Orphan Survival Stories Index |
PETER COTTON TAIL
Easter has never been a good time of the year for me. The memory of my very first Easter was when I was living in an orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida. I was about 7 years old. I have never forgotten that day and never will.
The words to the song, "Here comes Peter Cotton Tail, hopping down the bunny trail" have a very special meaning to me. They bring back some rather bad memories - just about as bad as they can get for a little boy. Though I am now much older, I will try to tell this story as nicely as I possibly can.
I remember exactly what I was feeling and what I was thinking when I got up that Sunday morning. I will tell this story, not as a 54-year-old man would tell it, but like a little 7-year-old boy about that very sad Easter Sunday morning.
"Here comes Peter-Cotton tail, hopping down the bunny trail,” went the words to that song.
It was about 6:30 on a Sunday morning when the matron knocked on our bedroom doors, and told all the orphans to get up and prepare to go to church. I walked into one of the two large bathrooms and began washing my face in the porcelain sink. All of a sudden, someone slapped me in the back of the head and told me to hurry along. The other boys were already lining up to march over to the dining room to eat breakfast.
I did not like going to church very much. You had to sit perfectly still on that hard, old church bench for over an hour. If you coughed or moved, the matron hit you really hard on the leg, leaving great big, black and blue bruises. I liked being a Methodist and all that, but they just hit on us kids too much to be really good people.
However, I really did like Sunday school. It was fun, and I enjoyed learning about Jesus and what He said when He lived on the earth. I was the only child at the orphanage who could say all the books of the Bible by heart and in order too. I could say John 3:16 without even taking a breath. I liked holding the Bible 'cause it felt good to me, and I liked the shiny pictures and the red writing that told exactly what Jesus said.
After we ate breakfast, I was told I would not be going to Swain Memorial Methodist Church that morning. I was instructed to go back to the boy's building, change out of my Sunday clothes and report to Mrs. Winters, the head matron. After changing, I walked over to the dining room, sat down on the screened-in breezeway and waited for Mrs. Winters to come and tell me what to do.
All of a sudden, this strange man came walking out through the glass doors, which led into the large dining room. He was carrying armloads of colored eggs stacked on top of one another in big flat boxes. He told me that I had been chosen to help him hide the eggs, so the orphans could hunt for them when they returned from church. I was so excited, because I would be the only kid who knew where all the eggs were hidden. The nice man and I hid many eggs all around the large grass circle located in the center of the orphanage grounds. We also hid eggs in the large oak tree where Mr. Ball had once hung me by the neck and almost killed me.
After we hid all the eggs, we walked back to the dining room so we could get a drink of cold water. He and I sat down on the steel chairs in the breezeway. We talked about church and about me being a good boy, especially about me minding older people. We talked about church and Sunday school for about 10 minutes. Then I decided to show off by telling him that I could say all the books of the Bible. He had me stand up in front of him and repeat all the books. When I finished, he laughed and clapped his hands; I was laughing and smiling too. I was proud of myself. I was the only boy in the orphanage who could say all the books of the Bible. Because of that, I knew I was going to go to heaven one day. I planned to say them for Jesus and then He would hug me, just like He did all the little children in the Bible pictures.
The next thing I remember was being in the bathroom by the hallway closet with this man. He did not have any clothes on and was telling me to undress myself. He said that, because we hid the eggs and did not go to Easter Sunday church service, we had to get down on our hands and knees and be “cleansed by the spirit.”
I cannot tell the rest of the story, because it is just too horrible to see in written word. However, I do know this: I will always remember that smiling, ugly, naked man standing up in front of me and singing those words, "Here comes Peter Cotton tail, hopping down the bunny trail. Hippety hoppety, Easter's on its way."