"Days of DAN'S Life"

"Days of DAN'S Life" II

   

REMINISCENCES OF A TIRED OL' MAN

Our Children's Teachers...


I was reared on the family farm on Dorsey Road, a couple of miles from Doodlefork and about three miles from Cherry Grove Baptist Church, located just off Highway 26 near Mittie in Allen Parish, Louisiana.

We'd get up early in the morning, and I would get dressed for school. I wore a lot of homemade shirts with coveralls and black hightop tennis shoes. Mother would cook breakfast. While I was eating, she would prepare my lunch, usually biscuit sandwiches. She filled them with whatever was available, sometimes bacon or ham, sometimes peanut butter and jelly, whatever she had at the time. Then, I'd catch that big old bus for the long ride to school.

I was a very outgoing child. I loved people, and I loved going to school.

My first grade teacher was Mrs. Martin. She was friendly, loving, patient, and kind. And she introduced all of us to an exciting new world. We learned reading, writing, arithmatic, and discipline. And Mrs. Martin made every day another adventure.

When Mrs. Martin couldn't be there, Miss White would substitute. She was a sweet, pretty, young blonde. My uncle dated her a few times. I wanted him to marry her.

Then came second grade, a living hell for a little farm boy who'd never known anything but love.

I had a teacher who had been in love with my Dad, who had been the high school basketball star. But he married a girl seven years younger than him, and I was a result of that union. So she hated me.

I was guilty of no offense, but I was punished for everything. She would lock that solid wood door, and whip me. I didn't understand why she was doing it. I behaved, I followed her instructions very carefully, and I worked very hard at doing everything right. But I was continually beaten with a variety of paddles, rods, rulers, and sticks. I thought that it must somehow be my fault. That teacher beat me every hour of every school day.

The other children were afraid to tell anyone. They were afraid that she would do the same thing to them. And I had told them not to tell anyone, because I didn't want my parents to know.

I endured the punishment she inflicted upon me because I had been told by my Father, "If you get in trouble at school, you're going to be in trouble when you get home." I sure didn't want to get another whipping when I got home.

I became sluggish, timid, and very introverted. The other children teased me and called me "Turtle" because I was so slow. I no longer wanted to go to school. I hurt all the time. I was tired, but I couldn't sleep. I had terrible nightmares. My health was deteriorating. I was weak, and getting weaker.

My parents were very concerned. They knew something was wrong, but they couldn't find out what. I wouldn't talk with them, and the other kids wouldn't tell them. I was spending all of my time alone with my dog "Miss" in the woods.

My parents called Dr. Officer to the house one day when I was too weak to get out of bed. He examined me, looked very concerned, and talked with my parents. He asked them a lot of questions, and he didn't seem satisfied with any of the answers. I remember him telling my parents, "Well, if we don't find out what's wrong soon, I'm afraid he's going to die."

'Ma, my maternal grandmother Dollie, decided to investigate. She was determined to discover the reason for my health problems. She talked to just about everyone who knew me or came into contact with me. She got nowhere. Not one person could or would tell her what was causing my condition.

Then, one day, when all of the other adults were "gone to town," 'Ma started questioning Florence Jean, the neighbors' little girl who had been my constant companion.

At first, the little girl wouldn't tell her anything. Florence Jean would just say, "I don't know." My grandmother was persistant. She continued to pressure the little girl to tell her what was wrong. After a while Florence Jean began to say, "I can't tell you. He told us not to tell anyone." Finally, my grandmother said, "You're his friend, and I know you love him. You've got to tell me. If you don't, he's going to die, and I know you don't want him to die. Please tell me, so we can help him." Little Florence Jean started crying and said, "I don't want him to die!" My grandmother said, "Then, please tell me what's happening." The sobbing little girl blurted out, "Miss Lizzie beats him! She beats him all the time." My grandmother hugged little Florence Jean, telling her that she did the right thing. And my grandmother assured Florence Jean that she would take care of everything. She did.

There was a big meeting at the school Monday morning. My grandmother had assembled the principal, superintendent, and the school board. The teacher was called into the meeting. The windows of the second story room were open. My grandmother's voice could be heard all over the school grounds as she told all of them what had happened, saying, "Nothing like this must ever happen again to any student." Some man was saying, "Now, Miss Dollie, just calm down." Then we heard my grandmother scream at the teacher, "If you ever so much as touch my grandson again, I'll pull every hair on your head out by the roots, and then I'll strangle you to death with my bare hands!" It never happened again.

But I learned two things in second grade that I had never known before: anger and fighting. A neighbor's older boy taught me how to fight, and he encouraged me to take a stand and quit tolerating the teasing and abuse from other students. He taught me well. I started fighting toward the end of second grade and continued through third and fourth grade, whipping every boy that ever teased me or gave me a hard time. I was never in trouble for fighting, because I never started the fights. I just finished them.





Roy M. Hanchey, my Earthly Father
 And Their Examples

I wasn't the only fighter in the family. I recall hearing my Dad (pictured to the left) tell Mother that he was going to see Forrest, a man on Doodlefork Road, to talk to him about something that Forrest had told some folks at a meeting in Mittie.

Forrest and his wife had two daughters that I really liked, so I asked Dad if I could ride with him. He told me that I'd have to wait in the truck. When we got to the people's home, Dad went into the house, and the little girls came out. They sat in their front porch swing, and we waved at each other.

I saw my Dad and the little girls' father through the window. My Dad, all 5'11" of him, was pointing his finger in the 6'4" man's face, telling him something. "Boy," I thought, "Dad's really mad." The man said something back to him, and Dad hit him. The big man disappeared from view.

I next saw Dad through the kitchen window. Then, he was suddenly back in the living room with a bucket of water, which he threw in the man's direction, said something else, and casually walked out to the pickup. He didn't say a word on the way home.

The summer after my fourth shool year, there was another meeting at that old country school. The principal, superintendent, and school board, along with members of the police jury and sheriff's department, assembled in that same meeting room one Saturday, and my Dad was the only invited guest. The meeting was short. They told my Dad, "We think you should move to a city, where they have better law enforcement, and take your son with you."

Later, Dad was sitting in the kitchen at home, while Mother cooked supper. He told her, "I don't know what to do about that boy. He's always getting into fights. I don't know where he gets it." Mother said, "Yeah. Wonder 'where he gets it.' Why don't you look in the mirror?"

In DeRidder, my uncle George got me involved in First Baptist Church. I eventually repented of my sins, confessed them to God, and asked His forgiveness, in Jesus name. As a young Christian, I became a leader among the youth in the church and at school. I was a changed young man.

In 1975, I was the general manager of a New Orleans radio station, an NBC affiliate.

One day, Lou, a young deejay in his mid-twenties whom I had known since his early teens, came storming down the stairs, yelling at me about something that really made him very angry. I told him, :Lou, you're on the air. Go back up those stairs, and do your job. We'll talk after you finish your show." Lou shouted, "No! We'll talk right now!" He grabbed my coat and vest with both hands, and slammed me up against the wall, lifting me off the floor. I lifted my hands above his arms, and I very calmly said, "Lou, I'm going to tell you this only once: put me down, and get back on the air." He said, "No," jamming both fists into my throat. I hit him once in the temple, and he fell to the floor.

I bumped his side with my boot a couple of times, telling him to "quit playing 'possum, and get up." John, my morning show host, said, "Dan, he can't. He's out cold."

I quickly called Lou's mother, told her what had happened, and told her I was taking him to our family physician to be checked out. I told her that I was sorry. She replied, "Dan, I don't blame you a bit. As long as Lou's known you, he should've known better."

Lou was unconscious for more than seven minutes. I was very concerned. When he regained consciousness, my wife and I took him to be examined by Dr. Dean, who asked him, "What happened?" Lou looked at me. I said, "Tell him." Lou said, "Dan hit me." Dr. Dean asked, "Why?" Lou told him what he had done, and Dr. Dean said, "You've known Dan a long time. Didn't you know not to do something like that? You're lucky he only hit you once."

Lou was okay, but I wasn't. I was 37 years old, and I realized this had to stop, that it must never happen again. And it hasn't.

October 24, 1976, a New Orleans church licensed me to preach. I even attended Seminary for a year.

In the late eighties at the end of the decade, Mom, Dad, and my uncle Calvin attended a reunion at the old school. I showed up at lunch time, asking for this particular teacher. Mother and Dad were afraid that I was going to hurt her.

A female cousin, Charlene, found the old teacher and brought her to me. I looked her straight in the eye, and I asked her, "Remember me?" She shook her head, indicating that she did not. I told her, "I'm the boy you used to beat mercilessly every hour of every day." She said, "No. I didn't." My cousin Charlene, who had been in the same second grade class, said, "Yes, Ma'am, you did."

I told the old woman, "I've got just a couple of things to say to you. That was one. This is the other. You were wrong. But God loves you, and He loves me. So we share a common love. And, because He loves me and I love Him, I forgive you. God will forgive you, too...if you ask Him." And, then, I added, "I love you." She started crying. My cousin and I just walked away, leaving the old woman alone with her thoughts.

I rejoined my relieved Mother and Dad at their table.