Written by: Kevin Jackson
I want to let everyone know how special my brother, Tracy , is to me. We have been together all our sentient lives and have been like most brothers in that we fought, we laughed, and we learned early on that no matter what, we were brothers. We were separated only by 14 months by birth so we experienced most everything in life together. We even had chicken pox at virtually the same time.
When we first moved to Yarbro, just outside of Blytheville Ar. Tracy and I were out looking for something to entertain ourselves with on a cold, late fall morning. A strange teenager ( it turned out to be one of our new neighbors ) was out behind our house in what would later be our garden. Being the pair we were, promptly told him to get off our property. We were only 10 and 11 and he was wearing a toboggan face mask that made him appear ominous. He declined and told us he goes were he wants, or something like that. I’m not sure I remember exactly how this played out, but it wound up with Tracy locked in Kens’ arms. That was his name. As we later found, Ken was a rather unscrupulous character, but harmless. Anyway, I’m not sure what to do and pick up a half brick that was lying about and threatened to smash his head with it. I was a little scared but was not sure how far this situation was going. I remember Tracy saying “Don’t”. Ken was agreeing with him but continued to hold my brother hostage. In a split second decision, I let the brick fly right at Kens face. Well, that was my intended target. I’ll never forget how I felt when I saw the blood running from Tracys’ head. Ken immediately released him, (mission accomplished). Tracy ran inside and all I could think was, I’m in trouble, It wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t supposed to happen, I’m supposed to be the hero. Meanwhile, Tracy was driven to the hospital where he would get his head stitched and as I remember, nobody ever said a cross word to me. I think I would have preferred a punishment of some kind. Instead, I got a little, short-lived resentment from Tracy. A reminder that he did tell me not to throw the brick. I was left with my own guilt.
Some years later, when I was in a fight with a much larger boy, I was thrilled to see my little brother jump up and whack this man-child in the ear. He was my little brother, he took up for me, the torturous, overbearing, manipulating, older brother that I thought he hated, was jumping in the air to slap this goliath of a 6th grader in the head. That fight was diffused, in part because of Tracy.
There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my brother. I don’t call him little anymore. He’s bigger than I am, not just physically. He’s my brother…don’t mess with him, or you’ll have to answer to, well, if there’s anything left of you…me!
Written by: Kevin Jackson
It must have been in the first month of school when I got my first lesson in how unfair and unjust the world can be for a naïve trusting boy. I only attended half of my first year in school at Dell elementary school. Our teacher was out of the classroom and some of the kids were sharpening pencils and talking. I really had no friends, so I grabbed my pencil and headed to the back of the room. Some kids were standing around laughing. I approached them and they parted to let me in. I think his name was Randy, he had his hand on the crank of the sharpener. He said, in what I thought was a warm and inviting tone, “put your finger in here”. I knew what could happen, I wasn’t stupid in that way. So as bravely as I could, showing Randy that I trusted him, inserted my pinky finger into the pencil hole. Well, the obvious outcome commenced. As I screamed, another teacher came in and demanded to know what happened. I promptly told her…”Randy sharpened my finger”! Not knowing what else to do, she escorted Randy and I to Mr. Wileys’ room, where who would be there but my older sister, Lisa. He asked me what happened, I repeated what I had told our escort. A hushed chuckle came over the room, which added humiliation to my pain. When I thought the worst was over, Mr. Wiley, being the disciplinary teacher he was, paddled me with three hard licks. (for those who don’t know, corporal punishment was widely practiced then.) Randy, in turn received a much lighter three licks. You may think my memory tarnished here, but I assure you, I’m not distorting the truth. Remember, Lisa witnessed the rounds with the wooden paddle. I’m happy to say, I still have a fully functional pinky ( it just got slightly skinned). I didn’t learn to self advocate that day, but I took from it what I could.
It was in the sixth grade that I encountered the infamous Mr. Wiley again. He taught math in Central middle school in Blytheville. Still being the strong, and sometimes abusive, discipline over his class. He had a kind of “spock grip” he used on the guys of the class. Never the girls, even Mr. Wiley had some self restriction. Time after time I watched as he dug his thumb into that tender pressure point on the shoulder, close to the neck, as they all squirmed as if to go… to their knees, but were held up by the iron grip. I knew my turn would come. Mr. Wiley did remember me. He looked up from the role call and slowly called my name on the first day of school. All the memories were obviously coming to him as he checked me present. I thought if I do my work and keep my head down, I’ll get a pass. Afterall he had shown me who the boss is already, right? Wrong. My day came. He stood in front of the class a summoned me forward. I had a great resentment for him and I steeled my nerves as I did what I was told to do. I refused to give him the satisfaction of seeing me squirm at his death grip. The pain was intense. I don’t remember what he said to me then, it took all my focus to stand there and ignore my burning neck as he looked at a paper that I think was mine, seeming oblivious to any discomfort he might cause. When he finally looked at me, puzzled, looked where his hand was as if it might be misplaced. He released me and said “Are we clear.” I responded and took my seat. That was all anyone could talked about the rest of the day. “That had to hurt, “How’d you do that?” “Are you numb there?” On and on. I enjoyed the attention but I really hope Mr. Wiley never forgot, I won’t break! It is something I’ll never forget, I just hope that he saw in me the rebellion against his abuse. What else can a sixth grader do? My dad could have broken him, although he would have never handled it that way. A look might have been enough to make him wet his pants. I have prayed for him. Maybe he found some love after all.
Written by: Kevin Jackson
I cant remember a whole lot of things from too early on, but I do remember the first time I knew we were different than most. As you know, I was so smart they had me skip the first grade. Not really, my birthday was a factor when I was registered for school. They saw fit to put me in 1st grade rather than kindergarten. The only class I liked was choir. I remember when we sang ” she’ll be comin’ ’round the mountain”, I was the only one in class that could hold on to the end of the verse without running out of breath. For a otherwise miserable elementary school existence, this was the kind of thing I held onto when I didn’t measure up to other kids. There was a revival that dad was speaking in when I was in about the third grade. I always loved to shout out hymn numbers when the opportunity was given. When the music director offered to take request, I had certain hymns pages memorized so I could sing the songs I liked best. After this particular instance, I was praised for not looking at the hymnbook at any time during the typical 1st, 2nd, and 3rd verse, and everyone should take note that I could sing from my heart. Little did I know that this would define a huge part of my life. I still pick and choose songs of praise to perform with my friends in worship, But only If I really feel them in my heart, do I even do justice to them. Otherwise, I’m just singing. The satisfaction does not come from My performance, but rather when I know that God felt It as I did.
Being a preacher’s kid was not always an easy thing to be. Some people believed that because our Dad was a minister, that we should be held to a higher standard than our peers. Many things were expected of us. We didn’t wear shorts and our dresses had to be longer than the fashion at the time (but they were still above the knee). Those things were ok, we didn’t suffer much from that other than hot legs in the summer; But I have to say, my parents were good at compromise and not taking it to the extreme, after all, they did let us girls wear pants. They still allowed us to be kids and that is what mattered.
There were times, and I have to admit it wasn’t much fun at the time, that we did things for the church that I’m not so sure anyone else wanted to do. For instance when we had revivals, about once every six months, Dad would actively invited everyone he came in contact with. He would have “hand bills” printed up with the guest speakers picture, dates, times and special events of the week. This usually involved us singing as well. But, it didn’t stop there. He would gather us up and take us out in the community to knock on doors and invite people. We would smile and invite them to our revival as we placed a hand bill in their hands. Most people thought that was sweet, but we really just wanted to go home and play.
Once per year, usually in July, the Mission in Blytheville would sponsor a tent revival. I can’t tell you how my siblings felt about going to the tent revival, but I almost (almost) looked forward to it. It had a whole different feeling with being outside and it usually drew larger crowds than the regular “at church” revivals. Dad would round us kids up the week before, and we would go out like a little army, inviting people to the tent revival, and we mostly attended every night. There was lots of singing and they would take up offerings in Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets, and at least once during the week, our family would sing a couple of songs for the service. Looking back now, it has a very nostalgic feeling. It’s something that is not often done now like it used to be done in the South. People would lift their hands toward heaven and pray, and many souls were saved. I can’t say that any of that was directly related to our participation, but I like to think that maybe… just maybe, all our hard work was not totally in vain.
My Dad was a “jack of all trades”. He made and fixed a lot of things. Afterall, with four children to feed, he had to figure out a way to make what little money he had stretch as far as he could. We didn’t have fancy swings in the back yard, but instead we had a potato sack swing. For those of you who don’t know what that is, well it’s a burlap potato bag filled with straw, tied off at the end (so the straw doesn’t come out), and tied by a long rope to a tree limb. The trick was to straddle the bag and hold it tight between your legs and hang on to the rope. Then someone would push you like on a regular swing. The fun part was that the swing not only went back and forth, but round and round, sometimes spinning out of control. It was all you could do to hang on and not fall off… and we DID fall off from time to time! Dad would swing us high enough that we would go above his head, and he was over 6 feet tall. To a six-year-old, that was high!! Our family spent many evenings before dark taking turns swinging in the back yard while Mom finished dinner.
Dad at this time also worked for Dr. Pepper and was the Pastor at Neal’s Chapel Baptist Church in Bondsville Arkansas. I remember well the long drives from Dell to Bondsville and back every Sunday. We had a white station wagon, and we could stretch out in the seats and sleep on the way. The wagon also served another special purpose that I remember. In the summer one year, Dad used it in our Vacation Bible School parade. The parade itself was a church sponsored thing where usually a couple of members would decorate their cars with streamers and such, then ride around town and invite people to send their children for a week of Bible study at the church. Dad decided we would use our station wagon and load it up with all the children that wanted to go and have a parade. He took black shoe polish and wrote V.B.S. and the dates all over the sides of the car. He took his time and wrote it very neatly, which was a good thing because after the parade, when he washed the car, it didn’t come off!! We rode around for weeks with V.B.S. written all over our white car in what had faded to purple letters!! He never did that again!
We didn’t keep that car much longer after that. One night, on the way home, we had a flat tire and had to stop on the side of the road. Dad changed the tire, closed the tailgate and we headed for home. Tracy, my youngest brother was only about 3 years old, and had crawled into the back and fell asleep. I remember waking up at home and getting out of the car, but Mom and Dad couldn’t get Tracy to wake up. He had fallen asleep with his face against the tailgate which may not have been closed well, and had been breathing almost pure carbon monoxide. Mom was panicking and Dad was doing everything he could think of to wake him up. Luckily, he did wake up and they fed him some ice cream to keep him conscience. Not long after that, Dad got rid of the station wagon.
The VonTrapp Family SingersSwirling around like a mental patient!
In about 1966 we lived in Blytheville Arkansas on Cherry Street in a house with pink siding which we to this day call “the pepto bismol house”. It was during this time that I learned to ride a bicycle and enjoyed playing with our neighborhood friends. I was very young, only four years old. Our neighbors were the Glasscocks and we played with their children quite a bit. Debra Glasscock was a couple of years older than me and was closer to Lisa’s age. Debra and I got into a fight one day and she ended up at the Dr’s office getting stitches because I had bitten a plug out of her arm! But as children go, we didn’t play together for a while, and we got over it much quicker than our parents did.
One of the best things about living next to the Glasscocks was that their Dad was the manager at the Ritz Theatre downtown, so every once in a while on Saturday afternoons we would get to go to the movies with them for free. I saw the Jungle Book and several others, but the most amazing movie I saw was The Sound of Music. The image of Julie Andrews swirling around on the mountain top was larger than life. The singing children were amazing to me. I wanted to be a VonTrapp family singer just like them. I sat in the front row and watched every moment of the movie without missing a beat. I was smitten by the scenery and the music. I was too young to really understand what the whole movie was about politically, but it didn’t matter, I was in love with the music. I loved it so much, as a matter of fact, that I remained in my seat after the movie ended so I could watch it again. Just as the camera was zooming in on “Maria” swirling on the mountain, Lisa grabbed my arm and pulled me kicking and screaming out of the theatre to go home. I didn’t care that people were watching, I screamed and yelled “NO” all the way out the door. To this day, The Sound Music has remained my favorite musical. I fell in love with it then, and I secretly love it still. (Shhhh… don’t tell!)