Cowboys, Hockers, & Mumblety-Peg

Upon waking this morning the news seemed focused on Bubba Wallace, Confederate flags, and Bubba’s need to apologize to his fellow NASCAR drivers. The truth is, until a noose was discovered in his garage I wouldn’t have known Bubba Wallace from Bubba Gump or some guy who runs a gasper goo catch, clean, and cook show on YouTube  (now you have something to Google). But, it got me thinking about hangman’s nooses and how I came to become proficient in tying them.

I grew up in the 1940s and 1950s when the main recreation for young boys was listening to Tom Mix on the radio and going to double feature Saturday matinees at the Lyric or Rand theaters. Most cowboy shows had plots that focused on some crooked rancher or banker who had a gang of thugs doing his evil deeds and at its worse, a hero always rode into town and saved the citizenry from these evildoers.

Frequently there would be a scene where a good guy was wrongly arrested and a mob would try to snatch him out of jail and hang him from a nearby cottonwood tree.

Well, sometime in the early 1950s I had a distant cousin visit us from South Carolina and during the stay he taught me three things, how to cough up and spit hockers (lugees to some of you) for distance, how to play mumblety-peg with a cheap pocket knife I’d won tossing rings at the annual street carnival, and, how to tie a near-perfect hangman’s knot.

It wasn’t until I was studying American History in college that I came to know about the horrible legacy of racial lynchings that were once so common to America. I don’t know why that got skipped over in high school but I have my suspicions.

Anyway, long before I knew about racial lynchings I was aware of public hangings of bad guys and the hangman’s noose, in my mind, was almost completely associated with cowboys and the administration of justice. Hell, I probably didn’t even know hanging was still a form of capital punishment in my life until I saw the film, In Cold Blood.

All I’m trying to say is that if someone had tied a noose on a garage door pull in the 1950s it probably would have had no racially threatening motive. We’re all better informed today and should know how hateful a symbol the noose is to African Americans in this nation. It doesn’t seem the noose was in Wallace’s garage as a threat to him. But the question still has to be asked, if the noose had been in that garage for several months why was it there and who was it aimed at? It sure as hell wasn’t an evil rancher trying to steal the water rights from the common folk.

The only other thing that needs to be said is, Bubba Wallace has nothing to apologize for. But Trump, in using this incident to further incite racial tension for political gain, has everything to apologize for.

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