Mike Jones and Robert Lee

Mike Jones was my boyhood friend. In the late fifties his family shared a duplex with mine. Later, both families moved to the same neighborhood only a few houses apart. Many of my childhood memories include “Jones,” and our childhood antics. His parents were like my parents-down-the-street. I’ll never forget the popsicles his mother made for us in the hot weather and the rides to town in their ‘59 Chevy Wagon. We played baseball in the summer and sledded down the hill by our houses in the winter. We rode our bicycles millions of miles together. We unmercifully picked on his younger brother Alan. We started the first grade in Mrs. Ruby Johnson’s room at Selmer Elementary in 1960 and graduated together from McNairy Central twelve years later. He was my first tent mate when we joined Boy Scouts and went camping. We were buddies all through school and started college at the same school the same year. When I was overseas in the service we corresponded regularly . When I went to work for the Highway Patrol in Nashville, he was there -my friend from home.

One of my (now-but not then) funniest memories of Jones was when we were probably about seven or eight years old. We were at his house playing with little plastic army soldiers in his room. His mother had told us to go outside and play. As mothers do she came in and delivered the final “I’m not telling you boys again” ultimatum. For some still-to-this -day unbeknownst reason Jones defied his mother. Children might do that today, but not in 1961. The law still allowed mothers to beat their smart aleck children with whatever they had in their hand. “We’ve decided we are going to stay in here and play army,” he told his mother. Being the loyal chum I was, I concurred and said, “Yeah, we’re not going outside.” Mayhem ensued. I don’t know where or how she got it so quickly but a yardstick materialized. She had Jones by the collar and was beating him violently ( it wasn’t really violent, and I’m not really sure if she ever made contact-it just looked that way to a seven year old boy; besides he certainly deserved it). All I knew was what was coming next if I didn’t get out of that room and out of that house. Back then the if your child was at a friend’s house and “acted up” the parents had full corporal punishment rights including but not limited to beating vigorously about the buttocks and legs.

The room was small and Mrs. Jones was wrestling with Jones in front of the door so as to block my escape so I couldn’t get out that way. It was summer and nobody had air conditioning and the windows were up. I thought maybe I can make it out the window but the screen made it dang near impossible. I made the split second decision to bolt out the door. Somehow, some way I made it bumping ever so lightly against Mrs. Jones. I ran up the hill to the sanctity of my own house. Relieved, I opened the back door and entered the kitchen. My mother had the telephone receiver to her ear. “Here he is right now. I’ll call you back,” she said. I knew it was over. I should have stayed for the yard stick. It was lots better than the leather belt.

Jones and I laughed about that incident for years. His mother denied that it ever happened. Jones is gone now. I attended a memorial service for him a few years back in Brentwood where he had lived for years. Several hundred people were in attendance. He and his wonderful family; Jane, Leon, and Alan were a big part of my youth in Old Selmer.


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