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"A BABY BIRD FELL OUT OF IT'S NEST!" I yelled at the top of my lungs.

"Just leave it alone and keep on raking the pine straw," said Mr. Ball, the house parent of our dormitory at the orphanage where I lived.

"But it's just a little, bitty baby bird," I said.

"I said leave the damn thing right where it lay," he demanded.

All 15 of us boys, ranging in age from 5 to 10, stayed in a single line with one another and we just kept on raking.

"That baby’s gonna die without it's momma bird," said one of the boys.

All of a sudden, the mother bird swooped down at us trying to keep it away from the small bird, which was evidently learning to fly. Almost at once, we boys started laughing out loud and running in different direction, so the bird would not peck us when she dove down.

"Get your little asses back in line and finish raking this damn yard," yelled the house parent.

We tried to line up once again, but the momma bird would not stop diving at us.

Get over by the damn building," hollered Mr. Ball.

We ran over to the building and lined up with our backs against the white two-story dormitory. Mr. Ball walked up to the baby bird and kicked it as hard as he could, causing it to roll into the thick azalea bushes. Suddenly, the momma bird swooped down, landed on top of his head and started pecking his hair. Then she flew away. By then, we boys were rolling on the ground laughing. We had never seen anything so funny in all of our lives.

"SHUT YOUR GOD DAMN MOUTHS!" yelled Mr. Ball as he came running toward us.

He grabbed Bill Smith by the arm and slapped him across the face as hard as he could, causing him to bang his head into the white, brick building. At that point, boys were running everywhere and screaming at the top of their lungs. The momma bird just kept on diving at Mr. Ball, who was trying to shoo it away with both of his hands, but no matter what he did, the bird would not stop chasing or diving at him.

We boys finally gathered together over by the swing set. We did not see Mr. Ball anywhere. Slowly, we walked back over to the building where Bill Smith was laying on the ground not moving. No matter what we did, he would not open his eyes or move.

"I think maybe Billy is dead and Mr. Ball killed him dead. He's a killer. MR. BALL IS A KILLER!" yelled one boy as he took off running across the orphanage grounds toward the head office. Then the back door of the dormitory opened and out walked Mr. Ball with a rifle in his hands.

"Mr. Ball, little Billy is dead. He won't move," said Wayne Evers.

"Get out of my damn way," he yelled as he cocked the rifle.

"Where's that damn bird," he asked.

"It's in the azalea bushes by the baby bird," said Frankie.

"You shut up Frankie," yelled several of the boys as another boy hit Frankie on the top of his head.

Mr. Ball pointed the rifle toward the bushes and started slowly walking in that direction. The momma bird was sitting on top of one of the many azalea bushes overlooking the baby bird. Slowly, Mr. Ball raised the rifle.

"Please, Mr. Ball, sir. Please don't kill the momma bird," I yelled.

All at once, the rifle fired. Some of the boys turned their backs and several started to cry. I looked up and into the face of Wayne Evers, who looked as though he was gonna explode.

"Get your rake, Roger," he said as he reached over and picked up his rake.

"What are we gonna do?" I asked.

"Were going to get Mr. Ball," he replied.

"But he’s got a rifle gun," I said.

"It's just a BB gun. He already fired it. It won't shoot no more," he said.

Several of the boys walked to their rakes, which were strewn about the yard, picked them up and lined up in a line with Wayne and I. Everything became totally quiet. Mr. Ball looked at us boys as we raised our leaf rakes above our heads. Slowly, he turned, cocked the BB gun and pointed it directly at us.

Wayne placed his rake on the ground and with his foot; he broke off the head leaving only the handle, which he then pointed at Mr. Ball, who was now aiming the rifle directly at Wayne's head. One at a time, the other boys broke off the heads of their rakes and joined the troop-line.

Still, there was not a sound as we stood there facing one another down.

"WHAT'S GOING ON OUT HERE!" yelled Mrs. Winters, the head matron.

She came running over because one of the boys told her that Mr. Ball had killed Billy Smith.

"These boys tried to attack me after I told them to finish raking the yard. They just do not want to mind, Mrs. Winters," Mr. Ball said.

"That's not true, Mother Winters," said one of the boys. Mr. Ball, he was shootin' birds."

"Who broke all them rakes?" she yelled.

Nobody said a word. Mrs. Winters turned around and walked back over to her office. About half an hour later, the police came and took all us boys to the Juvenile Hall and we had to go before the judge. The judge would not listen to us and we got six weeks locked up in the cage at the Juvenile Hall.

We found out later that Bill Smith was taken to the hospital, that he had only been knocked unconscious.

By the time we returned to the orphanage, that little bird had died and the ants ate everything, except the bones and some feathers. We had a funeral just like we did for all the animals that were killed while we lived in that place. At the end of the funeral all 15 of us boys made a promise that we would never kill anything, even after we grew up.

However, some months later we did attack Mr. Ball in the sewing room, and he was beaten within an inch of his life by about 20 of us. We never saw him again after that.

There is one important thing that I learned from living in that terrible orphanage. As soon as I find out what it is, I will let you all know.

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