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Everyday faces and occasional ‘icons’

During my years at Granite Quarry School and East Rowan Senior High, I would encounter the same people every day. At Granite, of course, the faces rotated yearly, and at East, overall yearly, but as each day was concerned, hourly.

At Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church, we saw the same people every Sunday, not by assignment, but by belief. We hoped through our belief that on some future day we would all be “assigned” to one place where we would be together again. Having been previously conditioned by life for only facial recognition, we knew that after that blessed day, each would recognize the other by his “essence,” or soul.

Outside of school and church, our meetings with people on the streets of Salisbury were through chance, not like school or church.

When walking in downtown Salisbury during my earlier years, I saw a great cross section of people, always in flux, but here and there, a few of the same. The word “iconic” has long entered into a state of overuse, but here I will “beat a dead grammatical horse” even further by using it again over the next several paragraphs.

I will use it first by saying that the sight of Buck Lineberry riding his bicycle in Salisbury back then was “iconic,” sort of.

Buck Lineberry was ahead of his time, a time in which there was no space set aside on the edge of the street by marked lines designating a strip of asphalt for the cyclist. Here in Danville, such markings were put in place several years ago; but evidently, I must feel that they are not of sufficient width, for whenever a biker is to my right, I edge my car even more (but not dangerously so) toward the middle of the road.

I never met Salisbury’s most famous downtown icon, Lord Salisbury. Our timelines share only parts of the months of March and April, 1951. (I was born that March; he died that April.)

In my high school years, I would sometimes run into another true Salisbury icon when walking Salisbury streets: Clint Cheney. His mother Helen, of course, wrote wonderfully for the Salisbury Post for a good many years. In those days, she was one of the “icons” of the Post, along with Rose Post, George Raynor and James S. Brawley.

Clint was always friendly, in constant possession of a smile, and always sported his cap. He was a true icon of those years, and that cap was a trademark of an icon.

As a senior at East Rowan in October of 1968, I was shocked when I opened the Post and read of the foul murder of so good a soul as Clint Cheney.

Clint liked to carry a thick roll of one-dollar bills around, and would pull it out to pay at an eatery, indulging a little innocent pleasure of making an impression of wealth upon any bystanders.

Unfortunately, in that final place wherein Clint pulled out his money, he impressed some men so much that they decided to lure him away and murder him for it. They didn’t know, beforehand, that his roll of bills only consisted of many multiples of a famous portrait of the “Father of Our Country.”

Insult was added to that greatest of all injuries, when those men placed Clint’s body in the shallowest of graves.

Just as I prefer to remember relatives and friends from life, I do the same with Clint. Despite my later memory of reading the details of his murder, burial, and his grave’s discovery, my mind always jumps back to an earlier time when I last saw him smiling and walking on a Salisbury street.

Not long ago, in a cashier’s line at a nearby Food Lion, I pulled out a roll of dollar bills which had accumulated over time, due to the giving back of change. When I did so, I thought of Clint, and hoped that no one around me was making incorrect surmises as to the state of my wealth, and possibly correct inferences as to how easily I might be done away with.

He never harmed anyone, and if those men had not made Clint’s earthly future impossible, I’m sure that future would have been a continuing reflection of his good-natured past.

In closing this article, I call your attention to my statement of a few paragraphs back: “The foul murder of so good a soul as Clint Cheney.”

That murder truly was a foul one, but it was Clint Cheney’s body that was slain, not his soul.

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