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br e ing it out in the open. I could hear almost everything he said, but not much from the second voice, though he was back to back with me; he spoke in a hush, as though he did not want to be overheard. “He says,” said first voice. \(“he,” I came often use words the wrong way. Like you can’t have eternal life. You can only have everlasting life. E-ternal means from everlasting to everlasting. You had a beginning, you was born, so you can’t be eternal.” Second voice didn’t get this. Passionately exasperated, first voice went over it for him four or five times. “You had a beginning. Only God and the Lord can be eternal. You had a beginning as a man, and a spiritual beginning.” What were they arguing about? Suddenly I could divine it was Negroes. Second voice forgot himself and said audibly: “I don’t understand. . Where does he get such a stand?” “Well, look, even if he got it from somebody passin’ through, even if he was a agitator!” first voice rejoined. “Look : when do you get down to your garage?” “Six.” “What if you got down at ten? That would break your custom, wouldn’t it? It’d be your business, but it’d break your custom. Now, what if a colored came to your garage, and you took him. That’d break your custom, wouldn’t it. Well, customs are hard to break. You know we hate like the devil to do it” “But he’d accept one” “Well, how could he? Look, if one came and asked, and he wasn’t just passin’ through, we’d have to vote on him, wouldn’t we? I think he’s right, sayin’ let’s thrash it out aforehand.” “But he’d accept one!” second voice said; and the bench we were sharing became agitated somewhat. “How could he? He couldn’t. Not until we voted. Now say 90% voted no. But you want to bust us all up every which way into little pieces,” first voice said. “Look,” first voice continued, “what if the federal government came down to the courthouse and said we’ve got to let ’em in the schools. What would we do?” Second voice must have said something helpless, because first voice said, “That’s right. I tell you, it’s a problem. Now you take Peter. Do you think he was an upright 10 The Texas Observer he was dead wrong. Wasn’t he?” \(The anpeople down at the church might be dead wrong, too, but they’re sincere.” Second voice must have told first voice he was biased, because first voice said angrily: “You can’t tell me I’mm biased! You can’t tell me that! Because I’m thinkin’ and open to reason and you won’t listen to the other fella’s argument! You won’t give him a chance! “I think along your lines,” he told second voice. “But I don’t want to bust us into pieces! Now you take there are some Christian people who believe the Bible says all the way back that God meant the races to be separate, and never meant the blacks to be the same. Some Christian people actually believe that. Now what are you gonna do with them? Roll over ’em?” They were rising to leave. Out the window I saw them as they walked off together. They wore the fatigue green overalls of filling station mechanics. Both were big, healthy men. First voice was tending to pudginess. Second voice had the lean, muscular look that makes outsiders think of rednecks; but he was smiling as he and his friend walked back toward a station, talking. Arbor. Shady Grove. Crockett. East Texas names. Edge. North Zulch._ Woodlake, Woodland, Woodlawn, Woodville. Concord, Old Boston, Ben Franklin, Tennessee Colony. Long Branch, Big Sandy, Myrtle Springs, Nickleberry. Redwater. Coldspring. Fairlie. New London, Sebastopol, Zavalla, Carthage, Caledonia, Paris, Moscow, Kanawha. Pointblank. Independence. Bryan. A little blonde waitress looking very peeved. “I tell you, I’ve had a hard morning.” “What happened’?” “Truckdriver runnin’ my legs off.” “He did!” `I’d get half-way from the table an’ they’d keep callin’ me back. I tell you, I got aggravated, an’ I’ve been aggravated ever since. I tell you, they aggravate you!” Quitman. In a crowded cafe the proprietor says to a new arrival, “Come on in set down. We’ve got more chairs in here than Carter had oats. That wet year.” The green, steel-band benches, with the curled bands at the end for hands to rest on, under the sycamores of the gigantic leaves, and the pecans, the nuts falling prematurely into the gutter of the broad courthouse drivearound. Two whites telling a joke. A nigger needs a white stallion for something, so he goes to Kennedy, and then to Bobby. \(For some man he has two donkeys. “Which just goes to show that when you send a damn nigger for a white stallion, he comes back with two jackasses.” The other laughs a little, but not a har-de-har, and turns the conversation. The joke-teller is a farmer in denim blue, his grizzled face is full, his cheeks especially are bloated. One cannot see through his face into him at all. The Southern accent seems here a bizarre survival, and occurs mostly in the women. The bailiff of the court inquired of the secretary in the district clerk’s office, a young blonde matron, neatly packed in a belted dress, of pleasing features and figure, where they could get a water pitcher, as he couldn’t get into the jury room, it being locked. “Well,” she said, “ah could borrah one,” and she stretched out “one” as you might a casual word in a religidus hymn. “Ah could go get one, from mah mothuh an’ dad.” On “dad” her voice lilted upward again, as though in an importuning. “Well, that’s a good idea,” said the bailiff. “Meanwhile I’ll go see if I can rustle up some ice.” She left the courthouse by the door, and, clamping his cigar in his mouth, he went up the stairs. I went back to the courtroom a little too early: the clock over Vick’s is ten minutes fast. The sun was resting in a bower of leaves, sycamore overhead and the horizon below, the sun was resting beside the jail, as I went inside the courthouse. It is a mild, quiet evening; a tranquility settled in me as I walked upstairs. Just three men had gone back into the courtroom. In the hallway again, two lawyers talked quietly. As I started down the stairway I saw, across through the opposite stairwell, inside the open door marked “District Judge,” Judge Looney Lindsey, resting his hands on each side of a large book on a table, his shoulders crowed out from the weight on his hands, reading. Beyond him, through his windows, the leaves, softly lit, of the courthouse grounds. It was a portrait, a silhouette, of a peaceful judge, studying for a minute before court resumed. As I stepped down to the lobby, I thought, “What a peaceful town. God I’d like to live here!” and I saw then how they hated outsiders, and to have things disturbed, and invaded by ideas and idealists. “You can’t go back again,” I though of the sun; but I had come quickly, and it was still poised in the bower by the jail, brilliant orange in the embracing green, and so moving, so bright and gorgeous in this mild evening, I thrilled; stood still, and looked again; and again, thrilled. The time it took to jot this down the sun went down; the crickets turned themselves on. R.D. The death penalty has been a gross failure. Beyond its horror and incivility, it has neither protected the innocent nor deterred the wicked. The recurrent spectacle of publicly sanctioned killing has cheapened human life and dignity without the redeeming grace which comes from justice meted out swiftly, evenly, humanely. Governor Edmund G. Brown to the California Legislature Texas Society To Abolish Capital Punishment P. 0. Box 52222 Houston 52, Texas Annual Dues: $2.00 Contributing membership: $10.00