Perception Outside Normal Capability
2021 General Nonfiction Story Contest Finalist
© Copyright 2021 by Cody
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
a good question,” Wayne said.
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!’”
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.”
I want to do this, to try it out.” Ben said. “I have a
little money saved and I want to go.”
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
the store barely makes it. I want to go.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
was quiet but then calmly said, “No…, it was not Wayne
Stinson. It was our son, Ben Stinson.”
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.”
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.”
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
of the message.)
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