The Rex Barton Story Chapter 1

Chapter 1, Rex Barton, The Rex Barton Story, Hawk, Hawk Barton, Hawk Rex Barton, Author, Author Rex Barton, Historical Fiction, Warrior, Military, Law Enforcement, Special Operations,

The Rex Barton Story Chapter 1
Chapter 1 
Growing Up Years

My earliest memories involved the nightmares of living with my mother and Stepfather #2. I was 2 ½ or maybe 3 years old, still sleeping in a crib when I would wake up at night in the same room as them. 

I can't remember his name. His claim to fame in my memory was how much he could drink, yell at my mother and me, and slap us around. At bedtime, mom would read me various stories, one of which was Peter and the Wolf.

Shortly after that, the nightmares about being chased by wolves began. When I would scream and cry, #2 would yell at mom to pick me up and shut me up or leave the apartment. When I would continue crying or whimpering, he would stumble out of bed, grab me, shake me violently, then spank me.

My mother would try to stop my stepfather only to find herself hit and thrown back onto the bed. Neighbors on either side of mom's apartment would pound on the wall for quiet. That only made him yell even louder and threaten everyone. The police arrived many times, and he would be given a warning or taken outside to cool off.

All I remember was being shaken, spanked and slapped across the face often by #2. He used to brag about being the best shoe salesman in town. Years later, I overheard mom talking to my Aunt Arden about him and how he took great delight looking up women's dresses when fitting them with shoes. That was how he met my mother.

That marriage didn't last very long, so mom took me back to my grandparent's ranch to stay. I guess she couldn't take all the yelling and slapping around anymore. At some point, I think my grandfather took my stepfather out behind his shanty where he beat him half to death. All I know was I stayed with my grandparents after that. I never saw the shoe salesman again and shortly after that transition, the bad dreams and nightmares stopped waking me up at night.


Guardian Angels

The next and probably most important events occurred while I played in solitude outdoors. There were angelic playmates that visited me every day for a short time. I was close to three years old by then because I could walk and play in the backyard without supervision.

Some of my favorite things to play with were the little wooden trucks and cars that my grandpa carved for me out of walnut wood from the ranch. I remember watching him sitting in a swing on the back porch whittling with his knife. I have that same knife today.

I sat below my Nana's kitchen window, half on the old lawn and half on the dirt. I would spend hours rolling the toy trucks around, crashing them into each other. It was during this playtime that I was visited by what I know to be angelic beings. Every day I was reassured by these friends that I would be loved and taken care of through my entire life. They talked to me in an unknown language that on occasion, I would repeat or answer back to them.

My grandmother, Nana, would frequently listen in but see no one around. She never heard the voices, but heard me talking back to the beings in some foreign tongue. She called friends, nurses, doctors, and finally, the head of Camarillo State Mental Hospital, Chief of Psychiatry, Dr. Kelemen.

Nana worked directly under Dr. Kelemen as the head nurse of his department. She wanted him to see what was wrong with me and what kind of baby talk I was saying. She would talk to her friends and ask them what they thought could be wrong with me.

Nana would always ask me who I was talking with from inside the kitchen. On occasion, she would come outside and look around at where I was playing. Nana would ask me who and where are these friends of mine. I told her that I was playing with my friends right there as I would point with my finger into the air. She would become exasperated and walk back into the house, not having seen nor heard anything.

Dr. Kelemen was a Jewish man born and raised in Bulgaria. He was a gentle and kind soul that later looked after my Nana when grandpa died. He came over one day at the same time Nana let me go outside to play with my wooden toy cars and trucks. They both proceeded to listen in on my playtime.

My playmates didn't seem to mind and stayed near me to play. I should mention too that they didn't have wings or colored hair. They had white robes and white hair, yet they were mature and loving. They spoke softly and smiled at me a lot. I don't remember them ever sitting down with me, but they hovered next to me on either side as if suspended in the air.

As I began to play and respond to my friends, Dr. Kelemen was gushed by what he heard.

"What is he saying, doctor?" Nana would ask. 

"Annie!" Dr. Kelemen called Nana, "Don't you recognize that language?"

"No," Nana replied, "What language is it?"

"It's Hebrew Annie, he is speaking partly in Hebrew and possibly in something else far more ancient than that. I don't believe it. He couldn't have such words or language ability at this age. Listen, it is as if he is speaking to Yahweh, Abba Himself! You need to bring to him to the hospital tomorrow and let me test him under proper clinical supervision."

Nana did take me to see Dr. Kelemen and his numerous personnel staff for many months. They all wanted to know what I was saying and what Dr. Kelemen had heard. They tried to get me to talk to them in the same way as I did with my playmates. They offered me toys, candy, and anything else to try to get me to speak. The funny thing was, I couldn't.

The only time I could talk in any other language other than the limited English I knew at my age, was when I was in the midst of my angelic playmates. Anyone who heard me speak those words were certainly amazed. Soon after, the angelic playmates left and the big deal was over for everyone, except me. I knew that we would meet again one day, only I didn't know when.


Trip to Lone Pine California

"Nana, can I sit upfront with you"?

"No Rexy, you need to sit in the back for now. Your mommy will be sitting upfront with me for a little while. Your Aunt Ardie will be sitting in the back seat with you".

"Ok," I replied. "Can I take my brier bear with me?"

"Sure, why not."

"How long will it take to get there, Nana?"

"Probably the better part of two days Rexy."

"Climb in back now, Rex. It's time to go." Mom instructed.*

At six in the morning, my Nana's 1950 Chevy 4-door sedan was loaded up and raring to go. My Nana, my mother, and Aunt Ardie were packed and ready to go on a family vacation for about one week. I was going with them, but Grandpa had to stay and work. Aunt Ardie asked Nana if we had extra water with us for the trip. Nana told her that grandpa put a pair of canvas bags full of water on the front bumper.

"We should have plenty of water," Nana said, "we have another jug of water in the trunk. Okay then, let's get going!"*

Everyone was excited, talking and laughing, and ready for the big adventure. Grandpa waved good-bye while Nana backed the car out of the long driveway to the street.

The trip was pretty much predictable until we got to the high grade. I was sick most of the way; my Aunt Ardie held the bag to my mouth as I threw-up. She also wiped my forehead down with a wet washcloth. Throwing up was normal for me when traveling any distance in a car.

I was car-sick most of my grammar school years growing up. I had everything there was to have on earth, but the doctors kept telling my mother not to take my tonsils out until necessary. The doctors even thought I had polio or something once because I remember being in bed for weeks, even months at a time.

Then I had to wear leg braces attached to shoes for some reason. All I remember was I couldn't run very fast with the stupid braces on my legs. Nobody would let me do much of anything.

My weight was down, and I remember one good thing coming out of that stage of my life. Vanilla malts, bananas and lots of nuts! Sad to say it included vegetables too. When I would get excited about anything like a trip, my birthday or Christmas, it was always the same. I would get sick. You could count on it.

When we got to a big grade called the Grapevine, on Hwy 5, Nana told us to hang on. She slowed down, parked on the shoulder off of the road, and checked the water level for the car. Nana said the radiator was smoking a little bit.

"What's wrong, nana?" I asked her.

"Stay in the car. It is too dangerous. Look at all the trucks passing us. Why don't you count them and see how many there are?"

"Why?" I asked.

"Just to see how many trucks we will have to pass when we get going again."

The car cooled down in a few minutes, and we were back on our way.


"Yes, Rexy."

"There were 18 trucks."

"Oh, good honey. Thank you for that information".

"You're welcome. How long before you pass all the trucks, Nana?"

Mom chimed in and asked if we would like to play a game.

"How about a game of hangman," Mom inquired.

"Yeah, yeah!" I answered with enthusiasm.

For the next hour, I got hung many times over playing the game.*

I remember stopping at a little red barn at one of the turnouts on Hwy 5 and old Hwy 395 for apple cider. It must have been close to noon, and we had already eaten the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches mom made. The apple cider we had on such a hot day was great.

We left the road at about four o'clock in the afternoon and stayed overnight at a little motel in a small town called Ridgecrest. After having breakfast for dinner, which I loved, we went to bed early. Nana said we would be rising early in the morning for a short drive to Lone Pine.

"Why Lone Pine Nana, why we going to Lone Pine?"

"Because that is where your grandpa and I came to live after moving from Pennsylvania. Grandpa built a home there on Indian Lands".

"Do you mean real Indians, Nana?"

"Yes, real Indians Rexy. I will show you tomorrow. In the meantime, you get into bed because we are leaving early".

"Ok," I replied.

"Say your prayers, Rex," Mom reminded me.

"Dear Lord, please bless Nana, Momma, and Ardie. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen," I prayed.

"Thank you, goodnight," Nana said.*

The next morning did come early. As I remember, it was a cold morning, with a little bit of frost on the windows. I know because I loved drawing pictures on the frosted windows. I made trees, clouds, birds, and horses.

"Let's go get something to eat and then we will start our trip again, Rexy," Nana offered.

"Ok, can I have waffles again?"*

"Yes, you can have any breakfast you like," mom replied.

Six o'clock in the morning for two days in a row did come early. Back home, my mornings didn't generally start until seven-thirty.

After another waffle, I climbed back into the car with momma, and we got on the road behind a truck that blew lots of smoke. Nana gave the car all she could, but we could not get around the smoking truck, so we pulled over to let the guy get ahead us. The smoke was making all of us sick.

The early morning frost and crisp air gave way to warm air and clear skies. It was the sky with clouds I loved most; there were little rascal puffers or apple tree clouds that would slide across the sky, forming funny animals and faces of all kinds.

I would daydream all day just watching them and drawing what I saw in the clouds. I thought I saw my spiritual friends that I played with below nana's kitchen window in those clouds. Sometimes at night, I would draw faces and animals from the grains of wood paneling in my bedroom.

Good memories in a slower time of my life. A time without fancy phones, or fast anything. Even Nana's car wasn't fast. Nana stopped and parked the car along the side of the road so they could all get out and look.

"I want to see!" I exclaimed.

"No, Rex Barton, you stay in the car. It is too dangerous."

Oh, oh, I heard my full name. That always meant business, so I stayed in the car.

We arrived at Lone Pine just a couple of hours after we left the motel. Nana, momma, and Ardie were all excited and talking all at the same time.

"Look!" mom said. "All the buildings are closed-up now. Look at that."

They went on and on. I had no clue what all the fuss was. Then Nana turned down an old dirt road lined with Poplar and Pine trees. Within a mile on the dirt road, the trees changed, and it began to snow. Nana said it wasn't snow, it was the trees. They're called Cottonwood trees. We came to a stop, and everyone jumped out all excited.

"There it is!" mom shouted. "It is still here after all this time." Momma walked me up to some old steps and into a wooden house with all the windows broken and the door hanging on one hinge.

"Be very careful now, Rex," Momma said.

"For what momma?" I asked.

"I don't want you to fall, and I don't want to see any snakes."

"Snakes? What kind of snake's momma?"

"Rattlesnakes!" Aunt Ardie replied. "Keep an eye out. There has not been anyone living here in a very long time."

Inside was a dusty, dirty mess for sure. We saw many broken shelves, an old sink on the floor, missing rocks from the chimney, and trash everywhere.

"This was not the way we left it was it, girls?" Nana asked.

"No, I remember having to clean this old wooden floor till it got shiny," momma said.

They all laughed. Then nana asked me to come over to the refrigerator.

"What refrigerator, Nana, I don't see one?"

"Why this one right here."

Nana bent down and lifted a couple of floorboards. Suddenly I heard Nana let out a big scream as she dropped the floorboards.

"The stream is dried up and now there are only snakes! God almighty. That just about scared me to death!"

Momma grabbed me and held me up after that. I yelled to momma to put me down because I was going to kill the snake and save my Nana.

"No, you are staying right here, Rex."

Momma had a firm grip on me, and I was going nowhere any time soon. They walked out of the cabin and back to the road where the car was parked. Ardie, let out a little squeal and exclaimed that the old tree rope and tree tire were still there by the picket fence.

"Don't go over there, Arden. Stay right here." Nana said.

I guess there was a large rattlesnake population in these parts. It was perfect weather for snakes, hot days, plenty of shade from all the trees, and an endless supply of mice.

"Why did you live here, Nana?" I curiously asked.

"Because your grandpa and I needed a place to live after we moved from Ohio. Your momma and aunt Ardie needed to go to school, and your uncle Rex was just a baby. We looked for the cheapest land we could find which was here and grandpa built the house himself. He had a couple of friends help him from his job".

"What kinda job Nana?"

"Your grandpa was one of the engineers who built a lot of the bridges we drove across coming here. Did you know that?"

"No. Will you show me on our way home, Nana?"

"I sure will Rexy. Now girls, let's go down to the reservation. I want to see if anyone is still there that I know."

"Ok, yes, let's go!" Ardie said. "I wonder if ole Chief Cloud is still living?"

"Oh, I hope so," Nana exclaimed.


Chief Cloud and My Namesake

A couple of miles further down the road, we came to a big wooden fence line with a sign that read, Paiute-Shoshone Indian Reservation. In smaller print was the name, Timbisha Native American Indians.

Nana drove through the gate to a grouping of small houses on either side of the road. There was a general store with a coke machine on the outside. A few chairs were up against the wall. Sitting in them were several cowboy-looking men with dark skin. The sagebrush was everywhere. We got out of the car and Nana went up to one of the older men wearing a black cowboy hat. He was very old looking.

"Chief Cloud! Is it really you?" Nana asked excitedly.

In a quiet voice, the old man replied, "Who is asking?"

"It's me! Leeanna, Leeanna Folger, you old coot."

The old Indian slowly got up and out of his chair. He gave a holler and then hugged my Nana, my momma, and my auntie Ardie. I saw a couple of big bird feathers fastened to his cowboy hat. As I came closer to him and Nana, I was curious if he was a real Indian or not.

"Nana, is he a real Indian?" I asked.

"Why who is this little fella?" Chief Cloud asked Nana.

"Chief, this is little Rex. Billie named him after her brother, Rex Allen. Do you remember?"

"Yes, yes, of course. Your son, Rex Allen, was always sick with headaches or something right?" Chief Cloud asked.

"Yes, Chief. That is why we had to leave here to get closer to the big hospitals down south".

"Yes, I remember now. So little Rex, how old are you?" Chief Cloud asked me.

"I'm four and a half."

"Come, sit on my lap for a minute. And meet my brother, Mule".

I climbed up on Chief Cloud's lap.

"Why do they call you Mule mister?" I asked Mule.

"Ha. I guess, little Rex, it is because I kinda look like a mule."

"That's enough questions, Rex. Would you like a popsicle?" Momma asked.

"Yes, please. Momma, can I stay out here with the Chief, please?"

"Yes, I will bring your popsicle out in a minute. Chief Mule, Chief Cloud, would either of you like something to drink?"

"Yes Billie Lee, you could bring us both a coke, thank you." Chief Cloud said.*

While I sat on Chief Cloud's lap, he looked at me and said he was so happy to meet me. Right about that time, I heard a loud screech overhead. I looked way up high in the sky to see what was making noise. I saw a large bird with its wings spread out soaring on the currents of the wind.

"Do you know what bird that is, Little Rex?"

"Yes Chief, that is a Red-Tailed Hawk. My momma fixes them up and helps them fly again".

"Do you help her?" he asked.

"Yes, sometimes, I do. I get to pet the head and bring them scraps of food to eat".

"What is that Hawk up there doing right now Little Rex?"

"He is hunting for food, I think. When they make that sound, they are trying to scare small animals on the ground to get them to move. That way, they can see where they need to fly to get food".

"You are very wise and knowledgeable about these big birds of prey. I think you need a new name. Little Rex is not so good for such a big boy. Because you know of these birds, like your mother, I shall call you ‘Hawk.' From now on your name will be Hawk."

I turned to find my momma to share the news with her.

"Momma, did you hear that. I have a new name. I am now 'Hawk'!"

Mom answered back and said that it would be very appropriate for me. I was such a lucky boy to have such an honor to be given such a name by Chief Cloud. That was a great day, and I have always worn the name with pride.

I know that Chief Cloud is now with his ancestors, but I thank him for renaming me that day on his reservation. I feel part of the Paiute-Shoshone tribe somehow because of it. This trip to Lone Pine was one of learning many new things.


Remembering The Ranch

Waking up to all the sounds on my grandparents' ranch was an adventure every morning. I heard barking dogs, chickens clucking, roosters crowing, cows mooing, and an occasional whinny from Sonny, my aunt's pinto horse.

The next best thing was hearing and smelling breakfast cooking in the kitchen. The sounds and smells of a farm are the best in the whole world. My nana, as I always called her, would help me jump into my cowboy clothes and boots and head me out the back door of the house to do my daily chores.

I had my best snap cowboy shirt, my Roy Rogers white cowboy hat and my two cap guns and holster strapped around my waist. Grandpa would always take me with him after his work to go down the street to ole man Korbs's Trading Post to buy things. My cowboy clothes and guns came from there.

Old man Korbs was the best. I learned much later that he was a Jewish man that had been through the Holocaust camps during World War II. He was a short man with a big heart.

Almost all the people in the area went to him. He had chicken pens and dog runs out back of his store for those people who didn't have enough money to buy things but would take whatever they had to give on trade for essentials of life such as beer, tobacco, and food such as jerky.

Old man Korbs used to let me open the jar myself and reach in to get a piece a jerky. There was even room for the occasional mule, horse, cow or goat.

My daily job, the first thing was to rouse the chickens from there straw nests and collect the eggs for breakfast. The chicken coop was smelly but fun because I had particular chickens that were my friends. Then I would feed the chickens by scattering chicken feed all over the ground from an old pail hanging on the gate.

Grandpa always made sure that the pale was full of chicken food. They would fight over every morsel, clucking all the way. I even had a lot of little chicks running around underfoot.

My Grandparents were early risers and had been up for hours before me with most of the chores already finished. By the time I got back to the kitchen to give the eggs I had gathered to nana and grandpa, he had already left for work.

On the table waiting for me every day was scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast with blackberry jelly. Most likely it was from the jars of jam that nana had made from last year's blackberry crop outback. It was the best and still my favorite to this today.*


Grandpa and Me

I don't know why grandpa drove a rock truck because on the hallway walls were pictures of him graduating as a Road Engineer from Ohio State University.* There were pictures of him in his Ohio University Buckeye football uniform, and he was a college boxer too.

He was six-feet tall and but built like a bull. I remember him being very, very strong. I adored my grandpa. He was my hero next to Roy Rogers, Hop-A-Long Cassidy, and Buster Crab.

Grandpa would always carry me on his shoulders when he mowed the lawns on weekends. Many times, he would pull me in my little red wagon behind him while he mowed the one acre of grass with his brand-new Sears gas motor lawnmower. The smell of cut grass to me now is linked to my childhood. Not even the most expensive French perfume made can compare to freshly cut grass.

Sears and Korbs were our favorite stores. Grandpa bought Nana her clothes washer there to replace the one with the hand crank clothes wringer on top of it.

Then one day he came home with a brand-new big box TV. It was like the big box radio only it had a 15x15 inch picture screen in the middle of it. I remember watching the Indian pattern every morning while listening to the Green Door on the radio.

Once in a great while, Nana allowed Grandpa to take me coon hunting with him and the dogs. Along with his 1938 Chrysler coup with a rumble seat, Grandpa had a gray teardrop trailer that he hooked up to use for the dogs. While the dogs were out hunting, we would rest inside.

Once the coon dogs sang a specific familiar tune, we knew it was time to get up and start the chase. One time I was near a little stream in the pitch dark when suddenly two raccoons came running by. It was not long after that the dogs ran by in hot pursuit.

The bad part was when the dogs treed the coons and grandpa would shoot them out of the trees. I never liked that part. The noise of the gun and the death of an animal scared me. Other times we just listened to the sounds of the night and ate cans of sardines with soup crackers. That was the most fun.*


Shorty the Coon Dog

Another sad night I remember was when Shorty, an excellent coon dog, was bitten by a rattlesnake while chasing either coon or deer. He was the oldest dog and the father of most of the pups on the ranch. When grandpa heard his bark, he immediately knew Shorty was hurt and in trouble.

Grandpa knew all the different sounds of his hunting dogs when they were on the trail, whether treeing an animal or hurt in action. My grandpa taught me more about animals and how they communicate than anyone else, other than the horse whisperer, Montey Roberts. Every animal is different, just like humans.

We finally made our way up to the ridge top where Shorty was laying down, and grandpa knew what had happened immediately. Funny thing, a couple of his pups were laying down not far from Shorty as if to keep guard over him.

Gypsy, the blue tick hound, kept running after what we thought was a deer. She would return to the car hours later. The rattlesnake was long gone, and Shorty's need for treatment was late getting to him. He needed help and fast.

Grandpa took out his pocketknife, the same one I still have to this day and made several small incisions on Shorty's right leg over the snake bites. Then he began sucking out both blood and poison. Grandpa asked me for my new red bandana, which I gave him, and wrapped it around Shorty's right front leg.

He then carried Shorty in his arms back to the car, which was a couple of miles away. At times, I had to hang onto Grandpas's neck too, as he carried us both. The brush was so tall that I could not make it through. There was still the danger of more rattlesnakes underfoot.

We got back to the car, and that is when Shorty died. He tried hard to live even after grandpa cut his leg up on the ridge and sucked out the poison and bad blood. Shorty had been running straight for many hours, and his heart was pounding too fast. By the time we got to him, the poison was already past the bite marks and up to Shorty's heart.

It was sad, and grandpa and I cried together at Shorty's passing. I got to carry him on my lap back home after all the other dogs were loaded up. Gypsy, of course, was the last dog to come in.

Grandpa and I both dug a big hole in the back forty of the ranch and buried Shorty there, near a scrub pine. The same pine tree I used to climb in every day and watch the clouds roll by as I would dream of bigger things. Grandpa said a prayer, then we went back to his shanty, saddened by the ordeal. Nana didn't like dogs that much so she wasn't too sad.


Ole Mrs. Cassidy

One day, Nana told me to wait inside the house for my babysitter, Ole Mrs. Cassidy from across the street, while she set off to work. Nana was the head RN at Camarillo State Mental Hospital. Her nursing job was vital and required her to be on time.

I waited for quite a while for Ole Mrs. Cassidy, but she never showed up. She was a crotchety older woman who loved to gossip. She rarely paid much attention unless you were willing to listen to all her woes.

On this day, I would have listened to her all day long, had I known the chain of events about to take place. From the very start, this day was different.

Mrs. Cassidy neglected to come over to watch me. Nana never left me alone, but as I watched her back the car out of the long driveway, I heard her honk her horn and stop at Mrs. Cassidy's house. I saw her front door open, and Mrs. Cassidy waived at Nana as if to say, she would be right over.

The dogs were waiting for me that day; I needed to rescue some folks with my cap guns from all the bandits in the west. I would pretend to fall over a few bales of hay just for the fun of it. I could go through a roll of caps in less than half an hour too.

Once in a while, if the geese stuck around long enough, I would shoot a cap off at them because they would always chase me and nip at my legs. I hated when that happened. They were worse than the turkeys. It would bring me to tears and bloody my pants. All the other animals were kind to me and would let me pet or even ride them, including Nana's goats and old Shorty, Grandpa's favorite coon dog.

I took a look out the living room window to see if ole Mrs. Cassidy was coming yet and saw nothing except the slow summer breeze puffing through the pine trees. As the gentle breeze whiffed through the branches, a layer of goldenrod pine dust would carpet the cut grass below. The picture it created was like a dream. The breeze was not a real summer wind, just enough to change the images in the clouds up high.


Playing on the Ranch

I loved climbing up the top of the tamarisk pine trees and laying down in the crow's nest, to watch the cloud faces float by. That was this kind of day. I decided to go out back and start my round-up with my very own stick horse, Trigger. He had a stuffed head with a cotton string main, and a painted face stuck on a broomstick.

He was the fastest horse around. Even faster than aunt Arden's Pinto horse named Sonny. On the way outback, I grabbed my stick horse Trigger and set off for western adventure land. I began shooting at monsters and anything else that moved. Mostly flies on the fence posts or pretending to shoot Nana's select blackberries that she made jam with, off of the vines.

All ten coon dogs were barking outback beyond the fence where the garages and my grandpa's shanty was. It was warm enough even to go swimming later on in the biggest cement swimming pool ever. Grandpa had made it for the dogs to drink from and play in and so they could stay cool.

Then I had an idea because I heard my friend Maria and her brothers and sisters playing on the other side of the big wooden fence. I was going to invite them over to play with me.

Two things I was told never to do; don't go out in the front yard and play without supervision and do not bother the Bracero's (Mexican migrant works) on the other side of the big fence. They were always busy working on machines, trucks, and tractors, getting ready for my grandparent's walnut orchard harvest.


Always Helping Others

Grandpa had built about five small homes for the annual workers coming in. My friend Maria and her family lived in the first house. The separation between our home and that of the Bracero's was the big wooden fence that grandpa had built. It must have been eight feet tall because I could never see over it.

It was white, and that was a funny thing. Grandpa always kept several gallons of whitewash paint in one of the garages, but he never painted it. The reason why it was white was easy because of the hobos. We had many hobos come to our ranch all year round. Nana said there must have been a mark on the pavement somewhere that caused them to stop.

Nana always had hot coffee brewing and a pot of stew ready to feed any hungry man or woman that came by. After they ate, the agreement was that they would pick up paintbrushes and start painting on the next section of the fence. That darned old fence never did get painted entirely from one end to the other, but it never needed our hand to do any of it either.

Grandpa even provided for a lot of the hobos, with places to sleep beyond the walnut orchard where he would cut down the dead or dying walnut trees and pile them up in such a way as to make a form of Indian teepees to keep the wind and rain out. That little village was close to the train tracks that were alongside the orchard. If anyone had to go to town, it was only a fifteen-minute hop a train ride to get there. As I grew up, I did it often enough myself.

The other fond memory besides Nana's cooking was her regular sewing of baby blankets, shirts, and dresses for little girls that were in the constant troop of people to the walnut tee-pees. I felt good about what my grandparents tried to do for the homeless and down and out families. I wish we could have done more, but at least we did something.

I learned that lesson and replicated it many times over in my life. Just sharing what I had and someone else needs. It is better to give, and God blessed me my entire life, so I had lots to offer. Sometimes it may have only been a smile, but for the receiver of that smile, it would make their day. Mine too, after seeing the expression on people's faces — especially children.


My Friend Maria

I heard Maria and her brothers and sisters playing on the other side of the fence. I yelled at Maria to come to the gate. I asked her if she and her brothers and sisters would like to play at my house. She ran into her house and asked her mom if they could go and play with me.

A minute later, Maria came running back out shouting, "Let's go, let's go! It's ok."

I opened the front gate, and they all ran in. Taking one more look in the front yard to see if ole Mrs. Cassidy was coming yet, I saw no sign of her. That was weird.

We all took off to play, whoop, and holler for the next half hour. It was still quite hot out, so I invited Maria to sit with me on the bench swing under the big walnut tree by the back door of the house. We laughed at her brothers and sisters who were having fun chasing a couple of geese and ducks from the back forty.

I had never done this before, but I asked Maria, "Would you and your brothers and sisters like to see inside my grandpa's shanty and look at real guns?"

Maria said, "Yes," and we all walked outback.

I was never told not to go into the shanty. The truth was that I was always invited in by my grandpa or my uncle. Rex Allan, my uncle, was a great man that I loved. It wasn't too long after what I am about to tell you that my uncle died as a result of a tragic accident in his early thirties.


Uncle Rex Allen

The crane Rex Allen was operating blew-up, burning more than 70 percent of his body. He died within four days of the accident after much agony. He left behind a wife and a son named Mark, my cousin.

Uncle Rex was a genius of sorts and had just come back from World War II a few years ago. About a year after I was born, I guess. That was what everyone told me anyway.

He was a glider pilot in the Army Air Corps. He always drew cartoons and sent them home to Nana of all the activities he was doing. My uncle was my hero too because he taught me to stand tall, stand my ground, and don't let any bullies defeat me.


Butch the Bully

It finally came to pass one year when Butch, who lived down the block across from Krobs Trading Post, came running up to me with two of his friends. They began pushing me around and threatening me to a fight. I didn't like fighting, so I ran back home to the ranch.

Uncle Rex was in the front yard helping grandpa do some tree trimming and asked, "What is your hurry?".

I told him about Butch and his friends pushing me around and he got a little upset with me.

That is when my uncle Rex told me, "Never back down from bullies. Stand tall and stand your ground even if you lose a fight".

He proceeded to take me back down the street telling me how to stand my ground.

"Don't let Butch get a hold of you. Keep pushing him away and when he tries to charge you, move to one side and grab him around the neck and bring him to the ground hard. If he tries to get up, hit him in the head," Uncle Rex instructed.

To say I was scared was an understatement. Having always broken up fights and never been in one, I was not so sure of myself as my uncle thought I was!

We got down to the end of the street, and my uncle called at Butch to come over to our side of the road where Krobs Trading Post was. Butch and both of his friends came over asking why.

My uncle asked Butch directly, "Why were you pushing Rex around?"

Butch said, "Because I thought it was a good idea."

"Then if you are such a big shot, do it now," my uncle instructed.

"Are you kidding?" Butch asked with a smirk.

"No," my uncle said, "do it now."

Butch got ready to fight and came over to push me. This time I shoved back. He then came at me, half running and yelling.

As he got near and close enough, I sidestepped him a little the way my uncle told me, then I grabbed him around the neck. With one move, I planted his head into the grass embankment. He tried to get loose, and I hit him with my other fist in the cheek. He started crying and just laid there, even after I had gotten off of him.

Both Butch and his friends never bothered me again. I was full of pride, still shaking with fear, but smiling while walking hand in hand with my uncle back home.

Uncle Rex had taught me a thing or two that day. I never forgot it and used the same tactics many times when confronted by bullies, or later in life by my enemies. Fighting to survive in my life became my way of life. I wasn't willing to let would-be tough guys ruin someone's day — especially mine.


The Day I Shot Maria

As we approached the shanty, I turned the door handle. It opened right up. Not more than twelve feet away was my grandpa's bed and three feet above on the wall hung his 22 Cal. revolver, same looking pistol as my cap gun. It was hanging on a couple of nails, and above another foot or so was his rifle. A big 410 shotgun, called an over-under because the top barrel was a 22 Cal. rifle. Both would be mine one day, Grandpa would tell me.

Everyone followed me in and stopped about five feet away from the bed. I half-jumped, and half-crawled up to the top of the bed and stood up to get the revolver. In doing so, I must have cocked it. I cannot remember doing it, but I know that I could never have pulled the trigger by itself.

While bringing the gun down, I turned around and jumped off the bed. I landed on the floor in front of Maria. One of her brothers stood directly behind her. Her two sisters stood off to her right side. The moment my feet hit the ground, the gun went off.

The sound of the gun firing was so loud that I dropped the gun onto the floor and held my ears shut with my hands. My friends began screaming and crying, and then I looked up at Maria. She was neither screaming nor crying.

Maria was bent half over and murmuring, "It hurts! It hurts!"

She was holding herself just below her stomach. Then I saw a trickle of red blood on her dress where she was holding herself. More blood followed. I had shot Maria and knew it right away because I had seen this before in the cowboy shows I watched.

I asked Maria, "Can I see where the hurt is so I can help?" 

She lifted her dress, and I saw a little bullet hole entrance just below her belly button. I looked inside the back of her pants as well to try and see. Then I saw the bullet; it was just lying there in her panties between her legs.

The most important thing was now getting her home. None of us could carry Maria, so she half-walked and was half-carried by her brother and me to the front gate. Her sisters had run ahead and yelled for help from her mother.

Several other men came over from working on a tractor along with her mother, who just ran out of the house.

Her mother was screaming, "Maria, Maria, what happened!"

We all told her in unison. We were all panicked, scared, and crying by now. The Mexican men climbed over the fence and took Maria to a waiting car, then they all left.

I was now alone with the fear, shame, and shock of all that had happened. I was so scared that I went into the house, took off my play clothes, and climbed into bed. All I remember from there on out was being so cold inside, shaking with fear, and crying unstoppably for hours, all alone. 


Two Deputy Sheriff's Visit

When my Nana finally got home in the late afternoon, she heard me crying uncontrollably and came in to find out what was wrong.

Nana's first question was, "Where is Mrs. Cassidy? What is wrong Rexy?"

I couldn't answer because of crying so hard and now sick to my stomach, ready to vomit. Nana got concerned and ran to the kitchen to get a bowl for me to throw up in. She immediately called grandpa to come home and help her with me knowing something was very wrong.

As soon as grandpa arrived, he asked me, "What is going on?". 

I still could not answer because I was so traumatized. I was a basket case because of the fear I was feeling. Eventually, I laid down and went to sleep after Nana put extra blankets on me. I'm not sure if she tried to find Ole Mrs. Cassidy for answers.

A couple of hours later, I heard a loud knock on the front door. It was a couple of Deputy Sheriffs. They explained to my grandparents why they were there and what had occurred.

My Nana came in and got me up out of bed. She walked me into the living room where two Deputy Sheriff's began asking me questions. They asked me about the gun and what happened. Both Nana and Grandpa were in shock at what I said and what the deputies had learned. I could see it in their faces.

The Deputy's explained that Maria was shot with a gun while playing outback and was recovering after surgery at the local hospital. They said she was doing fine and that was what they knew.

Grandpa took the deputies out back to his shanty where the door was still open and the gun still laying on the floor. It was apparent what had happened, but the Deputy's wanted to see it for themselves and hear from me my side of the story. I told them it was all true through my broken words and my sobbing tears.


The Aftermath

Nana got real angry with grandpa for not locking the shanty door.

"This horrible thing never could have happened, William, if you had taken a little precaution!" Nana exclaimed.

The deputies advised my grandpa to put a lock on the door right away to prevent any further accidents. Nana then took me off to bed, where we both laid down together and cried until I fell asleep in her arms.

The next morning, I heard that Maria was really alright and would live, for I had feared the worse that she would die. It was all my fault, and I was ready for whatever would happen to me next.

Later on in life, I did become an expert shot and trained as a sniper, but I didn't like guns, not ever. I was content to wear them and use them if necessary, but if I had to, I was going to be the best. That was my safety button.

The real wonder of that horrible day in my grandpa's shanty, when I shot Maria, is that the most gifted of marksmen, me or anyone else, could not have duplicated that shot. Not ever. A bullet went through the torso of a five-year-old girl, yet never did it hit any internal organs or bones, yet it passed through her and stopped as it exited.

The bullet, a high powered 22 long rifle had to travel in an awkward angle that would have been impossible. It should have passed through Maria and continued through her brother standing behind her and into the big wooden fence, sixty yards or more away. Instead, the bullet passed clean through Marie with no fragments and stopped inside her panties.

What happened in this case? Easy answer: God was in charge and took care of everything. All the angles and flight patterns of the bullet and the velocities of a high powered 22 long rifle bullet were impossible, if not for God's command of the situation. Bones, blood vessels, and muscles should have been torn apart and weren't. My angel friends must have been there that day too. Thank you, Lord, for having saved my little friend Maria's life along with her brothers and sisters.

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