Frying Donuts with the Red Headed Girl


As I get close to retirement I find myself musing on the many jobs that have made up my working career.   Invariably, when I go down that nostalgic path, one job in particular always comes back to me………frying doughnuts at Randall’s Bakery.    It was a job that was aptly described by Charles Dickens in the opening of his  “A Tale of Two Cities”……..“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

It was the worst of times because it was a job from Hell that started at 5am, except on Monday’s, when it started at 4 am.    It was hot and boring with lousy pay, and if all that wasn’t enough it was run by a nasty little man who, in another time in history, would have been a great Egyptian taskmaster and the only thing he lacked was a whip and a pyramid to build.

However, it was also the best of times as Randall’s bakery had the red headed girl!    A female who oozed beauty, maturity and style but most importantly, to a 15 year old boy…rampant sexuality.   Long flowing red hair, green eyes and an impish, cute round face, and finally……...curves and I mean curves!

Curves unknown to any of my female freshman classmates at Notre Dame High School.  In fact unknown anywhere in the town of Mitchell, South Dakota except between the pages of the few Playboys I had stashed under my mattress at home.

If I ever had any lingering adolescent doubts about the difference between boys and girls the red headed girl put them to rest.

When she arrived at work in her tight fitting, starched white uniform I literally had to brace myself on a counter, as I was afraid my knees would buckle.

In spite of all of my unrequited passion I did not delude myself regarding my status at Randall's Bakery and the redheaded girl.   Had this been the Middle Ages she would have been a princess, frolicking in a courtyard, and I would have been a stable boy, shoveling horse manure from dusk to dawn.

While not very ‘world wise’ at this point in my life I knew enough about how things worked to know that stable boys did not walk up to the castle door and ask the princess for a date.

Because I was the new guy the worst job in the bakery fell to me……..frying cake donuts.   While the rest of the equipment appeared to be semi-twentieth century, the donut frying operation looked as if it had been developed by some ancient Mayan culture.

It had a large vat of boiling oil with a screen underneath.   Above that was a large container with a crank into which was globbed the dough.   I would then crank this apparatus and it would squeeze out the donuts into the grease.   When I had filled the entire vat I would grab a pair of drum sticks and quickly start flipping the donuts because if they stayed too long on one side they would burn.   I would then pick up the screen and dump the donuts almost always burning my fingers.

However, it did not matter how bad this job was as the red headed girl was always near by and I would have flipped donuts barehanded in the hot grease if it meant staying in her vicinity.

In fact, after awhile, she actually started paying some attention to me and while not that familiar with the whole ritual of flirting it felt like she might be flirting with me.

Even my fellow lackeys at the bakery said they noticed her attention towards me and thought she might want to go out with me.   While they were not the brightest bulbs on the block I would take ‘redheaded girl encouragement’ from any source, be it animal, vegetable or mineral.

I'll spare you the agonizing I did trying to decide what to do next, however, it finally came down to two choices:  One, ask her out and risk getting a 'gut shot' rejection.  Or, two, don't ask her out and spend the rest of my life wondering if she would have gone.

Suffice it to say I could not go through life with that hanging over my head.  So one day, when we left work at the same time, I mustered all my courage and asked her if she would like to go to the drive-in movie that Friday.  She said:  "Sure".

After all the trauma I had gone through getting the nerve to ask her for a date the suddenness of her reply set me back some and I cannot remember what I said after that.  I do recall, however, that I turned and floated home.   The stable boy was going on a date with the Princess!

I don’t recall much about getting ready for my date except that every hormonally wracked pore in my body was pumping sweat.   I changed shirts a number of times and took two showers, the second one with cold water.

She lived with a roommate in, what in those days was called a basement house.    Don’t even know if they have such things today but they were literally basements with no house on them.

I refused to allow myself to think about the opportunities this parentless environment might provide, as there was quite enough stimulation already at work in this whole process.

Have no idea what the movie was at the drive-in theater; however, at some point I began the excruciating slow process of getting my arm around her.   This began by putting up my right arm and leaning my head on it, then ever so slowly floating it out on the back of her seat.    Once sufficient time had passed I moved the hand down to touch her right shoulder.   Finally, I moved my left hand over and touched her left arm.   I was now in position to kiss her!!

I should mention that I was still expecting all of this to go bad.    As every male knows, who has gone through this mating ritual, at any moment you are half expecting the girl to say something like:  “Why don’t we watch the movie” as she slides out your grasp.

Not the red head.   With every one of my ultra smooth moves there had been nothing but quiet acceptance.   Now, only one thing remained:  Kiss her!

However, like the first time you attempt to jump from the high dive I was stuck out at the edge of board frozen in place.   “Go on kiss her, you idiot!”  My mind screamed but every other part of my being refused to make the leap.   Finally, my right arm started to go numb after an hour of being stretched over her shoulder and I knew it would be totally useless in minutes if I didn’t act, so out of desperation and pain I closed my eyes and jumped.

I cannot do justice to what kissing her was like that first time except to say it was pure curvy red head heaven.    However, I knew immediately that as far as ‘kissing education’ was concerned she had already gotten her PhD while I was just entering middle school.    Didn’t matter.   I figured whatever I lacked in experience I could make up for with enthusiasm.

We finally come up for air and I heard her whisper:   “I’ll give you an hour and a pack of cigarettes to quit that”.

WHAT!!!   WHAT HAD SHE JUST SAID!!!   My mind, which earlier had been so clear and forceful about kissing her, was now a sea of oatmeal.   My synapses were not connecting in my brain and I could not comprehend what the sexy red head had just said……….something about time and cigarettes but the only thing that had come through crystal clear were two words:   “Quit that”.   So I did.    You heard me right…I “quit that”.    Took my arm back and watched the movie.

Over the years I have often wondered how that night or maybe even my whole life might have been different if, in my totally muddled state, I had not totally misunderstood the message of that cute red head.   A message in which she told me, that not only would she give me an entire hour to keep kissing her but would throw in a pack of cigarettes as a bonus.

Things cooled between the red head and me after that and we finally broke up.

So ended my short courtship and infatuation with the red headed girl.   Seems she quit and left for California with her roommate.   Perhaps to find boys who were less dense then me.

My job at the bakery didn’t last much longer either.   One particularly nasty 4 AM cake donut frying Monday I came to work with a bad sunburn from a Sunday afternoon at the lake.    Anyway, between the depression over the red head, hot grease splattering my sunburn and the Egyptian taskmaster yelling at me to go faster I finally snapped.   I threw my cake donut flipping drumsticks into the hot grease, took off my apron and told Ramses that he could fry is own damn donuts.

I walked out into the cool crisp morning air and took a deep breath of non-bakery polluted air.   In spite of my botching the whole red headed girl incident and losing my job I was feeling OK.

There was still enough summer left to have other romantic adventures and somewhere out there was another job.

I learned a couple of lessons during that long ago summer.   From the red headed girl I learned it was important to listen to people and try and better understand what they are saying.  From Randall’s bakery I learned that maybe it was time to apply myself a little more so I would not end up frying cake donuts at 4 AM.

All in all not bad things to learn at an early age.

So thanks to you red headed girl and I hope you have had a good life, and that you found a man who had a better understanding and appreciation for your wonderful line:   “I’ll give you an hour and a pack of cigarettes to quit that.”