Orphan Survival Stories
THE CAT EYE
One of the most competitive things we ever did at the orphanage was play marbles in the dirt. Every orphan had his own special bag of marbles. This was a sign of who you were in the ranking or pecking order. For me to establish myself in this order, I knew I would have to collect any and all cat eye marbles that ever made it onto the orphanage property. This had become my sole purpose in life. I would beg, borrow, steal or cheat, if it became necessary, to collect those little treasures.
One Saturday morning, Wayne Evers, Frankie Evers, Robert Gillman, Bill Stroud and I were out back of the boysí building. We were playing in one of our many championship tournaments. Robert Gillman was fighting mad, because we were complaining that he had a steel-ie marble (a steel marble). We did not want him to use it, because it would break our glass marbles when he shot hard. That Gillman boy was a good marble player and a hard shooter too, not to mention that he could cheat even better than me. However, if you caught him cheating and called him on it, he would beat the hell out of you.
Just about dinnertime, the championship was down to several boys and I was one of the lucky ones. I really did not care if I won or not. My purpose was to wait until the boys shot too hard. Then they would have to run after their marble, which may have traveled 10 or 20 feet away. Thatís when I would start stealing all the cat eye marbles in the dirt circle, replacing them with other types of marbles. I would then place the cat eye marbles in my pile. I finally lost, but decided to stay and see whom the winner was going to be.
About 20 minutes later, Mr. Henderson came out to see what we were doing and told us to wash up for lunch. By then, there were about 20 boys around the circle waiting to see who would be the weekly marble champion. There was lots of yelling and clapping during the last few minutes of the tournament.
Finally, it was down to the last two boys. Only the best and the prettiest marbles were placed in the dirt circle, including Robert Gillman's famous steel-ie marble. Then, for no reason at all, Mr. Henderson walked into the marble circle and started kicking all the marbles as hard as he could. They went flying everywhere. God, Robert Gillman got so mad at Mr. Henderson, I thought he was going to attack him right there on the spot.
I will never forget Mr. Henderson doing that to us orphans. I guess, because I could not understand why an adult would do that to children. It just did not make any sense to me. That is just the way it was for us and it was that way every day of our lives in that orphanage. It was like that day after day, week after week and year after year. It was a horrible way to be treated.
Even playing the game of marbles, they would not allow us to feel like we were anybody special or that we could do something special.
We never did find all the marbles, not even Robert Gillman's steel-ie. That was a day that I will never forget for as long as I live. That was a week in the orphanage when none of us kids really wanted to become the CHAMPION. However, more important than that is the fact that none of us ever became champions, even after we grew up. Now, I guess I know why?