Ok – where were we? Oh yes – I was now an ex-cowboy.
A friend of my family whose own family lived in Mexico City invited me up for a couple of weeks that turned into several months. Neither of my parents accompanied me, so I had a blast. When I finally returned home, I was ready to get out of the house for good, but had neither a place to live nor a job. My Mom had bought an enormous black Chrysler Imperial from a local funeral home (what they called a “family car”),
and I finagled a job there. Since the two after-hours workers also lived there in a room upstairs and down the hall from the prep room, I had killed (sorry) two birds with one stone.
Here’s the now-shut-down funeral home – in the second pic, our window is on the upper left.
The garage door to the right was where the two hearses were kept. Whoever was on duty that night had to be ready at any time the phone rang to hop up, put his suit on, go downstairs, get in a hearse, and go to pick up the body. (you know, people seldom die during the day). When I left the garage, I usually shot out like Batman hurtling out of the Batcave.
I had a girlfriend over at Baylor (having a black girlfriend in Waco in the late 60s was an experience difficult to describe), but my workmate/roommate’s girlfriend lived about 60 miles away, so he was usually there. Often my girlfriend would call, and to get a little privacy, I’d put her on hold and go down the hall to the prep room, turn the lights on, plop down on one of the two tables (the unoccupied one, of course), and talk to her there.
I learned the embalming trade, and did a lot of the dirty work even though I didn’t have a license. In the daytime, which one of us was on duty would take one of the family cars to the house specified by the next of kin, and make sure they got all the flowers, arranged nicely.
At night, the only person downstairs was a receptionist (family from out of town would often arrive late at night/early in the morning, and want to view the deceased). Usually all she would do was lie on the couch in the staff lounge, watch TV, and snack.
My roomie and I were particularly bored one night, so I laid on one of the body transport tables and had him cover me with a sheet. Now, it was not unusual for one or the other of us to be pushing a body through the hallway, so when he stopped at the lounge room door to chat with her, she didn’t find it unusual.
Then I slowly started to sit up. I can still hear the scream.
We got in a lot of trouble for that one, but I was ready to leave anyway. My high school roommates were ready to start Journalism classes at McLennan Community college, and so was I.
I can tell you that spending that much time with dead bodies pretty much wiped out any “living with the angels in Heaven” bullshit I still had.