Once again, the boy gave my new sister a note. This time, when we got home from school, my stepfather went through our books and purses. He didn’t find anything in my stuff. He did find the note in my sister’s stuff. He grabbed her by the hair of the head and he pulled her into the bedroom. I was screaming at him to stop. He took off his belt and he hit her everywhere. I mean over and over and over again. When he was finished, as always after beating someone, he took off. I went to my sister and she was really crying. She told me not to touch her. I told her, “I can’t take this. Let’s run away. Let’s go find a new home.” We talked about it until about one o’clock that morning. Finally, I just told her, “I got to go. I can’t stay here watching this.” I got a little overnight suitcase together and found a quarter and a dime. I stuck the 35¢ in my pocket. I said, “Tell them I have left in about thirty minutes.” We hugged and I went out the window without a coat or jacket, wearing cloth tennis shoes.
I ran and ran as fast as I could. I ran about three blocks to the corner. There was a convenience store and a pay phone. The store was closed. I dialed my uncle collect. He accepted and told me that he would call the police. He told me to stay put and the police would send me back to Hallsville. I waited and waited for what seemed hours. I guarantee you if my stepfather would have caught me, I would have been beaten close to death. I was terrified. Then, I saw my stepfather. I dropped everything and ran across the street. I jumped over about a three-foot picket fence. I was off and came down on a picket right in the rib. I just kept on going. He saw me, too. He took off around the block and I just prayed and ran. I ran and ran. I ran about two miles to I-20. By this time, it was about 2:30 a.m. I was scared to death. I was freezing. My feet were soaking wet from the dew on the ground. I walked and walked along the interstate. A “Ben E. Keith” truck picked me up. I knew where he was headed. My papa lived on the same road as Ben E. Keith. However, I knew my stepfather would go to my Pap’s house first. The Ben E. Keith guy was a big black man. He pulled right into the company parking lot. I knew the whole area. My papa, brother, and I rode the area for many years on horseback. I knew that just behind Ben E. Keith was the biggest park in the city. A person could be murdered and hid there and never be found. As I was opening the door to jump out the man said, “Do you want to make a little money?” I froze and said, “No thank you, I have plenty.” I ran and ran and ran all the way up the hill and past the park. I ran and ran past the college and onto I-20. It was very close to 3 a.m. and I was freezing again.
I walked up to a hotel. I went around to the rooms and looked in. There were about six rooms that had the keys in the doors. I tried every door and not one would open. I just couldn’t figure it out. I was freezing. I saw blankets and pillows and a hot shower and could access none of the comforts. I stepped back and said, “You will not make this easy, huh Lord?” I heard him say, “The only time.” I knew that he meant He would get me to Hallsville safely, but it wasn’t in His planning and it wasn’t going to be as easy as driving the car. I found the laundry room. I put my dime into the dryer and put my socks and shoes inside. I would open the dryer door and stick my feet in from time to time. I did feel a lot better with warm wet feet than cold wet feet. I then went back out and spotted an old fireworks shack. I thought, yeah, I can sleep in that. I was very tired. I had been to school, watched my sister get beaten, talked most of the night about escaping, and then ran miles to end up out in the cold and damp night. I just couldn’t feel sorry for myself. If I was caught, I would pay dearly.
Since I had run away before many times, they knew it was just a matter of time until I would go find a new home. They would keep me tied down if they had to. They had become dependent on my social security check, once more. By this time, my check was a nice size. All three of my brothers had dropped out of school, and their portions were added to my check. I didn’t know all the details at this time. But I knew it was about my guaranteed income. As I was thinking all this heavy stuff, I walked towards the shack. It was safe enough, I thought. As I was close to the entrance, out came a skunk. It was going to spray me, too. I took off running. I started laughing. Nope, this great escape is not going to be easy. I agreed with God never to run away on foot again. I was very tired. I could hardly keep my eyes open. I climbed into a raised flower bed underneath the hotel sign. There were dead rosebushes all over. The thorns were more than I could handle. I walked over to the interstate and curled up on the wet grass. When I awoke, the sun was shining. I jumped up, forgetting where I was. I looked across to the other side of the interstate and thought, If I were going to get caught, it would be on the interstate. I had always runaway in Clyde. I had followed the interstate going towards Dallas. I was in second and third grade and pretty scared. I would runaway because I couldn’t stand to watch my mother and first stepfather fight. They always caught me on the interstate. So here I was, back on the interstate. I crossed over as fast as I could. Immediately, a trucker pulled over. He was about twenty-three-years-old and very nice. He gave me peanuts and a coke. He asked me where I was going. He had a wife and a baby on the way. I told him I was on my way to my uncle’s house in Hallsville. I ate the nuts and drank the coke and fell sound asleep. I felt very safe with this young man. I awoke to his telling me that he had to let me out. I looked up and saw nothing but overpasses. He said he was sorry he had to drop me off right here in the middle of Fort Worth, Dallas. I said that it was okay. I thanked him for his kindness and took off on foot. I felt a lot better getting two hours of sleep and something to eat and drink.
I started walking. I was so afraid. I knew that I had to get off the interstate as soon as possible because this was how young girls got killed. I didn’t realize it was because they got into the wrong car. As I was walking a van pulled up. I looked at it for a minute. It must have been a flower truck. The name and the flowers were badly faded. I did notice that the van didn’t have any windows in the back. But, I needed out of danger. For some strange reason, I walked up to the driver window. He said, “You want a ride?” I was trying to say, “Yes, I sure do.” The words, “No thank you, I am just taking a walk,” came out of my mouth. It was a man’s voice. I said to myself, “No, I am not taking a walk, I need a—oh! Yeah, I am just taking a walk.” I realized that if I got in that van, I would be hurt. I just started walking. I never looked back and I never saw that van again. I kept walking. Then, a blue convertible Cadillac pulled over. Wow, was it fine. It had white leather seats. Two guys were sitting up front. I looked at them. One of them said, “Where you headed?” I said, “To my uncle’s in Hallsville.” I knew right then that they were gay. I wasn’t afraid of them. I knew that they would not hurt me. The driver said, “Well, jump in. We have a little time to kill. We will take you outside of Dallas.” I said, “Thanks a lot.” I felt like a cool kid sitting in that convertible. I have always wanted one after that experience. This would be my first encounter with weed. I saw them passing what appeared to be a cigarette. I thought that was odd. I couldn’t smell anything because the top to the car was down and it was windy. One of the guys said, “Do you smoke?” I said, “Oh no thank you, I don’t smoke.” They took me outside of Dallas and dropped me off on the interstate. So, I started walking again. I really don’t know how many miles I ended up walking, but I was beginning to feel that I had truly escaped and was home free. Little did I know the danger that lay ahead. Just in a twelve-hour span, I would encounter two perpetrators who would solicit a fourteen-year-old and this was in 1974.
| Part 2