What a beautiful Friday, I thought to myself as I walked home from school. In our small town in southern Virginia, the weather stayed fairly warm through most of October. Autumn definitely prevailed as my favorite season, mostly because it meant going barefoot and squirrel hunting. As I approached our modest house on Fir Street, I thought of all the things it survived through. Constructed of brick decades ago, it went untouched by our next door neighbor’s house fire, the wind storm that swept through the town two years ago, and many other disasters. Simply built and with no considerations for fancy decorations, Dad said that it might outlive me, even.
My attention snapped back to earth to my father engaged in a conversation with the town mayor, Mr. Tyler. As the sheriff, my father dealt with most of the town’s problems. I caught only a snippet of their discussion as I passed. “We’ve got to take action,” Mr. Tyler said. He basically represented justice in the town. Whenever he spoke, his whole face reverberated, including his many chins. He looked quite infantile, standing at just over five feet tall and probably weighing two-hundred and eighty pounds.
“What illegal action took place?” my father asked cynically. He always followed the law punctiliously. He once explained to me, “I am a portrayal of the law, and if I break the law, I lose the respect of the people and therefore I lose power over them.”
The mayor replied in his ex cathedra voice, “I know, Arthur, they just make everyone uptight. It might make things a lot simpler to just arrest the lot of them.”
“If I arrest them, I might as well turn in my badge and abandon the title of sheriff,” Dad replied decisively.
As I walked into the kitchen to pour myself a glass of lemonade, I wondered what their conversation involved. Things usually circulated around school in a matter of hours, and I heard about the situation days ago. The Negroes began to go on what they called “Civil Rights” marches last week. Even though they marched peacefully, apparently they made people nervous. People thought that if the Negroes assembled peacefully, they might also assemble violently.
I brought it up aridly at the dinner table. “Dad, what makes people hate Negroes?” I asked.
“I am not sure, but people sure treat them poorly. I talked with the mayor today, and he wants me to arrest them at one of their marches.”
“What a shame, that good people such as Mr. Tyler take part in hating the Negroes,” I said.
The next morning as I stepped outside to go squirrel hunting, I heard a loud thunder crash in the distance. “Better not head back to the woods,” my mother called. Well, there went my plans for the day. Sitting inside all day essentially drained the life out of me. For several hours I laid on the couch, watching the rain turn dust into mud. Beneath the tree out back, I saw three baby birds trying in vain to fly back up to their nest. The rain, however, kept beating them down, until...