Child of The Pack Saddle: Part V


The policeman had come to Miss La Nora’s farm for me. That was something that I learned when the policeman called out loudly, “Hey you, n—r, get over here.”

“His name is Popcorn and you call him Popcorn as long as you’re on my property,” said Miss La Nora angrily.

“As you say, Granny, as you say,” the officer said apologetically. “It won’t happen again. But I got to take this little n…boy down town because Mister Fuquay says that he been getting fresh with his daughter, Mona, and he don’t want him in this neighborhood any longer. This is a neighborhood where white folks live and Blacks are not allowed to live among white folks.

“And if I don’t get this boy away from his daughter, Mister Fuquay said he will kill the Black bastard. Excuse the expression, Granny.”

The police officer was none other than Joe Billie, a hater of Black people and Black males in particular. He had been an officer of the law for some 20 odd years and in that time, he had killed better than 10 Black men. It was said among the other city officers that Joe Billie would rather have a poisonous snake bite his mother than to see a Black man looking at a white woman.

And the reason why Joe Billie harbored this paranoid hatred for Black people was because, soon after he joined the police force, he had a Black man working around his house doing odd jobs such as cutting the grass and various other chores. One day, he came home before his usual time for lunch and found the Black man in bed with his wife.

He killed the man, of course, but he never got over the sight of the big Black ass that confronted him when he entered the bedroom door. Then, to make matters intolerable, his wife ran away from home the very next day while he was at work. Joe Billie hired a detective to track her down. Then, after a few weeks or so, the detective reported to Joe Billie that he had found Mrs. Billie living in Chicago with a Black lover.

In later years, I learned that the weight of hatred got to be too cumbersome for the paranoid Joe Billie to the extent it caused the demented officer to leave his job, go to the bedroom where he found the Black man on top of his beloved, stick his gun into his mouth, and blow himself into hollows of Hades. But getting back to the destruction of the happiest days of my youth: In spite of Miss La Nora’s pleas and threats of legal retaliation, Joe Billie took me to jail anyway.

Since I was too young to be housed with the men, I was put in a cell with three women, one of which was way out of touch with reality. So much so, she kept trying to put me on top of her to a point that completely baffled me. I didn’t know whether or not I should try to take care of a little business, laugh or stand there looking like a running back who dropped the football a few feet from the goal line. All of which hurled the other two women into a fit of uncontrollable hysterics.

I was embarrassed completely out of my wits. And let me tell you, there is absolutely no moment in life that will leave you out on a limb with nowhere to turn like a moment that is diminished and mortified by chagrin. In this bastardly period of utter confusion, one is so out of touch it is impossible to decide whether one should laugh, cry or lay down and die.

The section of the jail where the women were housed was, seemingly, an area that had been a storehouse or a warehouse or something of that nature. What I’m saying is one could see without taking a second look that the place had been given a hurry-up transformation or a quick fix in other words. The bars weren’t the usual steel bars that are common among jail house décor. On the contrary, the bars in the women’s cellblock were two-inch wide iron beams placed horizontally from the floor straight up to within six or eight inches from the loft.

Scrutinizing the rather odd penal institution and its eccentric configuration kindled my boyish curiosity to a famish degree. So then, unable to hesitate any longer, I decided to scale this most usual barrier and try my hand in taking a look-see into yonder loft.

Urged on and championed by the trio of cheering ladies standing idly by, I brazenly started my climb up the bars, and made my way to the roof of the loft.

When I made it to the top, I was surprised to discover that the opening at the top was easy for me to squeeze my body through. Once I was in the loft, I saw that directly across from where I had entered was a window completely void of bars of any kind.

It was in that moment that the idea came to me that this was a way out for me. But not at that time – because it was the middle of the day hours and, should I climb out of the window, I would have been seen by anyone and everyone as a prisoner making an escape. To make such a bone-headed mistake was a no no. So then I said to myself, ‘When it gets dark, I’m going to climb out of that window and I’ll be gone.’ I was elated, thrilled and anxious to tell Agnes, one of the women in the cell. Agnes treated me like I was her little brother from the moment I was placed in the cell.

I wanted to tell Agnes about what I discovered in the cell and what my intentions were once it got dark. I couldn’t wait until I got back down there with them.

But after I finished telling Agnes about the window and how I intended to make my getaway just as soon as it got dark, she took me by my two hands, sat me down on the bunk, and said to me in a motherly tone of voice:

“I don’t think you ought to do that, Popcorn, and I’ll tell you how come I say that. If you have to go to court, and I doubt that you do. But if you do, you will go before Judge Schuller. He handles all juvenile cases and Judge Schuller is the lenient judge in this city. I wish there were more judges like Judge Schuller.

“Everybody that has to go to court hopes and prays that they go before Schuller. They call him the Black folks’ judge. The man don’t got a prejudiced bone in his body! But what I wanted to say to you is this: Even if you can escape from here tonight, don’t! Because I got a feeling that you won’t get sent back here if you go in front of the judge.

“I don’t think he will send you back in that white neighborhood on Holly Street because he knows that the old peckerwood is badmouthing you and nothing more. And he knows too that most of them white bitches want some of that Black meat. Then too, if you escape out of here tonight, you will have to get out of town. And if you leave town, how and when will you ever see your mama?

So, take an old bitchs bit of advice and look before you leap! Don’t walk into a dark tunnel blindfolded. I am your friend, Popcorn, and I wont tell you nothing wrong, baby!” I took Agnes at her word and didn’t make no attempt to escape from the jail that night. Instead, I spent a long, sleepless night sitting on the side of my bunk too scared to sleep for fear of what the naked woman might do to me if I dosed off.

But then, at last, the slothful, unending ebony shadows of night were shooed away by the glow of a golden bright spring morning. I silently removed myself from the bunk on which the nude woman lay snoring on my backside – an act that I learned to regret bitterly some years after having learned, to my chagrin, just how seldom, seldom indeed, that such good fortune befalls a man, any man! But then, often times a golden opportunity comes to he that is least expecting and the unprepared. Which only goes to prove, and proves conclusively, that preparation is the father and the mother of success.

I believe it was 10 a.m. or there ’bouts when Joe Billie came to the jail and escorted me to the courthouse and to Judge Schuller’s court. I swear to you by all that is holy that this was by far the very most nervous time that I had ever known and ever hope to know. It’s a good thing that I had gone to the toilet before I left the jail or otherwise, I surely would have drenched the court house floor with a pool of urine.

Then, suddenly all my anxieties, all that tension and all my solitude were swept away with the blinking of an eye the moment that I saw Miss LaNora waiting for Joe Billie and myself, at the witness stand. What a joy, what a feeling of all is well. Indeed, what a feeling of hurrah and hallelujah it was for me to see that wonderful white woman; my heart did cartwheels, my woes, and woebegone took flight into the wide blue yonder, while my Black soul did a jig!

As the officer and me came within a few yards of the throne of justice, Judge Schuller pointed to me and said, “Come over here, son, and tell me why you caused me to postpone my fishing trip for a visit with you. I suppose you got a good enough reason for me, right?”

(To be Continued…)

Categories: Uncategorized