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Mike Sapp





I guess I was about twelve years old when I ran away the 1st time. I just jumped on a freight train and went to sleep. When the train stopped, I got off. I ran away several times before my mother, who was now living in Ft. Parker, replies to a court request that she will now let me live with her. She has a house on Metzger Road and she is married.

So I move to Ft. Parker and immediately start running wild. Mom works as a waitress at Southland Cafeteria on US1. So we don't see much of each other. It don't take me long to get into trouble with my new found freedom. I'm caught shop lifting. I think my Mom realizes right along here that she can't handle me.

So in 1960 the judge sends me to Okeechobee Boys School because I'm uncontrollable. I broke my wrist one night playing “steal the bacon” and could not work at my regular job in the dairy because my job was to hook up the milking machines on the cows. So I'm only at the there about three months when one day I rode into town with staff to pick up the mail and he left the keys in the car and as soon as he was out of sight I fired that mother up and took off. I was barreling East bound on Hwy. 70 and wham, out of nowhere a St. Lucia County Sheriff car intercepts me, whips around and t he chase was on. Even at the early age of thirteen year s old I wanted to go down fighting.

I lost control on a sharp curve, ran off the road and slammed into the windshield, cutting my forehead severely. But I'm still game enough to climb out of the car, blood pouring down my face, and try to run towards the woods. Lonnie scooped me up like a rag doll and drove me to the Ft. Parker Memorial Hospital. I returned to to the county jail, after being stitched up, and was held in jail until I could be transferred to Florida School for Boys at Marianna. I went to the White House several times while there for a year and Mr. Haddock whipped my ass with that big leather strap until blood ran out the splits in the skin. I remember a kid named Daniels who got beat almost every week. I remember those days, I was in Pierce Cottage when I was released on June 6th, 1962. I remember swimming in the big pool and learning how to do kips on the gym bar. I was on the boxing team and went to school in the old wooden school house. All the little bad asses were sent there. I was in reform school for a total of eighteen months.

Authors' Childhood

I open my eyes but it's still dark. Where am I? I slowly feel around with my hands until I locate four walls. I'm in some kind of small room. I see a crack under the door. And all of a sudden there's a big dog at the door. He sniffs and growls a little bit as I jump back knocking some clothes off a shelf. I stay very still. I'm trying not to cry but I'm really scared.

How did I get here? Where was I? Where's my momma? The dog moved away and I stayed huddled in the corner. I seem to remember my daddy taking me away from mommy's last night. I'm starting to remember some details. I remember them shouting, arguing and I think I remember daddy slapping mommy. Maybe if I go back to sleep, when I wake up, I'll be back at mommies. I drift off. This is my 1st child hood memory, being kidnapped by my daddy. And the divorce that followed. And then I was abandoned by my mother, with my brother and my sister. We were given away, to my mother's older sister and her husband. We called them Aunt Polly and Uncle Marion.

I guess I inherited meanness from my daddy's side of the family. My daddy was a mean man when provoked. When he drank too much he'd get uncontrollable and look for trouble. He got a dishonorable discharge from the Navy for being too undisciplined. My mother was not a one man woman. She did like to play around while daddy was out on the shrimp boat. She was very pretty and sassy with a dash of class. But she was always a country girl, raised on a farm in Lawtey. My daddy was from there too. I only saw a few of his side of the family, so I only really remember Mommy Avie, daddy's mother. But her husband, Daddy Arthur, was not my real father. It gets complicated.

But Aunt Polly and Uncle Marion raised us just like we were their own. They loved us, provided for us, put a roof over us and taught us to love the Lord Jesus. They had a particular way of not sparing the rod and spoiling the child. It would no doubt be called child abuse today but in those days the government didn't tell folks how to raise their kids. Aunt Polly most of the time dished out the punishment. I know I caught the most of it because I was the oldest, the instigator and usually the culprit. I did so many terrible things when I was a kid. For example I set the house on fire one morning just as we left to go to school. It burned to the ground but everybody forgot my bad report card.

And hell yea I learned what work meant at an early age. I milked two cows every morning and evening from the time I was around seven years old until I ran away at age twelve. And I pulled dog fennels almost every day after school.

Uncle Marion had ten acres, most of it was used for cow pasture. Dog fennels were a tall weed that the cows would eat and make the mike stink and taste bad.

I remember those days. Plus I did other mean ass shit too. I was always getting a whipping. I remember it well. Aunt Polly made me go cut my own switch and it better not be too little. I did not want her to go get one. She'd grab me by the hand because she knew there was going to be some dancing around the mulberry tree with me trying to out run every lick, screaming at the top of my lungs like I was dying. Yep I had my share of whippings.

Poor old Uncle Marion. It hurt him worse to whip me than it did me. He'd always take me back towards the back of the pasture and give me a good talking to then say, “Now BiL you know I'm going to have to whip you. I don't want to but this is what the Bible says for me to do.” He was only called when major catastrophic events happened like when I was about ten years old. I broke into our neighbors’ house. It was unlocked I just went in and took some money. Yep, Uncle Marion “tanned my hide” as he called it.

I guess I was about twelve years old when I ran away the 1st time. I just jumped on a freight train and went to sleep. When the train stopped, I got off. I ran away several times before my mother, who was now living in Ft. Parker, replies to a court request that she will now let me live with her. She has a house on Metzger Road and she is married.

So I move to Ft. Parker and immediately start running wild. Mom works as a waitress at Southland Cafeteria on US1. So we don't see much of each other. It don't take me long to get into trouble with my new found freedom. I'm caught shop lifting. I think my Mom realizes right along here that she can't handle me.

So in 1960 the judge sends me to Okeechobee Boys School because I'm uncontrollable. After a couple of months I broke my wrist one night playing “steal the bacon” and could not work at my regular job in the dairy. My job was to hook up the milking machines on the cows. So I'm there about three months when one day I rode into town with staff to pick up the mail. He left the keys in the car while he went into the post office and as soon as he was out of sight I fired that mother up and took off. I was barreling East bound on Hwy. 70 and wham, out of nowhere a St. Lucia County Sheriff car intercepts me, whips around and the chase was on. Even at the early age of thirteen years old I wanted to go down fighting.

I lost control on a sharp curve, ran off the road and slammed into the windshield, cutting my forehead severely. But I'm still game enough to climb out of the car, blood pouring down my face, and try to run towards the woods. Lonnie scooped me up like a rag doll and drove me to the Ft. Parker Memorial Hospital.

I returned to to the county jail, after being stitched up, and was held in jail until I could be transferred to Florida School for Boys at Marianna . As soon as I got to Marianna I met Mr. Hatton. He was tall and skinny and looked like death eating a soda cracker. I remember how cold and distant his eyes appeared. I had my first whipping that day. I had no idea what was fixing to happen. He walked me from the Administration building to the back of the property to this white concrete building and as we went inside I was told to sit on the cot and wait. In a few minutes he returned with a leather strap and motioned me to follow him. I went into another room with another bed. He told me to lay on my stomach, bite the pillow, don't cry or holler or the whipping would start all over. And to not look at him. I remember he turned on a loud noisy fan and next I remember is hearing a scrapping sound and then an explosion like a gun shot as the pain from the first lick penetrated my body. I can only describe it as something like fire was set to my ass and the pain made me hate him from the very first lick.. I did not holler or turn loose of the bed rails as the beating continued. I have no idea how many times he hit me because it all faded into a trance like state where it just seemed unreal, as if it was only a dream. After what seemed like an eternity to a fourteen year old kid I remember he told me to get up. The next thing I recall is being in the shower at Pierce Hall with Mr. White telling me to make sure I pulled the pieces of my pants out of the wounds before I put the medicine on them. I later remember smelling the stench of the rotting meat on my ass as it healed. It smelled like something dead. I ended up going to the White House several times while there for a year and Mr. Haddock whipped my ass with that big leather strap until blood ran out the splits in the skin ever time. Mr. Tidwell, the guy with one arm was always with him but Hatton was the person that beat me every time.. I remember those days, I was still in Pierce Cottage when I was released on June 6th, 1962. I remember swimming in the big pool and learning how to do kips on the gym bar. I was on the boxing team and went to school in the old wooden school house. All the little bad asses were sent there. I was in reform school for a total of eighteen months.