ESSAY Personal #011
WATERMELON BLUES (year 1959)
One summer night in 1959, my brother Danny spent the night with Johnny Stubblefield. I was 13, and my brother was 15. When he wasn’t home for supper the next night, my mother said she knew where he was anyway. But by the third day, and Danny still hadn’t shown up, she called Johnny’s mother. His mother was shocked to find that the boys weren’t at our house, as my mother was shocked to find that they weren’t at her house.
Was my mother ever mad! It was not good to be caught by my little mother when she was mad. At 5’2″, when she came at us boys, who towered over her, with a switch we knew we’d pushed her too far. She couldn’t hurt us, but just knowing we had caused her to cry was punishment enough for us. This was one of those times. I felt sorry for Danny when he got home.
Later that night a police officer from Seminole called. They had caught three boys stealing watermelons off a grocery store porch. One of them was Danny. It was then we found out that they had been staying at a third friend’s house. He was sixteen and would be charged as an adult. Danny and Johnny, however would only be charged as juveniles, and, since neither one had a record, the police thought it would be a good idea for them to spend the night in jail, before the parents came to pick them up. The charges would be dropped at that time.
Mother thought a night in jail was the perfect punishment for Danny, and she told Kiddo that when he came home, to leave him alone. She was very firm about this. He had enough punishment, and she had an agreement with the policemen. She knew that Kiddo looked for any and every chance to whip us. He used to wait until we’d gone to bed at night, and wake us up by spanking our bare bottoms with a belt because we didn’t wash our feet before we went to bed.
Mother took off work at the Jean Factory the next day long enough to drive from Wewoka to Seminole to Pick Danny up, back to our house at Ong, then back to Wewoka to work.
Kiddo had also taken off that day. He was watching from Highway 99B as mother turned into the gravel road that led to Ong and our house. Danny was telling me what had happened during the last three days when Kiddo burst through the door. He had left his car on the gravel road, hidden from view by our blackberry bushes, and walked the few hundred feet to the house.
Danny and I usually tried to get away, but this time he had us. Kiddo began hitting Danny in the face with his fists. I had to help my brother. While Kiddo was hitting Danny with his fists, I’d hit Kiddo in the back with mine. When He’d turn around to hit me in the face with his fists, Danny would hit him in the back with his. There was a brand new Morton Salt Shaker by the stove. I took it and smashed it on the back of his head. It took us six months to get all the salt out of the kitchen. The fight took on a furious turn as Danny dropped his guard and Kiddo landed a nasty blow to the side of Danny’s head. Then Danny turned and ran for the door, with Kiddo a half-step behind.
I thought if Kiddo caught him, he’d kill him, so I frantically looked for a weapon. I found the hammer, and threw it as hard as I could. It hit Kiddo in the small of the back. He staggered, turned and gave me a hateful look as he went down on one knee. Then he struggled to get up off the floor to pursue Danny.
While Kiddo staggered, it gave Danny the head start he needed to run away. He was a good twenty feet in the lead, and would have gotten away, but he suddenly stopped and turned around. Kiddo was on him like a tiger, smashing Danny in the face with his fists. By the time I came running up to help, it was all over.
I asked Danny later why he didn’t keep running. Because, he said, he wanted to protect me, and besides, Kiddo would just catch him sooner or later, and he just wanted to get it over with.
A few hours later I heard someone screaming. When I walked around the barn, Kiddo was just throwing down the garden hose he had used to whip Danny. Danny motioned me to not interfere. It was over. To be sure, Danny never touched another watermelon. Mother never found out that Kiddo came home that day. If she’d known how he treated us, she would’ve gone into hysterics. Thus due to our own code of silence to “protect” our mother, we were perpetuating further abuse. Before a year had passed, Danny had run off to Dallas for good. And Kiddo has had back trouble ever since.
the wordmaster says:
❝Another true story. Some tense moments.❞