Authors: Ron Shirley
Copyright © 2010, 2012 by Ronnie Lee Shirley, Jr.
All rights reserved.
Three Rivers Press and the Tugboat design are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Originally published in paperback in the United States in different form by EME Press, East Stroudsburg, PA, in 2010.
The photos appearing herein are courtesy and property of the author.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lizard tales / Ron Shirley.
1. Shirley, Ron. 2. Collection agents—North Carolina—Lizard Lick—Biography. 3. Conduct of life. 4. Lizard Lick (N.C.)—Social life and customs. I. Title.
Cover design by Steve Attardo
This book is dedicated to my wife, Amy
and my mother, Judy
They both taught me that love isn’t love
until you give it away, and that letting go is
the greatest way to hold on
’m an adrenaline junkie. For me, life just ain’t no fun if it’s not fast and furious and full of surprises.
I was a college football player when one day I got struck by lightning and fell off a roof. After a couple weeks in the hospital, I got out to discover that football was gone for me … and with it, my plans for the future. I really didn’t know what to do. I tried working in the office of my brother’s car lot for a while, but I’m just not the kind of guy who can sit behind a desk; it left me as antsy as a bee-stung stallion—that is, until my brother started doin’ his own financing and I started repoing cars for him. I never would’ve guessed that was gonna be the start of a whole new life for me, ultimately as founder and president of Lizard Lick Towing and Recovery—a life that is many things, but never, ever boring! What follows in these pages is a collection of true stories from this always-unpredictable life of mine.
I’m a person who craves mental challenges as much as physical ones. Now, you might not think that the repo business requires a lot of smarts, but I’ll tell you what: it’s all a mental chess game. I find ways to find people, and for me that’s the fun of this business. Of course, the actual finding isn’t always fun—I’ve been stabbed, I’ve had guns pulled on me … you can read about all that in the pages ahead. I gotta say, though, in this process I sure have learned
a whole lot. That’s where the “wisdom” part of this book comes from—many a life lesson learned the hard way.
And the funny way. In this business, anybody can be tough. I found a way to separate myself from the rest of the pack by using funny sayings to put people off guard and take control of the situation—maybe letting me get the job done with wit rather than force … and hopefully living to tell about it! When I’m out there repoing a man’s truck and he’s about to bust my head open like a gourd, I might say, “Bo, you look as crazy as a three-eyed dog in a hubcap factory.”
And he loses it! He doesn’t know what to say or what to think—and then I’m in control.
These little secret weapons of mine are what have come to be known as Ronisms. Now, the truth be told, they’re not all mine. My granddaddy used to say some of these things. And my momma used to say some of these things.
Some of these sayings have been around for more than a hundred years—those are the ones I learned growin’ up in the cut, and over time I’ve tried to perfect ’em and make ’em my own. Others are truly original. But original or not, these Ronisms have become something of my trademark, and now they’re part of my everyday life. So, naturally, they’re part of all these stories from my life. In between the stories, you’ll find a whole bunch more sayings. Try ’em out yourself … and feel free to adapt ’em and change ’em and make ’em your own—just like I did.
So that’s what this book is: funny sayings and hard-learned lessons from the life of a man on a constant quest for the next adventure. Or, in other words, “
The Wit & Wisdom of Ron Shirley
I’ve heard it said that a man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between
he does what he wants to do. Well, if that’s true, then I’m proud to be a successful man. And if telling you about it can make you laugh a little, and maybe even learn a little, then I’ll be happier than a raccoon in the corn crib with the dogs tied up to have helped a bit with your success. So kick back, put your feet up, help yourself to some ’shine (if you got it), and enjoy these true stories about the guy they call the Big Lizard—or what I like to call
. Now turn the page and GET LICKED!
omma always told me that if you eat one live toad first thing in the morning when you wake, nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day. I think she was right.
One Saturday morning, me and Jason woke up just before daylight, and it didn’t take us more than fifteen minutes to be bored and looking for something mischievous to get into. Now, many of you have met boys like me and Jason before—but you probably had to pay admission. See, we’ve always been of the understanding that you shouldn’t take life too seriously. Heck, no one gets out alive anyway. So we ventured outside to the shed to see what we could develop or destroy.
Now, Jason never was the brightest crayon in the box. I remember one time he took an IQ test and the results came back negative. But that boy was sure gifted with his hands. He could build or fly most anything I could think up, so I decided, since he was so useful, I’d keep him around. Well, we went to rumbling and somehow ended up with some bottle rockets, an old stuffed toy dog, and a pair of broken roller skates. Jason was talking about making some bottle rocket–propelled skates, but I was more interested in making a skate-propelled dog. I figured we could put some wheels on the mutt, strap the rockets to his hindquarters, get up in the curve on the road, and shoot him across when a car was coming around the bend.
Jason said we’d have a better chance of freezing moonshine
in a woodstove than pulling this off without Momma or Pops catching us. But I could sell ketchup to a tomato farmer. And I knew Jason.
“You’d rather drink five gallons of gas and then piss on a forest fire than not go along,” I told him. He quickly agreed and we went to work.
For about two hours, we were busier than a stump full of termites in a flash flood. Then, when Jason attached the last bottle rocket, I knew even Einstein would have been impressed. So we grabbed our new invention, hopped on our bicycles, and headed down the road. We hid the bikes in the tree line and set up our new four-legged friend, whom we named Run Over Rover. Then we waited for our first victim.