Was our Land Lord, Mr. Malone, F.B.I., or Just Plain Greedy?
You are fully aware of my hub, "My Year of Almost Starving to Death in the Years 1959-1960," so you are up to speed right about now. I like that of you. With you being aware of my hub telling you just how desperate our family were just to eat one meal, I don't have to repeat myself in this piece. This hub is another segment about that very shack-of-a-place and the photos on this hub are not the authentic shack, but I can tell you that these shacks, although look deporable, our shack was worse. No joke.
"A person can adapt to almost any brand of suffering," Charles Manson said while he was on the stand when Vincent T. Bugliosi, Jr., the district attorney's office, best known for prosecuting Manson and other defendants accused of the seven Tate–LaBianca murders of August 9–10, 1969. "You beat me with a whip and at first it hurts, but you keep on beating me and then I don't care," Manson went on to explain (just one) of the things that psychiatrists said might have caused this awful tragedy.
Yeah, Charlie. Mental illness was the perfect fit for you. In some of your many interviews, one by Geraldo Riveria and other telejournalists who wanted a network job, actually used you as their stepping stone to get to the corner office in their network headquarters in New York. You and your "disciples" were tried in a court of law and lost your right to breathe free air. Nothing else can be said.
I know that I got off track with the Manson reference, but I used this statement about being whipped by a whip (by his dad) when he was a kid that made him to be so unfeeling that I am using this preface concerning living in a shack that our greedy, evil landlord, Malone Fikes owned at the house while he and his lovely grandmotherly wife, Dolly, lived next to the asphalt farm/market road with a nice home with a pretty lawn and good living room furniture. I know. My dad and mom visited "Mr. Greed," and Dolly once. I remember reaching for a cookie in Dolly's proverbial cookie jar in her super-clean kitchen and in her gentile manner said, "little boy. You can have that cookie. But you can't have no more." And smiled that big billboard size smile that was able to fool the slickest tramp on the road.
In a metaphorical sense, Malone's greedy lifestyle and "pulling the food right out of out mouth," was seen by me to be the whip cracking over our backs--the whip that Manson's dad used many times to teach him some life lessons, and with enough of Malone's mouth cracking on our backs just made all of us numb, sharp enough to survive the jungles of Bataan. This lesson is obvious. You have the punishing whip being swung at someone who did not really commit a crime, but got his back and butt lashed until the blood puddled in the floor as now my teaching fictitious kid being whipped now yells, "is that all you got? Whip me more! Get with it!" I can see Manson's analogy now.
Even at the age of six I was stupid. I admit it. But as those cold words left her big lips, something horrible ran through me like a hungry rat seeking a crumb to eat. I was scared at this big elderly woman. Some men (at this time) would have ran for their lives if Dolly had become enraged. Back at our authentic shack, I had this habit of just sitting flat on my little butt and thinking about life, our run-down shack my dad called a home and why Dolly and Mr. Fikes' personalities were so abstract. I can only assume (at this time) that what Dolly's hidden anger took from their marital bliss, Mr. Fikes' greed made their living together at peace for most of the time.
Would you like to at this moment read an actual exhibit of Mr. Fikes' greed? Dolly, bless her big heart, had a white Westinghouse washing machine, top of the line, uptown washing and progressively modern. But on another visit from my dad who visited the infamous Malone "Greed" Fikes to ask about some farming problem. While my dad and Malone "Greed" FIkes were talking, he took time out to tell Dolly to not wash all of those clothes and turn off the machine. She obeyed. Which made my dad ask why. He laughed that greedy laugh (like Ebezeneer Scooge) and said, "I don't want the washer to wear out and it keeps our 'lectricity bill low."
Greed. Through and through. But still, with Malone's greed and Dolly's hidden rages, these dangers did not make our shack any better off. But during that one year that we lived in this shack that was held up by bobby pins and Elmer's glue, I noticed a few things that looked so strange to me, a six-year-old kid living on mostly air, stuck off in northwest Alabama.
The only visible income that we had was from my dad who was an excellent sharecropper. He loved to farm and loved the dirt. But one day, Malone showed up at our shack and frightened me as he was prying his greedy face through the tattered screen door. Idiot. He knew that he had a gang of rats cornered so why not press them for less life. My mammy who was ironing, told Malone to come in as it was her rule to be friendly as her family had raised her to be.
Nope. Malone was a bit agitated and tried to explain to my mammy that dad couldn't raise cotton or corn anymore thanks to a new Federal law from the U.S.D.A. Dept. of Agriculture that stated any farm less than 500 acres would be liable to be paying a higher tax and we were it. We were the liable ones. That would have made a great show on ABC in 1969. "The Liable Ones," a Quinn/Martin Production. So mammy, who I could see was very irritated at Malone's greedy news and suddenly he was gone. No. I was stupid like I have said before, but ghosts are not as greedy and cunning as Malone. I did wonder at supper that night how he disappeared so fast from our wooden porch that needed repair.
Dad was not happy that evening when mammy broke the news to him about no more farming. The next question: what are we going to do? My dad sat down in the living room, lit an unfiltered Camel and started to think. Dad was a good and deep thinker. After our evening meal, he told mammy that he would approach a certain county commissioner about a part-time job which didn't pay a lot, but enough to keep our lights on and maybe buy a little grub.
That part-time job was a God-send. Dad did go to work for our county road department and work for two months which gave him time to look for more sharecropping. Dad was not intimidated by Malone, Dolly, no farming or the Germans who he fought in W.W. II.
And it seemed to me, even me while I played in our yard while mammy did her housework, that Malone was trying to be like someone that my brother-in-law who was then working at a gas station and took us all to the Ford Drive-in Theater near Hamilton, Ala. I recall that movie. "Onion Head, 1958" aka/ Alvin Woods, with a young Andy Griffith. In this iconic film I viewed a street-smart Navy cook, Wildoe, cast also cast as a young Walter Matthau, who was slick in not following the Navy book of regulations. Malone was another "Wildoe," but greedy around the clock. 24/7.
This "Wildoe" character came to my mind when I saw in the far distance the thick forest of pine trees, right over dad's pasture where our mule, "Grey Bones," lived and ate, Malone jumping from one tree to the other in a perfect F.B.I. fashion. Great stake-out, "Greed." You fooled me in thinking that you were a pine tree. For my six-year-old eyes, they were sharp at this time. I could even see the color of his faded overalls and stringy straw hat. Fool. At your age and acting as if you were staking out a family with no food or money and for why you were acting so very stupid, is still beyond me.
Why didn't Malone "Greed" Fikes just man-up, "gird up his loins like a man," as God told Job that he had a few questions for this faithful man to answer. But no. Malone had much rather be shady and know every move we made and for what good did that do? Absolutely none. Although I should have been at play like any normal kid six-years-old, I was now occupied with keeping tabs with Malone and trying to defuse those deceptive tricks that he was now pulling out of his "Bag of Greed."
This fact about Malone will surely cause you some deep thinking. You have now read where I saw him jumping around behind the pine trees in two paragraphs above, I can tell you this one that will cause your very eyes to almost pop out of their sockets. To our knowledge, Malone and Dolly never owned a vehicle. Too expensive. Money paid out for gas, oil, and tires. No self-respecting "greedy gut" would dare own an automobile new or used. So how then did Malone get from the long hide to the end of the road to hide in the pine forest where I seen him? No vehicles stopped to let him out for there was no place for an automobile to turn around and leave him.
I am so sorry. I have never shared with you how Malone and Dolly looked. For Malone, if you saw one of the first "Andy Griffith Show(s)" with the episode with "George Sawyer," who came out of the Army with a buddy who bunked with him and read his weekly copy of the Mayberry Gazette. And this Sawyer character knew the Mayberry citizens' names, some twins who just he knew which was which and other vital information. Okay. In the barber shop, the first "Floyd Lawson," is seen napping while Andy is reading the paper. Malone fit the description of "Floyd" portrayed by Walter Baldwin. Dolly Fikes was the stereotypical grandmother type and would pass then for Paula Dean, the Southern Cooking Queen who almost lost everything in lawsuits caused by her alleged racial remark behind the scenes.
Malone, when he did show up almost in a different place near the shack where we survived, he was always dressed in those thread-bare, faded Liberty overalls and a stringy straw hat and wore those thin wire glasses worn by Baldin as the first "Floyd," and Malone talked much like a man whose false teeth was way too loose for mixed company for a few of his normal words were slurred or mispronounced causing him some measure of embarrassment. It did not take me long to make up my virgin mind that I just did not like this greedy, Peeping Tom type of old man, Malone "Greed" Fikes and while I am at it, what harm would it have done if I had just asked Dolly for another cookie? Who would die due to my eating two yellow cookies with white vanilla cream? No one. But at this time, older cogers used fear on kids most all of the time.
When my dad's work with the county commission of our county ran out, the hand (would be) writing on one of the shacks in our house if the walls were not to tacky and thin. And dad knew what needed to be done. I forgot if my dad and brother-in-law (who now had a car. A 55 Ford, four door) who might have taken him to greener patures for a better sharecropping gig. My memory of our rural exodus was my dad sitting atop his spring seat letting Gray Bones, our mule pulling a wagon filled with his plows and those household appointments that were good enought to use and me sitting quietly in the back of the wagon.
And as we neared the long gravel road that led from our shack to the main asphalt farm/market road, there sat Malone "Greed" and Dolly sitting on their front porch probably counting just how much money that my dad did make for him. And the rest almost caused me to have an emotional break-down. Malone, the greedy, two-faced, lying, hypocrite had the gall to wave at us as we pulled out into that asphalt road never to be see by us or him again. Dolly for some reason didn't wave. I didn't care either way. And I sure didn't repay that fake kindness of Malone's act of his facial expression that signaled that he was sad that we were leaving.
I wasn't. And add Malone "Greed" Fikes and Dolly, on that "List of Unknown Troublemakers" I have made and I see the number one troublemaker at the top of the list: Velmer. She and the Fikes should get along swimmingly.
If they don't, I still could care less.
© 2017 Kenneth Avery