Verbal Pictures

HOMOSEXUALS! A gray autumn day in 1974 as I recall, and a tad chilly. My best friend Sam and I are sitting out in ma's car in our yard in Felton, talking as we often do. Suddenly two Haralson County sheriff deputy cars come up the drive. We're saying, "WTF!?" Shortly, we are informed that "The sheriff wants to talk to you" and are bundled into the separate cars and whisked away. I look back and see poor ma standing in the yard looking both flumoxed and, as she used to say, "so mad I could spit red and cuss dammit!" Upon arrival at the Sheriff's office in Buchanan, I'm told to remove everything from my pockets and my belt, told to lean against a wall and spread my legs, while a man's hands run all up and own my legs and into my crotch. After this indignity a steel door is unlocked and I am marched down a hallway lined with jail cells. We stop beside one, he opens it and I am shoved into it and flinch at the steel CLANG! of the door closing. I'm pretty sure I got a glimpse of Sam heading further down the hallway, no doubt to another cell. I have been told nothing of why I am here beyond "The sheriff wants to talk to you" and since I have not seen him yet I surmise this must be the reason. Before me there is a steel cot welded to the wall under a tiny square window far too high to see out of with steel mesh wire embedded in the glass. A rolled-up foam rubber mattress rets on the cot. There is a steel commode with a steel sink above it on another wall. This is the extent of my furnishings here. I sit cautiously on the edge of the cot. I look through the bars and see a small group of men sitting in plastic chairs, some watching a TV set that is mounted on the wall near the ceiling. Others are engaged in boisterous talk and laughter about things I'm sure I'm just as glad I don't know. Very soon I become aware of the hardness of the cot and begin to consider other seating. I wish I had one of the chairs. But all I have are the cot, the commode and the bare cement floor. We have never had a commode in our house. I certainly don't want to sit on that in front of all these men. Instinct tells me that sitting, fully clothed on a commode in here will draw attention to me, which I surely hope to avoid. I pull the string which has the mattress tied and let it unroll. It is less painful to sit on, though certainly not comfortable. I look at the tiny square of sky visible through the window and realize that it is getting late. I start to wonder how long I may be here. Soon a man comes by with a cart and hands me a tray with a plastic plate of food and a styrofoam cup of what turns out to be iced tea through a slit in the bars of the door. I hesitate. I'm a little hungry and thirsty but eating and drinking means I will end up on that commode with my pants down if I'm not out of here soon. Some time later a deputy comes and unlocks my door. Says, "You have visitors" which causes titanic explosions inside my head between bolts of relief (maybe it's ma) and of fear (maybe it ain't). Back down the hallway whence I entered this hell and on the other side of the steel door when it swings open... ma and pa! They have come to sign my bond - put up the old house for collateral. Pa don't like it but ma demands he sign. After some paper signing I'm out the door and into the back seat of ma's car. I wonder about Sam. Ma says they couldn't get him. I worry for him but my relief to be going home is a soft, warm and cuddly thing I can wrap my arms around and bury my face in. Later I learned that Sam and I had been charged with breaking and entering, theft of property, burying songbooks, and having "homosexual tendencies". The breaking and entering we technically did, though we didn't break anything. The previous winter we rode my little motorcycle to a little church way back in the woods. I hoisted him up to a transom window whose pane was loose and would come out with a wiggle. We leaned the pane against the wall and I hoisted him inside. He unlocked the door and I came in with my little portable record player and a small stack of 45's. Ma was working. Pa was always home of course and raised hell about Sam being over at our house and went ballistic if we started playing music. For a while we went to a place in the woods behind the house and used the batteries with the record player. But they ran down quickly and it was getting too cold to be out like that. We remembered that church from a previous tip there and the window we had noticed that wasn't securely fastened. A few times that winter we had gone to the church, did our entrance routine and had some time to talk and play music and sing. The intent was never vandelism or theft. We practiced the piano and sang along with a lot of the songs we liked, mostly things like Merle Haggard, Charley Pride, and Johnny Cash. We loved singing gospel music too and actually got pretty good with harmonising. A couple of times we lit the gas heater to warm the place up enough so our fingers would function. Technically theft of property, but big whoop. A couple dollars worth of electricity and gas at the most. That "burying song books" thing was simply someone's bizarre invention. Sam did have "homosexual tendencies". He was bi and liked girls too. In fact he got married to a "slow" girl named Terri and had a daughter named Angela who, last I heard was living in Jamestown, New York. Our relationship though, was one of deep friendship and never had any "romantic" or sexual component at all. For me it was guilt by association. No one ever bailed Sam out of jail. My ma would have but the property wasn't worth enough to bail us both out. His dad was in Thailand. His mom said it would be good for him to stay there. Eventually he was transferred to a "youth facility" where I managed to visit him twice. A few weeks after getting out of jail I was in a courthouse for my probation hearing. A judge was reading off the conditions of my probation to my folks and me. I tried very hard (mostly succesfully) to keep quiet. By now my outrage had peaked and I felt myself on the edge; knew that if I didn't keep it all in my life would either end fairly shortly (along with some others) or would be forever changed for the worse. "No consumption of alcohol or other drugs... must be at home no later than 8pm every evening unless with parents.... may not fraternize or be within 100 yards of the juvenile Samuel Scott Cain... Yeah. That lasted about four minutes after I got home. Called Sam and we met halfway between our houses to talk tjings over. ggg