Wednesday, February 07, 2018

The Learning Corner
In Memory of Delano (Bunk) Middleton

The Learning Corner

The corner is silent now. It is hard to believe that it has been over fifty years since we last saw him run down Gadsden Street on his way to football practice. As we stand on the corner of Gadsden Street and Walker Avenue bullshitting (like we would call it) he runs pass. The run pass us is the shortest route to get to school. Bunk (Delano Middleton) was often running a little late. However, we all know why. He had to finish everything Mr. Gramps (His dad) had asked him to do on the farm. The seven of us had seen this so often that we really never looked up. We just say hi and go back to talking about the NFL games from the weekend or the Jackson Five singing group. But we know what else is coming.

 The route he took was a common one. We all take it to get to MacDonald’s gas station to buy snacks or have a bicycle tire patched. It treks through a couple of back yards, crossing a railroad track, more back yards and then a long winding dirt road. It is more like an obstacle course than a route.

Bunk would always have this big bright smile like nothing could ever get in his way. He is confident. Of course as big and strong as he is he can back anything he ever said up.

 I don’t remember a time that he passed by us that he didn’t stop to encourage us in some way. His words sunk in even though we never looked up. It all balled down to doing something good in life. He was talking more to his nephew Alonzo than us, but we all had to acknowledge him...or else.

Looking at it now, everything was as if it was predestined for him.
 He knew what he wanted in life early. As a extremely talented natural athlete, he could play any sport he wanted to and did all of them very well. Coaches smiled when his name was mentioned. His physique was intimidating and his quickness was even more respected. He would sometimes be tested by bullies and they all son gave in. No one messed with Bunk. Bunk was going to be someone great in life. No one ever said it out loud but we all knew.

Needless to say none of us ever thought that it would be the bullet of Highway Patrolman to take him down. To us event happened way too quick. One day everything is fine and the next day an explosion of emotions flood Orangeburg. The curfew from protest kept us inside for days. Then...

The crowd of college students all scattered but Bunk falls to the grass to never stand again. Two others also fall (Henry Smith, and Samuel Hammond) with him as the lights and bullhorns close in.
 Screams from other hurt students and yells from loud bull horns merge above the city and the community will never be the same.

Life left the "Railroad Corner" that day and never came back.  

That corner like our corner in our neighborhood was a hang out, a meet-up place and it was also a sign of life. Every good neighborhood has a place that kids can laugh and play without worry much like every city should. Unless there was a storm (dark clouds) there was always life on that corner.

 No one would ever guess how short our time on that corner would be
(Never undervalue the time you have with your good friends.)

 We never gathered at our corner after Bump took his last run pass us. It was as if he did like the old Western movies where they ride off into sun. Then there is only darkness as the movie closes. In our neighborhood when darkness comes it's time to head home for safety. 

Will there ever be life on the "Railroad Corner" again?   

It’s been over fifty years but it seems like only yesterday that we tossed the ball around with friends and no matter how much time passes it will never take those moments away.

If there is a lesson to learn from this it is to enjoy life while you have it and as Bunk did just be a good example for all to see.  

Rest In Peace My Friend.

May God Bless any reader that reads this and remember the lesson from the corner and at some time maybe there will be life on the corner again.
The Annual Orangeburg Massacre is February 8th
every year.

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