Whipping the Klan
Glen Burnie, MD - 1966
The second time I ran away from home was in the middle of the winter. It took about three hours to walk from our home in Glen Burnie, into Baltimore City. I was thirteen years old at the time. Once in the city, I roamed the streets in search of a place to eat with the three dollars I had in my pocket.
The Reads Drug Store, next to the Mechanic Theater was still open, but the only thing I could afford was a cup of coffee and a slice of cherry pie. I sat at the counter shivering, slowly eating every bite as if it would be my last. It was almost 8:30 in the evening when the waitress approached to tell me she was closing up for the night. She was an older Negro woman with a kind face and personality. I could tell right away she had children of her own.
“Where are you from?” she asked, leaning over the counter, speaking to me in a whisper.
“Um…” I replied, with my head down, gazing at the now empty plate.
“You ate that pretty fast. Haven’t you eaten today?”
“Uh… sort of.”
The questions made me nervous, imagining she could tell I was a runaway. (She will have to report me. I need to get out of here!). Picking up on my unease, she gently touched my hand.
“How old are you, Son? You seem pretty young to be out this time of night. Where are your parents?”
I froze, not knowing whether to speak to her or take off running.
She leaned in closer, whispering, “Did you run away from home, is that it?”
Finally, I gazed at her with tears in my eyes trying to speak, but no words would come out. Immediately, she leaned across the counter and hugged me.
“It’s all right baby, I’m not going to tell on you. Why did you run?”
Through my tears I told her my sad story and she began to cry with me. An older, unshaven white man with a cigarette stuck between his lips poked his head out of the kitchen.
“Agnes, time to close up!” he barked impatiently.
“Okay Ed!” She shot back.
When he was gone, she quickly grabbed two more donuts, a sandwich, and poured the remainder of my coffee into a to-go cup, filling it to the brim.
“I have to close up now, but you take this,” she said, handing me a bag with the goodies and giving me another hug. “Don’t you worry, okay? I know life is hard, but the streets are worse. Do you hear me?”
“That’s all I’m going to say. Take care of yourself and give some thought to going back home. I know your Momma must be worried sick about you. Will you do that for Ms. Agnes, son?”
That night I found a heating grate beneath a set of stairs to sleep on. It kept me warm and provided cover from being seen as well, but I couldn’t sleep. Ms. Agnes was right — my mother would be worried sick. At about 1am I got up and began heading for home, practically running all the way. Just before leaving the city, I spied a Baltimore Sun delivery truck. The driver was bent over, leaning against the truck, moaning in pain.
“Hey mister, what’s the matter?” I shouted.
Startled, he looked up, surprised to see me. “Go away kid, leave me alone!” he grumbled, and then turned on very shaky legs trying to walk it off. He began to fall. I raced over and caught him, offering my shoulder as support under his left armpit.
“I think I tore my hamstring! Getting off the truck I slipped… damn-it! It felt like a rubber band popping!”
“A rubber band popping?” I said, and just like that a thought popped into my mind. I could see myself touching the back of the driver’s leg, and with his help, bringing light to the area.
“Mr., if I help you make your leg feel better, will you give me a ride back to Glen Burnie?”
He was taken aback momentarily. “Son, if you can make the pain go away I’ll drive you around the goddamn world!”
“Ok, I do this on myself all the time. When I touch the back of your leg, you need to imagine seeing a burst of white light exploding from your leg.”
“A burst of white light… got it,” he said, grimacing.
“Clear your mind. Breathe in through your nose deeply… slowly…”
He began to breath in slowly.
“That’s right… breath… stop thinking of the pain and close your eyes.
He closed his eyes, breathing. A calm came over him.
“On three… the burst of white light… ready?”
“One, two, three…”
At the point where my hand touched the back of his leg, a swirl of red, orange, yellow, blue, and purple light expanded out-ward, turned radiant white, and then collapsed beneath my hand into the man’s leg.
“I saw it! I did!” the man squealed. “Reds, blues, and purple spinning into the brightest white I ever seen!”
Suddenly he stood up straight, hesitantly stretching the leg out. Then a smile stretched across his face. “I’ll be damned!” he said, taking a tentative step, and then another with renewed confidence. “It’s gone! The pain is gone!”
“That’s awesome!” I replied. “Now, can we go?”
He wiggled his leg a couple times in disbelief. “How the hell did you do that, son?”
“Hell had nothing to do with it. You did it,” I said.
“I did it?”
“You saw the light, because you brought the light into yourself. I just helped you anchor it. Now, can we go?”
“You look kinda young to be out so late. What are you, a runaway or something?”
The question startled me. “Uh… I…”
“Don’t bother. Where in Glen Burnie? I’ll drop you right at your front door!”
Not wanting him to know exactly where I lived… “Near the Department of Motor Vehicles, if you don’t mind.”
“I gotta go down by the DMV to drop off papers. So that ain’t even out of my way. Come on — get in. Hot damn, I can’t believe what you just did! My name is Riley, what’s yours?”
“Everyone calls me H,” I said, stepping into the truck. “But, like I said… you healed yourself, not me.”
He didn’t seem to believe me, and continued to go on talking incessantly about what I could do for the good of mankind and such nonsense. At my insistence, he dropped me off in the DMV parking lot.
From the DMV parking lot, it would be a quick jaunt through the woods and home. As I made my way towards the thicket of live oaks, birch, and pine trees, I could see a fire glowing in a large open field about fifty yards into the woods. Then, behind me, and approaching fast were two sets of headlights. I quickly ducked for cover amidst the underbrush. I heard the sound of vehicles skidding to a stop and car doors opening. The sound of country music echoed in the night air. Then more vehicles approached, followed by the sound of footsteps tromping the underbrush just a few yards away from where I was hiding. I stayed pinned to the ground.
Now it was known that the KKK from time to time met in those woods to burn crosses and hold their rallies. It was something everybody knew about, even the police, but no one ever did a thing to stop them. Rumor was, members of the County police department were involved directly with the Klan. Once a year they would meet, and then after the meeting drive through our neighborhood throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at the homes.
The way my neighborhood was situated, there was one main entrance off Ritchie highway, which went right past our house, leading to the only way out. The last seventy yards were lined on both sides with a thicket of trees. As soon as the coast was clear, I snuck closer to see what was going on and sure enough, it was a gathering of hooded men dressed in their finest Klan robes.
The sight of the ominous convention, to my surprise, filled me with a strange fascination. I admired the sheer beauty of the flaming cross. The shadows cast by hooded men upon the tree-lined clearing, felt strangely familiar to me.
Suddenly, a wave of images flashed across the movie screen of my mind of another place and time, with hooded men standing around a burning cross. In their midst I could see flashes of a black foot, with blood dripping from the place where the big toe used to be. In the vision I felt a small, wet object in the palm of my hand. Slowly, I opened my hand to see… a bloodied severed toe!
Snapping out of it, I tore out of there, running as fast as I could along the pathway through the woods. The first person I ran into was Coon — the biggest, blackest, meanest Negro in our neighborhood. The path emptied directly into his parents’ back yard, and Coon had made a practice of jumping kids exiting the woods, holding them up for money or candy. It was 1:45am and he was still up, sitting on the back porch in the dark. I practically jumped out of my shoes when I heard…
“Don’t even try to run little Nigger, just come on over here and empty your mutha-fuckin’ pockets!”
“Coon, the Klan!” I shouted, catching my breath.
“The who, Nigga?”
“The Klan, with hoods, and they’re burning a cross in the woods!”
“You sure, boy?”
“Yes, I swear! I seen ‘em with my own eyes!”
Coon thought for a moment.
“Go on home and tell your ol’ man. Tell him I’ma round up some Niggas and we gonna meet right in front of yo house! You hear me?”
“Now go on, get!”
I took off running.
“Nigga wait!” Coon shouted. “What you got? Some candy, what?”
I still had the bag Ms. Agnes had given to me.
“How about some donuts and half a chicken salad sandwich?”
“Well, what you waiting for, Nigga, toss it ova here and get!”
Arriving home, I burst through the door to find my Dad sitting up in the living room as if he was waiting for me to walk through the door. Immediately he stood up and without saying a word, decked me, right onto my back, but I didn’t feel a thing — spirit had already taken flight.
“Boy, where the hell have you been? Your mother and I have been worried sick about your ass!”
Through a haze from the floor, I shouted, “Dad, the Klan!”
My mother appeared at the door, rushing to give me a hug.
“Are you all right, H?” she said.
(I was until a moment ago) I thought. “Mom, Dad — the Klan! They’re burning a cross up in the woods. Coon told me to tell you, he was going to get some Niggas together and meet in front of the house!”
“You saying the Klan is burning a cross up in the woods right now?”
“Well you know what that means,” he said to mom. “They gonna be riding down through here causing a terrible mess.”
“Can’t we just call the police?” mother said.
“I am the police, but you know damn well those County pigs ain’t going to do a goddamn thing! We gotta take care of this ourselves!”
“But people could get hurt,” she cried.
“You damn right they are! Boy, you ain’t off the hook by a long shot, you hear me?”
“I need you to run to Mr. Roach’s and tell him to call Junebug and Baldy. He’ll have a package for you — don’t open it! You hear me?”
“Now go on, get!”
Two blocks away, Mr. Roach, aptly named, was at first annoyed to see me standing in his doorway at 2:00am. But as soon as the words Junebug and Baldy came out of my mouth, he stood up straight and marched to the phone. I watched as he whispered something, standing with his back to me. Then he hung up the phone and disappeared into another room.
When he returned, he was holding a large brown paper bag, with a box inside. “Give this to your Daddy, and don’t look inside! You hear me boy?”
“Tell your Daddy, it’s done, and I’ll see him in ten minutes. Now go on, get!”
Really, did they think I wasn’t going to look in the box? A quick peek revealed a black handgun with duct tape wrapped around the handle.
Within less than thirty minutes there were carloads and truckloads of Negroes arriving at our front door by the dozens. They were carrying bats, iron bars, chains, pipes, shotguns, knives, and pistols. Once it seemed everyone who was going to make it had arrived, dad stood on the hood of his Plymouth to speak.
“Now listen up! There ain’t going to be no killing out here tonight, is that straight?”
“Why not, goddamn-it!” came the response from many in the group. “Those Bitches deserve it!”
“Be that as it may, I don’t want to see a single man standing here going to jail for these worthless pieces of shit! Somebody gets killed, and this neighborhood will be crawling with the law. It’ll be bad enough after we finish with them. Kill ‘em, and we’ll never have peace.”
“You got that right!” came a few voices.
“So put the guns and knives back in your vehicles! And I mean it! I sent Junebug and Baldy on recon. You boys go on and tell everybody what’s up.”
“There’s about twenty-to twenty-five of them,” said Baldy, a big, rough looking, no-nonsense kind of Negro you didn’t want to mess with.
“It’s them Crackers from up the road near Severn,” Junebug said. He was tall and lanky, black as coal, with his lips seemingly stuck in a permanent snarl. “Couple of pigs, a State cop. Shit’s gonna get ugly if somebody get keeled. Do what Stanly’s telling ya’ll, and put away the heat!”
“Look what we got — at least a sixty of us, right? So yeah, beat them to within an inch of their lives, but don’t kill ‘em! Agreed?” Dad said.
“Yeah!” came the response in unison, reminiscent of a high school football pep rally.
“All-righty… let’s get to work!” Dad snapped, and everyone dispersed.
The time was 2:45am, and I was sitting on the front steps of my parents’ home, when we heard the first of the car horns honking in the distance. The KKK had just entered the neighborhood. Behind me the screen door opened, and I was summarily snatched up from the steps and into the house by Mom. Scrambling to the bay window, the sound of bottles breaking, horns honking, and the shouts of ‘Nigger, Nigger, Nigger,’ rang in the air like an encroaching storm drawing nearer and nearer.
Finally, the flash of headlights from speeding vehicles streaked by, one after another proceeding toward the final stretch of road. A Molotov cocktail flung from one of the vehicles, literally bounced off the brick exterior to our home, and exploded in the grass starting a circle of fire. The next sound we heard was the screeching of tires. I bolted for the door with my sisters close behind.
With the headlights as spotlights, we watched as the carnage proceeded. Vehicles parked in the woods on both sides of the street had blocked the Klan’s progress front and back. Then, like a scene from a Tarzan movie, an army of raging Negroes dashed from the woods, descending upon those hapless Klansmen trapped in their vehicles. Windows were smashed, and Klansmen were dragged from their vehicles into the street.
What followed next was a complete massacre, as fists, bats, tire irons, crowbars, feet, sticks, and spare tires were used to beat the living daylights out of those white boys. Dad could be heard shouting, “Don’t kill em!” over the sound of carnage, and the Klansmen’s screams of agony. The attack lasted for just under ten minutes, and then just as quickly as it began, Negroes were piling into their cars and trucks, fleeing the scene. It was at this point dad came running up the street, swooshing us all inside.
“H., take this and hide it quick,” he said, handing me a leather satchel. “Don’t tell me, or anybody else where it is until I ask you for it!”
I figured the tool shed out back where we kept the lawn mower and chemicals for the in-ground swimming pool, was a good place to hide it. Inside the hundred-gallon barrel of granulated chlorine would be the last place anyone would look. But of course, I couldn’t resist taking a peek inside the satchel, and was surprised to see it filled with wallets. The first wallet I grabbed had several rubber bands holding it closed. Once I got them off, just inside the flap was a gold shield, with the letters F.B.I., and the name Sinclair right under it.
“What the fuck…?”
I was just about to inspect it further when something bumped into the outside of the tool shed, scaring me half to death. I quickly shoved the wallet into my pocket and the bag into the chlorine drum, covering it over with the chemical granules, and then clamped down the lid. I stood quiet for a beat before venturing out to see what had bumped into the shed.
“Who’s out here?” I whispered. No one answered.
Then I heard what sounded like a moan coming from my left. Turning quickly to the sound, my eyes adjusted to the darkness. The figure of a man appeared on the ground. He was slumped over against the tool shed.
“Please… help me… I’m undercover… FBI,” he said.
Moving closer, my stomach wretched at the sight of him. He was white, but there was so much blood covering his face and hands, it was hard to make out exactly what he looked like. His breathing was greatly exaggerated, with a wheezing sound coming from the top of his chest. Then I noticed his shirt would move in a certain spot each time he tried to breath, like he had a hole in his chest.
“Undercover agent,” he said, barely managing to get the words out. “F.B.I., need your help… please….”
Even with all the blood, he seemed young for an F.B.I. agent, considering the only other agent I had ever seen was Efrem Zimbalist Jr., on the TV series. (The wallet must be his) I thought. Moving behind him, I stooped down cupping my hands beneath his armpits.
“Can you stand mister, if I help you up?” I asked.
“Think soo…” he moaned.
He couldn’t. I pulled with all my might, getting him to both knees, and helped him crawl to the tool shed entrance, just as…
“Nigger you betta get yo ass in da house fo the po-lice come,” a voice shouted from the tree line, about thirty yards away.
“Who’s that?” I shouted.
“It’s me, Coon!”
He was approaching quickly from the rear of the shed, which blocked his view of the man.
“Hurry mister, crawl inside before he gets here!” I said, giving him a final shove inside with my foot, just as Coon came to within twenty feet. He was huffing, bent over, and grasping his knees.
“I seen one of them Klan bitches running this way,” he said, barely catching his breath. “You seen ‘em?”
“No, what’s he look like?”
The sound of sirens echoed in the air, getting closer.
“Shit! They gonna be here any moment. You better go on and get inside,” he said.
“Me? I got less that twenty feet to go. You better get on up the street, because the police will surely blame your big ass for all this mess,” I said, laughing.
Coon chuckled. “You right about that, little Nigga,” he said, and then took off running in the direction of his home. I knew any moment Dad would be looking for me. The man was now sitting up, leaning against our riding lawn mower. By the moon’s light I could see his face a little clearer. On his left cheek was a gaping wound, beginning just under his lower eyelid, extending down to his chin, and it was oozing blood. His right eye was swollen shut.
“Mister… ambulances are coming. We need to get you out of here and closer to the road so they can see you,” I said.
He blinked a couple of times with his good eye and nodded his head. I got behind him once again, and with all my strength hauled him up from the tool shed floor to his feet. Blood was now all over my shirt and hands.
“It’s about fifty feet to the road. You ready?”
“Yes…!” he gasped.
I started moving with him as fast as he could move his feet. It felt more like we were falling down the whole way than walking.
“H! Where the hell are you boy?” I heard dad shouting in a whisper from the back of the house.
“Mister, we have to hurry, or my dad is gonna see us!” I said, practically picking him up and carrying him to just beyond the hedges. It was then I noticed his right hand was moving funny, as if it wasn’t… (Is that a bone sticking out?) I thought. The sight of his broken wrist, almost made me pass out.
“H! Where are you?” came my dad’s voice, even louder this time.
For more information about Memoirs of An Extraterrestrial the Negro Conundrum just click the link