Monday, August 25, 2014

Donnie: The Son of Wild Horses

My classmate Donnie lived on the east side of town in a house that is best described as a shack among a yard full of junk than someplace one might call his home. His parents were more interested in buying booze and cigarettes than holding jobs or raising children. Donnie and his two brothers always came to school wearing dirty clothes full of holes or thread bare and way too small for them. I remember Donnie being so excited when he came to school in the first throes of winters with new shoes that were the cheapest ones sold in the store. When we came back to school after summer vacation though, the toes were always cut off the shoes so that he could continue wearing them to school until it got cold and his parents finally broke down and bought him another pair of new shoes.

Despite the poverty he was brought up in, we all liked Donnie and got along well with him. He grew up tough surviving the abuse of his drunken parents and largely having to survive on his own and secretly I admired that toughness. When Donnie wasn't around though, conversation would soon turn to his father Wild Horses who we knew to be crazy. Wild Horses got his name because one day while in a drunken stupor, he got the notion that he was going to break a wild horse using a running chainsaw without the chain on it. I never saw any horses at Donnie's house and it didn't even have a barn or a fenced in area for them so looking back through wiser eyes, I suspect that tale to probably be fiction but at the time it was the gospel truth. The drunk part is definitely true though because years later, I would still see Wild Horses from time to time driving his lawnmower out to the truckstop on the highway outside of town in the morning to buy a quart of booze for the day's consumption. He had long ago lost his license to drive due to alcohol and eventually alcohol took his life with his liver.

I don't remember what grade we were in when Donnie left but it was probably between 6th and 8th grade. Someday I will have to dig out my old school picture annuals and see for sure but that range is close enough for now. Without explanation, he just up and disappeared for a couple weeks and none of us kids or the teachers knew why. After two weeks Donnie came back to school for just a few hours and told us the reason and then the police showed up and took him away from school and from his parents. I never saw Donnie again.

Donnie said he had taken one beating too much from his drunken father. He had grabbed his father's shotgun, pointed it at his face and pulled the trigger with every intention of killing him but it had been unloaded. Knowing that staying around at this point would probably mean his death, he took off and did what he thought was his only choice. He committed a crime that would put him in jail and keep him safely away from his father. His crime of choice was to steal a car and take it for a joy ride.

Donnie said he had stolen a car that he found in town with the keys in the ignition which was pretty much all of them back in the day. He drove it around for awhile until it got reported stolen to the local law authorities and they went out searching for it. In a town of just 400 residents and a handful of streets, it didn't take authorities long to find Donnie and the stolen car. Donnie said he didn't think stealing a car would probably be enough to go to jail so he stomped on the gas and led the police on a four county chase. Donnie said things were going pretty good for him until he made the mistake of cutting through a parking lot somewhere and getting boxed in. He said it was the most fun thing he had ever done in his life putting the car in forward and reverse and ramming every car in sight trying to break free. Eventually though the motor on his car quit and after wrecking a dozen police and civilian cars, he was pulled from it and arrested. Today he probably would have been shot with no questions asked.

He sat in jail for awhile but being a minor he was released. He ended up back home where he was beat by a father who had time enough to cool down enough not to kill him. Fortunately for Donnie though his stunt had finally got the wheels in motion so by the time Donnie had healed up enough to go back to school, the police came to take him away and put him into foster care with his older brother. The oldest one was old enough at that point to just leave on his own. I never saw Donnie again but I still think of his car chase, the parking lot bumper cars and the most fun Donnie ever had. I recently discovered that he lives less than a mile from me down closer to the river.


edifice rex said...

I grew up with some kids just about in exactly the same situation. I have often wondered how many turned out as well as they did, considering.

Anonymous said...

I'll bet you something else occurred with him. Something very bad.
When kids go off the rails, especially when it's expected, something has happened. Kids like that have a belief in the humanity of others, disproportionately, and against all the evidence of their experience. They become targets for rancid muck and dirt. But the local society only sees what they expect to see.

Ed said...

Edifice Rex - It was like a slow motion train wreck.

Vince - Of that I have no doubt. I'm fairly certain he was abused by his father. He would often disappear from school for days on end and come back beat to bloody hell. He always 'fell' off something to receive the injury.

sage said...

I hope he is doing well today. I think of some kids I know from similar situations. Two brothers in particular, who hit up a number of banks and eventually were caught.