A friend of mine spent a little time in jail in Carrollton, Georgia. By “a little time” I mean however long it took for his momma to come pick him up. (He had been driving on an expired license, in case you were wondering.) It was a short stint, but he was in jail long enough to witness a remarkable scene. He was in a holding cell with a young man named Russell, who was sobering up after his night of roistering had been interrupted by the police. It was just the two of them until a third criminal was brought to the cell shouting and scuffling. “I aint going back to New Mexico!” he was saying. “Don’t make me go back to New Mexico!”
They had picked him up on a parole violation. He wasn’t supposed to leave the state of New Mexico, but there he was, in Carrollton, Georgia. The officer slammed the iron door behind him, and the cell seemed very crowded all of a sudden. My friend and Russell stared at the wild-eyed probation violator. He stared back, eyeing first one, then the other of his cellmates. Then the parolee got a peculiar look as he focused on Russell. He lifted a finger and pointed at him. “Say, you’re from Whitesburg, aint you?”
“Yeah,” Russell said warily. “I’m from Whitesburg.”
“I know you,” the parolee said. “You was in my boy scout troop! I’m Billy Womack.”
Recognition dawned on Russell’s face. “Your dad was the scoutmaster, wasn’t he?”
It was a happy reunion those two had in the Carroll County jail. When my friend’s mother arrived, the former boy scouts were still reminiscing on better times.
We have a fiction-writing assignment for Audience Participation Friday this week. Write a scene in which you envision a pack meeting attended by young Russell and Billy. This should be good.
Whitesburg Georgia was proud of their Boy Scout Troop. This pack of six boys met faithfully every Tuesday night in the dining hall at First Baptist Church. The church pastor, Rev. Bill Womack Sr., was also the scout master. This particular evening was a special recognition ceremony for a recent act of service.
Reverend Womack looked stately as he held hand over heart, while his son Billy and Billy’s pal Rusty marched through the center of the gathering proudly displaying the American and Georgian flags. They paused in front of their scout master before doing a facing movement and delivering the flags to their respective receptacles.
“Would everyone please rise as we say our nation’s pledge” Billy and Rusty announced in unison. The four other boys each proudly brought a parent to this meeting. All stood and began to recite “I pledge allegiance to the flag…”
Bang! Bang! The sound of gunfire resonated through the hall. Everyone gasped and ducked for cover; everyone but Rusty that is. He hung his head in shame. Bursting in through the back door was the roughest looking old boy you’d ever seen, slobbering drunk, and hollering like he’d won the lottery.
“I hear my boy’s gettin’ awarded tonight!” Russell Sr. exclaimed as Sheriff White slipped around behind him, effortlessly confiscating the weapon from those clumsy fingers.
The reverend rolled his eyes and gave a sigh with a pleading glance toward the ceiling. Then he looked directly at the latecomer, “Mr. Jones, this is a house of God. Please show some modest restraint and respect! Yes, Rusty will be distinguished with a badge of honor along with the rest of the boys. Please be seated.”
“Awww, why you gotta be such a downer, Bill. I’s jus havn’ a good time! Ain’t this a celebration of sorts?” Then Russell turned to Sheriff White, “Imagine that Joe, yer boy’s gettin’ ‘warded too! Lemme go an sit down, Joe.”
Joseph White reluctantly released Russell, not wanting to cause a scene in front of his son Joey, “We will talk about this later, Russell.” Each man took a seat with the group.
“Let us begin again” Rev. Womack invited.
The gathered again rose to their feet, “I pledge allegiance to the flag…” The opening rituals proceeded without further incident. After the pledges Billy and Rusty took seats as well.
“Now boys, please take your places up front.” The boys came to stand shoulder to shoulder at the front of the hall. “In recognition of for your painstaking efforts in creating a new hiking trail at Chattahoochee Bend, the Carrol County Chapter of the Lion’s Club is here to award you with the Community Organization Award.”
Tommy’s dad stood up with patches in hand.
Russell stood as well seeming a bit more stable than earlier, “Now Tom, do you mean to tell me that all my boy is gettin’ out of this is a piece of fabric?”
“Yes, Russell. That’s exactly what each of them are getting… After the troop repaid the park for all the damages resulting from the campfire accident…” He gave a knowing stare at Billy and Rusty, “this is all we could afford at this time.”
“Well is there gonna be punch and cookies at least?”
“I’m afraid not Russ” Thomas proceeded to hand each boy their patch with left hands, while doing the boy scout shake with the right, followed by Rev. Womack who shook each hand as well.
“He knows karate!” the boy next to me whispered. It didn’t surprise me once I found out about Wes Malcom. Most older brothers knew karate. Or at least said they did. It was my first time in this den, but it wouldn’t be the last time that I would be confined to a small area with Billy Womack. He was relatively new to the scout group himself, but had been around long enough to see that Tommy Malcom’s older brother was trouble. He was too old to be in the den, but not old enough for his mom to put him out while we had our meetings. None of that sat particularly well with Wes. So he felt obliged to make trouble for the rest of us whenever his mom wasn’t around, and sometimes when she was.
“We have to do something. I’m Billy.”
“I’m Russell,” I replied. We shook hands.
“That’s Wes, and he’s kicked me in the stomach 4 times in 2 meetings. I don’t like him, and I intend to make him pay. Scouts honor.” Billy held up his hand in the three-fingered scout fashion.
“What are we going to do?” I asked. “He’s a lot bigger than we are.”
Billy wasn’t concerned. “I know what tonight’s activity is,” he said in a low voice. “We’re decorating soup cans so we can collect money for the poor this week, and then we have to bring it back next week.”
I was amazed. “How do you know all that?” I asked.
“Don’t ask,” Billy replied. “I just know. So what I’m going to do is to make it look like Wes stole all the soup cans full of money after next week’s meeting. Are you in, or are you out?”
He squinted his eyes and watched me. “I guess I’m in.”
Hey, Patrick–there you are. We’ve been missing you this week. Now we know where Russell got his tendency to disturb the peace: it’s genetic, is it?
Aaron, you bring up a point that some sociologist needs to study. Most older brothers did know karate, didn’t they? If I remember correctly, most older brothers are also a quarter Cherokee, though I don’t know that there’s any direct connection. I was the only brother in my family, so it seems I should have had as much claim to older brotherhood as younger brotherhood; nevertheless, in my neighborhood I always got lumped in with the younger brothers. Which means I was one of the ones getting chased with the hairspray flamethrower rather than one of the ones chasing.
As an older brother myself, I assure you, I know karate.
Ah, the Nature vs. Nurture dilemma… not sure if we’ll ever figure that one out. I was going more with Correspondence/Compensation theory. Russell turned out like his dad, but Billy’s a PK. Guess we’d need more story to figure out what’s really going on.
I’m an older brother who does not know karate, but my mother does and she’s an oldest sister.
Speaking of stories, I posted a non-fiction story on my blog last night I think turned out pretty well. I really like this group here and hope maybe some of you will click over to it and give me some feedback? Not sure if soliciting readers from another blog is allowed in blogging etiquette… So, if this was inappropriate feel free to delete and please accept my apologies, Jonathan.
I was all excited about APF this week–I was set to go with a piece about the baptismal regeneration of the predestined few. When I saw that you were just joking I got angry and decided to protest by refusing to participate.
But seriously…what’s up with the sons of scout masters? I’ve met a couple of future parolees among that tribe, too.