.... when I was a little boy, my friends and I used to spend the summertime exploring the acres of woodland that surrounded my Mom and Dad's house...... they were woods that seemed endless for such little fellows, and we'd take our rifles and shotguns and wander off to see what we could see.... we'd spend hours hiding under low-slung cedar trees calling in crows during the summer - just waiting for one to get close enough to blast....... and in the winter we'd set off in search of rabbits or squirrels....
... back then most of the land surrounding my folk's five acres was owned by the Blair family.... and what wasn't owned by the Blairs was owned by the Armstrongs....... the Armstrongs never minded my meanderings, but the Blairs were different....... they had strict, yellow-painted signs up on trees all along their property lines that read "No Trespassing"...... not that it really made much difference to us, though, as we were "Free Upon The World"....... but, we were all afraid of old Mr. Blair......
... he had an old beige 1962 Dodge truck that he patrolled the back roads in, and it was always the same....... him driving slowly around each curve of the gravel roads searching the underbrush for interlopers...... and, eagle-eyed as he was, he'd often catch me and one of my young friends as we made our way back home with a bag of squirrels or a pigeon or two tucked away in a pocket of our hunting jacket..... and he'd always be as mad as hell when he brought his old truck to a sliding halt......... and honestly?.... it scared the living shit out of me every single time..... he was such a bitter old cuss of a man.........
... he lived in a 1880s two-story clapboard down by the railroad tracks - about a mile from my front door - and every time I'd walk or drive past that house I would be filled with trepidation....... the house exuded that "I'm haunted" feeling absolutely equal to the amount that Mr. Blair oozed that "I'm a mean old bastard" feeling........ it always just gave me the creeps....... just as he did, actually.......
...... but I write this with a bit of a purpose, I suppose......... I believe (I have had this blog for over six years now, and I might be mistaken.) that I said once that I had only ever stolen one thing before in my life...... and after tonight's events and recollections, I think that I might have told you good people wrong.......... for, I did, after Mr. Blair's death, rob his home.......
.... perhaps "rob" is the wrong word....... he lived alone, after all, and had no close family, so all I did was "break into" his home after he died and collect some interesting things that caught my fancy.......... does that sound like robbery?....... can you even call taking abandoned things from a dead man's home "robbery"?........ well, whatever you call it, I did it.......
..... my friend Mike and I found ourselves out wandering the woods one autumn day in search of small, furry, forest mammals, when we stumbled upon the house of Mr. Blair...... one thing led to another, and before either of us knew what we were doing, we were standing with our noses pressed to the window of the old house trying to see what was inside....... pressed noses led to the turning of door handles..... which led to the trying of window latches...... which, as way leads on to way, led to the kicking down of doors held fast by old, corrupted, unnegotiating locks...... and with that, we were inside the dilapidated two-story home of a gentleman that we'd always feared and hated.....
..... I remember that the house was dusty inside........ and that there was no indoor plumbing....... I remember looking at the pail that sat beside the sink and imagining him bringing in fresh water from the cistern every day to do the dishes....... it struck me then that maybe he was so cantankerous to us kids simply because he was so lonely and miserable........ odd, I guess, but I did think that for a few minutes as I stood in the kitchen......
.... but I was jerked out of my train of thought by Mike squealing with glee as he canvassed the living room........ when I ran in he was standing beside a crumbling sofa holding up a copy of Time magazine dated 1947........ he shoved a few magazines in his hunting jacket and we both headed up stairs...... the downstairs area was stacked wall to wall with old copies of magazines and newspapers........
..... when we arrived upstairs, I found an old footlocker and began to explore the contents......... I'd only recently been given a collection of letters that my Mom and Dad had exchanged while they were just getting to know each other (and he was in Vietnam), and I had been mesmerized by the old stationary and postage stamps........ and that is when I saw something that caught my attention..... 1 cent and 2 cent stamps on old envelopes...... Washington and Franklin....... I quickly checked the dates on a few of the envelopes and saw 1835, 1832, 1837, 1845......... and fearing that we'd both get caught breaking the law (and we were both Good Boys back then), I stuffed them into my backpack and we were off.........
.... it wasn't until much later that I actually sat down and read all of those letters... and, good god, I was amazed....... there were tales of buffalo hunting in Texas......... tales of being bribed to vote for Sam Houston when he was trying to become president of Texas..... tales of Indians, Cowboys, and card games..... tales of a long ago Tennessean who had left My Area and moved out west to search for his destiny...... two weeks later - while Mike and I stressed about people possibly finding out that we'd broken in and finding our fingerprints, the place caught fire during a lightning storm and burned to the ground...... leaving nothing but the old barn and the remains of a cistern that had been the house's water supply......
..... I always felt guilty knowing that I had those old letters in my closet...... even as I traveled the world, I knew that they were back there at home..... and that they didn't really belong to me.....
.... the last time that I came home on leave before leaving The Corps for good, I contacted a cousin of mine who was a teacher at McMinn Central - where I'd gone to high school........ my old chemistry teacher was a Blair there, and his sister was our high school librarian......... and even if I didn't know for sure - it was still a small county - so I suspected that they might have been related to MY old Mr. Blair....... the same Mr. Blair from whom I had liberated those family heirlooms once he had gone on to meet his maker.......
..... she divided the letters into two envelopes and placed one in Mr. Blair's puca and the other into the librarian's........ two weeks later the local paper had an editorial written by The Librarian thanking whomever had given her such wonderful pieces of her family's history....... evidently her Great Uncle - being such an evil bastard - had been disowned by most of the family........ and being the oldest surviving Blair around, he had claimed inheritance of the Family Home and all of its contents.........
....... my childhood curiosity........ and my first-and-only attempt at breaking and entering gave those two a chance to see parts of their family history that would have been lost in the fire had I not robbed the place.......
.... it's odd, I know, but I was never really a bad kid....... I always said "yes, ma'am"...... I was always polite....... I hardly ever got into fights....... I only lied when I positively HAD to........ and when I robbed someone?...... I ended up giving it all back to people who appreciated it much more than the folks that I stolen it from.......
...... how strange is that?...... maybe I should rob more people?......
You had me until the end when you said you gave it back to people who appreciated it more than the folks you stole it from. Sir, you don't know that. Sounds as if you're trying to rationalize a bit there.
If this story is true (not being mean, just saying) that could have been his only treasure, one that he held dear to his heart, just not to the outside world.
And as far as maybe you should rob more people, no, please don't.
Hell raised by Kath
on November 2, 2009 05:09 AM
There was always some sort of old codger in the neighborhood who did not like kids running through his/her property - it made life interesting and scary for us kids. There was on old maid school teacher who lived next door to my grandmother. I would loved to have robbed her house after she died just to find all of the footballs and baseballs that she had kept over the years when our games strayed onto her property.
I love your story. Repentance and restitution should make your soul safe.
Hell raised by Lou
on November 2, 2009 08:39 AM
Eric "Robin Hood" the Blade. Yes Sir.
Hell raised by Yabu
on November 2, 2009 08:43 AM
How one's sense of moral obligation endures far beyond the statute of limitations.
Hell raised by Tbird
on November 2, 2009 07:00 PM
Kath, while I'm not condoning the actions of the (then) young Eric in conducting a B&E operation, the fact is that the man he stole those items from was no longer alive, thus not in a position to appreciate them at all... and the items were eventually repatriated within that man's family. It's a better fate than they otherwise would have suffered.
I agree with Lou: Repentance and restitution cover the moral debt incurred. I, as a judge, could decree no better.
And, knowing Eric perhaps a bit better than you do, I will say that, as an adult, he has a moral sense as keen as that of anyone I know.
May all of us be able to come to terms with the peccadilloes of our youth with such grace.
Hell raised by Elisson
on November 2, 2009 09:45 PM
.... thanks, Steve...... I have always looked back on that story with great ease of thought........ it always comforted me...... and it never seemed like a bad thing at all.......
..... sometimes perhaps our bad things end up being good?....... who knows.....
Hell raised by Eric
on November 2, 2009 09:53 PM
Nothing more liberating than "repentance and restitution"...i can't wait to see Nicole Kee sometime, so i can give her back the nickel i took from her off Mrs. Westerfield's desk in third grade...33 years ago.
Hell raised by The Piper
on November 2, 2009 09:56 PM
Well,it's nice of Mr.Elisson to come to your defense, I guess.
Just remember when he stole the items, Mr. Eilsson, he had NO intention of returning them whatsoever.
What's done is done. Glossing it over later -- with lovely grace or not -- by taking the moral high ground and asking forgiveness is a wonderful thing.
But it still happened, and it was still wrong. That's why he did his best to "put it right". Just because someone says gosh, golly, gee, ma'am, I'm ever so sorry -- doesn't take away the fact a wrong was done in the first place.
No one is perfect and we all -- or at least I do -- have things that we wish we could change. Saying sorry and trying to fix it is good. But praise and a pat on the back, I disagree with.
Hell raised by Kath
on November 3, 2009 06:19 PM
Sometimes Eric I think we do things out of our character as if some strange force cancels out all reasoning. In some weird Karmatic way, sometimes this action might lead to an epiphany, or as in your case it might have a secondary motive, one that defines all reason at the time of the act in question. It seems that this is the case here.
Yes, you stole after breaking into a dead man's house. But you were able to later justify this move by placing the stolen items into a place that they needed to be, but never would have been put there, had you not been guided by that strange force.
I often tell my daughter that good things happen to good people. I'm glad that this worked out for you, and everybody in the end. I do think you deserve praise and a pat on the back... I can't help but wonder if this old man wished he could have saved and shared these treasures with his family, but was just cast too far out to do so.
Hell raised by Gooseneck
on November 3, 2009 08:10 PM
Nice post, sir. All ramifications and justifications, moral and philosophic, aside...this was a nicely written piece. I pat you on the back for that.
And as for those vaulted ramifications, I fall back some on my libertarian sensibilities to say that it is each his own decision to decide right and wrong, and no once else's (with a tip of the cap to God, Allah, Odin, Vishnu, the Flying Spaghetti Monster and "the American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, of course).
Me? I find myself wandering the "world works in mysterious ways," paths more and more, lately. Coincidences, small-town synchronicities and the fact that it is, indeed, a small, small world are things of no small wonder to yours, truly.
This is maybe my favorite thing you've ever put up on this blogamathing, sir.
Hell raised by Tommy
on November 3, 2009 10:23 PM
Kath- In the habit of placing judgement? I bet you get an awfully nice view from that Ivory Tower. Don't hurt yourself when you fall.
Hell raised by Bou
on November 3, 2009 10:33 PM
heh... yay, Bou!
Hell raised by Jean
on November 3, 2009 11:40 PM
Bou and Jean, Sorry if I offended you over Eric's post. I said we all have things we wish we hadn't done. This struck a nerve with me, that's all.
I didn't think I was mean when I expressed my opinion. Guess you've never thought someone was wrong.
Again, sorry if you were offended by my thoughts and feelings.
Hell raised by Kath
on November 4, 2009 04:55 AM
It takes a lot to offend me. Pissing me off is another matter.
I read your first comment and saw Elisson responded. I also noted that Eric thanked him. But it didn't stop there and you had to leave another comment that landed on the side of slightly snotty.
Let me be clear. We do this for free. We put ourselves out there for others to read. Sometimes we embellish, sometimes we leave things out, sometimes we add a slant that is different for whatever mood we happen to be in. There are blogs out there that come across as real and are completely fictious.
And then there are blogs like Eric's. Eric is one of the few of us out there that is a true writer. He has a gift and we're blessed to benefit from it... for free.
You've made this assumption that he stole it with no intent to give it back. Perhaps. But knowing Eric the way Elisson does and as I've gotten to know him, I suspect that's not the case. Knowing the stories of his youth, the errors he has made, underlying themes of remorse and redemption come into play. I strongly suspect that when Eric committed the act he did, within days he was remorseful but unsure how to correct it. Youth tends to make us cowards. As he aged, he made it right. With maturity, we hope in most, comes the ability to redeem ourselves... try to correct what we were unable to correct due to the immaturity of our youth. Note his sentence, 'I always felt guilty knowing I had those letters in my closet...'
You assume the worst. I'm assuming the best. Knowing Eric the way we do, most of his readers probably fall along with me.
Hell raised by Bou
on November 4, 2009 09:12 AM
Eric, it's been awhile, was only prompted to return as per Tommy's recommendation.
This is an incredible story. Kath, exactly WHO wedged the stick up YOUR ass? Sure, breaking and entering into anyone's home is against most of our moral codes.
But don't you realize that God moves in mysterious ways? Obviously there was a reason to somehow preserve these memories, that drove an otherwise upstanding boy to enter that domicile and whisk these artifacts away.
I don't think this is going to somehow encourage a massive larceny outbreak. And, if it did, probably the filthy little miscreants were just looking for a good excuse, anyway.
Hell raised by Sloth
on November 4, 2009 10:40 AM
I guess I have an advantage of position by coming in at the end of a string of comments. In a nutshell, I see it like this- B&E and theft are always wrong, no matter what is eventually done with the purloined contents.
They say that Lady Justice is blind, but there exists in most courts the idea that it not be meted out equally to children and adults in the hopes that the guilty child learns more from the guilt than the punishment. Any misdeeds done as a child aren't carried forward into their adult record to allow for a second chance. Some "children" grow up too quickly and abuse this protection because they feel no guilt. These ones, IMHO, deserve some kind of "three strikes" clause before being treated as an adult. Eric, I hardly know you, but have been reading you for ages and know a few fine folks who HAVE met you. I personally think you're in the category of those who've learned from their few youthful misdeeds and have earned their legal tabula rasa upon adulthood.
To throw your youthful misdeeds out to the blogosphere? Gutsy, but also an indication that you see it as a youthful learning experience and a good yarn to share with "friends" of one distance or another. I expect that most see it this way as well.
To this effect may I offer this toast? May the pleasures of the evening bear the reflections of the morning. Also, here's to more friends, and less need of them!
Hell raised by G
on November 4, 2009 07:07 PM
What a great story. To realize that you had in your possession the only remains of the Blair home. And what a historical treasure it was.
I love the way you wrote about it too. You have the heart of a poet, Sir.
Hell raised by Jerry in Indiana
on November 4, 2009 11:36 PM
Great post! As a child I lived near some woods, walked past returning home from school in Blountville, Tn. At a close by cemetary, an old man used to dig up old artifacts, bottles, jewelry, etc, and often displayed them on the homemade rough built porch of his deteriorating airstream trailer. It was a grim and spooky sight at best.
He had a beautiful but tormented and angry german shepard named Smokie, chained prisoner and exposed constantly to the elements.., left alone at his doorstep. The dog would snarl, and go into death mode at the near sight of a human being.
Then one day I was going home and heard the dog whimpering. Terrified, I went to investigate only to find the poor animal had slipped off the icy porch, and was being hung by the chain! I quickly covered his face with my jacket to prevent being bitten, and scooped up the animal and sat her back on the porch.
Retrieving my jacket, the dog now licking me ear to ear, playing and giving me her paw, I felt sorry for her. I couldn't bear the thought of a repeat of the incident so I decided to set her free. She followed me, but knowing I couldn't keep her, my friends and I cared for her at our homemade clubhouse in the woods for several weeks.
To get back at the old man for being mean to the dog, we stole all the "artifacts" on his porch and threw away the chain. Finally, the old man stopped me one day, stating he'd seen what happened, begging to have the dog back. He said we could keep the stuff and he wouldn't tell our parents as long as we agreed to take Smokie for walks and play toss with her.
Smokie had belonged to his recently departed wife. Insurance, and medical bills had claimed thier home.., the dog, the trailer, and an old beat up truck was all he had left. All 3 of thier children had died from a fatal fire. Anyhow, the old man died a year later, and my friend and his little brother took Smokie for a family pet. She went on to have 3 litters of pups!
This is actually the first I've ever told anyone about this, feels good. Like you said Eric, sometimes bad things work out good. Good story, as yours always are.
Hell raised by snottydog
on November 6, 2009 02:13 PM
Â« Shut the hell up!