Saturday, April 11, 2009

(Part 2) St. Johns High School


I watched my brother get beaten in a fight in front of the entire student body of St. Johns High School. We'd played at a school assembly a couple of months earlier, for the first time, and the attitude toward us from then on was completely different. A lot of people liked it, but a lot of them hated our guts for becoming the center of attention. Some of the top guys in school now had to worry whether their girl friends had a new interest in us. Hell, we were like mini stars of a piss ant town and some of them were down right threatened by it, hence the fight.

It was just a matter of time before it happened and it happened at the school dance. My brother, who was a good fighter, got sucker punched by a football player and never had a chance. The Mormon principle of the school stood by and watched the whole thing happen and did nothing. I was beside myself screaming at him to stop it, but to no avail. The Indian kids knew what was going on, they'd seen that kind of shit all their lives. In the end it was them who picked my brother up off the ground and tried to clean him up. It was a beating, not a fight. It was a goddamned beating!

After that my brother just deteriorated mentally. Something inside him gave up and not too much later he ended up in the state mental hospital and was never the same. I vowed that from that day on no one would ever do that to me. It created a will in me that to this day I still possess. It has caused me great difficulty.

My mother moved to Mesa, the third biggest Mormon city in Arizona, to be closer to the state hospital in Phoenix where my brother Bill was. That is when she actually married Francis Farr, the Mormon in a wheel chair. That is where I learned to work like a Mexican field hand loading hay trucks in and around Phoenix in the summer when it was 120 degrees. He rarely paid me, but worked me like a dog. 18 tons of alfalfa a day. I worked with Indians, Mexicans, and poor whites. I gained their respect even though they knew I was the boss's son, because I worked harder than any of them, I had to. We unloaded box cars at night, because it was too hot to work inside them in the daytime.

I tried to prove myself to this asshole, but I never could. He made promises to me to get me to work, but he never kept one. Finally one afternoon I flipped out and blasted him with the rankest kind of language I could think up. I was 15 years old, going on 16, and had had enough. I told him I would never work for him again and from that day forward I never did.

For the next couple of years I got into trouble. I got thrown out of every school I went to and basically became a pain in the ass. It was because of this time that music, the only thing I really loved, began to appear as my only possible chance to escape the depressing conditions of my life. My mother's marriages and my brother's mental illness had taken their toll on me and at times I thought about killing myself to get away from the stark disappointment of my existence. But somehow I always managed to find a reason to keep going. I just kept thinking that music had the power to get me out of this mess. If I could just make a record, people might like it and I'd make some money and change my life.

                  artwork by bill jameson 1959 st. johns, az high school newspaper

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