The note was written in a scrawl
River Boy was an orphan living with step parents who never gave him a name.
River Boy and Grandpa
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River Boy knew about pain and injury.
His step-parents beat him. They starved and ridiculed him.
As a small child he endured abuse heaped in layers upon his self.
They called him Boy. He didn’t have a name.
man next door shared catfish with River Boy whenever he went fishing.
And told him once that he should never forget who he was inside. Those
moments of kindness were strange yet welcoming. He melted when that man
talked to him, and wished he could be his father, and take him
The following year, the man moved away.
River Boy looked along the river, but the man was gone.
It was sad because he couldn't remember the man's name either.
River Boy was born to a white woman of high origin who lived in partial disrepute.
The story was rather complex.
mother was a prized beauty who was sometimes captured into whoredom by
a wealthy pimp named Southy Strong who ran high class out of the
tourist hotels in New Orleans.
The father was a Rich Man that owned rural Jackson County along the Mississippi.
had a weakness for that proud lady whore and brought her up to Jackson
County as his mistress. He afforded her fine clothes, and pampered her
with flowers and car rides. She craved the attention.
After a few months, she got pregnant with River Boy and ran away and went back to her husband and Southy Strong in New Orleans.
She wanted to hide the pregnancy from Rich Man, but he found her anyway.
By then the baby was already gone for adoption.
When Rich Man found out, he supposedly beat her to death.
The actual truth was different. Rich Man visited the fine whore and they argued, that was true.
He wanted to know where his son was, but he never touched her. He loved that whore, and he loved his baby boy, who was gone.
She was beaten to death by somebody else but Rich Man was blamed.
lawyers argued that Rich Man couldn't commit the crime because of his
shoulder injury. Besides, she was the only person who could help him
find his son. There was no reason for him to kill her.
The story threatened to explode in the newspaper.
keep it quiet, Rich Man was forced to turn over half of Jackson County
to the Upstate Boys, which was exactly why the whore was beaten to
The Upstate Boys owned Southy Strong and the all the action
they could kick out of people without getting killed themselves, or
raising too big a ruckus.
Rich Man never found his son, and
River Boy was locked into a foster family that beat him and called him
Boy and didn't feed him.
They say, sometimes your life is a
measure of your actions and words. And sometimes it applies and
sometimes not, but sometimes it can happen anywhere, like what happened
to River Boy’s stepfather.
The stepfather was walking home too drunk. River Boy waited for him at a corner, six blocks from the tavern.
The stepfather's life ended under the rule of a stick and a brick.
It was a violent act of repentance done on a dark night with the tree limbs swaying in a heavy wind. River Boy was 12.
The law never discovered the cause, so there it was.
was on his hands and nobody knew except those living in the clouds and
fire, and maybe it happened so fast they didn’t notice either.
Within weeks, the stepmother brought in a new man. So it was finished.
The replacement drunk had a job. He was kinder to River Boy and didn't beat him, but still refused to feed him.
They fed the other two children but not him.
At 13 he decided to leave.
already knew how to steal chickens and beg food from neighbors. He
understood which people were kind, and which of those recommended he
seek God at the church instead of begging from their monied purse.
Strange that folks with the least were most likely to share.
River Boy wanted to make a better way. He knew other children went to school.
He watched the pretty girls, dressed real nice and going to school.
years earlier, he went inside the school, and the lady at the
desk screamed. River Boy forgot his face was beaten from his stepfather
the night before. He ran out and couldn't go back.
He left the
area and began following the river. It was quieter than walking along a
dusty road. He was looking for the kind man that gave him fish to eat.
second afternoon he found a boat and stole it and started floating down
river. It had a fishing pole so River Boy threw a line in the water.
He didn’t know you had to bait the hook. So at the end of the day he
had no fish.
There were a group of Negroes along the bank so he
traded the stolen boat for a fish to eat. I swear River Boy was a
walking felony for somebody else.
The next day he found a
stringer with 3 catfish. Just as he was reaching for the stringer, a
giant black hand grabbed the neck of his shirt from behind, practically
lifting him off the ground.
What you doing there white boy, were the
first words he heard before staring dead eye with the largest, most
fearsome Negro he’d ever seen.
The Negro’s face was lashed with scars. His massive arms and hunched shoulders showed a man who earned a hard labor from life.
Then the man asked, you hungry?
River Boy answered, yes, I ran away.
Oh hell, the law looking for you, the Negro laughed.
this time, River Boy answered. Which was rather truthful. The law might
be looking for a chicken thief, but they were not looking for the
stepfather’s killer or the runaway boy. Of course they might be looking
for the stolen boat that was unloaded on half-suspecting Negroes
upriver who shared their fish in exchange for the opportunity to get
arrested and beaten.
River Boy’s answer caused the Negro to laugh even harder. Not this time, huh? Ha ha ha. What’s your name?
River Boy had always just been called Boy, so he made up the name, River Boy. It just came out that way, it wasn’t planned.
The Negro said, ok River Boy, my name’s Edwin Jones. You wanna eat some fish?
Sounded real good. Yes indeed, he found the man who fed him fish.
And that’s how River Boy met Grandpa, Mr Edwin Jones.
wasn’t really his grandpa, at least as far as anybody knows to the
immediate blood line, but the world is a foolish place with a lot of
intermingling despite the warnings that such might should not be the
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