Dad

Durn cats, why do they like to sleep on my keyboard?  I wanted to go back through my stories and make sure all of the I’s are crossed and T’s are dotted but my cat slept on my keyboard.  Now when I look for my story folder, all I can find is qqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq.

Can you imagine almost being full grown, then finding out that you aren’t who you are suppose to be?

That’s what happened to my Dad.  In 1942 at the beginning of WWII, my Dad Julius Frailey quit school in the middle of the 12th grade to join the service.  His choice was the US Navy.

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Only 17 at the time, Dad needed his parents permission to enlist, that and a copy of his birth certificate.  The only problem was, his parents had a glitch involved with providing his birth certificate.

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His Dad, Andrew Winer told him that he had been adopted when he was two years old.  His real last name was Frailey.  Andy had started the adoption process many years before, but never had the extra money required to get a lawyer to file the proper paperwork.

Dad was told that both of his birth parents had been drinkers.  They partied so much that the county took their children away and put them in a county home.  The Winer’s had a childless marriage, they took my Dad home to fill that void when he was 2 and a half years old.

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The German couple had been farmers in rural south Indiana.  They raised Dad as their own.  He helped with the farm labor and repaid them with free labor and a life long devotion.

When Dad presented his actual birth certificate to the Navy recruiter it read Julius Roscoe Frailey.

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Dad’s curiosity was aroused.  He wanted to know more about his real parents, did he have any brothers and sisters?  He enlisted the aide of the American Red Cross to find out.

One thing leads to another.  He didn’t get the whole story all at once, in fact it took him over 40 years to find out the whole truth.

Nellie Hillenberg Frailey was his birth Mom.  The Red Cross found her through country records.  Dad was the oldest son with 3 other siblings.   Hepsie Beulah, Mary Mae and a younger brother James.

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After the county removed the children from the home, they were all placed in an orphanage.  Nellie got her act together and was able to recover custody of three of her kids but not Dad.  He had already been adopted they were told and it was too late to get him back.

Andrew Winer told my Dad that his real father, Sam Frailey had worked on his farm one season and came to him with a proposition.  Sam told him that he had a son in the county home.  He said he couldn’t provide for him and that for a fee of $250.00 he would sign away his custodial rights to him.

This was a big shock to Dad.  Here he had loved this old German couple for what he thought was his whole life, only to find out that they had bought him like a loaf of bread at the store.

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He told me that although they had provided for him and gave him a place to live, that he was raised in a home with no love or emotion.  Strictly enforced was the rule, that if you want to eat, you gotta work.  No shortage of work on a farm.  No luxuries either.  Electricity and running water were non existent.  His bedding material consisted of a corn shuck mattress and a worn out quilt.  His wardrobe mainly consisted of overalls and work boots.  He told me that he looked forward to Christmas, in the good years he received an orange in his stocking.  The out house, which I got to personally inspect many years later, was adorn with a Sears and Roebuck catalogue, with half of the pages missing and a wooden bucket of corn cobs, broke in half. (Now I know exactly what “rough as a cob” means.”

Soon after he enlisted in the Navy, before he got out of boot camp in Great Lakes during the winter of ’43, Dad was told by the American red Cross, that his birth mother had been located, she was now living with his siblings in Bakersfield, California.

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After boot camp graduation Dad hopped a train to Bakersfield to get acquainted with his Mom and to meet his brother and sisters.  Nellie had married a fellow by the name of Roy Brown.  He was from the same neck of the woods as she, a non drinker and a hard worker.  Together they had decided to move to California to look for a new start.

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Nellie filled Dad in on his rough beginnings.  She shouldered her half of the blame.  She told him that she tried to get him back, but to no avail.  She also told him that Sam Frailey had been married to several other women at the same time he was married to her.

Sam became an itinerant farm worker, a mechanic, a miner, what ever he could do to get enough money to get drunk.  He moved from town to town, marrying unsuspecting women along the way, having several children by each, maintaining several families simultaneously.  She didn’t know how many, but his family was from Cave in Rock, Illinois, a good place to start looking for him.

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Dad started out in the Navy as an enlisted man.  His German upbringing had given him a strong work ethic, he rose through the ranks as an enlisted man, finally making senior chief before applying to Officer’s Candidate School, which he completed and was promoted to the rank of Ensign, in 1959.

Dad was never able to share love and devotion to his own family the way people think of it by today’s standards.  He didn’t know how.  To him every thing was cut or dry, no in betweens.  You either did like you were supposed to do or you got punished to the max, just so you wouldn’t do it again.

He didn’t pretend to be any thing else, it was always easy to figure out which way he was coming from, because he didn’t sit on the fence.  It was either his way or the highway.

He kept his family investigation going, finding out over the years that other brothers and sisters had been through the same ordeal as him.  Though about a half a dozen siblings had died in childhood or child birth, he still had 19 siblings that lived.  Sam Frailey had been married to 5 different women at the same time.  Dad didn’t get to meet all of them until his later years when he was nearing the end of his road.

His real Dad Sam, came to meet us with a car load of youngins in 1960 right after Dad made Ensign.  Dad let him stay with us for a day or two, but gave him the cold shoulder after that.  He came to work for us at the Trailer Park when Dad was in Viet Nam.  He mowed grass and helped shovel dirt and would scrape up enough money to go get a six pack, get out his guitar and then sing the “blues.”

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I never showed my grandpa the kind of love or devotion that a grandchild should, how could I?  Not after knowing how he treated my Dad.  I did go to his funeral in Cave in Rock in 1975.  I guess you could say his funeral looked like a clan meeting, they were quite a few of us there.  There were about 300 people spread out on side off the hill, most of them were Fraileys, in the sprinkling rain.  My brother Gary and I were there, we wondered how many of these people were our Grandpa’s off spring.  Gary and I stood up in front of all these people we didn’t know and sang “Amazing Grace” at the church during the services.  Folks not knowing any better, thought that we were the “Haggar Twins” from “Hee Haw.”

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Dad made a real life “rag to riches” story out of his life.  He gives most of the credit to couple that raised him as their own.  When he died, he was paying taxes on over two million dollars worth of property, he owned several businesses and spent a lot of time trying to get reacquainted with his long lost siblings.

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He left his wealth to his new bride, trusting that she would in turn, share the blessings with his kids by his first marriage.  She didn’t, it doesn’t upset me though, I got to see how he made his.  If I wanted to bad enough, I could do the same things he did.  I just enjoy the love of my family more so than him and think I got the better end of the stick.  Qqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq!

Peace in the Valley

We had driven out to San Francisco to see the Rolling Stones in concert at the Cow Palace.  After that we drove south to Ft. Ord, to see our cousin Linda and her family.  My brother Gary, our nephew Glen and I rode out from Ft. Ord early the next morning after two cups of coffee.  Linda’s husband  Glenn was a major in the Army.  Glenn worked the night we arrived, so when Linda broke out the beer and wine, it might be truthful to say that in his absence, we over indulged.  We did throw quite a shindig without him.

Linda met Glenn in High School, we had known him since then, his personality was always stern.  Life in the Army made him more so.  We didn’t want to face Glenn’s wrath when he got home in the aftermath, so we left kinda early the next morning.  Our destination was the new housing developments we had seen scattered throughout the valleys a few days before,  near the mountainous area just east of San Francisco.

We were driving by ogling the countryside when we noticed several bulldozers pushing up stumps, big stumps into a large pile.  There were so many, that they dotted the landscape, some had been set on fire.  A couple of days later, when we were out pitching our tools, we came across a place that was selling high dollar furniture, made from burl.

Burl was the gnarly twisted stumps from a redwood tree.  Once they had been sand blasted and pressure washed the wood was beautiful was brought back to life.  Skilled craftsmen were cutting some redwood stumps into slabs of beautiful cut wood, after which they sculpted it into furniture and treated it with sealer and polyurethane.  This material was being made into very expensive coffee tables, end tables, dining tables, and heck, just about anything that you could imagine.

Once we saw the price they were asking for these relics we asked the bossman if he needed any more?  You know just in case we knew where we could get some.  He told us “hell yes,” he could use it.  He promised to pay us a good price, he said that he would even loan us his trailer to go get it.

When we got back to the area that was being developed, we got the crew boss to hold off on burning anymore piles of stumps.  They loaded them on our trailer with a front end loader.  The stumps were so gigantic, that we could only carry one big one or maybe two small ones, at a time.

We didn’t have any problem getting a good price, after all this was California.  Burl furniture was selling at a premium.  When we asked for a thousand dollars for a stump that didn’t cost us anything, the boss said, “Hell boys, I’ll give you two thousand, have you got any more?”  After dropping each load, we would drive up and down the valleys, searching for new fields of stumps.

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On this morning, it was early morning yet, so early the dew was still heavy on the grass.  I was driving down the side of a steep slope when we stopped to look at the view before us.  From the top of a mountainside, we could see almost the whole of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge with the fog rising above it and the silhouette of Fisherman’s wharf, beneath.

Gary was taking a picture out of the passenger side of the truck when I noticed an imposing iron gate on my left that was just beginning to swing open.  I noticed that it was an unusual gate; someone had gone to a lot of trouble to make it look like a sheet of music.  Across the front were welded steel letters about a foot high that read “Bless Your Pea Picking Heart,” with musical notes painted up like flowers in the background

This discovery caused me to get my brothers attention,  I wanted to show him the gate.  The gate was in motion, opening enough to let us see a dark haired gentleman, walking out of the gate.  Music was blaring out a familiar tune, loudly from unseen speakers.  This gentleman, wearing pink striped pajamas and fluffy white bedroom slippers emerge from the gap.  He took a couple of steps gingerly walking on top of the dew with his white frilly slippers and he picked up a newspaper out of the wet grass.  Just as he stood up, Gary said “Hey, that’s Tennessee Ernie Ford.”  After a closer look, I agreed with him.  Sure enough it was, as he told us later to call him, “Old Ernie.”

I honked the horn, my truck had one of those “Old Rebel Yell horns,” that played “Dixie,” and a Rebel Flag front license plate  This got Ernie’s attention real quick and he stood up to wave at us.  What a sight.  We had the whole San Francisco Bay on the right side and on the left side, Tennessee Ernie Ford, wearing pink striped pajamas, waving at us.

While we were staring, Mr. Ernie walked over to driver’s window of the truck.  He could take one look at us and just know that we weren’t from around these parts.  We both had on western wear and straw hats.  This was before the Duke’s of Hazzard aired, so for that point in time, we were unique, in that area.

He asked us where we were from, what were we up to, did we want to come in for a cup of coffee?  It was a no brainer answering that question.  I could remember my Mom singing along while listening to some of his Gospel music.  We told him in unison,“Hell yeah.”

Our nephew Glen was still sleeping in the truck, so it was just Gary and I that when inside to check out his mansion.  Ernie had an overly inquisitive housekeeper, Filipino I think.  The way he kept an eye on us,  made me squirm a little, like he thought we were gonna steal some silver or something.

Mr. Ernie instructed his housekeeper to fetch us some coffee and to fix us some breakfast.  The he turned to us and asked, “You boys like  smoked sausage and grits don’t you?”  We both spoke at the same time, “Oh Sir, yes Sir.”  Then before we could say anything else the old crooner said, “You gotta import grits around here, nobody seems to know what they are, I get mine sent in special from Martha White.   (I almost looked for the cameras, because I almost thought he was doing a commercial)

Then he said, “I’ve had the hardest time getting Stefano here to learn how to cook ‘em, he wants to put sugar and milk on it.”  While we were waiting for Stefano to bring us our coffee Gary sat down on a piano stool and started pecking out a tune.

Mr. Ernie sat down next to Gary, they both were play along on the same tune.  My brother could play anything.  He had that ear, me? I’m tone deaf.  I have problems playing the radio.  Watching them tickling the ivories on the keyboard, it occurred to me that the great “Tennessee Ernie Ford” might be gay. No wait, I mean, he was very nice to us.  He invited total strangers into his house to drink morning coffee and while at first I thought it was because he liked hearing our southern accents, it dawned on me that it might be because he thought that we were young unsuspecting males.

Our coffee was served.  We told jokes and even a couple of stories about us being southern in California, surviving the pitfalls it projected when everyone thought that you were stupid because we spoke with a drawl.  I reminded Mr. Ernie that Jimmy was in office.  We aren’t the ones with an accent anymore.  He seemed to like that.

Then Stefano brought our breakfast in on a silver serving tray.  A large steaming bowl of grits was in the center of the tray.  Mr. Ernie said to his servant “Are you sure you got these grits right Stefano, I’m entertaining guest from back home and I don’t want to be embarrassed.  He raised the lid and peered into the bowl and said “What the hell?”  Then he stuck a large spoon into the bowl and held it backwards in one hand and then pulled the top of the spoon backwards with the other, this caused the contents of the spoon to spatter up against the window.  Once the grits hit the wall, the gooey mess slid down the window pane.  Mad, yeah I think so, angrily he said “Them grits is too damn soupy, what have I told you, put one cup of grits into two cups of water and bring to a boil for a couple minutes, stir a couple times and then let ‘em simmer.”

Then Old Ernie turned back to us and said, “I’m sorry boys, you know how hard it is to find good help these days, but Stefano here is good people, breakfast will be in just a few more minutes.”

He then sat back on the piano stool and played a medley of some of his hits, we were entertained and to tell you the truth, we had already eaten breakfast, we just didn’t want to cut our visit short.

This time when Stefano brought the bowl of grits back to the table, the first thing Mr. Ernie did was the same trick with the spoon again.  This time instead of running down the window, they stuck in a glob,  One big splat.  Equally embarrassed Mr. Ernie was frustrated as he turned to look at us, shook his head and said “You fellas see what I’m up against out here, I’m ready to pack my bags and head back to Tennessee.”

I told him not to feel too bad about it.  I got beat up by the cops in L.A. and put in jail, just because I had a southern accent.  Me saying that got his attention, he asked me to tell him about it.  I told him there’s not much to tell.  I was in my pickup on Hollywood and Vine, waiting for the light to change.  Me and a friend “Dino” Dave Anderson had just broke the seal on a bottle of Jack Black.  I had taken a swig and was reaching for a can of Sprite on the dash of the truck to chase it with, when two really good looking blondes walked past us, crossing street.  I hit the horn, it played its melody and then I let out a whistle.  I got out of the truck at the red light and hollered at the gals.  I think I said something to the effect about my grandpa told me if I saw any good looking blondes while I was in California to bring him back one or two.

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Old Ernie laughed at this a time or two, when he did the crow’s feet around his eyes almost disappeared, then he asked me what happened next?  I replied “Well, I’m sorry to say this, but while I was watching them gals, they kinda looked to me  like they was about ready to take off running, then two El Monte cops pulled in behind us.  The one that looked like Bing Crosby’s son that you see on Adam 12 once in a while, came up from behind me and got me in a choker hold.  The cops saw the bottle of Jack, but it only had one swallow gone from it.  They asked me about the One a Day vitamins that I had in the glove box.  I asked if that was illegal?  The cop still had me from behind and said “you’re slurring your speech, ain’t body talks like that on purpose.”  Next thing I know he grabbed me from behind in a sleeper hold, then I wake up in the County Jail, naked outside of the bars with my hands sticking through the bars behind my back, handcuffed.  The rest of the night the jailer kept hitting me with his flash light every time he walked past.  The next morning, they let me go.

After hearing this Mr. Ernie sucked on his teeth for a minute, then after shaking his head, he said “It’s enough to make you wonder about people some times, ain’t it.  What happened to the evidence?”  I said, “do you mean the vitamins?”  He responded, “No, no, the sipping whiskey, what happened to the bottle of Jack.?”  I told him that I never saw that bottle of Jack Daniels again.  He just looked at the ground and shook his head, rubbing his tongue over his lips and said “Them bastards, they drank the evidence, that’s probably why they had to let you go.”

Our visit lasted about an hour.  When we got up to leave, he asked us to keep his location a secret for as long as we could.  I don’t care if Old Ernie was gay or not, none of my business.  Heck, there are probably a lot of people in California that wear pink striped pajamas and fuzzy white slippers.  He was a very nice host, a true gentleman, there is definitely something bred into folks from the south, the warmth of southern hospitality is for real.

I can remember watching his gate slowly opening for us to leave and listening to the tune the loud speaker playing a recording in his deep, rich baritone voice.  “There will be peace in the valley, there will be peace some day.  There will be peace in the valley  of the Lord.”

Springfield

I took Bonnies’ car to the shop to get fixed at a shop on Evergreen and 8th St. to my son Julius’s friend “T.” He wasn’t there but “T’s” employees were telling me not to be scared of the neighborhood. I laughed at them. I told them this use to be my neighborhood, I wasn’t scared. They just stared at me in disbelief. I told them that Mom and Dad owned a house on 11th and Market St. when I was really little. My sister Glenda would push me around the neighborhood in a stroller.
When I was big enough to walk, my sister and I would take sandwiches to my Uncle Maynard Krause at 711 Liberty Street for lunch. Uncle Maynard use to work for my Dad out at NAS. He married mom’s cousin Maxine. When he became a patrolman, he enjoyed giving the family tours of the jail. Later he became Chief of Detectives.
After I got married, I remember helping my brother in law, Bug Moore paint the old Hubbard House, the shelter for battered women. Bug’s brother Billy had gotten in trouble for beating his wife Mary and together they concocted a scheme to paint the old wooden two story building in an effort to get Billy a lighter sentence.
My wife and I use to eat our bag lunches at Hemingpark everyday for years and we would feed the pigeons the scraps. On our every other week paydays we would eat at Morrison’s cafeteria. She worked for American Heritage and I worked for HUD downtown.
Soon afterwards, I went to FJC and I got a 210 license, to sell life insurance. I sold life Insurance for Security Life of Georgia, my office was on Hubbard and 8th St. back in ‘’78 and ’79. My debit was from Main St. to Grand Park. Durkeeville was my main source of income. There was a time or two when I had to shoot crap after dark to get my premium.
Years later, I started a temporary labor company and rented a building, right next door to where“T’s” shop is now. I came to work at 4 am everyday and made coffee and waited for the Crispy Cremes. I paid everyone 33 dollars a day. I gave them a draft for the money. I set it up with every bar in the neighborhood to cash my drafts. The bars would cash their draft for a dollar and give them a glass of draft beer free. The bars knew they would spend the rest of it right there. I would go by the bars every afternoon and redeem them. It started out slow, getting new clients. I would get my workers from the halfway houses. Some turned out pretty good workers and I was able to get them permanent jobs. Then word got around and I had more people everyday, raking the yard, painting the building, sweeping or what ever, to kill time and get my attention. I started knocking on more doors. I had a 12 passenger van to start with, then a 15 passenger. I got the contract to supply labor to rebuild one of the bridges downtown, not the Main St, but the other one. That’s right, the Acosta. I was shuffling more than 140 people a day to work, by myself. I’d make ’em lunches, sold them gloves and hard hats, work boots (on time, so much a day). I went to the flea markets to get shovels and wheelbarrows, rakes and hoes. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking but don’t say it. I even bought cigarettes by the carton and fronted them out for a dollar profit. To respect their privacy, I won’t mention my partner’ by name. His wife kept the books, they put up the money, I put up the work. Because we were a temporary labor service, our workman’s comp insurance was at a cheaper rate than most every one else’s. I went to all of the businesses and warehouse in the neighborhood and told them if they would let me handle their payroll, they could keep the same employees and it would cost them less money. We out grew our working capital. We started with $65,000., then had to cash in some CD’s to make it $140,000. But paying out money everyday to hundreds of employees and then just getting repaid once a month with a 15 day grace period, payday turned out to be 45 and 60 days later. Each month the amount we paid out grew bigger and bigger and but the amount coming back in took longer to collect. That was too much for the folks, because I came in one day and they were both grinning from ear to ear. “Hurray, we sold the business.” (To our main competitors). I miss it, ‘cause I built it (with their money.) Can’t blame the folks, they were old and were afraid of the risk involved, me I was young and full of beans. I knew every body in that neighborhood. I fought for them. I put ’em to work, carried them to the store, loaned them money. I made and gave them company ID’s with a picture. For most, it was the only ID they had. When I drive past where the “Boots and Saddles” on 8th St. use to be, I wonder if anyone remembers me.
I use to hang out at the Chevron on 8th and Liberty, to cash checks, play bid whisk on the hood of the car and look to see who was cashing a check and where it was coming from, so I could get a new lead and steal their business and workers too.
Across the street from “T,” on 7th and Fla. just across the train tracks, are two adjoining fire damaged houses that my son Chris, my dog Sparky and I spent a year rebuilding and remodeling. Makes me feel great to drive by these houses and see families living there. I owned a roofing business for 10 years and did more roofs from Main St. to the river than I can count. I use to buy my shingles, right on Tallyrand, right at the Owens-Corning asphalt mill.
Fridays, after 12 pm was probably a good time to be somewhere else, but it never bothered me. I could go gone on and on with my story, no one brags much about being familiar with that side of town. I guess I have a seedy side, because I do. I remember driving up and down the old streets, just to look at the “gingerbread” on the old house, works of art to me. I never worried about what I was going to achieve in life or just how far I could go. I just figured that if I could make it in Springfield, I could make it anywhere.

Old School

Old school, I know.  Everyone is tired about hearing how we did it back in my day.  Every where you look, people have their face stuck staring at their phone.  I wondered out loud to my son, just how did we get along back in the day, without being able to send text messages?

Duh, back in school, we sent notes, via our friends to our girlfriends, via their friends.  Little folded up pieces of paper, most of the time the notes started out “Hi, whatcha doin?”  I use to fold mine up in a three corner manner like a paper football.  You didn’t want to get caught passing notes.

It was better than the Pony Express, it got the job done.

At church was a little different.  We didn’t pass notes, we used sign language.  My Sunday school teacher, Nell Johnson thought that it would be a good idea to teach sign language in Sunday School.  We had a couple visitors to our Church that were deaf, Ms. Johnson thought that we might get more visitors, if there more people that could sign and also I think she wanted to impress others when we went on visitations to other Churches.

For young minds, it doesn’t take very long to pick up new ideas, as a group, my Sunday School Class at Dinsmore Methodist jumped on the idea.  We all got pretty good with the alphabet and could spell out our messages in church, without having to pass notes in front of the preacher.

My girlfriend at the time was the preacher’s daughter Gerry.  She and I carried on in front of her Dad, he didn’t care.  He was ex-Navy, a retired Chief.  He seemed to like me because my Dad was in the Navy.  I visited Gerry quite often and got to be a familiar face around the church and across the street at their house.

During the summertime, I got to where I was slipping over to see Gerry after dark, around bed time.  After her parents said goodnight, she would open her bedroom window and I would slip in.  It started with her having her friend Linda Butler spend the night.  Then, me and my friend Wayne Taylor would sneak in through the opened window.

I really don’t know how her parents slept through all of that, it was a long summer.  I know that Wayne tried his hardest but I’m not sure that Linda liked him all of that much or if he just tried too hard, but their fussing cut into mine and Gerry’s private time.  Finally I told Gerry that Linda was gonna have to stop spending the night with her every week end.

To me, it was worth the wait.  Finally, just me and her.  I got to where I was falling asleep at her house in her bed, with her Mom and Dad in the next bedroom, just on the other side of that wall.  Her Dad would get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I would scootch under the cover and Gerry would pull up the blanket, just in case he looked in.  Most of the mornings when he got up to pee, I would gather my things and head back out the window in the dawn’s early light.

Ed, the bread man would honk his horn at me most every morning when I was riding my bike home in my underwear, with my clothes wrapped up in a bundle on the handle bars.

I got my license to drive on my 14th birthday. I got a hardship operator’s permit, because of my mother’s bad health. Soon after that, Dad got me a car. Once I got to meeting all of those new girls at Paxon High School, I sorta stopped seeing Gerry so much, pretty soon, it was not at all.  I kept going to Sunday School but slowed down on going to church.  Gerry found out about the girls I was dating over in Paxon, I’ll never forget the last message she sent me.

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The Judge

I’ve almost quit writing my stories.  No, it’s not that the well ran dry.  I’ve been sick with a cold.  Ideas and memories flood the channels but it’s getting harder to remember the exact dates and times.  Some stories lead to the next, while others run together.

The Dinsmore Cemetery is still right where it always been.  Right across the street from Aunt Irma’s.  Only now it has more of my friends and more important, more family members.  I can remember as a little kid, hiding Easter eggs in the cemetery.

When I got bigger, one of my friends Wayne Taylor got the job from his Uncle Billy who was an ATF agent, to mow the grounds.  Billy was married to Camille.  Her brother, Dewey Pendarvis was our judge.  Being caretaker of the cemetery came under his jurisdiction in those days.

All of that was way before consolidation.  I think that happened in ’68.  I say think because I don’t want to let facts get in the way of a good story.  Wayne’s Uncle Billy caught me joy riding in Mom’s Cutlass one night.  I’d wait until my parents went to sleep, then I would coast backwards out of the driveway, start the car and drive off without the headlights.

I didn’t have anywhere special to go.  That time of night, no one to go see.  I traveled the roads that I knew best.  The dirt roads that ran through the woods and the alleys that were barely visible between buildings.  Some times it was hard to distinguish the path in the dark and I would drive up under clotheslines by mistake or take a cow trail into the pasture.

It was all in fun, there was no mischief on my part.  I thought I was getting old enough to drive and wanted to check it out.  I saw headlights in my rear view, the rabbit in my blood wanted me to push Momma’s Cutlass to the limit, but the blue lights setting on the dash of Uncle Billy’s unmarked car brought me to my senses and I stopped.

Before consolidation, things were different.  The cops could take you home to your parents.  Once, while Dad was in Viet Nam, the Judge took off his belt and gave me and my brother swats for joy riding in some elses boat. Usually the judge’s secretary would make a court date and I would show up with my parents to tell my story.  By that time my folks had more than taken care of the punishment.  The Judge said this time my punishment was to help Wayne Taylor mow the grass at the cemetery every two weeks, for a month.

The problem with that is, although Wayne got paid $15 every two weeks, he didn’t cut half the grass.  Some of it hadn’t been cut all summer.  We were raised in two different kinda families.  If my Dad told me to cut the grass, that meant if I had to,  get down and cut it with a pair of scissors, that grass had better be cut.  Wayne, well he would hit a root with the lawnmower or a stump and just say “Oh well, that lawnmower is tore up, that’s as far as I can go.”

Part of our chore was to assemble the old plastic flowers and metal flower stands in a pile so that they could be hauled off occasionally.  Like I said, this was before consolidation, we didn’t have a normal refuse service back in them days.

I worked for my parents in the Trailer Park on US 1 and Dunn.  The Silver Dolphin.  Dad was in the Navy, mom was sick a lot.  I was the oldest son.  I had a lot of obligations.  I learned that when I did a job, there was no one else to come behind me to clean up the mess.  I had two younger brothers, they were my crew but often enough I had a hard time getting the sense of emergency across.  Like keeping the trailer park maintenance up to snuff, repairs done, picking up the empty drink bottles from trailer to trailer on Tuesday, because the Coke man came on Wednesday.   When Dad was overseas in Viet Nam, it was on our shoulders.  The local swimming hole was across the highway, Dinsmore Beach by the boat landing.  The lure often robbed me of helpers.  Being able to pay the family bills had a direct reflection from our efforts.  If the work didn’t get done, the bills didn’t get paid.

The judge had a work force of some kind I reckon.  His nephew Woodrow Pendarvis was his constable.  Woodrow was married to Elizabeth Hildebrand.  The Hildebrand’s were kin to us by marriage through mom’s sister, Aunt Irma.  Aunt Irma lived across the street from the cemetery.

The other constable was Mr Cauffman.  He and his family live on Old King’s Road out past Plummer Road on the west side of the train tracks.  Mr Cauffman’s wife was the school crossing guard.  We would see her every morning in front of the elementary school, waving to us on the bus as we rode to of to Paxon High.  Ms. Cauffman had a bright red Cutlass with a black top.  She dyed her hair black and wore it in a bee hive.   She would try to wear outfits that matched the colors of her car.  On rainy days she wore a black raincoat and carried a black umbrella.

I went to Dinsmore Methodist with her kids, they weren’t overly friendly, typical Methodist I guess.  Memories sometimes play tricks on you.  This was so long ago, I try to remember things as they happen but that not always the case.

I remember that back in those days Sherwood Forest was all white.  I could go to the Sherwood Teen Club and get a new girlfriend anytime I wanted.  The neighborhood was packed full of white families.  The weren’t any buses.  I had to walk.  It was about 6 or 7 miles.  I worked, so I always had a few bucks.  A couple of the older guys in my neighborhood would come get me, because I would have a couple dollars for gas or they knew that I wasn’t afraid to ask girls to dance.  Aunt Irma had a second job behind the sandwich counter at O’Steens Pharmacy.  I could always take a girl in there and get a milkshake and fries courtesy of Aunt Irma.

On Saturday afternoons, me and my cousin Earl Hildebrand would wash, vacuum and wax Aunt Irma’s Oldsmobile, then we would mow her grass, making ten apiece for the day.  Oh it was good to live in a small neighborhood and be some kind of kin to every body.

Pre-consoloidation, yeah things weren’t that bad.  In Dinsmore we had our own post office, we had our own judge and police officers (constables). Everyone bought groceries from either Mr. Tiller at his Banner Foods or from Steve’s Groceries.  Mr. Rowell even built a “Yummy Burger.” There were so many churches in our area that we had our own softball league and ball park.  Once a month the churches would take a bus load of kids down to Strickland’s Landing or Crystal River.

Many years before the Seaboard Coastline dug out the ditches alongside of the railroad tracks, we use to have floods after weeks of heavy downpours.  A lot of the roads weren’t paved back then, it made such a mess.  One year, It may have been ’67, everything flooded.  From Old Kings Road to US 1 the creek over flowed.  I remember diving off the handrail of the Old Kings Road Bridge only a foot or so into the raging water and swimming all the way to the bridge on US 1, with the help of a swirling current, dodging debris and being careful not to get hung up in barb wire.

The north end of the cemetery had once been a potter’s field where the local Negroes had been buried back in the day.  For what ever reason, mostly neglect, the woods had overgrown this section.  It never got mowed, the tombstones rotted away, no one came to pay their respects.  Dinsmore had it’s negro quarters. It was on the east side of Old Kings Road just before you got to Plumber Road.  We called “The Quarters.”  It was a peaceful settlement, they lived in solitude.  I think the Carter’s owned the land, but I can’t say for sure.

Old Tobe lived there and his wife Willie Mae.  When the physical labor was too hard for me to do by myself, Dad would go get Tobe to help me.  We laid lots of sewer pipe, removed quite a few stumps and poured a few cement slabs together.  Willie Mae was a big help to Mom once she got sick.  She would help with the laundry, iron our clothes, keep Momma company, wash windows just whatever needed doing, she would do it gladly.  I loved using her pan fried cornbread to sop up the pot liquor, because when Mom got sick she always wanted a mess of greens.  I only like the turnip greens but she fixed mustard and collards that she grew in her front yard.

The trees had grown so high and the brambles so thick in the neglected section of the cemetery that you couldn’t walk, when the floods came, these shallow graves floated to the surface. The caskets had long since fell apart. I was swimming off the bridge. I can remember Judge Pendarvis asking me and a couple others to help him gather the body parts and put them in separate piles to try to keep them from being lumped together.  It was a mess alright, dried bones float alright.  You couldn’t tell if they were black or white.  It was morbid.  When the flood waters went down we searched the woods from Old Kings Road, all the way to US 1.

The judge got a small bulldozer and cleared the woods, the north side of the cemetery all the way to the creek, a couple hundred yards. I think they found more bodies and grave sites. If I remember right, these bones were re-interned at Restlawn Cemetery.  Much higher ground.  I always thought that a memorial should have been put on this site.

One day while me and some friends were scouting the path between Old Kings Road and US 1. we heard a lot of laughing and giggling coming through the brush, just the other side of the tracks.  Many years before, this site had been a moonshiner’s den.  In the early ’60’s they had got raided,  Wayne Taylor had told me that his Uncle Billy had a hand in it.  Coming from US 1 there was an old logging road, but coming from Old Kinds Road it only had an old cow path used by moonshiners and car thieves that would hide their cars in the woods and strip them down.  I remember sun bleached bags that once contained sugar strewn across the ground and scattered concrete blocks laying on their sides with weeds now growing through them, that once must have held the still up off the ground.  In the back ground through the brambles we could see splotches of bright red and shiny chrome.

Boys being boys, we got curiouser and curiouser.  We had to find out what this cackling laughter was all about.  The noise was so loud that no one could hear the three of us sneaking up on ’em.  Low and behold were we surprised. Backed up in the bushes was a familiar car.  On it was Mrs Cauffman spread across the hood of her Cutlass, face up.  The only clothes that I could  see that she had on was a pair of black knee high boots.  Behind her was the Judge holding her legs aspraddle.  The antenna on the fender was whipping back and worth with the rhythm as the judge was driving it home.

My buddy had been going with Mrs Cauffman’s daughter Karen, but they had broken up.  After we retreated back in the woods a few feet, he couldn’t resist the urge to toss a few pine cones their way.  No, not the big brown pine lightweight cones but the heavy green hard one ones that hurt if you get hit with one.

I never told a soul about what I saw.  It wasn’t the first time I seen someone down this road doing the same thing.  This was old Toogie Lane and Rosa Braddock’s favorite spot.  But seeing the Judge and Mrs. Cauffman together, boy that was a real shocker.  Secrets are hard to keep though in a small town.  We weren’t consolidated yet.

Soon it was big news.  Constable Cauffman went to the county commissioners and ratted out many counts of malfeasance on the judges part.  I don’t remember if Cauffman quit or got fired but the judge had to serve about 6 months in jail and his nephew Woodrow became a corrections officer.  Woodrow’s wife Elizabeth became a supervisor at the Driver’s license Office.  The judge’s youngest son Bobby sells cars at Duval Honda.

Soon after, Mrs Cauffman’s daughter Karen told her Dad that I attacked her on the school bus, when all I remember doing is offering her my seat so that she wouldn’t have to stand. She and her Dad came by our house demanding some kind of satisfaction.  I told her Dad that he better leave our house before I kicked his ass.  I can remember my Dad telling him, “you’d better go before I let him.”  The next day, I had to fight Karen’s new boyfriend in the hallway at school and after that his cousin and then his cousin’s best friends.  Let me say this, boys that don’t have to work, ones that don’t know what self sacrifice is all about, well they can’t fight.

Aw, that was many years ago.  Too many.  I hope I remembered everything right.  We’re consolidated now.  The city of Jacksonville had a vote, the whole county against us, guess we was out numbered.  Now we get free garbage pickup.  We lost our Post Office but the city gave us a dump to replace it.  The state built 235 houses along Sibbald for black families so all of the white families in Sherwood Forest moved out.  After the federal gov’t provided more financing for black owned  housing projects we got a few sidewalks.

The cemetery now has over 600 filled grave sites, a lot more of my family and friends than I care to admit.  Uncle Bud, well he is out there raising daisies, Aunt Irma is in an Urn. My nephew Clyde is out there too along with my cousin’s wife Patsy and my nephews and nieces too many to name.  The trailer park is still there but just barely.  The last flood almost washed it down the river.  My Dad sold it a long time ago.  It’s been so long that no one remembers, who poured those cement slabs and dug those sewer lines.

Time to go now. I can smell my wife’s cooking, I can’t wait.  Turnip greens and cornbread.  I hope I didn’t let the facts get in the way of me telling a good story.

Sooo Boss

Trying to think of a good Christmas story.

Oh I don’t need much prodding.  I was thinking back to the time when my third son Julius was just born.  1982 it was, I had about $3,000.00 saved and had just bought a Dodge Dart cheap, the plan was to sell it, to turn it into more money.  Bonnie and I had been planning on moving somewhere, for a fresh start, someplace where we didn’t know anybody, clean slate.  I had about $2,400 left after buying the car.  I rented a U-haul trailer, hooked it up to the back of the Maverick and loaded up my family, new born and all, left the Dart at my buddy’s car lot, then headed to Texas, destination unknown.

My sister Glenda and her family had decided to do the same thing, about 2 weeks before us, they got as far as St. Elmo, Alabama, not too far from Tillman’s Corner.  I don’t remember if they broke down or just ran out of money, but we stopped for a visit.  I remember helping them get some of their stuff out of the pawnshop and being fearful of running out of money myself, I started to build a small shed to sell, out of the scrap lumber laying around in the yard.  After the third day, Bonnie told me that I was gonna get her out of there.  Glenda and her family had a small camper, with me and mine, it just made it smaller, the money we had was disappearing fast.

So we headed back out on the road, Glenda said she would be behind us in a week or two, going west, still no final destination.  We drove through Houston and Bonnie freaked out when she saw all of the overpasses and bypasses and stuff.  She didn’t want to live there, so I headed towards Victoria, I just liked the sound of the name.  When we got there, it was a miserable desolate looking place and we were getting short of funds.  We were eating baloney sandwiches in the car to stretch out our bankroll and I was looking at the map and decided to go check out Corpus Christi.  After all it was on the ocean, we had honeymooned on the beach once upon a time and it sounded like a good idea.  We got to Corpus in the late afternoon, the beach wasn’t all that, but to make it worse, we didn’t see any trees.  What kind of landscape doesn’t have trees?  There were bushes I guess they called trees but Bonnie was from Georgia, she liked to rake leaves for fun.  I looked in the newspaper for available jobs and a cheap place to rent and didn’t see either. It was getting dark and I remembered that San Antonio had trees, the streets, highways and byways weren’t all that bad.

It looked like Bonnie was fixing to cry.  I told her that they had pecan trees in San Antonio, there were lots of car lots, we could be there before daylight.  I promised her, that I would get her a place to live and get out of that 4 door Maverick before lunch.  She was ready to agree to anything to get out of that car.  Julius was less than a week old and had been sleeping in a carrier on the floorboard of the car for most of his short life.  San Antonio it was, make it or break it, that’s where we were headed.

The road leaving out of Corpus wasn’t that bad, four lane highway, it was just a desolate, lonely out in the middle of nowhere kind of place.  It got dark on us quick.  I was going kind of slow because the car was running hot, off and on.  I would stop, let it cool down and then drive some more.  Afternoon turned into evening, then finally, around midnight, I heard a spewing sound and hot, hot steam came rising out from under the hood.  The flashlight was buried in the back of the U-haul and this old lonesome highway didn’t have any street lamps.  I knew I needed water, so I grabbed a 5 gallon bucket out of the trailer and told Bonnie I was going to hitchhike to get some water.

I opened the blade to my pocket knife and gave it to her.  “It’s for protection.”  I told her, “Just in case you need it.”  She shook her head and told me that she didn’t know how to use a knife, wouldn’t if she could.  I went around to the back of the car and told my son Michael to follow me to the rear of the car.  I gave him the knife and instructed him that if any trouble came up, he was in charge of security; he was about 9 or 10.  I gave him instructions on how to use it, if needed. Just get up close, shove the knife in as far as it will go and twist it.  I told him to be sure and grip the knife like you mean it, and to be careful not to cut yourself.

I saw approaching head lights coming towards us down the road and turned to face the oncoming traffic.  I saw that it was a semi-truck and told Bonnie, “It’s a trucker, they don’t ever stop to help anybody.”  Just about that time, talking about needing to eat crow, the trucker slowed down, pulled over and came to a stop.  I told Bonnie that I would be back as quick as I could and ran to the cab of the truck and told the driver my problem.

The truck driver was nice, he told me to get in.  He told me that the next exit was about 20 miles, but everything would be closed when we got there.  Looking at his Rand McNally Road Atlas as he was driving, he told me that at the top of the hill about four miles up the road, the map showed that there was a small lake off to the bottom left side of the road.  He said that I might be better off, since I had a bucket, to get off there and check it out.  It sounded good to me, before he stopped, he asked me if I had a flashlight, after I told him no I didn’t, he gave me a bic lighter resting on the dashboard.  Just in case, better than nothing and I agreed.  I thanked him for the lift, he said he’d look for us on his way back tomorrow, I saluted him, in a puff of diesel smoke, he was gone off into the darkness.  It was just me, the bucket and a bic lighter on side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

 

Standing in the moonlight on top of the hill, I could tell that the truck driver was right.  Over the top of the trees, down the bottom of the hill, I could see reflection of the moonlight on a small body of water down below.  I climbed the fence and made my way through the brush and live oaks until I came upon the water’s edge

 

It was plenty dark, even in the moonlight. I thought that I could just go to the shoreline and dip the bucket in it and get what water I needed and be on my way.  Oh, so wrong.  The bottom of the lake was muck, thick, gooey, sticky mud.  I walked out a couple of feet and tried to fill my bucket, but even though I was standing up to my knees in muck, the water was only a couple of inches deep.  I kept going, I knew Bonnie and the boys were depending on me to get back and I figured they were pretty scared; being broke down on side of the road in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by darkness and unfamiliar territory.

 

Looks can be deceiving sometimes.  The moon’s reflection on the water’s fooled me.  Under the water’s edge was nothing but muck, every step I took required a lot of effort.  The suction from the mud pulled the shoes right off of my feet.  Finally I got to where I was standing almost crotch deep in the mud searching for deep water.

Now the distance between the mud and the water surface was deep enough that I could fill the bucket at least three quarters full.  That’s enough I thought, hell I got to carry it about 4 or 5 miles, yeah, that’s plenty of water.

 

The moon went behind the tree tops as I turned to make my way back to the bank.  I sloshed my way slowly, step by step. It was harder coming back with the bucket full of water, than it was going out I promise.  I kept hearing noise all around me, and I got uneasy, a queasy feeling in my stomach that I wasn’t alone.  The closer I got to the water’s edge the hairs on the back of my neck started to rise up.  I reached in my pocket for my knife but grabbed the lighter that the truck driver had given me instead.  I was thankful then, that I hadn’t needed to walk out so deep that the lighter got wet.

 

I held the lighter up like a torch and clicked it, until it lit and with the faint glow, I could see I wasn’t alone.  There completely surrounding the water’s edge and facing me were what looked to be about 300 head of Texas Longhorn cattle.  Standing shoulder to shoulder, staring at me like I was intruding into their domain   They were about six foot high at the shoulder and their horns were at least six feet wide, interlocking with the steer standing next to them, knee deep in the muck.

It was an all of a sudden kind of thing. The creepy part was seeing a vapor cloud, coming from their urine after it hit the ground, rising up behind them, in the moonlight.  I knew better than to act scared, even though I was.  If something happened to me, it might be days before I was found, if ever.  With the moon playing hide and seek with the clouds, the going was slow, plus dragging the bucket and trying to lift my feet from the suction of the muck.

Being from Dinsmore, I had been around dairy cows after dark before.  Going with the premise that they were just curious in the dark, they didn’t know me from Adam.  I just walked right through the middle of them lugging that bucket saying softly, “Soo Boss” and they made way, giving me an opening to walk through.  I felt like Moses parting the Red Sea.  I kept talking to them as I walked among them making it look like I had something for them in that bucket.

Finally, I was out of the muck.  They kept me surrounded but made way for me to walk up the hill and through the trees and brush and then the mesquite “ouch” that stuff hurt through my stocking feet.  It took me some effort, walking up the hill with a bucket filled with water and mud, me barefoot, with muddy britches and soggy drawers.  Can’t tell you what a relief it was when I finally got to climb the fence and put those longhorns behind me.  They were big enough to scare you in the daylight, but when it comes down to it, they are still just cows.

I walked down the highway back towards Bonnie and the boys and that bucket got heavier and heavier.  I started swinging it back and forth to use inertia to carry the weight, it didn’t work.  I counted the stars in the sky in Spanish to take my mind off of how much my arm hurt.  “Uno, dos, tres”…..Every once in a while I would step on something painful in the dark, just to remind me that I had lost my shoes in the mud.  “Cuatro,cinco, seis.”  I didn’t see the first car, in either direction.  It took me a while, but I made it.

I poured the water in the radiator and using the lighter I could see that there was a little split in the hose, about an inch below the hose clamp.  That was easy to fix.  In no time at all we were back on the road.  When we did get to the next exit, all the stores were closed, but there was a light good enough that after I raised the hood to the car, I could tell that it wasn’t leaking anymore, so we got on our way to San Antonio.

When we got to Old San Antoine, we were down to counting change in our pockets.  I took a shower at the car wash for a dollar.  Bonnie even gave me a shot of the “hot wax.”  After my visit with the longhorns, I needed it.  We passed a “Woolco” that was opened early in Universal City that was going bankrupt, selling stuff cheap, so I went in and bought a new shirt, pair of dress pants and a tie, for $5.00.  A new pair of shoes cost $4.00.  I got spiffed up and went to answer and ad in the newspaper, for car salesmen at Jordan Ford.

It was 9 am when I got there, the sales force and managers were all in a sales meeting.  The receptionist gave me an application which I filled out and I noticed a lady looking at a car on the showroom floor.  A nice dove gray Crown Victoria Landau.  She was a retired school teacher from Missouri.  She was on vacation alone, her LTD station wagon had broke down.  Sensing the moment, I knew I had a “live one.”

I grab the keys from over the sun visor, got the porter to give me a hand and drove the car off of the showroom floor.  I took the lady for a test drive and found out that she didn’t owe any money on her trade-in.  Her car was in the shop, it had and extended factory warranty and it was suppose to take a few days to get the parts in to fix her car.  Being a retired school teacher, she had excellent credit.  I had the buyer’s order and credit app filled out; just about the time the sales meeting was breaking up.  I introduced myself to the credit manager first, he took my application, the buyer’s order and the teacher’s credit application.  He disappeared for a minute then came back and told me I was hired, to keep the woman busy then, he and the used car manager went back to the shop to appraise the trade in.

Okay, long story short.  We made the deal.  She drove off in the owner’s wife’s grounded demonstrator, with 8,800 miles.  It paid a cash bonus, 10 cent a mile, plus “cash in fist”, 50% commission.  It was a $1400 dollar deal.  I had made over $800.00 plus a finance and Accident and Health commission.  Oh, did I mention that I got paid cash, all cash?  Then they gave me a light blue Escort wagon for a demo and 5 gallons of gas (they gave you 5 gallons of gas every time you sold a car), and the rest of the day off to get settled.  Bonnie and the boys were still in the parking lot, sitting in the car, waiting for me to finish filling out the job application.  Happy, happy, happy.  Felice Natividad.  Two days before Christmas, we were happy.  Things were starting to look up for us.

I found an ad in the paper about a guy that had a trailer for rent in Cibolo for $300 a month.  It was north of town up on the bluffs that over looked San Antonio, about 35 miles from the north of town.  When you got off the exit ramp on I-35 go right about 5 miles.  If you went left, there was George Strait’s Night Club, “The Blue Bonnet Inn’.  I told the property owner my story, he gave a me a break on the deposit if I would keep an eye on his property.  He lived 30 miles away.  He got the lights cut on for me and a tank of gas to heat with.  We were out of the car, before noon.

We bought a Christmas tree, a ham and the boy’s Christmas, we were set.  I called my friend in Jacksonville about the Dodge Dart.  He said he had sold it for $1,800, I told him to keep 25% and he sent me the rest.  I loved living high up on the prairie, sitting under the stars at night over looking the town, looking at the thousands of lights.  It might sound kind of lonely but to me, it was true Peace on Earth.  We had a very Merry Christmas.

Glenda and her family showed up about a week later. Her husband Bug had sold the shed I was building to two different people, before he could be found out, they pulled up stakes, using the money from the sale of the shed, came on to San Antonio.

We lived there and prospered for two years.  Glenda and Bug went home to Jacksonville for Christmas and her husband Bug died of pneumonia, two weeks later, my little brother Duane passed away from cancer.  It was too much all at once.  We packed up and moved back home, to be near our kin.

There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then.  I miss San Antonio sometimes.  It reminds me of Jacksonville because of the thriving economy and all the military bases.

When I think about San Antonio I look up in the sky, see the stars and start counting, oucho, nueve, dias.

Jaundiced Justice

I’ve been waiting a long time to tell this story. No, not out of fear for myself but of what could happen to my family.

Our first son was born in Feb. 1973.  The maternity ward at St. Luke’s hospital told my wife and I that because he had yellow jaundice that he had to stay at the hospital until it cleared up. This preyed more on my wife’s nerves than mine, but then again her worries increased my own.

To relieve some tension on Sunday morning six days later, I decided to go rabbit hunting. Mainly to create some space and clear my mind.  My mind wasn’t on hunting that day, I never really was an avid hunter anyway, so after a few hours I called it quits and stopped by my parents house for a friendly chat.

My folks owned a trailer park.  Their home was also the office.  The parking spots were filled so I parked near the entrance way.  My 12 gauge was in the back seat, still loaded with number 6 bird shot, ideal for rabbit hunting.

I had walked halfway to the front door when my Dad emerged.  He seemed glad to see me and asked me if I would walked with him to one of his rentals.  He had rented a small apartment to a couple of guys that he later found out were starting a motorcycle club in Jacksonville, the Outlaws.  Once the news became known Dad informed them that they had to leave.  His trailer park was residential for families and retired couples.

Dad intended to return their $60.00 deposit but before he did, he wanted to inspect the property.  One of the two biker’s name was Herbert Witherspoon, I found out later that he was supposed to be opening up a chapter of the biker gang.  Dad told me to wait for him outside while he went in to inspect.  Soon I could hear shouting and raving going on inside.  It seems like they had rebuilt a motorcycle engine inside, on top of the brand new carpet that had just been installed before they moved in.  Dad was mad, I overheard him say that he wasn’t refunding their deposit.

The next thing I know, is I hear some commotion going on inside.  I was standing by the front door but chose to look through a plate glass window to see what was going on.  My Dad was in a tussle with these two bruisers.  In his day, my Dad could more than hold his own.  I remember as a child that he never stopped to consider the odds, but on this day he was outnumbered and outmatched.  As I watched through the window one of the guys had Dad from behind, pinning his elbows back so that he couldn’t protect himself, while the other stood in front of him, swinging a large crescent wrench, striking him in the head several times.  Blood streamed down his forehead, he sagged to his knees, I knew it was time for me to do something.  If I just ran into the apartment it would still be two against one because Dad didn’t look like he was in any shape to help.

My car was parked about two dozen steps away and I remembered that I had my shotgun in the back seat of my Chevelle.  I ran to the car, grabbed my gun and rushed back to help my Dad.  My intentions were to stop these two galoots, to make them back off.  Sure I wanted some revenge because they were messing with my Dad but I would have been satisfied to make them fight him one on one, my Dad was a tough old bird.

When I entered the room I didn’t really have a plan, I just wanted to make them stop.   No one was facing the door when I entered the room.  The guy still had Dad’s arms locked behind him and the fellow with the wrench turned to face me.  Blood was spurting out of the top of Dad’s skull, I could see whiteness of it in patches.  Without thinking about repercussions I stuck the barrel of the gun in the man’s crotch and I said, “You move mother fucker and I’ll blow your balls off.”   It was plain and simple.  Needless to say, that’s pretty much what happened.  My finger was on the trigger, the guy reached down for the barrel of my gun trying to twist it out of my hands.  As he did so, his body shifted so that when the gun blasted, the bird shot ripped through his groin and hip area.  Still, he had a grip on the barrel.  I believe the heat from the blast made him let go.  I still had the shotgun in my control and I told the other guy to release my Dad and raise his hands.  The pellets from the gun blast had ripped through the man’s jeans, blood was splattered on the cabinets behind him, but he was still able to partially stand.  The  bird shot didn’t catch him full center but did cause a pretty good wound considering how close I was at the time.

I  opened the barrel bolt and slammed another shell from the clip into the chamber and motioned with the end of the gun for both men to get outside of the apartment.  I didn’t intentionally fire the first shot but I had to make it seem like I meant business.  Once outside, the bigger man tied a bandana around the top of the wounded man’s leg to stop the flow of blood.  Dad  got his legs under him and followed us outside.

Across the four lane highway from us was a gas station.  The guy that owned the station had been pumping gas when he heard the gun blast.  All he actually witnessed though was two men being held at gun point, one of them was wounded and he saw me holding the gun.  I don’t want to mention his name because even though he was required to testify against us, I still considered him a friend and his grandson later married my niece.

The police came and an ambulance. Nothing more was said or done on that day.  I thought that was it, it’s over, but a few days later detectives showed up with a warrant for mine and my Dad’s arrest for attempted murder, aggravated battery and assault with a deadly weapon.  Needless to say I was flabbergasted.  Dad posted our bond, by this time my son was home from the hospital,  that was my biggest worry.  I knew Dad was better prepared to handle the situation than I was, he was after all, a man of the world.

Times had recently changed though.  The City of Jacksonville had just been consolidated.  The court and justice offices had been moved to a central location.  The jurisdiction of our local Constables and Justice of the Peace had been moved out of our neighborhood to a downtown location where we were lesser known.  There we were just names on a booking sheet.  I thought that the whole story was a joke.  Our side of the story was the truth.  Who would believe these guys over us?

That’s not the way it works though.  The two bikers got a lawyer, they had a case against us.  I wasn’t allowed by law to speak with the only other witness against us.  Dad’s lawyer said that if they got a sympathetic jury they could win the case.  If they did, they could sue Dad in civil court and get everything he owned.  The State Attorney did offer some leniency though.  He said that if we would plead “no contest or nolo contendre,” that he would reduce the charge to aggravated battery for me and simple assault for my Dad.  We would be sentenced to 12 months probation and after it was completed successfully with no other charges, it would be expunged from out record.

As much as I hated to, I had to go along with it.  I wanted my day in court.  I wanted to stand up in front of 12 good citizens and tell my side of it.  Like the old saying goes, “It’s better to be judged by 12 than to be carried by six.”  That’s how I felt and still do, but it wasn’t just my life I had to worry about, it was that of my wife and son that mattered the most.  I had to look out after them and think about the jeopardy I would be putting my father in, if I didn’t play along.

The wounded biker healed up alright I guess. I can’t vouch for his love life though.  I read years later that he was the President of the Jacksonville Chapter of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang and that he went to prison for some crime or another.

The Sate’s Attorney was true to his word, I year later my record was expunged and I was hired to work at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office as a corrections officer.

I think I read years after that that he had been killed.  I don’t remember if he died in prison or on the streets but I have heard how motorcycle gang members relish revenge and I have waited until I was an old man to tell this story.