Alabama 1935

To say life is hard doesn't even scratch the surface. Food is hard to come by. Money is a myth. Their parents are dead. No honest work can be found within five counties.

The Great Depression. The orphaned family is riding in a Model-T. The oldest boy is driving, the boys are in back with their sisters.

To say life is hard doesn’t even scratch the surface. Food is hard to come by. Money is a myth. Their parents are dead. No honest work can be found within five counties.

Only last night, they stole gas and cigarettes from a filling station. Now they’re thieves, too.

Sometimes, it feels like they’re breathing borrowed air. They run from town to town, digging ditches, framing barns, loading mill trucks for pennies.

Today, the boys have been hired as roofers. A jobsite is where they are now. The bossman will pay them forty cents for a workday.

Forty cents. It’s highway robbery. Welcome to 1935, nobody’s getting rich in Alabama.

It’s a hot day. They’re weak from malnutrition. The boys are wearing homemade tool belts their sisters made. They haven’t eaten in days.

They stand in the shade. The workers are passing around breakfast—a bottle of milk spiked with liquor. It goes straight to the boys’ heads and makes them dizzy.

The three brothers crawl on a three-story roof, pounding hammers. They’re dehydrated. Clumsy. They are inexperienced. Especially the youngest boy. He’s fourteen. He is awkward on his feet.

He slips. It all happens so fast.

Game over.

He hits the ground so hard he bounces. The workmen all see it. The boy is face-down. Blood trickles from his mouth. His chest quits moving. No pulse.

The bossman comes running. There’s no doubt. The kid is gone.

They cover him with a tarp. The world has stopped spinning. The oldest brother is white with shock. His sisters are screaming.

Life is hell, the oldest thinks to himself. Childbirth took their mother. Pneumonia took their father. The bank took their home. Now tragedy owns their youngest brother.

The workers place the child’s body into the rear of a truck.

“It’s my fault,” says one brother. “The milk was my idea.”

“No, it’s my fault,” says another. “I shoulda never let him up there.”

“Maybe someone should say a few words,” says the bossman, removing his hat.

Workers bow heads. The oldest tries to give a eulogy you’d expect. Something reverent. But what comes out of his mouth is not.

He begins begging. Then crying. Nobody knows who he’s talking to. He’s losing his mind, that’s what he’s doing.

“Please!” he shouts to the clouds. “Don’t do us like this!”

His brothers and sisters begin to cry. The last four years of death, poverty, and near-starvation are dripping out of their faces.

The oldest collapses onto the ground. He’s pleading now. That’s what he’s doing.

He’s delirious. Hungry. Traumatized. His eyes are closed. He’s on all fours, forehead to the dirt.

“Please!”

They all heard him yell it. Every man there saw him pound his fists against dirt. They all watched him shout until his vocal chords were blood raw.

They all saw it, and they all would retell it for the rest of their natural lives. Even while wheeling down nursing home hallways with grandkids.

Those who saw it tell it their own way. I’m only telling it the way I heard it. Truth be told, I don’t know what I think about it.

But they remember. How brothers and sisters sniffed noses and wiped eyes. They recall how the body beneath the tarp started to move.

And nobody can forget how a fallen fourteen-year-old sat up straight and breathed again.

Do not stop believing.

Just don’t.

33 comments

  1. Melissa - February 2, 2018 7:46 am

    Thank you. Today was a difficult day in a string of difficult days. I needed to hear this.

    Reply
    • Summer - February 2, 2018 8:11 am

      God bless you, Melissa. I’m praying today is the first of many better days for you. And God bless you, Sean.

      Reply
  2. Shirley Northington (Skelton) - February 2, 2018 11:04 am

    Amen…..and thank you.

    Reply
  3. Dianne - February 2, 2018 1:09 pm

    That’s all HE asks…………..that we believe in Him. Thank you, Sean!!

    Reply
    • Martha - February 2, 2018 1:25 pm

      Powerful! Thanks, Sean.

      Reply
  4. janiesjottings - February 2, 2018 1:30 pm

    I believe!

    Reply
  5. Steven - February 2, 2018 1:55 pm

    Ummm, wow…………

    I’m new to you. But I’m already a fan.

    You’re telling my story. These are my people. Have been for nearly two hundred years when we first invaded those woods and stole from the indigenous. Especially Hartford. I was born in Hartford. The “hospital” doesn’t exist anymore. I guess folks go to Geneva, or Enterprise or Dothan now. Or just drop them at home.

    I’ll make the time to catch up. My mother forwarded one of your pieces. Thanks sweet mother. And thank you writer.

    Reply
  6. Dermot Gibney - February 2, 2018 2:00 pm

    I know you make God smile Sean, I just know you do!

    Reply
  7. Teresa - February 2, 2018 2:09 pm

    Oh my goodness! That brought chills. What a wonderful story.

    Reply
  8. James Barnes - February 2, 2018 2:39 pm

    Yes, I believe because God has the power to do anything. Raise the dead? Absolutely. I know because he brought me back.
    Thanks Sean for touching so many hearts. God Bless you…

    Reply
  9. Lola Schuttinga - February 2, 2018 3:28 pm

    I can’t see for the tears in my eyes. I love reading your stories each day. I am thankful that my friend told me about you. I have been reading your stories for about a month now and I can’t wait till tomorrow to read the next one!

    Reply
  10. Denise M - February 2, 2018 3:33 pm

    My eyes welled up….you touch me this way almost every time Sean. Don’t ever stop, God has surely gifted you!

    Reply
  11. Victoria Coleman - February 2, 2018 3:46 pm

    Wow…

    Reply
  12. Jackye Thompson - February 2, 2018 3:56 pm

    Miracles do happen.Sad story with a spiritual miracle.

    Reply
  13. Bob Hubbard - February 2, 2018 5:07 pm

    Amen and amen!!!

    Reply
  14. cece - February 2, 2018 5:09 pm

    Awesome story!

    Reply
  15. Macey - February 2, 2018 5:12 pm

    I subscribed to this blog on Sunday morning.Today I read this,I needed this because I was dangling at the end of my rope. This last year I lost my job of 18 years, I’ve pushed family and friends away, I’m almost out of resources and the energy to fight it. But today, I believe and again I will try. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Pamela McEachern - February 3, 2018 1:06 am

      Macey I have been there and at the time I didnt think I could get through it all, but I trusted in My Father and he carried me to a much better place. Please know you now have lots of prayers going up for you. The people I know here are the kind that care and Sean won’t stear you wrong. Hope is for better days for you.

      Reply
      • Macey - February 3, 2018 1:11 am

        Thank you.

        Reply
    • Louise - April 26, 2018 3:18 am

      Prayers for strength for you Macey. I hope your life is turning around & you find a job that is a fit your knowledge & experience.

      Reply
  16. Jack Darnell - February 2, 2018 5:29 pm

    I remember the stories of my parents who raised my brothers and sisters during the Great depression. Stuffing tires with rags and weeds to keep them up, driving looking for work etc etc. This story I do not doubt. Tough times made TOUGH people.
    Good one Sean!

    Reply
  17. Jack Quanstrum - February 2, 2018 5:31 pm

    Inspritional! I won’t! It’s everybodies Ace in the hole!

    Reply
  18. Jan - February 2, 2018 6:37 pm

    Believe! One of the most important words you will ever hear or speak. I Believe in miracles because I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ His only Son, Our Lord ….

    Reply
  19. paula jones - February 2, 2018 11:05 pm

    Thank you.

    Reply
  20. Marion Pitts - February 3, 2018 12:28 am

    Absolutely amazing! I do BELIEVE! Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply
  21. Michael Hawke - February 3, 2018 3:54 am

    Amen

    Reply
  22. Jody - February 3, 2018 5:49 am

    Intense and powerful. Thank you

    Reply
  23. Joan - February 3, 2018 2:07 pm

    I believe this happened. What else l keep from your story, Sean, is the folks in the nursing home who tell it. Don’t you know it gives them comfort and hope, those who are waiting on God. Perhaps they already have those things, along with their faith. Perhaps what they share by retelling the story to their grandkids, children, their caretakers, is proof. Because these storytellers also have love; a generosity of spirit. They share the proof they know. They witness so others may have hope, faith, and charity.

    Reply
  24. Rhonda Searcy - February 3, 2018 3:09 pm

    Such a powerful post Sean! Thank you so much!
    Love all of your posts, but this one is awesome!

    Reply
  25. Judith - February 3, 2018 6:23 pm

    Believe! Hope! Faith! Trust!

    Reply
  26. Deena - February 6, 2018 3:20 am

    I haven’t, and I never will stop believing.

    Reply
  27. Judith - April 26, 2018 11:56 am

    This one brought tears to my eyes.

    Reply
  28. Alisa J. PIttman - May 11, 2018 5:09 am

    God is always where he needs to be!

    Reply

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