It was a winter Sunday afternoon in 1975. I was driving a ’67 Chrysler New Yorker I had recently acquired, and I had three of my friends with me, namely Steve, Danny, and Bill. Steve was in the front, riding shotgun with me, while Danny rode in the back seat directly behind him and Bill rode behind me. Danny was a National Guardsman, and as such, he had shopping privileges at the Post Exchange at the local military base. We had dropped by there on this cold, blustery afternoon so he could by a set of sharpening stones. These came with their own little can of honing oil, and he was fiddling with his can of oil in the back seat as we drove around. Steve and Danny were both tobacco chewers, and Steve kept running the electric window down on his side of the car to spit out into the frigid January air. He’d roll it down, spit, then roll it back up.
“Stop running that window up and down,” I told him. “You’ll burn up the window motor.” I found an empty coke can (there weren’t any beer cans in my car) and handed it to him. “Spit in this can.”
“I don’t have my knife and I can’t cut the top out of the can.” he complained. I fished out my pocketknife, and he skillfully cut the top out of the rolled steel Coca Cola can I had handed him. Danny was chewing too, and since the electric window didn’t work where he was sitting, he’d have to hold his spit until we stopped at traffic lights and open the door to spew his juice onto the pavement. He threw me a soft drink can he found in the back floorboard and demanded that I cut the top out of it for him. I glanced back at where he sat and saw the holster for his folding hunter Buck hanging on his belt. I threw the can back to him.
“Use your own knife; mine’s already cut the top out of one can and I don’t want the edge spoiled any more.”
“But my knife is a ‘razoo’ sharp instrument.” He complained, throwing the can back to me again. I rolled my window down and threw the can out. Meanwhile he kept asking to borrow Steve’s can, but Steve wouldn’t loan it to him. This is where the retaliation snowball started. Danny had a small piece of plastic he had bitten off the top of his honing oil can, and in frustration over Steve’s unwillingness to loan him his spit can, he flicked the little piece of plastic it on Steve’s left arm. Steve was sitting with his left arm lying across the back of the seat toward me and had his right elbow propped on the passenger side door panel with his fingers out the window, (which was down about an inch or so) resting the tips of his fingers in the roof rain trough outside. When Danny flicked the little piece of white plastic, Steve took a small stem of a tobacco leaf out of his mouth and flipped it back on Danny’s brown suede jacket. Danny retaliated by squirting oil in Steve’s ear, which was a big mistake. Three seconds later, Steve had tossed his can of spit all over Danny’s jacket. I was uninvolved up to this point; I glanced over at the window, and his fingers weren’t there for a change. It was a bit drafty in the car, so I decided to roll the window up from my master switch, but as I looked away, Steve put his fingers back in the one-inch crack, and when I rolled the window up I mashed his fingers.
“OH! OH! OH! OH! OH!” He shouted, frantically finding the window switch on his side. He rolled the window down to free his fingers, grabbed the baseball cap off my head and threw it out the window as we drove along. I looked in the rearview and saw it flutter to the pavement behind us…