For those just tuning in---this is a series of stories from my hometown--Sondheimer, La. I recently returned after a long absence to catch the flavor of my boyhood and share some of it.
#22 ELLEN----CONSENSUAL ADULTERY
Friday's----Ellen would drive through town en route to Tallulah to meet her lover. She was married to another but her affair was an open secret she did not try to hide. When my mother questioned her conduct, Ellen said that her aging,impotent husband had given his permission.
When one of Ellen's children drowned in a ditch---I heard my mother speculate that maybe God was trying to wake up Ellen to her immorality. (that was not my mother's finest hour)
#23 MINOLA AND OLD DAD
Minola was a lovely black woman who supplemented her domestic earnings by selling favors to old Dad (he really was old and he was my best colored friend) One day I opened old Dad's door---excited to tell him something---and discovered Minola sitting on his lap. It was an instant education in value exchange---for I knew that old Dad's check had come that day.
#24 BABY SISTER
Was Minola's beautiful daughter----maybe 18 at the time of this incident. She was fiesty and oh so sexy. I was about 15 and I propositioned her. Her answer stunned me: Uh Uh she said---shaking her head----I'M DOING THAT WITH YOUR DADDY. Later on Baby Sister burned down two of my father's houses and went away.
#25 BILL FREEMAN---HIRED HAND
He worked for my father for 40 years---was always a part of our family. We built a room on the side of our house for him. Whatever my father was into---Bill learned to do it: farming, bulldozing, sawmilling, dragline operator, trucker, cattle raising etc. He would do the damned-est things for me: Once set me adrift on a giant stump floating down the Mississippi river because I wanted to experience it. He would lift me high into the air on dragline cables and swing me about with me just holding on to the logging hooks.
He got drunk most weekends and often gambled. When he won he would hurry over to my mother's store and buy a big box of frozen shrimp----which mother would boil and the two of them would eat it all.
Once, he told me straight faced that masturbation would cause blindness. (I do need glasses to read)
Bill continued to work for my father into old age----even saved up a fair bit of money. Finally could work no more---his son came for him. He died shortly afterward.
#26 JAMES WHITSEY----BLACKSMITH / ARTIST
---Was Sondheimer's blacksmith for many years---hammered plows sharp etc for the farming community. But there was more to him than shaping hot iron----he had the soul of an artist---and he dared to show that side of himself. He made---gave away--- and occasionally wore fancy rings and jewelry. When he came to town on Saturdays---he created a sensation with his marvelous walking cane. I cannot do it justice---but will draw a crude picture to suggest it. It had a tiny plastic cannon mounted on it's front---made of toothbrush handles somehow fused and molded colorfully together--the top had a glittering jewel and the length of it was inlaid with iridescent diamond shapes. (abalone?) People would crowd around to see it--he said he might patent it.
He let me putter in his shop---taught me to make a ring from a quarter. (gently tap it all round on a firm surface with a hammer till it flares out--then drill its center out--then polish) I made one for Buela Nugent and she wore it for years. When he sold his shop James moved to town into one of Daddy's shotgun houses---- remodeled the front of it as I have pictured---building two imposing--plantation style--white columns.
Here's how it happened: I came home one weekend from college and a strapping, familiar looking stranger, about my own age was in our living room. My father said to me: "Poppy"--(remember that's my name back home) MEET YOUR BROTHER JOHN. Sure enough I had a brother I was seeing for the first time---a product of one of my dad's sensual adventures. He had found him--brought him to Sondheimer--legally adopted him. The new brother and I got on well over lots of years---UNTIL INHERITANCE TIME. Untangling a rightful distribution of the estate was a matter of some tension--till we sat down one day and came to an agreement---(saving a lot of legal fees) He lives in Sondheimer to this day---is currently a prison guard. One day John gave me one more surprise: I HAVE A SISTER SOMEWHERE that I have never seen. (Sis: If you see this contact me---we share blood and ought to know one another)
#28 BILL KILLS
He was an arrogant driver----I have been with him as he sped through stop signs---explaining to me that he had super peripheral vision--didn't need to stop and look. Furthermore he claimed to have super night vision---and would drive without lights to prove it. AND THEN ONE NIGHT --two miles south of Sondheimer---a group of kids were skating in the highway just when Bill was proving his excellence of night vision. He ran over Billy Anderson---a boy of about 12---killing him instantly. Bill insisted that his lights were on and somehow escaped punishment.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: I have more Sondheimer stories to share--think it's doing something good to me to dredge up the memories. Hope I'm proving that every town and every place HAS THE FULL DRAMA OF HUMAN EXISTENCE IN IT. To reap the benefits of the drama one merely has to NOTICE IT. Its lessons flow effortlessly into us and makes us wiser.