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Clyde, Time Was: When there were consequences

Time was, we had hoodlums around. They were sure to “git ju” if you got gone or wandered over to the far side.  Certain places were off limits in town. Where did these misguided thugs originate? Were they not just like us, but had a bad bringing up? Ne’er-do-wells, that seemed to thrive on pan-handling, drinking the cheap stuff and what hippies called “creative loafing.” Scalawags were just Yankee sympathizers.

Hooligans may be named for a Patrick Hoolihan, an Irish bouncer who lived in London around 1848. What he did bad, we don’t know, but his descendants were all born “hooligans.”

A hoodlum was bad to lie, cheat and steal to get his way. In colonial times, they split your nose or cut off a finger or two for your penance. People could see you coming.

They had stocks and pillory in this town, too, but the most final and convincing punishment of all was the gallows. People came all the way from Mississippi for jurisprudence.

Hangings were carried out behind the 1855 courthouse, and prisoners and paupers alike were buried behind the wall of the Oak Grove Cemetery without a headstone. Mr. Buis, who lived on the corner, could carve you a suitable imported white marble obelisk, with his name signed at the bottom under the draped urn.

On June 25, 1895, more than 5,000 people came to town to witness the double public hanging, the last one on record, which was carried out by law, a mile and a half from the courthouse, down East Bank Street to the railroad tracks. The largest crowd ever assembled, claimed The Herald. It took 18 and a half minutes from the time the bodies dropped until “the criminals were thrown into eternity.”

A book was gotten together for sale the next day: “A Full History of the Crimes, Trial, and Conviction of Whit Ferrand and Anderson Brown.”

Some sins are unforgivable. “Impurity of the heart and life will not go unpunished,” according to Joseph Stump’s “Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism. “It is often followed by the most dreadful consequences, a ruined body, an enfeebled mind, a poisoned soul, a tortured conscience, public shame, dreadful disease and an untimely death,.”

That warning, “God’s gonna git you, if you do” carries no weight with some immature, ill-tempered, ill-bred, ill-mannered, ill-fated, insensible, incurable, incurious and inculpable youth. “Deliver us from evil,” we pray.

The most infamous bad guy of recent times in these parts, Otto Wood, met his match at 2 o’clock on Dec. 31, 1930 in front of the Yancey Building. The gun of Assistant Police Chief J.W. Kesler, one of the two lawmen who stopped Wood, is in the museum. The bullets could be seen in the wall.

Thousands lined up for days to view the riddled lifeless form of the desperado at Wright’s Funeral Home. “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Timothy 6:11).

In the South, if a group of ladies are lamenting the crimes of a certain troubled young man, listing his crimes, no matter how severe, if only one of them says “bless his little pea-picking-heart,” his sins are immediately expunged.

So, “do not err, my beloved brethren” (James 1:16). There are more chances to do good than to fall to the dark side. Be an inspiration, follow Billy Graham, a good and faithful servant. “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness.”

Don’t be hoodwinked. If you are, do as they say in the motto of the 52nd Airborne (first attributed to Pope Innocent III): “Shoot ’em all, and let God sort ’em out.”

Thanks to the Bard, “All are punished.”

Clyde is a Salisbury artist.

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