Monday, August 04, 2008

 

Men with guns

Well, I am lonely and bored. All my girls are gone, so I should try to document another of my "top 10 stories". I guess I should consolidate all three of my dealing with people who have guns.

(1).

I don't remember what year it was, probably the summer of 1962. I was in Austin going to summer school and trying to earn enough money to survive. I found a job working the graveyard shift at a Jack Ritter service station. I had two day jobs, one grading papers and another cleaning tables and washing dishes at the Steak and Stein. The only problem was, it was pretty far away from the campus. The service station was on Ben White blvd, east of I-35. Most of you know it as highway 71 now. Back then, there was not another structure around. I ran the graveyard shift alone, and after about 10:00 PM, there was very little business, sometime hours between customers. Part of my job was to mop down the driveway to keep the oil drippings washed off. I usually started the process about 2:00 AM. I had just mopped down the driveway with a very soapy mixture when a man came out from behind the station. He had a pillow case over his head with eye holes cut out and a shotgun trained on me. The shotgun looked as big as a bazooka. He force me inside the station with the shotgun pressed into the small of my back. I gave him the contents of the cash register, probably about $30.00 and he took my billfold which had, at the most, $2.00. I was trying to function even though I was gripped with fear. I volunteered to rip the phone off the wall so I couldn't phone the police when he left. I did it, but it didn't work.

He then forced me out of the station and across the field behind the station. I just knew he was going to shoot me when we got away from the station and the highway. However, when we we several hundred yards away from the station, he told me to take off running. I started running and had the presence of mind to run in a zigzag expecting to be shot any minute. I kept running west to I-35 until I came to the IRS building, where I called the Sheriff's department. This area was not in the Austin City limits in 1962. The sheriff came, picked me up and took me back to the station. They took down my statement about what happened and took me back to my apartment.

Several days later, someone from the sheriff's department started coming by daily to ask me more questions and brought pictures of a lot of black men. I repeated, he had a pillow case over his head, how can I identify anyone without seeing his face. Then, someone came by to get me and took me to the sheriff's office for more questions. He told me he wanted me to again tell him what had happened; he typed it and told me he wanted me to sign it. I did. He then said he was going to check out every detail, and if anything in my statement did not check out exactly, "the monkey was going to be on my back"...his exact words. He then told me wanted me to take a lie detector test. I finally realized what was happening. I was now really scared. I didn't know what to do, I didn't know anyone in town, I couldn't call Mom, she had just recovered from a nervous breakdown. I went to a Catholic Church near the campus....I don't know why, maybe because I had gone to a Catholic school in Kingsport until the fourth grade. I talked to a priest and related my story asking what I should do. He told me that he was sure everything would be OK and dismissed me. I guess I should not have expected anything more based on my horrible experience with the Catholic school in Kingsport.

I then had an idea, I had taken Business Law the previous year and went to talk to my professor, Mr. Purser. He listened to my story and told me he wanted to go with me when I took the lie dictator test. When he showed up with me to take the test, I could see the Sheriff, who was giving me a hard time, didn't like it. I took the lie dictator test, and failed...according to the test result analysis. Mr. Purser told me not to sign anything or talk to them anymore without him. I could tell he believed me even faced with the results of the lie dictator test. The sheriff got off my back. I did not have anymore contact or harassment after Mr. Purser was on my side. A couple of weeks later, I got a bill from Texaco. I had a Texaco credit card in my billfold. I had canceled the credit card, but got a bill for over $200.00, a LOT of money in those days. There were charges for car repairs, a set of tires, a new battery and a lot of gas. All in all, about 30 or more credit charges. The statements came with credit slips in those days. Of the more than 30 charges, one had a license plate recorded in the place where the station attendant was supposed to put the car license number. It was for $1.58 worth of gas. The tires, battery and car repairs did not have the license number recorded. I took the credit card charges to the sheriff and gave them to him. I called about a couple of weeks later and asked what was happening. He informed me they picked up the guy the day after I gave him the credit slips and the guy confessed almost immediately. No apology for what they had put me though, not even the courtesy of letting me know that I had been completely cleared of any wrongdoing..

The injustice of the events even spilled over into my academics. I was taken an accounting course, my major, and my academic advisor was teaching the course. I made the highest grade in the class on the 1st quiz, the 3rd quiz and the final. I made a 37 on the 2nd quiz, which was right in the middle of this mess. I went to talk to my professor/advisor. I even had a newspaper clipping backing up my story about why I had bombed the 2nd quiz. He told me not to worry about that test grade. However, when the final grades were posted, he gave me a B.

(2).

The year was 1957, my first year of high school. I was selected to become a member of the Key Club, which was a honor in Longview High. All new member were subject to initiation in the spring. It was kinda brutal, although nothing compared to Hell Week fraternity initiation in College. The were neat things, like having to hold the two leads of a "telephone" to get repeated electrical shocks. Another of the neat things they did was to get you to spread atom bomb in your shorts. Atom bomb was the very strong ointment used to treat muscle strains. It was very strong and very painful in your shorts. At the completion of the initiation, four of us, who had just completed the ordeal, jumped into a car and drove to the lake. The lake was out of town and no one lived in the area we went to. We went to a place where a bridge crossed a narrow part of the lake. We all jumped off the bridge into the water, buck naked, to wash off the atom bomb It was late spring. After a refreshing dip, we all got out, got dressed and got back into the car. I was in the back seat behind the driver. Suddenly, a car pulled up right behind us and the next thing I knew, there was a cocked pistol pressed against my temple though the open window.. It completely froze me, the first time I had ever had a gun pointed at me. We were told to get out of the car, get on the ground, face down. I don't know how long we were forced to be in this position, but we all told him what we were doing there and why. We were not on private property, we were on on a public road. Sure it was late, probably about midnight, but I now realize what a complete abuse of power that was. The guy was an off duty police officer. There was no mistaken that we were all very young, not drunk and not a danger to anyone or anything.

(3),

The year was 1958, my junior year in high school. There was not a lot to do in Longview in the 50's. One weekend, three car loads of us decided to drive to an old airport off highway 80, just east of Longview, The airport was closed and, we thought, deserted. You could easily get to the runway, there was no gate or anything to keep you off the airstrip. The three car loads of us drove onto the airstrip and started racing up and down, trying to do spins or anything else we had seen in the movies. I head a loud "bang" followed by several more bangs no one in the car I was in could indentify the sounds. Suddenly, one of the cars sped off the airstrip and almost had a wreck by pulling onto highway 80 in front of another car. We followed while still hearing "bangs". All three cars headed to the Malt Shop, which was the only hang out in Longview. When we got there, the driver of the car that had first sped off got out of his car and motioned us over to his car. He was visible shaken. He took us the rear of his car and showed us two bullet holes though his trunk. The bullets had penetrated his trunk but did not go though the back seat where two people were setting. Thank goodness the cars in those day had a very thick metal body. I am sure that today, the bullets would have gone though the car body as well as the back seat.

Well, those are my top ten stories about being held up, kidnapped, shot at and having a gun pressed to my temple. I laugh when I hear someone tell me what they would do if this or that happened. From my experience, you cannot tell what you will do when something unexpected happens in the flash of an eye. The only thing I know, is that extreme fear takes over. I hope I never see the business end of a loaded weapon again. I also understand the attempt to curtail the power of law enforcement using weapons. If I have had these experiences with law enforcement, how many others had had similar experiences and how many have not survived? How many people are in prison that have not done anything wrong? Some people should not be given absolute power over other people. I can only imagine what it must have been like to be black or hispanic in those days. The temptation to abuse this power is too great. This also applies to our countries abuse of military power. An example of this abuse of power is Haditha, Iraq. Of the 8 soldiers charged with the murder of 24 innocent people, 7 have so far been totally cleared of any wrongdoing. I'll bet there are literally thousand of Iraqis who have been killed for no reason. I know that 10's of thousand have been put in prison without charges are are only guilty of being Iraqi.

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