Orphan Survival Stories Index |
A HOME OF YOUR OWN
The six of us sat closely together in our army fort, a six-foot by six-foot square, five feet deep, hole, which had been dug out in the ground. We had then covered the large hole with old wooden boards, cardboard, strips of tin, and then dirt and leaves to hide it from view.
I heard Wayne Evers rolling up pieces of old newspaper, which we would light so we could see one another. After the newspaper was lit, we added leaves and pine straw to make a small fire in the center of the fort.
"I'm gonna miss everyone," said Donald as he began to cry.
Not one of us said a word. We just sat looking at Donald as he continued to cry. His little hands covered his face and he rested his head down on his knees.
"You'll have your own room now and you'll have lots of toys. Maybe even a dog," I said.
Still he cried and cried.
I looked back and forth at each and every one of the boys. I could see that not one of them had a happy look about them. Donald was the youngest of the group. Being 11, I think I was the next to the oldest. Not very often, but once in a while, one of the boys would be adopted or returned to their own family. Five-year-old Donald was being adopted by a family who owned a small ranch near Ocala.
"But I don't want to go. I don't wanna leave here. All my friends are here. You all are my friends," said Donald, still crying.
Still, none of us said a word. We just sat quietly as Wayne kept the fire going with small pinecones, which we kept stacked in the corner of the fort. Several of the boys began to rock back and forth. Rocking back and forth had become commonplace in the orphanage. It was not unusual to walk down the hallway of our dormitory and see five or six children sitting on the side of their bed just rocking back and forth for hours.
"They got any other kids?" I asked.
"They got two boys. I met them when they called me to the office," Donald said.
"They ain't gonna do noth'n, but make you do all the work. That's what I hear they make you do," said Billy Stroud.
"Shut up. They ain't gonna make him do no work. They gonna treat him real good like," said Wayne.
"You think they will?" asked Donald.
"Sure they will. They picked you 'cause you’re special," Wayne added.
"I'm special?" Donald questioned.
"Sure you are. They didn't pick none of us, did they?" said Wayne.
"I'm special too. I been here five years and ain't nobody ever picked me yet," I said.
"That's cause you got big Dumbo ears. Ain't nobody ever gonna pick you," said Billy.
"You better shut up!" I yelled as I threw a pinecone, which hit him in the neck.
"Well it's true," he said again.
The next day, Donald left the orphanage and we never saw him again after that.
Throughout the years, I tried to stay in contact with as many of the boys as I possibly could. I had always wondered what happen to Donald. In 1992, I ran into Eddie Gillman. He was one of the six of us who were in the fort that day. He told me that he had run into Donald, six to eight months back. He said Donald did in fact have to work the ranch for almost 16 years. His brothers were sent on to college where they earned their degrees in engineering. When his parents died, in their will they left the 40-acre ranch to their own two sons. They in turn sold the ranch to a housing developer. Donald was given absolutely nothing. Don returned to Jacksonville, Florida in early 1990 and frequented a bar where Eddie's sister was the manager. Eddie told me that the last time he saw Donald, he was working as a janitor and living out of an old Ford Econoline Van.