Eugene Cross lived near us on Worley Road. His house was right where the white folks’ houses ended and the colored folks’ houses started. His daddy, I was told, sold illegal whiskey out of his house.

Eugene was a fast-talkin’, fast cursing, little spitfire. Many of the kids in the neighborhood didn’t stand in his way when he came bullying around.

My Daddy, in his witty attempt to mispronounce things decided that “Eugene” was really “Blue-jean.” The name stuck around the neighborhood and many people called him Blue-jean.

One day when I was about 10, I was out in the side yard pitching horseshoes, when Blue-jean, aged 9, walked up donning his dirtiest play clothes. He let out a string of bad words I was sure my mother would “whoop” my tail over. He asked if he could play horseshoes with me. I had to think a brief second and decide what my options were. Say no and get a black eye, or say yes and take my odds from there.

So after about 30 minutes of pitchin’ and cussin’, Blue-jean was angry because I was winning. He became so angry that he jumped me and threw me to the ground. We rolled and tumbled a few times. I knew if he started swinging, I was “done for.” At this point he had me pinned to the ground and had my legs swung up high so that my stomach was jammed into my throat. I could barely breathe. I struggled for what seemed to be eternity and thought that I would die any moment.

I heard the front door open and my mother stuck her head out and said, “You boys O.K?”

She slammed the front screen door fast to keep the flies out and I grunted out something that must have sounded like, “Yep.”

But I really was saying, “Help!”

I decided I wasn’t ready to die. I grunted with all my might, threw Blue-jean over on his back. Straddled him on his chest, and pinned his dirty hands to the ground. Now I had him. At that age I was a little chubby and he was scrawny. If I could do anything, I could squash him with my weight!

The only problem was that if I let him go, his fast fists would drive into my face and boy did I know it. So I sat there and listened to him call me every bad name any drunken sailor might have ever said. For over an hour I sat, listened, pondered , and poured sweat. When could I let him go?   ….I decided…..never.

After an hour and a half, Blue-jean ran out of bad words.

He said softly, and without a profane adjective, “Hey man, if you let me up, I’ll go home.”

So I did, and he did. Although he lived just a few streets up the road, I rarely saw him again.

A couple of years later Blue-jean’s daddy was murdered in their home. I heard how Blue-jean went out in the yard and screamed and cried and I really felt sorry for him.

Eugene Cross was just a guy like me who wanted friends and wanted to belong. In another time and situation we could have been good friends.

But I will always remember the lesson I learned from him that hot, summer day.

If you can’t whip your enemy any other way, sit on him until all the fire is gone.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:2-4 NIV


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