Robert E. Lee Goes Quietly

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DB Crouper

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I just finished reading " There IS a difference!!!!" thread. Lots of good posts and advice for the obviously functional families involved. Congratulations to all who have such a sense of balance and family values. Our world hasn't always been overflowing with such profound sensitivity and consideration for others. In fact, some of the inhabitants of Second Avenue in the late Fifties were just plain mean and cantankerous.

Sonny, Ross, and Coley were my best friends in our neighborhood in Seaside. My nerdy brother, Stevie, ran with our pack as well. Coley's parents were out of control, which led to Coley having 7-10 little brothers and sisters. He swore he knew all their names, but as they all looked alike, we didn't believe him. Truth be told, I don't think anyone in his family knew how many kids there were, except maybe Mrs. Schlice, the mother. I was the youngest member in our gang, at 9 years, with Sonny and Coley a year older, and Ross and Stevie both 11 years old. Robert E. Lee, although in the same grade in school as my brother, was a giant of a 12 year old, as he had the misfortune of doing double time as a 1st grader.

Robert E. Lee lived across the street from us, and one house to the west, just him and his mother. He was probably close to 6 feet tall, 185 lbs and mean. His brow-beaten mother had long since lost control of him, and, as he was perpetually angry, I lived in a state of fear that often permeated my dreams. Coley and his family lived directly across the street from us, which made them next door neighbors to Robert E. Lee. There was no fence seperating them, but Robert E. Lee left them alone if they didn't cross the undefined property line. Probably afraid of Mr. Schlice, even though he was much smaller than Robert.

The rules were pretty simple for our survival. Once we set foot off our property, we were fair game, depending on Robert's mood, and our stealthiness. Our inability to go west on 2nd avenue, past Robert, was exacerbated by the fact that Mrs. Lamser, the elderly but spry retired school marm, lived two houses to the east. For reasons too complicated to explain, she determined that we were "bad" boys, and would chase after us with a switch if she saw us on "her" sidewalk. She was never able to catch us, but the emotional intimidation she perpetrated upon us was every bit as terrifying as the minor beatings that Robert E. Lee inflicted.

Mean and cantankerous- that was Robert E. Lee and Mrs. Lamser, respectively. However, as I reflect, I recognize that their hateful ways taught us some of life's most important values- loyalty and teamwork. We all kept an arsenal of bamboo poles we had cut from a vacant lot, with Sonny's machete, trimmed to about 5' in length, and in excess of 1" in diameter. We used our 4 phone party line to plan our travels together, usually in the whole group of four, with each of us armed with our bamboo pole. We walked in a two by two sort of military formation past Robert's property. He would call us names, and fake an occasional charge, but when he saw that we wouldn't break ranks, he would retreat to his porch. Stalemate. Strength in numbers. Too bad that Robert couldn't accept defeat. It was also too bad that my grandpa had given us that old indian bow. At least it was too bad for Robert E. Lee.

Intermission- Here's a picture from the neighborhood at the time.
 

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DB Crouper

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My grandpa had been the chief of police in Seaside during the depression, and had four sons. He would send them out to poach deer for the poorer citizens and widows of the small town. He was very well loved and respected for his commom sense approach to law enforcement, and his charity, even though he had little himself for his large family. Anyway, a local indian family bequeathed him a beautiful hand carved yew bow, blackened with age, complete with eagle feathers lashed into the top end. It came complete with a deer hide quiver, and some cedar arrows, with flint heads and feathered fletchings. My father was his oldest son, and so the bow was passed down to our family. My brother and I shared it with our friends, and one day I noticed the flint arrowheads were missing, so we sharpened the cedar arrows a bit, and kept terrorizing the neighborhood with our random flinging of arrows. Mrs. Lamser called the police about twice a week that summer, concerning our dangerous activity. Sid Smith, the current Chief of Police, who had apprenticed under our grandpa, would come by, call us together in the street, where Mrs. Lamser could watch from two houses down, and tell us what an old biddy she was, and would we please look repentant, so he could get back to catching some criminals. Then he'd wink, because we all knew Seaside didn't have any criminals back then.

Coley Schlice was a diminutive 10 year old, but he was the first born, the older brother, of a passel of siblings. He took that responsibility seriously, and spent a great deal of time and energy tending to the swarm of siblings. Robert E. Lee had, to this point, been a respectable bully. He had a code of bully ethics, which kept him focused on the four of us, and heretofor had ignored Coley's little brothers and sisters, none of whom were more than eight years old. Apparently, our organized militarism, complete with kempo poles, pushed him too far, and, ethics be damned, he had to hurt somebody before he broke down completely.

Coley's eight year old brother, Andy, small for his age, was caught completely off guard, as Robert E. Lee had never given him a second glance. We only heard from Andy what Robert had done to him. He was terrified and crying hysterically, as he told of his twisted arm, the punches to the gut, the dutch rub, and the trip and shove to the ground. Robert E. Lee's trademark beating by the numbers, but little Andy was distraught, never having experienced it. We all expressed our anger and our empathy for Andy. He was a sweet child, and kind of our gang's mascot. Coley was very quiet, not joining our righteous indignation and demonstrative calls for revenge. We all went home and had dinner. After dinner I went outside, with the intention of flinging some arrows. The bow, quiver, and arrows were not in our back yard behind the dalhia bed, where we always left them.

Bedtime
 
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ninja2010

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good read, crouper... fine prose, infused with subtle suspense and an intriguing protagonist...

anxiously awaiting subsequent installments, sir.
 
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DB Crouper

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Panic pulled me into that abyss, where your mind goes to process the fact that something terrible has happened. Our treasured indian bow had been stolen! My youth and naivety could only picture an evil man, with a five o'clock shadow and a burgler's mask. I had yet to experience the agony and intensity of an almost biblical obsession for revenge. But Coley Schlice, at the age of 10, was drawn into that soul searing darkness. As I scrambled and stumbled around and threw my mother's beloved flower beds, in a frantic and futile search, my eyes were drawn to a fluttering and subtle movement about 20' off the ground, in one of the giant cedar trees across the street, in the Schlice's front yard. A feather fluttered in the wind.

My eyes refocused into our favorite climbing tree, and there, on our 4' by 6' platform we called the treehouse, Coley Schlice knelt, motionless, with the little indian bow held in front of him, with an arrow nocked on the catgut string. He was wearing dark clothes, and the only movement was the fluttering feather in the gentle evening breeze. I ducked behind some dalhias, transfixed, a mere 40 yards away. The treehouse was near the adjacent property line with Robert E. Lee's house, and Coley stared fixedly down on Robert's front porch, probably 30 feet away. He didn't have to wait long. The door swung inward, and Robert swaggered out and onto the covered porch. The eves of the porch did not allow him to see Coley, but this same fact did not provide Coley with his desired shot. Was this really happening? After a pause to purvey his surroundings, Robert E. Lee traversed the two steps down from his porch and onto his cobblestone walk, quartering away from Coley. He stood, master of his domain, or so he thought. I watched, in amazement, as Coley deliberately raised up, and drew the arrow back.

Finish later
 
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DB Crouper

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The worn cedar shaft with the gray feathers flew true, with malevolent intent. THWACKKK! The arrow snapped in half, with the fore piece imbedded briefly in Robert E. Lee's skull, just below and behind his right ear. The fletched half of the arrow tumbled out into the sidewalk. Robert, dazed, swung his right hand in a backward swatting motion past his ear, knocking the cedar bolt loose at such an angle, that the puncture wound tore a lengthwise path toward the back of his head. He dropped to his knees, his right hand over the wound, and when he felt, and then saw the warm blood leaking out between his fingers, he dropped into a fetal position and began whimpering. Coley watched dispassionately from his perch above. Suddenly the whimpering turned to a hysterical screeching, and Robert sprung to his feet and sprinted up the steps, onto the porch, and busted through the door, to the comfort of his mother. Suddenly he seemed 12 years old.

Coley descended silently from the tree, dropping catlike the last 6 feet to the ground, the bow in his right hand. He quickley retrieved the 2 halves of the arrow, and scurried across the street toward my backyard. I don't know why, but I ducked behind the detatched garage. He returned the bow with the broken arrow in the quiver, alongside the other arrows, and then disappeared down an alley, in the opposite direction of his home. It was dusk by now, and I was glad to retreat to my home.

The next day Sid Smith, the Chief of Police, paid a visit to our neighborhood. We where engaged in a whiffle ball World Series in our front yard, with Sonny, Ross, Coley, Stevie, and myself in a makeshift game. Coley turned pale at the police's arrival, but the others thought Mrs. Lamser had called us in again. I had told nobody what I witnessed. Officer Smith began the questioning, "Any of you boys been throwing any sharp rocks yesterday? Seems Robert Lee took a real hard shot from a jagged rock yesterday, right before dark. Hit him in the head. Could a killed him if his skull wasn't so thick." I glanced at Coley, and saw some color come back in his face. Incredible! Robert didn't know it was an arrow! Nobody knew, except me and Coley.

We all assured Sid Smith that none of us had thrown rocks at Robert yesterday, and he left it at, " If you hear anything, let me know." Coley asked the Chief Of Police, as he was walking off, " Is Robert gonna be okay?" We were assured he was going to be fine, and we returned to our game. We didn't see Robert much during the next week, and then an ambulance arrived at his home. We watched as he was carried out on a stretcher, a look of excruciating pain etched into his face, his eyes wide with fear. He had lockjaw!

Robert spent 2 weeks in the hospital, hovering near death for the first week, kept alive with an iron lung. Coley quit coming over, instead spending his days assisting his mother with his siblings. He was carrying a horrible guilt,but when he heard that Robert was going to be released he returned to our gang. Robert's mother moved across town during his hospital stay, and so he never returned to our neighborhood. I always thought that someday I would tell Coley what I witnessed, maybe at our 20th high school reunion, but he died in Vietnam, a hero, sacrificing himself for his buddies. Just like he had protected his little brother, Andy.

End
 

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OnTheFly

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I'm wondering if Schlice's desired shot will be when Robert turns back around.

(oops...posted too late. The end has been posted) Gotta read the rest............back in a minute.......
 
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OnTheFly

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DB, That was a remarkable and touching story. Thanks for that.:)
 
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C_Run

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Good story. It reminds me of reading Fool's Hill by John Quick which is a kid's recollection of growing up in Port Orford in the 1930's and 40's. I know you'd like it if you could find a copy. It's a lot of stories both comical and serious.
 
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DB Crouper

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Good story. It reminds me of reading Fool's Hill by John Quick which is a kid's recollection of growing up in Port Orford in the 1430's and 40's. I know you'd like it if you could find a copy. It's a lot of stories both comical and serious.

1430s??!! I'd love a copy, but I'm nowhere near as old as John Quick.:lol:
 
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lilsalmon

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ahhhhh memories of the 1430's.....now I am really showing my age....who is John Quick? :D
 
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CoTransplant

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"Panic pulled me into that abyss, where your mind goes to process the fact that something terrible has happened."
-Not to hijack this thread but that quote took me to a place in time that I most distinctly remember. It just happens to be in the same town sa the story above. Perhaps I'll start a new thread in a poor attempt to emulate your masterful prose.
 
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Slick

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Once again you've produced another masterpiece Don. You should think about publishing your work. I could read them all day long.
 

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