Obie just didn’t care

Published 9:28 pm Monday, March 29, 2010

Obie and his sons drew a line in the sand years ago. “It’s us against them, and we were here first!”

I got that message pretty quick since I was “them.”

I really enjoyed the challenge, especially since I was able to meet Obie on common ground—Ma Bate’s store—and see him almost daily. After a couple of years of careful strategy, I was able to gain a little ground and very slowly bring the boys around, which was not an easy task.

Let me say this about Obie: He marched to a different drummer or he didn’t march at all. He made plenty of that “hooch” and didn’t care who knew it. He got caught a lot but got away a lot.

He once told me about a high-tech way of jamming the radio communications of the “law” in the 1960s! He told me, “You can run from those state folks, but now those Feds will shoot you!” Like I needed to know that advice.

Obie drove a big, old, green Buick—looked like it had been in a demolition derby. It had “CLARA” written on each side with silver paint. When asked why, he explained that some lady ran into him and wouldn’t pay him, so…

One day, he drove over to Rockford, and the hood kept flying up. He stopped and had a fellow weld in down—said it never used oil or water anyway. When he got home, it was red hot. He had to have the hood cut off, and he just drove it without a hood. Obie didn’t care!

Once, a house across the road from Ma was reported to be on fire. Ma was the official dispatcher for the fire department, but she couldn’t find anyone. Where was Obie? “Ma, I saw him over at J.J.’s earlier today.” Uh oh!

Obie was in charge of that old chartreuse tanker. After a while, here he comes…crash! First thing, the truck fell into the fellow’s septic tank. Lots of folks were beginning to gather around. U.L. was somehow making his way on top from the backside of the house—just as Obie and Ray laid down a heavy stream of water on top. As U.L. reached the crest, it hit him right in the face, knocking him completely off the house.

After they used all the water, they found out there was no fire—just some wood got against the chimney in the attic.

When I first came to Chilton County, well, Obie was on an “extended vacation” down at Maxwell Field, serving a little time. Some say he was taking the rap for someone else. Obie didn’t care!

His best story (that I can tell): When Obie was being sentenced, he came before the Honorable Frank Johnson, the notorious judge who ruled in all those civil rights cases back in those days. In front of Obie was another “three-time loser” who was in his 80s. The judge sentenced him to 7 years, and the old man staggered back and said, “Your honor, I’m a proud man and I’m not begging, but I’ll never live that long!” Obie said, “That blankety-blank looked over his glasses at the old man and said, “You just do what you can of it.”

They all rejoiced when the old man actually out-lived the judge!

By this time, my friend and sheriff, T.J. Lockhart threatened to put me in jail for “association.” I took Obie fishing and—get this now—got him to go to River Church with me. We were sitting there, and he looked at me and grinned—he even had his hat off. “First time I ever been to church and set on a boat trailer. In fact, Bill, don’t remember even going to church.”

That was powerful. Wonder what Bro. Tony thinks about that?