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BILLY JACK HIS LIFE HIS STORY HIS WAYThe High School Years
By William H. Jackson
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 William H. Jackson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneARRIVAL, 1953
He wasn't a fool. He wasn't oblivious to the almost frantic movement around the house of his mother and grandmother.
School had started, but his mother was not teaching. Everywhere, dresses piled all over, coats strewn in with the dresses, and the seasonal clothes suddenly appeared, scattered on every bed. Although never mentioned, he was fully aware he was moving.
The family decision makers had decided he and his mother were moving. What he thought, well that didn't count. He had tendered his suggestions before, although unrequited, even when their decision concerned his life.
The family had decided he and his mother were moving to Cincinnati. He had officially learned of the move on Thursday evening after supper. He received the information so timely because, on Friday morning, he could inform his teachers he was withdrawing and tell his friends good-bye. He was leaving on Saturday morning.
Once told, he became furious, but he was elated to leave the band. He was irate because he commanded so little respect toward either his feelings or his opinion. For the first time in his life, he gave his family an ultimatum and spoke with authority.
"I'll not go, unless I pick my own curricula, I play sports, and I have nothing to do with music. You may take me, but I won't live the life you pick for me. Without agreement, I'll call my father."
He walked from the room leaving the people sitting in stunned silence. Never had he had such an outburst. He scarcely ever talked with them.
After a while, his mother called to him, "that's acceptable."
He said a clear "thank you" and left the house.
As he was walking out the door, his mother asked, "what do you want packed?"
He answered, "I'm taking my ball glove and tennis shoes. The rest will be up to you."
He then left.
The rest of the time consisted of a constant exchange between his mother and grandmother.
The troop had packed the car the day before. They left Louisa on Saturday morning about nine. With all the clothes "stuffed" in the car, he and his mother sat scrunched in the back. His Uncle Herb drove and his grandmother always rode "shotgun" for a myriad of reasons, mostly because she wanted to.
After about five hours, he and his mother arrived at their destination. He saw a clean, white, two story house near the highway. No sidewalks and the cars zoomed past at fifty or sixty miles an hour.
Taking the luggage, he walked to his second floor room at the end of the hall and came back for his mother's clothes. Taking the clothes, he told everyone good-bye and returned to his room. He did not stay to watch his family leave.
He went immediately to his room in total astonishment where he was living, including the conditions and the area. Supposedly, he was moving to Cincinnati, a city, not a place in the country. He was at least fifteen or twenty-miles from Fountain Square. That was what he considered Cincinnati. He now found himself on Mars.
He was only an Appalachian boy from a small-town. However, a person could walk anywhere around the town. Now he's in the boondocks without sidewalks or paths. He hadn't seen anything commercial when they arrived.
He sat on his cot and thought, What had he wrought?
When his mother arrived after saying her good-byes, he and she met the property owners, Mr. and Mrs. Robinson. Mr. Robinson was a short, stocky person with a head shaped as a bowling ball and just as bald. Both were in their early-sixties, he nearly ready to retire. Mrs. Robinson, with gray hair, had a short stature, but with a slimmer physique than her husband. They appeared hospitable. He was a typesetter working in the city. She was a homemaker.
Their son, his wife, and children occupied the downstairs of the house.
The talk continued including an itemized list of the house rules. The rules affecting him concerned the bathroom, the television, and the telephone. For the bathroom, first come first serve. To watch television or use the telephone, one must receive permission. He and his mother then retired to the one room in Cincinnati that they called their own.
As his mother started with the unpacking he began his tracking of the area. He began with the house and made a thorough examination. As he moved through the area that he would call home, he found three bedrooms, a bathroom, a combined kitchen and dinette, and a sizable room. The area was obviously a combination of the living room and dining room.
The large room had two seating areas, one for watching television and the other for reading.
The second floor entrance came from a stairway attached to the side of the house.
Out he went as he yelled to his mother, "Bye. I'll see you."
Then he scampered down the stairs.
Outside, he looked at the front of the house. There was a large front yard shaded by an outsized oak tree, beautiful but in need of trimming. The house had a pleasing look. A gravel driveway made its way to the downstairs porch from its entrance to the highway.
Walking further down the driveway, he looked up and down the road. He saw three more houses. These homes were also well cared for middle-class homes. He walked down to where the driveway met the road.
Walking toward the hill leading to Groesbeck, he was walking through the front yard of the house next door. While he was gazing around trying to find where he could walk alongside the highway, a young teenager wearing short shorts and a half top with frills caught his eye. She immediately made the kind of cute ranking on his girl scale. While he was trying to concentrate on finding a walkway, she moved closer to him. In fact, she had moved darned close to him, only a few feet away.
She deserved a second look but not by this shy boy. How did she get so close, he asked himself. Nodding his head toward her, he started moving toward the hill, looking over into a large, deep ravine. It was adjacent to the road.
He sensed again, someone was standing behind him. Although he had moved, she followed him. He glanced over his shoulder. There she stood. She evidently followed him step for step.
She had a sly smile and spoke, "Hi. My name is Martha. What's your name?"
"Back home, they call me Billy Jack."
"Did youse guys move into the Robinson house?"
He nodded but didn't speak.
"Did you know that I live beside you? You're standing in my yard."
"Don't be silly, I don't mind. Where did youse guys move from?"
While he tried to creep back toward the rooming house, he answered, "We're from far eastern Kentucky, across the big river."
Trying not to snicker, she asked, "Do you mean the Ohio River?" He nodded "yes."
"Where in Kentucky did you live?"
"Louisa, it's near Huntington, West Virginia."
She thought, What a funny accent. She couldn't hide her smile.
"Will you be going to Colerain?"
Still trying to sneak away, he nodded and said "uh-huh."
Then he said, "I'll be seein' you later. Bye."
Martha waved good-bye.
Now he had his first meeting with someone his own age. He knew what would happen, and of course, it did. Martha was polite and although she tried to hide the snickers by turning away, he could still see her smile. What a kind, thoughtful girl who was trying so hard not to embarrass him.
Tomorrow, he thought, I may walk up that hill if I can find a path.
Come Monday, he goes to school on a school bus. If he doesn't speak, school will be fine. If he does speak, well, he has suffered those repercussions before.
He entered his room, spoke to his mother, and lay on the cot. He stared at the ceiling, thinking about reactions to possible future problems.
In a National Geographic magazine, he once read an article about Appalachia. The author wrote about the people's plight. He wrote something like; the whole country makes fun of Southern Appalachian speech. Remembering these words perhaps was the main idea causing him to be so antsy about attending school.
He'd attended schools and camps outside of Appalachia, but still in Kentucky. In the Kentucky schools, he could pick up their accent in a day. Martha's accent was going to take more than a day.
Sunday morning, school starts tomorrow. Usually at church, now he was in a different place. He could see the minister asking visitors to stand. The congregation would clap; the minister would ask his name and address. Thinking of this and knowing there was no way to escape such treatment, he sat down on his cot and had brunch.
He knew there must be more than a traffic light in Groesbeck. That name reminded him of a grouse. He saw nothing when he had gone through the traffic light on his arrival. He may have missed many sights while driving. Now, he would take a walking tour.
He knew that Martha somehow would know that he would be out. He wanted to look around before meeting Martha again.
Peeking down from his second floor room, he made certain that Martha wasn't awaiting his appearance. She wasn't there.
He ran down the stairs and up the hill until he reached the top. Winded from his run, he stopped for a rest. He was standing at a Methodist Church and to his left was a mobile home park. Looking toward the traffic light, he started walking down the hill and becoming excited about what he might find. He continued walking until he reached the corner. On the corner was a grocery store; catty-cornered were Esso and Marathon gasoline stations. Neither was interesting, nothing to explore.
Straight across Colerain Avenue was a park and crossing Galbraith was a drugstore. He decided to walk a little way east on Galbraith. As he walked along Galbraith, he found only a barbershop. There were houses all along the road. The walking was easier as he strode on flat land.
Shortly after starting east on Galbraith he found a paved street to his left, the first paved access from the highway. He walked to the end of the street, finding it only a block long, ending at a ballpark. He thought, This is a nigh way.
He approached the left field line and then followed the line all the way, down to the left field fence. From the fence, he saw the trailer park and the church. He walked back to the top of the hill. This route saved him at least one-half mile from his original route.
He was standing at the top of the ridge looking down at the rooming house, caught! There she stood and she saw him. She was wearing short shorts again, looking good, with hair as dark as a black bear stray.
Keeping an eye out not to get car hit or smashed into them midges, he ambled toward Martha. He thought he might as well talk. It will make her happy and be a good learning session for him.
He accepted his fate, walked up, and said, "Hi."
She replied, saying, "Hi."
"Do you stand around here a-mite?"
"No, I was waiting for you."
He pointed his finger at his chest, and asked, "Why are you waiting on me? I'm not worth the bother. I don't know much."
"Where've you been?"
"I walked to the red light in Groesbeck and then a little ways up Galbraith Road."
"Did you see anything interesting?"
"Well, I found a nice ballpark."
"That's where the city ball teams play."
"Billy Jack, I want to know more about your home in Kentucky?"
"I lived in a little town, named Louisa. It's located on a sliver of land between the hills and the Big Sandy River."
"What did you do for fun?"
"I don't know, not much, we mostly prank around."
"That's not what I mean. You know, what about the pleasure scene?"
"Do you mean like socializing?"
"Yes, that's what I mean, socializing."
Trying to answer specifically, he said, while his face started turning red, "Well we play post office and spotlight, you know, those kissing games that get you all uptight. Then we go to the picture show especially on Saturday for the midnight show. We go to girls' houses and have a party where we get records and dance. If it's simply us fellers, we take to the hills a searching and such."
"That sounds like fun. How do you get around town, drive, or walk?"
"Most people don't have cars. You can only drive in town."
"You don't have paved roads?"
"That's not what I meant. Most people have trucks. There are paved roads to Ashland and Huntington. However, both places are an hour away."
"The county roads are gravel. That's why most people have trucks; to carry loads across those gravel roads. The girls don't have a hankering to go on a date in a farm truck, it's bouncy, and smells desecrate. That means that we walk with the girls on dates."
"That too sounds like fun."
"Well it keeps a body on the run. I have to go. It's been fun talkin' atcha.
Maybe I'll see you at school. Didn't you say the school bus stops here?"
"Yes, right here."
"Wish you were going with me, but I guess I can eyeball my way around. Bye."
As he walked away, he thought, Martha, Martha, you've those good looks, and a body to go with it. You can make a fellow, stop, and turn and stare, two or three times, and you don't even realize it.
He enjoyed talking with her. She was kind. It makes a feller wonder if all Ohio girls are as sociable and good-looking as Martha is.
* * *
Perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. For whom the Bell Tolls. —John Donne Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1623)
As he lay on his cot in the dark with his hands behind his neck, he began thinking about the next day, what he had done in his life, and how everything about him was simply a dream.
Keep your eyes on the prize, keep your eyes on the prize, concentrate on the prize, and make certain you earn the prize. That is all he could think, keep your eyes on the prize.
For years, he had kept his eyes on the prize until it became the meaning of his life. Obsessions create a tunnel vision. His only focus was the prize. The prize was sports. Somehow, the thought that he didn't have sufficient size or strength, or adequate skills to play, hadn't penetrated his mind. The reality that he had never had any training in sports was never a consideration. What information and training he had acquired consisted of self-imposed practice routines, watching others and reading books. He had never played for a school team. No school football, basketball, or baseball was without importance. He had kept his eyes on the prize, and he won. Now he came up north where he doesn't fit. Speaking with Martha convinced him that his entrance into school was not to be an infiltration.
Suddenly, he became frightened. Lying on his cot in the dark, he was dreading his first day of school, counting the hours before it started in the morning, For Whom the Bell Tolls continued to race through his thoughts. For whom the bell tolls, it tolls for him. He felt he was awaiting his execution. What was wrong? People problems didn't scare him.
Problems with people were a part of his entire life. People problems had started before entering school. The more he thought about his growing unease; he realized his difficulty was not a fear of people; it was a fear of failure.
He spent years seeing himself as one gifted with the athletic ability of a Doak Walker, or a Bob Cousey or a Ted Williams. Of course, there was no physical likeness. It was simply him as a child trying to live a dream, but each year he missed the opportunity to live that fantasy. In his own thinking, he improved each year. In his mind's eye, he could see himself playing and excelling in all sports. Perhaps someday, he might even become a Kentucky Wildcat.
At last, he recognized there was no correlation between his view of his skill and the opinion of his ability by others. He became almost rigid with fear.
Chapter TwoMONDAY, THE BUS
Jim opened the car door, started the engine, and began his morning drive to the bus garage where he would pick up his school bus. His headache was starting to feel like a migraine, and his mood was terrible. The way he was feeling, he would give twenty-five dollars, a half weeks wages, just to miss work. Today, he didn't have the patience to deal with the children.
He thought, what a morning. His headache was getting worse. His daughter's actions were killing him. His wife's attitude was killing him. There was a terrible argument last night.
Excerpted from BILLY JACK HIS LIFE HIS STORY HIS WAY by William H. Jackson Copyright © 2012 by William H. Jackson. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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