Artie Mae and Dorothy Bell
Many, many of us older people have trouble remembering what happened yesterday. Or this morning. Or, often, five minutes ago. But many of us still have a pretty good long term memory. Take me for example. I have memories of several things that happened to me when I was two years old. And, I can sometimes remember what my thought processes were, long before I could talk a lick. Although I do have to admit, I couldn't talk a lick until I was nearly four.
We pretty well like to tell our old stories, and when we run dry, we just start repeating. Again and again. Or maybe you noticed.
Most all of us have a few, or at least one, REALLY good story mixed in. If one just takes time to listen to a person who has lived a long time, sometimes you can come up with a real jewel. Such a person is my friend Dorothy Bell.
Dorothy, as a young girl, lived near Gurdon. It was December of 1942. (Dorothy Bell, you see, has an amazing memory of dates, times, places.) She was living with her mama, Artie Mae, and her father. Things weren't going well between her parents along about then. She knew her Papa had just started having an affair with that big, red haired woman that lived out that way. Papa and Dorothy Bell were sitting at the kitchen table one day. Artie Mae, just recovering from a miscarriage, had gone out to the well to get a bucket of water. The well was right beside the kitchen door. When she walked back in, something just set papa off. Dorothy Bell didn't know what set him off at that moment, but both Dorothy's parents had pretty well been on a short fuse for some time, ever since his dallying about had come to light. Well, Papa just jumped up and hit Artie Mae really hard with his fist, breaking his little finger. He knocked her clear across the room and up against the wall, and she was unconscious for a time. Papa sat back down. Artie Mae finally came around, slowly picked up a piece of stove wood, and set in on Papa. As Dorothy Bell said, “she just totally beat him into a pulp.” They lived together three more years, but things were different after that. For one thing, Papa never hit Artie Mae again.
After the divorce, Artie Mae and Dorothy Bell lived together for a long time. They move to Dallas, to a house with six apartments. They had a neighbor, Dewey, who came to see them from time to time. One day, he showed up with a sorta mean looking young feller, who they had never seen before. Seems his name was Malcomb Wayne. In the course of the conversation, A neighbor lady walked by, and Malcomb wayne made an off color remark to her. Artie Mae told him to leave her alone. Malcomb Wayne never came back with Dewey again. Time rocked on. On Halloween night of l957, Dorothy Bell had the Asian Flu, and they had both gone to bed early, both their beds being in the same bedroom. “I just heard a screen being cut,” Artie Mae said. Then, they listened hard. They both heard it. They quietly got up, Dorothy Bell was given a claw hammer. “If you get a shot at him, try to hit him real hard right in the head,” her mother told her.
There was only one other weapon in the apartment for Artie Mae. Seems the last tenant had left a really big, long, custom made butcher knife. They tiptoed to the door of the room the sound was coming from. It was dark, but In the moonlight, they could see a figure climbing through the cut screen of the screened in back porch. He flipped out a switch blade knife. They started running for the front door, then headed down the stairs; they could hear him running behind them. They were nearly at the bottom of the stairs when he caught them. The switch blade flashed, and a long, deep gash was cut in Dorothy Bell's forearm. That scar is still visible today. Blood was spurting. Artie Mae took a swing at him with the big butcher knife, and cut off an ear, barely hanging on by a little skin. Blood was gushing from him too, even worse than Dorothy Mae's slice. As Artie Mae was taking another long stab at him, his fist hit her arm, and the knife went sliding across the floor in the dark. Dorothy Bell knew she just had to beat him to it, as she ran and slid across the floor. He turned his attention on Artie Mae, knocking her down, up against the wall, hitting her again and again with his fists. When Dorothy Bell found the knife, she headed into the fray. Her Mother was getting beaten into a pulp. Dorothy Mae swung hard, not stabbing, just whacking hard with the blade, right between the shoulder blades. Every time the blade landed, she said, “Let her loose.” She swung again. And again. When each one landed, she ordered “Turn her loose.” After about ten blows, he was losing a lot of blood, getting too weak to continue. The Police had been called by a neighbor who heard the fuss. The police arrived, accompanied by a long black hearse. The hearse doubled for an ambulance in those days. Artie Mae told Dorothy Bell later, “You really hit him hard. I could feel every lick you hit, jarring his body into mine!” From the ambulance lights, they could see him. It was Malcomb Wayne. He was put on a stretcher, none too gently, and slid into the hearse/Ambulance. Then Dorothy Bell was loaded into the front seat.
They were taken to Parkland Hospital, on Harry Hinds Blvd., the same hospital President Kennedy would later be taken to after he was shot.
Dorothy Bell waited outside a long time, while Malcomb Wayne was being attended to. Then they sewed her up too. Artie Mae, though beaten to a pulp, didn't get a ride in the hearse. Not enough blood on her, and the hearse was pretty well full.
Later, in court, Dorothy Bell was filmed testifying. She got to see herself on TV that night, Pony tail and all. A very rare thing in those early days of TV and video cameras. The judge said to Malcomb Wayne, “If those two women had killed you, there's not a thing I could have done about it. You weren't supposed to be there.” Turns out, that was the extent of his punishment.
A few days later, Dorothy Bell and Artie Mae went to get the stitches out. As they sat in the waiting room, Malcomb Wayne came in, sat down right behind them. Dorothy Bell watched him out of the corner of her eye. He was pulling out his switchblade; he held it a few moments, looked at her awhile, then started cleaning his fingernails. But he never bothered those two ladies that day. They had a shock when they got home. The landlord told them to move out. The only time ever, Dorothy Bell says, they were evicted. In 1976, Dorothy bell moved to Denton. Her mother later moved up to join her in a large apartment complex. In 1980, they saw a new tenant move in one day. Artie May asked Dorothy Bell, “Did you see who that was?” Dorothy Bell shook her head. They both knew. Malcomb Wayne and his Mama. But he never got anywhere close to those two women again.
Dorothy Bell and her mother later moved to Arkadelphia. Artie Mae passed away a few years ago. Dorothy Bell now lives alone, quietly, in Arkadelphia