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LABELLED



"Billy Smith, you get your queer little ass over here right this minute!" said Mr. Ball as he shook the leaf rake in his right hand.

I watched as little Billy ran over to Mr. Ball as fast as he could. He picked up the rake, which had now been thrown to the ground.

"You rake this entire section and don't you stop, until it is all done. Do you understand me queer boy?" said the stocky built man.

Mr. Ball had been assigned to look after our dormitory at the orphanage. We had many matrons at the home, but none as mean as Mr. Ball. We kids were use to being called names like "bastards," "son-of-a-bitch" and many other names, but the word "queer" was quite a new term to many of us.

"Don't just stand there. Pick it up, queer boy," he would holler at Billy as he poked him on the shoulder.

Billy said not a word. He just began raking the pine straw as fast as he could.

"What's a queer?" asked Frankie.

"I think Eugene said it was a man who likes to kiss on boys," said Wayne.

"Billy ain't never kissed on no boys, so he can't be no queer," said another boy in our group.

"MR BALL! HOW COME BILLY'S A QUEER?" asked Wayne Evers.

"You perverts don't know what a queer is?" said Mr. Ball.

"No sir, Mr. Ball, sir, said Wayne.

"A queer likes to lay with men rather than with women," he said.

"Billy ain't never laid with no men," said one of the boys.

"Not yet he ain't," said the man as he stood leaning on the rake handle.

Billy began to cry as everyone stood staring at him.

"Does he mean he does it with men," I asked Wayne.

"I don't know," he replied.

"I can spot a queer from five miles away. I can tell by the way they talk, by the way they walk and by the way they move their hands. This boy's a genuine queer, if I've ever seen one," Mr. Ball said.

All at once, Mr. Ball hit little Billy across his back with the rake handle as hard as he could.

"I said speed it up, queer boy!" he yelled.

Billy fell to the ground and screamed as loud as he could. Each of us boys just stood too afraid to say anything.

For several years, Mr. Ball put we kids through nothing but pure hell. It all ended one Saturday morning when we lined up at the clothing room door to get our weekly beating for any infractions, which we might have committed during the week. Little Billy Smith was the first in line to get a beating. Just as it started, 15 of us boys crashed through the door and began to beat Mr. Ball unmercifully. He was carried to the local hospital and never returned to the orphanage after that incident. It is a miracle that we did not accidentally kill him.

In 1991, I gathered together about 15 of the former orphans from our home. I had hoped to find Billy and his sister. I always thought that Elaine, Billy's sister, was one of the prettiest girls at the orphanage, but they could not be found. However, I did run into one of the girls, who now sells life insurance. She told me that she ran into Bill Smith many years back, while attending a high school reunion in Jacksonville, Florida. She told me that Billy was a very nice looking gentleman, that he had a wife and three children and that in his day, he was quite the ladies man.



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