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When a stunt to impress girls goes bad

Mountain Tales: First-hand stories of life in Tehachapi

When I was 16, I worked for the Tehachapi News taking photos and writing, and I was the sports editor. I had a 1971 Pontiac Firebird (which I still own) and my friend Dan Wells helped me paint it. Originally it was a lame shade of avocado green like a Sears refrigerator of the era, so my friend Dan Wells helped me repaint it a deep Warrior green. One Friday night I had driven the Firebird down to Bakersfield to cover a Garces football game, and had taken my friend Bill Millhollin, who was the darkroom technician for the News.

Tehachapi won the game, so we were in high spirits. I got in the car to leave and started it up, and Bill was still talking to some girls – he LOVED women of all ages. Bill was taking a long time, so I decided I would back out of the parking space so he would get the message that it was time to leave. Bill saw the car backing up, so he decided to show off for the girls and jump belly-first on the hood of the Firebird. At the last second, he thought about the new paint job and remembered he was wearing a big belt buckle and didn't want to scratch the paint, so he attempted to roll over in mid-air and land sitting above the wheel well.

He didn't make it, and he ended up with one leg in the wheel well, under the tire. I was looking behind me as I backed up and didn't realize that Evil Kneivel was trying to get in the car, and I ran over his leg. He stood up with a panicked look on his face, but thank goodness nothing was broken. His leg bruised up and he was a little embarrassed at his epic fail in front of girls, but that was all, he was tough. He died years later in a trailer fire on Highline Road after getting home late from work at CCI, and I still think about him often. He had a heart of gold and was a wonderful son to his mother, Ruby.

Jon Hammond