Living near the Army base of Fort Gordon was interesting. Momma and my aunt didn’t work during the day, they took care of us, cooked, cleaned, the usual stuff and now and then for kicks, they’d drive on to the base at Fort Gordon. Back then they didn’t have base guards and weren’t really strict about who they would and wouldn’t let on base.
I can remember very long, multi-storied wooden barracks with clothes lines hanging down in between the middle of each one where the soldiers would hang their clothes and uniforms to dry. Many times the soldiers were running or doing physical training in what looked to be undershorts. My mother and aunt would have the windows rolled down and make the shrillest whistles (cat calls) at these young men that you’ve heard in your life. They yell, “Oh boys!” and then momma would hit the gas when they looked up and grinned or yelled something back. We were all so little in the back seat that they probably didn’t even see our heads, but two lovely ladies whistling at them gave them something to talk about all day.
We didn’t live in this house long. My father was no longer a door to door salesman and had taken various types of jobs, my aunt and uncle found a place of their own near Augusta and we moved to close to a little place called Beach Island, S.C.
This was not the greatest of houses. It had two bedrooms, so my brother and I would have to share a bedroom and the bed. It sat up near the top of hill and there was a big field going up the road to it. There were some trees to climb and a few kids lived nearby, but not many. Just like the other house, it had roaches. Momma would clean and clean, but the roaches would still come back. Oh how I hated them, especially the sound of momma stepping on them. It made me sick to the stomach to hear that sound, but we really couldn’t afford bug spray, if there was any. The only type of spray we had been the same kind that we had when I lived on the farm with Grandma and Papa. You poured it into this can with long nozzle on the end and pumped it into the air. I only remember it killing mosquitoes and flies.
Things were different there. I don’t remember us having many friends, but I do remember several things that happened while we were living there.
Donald had a tendency to take chances with his own life without even thinking. He once got his hands on a very heavy old fire extinguisher from somewhere and wanted to put it up in a makeshift fort that he had built in a tree. He tied a rope around it, threw the rope
over a tree limb, stood up on the seat of a bicycle, the kind with the old banana seats, and started hoisting it up to me, as I was already up the tree. Not being a very big kid himself, he didn’t have the force to hoist it all the way up. The bike gave way, along with the rope and the fire extinguisher fell on his head. On the bottom of this thing were three prongs. I jumped down out of the tree and ran all the back to the house to get momma. Donald had three nasty puncture wounds in the top of his head and the head always bleeds profusely. Off to the pharmacy we went. We always went to the pharmacy first back then. We had no money and momma would ask the pharmacist if there was anything he could do or give us.
Back in the day, my mother drove like a bat out of hell and there were no seat belts to help hold you in. You just hung on! An ice pack, some Mercurochrome and bandages and we were home again. Needless to say my daddy was none too happy.
Another time he got in a fight with some little boy and the boy picked up a board that had a nail sticking out of it and hit Donald in the head with it. Boy was momma mad. She marched over to that kid’s mother’s house and gave her a good case of “what for!” Don’t ask me who started the fight, because Donald was always in them in one way or another.
Down the dirt road to the house and across the street was a little store that we weren’t supposed to go to. Remember that word “weren’t.” We weren’t supposed to go to it because it was across the road, a very busy road.
Momma had things she had to do and unfortunately, she trusted me to the care of my brother, even if I was only 5 and he was 7 years old then. He was bound and determined that we were going to that store. He had some money; probably a nickel or a dime and wanted to buy something, AND I WAS GOING TOO! Why did I have to go? I didn’t want to go. I knew we weren’t supposed to cross the road or we’d get in trouble, besides that, it was dangerous.
“You’ll go or I’ll kill you!” My brother yelled at me. I started crying. “Shut up cry baby!” He grabbed me by the arm and forced me out the door. We walked down the dirt road to the busy road. We looked both ways. He said, “When I say “run” you run!” He finally said
“Run!” and we made it across safely as cars and trucks whizzed back and forth. We went in the old store, he bought something, I don’t even recall what and we left.
When we got back outside he said to do the same thing. We looked both ways, he said “Run!” but this time I tripped and fell in the second lane. He was already across before he realized I had fallen. A car was coming quickly and I was scraped up pretty good from running and sliding when I fell. He started running back and dragged me across the rest of the road. I was a bloody skinned up mess, but ok.
What now, how were we going to explain this one to momma when she got home? I can still remember momma scrubbing me up and cleaning up my legs and knees. I had some small pebbles embedded in my knees that she had to get out. That really hurt! Besides Mercurochrome, the other thing she would use was Right Guard deodorant or alcohol. Burned like fire, but it was cheap and did the job. You just yelled and held on until it was over. No choice.
All the time that she was cleaning me up, she was yelling, “How the hell did this happen!” Donald came up with a good one. He made it simple. It was my idea and he saved me. He was a hero; I was told that I knew better than to cross that road and it was a good thing he was there. This story of his saving me went on for years and still goes on to this day; in fact, I was reminded of the incident just a few months ago! He was the hero! I was continuing to hide the bruises and fear the death threats.
Was this how my life was going to be from now on out? I knew he was never nice to me when my mother and father would pick us up and we were together for the weekend or so, but was this really what the rest of life was going to be like? Was this normal? Did everybody live like this? Somehow I didn’t think so. I didn’t feel right, but I didn’t have anyone I felt like I could trust to tell. Donald was now a hero.