About the same time as my older sister Maddy became a celebrity for growing a 44D cup, I earned my own notoriety by defending our neighbor, Buddy Clarke.
It was the summer of 1958, and the folks of Desperation Point had just one thing on their minds…ripping the nut sack off poor Buddy and hanging him from a tall tree.
It don’t take much in these parts to start a fist fight. Around here folks is just itching to use their hands for something other than farming and fishing. So when Jessie Anne told her parents it was Buddy Clarke who knocked her up, the men of this town were hungry for justice and eager to watch a little blood fly.
The population of Desperation Point, at least last count, was somewhere around 250, including livestock. With not a whole lot of us to keep each other company you might assume people would be happy as hell to add a baby to the list. But a child fathered by Buddy was about as welcome as a fart under a blanket.
Now Buddy, being slow in the head on account of some accident at birth, didn’t quite understand what he had done to deserve all the hoopla. When that mob kicked in his front door, there stood poor Buddy in his underwear, smiling and greeting folks like a minister come Sunday. Lucky the police showed up just as the group were dragging him into the woods.
One officer from neighboring Mason County raised his gun and let off a few rounds into the air. The next thing we knew, all of them district police were aiming straight at the crowd as if it don’t matter who they brought down. You see, Mason cops are known for being trigger happy on account of the shooting range they got over there, so the men of Desperation handed Buddy over like a baton in a relay.
In no time, the police handcuffed my neighbor and threw him in the back seat of the squad car. Unfortunately, this is about the time that Buddy decided to come to his senses and realized he was in one hell of a mess. He started squealing much like a spring pig at slaughter, which he does on occasion when he’s excited, or that head-banging thing, which is also annoying and not very pleasant to watch.
His mama, Leora, happened to drive up in her candy striper outfit and folks were talking all at once, filling her in on the news that her son was a nearly convicted pervert.
Since Leora was the only person able to communicate with Buddy, it did appear to be a logical request that she accompany her son to the county jail for the interrogation. But as she opened the door of the squad car to sit beside Buddy, the police pulled her out again. They quoted from some book on regulation and before Leora Clarke had time to argue, off they drove with sirens blaring and Buddy in the back seat, still exercising those lungs while pressing his confused face against the glass.
The trial of Buddy Clarke was the biggest thing to ever happen in Desperation Point. The local newspaper, The Daily Desperation, splashed headlines and photos of Buddy and his victim, Jessie Anne. There were shots of Buddy’s tear stained face behind bars, and one of him waving goodbye to his mama after Sunday visitation.
Of course, equal time had to be given to the prosecution. Filling the printed pages were sappy sweet photos of Jessie Anne as a newborn propped up somehow by a pom-pom, and a recent photo of her laying on an examining table, a doctor touching her swollen belly with a stethoscope.
The trial went on for a few scorching weeks in August until one of the jurors Mary Lou Barker, sprang to her feet. She marched out of the jury box saying she thought the damn trial had gone on long enough and there was no need to hear anymore about Buddy’s private parts, thank you very much! Besides, her son Clyde had his own privates to worry about, them being covered in chicken pocks with no mama at home to keep his hands from picking off the scabs.
Next it was Lure, the man who owns the tackle and bait store. He said that government had no right to hold a man to jury duty, especially during the best salmon run in fifty years.
Before we knew it, a few more jurors stood up with excuses about relatives coming in from out of town and cows needing milking.
Soon every one of them jurors had collected their belongings and were making tracks for the door.
There was quite an uproar. The courthouse seemed to come alive with the loud banging of the gavel calling us to order and the judge screaming for the jurors to be seated.
I watched the commotion and without giving much thought to the peril of my actions, I stood and addressed the court. After all, I damn well had something to say. A girl can only keep quiet for so long about her first sexual experience, even if it didn’t exactly happen to her. But I don’t mind telling you, the sex between Jessie Anne and Buddy was steaming hot and I was close to it…real close. As close as anyone could be to sex while peering through a screen door.
Maybe it was the temperature rising in that federal building, or the fact that Buddy looked so pathetic holding his shackled hands up to his mama, but I faced those two hundred odd folks of Desperation Point and the judge from Mason County and told them all I knew…that I, Emmy McCormick, was one character witness they sure as shootin’ better not forget to call to the witness stand.