Before I tell these three stories I will try to give you a sense of what the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous looks and feels like.
Also I show you a pict I just found of myself and my siblings.
left to right Randy(me) Darlene, Charles, Bobby Jean. Only 5 years separate youngest from oldest. At the time of this photo, we were all in college together.
2. MURDER BY DYNAMITE---The J.D, Dowdy case.
Late one night our house briefly trembled. Next day we were told that one of our fringe citizens---JD-- had accidentally blown himself and his cabin to smithereens.
Investigating authorities---including the FBI found only bits of human parts---but two feet intact. BUT WAIT A MINUTE----these feet seem to be the feet of a much older man. Old man Dowdy arrived on scene---said it was his son---explained away the aged feet as childhood frostbite damage. Days went by---we had the old man over for dinner to comfort him. He said the dynamite was used for illegal fishing---said he had warned JD to be more careful.
Then the FBI lab report showed that the feet WERE DEAD BEFORE THE EXPLOSION. Insurance company reported a recent policy on JD's Life for $80,000.
Then a phone call from JD's sister----SAID JD WAS ALIVE AND HIDING OUT IN HER HOUSE. He was quickly arrested---returned---placed on trial-- (My mother testified in the trial) ---found guilty--sentenced to death---and executed in Tallulah, La in a "portable" electric chair. It was a scam by father and son to lure a passing stranger home--kill him, blow him up, collect and share the insurance. The story made all the murder mystery magazines. read about it here: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1080386/index.htm
3. ADULTURY GONE VERY WRONG
Two houses away from us a bored housewife yielded to the seductions of her husbands buddy----a one-armed logger named Stanley. When the affair was discovered the enraged husband beat Stanley unmercifully. Just a few days later the distraught housewife left a note declaring her undying love for Stanley and DRANK AN UNGODLY AMOUNT OF LYE---Dying an agonizing death. The best cosmetic work by the undertaker could not conceal the gray face we all looked upon in the open casket funeral. What I will never forget is the raging uncontrollable grief of the husband that I witnessed in the churchyard outside as the casket was carried to the hearse.
He had made a terrible terrible mistake---he had handled the situation in the very worst way possible. He loved his wife---it need not have come to this. Now It couldn't be fixed-- and he couldn't forgive himself. ON AND ON HE YELLED AND RAN ABOUT.
Several men finally pinned him to the ground and the funeral director came over and shouted to him: "GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF". Eventually the burial proceeded.
To this day---I am warned against uncontrollable rage and its consequences--by the uncontrollable grief of that poor man.
4. A LOVE STORY THAT CHALLENGED THE WHOLE TOWN'S NOTION OF RIGHT AND WRONG.
Mary was beautiful and vivacious. Her husband----less so. Nevertheless, they had a seemingly stable marriage---two children---my playmates. They operated the grocery store across the street.
A charming salesman who made regular calls at the store---became smitten with Mary.
One day he could contain his love no longer---and he declared himself. Mary no doubt pondered the matter.
And then one day word flashed through town: MARY HAD RUN AWAY WITH A TRAVELING SALESMAN. SHE NEVER CAME BACK-----though she made appropriate arrangements for sharing the children.
The early moral consensus of the town was that she had done her husband wrong---broken her vows---(till death do us part??). Divorce and re marriage to the salesman followed and Mary seemingly found true happiness---(it lasted into old age and the death of her salesman.)
The sad husband soldiered on---opening, tending and closing the store. He had no charm. From time to time he would make tentative approaches to single ladies but get rejected.
THE QUESTION THE TOWN AND THE WORLD PONDERS IS: WAS IT WRONG FOR MARY TO ABANDON HER HUSBAND AND REACH FOR THE BRASS RING OF HAPPINESS? I DON'T THINK SO---AND I DARESAY MANY OF MY TOWNSPEOPLE AGREE. ----This little drama updated---- nuanced--my notions of right and wrong.
(last week, I managed to contact one of the children---who seemed to agree with me)
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: Absolute ethics is cruel and unreasoning. I salute Mary's courage in rejecting it.
Perhaps you can guess where I'm headed with these stories. I hope to show that Sondheimer is relevant to you. Tomorrow: More stories!