Monday, February 21, 2011

Men and Other Men (a short story, 1870-1922)

Men and Other Men

((From the book: “Colored and White”) (In Four Parts/ 1870-1922))

Lulu Abigail Mason (1885)

Scip and Big Lulu of Shantytown

((Little Josh, Emma’s boy) (1870—part of “Colored and White”)) Part I of V

Part One

Sheriff Abe Parker of Ozark

In the late spring of 1870, a boy was born at the Hightower Plantation, it was Emma Hightower’s child, it was a mulatto, she had had an affair with Hark Jackson, whom was killed by a stranger at Turkey Creek, the child was taken by Dr. Edmonds, who dropped the child off at Big Lulu and Tom Mason’s shanty, in shantytown. They never could have children, and Big Lulu was happy to take Little Josh in, not knowing who the parents were, just assuming, someone in Shantytown left the child in some trash, as Dr. Edmonds said, and that was that. But it was not to the liking of her husband, who did more drinking and carousing, than anything else. He wasn’t the size of Lulu of course, but he was no creampuff either, and this was simply another mouth to feed.

When Tom Mason heard his wife took on a child and there would be one more mouth to feed, and she named it, Scip Josh Mason, the story she told the sheriff was the following:

“He run in the house and tore it up for a while, and then he looked for the child, Scip Josh Mason, and he say: ‘Youall gives me the child, or Youall can keep it but you got to be going,’ but the house be mine, not his…’ it be a good thing, too, because Tom looked like he was just getting right to making his meaning known to me what he might do ef-in I keep the child, if you know what I mean sheriff. So I says to myself, I best watch him in the night, he had ideas. I run the house, not him. Then I took Tom’s clothes and put it in the front yard, took he mattress and ripped it open and put his clothes in with the straw. And I gave him a cat. And that aint all; you ought to see Tom’s goat I gave him, and said goodbye. And he aint never married me proper anyhow. And he done went to Amos’ barnyard bellowing like a cat with its tail curled up.”
“Lord woman, get onto the killing, it isn’t worth my time to stand here and listen all morning long about this and that,” said the sheriff.
“I am talking about Tom and the baby, Tom sho’ did raise a ruckus about the little fella! He done tried to kill Scip, he got poor judgment, cuz I saw him sneak back into the house, trying to smother the baby in the night, and I have a belly full of drunken men. He dont care fur the poor little motherless child.”
“Well,” said the sheriff, “what happened next?”
“It dont make no difference now, he is what he is, dead, I done sat on him to stop his suffocating the child…, and he expired!” and the sheriff laughed again, she was a big woman of six foot four—didn’t know her strength, three hundred pounds, and Tom was less than half that.
“I dont care,” said Lulu, “ef-in Youall wants to grin; I aint to fault.”
“Well it looks like a case of self defense,” said the sheriff, near to laughing, or over protecting the innocent.
“Don’t laugh at that old man, better we weep!” said Lulu, but the sheriff paid her no attention; he was already up on his horse and on his way out of shantytown.

No: 697 (1-9-2011))

Traditional Rolls
((Lulu & Henry Hawk of Shantytown)(1885))

Part Two

The Civil War in 1885 was surely over, but still quite familiar to the South. In some places men still wore their uniforms, or at least parts of them. It had been a time when women stayed at home, worked, cried for their husbands, and sent sentimental letters. And most of all relationships were between men and women—that is to say, a romance.
There were a few women, white and black who were the exception, dressed like men, or disguised themselves like men so they could participate in the war, Lulu had been one, it was only for a year, 1863, when she joined the Confederacy; she could testify to ardent encounters during war between men and other men, and women and other women. She was as large if not larger, than a man; she looked like a man without a dress.
Lulu Abigail Mason took the name, Luke A. Mason, while in the Army, Corporal Mason. (Lulu’s War Account, goes something like this: it was at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Lulu, in April of 1863, found her self cooking at Confederate headquarters, as a Blackman, listening for useful information, she was a spy among her own kind. She had been hospitalized with malaria, and consequently, fearing having her gender revealed, deserted. Thus, after recovering her health, Amos Jackson had helped her back then, his son now lived in Shantytown, Amos Jackson Jr, and the father had been hung—anyhow, after recovering, She was in those old days a woman of much different temperament, and equal daring, she went to work for a while as a farmhand, where she received a small payment and tobacco allowance. It was less dramatic, and probably more typical, still playing the man roll though. There were times during the 1860s Dr. Lafayette Edmonds, of Ozark, had seen Lulu on a few occasions, and soon learned, Luke A. Mason, the Corporal, was really Lulu Abigail Mason, the female, but true to his doctor’s oath of confidentiality, he preserved her secret while she was a soldier. She wasn’t the only one that served as a man, perhaps some 500-women enlisted, many killed in battle, and many survived the war; and she was one.)

And was there homosexuality, of course, although the term was never used, unheard of in the 1860s. Actually the term wasn’t invented until 1895. Before that we have of course connotations that developed like ‘faggot,’ but let’s get back to Lulu, the terms she heard was the old 13th Century term, still in use ‘buggery.’ Perhaps a little more recognized in the U.S. Navy, used by the sailors.
Henry Hawk Mason, cousin to Lulu, and five-years her junior, had served on the USS Shamrock, and was changed with improper and indecent intercourse with others. Yes, black to white and white to black and white with white, and black with black. He was among the ordinary season you might say—doing the jobs nobody else wanted to do, and during his trial, was charged with an unnatural crime. In prior cases the white sailors were committed to examination, and the black committed for trial. As was in this case, that was then, now it was 1885.
Henry Hawk Mason came back to Ozark, Alabama, to Shantytown, a few miles on the outskirts of the city proper, to live with Lulu, and her boy Scip Josh Mason, now sixteen-years old. She didn’t like the idea of having Henry moved in; to her he was a saber-tooth citizen of the worse kind, no different than a vampire. But he knew as much about her as she did about him, and therefore, she allowed him to say tentatively. And to be frank, perhaps the only difference between the two cousins—besides being male and female, and a few years difference, both pert near the same height and weight, Hawk, a few inches taller, perhaps six foot six or thereabouts, was she wore the Gray Uniform during the Civil War, and him the Blue.
Henry had been living in Chicago with the cold and homeless, perchance, slept with his kind. Lulu now was straight as an arrow. This was a surprise to Henry. She had Christian ways—no one in this great wide world of America could have told him that, and made him believe it, without seeing it with his own big dark eyes.
Henry, who complained as much as a woodpecker pecks, found money night after night to drink somehow; as usual. Lulu had asked him, “How did it all start, your affairs with men?” one night as he was half drunk.
He told her and told the court the same thing, “He was an elder man, a white Navy man, he moved close to me one night, and I found myself to ask ‘what you doing?’ then he kissed my ear. We were both naked, now side by side, I guess, I gave into the old man’s marvelous petting. I had a throbbing item for a long time, and he paid no mind, and gradually he got nearer and nearer to me, and I couldn’t stand it any longer, and my youthful vitality flooded….”

Henry Hawk moved into Lulu’s home, avoids Scip, knowing Lulu would go crazy, should he lay a hand on him, or even look at him wrongly. But the boy one night got hold of Hawk’s poems and notebooks, raw they were. No one thought—that is, it never occurred to either Lulu or Hawk that the boy would do such a thing—sneak into his room and go through his belongings, God forbid.
It was the long week, Hawk was in jail for disorderly conduct, had been arrested, drunken as a stupor, evidently he had found a young black lover down in Ozark, called him ‘Sally,’ but his real name, was Nick something, and he couldn’t find him one evening, and caused a ruckus.
“I’ve been reading uncle Hawk’s diary,” Scip told his mother, and she looked at him strangely, “I hope you didn’t have a good time of it!”
“I had been wondering why he never took a wife, now I know,” said Scip.
“Are you satisfied now?” asked Lulu.
“Are these all one night fellows he ends up with?” he asked his mother.
She looked at him, he was light skinned, in comparison to her—a good looking boy, I know you want to know all these things, and I don’t want to quarrel,” she said, “perhaps I can try to explain this somehow, his behavior that is and perhaps you’ll not be so judgmental ...”
“He’s not the only one like that; did you know Abraham Lincoln was like that also?”
“I don’t believe you,” said the boy to his mother—nearly speechless.
“He was so,” said Lulu, “people have said so, that he liked both sexes; that’s perhaps why he was so shut-mouthed about his private life. Anyhow, he was a most secretive man. Everybody knows that. And he lived with Joshua Speed, for four-years both men sleeping in the same bed. What do you think they were doing, surely not talking about the weather for four years, when Mr. Speed got married, Abe got depressed for ten-months, and when Abe got married he wanted to name his first child Joshua? Lincoln preferred to spend his nights with unmarried men, more so than with his wife, when he traveled the circuit. He took a special liking for his bodyguard, Ward Lamon. And old Abe, invited the Captain of Company K, 150th Pennsylvania, a friend to share his bed on many an autumn night, when his wife was gone. This all isn’t weather talk son. So don’t judge your uncle so harshly, but we are Christians also, so let’s remember that, and not be persuaded into their lifestyle.”
“I guess I understand,” said Scip, although disappointed.
“Reverend Hickman will be coming over this weekend to eat with us, I’ll make some meatloaf, and get some of that nice red wine, I’ll tell Uncle Hawk he’ll have to go—he’ll understand. I’m sure he found a bed in Ozark anyhow, something tells me that a boy named ‘Sally’ will be waiting for him, when Sheriff Abe Parker releases him from jail!”

No: 742 (2-20-2011)

Fevered Confusion
((Scip, Lulu and Henry Hawk) (1886))

Part Three

After Scip Joshua Mason’s baptism of fire, that is, when reality set in, that man might have been appointed to be with women, but it wasn’t always so, now between his sixteenth and seventeenth year on earth, this new factor brought on a new fear for Lulu, his mother: could this unhinge a simple, but stable future she had planned for her young minded son?
He wasn’t interested in warrior women per se, as his mother appeared to be, was, which produced in him a more subdued side to his young character (in which time he’d outlive) since she was or could be very dominate—he really didn’t know what he wanted.
It was during this time Emma Hightower had come around some, she knew who her boy was, he had those web feet remember—that is, web-toes, toes stuck together, and seldom in those years did he wear shoes or boats. It was a time when his sexuality had a bout of feverish confusion. A time when Henry Hawk Mason seemed to be around Shantytown more often than not, and was Scip’s old comrade who rallied to his support.
It was in the spring of 1886, when Lulu was hit by a reckless drunken driver of a horse drawn buckboard, on its way through town, and suffered a fractured femur. The doctor kept her hospitalized the whole month of April.
Scip had started working as a cashier at Mr. Hobby’s main grocery store (and drugstore all in one) in Ozark, Alabama, the same one Jordon Jefferson had been working at since he was a kid, and still lived in the backroom, now an old man. Henry Hawk started to frequent the store, true to his nature, he showed up drunk, with his erratic behavior. Sally, as many of the black folk of the city called Nick Jenkins, Henry Hawk’s young lover, twenty-three years old, uncommitted to their relationship, came to the rescue before Sheriff Parker put Henry back in jail. But this time, Henry fought what might be called a major engagement before leaving the grocery store, and Jordon testified later on, Old Henry Hawk was drunker than a skunk, because three days later he was found dead, as if washed up on the shore of the Chattahoochee River. There was no investigation, he was just a drunk, and it looked as if he had fallen into the river, hit his head on a rock, and crawled out, and just up and died, right then and there, that was what the Ozark Pioneer Press, newspaper read.

Rape had long been recognized as a crime of violence in Ozark, not always as sexuality: although it would seem one belongs to the other, like two peas in a pod. But it should be said, at least in this account, the hatred, aggression and lust for dominance found manifested in this young man—Nick, who found a friend in Scip, yet an unwilling, but available partner. Yes, Nick, he was as mean, if not meaner than, Henry Hawk. And Scip was beginning to admire Henry Hawk, and Nick Jenkins—and is it not true, the look of a country changes by the people we admire, because, things were changing mentally for Scip, as they had been in this so called reconstruction period for the whole country, some sixteen-years after the Civil War.
The crime here was not necessarily a sexual crime, although it was, in the sense of body parts involved, but no possibilities of pregnancy, and no venereal disease, but perhaps it was more in the stages that was developing, Scip’s mental, or psychological outlook, where would this lead him. The account speaks for itself. In spite of the normal fate of hanging or shooting of a rapist, Nick was simply released, and banished from Ozark, told by Sheriff Parker, should he return, he’d blow his item off, that thing that laid in-between his legs. That was enough to scare any young man, into a panic attack, and the Sheriff laughed as often he did when he said what he said.
How it all went, or as Jordon put it, “I returned to the store, came in the back way, Nick was behind the counter on top of Scip, when he heard me, he stopped.”
“It was just a normal fight,” said Nick, when questioned by the Sheriff.
But it was obvious, once Jordon told him the rest of the account, “I saw Scip pull up his trousers, he had a flaming red behind.”
“I never gave him any cause to come here to take me the way he did,” said Scip, “to impose on me. He struck me twice when I said ‘no’…I thought he’d leave the store.”
Said Jordon, “When I saw him, Nick Jenkins, he got on his pants and shoes and jumped out the window….because he was afraid I’d identify him.”
“Well how’d he get into the store if it was closed, in the first place?” asked the Sheriff.
“He told me, he’d blow me to pieces if I didn’t let him do it,” said Scip.
The sheriff had brought the matter to the attention of the judge, but the judge said, “It involves all person’s of color, I reckon, therefore, I got no intentions of undertaking it, and having the country pay the cost of a long drawn-out court. And finding him a lawyer, neither one can afford a lawyer.”
And that was that; but had it been a white man, and had it been attempted rape, he would have gotten his day in court and the culprit three years at hard labor with a twelve pound ball and chain around his leg.

In a way, fate had given Nick Jenkins time to repent—if indeed he wished to, and for Henry Hawk Mason, fate never allowed him to sober up, to mend his ways. Lulu, she departed the hospital at the end of April, heard what had happened to her son, and swore vengeance. And out on the Hightower plantation, Emma Hightower heard of the incident, and silently, she sore the same oath.

No: 743 (2-21-2011)

The Buxom Woman
(The Ku Klux Klan; Scip, Lulu)(1913/22)

Part Four

In a 1922 letter, the former lover of Henry Hawk Mason, Nick Jenkins, was found, in an old worn-out jacket, kept in a cellar of the city’s library, covering a box of books. It reminisced, “I killed a member of the Mason family, named Henry Hawk, and then tried to rape his nephew and other such things…” It was as if he was going to write a book or try to mend his ways somewhere along life’s winding roads, and just never got to it.

(Summer of 1913) Scip Josh Mason, had turned out to be a wild angry boy (young man), never knowing his real mother Emma Hightower—perhaps there might have been some kind of inkling that she might be, or might have been, a link to his family tree, she was around enough, during his teen years, but it was never said. Now he was older, and Emma thirty some years older than him, she was in her late seventies, Scip was in his early to mid forties. Indeed in those years between his 17th Birthday and his 40th many a black woman and young black men had fallen to his sexual whims, and tastes, if not willingly then victimized. But the startling example of his rage brought him to his last encounter, it was a white woman, a bit buxom, but not unattractive. He ordered her at gun point to come nearer, she was driving a buckboard down the old Ozark Road, and two miles from the city of Ozark, and one back to Shantytown. He had gotten away all those years with only a few slaps across the face for all his sins, his wrongs. It is so true of the criminal mind: he felt, as often criminal feel, he’ll only do it one more time, but that one more time never ends until someone ends it for him—hence, as the old saying goes: if you don’t take control of your own life, and stop such deviant behavior, someone else will, it’s just a matter of time. On the other hand, if he gets caught, he thinks, it’s because he just didn’t do it right, wait until next time, I’ll perfect it. It was the way Scip thought.
He brought her back into the woods by Stone Bridge, a little ways outside of Shantytown. There he finished his lustful desires, as she refused thereafter, an invitation to watch him make love to a male lover. The woman was in tears.
When the town’s folk in Ozark heard of this incident, horrified by the white woman’s description that he was laughing and clapping his hands as he performed, the offense was too serious for the courts—they felt, thus the Ku Klux Klan came to visit his mother’s home in Shantytown, she now was in her mid to late 80s. They burnt the house down with her in it, and took Scip, who had been drunk for a week, and like they had done to Amos Jackson years past, hung him on a cross, it took three days for Nick to die.

No: 744 (2-21-2011)