The first purpose of prayer is to know God. -Charles L. Allen
“Life without faith in something is too narrow a space in which to live.”
– George Lancaster Spalding
In Whom is your faith?
“A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.”Proverbs 18:7
Dry Creek version:”He let his mouth overload his behind.”
Here is a story from my upcoming short story book, Deep Roots. It tells of some hippies that let their mouth overload their good sense and received an unforgettable lesson.
“He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” (Proverbs 21:23)
The fight on MacArthur Drive was one-sided, and it was also over quickly, but never forgotten by those who were part of it.
To truly appreciate Donald Perkins’ famous one-sided fight in the middle of MacArthur Drive’s four lanes, you must first understand where he came from.
That’s why I’m first telling you about Pitkin.
Pitkin. I’ve always liked the way the town rolls off your tongue. They say it there with two strong syllables, as in “Pit- Kin.”
Calling Pitkin a town is a gross exaggeration. It’s a village—well, it’s really not even that—just a caution light, several stores and churches. It’s like my hometown of Dry Creek in that it is rural and proud of it.
I won’t describe Pitkin and the type of place it is any further. I’ll just say that it’s full of good people who would do anything for you if you’re in need. However, it also has a well- known reputation for being a tough place. There is a saying about Pitkin people, “They’re the best friends you’d ever want, but the worst enemies you could ever have.”
There are many stories about Pitkin and its people, but none better than the one I call “Branded.”
Now, Donald Perkins was a Pitkin native who operated the DeRidder Sale Barn, where cattle auctions took place weekly. Tuesday was sale day and the barn would be crowded with trucks, trailers, cowboys, mooing cows, and bleating sheep. . . . And in the middle of this dusty noisy scene would be Donald Perkins.
However, on the day of my “Branded” story, Donald Perkins wasn’t at the sale barn. Instead on this day in 1970, he was traveling through the city of Alexandria with a load of cattle. As usual, he had on his cowboy hat, and the truck window rolled down, Tapping his brakes, he stopped at a red light on Alexandria’s main street, MacArthur Drive.
He was joined by a car in the adjacent left lane. It was a Dodge Charger. Back then, these cars were called “Muscle cars.” Fueled by large V-8 engines, they were full of power, painfully loud, and ready to roll.
This particular red Dodge had four occupants—and they were hippies. They were longhaired with scruffy beards sporting sloppy clothes. They all sneered and laughed as they pulled up beside the cattle truck.
Two distinct cultures were meeting side by side on the pavement of MacArthur Drive. Because there were four of them, the hippies bravely began making fun of the short red- faced cowboy sitting in the dented truck pulling the trailer load of lowing cattle. Their comments were low, but Donald Perkins heard enough—and watched their sneers knowing they were making fun of him, his truck, and his load.
Fortunately, the light turned green and the Dodge Charger, with its loud glass-packed dual exhausts, roared away. Donald and his loaded truck took off much slower.
As fate would have it, the next red light caught both vehicles. As you can probably guess, they were once again side by side with cars in front, behind, and on the side of the Dodge Charger. They had arrived there ahead of the cattle truck, so the four hippies had plenty of time getting their one-line zingers ready for the cowboy. Since the previous red light, they had laughed enough about the cowboy that they felt free directing their sarcastic remarks straight at Donald Perkins.
As I told you earlier, men from the Pitkin area are not the enemies you want, as these four hippies in the Charger were soon to find out. It was when they made a remark about his load of cows and directed it at him, that Donald had heard enough. Today we would call what he did next “road rage,” but that term had not been coined yet in 1970.
He calmly killed the engine on his truck—and reached back behind him on his gun rack.
From the gun rack he pulled down a weapon….
But it wasn’t a shotgun or rifle…Instead, it was something even better. It was a cattle prod…Or what we call in our part of Louisiana, a “hotshot.”
A hotshot is a thin pole about the length of a walking stick. On the pointed end are two metal electrodes. When this tool is shoved against anything conductive a sharp jolt of electricity is given off.
The hotshot is a prime tool for any serious cattleman. It is effective in controlling and moving the biggest and most stubborn bull. The jolt it gives does not cause long-term damage, but will quickly and completely get the attention of even the rowdiest animal.
Now I know you are ahead of me on my story, so let’s get back to the scene. Donald Perkins jumped out of his truck, quickly approaching the carload of “rowdy animals” just as if he was back on the sale barn’s show floor.
The guy on the front passenger side was wearing a sleeveless shirt with his arm propped up on the door. His sneer quickly changed as Donald Perkins stuck him in the armpit with his hotshot. Donald later said, “That fellow bleated like a goat.”
In quick succession, he stuck all of them at least once. With all of the hollering, cussing, and scampering around he couldn’t be sure, but Donald thought he got the two on the passenger side a couple of extra times for good measure.
Vehicles ahead fenced in the Charger, on all sides, so there was no space for driving off. Finally, the light turned green, the cars ahead moved off, and the hippies in the Dodge
roared off, probably not slowing down until they got across the Red River and into Pineville.
I have told and retold this story hundreds of times since the day Donald’s nephew “T-Bone” Perkins first acted it out in detail for me.
Donald Perkins has now been dead for many years. However, in my mind he is still alive—standing in the traffic lane of busy MacArthur Drive wielding his weapon like a skilled swordsman through the open windows of the hippie car.
. . . And probably somewhere in Rapides Parish, or maybe up in Pollock . . . or down in Bunkie, some fifty- something-year old guy will read this story . . . and feel a twinge of remembrance. Maybe the twinge will be felt under his right arm, or a jolt in his memory, as he remembers that day on the four lane in Alexandria—when the crazy cowboy attacked him and his buddies.
Yes, he’ll remember that day—forever “branded” in his mind—when he was stuck by the hotshot by the short cowboy from Pitkin… (“That’s Pitkin, Louisiana, boy… And when you say it, say it with respect) where the men are strong, the women are all beautiful, and you don’t make fun of a man’s cowboy hat, his truck, or his load of cows.
Most of my stories have some spiritual lesson, but I’m not sure about this one. Well, I guess it’s a lesson on keeping your mouth shut and minding your own business, especially if you’re parked next to a cowboy with a loaded gun rack.
I love the book of Proverbs and try reading a chapter daily.* Solomon and the other writers impart much practical and common sense wisdom in its thirty-one chapters. It says, “Even a fool is thought to be wise if he keeps silent. . . (Proverbs 17:28) That’s a lesson my four hippie friends learned, hopefully. Or as my Uncle Quincy, who spent two tours of duty at Angola Prison said, “They ain’t never sent nobody to the pen for keeping their mouth shut.”
Or as wise Solomon added, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Proverbs
Keeping your mouth shut—a good lesson that should be branded into our minds.
Be careful what you say and whom you say it to, especially if a cowboy is in the lane next to you.
Or as they say in Pitkin, “If you ain’t got somethin’ good to say, keep it to yerself.”
Even King Solomon couldn’t say it better than that.
* A Bible reading plan I adopted years ago is called the “Daily Proverbs Plan.” Because Proverbs consists of 31 chapters, you can read the corresponding chapter on that day of the month. Proverbs is full of so much wisdom that re- reading it monthly never gets old.