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170605 June 5, 2017


The Battle of the Pipes
Rainer Klauss
LHS '64

To Jim and Bob Pierce

    A few years after my neighborhood, Darwin Downs, was built, the city saw the need to install storm sewers throughout the subdivision. At a site closest to my house, in an empty lot at the bottom of the long hill coming down Bide-A-Wee, work crews had trucked in concrete pipes that were about 3’ by 5’ and dug a trench down to the Big Ditch, the most logical dump for the run-off.

    One winter afternoon (I think I was in the fifth grade at Rison, Mrs. Pullen’s room) at the beginning of this project, several friends and I gathered at the site.  We had been there for awhile, climbing up on the pipes, trying to roll them, jumping around on them, leaping into and across the trench-- just having a big time when intruders appeared: the Pierce boys, Jimmy and Bobby (and perhaps their friend, Chris Chambers).  

     They had lived on Polk Drive for some time by then, but we had never played with them. They were from the wrong part of the neighborhood (there were only five or six houses between where we lived, a short block), they didn’t go to Rison, and they were Yankees, too). Plenty of reasons to exclude them and be wary of them, right?

     When they showed up at the dig, they just wanted to join in on the fun, but we thought they were trespassing on our territory. (They lived about three houses away from the construction site, at the intersection of Bide-A-Wee and Polk.)

    “We’re playing here. Beat it. This is our place,” one of us proclaimed.

     “No. We can play here if we want. You don’t own this.”

     “We were here first.”

     “So what?”

      The situation escalated to taunts and insults after that. I’d been at Rison for a year: I could talk the talk.

     I don’t know who started it, but suddenly we were battling.  Against the warnings of all our parents, we found ourselves engaged in a type of warfare our hometown was working to advance—the launching of deadly projectiles (dirt clods and rocks, in our juvenile version).

     We ran for cover or grabbed some ammunition. I saw a small missile headed for me, so I started to duck into one of the pipes. Unfortunately, I didn’t stoop low enough, and I rammed my head into the edge of the pipe.

     I was knocked on my butt. I don’t know if I saw stars, but I was stunned and in pain.  Only one or two minutes into the fray, and I wasn’t interested in repelling the invaders any more. I just wanted to go home.

     My friend Hartwig could see that I was wobbly, and he accompanied me as I walked off.  Dirt clods pelted us as we retreated.

     We walked a little way up the street and Hartwig said: “Rainer, you’re bleeding.”

     “No, I’m not,” I replied.

     “Yes, you are,” he said, pointing to the side of my head.

     I took off my cap and looked inside. A big patch of blood was soaking into the gray fabric. I clapped my hat back on my head and began crying.

     We started running. Hartwig was first into my house, and he alerted my mother. I’m sure I was an alarming sight as I burst inside, crying and bleeding.

     Actually, my mother and I were veterans of this kind of bloody scene. My head had already been stitched up a few years before that when my forehead collided with a friend’s toy gun. (I almost took his eye out with my pistol). In the grip of this new minor trauma, I remembered the earlier appointment with the needle, and I didn’t want another one. 

     “Please don’t take me to the doctor, Mutti (German for mommy),” I pleaded and sobbed.  “I’ll be alright.”

     But she could see that my scalp was split open; mercurochrome and Band-Aids weren’t going to suffice. She got me and the bleeding under control. After awhile my father came home, and we drove to the Huntsville Clinic on Washington Street.

     Doctor Robert Sammons, who had sewed me up the first time, got to work on my noggin. Maybe he joked about me showing up again so soon.  Soothing me by telling me I was a brave boy, he deadened the area around the wound with novocain. Then his nurse snipped and shaved the hair off so that he could put in the stitches. I could feel the sutures going in, but there was no pain. I felt braver and braver. I left the clinic with a round gauze patch on my head—a little white crown—and wore it to school for about a week before the stitches were pulled.

     So, how did the Battle of the Pipes end? I don’t know. I’m probably the only one who remembers the event at all. I did go back to the pipes, though. Once they were buried and before the protective curb and drain were installed, I crawled through the pipes to the creek, keeping my head down as I moved toward the small circle of daylight.

    We never tangled with the Pierce brothers over disputed turf in Darwin Downs again. The next time we encountered each other was in high school, and then we became friends. Bob played the Sousaphone in the band, and Jim served as the stage manager of the Lee auditorium and assisted Mr. Foley numerous times.  In recent years, I know that Bob’s continued music-making (accompanied by his wife) has been a ministry to many people, and Jim was of profound help to me during a troubled time in my life.

        Memphis, TN - Thanks to Rainer for his continued support through submissions of great stories to share with his classmates. I know he's not the only one with stories like this, so why not take the time to share your own?

    Summer is upon us and soon we'll forget the warm winter we experienced and wish for some of the cool breezes to return.

A.K.A. "Skip"
Charles E. Cook, Jr.
LHS '64

    Although Marcia Crowl and I were in the same home room, her younger brother Mike and I were not friends.  Don’t know if we ever had a conversation back then.  However, through the miracles of email and some shared interests, Mike and I have a weekly correspondence about the issues of life.  

    Up until his formal request for me to reveal the ancestry of my nick name, I thought of Mike as a “nice guy”.  He however must have a mean streak that he covers with the cloak of “just wanting to know”. 
    Upon graduation from high school, my dad went into the family business...coal miner in Kentucky / Tennessee.  After two years he discovered that he needed a career change.  The only way out of the mines was to join the military and he decided on the Navy.  He enlisted and I have his graduation photo from July 3, 1938 on the wall.  He decided to stay in the Navy after WW II and ended up with over 20 years of active duty service as a Chief, Fire Control Technician.  As the story goes, during the pregnancy he would put his hand on my mother’s stomach and say “How’s the little skipper doing today?”  Skipper stuck as a nick name and was shortened to Skip.
    I accepted that nick name but really didn’t like it.  As you will notice from the previous article about records, Niles Prestige did find my copy of Raining In My Heart by Buddy Holly.  It was signed S. Cook.
    Respectfully submitted per the request of my new friend Mike Crowl.....I owe you one Mike!


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    4th Grade Book

Barbara Diamond

    I read the Lee Newsletter every week and commend Tommy, Mike, Rainer, & John and others for contributing memories. My husband & I are on a quest to discover anyone who was influenced by a 4th grade social studies textbook that influenced our wanderlust. Even though he grew up on Long Island, NY, I think we had the same textbook. We are wondering if you recall the same - it took us students on a "cruise" around the world stopping off at Rio and other ports. I recall even to this day that it spurred my interest in seeing the world. Would love to know if anyone of you recall this textbook. It kindled my lifelong desire to see and know all these cultures.  It would have been around 1957-58. I went to Rison but as I mentioned my husband thinks he recalls the same textbook.

    To John Drummond: i was working in London at the same time you were there, as a social worker in the Borough of Brent (Wembly) so that I could have a base to travel. Heady times! We could feel we were strangers in a strange land while still speaking English. So glad to have that opportunity. Living overseas broadens one's views in incomparable ways.



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