Once in a while something happens in someone’s life that after it has occurred things will never be the same ever again. If a person is really lucky that something will be a good thing and the things that happen subsequently are amazingly good, but unfortunately the other possibility is that something truly evil occurs and the things that follow that will never be the same again as a result of the initial action are incredibly terrible. The following is a story about one of those latter types of occurrences that couldn’t ever be undone and the chain of events that unfolded as a consequence of it and the truth of it might take a lifetime for the truth of it to never be fully discovered.
Scene I A copper colored Pontiac Firebird car is traveling down a heavily forested back road, it is the 40 mile scenic side trip from Glendale to Riddle that is right off of I-5 freeway south from Cottage Grove, and north of where they had started the morning drive from Ashland, Oregon. About halfway from the start of this side trip the car slows down at a wide spot just off the road, it doesn’t pull over but speeds back up and goes another few miles farther and pulls over at the next wide spot right off of the main road and comes to a stop. An older man gets out of the car first and he looks around and then looks back to the car and motions for the rest of the occupants of the car to come and join him. An older woman and a younger woman get out of the car. They start walking over to where the man is standing.
Man: I am pretty sure that this is the place.
Young woman: What do you mean you think that this is the place?
Man: I think this is where I lived when I was a kid.
Young Woman: What do you mean that this is where you lived as kid? There isn’t anything here.
Man: Over there is where the box car was and over there is where we had our garden.
Young Woman: How do you know that?
Man: Because the box car was right under these power lines, we had a line hooked up to the pole so we had electricity.
Young Woman: Are you serious?
Older Woman: Dave grew up in a boxcar along the side of the railroad tracks, it isn’t here anymore. You didn’t really think that there was anything here did you?
Young Woman: Yeah, just call me stupid but of course I did, why else would we be coming here. Dad said he lived in a box car next to the railroad tracks, I don’t see any box car here.
Man: They hauled the old boxcar off twenty years ago.
Young Woman: I am confused. I thought we were coming here to see where you lived. You never told me that there wasn’t anything here anymore. What exactly are we supposed to be looking at?
The man walks over to where the railroad tracks are just beyond the wide spot in the road they had pulled the car onto.
Man: Right here is where the boxcar was and over here was our garden. Right here are the rocks around where we had the fence around the garden to keep the deer out of it.
The young woman walks over to where the man is standing and looks at where he is pointing.
Young Woman: Do you mean to tell me that these scattered rocks are supposed to be the border around the invisible garden?
Man: It was right here and over there on the other side of the tracks was where the boxcar was.
Older Woman: Right here is where Dave lived for the first 5 or 6 years of his life, I have been here before and it looks just the same as it did before. (She is laughing)
Younger Woman: I am sure it does since there is nothing here. Why did we come here this time if you already knew there was nothing here? I sort of understand why we spent an hour in the cemetery in Glendale looking at the family graves, at least we were really looking at something, but this… this makes no sense to me.
Older Woman: This place has great sentimental value for Dave, he has been really wanting to visit here again since his father died last year, we went to the cemetery in Glendale last year like we did today when his father died, but we came with his brother Cliff and Dave didn’t get to come and visit this place and he really wanted to.
The old man walks away from where the two women are standing and continues looking around the site.
Man: Back here is where we had the little shack we hung the venison in and stored the vegetable out of the garden.
The younger woman walks over there with an incredulous look on her face.
Younger Woman: How can you tell, I don’t even see even a small amount of evidence like “ten little rocks” that supposedly formed the garden here?
Man: I know where it was located from where the garden was.
The young woman is having a little trouble containing her frustration at having gone on what seems like a wild goose chase to her. She couldn’t believe that he was looking for something that was only there in his imagination.
Young Woman: I really assumed that we were at least looking for a real live rotting boxcar, you didn’t tell me that there was absolutely nothing here anymore! Unbelievable!
The old man seemed to be very happy while wandering around the area next to the railroad tracks that no one else was following him around to look at anymore.
Young Woman: I have always had the impression that he thought his father was a real asshole, so why was it so important that he came here?
Older Woman: I don’t really think it has anything to do with how he feels about his father, it is just sentimental feelings about growing up, sometimes you don’t remember how bad things were and you just want to see the things you remember from your childhood. It is kind of like when Dave and I went to Wapato to visit where I lived from when my mother died when I was six until I got married at 19 and moved back to Oregon where I was born. I just wanted to see the places I had memories from when I was a kid, whether they were good memories or bad ones. That is the same thing that Dave is doing.
Young Woman: Well it is too late to change having come here but I am never going to let him forget he took me to the middle of nowhere to see nothing!
The young man walked down the path that had formed along next to the river through the trees and as he walked along he kicked the little rocks that had rolled onto the trail back towards the steep rock wall that lined the side of the trail on the opposite side from the river. The river meandered its way through a fairly dense forest on its eventual way out to the ocean but it had a long way to go before it would arrive there.
All of a sudden he stopped and looked around, he heard sounds coming from farther on up the trail, it was the sound of someone walking on it and he quietly slipped behind a tree growing on the bank of the river and he waited to see who was approaching. The sound of the other person’s feet walking on the dirt trail was very faint as if whoever was on the trail was not very heavy. As he peered through the brush from where he was standing the young girl he had been looking for appeared where the trail ahead rounded the corner and he quietly stayed hidden behind the tree and waited for her to walk by where he was hiding. It was a fairly large tree with a cluster of bushes growing at the base of it so that he was completely hidden from the girl that was approaching.
After the girl walked by where the young man was hiding he picked up a large rock from the ground by the river and slipped up behind her and hit her over the head with the rock. She immediately fell face forward on the trail and he didn’t stay to check and see what the condition of the girl was he just took off frantically running away from the scene of the crime and crossed the shallow river up ahead a little ways and one of his shoes got caught in between some rocks in the river and when his foot slipped out of the shoe he just kept on running as fast as he could to get away from the scene of the crime.
Just as the young man disappears from view we see the shadow of a man across the path where the girl is lying on the ground and then the scene fades out.
A brown railroad car sits in the background of the scene we are watching. A young boy of about 5 years old is playing with a midsized black and brown dog and a ball in front of the railroad car in what sort of appears to be a yard, of sorts. The dog looks like it might have some German Shepard in it as well as a smaller breed. The boy is laughing and having a great time playing with the dog.
We pan around on the woods surrounding the boxcar and zoom in on a rock lined area than looks like it might be a garden.
We pan out and see a train approaching this site and as the train coming down the tracks it slows down and a smallish man about 35 years old jumps off of the train and walks towards where the young boy is playing with the dog.
Man: What the hell is that dog doing here?
Boy: He is the dog that I found last week.
Man: We can’t afford to have a dog for you to play with.
Boy: He eats the leftover food that we don’t eat. He doesn’t cost us any money.
Man: Those leftovers are our leftovers, the dog can’t have them. Do you understand that David?
Boy: But it was food that mom was throwing away.
Man: We don’t throw any food away here. Lillian, where the hell are you? Did you tell this boy that he could feed this dog our food?
Lillian: (She appears from somewhere outside of the house, she is a simple looking woman and talks as is appropriate to how she appears to be) It was food that was going bad. I told David he could give it to the dog.
Man: Why are you throwing any food away you stupid woman? David can eat that food. You shouldn’t ever let him give it to a dog. What the hell is wrong with you?
Lillian: I’m sorry. I thought it was bad.
Man: You are an idiot. Don’t ever feed our food to a dog! Feed it to David.
Lillian: I won’t ever give him food for the dog again.
Man: You’re damned right you won’t! I am going to take that dog out and shoot it right now.
David: Please Dad, don’t kill the dog. He can eat the scraps off of the deer you bring home.
Man: Those are our scraps and no dog is going to get them. Go back in the house.
David and Lillian go back in the house as is commanded of them and then they hear the sound of the gun and a yelp from the dog and then they hear nothing.
Fade in to a heavily wooded path running along a river.
A young man walks down the path that had formed along next to the river through the trees many years ago and as he walks along he kicks the little rocks that have rolled onto the trail back towards the steep rock wall that line the sides of the trail on the opposite side from the river. The river meanders its way through a fairly dense forest on its eventual way out to the ocean but it has a long way to go before it will arrive there.
All of a sudden the young man stops and he looks around. He hears sounds coming from farther up along up the trail, they are the sounds of someone walking along the trail and he quietly slips behind a tree growing on the bank of the river and he waits to see who is approaching. The sound of the other person’s feet walking on the dirt trail is a very faint sound, as if whoever is on the trail is not very heavy. As he peers through the brush from where he is standing the young girl he has been looking for appears where the trail ahead rounds the corner and he quietly stays hidden behind the tree and waits for her to walk by where he is hiding. It is a fairly large tree with a cluster of bushes growing at the base of it so that he is completely hidden from the girl that is approaching.
After the girl walks by where the young man is hiding he picks up a large rock from the ground by the river and slips up behind her and hits her over the head with the rock. She immediately falls face forward on the trail and he doesn’t stay to check and see what the condition of the girl is, he just takes off frantically running away from the scene of the crime. He crosses the shallow river up ahead a little ways and one of his shoes gets caught in between some rocks in the river and when his foot slips out of the shoe he just keeps on running as fast as he can to get away from the scene of the crime.
Just as the young man disappears from view we see the shadow of a man cross the path where the girl is lying on the ground.
We are now looking at a jury in a trial for the murder of the 16 year old mentally challenged girl.
The prosecutor is giving testimony in evidence against the 16 year old boy that is charged with the murder. He is also mentally challenged but that is never brought into light.
The boy is convicted of the murder and sentenced to 10 years in Jail. The sentence was light due to his being only 16 years old.
The now 26 year old man is released from prison, the year in 1964. He returns to his home town of Cottage Grove and meets a young woman that he falls in love with and and marries a couple of years later. They eventually have two children together, first a boy and then a girl.
This man who spent 10 years in prison for a crime that no one knows whether or not he committed, and one that no one will know that he did or did not commit, was released from prison at the age of 26 and married a woman he met not long after he was released from prison. They married and had two children, a boy and a girl, and they stayed together until he died from complications from having Parkinson’s disease at the age of 76.
The following is “the rest of the story”!
Unbeknownst to the young man there was someone else observing what had occurred from another hiding place behind another tree. The significance of this would not be known to anyone for many years or the fact that it even happened as would be thirty years before anyone knew there had been an eye witness to this crime or what part the eye witness played but it is only one of the many extenuating circumstances of this particularly heinous crime.
The young man ran home as fast as he could and never stopped to look back. When he got home he realized he had lost one of his shoes so he took the other one off and took it out to the trash pile outside the old house that he lived in with his mother, father and four of his five brothers and tried to bury it under the trash that was waiting there to be burned. His oldest brother, David, had joined the navy when he had turned 18 five years before so as to escape the depressing family that they lived with and after he spent. Their father was a loveless cruel man who had never given his sons any help mentally or physically for all of their lives and their mother had been brain damaged at birth and had the mental capacity of a 13 year old child and if they hadn’t lived in a very small town with no real parental guidance their mother would never have been allowed to get married and have children given her extreme metal disabilities. Their father was of a little below average intelligence and he had only married Lillian for two reasons, one was to have sex and the other one was to have someone who would be willing to wait on him and do everything he asked her to do like she ended up doing when he married her. He wasn’t looking for any kind of intellectual relationship so the fact that his wife had such limited mental capabilities wasn’t a problem for him, it only was for the children who needed at least one parent who would be there for them since it wasn’t a role their father aspired to, his only need for his sons is that they do all of the physical labor that needed to be done around the house and yard. It was the beginning of another dysfunctional family just like the one both Harley and Lillian had come from.
Besides Harley being a selfish, loveless man he was also cruel to his sons and even though they were dirt poor and lived in a box car alongside the railroad they lived off of the venison their dad would bring home from work that got hit by the train that he worked on. Since the train ran right past the boxcar that they were allowed to live in for free since it was one that the railroad no longer had any use for and Harley worked for them and the train would stop and pick him up for work every day and drop him off on its way back to the town it operated out of that was about twenty miles before the side of the tracks that the boxcar was located on. David was the oldest child and there was one daughter born during the six years of living in a boxcar and she died when she was three. The rest of the kids weren’t born until Harley had managed to make enough money to move into a small house located in the town that the train operated out of. David would later tell his wife and kids many years later that a dog had shown up at the boxcar and after he had been feeding it some of the venison and playing with it for several months it had become his best friend since he wasn’t in school yet and he had no friends to play with because the boxcar they lived in was twenty miles away from the nearest house and they had no car to go anywhere in. Just before Harley moved Lillian and David into the house he bought in town he took David’s dog out to the woods and shot it telling David they couldn’t afford to feed it. David never forgot that and after he turned 18 and joined the Navy he had very little contact with his cruel father, he would go visit his mother and bring her to stay with his wife and kids for a night when he wanted to see her, even though she wasn’t a very good mother he recognized it wasn’t her fault that she had been born brain damaged. She had extremely irrational phobias, she was convinced that cats were plotting against her and anytime she went and visited her children after they moved away she would freak out when the cats that were pets would come in the room, she insisted they were plotting against her.
They were very poor and after they moved to the small town of Glendale they had five more children, four boys and one more girl that died at birth. Elmer was born when David was seven and he was bordering on being mentally retarded, not the extreme mental deficiency his mother had but not able to deal very well with school and other children who would make fun of him. Two years after Elmer a third son, Clayton was born, a year later Cliff was born. After Cliff was born the family moved to a little larger town about thirty miles north called Gold Hill, it was where the last son, Kenneth, was born three years later. Kenneth would turn out to be the most popular, and the least affected by his dysfunctional parents of the five boys and he did the best in school. David went to high school in Gold Hill and then left to join the Navy when his baby brother was only five years old. Right after David had joined the navy Harley moved the family to a town that was quite a bit bigger than any town they had lived in before though it would still be considered a small town but in comparison to the previous towns it was very large. Since David left home at 18 and joined the Navy to make a better life for himself than he saw himself ever being able to have if he stayed in the small towns where he grew up and didn’t see any opportunity for him to make a living as he sure didn’t want to work for the railroad like his father.
Elmer had trouble keeping up with the class in school, they didn’t have any kind of special education in the small town for a child with special needs and he had just turned 16 and was made fun of much of the time. He did find a friend in school though, the friend was a girl that also was mentally handicapped like Elmer was and they became friends. She was talked into having sex with the local boys and doing what the boys wanted made her get more attention so she was eager to please them. Elmer also started to explore having sex with her. Then the girl turned up pregnant and the kids in the class took advantage of his lesser intelligence and started to incessantly tease him about getting the girl pregnant and he didn’t understand that she could have been pregnant by any one of the other boys she was having sex with so he got really scared and freaked about his being accused of getting the girl pregnant. The only way he knew how to solve the problem was the way he attempted to do with a rock.
All of the kids knew she was pregnant and when she was found dead the police went to visit Elmer and they had the one shoe that was found near her body to tie him to the murder and they found the other shoe where Elmer had failed to hide it very well. He was arrested and was put on trial and sentenced to ten years in jail. There were rumors that Harley had also had sex with the girl as well as the girls own uncle, but the police had a good suspect who couldn’t defend himself and they never questioned anyone else in the crime. There are those in his family that still wonder to this day if maybe Harley followed Elmer and finished killing her after Elmer had hit her with a rock, as he only remembered hitting her once and she was hit many more times than that but with Elmer being unable to defend himself and the police not bothering to follow any other leads the case will never be changed. Elmer led a very low key and uneventful life after being released from prison, he found a woman that he married and they had a daughter and never got in trouble and he died at the age of 76. Harley and Lillian separated not long after that and she became a live in housekeeper for an older handicapped man. Elmer stayed close to his mother and none of the boys saw their father very often and Harley died at the age of 84 and if there was another truth in this story it died with those who were there. David is my stepfather.