Sons of Thunder


The Sons of Thunder

 

There were early warning signs that violence was on the way.  The two boys were untamed, unfettered, and usually unsupervised.  Their mother had disappeared mysteriously, leaving her husband alone with three children. The father refused any help from the community, insisting that the family would work out their own problems.  Alicia, the beautiful eldest child, reportedly kept the house running smoothly.  She and the boys, James and John, were always clean, fed, and well dressed. Their father, known to drink a bit but not to excess, paid the bills and saved money. Although the father was gone frequently and sometimes for long periods of time there wasn’t anything specifically anyone could point a finger at, yet we all knew there was danger lurking behind the façade.

Alicia never went on dates, although at sixteen she caught the eye of every eligible male in the surrounding areas.  Frankly, they were afraid to ask her out.  Her dad made it a point to seek out prospective suitors and let them know their lives were in danger around his house or around his daughter.  Alicia meekly followed orders, kept the house immaculate, and maintained her straight A average in high school.

John, the middle child, had an explosive temper that occurred with increasing frequency. Often I would confront him in school about some infraction and his face would become contorted with rage.  His voice would shake and obscenities would pour out. Sometimes I asked him to walk around the schoolyard in an effort to cool his anger.  I would watch him pick up a stick, point it at me, and pretend to shoot.  Since I knew he hunted the fields around the school and around my house it was reason for concern.  I knew he would seethe for hours until his anger finally abated.  John was also very intelligent.  He did well in his school subjects and also stayed informed about world politics. He had great plans for his future but I worried about his bouts of anger and how that anger controlled him at times.

John and James were unwelcome in neighboring homes because of their destructive hunting forays and their penchant for breaking things just for fun.  One day they followed their dog down the road and into the driveway of a neighbor’s house.  The dog chased chickens while the boys whooped their support.  Finally the neighbor stepped out of his house.  “You boys go home. I don’t want anything killing my chickens.”  The boys didn’t listen.  Instead they entered the barn and began breaking windows while the dog continued his relentless pursuit of squawking chickens.  The neighbor stepped out of his house onto his front porch, holding a shot-gun.  “Please take your dog home.  He doesn’t belong here. You go home, too!”  “I don’t want anyone to get hurt.” 

The boys left, only to return a short time later with their dad.  He had two six shooters strapped to his sides, gunfighter style.  He confronted the neighbor.  “If you want to have a shoot-out, then let’s get to it.”  The neighbor backed down, uneasy about an altercation with a crazy man.  And so it went, from that moment the community shied away from any arguments with the dad.

The family business was another strange thing that was rarely discussed.  The dad made caskets.  The boys often bragged about their personal coffins, made from the finest materials and ready to be used. “You should see the polished wood and the blue silk.”  “When I die, dad will make mine even better,” the other replied.

James was known for his antics, his infectious smile, and his sudden angelic appearance.  He could be deeply in trouble and yet somehow escape unscathed.  Once, as a fifth grader, he had been caught peeping over a stall in the girl’s bathroom.  He received no punishment because he was so sorry it had ever happened.

One day in spring, after the fire at Christmas had burned the school totally, and we were in school at the church, a strange thing happened.  On this rare day James was sitting quietly in class trying to decipher the big words.  The teacher,  however, could not focus on the lesson.  “I’m sorry,” she said, “but there’s something that really stinks around here.”  She walked from chair to chair but to no avail.  She eventually walked to the closet.  “I think something died in there,” she announced to the class. She flung open the door and peered in, holding her nose.  The children’s coats were hung on pegs, waiting to be picked up.  The teacher went from coat to coat, sniffing and coughing.  She stopped at James’s coat.  “This coat stinks,” she said.  “What is the problem?”  James laughed.  “I slept with my dog in the bed last night,” he proclaimed.  “A skunk had sprayed it.  My dog was still scared so I hugged it all night.”

James was the center of the universe at times.  He could not read any words with more than four letters.  The principal proudly proclaimed he taught James to read.  Later, when James was discovered memorizing the lessons ahead, the principal was deflated and gave up.  He turned the task over to a young teacher who decided James was a worthy project.  For several weeks she toiled and James struggled onward. The reading project seemed a success until one day after school the woman turned her back on James.  He quickly closed the distance between them, reached around and cupped her breasts.  She was horrified and fled to the principal.  “What are you going to do about it?” she demanded angrily.  “You shouldn’t have been alone with him,” the principal snapped.  The conversation was over.  James and the reading lessons were over, but James continued on, oblivious to the fact that anything was wrong. 

In the eighth grade and in high school James proved to be outstanding in sports.  Grades were overlooked as long as James tried.  There were occasions when those in the stands were pleasantly surprised by his adroit moves and quickness.  There were also occasions when those same people were shocked by his ability to get confused.  When he got turned around he might run the wrong way in football or make the winning basket for the wrong team in basketball.  Yes, James was something of an enigma.

We didn’t hear much about Alicia after she graduated from high school.  The boys said she went to college but we didn’t know where.  And John?  He graduated from high school and drifted northward, working one job after another.  Later we heard he had been arrested in Seattle for armed robbery and would be locked away for awhile.  And James?  I had forgotten about James until one night at eleven o’clock I was awakened by the persistent ring of my phone.  I picked it up and was greeted by a familiar voice.  “Mr. Roberson, remember me?  This is James and I just called to thank you for all you did for me.  You didn’t give up and eventually you got me to reading.  I’m now a lumberjack in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  I volunteer at a local elementary school when I can.   I just wanted to thank you but I don’t want to keep you up.  Good-bye!”  And with that James was gone, but definitely not forgotten.  He was one of the more difficult students who had learning disabilities and social problems and somehow had managed to rise out of the murky depths. He had taken the next step and was reaching out to others and giving them a chance to succeed.  His persistence also woke me up.

 Sometimes I forgot that school was more than teaching subject matter.  It was about touching human lives.  I slept easier that night and for many nights to follow because I had made a difference in his life. James didn’t give me a chance to tell him, but he also had made a difference in how I perceived things.  I must have done something right, and to this day I still believe I can touch that invisible spirit, and bring it to a higher level.  Thanks, James, wherever you are, for giving me feedback.

 

By Dan Roberson  2/26/09

38 responses to “Sons of Thunder

  1. Linda Diane Fechter

    Greg told me you had a blog. Is this your blog? It must be…given the school setting. This story moved me to tears, which are streaming down my face as I write this. Great writing and great story.
    Linda Diane

  2. great story

  3. Touched my heart so much, awesome writing my friend. Your talent shines so very bright!!

  4. Fascinating story. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Some people make a difference just by being there. I’ve been able to discover many truths by being aware of those I meet. Thank you for commenting.

  6. http://jinglepoetry.blogspot.com/2010/10/poetry-potluck-natures-elements-air.html
    Greetings!
    I sincerely invite you to join us for a Monday Poetry Potluck party, bring in 1 to 3 poem treats to share via the link on the top! You could use an old poem.

  7. http://jingleyanqiu.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/thursday-poets-rally-week-30/

    welcome to Poets Rally week 30,
    let me know if you have a poem ready,
    Thanks for the support.

  8. it appears like a real life incident. In that case you did a noble job by saving atleast one of the three.

    thanks for sharing it with us.

    • Real life is beautiful and rewarding at times. Sometimes I just hang on and write what I see. Thank you for visiting.

  9. http://jingleyanqiu.wordpress.com/awards-from-the-blogging-universe/the-sunshine-award-plus-more/

    awards for you.
    have fun today, support our potluck by linking at least one poem today…
    Happy Tuesday!

  10. In November Iam giving the feed back that you are referring to. I recieved a scholarship for school from an investment board and now I am going to the state capitol building to give a thank you speech to all of the investors that sponsor this program throughout the state. I am only doing this because I believe that that feed back is vital for other people that are in the same position I was a year and a half ago. It seems that thank you’s are hard to come by I am thankful that you received yours :-)

  11. They’ll love you for giving feedback. Thank you is an almost forgotten phrase. Your response will indeed spur more investors into sponsoring scholarships. I commend you for the feedback. I also thank you for responding to my story.

  12. please relink your entry, I clicked on your name, could not find the post.
    Thanks a ton.

  13. Shubho bijoyadashami (Happy Vijayadashami)! May the blessings of the Goddess shower down on you and your loved ones forever.

  14. Dan, thanks for visiting my site. I’m on the run, so I’ll have to come back and visit and read your stories. Looking forward to it … a nice way to end my day today or tomorrow. Later …

    • I enjoy reading your work. Thank you for your poetry and other posts.

      May the sun be on your face and the wind at your back as the Lord blesses you throughout the day. Carpe diem!

      • Thanks, Dan!

        This is a fine story. Touching! You must have been a wonderful teacher, Dan. It shows through here in your writing.

        Carpe diem!

        I’ll be back for more.

      • Sometimes it’s hard to know if anyone was touched or gained or lost or what. In this case I was rewarded.

        May the sun be on your face and the wind at your back as the Lord blesses you throughout the day. Carpe diem!

  15. lovely story,
    keep writing…

    let me know after you visit and comment for 18 poets from my list.
    cheers!

    • Jingle, I can’t seem to make a short comment. I”ve been so impressed with the quality of writing as well as the number of writers. The imagery, the styles, the emotions bared, everything. There is a book of poetry with every potluck. You must find it overwhelming at times, especially since you are posting your own poems. I lost count but I must be close to eighteen.

      May the sun be on your face and the wind at your back as the Lord blesses you throughout the day. Carpe diem!

  16. I read that through held fast ’til the end…A wonderful lifting story, of success with a young life… made me smile for the hope it gave, thank you…
    and thank you to, for visiting my site and commenting…a pleasure to return the compliment. xPenx

  17. All those beautiful seeds dropped. And look what blossomed.

    • Theere are always surprises when seeds fall. Some fall on shallow soil, others are on fertile ground, and yet some are able to fight their way through hardships and weeds to produce much.

  18. Your thought simply excellent

  19. Most of us don’t realize the connection we all have with one another. People come and go in our lives and we’re never aware of how we’ve influenced them – for better or for worse. We so often forget to feel gratitude in our hearts for others who have touched us – given us gifts and helped us to grow – as well. This is a beautiful story.

  20. Tears. You always inspire, Dan. Thank you. Good even the second time around.

    Thank you for the lovely poems you left on my blog. Your work is held dear.

  21. Link exchange is nothing else however it is simply placing the other person’s web site link on your page at proper place and other person will also do similar for you.

  22. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this superb blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding
    your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will
    talk about this website with my Facebook group. Talk soon!

  23. Wonderful article! We are linking to this particularly great article on our website.
    Keep up the great writing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s