Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Life Ain't Fair

I left my office Tuesday afternoon for a 3 ½ hour drive to Montgomery, AL. That drive takes me right through my hometown of Reynolds, GA. I always have this strong urge to stop when I go through Reynolds. When I am not in a hurry, I will stop in and visit some folks. I never call ahead. I just show up.

You can do that sort of thing in places like Reynolds, GA.

But sometimes, when I am in a hurry, I just stop at a convenience store. And that is exactly what I did on Tuesday afternoon. I saw a very familiar face at the gas pump. Although it was raining, I had to get out and speak to him.

And take his picture.

When God made James Windham, He threw away the mold. I saw James from time to time the fifty or so years I lived in Reynolds but not very often. We never hung out together. I never even had a meal with him. In fact every time I think of him, my mind goes back forty something years ago when we were in elementary school. In fact all my memories of James took place within a 3 iron of where I took this picture.

In elementary school, James was a man among boys. He was held back a time or two and was older than most of the other boys in his class. But he was strong as an ox. He had real muscles and he was one bad hombre. Nobody messed with James Windham.

One afternoon M.L. Crook, the bus driver, stopped the bus before it pulled out of the school parking lot to make James get off the bus. There was no telling what James was doing on the bus but apparently it was bad enough that M.L wanted him off. James refused to get off the bus. Mr. Helms , the principal, was called to help with the situation. Mr. Helms couldn’t get him off the bus either..

Mr. Helms finally told M. L. to take James home and “please don’t bring him back.”

I could never forget the day we were in PE class and somebody came running in the gym to tell Mr. Helms that James was beating up Mr. Hogan (a teacher). We all ran out of the gym to the playground to watch the fight. James had Mr. Hogan in a bear hug and was kneeing him in the butt. And Mr. Hogan was coming up in the air with every knee.

I never saw anything like it.

James was expelled the day he beat up Mr. Hogan. He never went to school again and never finished the 8th grade.

I asked James on Tuesday if he remembered that day. His quick response and I quote, “Hell yeah I remember it. I had been out of school sick with pneumonia and had just come back to school. Mr. Hogan was trying to make me run and I told him I was not going to run.”

James then looked at me in the eye and quietly said, “I didn’t run.”

I smiled.

But I noticed James didn’t smile.

Interestingly, I remember the fight and the expulsion well but I never knew the rest of the story.

James fought his way through life as a young boy. When my response to the running would have probably been, “please call my parents or let me get a doctor's excuse,” James’ response was to go nose to nose with the teacher and refuse to run. Mr. Hogan probably had no idea that James had been sick with pneumonia.

And he certainly didn't know James was about to kick his butt.

The truth is - James' response was the only response he knew.

As a result, James never got an education and has had more than a few struggles in life.

When I was a kid, I was scared to death of him.

Yesterday, as a grown man, I looked into the somewhat empty eyes of a 57 year old man and wondered what he could have become if he had the opportunities I had.

Life ain’t fair.

But God never promised it would be.


Anonymous said...

Hey Bruce the man u saw in Reynolds the other day is my uncle James Windham yeah I came from that family my mother was Audrey Windham his older sister. One time I saw that strong man cry because his sister was in the hospital from a heart attack I know it's hard to imagine the man u talk about crying.And yes i do believe life wasn't fair to my family.

Anonymous said...


James worked for my dad for 10 years or so and yes he was a "bull in a china shop" but I remember that his integrity, honesty and work ethic was never in question. He was very good at what he did and never complained about his job. To this day I always smile when I see or hear about James.

Great Blog,

Ed Guinn