Which causes the most pain

I got into this big discussion several weeks ago..about which causes the most pain..most of the ladies said Childbirth had to be the winner..nothing compared to it…the guys on the other hand said getting a full kick in the crotch was worst ever..actually there is no way either side could understand the others argument…but after using careful deductive reasoning..I believe the guys are right..It seems that the ladies, after a year or so..are as apt as not say, “I think it’s time for another baby”…but have never heard any guy after that year say “I think I’ll go get kicked in the groin again”….

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The honey-bun girls and a farewell kiss

The honey-bun girls and a farewell kiss

  I was sitting in the Gazebo on the main street the other day watching the motorcycles come and go. Cave Spring is no doubt a motorcycle magnet and has always been so. It just seems there are a lot more of them than when I used to ride. I started thinking about that while watching some leather clad doctors and lawyers mount up.

     The trouble with thinking when you get old is that it sometimes takes you in directions that you don’t want to go. That was the case here.

     My riding partner was one of my best friends. Vern Pitts was one of the best riders I knew, and he too was also a Police Officer. We both had our own bikes and did a lot of riding.

     In the seventies we also ran our own tree service and made as much or more money cutting trees as we did policing. Both of us were assigned to the traffic division of the Police Department, and rode motorcycles eight hours a day at the City’s expense. Life was good.

     At the time of this story Vern had a late sixty something Harley. I had a repossessed Sportster that I purchased from a local bank. Why I bought it is beyond me.

     It was pure stock. The gears were on the right side, like the British bikes. It had no windshield and the seat was about two inches thick. It really wasn’t bad riding on short little trips around town. But some of the guys talked me into riding to Cherokee, North Carolina and over the mountain to Gatlinburg. By the time we got home I had no feeling in the lower half of my body.

     I took the Sportster to a chop shop and they changed the front end. It got a little rake which extended the front forks and allowed it to set up a little. We also changed the handlebars, and put a King and Queen seat on it hoping that would cushion the ride. Still didn’t put a windshield on her, just couldn’t bring myself to do it. 

     Ok, now I’m not easy rider, but I’m ready for another road trip to see what improvements we’ve made. And I wanted to show it off.

     A few weeks later Vern and I were hanging around the Country House BBQ when an old friend came in. He said he saw the bikes out front and thought they were ours, and had a proposition for us.

  He had rode motors with us at one time on the Police department, but had left for another job that paid a little more money. The department had rehired him and he had just bought a brand new Harley. Well, new to him anyway.

     He was a good guy, and had served honorably in the military and was proud of it. On his arm was the tattoo of the 101st first Screaming Eagles. He liked to wear T-shirts with cut out sleeves so it would show.

     Now I want to let everybody know I personally have nothing against Tattoos. In fact once in Milwaukee I got in line to get me one. I had picked out this Leopard climbing up my arm, but I sobered up just about the time they called my name.

      Anyway, I’m going to call our buddy Screaming Eagle, since I don’t know where he is these days, and I promised years ago, not to tell this story on him till I was sure he was no longer among the living.

     We were sitting in the Country House catching up on what he had been doing for the last three years, when a couple of “Honey-Bun” girls walked in. They had just gotten off work and were still wearing their white uniforms. He immediately dropped his head, and Vern and I could see it upset him pretty bad.

     I’m going to run a rabbit right here for a minute, but as the lawyer says, it does tie in, and I’ll get back to it.

     Rome has several Bakeries. And in the sixties and seventies they had one that made Honey-Buns almost exclusively. Most of the ladies that worked there were good, God Fearing, Family oriented, church going women. But in many companies, and this was no exception, there is a small percentage that likes to party. And at this time in history, at this bakery, it was a pretty good percentage.

     There were some real lookers among the party crowd. Now the thing that stands out about the “Honey-Bun” girls was the way they smelled. I’m not sure delicious is good enough. I feel confident that Estee Lauder or Chanel didn’t have anything close. After working that sweet dough and glaze for an eight hour shift they were permeated with the smell. And Screaming Eagle had married one. He said that after a couple of slow dances he was forever more hooked. The sad thing was that she had just divorced him. He didn’t see it coming and was on the rebound.

     So now he proposed a little midnight ride, to Panama City Florida. He said we could be there by daylight, we’d sleep a few hours, hang around the beach during the afternoon, party that night and ride back Sunday. I looked at Vern and he just shrugged his shoulders. I knew from that he was all in, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Screaming Eagle could test his new bike, and I could do my scaled down version of Peter Fonda Saturday night on the strip. So away we went. Redneck Riviera here we come.

     One thing here I want to add. Riding through the night in South Alabama with no windshield is a challenge. You’re going to get the chance to eat a lot of bugs. Now please be advised. As any rider can tell you, some of them are mighty tasty, and some are real bitter. The problem is, like Forrest Gump said about a box of chocolates. You don’t know what you’re going to get.

     We made it to Panama City with no trouble at all. Vern knew a guy that had a cheap motel right on the beach. We slept till noon, had lunch, and were now sitting on the patio behind the motel on the beach side. We had purchased a Styrofoam cooler and it was full. All we had to do now was just kick back and wait for the sun to kind of dip into the Gulf. Life was good.

     Right before dark we saw this young woman walking slowly along the beach. There was nothing uncommon here, except she wasn’t really dressed in beach wear. She would stop and take long looks out into the gulf, and finally started walking out in the surf to where it was over her knees. There she had stopped.

     Screaming Eagle turned to us and said. “I think that girl is going to kill herself.” While we were watching, the Eagle got up and started walking toward her. Vern and I were following a good distance behind him. When we got with-in twenty or thirty yards we sat down in the sand. Eagle was already talking to her and we were close enough to hear what was said.

     It was obvious that she was going to kill herself and Eagle was doing all he could to talk her out of it. Vern and I didn’t move, we didn’t want to spook her, or break the rapport that was being developed. Eagle had her listening now. Later in hostage negotiation training that’s one of the first steps taught. He told her all about his problems with his ex-wife. How living wasn’t so bad, he knew life wasn’t fair but you just had to make the best out of it. He did a great job. But she seemed unconvinced.

     Finally he told her that if she was bound and determined to drown herself. To please allow him a final kiss to remember her by. This seemed to get her attention, and she asked several times was he sure of that. He assured her he was and she gave him a good one.

     That did it. He held her hand and led her out of the water. Vern asked her to come have a cool one with us. She said she had to retrieve her shoes and would be right back. While she was gone Eagle was really proud of himself and we were too. “Boys, she kisses better than the Honey-bun wife I had,” he said. Then looking straight at us he added.”When I kiss’em they don’t even want to kill themselves anymore.”

   She came back and sipped a couple of beers and then said that if she wasn’t going to kill herself she was going to have to go home and get ready for her shift tomorrow morning. As she started to walk off Vern asked her why she wanted to kill herself in the first place?

      She replied that she was supposed to get married this coming December. And her fiancé had dressed her up in girl clothes a few months back and they went to a party as sisters. She told Vern that she liked the look, so I started doing it myself. My fiancé doesn’t like me wearing her clothes, and is threatening to call off the wedding if I don’t quit. So on the week-ends she has to work I dress in her clothes and drive the fifty miles to the beach. But now my mother and dad are pitching a fit about me dressing like a girl. It’s just a family thing, I guess. Vern just dropped his head as she walked away.

     It was a long ride home !!!

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One for the good ol’ boys

                                                              ONE FOR THE GOOD OLE BOYS

 A few months back I wrote a blog about some Yankees coming through my little home town of Cave Spring. And while they were having breakfast in a local café near me they insulted the grits that was brought to them. Most folks thought the column was quite humorous and I received a lot of positive comments and e-mails that stated that fact. But not all of them did.

      I received a comment from a lady in New England who was born and raised in the south. She stated that it was men like me that prompted her to move and I could take the grits and home- made Southern breakfast of biscuits, and Red-Eye gravy and stick them up my Rebel butt. Modern women had better things to do than get up, fix food, and be a waitress for some man who was no better than they were.

     I e-mailed her back and apologized for being so crude in her eyes, but I would like to know a couple of things. I just wanted to make sure I understood what a modern woman was. I simply asked if she was married or had a boy friend and did she shave her legs.

      I can’t put in print her reply, other than I was a Neanderthal and Mencken was right when he said the south was an intellectual Sahara. She advised me in no uncertain terms it was none of my business if she ever married or shaved her legs. And of course, she was right. But now I knew. She stated she enjoyed her life in the Green Mountains of Vermont where intellectual people lived and conversed.

     I then tried to explain the cultural differences. For instance, Nascar made the “good ol’ boys” quit bringing long necks to the race track. They were afraid somebody might insult the good name of Dale Earnhardt which was a sure fired way to get your head bashed.

     And I couldn’t apologize for country music. We loved Willy and Waylon—and if Gretchen Wilson didn’t mind calling herself a Redneck woman, and wanted to leave her Christmas lights on her front porch all year long, that was her business. Preaching is on the TV somewhere twenty-four seven, and on another channel there are John Wayne re-runs. And about once a year we watch Gone With the Wind again hoping it will end differently.

     She said she had retired to the North in her twenties beause we were loud and boisterous. I think she was indicating we drink too much. I can’t argue with that I said, we do like to tap our foot along with David Allen Coe and Loretta Lynn.

      We also like to fish and hunt. I asked her if she knew how many good ol’ boys it took to catch a Catfish. Four I replied. It takes one to catch the thing, another to write a song about it, and two to start a fist fight in the parking lot later arguing about how big it was.

     And then there’s football. I’ll bet you don’t like football at all do you. Well the good ol’ boys certainly do. At last count I could only come up with nine professional teams in the South. But then there is the SEC, which includes Alabama and eleven other teams. And I can’t forget about their little sisters in the ACC. So please give us our football Mrs. Vermont, a fellow can only fish and hunt so much you know.

     That brings me back to what you said about Mencken. He made his statement with-out much investigation, and from Baltimore. It’s not exactly Oxford or Cambridge, is it now?

      I was stationed in Connecticut once upon a time. And on our first week-end of liberty we went to New York City, ‘cause the drinking age was 18. It didn’t take us long to find 42nd street and a place called the Peppermint lounge. Now this was in 1965 and things were different than today.

      Across the street was a bar called the Club .45. We liked it a lot better than the Peppermint Lounge and got a table. Couldn’t get to the packed bar. I finally said, “How about y’all letting a feller get him a beer, if’n you don’t mind.”Things got quiet and some guy bought all of us a beer.

     Our table was soon full of giggling yankee-girls. One of my buddies eventually married one of them. Anyway they wanted me to keep talking. I’d give them a lot of ain’ts and hain’ts and grey-its and tell them they was purtier than a whole litter of speckled puppies under a red wagon. And they just giggled and giggled. As I remember, they were right friendly girls.   

     That was a lesson well learned. I was in Connecticut for three months and never had to buy more than the first drink in any bar in New York if I’d lay on the Southern Accent.  I was back in the city several years later and it still worked, wonder what Mencken would have thought of that.

     Please understand that I wrote the blog about Cave Spring as a public service. I had just finished reading some stories by a famous Southern Philosopher named Jerry Clower. Now Jerry is of the opinion that if more women would get up in the morning and cook real biscuits, not “Whomp” biscuits that come from a can, it would cut the divorce rate to almost nothing.

     One of my favorite Southern authors, the immortal Lewis Grizzard, was a little more forceful. He quoted his boyhood friend and idol, Weyman C. Wannamaker, a great American, on hairy legged women. Weyman had said that he wouldn’t take a hairy legged woman to a rat killing.

     My grandson while reading over my shoulder said that I should throw in a little Friedrich Nietzche or Jean-Paul Sartre and show the lady that we do have some education. He’s a college boy and knows everything, so I did. But I told him he better warn those fellers that if they got around Talledega on race Day and started running off at the mouth some good ol’ boy would bash their head in with a long neck. I guarantee it.

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A July 5 Visit With Dad

A July 5 Visit With Dad

It was Tuesday, the 5th of July. All the parades, fireworks and veteran services were over. I thought this had been an exceptional year for celebrating the fourth. This has always been one of my favorite holidays, but this year I was a little late in carrying out one of my annual traditions.

      My very first novel, Bertha, had arrived on July 1st and it was doing pretty good among face book friends and those that follow my column. I had several meetings at the history museum with folks wanting copies and I dropped off a box with Pat at the library.

      I was a little overwhelmed to say the least. The book had been a two year struggle and now it was a reality. We were holding out on releasing it to the gift and book stores until after the first signing which had been scheduled for July 16th.  We wanted to have a launch party at the Museum, but had released the book on-line for those who had eagerly anticipated its arrival.

     After the delivery and meetings had taken place, I eased my car into East View cemetery, parked and got out. I usually try to make this trip around the fourth to pay my respects to the man buried there. I have written several columns about my mother dying on Mother’s day when I was fifteen. However, I have not written on her husband, my father. Next to their graves is another plot which has a raised wall, just the right place for me to sit for a few minutes.

     Harry Ragland was a complex, multi-faceted individual. He was extremely intelligent. Years of reading had created a self educated man. But from the time I was old enough to know him, he had to fight the demons that lived in the whiskey bottle. He was an Alcoholic, and he knew it. It wasn’t that he wanted to be one, or even liked the taste of the stuff. In fact he tried over and over to quit and stay quit. He was never able to accomplish that feat. Alcoholics Anonymous kept him sober for almost two years one time. And he had lasted many times for six or eight months without a drink. But he always failed in the end.

     He was not a chronic Alcoholic. He was not the guy who drinks every day or gets soused on week-ends. He was what AA called a periodic Alcoholic. He would go weeks or months without a drink and then fall off the wagon. And when he did, he drank and drank. He wouldn’t eat anything or even touch water. Sometimes these bouts would last for as long as two weeks. At times it almost killed him. Then, he’d sober up and hunt a job.  He always got fired for staying out of work so long.

     He was a textile worker and loved working at Lindale. But they’d fire him nevertheless and he’d go to work for another Cotton Mill somewhere in North Georgia. He was a loom fixer, and a good one. And all the Mills knew he was good at his job. They also knew they’d get somewhere between three and six months of premium work before he pitched another drunk. They hired him time after time hoping he’d stay quit. I think he held the record for being hired at Lindale.

     Dad was born in Chattooga County, Georgia in 1915. His family moved to the little cotton mill village of Lindale when the Boll Weevil destroyed their farm. They were forced to become mill hands to survive.

     Harry finished the eighth grade. That was as far as the Lindale school system went at the time. He asked his mother if he could repeat the grade, he didn’t want to quit school, and she agreed. But after that he went into the mill. Working in the weave shop where he soon learned the trade of a weaver.  He often told me that he loved his job. To him it was better than farming.

     He met my mother at a dance at the Hearn Academy in Cave Spring sometimes in the late thirties. They were married on March 1, 1940. At that time he was not bad to drink. My mother would have never tolerated it.

     Then Pearl Harbor was attacked. He had five older sisters. Sister number two’s husband had been a doughboy in World War I. He had often told my father and his brother that if this country ever goes to war again, join the Navy.  Don’t get stuck in a trench and live in the mud. That’s exactly what he did.

     Dad enlisted in January of 1942. He was one of the first from Rome and Floyd County to enter the military. I have an article somewhere of him and others marching up Broad Street heading for the Induction center in Atlanta. He attended Boot Camp in Norfolk Virginia and then went to Radioman school in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. After that he went to sea on an old World War I destroyer that was to provide protection for convoys heading to Europe.

     He very seldom spoke of this part of his service until he had downed a few drinks and I prompted him. He said that in the summer of 1942 the German U-Boats were waiting for them off the coast of the U.S. The first convoy that he escorted started losing ships almost in sight of the Statue of Liberty. The crossing to England lit up the night sky with ships on fire. He said the burning ships looked like street lights as far as one could see. And his destroyer and others would pound the subs, or where they thought they were, with Depth Charges. This went on day and night.

     He told me that the part that bothered him most was the fact there were sailors and merchant seamen in the water drowning and screaming for help. Others were being burned alive in sinking ships and from the oil that was burning in the water, and he couldn’t stop and help, because to do so would have been certain death. Half the convoy would be lost before they got to England. They would re-supply their ship and escort basically a convoy of empty ships back to the U.S.  While in England or a United States port waiting for the next convoy, he and many of the crew would stay soused. They knew what was coming.

     On one crossing, he said they caught a German U-Boat on the surface and rammed it hard as it was diving. He thinks it was cut in half. There was a lot of garbage and dead bodies floating around and his ship suffered some severe damage. They were repaired in England and the War continued. By the summer of 1944, the U-Boat presence had been reduced greatly. They were now getting most of the convoys across without losing to many of their ships.

     Dad went to Lindale on leave sometime in September of 1944 and when returning to New York he missed a train connection and arrived a day late. His ship had sailed without him. Expecting the worse he reported in and explained what happened. Rather than getting in trouble he was assigned to the USS Anthedon—A Submarine Tender.  He was in heaven. It had a library, barber shop and all around better, cleaner and modern living facilities than the old destroyer.

      He got to go through the Panama Canal and went to Perth, Australia where they outfitted American Submarines that was wreaking havoc on Japanese shipping. He was enjoying his new home until they sailed up to the Philippines and some of the adjoining islands. He was in the vicinity of a little island called Okinawa when Japanese airplanes started diving at them. He couldn’t believe his luck. He’d lived through the German submarine offensive and now had to deal with Japanese Kamikazes. He was really scared. The Anthedon was nothing more than a big floating gas tank. If one plane hit it, there would be no purple hearts here.

     When the war ended he had enough points to be one of the first out. But he caught Malaria in Manila and stayed in a VA hospital for nearly a year in Jacksonville Florida.

     He eventually made it back to Lindale. Went to school at night to finish High School and took a correspondence course on fixing looms.

     All the time at sea he read everything he could get his hands on.  When I was just a youngster he told me the story of Ulysses and the Trojan War and his trip back to his home on Ithaca. He was well versed in Shakespeare and all the old Greeks. I got his and my mother’s desire for reading, and their love of books.

     I had just made Captain on the Police Department and was working a second job parking cars at a local country club. It was near midnight when my wife pulled up. Dad had been living with an older sister in Lindale for years. My wife had received a call from my aunt which said she found him lying in the floor in his bedroom. I wondered if he was he drunk. I had just spoken to him earlier in the day and he wasn’t.

     Dad was a baseball fan, he took me to Textile league games when I was five or six years old until that league finally folded up. He loved to listen to the Atlanta Braves on the radio. His sister said every night he would go to his room around eight. He would listen to the game then get up for a drink of water. This night he didn’t get up. She went to check on him and he had never made it to the radio, it wasn’t on.

     The doctors said he had a Cerebral Hemorrhage.  He had High blood. I looked at the quart jar of pills the VA sent him and they hadn’t been opened. He complained that they made him feel bad. He was sixty three years old that night in June.

     Dad was forty-six when my mother died. He and I lived together for the next two years until I entered the Navy myself. He never re-married and as far as I know never even came close. He truly was a one woman man. For the next seventeen years he lived a lonely life. He loved my daughter, but I didn’t take her to his house nearly as much as I should have. And she loved him too.

     You see, in the back of my mind it was always the alcohol. Growing up I could never have friends over, you didn’t know what was coming home. Children of Alcoholic parents are a special breed. They’re denied a very integral part of childhood. I envied my friends that had parents that didn’t drink or could at least control it. My early life was arranged around his Alcoholism, and I hated it. And when I got out of the navy, I didn’t come around Dad near as much as I should have. And now I regret it. This is the one thing I wish I could change.

     Yes, I drank my share in the service and after as well. I’ve often said that I know I paid for one of those Budweiser horses and I want it. But in the back of my mind was the saga of my father. I couldn’t live with it any longer. So I gave it up.

     He died on June 29th 1979. He loved all Veterans services and especially his American Legion post in Lindale. He kept my dues paid up for years, and I didn’t even know it. The fourth of July was a special time for him. He loved the flag waving and patriotic venues. He also loved the barbecues and being around his friends from Lindale who had also served.

     I got off my resting place. And once again read the foot stone the Government sent stating he was a World War II Veteran.

     I took the little American flag, stuck it next to his head stone, and said “Happy fourth of July Sailor. Rest in Peace. I’ll see you shortly.”

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When I Get Old-A short story.

Someday When I Get Old

  A couple of weeks ago, after volunteering at the museum I walked down to the end of Broad Street. After feasting on a Chicago dog at Roger’s hot dog stand I was nearly back to where my car was parked when I saw this old man sitting on one of the benches at the corner of the block. He had to be at least eighty and was talking to a nicely dressed young man sitting next to him.

I sat down beside him to talk

I sat down beside him to talk

     As I got nearly even with them the old man lit a cigarette and the young man got up and walked away. Now my church does a street mission program and I have gotten familiar with a lot of the street people in town. But I didn’t recognize this fellow. He had on a crumpled up shirt, a pair of dark colored pants that appeared to be clean with some built in stains. He hadn’t shaved for a week or two and wore no socks with his worn out shoes. And lastly he was wearing a baseball cap of some kind that was so faded you couldn’t read anything, but it looked like it might have been green at one time.

     I thought to myself, oh boy, I’m going to get me a couple of good stories right here. You see I’m a sucker for old people, especially old men that have been around the mountain a few times. They all have good tales of life and lost loves with experiences to back them up. That’s exactly the kind of stories that I want to be able to tell when I get to be an old man.

    I sat down and attempted to strike up a conversation with the old fellow.

     “Need any help?” I asked.

     “Help?” he asked back. “I need my granddaughter to come and get me. I don’t want to sit here all day.”

     I thought to myself. Yep, when I get to be an old man I’ll be as stubborn as I want to be and won’t listen to anybody.

     He turned, looked at me and said. “Did you see that fellow that just left?”

     “Well I just asked him what time it was and he got up and left. He had an ear-bob in his ear. Never trust a man with an ear-bob in his ear.”

     And when I get old, I thought, I ain’t gonna trust nobody that ain’t at least sixty-five.

     I finally asked if he had any family other than the granddaughter he was waiting for.

     “I had a whole house full of young’uns. My wife died over thirty-five years ago and I raised them all. Course they’re gone now.”

     “So you never remarried?” I asked.

     “When you got a house full of kids to raise, you ain’t got time to hunt for a woman,” he replied. “Look mister,” he said, “I just come to town to straighten out the mess the VA has made of my check “I don’t drink. I don’t need much to live on. Women’s what takes yore money, without them it ain’t to hard to get by.”

     Finally I got him on a roll. He told me all about his children, the ones that had been successful and the ones who hadn’t. The ones who were having problems with alcohol and the ones who lived with him but left cause he played a lot of preaching on the TV.

     His granddaughter pulled up and hollered. “Get in grand-paw we’re going to be late.”

  He gave me a wave as he got in the car. I noticed he had a big smile on his face.

     I sat there reflecting on what he had just told me. I doubted if I could get a story out of it, but I sure did envy him. I kept thinking, he doesn’t care what anybody thinks, says what he wants to, and can be a stubborn old coot. The wrinkled shirt and baggy pants, shoes with no laces and feet with no socks also gave me the impression that dress was not a factor in his life.

     I was basking in the sun when I was startled by a car horn. I think I might have actually dosed off and jumped a bit when the horn sounded. I looked up and there was my daughter and granddaughter sitting in her car at the traffic light. My granddaughter was frantically waving for me to come to the car. As I approached the car they both started yelling for me to get in. I crawled in the back seat and they pulled off.

     “What’s up?” I asked as we headed down Broad.

     “What are you doing?” my daughter asked.

     “Not much” I replied. “Just got off at the museum and was headed for my car at the parking deck. Why do you ask?”

     “How long have you been sitting there?” my granddaughter asked.

     “Didn’t time it,” I said. I was beginning to get skeptical at this line of questioning. And I once again asked why.

     “Grandpa,” said my granddaughter. “You’re sitting out here on the street looking like that. You’re lucky some church group didn’t offer you a personal hygiene bag. And half the people in this town know who you are. What do you think was going thru their minds when they saw you sitting here?”

     “Bekki,” I said to my daughter. “What’s she talking about?”

     “Daddy, you’re wearing men’s shorts that look like they were wadded up in a ball and then you put them on, and the shirt you’re wearing is frayed and faded and probably has a hole in it somewhere. And when’s the last time you were at a barber shop to get your beard trimmed and shaped?”

     “Is that all?” I asked. “Where ya’ll going anyway?”

     “We’re going to the mall,” my daughter said. “Where are you parked?”

     “I’m in no hurry,” I said. “I believe I’ll go with ya’ll.”

      “No you won’t,” my granddaughter said. “We’re going to get something to eat first. And you’ve already eaten.”

     “How do you know that?” I asked.

     “Cause part of it is still on your shirt. It looks like mustard.”

     I always do that I thought. I tried to get it off and then forgot about it.

     “And grandpa,” she continued, “You have several pairs of nice tennis shoes and dress shoes. Why do you insist on wearing those Jerusalem cruisers with no socks when you go to the museum?”

     “Jurusa what?” I asked.

     “Sandals, Daddy,” my daughter answered.

     “Well for one thing they’re comfortable and I like ‘em.”

     “And would it be too much trouble to get rid of that old faded out Alabama hat.”

     “I’m not going to get rid of my hat,” I said. Then I added a “Roll Tide” just for good measure.

     “Well could you at least get another one. Maybe a white one, so when it got dirty even you could tell it.”

     “Grandpa,” Mattie said. “You can go with us if you really want to, but at the mall would you remain in the car.”

     “Nah, I’m going to walk real close to you and tell everybody you’re my baby girl.”

     “Mama,” she said.

     “He’s just being stubborn like always,” my daughter said with a smile on her face.

     They took me back to my car. When I got home I told my wife about all that had transpired.

     She thought it was funny. I knew she would.

     I sat on my back porch this past week-end remembering the old man.  I wish I had gotten his name.

      ‘Cause when I get to be an old man I’m going to act the same way.

     “Martha, is John Hagee on yet?”

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Snippets from Bertha–An upcoming book by Mike Ragland

Snippets from Bertha

About a month ago I published a blog on my upcoming book. It’s at the printers now and I can hardly await its arrival.  I feel somewhat like an expectant father, and I’ve been there and done that.

At my age I chose to self-publish “Bertha” which is my first book. I didn’t figure I had two or three years to waste playing games with agents and publishing houses. My main goal was to save the story from being lost to the future. It was a story that galvanized the community for nearly two years. Folks were waiting at their door for the Newspaper to run so they could see what happened next.

It could have happened in any small Southern town, and most likely many had their own form of Bertha, or traumatic incident. I simply chose to set this one in the community from which it happened.

Now back to the blog from a month ago. I had a lot of hits on that story, and a lot of e-mails. I didn’t have a single comment that didn’t like the entry. But I did have many requests for an additional tease.  The established standard says don’t publish excerpts or snippets from an upcoming book, but I’ve never been real good at playing by the rules, so I shall honor that request. And I’m going to throw some photos from the book at you also.

Please remember these snippets are from a draft that was corrected many, many times. I simply do not have the finished PDF in front of me.

Frank Russell, lead investigator in the Bertha Hill case

Frank Russell, lead investigator in the Bertha Hill case

Frank Russell the chief Deputy Sheriff has walked downBroad Streetto get a bite to eat. He’s in deep thought about the day’s event and he fails to see the owner of the Restaurant—Joe Adams –slide into the booth next to him.  Joe like frank had at one time been a Rome Police Officer.  After they exchange greetings Frank begins to ask his friend about Leroy Hill and his habits.

“Slow down pard,” Joe said. “Yeah, Leroy drank a lot. But he didn’t get falling down drunk like some of my customers do.

“I really run a restaurant, and sell beer. I don’t actually run a tavern like some of the other folks do. There is still a good bit of drinking that goes on, but most of them old boys were familiar with my police background and they don’t drink too much here.

“I guess I failed to mention that most of the crowd that Leroy drew was either women, or guys looking for women. Leroy was one good looking man, at least that’s what the women seemed to think. And it must be true, because he always had one with him that usually picked up his tab.  If Leroy had a problem, it was money and women. He always had too little of one and too much of the other.”

Leroy Hill, dressed for the ladies.

Leroy Hill, dressed for the ladies.

After the first day’s initial investigation, Frank knows he’s got some problems. He ends the first day lying in bed and going over the day’s events, and dwelling on what’s coming.

“Frank didn’t waste any time getting to bed. He lay there in the dark, looking to where he knew the ceiling was. As tired as he was, he couldn’t sleep. His mind was running wide open. What have I missed? What have I missed? He kept repeating over and over to himself. Those eyes and that smile-or was it a smile?

Finally rest, sleep, peaceful sleep once again conquered his accelerated mind, and slowly but surely, turned everything black.”

 The next day after the body had been sent to Jennings funeral home an autopsy was performed there.  Frank was required to testify before a coroner’s jury, so his partner, Deputy Harry Davis attended his first autopsy. Frank got there as fast as he could but it was basically over when he arrived. He picked Harry up and they started toward the jail.

“What’s the matter buddy, you look a little pale,” Frank said trying to sound sincere.

“Frank,” Harry said. “That doctor pulled Leroy’s fingernails and toe nails off. Not all of them but some on each hand and foot. Then he cut him open. He started picking up his insides. He would hold each piece up and announce what it was so that one of them funeral home guys could write it down. He’d just turn it over and over, poke on it some and then put it in a bag. I know that he took samples of stomach, liver, kidneys, and intestines and then he got hair samples. It was awful, just awful.”

“Guess I owe you one Harry,” Frank said as he stopped for a light onBroad St.

“You’re mighty right you do,” Harry said. “And it ain’t gonna be cheap either.”

“Wouldn’t want it to be,” Frank said. “Tell you what I’m gonna do. I got a call this morning before I went to the Sheriff’s meeting from Chief Wood Quarles at the Rome P.D. He said that they was having a supper this Friday night at a cabin down near the lock and dam and he wanted me to come. He said I could bring a deputy or two with me. I think the Sheriff will be there, too.”

“Frank, I ain’t feeling real good. Don’t want to talk about food right now.”

“Well, I gotta let them know Harry. And Joe Adams is doing the cooking. Gonna be a big chitlin supper. I know how you love chitlins. I can remember watching you eat a hog gut a mile long-and you know Joe. He boils them first. A lot of cooks don’t. I ain’t crazy about the smell of boiling hog guts. But after he gets them good and tender he cuts them up in six inch pieces and fries them good and brown. They’re great, unless you get a kernel of corn that didn’t pass through. But you know that Joe takes his hog guts when they’re fresh and cleans them real good. They’re creek flung and stump whupped.”

“Stop the car Frank,” Harry said in a crisp harsh voice.

“Harry, you all right? You’re kinda turning green around the hair line buddy,” Frank taunted.

“Stop the car Frank,” Harry said again.

Frank and Harry were waiting for Bertha in the Greystone Hotel and made the arrest when she came to meet Leroy’s mother who had just arrived from North Carolina. They guided her out of the Hotel into the waiting patrol car.

“Bertha could feel her heart beating all over her body. It seemed it was in her throat preventing her from speaking. She thought for a minute that it would choke her to death or that she would pass out.”

Once she arrived at the jail, she was booked in and made the trip to the second floor and was placed in a cell.

“Bertha eased into the cell. There were four bunks. The light was not too bright, and it took a few minutes for her eyes to adjust. The two bottom bunks were occupied and there was another woman stretched out on one of the top bunks. Bertha realized that she didn’t have a place to sit. She could hear the jailer as he walked down the corridor and slammed the steel hallway door. She turned her back to the women in the cell, grabbed the bars and sobbed uncontrollably.”

Criminal defense Attorney Mack Hicks had just been appointed to defend Bertha, and he was very unhappy about it. It was a Friday afternoon and he just wanted to go to his club and have a few shots of bourbon whiskey.

Bertha Hill in court with her defense team.

Bertha Hill in court with her defense team.

“But no, I’ve been appointed to defend this female cracker for poisoning her whole damn family. This case had the necessary ingredients to ruin his career, or at least cause it grievous harm.”

     He entered the jail and asked to see his client. She was ushered into the small interview room where Mack was waiting.

“She stood behind her chair and let her eyes settle on the man looking up at her. Their eyes locked in contact, and neither looked away for several seconds.”

“Mack looked the woman over from head to toe and thought to himself, not bad, I’ve seen a lot of good looking women in my life and this one is better than average. And she had something. Mack could spot that immediately, although he didn’t know what.

She’s about five foot seven he thought, and just a little heavy. But she has a good build. Not fat at all but would probably go a hundred forty pounds coming out of the bathtub. He had always considered himself a connoisseur of fine female flesh and this girl was grade A.

“Five foot eight,” She said without moving her eyes. “And I’d probably go about one thirty five or thirty eight right about now. I fill up a thirty eight C but can’t handle a D. I’ve been here almost two months and know I lost a little. Do I pass?”

“How’d she do that? She read my thoughts right down to the letter.

“Oh yeah, I think you do,” Mack said indicating for Bertha to take a chair.

  Bertha was in the small waiting room the morning her trial started.

Standing room only for the Bertha Hill trial in Rome, Georgia

Standing room only for the Bertha Hill trial in Rome, Georgia

“How many people are out there Mack?” she asked.

“I’m not gonna lie to you Bertha, the courtroom is packed.”

“Oh Lord,” she said. “They’ve come to see me fed to the lions.”


Bertha was deathly afraid of going to the electric chair.

“Look Bertha, you’ve got to get over this thing about the electric chair,” Mack said. “Nobody’s gonna put you in the chair.”

“How do you know Mack?”

“Cause they don’t put women in the chair. That’s how.”

“Oh yeah,” Bertha said as her anger became evident. “Then why don’t you tell me about Lena Baker. They damn sure put her in the chair last year and she’s as dead as a doornail.”

“Ok Bertha let me rephrase that. They don’t put white women in the chair.”

“Mack you think she didn’t feel it cause she’s colored? The woman had three kids. She was drinking with a white man that she worked for and was seeing on the side. She said they got into an argument and he pulled a gun, while they were wrestling it went off and hit him in the head.

Does that sound like an electric chair case to you? She faced an all white male jury and you see what she got. Now I’ve got to go out there and face the same kind of jury that thinks I killed my Mama and Papa along with Leroy. And you tell me not to worry.”

  I hope you enjoyed some of the “snippets” from Bertha. I’m told that it will be ready for order by July 1st.  Our first endeavor is to have a launch Party at the Rome Area History Museum on the first Saturday that we can. We hope to have a Bertha window up at the museum soon with news clippings, photo’s, articles from Detective Magazines, and a quilt top she made while in jail.

     We chose to have our party at the Museum because during the War it was McClellan’s five and dime, where Bertha worked when the sky fell in on her. Some say she’s still there.

Mike Ragland.

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How I became a Beatle’s Fan


  In 1965, I had been in the Navy for two years.  After boot camp I was ordered to submarine school in New London, Connecticut.   After twelve weeks in the frozen tundra of New England, I was assigned to the U.S.S. Chopper (SS-342) which was home ported in Key West, Florida.  The next eighteen months we were in Cuba, all over the Caribbean and up the Atlantic seaboard.  Now it was the middle of summer and we were in the Mediterranean Sea attached to the Sixth Fleet.  We had stopped at Portugal, Spain, Italy, and France and were now pulling in to Malta. 

USS Chopper heading into Malta

USS Chopper heading into Malta

     This little island of Malta is strategically located almost dead center of the Mediterranean and everybody had occupied it at one time or another. The Apostle Paul was shipwrecked here in the 1st century and was bitten by a poisonous snake.  The Turks invaded in the 1500’s and the Germans bombed it to smithereens during the early days of World War II.

         But, in 1965 it was a British naval base.  As we came into Valetta, Malta, there were several British frigates and one carrier already in port.  Since the British and Americans were the closest of buddies we were cordially invited to their enlisted men’s club.  We were told that they had American burgers and fries plus your favorite German beverage which came in barrels and all of it was CHEAP!  Cheap is always good for the American sailor.  That’s when quality gives way for quantity.  But if you can get both for less money it is a win-win situation.

     When we left the states all of the radio stations were locked in to Beatle music.  They had seven songs in the top ten.  That’s all you could hear.  We HATED the Beatles.  Besides, they needed haircuts.  Everyone knew that real men wore flat tops or crew cuts!!  These guys looked like somebody had put Granny’s mashed tater bowl on their heads and trimmed the hair around it!  Yep, we hated them.  But, all the girls loved them!  You know who else loved them?? BRITISH SAILORS! 

     The Enlisted Men’s Club was huge.  It had fifty to seventy five tables that seated from six to eight each.  And, it was full.  We got a table right smack in the middle.  Got a food order in, settled back and began to tell war stories.  This place was LOUD!  Three to four hundred people talking as loud as they could (German beverages have a way of affecting one’s hearing, even being the cause of temporary deafness or acute bouts of hearing difficulties).  The juke box was wired to large speakers in the ceiling and was blaring “I want to hold your hand” and “love, love me do” or any number of other songs by the Lads from Liverpool.  The British sailors were nice to us and as I stated earlier, we were friend and allies.  Oh, I knew a long time ago we had a couple of misunderstandings, one in the late 1700’s and then again in 1812.  But that was water under the bridge.  Hadn’t we stood toe to toe and beaten the Germans twice, and now we were holding off Russian expansion, while our boys in Viet Nam were preventing the domino effect from taking place.

     One of the members of our group had gone to the juke box to play anything besides Beatle music.  His name was Morgan and he was from somewhere close to Mobile.  He wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he liked country music.  He had dropped his coin in probably a half hour before the selection came up. When it started my heart skipped a few beats and THEN STOPPED!  I looked at my shipmate and thought “What have you done??”  It was a Johnny Horton song.  Johnny had been tragically killed while at the top of his career and many of his songs had crossed over to pop and rock charts, and were loved and respected by all.  One song was titled “Sink the Bismarck” which glorified the British navy’s hunt and destruction of Germany’s huge battleship.  The other Johnny Horton song, which I don’t believe got a lot of playing time here was just coming on.  It went something like this:

    “In 1814 we took a little trip

 Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip

     We took a little bacon and we took a little beans

     And we caught the bloody British in a town called New Orleans”

 The music was blaring, but the vocal chatter was starting to subside.  My friends and I were very quiet, except for Morgan, who was singing at the top of his lungs and directing the music!

     “Well we looked down the river and we seed the British come

       they must have been a hundred of them beating on the drum

       they stepped so high and made their bugles ring

      we sat beside our cotton bales and didn’t say a thing.”

   You got that right!  We didn’t say a thing, except for Morgan and I sure would have liked to been behind a cotton bale right about then.

     “We fired out guns and the British kept a coming

       wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago

      we fired once more and they began a running

      down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.”

   It was deathly quiet except for that jukebox.  And then came the part I dreaded most.  Johnny Horton goes up an octave and literally growls the next verse:

     “They ran thru the briars and they ran thru the brambles

     and they ran thru the bushes where a rabbit couldn’t go

     they ran so fast that the hounds couldn’t catch them

     down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.”

   Chairs start sliding back and this little Tommy walks over to our table and says, “Are you Yanks trying to insult us?”  Morgan replied, “It’s on YOUR jukebox!”  That remark caught him by surprise, so he says “Well I think that is an affront to the Queen.”  Morgan then tells him where the Queen can go (it’s real hot there!).  The rest of us panic as more chairs begin to slide.  I thought they were going to just beat our eyes out but the little Tommy says, “What if I said that about President Johnson?”  Morgan’s response was “You wouldn’t have to send Johnson, he is on the way regardless.  But, if you’ll hold him, I’ll pack him a lunch and maybe we can hurry him along!”  This amused our British host and at about the same time the Beatles came blaring back thru the speakers with “She Was Just Seventeen”.  I thought we might survive after all!  Shortly, we eased out of there one by one, all except Morgan, and we left him.

We proudly wore the Chopper insignia

We proudly wore the Chopper insignia

     The next day Morgan comes back to the boat (submarines are called boats) and the little British Tommy is with him.  They are like joined at the hip!  He tours our boat, then takes Morgan to his ship where Morgan tells us later that he ate dinner with them and got to drink some grog. We really are fast friends with the British military, I thought.  But that one night I felt like John, Paul, Ringo, and George had intervened and stopped a homicide.  MINE.  I’ve loved them ever since!!

Mike Ragland

Cave Spring, Georgia    

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