A Sight Unseen

Hey-Lean Jackson knelt at the edge of the woods wondering what she should do. A car had just parked at the end of the dark dirt road. She watched in silence as a white man and woman emerged from the car, they walked to the back of it and pulled out an object about the size and shape of a large shoe box. Hey-Lean crouched down a little more as she saw the couple reach inside the trunk again and pull out what looked like a shovel and a gunny sack. She knew she’d better stay quiet and just wait.

Hey-Lean Jackson was the oldest of three children, she was ten years old and in the fifth grade. She didn’t have a lot of friends so Hey-Lean spent a lot of time alone in the woods. She’d found a little meadow surrounded by thickets just up the hill from where she lived. There, the grass was silky and cool, she could lie for hours daydreaming about her plans of growing up. Hey-Lean didn’t want to end up living with some white family and helping raise their kids like so many other colored girls did where she lived. Hey-Lean had plans, she wanted to be somebody, she had dreams of becoming a famous writer, a poet maybe. It was in the midst of one of her daydreams that she was awakened by the sound of an approaching car on the gravel road. By now the couple had wrapped the box in the gunny sack and they were making their way further into the woods, they passed almost directly over Hey-Lean but did not notice her, it was getting on near dust. Hey-Lean began to worry that it was close to supper time and her Grandmother would be calling for her to come to dinner soon.

The man took the shovel and began clearing off a spot under Hey-Lean’s favorite Weeping Willow tree, “they’re burying a baby, they’re burying a baby, I know it”. Hey-Lean started moving backwards out of the woods as quietly as she could, they were far enough away that they couldn’t hear her footsteps. Once she got to the road, she read the license plate of their car and then she ran. She ran as fast as she could down that road, her feet barely touching the ground. She arrived home excited and out of breath, bursting into the door. “Gran! Gran! Guess what I saw!”.
“Quiet girl, can’t you see we got company?” Hey-Lean hadn’t noticed Mrs. Jeffreys sitting at the kitchen table. What Hey-Lean had to say would be best kept in the family, she would have to wait. “Sit down and have your supper, whatever you think you need to say can wait”. Hey-Lean ate her dinner but she was bursting at the seams to tell her grandmother what she’d seen. After a while it was obvious Mrs. Jeffreys wasn’t going to leave before it was time for Hey-Lean to go to bed, so that’s what she did.

The next morning Hey-Lean jumped out of bed and ran down to tell her granny about the white people burying the baby in the woods. “Child, I don’t know if we should be getting involved in white folkses business”. Hey-Lean begged and pleaded until Gran agreed to call the police and report what she’d seen.


Backhoe
A backhoe was brought for the dig.

It wasn’t long before the police arrived, they arrived with an ambulance, firetrucks and a tractor-trailer hauling a backhoe. It looked like all the white people in the county had come to Hey-Lean’s house that morning. One of the officers approached Hey-Lean and asked her to show them where the body had been buried. Hey-Lean took them to the spot where she’d last seen the couple, but there was no grave. The men fanned out and began to search for freshly dug ground. At the same time another police car pulled up and Hey-Lean could see the couple being pulled out of the car in handcuffs, the woman was crying. The man sobbing and in shock cried, “I didn’t mean to kill it, it was an accident! You have to believe me, I didn’t mean to do it”. Hey-Lean had seen enough, she ran and hid behind the weeping willow tree, peering around it, yet hoping not to see.

Finally someone yelled out, “We found it!”. The backhoe was brought in and they began digging. Not long after, the make-shift casket was uncovered and taken out of the ground. Carefully, the firemen removed the sack, then they lay the box on the ground, several of them reaching to remove the top at the same time. As the top came off Hey-Lean heard several gasps escape their lips. One of the firemen reached into the box and pulled out the remains, he pulled out the remains of a little puppy, with a portion of its skull crushed in. Hey-Lean later learned that the couple lived on the next road over and had brought the dog to the woods to bury it after the man had accidentally run over the puppy in the driveway. They’d brought the dog to her woods to give it a decent burial. A sad ending to an even sadder story. Hey-Lean never told another sole about what transpired back then until she told me today.

Norfolk State College: The Untold Story

“Big – Bad – Moses – Rose!”
“Da-da-da”
“Big – Bad – Moses – Rose!”
“Da-da-da”
“Big – Bad – Moses – Rose!”
“Da-da-da…”

Oh no, here he comes again, Moses Rose, football star extraordinaire, walking through the quad of the Norfolk State campus singing about his favorite subject, himself.
It was just after Christmas break early in 1972 and Moses Rose was the big man on campus. Before that Jo Jo Bethea held that crown. He doesn’t know it, but he and I were in Phys. Ed. together, but that is the extent of our contact or my knowledge of his short stint on campus. One minute we were in Gym class together, the next thing I knew he was thrilling the crowds at Clemson and later at the Norfolk Scope with the Virginia Squires in the American Basketball Association. But Moses Rose was “Da Man” now and he let everyone within earshot know it by singing that one verse song of his (I won’t repeat it again here).

As far as I and my friends were concerned Rose could have his fame on the football field, we had ours in the ping pong room. We spent morning, noon and night playing table tennis. There was me, Trinidad (Trini), Trinidad #2, Jerome and “Plastic” and a few other names I can’t recall. It is my opinion that there has been someone on campus named Trinidad every year since the early 1960s. Our problem is that we had two Trinis, one was a great table tennis player and the other was a wannabe of the other Trini. Yes, you’ve already guessed it, they were both from the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Trini #1 was small and frail. He was what we called a professional student, when I matriculated in 1971, he had already been in school for six years and from the amount of time he spent in the Student Union building, he could look forward to staying another six or more. I don’t think the other Trini was actually a student, he could be seen working in an office on the upper floors in the building but always found time to make his way down to the basement where the ping pong room was located.

“Plastic” was the only female in the group, well, there was Gwendolyn, but she wasn’t as dedicated as the rest of us, she actually spent some of her time going to class. “Plastic” was a good player though, she had game. The reason we called her Plastic is because of the shiny make-up she always wore, it made her look like a mannequin in a store window. She wore a big afro, red lipstick, had rosy cheeks and was beautiful to boot. Plastic had a really nice personality, I think she was the one who sold me down the river. When I arrived on campus I told everyone I was from Washington, DC. I didn’t see the point in trying to explain that I was from a small little town way out in the country 50 miles away and besides, no one would ever know. Well, it didn’t take long for someone to ask what part of DC I was from, “Southeast”, of course. “Where in Southeast? What street do you live on? I know all about DC, did you go to Spingarn or Ballou?”. Well, that was all that it took, I was sunk. I said I went to Spingarn. “Spingarn? Spingarn? Spingarn is in northeast, Ballou is in southeast. Yeah, you’re from DC, Ha!” From that moment on we were best buddies, she called me “D.C.” and I called her “Plastic”.

The inspiration for our endeavor came one day while we were taking an outdoor break to watch little Trini show off his skills at soccer. Then, from off in the distance you could hear the faint sound approaching…
“Big – Bad – Moses – Rose!”
“Da-da-da…”

Great! Here comes Moses Rose, “That’s right, that’s right, step aside, make way for Moses Rose. Moses Rose is passing through”. For some reason he always referred to himself in the third person. I have to admit, the guy was impressive, built like a brick you-know-what, but in all fairness he was pretty entertaining, you had to like the guy for his self confidence, if nothing else.

It was then that someone spoke up, “Why doesn’t the school have a soccer team? We could all be on the soccer team” (I’d never played soccer in my life). Trini agreed and someone suggested that we just start one up, how hard could it be to start up a soccer team and schedule games, right? That’s how it all got started. The next thing you know we had not only organized a soccer team, we’d put together a chess team (the chess room was directly across the hall from the ping pong room). The student union was built with lots and lots of glass. The walls to each of the rooms in the basement were made of glass, as were the walls to the entrance of the building and the entrance doors. I can’t tell you how many newbies walked right into the walls and doors face first, trying to get into the building. You could just stand at the entrance to the basement and pick out the kids who were going to run into the glass “SMACK!”
So, by the end of that week, we had organized enough people to have a soccer team, a table tennis team, a chess team and a spades (card game) team. The next step was to make some phone calls to other schools to see if they would be interested in organizing representatives from their campuses to compete against us and other schools, yet to be determined.

Before Long we had schedules for traveling from one to school to another. We were the first to travel and first on our list was a visit to Virginia State in Petersburg. I remember that outing like it was yesterday. We all jumped in cars and drove to V.S.U. There must have been at least 10 to 12 of us. It was too cold for soccer so it was just the ping pong, chess and spade teams. We all basically rotated from one team to another so even if it were warm enough for soccer, the head count would have probably been the same. We arrived late Friday night with games scheduled for Saturday morning. The first thing we did was go to the student center and hang out. This was a learning trip if ever there was one. When we arrived at the center, we were met with music and dancing, there was a party going on. In the center of the room was what appeared to be a very intoxicated girl dancing on one of the tables. All she needed was a pole and you would have thought we were in a strip club. I asked someone from the school who the girl was, he said, “Oh, that’s not a girl, she’s a transvestite, a cross dresser”. I’d never seen anyone like that before and it made me realize that I needed to start paying closer attention to who I was talking to. After the party we went to a predetermined dorm and crashed for the night. Oddly enough, directly across the hall was the cross dresser’s dorm room. The noise from across the hall kept us up all night. There were guys in and out of that room all night, all going there for the sole purpose of having their hair braided. In with a fro, 30 minutes later, out wearing braids. We barely got any sleep at all.

The noise must not have affected us because the next day we won three out of four ping pong games, two of four of the chess matches and swept the spades games. It was a very successful outing. Three weeks later V.U. visited our school, but I have only a minute recollection of it. Our next stop was to be Virginia Union. There was a really bad snow storm that weekend so I decided not to go. There were two or three cars battling the elements to get there on that fateful day. I wasn’t able to make that trip, so I only have what I was told to go by. But apparently, the car that Jerome (Alias) and Plastic were in was trying to make it through the blinding snow when it skidded off the road and slid into a guard rail. Neither of them were hurt, so they got out of the car to inspect the damages. They circled the vehicle to see if it was drivable, but as they stood behind it looking it over, another car turned the corner and did exactly what they had done. That car plowed into the rear of their vehicle pinning them between the two bumpers. I was told that Plastic died at the hospital, Jerome had to have one of his legs amputated. I lost a good friend that day, two good friends. I never expected that Jerome would return to school, but he did. I would occasionally see him on crutches making his way to class, but he never came back to the ping pong room.

The school landed in a hot water because of the accident and the fact that it happened while students were participating in unsanctioned athletic events. Ultimately, back then at least, the school was deemed responsible for the students while they were in their care. Needless to say, that no more tournaments took place. I have found no formal record that this incident, or the events leading up to it, ever took place. Of course, I am using aliases to protect the privacy of those who suffered during this tragic time in the school’s history. But the least I can do is memorialize what I know about what took place in writing, here and now.

Ten Plus Two More: The Treasure Revealed

This is Part II maybe you should read Part I first.

*************************************************
“There it is!”, Parlo jumped out of the hole he’d dug and pointed.

– “There what is?”

“What have we been looking for you idiot?”

(Lester, under his breath) “Nobody should call somebody a idiot.”

– “Don’t call me no idiot, I ain’t the one been digging for the past two hours.”

“Alright, you’re not an idiot. The treasure, there’s the treasure. That busted up vase that old man Rosenwald must have buried here.”

– “Who’s old man Rosenwald?”

By now Parlo was visibly getting angry, “Don’t make me repeat myself. Julius Rosenwald, the man who was president of Sears, Roebuck and Co. You know that catalog your folks kept in the outhouse when you were a kid, the one they used to send away for shoes and clothes. That Rosenwald, now do you remember? Old Fleabite Gaskins has been dead almost 50 years but damned if he wasn’t telling the truth.”

– “Oh that guy.”

“Yeah, THAT guy.” Parlo reached down and began pulling out pieces of the broken vase that had been lying buried in the schoolyard for almost 90 years now. “I wonder if the Rosenwald school in Warrenton or Blackwelltown has something buried there too.” A rusted rectangle shaped tin box lay in the rubble, Parlo reached down and picked it up, almost afraid of what he might find inside. The box was coated in some type of wax to keep it sealed. Parlo took out his pocket knife, walked over to the makeshift table they had set up earlier. He sat down on a folding chair and laid the box on the table. Lester came over and said, “Let me get my phone, I want take pictures while you’re opening it, this could be huge.” He took out his phone and started recording. Parlo took out his pocket knife and began cutting around the edge of the box. The seal was really good, you could actually hear a vacuum sound as the box filled with fresh air. Suddenly, the top of the box popped off, it surprised Parlo so much that he dropped the box back onto the table, it lay open before them. Inside the box was nothing but a peace of paper that looked as new as the day it had been written on. “Where’s the treasure? What’s this?! That’s it, a piece of paper. Where’s the treasure everybody said was here???”. This was more an insult to Parlo than anything, “Imagine 90 years ago one of the richest white men in the country coming to this little place and digging a hole and leaving nothing in it but a piece of paper, HA!”. He snatched the paper from the box, looked under it and yelled out again, “WHERE’S THE FREAKIN’ TREASURE!?!”. Parlo unfolded the paper and read the words written there, he read them aloud, “It’s all inside. – j.r.” Parlo was furious by now, “Inside? What the heck does that mean, what’s all inside?”
Lester spoke up, he got it even if Parlo didn’t, “The kids, it’s inside the kids. It’s inside the school. That’s where the treasure is, the world is inside. Our future is inside, that’s what that means. The treasure is the education they got while they were here. The treasure was learning from some of the brightest negro teachers the state had to offer. The treasure was this new building, nothing like they’d ever had before. The experience of being together, playing together. Can you imagine the number of young lives molded right here on these school grounds. Can you imagine how many games of hopscotched were played, how many soft balls were hit, how many knees got skinned. Think of all the PTA meetings, spankings, you name it, it all happened right here. Some of the best teachers taught in this school, Mrs. Hackley, Miss House, Miss Rowe, she got married and became Mrs. Stinson, Mr. Berry, and more. By the way Parlo, that Miss Stinson? she was a good looking lady, pretty. They gave the treasure to the kids and the kids left here and spread it.”


Watching
Parlo and Lester may have allowed their imaginations to run away with them.

Parlo stood mesmerized by what Lester was saying, more like preaching. He’d never heard him speak like this before.

Lester walked over to where the old swing sets used to be then continued on, “They gave these kids the building blocks to become pillars of the community. Teachers, lawyers, principals, business executives, carpenters, brick masons, secretaries, house wives all walked down those steps, Parlo, and on into the mainstream of society, able to stand toe-to-toe with the best America had to offer. They had to use hand-me-down books, desks, chairs, stuffed old rags in cracks to keep out the cold. But they persevered, they made it through, they flourished Parlo. They didn’t let a little thing like segregation keep them down, they didn’t let a little thing like Jim Crow hold them back. They were men and women dammit! They kept going, WE kept going. We don’t need no treasure, we got the treasure (putting his finger to his head), we ARE the treasure (pointing to his heart). Us, the ones they didn’t want around no more after slavery, the ones they thought weren’t no good for nothing. Well let me tell you something… a whole country don’t fight a war over something that ain’t worth nothing. You and I attended this school. We’re old enough to remember how it was. That treasure is IN us, Parlo. We have to believe that, we have to know that down deep inside! Julius Rosenwald knew it, Booker T. Washington knew it, our grand-parents knew it. They invested money, time and labor in it, because they believed it. We know it too and it’s our responsibility to keep the treasure that these schools provided from being squandered. We ought to be able to do that Parlo, we have to do it!”.

Moisture had formed beneath Parlo Silby’s eyes as he’d sat listening to Lester. When he stood slowly to his feet, he wiped the moisture away. He turned and looked at the broken down old schoolhouse he’d attended as a child. After what seemed like minutes, he looked at Lester and said, “Com’on man, let’s get outta here”.

~ The End ~

Historic Schools of Fauquier County, Virginia

Name USGS Topo Map
Bethel School Marshall
Blackwell Town School Midland
Cherry Hill School Linden
Crest Hill School Flint Hill
Fenny Hill School Upperville
Foster Hill School Marshall
Goldvein School Goldvein
Good Hope School Somerville
Hitch School Flint Hill
Hume School Flint Hill
Hurleytown School Warrenton
John Barton Payne High School Remington
Lake Field School Rectortown
Landmark School Middleburg
Litchfield School Remington
Merry School Midland
Midland School Midland
Morgantown School Orlean
Pilgrim Rest School Thoroughfare Gap
Piney Mountain School Jeffersonton
Piney Ridge School Remington
Public School Number 18 Marshall
Rosenwald School Catlett
Rosenwald School Warrenton
Saint Stephens School Catlett
Turkey Run School Catlett
Waterloo School Jeffersonton

Rosenwald Schools (may also be listed above as historic)

Name USGS Topo Map
Rectortown School Rectortown
Routts Hill School Opal
Crest Hill School Flint Hill
Greenville School Greenville
Piney Ridge School Remington
Rosenwald School Catlett
Rosenwald School Warrenton
Morgantown School Orlean


Authors Notes: What I found most interesting when researching Julius Rosenwald, was how little money he actually contributed to most school projects. The bulk of the money came from the community. I was a bit surprised by that.
Click on the Rosenwald school names to see further details about each school. Notice how much money each community raised and how much was contributed by the Rosenwald Fund.

Sources:

Fisk University, 2001, “Fisk University Rosenwald Fund Card File Database”, retrieved 5/22/2015 from http://rosenwald.fisk.edu/

National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2001, “History of the Rosenwald School Program”, retrieved 5/17/2015 from http://www.preservationnation.org/rosenwald/history.html

Place Keeper, 2014, Future Works LLC, retrieved 5/22/2015 from http://www.placekeeper.com/

Virginia Home Town Locator, 2015, “Fauquier County VA Historical Schools”, retrieved 5/22/2015 from http://virginia.hometownlocator.com/features/historical,class,school,scfips,51061.cfm

Wikipedia, 2015, “Julius Rosenwald”, retrieved 5/17/2015 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Rosenwald

Ten Plus Two More: The Legend of the Lost Treasure of Piney Ridge

“Ten plus two more.”

– “What?!”

“Ten plus two more, that’s the answer, ten plus two more!”

– “That’s the answer to what, what the heck are you babbling about?”

“That’s the answer to the question the little boy asked in the story, “The Ransom of Red Chief” by that O. Henry fella. He asked this guy ‘How many does it take to make twelve?’. I read that story last night, I laughed and laughed, but I’m glad I read it now. He was asking a bunch of kid questions and that was one of’em. ‘How many does it take to make twelve?'”

– “How many WHATS does it take to make twelve? You ain’t making no sense. Anyway, this ain’t got nothing to do with what I was talking about, you didn’t let me finish what I was talking ’bout.”

“You ought to try reading sometimes, Lester. How many ANYTHING does it take, that’s what he was asking, how many ‘things’ does it take to make twelve ‘things’. And I just figured out the answer, that’s all.”

– “No thanks, I’ll watch the movie. But I’ll bite. How many DOES it take to make twelve? You’re so smart, I can’t wait to hear this!”

“I just tol’ja, ten plus two. It takes ten plus two more things to make twelve. He was just a little kid see? Look Lester, the kid in the story was only 8 or 9 years old. That means, he probably only knew how to count to ten. This was a long time ago. He probably could only count to ten, so he needed to have things explained in units of ten, something he knew about. So he needed to hear ten plus two more in order to understand how to get all the way to twelve from ten? It’s not like giving directions, you can’t just say ‘you can’t get there from here’. He’s young, he’s looking for answers.”

– “Units of ten? What are you some kind of doctor? Since when did you start speaking in units? Now I gotta find out what a unit is. So it can’t be nine plus three? I don’t get it”.

“No Lester, we’re Americans, Americans count by tens. Everybody counts by ten. That’s the answer we been trying to figure out all this time. OK, lets start over, we were talking about that old wive’s tale legend of the lost treasure, you know, (he cupped his hands over his mouth to make an echo) ‘The Lost Treasure of Piney Ridge’ w-o-o-o-o!”. Then Parlo wriggled his fingers on each side of his face to emphasize how scary it all must be.

– “Yeah, that’s what I was talking about, you were supposed to be just listening”, Lester reminded him.


Watching
Piney Ridge School.

Lester Pinkney and Parlo Silby, both long-time residents of Remington, Virginia, both aging as expected, were standing at the bottom of the old Piney Ridge schoolyard staring at the ground. A pile of fresh dug dirt was about 10 feet behind Lester as they talked Lester would walk over and look at the pile of dirt then walk back and survey the ground again. “It’s got to be here, it just has to”. Parlo walked over and patted Lester on the back, “Look, we know its here, we just haven’t figured out where. Now, you know the story, you’ve heard it a thousand times. It all started way back in the early 1900s when Julius Rosenwald realizing that Negroes weren’t being given a fair shot at getting a good education, collaborated with Booker T. Washington and Tuskegee Institute to build schools for Negroes throughout the south, everybody knows that. This was a shared funding program, Rosenwald’s philanthropic fund provided half of the moneys to construct the schools and teachers homes where needed, the labor and the rest of the funding came from the black community and in some cases the local school board”.

– “OK, OK, move along, you sound like you’re reading from a book or something!”, Lester was getting anxious. “Any self respecting American with one of those schools in their county would already know the history of how those schools came about. Don’t let you tell it, it’ll come out all screwed up. Now get to the good part.”

Parlo continued, “Well we already know that part but, as the legend goes, turns out for some reason old Julius Rosenwald, himself, took a special interest in the Piney Ridge school, the one that was being built in Remington. In 1925, when construction was just getting started on land donated by the Davis family, word got around that Mr. Julius was planning to make a surprise visit to the construction site, just to see how things were going. No one knew when, or even if he’d actually be there so people just started hanging around the property during the day, they wanted to get a glimpse of the man building colored folks schools all over the south. This guy was president of Sears and Roebuck, the same guy they ordered clothes from in the catalog, he was coming to Remington!

Except one fella had heard that Rosenwald was known to show up at all hours of the day or night, even when nobody was there. So what he did was camp out down across the road on what later became “The Government Place”, now known far and wide for spying on foreign embassies and such. Fleabite Gaskins has been dead for 50 years but they say he claimed that one night while he was sleeping in that field, he heard a car drive up. He swore that right at the stroke of midnight he saw a white man get out of the car carrying a shovel and a vase or a urn or something. This man walked directly over to the southwest corner of the building, stood right at the cornerstone. He placed his back against the building so he was facing due west. He stood there in the pitch black for a minute, then started walking straight ahead counting as he went. “One”, “two”, “three” and on and on. When the man got to about eight he went out of sight behind a big oak tree. Fleabite was afraid to move for fear that the man would hear him so he kept still and just listened… “Nine… ten… eleven… twelve”. He stopped at twelve, the next thing he knew, he saw the man’s gray suit coat come flying out from behind the tree and hit the ground and then he heard what sounded like digging. That white man was digging in the school yard, I mean he was going at it. He must a dug deep because he kept at it for a good 30 minutes or more, until Fleabite heard what sounded like the man struggling to climb out of the hole he’d dug. He heard the man filling in the hole, that took a while too. When that was done he came back in view all sweaty and dirty carrying nothing but the shovel. Sweat gleaming in the moonlight, he was so wet. The man got back in his car and left. Fleabite crawled out from under his covers, went over to where he thought the man had been digging but couldn’t see any sign of where the ground had been disturbed, no sign at all. It was like the white man had never been there. And that’s it, that’s the story of how the legend got started. Nobody has been able to find any treasure or any sign of a hole since.”

“Somewhere in this school yard is buried treasure, waiting to be discovered. All anybody has to do to get it is figure out where it is by using the information we already know. They say that some students at Liberty High School in that Bealeton, Virginia made a video of how Piney Ridge school came to be and if you watch that video carefully it shows you exactly where that treasure is. It shows exactly where to find it, all you have to do is watch it, study it, they say.”

Parlo got down on his haunches and started doodling in the dirt as he spoke, “We know he did go 12 paces west, taking about 3 foot strides, according to Fleabite Jenkins or was it Gaskins? We also know that, because of the dimensions of the tree shown in the video, he would have come out on the other side of the oak tree and back into Fleabite’s line of site. So that means we know he didn’t keep walking straight the entire time. He must have turned either north or south somewhere between steps 8 and 12. I say he turned at ten, then took two more steps in a different direction. Ten plus two more, if that’s right Lester, ten plus two more if that’s it. Quick! I got it! Fill all that dirt back in, we should start digging right there!”

Little Naked!

Saturday nights rolled around on Piney Ridge Road and guess what time it was. That’s right, it was bath time! We grew up without the conveniences of an indoor bathroom. Even living under those stark conditions we were well fed and received regular baths. Our mother gave all of us a bath every Saturday night, rain or shine, whether we needed it or not. (I’ll leave it to your imagination as to whether you think we needed it). In keeping with this weekly tradition, there was another even more legendary tradition started during that time. One of my siblings, I’m sworn to secrecy as to which one, became infamous for her shenanigans during this ritual. My mother would announce bath time and begin making preparations for it by bringing in the galvanized steel, round wash tub that sat against the house just outside the back porch door. A foot tub was used to heat water on the stove. This was before we ever thought about getting a water heater. The tub served only two purposes, one: it was used for rinsing clothes on laundry day and two: it was used for the washing of our hindpots every week. (I’ll bet you haven’t heard that used in a while)

The first child in the tub was considered the lucky one because he or she got to use clean water. Everyone else had to share some or all of someone else’s used water. I thought we were unique in reusing bath water until one night about bath time, which happened to be about the time Gunsmoke came on TV. I saw Chester do the same thing. He was itching and scratching so hard from his own stink and dirt that he opted to use the left behind bath water of a total stranger, rather than wait for the barber to clean the tub and add fresh water. Yes, the barber also ran the local bath house in Dodge City. In our case, most often we not only shared tub water but we also shared the tub. There was usually no less than two of us taking a bath at a time during our early years. Luckily, dad added on a bathroom to the house while most of us were still relatively young. Mom would go through the washing routine of each child and save the most difficult job for last, that job was getting Little Naked into the tub.

Why did we call her Little Naked? It’s pretty simple, even though Mom held on to her for dear life with one hand and undressed her with the other, no matter how hard she held on, as soon as the last stitch of clothing came off, Little Naked would squirm and pull and break herself free. And as soon as she did she’d start chasing us around the house, hands flailing wildly and feet going a mile a minute. We were screaming, running, hiding, yelling “Oh No! Here comes Little Naked!” and everyone scattered in all different directions. You couldn’t let Little Naked touch you, she stank too bad by the end of the week and you didn’t want any of it to get on you. So we ran as fast as we could to get away from her. Eventually my mother would catch up with her and wrestle her into the bath tub, but for what seemed like years, we had a heck of a time on Saturday nights trying to get away from little Naked.

Well, that’s the short and sweet of it. I’m sorry I couldn’t divulge the name, and I don’t know where she lives to this day. She left home one day running naked through the woods, yelling and screaming frantically and was never seen again. She ended up somewhere out west I heard, happily married with 8 kids and a dog. I wonder though, do you think she still runs around the house buck naked, chasing her husband and kids on Saturday nights? I can hear them all now, “Oh No! Here comes Little Naked! Here comes Big Little Naked!”

Just Try Your Best to Stay Alive, Please! (Edited Title)


In the day
Police traffic stop, be ready. Photo courtesy of http://www.jamesdavisdefense.com

First, let me preface this tutorial by informing you that I am, by no means, an expert in survival, legal matters or in law enforcement. I’ve simply been around longer than most people and can impart things that you can do that may help get you to stick around longer too.

Recent events have made it blatantly clear that something has gone wrong in America. Maybe things haven’t gone wrong, perhaps they’ve always been wrong and the things we thought had been addressed and corrected were never really and not even nearly resolved.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that he’d been to the mountain top, looked over and had seen the promised land. Many thought that when a black man became president of the United States, this was a good indication that we’d also reached that same plateau, but no. Every time it seems we reach the top of the mountain and look over, all we ever find is another hill to climb.
Let us hope that this primer can make the trek up the latest hill we see before us, just a little less difficult to scale.

Here are a few things we can do if we look in our rear view mirror and see flashing lights approaching……

1). Pull over immediately. If you can’t pull over immediately because of safety concerns or road obstructions, reduce your speed to a crawl anyway. Use hand signals to let the officer know that you are going to pull over further ahead, then slowly proceed to a safe place to park or curb your vehicle.

2). Stay in your vehicle, don’t run (do not run!) or make any sudden moves as the officer approaches.

3). Keep both hands on the steering wheel.

4). Be especially polite in addressing the officer, smile a lot. Try to find an opening to lighten the mood

5). Don’t ask why you are being pulled over. Let the officer tell you why you are being stopped or let him ask you why you THINK you are being stopped.

This part is important

6). If you know why you were pulled over, say so. Admit that you are aware of whatever the infraction is, honesty might just get you off with a warning. Use phrases like, “Yes officer, I noticed my tail light was out this morning and was just on my way to Wal-Mart to have it replaced”
(But only say that if you aren’t driving in the opposite direction of the nearest Wal-Mart).

7). If you don’t know why you are being pulled over, let the officer know that you are unaware of what the problem is. Do not admit guilt to anything that could get you arrested and especially if you are being arrested, I’m not a lawyer and am not trying to provide you with legal advice, but you’ve watched enough cop shows on TV to know this.

8). Be especially polite in addressing the officer, smile (See #4). Studies show that you are somewhat less likely to be killed at a traffic stop if you don’t give anyone any reason, whatsoever, to kill you.

9).Try to form a bond with the officer as quickly as possible. Studies show that you are more likely to survive a traffic stop if you have had a chance to form a bond with the official standing next to your vehicle. Say little things like, “Nice day isn’t it officer”, “I’m trying to get home to my kids/ grandkids/ family and may have lost track of how fast I was going”. Here’s a few I’ve used over the years that emits harmlessness and creates a bond between you and the officer at hand, “Man, I really like the new cruisers you state troopers /county deputies/ town police are driving this year”, “This state has the best looking uniforms, man I’m glad I don’t live in New Jersey” (Sorry New Jersey, your state trooper uniforms and cruisers are terrible).

10). Don’t argue with the police (this is a tough one and one I’ve not always been able to adhere to). Again, do not argue with the police, be polite, if you can’t smile, always be polite, practice saying things like “sir”, “ma’am”, “officer”, “I’m terribly sorry I wasn’t…(fill in the blank)”, be polite.

11). Don’t run, stay in your car until told to exit. Don’t move yourself or your hands toward the officer or his weapons.

12). I admit that I might have a problem with this one, but if he says “Sir, I’m going to have to cuff you for my own protection” (and even though I see no reason why it would need to be done in a routine traffic stop), comply with the officer. Follow all instructions and commands, be submissive (I can’t believe I’m writing this). Do everything you are instructed to do. It’s not always evident, but the way it’s supposed to work is the good guys are the ones with the badges.

If you follow these simple guidelines, you just may live to see another day. Stay safe out there.

This blog post is designed for general information only. The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice of any kind, good luck!

A Good Place to Land

Do you know what the really sad part is? The really sad part is that the story you are about to read is true and the names haven’t even been changed. Remember that old saying before every Dragnet episode? “The names have been changed to protect the innocent”, remember that? Apparently, no one is innocent anymore. See, last weekend I decided to take my truck to the repair shop, the one I’ve been taking it to for the past twenty some years. The shop is only a mile and a half away from my house, so I thought it would be a good idea to drop off the truck, then I’d take a leisurely walk back home. I did that with little or no incident. But while I was walking back home, a motorcycle cop passed by me going in the opposite direction. I nodded politely as he passed, he nodded back and all was good with the world. I’d been home about 3 hours when the shop called to let me know that my truck was ready for pick-up, so I started back on foot to get it. Wouldn’t you know it, that same motorcycle cop came by going in the “other opposite direction”, so I nodded at him again, only this time he didn’t nod back. He just stared intently as he crept by on his Harley. That’s when it hit me! If anything ‘went down’ anywhere near where I was right then, in his mind, I’d be the most likely suspect. There I was, well over 300 pounds, walking down the street in a jogging suit and obviously having no intention of working up a sweat… (Heck, now I’m starting to think I look suspicious.)


Watching
“Just out walking officer, no problem here”.

That’s when I subconsciously began scanning my surroundings. I was looking from the sidewalk to the field for a soft, wet spot that I could get to in a hurry. I was looking for a place to land just in case I was slammed, face first, to the ground, like is happening to so many these days. I wish I were kidding, I began to make plans as to what I should do if that cop pulled up along-side me and started to question me for one reason or another. As I politely answered his questions, with a “Yes sir” and a “No sir”, I’d slowly edge my way off the sidewalk, my plan was starting to come together. Moving so inconspicuously that he would not even notice I was moving away from him inch by inch. The next thing he’d know, I’d be standing in the middle of a grassy field shouting my answers back to him, but by then I’d be in a nice soft place for the inevitable “take down”. It sounds a bit funny, almost laughable, but its a downright dirty shame. It’s easy for those unaffected by this new trend to say things like, “he shouldn’t have resisted”, “all he had to do was do what he was told”. That’s so easy to say if it isn’t you being gripped in a choke-hold, or it isn’t you with a knee on his neck and his arms being forced to go in directions they weren’t intended to go.

But this is an argument that can go either way. I’m pretty open-minded, I’m sure that if I were a cop, I’d have a complete 180 degree take on the whole matter. They do a tough job and make tough decisions, no one can deny that. They have to make tough, split-second decisions, the kind that, once made, can’t be taken back. There are no do-overs for our men in blue, so they have to be right the first time. The take-down is one of those decisions that doesn’t seem to fall into the category of being a tough decision to make. Not if the person being taken down is already in cuffs and under control. At any rate, I shouldn’t expect there to be a possibility of my being slammed to the ground by police during a leisurely stroll down the street. A person driving a red sports car should expect to be pulled over more than most when he or she is just out driving. A black man shouldn’t expect to be thrown to the ground when he’s just out walking, not even if they’re in the wrong. This is still America, isn’t it? If it is and I know it is, something is wrong with this picture.


In the day
This may be too far back, but back in the day you could argue with the police man and not be concerned that he might shoot you.

Back in the 70s I had a few run-ins with the police, for traffic violations. I even argued with the police once or twice, got right up in their face. I once tore up a speeding ticket right in front of the deputy who issued it to me and all he said was that he’d been nothing but polite and that he expected the same from me (and oh by the way, “you’re still responsible for paying the fine, torn up ticket or not”). I even argued with a state trooper once and was so vehement that I hadn’t been speeding he finally admitted that his radar gun may have been off by a mile or two and he let me go. That was back when radar guns were a new thing and their accuracy was still in question. But at no time did he or any other officer “fear for their safety” or I for mine, even if we got into a heated debate. I wouldn’t attempt to argue with the police now, “Just tell me what you need me to do, officer” and I’d then do it. If you comply to all commands you are given, the chances of being body slammed are reduced exponentially. At least that has always been my expectation of what should happen. Otherwise, if I do anything other than comply, I can expect to find my face pressing against the pavement.

But the new catch phrase now seems to be, “I feared for my safety”, and it apparently gives anyone with the most minimal authority the right to do just about anything they want. Security guard: “I slammed the child down in the hallway because I was afraid for my safety” or “I feared for my safety or the safety of others and shot him because it looked like he was reaching for my weapon”. Regular citizens on the street haven’t gotten any tougher than the folks in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, have they? They’re probably a lot softer, but I guess, so have the authorities. I can’t fathom sheriffs like Luther Cox or Sam Hall or deputies like Butler Grant or any of the piece officers from that era saying that they did ANYTHING because they were ‘afraid’. I don’t think the words would have come out of their mouths, they were men Dammit! We’ve got county sheriffs, state troupers, Army Generals, presidents, in front of television cameras crying on a regular basis, what the heck is going on? If someone is going to slam me to the ground, they should say they did it because I came at them, not because they were afraid or in fear. Don’t slam a 300 pound man (or a 90 pound girl, for that matter) to the ground, then claim you did it because you were afraid they were going to hurt you. People in fear go in the opposite direction of that which they fear.

The point is that it’s a terrible reason to use to maim or injure someone, someone who was confronted for “looking suspicious” or may have had a fake ID. Can we please stop the madness, I don’t want to have to look for soft place to land as I walk through my own neighborhood. I know that this is all going to fall on deaf ears. If you aren’t in the demographic of the individuals most likely to experience something like this, then there’s no way I could expect you to get it. You won’t get it, not until you or someone you love is affected by it. Unfortunately, this type of trend tends to spread rather than dissipate, so… I suggest we all start looking for a good place to land.

A Lesson Well Learned


Christmas
Every school boy’s dream, every neighbor’s nightmare

“MICHAEL DID IT! MICHAEL DID IT!” June-bug came running out of the woods as fast as his feet could carry him. He knew somebody was going to be in trouble and it wasn’t going to be him. A few seconds later and quite a bit slower Michael came out holding a Daisy lever action BB gun with the genuine solid wood stock. Michael had a look of shock on his face as if he’d just seen a ghost. He and his cousin June-bug were playing out in the woods that Saturday morning looking for something to shoot with the new BB rifle Michael had gotten just that Christmas before. For some reason there were no squirrels or birds in the trees (they knew better), so Mike and June-bug had to find something else to use for target practice.

Just when they were ready to give up on the whole thing and find something else to do, they saw a truck coming up the dirt road. It was the McClacken brothers. The two brothers were renters on the Bowen property and they drove their truck up and down Piney Ridge Road several times a day. This would turn out to be a bad day to be doing that. Michael perked up, he had an idea. “Watch me shoot the tire when the truck goes by”. He laid on the ground and took up a shooting position, that of a sniper, but before ‘sniper’ was a household word. The truck slowly came up the hill headed for the gate and cattle guard that kept the Bowenses cows in. June-bug watched the truck, turned to watch Michael, then looked back to the truck, “Shoot! Shoot before its too late!” The muffled puff of the BB gun going off could be heard throughout that section of woods. The driver of the truck hit the brakes and the tires skidded to an abrupt stop. A yelp could be heard emanating from the cab. “I been hit!’, the driver put the truck in reverse and the brothers backed up to the Brown driveway, jumped out and approached Michael’s father, who was busy changing spark plugs. His head was under the hood of his car. He could be found in that position most any Saturday, Sundays too. “They shot me”, the bigger of the two brothers came toward Ellsworth, one hand clasping the other for support, tears were flowing down his face. That’s when June-bug came barreling out of the woods proclaiming his innocence.

The other, smaller brother rolled out of the passenger’s side of the truck laughing as loud and as hard as he could, “You got shot in the finger! It was a BB gun, I heard it go off. What are you yelping about?” The younger McClacken stood, bent over laughing while his older sibling winced in pain, showing Ellsworth the spot under his fingernail where he’d been hit. He’d been driving with his elbow on the window sill and his hand resting on the outside top of the window.

Ellsworth looked at the red mark made by the pellet and told Mr. McClacken that if he wanted to go to the emergency room, he could bring the bill back to him for what it cost. Mr. McClacken and his little brother went back to the truck, got in and headed back down the road, you could hear snickering coming from younger brother as they drove out of sight. Ellsworth turned to Michael with his hand out, “Give me that before you shoot somebody’s eye out! What in the world were you thinking about? Don’t ever expect to get this back!” Michael began to explain that he was only trying to hit the tire but his aim was off, he realized he wasn’t helping the situation by making excuses and his words kind of trickled off to nothing. Ellsworth sent Michael into the house and June-bug back to the ridge, play time was over for the day.


Bandaid
Dolphus McClacken came back from the hospital with a bandaid on his finger.

About an hour and a half later, the two brothers pulled back into our driveway and they got out. Young being a relative term, both being at least 35 years old, young McClacken didn’t even let his brother start talking, “They put a band-aid on it! It wasn’t even bleeding!?”. He was getting a real kick out of this whole ordeal. He teased his big brother relentlessly, “They didn’t even charge for the band-aid”. Ellsworth apologized again and assured them that it wouldn’t happen again.

Even though Ellsworth promised Michael that he’d never see his gun again, about a year later he gave it back to him with a stern warning and just as promised, it never happened again. Michael didn’t so much as point that gun at another living creature from that day on. A lesson well learned.

Post Script

This incident happened over 40 years ago when things were much different, for instance:
1) A 13 year old could traipse around the neighborhood pointing a BB gun at anything that moved and no one considered calling the police.
2) The victim went to the boy’s parents to resolve the situation and it was successfully resolved without government intervention.
3) Someone went to the emergency room and was treated without being charged an outrageous fee. Actually, there was no fee charged at all!
4) Race was never an issue in a situation that would have been first viewed from a racially charged perspective, if faced today.

Over the years we seem to have lost the ability to use common sense. We need to get back to letting common sense resolve day to day problems, not the federal and local authorities.