Commiserating the world with henry

Rural Arkansas, in the mid-1950s, was in the national and world spotlight with regard to reconciling racial division in what was still a socially backward state. 

S ometimes, when the devil gets hold of a body, it just won’t let go. Case in point being that young boy right there,” Reverend Henry Holmes declares with a high level of religious certitude. Henry – that’s what I call him – should know. He’s the minister of the all black congregational Church of God and Christ, located on Route 75 just around the bend from Coldwater. “I know, for a fact, Satan is making trouble for that boy, trouble for him and his whole family. Busy lips keep saying if he don’t leave, he will be dead before my coming Sunday sermon.” Henry continues to point at a young black man climbing into the back of a pickup truck parked across the road from us, our vantage point being the bench on the front porch of the Coldwater Dry Goods Store. It was as if Henry was pointing his finger toward the devil himself, as if to say, “I see you, Satan.”

“Henry, is that the Rawlings boy?” His revelation sets me back a bit. The Rawlings family is a black family that lives less than a quarter down the road from us. I see this boy walking past our house time and again, shuffling along, as if he has nowhere to go, but has all the time in the world to get there. In fact, the only places I have ever seen him, with the exception of walking in front of our house, is at the Coldwater Store and in various cotton fields in and around the community. He doesn’t go to school—isn’t allowed to—and from what I can tell, that shack they call their house is where he spends most of his time—that is to say, where he spends his time when he isn’t chopping and picking cotton.