"THE AMERICAN ORPHAN"


ROGER DEAN KISER, author

theamericanorphan



THE LAST GUNFIGHTER


As I look back upon my years in Jacksonville, Florida at the Children's Home Society Orphanage, I am amazed that many of the children living there did not turn out to be serial killers.

I cannot possibly count the murder plots--by both boys and girls--aimed at the caretakers. The children, many only seven or eight-years old, with no one to turn too, were only trying to protect themselves.

For years, this mean and evil woman had molested many of the young boys, including me. The daily beatings with the long, green bamboo cane poles, or the dreaded sandpapered Bolo Paddle, become more than we could bear.

The incident I remember most would be the day we boys met in our underground fort, talking about doing away with the mean and hateful Matron, Mother Winters.

The small, dark, damp underground fort became quiet, as a straw was drawn by each boy. A flicker of light, and a faint crackling still resonating from the small pile of leaves and pine straw, which minutes before, had given us some form of light. I bent forward and blew into the small pile of embers, causing it to flare up for only a second or two. No one said a word as Little Billy Smith drew the short straw. Wayne Evers reached under his torn wool shirt, pulled out the silver western style gun and slowly handed it to Billy.

"I don't really want to kill anybody," he mumbled.

The small, dark room remained totally quiet.

"Here's the bullet," I told him, holding out the small, hard, round piece of acorn.

The specially prepared acorn had been sanded down on the cement sidewalk and made to fit precisely into the barrel of the gun. Under the hammer we placed six red caps. Careful testing had shown us that four caps forced the projectile forward with enough energy to hurt our hand. We concluded that six caps would cause the bullet to enter someone's brain, if placed against the back of the neck, in an upward position, and then fired.

Later that evening, sixty children sat at their places in the large dining room. Not being allowed to talk during our meals, the only noise heard was the sound of silverware.

Everyone stopped eating when Billy raised his hand to ask permission to go to the bathroom. Mother Winters motioned with her hand for him to come to her position.

As he reached her location, he bent forward and whispered, "I have to use the bathroom."

She stared at him for several seconds and then waved her hand for him to move away from her. Billy stepped back several paces and stopped.

"Why didn't you piss before coming to dinner, you little bastard!" she screamed.

Billy lowered his head and looked down at the floor.

"Miss Mayme, would you like some more coffee?"asked the black cook, Charity, as she opened the kitchen door, located behind Mother Winters.

Mother Winters turned toward the kitchen to answer Charity. When she did, Little Billy Smith raised his shirt, pulled out the fanner-fifty silver pistol and slowly began moving it toward her neck. Many of the boys covered their eyes, some covered their ears.

"BAM!" went the pistol, as it fired. A small puff of smoke rose from the weapon.

Mother Winter's body moved to the left and she reached up and grabbed her neck. Slowly, she turned toward Billy, reached and grabbed him around the neck. With both hands she began squeezing as hard as she could. Mrs. Castile jumped up, grabbed a metal chair and began to beat Billy on his back. Billy just stood there, his face turning beet red. When Matron Castile hit Billy in the head with the chair, his body began to shake and his eyes rolled back into his head.

Now, children were running everywhere. Most of us boys made our way out onto the screened-in terrace and huddled down in the corner for protection.

Several minutes later, Little Billy, his body totally limp, was drug out onto the yard, where he was thrown into the dirt and left. Many of the girls were still crying, while many continued to shake and scream at the top of their lungs.

As we boys broke away from our huddle, we made our way back to our large, two story, white brick building and hid in various places throughout the dormitory. No one said a word about what happened, I guess because we were too scared.

Later that evening when Little Billy entered the shower room, everyone became quiet. Now the entire side of his face black and blue, his mouth bloody and tears were rolling down both his cheeks, he stood with a comatose look on his face. One at a time, we boys walked up to Little Billy Smith and began to pat him on the back and shake his hand. He tried to smile, yet continued to cry.

Little Billy Smith was the first hero I ever met.

As I look back over the past fifty years, I see that most of the children who were raised with me in the orphanage went to prison, became drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes or ended up committing suicide. However, I never heard about any of them ever killing anyone. I guess that is because no one as mean, evil and cruel as Matron, Mother Winters ever crossed their path.