Good-Bye, Old Paint
By Jeff Baker
I’d bailed out of school my sophomore year and had driven up to Millington, Kansas. My buddy Bumper lived up there, in a trailer on some land at the edge of town his family owned. I know what that sounds like, but they kept a lot of their junk and papers in the trailer and having Bumper in there when he wasn’t working at the gas station kept people from breaking in and stealing their stuff. Or from stealing his weed. Anyway, Bumper let me bunk at the trailer and we spent our spare time smoking weed and drinking the beer he brought home with him.
It was a weekday afternoon and we were just a little buzzed. I was sitting on the old railroad tracks watching the breeze make the grass ripple when Bumper started talking about the Millington Crater.
“You mean that pothole over on Seventeenth Street?” I asked.
“Nah, man. The crater!” Bumper said. “It’s famous! There were scientists all over here in the old days. They were looking for chunks, you know. Those, whadyacallems…” He grabbed in the empty air with his fingers.
“Meteorites,” I said. “Hey, when were all these scientists here, anyway?”
“It was like, eighteen-ninety or sometime around then. I guess they never found anything. And anyway the crater is kind of; well, ‘unofficial’ is the word they use on the Wikipedia page. There’s a confirmed crater over in Haviland. My folks and sister and I drove over and saw it one time.”
I started laughing. Two in the afternoon after a joint and some beer and an unofficial meteor crater sounded funny.
“Unconfirmed,” Bumper said. “That’s what they called it.” He finished his beer and threw it in the direction of the trailer. “Wanna go see it?”
“Sure,” I said. I stood up and promptly tripped. Bumper laughed and helped me to my feet.
“This-a-way,” Bumper said. “Walk this way.” We both laughed again.
As we walked over the little rise going west Bumper started singing and pretty soon I joined in:
“Good-bye, Old Paint
I’m a-leavin’ Cheyanne
Good-bye, Old Paint
I’m a leavin’ Cheyanne.”
We couldn’t remember the rest of it, but considering our singing, that was just as well.
After about fifteen minutes walking we were standing in a grassy field. I looked around; couldn’t see any buildings or the town. I knew the highway from Millington to Pending was over there someplace, but I couldn’t hear any traffic.
“Over here,” Bumper said.”
I walked over. He was pointing to a small indentation which had grass growing around it; a bare patch about ten feet across.
“Millington’s not-so-famous meteor crater,” Bumper said. We stood and stared down at it. It was like a big pitcher’s mound turned upside-down. I walked across it, and then ran and jumped across it as far as I could, landing flat on the ground beside where Bumper was standing. We both started laughing again.
“Hey, you know what they used to call the high school baseball team here?” Bumper asked. “The Meteors.”
I crawled over and felt around with my hands, wondering what size of a meteor had hit so long ago. After a while we wandered back to the trailer.
I re-enrolled in school the next year. I even took a geology class. Didn’t become a geologist, but I didn’t spend my life smoking weed in a trailer, either.