Accessed through a door under the stairs was the root cellar. Inside the cellar door on the left was a section of wall without any shelves. Five feet off the cellar floor, two rounded wooden posts were embedded in the wall eighteen inches apart. My father had made me cut the posts from branches of a cedar tree, and then shave the bark off of them. Then as he read scripture and prayed, I carved and rounded the ends of the posts to fit my small young hands. This was what my father referred to as my redemption wall.
Each day he would instruct me to go there and wait for him. I was to remove my shirt and drop my trousers to my ankles. I was to face the wall and not look at him when he came in and closed the door. I was told to pray that the devil would release my soul, and as I did, he would take the thick razor strop that hung on the door and proceed to flay the skin off my body. All in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Fleeing the Wrath
The troopers pulled up to father’s house, and he came out front as one of them held my arm, and the other carried my bag. Father thanked them and told me to get into the house. I took my bag and went inside where my mother was sitting dabbing her eyes at the dinner table. She didn’t say a word to me.
I just stood in the entryway until father came in, and right off, he full punched me on the side of the head and knocked me to the ground. My mother started to wail, as I tried to get to my feet, head spinning from the punch. I got to my knees, just as my dear father kicked me hard with his boot, and down I went again! It took my breath away that time, and I just stayed down trying to get a full breath. Finally, when I could breathe, I found my feet, expecting another punch or kick.
But father just said, “You get down to the cellar and wait for me. We’re going to have a good session at the redemption wall tonight! Then tomorrow, we’re going to go to church, and finally rid you of the Devil within you, and we won’t leave church till he’s gone from you for good! But right now, your mother and I have to pay a visit to Mr. Turnbull. He called me all upset and told me he has some terrible news, so your mother and I are going to go pray with him, and find out what’s bothering him.
Now, get on down to the cellar, boy!”
I walked around him and went downstairs to the cellar, but I left the door open enough to hear what was happening upstairs. Hearing father and mother gathering up their bibles and leave, I waited a few minutes, and quietly, to not alert Matthew or Ruth, crept up the stairs. I looked outside and saw the car was gone.
My bag was still lying on the floor by the door, and I grabbed it and went back downstairs and outside, jumped off the deck, running hard for the woods. Going as fast as I could downhill without falling, I made it through the trees to the bottom of the hill. As I jumped over the fence and ran across Mill Road, I heard the logging trains horn blowing as it approached the crossing at Mohawk Road. Running up the dirt bank of the old log pond and into the brush on the north end of the pond, I stayed inside the brush cover as I approached the train tracks. The train always slowed for the crossing, then would slowly pick up speed, for the final run into the pulpwood plant and sawmill in Springfield.
Lying flat on the ground, I hoped the train engineer and crew wouldn’t glance down as they rolled past me. It was a long train that day, fully loaded with good Oregon timber, it gradually moved down the track by me, as I eased out of the brush, and over close to the moving log train, as it picked up speed. Glancing to my left, I could see the end of the train approaching, and the caboose, the last car, coming towards me.
I started jogging along the tracks glancing backward and gauging the speed as the caboose came up on my shoulder. Seeing the caboose steps, I pitched my duffle up onto the top step and grabbed the handrail and pulled myself aboard. Out of breath, and shaking more than a little, I sat next to my bag on the top step and rode that old logging train into the mill yard at Springfield. It was a late Saturday evening, and the yard and plant would be shut down till Monday. As the train slowed to a stop, I shouldered my bag and stepped off.
Now, I just needed to get far enough away so that my father could never find me again, cause, if he did, I’d surely die!