By Ron Hudson
I woke that birthday morning, in October of 1966, knowing it would begin like the eight previous ones; with my mom forcing me to choose between taking my morning medication, getting my ass whipped, or a phone call to the doctor (which meant a visit to the psychiatric ward for evaluation).
Life as a kid….as I remember it:
Our family of four sisters and two parents moved from the inner city to the suburbs when I was two years old.
The doctors recommended the open space as a “good place for children like me” … a good place for my abundant energy. Church was also considered a place and resource for me to get help. And that was so, until one Sunday morning I put a three-year-old girl in the closet after beating her with Lincoln logs.
I can still hear my dad’s yelling over and over again, him completely frus-trated over not having any of my attention, or any control over me. Just to give some perspective over how difficult it was to manage me as a child and keep me close to home, my dad ran a cable from the back of our home to the corner of the garage. He attached a 25-foot foot leash and a small dog harness. I remember how happy he was to have found a way to keep me where I belonged … in our yard!
That worked like a charm until a nosy do-gooder (my dad’s words) came over to complain about child abuse. My mom said, “If you want him off the line, then you can take him for the day.” Aunt Shirley, as she would later be called, walked over and unhooked the leash. And just like that, I was FREE! Before the poor woman could blink, I was gone. Wind in my hair, I ran screaming through the backyard and into an open 25-acre field, lush with waist-high goldenrod.
Two hours later, sweating and cov-ered in burrs (both of us), we arrived back home, where she instantly returned me to the harness. I could hear mom laughing loudly, probably bent over crying, it tickled her so. Aunt Shirley would later become the first person I would prescribe my miracle medicine to.
I did not begin kindergarten at age five because I was unable to sit long enough to write my name and room number. That is when the doctors recommended medication. “We just need to slow him down,” they said. Ritalin, Thorazine, Prozac, and amitriptyline are just a few of the many mood-altering drugs my small body was forced to accept. Improper dosages were common in those years.
The side effects were many, i.e. edgi-ness, nausea, diarrhea, and constant headaches, to describe a few.
My mom knew that when the shuf-fling started and drool spilled from my mouth, I was well medicated.
The next year I was given the green light to start my education; my spe-cial education, that is. I rode the short bus, strapped into my seat with a football helmet and mouth guard, so that no biting of my tongue would occur. The first half of school went well. I was given medication when it appeared I was losing control. The school’s Nurse Eleanor, a large, unhappy woman, grossly overweight (in a time when slim was the norm), administered the meds by strapping me to an exam table and forcing the pills down my throat. This resulted in me gagging and puking on myself. I would stay in that position until the drugs took effect.
The teachers sat me away from the other kids, even though most of them had mental and physical problems worse than mine. “Brilliant” is what the first-grade teacher told my mom, “but extremely troubled, possibly retardation of some sort.”
My violent behavior started in the second half of the first grade. The next three years seemed to melt together … special classes, doctors, drugs, and more drugs. The kids in the neighborhood loved to pick on me, the retarded-crazy-boy, but always from a distance.
In the summer of 1967, I moved in with my grandparents. Grandpa had retired young. My summers were filled with his guidance and learning about how to take apart washers, dryers, and other articles he and I picked up cleaning out basements or garages.
That first summer in the city, I met Hugh “Bucky” O’Neil, soon to be my best friend. Bucky had four brothers and five sisters. Large fami-lies, like his, were common in the city during the early 1960s. I spent my spare time down the block at the O’Neils, away from my grandpar-ents’ home and watchful eyes.
That summer, my mom decided it was time for me to return to public school in the fall; I entered at the fifth-grade level. Bucky was my good friend and he was a big kid, so others stopped picking on me. But with time, fighting had become a daily activity for me in grade school. I was only nine, and I was fearless.
That October, Bucky’s brother hand-ed me a gift for my tenth birthday, a “fatty,” he called it. Well, that fatty turned out to be my miracle drug. I started pretending to take my pills and instead smoked a little of that fatty for the next three days.
When the fatty was finished, Bucky’s brother gave me what he called a lid and charged me 15 dollars. He taught me how to roll, pack a corn-cob pipe, and most of all taught me how to tell the difference between great weed and schwag.
I searched high and low for the best weed available. It never mattered how far or whom I dealt with. Getting the best was all that mattered. As years went by, life got much better. My grades improved, which was most important to my family.
I continued working summers with my grandpa, and although I still fought a lot, my main concern was to be sure I had enough weed to keep my brain and body happy.
I could not function without my fatty; without it I was a train wreck. Searching for the best weed gave me quite the reputation, and friends started to sing the old cartoon phrase, “OH, MR. MAGOO, YOU’VE DONE IT AGAIN!” That silly little phrase came from a Saturday morn-ing cartoon called Mr.Magoo’s Adventures.
That’s how I became known as Mr. Magoo, weed smuggler extraordi-naire. When smuggling couldn’t get me the best, growing was the answer. Now, that is another chapter yet to be written.