FREEDOM IN THE FIFTIES |
This story was relayed to me by my partner Marvin Nixon... concerning his life growing up in Freedom.
Every Friday in the late afternoon we'd drive into town for a night out with our friends. Dad would pull the old 1948 Chevrolet truck into the front yard and instruct my eight year old twin sisters and I to climb into the back. Mom sat waiting in the front holding a sampling of her sand plum jelly to share with our friends and neighbors in Freedom, Oklahoma.
It was something I looked forward to most weeks as it meant my parents would buy me a chocolate candy bar. It never mattered much to me that the chocolate was usually stale and full of worms. I'd pick out the worms and eat what was left of the chocolate.
The afternoon Dad invited the hired hand Jimmie to ride into town with us, turned out exactly as I expected it would. Although I was only ten I worried he was coming along. Old Jimmie was a good guy and a hard worker when he wasn't drinking whiskey. Dad realized his hired hand was an alcoholic and he threatened to fire him if he ever caught him drinking or drunk on the ranch. While my folks were in the grocery store I saw Jimmie sneak across the street and enter the liquor store. It was obvious when he came out that he'd bought himself a couple of bottles of liquor. He'd tucked a pint bottle into each of his boots and commenced to clinking and clanking as he carefully walked towards the truck.
Jimmie sat waiting patiently in the truck as Dad and Mom finished their shopping and gathered up the family and headed back to the ranch. It was my job to watch over the hired hands to make sure they didn't steal us blind and leave the farm during the middle of the night.
I'd been sleeping in the bunkhouse with the hired hands since I'd turned eight. That night after we returned to the bunkhouse I saw Jim suck the whiskey down like it were water. He became extremely drunk. I'd seen him sip out of his hidden jug a time or two before, but I knew tonight was different. The more he drank the meaner he was. I'd taken his drunken punches many times before and I'd learned how and when not to punch back. After we turned out the lights and gone to bed I heard Jimmie call for me in the dark. I knew he was drunk but it sounded like he was in pain. I turned on the light to see what was going on. Jimmie clutched at his chest begging me to help him. He claimed to be dying. The look on his face convinced me he was.
I went for the door, saying I'd wake up Dad. The drunken ranch hand grabbed me by the shirtail and hung on and refused to let go. He was obviously afraid if Dad knew he was drunk he'd lose his job. Jimmie screamed, "Pound on my chest!" and as I pounded, he passed out. I figured I'd killed the old man, and was scared to death. I shook him and was relieved to see him come to. He grabbed me by the throat, Jimmie laughed like a maniac. "Are you trying to kill me?" Prying myself out of the death grip I ran for the door and bolted toward the basement. I spent the rest of the night hiding in a closet uncertain if I were more afraid of Jimmie or of what my Dad would do to me if he found out. Morning came quickly and as I headed out to do chores I saw Jimmie bent over throwing up in the field. Although I was relieved to see he was still alive, I couldn't help but wish he'd died.
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