Waymon Jones loved numbers, statistics, and anything having to do with sports. When his father encouraged him to follow in his footsteps at the mill, Waymon grudgingly tried to be a good son. He hated the mill. On every break and every opportunity, he talked sports. What started out as verbal bets soon escalated to 5, 10, and soon, 100-dollar bets. Waymon had a phenomenal grasp of odds and statistics. Soon his gambling income outstripped what he was earning at the mill. The mill, however, provided a good source of clients and Waymon was reticent to venture into unknown territory. That is until he and his wife went to New Orleans for their second honeymoon…We'll talk about that fateful trip later...
Parsons Crossing, Alabama was an out of the way small town on the road between the town of York, Alabama and the somewhat larger college town of Livingston. Surrounded by miles of pine trees in different stages of growth and harvesting, Parsons Crossing was a rather dull looking place highlighted by the smell and noise of a large sawmill. No one in town owned a car – this is an exaggeration of course – for it seemed the vehicle of choice was the pickup truck. The pickup truck was a great social equalizer. Some of the richest people in Parsons Crossing had old beat-up and battered pickup trucks while some of the lowest paid mill workers drove late model Fords and Chevrolets.
Parsons Crossing boasted a growing population of 3500 people. There was talk that a chicken processing plant was on the way, but E. Humphrey Boswell, the owner of Boswell Mill and Timber was doing everything he could to sabotage the project. The only thing he hadn’t done was prevent the sale of 90 acres of land to a Japanese consortium that was determined to put raw chicken in Parsons Crossing’s future.
Every Thursday afternoon – after his weekly golf ritual – E. Humphrey would hold court in the Parson’s Crossing Country Club and rail about how the town was going to be overrun by Mexican chicken “pluckers.”
“By God,” E. Humphrey would say, “soon the whole town will be bi-lingual. Little brown-skinned nits will be chasing our daughters and nieces down the halls at the middle school. All those kind are oversexed you know…” That E. Humphrey had said the exact same thing at the time the high school was integrated was overlooked. No one challenged or corrected E. Humphrey Boswell.
Waymon Jones listened and wondered how soon he would develop a Mexican betting clientele. As far as he was concerned, chicken “pluckers” money was as good as anybody else’s was. He reminded himself to do some research on Mexican betting habits. He’d heard they were as passionate about soccer as most Americans were about football.
For the past fifteen years, Waymon’s office had been the “Club.” The old manager had asked Waymon to come in and handle the gaming action as long as Waymon gave up a percentage of his profits. Waymon didn’t like doing this at first, but figured that there were worst things than being a concessionaire in an establishment that was the only show in town. There were a couple of redneck beer joints in Parson’s Crossing, but the “Club” was where the gentry could wipe off the sawdust, play some golf, and pretend they were somebody. Waymon Jones adapted well with the members.
Waymon wasn’t the best-looking guy in the world, but he was pleasant. His smile was dazzling and freely given. At six foot-three Waymon, even in his advanced years, was as strong as a bull. He never tried to out dress his clients, although he could have very easily, and he was never loud or boisterous. No one at the club had ever seen Waymon Jones drunk. Slightly thinning hair and a mild paunch were Waymon’s only visible reminders of the onward march of time…
When young Waymon Jones was starting out in the bookie business there had been another, older, bookie that took care of the higher end sports bettors. Waymon got to know E.J. Boudreaux quite well. Sometimes he and E.J. would take an afternoon off and go crappie fishing on the Gainesville Reservoir. While fishing they would talk trade talk. Young Waymon Jones was a good listener and he grew quite fond of E.J. Boudreaux.
Unlike Waymon, E.J. was very connected in Parsons Crossing and the area surrounding it. E.J. was part of an “old boys” club that consisted of the sheriff, Ross McClanahan, and the Parsons Crossing police chief, Ernest Hackney, as well as old man E. Humphrey Boswell himself and a few other prominent citizens. They all liked E.J. Boudreaux. Except possibly one person in the group - who didn’t dislike E.J. - but felt uncomfortable around him.
The reason for Chief Ernest Hackney’s discomfort was the fact that he was constantly in debt to E.J. At anytime, E.J. might be holding up to three markers on the chief. The chief was a compulsive gambler and sometime would bet even when he didn’t have the money. Because of his debts in gambling and other things, the old chief became an information broker to the highest bidder. His main customer was E. Humphrey Boswell who had an obsessive desire to be knowledgeable about everything going on in Parsons Crossing.
In 1980, drugs were getting a foothold in rural Alabama, as they were every place in the United States. Chief Hackney and Sheriff McClanahan had worked out a secret tolerance pact among themselves. The sheriff had to win elections and the chief had to stay in the favor of E. Humphrey Boswell. Neither one could hold their positions if they started wholesale arresting the sons and daughters of their constituents. Both agreed that strangers, blacks, and habitual offenders were fair game. Everyone else would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
One hot July evening as the few bars were closing in Parsons Crossing, a red Pontiac whizzed through town about sixty miles above the posted speed of 30 mph. The chief was at home with his ear tuned to the scanner when heard the chatter of the pursuit and the eventual capture of the speeder. He even laughed when he deduced who the offender was. Leroy Smather’s wild kid, he thought. He didn’t laugh, however, when one of his officers called and told him about the cocaine they’d found. The chief drove down to the station quickly. Jamie Smathers was scared – he should have been. His offense could equal several years of penitentiary time in 1980’s Alabama. The chief chased the other officers away and took care of the booking himself. Additionally, he placed a call to Jamie’s dad, Leroy Smathers and told him to get down to the jail as soon as possible because Jamie was in trouble.
Leroy Smathers was a supervisor for the phone company. He and his wife Emaline were respected in Parsons Crossing and if they had any faults, it was spoiling their only son Jamie.
Leroy Smathers walked into the jail mad – not at Jamie, but at the chief for arresting him for speeding and locking him up. Despite his other faults, the chief knew people and soon had Leroy Smathers under control. They walked upstairs to the mayor’s office, which was closed at that time of night, entered, and the chief closed the door…
After explaining to Leroy the cold facts of narcotics possession and the long-term consequences, the chief set the hook. When the chief finished, Leroy Smathers was begging the chief to give Jamie a break. When Chief Ernest Hackney saw the tears in Leroy Smathers eyes, he pulled the line taut. Maybe a deal can be worked out the chief suggested.
As Leroy and Jamie drove home, Chief Ernest Hackney lit a celebratory cigar. He now had the ability to tap any phone in Parsons Crossing or for that matter – anywhere else in the county…
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