and the unit was climbing through her hair to her scalp. I’m sure it was pretty painful as it wound up the hair and kept digging in!

            The victim came to life suddenly and jumped out of her seat, screaming like a scalded cat. She was jumping up and down in the aisle, both hands pulling on the contraption that was well entrenched in her hair and pressing against her scalp.

            “Get it off! Get it off!” she kept yelling. She had everyone’s attention, including the teacher’s. The teacher ran back to see what was wrong and was having a hard time getting her still enough to determine what the problem was.

            Finally Mary June calmed down enough for Miss Marshall and another girl or two  to  diagnose the trouble. They agreed on what the problem was but they didn’t have any luck pulling it out of the hair. Mary June was still wailing like a sick calf.

            “I think we will have to cut some hair,” Miss Marshall said, and asked one of the girls to find some scissors.

            Someone had a pair of blunt nose scissors and handed them to the hair surgeon. It was a relatively simple matter to cut the hair beneath the machine. When it was pulled free it had stalled and was full of blonde hair. Miss Marshall held it up and looked it over. Several students started laughing. Mary June was crying softly and was feeling of the small bald spot on her head.  Miss Marshall looked at me and asked, “Norris, did you do this?”  I was prompt in replying, “No!”  Mary June stopped feeling and crying long enough to point to me and say, “He did it. He did it!”

            “It just passed by me,” I said. “It was an accident  that her hair got caught in it.”

            “Norris,” she said sternly, “Don’t you lie to me. I want you to stay after school is dismissed.” I didn’t like the sound of her voice and I had a deep feeling that I was in serious trouble. Mike just sat there in his seat looking innocent.

            Everything calmed down and the afternoon passed in the usual manner. When it came time to go home and I stayed for the mandatory appointment, Miss Marshall walked back to my seat stood glaring at me.

            Before she said anything, she reached and caught me by my hair and pulled my head back, staring angrily into my face. My attempt to tell her that it was an accident and I was innocent was a dismal failure. She gave me a strong lecture and kept pulling my hair to emphasize every word. Eventually she turned me loose and told me I would get a “D” in deportment on my next report card.

            I still worry about my unjust accusation, reprimand and bad grade for something I was not guilty of.  But every time I think about the blond hair being wound into the clock monster I have to laugh. It was pretty funny.

            The moral of this story is: “If you see a strange contraption headed for a girl’s hair, put some distance between you and the victim!”



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