Monday, February 3, 2014

Alien in the Delta: A Memoir

(excerpt from Alien in the Delta)

Grandfather shot the man as he opened the gate to the front yard. The man died on the spot. After killing the man, my grandfather went into hiding for seven years. This event was the legacy left to my father by his father. Would what happened thirty years before my birth have an impact on my life?

John Strother my grandfather, “Papa,” was born in 1876. Papa had what he described as horrible nightmares. My very favorite story was about what caused his nightmares. When Papa was a young man, he killed a man and before being captured went on the run for seven years. The dead man would come for Papa nightly. He must have relived that shooting hundreds of times in his dreams. Grandma would have to awaken him to stop his screaming.
Papa went to prison for two years and seven months, and he served most of that time as a prisoner who was in charge of guarding fellow prisoners. Papa would not only tell this story, he would stand up and show everyone exactly how it happened.

This is what I remember about the story. Papa was inside his house when this man came to the front gate and called him to come outside. Papa must have expected trouble because he went to his front porch with a Colt .45 in his hand, and he asked the man to leave and not to come on his property. But the man would not leave. In fact, he told Papa that he was going to come inside the yard and kick his ass. Papa warned him that if he opened that gate, he would shoot him. The man ignored Papa and opened the gate, and Papa proceeded to empty his gun into him.

Papa would then stand up and pretend he had a gun in his hand to show how he shot the man. That’s when my grandma would say.

“John, why are you telling that child  about that man you killed?”

My grandmother had lost her hearing, so she did not know what papa was talking about until he stood up and pretended he had a gun in his hand. Papa never told us who the man was or why he was threatening our family.

Papa was not convicted of murder, but he went to prison for leaving the scene. That’s why his prison stay was so short.  After he served his time, he was offered a permanent job as a prison guard,  but he returned home to his family.