By Russ Towne
When I was twelve and living outside a small town in Georgia in 1967, I was awakened one night by a commotion in front of my family’s house. I looked down from my bedroom window and saw about twenty men wearing white robes and pointed hoods. They carried flaming torches. Some had guns. One carried a whip.
“I see ’em. Stay in the house!” Pa walked outside.
I ran downstairs. Ma held Jodilee and stood just inside the front door. I tried to rush past them, but Ma grabbed me and said through gritted teeth, “Your pa said stay inside and that’s what you’re gonna do!” I felt her trembling as she held me back with her arm.
Pa stood facing the mob. “What do you want?”
The one carrying the whip took an unsteady step forward and pointed it at Pa. He swayed a bit like he’d been drinking. “We heard you stopped some of our boys from beatin’ up Matthew Green on his way home from high school. Is that true?”
“Yes. Four on one seemed a little unfair, especially when one of the four had a baseball bat, and the others were holding Matthew down.”
“They was just havin’ some fun. You’ve gotten too uppity. Forgot your place. We’re here to remind you.” He uncoiled his long whip. “Grab him, boys.”
Pa reached behind his back and pulled a pistol out of his belt, aiming it at the man with the whip. “This is loaded but won’t stay that way if any of you take another step.”
The sheets froze.
Suddenly, we heard heavy steps on our back porch, and the doorknob turned. Ma screamed. Pa turned toward her and the mob surged forward.
BANG! BANG! Two shots went off nearly simultaneously; the first in the back of the house, and the other from behind a tree near Pa. The cowards hiding in white robes froze again. Everyone tried to figure out who shot and who was shot.
“No one’s gonna be whipped, ’lessen you want a belly full of lead.” Matthew Green’s pa stepped out from behind a tree holding a 12-gauge shotgun. He yelled toward the back of the house, “Matthew, bring those other fellers out front and be careful!”
Soon, four more men in white sheets and those silly pointed hoods rejoined the rest of their kind, prompted by a mighty angry Matthew Green pointing the business end of a Winchester rifle at them.
“Come on, boys, let’s go.” Whip-holder decided, apparently, his eight-to-one odds still weren’t big enough. They tossed their torches in the dirt, got in their trucks, and sped away.
“Thank you, Charlie,” Pa said as he put the pistol back in his belt.
“You saved Matthew. Not many white men would have done that for us. I’m obliged.”
“I learned in Korea it didn’t matter what shade we were on the outside, we all bled red. Anyways, thanks neighbor!”