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THE UNSPOKEN "CODE"



"As soon as they turn out the lights, we'll steal some fruit off their trees," said Wayne Evers.

We kids from the orphanage lay quietly in the bushes. We waited what seemed to be hours for the house lights to go off.

It was around eleven o'clock in the evening and there was somewhat of a chill in the air that night. We had run away from the Children's Home Society Orphanage, and the police had been looking for us nearly three days. We were hungry, we were scared, and we were cold.

Everyone became quiet when a man walked out and shut the garage door. Then the lights inside went out.

"Hey, that looks like the strange man who bought us the hamburgers down at the Krystal yesterday," I whispered to the other boys.

"It sure looked like him," said Wayne.

"It ain't right to steal from someone who’s been good to you," said Billy Smith.

"Shut up," said Bill Stroud. "I'm hungry. Let's go and get the damn fruit.”

Slowly, through the shadows, we made our way across the street and around the side of his house where the fruit trees were located.

We stood there for several minutes looking at each other, waiting to see who would be first to reach up and steal an orange or a pear from the tree. No one made the first move.

"So he bought us a darn hamburger, big deal," said Billy.

"Then you pick the fruit first," said Wayne. He turned around and started walking back toward the street.

The rest of us followed Wayne back into the dark street. As we walked along, we heard Billy running up behind us. As we stopped to wait on him, he ran up holding five or six oranges in his arms.

"Here," he said, as he held out a large orange.

"I'm hungry but I don't want any," I told him.

"Me neither," said one of the other boys.

The four of us turned and started walking toward the old abandoned "Spanish House," where we always hung out when we ran away.

"Wait. Wait right there," hollered Billy, as he turned around and headed back toward the house with the fruit trees. Several minutes later he returned without any fruit.

"I put the oranges underneath the tree in a pile," he said.

Wayne reached over and patted Billy on the shoulder.

"I'm hungry," said Wayne. "Let’s go and check the garbage cans behind the old church."

Off we went into the night searching for food.

The point of this story is that we, being nine, ten and eleven-year-old kids, had no one to give us any direction in our lives. We knew the difference between right and wrong. However, when you are hungry and your stomach hurts, you will do almost anything to satisfy that hunger.

We kids were strictly on our own as far as learning and teaching were concerned. We were like a pack of hungry, wild dogs, running up and down the streets of Jacksonville, Florida. Many of the kids grew up and were sent to prison. I do not think any of us ever hurt or stole anything from anyone that had shown kindness toward us.

For some reason, that seemed to become our "code." Something that we believed in, honored, and continued to live by even after we became adults. I can honestly say that was the only "pride" and "honor" I ever felt as a child. I have often wondered where such a feeling came from.

We kids may have been "evil little bastards,” with each of us lacking in love and spirit. However, we as "little criminals," had our own special way of showing certain people that we loved them for being good to us.



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