TURNED TABLE (398)

About this time we’d found Melvin Steele down near the Dan River. They lived in the bottoms, and Mel’s dad, Mutt, was a plumber. Not only that he was an amateur boxer and taught Mel how to fight. This aided our arsenal.

Fighting was part of the deal and I’d done my share. Being the preacher’s kid my dad got every report. He’d “strap” me for fighting, I’d whip Tuddy or somebody else the next day.

One day E.T. called me into his “study”, a room upstairs in the parsonage where he’d prepare sermons. This memory is very vivid. The study was blue, an- other Sunday school classroom was pink, one was yellow.

My dad sat with his back to me facing out the window, toward the garden.

The conversation went like this, “Son, you continue to get into fights. I’ve strapped you, grounded you, lectured you, and done everything I know. Today we change course.”

Whereupon he removed his big leather belt and took off his shirt.

He turned and told me, “Now you hit me until I tell you to stop.” I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t hit my dad. He demanded, I cried. He demanded. I hit him.

Tuddy (397)

Tuddy died on me. Though he was a year younger, he lost his last tough battle. I was asked to speak about him during our childhood in Madison, NC. We were seldom apart.

In the process of examining this period (1944-52) at ages 4-12, something personal dawned on me.

At age 74 memory becomes an issue. However, one of my memories is quite vivid today. My Father was Baptist minister and, while a mild man, he was serious.

the Presbyterian church. It is nighttime and we are door to door “evangelizing”. I am about eight years old, and I DO NOT like doing this!

It’s tough at that age to tell a father like mine “I DON’T WANT TO DO THAT AGAIN”.

As a matter of fact, I DIDN’T.

Looking back, while preparing my Tuddy-talk, I think I concluded I’d fulfill MY quota by saving Tuddy. Maybe even several of the Websters.

As I mentioned, we were inseparable. Homes too. Normal for
me was the austere parsonage we lived in. Small, plain, with the tacit understanding we had the “…way, the truth, and the light.” MANIFEST DESTINY: TUDDY FIRST. 216 Hunter Street was different. Dark, rich colored furniture, lots space. BUT — there were beer bottles in the house. SF(the father) and Irene (mother) both smoked Lucky Strike CIGARETTES. While they all seemed en route to hell’s fire, I did realize Irene was gorgeous and made me tingle. Looked like Ava Gardner, blowing sexy smoke
rings through deep red lipstick..LIPSTICK. And I perceived, or thought I perceived, an unspoken agreement with her that Tuddy NEEDED some saving.

Accident prone,never missed or won a fist fight, disheveled in any attire, somehow lovable Tuddy. We fought everyday. He, left-handed,
had the boxing glove of that orientation. (Wouldn’t you’d know he’d be left-handed?). I had the right glove. WHOP,WHOP, no ducking. After every fight or accident I’d take him to Hunter Street and Irene. She would look at me with mixed suspicion and understanding gratitude, as he cried tears, often accompanied with other fluids, i.e. blood, snot, or pee.

I OFTEN talked to him in commands (having accepted my role in his salvation): “Tuddy, blow your damn nose!” Or, “…you can’t wear that nasty shirt.” My sister,Gerry,said “no stripes with checks”,”no browns with blacks”, etc. Rules he violated throughout adulthood and without concern.

There was a compounding factor. BILLY FULTON, the third of the three muskateers, or “Tommy, Tuddy, Billy. “Fulton” was pathological liar and had a “pornographical memory”. Devil sent, I was convinced, not what Tuddy needed. The daily highlight Billy created with two challenges: (1)”I BET YOU CAN’T…” and (2) “I DARE YOU TO…” Manipulation directed at Tuddy.

This would result in my admontion, “Tuddy, you idiot, don’t try that!”

The scene is US220 (main street thru Madison) beyond

14

That would cause us to fight, and then a trip to Irene, Billy laughing at us. Somehow I instinctively knew I couldn’t save Fulton. And I was right. There was another easier cause. Tuddy told us he had a brother.

“What is his name? Deems. “What is his real name,” I insisted. “Deems” Tuddy said. “Deems Bourne Webster. And my REAL name is STERLING!? ME: Bullshit, your name is Tuddy. Always will be” Tuddy”: I’m telling you my name is Sterling Fountain Webster, the third!”

“FOUNTAIN? THE THIRD? Who the hell is naming people up there? We can’t have names like than in our group. The next thing you know they’ll want to name somebody Xavier,

or Reginald, or some other ridiculous crap!”

My Father accepted a job in another town and Tuddy became Sterling.

Vee Bundy spoke of the adolescent years..Business partner, Rocco Lassiter, spoke of adult shenanigans and stole the show with very plausible “Sterling tale”:

Rocco remembered a “flush” time when they rewarded the group with a trip to the NCAA FINAL FOUR BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT, to
be held in New Orleans. Rocco: “Sterling was in charge of housing arrangements. About a week before the tournament I called Sterling asked where he had booked us? Sterling said sheepishly ‘I haven’t quite got that nailed down yet. Call me back in two days!’ Two days later I was warned “…I might as well tell, you’ll find out soon. I got all of us a great place to stay. Lots of suites at a five star hotel. Great amenities. All first class’—Sterling concluded and paused. “I asked Sterling, what could be wrong with that”? His reply,”…Rocco, the rooms are in Las Vegas!”

Basketball, gambling, and flying,eh, Tuddy?

As the floor was opened for comments from his close friends and I enjoyed them all. At same time, with each story, I found myself thinking: Tuddy- don’t leave you keys in the car. Or, you speak about as much German as Mickey Mouse and you have no idea where we are! The gasoline doesn’t go there, you dumbass!

Irene–if my Dad hadn’t have moved I could have stopped SOME of that.

My messianic impulses were abated to the point that perhaps DEEMS got it right: “Parham, I believe the Websters CONVERTED YOU!”

ROGER DODGER(396)

My favorite Madison eccentric was Pompey Cardwell, or Mack-Pete, or Rodger- Dodger. Pompey was deified by Jerry Bledsoe later in the Greensboro Newspaper.

I knew who he was but Deems was there later at the right time. Deems es- caped death in Vietnam but came back a little shaken. He, also fascinated by characters, became a disciple of the Rodger-Dodger Foundation of Madison , and it’s spiritual leader, P. Cardwell. Pompey called and was called by many simply, “Mack-Pete” because he couldn’t remember names. The Rodger-Dodger club was formed by children who gave him their picture and a penny. These were posted in the tobacco warehouse where he lived on a bunk. He had rhymes (“If you’re ever up a tree, call on me”). Rodger-Dodger with the two finger circle sign. (“If you’re ever down a well, just ring my bell – Rodger-Dodger.”)

Deems and Mack-Pete salvaged the Patovi Theartre seats when it closed, and located them by the river, where they mediated aided by various chemicals.

Jerry Bledsoe was stricken, too, by Pompey and wrote often about Pompey and his dog, Skipper, would go to the poolroom and pick up and deliver two Miller High Lifes in a paper bag. Pompey dressed Skipper in various attire, Santa Claus suit at Christmas, sailor suits, sunglasses or whatever.

We Rodger-Dodgers are aging now, but Pompey lives on.
Here’s Pompey’s signature story: A little village outside of Madison is named

 

Sandy Ridge, NC. Not much to it.
Pompey swore he got married at 17 years old, panicked and left town the next

day for the World’s Fair in Chicago.
His buddies talked him into going to a Chicago Whorehouse. When he asked the

woman what the deal was she replied (1937 remember?) $3, $5 all night, and $10 for “Around the World”. Pompey had some wedding money and decided what the heck!

Instructed to strip he watched as she kissed his fingers, his arms, his shoulders, ears, neck. Then down to his lower legs, knees, thighs, inner thighs ———- Pom pey said he finally told the girl “…lady your may be going around the world, but it looks like I’m getting off at Sandy Ridge.”

BLISS(395)

By now, it was clear. I would quarterback Madison High under Coach Raymond Cure, go on to Wake Forest College, about to move to Winston Salem from Wake County in 1956. Later I attended the ground breaking at the new Wake Campus. Dr. Tribble was the university president, U.S. President Harry S. Truman was the speaker. Bob Bartholomew was an All-American tackle.

I’d already assigned our positions. Each waking Saturday sent me through the

neighborhood collecting them.
I already had a blackened front tooth, suffered in a pre-school, 2nd grade “tackle

the man with the ball, or “smear the queer” drill.
The highlight came at age 10. I had played catch with some of the high school

players who were in our church. “Foot” Reynolds, Leon Tucker, Lee Anglin were gods to me. And Raymond Cure was the coach, a position higher than God in my mind. Coach Cure coached everything. He wore his football pants and a tee shirt everywhere.

I was watching the high school team practice one day, when there was a rare lull in practice. Leon Tucker, with Foot and Lee watching, called Coach Cure over to watch me “go deep”. Leon hit me with a perfect pass with the big ball and I held on. It knocked me down but I held it. Cure watched me return the ball (I couldn’t hold it) to Leon, and left saying…”I’ll make him a quarterback. I couldn’t have been happier.

SHOOTING (394)

This is repeated from blog 322.  FEAR AND INTIMIDATION have a high success rate. Try the Mafia’s history. Threaten one’s children and you may get your way. No one suffered intimidation more than the black population of America. In David Halberstam’s THE CHILDREN he describes how young blacks realized they had to confront racism before they had children, having witnessed their parent’s fear of someone hurting their children and thus not being able to act.

So many of the “school shooters” fit a similar profile: Teenaged, white, male, not much parental foresight. Isn’t it logical to try to prevent this scenario?
Is this the algorithim we must  identify?
1. I can’t fight them
2. No one at school will help.
3. My parent(s) won’t do anything. Or don’t know how.
4. I’ll practice my videos and get good. Daydream of revenge.
5. I am great at this.
6. Somehow access to an assault weapon
7. “After tomorrow that son of a bitch will never scare me again. Nor will his buddies.”

DEVOTIONALS (393)

There were additional plusses in the church. Quite often people would go blank on their bible verses. Otis never got his right. David Spear was Madison’s early version of Hunter S. Thompson. He tried a piano recital piece sans music, and couldn’t hit note one. I lived for those moments. ***

I soon became quite adept at zoning out. I could look straight at my father, yet be on the baseball field, swinging on a vine at the river, or kicking shit out of Tuddy. I’d catch flies, stare at the one blue windowpane. I memorized the Broadman Hymnal (or song book).

If you eliminated the days that asthma kept me at home listening to mom’s piano students mangle our piano, I liked music.

“Jesus loves me this I know”. “Little hands be careful”. Joanie Mitchell and “Amazing Grace”. “Softly and Tenderly” from a Trip to Bountiful. Wow! Some of the words bothered me at age 7. “There is a fountain filled with blood”? “Such a wretch as me”? “Was it for sins that I had done he groaned upon the tree???” I hadn’t hurt Jesus. “What a friend we have in Jesus.” I wouldn’t hurt a friend, except Tuddy.

I learned all the words to the hymns. I hummed them silently, having been told I was a “talentless monotone.” A perception that remains accurate.

There were highlights being the preacher’s kid. We were held high in regard. A Mr. Mason bought my dad a lovely suit and that impressed me. Dinners on the grounds at the rural churches yielded great food.

The height of the year was the children’s five-pound paper bags at Christmas. Each child could walk up to the front and examine the treasures inside: apples,or anges, tangerines, raisins on the vine, candy—mostly peppermint and Three Musketeers. More than one year we got the “Book of Life Savers” (60 cents at McFall’s Drug Store.)

We also had family devotionals. (The family that prays together stays together). After breakfast we read from the Bible (or Dad did) and then he’d pray. An-other lesson in patience. Tuddy and Billy (and the gathering rest) learned to avoid my home in the a. m… I was both embarrassed and tickled when they got trapped into a ten-minute prayer.

***D

CHILD PSYCHOLOGY(392)

Billy’s lying was just accepted by us. He was always making things up. He listened to the radio and all the “green hornet” adventure programs of that day were great for his imagination. He introduced us to Jonathan Winters, the 9 cent movies at the Patovi Theatre, dirty jokes, but most of all to Uncle Louie. More in a moment.

Once Opal wouldn’t let him out of the house, saying he was grounded for ly- ing. Perhaps this was my first knowledge of a “child psychologist”, as we were told he was being counseled for lying.

Years later Billy admitted how this all unfolded, and this account was later told at his funeral, attended by his mom.

In those days there were “carnivals” and just the sort of thing Billy craved. He convinced his mom that if she’d let him attend he’d never lie again. Cautiously Opal gave him 25 cents. Fifteen cents got him in the gate. A peanut stand at the entrance got the dime. Today it would not be allowed but in 1948 a “monkey” (really a 70 pound baboon) was chained to an iron stake, right next to the peanuts. The baboon held out his hand. Billy gave him a peanut. One for Billy, one for the monkey. What fun! The problem arose at the bottom of the bag, when it was empty. Billy held out his hands to show the baboon it was empty. At that point Billy swears the baboon grabbed his hands and beat the living hell out of him. All of a sudden the carnival manager runs up to him and kicks him out for “disturbing his baboon”. The next scene has Billy only 20 minutes out of “time out” standing on his porch, bleeding, crying, dirty, and clothes ruined. Opal, hearing him, runs to the door: “Billy, what in the world happened to you?”. Momma, a monkey beat me up”. Opal: “You’re lying and get back in your room.”

Opal endeared herself to me when she shot- gunned Billy’s bicycle punctured inner tube, thinking it was a black snake.

***M