Part Eight- hard soil, thorns and thistles
The Circuit Court came to town twice a year and with the civil suit set for hearing before Judge Perddy next month, old man Frakes started turning up the heat. The thought that Ray Parson was a crook never even entered anyone’s mind, until old man Frakes began repeatedly denying that Ray was a crook. He never accused Ray of impropriety. He just implied it with statements like: â€œI refuse to believe that Ray Parson was part of any illegal activityâ€ and â€œI’m sure that there is a perfectly legitimate explanation.â€œ The core point was the fact that Ray took most of his money out of the Frakes National Bank before the financial crisis.
The truth of the matter is that the reason Ray took his money out of Frakes National had nothing to do with insider information. Tom Walker is the Vice President of Frakes and also old man Frakes son-in-law. As Ray puts it: â€œ there is a limit to how much stupid I can listen to in one twenty four hour period and ten minutes with Tom Walker puts me over that limit.â€ So Ray moved most of his money to a small bank in Snook, which is about seventy-five miles west of Beulah.
The front page of the Beulah Beacon of Truth had a picture of Ray and in bold print the words Et eu Brute were crossed out and replaced with Et eu Ray. Translated it means, â€œyou too Ray?â€ They are the famous last words of Julius Caesar, spoken as Brutus plunged the knife into him. Fortunately for Ray, Beulah wasn’t exactly a Shakespeare kind of town and the reference went completely over most peoples’ heads. However, with the constant association of the words Ray and crook, people began to wonder if old man Frakes knew something that they didn’t know. Earl Yates pulled the sheriff aside and asked him if Ray was going to jail. Ray is not going to go to jail, replied the sheriff. Is it because he’s your brother-in-law, he asked? The sheriff lost his patience. No you dumbass. That has noting to do with it. Ray hasn’t been charged with a crime, nor is there any evidence to suggest that he did anything wrong. Earl, have you ever known Ray to lie or steal? Nope he said. I guess you’re right sheriff. Ray’s a good old boy but if he does go to jail do you think they would still let me fish on his property? With arms flailing about the sheriff just turned and walked away. I don’t have time for idiots, he mumbled.
If it bothered Ray, it sure didn’t show. A few days later he showed up at the sheriff’s office where he engaged in their usual banter. Making his usual dramatic entrance, Ray walked into the sheriff’s office and proceeded with the ritual. Cletus he said, can you help me over to the chair. It’s so hard for me to get around with only nine toes. The sheriff rolled his eyes. Here we go, he said. This again? Is it poor Ray time again, already? You shoot a man one time and he thinks that he can hold it over your head forever. Why Sheriff I have no idea what you are talking about, replied Ray. Ok Ray, old buddy, you win. He hands Ray his gun. Go ahead and shoot any toe that you want. Personally, I’ve never liked the little one on the right. Go ahead, it will be worth it not to have to listen to your whining anymore. Ray takes the gun and aims it. WO-RAY-WO-RAY. I said my toe. SON- THAT AINT MY TOE THAT YOU ARE POINTING AT! Need I remind you that your sister has become obsessed about having a baby? Not a day goes by without the subject coming up. The woman has turned one of my favorite activities into a regular job. Ray put the gun down. You poor thing. I had no idea, he said with sarcastic tone. Anyway, I just came by to tell you that I heard about Brantley. That’s a damn shame. The sheriff shrugged his shoulders and said I saw the man two nights before and he didn’t look suicidal to me. He had even agreed to meet with Perlman. What do you mean sheriff? Are you saying that you think that Brantley was murdered? We will never know the answer to that question, Ray. I took Newt’s dogs up top on the trestle but by the time we got up there the scent was cold. All I’m saying is that in all of my years, I’ve never known someone with a wife and kids, a mistress and plenty secretes to commit suicide without leaving a note.
Anyway, I’m not worried about Brantley. I’m worried about Ray. I read the article in the paper. How are you holding up? What is happening to this town? Beulah used to be a nice place. Now I feel like I’m stuck in some kind of bad amateur novel. Ray laughed. Well buddy, don’t you worry about old Ray. I’m doing just fine. I spoke to Hobbs and he told me to ignore it. He said that the more I try to deny it, the more my name will be associated with the word crook. Still, I have to admit that it bothered me when Eugene asked me if it was true.
I’ll tell you Ray, I could put my boot right up that man’s ass. Sheriff it is nothing, really. Forget about it. This is nothing compared to what my folks went through. Did I ever tell you the story of how my family wound up in Beulah? I was three years old and Marry was a baby when we moved here. Millie wasn’t even born. This town was called Yellow Wood back then, with a population of 143 people. Can you believe that?
Pop used to always say: â€œRaymond, don’t let the soil get hard. The only things that grow in hard soil are thorns and thistles.â€ I never knew what he meant until one day when his health was failing. I sat with him and he told me the story of how we moved to here. They had pastured a small church in Blytheville Arkansas for five years. Pop always welcomed everyone that walked through the church doors. One day a black couple came to the church and he welcomed them like he did everyone else. That night someone wrote nigger lovers on the church and then things got bad. After a months of horrific events, pop came home and told my mom, this ground is too hard to grow anything but thorns and thistles. Let’s move west, he said. Do you have any place in mind, she asked? He told me that he looked down and noticed a hymnal was opened to the song Beulah Land and with a big smile, he said I want to move to Beulah Land. Mom smiled and said I hear that Beulah Land is very nice this time of year. They resigned the church, packed up and headed west.
Eventually they wound up here. When they held the very first church service, he turned to my mom and said: â€œwelcome to Beulah Land Mildred.â€ They put a sign out front that said â€œFirst Christian Church of Beulah.â€ From that day on and until the day he died, he opened every service with â€œwelcome to Beulah.â€ A few years later they changed the name of the town to Beulah and the rest, as they say, is history.
TO BE CONTINUED!