In 1966, the Vietnam War was going strong but there was also a smaller war brewing at Ellerbe High School, according to Mr. Carl Lee of Rockingham.
That war at the school didn’t involve guns or weapons — but a friendly rivalry between some of the junior and senior boys of Ellerbe High.
Fighting for the juniors were Carl Lee, Ray Hudson, J.B. Carriker, Dicky Nance and Mike Iacona. The senior warriors were Valli Iacona, Donnie Richardson, Brad McInnis and Guy Webb.
All of these boys were of good local stock and had known each other all through school. Also, most of these boys were Pee Dee River Rats (a name given to folks who enjoyed spending time around the river). Why, these boys were on the river about every weekend — camping, fishing or hunting. They knew every crook and turn the river made, especially the Grassy Island section of the river.
As with most sportsmen, bragging rights go a long way, and so it was with these young men. That’s kinda how this war between the juniors and seniors got started. It seems every Monday, when school was in, these boys would tell their classmates and teachers how each group had outdone the other at the river. Why, somehow, all this big talk between the boys spread all over school and word got out that there was going to be a war at the river between the two groups the following weekend. The teachers asked the boys what the goal of the war would be. The boys said, “The victor of this war would be the group that could pull the biggest, friendliest, stunt against the other group.”
Well, the school teachers didn’t know how far each group of boys would take their stunts and they asked the boys to not proceed with this war — but the boys’ minds were made up, yes-sir-re, the war would go on.
The following Saturday evening came and found the juniors unloading their two boats at Parsons Lake, a mile or two down the river from where the seniors were camped at Coleman Creek. Having only one old Elgin motor and two boats, the juniors loaded each boat with supplies and crossed the river to the Anson County side. Their camp was at an old fishing shack right above the river’s edge.
After unloading their supplies at camp, the juniors started back across the river with their two boats, hoping to strike the first big blow to the senior camp.
One little motor pulling two boatloads of boys can take a while crossing the river. The long trip got a little boring for the boys in the front boat, so they decided to go into their war arsenal, light a Cherry Bomb, and throw it in the water. Folks, most of you know if’en you get a fuse lit good, the bomb will still go off underwater — and that’s exactly what happened. Why, that Cherry Bomb exploded right under the small wooden boat in the back and blew a ten inch hole in the bottom of it.
Carl Lee and Dicky Nance just happened to be riding in the back boat. Carl sailed out and started swimming to shore while Dicky grabbed a life jacket and tried ramming it in the large hole, but to no avail. Both boys swam for the river bank as the boys in the only boat left cut the tow rope and watched as their little dingy boat sank to the bottom of the river.
All this action didn’t detour the juniors, not at all. They had one thing in mind and that was to strike the first blow to the seniors.
Seems the sun was going down as the juniors got into their trucks and made their way up to the seniors’ camp. Not wanting to alert the seniors that they were coming, the juniors parked their trucks at Mountain Creek Boat Landing, about half a mile from where the senior camp was.
The juniors ever so silently made their way down the muddy road along Coleman Creek until they could see the seniors’ camp. What luck! The seniors had left all their food and supplies on the river bank while they had crossed the thoroughfare on an old lumber barge. The only way for the seniors to get back across was to pull on the large rope that would pull the barge back across.
As the juniors emerged on the camp, one of them held the rope, preventing the seniors from crossing back over — all the while, the other juniors were eating all the C-rations and drinking all the soft drinks the seniors had brought. “We’re going to get you”, hollered the seniors to the juniors, but the juniors just laughed.
Figuring they had won the war, the juniors let go of the rope that held the barge. They took off running back toward their trucks. The seniors pulled themselves back to their camp, got in their trucks and went looking for the juniors. Unknown to them, the juniors hadn’t made it to their trucks, but were hiding in the ditch bank and watched as the seniors drove by.
Time went by and not seeing the seniors come back, the juniors made their way back to Parsons Lake and crossed back onto the Anson County side of the river with their one and only boat.
The juniors were so elated with their victory that they could hardly go to sleep. But as the thick fog rolled in off the river and their camp fire flickered out, so did the junior boys — all snuggled up in their bedrolls.
As the juniors slept, little did they know that the seniors were not going down without a fight. Seems several of the seniors had gone home and gotten a row boat and were silently rowing their way toward the juniors’ camp.
With only the light of the moon, the seniors rowed their boat, ever so quietly, right up beside the juniors’ only boat. Then they untied it, pulled it out to the middle of the river and left it tied to a stump. Then with jubilation on their faces, the seniors rowed back to Richmond County and slept in their own beds for the rest of the night.
As the juniors arose the next morning, wiping the cracklings out of their eyes, they were surprised to see their only means of transportation back to Richmond County was floating in the middle of the river tied to a stump.
It was way too far to try to swim out to it. But finally, after hours of waiting, the juniors managed to flag a good- hearted fisherman down, and he retrieved their boat.
The Junior-Senior War was over and turned out to be a tie, but both groups still claim victory until this very day.
Little did the boys know that within a few years, Carl, Valli, and Brad would be serving our country in a real war.
All of these young boys grew up to be fine outstanding citizens, but sadly J.B. Carriker, Dicky Nance and Ray Hudson have gone on to their own heavenly shore, not to be forgotten. So, too, are the memories of the Junior-Senior War.
Folks, I hope you have enjoyed this true story of boys just being boys and having the time of their lives while doing it.
J.A. Bolton is a member of the N.C. Storytelling Guild, Anson Co. Writer’s Club, Anson and Richmond Co. Historical Societies and author of his new book, “Just Passing Time.”