Welcome to Morning Thief
Go with us through a single yet unforgettable trip to the deep South prior to desegregation, when share-cropping was good work for illiterate Colored folk that knew their place and how to stay in it.
Chapter 16 of Morning Thief Heyson Reed Now and Then…
Heyson and Momma sat together they appeared to be the perfect couple. The medication eased Heysons pain. The pain of being shot three times ain’t no joke. The medication caused him to sleep a lot, sleep can be a healer, not necessarily the healer of wounds but the healer of feelings. Sleep cant hold back the monsters we live with in our nightmares. Heyson dreams a dream that he has all too often.
Beyond our control a portion of the audio has gone missing through digital transfer. We have included the text (to complete the chapter below)
A few minutes later in walked my mother fresh as if she had a full night of sleep and was all ready to go for another twenty-four hours. My mother woke me from my fake slumber, she took me by the hand into the kitchen and wiped my face and hands with a towel that was warmed from the heat of the oven. She then sat me at the table. Before me lain out was fried chicken, mashed potato and corn dinner complete with greens and yeast bread. I was in food heaven.
My mother gave me the signal to go ahead say my prayers and begin eating not waiting for my father was normal, him being a doctor and all. A few moments later he walked in with the other man, he and the lady had shown us wonderful hospitality. The grown-ups sat down. I knew the dinner conversation was intended to be over my head. As usual I kept my face in my plate and pretended I wasn’t listening. They were talking about the babies, the twins. It seemed like they were saying that we would have to take them with us so that they would not be like their Momma or worse. The old man said if they darken up we all got hell to pay round here. The lady chimed in “Doctor you and your misses have to help that girl.” My parents looked at each other then they looked at me and said “Our folks will be looking for us bout now we are a day overdue.” My parents sounded like Siamese twins as they spoke the same words at the same time. My mother followed up with “Perhaps we can help out on the way back through?”
The lady quietly leaned back from her meal setting down her utensils and said “I think then that y’all best be gettin back on the road after your supper settles. We will see y’all on the way back through. The sheriff here is a good man he will make sure the right thing gets done. Heck I was his mammy he suckled off me till he was three years old. If’n he know better he’ll do the right thing.” Her last line was said like a proud southern mammy.
Supper was over and I was still tired but awake as we piled into the car. My father was silent as we pulled out of the driveway my mother held my fathers arm and tuned the radio as Hank Williams crooned away, I heard my mother say to my father “We did good work back there.” He nodded his head in the affirmative. She then threw in her favorite “I love you Doc.” We drove on South as the sun settled down to our right in the West, making it night once again. Once out on the main highway headed out of the county those familiar flashing lights from the rear. Sure as heck it was the sheriff, my father pulled the car over. In the quiet of the evening you could hear everything. My father opened his window Hank crooned on. The sheriff leaned into the window and began to speak without prompting. “Y’all be careful travelin’ these road at night now. My cousin is a deputy in the next county he knows you coming so be law abiding if you know what I mean.” As he corrected himself upright adjusting his brim he threw in “…by the way I appreciate ya help with that girl back there, she is a good kid just in a bad situation. Ms. Molly said we would be seeing you on your return trip. Goodnight Doctor.” With that he returned to his patrol car turned his flashing lights off and u-turned. As his red tail lights moved away from us my father brought our car back onto the road and we moved on toward our destination and our family. I fell asleep soon after that, I knew that I was loved by two great parents.
I was awakened to a bright southern dawn I could tell that we were near our destination my fathers attitude was upbeat. The road was straight and clear on the side of the road on both sides were the workers in the cotton fields, as we drove by they waved. Further ahead at the crossroads I could see there was a car pulled to the side of the road it was a station wagon like ours. A Negro man was standing near the tailgate. The rear of the car was filled with watermelons. My father began to slow the car to a stop we pulled just ahead of the man’s station wagon. My father got out and ran back to the rear of the other vehicle. I could see now clearly that it was my uncle there on the side of the road. My uncle gave a hearty welcome to the big city doctor. That’s what many in this area had called him for some many years now.
My uncle stayed on the side of the road and we went on to the house were my father was born. A throng of well wishers greeted us. As the day went on the small house was filled with people as the sun started to hang low in the sky to end another day. The field hands were rank with the smell of sweat and dirt from the outdoors. The story of our detour was told as my relatives shuffled in and out of the kitchen, their hands filled with overflowing plates of food and jars of sweetened kool-aide for the children and lemonade for the elders. The lively discussion carried long into the night. I fell asleep easily. I was amongst family. I fell asleep in my clothes. In my sleep I felt comforted by the love that I felt all around me, all of the time that I spent on those trips has kept me grounded.
I awoke to the sound of people scurrying about the house preparing to start the busy day of field work. My father was already up and so was the sun. He had set out his two man tent in the front yard. The gentle breeze caused the flap on the front of the tent to sound like soft hands clapping endlessly. The tent being up meant to the community that the Doctor was in. Some of the poor Whites that had showed up early helped him get the tent set. They were waiting in line first; they always like to get in and out before anyone else in the county had caught wind that they were seeing a Negro doctor. Another reason they would get in and out early was to avoid waiting in the hot beating sun. Whites poor or not tried to avoid being out in the long hot southern sun whenever possible. They would bring the oddest things as payment to my father. The list was long some would bring moonshine which my father would share with his brothers and cousins, others would bring chickens, one lady had six kids, one on the way but her husband had not come with her. Her payment was two dollars and a goat. She told my father that her husband said that he could not touch her but she let the doctor examine her anyway cause she wanted a healthy baby and not a retard.
My clothes were at the foot of the bed in my grandmothers room. I washed my face and got ready to do as I always did. My job on these trips was to be water boy for the field and run for whatever the doctor and nurse needed. The remainder of our stay was uneventful our goodbye was always joyous and sad at the same time. My parents were focused on the ride back. It was agreed upon that we would leave on Sunday and we would be followed back by several of my fathers female family members. I did not understand why. On Sunday as sure as rain, out in front of the house several hours before dawn the entire congregation of the little Baptist church my family attended was gathered. Even the reverend and his wife were there. I guess services would be held on the road. As we got loaded and pulled onto the road it took awhile for every one to be in a straight line on the road. My father rarely took any of the payment he received with him home from the trip. He always had given it to the church so that they could feed the less fortunate in the area. We were on our way back to Ms. Cora, Ms. Hattie, Ms. Molly, the sheriff, the twins and their mother; we were bringing our family with us for protection.
The Reed family caravan moved through the morning. I wondered if the Bostonians would do this for one of their own? It really didn’t matter in the scheme of things, they would not think that it would be publicly acceptable to intervene. As we pulled into the little town all was quiet. We stopped in front of Ms. Molly’s house the one with the great food. My father and mother got out of our car and walked up to the door they were met by Ms Molly. She was smiling, happy to see us. She called back into the house “They’re back!” The man in overalls appeared at the door he too was happy to see my parents as well. He reached for his cap and placed it atop his head and headed out the door his only words were “I will meet you at Ms. Cora’s back porch.”
The Reed convoy began to proceed to Ms. Cora’s house with the house with the red light on the porch. The house was still and silent, the birds sang in the trees as the soft gentle breeze of a slow quiet Southern Sunday moved on. There was a group of women down at the cabin near the creek. It seemed this is where everyone gathered during a normal day at Ms. Cora’s. The man in overalls my mother, father and Uncle approached. The sounds of joy and happiness where all around the small group of woman that made up the girls of Ms. Cora’s house until they spotted my family coming closer. A hush came over the group, the only sounds that continued were those supplied by nature, the creek rushing by, the gentle Sunday wind and the birds.
My parents had a conversation with Ms. Cora then one of the ladies brought a baby out of the cabin and handed the child to my mother. Ms Cora and my parents talked a little more. The woman that had given birth came out of the cabin she was dressed for travel she had on hat, coat and gloves. She was holding the other baby in her arms. She walked over to Ms. Cora and my parents and I heard her speak quietly but aloud for the first time. “I’m ready. Thank y’all so very much.” She turned and began to walk to the front of the house were our car was parked. The man in the overalls had a bag in his hand. One of the ladies ran up from the cabin near the creek and pushed something into her pocket as she gave her a hug. Ms. Cora handed my mother an envelope, my parents turned and walked away without any other words. They walked in silence to our car, the mother of the twins was standing next to our traveling car as all of my people stood nearby around waiting for my parents to return. The sheriff had also arrived he was at the end of the road sitting in his car.
My father motioned for all of his family to come near. A circle of Black people surrounded us with this one White woman and two babies in the middle. The reverend started to pray. “Dear God we are here today to bid these folks safe passage through troubled waters. Lord GOD I know that you always have a plan for every soul. Spread out your hands O’ Lord and clear a path that these travelers can complete your task. O’ Lord clear the path like you cleared the path for Moses across the Red Sea. O’ Lord! You have brought them together to complete and be completed by your love and with your blessing. O’ Lord from your divine lips to my dutiful servants ear; we do your bidding AMEN!” With that all of my family said as one Amen!
We got into the car as the procession of the Reed family left Ms. Cora’s place. We were at the end of that procession only one other car followed us. In that car were my Uncle, Grandmother and Aunt. Behind their car was the sheriff. About two miles into the drive the sheriff turned on his siren my uncle moved his car to the side of the road as did my father. My Uncle got out of his car to stand between the sheriff and my father. My father immediately stood up and told my uncle that everything was fine. The sheriff met with my father at my uncles’ car. The sheriff tipped his hat to my grandmother and aunt and began to speak loudly on the side of the otherwise empty road. I could not make out what he was saying but I could hear his southern drawl. When he finished talking at my uncle’s car he moved up to ours. He took an envelope out of his back pocket and handed it through the window of our car to the mother of the twins. I clearly heard him say to my father that it would be wise not to stop during the night. If’n I was y’all I would take turns driving until ya gets back to some place a lil more familiar. The sheriff went back to his cruiser, my uncle turned his car around and went the other way the sheriff continued to follow us to the county line before he stopped and turned back. We were on our own Mother, Father, Miss and the twins.
Over her shoulder from the front seat my mother looked directly at me and said these words “We’ve all done good things today may God watch over us and protect us in our journey so that we may continue to do more good deeds.
And with that Heyson Reed awoke from his deep slumber. Momma by his side as she should have been.