1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


  “I Don’t Smell Nuthin, That’s What I Smell!
John McCurdy 06

One of the few objects of value that Karl Ray possessed that had been his fathers was a lever-action Marlin rifle.  A .32 caliber rifle, it was unique in the firearms world because it would shoot both rim fire and center fire cartridges! One only had to remove the breech block and turn the firing pin over to change from one cartridge to another. It was considered only marginal in power and was obsolete almost as soon as it was produced. But it was Karl’s! 

He, at the time, because of some now forgotten transgression of the rules and regulations of the Fayette County School Board, had been requested to absent himself for a little while! Fortunately he was welcome in Alderson, probably because the Alderson High School already had a lot of experience with rambunctious teens, and so he came to live with his Aunt Mildred Fitzgerald Cumby in the family home place on Keiffer Hill on the Monroe side of town.  

Now Aunt Mildred could be about as changeable as anyone could be, and one never was quite sure which Mimi was about to show up on a given day! This particular night, she was at work at the women’s prison in Alderson on the evening shift and Karl had the house to himself. In the years since that night and in numerous chats with him, I have never been able to be certain that I was getting the full and accurate story, but then that was not too unusual when one started prying into Karl’s business!  

As best I can reconstruct the evenings happenings, the event went about like this:  Mildred was due home from work at a little after 12PM,  Karl had a few bottles of beer hidden somewhere in the basement, ( a leftover from his and Jimmy Jones night out of several weeks before)!  

Since he had the opportunity, he took it, and went to the basement hiding place and retrieved them. He was the King of the House for a few hours, he could listen to the music that he wanted, put his feet on the furniture and have several lights on, all at the same time, by damn. He sipped his suds, read his magazines and listened to his music, life was good!  

He decided to clean his rifle and did so, on the dining room table, after taking the lace tablecloth off and folding it.  He cleaned his rifle, wiped a thin coating of sewing machine oil on it and admired the way it glistened with the light from the chandelier.  

My Uncle James, or perhaps it was another uncle or aunt had, for some unknown reason, given my Grandmother a pair of Dutch sabots, or wooden shoes. They sat on a bookshelf just inside the living room and were clearly visible from the dining room table. For some reason, now lost in the mind of Karl Ray, he was sighting the rifle, first at one thing, then another in the rooms,  when he sighted in on the shoe, “boom” the rifle fired, why or how in the Lords name Karl had been so negligent as to put a cartridge in the chamber will always be a mystery. Now, of course he says it never happened and the whole episode is a communist plot to smear him, I personally think the beer may have contributed!  Anyhow, the room was filled with smoke and the acrid smell of burnt gunpowder permeated the downstairs  and the Dutch shoe had a hole in it!  As well as a hole in the wall near the closet under the stairs.  

He had a few hours to go before Mildred was due home and hopefully he’d be in bed asleep, and Mimi would be tired and would do the same. It wasn’t to be like that at all! He opened the doors and a window and to his relief the smoke and the smell finally dissipated. About then, to his dismay, he heard a key in the front door, for some reason Aunt Mildred had come home early!   

As soon as she came in the door her nose began to wrinkle and she sniffed the air, then the inquisition began, “what’s been going on here, what have you been up to, what’s that smell”,  were only a few of the rapid-fire question coming at him. Working with hardened convicts gave Mildred a big edge in the struggle, and Karl quickly adopted what he thought was the best policy.

“I don’t smell nothing”, he said, as he unfortunately kicked over a  empty beer bottle he had forgotten was on the floor !  

When after Mildred’s death some of the cousins were sorting through the furniture and other items of the house, I saw the Dutch Shoes. “I’m going to take these”, I announced, “I know where they belong”.  At the time of his much too early death they sat on Carl's dresser, hole and all!               

Karl Ray Fitzgerald, AHS 59 was the son of my mother's twin brother Rupert Carlton Fitzgerald.  I miss the lad terribly.