The definition of “lynching” is as follows: “To put to death, especially by hanging, by mob action and without legal authority.” Now, you’re probably wondering where this is going. Let me tell you a story….
As an innocent older brother myself, I distinctly remember my Grandmother telling us this story about my Dad. He was the oldest of three boys and a sister. Way back in the day–long before there were any electronics for kids to consume their time with–kids played outside. As you can imagine, in the summer this was done all the time. Mothers pushed their kids outdoors as soon as it was deemed necessary for the mother’s well-being, which was immediately following breakfast.
Before it was politically incorrect to call a game “Cowboys and Indians”, kids played Cowboys and Indians. Like it is today with our current themes, this was very popular among kids due to the content of movies and TV shows of that era. So as a result, my Dad would play this with his two younger brothers, Jim (the middle one) and Tom (the youngest). Now, as a child growing up, I never heard of any major conflict between the three of them as children. So I have to assume that they had typical sibling relationships and conflicts, but nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe that changed after this little incident.
As it came about, my grandmother was in the kitchen doing the dishes one morning. She thought about checking up on the three boys, so she glanced up and out the kitchen window that was above the sink. As she did so, she froze in mid-wipe of a dish at what was unfolding before her.
The three of them had thought it a great idea to play Cowboys and Indians again. Someone (my Uncle Jim) had apparently been caught rustling cattle and was being sentenced by the local sheriff (my Dad). What part Uncle Tom was playing at this particular moment is unclear to me. Maybe he was playing the part of a bailiff, considering what my grandmother was witnessing through the window.
At any rate, the evil cattle rustler had been sentenced to a lynching by the local sheriff. This lynching was scheduled to commence immediately following the court proceedings, which had wrapped up rather swiftly from what Grandma could tell. All three of them were standing under a sturdy tree in the front yard. The sheriff had grabbed the bailiff’s tricycle and had the rustler standing on the seat of it. He had a rope around a tree branch above the rustler’s head and had it looped around the rustler’s scrawny neck (all rustlers have scrawny necks). The bailiff was holding the other end of the rope so that it was as taught as a guitar string. The sheriff slowly made his way around to the back of the tricycle. It was obviously clear to my grandmother what the “sheriff” was getting ready to do.
Like the climax of any good lynching movie scene, Grandma did everything and more to try to beat that moment of imminent doom. She was nothing but a blur of frenzied motion as she flew from the kitchen to the front yard to intervene in this most heinous situation. She cleared the front door as my Dad’s leg was raised to kick the tricycle out from underneath the rustler’s feet. She screamed out, “ROBERT, DON’T YOU DARE!!!” This caused the sheriff to pause long enough for her to change trajectories and grab the other end of the rope from the bailiff.
If we had been able to witness this unfold before us, I imagine my grandmother’s antics to save this rustler would have put any western-action-movie-actress to shame. Swiftly and justly, she meted out justice to all involved and left nary a trace of blood to show for her actions.
She did any mother proud!