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Hartselle Enquirer

A long, hot summer 

Clif Knight 

Wendell Messer was not a normal freewheeling, fun-loving 16-year-old country boy. He was a misfit in a broken family, taken to smoking, cursing and dodging work. 

In the eyes of the law, he was pegged as a youngster headed for trouble. His arrest came on a Friday night when he was picked up by a sheriff’s deputy while driving a stolen car. His story was he borrowed the car from a friend not knowing that it was stolen. 

His incarceration was a subject of discussion between my parents at the breakfast table on the following Saturday morning. Earlier, my father was contacted by the boy’s mother seeking help in getting him released from jail. 

“We can offer him a place to stay this summer if he is willing to help us make a crop,” my father said. “I’ll buy another mule and plow to give him the tools of a plow hand. That’ll keep him busy and out of trouble if you kids will step up and help out, treat him as one of your own.” 

All six of us siblings were excited about having a summer house guest and sharing with him a portion or all of their daily chores, plus all the back-breaking and tiresome field work they faced. Windell was welcomed with open arms when he arrived the following day. 

The reality of living out a day on the farm came unexpectedly before daylight on the first morning when the call was made for us kids to roll out of bed and get busy milking the cows, feeding the mules, slopping the hogs, watering and feeding the chickens and setting the kitchen table. 

Wendell was not a happy worker. He fussed and complained about everything he did except eating a hearty meal, resting under a good shade tree or puffing on a self-rolled Prince Albert cigarette. He was ready to go back home and resume a lifestyle of his own making when his time on our farm was finished. 

Efforts to get his losing attitude on a winning track never materialized. He dropped out of school and left home when he was 17. His destination was reported to have been California, hitchhiking and living s as a homeless man. His family lost track of him 65 years ago.