White home | White stories

A Lost Little Boy
The Book by Larry Leon Dixon 2008 ©

Revised with additonal material July 2009. The entire revised book is published here in HTML with the permission of the author.

To my daughter Terri,
I wrote this because I wanted to give you something very special this Christmas. What better gift can a person give than of themselves, their time and their memories? These short stories will present a humorous insight into my life and the unexpected events that have changed it. Life is a terrible instructor. It gives you the answers and then it teaches you the questions. The wrinkled pages in this book are filled with mistakes and errors but so was my life. I hope you enjoy these stories of my audacious childhood.
Love, Dad
Christmas 2008

Lost in Time

As we travel through this minute space in time we call mortality, the influences of our actions create distinguishable foot prints in the sands of eternity. The life we have lived, the hearts we have touched and the memories we have created form distinctive impressions in the damp sand of time. As the heartless winds of the year´s blows across the sand, our foot prints begin to fade. With each generation our priceless memories become dimmer and dimmer until finally they are swallowed up into the past. Tragically all of the life altering events and amusing stories have gone the way of the traveling store, street cars and penny candy. A young man has his dreams but an old man has his memories.

After the grandeur of his life has passed him by and all that remained was his redundant memories, the old Cheyenne warrior desperately wanted to leave his lonely existence and join those who had gone on before him. His heart yearned to be with his loving wife who had died years earlier. When discovering his daughter and grand children were on the point of starvation and desperately needed him, there was a renewed purpose for living. Life gives purpose and a purpose gives life. As they sat around the camp fire the old warrior enjoyed reminiscences and sharing his treasured old stories with the inquisitive little grand children. My favorite quotation in the book was “Every old warrior has his own song to sing.’ This is my song.

A Baby is Born

The weather was cold and it had been raining most of the night which was normal for a February in Alabama. A small white hospital was posed on the hill like an old English castle and all of the tall oak trees surrounding the structure made it seem smaller than it actually was. The cement walls kept the hospital cool in the summer but made it difficult to keep warm in the winter. Inside, the stucco walls were filled with echoes and sounds. In front of the hospital above the oversized wooden doors were painted in gold letters THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS HOSPITAL.

On this night, the tapping of the large heals on the Catholic nun´s high top black shoes could be heard echoing down the long halls. The nuns were scurrying along the hard concrete floors because another little baby was being born. Why would a baby be born on such a cold and dreary night?

My Dad, wearing his green and white Coca Cola uniform and resting in the waiting room, was smoking a cigarette. He was fatigued from working all day and being at the hospital most of the night. The coolness of the air in the waiting room had chilled him to the bone. Despite being cold and tired, he was excited about his soon to be born second child. His first child, now two years old, was a little girl named Patricia Joan.

On the third floor of the hospital, my Mother was exhausted and weary. Weary because of the long labor time and exhausted because of the birth of the little baby. At 2:00 AM on the morning of February 4, 1947 a little baby boy was born in Gadsden, Alabama. My parents gave me the first name of Larry because at that time it was a well-liked name and a middle name of Leon was after my Dad.

Deep in the Woods of Ridgeville

A wooden frame house in Ridgeville owned by my granddaddy Dixon would be home for the new baby boy. Surrounding the small cottage was a grove of enormous pine trees. Their enormous limbs stretched high in to the blue sky, preventing the bright sun´s rays from touching the pine needle covered yard below. The soothing presence of the huge trees presented a tranquil setting for our little home. With its tin covered roof and black felt paper covering sides, our old-fashioned house contained two small bedrooms and a kitchen. There wasn´t any running water except when it rained. The cottage was heated by a small coal heater and cooled by an opened window. Screens for the windows were optional

In the back yard, just off the back porch, there was a deep water well filled with cool clear water. It had been hand dug by my Uncle John years earlier. The deep hole had a protecting wooden cover about four feet high to keep animals and children from tumbling into the deep and dangerous pit. A wench made from a two foot log was attached to top of the wooden cover. Secured to the log wench was a long burlap rope with a metal water bucket tightly attached to the end. The bucket was lowered down into the well with the rope and after being filled with water, the wooden wench would then be used to bring it safely to the top of the flat platform. The fresh water was then poured into other buckets, wash tubs and pans as needed. A frequently used community water dipper hung unceremoniously from a wooden post near the well.The weathered outhouse stood like an old sentry guard on a small hill fifty yards to the right of the house. It was constructed of rough cut lumber which had grayed over time. Its thick wooden door precariously hung with leather hinges was always left open. If the door was closed then that was a signal that the dreadful smelling outhouse was occupied.On the back porch was an old wringer type washing machine. Its white porcelain tub with an actuator centered in its middle was supported by four metal wheels. For convince, the wheels allowed the washing machine to be moved to various locations. To squeeze out the water, wet garments were individually fed through two parallel rollers mounted one side of the washing machine.

Small fires were built under the two large black metal pots. Water, drawn from the well was poured into the heated pots. As the water warmed, it was transferred into the belly of the old washing machine. Mother would add a large cup of detergent to the clothes that needed to be cleaned and then flip the switch on the lower side of the drum to activate the actuator. I can still remember hearing the slosh, slosh of the washing machine´s actuator. After a certain period of time had passed, she would remove each garment, squeezed out what water she could with her hands and then feed it through the white rubber rollers. As the cloths were passed through the rollers, the soapy water would flood back into the tub. Often times her hand would become trapped in the heartless rollers. Striking a flat bar located on the top of the rollers would quickly release the pressure and prevent her hand from being crushed. The cloths were then rinsed in a washtub of clean water, ran back through the rollers and then hung on a cloths line to dry. Our cloths line was a small cord or wire stretched between two metal posts in the back yard. The cloths were secured with wooden cloth pens to prevent the strong wind from blowing them off and on to the ground below. Cloths that have hung on an out door cloths line and been dried by the warm summer sun have a fresh and distinguishing clean smell.

When I was born, Dad had worked a number of different types of jobs but was presently employed with the Coca Cola Company in Gadsden. His meager salary of twenty five cents an hour didn´t provide many luxuries for his little family. A six ounce Coca Cola cost a nickel and the bottles were made of glass in 1947. I have an old photograph of dad in his white with green pen strips uniform and his big military style green hat.

Our house was small and didn´t have living room, but it was our home and always filled with love and laughter. When family and friends came to visit, people would sometimes sit in the chairs at the kitchen table or bring the chairs into the bedroom or just sit on the sides of the bed and just laugh and talk. Occasionally, when the weather was pleasant, they would sit in the wooden front porch swing or set on the sides of the porch and let their feet freely dangle over the edge. This type of seating arrangements was normal for lower income families. The people talked about the new events, old tales and the local gossip. When a funny story was told and the whole house would light up with laughter. Possessions cost money but laughter was free. Love and laughter always filled the house when the Glen Dixon and Charles Dixon families were there.

Mother was the daughter of a sharecropper. A share cropper is an individual who makes a crop each year and divides it with the land owner. Like her parents she had a restless spirit and moving often was just a way of life for us. A number of the times we moved at night because of over due rent. There were several occasion when I would go to bed in one house and wake up in a different one. Our stay in the rental homes were no more than a year in a place and at times only a couple of months. Times were hard for us but because of the war they difficult for every one. We lived in everything from an old dilapidated Army barracks to the luxury of a housing project. The housing project was my favorite place to live because it was warm and had indoor plumbing. You will appreciate heat and indoor plumbing after having to sitting in a stinky outhouse while an ice cold breeze blows through the cracks in the walls.

Rats in the House

One of my earliest memories was when we were living in an old lap board house at Holt´s Bend near Rainbow City. A lap board house has wide rough cut lumber placed vertical on the exterior of the building and small strips of wood covering the cracks between the boards. Only a few rural farm houses had a respectable coat of paint and because of money most were allowed to just age a weathered gray. Rural and inexpensive houses were supported off the ground by columns of flat rocks stacked on one another. Concrete blocks were way too expensive. This primitive dwelling had large wooden framed windows, dirty gray lap board walls and a rusty tin roof that leaked. When it rained, pots and bowls were placed at distinct locations to catch the dingy gray water that continuously dripped from the holes in the filthy roof. There would be times when spots on the beds would be damp because of a forgotten water drip.

Close by was a hog farm that caused a horrible rat problem. The Norwegian rats were enormous and some were as large as a small cat. Back then, they were referred to as a gopher rat. Especially in the late when things were calm, the rodents would ramble around in the mud and dirt covered yard searching for bits and pieces of food. Growing up in that type of an environment, I accept it as normal. I remember standing on a container, staring out the window and enjoyably watching the rats scurry and play in our back yard. When mother would unexpectedly open the door or when dad would return home, the rats would speedily dash into their holes under the house or in the barn.

On day we heard a chicken squawking. Because of the loud commotion, Mother hurriedly opened the rear door and looked out. After hearing the commotion and seeing Mother, I ran to the door, stood next to her and cautiously began peeking around her long dress. Outside on the grassless back yard, a huge gopher rat had caught one of mothers´ smaller chickens, killed it and was now dragging it to its hole under the house. Screaming and waving her arms, Mother ran down the back steps and into the yard. The frightened rat panicked, dropped the lifeless chicken and scampered into a hole. After picking up the chicken, she brought it to the house, cleaned it and cooked it. Thanks to a brave mother and foolish rat, we ate fried chicken for supper.

The last night we lived there I will always remember because it was so traumatic for me. Because of our finical situation, my bed was a dilapidated old couch in the living room. That evening I had gone to sleep on the improvised bed with chocolate candy on my hand and fingers. Late that night when the house was quiet, the rodents had left their hiding places and were in their normal practice of searching for tidbits in the old house. That was when they found the chocolate treat on my fingers. With the candy available, the now brave rats began eating the delicious treat from my hand. When they ran out of candy, the still hungry rats began nibble on my hand. Bloody bite marks were now encircling the lower portion of my thumb. Because I had gone to sleep with the tasty chocolate on my hand, the candy became a treat and I became a victim for the hungry rats that night.

Among Mothers´ limited possessions were photos of her new family incased in two small black picture frames. By accident one had broken and because of my curiosity I was captivated by the small shiny nails holding the wooden frame together. Apparently that was in my subconscious and the reason for me having another bad dream. My dream was, one of the picture frames had broken and I began to pick it up. In doing so the sharp nails kept sticking into my right thumb and causing a prickly pain. As a consequence of the strange dream and the pricking pain, I began crying.

The crying sound awoke Mother. Thinking it was just another bad dream; she got out of bed and came into the living room to comfort me. I don´t know if she saw the rats or not but I remember her lifting me up and screaming ‘’Leon, come here quick!’ Mother and Dad had a lot of respect for my Uncle Gordon´s´ opinion on things. They quickly wrapped me in a blanket and rushed me to his house for his valuable medical evaluation and advice. It was in the middle of the night, but dad drove our old sedan to the rear door of Uncle Gordon´s house and began honking the horn. After the back porch light came on, Uncle Gordon came stumbling out, bare footed, no shirt and wearing his faded blue bib overalls. Back then people were very direct and to the point with their conversation. Holding my hand out the window and with a little wavering in his voice Dad said, “Larry had just been bitten by a rat!’ Uncle Gordon took my hand and examined the nibbled thumb. Dad then asked “What do you think we should do?’ Gordon stood there for a few minutes scratching his head as if he was thinking and finally said, “I don´t think rats carry rabies. Just soak his thumb in kerosene and keep an eye on it. If he starts getting a fever or sick carry him to a doctor.’ The next day we moved out of that rodent infested house and left the old rat filled couch behind.

We then moved our small number of belongings to my grand dad´s house in Ridgeville. Our stay there was just long enough for us to begin enjoying our grand parents again. Grand daddy told my dad one day “Son, every time I begin getting attached to those grand children, you up and move some where else. Either you stay here or you never move back here. You are breaking this old mans heart every time you take my grand children away from me.’ Grand daddy was soft hearted and we moved back several more times after that.

Little Country Gentleman

When they walk with me into the barber shop, Mother and Dad thought “This is going to be a memorable day. Our little boy is going to get his first hair cut.’ Because of my hair being so thick and curly, Mother was reluctant about having it cut. I sure don´t have that problem with my hair now. She wanting to prolong me being her cute little baby boy so when the hair grew too long, she would simply trim it with her sewing scissors. But by me receiving a haircut from a barber, the spell would be broken and she would be forced to realize that her precious little baby was turning into a little boy. When the subject about the length of my hair was brought up Dad would say “Isn´t it about time for Larry to get a hair cut. He´s beginning to look like a little girl with that long hair.’ Mother would always reply’ No not yet, I think it makes him look sweet. He is still just a baby and I can keep it trimmed.’ After a lot of persuasion from Dad and tears from Mother, the decision was made. It was time for their little Larry to get his first official hair cut.

The choice of a barber was at a barbershop just off Main Street in Gadsden where Dad often had his haircut. Two outsized red and white stripped barber´s poles stood at attention as if guarding the thick wooden door to the entrance of the building. Mom and Dad knew this would be an exciting day for them but they had no idea how exciting this day would really be. The high ceilings held up three huge ceiling fans whose rotating wooden blades stirred the smoke filled air and muffled the sounds of the patron´s voices. I was sitting by my mother on a wooden bench, watching the clientele get their hair cut and beards trimmed. When it was my turn, a barber with solid gray hair and wearing a green transparent eye visor placed a wide wooden board across the arms of his barber´s chair and motioned for me to come and sit in his chair. By placing the board across the arms of the chair, it lifted me up high enough so the barber could comfortably cut my hair. Climbing up the chair like a ladder I sat down on the newly made seat like a little gentleman. After giving the barber precise instructions on how my hair was to be cut, Mother went back to the wooden bench and sat with Dad to enjoy seeing their little boy get his first hair cut.Everything was going as planned until the barber turned on the deafening clippers. Treating me now as if I was some kind of wild animal, with his left hand he quickly locked his fingers of around the top my head and pressed down. That frightened me, I couldn´t move my head and it was hurting my neck. With an annoyed look on his countenance, the intimidating barber sweeps the clippers with in inches of my face. This hostile barber frightened me into thinking “He is going to cut off my face. He scares me, I didn´t like him and I was going home, NOW!’During the commotion, all of the other patrons had stopped what they were doing to watch the exciting show. It took an embarrassed Mother, Daddy and two additional barbers to hold the uncontrollable, screaming, squirming, biting ,kicking youngster in that barber´s chair. An exhausted and frustrated barber finally released his captive from his chair. He had earned that twenty five cents. A tough little boy with an uneven and patchy haircut knew he had won that battle. That was the way it happened on Mom and Dad´s exciting day

Home Sweet Home in the Housing Project

Our next move was to a housing project near Camp Sibert. After the war, the government had constructed low-income housing for the returning military. Well paying jobs were few and far between after the war and the men who were unable to serve in the Second World War already had the majority of them. The returning soldiers and their families were having a difficult time making a living. Because of Dads´ meager income and being return military, we were eligible and well qualified to live in the low rent housing.

The housing projects were several long rows of two story red brick buildings with each structure holding a number of two-story apartments. Attached to each apartment was a small front and back porch. There were long rows of clothes lines between each building where the tenants could hang their laundry out to dry. Inside each dwelling were two bedrooms, a kitchen, a small living room and a bath. The hot and cold running water and a bathtub were almost too good to be true for this little boy. Now there were no more trips to the cold outhouse or ducking behind a near by tree to take care of personal business. As they say in the south “We were now picking in high cotton.’The majority of the inhabitants were poor but honest. It could have possibly been the war or the hardship that drew them together like a large family. They watched out for each other as well as the correcting of each other´s children. Because of the large amount of foot traffic, very little grass grew, making the apartment grounds mostly rocks and red dirt. The legendary Hank Williams melody´s came from the radios placed in the open windows of the apartments. “Hey, Hey good looking, I am walking the floor over you and You´re cheating Heart’ could be heard echoing between the brick buildings. Because of the cost, there were few pleasures in the projects so the small number of radios were placed in open windows so those who were less fortunate one could also listen to the music. They were all a large family helping each other and just trying to get by the best they could. Our back porch of the apartments was small and had two metal poles supporting its black roof. When mother allowed me go out side to play, I would stay near the back porch and play on the metal poles. Earlier an older boy told me that if I got off the porch a big dog would get me. From then on I stayed near the front porch and open front door after hearing that. I also enjoyed watch the busy neighbors going about their daily household tasks in the project. Because of the large number of people confined to a small living small area, childhood diseases spread like wild fire through the complex. While living in the projects I contacted the measles and whooping cough. We didn´t own a television and I don´t think it had been invented, yet. While being sick with the measles, I spent the majority of my time looking at the pictures in comic books, peering out the window at the people below and laying in bed. In my youth, I also had pink eyes, mumps, measles, chickenpox, and YES the cooties. We didn´t continue living in the projects for very long because every couple of weeks Daddy would go to the dog pound to bail out Brownie. Brownie was an old hound dog that he had since she was a pup. We, her little tormentors, would pull on her ears and wrestle her to the ground but Brownie would fight a grisly bear to defend her little friends when we were around. Our protective friend would growl and the hair on the back of her neck would bristle up when mother threatened to punish her rough little buddies. Often times she would proudly ride in the back seat of our old car and be tormented by two rowdy kids hanging all over her. She was our protecting Knight in a brown fur coat. The dog deserved better treatment than what she received but she couldn‘t have been loved more by tow little children. Regrettably, our friend and a loyal member of our family died of a snake bite, but that´s another story.A dog pound is where the city kept the stray animals that were roaming the neighborhoods. Most of the residents in the projects weren´t accustoming to living in such a controlled area and their dogs were permitted to wander free. The old dogcatcher had a full time job just picking up stray dogs and cats. He wasn´t a bad person but just some one trying to make a living in hard times. Some dogs were picked up so often that the dog catcher knew the dog and their owners by name. Brownie would get caught, placed in the dog pound and there she would patiently wait until Dad would come down to the pound and bail her out. A fine was charged each time and that got to be too expensive, so we moved again.

High Sheriff of Camp Sibert

After the Second World War the military had evacuate camp Sibert and the property was sold to enterprising individuals. There were rows and rows of your typical wooden army barracks. To make housing, each unit was divided in the middle and made into two apartments with walls added for rooms. Each rundown dwelling had two small bedrooms, a living room and a tiny kitchen. In each small kitchen was an undersized electric stove, a wooden table, four chairs and a small white kitchen sink. The construction and furnishings in the apartments were very inexpensively done. Clothes lines were strung between the barracks and designated parking areas were set up for the tenants convince. I mention cloths lines at each location because cloth dryers were either too expensive for our class of people or the hadn´t been invented yet. With the rent way over due we vacating the housing complex during the night and we moved into one of the old converted army quarters. Moving during the middle of the night because of over due rent wasn´t that uncommon for people during those hard economic times.

Al l during the day some of the residents were either hanging out their laundry or taking it in. Our overcrowded neighborhood was incredibly noisy with men working on old cars, women talking to their neighbors and the children yelling as they played between the barracks. During the time we lived there, I remember going to bed at night and awaking the next morning with my side of the bed wet. At first I was angry because I thought my sister was wetting the bed but my pajamas were the ones always wet. Because we both slept in the same bed, Joan wasn´t very appreciative for the wet spot I had unintentionally left in our bed. I remember when my bladder began hurting one night and the discomfort eventually awoke me. I jumped out of bed and ran as fast my short little legs would go to the bathroom. I finally had recognized the discomforting feeling at night and realized what it was. That was the last time I wet the bed. I was delighted and pleased with myself about not waking up in a wet bed but Joan was thrilled. An explosive uncontrollable temper was part of my nature when I was a little boy. Because of my violent temper, Granddad Dixon and my mischievously uncles would continually taunt me until I would loose my temper. I knew because of my temper a spanking was in the near future but I wasn´t going to let those old men get away taunting me. Attacking them or defending myself, it all depends on how you look at it. With fist flying, I would attack those aggravating pranksters. They would quickly place their hand on the top of my head to prevent me from reaching them with my swinging fist and kicking feet. All of the while that I was desperately trying to slug them or kick them, they were hysterically laughing at me. This made me even angrier. Eventually Mother would hear the racket and come into the room, pull me away from the prankster and scold them for picking on her little boy. I eventually stopped my Granddaddy Dixon from teasing me but that is in another story, also On my birthday Dad surprised me with a comic book, a plastic gun, a toy knife and a metal sheriffs´ badge. I was ecstatic with my new gifts and especially the badge. The shiny badge made me feel special. Every day I would proudly wear the sheriff´s badge and arrogantly strutted through the neighborhood like a little banny rooster in the barn yard. A banny rooster is half the size of an ordinary rooster but is more belligerent. My badge of authority would be the first thing I put on each morning and the last thing to be removed each night. This little boy was now the official High Sheriff of Camp Sibert and with a shiny new badge to prove it.On that clear spring day, the warn summer´s sun enticing the little boy to run and play , but the cool soothing grass on the ground proved to be more comfortable and reassuring. While lying peacefully on the grassy lawn, I was concentrating on each colorful picture in my comic book and trying to imagine what the super hero was saying. A larger boy, the area bully, mischievously slipped up behind me, grabbed my comic book and ran away with it. My hot temper exploded. My first reaction was to snatch up the toy knife and hurl it at him as hard as I could. To my astonishment, the knife struck the surprised bully of a boy in the shoulder. Standing there pompously with a smug look on my face I was thinking “That will teach him to mess with sheriff of Camp Sibert’! A small trickle of blood began oozing from the cut. When the now not so brute of a boy saw the blood trickling down his arm, he became frightened and began screaming for his mother. When his mother saw the blood, she began screaming. It was ok for her boy to terrorize the smaller boys in the neighborhood but for someone to defend them selves against her brut of a boy, well that was different. After reassuring the crying boy´s mother that it wouldn´t happen again and I would be severely punished, the high sheriff of Camp Sibert was taken by my arm and quickly escorted the bathroom. There I received a good spanking and then Mother took away my badge. I didn´t mind the spanking, but taking away my badge almost killed me.A short distance down the road from the old converted military barracks was a small park where mother would periodically take Joan and me to play. In a little boy´s exploiting eyes, the small stream would sparkle like diamonds as it leisurely trickled through the partially shaded area. .After we had pestered Mother long enough and hard enough, she would eventually give in and consent to us play in the cool water on the scorching hot day. The little brook was clear, clean and a dream come true for this little boy. My Shangri-La was three feet at its widest, ten inches at the deepest with the bottom covered with tiny round gravel. When I lay on my back, the teasing liquid would almost cover my face. To a naive little three year old boy this was the best swimming hole in the whole world. Life was so simple when I was small.

Bugs and Spiders

One of the many times when we moved back to my granddad´s rental house, the cluttered area alongside the wood shed became my new playground for the three old boy. In that part of the south a wood shed was a small wooden shelter where firewood cut last summer would be stored under until winter. Usually located near the back door of the house, the cedar shingle shelter kept the firewood dry during rainy seasons and made retrieving it more convenient during those cold winter nights. Because the fire wood logs, being about three feet long, were stacked in tall horizontal layers under the shed, the cluttered area became a magnet for bugs, spiders, wasp, lizards, rats and snakes. Not disregarding the deadly rattle snake or copperhead but the only two types of poisonous spiders in this area, the black widow and the brown recluse were very comfortable living in the surroundings of old wood. Being accustomed to playing out of doors, bugs, spiders and lizards were not feared by this little boy

While moving a cluster of old rotten boards and trash from my new play area. I felt a sting on the calf of the right leg. Thinking it was just an ant sting; it was disregarded and I continued with my activity. Unknowingly I had been bitten by a poisonous recluse spider, better known as the fiddler spider. Their deadly poisonous begins immediately destroying the tissue in the bitten area and then quickly spreads to other parts of the body. The dead tissue begins turns black and starts decomposing. If not treated properly the bit usually causes the loss of a limb or even a life. No thought was given to the swollen red dot on my leg that night. The next day the little red spot was now black and growing larger. In a couple of days I had developed a fever and the infected area was draining, turning black and growing larger. Because of money, lower income people didn´t usually go to a medical doctor until all of the home remedies had been tried. Mother was a strong believer in home remedies. If kerosene or caster oil didn´t cure it then it was a hopeless case. Her first line of defense was wrapping a rag soaked in kerosene around the infected area. That didn´t help but I had rather have a smelly rag around my leg than a dose of that horrible caster oil.The infected area was growing larger and larger. More and more of the muscle and tissue were decaying and causing the indention in my leg to grow wider and deeper. Mother and Daddy used a variety of medication and ointments but nothing would stop the spread of infection. Every home remedy ever thought had been tried. They even smeared an ointment on my leg that was given to my dad by an Indian friend of his. The gray salve was a shimmy grease paste they called polecat medicine. In the south, a polecat is another name for a skunk. You knew where the ointment got its name by the horrible odor it gave off. When people thought I wasn´t listening they talked of blood poisoning, me possibly loosing my leg and even death. Those whispers were morbid things that a little boy shouldn´t be allowed to hear. Aspirin was being given regularly to combat the constant aching and fever but nothing seemed to be working. This sick little boy was lying on a wooden bench at my Granddad's front porch. Trying to help the healing process, Mother had removed the blood soaked bandage earlier. She was hoping the fresh air on the infected wound would help the healing process. The adults were in the house quietly talking and I was miserably lying on the hard wooden bench in the hot sun. The weather was warm and the cement porch pad was cool. I slowly climbed from the bench to the cool concrete floor below. The coolness felt soothing to a little sick boy and feebly I closed my eyes.Suddenly I awoke when something warm and damp was touching my leg. My old friend was trying to make me her little buddy feel better. Our dog Brownie was licking the infection from the festered sore. Years ago the old people use to say that the saliva from a dog´s mouth will help fight infection. Being too sick to stop the dog I just lay there and watched. Sometimes guardian angles are often placed on this earth to watch over and protect little boys. That scraggly old hound dog was my angel.Finally the fever broke, my physically condition improved and the swelling and infection in my leg soon disappeared. It isn´t a proven fact but apparently it must have been something in Brownie´s saliva that fought the infection in my body. In a week or so this rambunctious little boy was back terrorizing in the neighborhood and being his overconfident self again. The infection area eventually healed but now a huge indented scar still remains on my right calf. On my old leg is a wrinkled reminder of the yester years of the simple life of being a little boy.

Ambushing my Granddaddy

Like hawk at watching a careless field mouse, whenever he was outside I watched every move he made. Today I was going to defend my self. When he saw me playing in the yard and no one was near Granddaddy would walk up to me, reach down as if picking up something and jokingly say, “Boy I am going to hit you with a rock’ Immediately I would begin scrambling for something to defend myself with. He would then quickly walk away before I could find something to throw at him. Today, if he ever reached down to pick up a rock, there was gong to be a price to pay. For all of the pestering and harassment that old man had given me, today was going to be his payday

On the outside, the old coal miner appeared stern and unyielding, but deep inside his tough old frame was a soft spot for his grand children. There is a special magic in grandchildren. They can change a ferocious lion into a playful puppy. His now adult children stared in amazement at their unreasonable, stubborn, grumpy, stingy old man they knew as their father turn into a big soft teddy bear with a bottomless pocket of money and treats for a smile or giggle from his grand child. When surrounded by adults, Granddaddy was strict and right to the point and his children respected him for that. But this stranger they once knew as their no nonsense dad turns into a babbling funny faced old man for the attention a baby grandchild. My granddad demonstrated his deep love and affection for his grand children by teasing them. He especially enjoyed harassing me because of my quick and uncontrollable hot temper.Mother, humming her favorite church hymn, was outside hanging out cloths while her precious little boy was playing in his granddad´s back yard. I was playing with two rusty tin cans in the cluttered yard of the field stone house. A field stone house is constructed of uneven rough formed stones found in the area fields and gardens. When an area was plowed in the spring, large rocks and loose stones would be turned up to the surface in the loose dirt by a large turning plow. These stones would be carried to the side of the field and heaped in a pile. Later they would be used to fill in gully washes, construction of a spring house, barn and houses or just left in the edges of the fields. This back yard was shaded by large water oak trees with the ground underneath was mostly black dirt, dried leaves, tree roots and rocks. It was a perfect play ground for a little boy with a big imagination.When he stepped out the back door into the yard I could tell Granddaddy was in serious thought from his wrinkled drawn forehead and those dark blue eyes staring into emptiness. Something was bothering him. Could it be his rambunctious children who never seemed to want to grow up or settle down? He suddenly looked up and saw his little rogue of a grand son playing in the cluttered yard. A quick playful smile appeared on his weathered face. The sight of the little scoundrel of a grandson had unexpectedly brightened his day. Little did he know that the darling of a grandson was waiting to ambush that pestering old man. These two rusty tin would soon be flying at him with incredible speed. I was packing a second just in case the first one missed. Teasingly he reached down as if he were attempting to pick up a rock and jokingly said, “Boy I am going to hit you with a rock.’ I knew I would definitely get a spanking but I had been teased enough from that old man.“Thump’ and then “Ouch’ was the sound when the tin can hit its target. Granddaddy was now holding his right leg and limping away when I drew back for the second shot. I was thinking “I bet that old man won´t pester me any more.’ The second shot would be easy enough because by being all bent over he was a bigger target and now he couldn´t run away. When I drew back for the killer shot, mother‘s hand grabbed the little armed attacker´s arm. After seeing what had just happened, she ran over to me, grabbed my by my right arm and yanked me up off the ground, seconds before I could get my second shot off. I knew when she saw what had just happened; I was going to get the whipping of my life. Granddaddy immediately stopped her from giving me the undeserved spanking. Timidly he confessed saying “I was teasing Larry and I got exactly what I deserved.’ Here is a lesson learned. Be careful in what you do and say because some day life may unexpectedly smack you with a tin can.

Little Hands on a Big Hatchet

In my granddaddy´s tool shed the telephone wire was plentiful and after the tough plastic coating was removed, it exposed several small strands of beautifully colored copper wire. A four year boy with a good imagination could think of a thousand things to make with the brightly colored wire. Being where I shouldn´t be and finding a bundle of wire that I shouldn´t have in my granddad´s work shed; this little boy was enthusiastically weaving the colored wire into bracelets for my sister Joan, baby Jane and my self. While in the process of creating this costume jewelry, I was having problems cutting the tiny copper wire into the correct lengths. I desperately needed something that was in of my grand daddy´s forbidden tool box to cut the wire with. There is a big difference between a working man´s tools and little boy´s toys. Being warned numerous times and especially about the danger of the hatchet, I was told never ever to get into his tool box. Being a typical little boy I disregarding the stern warning and curiously rambled in his tool box until I found exactly what I needed to cut the wire, a dangerous hatchet. All I needed it for was to cut these small pieces of wire into the correct length. Its extremely sharp blade would do the trick. What better way to cut the wire into than with a couple of good whacks with the hatchet? How dangerous could that be and I am sure Granddaddy wouldn´t mind.

Using my left thumb to hold the wire securely down on a wide board, I precariously lifted the hatchet high above my head with my right hand and chopped the hatchet down on the wire. On the second chop with the hatchet, my aim was a little too far to the left and the razor sharp blade landed in a bad spot. I had just inadvertently cut the tip of my thumb off. Blood suddenly began squirting all over the board, on my cloths and on the floor of the shed. Shocked at what had just happened, I started screaming and scrambling toward the house. Mother heard the commotion and came running out of the house to see what her now not so clever and terrified little boy had just done. After grabbing my bloody hand, she saw my mangled thumb. Hurriedly she wrapped her apron around the little bloody hand and she and I went into the house. Locating a small pint size jelly jar, she filled it with kerosene and quickly stuck my thumb into it. Kerosene was inexpensive, easy to find and was an old country remedy for cuts and scrapes. Through lack of knowledge and false hope, Kerosene was thought to prevent lock jaw.Most families owned only one car and some didn´t even own one. The public depended on the bus system or walking to their destination if the distance wasn‘t too far. The majority of the people back then weren´t over weight so apparently all of that walking was good for them. Dad had driven our old forty five Ford to work so mother didn´t have a car to take me to the doctor. Fortunately for us there was an excellent bus system in Alabama. During that time period the bussing system for the nation was an excellent form of transportation. An individual could travel to anywhere in the United States for a nominal fee by using the bus system. But during the late sixties and early seventies big oil companies and automobile makers began buying up the majority of the bus systems. Their plan was to closing them down, thus forcing the poorer class of people to buy cars.Mother hurriedly carried Joan and baby Jane across the street to Mom Olla Dixon´s house and then she and I began walking. We walked five miles down a dirt road through the small community of Ridgeville and then to highway two seventy eight. Standing to the side of the road we patiently waited until we saw the enormous green bus come traveling down the narrow two lane road. From a distance the huge green beast speeding toward us on the black top highway appeared to be floating on air. Mother took out a small white handkerchief and began waving it. In my little boy imagination this giant green and white dinosaur began slowing down and finally stopped in front of its next two victims. There was a sudden burst of air and like magic the noisy double door quickly snapped open. An irritated older man, sitting in a gigantic padded seat and holding in his lap a steering wheel the size a washtub, stared down at us from his lofty perch. Slowly we began ascending the three polished metal steps that were half as tall as me. With mother holding on to the top of my shirt to help steady me, I was struggling to climb the shiny but dirty steps that that reach all the way to the impatient driver. Money was exchanged and then came the search for an unoccupied seat. With the bus quickly return back to the blacktop and the erratic shifting of the gears by the aggravated bus driver began, we quickly scrambled to find a hand hold on one of the four metal poles or the hand slots on the backs of the passenger seats. If an individual hesitated to find a good firm hand hold and brace them selves, they and their packages would wind up being sprawled out on the nasty bus floor. Thick black smoke boiled out of the engine at the rear of the bus and the smell of diesel fuel filled the air inside the bus as it continued its journey. The dull hum of the big engine and the gently rocking of the huge metal beast had slowly and secretly allured the occupants into a mind dulling trance. The insensitive stranger´s hid their empty eyes in the crumpled up day old news paper or they blankly glared out the dirty buses windows at far away places. The huge green monster had turned those caring and considerate individuals into mindless zombies. The bus was filled to capacity and no one was conscious or kind enough to offer us a place to sit. Where was the sympathy for a worried mother and a sick child? Where was the compassion? Where was the compassion? On that day the devil laughed and the angles cried.When the field began disappearing and the houses became more numerous, I knew we would soon be in small town of Attalla. As the bus was traveling down the main street of town, mother reached up to the inside top of the big green metal monster and pulled a long cord that extended the entire length of the bus. A bell rang and the bus immediately began to slow down and eventually stop. The concerned mother and scared little boy got off the bus and began walking down the street to the doctor´s office. People saw this woman dressed in her very inexpensive dress and a tattered little boy holding a small red fruit jar with his thumb inserted hurrying down the sidewalk. Some inconspicuously looked with concern but others unfeelingly ignored the strangers. The concerned doctor with his big white lab coat skillfully and carefully sewed my thumb back together. Just before we walked out of his medical office the kind doctor grabbed me by the shoulders with his hands, looked me in the eyes and sternly said “Little boys shouldn´t play with granddaddy´s hatchet.’After the dilemma had passed and on the trip back home, all my little boy´s attention and curiosity was now focused on the alluring monstrosity of a seat in the rear of the bus. The enormously huge cushion that stretched from one side of the bus to the other was quietly pleading for me to come back and play on it. It was huge, even bigger than my bed. No one was sitting back there and it would be incredible place to play. I could to stretch out and take a nap on it or I could stand on it and look out the stained back window. I could watch the black smoke boiling from the exhaust of the noisy engine when we left each stop and wave at the people on the road and those who had just exited the bus. I looked up at mother and ask “Can I go back and play on the big seat at the back of the bus? There isn´t any body back there’.Mother whispered “No. You can´t ride back there. It is reserved for the colored people. The colored people sit at the back of the bus and the white people set at the front’. I looked up at her confused. I didn‘t understand. In the rural area where we lived all of the people of different nationalities were always friendly, courteous and good neighbors. But in town things were totally different. On the bath room´s doors and above the water fountains were large signs that said “Whites only’ and other sighs that said “Colored only’. Are we not all of Gods´ children? If so then why do we treat each other different because of the color of their skin? If we are all of His children than why do we treat each other different? Babies are born innocent and color blind. Prodigious and hatred are taught.After a good scolding I was never permitted to play in the tool shed or with the hatchet again. When Granddaddy Dixon passed away, Dad got the little hatchet. When Dad passed away, I got that little hatchet. I still have the little hatchet and the memories of a mischievous little boy playing in the yard.

Shot Gun House

Another one of our frequent moves was into a wooden shotgun house near Black Creek in Rainbow City, Alabama. The area is at the back of the Gadsden mall and is all under water now. The typical shotgun house is one where you can open the front door and see all the way through to the back door. This inexpensive style of a house was very common in the forties and fifties. The anecdote of the structure was that if a person shot a shotgun through the open front door of the house, the bullet would pass completely through the dwelling, hit the target in the back yard and not disturb anything on its way through. As a family grows, rooms were added to the rear of the house and because of their large families, several of the homes gave the appearance of being a long army barracks. Our shot gun house had two bed rooms and a kitchen at the far end. The trusty old outhouse was in the back yard a few yards from the back door. From a distance our house gave the appearance of a white railroad box car with a front porch. If an infrequent breeze stirring the muggy air, during hot summer days the doors were left open in hope that the wind would cool the scorching hot rooms. During the day, there wasn‘t any danger of house flies or the neighbor‘s dogs venturing into the stifling hot rooms. It was to unbearably hot even for them. The dogs and flies stayed under the house where it was cooler. If a stranger came to the front door they knew immediately if any one was home. Being able to see straight through the house to the outhouse and if the outhouse door was open then no one was home. If it was closed then the home owner could possibly be in the outhouse. Joan and I occupied the front bedroom, mother and dad the next and the kitchen with a wood heater in the last room.

The front bedroom was our favorite room in the house because it was cooler and where we played during heat of the day. The beds seemed so much large and taller then. Do you think it could have something with me being much shorter then? Late in the afternoon, Joan and I would ask mother when our dad will be home. As the time grew near she would tell us so we that we could hide under the bed and wait for Dad. When he opened the front door, we would leap out from under the bed, shout and grab him by his legs. Acting surprised he would jump and let out a fake “yelp.’ Joan and I would bust out in laughter, thinking we have surprised him. Little children´s laughter comes easy and is quick to forgive. During the 40´s and early 50´s, rabies was common in that area of Alabama. Each morning mother would listen to the radio for the broadcaster to tell the news, weather and sometimes what area a rabid animals had been sighted. No one we knew had a television. If a rabid animal was reported in in our area, mother kept us in the house and forbid us play out side. I remembered when Joan and I were playing in the yard and a sickly gray cat came out of the woods into our back yard. Our small dog’ fuzzy’ kept trying to play with it. Only a child would name a dog “fuzzy.’ Each time Fuzzy came near the cat, it would bow up, hiss and try to scratch our little dog. The cat´s actions worried Mother so she told us to keep away from the cat and not to pet it. We had no idea it had rabies. The next morning it was found dead under corner of the house. We were forbidden to go near the dead cat and Dad buried it in the woods when he returned home that afternoon.Later on I remember waking up and hearing the horrifying sound of snapping and growling just outside the front door. It was a sound that I will never ever forget. That day was like a very bad dream. Our little dog “Fuzzy’ was barking, growling and scratching on the front door and trying to get in. Why wouldn´t mother open the door? Why was Fuzzy acting so strange? What was wrong with our little dog? Our small pet had unknowingly contracted rabies from that stray cat. Mother locked both doors, told us that our puppy had rabies and forbid us go out side. All that day Joan and I would peek out the window at our little dog and cry. That was the horrible nightmare that I will never ever forget. Being locked in the house and hearing the terrible sound at our door. Dad came home and disposed of our little pet.Several days later, the neighbor´s across the road had a large black hound that become infected with the horrendous disease. I don´t know how it was accomplished but they some how secured the animal in a barn stall. A barn stall is a closed in room in a barn. Dad and I walked over to see the poor animal. With its head swing uncontrollably from side to side, the delirious dog was snapping at the thin air, growling, foaming at the mouth and staggered aimlessly around in the stall. That mental picture of the rabid animal was very traumatizing for this little boy.

The Casket Wouldn´t Go Down

While we lived in Ridgeville, our neighbor´s the Chumlies; daughter developed pneumonia and died during the night. Like wild fire, the news quickly spread through the small community and by noon the little farm house was swarming with neighbors showing their respect and grief for the family´s loss. The kitchen table and counter tops were quickly covered with food brought in by the mourners so that the family could concentrate on the funeral arrangements and not worry about their family choirs. The women all pitched in and cleaned the house inside and out, including washing the windows. They also continually keep the house clean spick and span; the dishes washed up and maintained a large amount of food on the tables while still showing respect to the little girl´s body now laying in the living room. All the men organized a work party to do the farming chores for the grieving father and mother. Several of the men were assigned to dig the grave and one of the local carpenters went to work immediately begin building a pine box coffin for the little girl.

The coroner came, pronounce the little girl dead and to fill out the necessary papers and documentations. The body was then reverently cleaned, clothed in a beautiful dress and placed in the newly made coffin placed on a small table in the living room. The deceased had to be buried within a couple of days because most people couldn´t afford the services of a funeral home. Chairs and benches were brought in from the neighboring homes and placed around the room for the mourners and sitters. The term “sitters’ comes for the custom of the neighbors taking shifts sitting in the room with the body until it was carried to the church the next day. Usually the corpse remained in the home overnight until they were buried the next day or unless some of their family members were out of town. Then it is burred the next day regardless. Early the morning of the funeral I went with dad and watched him help dig the little girl´s grave. After lunch we began dressing in our Sunday and drove to the church for the funeral.

The service was held in a small white wooden church with a couple of large oak trees in front that shaded the simple structure. On a small hill to the rear of the church was a large and primitive cemetery. The majority of the grave markers were large rusty red vertical and horizontal stones but an occasional marble marker dotting the cemetery as well. When we arrived at the church, I remember seeing the women in their simple bottom of the knee length dresses and the men in their stiff starched white shirts. There was so much corn starch in their white shirts that they didn´t need to hang them on a hanger. They were so stiff that they could be stood up in a corner. The expressions on all of their faces were sad and several people were crying. One of the things that I can remember most about the funeral was I was always looking at peoples´ knees. Because of my age and high I was too small to see any higher. As my parents reverently walked in the congregation talking to our neighbors they would introduce me as their son. The other person would politely look down and see a little boy lost in forest of cotton dresses and bib coveralls. I was developing a crick in my neck trying to politely look up at the strangers. I don´t know why but that has always stuck in my mind.

Before the service, Mother reached down, picked me up and carried me to view the body of the little girl in the casket. The problem was I didn´t want to see the dead little girl‘s body. As we started toward the casket, I closed my eyes and didn´t look. Mother talked with several people standing near the casket, gave her condolences and then we returned back to the old brown wooden bench. I sat quietly beside mother and waited for the minister to start the burial service. It was hot and I was tired so I climbed in mothers lap and quickly fell asleep.

When I awoke, the casket was gone and the minister was escorting the solemn congregation out the back entrance of the church. Holding Mothers hand, we quietly followed behind the sad congregation, through the back door and down a row of wooden steps. When the moving of the crowd stopped, Mother and I were standing facing the depressing cemetery. So I could see better, not that I wanted to, Mother moved us to the front of the assembly of gloomy people. Except for a couple of sprouts of broom sage, the grassless cemetery was littered with large red stones that ominously marked the location of older graves. Some of the newer graves were marked with white or gray marble markers with names of the deceased and dates deeply etched in flat surfaces. The small casket had now been placed on two large boards lying over the deep dark hole in the ground. Behind the frightening hole was a huge mound of red dirt and small rocks with two long shoves handles peering out the top. Pots of beautiful flowers cluttered the area.

From where I was now standing, I could see the whole comical event that was about to unfold. In a monotone voice the minister talked some and then asks the congregation if they would turn their backs to him and bow their heads. Reverently every one turned their backs and bowed their heads except me. After giving the men standing near the grave a signal, the minister, dressed in his black suit and tie and using a his strongest voice, began saying a unusually loud prayer. I guess, out of kindness for the little girl´s family, his thunderous prayer was to cover up of the sound of the wooden casket being lowered into the ground. Four men held the ends of the ropes stretched under the casket while the two other removed the wide boards from underneath. As respectfully as possible, they began slowly lowering the small casket into the ground.

After the coffin had reached only three quarters of the way into the ground it suddenly stopped and wasn´t moving. Still saying his thunderous prayer, the confused minister looked at the stuck casket, looked up at the men then looked back down at the casket. Suddenly they had serious a problem. The casket had gone only half way into the grave and then wouldn‘t go any further. I am not saying anything bad about my dad´s capabilities but, whoever had dug the grave hadn´t dug it wide enough. Because it was very early in the morning and the men were in a hurry, the grave had been dug large enough at the top but begin to taper as it neared the bottom of the hole. The reasoning for making the hole just a little bit larger than the casket was to prevent striking another older casket in the adjoining grave. Continuing saying his thunderous prayer, the minister took his right foot and gently pushed on the wooden box hoping it would start back its decent into the dark hole. It didn´t budge. He looked up at the men with a puzzling expression on his face. They held their hands out with palms up and returned the puzzled look. Suddenly all of the men were as reverently as possible were pushing on the coffin with their feet. It still didn´t budge. As graciously as possible the frustrated minister stepped on the coffin and did a couple of short soft jumps on top of the casket. It still didn´t move. Seeing the casket wouldn´t budge a couple of the men then stepped on the wooden box and as gently as possible began softly and quietly hopping up and down. It began to move so very slightly. Now all of men were standing on the casket trying to get it to go down. With the whole burial crew as quietly as possible were hopping up and down on the box, the casket ever so slowly began slipping lower and lower into the grave.

Suddenly the minister looked up and saw this little boy, me, standing next to his mother watching the whole comical show. Knowing he couldn‘t catch me in this crowd. I smiled a big smile and waved at him. This frustrated him even more. He gave me a threatening stare but I stood my ground and just kept on looking and smiling. The casket finally reached the bottom and exhausted minister and men stepped back onto solid ground. The frustrated and over heated minister took out a white handkerchief from his jacket and began whipping the sweat from his for head.

During all of the confusion, the aggravated minister never stopped saying his strident prayer. When the casket finally came to rest at the bottom of the grave, he asked the congregation to turn back around and the service was finally completed. Everybody was wondering why the preacher was sweaty and red faced. Every one except me.

Two Drunks in a Hen House

When I was four years old, we lived near my Uncle Son and his family for a couple of months. Uncle Sons´ name was John Dixon Junior, but every one called him Son. Feeling my independents I would often walk down about half of a city block to Uncle Son´s house and play with my cousin Johnny. Johnny and I were the same age and like two little brothers.

One day as Johnny and I were playing cars with our wooden blocks in the loose dirt next to their slab chicken house. Slabs are the outside cuttings of a sawmill tree. The trash lumber was uneven, filled with knots holes and given away for use in shabby buildings or fire wood. With our two small wooden blocks, Johnny and I were enjoying ourselves as we make small roads on the loose dust. Propped up on the side of the chicken house was my sloppy drunk. Uncle Son and a so called inebriated to the gills friend of his. Both were patiently waiting and listening for the sound of a chicken cackling. After patiently sitting in her nest for a certain period of time, a laying hen will deposit an egg in her straw nest. As soon as the egg has been laid, she will immediately jumps from the nest and begins to cackle. For those people who haven´t ever heard a chicken cackle it is a rapid high pitched squawking sound that last for only a couple of minutes. Each time a chicken cackled, the two funny drunks, pushing and shoving, would frantically race into the chicken house to see who could get the freshly laid egg. The pompous winner would peck small holes in both ends out of the egg with his pocket knife. Holding the egg above his head he would proceed to suck the raw egg from the shell. There was an insane reason why the two drunks were sucking the raw eggs from their shells. The substance in the raw egg will coat the lining of their stomach and allows them to continue their drink spree.

Quickly realizing what was going on, the two naughtily little boys made us up a plan. Acting like two little Indians, we cautiously slipped into the chicken house, crawled up under the chicken roost and patiently waited. It wasn´t easy for the little rascals to be patient and sit there as quiet as two little mice. When the chicken cackled, Johnny quickly jumped up, grabbed the good egg and left the nest egg. We hurriedly scooted back under the roost and got ready to watch the show. A nest egg is an old egg left in the nest so the hen will continue laying her eggs in the particular nest. Uncle Son and his drunken buddy were bumping, grabbing and shoving each other, trying to be first into the chicken house. Unfortunately for Uncle Son he won the shoving match. Unknowingly he had grabbed the nest egg, took the point of his pocketknife, pecked out the ends of the shell, gave a winning smile to his drunken associate, turned the egg up and began sucking on the egg.

The bad egg had been in the nest next for weeks. He was so drunk that he didn´t realize the egg was bad but his insides could. We snickered as we watched Uncle Son struggling to swallow the horrible rotten egg while the putrid green substance drooled from the corners of his mouth. Suddenly grabbing his stomach, Uncle Son doubled over and lost everything in his stomach. A drunk has no pity for another drunk. His intoxicated buddy began laughing at Uncle Son staggering around all bent over and throwing up what was left in his stomach. The other drunk was laughing so hard the he stumbled and fell flat on his face outside of the chicken house. There was now two drunks wallowing on the ground and Johnny and I couldn´t hold it in any longer. We broke our silence and busted out laughing.

Uncle Son finally stopped heaving and by holding on to the side of the chicken house he pulled himself up from the ground. Something terrible happened then. He suddenly saw Johnny and me still hiding under the chicken roost and rolling with laughter. Realizing we were in big trouble, we scurried to the back as far as we could under the roost hoping he couldn´t reach us. Uncle Son reached under the roost, grabbed Johnny and began smacking him with his hand. I knew I had just worn out my welcome at his house. So with the first opening I saw in the chicken house door I darted out and ran home as fast as my short little legs would go.

It was a couple weeks before I went back to see my cousin Johnny. The only time then was when Dad was going to see his older brother. During our visits, I stayed very close to Dad just incase Uncle Son wanted to retaliate for the horrible trick Johnny and I we played on him. Uncle Son only gave me a couple of stern looks but nothing more.

The Miracle

I can remember our family driving to church in Daddy´s old 1940 Ford car. We rarely attended church so this was a special occasion for us. My Dad, a good man, didn´t believe in organized religion and Mothers´ major problem was trying to keep her two rowdy children and baby Jane under control. While sitting in the wide back seat, my short little legs barely extending over the thick padded seat made me feel so small. Cars seemed much larger then and gas was only fifteen cents a gallon. While sitting in the back seat of the old Ford like a little trooper, I was reluctantly wearing my starched stiff white shirt and a snap on bow tie. A bow tie is a ribbon of cloth tied in a fancy bow and worn around the neck. This tie was made with metal snaps that clipped onto the collar of the shirt. These snaps made it easier for frustrated mothers to put the unwanted tie on their squirming little boys. I despised wearing that white shirt and bow tie.

Inside the old church were two rows of uncomfortable wooden benches that extend parallel toward the front of the building. Upfront, standing like a toy soldier at attention, was a tall wooden podium. This was where the music director and the minister reverentially stood to conduct the church service. Frantically waving his arm from side to side, the tall middle aged man was trying frantically to keep up with the jubilant piano player and lead the off-key congregation in an old southern hymn “Amazing Grace.’ Some worshiper was trying to out sing the others and it was totally destroying the song. The lively music bouncing from the piano was being played by an overweight female who was wearing a big ruffled dress that completely covered the piano bench. While she banged out the hymn and never looking up at the music director, her zealous fingers were punishing the keys on the worn out piano. I think her other job during the week was playing the piano at the local honky-tonk.

After the enthusiastic minister had made a couple of comments and announcements, wooden platters were circulated through the congregation so the people could place their contributions in the offering plate. The money collected paid the salary of the minister, the maintenance of the building and other things that were needed. As the platter was passed to Dad, he reached in his back pocket and took out his billfold. All he had was a five dollar bill. Five dollars was a considerable amount of money for us then. Being confused, he looked over at Mother like he was asking her “what should I do“. A shocked and I can´t believe you did that expression came over her face when he gently laid the only money we had between now and next week´s payday pay into the wooden plate. I curled up on the bench, got somewhat comfortable and went to sleep, despite the loud and heated sermon the minister was giving.

Concluding the church meeting, Joan and I hurriedly walked out the door of the church and wildly ran to dad´s car. Stand on our tip toes we jerked opened the big back door, scampered up onto the huge back seat and sat there patiently waited for the argument to begin. Surprisingly there wasn´t an argument, just tears. On the trip home, Mother was softly crying and saying “That was all of the money we had’ while holding baby Jane. What are we going to do“? Dad kept trying to reassure her that things would be ok. As soon as we got home, the large back car door swung open and we jumped out and began running through the yard like a couple of wild Indians. Apparently carrying us to church didn´t settle these two untamed children down. Joan and I ran into the front bedroom, drug out some toys and began playing. Mother and Daddy went into there bed room. We could hear every thing they were saying even though they were talking very softly. Parents don´t give their little children enough credit. A child hears and sees everything and especially what the parents don´t want them to. Joan and I heard mother say “But that was all of the money we had. What are we going to do?’ With encouragement in his voice, Dad kept reassuring mother that things would be ok.

That afternoon, the house was filled with the noisy commotion of two energetic children and the aroma of mother cooking chicken. Mother was an excellent and because of our financial situation, she could always prepare a good meal with what ever was available. The eager little group sat down at the table and a quick blessing was given over the food. Dad was very strict about having the entire family sitting at the table for meals. The meals were to be a peaceful and a pleasant experience. That was an impossible dream with these two wild Indians bouncing through the house.

Unexpectedly, the light above the kitchen table began blinking off and on. The shot gun house was very old so repairs were expected. Our handy man dad retrieved his working tools that were placed high up on a shelf to keep little hands form scattering them all through the house and yard. With a Phillips head screw driver he removed a one of the two screws from the cover of the electrical light box. Not wanting to get an electrical shocked he gently slide the cover to the side of the small metal box. I can still remember seeing the two twenty dollar bills as they came tumbling out of the electrical box. Mother and dad stood there astonished to see the money softly floating down from the electrical box and gingerly landing on the table. After the excitement had finally settled, Dad checked the remaining light fixtures in the house but no more money was to be found. I know in my heart that Heavenly Father had blessed this poor little family for giving what they didn´t have.

Moving Up Town

Later that same year we moved from the old shot gun house into a small frame house several blocks up the street. Our new home was much nicer and with out a doubt I knew for certain that like we had just moved up a notch in social society. As they say in the south “We were chopping in high cotton’. The shot gun house had an outer shell that looked like of a rickety old wooden boxcar with windows but our new home had the grand appearance of a normal house. This impressive structure was twenty four feet by twenty four feet and rested on concrete blocks. Inexpensive housing was placed on flat rocks but a good house was always placed on concrete blocks. An old coat of white paint had made our new home look more impressive than what it actually was. A gas heater in the living room warmed the entire living area and the functioning indoor toilet was too good to be true. Our small bathroom held only a commode and a small sink but no shower or bath tub. That was the normal set up for this type of houses in that area.

With out a bath tub or shower in our small dwelling, our baths consisted of a dish pan of warm soapy water and a clean bath cloth. Some men had an odor about them and some women wore too much perfume. In the summer months, we would all bath in mothers big galvanized wash tub. After doing the laundry, the warm soapy rinse water from the washing machine would be saved in the large tub. Each person would individually strip down and get in the warm soapy water to take their Friday bath. I hated taking a bath in that wash tub. By the time it was my turn, every one else had had their baths. Angrily and reluctantly I was made to strip down and get into the filthy bath water. By being last, the water was by now a greasy and nasty gray. Every one else had washed their dirty body in the soapy water and now I had to get into the filth soup. I felt dirtier getting out of the tub than when I was made to get in.

Moonshine for Sale

We soon discovered why our wonderful house was vacant and the rent was so inexpensive. The dusty dirt road where we lived ran parallel to our house was only twenty feet from our front porch. In the rainy winter months the wet sloppy mess of a road had deep ruts cut into it where cars were slipping and sliding as they traveled back and forth. In the dry season, cars and trucks sucked up huge clouds of dust into the air as they raced up and down the pot hole filled road. Everything was covered with a thick layer of dirt and grime as the huge gray cloud settles over everything on both sides of the road. Across the busy road was a poor excuse for a pasture where several starving gray dust covered cows struggled to find something to eat. The next day after we moved in to our new home, a bootlegger slowly drove past our house in his dusty black truck. A bootlegger is an individual who makes a living selling illegal whiskey. On the return trip, the truck stopped directly in front of our house and with a guarded caution, the bootlegger slowly stepped out of the truck. On the far side the road against the pasture fence post, he placed a gallon jug of moonshine and a small tin coffee can. After depositing the bounty, he returned to his the truck and cautiously drove back down the dirt road. A short time later, a large black car came easing down the road as if searching for something. Seeing the gallon jog leaning against the fence post, the car eased up to it and stopped. A short dumpy man cautiously eased out of his car and hurriedly walked over to the glass jug and coffee can. After removing some money from his front pocket he placing it in the coffee can. Then cautiously looking to make sure no one was watching, he admiringly picked up the whisky jug and hurried walked back to his car. After placing the whiskey in the back seat of his vehicle, he got back in the car and quickly drove off. Thirty minutes later, the old truck slowly drove up the road and stop again in front of our house again. The sly and cunning occupant boldly got out of the truck and walked over to the coffee can. He picked up the money, counted it, returned to his truck and then drove back down the road. This transaction took place a several times that day. Their only problem was mother had been watching the whole bootlegging operation beginning when the truck first stopped in front of our house. She was furious. She wasn´t going to stand by and let something like that going on in front of her house. When Dad came home that night, he caught the full brunt of mother´s fury. She told him of the frightening events of the day and she wasn´t going to stand for some thing like that to go in front of her house, especially with her children playing in the front yard. Something had to be done. This business transaction in front of our house was going to cease the next day.

A devious plan was thought up. The following day, Dad and Uncle Charles impatiently stood peering out our front window. Soon the expected happened. The enterprising bootlegger´s old black truck drove up, stopped in front of the house, the bootlegger deposited his morning delivery of moonshine and then he drove off. No sooner than the bootlegger was out of sight, Dad and Uncle Charles hurriedly ran across the dirt road, snatched up the jug of whiskey and scamper back into the house. Quickly positions the jug on the kitchen table, Daddy hurriedly removed the bottle cap. Uncle Charles then quickly empted a whole bottle of hot sauce into the moonshine jug. Dad frantically replaced the cap, then ran across the road, placed the glass jug back to its original location and made a quick dash back into the house. While crouching in their hiding places and waiting for the buyer to appear, the grown men giggled like two small boys.

While peeking over the window seal they saw a car casually approach the drop site. And stopping directly in front of the house, the driver got out of his car, retrieved the bottle of bootleg whisky, deposited the money in the can and then drove off. As the same car quickly returned it sent huge clouds of dust into the air as it speed up the dirt road. The angered occupant of the car slung the jug of hot pepper whiskey out the opened side window, jumped out of the car, snatched up his money and quickly drove off. The bootlegger decided to move its drop off point to new location the following day.

Mothers Crazy Rooster

When I was four years old and we lived on Jones Street in Attalla, mother had an enormous pen filled with a big variation of chickens and one of the most violent rooster this side of the Mississippi. That cantankerous old bird was a half game rooster, half pit bulldog and a natural born killer. Every time I went into the chicken pen to collect the eggs he would chase me down and try to flog me to death. I hated that rooster. He was meaner than a one eared ally cat. A rooster flogs by jumping up in the air and scratching its surprised and frightened victim with its long two inch spurs attached to the back of its lower legs. That mean old rooster took pleasure in hearing me screaming and chase me out of his savage domain we called a chicken pen. It wouldn‘t attack Mother or Dad because of their size but because of my small in stature I was easy pray. Each day I dreaded going into that chicken pen. If it was left up to me I would let all of those chickens starve to death and their precious eggs rot in their nest. That rooster placed pure terror in my heart. Something had to be done about that psychotic bird.

One day when mother was gone to town with Joan and baby Jane, Dad sent me to the chicken pen to collect the eggs. Earlier day I had made up my mind that today would be the last day that the crazy rooster would ever try to flog me again. Mustering up what valor I could, this little boy walked to the back door, picked up an old mop handle and then bravely marched to the chicken pen. I fearlessly opened the chicken pen gate and stepped in. Setting my feel like a professional baseball player preparing to hit the ball out of the park, I stood there and waited for that psycho bird. When the rooster saw me, he immediately fanning out his wings and came violently running toward me. In his attempt to flog his victim, the arrogant rooster raced to with in three feet me and jumped up to the air with his deadly spurs shinning. Suddenly the thick headed bird realized that mop handle holding little boy wasn´t running any more. I swung that base ball bat shape stick as hard as I could. The stupid rooster dropped dead at my feet. Arrogantly I said “That serves you right, you won´t be flogging me any more!’ I casually collected the eggs, walked back to the house, washed them and placed them in the refrigerator. When Mother came home from shopping with Joan and baby Jane, she found the dead rooster in the chicken yard. She couldn‘t figure out why her pet rooster had died. I knew exactly why it died. Mother or Dad never knew what ever happened to that psycho rooster and I never told them.

Little Boy Lost

On another one of our many trip to town, I pleaded with mother for a cherry smash drink. Two crushed cherries, sugar, water and ice in a clear glass container created a mouth-watering treat that could only be bought at the dime store When we entered the store, Mother directed me to a bar stool at the far end of the soda fountain. The soda fountain in the store was a small refreshment area with a wooden bar and stools. After my delicious cherry smash was ordered and placed on the round table, I climbed upon a bar stool and began enjoying the treat. Mother instructed me to sit there while she did some shopping in the store. Quietly I sat there trying enjoying my drink but something was happening. We are all aware that when a large amount of liquid is going into a body eventually must come out. Uncomfortably I sat there, squirming, but enjoy my drink and try to ignore that burning feeling in my bladder. I needed to go to the bath room but I didn´t want to go right now. . .

There is only so much discomfort that the body can stand. Sudden, I had to find a bathroom---- NOW! Panicking I looked around but couldn´t find Mother. Maybe she was out side. I went to the front door and looked but she wasn´t there. Down the block and across the street was a barber shop where I had my hair cut a couple of times. I knew they had a bathroom. I dashed down to the traffic light and waited for the pedestrians to cross the street. To feel safe, I walked in the middle of the oblivious group of pedestrians as they crossed. Then I ran into the barbershop, used their bathroom and walked back to the red light. I stood there patiently waiting for another group of pedestrians to cross the street. After returning back across the busy intersection I hurriedly ran back to the dime store and went through the front door. Someone is sitting on my stool! My drink was gone and worst of all, Mother wasn´t there. Frantically I ran through the store searching for Mother. She wasn´t there.

Only minutes after I had bounded from the stool and ran toward the barbershop, Mother had returned to the soda fountain. By then I was already safely across the street. Hysterically she asked the soda jerk “Where is the little boy that was setting on that stool?’ He looked up from wiping the table and said “He suddenly jumped off the stool and ran off.’ A soda jerk is the person that makes the food and drink at the soda fountain. The term soda jerk came from the jerking of the dispenser handle while preparing the beverages. The soda jerks were usually dressed in clean white uniform and a white flat folding cloth cap shoved down on their head. Terrified that something had happened to her little boy Mother began searching every where. Police men walked the streets during that time period and were easy to find. She quickly found one and soon the entire police department was soon looking for a lost little boy.

No finding Mother in the store this frightened little boy went back across the street, into the familiar barbershop, sat down on the wooden bench and began crying. An old man walked up, sat down on the bench next to me and ask “Son, what´s wrong.’ His hair was completely gray and neatly combed to the side. His kindness and smile was as quick and easy as an old pair of comfortable shoes. The distinct creases in his white shirt and neatly pressed brown slacks were as tight as a butter knife. The thin leather belt worn around his waist illustrate that he was a thin man and his polished shoes also said he was a man of pride. When I looked up at his face I saw the comforting blue eyes of my granddaddy. I told him “I was lost and couldn´t find my mother’. After hesitating for a couple of seconds and then asked “Where do you live.’ Quickly I responded with pride saying “I live on a dirt road next to my Granddaddy.’ He looked at me puzzled. Apparently, he didn´t know where my grand daddy lived. I couldn´t understand why he didn´t. My granddaddy Dixon was the best granddaddy in the whole wide world and every one should know where he lived.

The gentle old man gave me a pack of spearmint gum and then purchased me a soft drink. We sat on the wooden bench in the barber shop and waited for what seemed an extremely long time. After I drank my soft drink and watched the patrons get their haircut, I soon began getting sleepy. Slowly I leaned up against the old man´s shoulder and little by little the little boy went to sleep.

Mother, finally thinking about the barbershop, ran to the shop, opened the door and looked in. There her little boy sat, safe, asleep and leaning against the gentle old man´s shoulder. Tearfully she ran into the barber shop and grabbed up her little lost boy. After regained her composure she thanked the kindly old man for watching out for me. He cordially responded and then quietly walked away. There are times in our lives when we don´t even recognize our guardian angel when he is patiently setting next to us waiting for our mother to find her little lost boy.

Pink Eyes, Kerosene and Caster Oil

When my sister Joan attended her first year of school at Duck Spring Elementary, she brought home a big surprise. It was the pink eyes. One morning she awoke and became hysterical and started screaming because she couldn't open her eyes. The mucus draining from her eyes had dried over night and sealed them shut that morning. Mother calmed her down and soaked her eyes with a warm damp towel. That softened the mucus sealing her eyes and enabled Joan to open them again. Regrettably, I am sorry to say but I didn´t pay much attention to my older sister´s problem because I was a busy little boy caught up in my own little world. The following day when I awoke, my eyes glued closed with mucus. For a four year old it was shocking not to be able to open your eyes. Thinking I was blind for life, I began screaming. Mother came in, settled me down and by taking a soft warm damp towel she solved my frightening problem. It took a week of the daily ritual of warm damp towels every morning to finally bring things back to some what normal.

During the late forties and early fifties, they were few cures for child hood disease. The only immunization was for small pox, a deadly and very contagious disease that swept through whole towns and villages, killing all of the inhabitants. In the fifties a polio epidemic was quickly spreading through the United States and no one knew how it was spreading. Public swimming pools were closed and physical contact with another person was discouraged. A life saving vaccine for this crippling disease was soon discovered and inoculation given free in schools and at the health department. In the beginning two shots of the vaccine was given in the arm with a medical syringe by a trained nurse. Eventually the vaccine was placed on a sugar cube and taken orally.

Kerosene was another popular remedy used for cuts and bruises and anything mother could think up. On one occasion when my sister Joan was in the first grade at Duck Springs elementary she brought home a number of small surprise neatly tucked in her hair. It was head lice. Kerosene came to our rescue. Mother lined us up and had us bending over on the edge of the back porch. The trusted cure all kerosene was poured over our infected heads and then our hair was washed with laundry detergent. Our wild looking hair had the appearance of a well used bristle brush but the head lice had all gone. I was actually given kerosene and sugar for the whooping cough. It didn´t cure the cough but it tasted so terrible that I wouldn´t cough when mother was in hearing distance. The wonder cure was always available and very inexpensive. If a person stepped on a rusty nail, their foot was instantly placed in a pan of kerosene and allowed to soak in the substance. An old wives tail said to prevent lock jaw but it didn´t. The majority of the self help remedies just gave you hope and a false sense of security.

Another home remedy was called a poltice. It was a mixture of mustard and other vial ointments smeared on a cloth pad. The combination was placed in a warm cotton towel and placed on the patient´s chest. This was the customary treatment for a cold or congestion. The horrible mixture would blister the chest and cause the skin to be painfully sensitive. At time the effects of the medication can be worse than the illness.

The worst home remedy of them all was caster oil. I truly believe the devil created caster oil to punish little children with. Ask any older person and they can tell you horrible stories involving the use of that dreadful fluid. Caster oil gives the appearance of thick slimy motor oil, produces a sickening smell and has a nauseating and unforgettable taste. Because of its horrible taste, it is harder keeping the medication down than it was to swallow. Your stomach automatically rejected the caster oil and immediately went into the dry heaves of a week long drunk. When the oil kept trying to come back up, Mother would threaten us by saying “If you spit that caster oil back up I will give you twice as much next time.

Twice a year and on occasions when we were grumpy, Mother took the liberty of giving her poor little children two huge table spoons of this toxic waste mixed with warm orange juice. Within an hour, the merciless mixture would cause severe cramps and exploding diarrhea. The unfortunate recipient of this horrible medicine would sit all bent in a stooped position over holding their cramping stomach until a sharp pain struck in the lower abdomen. Then it was a mad dash to the outhouse. Some times you made it and some times you didn´t. Mother said we need a good cleaning out to rid our bodies of the impurities. I don´t know about the impurities but it certainly cleaned us out. To this day, if I smelled this awful medicine, I will get weak in the knees, sick at my stomach and experience horrible flash backs.

The Red Necks of Ridgeville

On one of our visits to my Granddaddy Dixon´s house, the whole Dixon clan was there. Followed by an enormous and loud lunch, Daddy and Glen Dixon began to wrestle in the house. In the uncontrollable commotion they fell and broke the legs on the sofa. When Grand daddy saw their horse play was destroying the inside of his house. He yelled “you boys take it outside. You are tearing the house down.’ When Glen turned to look at Grand daddy, Dad grabbed Glen by the arm and with a hard jerk slung him through the screen door. Glen destroyed the screen door, crashed through the front porch post and landed on his back out in the front yard. Dad ran through the broken screen door, jumped off the front porch head first and land on top of Glen. They then the fight took up where it left off. Both grown men were now rolling around in the dirt and pine stray trying to get the upper hand on the other. It would remind you of two old cowboys wallowing in the stock yard of a western movie.

Through the commotion, the post holding the porch up was swinging, the side of the roof was sagging and the screen door was gone. Standing there on the damaged front porch and beside the mangled screen door was Granddaddy. Shaking his head in disgust as he looked down at two of his adult sons wrestling on the ground, he wondered aloud “When will those boys ever grow up.’ After being too exhausted to wrestle any more, they rolled over on their backs and gasp for air. Laying there all covered with dirt and after finally getting their breath, Glen and Dad began laughing. Grand daddy said with a demanding voice “Nobody is leaving until you boys clean up this mess. I want every thing back like it was.’ My grand daddy was held in high respect by all of his sons and daughters and they did what he said. Dad fetched the carpenter box and Glen started picking up what was left of the screen door. Does the word Hillbillies ring a bell?

In the old days a man showing his emotion was considered weak. My granddaddy, not wanted to be regarded as weak, gave the appearance of a stern and hard old man. He tried his best to hide his tender heart but I was lucky enough to see it. He never said say I love you but he secretly demonstrated it in a hundred different ways. I am the same and different from him. I have his tender heart but want my family to never doubt how much I love them.

Ten foot tall and bullet proof

The starter moaned and groaned as it attempted to turn over the enormous engine in his old Dodge truck. After struggling for what seemed like an eternity, the motor finally spit and sputtered to life. Earlier Kenneth had cheerfully entered the eating establishment on the Georgia and Florida line for a cold beer and a good home-cooked meal. Now humiliated, he was sitting in his truck with a bloody lip, his cloths covered with saw dust and his manhood hanging by a thread. Sawdust was strewn on most floors of bars and honky-tonks in the south to soak up the tobacco juice but it also makes a softer landing for the drunks. Returning from a lengthy job assignment as a metal pipe fitter in the hot humid south Florida swamps, Kenneth was ready for the well-deserved vacation back home in Alabama. The food in the roadhouse wouldn´t be as good as his mama´s but it would be better than the tasteless garbage he had tolerated at his work site for the past two months.

Earlier that day things had started out calm and uneventful for him but as he drove his truck onto the gravel parking area of the old bar and grill, little did he know that this day things would hit rock bottom. When he entered the old log structure, the first thing he noticed in the dimly-lit establishment was the long bar made from one solid piece of cypress wood. Being raised the son of a master carpenter and helping his dad when he was younger; Kenneth knew and appreciated such a fine piece of lumber. Looking at the large section of lumber as if it were an expensive painting or a work of art, Kenneth admiringly walked across the sawdust-covered floor and gently ran his hand up and down the wide grains of the crimson log.

“What will it be, Buddy?’ came the grumpy voice from across the counter. It had been a long and hot drive that morning so Kenneth said “Give me a Budweiser.’ There were only two accepted beers in the south that a person of his social class would drink, Schlitz and Budweiser. The others beers are more expensive, flavorless and not of his liking. You can get just as drunk on a fifty cent beer as you can on dollar beer. He had a long way to go to get home and this was no time to get drunk. Just a well-deserved beer, a good meal and he would be on his way. The glass bottle made a muffled pop sound as the metal bottle cap was hurriedly removed with the bottle opener by the unsightly bartender. Kenneth placed two twenty five cent pieces on the worn counter top for the bartender and a brown bottle came sliding down the smooth counter top. This was just two of the many twenty five cents pieces that would be placed on the bar before this episode was over. Kenneth said to himself “Just one beer and a good meal and I will be on my way back home to Alabama.’ Dixons have never been known to drink just one beer.

Several drinks later and feeling no pain, that dreadfully ugly bar fly he saw earlier when he came into the honky-tonk was now looking quite attractive. There are no ugly women at the bottom of a liquor bottle. If the light hits her streaked bleached blond hair just right and with a couple more teeth, she would kind of look like Jane Mansfield. Kenneth wore his hair long and combed toward the back of his head. After running his fingers through his long black hair and cleaning his teeth with his fingers to make himself more presentable, he smiled at her and she smiled back at him. Things were looking up for Romeo. He had been propping on the bar to keep the room from spinning but now was the time for Romeo to make his famous “women can´t resist me’ approach. Thinking he was strutting like a rooster going into the hen house when in reality he was wobbling like a drunken lepricon, Kenneth staggered over to her table and plopped down in the hard wooden chair. With an overconfident slurred speech he said “Haven´t I seen you before?’
“I don´t think so Buddy.’ came a deep and irritated voice from behind him. The angry sound was coming from a mountain of a man standing only a couple of feet behind him. From where Kenneth was sitting this huge human mass looked to be seven foot tall and weighing in at over four hundred of pure rock hard muscle. Unfortunately, Kenneth had been attracted to the unsightly girlfriend of a log flipper. In the pulp wood profession a log flipper is an enormous man who with both hands picks up a huge ten foot log by one end, props it on his huge stomach and then with unbelievable strength flips the heavy log onto the bed of a logging truck. In the lumber business, a log flipper doesn´t have to be bright, just incredibly strong.

If Kenneth had been sober, he would have apologized and politely excused himself to go finish his meal. But being stupid drunk, he foolishly stood up and confronted the huge brute. The liquor had obviously made Kenneth think he was ten foot tall and bullet proof. The next thing he knew a huge hand the size of a catcher´s mitt smacked him on the side of the face and sent him spinning like a wooden top onto the damp sawdust. Have you ever heard of a person being slapped cold sober? Well, Kenneth was. When he finally stopped spinning and was able to getting up off of the wooden floor, Kenneth realized he wasn´t that hungry any more and he needed to be on his way. Apparently, that pulpwood flipper had slapped the taste right out of Kenneth´s mouth and some sense into his hard head.

After finally getting his truck cranked, Kenneth headed north up highway US 19 as fast as that big Dodge would go. He wanted to put as much distance between him and that Honky-tonk and the crazy pulpwooder as quick as possible. How embarrassing it was. Every one was laughing at him as he was wallowing around in that tobacco-soaked sawdust. Lying sprawled out on that filthy floor was humiliating enough until he saw the blue light flashing behind him. Had they called the law on him? It ain´t right to do a man that way. Trapped on a deserted highway between miles of nothing but pine trees and Georgia swamps, this wasn´t a place for any one to be pulled over, especially with an Alabama tag.

Disgusted, Kenneth pulled the big Dodge over to the side of the road and waited for the patrol car to quickly follow suit. The first thing he noticed as the officer stepped out of the patrol car was that he unsnapped his pistol strap. Being slapped silly at the bar by that big brute was bad enough, but now seeing the dubious expression on the officer´s face was even worse. The police officer smiled when he walked past the back of the truck and glanced down at the Alabama tag. Shouldn't the officer be carrying some form of book to write tickets or warnings on?

Now standing at the driver´s side of the truck, the officer had his right hand resting on the pistol butt, his left propped on the top of the truck and an odoriferous stench was coming from the damp places under his arm pits. With a big plug of tobacco in his mouth and a strong southern slang, the officer looked at him, smiled and said “Going a little fast weren't you boy?’ Kenneth thought, maybe just maybe, if I look straight ahead and don't talk directly into the officer´s face, he won´t be able to smell the liquor on my breath. With a louder voice the now aggravated officer repeated himself “Are you deaf boy? I said, you were driving that Dodge a little too fast weren't you buddy?’ Kenneth realized that this poor soul from Attalla, Alabama was in a world of trouble.

After a barrage of one way questions from the officer and responding with all of the wrong answers, the handcuffed Kenneth was unwillingly sitting in the back of a patrol car watching his beloved truck being towed away to places unknown. Clad in his greasy wife beater shirt and grimy trousers, the young tow truck driver had been more than eager to confiscate the drunk driver´s truck for his uncle, the sheriff. A wife beater´s shirt is a tee shirt with the sleeves rolled up tight against the shoulder. Usually a pack of cigarettes is concealed on one of the sleeves. With chains rattling and the winch whining, in a matter of minutes the compliant driver had the truck in tow and was vanishing down the highway. Kenneth, pathetically sitting in the back set of the patrol car, was wondering if he would ever see his truck again. Even worse, would he wind up being alligator bait in one of the surrounding swamps? He had heard some horror stories about people disappearing in the swamps of South Georgia.

The officer effortlessly slid onto the front seat of his patrol car, closed the car door, looked back at the disheartened prisoner and said “Boy, You are in a lot of trouble now.’ The frightened passenger in the back seat was now in a state of shock. Will he ever get his truck back? Will his family ever know what had happened to him? Will they ever find his body? When the speeding patrol car finally stopped, Kenneth was relieved to see a small southern town and not the black waters of a local bayou. The domineering courthouse was prominently placed in the center of a collection of brick or white weathered store fronts and homes with picket fences. Ancient oak trees, with their massive limbs almost touching the ground, surrounded the huge old building. The parking spaces and all of the storefronts respectfully faced the enormous structure. This small southern town was straight out of the movie “Tobacco Road.’ The town´s jail was a large box covered with chicken wire in the basement of the courthouse. From the appearance of the structure, it wasn´t built for the ill-fated occupants to stay in the cage any extended length of time. Kenneth was shoved, handcuffs and all, into the small enclose and the door was quickly slammed behind him. The sheriff looked in at Kenneth and said “You´re in luck Boy. The judge is in town.’ The truth was that the Judge lived in that town. Kenneth later learned that this was definitely a two horse town and the judge owned both horses.

Sitting behind his enormous mahogany desk and fully clad in his shiny black robe, the overweight judge looked angrily down at Kenneth and said “Mr. Dixon, We have a nice town here and we don´t appreciate strangers speeding through our quiet little community and breaking the law. Your unacceptable actions have shown a great disrespect to me and all the other law abiding citizens in this town. Mr. Dixon. I am going to put a stop to it.’ Then the judge´s voice grew louder. “Did you hear what I said, Mr. Dixon. I am going to put a stop to it! You have been charged with speeding and driving under the influence through our peaceful little community. How do you plead?’ Before Kenneth could speak the sheriff piped up and said “Guilty as charged, your honor! “ Continually staring down at Kenneth, the angry judge said “That will be ninety dollars.’ and banged the wooden mallet hard down the desk top. Relieved that he had enough money, Kenneth quickly took out his billfold, counted out ninety dollars, put his billfold back in his pocket gave a breath sigh of relief and then gave a reassuring smile to the judge. With out changing his expression, the vindictive judge said “Mr. Dixon, now run your hand back into that pocket, take out that same billfold and see if you can find thirty days.’ Kenneth´s was now standing before the judge with his mouth open and a dumfounded expression on his face. “Thirty days! What do you mean thirty days?’ Kenneth stammered. The judge stood up, placed the palms of both hands on the table and growled “I said I sentence you to thirty days of hard labor.’ and then banged the mallet back down on the table. The sheriff smiled, looked at the judge and said, “Thanks, Charles.’ The Judge gave him a smile and replied “Any time. I knew you could use some more help on that farm of yours.’ Kenneth suddenly realized that the sheriff and the judge were brothers.

After being led to the patrol car handcuffed and a blind fold being placed over his eyes, Kenneth nervously asked’ What is the meaning the blind fold? “I will tell you when we get there.’ murmured the sheriff. The judge had said Kenneth had to work on a prison farm but didn´t say any thing about being blindfolded. He had plenty of experience walking behind a pair of mules but why did he need to be blindfolded? There were stories floating around about a town where lone out-of- state travelers were stopped by a police a car, falsely arrested on trumped up charges and made to work on secluded prison farms. Being so isolated and no one knowing where they were, the poor travelers were virtually slaves. Was this Kenneth´s fate? Was he to be lost and forgotten by his family? Was he to be made a slave on the prison farm for the reminder of his life?

When they arrived at the farm and the blindfold was removed, Kenneth was shocked. This wasn´t a vegetable farm. It was a pulp wood farm. He expected to be plowing mules and not to be cutting down pine trees. Working on a pulp wood farm is hard back-breaking work and people get killed or mangled working with those big logs. If he got seriously injured or died it would be a one-way trip to the alligator-infested swamp. None of his family knew where he was, his truck was probably displaying a new paint job, and the sheriff knew if there is no physical body then there was no crime.

Grabbing Kenneth by the shoulders, the bad-tempered sheriff spun him around, looked him in the eyes and said “Boy, if you will notice, there aren´t any fences surrounding this place. We don´t need them. These swamps are filled with hungry alligators and poisonous water moccasins. The woods are crawling with unpredictable rattle snakes, temperamental coral snakes and bad-tempered copper heads. There is only one gate on the long and isolated road leading out of this camp. It is on a bridge bordered by treacherous swamps filled with unforgiving quicksand, ferocious snakes, hungry alligators and all other kind of nasty creatures. Your family and friends back in Alabama have no idea where you are. The reason I blindfolded you was so you wouldn´t try to escape. You haven´t the foggiest idea of which direction to go even if you did decide to leave my nice little farm. If the gators or snakes don´t get you, then me and my dogs will. If you try to escape, me and my hounds or the swamp will have you before the sun goes down. Don´t even think about trying to escape. It is hopeless. Is that understood? Kenneth snapped back “Yes, Sir! “ If the sheriff was trying to frighten Kenneth, it worked. He was terrified. Deep down in his heart Kenneth knew he would never live to get out of this prison camp.

Walking around to the back of the patrol car and opening the car trunk, the irritable sheriff pulled out a dingy set of an orange coveralls with large numbers stenciled on the back and a worn-out pair of brogans. Brogans are inexpensive but durable work boots used for rugged work on farms and in lumber camps. “Take off those fancy clothes and put this on.’ the sheriff demanded. “These coveralls are colored orange so it makes it easier to find what is left of the body when the gators get through with it. The number on the back tells us who the remains use to be. You will earn three meals a day and can sleep in that old shed with the rest of your fellow prisoners. Work starts at daylight and ends at dark. Do what you are told and there won´t be any problems. By the way, we know how to handle trouble makers in this camp.’ Kenneth thought to himself “Yes, I bet they do.’ Totally humiliated by the verbal lashing he had just received from the sheriff and embarrassed by stripping down totally naked in front of the other prisoners, Kenneth was having one of the worst days of his life, he thought. Earlier he had watched the sheriff throw his expensive and neatly folded clothes into the filthy trunk of the patrol car. Then the police officer removed from the trunk a box of food. For the prisoners supper meal he gave them all, except for Kenneth, a baloney sandwich and a quart jar of lime kool aid. Kenneth hadn´t eaten since early that morning, his stomach ached and he was hungry but the sheriff said he hadn´t earned a meal today.

Later the vindictive police officer took great pleasure in escorting Kenneth around his new living quarters for the next thirty days. The toilet consisted of a wide board with a large round hole in the desired location, suspended over a sewage pit. The personal cleaning supplies were the unyielding and nonabsorbent brown lunch bags that the meals were delivered in each day. When the bags ran out it was then a time for some creative thinking. The nauseating drink water came from a sump hole which the sheriff loosely referred to as a fresh water spring. The black alkaline water had a horrible smell and tasted like rotten eggs. The sleeping quarters were inhumane. Words could not describe the primitive conditions that the prisoners were forced to live in, so I won´t. Kerosene lanterns were the only source of light when the dark fell on the lonely swamp. On this small island in the middle of the gloomy swamp they called home there were no comforts, only a horrible living environment. As the sheriff drove off and with tears swelling up in Kenneth´s eyes, a pathetic and cracking voice said “All I wanted was just one cold beer.’

When the morning sun finally sparkled through the moss-draped trees, the eerie black waters of the swamp became alive with an array of brilliant colors and the sounds of a marshland melody. The Spanish moss flirted with the branches of the ghostlike trees as the pleasant morning breeze whispered through the pines. A huge gator could be heard grunting like an oversized hog while the wetland birds whistled and called with their alluring songs. Positioned in a line out front of their dilapidated shelter was a group of tattered prisoners patiently looking and listening. Listening for the rumbling sound of a rusted out muffler and looking for the old flat bed truck that was bringing their morning meal. The first one of the detainees standing outside eagerly waiting for the sheriff was Kenneth. Hunger makes a man humble. It had been a almost twenty four hours since he had eaten and a big breakfast of hot coffee, scrambled eggs, grits and a couple of biscuit would make his day in purgatory a bit more bearable.

When the vehicle finally came to a stop, the sheriff solemnly stared out the truck window at his rag tag bunch of convicts. After losing all of his dignity and pride the night before, Kenneth ran to the truck with his pleading hands extended, hoping the sheriff would have pity on him and give him one of the brown paper bags sitting in the front seat of the truck. Staring at the pathetic prisoner, then down at the meals and then back up at the prisoner, the sheriff sympathetically reached for one of the brown paper bags and handed it to the starving Kenneth. “This one is free but you will have to work for the rest of them’ the grumpy sheriff said. Kenneth hungrily replied. “Thank you and I will.’ He quickly ran to find him a comfortable place to sit and enjoy his anticipated feast. Opening the sack he saw one bologna sandwich and a jar of lime kool-aid.

At first the rancid tasting water was horrible but after working with a heavy ax and a cross cut saw in the hot Georgia sun, the water became more and more potable. From working with the pine logs he was bleeding and had cuts and scrapes from the rough bark. Sticky pine sap and dirt was covering him and his dilapidated orange coveralls. They always had to be on the alert for the camouflaged copper heads and the crafty rattle snakes.

Around noon he heard the welcoming sound of the blown-out muffler of the sheriff´s truck. His breakfast this morning wasn´t enough. To work as hard as required, he need more nourishment. When the vehicle came to a stop, the prisoners waiting for their lunch meal quickly gathered around the sheriff´s truck window. The bags were quickly dispersed and the men went to sit on the fallen logs to eat their meager meal. A disappointed Kenneth looked into his bag and saw one bologna sandwich and a jar of lime kool-aid.

Trying to stay cool in the hot summer sun, Kenneth had drank so much of the tainted water that it didn´t have a bad taste any more. Just before dark that afternoon his ears perked up and his spirit lifted when he heard the rumbling of the blown out mufflers again. The sheriff was finally coming to deliver their supper meal. Kenneth was thinking maybe, just maybe there will be a good meal in that truck for the men who had worked hard on such a hot day. Neatly packed in the brown paper bag were a bologna sandwich and a jar of lime kool-aid.

Behavior experts have proven that when people are placed in a stressful environment or in tragic situations they typically form a bond or brotherhood. As in the Prisoner of War camps during the Second World War, the convicts had formed a bond to watch out for and take care of each other in this appalling condition. After talking with several of the other prisoners, Kenneth discovered they were all from out of state and had been through the same kangaroo court as he had undergone. When asked what happened to a prisoner when he had served his time, the convicts just shrugged their shoulders. The night before, the soon-to-be-released prisoner had promised to return and rescue their comrades from these horrible conditions. That next morning he left blindfolded and sitting in the sheriff´s car. He never returned. The sheriff and his car would only be gone a couple of hours and then would return empty. Upon being questioned about the whereabouts of the prisoner, the sheriffs explanation was “That´s none of your business, now get back to work.’

Earlier when the sheriff had escorted Kenneth to the patrol car, the other inmates stood gawking at him. They stared at him as if he was a prisoner that was going to the be executed. Now he was sitting blindfolded and frightened in the back of the patrol car. Kenneth began mumbling “They leave and never come back. I have been a good worker and have not made any trouble for the sheriff. Surely he will let me go home. Why hadn´t any one ever returned from their one-way trip out of the prison camp? They had promised.’ Was Kenneth taking a one way trip to the alligator pond?

When the car left the prison camp the ill-tempered sheriff never spoke a word. The humming of the tires on the gravel road and the small chatter on the police radio were the only sounds Kenneth could hear. The noise from the tires suddenly changed when they made contact the asphalt road. This gave him hope. That hope was crushed when a voice on the sheriff´s radio said “Have you got the prisoner Dixon in your car? The grumpy response back was “Yes, Get things ready. We´ll be there in about fifteen minutes.’ Did this indicate he was being carried to another location to have his body disposed of? Was he to be fed to the alligators and never heard from again, to cover up the horrendous prison camp crime? The sound of passing cars suddenly gave him a little hope. With the sound of more cars, a busy town and people talking, Kenneth gave a sigh of relief. The car had stopped, the blindfold removed and now he was standing in front of the same court house that had brought him so much trouble. A sharp “The judge wants to see you now.’ were the only words spoken by the sheriff.

After being led in front of the huge desk, the judge looked up from a stack of papers and said “Well, Mr. Dixon. I´ve noticed you have lost some weight since I last saw you. Have the accommodations been adequate for your short stay with us? The honorable sheriff of our fine town said you served your thirty days with out incident and recommends you be sent on your way. Is that OK with you Mr. Dixon? Your clothes and truck will be returned and you will be escorted out of our little town. We expect to never see you again in our fair city. Do you have a problem with that, Mr. Dixon?’ The relieved Kenneth replied “No sir I will be out of town as soon as possible.’ The judge glanced at the sheriff and said. “Charles, return Mr. Dixon´s clothes and show him to his truck. Then give Mr. Dixon a police escort to make sure he doesn´t have any trouble finding his way out of our town. “

Having to drive through Alabama, down to the Florida panhandle, then across the sunshine state to the east coast and NEVER crossing the Georgia state line always took a lot longer but the extra miles were worth it. The judge had proven his point. Kenneth may speed and Kenneth may get drunk but Kenneth will never ever get drunk and speed through that Georgia town again.

Watching the Radio

Before being old enough to attend school, I would often spend a week with my White grandparents. The depression in the thirties and having to raise his family on a share cropper´ wages had made my grand daddy White tight as a banjo string and as cheap as a two watch. Saying he was extremely frugal with his money was being kind. .Their wooden house was heated with a wood burning heater fired with free slabs from the local saw mill. There wasn´t any indoor plumbing, just an old outhouse out back of the house All the water used was carried into the house in an aluminum bucket from a near by spring, house. Before electricity was brought to the rural area it was a cool storage place for the milk and butter. The baths were done with a dish pan and a wash rag with the water warmed on the wood kindling stove in grandmother´s kitchen. Kindling is scrap wood cut into narrow short strips that will fit into the small opening of the cooking stove. At seven o´clock the lights were turned out to save on the electricity. Cornbread and milk was the customary evening meal. Along with yard chickens there were rabbit traps set around the small farm to provide extra meat for the family. Living through the difficult times of the economic depression had a lasting affect on them. His caution with money was because he didn´t want his family to ever go through those hard times again. I will go into more detail of their lives later in the book. By being so stingy grand daddy had saved a large sum of money but died before he could enjoy it

During my enjoyable week, Grandmother White would create a delicious treat especially for me. Grand daddy wasn´t allowed to have any. A mixture of milk, sugar and vanilla flavor was placed in a glass bowl and then be set into the freezer department of the ice box. After it froze, grand mother would remove it from the freezer and give it to the happy little boys sitting at the table with a big spoon in his hand and a smile on his face. Methodically I would carefully scrape the delicious mixture out of the container into small frozen sliver with a spoon. This is how they made home made ice cream and fond memories.

There wasn´t television then and at night, for entertainment, we would lay in the floor watch the radio. I know that sound hilarious but we would in reality lay on the wooden floor and stare at the face of the large radio. My White grand parents were the owners of a huge wooden radio which they proudly displayed in the living room. Before electricity was brought to the rural area, battery powered radios were used. The unit was dark brown, three feet tall and had a large illuminated knob on the front. The clear knob with its black numbers printed around a small gripping dial on used for selecting a radio station in the area. The choices of stations were limited because distance of the rural area. We could peak through the opening in the back of the set and see several large vacuum tubes which would light up when the unit was on. Electronic chips have now replaced the vacuum tubes. We were fascinated by the music and would quietly sit and listen to all of our favorites programs. The grand old Opera, the Lone Ranger, the Cisco Kid and the Shadow were all captivating to the hypnotized audience. During each program and being quit as little mice all of the children would lay on the hard wooden and staring at the large illuminated knob. We were memorized by the music and programs.

A Bitter Cold House

With very little success, the large black pot belly stove struggled to keep the living room warm. The only other source of scarce heat was grandmothers cooking stove in the kitchen but the bitter cold penetrated the remainder of the small house. A contentious cold breeze would whisper through the cracks in the walls and floor. When it was extremely cold, the black dragon of a stove was feed wood until its huge belly would glow bright red. While standing in front of the heater trying to get warm, I would almost burn my self in the front but my back side would be freezing. A slow rotation of the body made it some what bearable.

The coldest area in the house was the bedrooms. Entering those rooms was like walking into a gigantic freezer and was to be avoided if at all possible. At bed time, I would run into the ice cold bed room, strip off my cloths and jump into bed. I literally jump into bed because the feather bed was almost three feet high. Frantically I scooted under six home made quilts and onto a rough ice cold feed sack sheet. A feed sack sheet was two cloth horse feed bags sown together. Sheets as well as shirts and dresses were made from these printed cloth containers. The big seam down the middle of the sheet made it very uncomfortable and impossible to sleep in the middle. I would lie in the bed shivering from the cold until the bed sheet and blankets finally warmed up. There wasn´t any tossing and turning in that bed because the weight of all those quilts held me down tighter than my mother giving me a dose of foul tasting medicine. In the ice cold mornings a light frost would sometime be covering the bed covers. The last thing I want to do was get out of that warm bed. It was so cold in the bedroom and the bed was now so warn.

At night when I had to go to the bathroom, it was a spooky trip to the out house. Looking at the outhouse in the middle of the night would send cold chills up your spine. All kind of monsters and serial killers occupied that foul smelling building late at night. If Grand mother and Grand daddy were asleep or didn‘t notice me sneaking out the back door, the high back porch step would be as far as I would go. There was something about the sound of water being poured on the packed dirt ground from the high elevation of the back porch step.

The Wet Cow Chip

My uncle, J W was five years older than me and when he wasn´t busy with chores, we would go outside to play. He treated me as if he was my big brother and not my uncle. One warm spring afternoon while we were playing in the cow pasture, I picked up a pinecone and threw it at him. He threw one back. This started a friendly game of pine comb battle. The barn yard game progressed from friendly to aggressive. After running out of pinecones, we started using dry cow chips. I am sure you now what a dry cow chip is. I began losing the battle so I picked up a big wet juicy chip and threw it at him. Have your ever smelled a wet cow chip or seen what a it can do when thrown? The smelly bomb struck J W directly in the chest and wet cow poop splattered all over his shirt. I then smiled a winner´s smile at him. I couldn´t imagine why but in our friendly cow chip throwing contest he suddenly got very angry. Angry isn´t the word for it. He was furious. Knowing I was in trouble the foot race began. While darting, dodging and running for my life, I began screaming for grand mother. Mother White came out of the house and yelled “J. W. leave Larry alone. He is just a little boy and you quit picking on him.’ I was saved from a severe beating and so I decided to avoided J. W. the remainder of the day.

Groceries in the Car

It became a common practice for mother to leave us children in the car while she did her shopping. Back then there wasn´t any danger of being kidnapped especially us. It was very obvious that our parents didn‘t have any money and if they did they sure wouldn´t pay a ransom to get the two little brats they called their children back. Who in their right mind would want to abduct the two little monsters fighting in the back seat of an old car and raise them for their very own? Come to think of it who would want to carry two little ill mannered monsters grocery shopping?

On one of the hottest day of the summer, Mother deserted Joan and me in the smothering hot car while she and my Aunt Ruth bought groceries. Looking out the window we could see the heat boiling off of the asphalt in wide squiggly waves. There wasn´t the slightest breeze to give us any relief. It was stifling hot. Looking like over two heated puppies, all Joan and I could do was sit in the miserable car, endure the miserable head and let the sweat run down our faces. After what seemed hour´s, Mother and Aunt Ruth finally returned and placed their groceries in the back seat of the car between the two near heat stroke children. With little concern for the two little dehydrated kids now hanging out the car windows they walked off and continued their shopping trip. Joan and I were hot, tired and hungry. We couldn´t do anything about being hot and tired but we could do something about being hungry. While rambled through the grocery bags in search of something to eat we ate the box of cookies and drank out of the gallon milk jug. Still hungry, the grapes soon disappeared. Next was the bread and cheese as we drank the whole bottle of soft drink Aunt Ruth had purchased for Uncle David. With a full tummy, we sat back and waited. When they still didn´t return we grew angry. We ate all of the food we could and threw remainder out the car window onto the hot asphalt. When they returned, they saw us sitting up in the car like two little angles. Then they saw the cans and bottles scattered all around the back of the car. Mother went bonkers. Needless to say there was another first class spanking for the both of us. They say you have to crack some eggs to make an omelet. We did and were never left alone in the car full of groceries again

First day at school

Alabama law required that each child six years old must be registered for school. Mother had been dreading my first day at school for weeks. Her little boy was growing up and needed school cloths but the money wasn´t there.

Occasionally on Main Street, men would stand in small groups talking and smoking, a habit brought on by the depression years earlier. I was a way to catch up on the latest news with out buying a news paper. Today a collection of them were huddled around a tall metal light pole. Two were smoking, one was talking and the others were just enjoying the conversation. Mother had a firm hold on my small hand as we scurried down the street. Me being so short, I had to almost run to keep up with her fast pace. A sudden noise caused me to glance toward the group of conversationalist (how do you like that big word?). Right in the middle of them, on the dirty gray sidewalk was a small bundle of money. With the eyes of a child, all I saw was an unattended fortune was just laying there between pairs of scuffed leather shoes, there for the taking. Looking up at mother, I pleaded “I see some money. Can I go get it’? Thinking it was only a nickel or dime, my hand was quickly released as she said “Ok, but hurry.’ I ran over to the distracted men, swiftly crawled through a forest of legs and shoes and grabbed the money. I held it so tight with my small hands that a Texas tornado couldn´t have taken it away. With a smile larger than my face, I dash back to Mother. She was totally shocked to see my little hands holding a wad of neatly folded dollar bills. Because the average pay being only thirty five cents an hour, this was a considerable large amount of money

Suddenly all of the men were staring at the woman dressed in the out of style dress and the little boy in second hand cloths. Not a single word escaped the lips of the surprised group of men around the light pole. Apparently their hearts had been touched by our appearance and knew well that the scruffy little boy and unfashionable dressed woman needed that money. After seeing the money, Mother proudly escorted me to a near by store. Soon there was a smiling little boy holding a sack filled with school cloths and a mother who knew her prayer had been answered.

My first miserable and frightening day of school was at Jessie Dean Smith. The school was a huge unimpressive red brick building that resembled the housing projects. The floors were oiled hardwood and the wooden walls painted a glazed brown. The windows were limited to one side of the large classroom. My desk was located near the windows to the rear of the room. Because of my unstable home environment and our frequent moves, I was very uncomfortable and afraid. I was as terrified as a cat in a brown paper sack. Each morning, I timidly work my way back to my little one piece wooden desk. There I sat quietly and wait for what I expecting the worst day of my life. With no confidence at all I sat there like a stiff little statue wondering what I have done wrong to be sent to school. Knowing with out a doubt, I was being punished for something.

If the rooms and halls were vacant, the dropping of a book or pencil would echo only once but the echoing sounds of excited children bounced of the high ceiling and wooden walls seemed to go on forever. The school water fountain was mounted low on the wall of one of the long corridor for the convenience of the children. Several times a day our teacher would escort her little class to the water fountain for a water break. After forming a single line, the short little students would take turns getting a drink of water. When it was my turn at the fountain, I couldn´t locate the water valve so I just walked past and didn´t get a drink. To bashful and shy to ask the teacher, I would walk by the water fountain each time we went for a drink of water. That afternoon, thirst took totally control of my thoughts. My desk was near a small book shelf where children books were displayed. On one of the many children´s books was a picture of a small white duck swimming in a dark blue pond. Being so dehydrated, I would look at the picture and think to my self “If I was that little duck, I would drink that whole pond dry.’

To solve my problem, the following morning, just before school, I would drink a huge glass of water before leaving home. This would last me until that afternoon. This went on for a couple of weeks until we were instructed to bring cups to school and use the recently installed water faucet at the rear of the class room. In our lives , simple things simple things seem more complicated than what they really are.

My stay at Jessie Dean Smith School lasted only a couple months and then we moved again. My next school, John S. Jones, was a huge white wooden building that reminds me of a church with out a steeple. Because of the sudden move and being in a totally different school of strangers, insecurity and shyness was written all over this little boys face. Because of the fall weather, Mother had bought me a jacket. She strongly warned me not to lose it. A small cloak room in the rear of my new classroom had been designed for little children. The hanger rods and the shelves were built lower than normal. The process of hanging up your coats and placing your books on the shelf was easy and trouble free. Our teacher insisted we place our coats and books in the cloak room but because we moved so frequently, I was afraid to. Fearful that I may forget it that afternoon and we move again that night, I wouldn´t be able to get it back. Often because of over due rent, we moved a lot of times at night.

How can I not loose my jack? I know. I will just zip it up and keep it. Even with the persistent coaching of my teacher, I wouldn´t take that hot jacket off. During the cool mornings it was bearable, but in the middle of the day, it was hot and uncomfortable. Sitting in the back of the class room sat a shy little boy with sweat trailing down his bright red face.

I cried when “Old Yellow’ Died

That summer when we lived in a musty concrete block house near Rainbow City, Alabama Daddy asked, “Do you kids want to go to a drive in movie?’ We had never been to a movie. After grabbing a couple of blankets, we eagerly climbed into the car. Blankets were used to keep warm during the movie during the cooler nights. The cost of keep the car heater operating and the noise of the car motor running distracted the other movie goers. A drive in is where a giant silver or white screen has been erected vertical in large open field. Cars were then expected to park in the designated rows facing the giant screen and detachable speakers were placed accordingly. The removable speakers were designed with a long electrical cable and volume control. A metal clip was placed on the unit so it could easily be suspended on the car window. At night, the paying public would park their cars in the field and watch a movie displayed on the huge screen. When money was a little short, Joan and I would hide under the blankets on the back floor board of the car. If we lay still and quiet while we were at the ticket booth, dad wouldn‘t have to pay extra for us. Popcorn was always available in abundance when we went to the movie. Mother would place popping corn and a small amount of cooking oil in a heated covered pan. When the oil reached a certain temperature, the popping corn would burst open to create popcorn. Popcorn with a little salt and butter would then be dumped into a large brown paper grocery bag. The paper bag was passed from person to person during the movie making the eating of popcorn easy and simple. The first movie I remember was “The African Queen’ with Humphrey Bogart and Audrain Heffner. The most memorable was “OLD YELLOW.’ Yes, I cried when OLD YELLOW died.

Late one afternoon dad said, “Do you kids want to go to the drive in.’ In a matter of seconds, we and the blankets were waiting in the car. We rode for what seemed an extremely long time. Where was the drive in? Why it was taking so long? When will we get there? Are we there yet? These were some of the annoying question we bombarded dad with. “We will be there soon’. was always his response. Eventually, the three pestering little children dozed off.

We awoke to the sound of waves crashing on the beach. Dad had driven all night to reach Destin, Florida. While dad was driving down the beach road, we watched the ocean played peek-a-boo between the sand dooms. The restless sea oats swaying back and forth from the occasional ocean breeze and seemed to be clinging for dear life on the huge sandy mounds. I can still see the bright summer suns rays sparkling through the impatient waves as they crashed onto the sandy beach. Mammoth white clouds were delicately floating through the clear blue skies.

Hotels were few and far between so Dad rented a small cottage across the street from the beach. After a painful trip through the sand spur infested dooms, we noisily squeaked through the hot desert dry sand. Our scorched eager bare feet finally reached the cool damp sand and were washed by the clear splashing water. The underprivileged visitors to this paradise survived on spam sandwiches garnished with mayonnaise and home grown tomatoes. Spam is a form of canned processed pork. Our simple meals were rinsed down with a Kool aid drink. Kool aid was at that time an inexpensive flavored powered drink which was mixed with water. That week was one of the most enjoyable in our lives. The beach was our home during the morning and afternoon. But during the hottest part of the day you would find us in the rented quarters sitting in front of an electric fan.

Vacating the rented cottage was required by eleven o´clock that Friday. Not to waste the remainder of a bright sunny day, we amuse ourselves by playing on the beach. That turned out to be a terrible mistake. That afternoon, the unsympathetic sun had painted our little bodies a painful red. That night, three little scorched bodies stood pleading with their mother to make the burning go away. With tears for their mistake, Mother and Dad bathed our throbbing little bodies with vinegar. The home remedy eased some of the pain and prevented infection. On the agonizingly trip home, we sat hurting and perched on the edge of the car seat. This prevented our sensitive backs from touching the back seat covers. Because of the vinegar remedy our pitiful bodies now smelled like dill pickles. Even after the horrible burn and our miserable trip home, we eagerly looked forward to our next adventure in Florida. The smell of dill pickles still brings a flash back of the smelly ride home.

Something Smells in the Cass Room!

In the second grade at John S Jones Elementary, I normally carried a sack lunches to school. My brown paper bag usually contained a sandwich, a couple of cookies and a piece of fruit. Those who brought their lunches could purchase a small glass bottle of milk from the lunch room but were instructed to return to their class room to eat. Five cents would buy a returnable pint glass bottle of cold milk. Those who brought their lunch from home would sit quietly and eat in their class room while the remainder of the class would noisily go through the lunch line and get a good hot meal.

Because Mother was ill one week, I cheerfully bought my lunch and happily ate with the noisy boys in the cafeteria. For a quarter they served us a plate of delicious food, cookies and a small bottle of milk. I was so excited to be sitting in the cafeteria filled with the deafening sound of the noisy children.

That following Monday, Mother was feeling much better so she prepared my standard lunch of a banana sandwich, an apple and a boiled egg. When we arrived at school, I took my bagged lunch and placed it into the small cove hole of my wooden desk. After play period, those who had brought their lunch walk to their class room and got their lunches. The remaining children excitedly ran to get in line in the lunchroom. Because of the excitement I had forgot about my sack lunch and ran to the lunchroom with the other little boys. The payment for lunches was collected at the beginning of class so no one knew who had or hadn´t paid.

After returned to the class room and sitting down at my desk, a rush of fear came over me. My bagged lunch was still neatly tucked in my desk covey hole. A cove hole is a covered shelf under the desk top used to store personal supplies. I considered my teacher, Mrs. Rose, to be a strict and very unsympathetic old woman. She could have easily qualified for a sergeant in the Marines. I was frightened of what would happen if the bag lunch was discovered? Horrible things popped through this little boys mind. I sure didn´t want to get caught disposing of the sack lunch because Mrs. Rose would think I had stolen a meal from the cafeteria. A rule of thumb is out of sight is out of mind. I just left it there.

After a couple of weeks, my teacher noticed a horrible stench in the room. I knew where the smell was coming from. It was the now two week old boiled egg and banana sandwich in my desk. Our troubled teacher instructed her class to leave the room and to stand the hall. With her keen eyes and a sensitive nose, she began searching each desk for that terrible smell. Her search was successful when she finally reached my desk. Upon discovering the stinking paper bag, Mrs. Rose carefully removed it. I can imagine the disbelief going through my teachers mind? We were brought back into the now odor free room. I sat there in fear worried about what she was going to do to me. On that forgiving day, I discovered that Mrs. Rose was like a ripe California orange. She was rough and tough on the outside but tender and sweet was just below the surface. Because she knew it would break this shy little boy´s heart, nothing was ever said.

My Sugar Hair Cut

Jerry Harden was my hero and he was also my cousin. He was three years older but I desperately wanted to be like him. When I was in the second grade, Jerry got a flat top haircut. That was the newest style of haircut for older boys. Mother didn´t approve of my hair being cut that short but I begged and pleaded with her until finally she gave in. A flat top hair is when the hair is combed vertical and cut perfectly flat on the top of the head. . Jerry´s haircut was perfectly flat but because of the odd shape of my head, my proud new flat top had a snowy white bald spot in the center. Jerry used Butch hair jell to make his hair stand perfectly straight up and when he saw me with my new hair cut he politely applied the hair jell to my hair. It looked great except for the bald spot.

Monday morning I was all excited. Everyone at school was going to be envious of my new and impressive haircut. I realized we had forgotten to buy hair jell but Mother solve this problem by mixing sugar and water in a small cup and then applying the sticky mixture to my hair. After drying and combing, my hair stood straight up. It looked good, I felt great.

And I was glowing with confidence when I arrived at school that morning. The sugar had made my hair stand straight up but it also made it brittle. The hair couldn´t be touched because now it was as fragile as a thin icicle on a cold morning.

With out any air conditioners in the school, the screens less windows were left open to help cool the hot summer rooms. With out screens, flying insects and some times birds would periodically visit our classroom. While I was proudly setting at my desk, a house fly flew into the room. After buzzing around the room a couple of times it finally landed on my sugar covered head. I desperately wanted to wave it off but mess up my hair was out of the question. I carefully shook my head a couple of times hoping to discourage it from its new found lunch. It wouldn´t go anywhere because it was having a sugar feast. Reluctantly I allowed it stay and eat its fill of the sugar. When it got its tummy full, the fly finally flew out the window. It wobbled in flight like an overfilled plane struggling to get off the airport runway. I breathed a breath of relief because finally that menace was gone.

In about fifteen minutes, a swarm of flies and a couple of yellow jackets came buzzing into the room. A yellow jacket is a small yellow wasp. That first fly had now brought all of his associates back for a large business lunch on my sweet tasting hair. The swarm of excited insects were all either feasting on my hair or buzzing around my head waiting their turn at the sugar table. I was so embarrassed. The teacher was staring at me with amazement. The other children were staring also, talking to each other and pointing at me and the circus of flies. When the day was finally over and as soon as I got home, I washed my hair and never ever sported a sugar flat top haircut again.

Shark Bait

On one of our trips to Destine, Florida, Dad had brought several inter-tubes for us to play with in the water. By paddling out into the surf, we would allow the waves would eventually bring us back to shore. After playing all morning, we went back to the cottage. It was too hot to stay out during the middle of the day and we had learned our lesson years earlier. In the afternoon after the temperature had cooled, I seize one of the inter-tubes and headed to the beach. Glancing back I saw Mother and my two sisters following close behind. I rode the waves until exhaustion and then allow the inter-tubes to just float aimlessly with the waves. Because of the rocking of the tube, I soon drifted off to asleep.

When I awoke, I could barely hear my mother screaming my name. Looking up, I saw the people on shore who now appeared as small as ants. The rip tide had whisked me out to sea. With both hands, I tried paddling back to shore but wasn´t making any headway. It became very obvious; I was being swept further and further out in to sea. The water had now turned from a clear light blue to a dark deep almost black color. The dark blue color indicates very deep and dangerous water. A frightful thought popped into my head. Sharks inhabit dark blue water. Looking down in the deep water I thought I could see sharks circling around waiting for lunch. I felt like a cricket floating on a brim bed.

Panicking, I frantically started paddling and kicking faster but was going no where. I felt like a one legged grasshopper in a hopping contest. I was doing a lot of kicking but was just going around in circles. Finally and after my furious labors the inter-tube slowly began progress closer and closer to shore. Apparently, I had swam out of the dangerous rip tide and now was being swept back to shore. Exhausted and out of breath, I touched the welcoming sand of the beach. Dad took the inter-tubes and tossed them in a dumpster.

Brats in the Bushes

On a scheduled physical, my Granddaddy Dixon was diagnosed with melanoma. Melanoma is a cancer that swiftly takes over the body´s immune system and death soon follows. Surgery removed the little toe and the limp nodes in his left leg. He was then gave him the depressing news. Get your affairs in order because you have only six month to live. After recovering from the shock, grand daddy called all of his family together and presented the devastating news. After returning from the hospital Granddaddy went home, sat on the front porch swing and waited for Mister Death. Twenty years later and while sitting in that same old porch swing, Mister Death finally caught up with him

My Grand daddy Dixon was a very unemotional and private person. A week before his death I went to visit him at the old home place. That day something he did totally surprised me. With tears slowly flowing down the weathered old face, he talked of his love and the longing for his wife, Jennie. Jennie died soon after giving birth to my dad. Grand daddy told of when they met and how he finally won over her love. Laughter filled the room as he told of his determination and when she finally accepting his proposal of marriage. I am thankful for seeing that part of my granddaddy.

While Grand daddy was recuperating from surgery, Mother and Daddy would leave Joan, Jane and me in the family car in the hospital parking lot. This was during the hot and humid summer months. The parking lot was a large paved area with bushes and trees in various places and a picnic table on the far side. At first, the frightened little children wait in the car with the doors locked and the windows slightly rolled down. We were afraid of being abducted. When a physical body reaches a certain temperature, there is a tendency to have a short temper. “You are sitting on my side of the car “and “No you are sitting on my side of the car “echoed back and fourth between the tired and frustrated children. The argument grew more intense until finally a blow was passed. This quickly led to a fight. We were like three alley cats fighting in a burlap bag. There was slapping, slugging pinching and biting until we were exhausted. Then a truce was called. All sullied up, we sat there hot and sweaty. It soon got so hot that we decided to roll the windows down just a little bit more. This didn´t help so we rolled them all of the way down. Then we started hanging out the car windows. We knew that we could roll the windows up if some one approached the car. The long wait soon led us to being brave enough to venture a short distance out of the car. If some one came in the parking lot or ventured out of the hospital we jumped into the car and locked the doors. Soon all of our fears were forgotten and we were now terrorizing the area. The three hoodlums were playing in the shrubbery and all over the picnic table near the car. Now the little monsters were running through the parking lot and screaming at each other. We were wreaked havoc to the area. Mother and Dads little angles were wilder than hogs in a peach orchard. I am still embarrassed to think it. When an individual enter the parking lot we would scramble to the car, lock the doors or hide in the bushes. We were in no danger. Who in their right mind would even think of snatching three wild and foul-smelling kids?


In 1956, Dad found temporary employment in the warehouse at Ft. McClellan. Soon he was advanced to an auto mechanic. With this higher salary, things became much better for our little family. Our next move was to Jacksonville, Alabama where we became the caretakers of Dr. Williams´s farm. Old Doc Williams was the only doctor in the small college town. We were now the new occupants of the small white house at the entrance of his property. One of our responsibilities with renting the house was to watch over the property and the doctor´s large personal lodge. This was simple because the entrance gate was locked and the doctor rarely used the large and spacious building and the only times the lodge was ever used is when he was having a party or a social event for his friends.

I drove by the little white and wondered how a large family like ours survived in such a small house could. It seemed much larger then but I guess we were much smaller then. Located on the remote farm was a rustic but wonderful old barn, a smelly and dusty chicken house, a huge clear lake filled with fish, a small clear creek filled with tadpoles and toad frogs and plenty of room to play for this boy to play. All of the memories of this boy´s paradise place were wonderful and this was the place where I learned to love the outdoors.

It was s dream cone true when Dad bought our first television while we lived there. A used black and white set that would periodically go off but a good whack on its side would revive it. Changing the channels or adjusting the set was done with knobs on the front of the small set. A high antenna was erected outside of the house allowed us to get the only two channels, channels thirteen and six. When the wind would change the direction of the antenna, an unfortunate individual would stand out side in the cold and rain and adjust the direction of the antenna. Inside the house a person would yell “getting better’ or “getting worse.’ as the cold and wet individual would adjust the antenna to the right and then to the left. Dad´s favorite shows were Gun Smoke, Have Gun Will Travel, and Perry Mason. In the afternoon after school, the Mickey Mouse show and Cousin Cliff show and Benny Carol captured and held our undivided attention

We quickly made friends with the numerous children lived in the rural area surrounding the farm. We enjoyed playing games like Kick the can, hide and go seek, freeze tag and red rover. Because of our closeness, and isolation of the area we all grew up to become life long friends. One of the children in the area was a little red headed freckled faced girl named Sara and her younger brother was named Danny. At that age I wasn´t interested in girls and Sara wasn‘t interested in me. Little did I know what an enormous impact that little girl would have on my life? She is now my wonderful wife and you´re Mother.

All of the children in the area enjoyed the youth activities that were to be had while attending White´s Gap Church. I still remember the brain freeze at the ice cream socials from eating ice cream too fast. The weak Kool aid and the cheap sugar cookies we ate in vacation bible school. At the large church dinners there where the tables were filled with delicious cakes and pies and good home cooked meals. The Easter eggs hunts in the front yard. Halloween parties with our homemade costumes. Most of all I remember the nativity plays at church each Christmas.

Country Christmas

Every December, the youth would present the Christmas pageant at church. The shepherds´ and Joseph dressed in their dads oversized bathrobes and carried a wooden broom handle shepherds´ staff. The three wise men wore their mother´s bright and colorful bathrobes and towels that were adorned with cheap imitation jewelry were wrapped around their heads. The heavy bath towels kept slipping down over their eyes and around the wise men´s ears and making them look not so wise. Our angel wore a white bed sheet altered with stick pins and in an emergency, cloth pins. Mary wore a simple long white dress. Baby Jesus would be a small doll wrapped in a soft blanket placed in a wooden crib that had been stored and shuffled around in the back of the church since last Christmas. Terri, I have a picture of your mother as Mary and me as a shepherd boy. It was taken at one of our many memorable Christmas plays.

Right after the Christmas program was over, something incredible would happen. Santa Clause would come busting through the church´s back door in his old tattered red suit and thin white cotton beard. As the door swung open he would let out a thunderous “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas.’ Because of the loud commotion, the little babies would begin crying. Saint Nick constantly had a problem of keeping those two feather stuffed pillows up under the over sized costume. The small church´s atmosphere would instantly change from spiritual reverence to busting with excitement and happiness. No matter how dilapidated his attire was, all the small children were so delighted to see old Saint Nick. With his booming voice at full volume, Santa greeted the ecstatic little children he casually strolled to the front of the Church and sat carefully down in a quickly found folding chair. Bubbling with excitement, the little children would come up and tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas. The parents carefully listened in hopes they had selected the correct toy for Christmas day. Brown lunch bags filled with oranges, apples, English walnuts and candy canes would unceremoniously appear in the back of the room. These brown bags of treats were liberally handed out to the excited little children, some teenagers and the senior citizens.

When it was time for Santa to go, he would always leave with a word of encouragement for the children. They were told to brush their teeth and mind their parents. He always assured them he would leave them something under the tree if they were good. With a serious expression on his face, he would scan the whole congregation and after a short pause, say “I didn´t see any bad children here.’ With a final loud “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas, Santa would exit through the back door and disappear into the darkness of the cold December night. Those nights were some of the happiest memories of my youth.

Christmas Eve and day in our little house was always exciting and filled with anticipation. Even as hard as I tried, it was impossible to get to sleep Christmas Eve. That Christmas morning the stocking were exploding with nuts, oranges, red delicious apples and candy. The stockings were hanging on a nail inside of the front door because we didn´t have a mantel. Each youngster received their expected gift. I always got a red wagon. Joan and Jane usually received a doll. I remember the laughter, the cookies and the Christmas tree. Our cedar Christmas tree, selected from the forest out back, was decorated with simple ornaments and strings of popcorn. Damp soap powder was pored on the tree to give the appearance of snow. Mother always made divinity candy and chocolate peanut fudge as treats. There was always delight and pleasure on Mother and Dads face as they watched our enthusiasm on that very special day. Years have passed and now there is just a lonely old house filled with the ghost of Christmas past.

Red Wasp at Church

The red wasps were lazily floated through the hot stifling air high above the unaware congregation as the church choir struggled through the hymn of Amazing Grace. Reluctantly I was setting like a little gentleman next to my mother on a hard wooden bench at the conclusion of a long and exciting church service at the Whites Gap Church. It was going to take more than Amazing Grace to get me out of trouble this time. Looking around I could see the other two culprits also setting straight like a military soldier at attention by their humiliated and angry mothers.

Earlier the three young boys had hurriedly darted to the back bench just seconds before the church service began. We were sitting up straight and pretended to be paying attention to the preacher when our mothers first glanced back to check on our activities and to give us an approving smile.

The room was stifling hot and minister´s sermon about burning in torment didn´t make things any cooler. The soft fluttering sound of hand held fans could be heard between the gasps of breath from the minister as he bellowed out his firry sermon. The hand held fans were six inch by six inch cardboard with wooden handles attached and provided at no cost by a life insurance company and the local funeral home.

Our interest turned from the sermon and slowly drifted to the large red wasp hovering around the bright light bulbs hanging from the wooden ceiling. The wasps casually glide through the muggy hot air and then suddenly one would make a kamikaze dive down to the benches below. The red wasp now had out total attention. When a wasp landed on the bench next to Kenneth, we noisily shuffled to the other end of the bench. Our mothers suddenly gave us the “you had better be quiet or I will tell your dad when we get home’ look.

In these young boys imagination the wasp eventually transformed into the make-believe Red Barron´s flying in their vintage world war one planes. Methodically they would circle in the air and then suddenly dropping from their lofty height to dive bomb the enemies below. The wasp now had the total attention of their captivated little audience. Each time one would dive down from its lofty peaks we would noisily duck down on the bench and cover our heads. Then came the “Wait until I get you home!’ glare from our mothers.

The game became a litter louder each time a wasp would swoop down from their lofty heights. The final blow came when one of the Red Barons flew his bi-plane directly at us. We noisily ducked, covered our heads and Kenneth playful reached over pinching Rodney on the back of his neck. Thinking it was a red wasp, Rodney screamed like a girl. We busted out laughing and that was what caused the fight. We three little boys were scuffling on the back bench and having the time of their lives, unaware of the shocked congregation. I may be wrong but I think God looked down and laughed at those three little boys wrestling on the back bench.

Because of the noisy commotion, the preacher stopped his bellowing sermon and now he and the whole congregation was focused on the back bench. Our wrestling match was in full swing when I felt a stern hand grab the collar of my shirt. Still struggling, I was being pulled me out the collection of swing arms, moving legs and giggles. We were quickly separated and escorted to other benches by our infuriated mothers.

The little boys eventually grew up but the cruelness of time turned us into wrinkled old men. Even time I see a wooden church bench it brings back the memories of those magical days of my youth and the three little boys wrestling in the back of the church. I think that was the most fun I have ever had at church.

Dirt between my Toes

Every year our over enthusiastic mother would take command of planting an outrageously large vegetable garden. Dad said she had a green thumb and could grow a garden anywhere, even in a rock pile. I guess that was from her share cropping days. We always grew enough vegetables to feed half of Jacksonville and threw twice that much away. On a hot and miserable day while hoeing the garden, I disgustedly ask mother why we plant such an outlandish garden. Her unaccepted reply was “we have the land so we might as well use it.’ I thought that was ridiculous. That land wasn´t going any where. Why don´t we plant what we needed and let the rest of Jacksonville grow their own vegetable garden? If we are getting down to the truth, I think she planted the large garden just to keep us kids out of trouble.

When the weather started getting warm and Jack Frost was finally gone, Dad would go to the barn and get his old Massey Ferguson Tractor running. After the huge field was plowed and the rows laid out, Mother would drag the unwilling participants onto the freshly plowed ground. The rows would be then be relayed out to her liking with miles of string and hundreds of poles. Next would be the dreaded trip with the wheel barrel to the foul-smelling chicken house. The manure in the hen house was good fertilizer but had a horrible odor. As I opened the door, the floating chicken feathers would be quickly sucked up into the dusty air and the ammonia from the litter would start burning my eyes. The stench was so strong that it would take my breath away. Shoveling the dusty smelly manure into the wheel barrel was cruel and harsh punishment. The chicken droppings from the wheel barrel and some fertilizer were then shoveled into the long rows. A light layer of dirt helped reduce the stink and at least the foul-smelling manure was covered up.

Then came the chore of planting every thing imaginable in the garden. If a good intentions neighbor gave mother five pounds of seed, she felt obligated to plant the whole five pounds .Our early plantings were English peas, cabbage, lettuce, green onions, bulb onions, red potatoes, white potato, mustard, turnip greens, cauliflower, broccoli and a couple other cool weather crops that I forget. When the weather got warmer we would plant yellow corn, white corn, popcorn, Indian corn, okra, sweet potatoes, baby red potatoes, purple hull peas, black eyed peas, butter peas, butter beans, pinto beans, rattlesnake beans, green beans, bush beans, bell peppers hot peppers, mild peppers, sweet peppers, cow horn peppers, pickle cucumbers, eating cucumbers, salad cucumbers, big green watermelons, small striped water melons, yellow watermelons, icebox melons, several types of cantaloupe, canning tomatoes, eating tomatoes, yellow tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. Is there anything I forgot?

We plant hundreds of tomato plants. After the endless rows of tomatoes had been planted they had to be watered to set their roots. A gallon of water for each plant was the requirement by Sergeant Mom. While complaining and grumbling the whole time, I brought the water for the plants by bucket from the near creek. My next chore was to bring back small tree branches from the near by forest to shade each plant from the scorching sun. If the tomato plants weren´t shaded the sun would cause them to wilt and die. To prevent the cut worms from killing the plants, two twigs about the size of a pencil were inserted into the ground on each side of the tomato stem. This prevented the cutting worms from warping them selves around the stem and cutting the plant down.

Then there was the endless chore of keeping the weeds out of the garden. Mother said they sucked up the nutrients in the soil and would stunt the tomato plants growth. I know all of that garden work sucked up all of my energy but it didn´t stunting my growth. There was an endless battle with the low on the ground crab grass and the climbing for the sky Johnston grass. Because of its fast growing and deep growing root system, crab grass was difficult to hoe and would spread like hot butter on a tin roof. Johnston grass on the other hand was a vertical kudzu. If you sat on a bucket in the garden long enough you could actually see it grow. The tall stalks resembled corn with its slender sharp leaves, but it has tuber roots system that is impossible to get out of the ground. After struggling with Johnson grass all day I ask Dad why don´t we quit gardening and just raise Johnston grass. It grows faster than any thing else in the garden and we wouldn´t have to hoe it.

It seems like we were always working in the garden. On summer days when the air was dead still and I would be standing in the boiling sun with my arms would be hanging lifeless by my side, my back aching and looking at the endless garden rows to be hoed. Wasn´t there some thing in the of Geneva Convention treaty about this kind of treatment for a prisoner of war? Why was this weary little boy standing in the heartless garden with sweat trickling down his face and the loose dirt burning his bare feet? Is there no compassion? Is there no mercy?

As the tomatoes started growing they had to be staked up with a wooden stick to keep the vines off the ground. There was a pile of stakes head high and miles of strips of old bed sheets just waiting to be used in staking the never-ending rows of tomatoes. The rows of running green beans had to be staked also with a five foot cane poles for each plant. At least they ran up the poles them selves and I didn´t have to tie them up. At the first sign of the leaf eating tomato worm, the plants were dusted with bug poison. The white powder poison was placed in a cloth sack and tied at the top. I then walked each row and dusted every plant with the insecticide. Could being exposed to that much poison cause some kind of memory loss? The next week I searched each plant for the caterpillar that the insecticide didn´t get. Tomato caterpillars were the identical color and texture of the leaves. They were almost impossible to find. It was a full time job just taking care of those never ending rows of tomatoes plants

I haven´t quite figured out why we planted so many tomatoes. Most of them would just rot on the vine. When the first tomatoes turned red we would proudly give them to the welcoming recipients. Soon more tomatoes started getting ripe and Mother didn´t want to waste any. We spent days pealing and canning tomatoes. In the middle of the season we had a problem of having more tomatoes than we could deal with. Every time we saw someone we would give them a basket of tomatoes. At first they were appreciative but soon they started avoiding us. They felt obligated go home and can the basket of tomatoes. The men gave us an unthankful look as we walked off because they knew that their wives would have they canning tomatoes that afternoon. When we had finally worn out our welcome in giving away tomatoes, we turned to desperate measures. We had finally reached the point of putting bags of tomatoes on unknowing neighbors porches and in peoples cars at church. At night I would pray that a swarm of locus, like in Moses´ time, would come and destroy what was left of our entire crop. My back hurt, my face was sunburned, I had blisters on my hands and I didn´t want to go work in the garden the next day. Mother had accomplished her mission. We worked all summer at that prison camp she called a garden.

Picking Cotton

I hated picking cotton but Mother insisted that we pick cotton every fall. I despised that even more than working in the garden. It was hot; my back hurt, my fingers would get cut with the cotton boles and the pay was fifty cents for each hundred pounds. One miserable day in the cotton field of misery and pain would be worth only two dollars. The cotton stalks were about twenty four inches tall and just high enough to make your back feel as if it was being ripped out of your body. That first day wasn´t too bad. You were all excited about being able to make some money. The weather was cool that early in the morning and you hadn´t started feeling the pain. By twelve o´clock that day I felt like some one had hit you in the back with a big wooden club and your fingers were numb and bleeding. That night as you crawled out of the field, the sun had sapped all of my strength and my face and arms were sunburned. When the farmer handed me the two dollars for ten hours of agony, my heart and dreams fell to my tired and aching feet. I didn´t know whether to cry or get mad. The next morning my stiff and damaged fingers hurt from the cuts of the cotton bows. My aching back felt like it wasn´t attached to my body. Out of exhaustion and disgust I told Mother “When I get grown, I will never ever pick another bole of cotton and my children will never pick cotton.’ She replied “Young man, you are not grown so start keep picking’. I have kept my word. I haven´t ever touched another cotton bowl and neither have you, Terri.

The Blackberry Patch

During the spring when the flying insects were at their worst and the redbugs were searching for fresh blood, mother would round up her brew and off we would go to pick black berries. These tall thorn infested bushes grew wild along the edges of the forest and fields in this part of the south. Wearing long sleeves jackets to fight off the flesh eating thorns and a hat to protect us from the smothering sun we waded into the head high bushes in search of the delicious black berries. Mother had doused our arms and ankles with the kerosene to keep the hordes of chiggers from invade our defenseless bodies. The kerosene blistered our arms and ankles and the stench was unforgiving. This old wives tale didn´t work because that night we would be covered with hundreds of itching red spots. The more you scratched the more they itched. The more they itched the more you scratched. It was a never ending cycle. The clear fingernail polish burned when applied to the small red bumps but it helped to sooth some of the itching.

If there are fresh berries there will be birds. If there are birds then there would be snakes. If there are free berries there will be mother with her buckets and three unenthusiastic offspring´s. There is nothing more frightening than carefully reaching your hand into a thorn covered bush in search of the blackberries and touching a chicken snake quietly waiting for a bird. The only snakes that could climb into the tall bushes in search of birds were the chicken snake and the black racer. Neither is poison but they would give you a heart attack when you reached into the bush for a black berry and touched a coiled up snake. The rattle snakes and copper heads weren´t as agile. They would just lay camouflaged on the leaf covered ground below. They were deadly poison. Picking black berries from a thorn covered and red bug infested bush with snakes in and around it didn´t still doesn´t make a lot of sense to me.

Rattle snakes and Huckleberries

The perfectly camouflaged rattle snakes and copper heads snakes would lay under the low growing huckleberry bush waiting for the unaware bird to land in search of the delicious blue berries. After a bird had landed in the leaf covered shrub and was distracted by eating the berries the snake would slither near enough to capture the gullible bird in its venomous mouth. Blueberries grew best in the deep forest but so did the snakes. In mid June mother would fill our old car with disgruntle kids, pots and buckets because she had heard of the perfect place to go and harvest gallons of free wild blue berries. Wading into the thick snake infested underbrush looking for huckleberries didn´t make a lot of sense to me either. We never got snake bit but there were some near misses.

Our Humbling Little Tree House

On a boring day in June, Joan, Jane and I came up with the great idea of building us a tree house. Behind the garage was a big crooked oak tree that would be perfect for our new project. Short boards nailed up the trunk of the tree created steps to our future fortress. To pull the lumber and supplies up into the branches, an old worn rope found in the cow barn was used. After a lot of sawing and hammering we were now the proud owners of a fantastic view from our sanctuary high up in the old tree. The makeshift tree house was a flat platform about six feet by six feet with walls, a small door and two windows. We pestered Mother until she finally gave in and supplied us with sandwiches to eat up in our new wooden castle. We were as happy as a fat pig in the sunshine.

While rambling around in the old garage, we found dad´s prized snow chains. After joined the two set of snow chains, we hoisted them up the lofty perch and tightly secured them to one of the big limb supporting our fortress. The wooden steps on the side of the tree were removed so now the set of tire chains was the only one way up and one way down. This crude structure was now a key roll in all of our many imaginary adventures. To me it was my Davie Crockets cabin. To my sisters it was their Cinderella´s castle.

Just like Little Johnny Peppers and Puff the Magic Dragon, our wonderful tree house was soon forgotten. Over time the newness wore off and the three little children had moved on to other toys. That following winter was extremely cold. One January night, an ice storm deposited several inches of ice and snow on the region. We hadn´t recognized it the night before but Dad was excited. He would finally go to get to use his precious snow chains. They had been patiently saved for years. Pumped with masculine pride, he would be one of the very few that made it to work on such a freezing day. O how he would brag of his cleverness to the late arrivers for work. After eating breakfast and preparing lunch, he eagerly went to the garage, walked to the spot where his snow chains had been for almost a year but they weren´t there. Where were his snow chains? He had carefully placed them on that shelf last year but now they were gone!

After trashing the garage searching in vain for his precious snow chains he stormed into the house. ’ Where are my snow chains?’ he roared. Dad didn´t get angry that often but he was now. He roared again “I said where are my snow chains?’ We quickly pulled the covers over our heads because we knew things were going to get bad. This was defiantly not going to be a happy day. He stomped into our rooms and demanded an answer. Timidly we answered’ They are up in a tree.’ “What do you mean up in a tree?’ he yelled. He was really mad now. Mustarding up what little courage we could we told him the story of our magnificent tree house and how desperately we needed those chains for a ladder. After more scolding, he demanded “Get your cloths on and show him where you put hung my snow chains!’ Frantically we got dressed and scurried out into the brisk air. Trying to receive some forgiveness we eagerly direct him to our now weathered tree house.

Our once magnificent tree house has lost its glory. Now a clutter of gray tattered lumber was struggling to hold onto its unsecured perch in the tall tree. The snow chains were now hanging lifeless like an old rusty skeleton from its once proud grandeur. Dad stared up into the tree in disbelief at his adored snow chains. He then looks down at his three little troopers trembling in the cold. He thought to himself “What had he done’? My three small children that loved and trusted me were shaking more from fear than from the cold.’ His faucal expression changed. His anger was gone. After looking up at the chains again and then looked down at us. He hugged each one of us and assured us every thing would be ok. With his head hung in shame, he slowly walked to the car. We watched as he drove slipping and sliding out of sight over the slick and icy road.

With his help that afternoon we removed the chains and carefully placed in their designated spot, never to be used again. Dad realized the love and respect of his small children was worth far more than a set of old rusty snow chains.

Ear of the beholder

Our old friend and hero crawled into her house, laid down on the grimy old pile of rags and died. The two bleeding puncture marks on her swollen head left no doubt. A poisonous snake had just killed out faithful companion. Joan, Jane and I were devastated. We had know Brownie all of our lives and now she was gone. That was one of the sadist days of our young lives.

Several weeks later, Daddy excitedly brought home two small beagle puppies. These two lively little puppies with brown and block spots on their backs helped us and especially dad overcome the loss of our old friend. The spunky little girl dog we named Susie because she bounced and wriggled when we talked to her. The little boy dog we named domino because he had two white spots on patched of black in the center of his back. In the beginning it was obvious that Susie was much smarter of the two. When they reached the age of six months old, we began training them to trail and chase wild rabbit. While Dad held the eager young pups in front of the house, I would drag an old rabbit skin attached to a long cord on the ground in our back pasture. The rabbit skin was pulled under bushes, around stumps, over limbs and eventually place it the top of a small pine tree. The fun began when the two raring to go puppies were then turned loose to trail their quarry. Susie caught on quick but domino was a little slow and obviously wasn´t the sharpest tack in the box. We were soon proudly referred to them as our rabbit dogs. At first they yelped like puppies as they followed the evasion cotton tail but it soon turned to admirable barks as they grew older. Dad and I were proud of our official rabbit dogs, Domino and Susie. Some nights, we would sit in the swing on the front porch and listen to our two beagles chasing a rabbit in the fields. This made dad pleased with what we had accomplished with the dogs and it help him forget about Brownie.

During the day it was hot but at night a pleasant cool breezes would whisper across the front porch making it an enjoyable place to sit. Some times at night I would sit in the front porch swing, close your eyes and watch the night. On dark nights when I closed my eyes I could hear more things than I could see. If I sat there long and still enough, I felt part of the wonderful sounds of the night. It was a very peaceful and enjoyable experience.

One night while sitting in the front porch swing Mother and Dad were enjoying the cool nighttime air. They were being entertained with a chorus of crickets chirping and tree frogs peeping. The echo of a Whippoorwill could be heard whistling its lonesome eerie call in the dark from a distant hill. Slowly swinging back and forth in the wooden swing and enjoying each others company, they were softly talking. Domino and Susie were hunting in the nearby woods when suddenly they picked up the trail of a night traveler. The dogs began feverously barking as they trailed the hard to catch rabbit. While sitting there in the swing Dad turned to mother and proudly said “Pauline isn´t that beautiful music?’ Mother annoyed replied’ It was until those danged old dogs started barking,’ I guess music is in the ears of the beholder.

The Drunk Dog

In the early morning hours, the crowing of a rooster could be heard welcoming in the new day. Quietly sitting in the front porch swing and nursing a cup of hot coffee, John Dixon was watching the morning sun slowly robbing the night of its shadowy secrets. Years of back breaking work in the coal mines and a long string of bad luck had left their marks on the old man. He had every right to be bitter at the world but he wasn´t. Tucked in the rough old frame of a man was tender heart. A small smile appeared on his wrinkled old face because he knew today was going to be a good day.

When our car, packed with three rowdy hooligans came barreling over the hill we could see the tops of the enormous pine trees that towered over our grand parent´s small framed house. Suddenly the car swerved onto the dirt drive and then came to a sledding stop on the slick pine straw. The back car doors swung open and three excited grand children came spilling out of our old station wagon. After a foot race o our grand daddy, we began hugging his thin frame and all talking at the same time. The old coal miner had been looking forward to this day for weeks but in his old rough neck world, real men didn´t show their emotions. He was trying to act the part but couldn´t with three happy grand children hanging on to him. That old man couldn´t fool us. We could see the sparkle in his blue eyes and hear the happiness in that gravely voice. We loved our Granddaddy and he loved us.

The same love was to and coming from our step grand mother who was thrilled to see her grand children and patiently standing on the front porch with her white apron in her hands waiting for her hugs from her angles. Grand children are the rewards for all the years of head aches and heart aches from your own children.

By eleven o´clock that day the air was filed with laughter and the smell of a good food. All the men were busy outside setting up make shift tables. The women were laughing and talking in the kitchen and putting the final touches on a mouth-watering meal. My girl cousins were playing with their rag dolls in the front yard and the boy cousins were terrorizing one of grand mothers cats. The unfortunate critter should have ran like the others when it heard the first car full of grandchildren drive up. Grand daddy was standing on the font porch with his gray felt hat in his cracked weathered hands and looking over the group of busy people he was happy to call his family. The whole Dixon clan was here. He said to himself “I am a lucky man and God has truly blessed me. Even though there have been some rough rows to hoe in my life I am very fortunate to have such a family. What a wonderful day this is going to be. If only Jennie could have been here. ’

All of the excited and loud adults were now sitting around the make shift table in chairs, benches and stools. Bowls and plates of good southern food were weighing down heavy on the quickly assembles tables. As usual the children were standing behind their parents impatiently waiting for the blessing to be said on the food and to receive a big plate of foodstuff. After the long and drawn out prayer the mothers would prepare a plate for each child of a chicken, some type of potatoes, green beans ,“ucky’ turnip greens and some type of corn bread or biscuit. I didn´t dislike turnip greens. I hated turnip greens. The boys would always get the east bound part of a chicken heading west and never the prized pieces. Earlier the three boy cousins had made up us a plan. When every head bowed and the long drawn out blessing was being said on the food, Jonnie, Jimmie and I went into action. We quietly reaching around our mothers and each boy grabbed a big piece of chicken breast. That was the best part of the chicken. We quickly shoved the choice peace of chicken into our pockets, stepped back and waited. After patiently waiting behind our mothers and receiving our prepare plates including a big pile of turnip greens, the clever little tricksters hurriedly ran behind the wood shed. There we pulled the chicken breast from our pockets and had a meal fit for kings.

After the big Sunday meal was over, every thing cleaned up and back to normal, the individuals broke up in to their own groups. The girls had returned to their dolls. The women sat around the kitchen table discussing new recipes and local gossip. Being stuffed from the big meal, all the men gathered on the front porch. Some were smoking, others were chewing tobacco and some were drinking ice tea. Grand daddy, Uncle Son and Uncle Charles were sitting in the porch swing. The others were in chairs and some were sitting on the side of the porch. Jimmy, Johnnie and I were propped against the front wall of the house and were just proud to be allowed to sit with the grown ups. Stories, jokes and loud laughter easily floated through the group of men. A quart jar of moonshine was sitting near the porch swing. Because of the respect for Granddaddy none of his sons ever took a drink of whiskey in front of him but they sure did their share when he wasn´t there. Grand daddy said “Boys. My dog, Hawkshaw, is smarter then the whole bunch of you put together’. Hawkshaw was a mongrel dog that Granddad had for years. Hawkshaw was the perfect yard dog. He would always barked when a stranger came in the yard but had never had bitten anyone. You might say he was an all bark and no bite dog.

Then Granddaddy began his story. Day before yesterday I was sitting in this porch swing sipping on this quart fruit jar when Hawkshaw walked upon the porch and lay down on the floor in front of me. As I took a small swig of this whiskey and he looked up at me and began licking his lips. Looking down at him I ask’ Old boy, do you want to try a little of this?’ Hawkshaw hopped up and began wagging his tail. I took the jar lid off, laid it on the floor and poured a little of this wicked woman in the lid. If you´ all don´t know, the reason I call it the wicked woman is because it would take all of your money and make a fool out of you, but most of you know that from experience anyway. Hawkshaw cautiously smelled of the brew and then quickly lapped it up. That gullible dog looked up and licked his lips. I poured some more of the brew in the jar lid. He quickly lapped it up. Now Hawkshaw was getting a little woozy and crossed eyed. Have you boys ever seen a dog smile? Well that drunk dog was. Having more since than you boys do, after the third lid of whiskey, Hawkshaw decided he had enough and was trying to find his way off the porch. In his attempt to walk down the front steps he missed the first one and tumbled down the second and third and missed the fourth. Finally landing upside on the ground he was desperately trying to get up but he couldn´t get his feet to touch the ground. Finally recovering from the fall he up righted himself and was attempting to walk. That now drunk dog was walking like a three legged chicken in a freshly plowed field. After several tries he finally got up and wobbled around to the back of the house. As I sat here laughing I could hear that poor drunk dog loosing his lunch and howling in pain. It kind of reminds me of some of you boys after a hard night of drinking.

Yesterday I was sitting in this porch swing enjoying the day when Hawkshaw came walking around the house. I whistled and he came running up to me. I held up the jar of moonshine and said “Do you want another nip to start your day’? He snarled up his lower lip, growled and ran off the porch with his tail tucked between his legs. You would think he had seen the devil or something and perhaps he had the day earlier. When a dog tucks their tail between their legs than that means they are afraid of something. Later on that day I put this fruit jar in the front yard. Hawkshaw squatted down, eased up on it and started began barking and snapping at it like it was a big snake or something. Boys, misery lives in a fruit jar and that dog knew it. He definitely knows what whiskey will do to you. From your actions some of you don´t.’ Every body laughed.

The conversation turned to politics so the three little hoodlums wondered off to find more adventurous things to do. A tin can, three eggs stolen from grand mother´s hen house and a nickel box of matches soon spelled disaster. All of the men were still sitting on the porch, swatting flies and telling lies when Dad jumped up and yelled “I smell smoke! The woods are on fire!’ We all got into trouble for that little prank.

Stranger in the House

As we walked barefooted down the dusty dirt road, Jimmy and I tossed rocks into the nearby field and talked about the discarded bounty left behind for the taking at the old hunting lodge. Doctor Williams had arranged a social event for his friends the previous day and Mother given us the assignment of cleanup the clutter from the party. Usually there were discarded bags of chips, cookies and soft drinks abandoned on the tables and sitting areas. If the drinks or packages were open they went into the garbage but if not, they were fair game. What we wanted most was ice cream that had been left in the freezer.

Always on the alert for the venomous visitor hiding on the side of the road, we cautiously walk on. A poisonous black velvet tail rattlesnake would frequent cross the path. Laying on the dirt banks of the road, this crafty creature camouflaged well in the bushes and was extremely dangerous. A revealing slither trail in the dust would warn the two young travelers on the path that the scoundrel had crossed earlier.

As soon as the door was opened, ours eyes quickly scanned the room for the anticipated treats. We had hit the jackpot. A bonanza of treats littered the area. After the settling down from the excitement, we began focusing on our assignment. I entered one room and began cleaning up the rubbish and Jimmy was in the progress of cleaning in another. With that room clean, I walked to a small bedroom at the back of the lodge. My heart leaped when I stepped into the doorway and suddenly saw something move out of the corner of my eye. A human leg was being drug under the bed. I screamed, dart out of the house and hide under the bushes in front yard. Jimmy quickly followed and joined me behind the shrubs.

With our hearts pounding, we lay there trying to catch our breath and decide what to do. If he had a gun he could shot into the bushes and kill us both or if we stood up he would certainly shoot us. Through big gulps of air and trying not to be heard by the intruder Jimmy whispered “We can stand up and walk back home like we didn´t see him.’ I quickly responded “The burglar heard me screaming as I ran through the house. He knows we saw him!’ All of a sudden there was the sound of loud foot steps running and then glass breaking. I yelled “He is coming after us! Run!’ Jimmy´s plan was suddenly abandoned and we ran back home as fast as greased lightning

Out of breath, we hysterically told mother what had just happened. The police were called and in a short time two deputies were standing in the yard looking at the old cabin. After entering the building, they found where the intruder had entered the lodge by breaking a rear window as was in the process of stealing the silverware when Jimmy and I interrupted him. When the burglar heard the two little boys entering the cabin, he quickly scooted under the bed hoping we wouldn‘t see him. A large mirror was knocked down and broken as he escaped through the back door. It was a long time before I entered the lodge by myself again.

Sitting at the bottom of the well

Exhausted after hours of cussing, yelling and pleading, Uncle Charles reluctantly accepted his fate and sat silently at the bottom of the deep hole.

Looking up at the small circle of light high above him, the newly created well he had been struggling with earlier had suddenly become his prison. Because of his temper, he had ran off his help thus leaving his rescue rope at the top of the well. Being unable to climb the vertical dirt wall and no one else searching for him, he reluctantly sat there in the cool darkness. His thoughts now drifted back to his early child hood.

After the death of his mother, he and his baby brother Leon were given to their Aunt and Uncle Noah Wright to raise. Baby Leon was only two months old and Charles had just turned three when the tragedy struck. Their happy family was regrettably divided. His dad John Dixon, while grieving for his wife Jennie, was trying to support five other children but couldn´t take proper care of him and his baby brother. Charles´s responsible for helping to raise the baby grew into love for his little brother. Over the years they were not only brothers but were the best friends. In Charles´s mind he could hear his younger brother Leon saying “You have got your self in to a fine mess this time Charlie’.

Charles had lived an exciting life. In an attempt to ambush his older brothers with green apples he lost his balance, fell out of the tree and broke his foot. Lying on his back for two months and wearing a make shift cast taught him a good lesson about playing tricks. As a young man he had accepted a job with the forestry department but was unaware to he would be shipped to California to help fight forest fires. Being terrified of the huge flames he left the forestry camp in California and hoboes back home. A hobo is a person that illegally rides in the open box cars of trains. They rode on the uncomfortable cars because they couldn´t afford to pay to ride in the coach cars. It took him months of ridding freight cares and begging for food before he finally made it back home in Alabama. Now there was an adventure for a young man.

There had been some mistakes in his life. One that he laughs about was his first wife, Atiti Mae Kiet. He had sold a two room house for fifty dollars. Fifty dollars was a lot of money in the forties. Taking all of the money from the sale he bought his new bride the most beautiful dress she had ever seen. She was so beautiful in that new dress and apparently it caught the eye of another man. When Charles returned from work the next day his new bride had ran off with the other man, never to be heard from again. What was so bad was she had taken the new dress and he couldn´t return it to get his money back.

Atiti Mae leaving him was one of the best things that had ever happened in his life. A year later he went to visit his Brother Leon in Gadsden and it so happened that Francis was visiting her cousin Pauline. Pauline was his brothers Leon´s´ wife. It was love at first sight and a love that would last forever.

There wasn't a water system in the rural areas. If you weren´t the proud owner of a spring or near a good stream you had to dig a well. The cost of the well being at a dollar a foot to dig was well above Charles means. For the purpose of providing an adequate supply of water for his family, He had to dig a hole forty eight inches in diameter to a depth ranging from twenty five to one hundred feet. To find the best location for the well, the area had been water witched with a divining rod earlier that week. Now on the selected spot there was a large wooden wench, some time called a windless, proudly standing over a large hole in the ground. Because of the limited working area, the only tools used in the digging operation were a short handle pick and short handled shovel. The huge wooden wench hovering over the newly created cavity was used to lower and raise the dirt bucket attached to a long rope. The person digging the hole also used it to enter and exit the deep and dangerous pit.

Because of it being the middle of the week, Uncle Charles couldn't get any help from his brothers in digging the well. Jimmy, his reluctant eleven year old son was recruited to help with the hard backbreaking work. Using the wench Jimmy would lower a bucket to the bottom of the well. Charles would fill the bucket with the loose dirt and rocks and then Jimmy would hoist the dirt to the top of the well. There the bucket would be swung clear of the well and the contents dumped on a mound near the hole.

Holding onto one of the wooden boards of the wench with one hand, Jimmy would lean over the deep cavity and grab the heavy bucket filled with loose dirt with his other. Then he would swing the bucket from the well toward the dirt mound while trying not to loose his balance. One careless move and he would fall to the bottom of the deep hole and land on his angry dad. The hazardous job frightened him. He didn´t like it and he wanted to go home.

Periodically while transferring the contents of the loaded bucket to the growing pile of dirt, some would fall down the well on Charles. Tired and disgusted because he couldn't get any decent help and with dirt and rocks falling down on his head, Uncle Charles temper grew shorter and shorter. Each time the loose dirt fell down the well and onto Charles head, a stream of cuss words would come boiling out of the ground. Charles´ was running out of patience with Jimmy but unknowingly so was Jimmy with his dad.

The unstable dirt mound was growing taller and taller and making it more difficult to prevent some dirt from sliding back into the hole. The straw that broke the camels back was when jimmy allowed a large flood of dirt to fall on Charles head. Charles exploded. Using a stream of profanity an old sailor would appreciate he said “Jimmy! How many times have I told you to quit spilling dirt back into the well? If you can't do any better than that you might as well go home!’ Suddenly things grew silent. The only sound to be heard was the squawking of Blue Jays in a near by tree.

Being stuck down in that deep hole for hours gave Charles mind plenty of time to ramble. He was thinking “There is nothing quite as refreshing as a dipper full of cool well water.’ Being trapped in the hole for such a long time, any kind of water would be good to right now. What if some animal or varmint wanders over to the well and falls in? It would get crowded real quick if a dog, cat or possum falls into this hole. He didn´t even want to think about a skunk or snake keeping him company down there. Was that thunder? Please don´t let it rain. Would it rain enough to drown him or just make it a more miserable cold mess down here?

As she was finishing up the supper dishes, Aunt Frances was standing there wondering where Charles was. He is usually home by now. It wasn´t like him to miss supper and it had been dark for hours. Early this morning he and Jimmy had gone to work on the well but Jimmy had came back before lunch. Jimmy and the neighbor´s kids had been out in the front yard playing kick the can for a couple of hours now. Aunt Frances worriedly walked to the front door and yelled to her second son “Jimmy. Where is your Dad?’ Jimmy not wanting to be interrupted from the game nonchalantly responded’ I guess he is still at the bottom of the well.’ Grabbing a flashlight Aunt Frances ran to the location of the new well. She shined the light to the bottom of the well and there sat Uncle Charles. Being totally exhausted from the day´s ordeal and lack of water he was leaning against the red clay wall sound asleep. Charles had earned a good lesson that day. When at the bottom of a well, you need to be more careful with you say.

Ghost of the Share Cropper

Mother caught the share cropper fever again and regrettably we moved to Midway, Alabama. This was a little hole in the wall community stuck between Hokes Bluff and Piedmont. For two thousand dollars, Dad purchased a dilapidated old shack and two acres of pure grief. Enormous mounds of rusty tin cans, empty food containers and house hold garbage littered the entire two acres. The unattended yard was cluttered with large junk car parts, old rusty washing machines, and several years of southern scrub brush. Southern scrub brush is an accumulation of saw briars, thorn bushes and half grown trees. It was a major undertaking to clean up all the clutter. The inside of the house had to be gutted to remove the stench. Two more rooms were added and the old roof was replaced. The Dixon Clan pitched in and helped replace the sides and the roof of the now remodeled structure. After months of hard labor, the once decrepit old house with its junk and brush strewn yard became our new home. You can make a silk purse out of a pig´s ear.

Roy Rogers, the Long Ranger and Black Bart

The game of marbles was captivating to young boys. On a flat and perfectly smooth dirt surface, a large two foot circle was drawn. A two inch veridical and six inch horizontal dust mound was formed in the center of the circle. From each participant, an equal number of marbles were placed on top of the sandy mound and to determine who got the first shot; the competitor would step off four steps and then shoot his marble at the line of the circle. The players´ marble nearest the line and didn´t over shoot, had the privilege of being first. With the hand carefully being placed behind the dirt circle, a marble nested on the index finger was suddenly propelled with a quick thrust of the thumb. The object of the game was to knock a marble out of the circle with each shot from the exterior of the loop. The player continued until he missed or didn´t accomplish the task. If the first competitor succeeded in shooting all of the marbles out of the circle the first round, he was obligated to place his TOY on the dirt mound. A TOY is the favorite marble of the boy and holds a certain respect by him and others. The challenger then had the opportunity of knocking the TOY out of the circle and claiming it. My TOY was a yellow cat eye marble. Cat eye marbles were clear marbles with a colored strip in their center. The color strips made them look like a cat´s eye thus came the name of cat eyes.

I was practicing marbles by the side of our house when a stranger walked up. Standing before me with his trusty six guns strapped to his side was Roy Rogers. Black Bart had just vanished into the pine thicket in a distant field and Roy need help capturing the notorious villain. After quickly being deputized, I scrambled into the house and retrieved my trusted holster and precious revolver. Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger were now in hot pursuit of Black Bart. A precaution had to be taken not to be ambushed by that sneaky villain. Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger and Black Bart were our favorite western characters and who we idolized from television and comic books. As the two lawmen carefully entered the pine thicket, Black Bart suddenly sprang from behind a bush and ambushed us. Bullets were flying and “I got you’ and “No you didn´t’ echoed through the forest.

Randall and Ronald became my best friends. We wanted so bad to be cowboys. We dreamed to learn how to of throw a rope, ride a horse, catching bandits, and camp out on the prairie. We fantasized about being on a real cattle drive. While playing in the woods and broom sage fields we would always wear our trusty six guns strapped on our sides. Games of cowboys and Indians would last for hours in the woods and along the streams. No bird, fish or varmint was safe from these desperados.

At that age, young boy loses all sense of time, distance and have selective hearing. The only thing to bring him back to reality is the definite sound of mother´s voice yelling “Larry, you had better come home right now or I will tell you Dad when he gets here!’ The game was suddenly over and the little cowboy headed for home in a run.

Snake in the Paint Bucket

On a day of our serious game of cowboys and Indians, a large rattlesnake made the fatal mistake of coiling up and sounding its warning rattle. The game was immediately halted. Three small commandos started systematically searching for the unfortunate snake. It was found frightened and hiding under a small bush. I think it knew its fate. The small but “tough as leather’ cowboys circled the unfortunate victim like hungry wolves circling a wounded deer. After wisely evaluating the situation, we quickly disbanded and found our artillery. Each brave little cowboy had a hand full of rocks. The snake was attacked like three hungry mongooses against a defenseless cobra. When the rocks started flying, the unfortunate rattlesnake knew it had made a dreadful mistake and that its destiny had been sealed.

When the battle was over, the three heroic little boys claimed their prize. Ideas flashed through our mischievous minds. We can skin it and make a belt out of it. We can cook it and eat it like real Indians. Suddenly a brilliant plain was devised to play a trick on some unknowing victim. Later that day no one could be made to take credit for the suggestion.

The snake was quickly dragged by the tail to the back of my dads old work shop. I rambled through the work area until I found an old empty paint can and lid. The container and lid were cleaned of all the old paint and then dried with a rag from his tool box. Very carefully we coiled the snake up in the paint can and tightly secured the lid. I then scrounged around and found an old screwdriver. The Jessie James gang was now ready to go do their devious deed.

The three little villains began systematically searching for an unknowing victim. We were afraid to pull the trick on our mothers due to severe retaliation. The three banditos began their notorious track up highway 278 with nothing but mischief on their minds.

A Liberty National insurance man was standing on the front porch talking to the widow Cole. She sat swinging in the porch swing. The widow Cole´s husband had been dead for years. Several times in the summer, we would get caught in her plum tree but after a good scolding, she would give us a large bag of the delicious fruit. We couldn´t pull the prank on her. That would cut off our supply of plums and green apples. No body liked a mouthy old insurance salesman any way and he didn´t live around here. The perfect victim had been selected.

We walked upon the front porch and Randall said “We found this paint can on the side of the road and can´t get it open. Could you open it for us?’ The arrogant insurance salesman proudly said “Sure boys, it won´t be any problem getting that can open.’ Randall handed him the paint can and I handed him the rusty old screw driver. We then quickly stepped back to watch the show.

The salesman wrapped his left arm around the can and started prying the lid with his right hand. Suddenly the lid popped off like a cork in a bottle of Champaign. The bewildered salesman was now staring directly at a huge coiled up diamond back rattlesnake. Our shocked victim staggered back, grabbed his chest and threw the old paint can spinning into the air. The can made two complete summersaults and then expelled the monstrous snake. The huge snake was flipping and flopping as it hung in the air. Then dropping like a rock it plopped on the lap of the now hysterical widow Cole. We got in big trouble for that prank.

The Yellow Jackets Nest

Commitment was a hard lesson learned on that day. Shadow Lake was a huge water basin filled with brim and bass. Bass are large game fish and brim are smaller pan fish. The fisherman´s paradise was only a two mile walk down highway 278. The brim were now on bed under the willow trees at the south end of the lake. When fish congregate in an area and are guarding their eggs this is referred to as fish on bed.

Randall, Ronald and I had planned a fishing trip the follow day to catch our limit of brim. The larva from a wasp nest would be the perfect bait for the pan fish in that situation and time of year. The large yellow jackets nest found earlier that week by Ronald would adequately fell our needs for wasp larva. There were two problems with us collecting our bounty. Problem number one was yellow jackets built their nest in a hole in the ground. Problem number two was yellow jackets are the most aggressive and violent insect in the world. If anything gets near their nest, they attack in a large swarm, sting multiple times and will chase the intruder for miles. A yellow jacket wasp is a killer bee with a bad attitude in bright yellow coveralls.

If we poured gasoline down the hole to kill the yellow jackets, it would ruin the larva. We moved to another plan. I don´t know which one of the three young brains scientists came up with this brilliant idea? With a unanimous decision, we were going to eliminate the yellow jackets with pine tops. After we had slaughtered all of the yellow jackets, the nest would easily be dug up to award us a bounty of wasp larva. Pine tops are bushy limbs broken from pine trees. Our plan was to secure three bushy limbs from a pine tree and then attack the nest. This was the perfect plan for people of our intelligence.

Three long broke off pine top was secured and we crawled on our belly undetected to the wasps entrance. Quickly springing up, we ambushed the yellow jackets guarding the hole. Our first objective was accomplished by killing the guards. We now focused our pine tops on those wasps now boiling out of the nest. I didn‘t remember there being that many wasp when we scouted out the nest earlier. We had to quicken our swatting pace considerably. Suddenly a new problem sprang up. There were angry yellow jackets trying to enter the nest. We soon realized that we had bit off a lot more than we could chew. Ronald was quickly assigned to eliminate the incoming aerial assaults. Because we were now one short, Randall and I had to pick up the pace even more. With the number of angry incoming yellow jackets rapidly increasing, Ronald panicked and was getting reckless with his swings. Randall and I were now getting hit with Ronald´s pine top. At that point we were holding our own as the wasp boiling out of the hole but were getting beat up pretty bad with Ronald´s´ pine top. The wasp numbers were increasing rapidly and our pace had to be increased drastically. Our offensive position had turned to a defensive. As the aerial assault increased considerably, Ronald had totally lost control and was swing wildly at everything. Randall and I were trying to defend ourselves from the angry yellow jackets boiling out of the hole, and the angry ones in the air and Ronald´s wild and savage pine top. We thought about breaking and running but the yellow jackets would hunt us down and sting us to death. We were now learning the lesson on totally commitment. We were now totally committed to killing every last one of the yellow jackets.

We had battled the yellow jackets until ours pine tops were ragged and frail. Randall broke and ran to get another one. Suddenly I was loosing ground fast. Randall quickly returned I broke and ran for a new pine top. The fifteen minute cake walk had turned out to be a fight for our lives. Our muscles were burning, sweat was pouring out our pores and we were totally exhausted. Ronald had finally come to his senses and was holding down the aerial assault. Little by little we were finally gaining the upper hand on the yellow jackets. What seemed like for ever, the last yellow jacket was killed by a worn and tattered pine top. The three solders were totally exhausted.

Strawn on the ground was the bodies of the thousands of yellow jackets who had fought a good fight. Standing victorious over the slain wasp were three tired and battered boys. Randall and I were battered pretty badly because of Ronald. The gallant warriors were too tired to fish so we staggered back home.

Lost in a Cave

It has been said that angles watches over children and fools. Our guardian angles had to work overtime to watch out for the foolish three amigos. On top of a mountain running through Fords Valley, its peak is covered with a large rock out cropping. During the summer months there were too many snakes making a home there to venture on the rocks formations. But in the winter the huge bolder garden became our incredible play ground. Limited by only our imaginations, the collection of cliffs and boulders turned into mid evil castles and desperados hide outs. We felt safe there from the unwelcome warnings and demands of our parents. The difficulty of the area made it almost impossible for an adult to invade our own secluded and private area. We were free from the “don´t climb up there, you will fall and don´t jump from there you will brake something and young man you gong to fall and get hurt!’ While exploring the rocky outcrop we looked for hidden loot left by desperado running from the law, hidden treasures buried among in these rocks from years past and maybe an Indian warrior had dropped a tomahawk or spear as he chased a big bear through the rock maze. We were living every boys dream in our private Shangri-La.

On one of our expeditions in the rock garden, Ronald discovered the entrance to a small cave. If we had any common sense at all we should have just walked away but thirteen year old boys filled with adventure couldn‘t. We three stood staring at the cave entrance and wondered what lied just beyond that small dangerous opening. Could it be filled with pottery and arrow heads from a burial ground for the Indians that had lived here hundreds of years ago? Would we find diamonds and gold just beyond that massive rock delicately balancing over the small crawl space? Could there even be an undiscovered dinosaur bones or saber tooth tiger skeleton scattered on its damp stone floors.

Monday morning found the foolish three adventitious boys standing at the small entrance to the cave with two flash lights borrowed from our unknowing parents, a box of matches and a couple of candles. If we had told our parents why we needed the flashlights, we would have been forbidden to enter the cave. What our parents didn´t know wouldn´t hurt them was our logic. Right? The small entrance was blocked by a bolder larger than a foreign car. It was held up out of the small stream by several small rocks the size of baseballs. There were two possible ways to enter the cave. We could lay on our bellies and squeeze over the top of the boulder through a small hole or lay on our backs and slide under the slippery boulder through the cold water. As I was foolishly sliding on my back under the huge boulder I looked up at the massive rock that was being held up by only several small stones. If the small rocks gave way and the boulder fell, all that would be left of me would be finger tips and toe nails. After nervously scooting under the bolder I stood up and my flashlight revealed a long room filled with stalagmites and stalactites. This was going to be exciting.

The long cave was an array of large stone rooms connected by small and tight passageways. A small stream that formed the cave and flowing through it was continually wetting our feet. We were eagerly exploring through the darkness and never thought about the extreme danger we were now in. The beams of our flashlights flashed back and forth over the walls and passage ways like lightning searching for a thunder storm. Because of the mystery of the cave and the hopes of finding something spectacular we stayed longer than expected and hadn´t notice that our flashlight were glowing dimmer and dimmer. After being disappointed that there wasn´t any gold or Indian burial ground; we begin our retreat back through the endless passage ways. .

Randall unexpectedly dropped his flashlight. Our excitement suddenly turned to fear. The exciting cave quickly turned into a horrible dark dangerous hole in the ground. We realized that we had done a foolish thing by going in the cave and not telling our parents. Now frightened we hurriedly began exiting the cavern. The matches had gotten wet earlier and we were now trusting in the dim light of our only flashlight for our safe escape. Fear plays tricks with your mind. You can see, hear and imagine things that aren´t really there. Strange and creepy sounds were now coming from the rear of the cave. Low ghostly voices could be heard echoed down the dark corridors of the cavern and ghostly shadows could be seen darting across the damp and dark cave walls. Was the cave haunted by a mysterious and evil being? Our worst fear was would we be lost forever in the endless cave and never be found.

Our hearts sank as the trusted flashlight suddenly flickered and went out. I bumped it a couple of times on its side with my hand and it finally gave came on but only gave off a dim glow. As we scrambling through blackness our eyes began adjust to the darkness. Slowly the darkness was turning into a moon lit night. The light from the entrance of the cave was reflecting off the damp walls providing us with an escape route from the death trap. We quickly crawled out of that dangerous hole in the ground into the welcoming sunlight. After that frightening experience, we give your word that we would never to go into it again or tell any one where it was. We kept our promise

A Lesson Learned

Speeding down the old dirt road and swerving to dodge potholes was the old yellow school bus driven by our psycho bus driver. The Lord looks out for fools and children, both were on this bus. Mr. Beasley suddenly flipped out the stop sign and slid to a stop in front of Tommy Watson´s house. Our friend wasn´t there and the old house was now empty.

Our minds drifted back several weeks earlier, when Ronald , Randall and I walked five miles down highway two seventy eight while carrying grocery sack of fresh yellow plums to or friend´s mother. Tommy was our comrade and friend at school but in our little community every one knew too much of every one else´s business. His mother had been diagnosed with cancer and wasn´t expected to live very long. Terrible things like that weren´t suppose to happen in a young boy´s simple world. Tommy had mentioned earlier of how his mother enjoyed yellow plums and there wasn´t any near their home. But they were abundant in our area and we knew where every thorny bush was located.

That Saturday morning, the three amigos had traveled up highway two seventy eight and now were in a leisurely walk down Fords Valley Road. On our disorganized journey up the highway, we had searched both sides of the dangerous road for glass soda bottles. They could be cashed in at the local store. The bottles were worth one penny a bottle but soft drinks were only ten cents each. Our plan was to find enough empty bottles on our trip up to buy three drinks on the way back. If there weren´t enough bottles to for three soft drinks, then we would buy one and share it. Soft drinks were six cents each and the returned bottles brought only one cent each. You do the math.

Tommy´s home was more of a barn than a house. The family dwelling was small with no indoor plumbing. The water well with an electric pump was in the front yard and the outhouse was in the distant back yard. At our age a friend was a friend and it didn´t matter where he had to live. These three young men didn´t judge a friend by their wealth only by his friendship. Unfortunately, we are taught that terrible principal when we grow older. When we entered their yard, a surprised and cheerfully greeting was extended by Tommy and his mother. During that time period, there weren´t any government programs to help people down on their luck. The unfortunate family had to depend on the generosity of the neighbors. With smiles on our faces, we proudly presented Tommy´s mother the big brown grocery bag full of yellow plums. After she carefully opened the grocery bag and examined the gift her face lit up with a broad smile. She graciously said “I love yellow plums. Thank you boys for such a wonderful treat’. We three young men knew that we had done something very thoughtful today and it felt good. After thoroughly enjoying one of the delicious plums, she explained how they brought back memories of her childhood on her parent´s farm. She hugged each one of us and thanked us again for our thoughtfulness. As she talked we could see the dark circles under her eyes and pasty white skin hanging from her thin skeleton frame scarcely hidden by her worn cotton dress. Tommy´s´ dad worked at a local saw mill and because of the medicine and medical bills, money was in short supply. We felt proud of what we had done for her but sad for situation we found them in. Tommy gave us a tour of his yard and the basketball hoop on the old barn wall. There is an invisible magnet built into a basketball hoop that pulls helpless young boys in to small groups for hours of playing the game. After played a couple of hours, it was time to return home. Our thoughts quickly turned to the good stash of returnable bottles on the side of the road. There were enough for each of us to have our own soft drink.

After telling Tommy we had enjoyed the games of basketball and would see him at school Monday, we stepped out on the dirt road and were preparing to leave. Mrs. Watson saw us leaving and asked us to stay for lunch. Knowing there wasn´t enough food for themselves much less three growing boys, we politely declined her generous offer. She quickly said “I am the adult here and I insist that you stay for lunch. You boys go wash your hands and get ready to eat.’ Going to the side of the house, we washed our hands in a dish pan on a wooden shelf by the house and dried our hands on a towel hung on a nail near by. After combing our hair with our hands, we quickly sat down at a small wooden table. Mrs. Watson´s simple prayer asked a blessing on the food and a special blessing for Tommy´s good friends for coming to see him.

In those days when unexpectedly quest arrived, the wife would pour water in the soup to make it go further. The simple vegetable soup placed before was more water than soup. The cornbread served was only baked yellow corn meal and water. Me knowing the family´s desperate situation made this the hardest meal I have ever tried to eat in my whole life. Their desperately needed food was unselfishly given to three hungry little boys. I will never forget the modest meal and the humbling lesson we were kindly taught.

Tommy never came back to school and is mother died soon after our visit. I have always wonder what ever happened to our friend. My heart is sad each time I drive by the old house but I am so grateful for the life humbling lesson I was taught.

A Hand Full of Snake

When a boy reaches a certain age, common sense avoids him. In our young boys eyes we are wise to the world and can handle any situation. We thought. What is worse than three mischievous boys is the same three boys with a box of matches. While carelessly playing with matches, we unintentionally scorched a twenty acre broom sage field and a burned an entire wooden bridge to the ground. I would rather not talk about that one.

Rain fell most of the night before our planned fishing trip to Shadow Lake. Because the spillway on the pond had over flowed, large quantities of fish had been swept into the deep drain ditch below. Standing on the dam above, we could see the water was black with numerous fish trapped in the narrow channel. When we climbed down to the waterway, all of the frightened fish quickly swam into holes under the bank. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn´t tempted them out of their hiding places with any of our bait. If they wouldn´t come out then we would just go in and get them. Only a thirteen year old boy could come up with such a ridiculous idea. It was a dangerous and stupid plan.

We eased down the muddy bank and slid into the waist deep water. By feeling along the side of the muddy creek bank with our hands we found their hiding places. We then proceeded to run our hands into the dark holes in the banks where they hid. Putting our hands into the holes was more dangerous than slapping your grand mother at a family reunion. Brim and bass entered their hiding places head first. Catfish and turtles back into the hole so they can catch the small fish as they enter their dark domain. Slowly and cautiously we would extend our hands and arms into the opening in the mud bank. The first thing we would feel would be the whiskers of the catfish or the back fin of a brim or bass. By moving very slow, our hands would encircle the unaware fish. After getting a secure hold, the fish would then quickly jerked out of the hole and tossed to the opposite bank. Randall and I were the fishermen and Ronald was on the creek bank placing them on a fish stringer. A fish stringer is a long cord with a stick tied perpendicular on the end. This prevents the fish from slipping off the opposite end as they are placed on the line. We didn´t have any cord so we used a limber willow limb. Eagerly Randall and I were tossing fish out faster than Ronald could put them on the stringer. The large brim and catfish were kept but the smaller were released. We had a deal with the country store owner down the road. Mr. Sims. He would take the fish we brought to him in exchange or soft drinks and candy. With all of the fish we were catching there would be candy bars and soft drinks for weeks. As they say in the south “We would be living high on the hog!’

As I eased my hands into another dark hole, my fingers didn´t feel the whiskers of a catfish or the tail fins of a fish. They felt something else. It felt like the side of to a catfish´s but much rougher. To my horror it felt like a snake´s skin. It was. Terror flashed through my body. My heart was in my throat and my adrenalin flow was out of the roof. If I left my hands in the hole, the snake would bite me. If I drew my hands out of the hole, it would come out and bite me. What can I do? Dismissing all logic, I will force myself to quickly grab the snake and sling it onto the opposite bank before it could bite me.

Ronald was busy putting fish on the stringer and not aware of the trouble I was in. I quickly grabbed the snake, let out a blood curdling scream and slung the surprised snake up into the air. When Ronald heard me scream he looked up to see the huge cotton mouth snake come flying through the air toward him. With a solid thug the snake landed at Ronald´s now dancing feet. As son as the snake touched the wet mud , it quickly coiled up and was ready to fight. Ronald wasn´t. In a flash, we three boys were standing at the top of the dam, watching the huge snake selecting its next meal from the fish we so generously left behind.

Coon Hunting

Randall and Ronald´s´ dad and his two large redbone hounds, Amos and Andy, were celebrities in the world of coon hunting in Alabama. Tallmadge, an extremely tall and leathery man, was extremely proud of his two dogs. Being offered a new Ford truck for them both and with out hesitation, he quickly refused the generous offer. Every Friday night Tallmadge would load up the two cherished hounds into his banged up old truck and go off to spend the night in some swamp or forest in the pursuit of the elusive raccoons. Raccoons are nocturnal, spending the day in holes in trees but roaming the forest and swamps at night. It was considered a big honor to be invited on one of his many hunting excursions.

Saturday, Randall, Ronald and I worked all day building Amos and Andy a new dog pen. That afternoon, Tallmadge came to examine the array of post and dog wire. After carefully inspecting the new holding quarters for his loved animals and to my total surprise he invited me to go coon hunting with them that night. What do I wear and what do I need to bring were the first excited questions that came spilling out of my overjoyed mouth. Seemingly pleased with my enthusiasms he politely responded “Just wear some old clothes that you don´t mind getting dirty or wet and I will furnish the rest. Be here at seven o´clock tonight and don‘t be late.’ Finding old clothes to ware wasn´t difficult at my house.

Nine o´clock that night found me quietly sitting on a fallen log and being mesmerized by the blazing camp fire and the amusing conversation of the other invited guest. Short baritone yelps of Amos and Andy could be heard echoing through the distance swamp as they trailed the phantom in the night. Having had his fill of the cookies and soft drinks and finding a warm spot by the fire, Ronald was soon fast asleep.

The conversation of the four rugged men who were circled around the dancing fire was humorously entertaining and somewhat educational. At first the subjects discussed were politics, dogs and work, and then it digressed to the point of telling flat out lies. Being a good lier is a gift. The art of being a good liar is being able to maintain a truthful look on a poker face and to tell the story with unblemished sincerity. Their conversation effortlessness moved back and forth from subject to subject until finally it worked its way around to how to rid your yard of unwanted tree stumps. With an unwavering manner in his voice one of the older gentleman and more experienced hunter enlightened the others on the technique of stump removal. He said “You take a drill and bore a hole in the center of the tree stump two inches wide and about six inches deep. Get you some home made buttermilk and pour it into the newly created hole. Don´t use store bought butter milk because it won´t clabber and won´t give off the essential gases. Take a hammer and drive a wooden stopper into the hole to plug up the opening. When the milk sours the gas pressure will build up until it explodes and blows the entire stump completely out of the ground. All that is left to do is just to pick up the wooden splinters.’ This our right lie was told with such flare and expertise that only an experienced Mississippi gambler could have appreciate the mans´ talent. Knowing it was a down right lie, the listeners respectfully nodded their heads in agreement with his preposterous yarn. The tale was told with such skill and sincerity that a Baptist preacher would have been trying to buy a gallon of home made buttermilk the next day.

After relentlessly being pursued until near exhaustion, the clever raccoon will attempt to trick the dedicated hounds by going into a hole, climbing a tree or tagging a tree. Tagging is done when the animal climbs a short distance up the tree and then jumps to the ground or another tree several feet away. This creates a gap in the trail and will confuse an inexperienced dog. Thinking the animal has scampered up in the tagged tree the dogs will bay at what is called a blank tree. Used both sight and smell to track, the veteran Amos and Andy were too smart to be confused by the tricky old raccoon. The determined dogs finally found the raccoon perched high in the top of a huge water oak tree. After extending their long slender bodies to reach as high up the tree as possible they begin their long baritone howling. A frightened boy lost in the forest at night and hearing this eerie howling sound would cause him to imagine all kind of horrible things in the darkness and would send cold chills up his spine. Every thing from hungry wolves stalking him to the scary movies he had seen at the twenty five cent picture show

Amos and Andy´s yelps had abruptly turned to the long drawn out howls. “Their Treed’ echoed through the swamp. Immediately the camp was bustling with activity. After frantically grabbing their jackets and flashlight, the eager hunters hurriedly disappearing into the forest in the direction of the baying hounds. It suddenly dawned on Randall and me that we got left holding the short end of the stick. We didn´t have any flashlights! Because of the thrill of the hunt, the men were now running full speed through the swamp and their flash lights were getting further and further away. Sprinting madly through total darkness Randall and I were running through thorn bushes and low hanging limbs while trying to catch up with the enthusiastic hunters. As we desperately tried to catch up with the fleeing lights, we were constantly falling onto the leaf covered ground by stumbling over tree roots and stepping into deep stump holes. The lights slowly began looking like distant fire flies dancing in the blackness of a moonless night. We hopeless pursuit them but the flashlights continued getting further and further away as.

Seconds before giving up on the chase, the fleeing lights had seemed to have stop and now were indiscriminately searching the ground. Had the dogs chased the raccoon into a hole? Feeling like we had just been in a fight with an angry thrashing machine, the seemingly impenetrable forest had finally opened up into a welcoming glow. The discovery of a large creek crossing the path had slowed the wild dash through the darkness to a halt. Soon hasty suggestions were being noisy tossed back and forth between the men on how to cross the impassable deep water.

Like a cat waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting mouse, a large moss covered log spanning the intimidating width of the creek was laying in wait for some gullible person to attempt to walk across it. With the intentions of get an advantage over the other hunters, a burley older man showing his courage or stupidity hurriedly stepped onto the slippery log. After making a couple of quick and miscalculated steps the now doomed hunter yelled back “Yall boys be careful. This log is as slick as ----!’ SPLASH.

All the flashlights were now focusing on a lone brown hunter´s cap floating on the surface of the ice cold water. The image of a humiliated hunter struggling to up right himself on the muddy bottom of the creek was comically visible. Finally regaining his footing, the humiliated hunter started spitting and gasping for air. Because the ice cold caused his hands and feet to quickly become numb the hunter clumsily climbed out on the other side of the frigid creek. Not being so trusting, Randall and I lay down on the tricky log and carefully scooted on our bellies across to the other side. Not wanting to be left behind, the other hunters quickly found a shallow place in the stream and hurriedly waded across.

As soon as we had reached the other side the race was on again. Now running close behind the cold and wet hunter, I was being savagely whipped by the recoiling of the unnoticed limbs. The exhausted hunter rushing to the sound of the dogs was unintentional releasing limbs from the low hanging branches as he ran past. The blood thirsty branches were whipping at my cold face and ears and causing relentless pain. There is nothing as painful as a hickory limb whipping back and striking a half frozen ear or nose.

Sudden I saw it! In the top of the huge tree were two eyes shinning as bright as amber coals. The raccoon had finally taken refuge from the perusing dogs. Standing on their back tip toes and stretching their long slender bodies as high up on the tree as possible; the hysterical dogs were baying at the top of their lungs. The huge dogs were howling, the excited men were yelling and the air was filled with a magic that only a young boy could appreciate.

Tallmadge yelled for me and Randall to grabbed Amos and Andy by the collars and pull them away from the tree. The now uncontrollable dogs out weighted us by twenty pounds. We desperately tried to hold onto the dog collars but were being jerked and tossed around like rag dolls. It was like pulling a hungry African lion away from a wounded zebra calf. Trying to help us, Tallmadge would grab both dogs by the collar and drag them away from the tree. We would hurriedly grab their collars and then with both feet firmly planted in the soft dirt would be quickly dragged back to the tree. This was a picture that only Norman Rockwell could have painted.

True sportsmen don´t shoot the raccoon. The animal was to be prodded out of the tree with a long stick and left to the mercy of the unrestrained dogs. If the raccoon whipped the two dogs in a fair fight it was permitted to walk away unharmed. One of the hunters was a gullible young man in his early twenties. He wanted to fit in and make a good impression on the older hunters. He was told to shimmy up the tree and prodding out the now terrified raccoon. Trying to show his manhood and courage, the naive young man took off his shoes and socks, tied a long stick to his leather belt and mentally prepared for the dangerous climb up the tree. By wrapping his arms around the tree and digging in with his toe nails, the now “I am not so sure what I was doing is safe’ young man slowly started his climb up the oak tree. As he climbed ,he was desperately hoping some one would talk him out of it. But he was only being encouraged by the “I am glad it´s not me climbing up that dangerous that tree’ hunters.

After a long and treacherous climb the young man finally reached prodding distance of the animal. Wrapping his legs around the flimsy branch and holding on for dear life with his left arm the terrified young man proceeded to push the raccoon out of the tree with the long pole. After a lot of prodding, the courageous animal suddenly hunched up and then spring from the tree like a Mexican cliff diver. Appearing as an outsized flying squirrel the raccoon sailed down to the hostile ground below.

When Amos and Andy saw the prey jump from the tree there was no holding them back. I was forcefully being dragged by Andy into battle with the ferocious raccoon. Standing fearlessly on his hind feet, his sharp claws cutting holes in the cold night air, his razor sharp teeth searching for a victim, the valiant raccoon was as the old men would saw “was a man among men’. The phrase was respectfully given only to the bravest of the brave. Seeing the furious raccoon I quickly released Andy´s dog collar and scrambled back to a safety. Standing there like a brave Roman gladiator, the raccoon was stood ready to fight against unthinkable odds. On the first assault the raccoon had the upper hand and some would say that the dogs now had second thoughts about grabbing this furious fighter. On the second assault, being out numbered, out weighted and out flanked the brave little fighter soon succumb the savagery of the two huge hounds.

As if some one had flipped a switch, the magic and thrill of the hunt suddenly vanished and the darkness quickly surrounded the hunters. The area of excitement had quickly turned to a dark and lonely place. With the low talking of the hunters and the panting of the hounds nothing could be heard in the forest except for a faint voice deep in the swamp yelling “HELP, HELP’ Where is Ronald!

Tallmadge turning to Randall asked “where is your brother?’ Randall responded “He was still asleep when we left the camp fire.’ Tallmadge disgustedly shook his head and said “That boy has the common sense of a year old bird´s nest“. After quieting the other men, Tallmadge listened for the direction of the distress call from his younger son. Far-off in the darkness we could hear Ronald´s´ frantic plea for help. When Ronald had finally awoke every one was gone, the fire was out, he was standing in total darkness and lost in the swamp. After being given a flashlight, Randall and I were sent unwillingly back to find his frightened brother Ronald. The other exhausted hunters and dogs quickly walk back to the warm and welcoming trucks.

While running through the underbrush trying to catch the fleeing lights we had no idea how creepy the swamp was at night. When two boys are wondering through the never-ending shadows of ghost and goblins lurking behind every tree, it puts a whole different perspective on things. Ronald was pretty good about finding his way around and he would eventually stumble out of the darkness. If we ran back and caught the other hunters we could get in the safe of the warm truck and wait for him. After looking around in the intimidating darkness we quickly agree that the safety of the truck was our best option. Randall whispered “Les go to the truck and wait on Ronald. He can find his way back.’ I nervously responded “that sounds good to me. Which way is the truck?’ Randall turned to me with a shocked expression on his face and said “I don´t know I thought you did! “ Now there were three boys lost in the creepy woods.

Huddled around the flashlight and barely able to see our feet on the dimly lit trail we were trying to act brave and find Ronald. All of a sudden there was a huge animal rushing toward us breaking limbs as it charged through the dark underbrush. We are going to be eaten alive by a monstrous bear! Because our little bit of light of the almost exhausted we couldn´t see well enough to run. Our last bit of courage was gone and frightened stupidity had taken over. We just stood there and screamed.

It was Ronald! Boy, we were as glad to see him and he extremely glad was to see us. Now there were three frightened boys standing in a tight circle trying to muster up some sort of courage when we saw another light bouncing through the forest. “O NO. It was probably an ax carrying deranged killer looking for some one to hack up little pieces“?

“You boys OK?’ It was their dad, Tallmadge. We were so glad to hear his voice and not strangers. Mustering up what little dignity was left, we casually strolled over to him like we had just been on an afternoon walk. I was wondering how he ever found us? Do you think it could have been the screaming that gave us away?

White Line on the Road

“Dragons live forever but not so little boys.’ Regrettably, the innocent little Jackie Pepper had disappeared. Our serious games of marbles, playing cowboys and Indians and stealing apples from widow Coals fruit tree were gone. The active little boys had vanished and now three arrogant know it all teenagers had taken their place. Our obsession with baseball, football and any other competitive sport had totally taken over. A challenge and a dare was what we lived for.

That previous week, white lines on the sides of the highway two seventy eight were painted to illuminate the roads edge for safety reasons. Feeling he was the most intelligent of the trio, Randall deducted that the new outer white lines were for pedestrians and bicycles. Ronald and I strongly disagreed with this new revelation.

A baseball game with the neighboring community was scheduled for that day and we were walking down the high way to the playing field. To prove his point, Randall was arrogantly walking on the white line of the highway while Ronald and I were trudging in the tall grass on the side of the road. It being a short cut between Gadsden and Cedartown, tractor trailers frequently used the highway. That time of day things were quiet and very few cars or trucks were using the roadway. As vehicles approached us, the drivers would steer to the center of the highway to avoid Mr. Know-it-all. Fast approaching Randall from the rear were two tractor trailers passing each other. When the large trucks reached Randall, the wind of the moving trailers shoved him into the grassy area on the side of the road. With a stern look on his face Randall turned to us and said “That fool almost hit me!’ The real fool had been standing on the white line in the road.

We continued down the highway with Randall not as close to the white line as before. A large truck turned into a small dirt drive immediately in front of us and the driver motioned for us to come over to his rig. We ran over to the big rig thinking we would get a grand tour of the fabulous truck. In words that only an old sailor would understand, the driver very verbally informed us that he was driving the rig that almost hit Randall and the white line wasn´t for pedestrians or bicycles. After the driver had driven off, Know It All Randall said “He didn´t have to get smart about it.’

The Lonely Warrior

The spirit of the old share cropper began haunting mother all over again. We moved this time to a small white house on highway 21 across from Aderholtd´s Lake in Jacksonville. This awkward and clumsy seventh grader wasn´t accustomed to being alone and missed the companionship of his two best friends. The majority of my time was spent roaming and exploring the woods and fields at the back our house.

On one of my many trips into the forest, I accidentally discovered four juvenile screech owls staring down at me as they gingerly balancing on a small branch in a persimmon tree. When I vigorously shook the tree, one of the four lost his grip on the tree branch and fell. With his wings frantically flapping, the dumfounded little bird gently fluttered down to the leaf covered ground below I swiftly ran over to the frightened little bird and gently picked it up. As I looked at this small brown owl with its huge black blinking eyes and short stubby body, this lonely boy knew he had found a great pet and a needed friend.

While rambling through the neighborhood garbage, I found a discarded bird cage that would be a perfect home for my new pet. The refurbished cage and the small gray owl were soon proudly displayed on a wooden crate in my small bedroom. Charlie the owl had a new home. Charlie was a lot of fun and very entertaining, especially when I rotated his cage. When the cage was carefully twist left and right, his little stubby head would remain immovable but his large black disconcerted eyes would be staring at the aggravator. Having an owl for a pet was fun until Charlie grew older.

Late one night, Mother Nature stole Charlie from me. While setting on his perch and with the night light flickering in his large black eyes, Charlie did what screech owls naturally do. He began screeching. His horrible screeching sound was a wide-ranging sound between fingernails on a black board and the squealing of car tires. The love call and territorial establishing sound of my screech owl was flooding through the previous quite house with ear perching regularity. When my mind would finally reached the point of finally drifting off to well deserved sleep, the sound of the next screech would abruptly shock you back into reality.

That morning as our family set at the table I was given the “get rid of the owl’ stare from my sleepy and irritable family. Staring at me through his tired and blood shot eyes, Dad said “Larry, the owl has got to go.’ Regrettably I released Charlie and my best friend back into his forest home.

The discovery of a large bundle of discarded telephone cable wire sent my teen age mind into a creative mode. Soon I had big plans for my unintended gift. The plastic coated cable was composed of small strands of copper wire woven together and used for the installation of telephone lines. After lugging my recently found prize into the forest and up a huge tree covered hill, I began searching for the perfect tree and location to support my newest creation, a tree swing . My tree had to be big and tall with a strong limb protruding from a precise location. The forest was alive with the sounds of nature as I was searching for the ideal tree. A tall oak, slightly leaning over a small valley, would work perfectly. After shimming up the monstrous tree with the cable in tow, I selected a strong limb to secure the cable to. My heart was pumping with total fear as I lay balancing prostrate on the narrow limb that hanging high above the forest floor. I was desperately trying to tie a secure knot with the telephone cable and not fall to my death on the ground twenty feet below.

Shimming up the tree was scary and difficult but wrapping both arms and legs around the massive trunk and trying to carefully slide back down the tree was agonizing. The rough bark was causing excruciating pain as it chewed the flesh from my exposed arms and legs. After finally reaching the safety of the ground, a large stick tied perpendicular to the end of the wire now produce a first-rate hand hold. After completing the terrifying task, I was leaning back against another tree and admired my work. I had with out a doubt created the perfect tree swing.

My new creation begged for a test flight. I tightly grasped the stick with both hands and I sprinted a short distant down the hill and then swung out into the air, high above the small valley below. Sailing high above the small trees in the valley below was breath taking. A feeling of exhilaration flooded my body as I glided effortless through the air like a super hero.

I was feeling like a large graceful bird silently floating through the beautiful forest-----until the cable broke. When the terrifying snap echoed through the valley, the whole forest fell silent. It was as if nature knew of the pending disaster and watched silently as a teenage boy fell head-over-heels to the ground far below. Terror flashed through my mind when I heard my bones snapping like small twigs. Then suddenly everything went black.

Hours later after regaining contentious, the first thing I noticed was that the sounds and activities of nature had returned to normal, except for a crumpled body lying in the leaves at the bottom of the small valley. That little escapade had cost me four broken ribs and a whole different out look on the construction of tree swings.

I had a painful and disastrous summer that year Earlier, my Uncle J W White had generously given me his old bike. This piece of history was dusty, rusty and the tires were dry rotted. With a couple of squirts of oil in a variety of places and a required bath of soapy water, my bicycle now appeared a good as new. Clipped with cloths pens to the bicycle frame, the now priceless baseball cards were making a click click sound as the wheel rotated.

Today I was excited because my best friend, Randall, was going to stay a whole week at my house. With the use of two bicycles, a long and adventurous bicycle expedition had been planned. With Randall borrowing my sister´s bicycle and me using my refurbished bicycle, a day long excursion through some of the country roads in the are a had been carefully planned out. Being filled with excitement and our pockets stuffed with snickers candy bars, the adventurous boys and best friends were ready for the open road. Our ill fated journey began with the excitement and enthusiasm but ended with disaster.

Shortly into our trip began, the inter-tube began creeping out of the broken place in the dry rotted front tire. Our perfect day couldn‘t be ruined by something that simple. The problem was quickly solved by pressing the tube back into the tire with my fingers and tied a small length rope around the tire. The rope would prevent the inter-tub from working its way out of the tire again. By tying the rope around the tire itself it created a small knot on the outside of the front wheel, but I didn´t see any problem with that.

Half way around Whites Gap circle we were enjoying bring pursued by two large dogs. The dogs weren´t dangerous; they were just enjoying the chase. With our adrenalin pumping, we were trying to out race the competitive dogs. As our mad dash increased, a faint bumping sound could be heard coming from the front finder of my bike and with every rotation the sound grew louder.

Suddenly the knot in the rope grabbed the front fender twisting it underneath the bicycle frame and abruptly locking the front wheel. The ill-fated bicycle and I quickly became air born. After completing two terrifying summersaults with the air born bicycle and not wanting to land on the disfigured metal frame, I closed my eyes and released the death grip on the handlebars. At that point in slow motion time the bicycle and I parted ways. There wasn´t any mercy in the jagged graves as I landed face first on the road. I was sliding face down on the painful gravel pavement feeling the flesh being ripped from my body. The agonizing sliding finally came to a painful stopped and my bloody and tattered body lay limp on the merciless pavement.

The dogs quickly lost interest and hardheartedly loped back down the road. Randall quickly circled back and was now staring down at a mangled body lying on the blood smeared gravel road. After regaining my breath from being slammed down onto the pavement, I painfully rolled over and sat up. I sat there in unbelief and watched loose boldly grave fall from my tattered body. Agony was just a word but the pain was for real. The smell of a freshly graveled road brings back a memory of excruciating pain. That little adventure cost me a bicycle, a slight concussion, a broken nose and excessive skin loss.

The Three Amigos

With predictable excitement, we finally moved back to Midway but my best friends were gone. They were now living in a boy´s dream world near Piedmont, Alabama. A gigantic one hundred and fifty acre dairy farm bordered by Tarpin creek was now Randall and Ronald´s new home. A week during the Christmas holidays and several weeks in the summer found me hanging out with my best friends and back to being the three amigos.

Their huge faded red wooden barn with its arched tin roof silently teased the three boys into playing in its loft filled with hundreds of bails of hay. The hot and dusty loft was reluctantly shared with a feared rival of every farm boy, red wasp. On the underside of the barn rafters, were larger wasp nest occupied by scores of quick tempered red wasp and genie wasp. When the nest was accidentally threatened or disturbed, hordes of angry wasp would immediately fly into the air in search of the unfortunate victims. Painful stings from multiple wasps were unavoidable unless we made a swift exit from the barn. Their large pastures could be quickly transformed into a football field or a baseball diamond by specific placement feed sacks. Hours of fun and unsuccessful arguments over sport technicalities filled the cow chip littered fields. Life treated us good.

Our Swimming Hole

Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn would have been envious of the endless hours of adventure the three amigos spent on the banks of Tarpin Creek. Unless registered as a river, any permanent flowing stream of water wider than five feet was considered a creek. A stream less than five feet is called a branch. On hot summer days, a borrowed watermelon from an unknowing farmer‘s melon field would carefully be carried to our favorite swimming hole. After being securely placed in the running water of the creek shoals to obtain the coolest of temperatures, it patiently waited for three tired and hungry boys returning from their water adventures. Eager hands would empted its cool mouth-watering contents and the remainder of the watermelon would be generously given to the boys´ respected enemy, the notorious yellow jackets.

After our expectations of large stringers of huge trophy fish gradually fade away we would go into the cool water at our favorite swimming hole . When a specific location in the stream that is adequately deep and sufficiently large enough to support our home made apparatus and numerous water activities it is designated as an official swimming hole. A normal swimming hole usually supports a rope swing, a primitive diving platform and the notorious Alabama high dive.

A gigantic hardwood tree leaning over the water basin and supporting a large rope swing dangling from one of its lofty limbs could provided hours of fun for the three amigos. With the rope tightly grasp in both hands, we would sprinting down the slippery dirt bank and sailing far above the ground into the air over the deep blue water. At the precisely chosen moment, we would release our grip on the knotted cord and then attempt a body disfiguring summersault before awkward plummeted into the cool water. Plunging into the cool creek water from our new tree swing was much more forgiving than the bone cracker I had created earlier.

The Alabama high dive is not for the weak at heart. Half rotten boards were loosely nailed to a tall tree leaning over the deep water hole. The unstable wooden steps haphazardly snaked up to a small wooden platform or a designated jumping limb at the highest point on the tree. The horror began as you were desperately trying not to fall to your early death while frantically holding onto the now slippery boards half way up the suicide ladder. After finally reaching the small sky high platform with your heart stuck in your throat, the fear of jumping into the now incredibly small body of water terrifies you. If you jump and missed the now little bitty pool of water, your young body would be splattered on the dirt bank. If only you could cowardly climb back down the dangerous steps with out falling, the humiliation and harassment would be unbearable. The Alabama high dive was the place for a boy to show his courage or his stupidity. Both are the same. All you can do now is to close your eyes and jump!

The snakes were plentiful along the wooded banks of the stream but were ignored by the three ruffians. If a foolish snake was spotted lying in the area when we arrived at the swimming hole, it was instantly targeted with a shower rocks. Under the hail of rocks the snake made one of three choices. One was to cowardly flee down stream. Two was to foolishly lay there with its fangs bravely extended and get slaughtered by the incoming rocks. Three was to quickly and quietly slip into the deep concealing water. If we saw the snake selected number three it the entire swimming hole belonged to the snake that day.

One morning a cotton mouth water moccasin heard this bunch of juveniles walking on the path to the swimming area. The deadly water moccasin got its name from the cotton white color of the interior of its mouth. It can be seen only when it attempts to strike its victim. The clever snake quickly slid into the deep concealing water.

Being first to diving in the deep water, Randall yelled “I´ve been snake bit’! His complaining about being bitten to his uncompassionate associates was taken lightly. Finally after all of his whining, we gave in and examined the two puncture marks on his right calf. Ronald and I quickly determined it to be the results of a thorn bush trapped under the water. Randall finally resigned to his fate after his periodic complaints of pain were ignored by his unconcerned associates.

Late that afternoon, we scrambled out the swimming area exhausted and lay on the warm bank of the stream. Randall´s leg had now blue with bloody seeping from the two puncture wounds. After listening to him complaining all day, there was finally some concern and compassion from his buddies. The long walk back to the house brought more complaining and more sympathy. After carefully inspected the wound, his mother responded “It looks like a snake bite but if you were going to die, you would have be done it by now. Sympathy was in short supply for Randall that day.

Bee Tree on a Rail Road Track

The excitement was so thick it could be cut with a butter knife. Our enthusiasm was due to a bee tree being discovered earlier that week near Tarpin creek. Defended by thousands of stinging bees, the large oak tree held a bounty of fresh honey and we were going to collect it. Our plan was to cut down the tree, remove the fresh honey from the hollow hive and not get stung. Extracting the honey guarded by thousands of irritated bees is tricky business but with our “know it all’ personalities we knew we could do it. What could go wrong?

Loaded down with a heavy double bit ax, a cumbersome army jacket, stiff leather gloves, a metal screen face shield, an old tattered leather hat, a roll of duck tape, a rusty bee smoker, a large dish pan and three big egos; this band of gypsies headed for the reward of the honey tree. Only these three stubborn boys were foolish enough to carry that huge collection of equipment three miles down the road, across a creek and up a slick leaf covered hill to a huge tree occupied by a huge swarm stinging bees. Our appearance was that of a group of transits carrying their huge bundle of junk down the highway. After walking down the long road and finally reached our destination we collapsed exhausted under a large shade tree bank of the creek.A shoal is the shallow part of the creek where the water is shallow but much swifter and treacherous. Sitting down beside the shallow shoals in the creek we removed our tennis shoes, socks and rolled up our trouser legs. The cumbersome equipment was quickly rolled into three bulky bundles. Successfully cross the creek with dry equipment would be a challenge in its self. While trying to balance the bundles on our heads, we made a disastrous attempt to cross the shallow shoals. The three “I know what I am doing’ boys successfully crossing the fast moving water over slippery rocks was impossible. When the trio entered the swift water, we had the appearance of an African safari crossing a jungle river in an old Tarzan movie. What are the odds of the three now not so intelligent boys successfully crossing the creek while trying to balance the heavy loads on their heads and stepping on slippery rock? Zero! Randall almost made it. I got only three quarters of the way. But Ronald didn´t go four good steps until he and his bundle toppled into the swift water. After chasing down the now wet gear and climbing out of the stream, we hurried across the dangerous railroad tracks. The railroad crossing was in a treacherous curve and the fast moving train couldn´t be seen until it was too late. After dragging the wet equipment up the eight foot high dirt embankment and then up the steep slippery leaf covered hill, we finally arrived at our prized bee tree. We were now totally exhausted.There are two types of bees in Alabama, the gentler yellow or Italian bees and the aggressive black or German bees. Guess which one these were. To calm down bees, they must be exposed to cool white smoke. In nature´s protective mode if a bee smells smoke they think the hive is on fire. To survive the building of a new hive, they fill their tiny stomachs with honey. With a full tummy, the workers bees aren´t flexible enough to bend their abdomen and extend their stinger. A bee smoker is a metal can with a comb shape nose cover. In the container a small fire was built and the smoke is then funneled out a hole in the top. Our bee smoker with a large hole in the side produced more smoke in our faces than at the bees. Attempting to use our smoker was useless. With the smoke boiling out of the hole in the side, ours eyes quickly turned a stinging red. Because the hive was so high up in the tree, our next not so intelligent thing to do was build a small smoky fire directly underneath the hive. With an arm load of sticks and leaves we built a fire directly underneath the entrance. What about the bees flying around the tree? Circling the tree with a big smoky fire would do the trick.When the monstrous cloud of smoke finally cleared and we had extinguished the blazing fire burning on the tree, our next task was to cut down the tree. The old popular tree was three feet across at the base and hollow all the way to the top. Next we encased Ronald in the wet and cumbersome army field jacket, stiff leather gloves, the metal screen face shield, the floppy leather hat and taped all of the possible entrances with duck tape. From previous experience with yellow jackets we knew bees would be pour out of the entrance searching for something to sting, just as soon as the first ax blow hit the tree. After we suited Ronald up, Randall and I ran to a safe distance. Because of the wet cumbersome clothing and swing the heavy ax, Ronald soon over heated and had to stop. He staggered up the hill and fell over. The hot and heavy equipment was quickly removed. I was the next victim. It wasn´t long until I was staggering up the hill all hot and sweaty. Now it´s Randall´s turn.

Randall had a better idea. He said it was too hot with all of that equipment on so why don´t we take our chances with the bees. If they attack, we can run down the hill to escape them. Apparently all of the smoke had made the bees sick because they never came down to where we were. When the last cut was made and three tired boys being pushing, the tree finally came crashing down. It smacked to the ground loud thud and then bounced into the air. As if blasted from a cannon, the tree quickly shot down the slick leaf covered hill, over the dirt embankment and then finally came to a stop in the center of the railroad track. I don´t know if it was all of the smoke or the sudden jolt and wild ride down the hill but the bees just lay there in shock.

Frantically we ran down the hill, over the embankment and onto the tree cluttered railroad track. Now panicking we expected the killer train to round the curve at any second. The terrified boys were cutting and pulling limbs as if their life depended on it. If they got caught on the tracks by the train, it did.

Finally the clutter of limbs and branches were off the track and wouldn´t derail the train. We lay there exhausted. The headlines in the Anniston Star would have read “Hundreds killed by derailed train in Piedmont, Alabama. Three boys were arrested and given a life sentence for foolishly cutting a bee tree down across a train track.’

When we had finally recovered, the bee hive was opened and enough honey was removed to fill a large dish pan. The sweet nectar, we carried to the shade under a large tree. Dog-tired from the morning activity we leaning back against the tree and ate our fill of the warm honey.

To pooped to walk down to the shoals and swimming the creek being an irresistible invitation, Ronald and I slung all of our equipment into the creek and dove in. The cool water felt so good. Because Randall didn‘t have the opportunity to wear the hot bee suit, he was assigned the heavy double bit ax to bring across the deep creek. Have you ever seen some one try to swim with a heavy double bitted ax? It is almost impossible. It was a miracle he didn´t cut his leg off or drowned. Ronald and I patiently sat on the opposite bank waiting and watching Randall. Randall would systematically sink under the water and then bobbed up again as he struggled to swim across the deep creek. Finally struggling upon the creek bank the half drowned Randall fell exhausted on the muddy ground. After catching his breath, he propped back on a tree with his two not so loyal comrades. The reminder of the day was spent swimming, swinging on the tree swing and eating honey. Worn out form cutting the tree and playing in the water we started the long trip back home.

In anticipation of a large crop of honey, Mrs. Hancock had the fruit jars cleaned and waiting on the kitchen table. The back door swung opened and in wondered the three sugar high boys with an empty dish pan.

Coon in a Tree

Lady Luck smiled down on the three boys when their dad´s tractor tire went flat. Tucked inside the deflated tire was a prized red rubber inter-tube. The industrial world had progressed from using the flexible red rubber to the more ridged black rubber for inter-tubes. Because if it´s flexibility, the red tube was excellent for making flips.

A flip is a Y shaped hickory tree branch with a two rubber strips secured to the tops of the Y with cotton twine. The strips are one inch ribbons of elastic rubber twelve inches long. A leather pouch is attached to the opposite end of the two strips and a smooth round stone is tucked inside. As the pocket containing a rock was draw back from the flip handle, the two rubber bands were stretched to their limits. As the pouch was released, the strips quickly retracted and propels the rock flying through the air.

Armed with our new flips, Randall, Ronald and I were scouting the banks of the creek searching for possible targets. An unknown object huddled between the forks high in a hickory tree caught Ronald´s keen eye. A large raccoon had rolled up in a big ball and was trying not to be detected by the three ruffians. We had found our target!

Lobbing rocks in the direction of the frightened raccoon with our flips quickly turned into a game. Our frightened victim desperately tried to ward of the flurry of blows by curling up into an even tighter ball. We continued pelting it with rocks. It wasn´t our intention to harm the animal. We wanted to just aggravate it enough until it came down. Ronald wanted a pet raccoon.

All things have their limits and the raccoon had finally reached his. The provoked animal suddenly turned and looked angrily down at us. Now making a growling sound it quickly began backing down the tree. Thinking this was funny; we continued lobbing rocks at the creature. When it got closer, I realized we had made the coon mad. It was furious. Ronald proudly proclaimed “That coon is mine and don´t y´all touch it’. Aware of the raccoon´s new attitude, Randall and I quickly back away and I said’ “It is all yours’. Ronald learned something that day. Things didn´t turn out like he expected. Grabbing that coon was like trying to throw a bobcat into the water. It´s not going to happen.

When the enraged raccoon was at arms length, foolish Ronald reached up and grabbed it. Suddenly with all of its furry, the raccoon grabbed Ronald! Biting and scratching, it latched onto Ronald s left arm and wouldn´t let go. It was now impossible for Ronald to release the ball of firry When Ronald grabbed the raccoon with his right hand to pull it off his left arm the animal would instantly latch on to his right arm. When he reached with his left hand to remove the raccoon from his right arm, it would latch onto his left arm. Ronald was now desperately screaming for help but sure wasn´t getting any from his cowardly buddies. Randall and I weren´t getting near that crazed animal. Luckily for Ronald, during this one sided struggle he and the raccoon fell into the creek. The cold water shocked the animal into releasing Ronald and it swam back to the creek bank. Randall and I gave the now respected raccoon plenty of room. Scratched and bitten, Ronald eventually climbed out of the creek and back on the creek bank. On that day, Ronald lost all of his desire to own a pet raccoon.

The Magic in a Small Box

Late at night as a summer breeze whispered through my open bedroom window, a small white AM radio would be filling my room with the sounds of distant and imaginary places. The enjoyable music was flowing from my own magical box that transported this troubled teenage boy´s imagination into a whole new world. With the assistance of the copper wire antenna strung between my wooden bed posts, the soothing voice of Casey Casom could be heard broadcasting the top one hundred hit recordings from the big city of Chicago, Illinois. The Beatles, a new musical group from England, had dethroned Elvis Presley, the king of rock and roll. Their radical music and long hair style had launched the teenager´s world into a frenzy. The Beach Boys tautened me into dreaming of the surfer´s beaches and those beautiful California girls. Roy Orbison gave this young man hope with his song “Pretty Woman.’ Trying desperately to harmonize with Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons almost ruined my voice. Ray Charles would be singing those slow southern blues. The gravely voice of Louie Armstrong was magical. One sad day the music died. Buddy Holly standing on stage with his black rimed plastic glasses, strumming his guitar and singing “Peggy Sue’ was gone. The music of the sixties made life more bearable for this confused teenager. Life is the poorest of instructors. It gives you the answers then teaches you the question.

Hitch Hiking

The smell of fresh cut grass on a hot summer day reminds me of wearily standing on a football practice field with salty sweat trickling down my back and aching body. Mother didn´t approve of me being involved in high school football because of the fear of me getting hurt or crippled. Her council was right and wrong. I did get hurt but I wasn´t made a cripple. A well placed football helmet to the right knee ended my dreams of being the new Joe Namath and playing for the legendary Bear Bryant.

During spring training, I would ride the bus to school and hitch hike home in the afternoons. If my luck was good and the wind was just right, I could hitch a ride back home. On other times it was a long nine mile walk along highway two seventy eight. My egotistical foot ball coach reassuring me that the walk would build leg strength. If I sprinting part of the way that would even be better fell on deaf ears. With him comfortably seated in his new Cherokee Jeep the school had just purchased, I wasn´t impressed by his one sided counsel.

Hitch hiking was done by wishfully stand on the shoulder of the road with the right thumb horizontally extended. If you haven´t the appearance of a serial killer, sometimes the driver of the vehicle would have mercy and provide transportation to your destination. My new independence prompted hitch rides more than I should have. This practice is an extremely dangerous gamble. There are a lot of crazies out there. I always made sure there was a door handle and a window knob on the rider´s side of the car. Without these critical devices, my quick and easy escape would be impossible. Always get a good look at the occupants in the car. Do they appear to have just escape from the mental ward? Most of all listen to the little voice inside you. My hitch hiking was done more than 40 years ago and this foolish practice should NEVER EVER be considered.

I have accepted rides with a variety of interesting and unusual characters. My most unusual trip was with a hilarious guy whose back seat was filled with stolen hub caps. Another time, I refused a ride with an odd looking older man that had no door handle or window knobs on the passengers´ side of the car. The little voice inside me whispered “don´t get into the car!’ and I didn´t. The most exciting trip I ever had was in the back seat of a red Plymouth Road Runner.

Red Hot Road Runner

Following football practice one afternoon, the dog-tired Mister Independent was patiently waiting in front of Godfrey´s Grocery on highway two seventy eight and hoping for a quick ride home. Football practice had been demanding and I was too exhausted for the long walk home. I was standing beside the road, with my thumb extended and desperately needed a ride. The beautiful red blur of a Plymouth Road Runner came sailing down the highway much too fast to give this exhausted pilgrim a ride. This awesome car was one the fastest on the highway and its overwhelming quickness and speed was incredible. What an honor it would be to ride in that car and especially for the bragging rights I would have at school the next aay.

As it drew closer, suddenly its tires began squealing to a halt and the incredible racing machine swerved off the road. The powerful thundering machine came to a stopped directly in front of me and being a teenage boy, I was awed by this incredible automobile. The throbbing of its high speed cam could be heard over the blasting of the radio´s radio. The two full of life young men enthusiastically welcomed me into their beautiful car. Foolishly ignoring my previous precautions and the little warning voice, I hurriedly opening the rear door and hopped in. With its wide back tires squealing and black smoke boiling off of the now hot pavement, the muscle car quickly pulled back into the road and sped down the highway.

The energetic duo´s chatter and laughter quickly capture my attention I carelessly relaxed and was now totally enjoying my ride in a car that most young man could only dream of. I had forgotten another precaution. Never ever relax while in a strange car with an unknown person or persons. People have wound up dead because of that. A singing group, The Beach Boys had mesmerized young men all over the world with their songs of the California beaches and beautiful surfer girls. From the duos´ conversation I knew these two untamed spirits had definitely been mesmerized. The two young men, David and James were on their way to living every boys dream. Their unstoppable quest was to surf the incredible waves and watch the beautiful girls on the California beaches.

When the car swiftly turned into a local convince store, David turned to me and said “We need to make a quick stop.’ A friend of mine´s parents owned and operated the little mom and pop store. Gary worked there after school and on weekends. James, the tall and lanky one, jumped out of the car and quickly disappeared into the store. I was peering out the window and searching for Gary. I desperately wanted him to see me in this incredible car. Suddenly James bolted out of the store with a hand full of money, leaped into the car and the two bandits with an unknowing accomplish sped away.

The James had just robbed the store! How could I have been so stupid? I had suddenly gotten my self into something that was almost impossible to get out of and I was scared. As the driver recklessly accelerated down the highway, the powerful car seemed to be floating on air. If I don´t get killed in a car wreck with these two idiots, I will go to jail for robbing a store. My life had seemed suddenly to have a turn for the worst.

After finally regaining my composure and trying to hide my fear, I leaned over the front seat and said “David, I lived down the road and you could let me out now.’ Swiftly he swerved the car to the side of the road and stopped. Graciously thanking them for the thrilling ride I told them remember me when they reached California. The two friendly bandits waved as they quickly sped away.

Apparently David and James had stolen the car and I certainly knew how they were paying for their trip. To my knowledge, the two young outlaws were never caught. An envious smile comes over my face when I think about David and James lying on the sunny California beaches and watching those gorgeous California girls.

Falling off a Turnip truck

After thinking about joining the military, I boldly strolled into the Army recruiter‘s office in Gadsden, Alabama. The posters of the soldiers on the wall were impressive and now almost intimidating. In high school, I had seriously considered a military career. It would be my only ticket out of this one horse town. The term one horse town refers to a very small community with out any potential growth. While sitting at his desk, the Army recruiter looked up and smiled at me as I walked in. Responding to his “May I help you, Son,’ I told him of being impressed the previous year by an Army Ranger and my desire to be one. He acknowledged that the Army Rangers were the cream of the crop of the military and accepted only the best young men. Followed by a quick visually examination he stated “You appear to be in good physical condition“. I should be because of all of the walking I had done after football practice. He continued “All you need now is to successfully complete a written test to be on your way to an exciting military career “.

A test paper was quickly retrieved from a filing cabinet and laid on his desk top. With one hand on back of the chair, he politely pulled it out and encouraged me to sit at his desk. In a devious voice he whispered “The answers to the test are in my unlocked top desk drawer. I am going to get a cup of coffee. I´ll be back in about an hour to see how well you did’. Filled with the assurance of completing his recruitment quota, the sergeant casually walked out of the office and closed the door behind him.

Upon examining the test, I quickly realized that an illiterate six grader could have passed it. Why was the sergeant so desperate for a new recruit? Did he think I had just fallen off a turnip truck? I scratched out my name and quickly walked out of his office. If something seems too good to be true then it usually is.

The Gorgeous Red Head

After graduation from Hokes Bluff High School, I found a job as a stock boy at a local grocery store named Jitney Jungle. With the first check was forty dollars for a weeks work. After cashing my check, I purchased a dozen donuts and a gallon of milk. While sitting down on a bench, I ate five donuts and drink half of the milk; I had finally eaten all of the donuts and drank all of the milk I had always dreamed of. Later that year, I purchased a new 1965Ford Mustang for one thousand nine hundred and eight two dollars. It´s worth twenty times that much now!

Late December found me standing in front of Whites Gap Baptist Church anticipating the possibility of meeting girls at the Christmas tree decorating party. Mother told earlier there would be several pretty young women at church that night. I think she just wanted me to go to church. When I walked into the building, I saw this stunning red head young woman with a pink shirt and burgundy plaid pants standing on a stepladder placing Christmas ornaments on the tree. She was so beautiful that I was embarrassed when she caught my self staring at her. Her beauty was breath taking. I couldn´t believe it. That little freckled girl named Sara from ten years earlier had grown up to be this stunning red head. She was too pretty to talk to me so I just hung out with every one else.

That Sunday, I needed a pretty girl to go cruising with me to impress my friends. When young people would drive their cars continuously through town, it was called cruising. Jane had a talked with Sara earlier and Sara´s only plans were to stay at home that afternoon. Nervously debating back and forth, I finally built up enough courage to call her. Stumbling, mumbling and fumbling, I finally ask if she would like to go cruising in Piedmont. To my total surprise, she said “Yes.’ I discovered later that all Sara wanted was to have somewhere to go that afternoon. Sara had always wanted to ride in a new Mustang and I was just part of the package.

When I went to pick her up, I was as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Proudly I walked her from her house to the car. While cruising through Piedmont, we stopped at the Dairy Queen for a peanut butter milk shake. Later a red light had stopped us in front of the old cotton mill. Leisurely opened the car door, Sara set her empty milkshake cup onto vacant street. Very abruptly I advise her “Pick up the cup.’ She glanced over at me with a questioning look. Now responding more gently I said “look behind us’. The local police car was in my rear view mirror and he didn´t look happy. The car door slowly open, the cup quickly retrieved and we slowly drove on. When we drove in her yard and after a little light talk, she quickly turned and walked into the house. I had no idea how this stunningly young woman was going to spin my world around.

That following Wednesday night I made a special effort to attend church. I was intrigued by this mysterious young woman who wasn‘t interested in me. All the youth were sitting on the right side of the church, just talking and being social. Being unsure of where I stood in the eyes of Sara, I sat on the left side of the church. Sara glanced over at me, smiled and asked me to sit with them. My prayer had been answered. This beautiful young woman wanted me to join in with her group of friends.

After the service, I invited her to the Rocket drive-in for a soft drink. The drive-in was a fast food place where customers parked their cars under a shelter at the restaurant. The food was ordered through a speaker system and then brought to your car by a car hop. After lunch we cruised through town and I reluctantly carried her back to her home. Nervously I walked her to the door. In the small talk at her front door, Sara said she had a nice time and then walked into the house. No kiss again. What was wrong with me? I made a plan. That next Saturday I would ask her to go to Nocalula Falls with the intentions of stealing a kiss. Still no kiss!! This evasive girl was melting my heart.

The next Friday night, I asked her to a football game. I glanced around and saw people looking at this gorgeous young woman walking with me. We talked during the game. On the trip home Roy Orbison was singing on the car radio “Pretty Woman’ and Sara certainly was such a pretty woman. I leaned over and kissed her. Thank you Roy Orbison for making her fall in love with me! After that first kiss I knew I was in trouble because I had hopeless fallen in love with her.

Brainless before the Judge

What do you mean the blood test isn´t ready? We were to be married this afternoon. Earlier the previous week Sara and I had taken our physicals and blood test but they wouldn´t be back until the following week. What can we do? Talladega was then known as the Las Vegas of Alabama. A couple can get the blood test and marriage license in the same day.

The Talladega´s court house presented itself as an old southern building from the 1850´s. The massive oak trees hanging over the historical brick structure gave it the grandeur of something from the movie “Gone with the Wind.’ When first seeing the structure, I expected to see Scarlet O´ Hara and Ret Butler standing on the front steps. The judge´s secretary sent us across the street for new blood test and physical. The process consisted of paying forty dollars for the doctor signature on a portion of the marriage form. Our next step was petitioning the judge for his signature.

Respectfully standing before a big man sitting behind a wooden desk, I handed the judge our marriage form. “I will be glad to sign this for you.’ he stated. “But I need proof you are 21 years old. May I see your driver´s license?’ Houston, we have a problem. I wasn´t 21. As if he hadn´t heard this one before, I foolishly said “I didn´t bring my driver´s license.’ The judge then gave me a disapproving glance. He must have thought that I was as dumb as a box of rocks. Then with a smile he said “With out proof there will be no marriage license issued today.’ Quickly thinking, I responded, “I can call my Dad and he will tell you I am 21.’ This was another brainless blunder. Dad didn´t know to tell the judge I was 21. The Judge handed me his phone and daringly said “Call Him.’ I dialed Dad and handed the phone back to the judge. The Judge asked Dad how old I was and he said “Larry is nineteen years old.’ After a moment of deafening silence, the irritated judge then asked him “Will you come down to the courthouse and sign for your son to get married.’ Dad quickly responded “YES.’

In about an hour, Mother and Dad drove into the court house parking lot in their little blue Studebaker Nash car. The judge wasn´t as trusting as before. “For proof of who you are, he asked “I want to see your drivers license Mr. Dixon.’ Through it all the judge had a hidden a good sense of humor. I am sure he has seen and heard it all. At the close of the exciting and hectic day, your beautiful mother wearing a lovely white dress and I were marred by Crook Bradley in Jacksonville, Alabama on the 26 of March, 1966. This is one of the two happiest days of my life. Your birth was the other.

But I don't want to go now.

From the President of the United States.
Greetings, You are here by ordered to report to-----!!

In 1967, the war in Viet Nam was escalating and President Johnson had ordered an additional 100,000 troops to support the military effort. Like other married young men, I had just received my draft notice to be inducted into the military. I felt it was my military duty but there was one problem. We had recently discovered Sara was pregnant. Leaving her and our unborn child was a heart breaking.

Reluctantly I walked into the selective service department of the federal building. There an Army sergeant was quietly setting behind his desk and shuffling some papers. . I politely walked up to him and respectfully said’ My name is Larry Dixon and I am to leave for Fort Benning next Monday’. With out looking up, he shuffled through more papers and then agreed. Now laying the bundle of papers on the desk he raised his head and asks “What can help you with.’ I responded “My wife needs military identification papers so she can began seeing a doctor at Fort McClellan.’ Curiously he looked at me and asks “Why.’ I replied “She is pregnant. He said “What? “ I repeated “she is pregnant. We are having a baby. With a smile on his face he said “Well congratulations young man and by the way we are not drafting men with children’. After handing me a form and he told me to fill it out and mail it back to him. I cheerful responded “Thank you very much, Sir.’ I received questionnaires each month until your birth then I was classified 4Household. Because of the war I lost several close friends.

Piedmont Hospital

Wondering around in the waiting room like a little lost puppy, I was worried about my Sara. Earlier I was sitting by her bed side in the hospital room but they had asked me to leave. Because Piedmont hospital was so small, the only Doctor hadn´t arrived, the nurses were doing all they could to comfort her. Sara´s mother and my mother were sitting in a corner of the hospital waiting room softly whispering. While standing outside the building, our dad´s were smoking a cigarette and seriously discussing the critical situation. I walked back and forth for what seemed like an eternity when sudden I heard a baby crying. A nurse opened the waiting room door and said “Isn´t it beautiful to hear your baby crying.’


Looking Back

While sitting here reminiscing about all of the events in my childhood it brings me to the feelings that I have about life. Life and its complications can be best described in this simple story. There was a cowboy who had asked an attractive young woman for a dance. During the dance he was fascinated by her charm and loveliness but unfortunately fell very much in love with her. When the dance was over the beautiful young woman thanked him and then politely walked away. Leaving him standing there destroyed all of his hopes and dreams he wanted to share with her. With his heart broken he thought “How foolish it was of him. If I hadn´t of asked her for a dance then my heart wouldn´t be aching.’ Then he remembered what a wonderful moment it was while dancing with her. He thought to himself “Our life is better left to chance. I could have missed the pain but I would have missed the dance.’

Growing up when and where I did in history was an adventure in its self. Life can be a merry-go-round or a roller coaster. A merry-go-round rotates round and round with the little wooden horse going up and down. There is no excitement or thrill and you get off right back where you started. But the roller coaster is a whole different ball game. It´s about as exciting as a tornado in a trailer park. You know that it is going to be a wild and crazy ride when they strap you into the coaster car. The car starts out slow and creeps at a snails pace until it finally reach the top. Suddenly the metal tracks drops straight downward and the car plunges down through the curves, swerves, and loops of the unrelenting metal mountain. The wind is disfiguring your face as the roller coaster roars down the metal tracks at an incredible speed, One minute you are screaming from fear and the next you are laughing with joy. Your body is being jerked and slung right and left from the unbelievable speed and force of the coaster. Mentally you reach the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. When the coaster finally slows to a stop you think Wow! What a ride! Looking back, my life has been a wonderful roller coaster.

Lost Memories

Being too busy making a living and not taking the time to enjoying my little family, I lost all of the irreplaceable memories of my little girl growing up. Unfortunately my little Mickey Mouse grew up while I wasn´t watching. One day I was tenderly holding you with tears in my eyes. The next I saw you crawling and chewing holes in the sofa with your four new front teeth. The next I saw you sitting in the back seat of our little blue car while playing with your Barbie dolls. The next day I was nervously teaching my teenage daughter how to drive the old white volts wagon she had just bought. The next day I saw my excited young daughter bring a young man home for my approval which she knew she would get. The next day I saw a young mother with a baby of your own.

I will end these stories of my life with a very old poem from an unknown author.
Where are you going?
My little one my little one
Where are you going my baby?
Turn around and you are one
Turn around and you are two
Turn around and you are a young girl
Going out on your own.
Turn around, turn around
Turn around and your are a young girl
With babes of your own.

Thank you for being my daughter.

With much love.
Your Dad

Larry Leon Dixon 2008

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