by Michael D. Kane
asphalt; shade of the pecan trees; new mown grass (and hay); cool grass under
you feet; walking two blocks from home and fishing on the banks of the river;
warm moist breezes; sometimes it would be hot and sticky with no breeze; the
sound of the attic fan as you went to sleep; playing under the street light at
dusk; the spats with neighborhood children, and then playing together the next
day; not wanting to go home for supper because you knew that you would have to
go to bed soon; Little League Base Ball.
mornings and warm afternoons; trips to the stores to buy “back to school
clothes and supplies”; the promise of a new school year mixed with sadness
that summer vacation was over; raking up leaves so that you could pick up
pecans, cracking and shelling them while listening to “the game on the radio;
Friday night Demopolis High School Tiger Football; (out of town games were
carried on WXAL); the Alabama and Auburn games (on radio) stopped everything on
Saturday afternoons; pick up football games in the park (breaking my glasses at
least once each fall while playing in the pick up games).
wonderful cold that allowed you to play hard, and not get too hot; seeing your
breath as you ran or biked; frozen hair because you did play so hard; SNOW (from
time to time) and how different and beautiful it made everything look; SNOW
HOLIDAYS from school!; the look of the trees without leaves and the patterns
they made on the ground on moon lit nights; the sound of frozen grass crunching
under your feet; putting your pajamas (towels) on the radiators and the warmth
that they gave when you got out of the bath. Shivering as you got into bed.
(The first winter in my parent’s house on Capitol St, when it got down
to +4 degrees, and I heard my Dad breaking the ice in the toilet that morning.
The house was insulated soon after that.)
cool grass, spider lilies, new leaves on the trees and crepe myrtles in bloom.
The Flower around the fountain and pathways of Miss Marie’s when we
walked to church. Mr. Frank
Rutledge taking pictures (home movies) on Easter mornings at Trinity Church;
days growing longer and more time to play; the first day the pool opened.
days in Demopolis
could ride my bicycle anywhere and everywhere (except on Highway 80), and riding
to School (grades 3 through 7, after that it “wasn’t cool”).
Riding to Dan Gentry’s or Eddie Gardener’s house.
Ray White and I would ride our bicycles out to see Lee Compton, down the
back roads, spend 30 minutes or so talking to her (always outside the house)
then pedaling back to town.
Pfaffman being “sick” and not allowed to run and play, so I would go down to
see him and he would get on my back and I would run for him.
(I was never fast enough but he didn’t mind because it was his chance
to be outside and play). Playing
Army with Eddie Gardner, Powers Davis, David Freeman, and a host of others.
run out of my own house by my mother because I was “bothering “ her
“Senior” or” Cadet Girl Scouts”. (Becoming
aware that girls were ok and smelled good.)
Porter coming to visit and entertain me when I was in bed because I had fallen
on a board and a nail penetrated my knee joint.
after church Sunday dinners at the Demopolis Inn;
when only one drugstore and the Theater was open, the other merchants would be
closed; Wednesday afternoons when the merchants would close; being able to walk
into any store and say “Mom sent
me to get…..” and not having to produce money, and leaving with what was
Saturday morning excursion to Traeger’s Bakery, for bread and a dozen fresh,
hot donuts. (I usually ate the
thirteenth one on the way home.)
Fudge Ripple ice cream at Bailey’s.
(I had to pay cash at these establishments otherwise I would have run up
a tab the size of the national debit.)
too sick (contagious) to go to the Doctor’s Office so the Doctor came to our
house. Faye catching what I had so
I had to stay in even though I was better.
(It didn’t make sense to me then but I suspect that Mom was trying to
give me extra time to recover so that I would not relapse).
who know your name, who you are, and whom you belong to.
Belonging, and not knowing that it was
sad and hurting when others had problems and hurts.
sets of parents (those of your friends) who would love you and help you learn to
be a better person.
being able to do anything wrong and NOT having Mom find out about it before you
could get home. Doing something
wrong at a friend’s house, getting a spanking and then getting another
spanking from your parents when you got home.
(I think that’s why I didn’t get into trouble too often.)
able to enter Trinity Church at any time of the day or night because the doors
were never locked.
on the front (or rear) door at a friend’s house and their mother would say,
“Come In”, you would seldom hear “Who is it?”
being at home;
the night with friends and visiting their church and always being made to feel
as though I belonged there.
smile and warmth of adults when they greeted children, especially Mr. Jerome
Carter Strudwick and his popcorn balls and other treats;
attending Little League games on Wednesdays and Saturdays;
Daisy Rutledge, and her patience in teaching me my Catechism:
Confirmation by The Big Bishop, Bishop Carpenter;
“Ladies” of the various churches getting together to help someone who had a
problem or tragedy in their lives;
parents close friends, who we were allowed to call “Uncle” and “Aunt”.
teachers who saw my potential, even though at times I believed those who said
that I had none; the teachers who taught me to believe in my own abilities and
to work to increase them; Coach Wayne Philips who knew he could get more from me
by letting me know that he believed in me, because I didn’t want to let him
learned to drive, a three speed, on the column, 95 horsepower 1960 Ford Falcon.
I started driving at the age of 12, when Dad and I would go hunting, on
the hunting club land in Sumter County. He
started me out in the field one day. There
was nothing within 500 yards around. He
said that I needed to know how to drive incase anything happened and he
couldn’t drive. So from then on,
every time we would start to leave the club’s property, I would have a driving
lesson. In the years that we went
hunting, I learned to drive well enough that when we got past the gate from the
County road, I would drive and Dad would get the gate.
One fall we went hunting for the first time and for some reason Dad
decided he would drive into the location where we were going to park.
There was a drainage ditch that was not far from the gate to the County
road. The previous three seasons,
we had just sped up to 15 to 20 MPH and drove through the ditch.
Dad noticed that they had built a small bridge about 300 yards from the
gate which was on the path to the back area of the club’s property, but we
were headed to the front area. He
took off along the path to the front area, which went through the ditch.
The ditch was a very shallow depression about 30 feet wide.
The car got halfway through the ditch and suddenly stopped, the wheels
buried up to the axles. (Boy was I
glad I wasn’t driving!). Dad
walked up the road and found the farmer who had leased the land to the hunt
club. He came down with his tractor
and pulled us out. He laughed and
said he should start charging for this service as we were the third vehicle he
had pulled out that week. He said
that he had informed the president of the club that an artesian well had been
put in (up stream in the ditch) and he had built the bridge to get across the
ditch. This information was in the
newsletter, which arrived at our house before we got back that day.
(I later found out that learning to drive early only improves your
ability to steer, shift and brake. Only
several years of experience, an understanding of the rules and laws of the road,
and an understanding of rudimentary physics of motion make you a good driver.
This I proved the hard way.)
in Demopolis was a way of teenage life. If
you did not have a license and a car, you basically did not have a social life.
Amazingly, I did not drive like a wild man (as was my custom) when I had
a date in the car. I did not want
to frighten my date as dates were hard to come by sometimes.
I do remember the day that I had Moms 1965 98 Oldsmobile with the 396
(390 HP) engine. I dropped Dan
Gentry off by Ann Pruitt’s house (he was going to a meeting of some sort).
After Dan got out of the car he gave me the sign to peel out (a finger in
a fast circular motion). I stood on
the gas pedal. The car stood still,
the right rear wheel spun; the smoke was thick and acrid.
The car did not move forward until I let up on the gas pedal.
(I later found out that I had burned a hole in the street the width of
the tire and about three inches deep.) I
was on the way home. When I drove
up in the driveway, Mom was on the back steps, waiting to take the keys.
Like I say, in a town that small, you cannot do anything wrong without
your parents knowing about it. I
also experienced driving on snow and Ice in Demopolis.
My friends from the north have a hard time believing this.
(To think, I almost lost my license the first year that I had it, and for
the last 20 years, part of my primary job has been to investigate traffic
crashes and enforce Florida Traffic Laws as a result of my investigations.)
were bad times too. We all
experienced the loss of friends, way to early.
We learned rejection when we asked someone out and was told “NO” in
no uncertain terms. Our
shortcomings were often pointed out to us in cruel ways.
These are the things that started the preparation for our adult life,
away from Demopolis. I don’t
remember my parent’s house having a working door lock before I was 12.
We went away on a two-week trip that year and a house on Highway 80 had
been entered two weeks before. My
Dad called Chief Cooper and told him that we would be out of town for two weeks
and Chief Cooper advised Dad to get a lock for the front and back doors, just
incase the burglar had not moved on. I
don’t think that the back door was locked again for another four years.
These experiences began my education of what, in these times, seems to be
the ugliness that is prevalent in the world that I now work in.
The gentle, humane, and loving experiences I was exposed to while growing
up in Demopolis, have given me a basis for dealing with those that I come in
contact with. I try to treat them
with the same humanity and dignity that I learned by others examples so long
No names were changed to protect the innocent, because we all qualified as
innocent (though sometimes mischievous) back then.