1967 Early Years~First Memory
My name is Jimmy Maxwell, I was born to twenty year old Barbara Meyer the 17th day of October 1963. Mom was a well raised Christian girl, who fell in love with my dad, a twenty-one year old oilfield worker, ex-all-state football player, turned drunken bar room brawler. A pretty successful one I might add — named Jimmy Don Maxwell.
Of course, I don’t know a lot about the early years and I have no idea why my mother divorced him not long after they were married. All I do know, is my father went off to Vietnam and some time around when I was three, my mother married another man named Charlie Henson. He turned out to be a mean man who didn’t seem to like me very much.
My earliest memory; I was no more than four, just tall enough to stand in the front seat of my stepfather’s parents’ old, but well cared-for, Chevy Impala and look out over it through the back window. It was early evening and the overcast sky was grey as slate, making my memories appear in black and white, or maybe, it’s just the passage of time that white-washes our distant past. Regardless, I can see it as clearly in my mind as if it was a faded film on a projector reel. I knew my dad’s car and remember telling my mom who was in the back seat with my stepfather’s mother, that I saw it behind us. They looked through the dust coated rear windshield. My mother, suddenly fearful, told me it wasn’t his… to, “Turn around and sit down.” I was sitting between my stepfather and his father who was driving. Their nervous attention to what was going on behind us, making me only more curious.
We were headed to the Methodist Church on the northeast side of Guymon, USA. A quiet, little town in the panhandle of Oklahoma, which still sparks nostalgic memories of it’s cobbled, red brick Main Street and annual Pioneer Day Parade, of snowy winters at my mother’s parents, my Me-ma and Granddaddy’s home, with it’s big bay window and cozy fireplace, of horses, and cattle out on my grandfathers ranch he called the “Ponderosa.”
Anyway, my mom must have convinced me it wasn’t my father’s car, because I settled down and rode quietly the rest of the way to the church. When we arrived and pulled up to the curb, I had all but forgotten the worried tension my earlier observation had caused in the inhabitants of our vehicle. However, no sooner had my stepfather started getting out of the car, with me following close behind, than my real father was there at the door pounding him down in the church lawn until he was unconscious.
I was knocked back into the doorjamb. When my dad realized it, he let go of Charlie and gently picked me up and put me back in the seat. He was a big dark-headed man and I remember the rough looking whisker stubble on his face as he asked if I was alright; at the same time, looking me over to see if there was anything visibly wrong. I can still recall thinking my dad really loved me, even through the whiskey smell on his breath.
Later in church, I peered over at my stepfather and could see grass and twigs still in his hair. He looked at me while everyone was singing “Amazing Grace” with a menacing glare, and I knew, that somehow I was to blame for his humiliation.
I found out years later, I in–fact was the reason behind my fathers vicious attack. Apparently, the scar I’ve carried on my upper lip since before I can remember had come from one of Charlie’s unchecked fits of anger. My grandmother called my real father, who was on leave, in to do something about it, with me being completely oblivious of it at the time. What I was aware of, was that my dad, though he loved me enough to beat up my stepfather for his abuse of me, did not love me enough to take me away from it. Instead, it was more as if he stoked the furnace of my step-dad’s anger and resentment towards me, then left me to burn in the flames. Because from the point of my first memory on, the one thing I was sure of, was that Charlie hated me…
American Kidd coming soon!