Wednesday, 20 August 2014 06:29

Cap'n Twylo

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People who like to work at night are a different breed—especially in a small town like Los Alamos. We like to associate with other night workers like us, but we are rather suspicious of everyone else. It’s those day folk who cause all the problems! Eventually when we get day jobs, we almost return to normal again.

Many years ago, I was actually paid to be a night person and worked from about midnight to dawn. As usual, I was listening to the conversation of a few policemen who had stopped by for a quick coffee break. I took it as an invitation to join them and clear my head from all the night accounting books for a few minutes. After going over pages and pages of information it was becoming too easy to miss mistakes and not see my own errors. A little time out (and coffee) always put me into a more productive state of awareness.

I was always glad the police would stop by because it made me feel safer and gave me someone to talk to in the middle of the night, for a few minutes. Caffeine and small talk also refreshed them for night driving and patrols. They were both large men but “Bernie” was the fun-loving type who seemed to see all sides of everyone’s situation—a great negotiator. “Theo” was a bit more inflexible, and seemed to have a shorter temper—although it would have been hard to imagine him angry with anyone. I often saw how good he was with the kids on the Little League or while performing safety demonstrations at the schools. He was slow of movement and said few words.

On one particular night, these two cops began talking about a kid who used to show up at every incident that called for police intersession. From the way they talked, this boy was about fourteen and he rode a black bike. He also dressed all in black. He would show up at any time of day or night. Not surprisingly, his quiet demeanor and dark clothing kept him somewhat hidden from the sight of most of the authorities. All of this seemed to take place about 1965 to 1972.

I have to mention at this point that people in this era did not wear black clothing very often unless it was a uniform. If you did wear mostly black, you were constantly asked, “Where’s the funeral?” or “Who died?”

Popular colors for these times were rich browns, avocado greens, and tangerine oranges. Purples, pinks, and mustard yellows were also out there but most men only owned white (or mostly white) shirts to wear with any suit they owned. On the other end of the spectrum, the brilliant tie-dye fabrics of Hippies and Yuppies stole the show. Almost everyone had some fringe decorated coats, purses, or boots. If you were conservative, you dressed in neutral colors, crisp white, or pastels. Hardly anyone wore solid black.

This kid in black with all the weird stuff attached to his person was dubbed Cap’n Twylo. When I asked Bernie how they named him, it became apparent that Captain Americawas already taken and Twylo was funny because it was so close to Twilight Zone. Neither Bernie nor Theo could remember the kid’s real name.

“At least I think that what we used to call him,” said Bernie, furrowing his forehead slightly and looking up at the ceiling. Bernie seemed to know the most about him. He almost spoke of him with a  touch of awe. “He was probably the genius son of a genius who worked at the Lab.”

Theo was not as gracious in his description and was clearly irritated by the kid’s incessant appearance at every location or incident that any cop was called to.

“He had that bicycle really rigged out,” claimed Bernie.

Theo nodded in agreement.

“You mean he had a lot of bicycle protection gear?” I asked.

Bernie laughed right at me like he couldn’t believe what I had just said. Then still laughing, he said, “You know when we were kids on bikes, we would have laughed our butts off at anyone who came to school with all the crap they sell to bikers these days. I know, I know—I’m supposed to be promoting bike safety but times have really changed. None of us would ever wear a helmet, or glasses that let you see behind you. If you went to school with any sort of bike ‘protection’ or ‘gear’ you probably wouldn’t come home without a fight during the day and parts of your bike and/or helmet missing.”

Although Theo was sitting there stunned at what Bernie was saying, he said nothing. He already knew that Bernie was just being inconveniently truthful. Theo chose a face of exaggerated disgust over an argument on safety.

On the other hand, I knew Bernie was exactly right. Those weredifferent days and I know that my friends and I would have giggled at the bicycle helmets or the Lycra bike clothing—back then. Since we were taught to hide under our flimsy desks in case of a nuclear attack— we all thought safety was something you did when you had enough time or needed a Brownie badge or something. For example, hardly any of us used those pesky seat belts that were beginning to show up in all the new cars. When we complained about them hurting our bottoms when we sat on them for a ride, we were told, “Oh, just tuck ‘em deep between the seat cushions where you can’t feel them anymore.” So we did. If the car braked unexpectedly, we would automatically put our arm in front of the person next to us. Like that would save someone from being hurled out a plate glass window. No, everyone was supposed to know how to fall off a bike properly or have a car accident without getting hurt—too badly. Besides, a little knee scab from a bike fall was a symbol or brotherhood—even for little girly girls like me that still did tea parties in the backyard.

“Well, what do you mean about rigged-out?” I asked, obviously not knowing the gravity of meaning for a rigged-out bicycle. “Did he have a playing card tied to the wheel so that it sounded like a motorcycle when he rode it?”

That was the extent of my knowledge. Of course I had spent most of my childhood on a bike riding up and down our road for fun, running errands, and often it was my transport between home and school. I thought my bike was state of the art because it had a bell and a dim little light on the front of the steering column so I could find my way home when I was out later than I was supposed to be.

“I had to beg for the front basket but I got it. I needed someplace to hold my books and errand items, as I was riding. I did tricks on that stupid bike like standing on the seat and posing like a dancer as I was riding. I also once took our bulldog for a walk —a dog that could easily push me down and drag me along like a weightless rag doll. I decided it might be cool to harness some of his power so I tied the end of his leash to the front of my bike. I put my feet on my handlebars and crossed them at the ankles as he pulled me along effortlessly. Everything was fine until he saw an excited pack of dogs chasing a cat across the road.

Suddenly a big slobbery look of excitement crossed his face as he saw the other cat-chasing dogs—off we went! Unfortunately when we jumped the curb, my bike shot upright into the air and then fell on its side. The bike and I were now fully on the ground on our collective right side as the dog dragged me. Up over dirt hills and gullies and through sharp dried plants and weeds of vacant lots. I finally did the smart thing and just let go of the bike—it continued to run and frolic with the bulldog and the rest of the dog herd chasing the cat. Later the dog was found and brought to me so he could “apologize to me,” per my older sister’s idea. The dog sat, looked up at me, smiled, and acted like he was ready for a treat and another bike-walk. I was a scratched, bruised, mad little eight-year old. I never trusted any cute little movie about loyal dogs again. Liars!

“No,” said Bernie, “I mean Cap’n Twylo had a sort of headband with built-in binoculars and probably a transistor radio. He was all wired up with all sorts of things coming out of his head. He had installed mysterious electronic equipment all over that black bicycle. Probably had a radio signal that picked up police calls. That may be why he was sometimes there before we were. Sometimes, he would show off a little and make blue sparks come off the front of his bike. Mind you, this was before the big popularity of all the low-rider cars and the tricks they do down in the Española Valley. I have no idea where he got his technical skills. Like I said, he must have been some sort of little nerd genius.”

“Yeah,” said Theo, “I never thought too much of your Cap’n Twylo. He was near the legal standpoint of interfering with some of our investigations . . .”

“He was on that bike,” said Bernie in a slight condescending tone, “He knew trails and places he can get to and hide in before we could even get in our cars. Think you can get a cruiser in between all these trees and narrow places by houses, buildings, and neighborhoods? He was just a curious kid.”

Theo sat there with his arms across his chest trying (but failing) to come up with a better perspective of the weird kid dressed all in black. He understood controlled activity of well-behaved children—but not the unbridled energy of super smart kid. “Yeah, he sure could disappear fast—I’ll give you that,” Theo said.

Bernie continued the story and it seemed that Cap’n Twylo eventually did get a negative reaction from another policemen. Now, there may have been a few other imitators of Cap’n Twylo—just because he seemed sorta cool—but even the fake Twylo’s were going to get in trouble if they went far enough.

Eventually Cap’n Twylo was given a chewing out or a warning to stay away. By the time that particular officer returned to his patrol car, he found that the distinctive red and blue light assembly was missing from the top of his patrol car. It had been quickly and carefully removed. The officer looked up from his car and in the distance—on a high road looking down at the current police scene—the familiar patrol top lights blinking madly and sitting steadily on the black bike. The width of the brackets that held the lights were at least three times wider than the handlebars, but it seemed fastened tightly. There were several more times when Cap’n Twylo made a far-off appearance whenever this particular policeman was called out to a location, but Bernie had been right. It was too difficult to chase this young kid through the forest or through a town full of places to hide. After a while—it got old and not so funny anymore (at least from the Cap’n Twylo’s perspective)—and the performances stopped.

“Whatever happened to him?” I asked Bernie.

Bernie shrugged his shoulders and stared blankly at his coffee cup. “I don’t know, must have moved on, become a policeman, FBI Agent, CIA, . . . Who knows . . . I just hope he’s working for our side.”

—Raven DeVille

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Raven Q. DeVille

Raven was born in the extreme SE corner of New Mexico, lived in the 4-corners region for 11 years, and has spent the last 50 years in Española, Santa Fe, and especially in the city of Los Alamos. She writes of her own various first-hand experiences, second-hand tales of friends, and various theories regarding ghost stories, legends and general oddness of Enchanted New Mexico.

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