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All we orphans kids were lined up at the sewing room door. It was another Saturday morning and anyone who had misbehaved lined up outside the sewing room to receive their punishment. We were made to lie across the sewing table and then beaten severely with a leather strap.

When I use the term beaten, I really mean BEATEN. In most cases, bloodcurdling sounds came from each child. The screams were so intense that the next boy in line would be ‘scared out of his wits’ when he entered the sewing room door. I will never forget the fear that we orphan boys felt each Saturday morning of our lives for almost 10 years.

"One day, he is going to kill one of us," said one of the boys in line.

Nobody had nerve enough to respond to his statement, not even I.

"NEXT!" hollered Mr. Ball opening the door.

All eyes were upon the boy who was now leaving the sewing room.

"I didn't do nothing wrong," said Bill Smith.

"I don't give a rats ass if you did or not. Get in here!" yelled the house parent pointing at him.

The door closed and there was a moment of silence. The first lick with the leather strap came down on Billy and it came down hard.

"I didn't do nothing! I didn't do nothing!” he kept yelling.

However, that made no difference to Mr. Ball. He just kept on beating him. When the beatings were over, we returned to our bedroom, until it was time for us to rake the leaves and pine straw. At around noon, we all walked to the shed, took out rakes and began work on the large yard.

"We got to get out of here, before he kills us all," said Wayne Evers.

"They won't kill us. They would go to jail for murder and stuff," I said to the group.

Most of us boys were 7 or 8 years old at that time. I do not think there has ever been a time in my life when I felt so helpless and defenseless as during that time in the orphanage.

Late that night, five or six of us packed what clothes we could find. Then off we headed; we were going to find us another home to live in. After walking around for hours trying to find an abandoned house, we finally gave up and walked back to the orphanage gates.

"There is a hole underneath the school building where we could live on our own," said one of the boys.

We boys started walking toward Spring Park Elementary School, which was right next door to the orphanage. Sure enough, there was a crawl space located in the red brick foundation that led under the building. One at a time, we entered the hole and found it to be quite spacious. We had to crawl on our hands and knees to get around. It was sandy, it was warm, it was ours and that was all that mattered to us.

This was going to be our new home. For the first time in our lives, we were free. There was no one to beat on us or tell us what to do. There were no leaves to rake or toilets to clean. That was a wonderful, wonderful feeling, even though it would be short lived.

During the course of the night, we gathered wood for a fire. We used two-by-four studs and old, rusty wire to make beds for sleeping, and old apple crates to make dressers. Around 3 o'clock in the morning our house was complete.

"Anyone want a smoke?" asked Wayne.

Each of us took a small piece of dried grape vine and lit up. There was a cough here and there, but overall it went well. Every boy from the orphanage had already learned to smoke by the age of 8. We sat around the small fire smoking and looking at our handy work.

We called our first meeting to order and decided to sneak back over to the orphanage. We needed to gather up several loads of pine straw to use as mattresses. When that was finished, we just sat around looking at our handy work. There were dressers, beds and several bows and arrows, which might be necessary for our protection. We continued to talk with each other, wondering if there was anything else we might possibly need to make our home complete. No one could come up with any additional ideas, whatsoever.

"I guess this is it. We have everything we need for a real home," I told the group.

"There is one more thing that we are going to need," said one of the boys.

"And what is that?" asked Wayne.

"Since we have our own house, I guess we’re ready for a dog," said Billy Smith.

Every one of us boys just sat there totally dumbfounded, our eyes as big as saucers. Each had a blank look on his face. We had created something we were not prepared to handle.

It is really a shame when five or six young boys decide to build a home for themselves and not one of them realizes a woman plays a very important role in the making of a home. Having a ‘mother’ in our lives never even entered our heads.

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