Our Teenage Years: Growing up in a small town in the 80's
T. J. Wray
November 17, 2018
T. J. Wray
"A very special book that I enjoyed reading.” ~ Shirley Revill (Goodreads Reviewer)
"A real hidden gem that deserves to be read from an author who puts on no airs!” ~ Dianne (Goodreads Reviewer)
When did you decide to write Our Teenage Years: Growing up in a small town in the 80's?
I had been telling people I was going to write a book (someday), pretty much my entire adult life. But you know how we all procrastinate and never seem to get around to it. I guess life just gets in the way. Then when my best friend Terry passed away in 2016 at the age of 46. His wife asked me to get up and speak at his funeral. I told two or three of the stories in (Our Teenage Years). When I finished speaking Terry’s wife was in tears. As was half of the congregation. After the funeral service, at the meet and greet, several people came up to me and said I should write a book about our wild teenage years. My children had already been telling me for years that I should write a book. Because they had been listening to these stories their entire lives.
What inspired you to write your biography?
Like I said, I had been thinking about it my entire life. I guess just telling stories to my kids and grandkids made me think about putting those (Life Lesson) stories down on paper for everyone to enjoy. Then after Terry’s funeral, and all of the great response from people, made me decide it was time to write a book about my life. I went to Terry’s house two weeks before he died and visited with him for a couple of hours. I got a lot of great input from him that went into this book. But my children are my greatest inspiration.
Is Our Teenage Years: Growing up in a small town in the 80's your only work or have you written other books?
(Our Teenage Years), is the first book in the (My Life) series. It is about the 1980’s and all of my wild teenage experiences. Like all the things we all did for the first time as teenagers. Like my first car, girl friend, job, lifelong best friend. And many other first, like becoming a father at only 19…. The second book, that came out this past Christmas, is about the 1990’s and much more adult life and times. It is called (The ‘90s: Life on the Road). After breaking my back and going through major back surgery. I spent a year and a half in rehab and physical therapy learning how to walk again. Then I needed a new life and a new career. This second book takes you through the adventure of that new career. I call the second book (The rest of the story).
I am currently working on my next novel. It should be released this Christmas.
I am sure there were some really hard parts about writing the story of your life, is a point where you weren’t sure you should write a particular part but felt you really had to get it written down?
When I was a kid my dad used to tell me that anyone could write a book about themselves. He said “You can write a book because no one has ever been to the places you have been, or seen the things you have seen”. For instance, I have seen the Grand Canyon. And yes other people have seen the Grand Canyon. But maybe no one has ever taken the perilous road trip I took to get there. Or experienced the things and sites I seen along the way. My trip may have been totally unique in many ways. But a lot of people will relate to my trip to the Grand Canyon because they too have taken a similar trip. Just like my book (Our Teenage Years). The story is totally unique to me. But pretty much everyone who has read it will relate to it in one way or another. Especially if they lived during this time period with no internet, or cell phones, or cable TV. It was a different world than we live in today.
I read a survey the other day on Amazon that said 81% of people think they could write a book about their lives. I believe they could. Because everyone’s life story is unique.
If there was one thing you could/would change in Our Teenage Years: Growing up in a small town in the 80's what would it be? Why?
The only thing I might change is where I use the nickname (Sam the idiot), to refer to my step dad. I use this name in the book because my dad gave Sam that nickname when I was two years old and Sam broke up my mom and dad’s marriage. If I could I might change that, because it has caused a lot of problems from people on his side of the family, as you might emagine. Here we are a year later and they still leave hateful comments and one star reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. The only really bad reviews my books have ever received are from (Sam the idiot’s) family. Lol.
Is there anything else you would like to tell your readers, both new and old?
I will say this. Like I said in the above statement. If you were not alive in the 1980’s, you will probably not get this book. If you have never worn one of the hairdos on the cover, you will probably not get this book. If you have never lived in a world without computers or the internet, or cell phones, or cable TV. You will probably not get this book. If you were not old enough to vote before Obama was president. You will probably not get this book. If you have never watched a live episode of Johnny Carson, Star Search, or Hee Haw. You will probably not get this book. If you have never chewed Gatorgum, or drank a TAB cola. You will probably not get this book. If you don’t know who Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan are. You will probably not get this book. Because obviously you were not around in the ‘80s…...
You have a lot of support from your family was there anyone who was not supportive of your writing your story?
Not that I can think of. Being a single dad, my children are my whole world. My kids are very supportive of my writing. They have read all my books. As I wrote this book, I tried to leave out any really bad stuff from my childhood. So my daughter, who was 12 at the time, and her friends could read this book. There are two or three cuss words in the book, like ass or damn. But again, I tried to leave out any really bad stuff, or any bad language…
Thank you very much for all of your support of my books. God bless you all and happy reading. T.J. Wray
In the Beginning
This story is about two best friends growing up in a small town in their teenage years. The trials and tribulations of going to school, and dealing with their parents and siblings. As well as learning about girls, dealing with peer pressure, and going to work and getting their first jobs. Plus all the things we did for the first time in our teenage years. Like our first car and our first kiss. Also all the fun stuff like riding motorcycles and three-wheelers, going fishing, working on trucks, or just messing around with their friends.
This includes all the fights and troubles they got into at school or just trying to survive high school. As well as all the adventures and wild stories about exploring the back-country roads and farmlands. Plus all of their favorite fishing holes and hangout spots. It’s an absolute miracle that they survived those teenage years! -- So here is the story of me and my best friend Terry, who recently passed away.
This book is based on actual facts and is a true story to the very best of my memory. I put a lot of time, energy, and love into writing it. It brought up a lot of old stories and memories, some that made me laugh, while others made me cry. I can only hope it does the same for you. Please enjoy reading it and share it with your loved ones.
I want to apologize up front if I offend anyone here because of my lack of command of the English language. I’m not politically correct and I don’t speak proper English. I’m from Texas and I say Howdy, Y’all and Ain’t. I was always one of those kids who preferred math and history. I still do, so please forgive me. Being from Texas makes English my second language, as Texan would be my first...
Howdy, my name is T. J. I was born in 1968 in Texas. Things sure were different in 1968 than they are today. I think the population explosion has created all the new laws and rules we have to live by today, and taxes are much higher today. Sometimes I wish I had been born in 1868 where things seemed much simpler. In those days if you had a problem with someone you went outside and settled it like men.
Anyway, in 1968 we lived in Burkburnett Texas. Where my dad and granddad worked in the booming oil fields of west Texas. Across the street from our little rented house lived my dad’s mortal enemy (Sam). He was five or six years older than my dad, and according to dad, he never liked this guy. But he was always hanging around.
When I was two years old my dad was twenty-six and my mom was twenty. I had a sister Katie, who was two years older than me. So in 1970 when I was two and Katie was four, my parents got divorced. After being together for six years and being married for four years, they were finished. Dad said that he used to come home from work and Sam would be setting at his kitchen table. He hung around a lot and spent a lot of time with my mom while dad was at work.
They got into fight after fight about it, but dad said for months that he would come home and Sam would be in his house. So after a number of fights, they decided to get divorced. After working out the details they decided that dad would take me and leave my sister with my mom.
So, one night after supper and another huge fight, (probably about Sam), he put me in the car and left. He drove around the block, parked, sat there and thought for a few minutes. Then leaving me in the car (at the age of two), he ran up the yard behind our house, jumped over the fence, and went through the back door to our house. He grabbed my sister Katie and ran back out, jumped inside the car and took off. He later said to me, “I didn’t want Sam the idiot raising my kids!”
We spent the next eleven years on the run! Me and my sister recently sat down and figured it up. The closest we can remember (with input from friends and family), we lived in sixty-two different towns and seven different states during that eleven year period of my life, between the ages of two and thirteen. We were really poor and always moving around.
Dad tried hard, sometimes working two jobs. The problem was that every time mom got close to finding us or dad heard anything through the grapevine. Or someone came to his job asking around about us or every time something happened, we just up and moved away. We left houses full of furniture. Toys and clothes and everything we owned. If dad heard something funny that day, he would just put us in the car and leave. He wouldn’t go back to the house. He would just drive all night and start all over in a new town, or a new state. We were always on the run and he couldn’t keep a job. So we were very, very poor.
We usually lived in places where we could stay for free. Abandoned houses with no running water or electricity or sometimes not even any windows or doors. A lot of the time we lived on a farm or dairy where he could work, and we could live there for free. I remember him getting up at 4 a.m. to milk the cows. But a lot of the time we just lived in the car or in a roadside park (which is a rest area to most of you).
We used to sleep on the picnic tables. As I look back, I feel sorry for my dad. He had a good paying job working in the oil fields of west Texas, and he had to leave and spend eleven years on the run trying to raise me and my sister. I know he did the best he could. It’s funny, because nowadays I’m a single dad trying to raise my two kids and it’s really, really tough stuff.
When I was about four years old my dad met Brenda, my stepmom. They got married and she treated me and Katie like stepchildren for sure! She spanked us every day until we got big enough for beatings. My dad was a great big guy always around 350 lbs. or so. His waist size was like forty-six. Brenda would take his belt, hold it by the buckle like a whip, make me or my sister lay down on the bed and beat us with it. As we got older the beatings got more and more often, trying to keep us in line I guess. I don’t know but sometimes I think she beat us just because she liked it.
Brenda used to make me go cut a switch and every time, she would say, “That’s not big enough. Go cut another one!” I remember I would already be bawling my eyes out just cutting down a switch from a tree, because I knew the beating was coming. She would make me pull down my pants. Then she would beat and switch my bottom and legs until I had huge welts and was bleeding everywhere.
Many times dad would come home from work and see me bleeding. They would get into a huge fight! And he would put me and Katie in his truck and leave. We would sleep in rest areas for two or three days, and they would make up, and he would always go back. I don’t think he knew how bad she beat us because usually when she was beating us he was at work. They broke up many times over the years, but he always went back to her. When my dad died in 2010 he had been with Brenda for over thirty-five years.
In 1981, when I was thirteen and Katie was fifteen years old, after many years of Brenda beating us. I guess Katie had all she could take and ran away from home with our next-door neighbor who was like thirty years old.
Books In The My Life Book Series
About The Author
I am a single dad with two kids. I am currently working on my next book. I drive a tow truck for a living. My kids are my whole world, everything evolves around them. I like to work out and go fishing. Or take my kids to a ball game. I restore old muscle cars in my spare time. Also I love to ride my motorcycle and read books.