Perception Outside Normal Capability

Cody Short
 

2021 General Nonfiction Story Contest Finalist

© Copyright 2021 by Cody Short 

 
 

Photo of a wrecked car.



This is a true story. The names are changed because the setting is rural East Tennessee where privacy is precious to this day, and everybody knew their neighbors in the Fifties.

Mary (Price) Stinson, her husband, John Stinson and their son, Ben, lived in the small community of Allardt, Tennessee, in the 1950s. They lived with Mary’s father, Robert Price, and took care of him.

Robert had worked in a sawmill when he was younger, one of the few jobs that were available. They usually had two saws set up and a canvas shelter to keep the logs and lumber dry. The noise from two gasoline saws cutting away at the logs was deafening as was the startup of the engines. They solved this in those days by using a 6-inch-wide belt that turned the engine until it cranked. The belts were generally set up some fifty feet from the saw blade. One day Robert was having a particularly difficult time starting the engine and he kicked the engine. Maybe that was what “jump starting” meant in those days but the engine caught and dragged Robert into the blade.

Two of Robert’s sons were also working in the sawmill that day and they put a tourniquet on his leg and held him down while someone went to get the doctor to amputate his leg.

With sawmill days over, Robert built a small grocery store next to his house and he and Mary ran the store. Both were well-known and well-liked in the community but times were tough in the fifties.

Ben did what odd jobs he could find to at least buy his own shoes and school supplies. When school was out in the summer he was talking with a couple of his cousins and they were all interested in finding summer jobs. Butch Price, his mother’s nephew, was already driving and had a car. Wayne Stinson, his father’s nephew, was also interested in finding work.

How about I drive us to Nashville to look for work?” Butch said. “You could both chip in for the gas and we can each buy our own food.”

I will have to discuss it with my parents before I can commit,” Ben said. Ben was the younger of the three and knew that his mother, in particular, would have misgivings. “Mother will wonder where we would live while we worked if we could get a job.”

That’s a good question,” Wayne said.

We could pool our money and rent a place there in Nashville,” Butch said. “The trip down there to look will do us good, ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained!’”

Oh Ben,” his mother began when he brought up the idea. “You are too young to go off on your own. School will start again in August and you would have to quit your job and come home.”

Mom, I want to do this, to try it out.” Ben said. “I have a little money saved and I want to go.”

What if you are the only one that gets a job? You could not afford to rent a place by yourself. Maybe we could pay you a little to work in the store.”

No, the store barely makes it. I want to go.”

So, Mary slipped Ben some extra money and told him to hide it way in the back of his wallet and not let the others know about it. “In case something happens, this will get you home.” She prayed that it would. She also made it a point to caution her nephew, Butch, not to drive too fast.

Nashville job hunting proved futile and the boys had something to eat, loaded up and began the long drive home. There were no interstates in those days and country roads were unlighted. They had to go to Crossville and take U.S. Route 127 from Crossville to Jamestown. There was a notorious curve with a ravine below and a rock boulder on the edge. The car did not make the curve.

The local Crossville (Cumberland County Sheriff Deputy) patrolling the area spotted the accident and radioed for an ambulance for one fatal victim. He asked for the identification of each passenger and identified the fatal victim as Wayne Stinson.

The car from Allardt was easily identified as a Fentress County car. At that time Tennessee license tags were shaped like the map of Tennessee and counties were numerical according to population. Fentress County was sixty-four (64). So quickly there was radio communication between the two county Sheriff’s offices.

At that time there was no Emergency Management ambulance in rural Tennessee. Funeral homes generally had at least two ambulances, one for funerals, another slightly equipped with emergency equipment. The funeral home from Jamestown transported the body from Crossville.

Fentress County Deputy, Fred Brown, was dispatched to notify the families of the accident and the one fatality. He arrived at the home of Mary and John Stinson and said, “Mr. and Mrs. Stinson, there has been an accident involving your son, Ben, Wayne Stinson and Butch Price in the car last night. I am sorry to say that Wayne Stinson did not survive.”

Mary was quiet but then calmly said, “No…, it was not Wayne Stinson. It was our son, Ben Stinson.”

Deputy Brown was baffled that Mrs. Stinson would say such a thing as she would have had no information prior to his contact and could not possibly have seen her son or the other two passengers since the accident. He said only, “I am so sorry.”

The Deputy radioed the Sheriff’s office and reported the comment Mary Stinson had made. Shortly afterward, Walter Smith, the undertaker on duty that morning and a resident of Allardt, reported for duty and heard the news of the accident, the three boys involved and the comment of Mary Stinson. “I’ve known all three of those boys all of their lives. I will know immediately when the body arrives the name of the one that was killed.”

The ambulance arrived shortly afterward and Walter met it with a heavy heart, knowing that one of the couples, all good friends, had lost a son, the other two couples had lost a nephew. One look and he confirmed that Mary Stinson was right. Ben Stinson was the fatal victim.



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