Sunday, November 29, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Nat Turner

Forever A Hillbilly: Nat Turner: I went through dozens upon dozens of books and documents in researching my book, Forever Cry. On occasion, I ran across a story I thought...

Nat Turner

I went through dozens upon dozens of books and documents in researching my book, Forever Cry.
On occasion, I ran across a story I thought might give one food for thought. Warning: very violent.

Nat Turner

     Nat was a precocious child. He so impressed those around him by his knowledge of things that happened before he was born, that many predicted he would be a prophet. Nat was taught to read by his parents. He was greatly influenced by his grandmother, who was very religious. He was taught that he was very unique, and that he had a great destiny. “My father and mother strengthened me……..saying, in my presence, I was intended for some great purpose.” Restless, inquisitive, and observant, Nat learned to read quickly, and was admitted to religious services in his master’s household. As a child, his ability to read impressed the slaves around him, so that if they planned any roguery, it was left for young Nat to plan it out. He was their leader, greatly looked up to.

     Nat strengthened his leadership over the slaves, as he grew into manhood, “by the austerity of my life and manners, which became the subject of remark by white and black-----Having soon discovered to be great, I must appear so, and therefore studiously avoided mixing in society, and wrapped myself in mystery, devoting my time to fasting and prayer.” Nat became convinced, through these activities, “That I was ordained for some great purpose in the hands of the Almighty.” Several things confirmed this. Upon reaching manhood, he recalled vividly that both Whites and Blacks during childhood had often said, “that I had too much sense to be raised, and if I was, I would never be of any use to anybody as a slave.” Apparently Nat’s discontent with slavery was inspired by his father, who had managed to escape.

     When Nat was placed under a new overseer, he too ran away, and remained in the woods for thirty days. The slaves around him were dismayed at his voluntary return, saying that  “if I had his sense I would not serve any master in the world.” Shortly afterward, Nat had a vision where he saw “white spirits and black spirits engaged in battle, and the sun was darkened----thunder rolled across the heavens, and blood flowed in streams----and I heard a voice saying,  ‘Such is your luck, such you are called to see. And let it come rough or smooth, you must surely bear it.’” Meditating on this and other revelations, seeking religious perfection,  Nat had decided in 1828 that he was destined to wreak the vengeance of the Lord on the planters. Choosing four trusted lieutenants, Nat communicated his desire for rebellion to them. It was finally decided to strike on July 4, 1831. But Nat had an anxiety attack, and the date was postponed.

     On August 20th, along with two new conspirators, Will and Jack, they barbecued a pig and drank a bottle of brandy. Nat queried Will, who told him, “my life is worth no more than others, and my liberty as dear to me.” “Will you attain that liberty?” “I will, or lose my life.”

     Now confident of his men, Nat decided to strike first at the home of his master, Joseph Travis, who “was to me a kind master, and placed the utmost confidence in me. In fact, I have no cause to complain of his treatment of me.”

     Nat entered the house of his sleeping master, then opened the door for the other rebels. Armed with a dull light sword, Nat failed in his first attempt to kill his master, who was then dispatched by Will. Hoping to gather a huge black army from the surrounding plantations before the alarm could be raised, it was decided by the conspirators that until they had taken sufficient arms from the whites, “neither age nor sex was to be spared.” This was adhered to.

     Moving silently through the night, Nat led his army, leaving a trail of ransacked plantations, decapitated bodies, and battered heads across Southampton. At the Whitehead plantation, Nat caught Margaret Whitehead, and “after repeated blows with a sword, I killed her with a blow on the head with a fence rail.” By mid-morning the little band had grown to forty men, some of them mounted.  Determined to “carry terror and devastation” throughout the county, Nat led his army against plantations and prevented the escape of the whites.  Many white families had now been massacred and the rebels had increased to sixty men. Nat turned his army toward the little town of Jerusalem. By this time, however, the alarm had been spread, and the rebels were confronted by eighteen armed white men.

     Nat and his men immediately charged the small band of white men and chased them over a hill, where they were joined by a very large number of whites. Nat’s men panicked and ran. But Nat did not give up the struggle. Determined to raise additional forces, he was prevented  in doing this by the militia. Nat was sure his men would make it back to their old neighborhood, and raise more men. This did not happen. After hiding for two weeks, he was captured by a white man. Nat was lodged in jail. More than forty blacks were killed in the aftermath. Feeling no remorse for the fifty five whites killed, Nat calmly contemplated his execution. A white lawyer gave the best characterization of Nat when he wrote:

    "He is a complete fanatic, or plays his part most admirably.
……….The calm, deliberate composure with which he spoke of his late deeds and intentions, the expression of his fiend like face…..when excited by enthusiasm, still bearing the stain of blood of helpless innocence about him; clothed in rags and covered with chains; yet daring to raise his manacled hands to Heaven, with a spirit soaring above the attributes of man; I looked on him, and my blood curdled in my veins."

      Nat was executed.

     The black rebels “curdled” the blood of many Southern whites. Nat became the “bogey man” for young whites, “worrysome property” for many a master, and a hero in the quarters. Many a white master now slept behind tightly locked doors, gun under the pillow. Does his slave quarters hold another Nat Turner?                          

Much Material for this post came from – Plantation Life in the Antebellum South-- by John W. Blassingame      New york  Oxford  University Press   1972

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Conclusion - Winter of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker...

Forever A Hillbilly: Conclusion - Winter of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker...:      It landed on the snag. I was, I must admit, too awestruck to even think about my camera. It was huge. The description fit. It hit...

Conclusion - Winter of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker

     It landed on the snag. I was, I must admit, too awestruck to even think about my camera. It was huge. The description fit. It hitched it's neck, and turned it, looking behind. I was later told by one expert on that bird that even an Ivory Billed Woodpecker probably could not do that. But then, he had never seen a living Ivory Billed Woodpecker, and this bird did that. As it walked out a limb, certain distinguishing markings were very clear to me. Unfortunately, my forgotten camera sat idle in my hands, and I just gawked.

     A piliated woodpecker has a white line running from it's head to it's wing, disappearing under its wing when the wings are folded, as this one was. The Ivory Billed Woodpecker's white line goes up onto the wing, and down the length of it.

     This bird had that white line, the full length of the wing.

     That marking was very clear to me. The first rays of the morning sun spotlighted the bird as he reached the end of the limb. My camera suddenly came awake, and I shot again and again. The bird flew.

      Afterwords, I went over what I saw and what I did not see in my mind carefully. The angle of my view was pretty steep.  I had no memory of seeing the white shield on the back. I felt, at some point, though, I could have seen that. But, it was not in my memory afterwords.

     I heard the "Bam, bam, bam, -- bam!" drumming sound, totally different from the Pileated wood Pecker, three more times that morning. Then it was time to go home. Deer season started up again the next day, and there would be hunters swarming  this area, so I stayed away a few days.
     I knew I would need all the help a great lab could give me with those pictures. From our professional days, I knew just the lab. I instructed them to "push" the film two stops. It was still very early in the morning for a film camera.  I had no digital camera at that time. It was at about the time, 2006, when digital was beginning to take over, film was about to become a thing of the past.

      It took several days, during which I knew I had the first modern day photo of an Ivory Billed Woodpecker. I was torn. Should I make it public, and risk an influx of people running the birds off?  Or should I keep their secret, hopefully allowing them to make some sort of comeback in that very isolated place?  The habitat was great. The Ouachita Mountains arose out of that river, with thousands of acres of pine timber. Down river about a mile, there was a very large plot of beetle killed pines, very attractive to large woodpeckers. They simply strip the dead bark off the tree, and eat the beetles underneath. Hundreds of acres.

     When the pictures arrived, I had the best books I could find in hand, showing all the markings. But, after studying the best photo, I knew it would not hold up. The bird had turned toward me, and the wing markings were indistinct. The best photo was not totally sharp.

     I was still torn. I knew what I knew, but I had no real evidence. I decided to contact the man who was, it seemed, considered to be the world's expert on that bird. I discussed my situation several times with him, and  I sent him my picture. After studying it, he said he needed a video. One questionable photo was not enough.

     While I knew I was lacking in proof, I did see that bird well, and there was not a bit of doubt in my mind. I bought a good video camera, and went to work. I set up several blinds, some with bait stations. About fifteen mornings that winter, I left home at  two AM, arriving in the river bottoms at daylight. But, to make a long story short, I never heard that particular drumming sound again, though I saw many Pileated Woodpeckers, and  never another sighting.

      I downloaded  the actual sounds of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker,  made over half a century ago, and amplified and broadcast them out. The Blue Jays went crazy. Their sound is similar. I videoed several birds responding to that call, but they all turned out to be a dead end. One particular bird that responded seemed to sound a little different. I only saw it through my video viewfinder, and my video only showed a few flaps of its wings before it disappeared over the tree tops. Since my only view was through the video view finder, I could tell little about the real size of the bird. I could not stop the action at a point where I could see markings that would tell me something. I  called the expert. I asked him, "If I send you a video I have, will you call me back and give me an opinion?"

      He replied, "I'd be glad to, Pat." I sent it. A few hours later, I managed to stop the video at a critical point. Markings showed. I knew it was not what I had hoped. I waited to see if he was a man of his word. He never replied. Since he was not a man of his word, even to give me a negative answer, that told me a lot about this expert. That was our last communication.

 What I saw, and heard, that one morning in November just seemed to be there no longer.
     The last morning I spent looking for the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, the Corps of Engineers did a control burn on my plot, and the fire ran me out. My blinds and bait stations were destroyed. I knew by now the Corps of Engineers were curious about what I was doing there so often, and a local farmer was also, seeing me drive by his house so often. He sent word to me, "If there are Ivory Billed Woodpeckers down there, I'll shoot every one of them." I sent word back, "If you can find one down there, you're a better man than I am." I decided it was time to drop this search, and let that totally isolated spot become isolated again.

     I knew I could never convience anybody else with my lack of evidence. But I know what I saw, that morning in November, 2006. And to my dying day, I will always remain convienced that the Ivory Bill Woodpecker was alive and well in the Fourche River bottoms in 2006. Their secret is safe. Maybe, that's as it should be. That was one difficult decision I didn't have to make. Making such a claim as I have made here, without proof, makes one seem to be somewhat of a kook, so I have since been hesitant to talk about this, and I have told few people. I felt they may have raised young that year in that hollow tree I saw the one in. But if so, they have moved on. I pray they are making some sort of a comeback in those thousands of acres of the Ouachita National forest near by. I won't bother them again. Six years have passed. I decided to tell it here.

 The world needs to know.

     Please do not ask for details about the location. I will not tell. That area is totally isolated, with no good reason for people to come in, except to deer hunt. It needs to stay that way.   THE END

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Winter of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker

Forever A Hillbilly: Winter of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker: My brother Harold and I fished a remote and totally deserted stretch of the Fourche La Fave River one summer. The river ran low that yea...

Winter of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker

My brother Harold and I fished a remote and totally deserted stretch of the Fourche La Fave River one summer. The river ran low that year, and it was shallow there anyway. But I knew where the few deep holes were located. The  catfish just piled up in those holes during dry times.

      In August, I was walking out of our fishing area, and a very large woodpecker flew from a dead snag that had a large hole in it, near the top. I was struck by the bird's size, and its markings.

     The Ivory Billed Woodpecker had been considered extinct for 50+ years. It is similar in size and appearance to a Pileated Woodpecker. The Ivory Billed Woodpecker is slightly larger, it's back is solid white, while a Pileated is dark on top with white feathers below. When this bird flew from me, it looked white on top of it's back, and larger than any Pileated I had ever seen.

     Barbara and I flew out for six weeks of wandering aimlessly about Europe a day or so later, but I spent a lot of time, while there, thinking about that bird. This was just after an Ivory Billed Woodpecker had, in many people's mind, been spotted in eastern Arkansas. Positive ID never happened in eastern Arkansas, despite a long hard search by many scientists.

When we returned, there was a break between deer seasons that fall. I knew deer season was about the only time anyone else ever went into that area, and deer season was now closed, so I would be alone.

      I left home at 2 AM, and arrived in those woods just before daylight. Immediately upon exiting my truck, I heard a drumming sound I had listened to on old tapes of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. "Bam, bam, bam, -- bam!" This was one identifying characteristic of that bird. The sound seemed to come from the old snag I had seen before. It was immediately answered from the area of another large hollow snag I knew about.

     I waited until dawn broke, and, with my camera ready, I eased toward that first snag. I began to hear woodpeckers working toward me. Suddenly, a very large one flew into my vision. It was much faster than I had ever seen a woodpecker fly before, flying more like a duck. As it exited my vision, I could hear it's wing noises, also a characteristic of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. "Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!" It was at least 150 feet from me, but the sounds were very distinct. It was still too early, and dark, for a flying picture.

     I quickly set up a blind at the large snag, and I waited, camera ready. A Pileated Woodpecker flew in, stayed awhile, then left. The sun was just beginning to peek over Fourche Mountain, which arose sharply out of the far side of the river.

     Then IT flew in, and changed my thinking forever.          Conclusion next post

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Don't Mess with these Women

Forever A Hillbilly: Don't Mess with these Women: Artie Mae and Dorothy Bell Many, many of us older people have trouble remembering what happened yesterday. Or this morning. Or, oft...

Don't Mess with these Women

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

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Wondergirl: The Double Bullet Dodge

Forever A Hillbilly: Wondergirl: The Double Bullet Dodge: I heard the siren, three hundred yards away, over on the interstate highway. "Must be a wreck," I thought, then went back to...

Wondergirl: The Double Bullet Dodge

I heard the siren, three hundred yards away, over on the interstate highway. "Must be a wreck," I thought, then went back to work on my houseboat. Minutes later the phone rang. Barbara soon came running out to me with the phone. The police were calling. Corey and his family were involved in a wreck. Three in the car, one ejected. Come to the emergency room. Just the bare facts.

      We arrived at the emergency room well ahead of the ambulance. We were anxiously awaiting when the ambulance showed up. Caylie came out first, just a baby, strapped tightly to a board, and screaming her head off. She looked around, within her limited field of vision, and saw Barbara and me. She stopped screaming, and smiled at us. We have never seen a smile quite so beautiful. Christi came next. She was also strapped down, but seemed alert, responsive, and, everything considered, remarkably calm. Corey was not in the ambulance.

He arrived moments later in a car. When he got out, he was beyond emotional. Way beyond that. As best he could, he was telling us he was driving behind Christi, in his car. A wheel had came off a trailer they were about to pass, hit her car in front, and the car did end over end flips, at least 12 rolls, then another flip, landing upside down. He reached through the broken back window, cutting his arm, and got Caylie out, but could not get Christi out. He was too racked by emotion to tell us more. Well, I knew Corey was totally distraught, probably in shock, far too upset for me to buy into all that. Nobody could have survived what he had just described to us.

      It was determined that Caylie and Christi had only scratches and bruises, no broken bones, and as far as they could tell, no internal injuries, but Christi had a concussion, and both were cut up by flying objects in the car. Corey settled down enough that we began to get the whole story.
The family was driving home from church, driving both cars because Christi had early choir practice. They both stopped at Western Sizzlin', at mile marker seventy- three of I-30. Being Easter Sunday, it was closed, so they and their friends decided to drive on down to Wendy's, at exit seventy eight. Corey buckled Caylie into her infant seat, strapped in the middle of the back seat. Starting to his car, for some reason, he stopped, turned around, went back to Caylie, and tightened up all the straps really good. Corey followed Christi in his car.

      Approaching mile marker seventy-four, Christi started to pass a pickup pulling a horse trailer. A wheel came off the trailer, hit the front of the car. That broke the car's front axle, starting the series of end over end flips and rolls, ending upside down in the median, with one last end over end flip, right beside mile marker seventy four.

      Corey pulled up behind. Later, a friend who happened to be nearby described the horrible sounds of anguish from Corey as he rushed to the car. Caylie was hanging upside down. The only way he could get to her was through the broken back window, which he did, cutting his arm. When Caylie emerged, he checked her over as quickly as he could, passed her off to a stranger standing beside him, saying, "Don't leave my sight with this baby," and rushed to Christi. As he tried to get her out, a fire started. A man from the interstate showed up with a fire extinguisher, and put it out. Christi was hanging upside down, and he could not get her out. About that time, the ambulance and police arrived. They had trouble getting her out, having to use the Jaws of Life.
Once Christi was out, and being strapped to a board, a paramedic tried to get Corey on a stretcher.
Corey was bleeding more than anyone there, and the paramedic would just not believe he had not been in the car, and ejected.

      Christi, not one to get unduly excited, later described her thought processes as the wreck progressed. "Well, that's one more flip, and I'm still alive!" The car was a mess. Completely flattened on top, except for the two places where a human could have possibly survived. They just happened to match the two places where Christi and Caylie were. The paramedics working the wreck said that upon arrival, they had no expectations of finding anybody alive, much less a four month old baby. They added that the car seat straps were so loose, one more roll and she would have flown. Good thing Corey had just tightened them up.

      I went to the site the next day. Car parts were strewn along the road. From the location of the first car part thrown off, to the final destination of the wrecked car, one hundred yards. Twelve rolls and three flips? You be the judge. Our family dodged two major bullets that day.  We are always being told, wear your seat belts, all the time, most accidents are within one mile of home. Well, my family has been in seven accidents, mostly minor, none fatal. How many within one mile of home, as the crow flies? Five. For your own safety, please do as I say, but in all honesty, not necessarily as I do. I hate being hypocritical.

      Caylie, early on, assumed the role of seat belt enforcer in our family. Nobody is perfect, but I sure haven't found any flaws in her yet. At eighteen, she just got her first car, right after returning from the mission fields of Jamaica. God, it seems, had his reasons for sparing this girl.
If you live near Arkadelphia, judge this story for yourselves. The car came to rest even with mile marker seventy-four. The first car part thrown off was even with the brown sign just south of it.
This story had been in my head nearly eighteen years. It automatically replays, in living color, every time I drive by those two signs. I now know the story very well. I needed no notes to write this.
      My son in law, Mickey, a paramedic, described a roll over wreck they worked. A man was dead, but no marks were found on his body. Finally, a mark that looked just like the top of a coke bottle top was found on his temple. Every loose, even modestly heavy object becomes a deadly missile in a rollover wreck.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Sammy Turner Leads me into Trouble. Again and Agai...

Forever A Hillbilly: Sammy Turner Leads me into Trouble. Again and Agai...:    Sammy Turner was two years older than me.  We ran around together a lot in the 1950’s. We had a call. “Whoo, Whoo, Whooie e ooo!...

Sammy Turner Leads me into Trouble. Again and Again.

   Sammy Turner was two years older than me.  We ran around together a lot in the 1950’s. We had a call. “Whoo, Whoo, Whooie e ooo!” That call carried over the top of Stony Lonesome between our houses, and pretty soon we would be on a great adventure. He was a leader, I was a great follower, and somehow I got into a lot of trouble following Sammy.
     We decided to build a club house up on top of Stony Lonesome. The small pines, chopped down, made a great frame. We went to an old barn, barely standing, and salvaged lots of planks. One day we went back to the old barn, and it was flat on the ground. We must have removed a key plank the day before.  When the clubhouse was just about built, we made up the club rules, wrote them down, folded up the rule sheet and stuck them in a crack. The next day, when we took out our rule sheet, I saw Dad had been there. Another rule had been added.

     “Do not cut any more pines belonging to John Gillum.”

     Sometimes, after harvesting our peanuts, we would hang tow sacks (city people call them gunny sacks) full of peanuts up in the smokehouse. Sammy and Mack Carter, a cousin, finally got in the habit of coming by and manipulating me, two years younger, into sneaking into the smokehouse and getting them a good supply.  I made a tiny hole in the bottom of a bag. After this happened a few times, I guess Dad caught on, because one day I snuck in, and Dad was in there, sewing the hole up with a needle and thread. One good glare from Dad was all I needed, and I hauled out of there and never tried that again. Dad never cared how many I ate, because he knew how hard I worked and I deserved them. But furnishing the neighborhood boys, who he knew did not work as hard, went against his grain.

      As JR Turner once told me, “The Gillum’s were not like other people.”

     Once, Sammy decided we could catch perch in Stowe Creek by feeling under the rocks and grabbing them. That worked well, until we pulled out a big water moccasin! That was the end of that.

     Sammy had another good idea. We stuck needles in the end of our arrows, put on an extra shirt for armor, and shot them at each other. Fortunately, we were not very accurate.
     Another idea was to lay a .22 shell on the concrete, reach around the corner of their rock cellar, and hit it with a hammer. I nixed that one. Even I knew better than that.

     Sammy and I spent a lot of time looking for arrowheads. One of our favorite places to look was down close to the river. There were plowed fields there then, but now they are covered with tall pines. One Sunday, as we started out, Dad said, “Don't get out of our pasture.” Well, the good hunting was well past our pasture. When we got to the river, two miles out of our pasture, we decided to cross it and look on the other side. After we explored awhile, we tried to return to the Hale Ford, where we had crossed. Every time we reached the river, all we could find was wide and deep water. We could not cross. Well, we could have swam, but it was a little cold to relish that. We finally headed downriver and came out at Rover Bridge, a couple of miles downriver.

      About sundown, we drug in home. Dad said, “Sammy, maybe you need to stop coming over here so much.” I had cows to feed and, since Dad was waiting for me, I got right to it. Finally Dad said, “I was down in the pasture today, and I didn't see you there.”

     “We decided to hunt arrowheads in the woods,” I lied.

     “No wonder you didn't find any,” he knowingly said. I totally deserved a whipping that day, but he let me slide.

     A different trip to the river with Sammy, which Mom had nixed, earned me my only real whipping Mom ever gave me. Mom took me out under the persimmon tree. She had a big limb. I was taller than her then, and I just kinda looked at that small woman headed toward me with that limb, and I sorta smirked. She got hold of me with one arm, and we went round and round with her working on me with that big limb. You could hear my screams all over that hill. I never doubted her abilities after that.

     My older siblings filled me in early as to what Dad was capable of, so I never tested him much. A certain look over the top of his glasses and “putt, putt, putt!” was all I usually needed to keep me in line. I never could figure out what that meant exactly, and I never wanted to know. If anybody knows what “put, put, put” means, I would now really like to know.

     Sammy and I built two carts that we could sit on and steer. A piece of wood for a steering wheel with wires running to the front wheel area did the trick. We had trails made through the pines on the side of Stony Lonesome, and it was great fun. One day Sammy showed up with a car steering wheel for his cart. I was jealous. Well, I went home and started going through my brother Harold's stuff he had stored. He was a mechanic in the Air Force at that time. I found something that looked like half a car steering wheel, so I got that. It worked great. By the time I totaled my cart against a tree at the bottom of Stony Lonesome, this cart thing was getting old anyway, so I left it there.
     Some 50 years later, Ken Gillum, Harold's son, called me up and said, “You would never believe what I found up on the hill. I can't figure it out! A B-29 steering wheel! Did you ever hear of a B-29 crashing up on the hill?”

      I told him, “Ken, I think I can help you out on that one.”

      A year or two ago, one of Sammy's teachers at Fourche Valley School in the 1950’s told me, “Sammy was the smartest student I ever had. He was so far ahead of everybody else, he was bored. He spent his time thinking of troublesome things to do. He helped me out a lot in deciding teaching was not for me.”