He wasn’t the Lone Ranger — but you should still know about Bass Reeves

Posted in History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2021 by macmystery
Bass Reeves was the first Black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi.
Bass Reeves was the first Black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi.

It’s been a rough weekend and a rough day.

After a week that saw the world lose some musical heroes of mine — Don Everly, Charlie Watts and the Storyteller, Tom T. Hall — things got worse at week’s end.

A high school coach who left a big footprint locally died of COVID. He was 57 and a better man than a coach. and that’s saying something because he was a helluva coach.

Circumstances prevented us from being close. But I liked and respected him, and he liked and respected me, I believe.

I think the COVID surge is starting to wear me down. The mess in Afghanistan and Hurricane Ida in New Orleans is taking a toll, as well. I just don’t have an effective escape in place when the events of the day start to pile up. Mental health is a thing. I’d like to say I was managing it better.

As a result, I’ve spent a lot of the day reading. And I’ve come across a couple of real gems today (I say today … it’s now almost 2 a.m. on Monday).

Late tonight, I happened on this jewel: The Resurrection of Bass Reeves. It’s from the June 2021 issue of Texas Monthly, referred to by itself as “The National Magazine of Texas.”

The Facebook link to the story sucks you in by intimating that Bass Reeves, the first Black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi, may have been the real-life inspiration for The Lone Ranger.

I don’t want to disclose too much of the story. My hope is that you’ll read it. Suffice it to say, however, that I had never heard of Reeves before tonight (or this morning). And that was my loss.

Like too many Black Americans and Black towns and Black communities, their stories have been lost, for reasons both sinister and innocent. But it appears Reeves’ story may have escaped the fate of many others and might reach the mainstream. In recent years, there have been multiple books and a handful of movies produced, or on their way to production.

For the record, Reeves’ resume holds up next to the Old West lawmen we’ve read about or seen in movies for the past 100 years — Earp, Masterson, Hickok, etc. He is said to have arrested more than 3,000 criminals — white, Black and Native American — in his time as a U.S. Marshal in Oklahoma.

And another thing that makes the story great. As you watch the story’s main protagonist dig up the history surrounding Reeves, you learn about that man’s story, as well.

But don’t take my word for it. Instead take my advice, and read it for yourself.

np: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals; The Soul & The Edge: The Best of Johnny Paycheck; Roy Orbison’s Mystery Girl; and 52nd Street by Billy Joel

Goodbye Dr. Ralph, hello Stanley

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2021 by macmystery

On this day, 5 years ago, the world said goodbye to Dr. Ralph Stanley, one of the greats of bluegrass music.

Maybe two weeks later, I joined my girlfriend at the time at the county animal shelter one summer afternoon, as she wanted to adopt a kitten.

As she and her mother made the rounds of all the tiny, furry, playful kittens in the cat room at the shelter, I — exhausted from a hot day at work — found a chair toward the other side of the room and kicked back with a nap in mind.

As I relaxed, a black and white kitten, a few months older than all of the kittens being fawned over across the room, made his way up onto my chest, curled up, and proceeded to join me in my nap.

After picking out a kitten, my girlfriend decided she would take home two, also selecting the kitten curled up asleep and purring on my chest.

There was no way, she said, we could leave him. After all, he had “picked me.” We had no choice but to pick him.

When it came time to give him a name, Stanley was the choice.

I don’t see Stanley anymore. He’s a victim of a relationship that didn’t last. And I don’t have any pictures of him to share. They were all on a hard drive that hard crashed about a year and a half ago.

But I haven’t forgotten him. After all, he picked me.

Here’s your sign

Posted in Humor with tags , , , , , , on October 12, 2020 by macmystery
sign(4)

Oh … you KNOW it’s happened before.

I don’t know if this is real or not, so I won’t make fun of any specific group. But …

You know they only make a sign like this because it’s happened before, right? You’ll think about it the next time you’re in a hotel elevator.

In memory of a teammate

Posted in Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2020 by macmystery
1981Padres

The Lithonia Youth Athletic Association 1981 Minor League Padres. I am at far left in the second row. Pledger Fretwell, and that beautiful smile, is center in the third row.

The baseball world lost Whitey Ford this week, just a couple weeks shy of his 92nd birthday. He was just the latest Hall of Famer to pass in the last month or two, joining Lou Brock, Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson.

Ordinarily, I would have penned something, even brief, for this space or social media about these legends, stories of whom filled my childhood. But I didn’t seem to find the time (yet).

But there was a passing this week I can not let go by.

Rest in peace, Pledger Fretwell.

Pledger graduated a year before me from Lithonia High School in 1988. He was ridiculously intelligent — a member of the National Honor Society and the Math and Science clubs. He would go on to his beloved Duke University and graduate in 1993.

Pledger was also a talented guitarist. But we were really only acquaintances in the halls. We would chat occasionally.

PledgerFretwell

Pledger Fretwell, shown here in the 1988 Bulldog (the Lithonia High School annual), shows off his air guitar skills while wearing a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt.

But for me, I would always have a bond with Pledger for something that happened several years earlier.

Despite my love of baseball, I was afraid of the ball and didn’t play organized baseball until I was 9 years old.

During that first year in 1981, Pledger was my teammate on the Lithonia Dixie Youth Baseball minor league Padres.

Pledger, like me, wasn’t very good. He was among ha handful of us who rotated in right field, along with Tony, this tiny Black kid to whom no pitcher could throw a strike, and maybe a couple others.

Pledger, quite heavy-set, was slow, but there was nobody on the team who had more fun. He was always, … ALWAYS, smiling.

My mother loved Pledger and his smile. I think if she had gotten to choose which kid she took home from a practice, it may have been Pledger over me.

I only remember one time Pledger wasn’t smiling.

It was late in the afternoon, and the setting sun was blazing, making it impossible to see if you were looking in its direction. The outfielders were warming up in the outfield. There were a half dozen of us, though I specifically remember Pledger, Tony, Chris Guy and myself.

I had ridden to the game with the mother of a teammate and neighbor. Supposedly, however, my dad was going to make this game, which was not always the case.

So in between warm-up throws, I would turn and peer behind the fence, hoping to see my mom and dad’s presence. As I was scanning the rickety wooden and metal bleachers for my parents, I heard a familiar voice say, “No, this is how you hum the ball!”

I turned in the direction from which the voice had come and all I saw was the brightness of the sun. I never saw the baseball, not even when it crashed into my face with enough velocity to break my nose, causing it to explode.

I screamed. And there was blood everywhere. I wasn’t actually seriously hurt, but tell that to a 9-year-old kid covered in his own blood.

I’m not sure if my mom was there and got me, or if my friend’s mom drove me home and we went from there. But I remember getting a brief glimpse at Pledger’s face during the commotion, and though I hadn’t seen it, I knew he had thrown the ball.

For the only instance in the time I knew him, Pledger looked unhappy. Sad. Hurt. Pained. I heard a coach yell at him for throwing the ball when I wasn’t looking. I wouldn’t have known how to describe it then, but I felt for him.

I obviously survived, and we played the year out together. I wasn’t on his team again, and because we didn’t go to the same elementary school, I really didn’t see him again until high school.

We talked and joked about him destroying my nose numerous times in the years afterward, and had discussions about music and other things.

And then, down the line, I reconnected with him on Facebook. We weren’t close, though compared to many of my high school acquaintances, I had a lot more in common with him.

But we were always connected, at least for me, by that one afternoon in the spring of 1981.

I got the news this week from my sister, who had seen someone post his passing on Facebook. I had to ask around before another Facebook friend closer to him told me it was colon cancer.

I pray he suffered as little as possible, My thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family.

I know that the world is a worse place today without him in it.