My new friend Dr. Jim Vickery is completing the final edit on a book about the old B-movie Western films. A tome to which I made an infinitesimal contribution. Unfortunately, I neglected to add my most unusual picture-show story; I still don’t understand how I could have forgotten such a warm, abiding memory.

It transpired thusly:

When I was growing up on the Fairfax (Alabama) Mill Village, there was family living several houses down from us on Combs Street. The family consisted of a red-haired mother and father and a houseful of red-headed young’uns. They ranged from Hoyt, the oldest, three years my senior, to several children my age and younger.

Hoyt, a roly-poly lad, was about as big around as he was tall and freckled as a butterbean; but his appearance was not Hoyt’s most striking characteristic. No, Hoyt’s feet set him apart from mere mortals: specifically, he had the most awful-smelling feet on the North American Continent, if not the entire Milky Way Galaxy. Lethal. But, he was a cheerful, happy-go-lucky sort, who ignored the insults and jibes about his stinking feet.

However, Hoyt, not dumb by a long shot, but in fact, pretty clever – or at least possessing a low-animal cunning, used his odiferous feet to good advantage. When the Combs Street gang went to the picture show, almost daily, we walked in a boisterous herd and usually sat in a rowdy group.

But, if we didn’t leave soon enough and the theater was full, there would not be enough empty seats for us to sit together. The village picture show was really popular back in the pre-TV, computer and cellular-phone days.

No Problem. Hoyt, used to making do, would scan the theater until he spotted a vacant seat. Then he would quickly sit down, remove his shoes and shocks, and crossing his legs yoga fashion, shake his feet and wiggle his toes to unleash the full poisonous power of his reeking feet on those seated near him.

Naturally, people. gagging, eyes watering, and cursing the vile fumes, fled from Hoyt’s pungent feet. Whereupon, Hoyt, grinning, would stand victoriously and wave us all down from where we were waiting at the back of the picture show. After we we were all seated, Hoyt would put on his shoes and socks. If he hadn’t we couldn’t have sat that near him.

It never failed. I knew I would have a seat if Hoyt was along to work his never-failing magic, which was nothing less than a satanic, natural, overpowering mojo.

Hoyt dropped out of school at 17 and joined the Army. He served 20 years. I’m sure he started washing his feet. Otherwise, the other recruits couldn’t have slept in the barracks with Hoyt if he pulled off his boots and socks.

And I’m sure it would have violated the Geneva Convention to force a soldier to share a foxhole with Hoyt. The Geneva, Alabama, convention if not the more famous agreement.

I used to tell my buddies that Army Intelligence could use Hoyt to make captured war prisoners spill all their secrets. All they would have to do is sit the hapless enemy down handcuffed and shackled with a barefooted Hoyt seated before them wiggling his naked toes in their face. No human alive could tolerate that torture.

Dat boy’s foots wuz deadly! In the vernacular of the old days, “They could knock a hungry buzzard off a gut wagon.”

(Actually, I shouldn’t be making fun of Hoyt. After he retired from the Army, he moved back to the Valley with his fast-talking Yankee wife; who, while possibly. lacking a sense of smell, evidently, didn’t cotton to cotton-mill villages. She soon deserted Hoyt and lit out for the territories.

Not long afterward, Hoyt committed suicide by shooting himself with a gun, according to reports. But, I really don’t know if he shot himself with a firearm, or accidentally got a deadly whiff of his own feet. Either weapon would do the trick.)

  Image Credit: the photo of the smelly socks and the old shoes is in the public domain via
    1. JL Strickland

      Thanks, Tom. I’m sure ol’ Hoyt is in Heaven now, unless he committed an egregious faux pas by taking off his shoes at the Pearly Gate.

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