A Lesson Well Learned

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

“FLEABITE DID IT! FLEABITE DID IT!” Bubba came running out of the woods as fast as his little feet could carry him. He knew somebody was going to be in trouble and it wasn’t gonna to be him. A few seconds later (and quite a bit slower) His cousin ‘Bite came out holding a Daisy lever action BB gun, with the genuine solid wood stock. ‘Bite had a look of sheer fright on his face, as if he’d just seen a ghost. He and his cousin had been playing out in the woods that Saturday morning looking for something to shoot with the new BB rifle ‘Bite had gotten just that Christmas before. For some reason there were no squirrels or birds in the trees (they knew better), so Fleabite and Bubba 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. Fleabite perked up, he had an idea. “Watch me shoot the tire when the truck goes by”. He lied down on the ground and took up a shooting posture, 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. Bubba watched the truck, turned to watch his cousin, then he 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 driveway where Fleabite’s family lived. The man jumped out of the truck and ran over to Bite’s father, who was busily changing spark plugs on his Chevrolet Impala station wagon. Mr. Jenkin’s head was under the hood of his car. He could be found in that position most any Saturday evening, Sundays too. “They shot me”, the bigger of the two brothers came toward Lonzo, one hand clasping the other for support, tears were flowing down his face. That’s when Bubba 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 yelling about?” The younger McClacken stood, bent over laughing while his older sibling winced in pain, showing Lonzo 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.

Lonzo Jenkins looked at the red mark made by the pellet and told Mr. McClacken that if he wanted to go to the emergency room at Fauquier Hospital, he could bring the bill back to him for what it cost him. Without uttering another word, 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. Lonzo turned to his son and held his hand out, “Give me that before you shoot somebody’s eye out! What in the world were you thinking? Don’t ever expect to get this back!” Fleabite began explaining 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, so he gave up and let his words kind of trickled off to nothing. Lonzo sent him into the house then he sent Bubba back to the ridge, play time was over for the day.

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. The younger of the McClacken brothers (both being at least 40 years old) 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. You drove from Remington to Warrenton to have a Band-Aid put on your finger”. Lonzo apologized again and assured them that it wouldn’t happen again.

Even though Lonzo promised Fleabite that he’d never see his gun again, about a year later he gave the gun back to him with a stern warning. Just as promised, it never happened again. Fleabite Jenkins didn’t so much as point that thing at another living creature from that time on. As humorous as it may have been to some at the time, what transpired on that fateful day when Fleabite Jenkins decided to recklessly aim his gun in the wrong direction, was a lesson well learned.

Post Script

This incident happened over 40 years ago when things were much different, for instance:
1) A 12 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 most likely 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.

Posted in Country Living | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Back in the Day in Fauquier County, Virginia – 1978

The year was around 1978 and as you can already guess, “those were the good old days”. Everything was simpler then, everything was fun. We enjoyed being around friends and family. We were young and carefree. If you see someone you recognize, please feel free to comment with name and minute mark in video where they appear.

The first scene in this video are from Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock River, just outside of Remington, Virginia and just off Sumerduck Road.
The second segment was filmed at the Interarms Gun Factory in Midland Virginia. We observe an average day, with an equal mixture of hard work and horseplay. The pay wasn’t great but the people were.

Growing Up Colored
Copyright ©1997-2019
All rights reserved

Posted in Country Living | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me

Every time I hear that song by Teddy Pendergrass, “The Whole Town’s Laughing at Me”, it takes me back to 1975 and the weekend a Navy buddy invited me to go back with him to his hometown and spend the weekend. A weekend away from Norfolk and the base was always a welcome change. Spending weekends on base had become the same old same old. All day Friday was used by my friends and I to learn the latest DAP (a fancy way we slapped hands when greeting one another). It was required learning prior to heading to the clubs. Getting the right outfit together was the second most important thing you needed to do. You had to look sharp, no detail was too small to overlook. Finally, my friends and I would head out to one or more of the local clubs, like Batman’s Den or Friar Tuck’s. But a couple of days away from the same old crowd was just what the doctor ordered. So when my buddy invited me to spend the weekend at his home in North Carolina, I quickly agreed.

Working in the control tower day in and day out was extremely stressful, I needed some time away.
Working in the control tower day in and day out was extremely stressful, I needed some time away.

Teddy lived in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. “Teddy”, that wasn’t his real name, we just called him that because he was a dead ringer for Teddy Pendergrass and he took complete advantage of it. I won’t bother to go into detail.

We arrived at his home on Friday afternoon and by Friday night we had stopped by to visit all of his friends and hangouts. Finally, we settled in on a little juke joint just outside of town. The place was small, barely 30 people could fit inside comfortably, but we went in and tried to do just that, get comfortable. After a few drinks I noticed a woman sitting alone in a booth in the corner. For some reason, I thought I’d go over and ask if I could join her. She agreed and I sat down. I asked her if she wanted to dance, she agreed and we did. We danced every dance for the rest of the night. Fast songs, slow songs, in between, we danced to them all. It was as if we were the only two people in the room. After a while, I began to realize that we were being watched intently by almost everyone in the club. We were the center of attention, being the only people on the dance floor the entire night. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed myself more in a club environment. There was no pressure, no urgency to see who could have “pull a hammer back to the crib” first, like many of my Navy buddies who lived off base, like I did. Everything was a competition for those guys, but that wasn’t the case here. She and I were just having good, wholesome fun; laughing, talking, drinking… none of that other stuff mattered.

I noticed a young lady sitting all alone and decided to ask her to dance
I noticed a young lady sitting all alone and decided to ask her to dance

It finally came time to go and Teddy broke away from his friends, came over and tapped me on the shoulder. He said it was getting late and we should be heading out. I thanked the young lady for allowing me to dance with her and take up her time. I told her what a great dance partner she’d been, she told me how much she had enjoyed herself. She and I said our goodbyes as Teddy led me out of the club and back to his house. I had way too much to drink.
The next morning I awoke with a slight hangover and a stiff back from too much dancing and sleeping too long in unfamiliar surroundings. I dressed and went down to find Ted in the kitchen with his mother, they were making breakfast. My memory of the night before was a bit fuzzy, but I did remember that the people in the club had been standing around the girl and I, watching us as we danced. I asked Teddy why everyone seemed to be in awe of us and he gave me an unexpected answer. He replied, “That girl, Hanna, the one you had so much fun dancing with last night, she’s the town prostitute. She’s a street walker and everyone in town knows it. She spends most nights standing outside the club or on corners trying to pick up customers. Last night was the first time I, or probably anyone else, ever saw her acting like a regular person. The whole place was laughing at you last night, the whole town has probably heard about it by now.”

This is how I pictured us on the dance floor that night (this was not us).

Who cared if they laughed? I know I didn’t. It’s a pity, the world can be very cruel at times. I guess no one ever asked her to dance or even bothered to talk to her before. I hadn’t known about her past, I just know she was someone I enjoyed spending time with. I don’t know what became of that young woman, but I hope she found happiness. I hope she found happiness and someone to spend the rest of her life with, like I eventually did.

Growing Up Colored
Copyright ©1997-2019
All rights reserved

Posted in Country Living | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Separate But Equal

Designated Negro Picnic Area along Skyline Drive
Lewis Mountain Negro Picnic area had closed by the time our family started enjoying Skyline Drive.

When we were growing up, our dad really enjoyed taking Sunday drives through the country. We’d drive for hours. The night before our outing mom would fry up a big batch of chicken, she’d make her world famous potato salad and pack up paper plates, cups and plastic utensils. If you’ve never had a Ritz cracker topped with potato salad (with eggs), then you don’t know what you’re missing. Those Sunday drives were something we all looked forward to, well, maybe not mom so much. She did a lot of prep work in advance of those outings that went mostly unnoticed until we were older and more able to appreciate it.

Family outing along Skyline Drive, in the Shenandoah National Park
My family and I on one of our many visits to Skyline Drive, that’s me on the right

The problem with going to Skyline Drive (which we loved) was that there were no places for black people to picnic. By the time we came along, the Negro picnic area had been closed and the park had been integrated. Whites and blacks were supposed to picnic together, no separate but equal facilities anymore. The park had advanced, yes, the park had advanced, but the people, not so much. It was painfully obvious that we weren’t welcomed in those newly integrated picnic grounds, after all the years of segregation, the mixing of the races looked good on paper, but the concept was not so easily embraced by all.

Rather than get evil stares, grunts and unintelligible mutters while sitting and trying to enjoy our meal, we would spend hours driving around looking for a secluded place to stop and have our lunch. Most of the time though, we would leave the park entirely and stop somewhere on the side of the road. Maybe one of the roadside picnic tables / rest stops would be available. I don’t see those anymore, nowadays.

Family outing along Skyline Drive, in the Shenandoah National Park
Mom takes a photo of Dad and us near Big Meadow.

I lived most of my childhood oblivious to what it meant to be segregated from the rest of society. But our Sunday drives, mostly spent looking for a nice quiet place to have a picnic lunch, were a constant reminder of the sometimes harsh reality. Living separate wasn’t that bad, but it was rarely ever equal.

Posted in Country Living | 2 Comments

Thinking About Mama

At Home
Earlene Brown holding her daughter Marcia…

It’s two o’clock on Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting in my living room watching an old Western on TV. I leaned back in my chair and peeked over into the kitchen, no one was there. There were no smells emanating from that direction that would indicate that food was being prepared and it wasn’t very likely there would be any time soon. My immediate reaction was to think to myself, “When I was growing up, mama would have already had the table set and would be calling us to Sunday dinner”. And immediately after that the realization set in that those days were long over. In our house now, home cooked Sunday dinners are mostly for special occasions. Families don’t sit down to dinner much anymore, if they do, they aren’t talking about it.

When I and my siblings were growing up, we received two home cooked meals a day, breakfast and supper and a bagged lunch to take to school and a snack (usually in the form of a peanut butter or bologna sandwich) after school. As I recalled those days, it dawned on me how much went into feeding, clothing and raising seven children. The majority of that effort came from my mother.

At Home
Mom ran a day care center that never closed.

I’d never realized until then how much work really went into taking care of us. Dad definitely did his part, he brought home the bacon and meted out the real discipline when he had to. Sure Mom kept us straight, but when things happened that required a stronger hand, she turned us over to our father. I seriously don’t know how they were able to raise us all on a single income.

My wife and I both worked and we still were just able to feed and cloth our kids and put them through college. My wife worked her fingers to the bone outside the home, then came home every evening and cooked, cleaned and took care of our five kids. I don’t know how she did it. But our kids are all grown now, with lives and families of their own. I think we did ok. It was a team effort, but like most two parent households, Moms do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to rearing the family. Hats off to Mothers, you do so much for so little. Your real reward is watching your children grow up to become responsible adults.

Nowadays there aren’t very many stay at home moms, but they’re moms none the less. They are loving, caring, supportive and nurturing and we are all blessed because of them. So hats off to mothers, you’ve done well. Don’t take your mother for granted, I lost my mom just over a month ago and my sister, Marcia, one week ago today. I surely do miss them. Mom took so much pride in her children. I hope I can continue to make her proud. I turned off the TV, got up out of my easy chair, went to the kitchen, made myself a bowl of cereal, smiled and thought about mama.

Posted in Country Living | 6 Comments

Historic Schools of Fauquier County, Virginia

Remington School #15 (aka “Piney Ridge”). Class picture, taken @1900.
Photo courtesy of the Brown/ Gibson family archives

Historic Rosenwald Schools of Fauquier County

Name Location Image
Blackwell Town School Midland
Rectortown School Rectortown
Routts Hill School Bealeton
Crest Hill School Flint Hill
Greenville School Greenville
Piney Ridge School Remington
Orlean School Orlean
Rosenwald School(County Training Center) Warrenton
All Rosenwald Schools in Fauquier
A vast library of photos and details on historic Rosenwald schools in Fauquier County can be found by visiting the Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County
using the following search criteria

Historic Schools of Fauquier County

Name Location
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 Morgantown
Pilgrim Rest School Thoroughfare Gap
Piney Mountain School Jeffersonton
Piney Ridge School Remington
Public School Number 18 (Broken link fixed) Marshall
Rosenwald School Warrenton
Saint Stephens School Catlett
Turkey Run School Catlett
Waterloo School Jeffersonton

County Training Center (Rosenwald)

Catlett School.

Below are three links to YouTube videos created by the students of Liberty High School…

Blackwelltown School – AP US History Project

Routt’s Hill School – AP US History Project

Piney Ridge School – AP US History Project


Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County, 2015, “Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County Online Database”, retrieved 5/22/2015 from http://www.aahafauquier.org/

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

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

The Association

I’m done, I got nothing left. No more stories. I’ve completely run out of tales about growing up in Remington, Virginia. To some of you, I know this comes as good news. How many childhood stories can one person conjure up anyway? More than 40. That’s right, if you check the pages of this blog you will find that more than 40 stories have been published. That’s enough, it’s more than enough. Yeah I know, I could probably come up with one or two more, but why bother? Sure, there’s the story about how, in 1965, our church received notice that we would be hosting the Northern Virginia Baptist Association’s Baptist Convention in Gainesville, Virginia. Yes, I could write about that, but I won’t. There’s really not much to tell. I must have been no more than 12 or 13 at the time, so my memory is a bit foggy on the hows and what fors that went on. All I know is, as the host church, we would be responsible for providing volunteer workers during the weeklong session. They needed several of our members to stay on site for the week during the day and live overnight in the barracks or bunk houses there. All the other workers could come and go on a daily basis and be available to help during speaking events and conference sessions.

My friend Ferdinand and I jumped at the chance to spend a week at “camp”. We would spend 7 days “roughing it” in the wilderness in Gainesville, VA. But there’s nothing to report, nothing happened. We arrived, cleaned buildings (and there were a lot of buildings), picked up trash, escorted guests from one place to another and kept concession stands filled with supplies and various sundries. That went on every day for an entire week, but it was on the first day when Ferdinand and I rounded the corner of the mess hall/ cafeteria that stopped us dead in our tracks.

There, standing against the building with a Tootsie pop in her mouth, was a pretty freckled faced, red haired girl. I thought she was cute, Ferdinand thought she was beautiful and he proceeded to fall head over heels in love right then and there. She looked to be about his age, he was a year or two younger than me. Unfortunately for me, from that point on he was of no more use to me or the Association, he was hooked. Ferdinand spent every waking hour either following her or looking for her so he could follow her. And that’s all he did, followed her and watched her from afar. Most of that time was spent between working up the nerve to talk to her or trying to figure out if she was black or white. One day He leaned over from behind a tree where he was staked out waiting to see her pass by. I was sweeping the sidewalk when she rounded the corner. He whispered over to me, “She is colored, right?”, he had that crazy, bewildered look on his face that he often had. I looked at her red hair, her freckled face, deep down I could see just the tiniest trace of blackness. I whispered back, “She gotta be colored, else she wouldn’t be here”, and turned back to my sweeping. Ferdinand just stared.

OK, Ok, this isn’t her, but it’s as close as I could get on short notice.

While I was making sure the ushers had clean kerchiefs for those overcome by the spirit, the pastors had fresh pitchers of water to keep them longer at the pulpit and the guests knew how to locate their next destination, Ferdinand was somewhere hiding behind a rock or a tree, peeping, staring at his newest heart throb. That was what went on during the day, at night we took the time to find ways to get into trouble. I remember one night after our chaperone had fallen off to sleep in his bunk, Ferdinand and I decided we wanted some ice cream. And it just so happened that there was a freezer case full of ice cream sandwiches, fudge pops and popsicles in the chow hall. What else could we do, we sneaked out of the barracks, crept down the hill to the cafeteria, found an unlocked window and edge our way inside. Thirty minutes and ten or fifteen ice cream sandwiches later, to our surprise the lights inside the chow hall switched on and one of the elders who managed the site came in with our chaperone. Luckily, after a few furrowed brows and some stern warnings we got off by agreeing never to try something like that again. They escorted us back up the hill and ushered us back into our bunks.

The next day I was back at my job of weeping and wailing and my friend Ferdinand was back at his job of watching and waiting. All-in-all, it was a great week away from home. We’d never been to any type of camp before, so this was as close as we would get and better than we could have ever imagined. The week came and went, on Friday we left the site and returned home to Remington. No, Ferdinand never said more than a hello to his crush, but he had lots of memories of what might have been to hold him for summers to come. And its because the whole experience was so uneventful that I’ve decided that its not worth the telling of it. The red haired girl never knew how close she’d come to being courted. And the Northern Virginia Baptist Association will never know the lasting effect it had on us, because this one won’t be told, this story stays in the vault.

Posted in Country Living | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments