Mr. Epps

Occasionally we would attend the Baptist Church on Sunday. Helen’s Aunt played the piano and she was very good, the singing, I thought was beautiful too, I never quite could understand all the words so I just made up words and sounds that seemed right. That was years before I knew about making a joyful noise to the Lord. But I guess that was what I was doing and no one seem to mind at all.

Ariba was just a little country town, but it was nice and comfortable. Everybody knew everybody and most folks were friendly and most everybody got along well. Most folks didn’t have much and those that did mixed in with everyone and no one seem to think much about who had what and who didn’t . Many of the children from outside town would bring dried prunes to school to eat for lunch. They would give them to anybody who wanted some, as there were tired of them. I learned later it was part of the food surplus the government gave out. I liked getting them since we didn’t have them at home. There was no school lunch programs at all, so we took whatever we had at home to have for lunch. I guess we had jelly biscuits and sometimes eggs.

Near Easter time the school had a big Easter egg hunt in the field between the school and Mr. and Mrs. Spies house. All the eggs were boiled and some were even colored but not very many. There were no candy eggs. I’m sure there may have been some but no one could but them for a big hunt. It was fun to try to find them, but they usually didn’t taste to good. The family who lived next door to us invited me to go to Hawpond (sp?) community with them to the Pate’s for an Easter egg hunt. I went and was so excited since a big Easter basket was to be given as a prize to the one who found the most eggs. I was pretty sure that would be me. I’d never seen anything look as pretty as that basket. It surely had a lot of candy in it. Well guess who go the prize. The Pate’s granddaughter. I was very sure she didn’t find the most eggs. I was very unhappy for probably a whole day after that. But I’m sure Bud, James, and I found something else to occupy our mind or at least mine.

Since we had a fireplace in every room it was easy for us to get some paper, roll it up and light it and for a couple of seconds pretend we were smoking. I shudder when I think how blessed we were to not get burned or set the house on fire. God really must have had a platoon of Angels looking out for us.

The most awful thing that could ever have happened did happen while we were living there. One of the hands there that worked for Daddy was bad to drink, as many of the men did, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. This man was usually pretty wild and Mr. Epps the town policeman (the only one) would tell him to calm down and not have any more trouble with him. But this one night he really went crazy and had got him a gun. Mr. Epps went up to him like he always did and thought (I guess) that he would give him the gun and calm on down. Instead he started shooting and Mr. Epps died right there on the spot.

The men in town were up in arms and of course everybody was upset. The men all waited until they knew that our family was away (gone on Saturday to big town or maybe to Grandma’s) and they went to the jail, got him out and took him to the back street (there were only two) and lynched him, actually burned him alive. Daddy would never have been a part of that and the people know that. It was so terrible we didn’t want to talk or think about it. I heard later some of the boys in town went later and found pieces of coins in the ashes. I don’t know if they really did or if it was boys just talking.

In later years I came to realize even nice people can do terrible things, especially if there is a group (mob) involved. Even now I wish I could have stopped them. I wonder if those people didn’t sometimes wish they hadn’t gone along with that too. Mr. Epps left a wife and an adopted son who was about 12 or 13 at the time. I’ve thought too how that made the black people there, and how his family must have felt. He probably had small children too. A think like that is certainly something that would never be forgotten by anyone with any care about human life or what is right or wrong. Handling things in the wrong way just makes two wrongs and justice without any real meaning.


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