Yesterday was an amazing day for me as a writer.
Around lunchtime I took Lola out on the leash, and I looked on my front porch and there was a package. I knew what it was. I hollered at Michael to come get Lola and take her out for a potty break, and I grabbed the box and hurried inside, as excited as a child on Christmas morning.
Dan Roper, the editor of Georgia Backroads magazine, had sent me some copies of the Autumn issue, at my request. It contains my story "Season of Ashes," about my grandfather Bob Hasty and the scandal that ended his major league baseball career.
I have been published many times, online and in print. I've written about Papa before, in this blog. However, the thrill of seeing my name in print, especially connected to my grandfather's story, was unique. [Note, the magazines should arrive in Georgia stores next week, if you want to go to CVS or Kroger or Barnes and Noble and read the story.]
My only concern -- and it's something I feel the need to address -- is with this page of the website, which has a listing of all the articles. This is the teaser for my story:
"Sensational allegations that a major league baseball player belonged to the Klan worked the ruin of his career."
The allegation that Bob Hasty was in the KKK is false. I'm not sure the word "sensational" really clarifies that adequately. The main motivating force behind my original research into the story and my writing of the screenplay about it years ago was that there are still articles and books out there stating my grandfather was in the Ku Klux Klan, despite the fact that criminal charges brought by a woman alleging he was part of a KKK mob that beat her up were dropped for lack of evidence. (She and her companion who were allegedly beaten were both white, just fyi.)
Not only was Bob Hasty NOT in the Klan, he was actively opposed to the Klan. He wasn't a hater. He certainly didn't advocate violence against anybody.
I will never know why the white woman brought the allegations against Papa and two of his brothers. In all my research and interviewing of family members I could never figure out a motive, or what someone had to gain by trying to wreck my grandfather's career. That's why when I wrote my screenplay I felt like I had to fictionalize the story.
What future generations may have a hard time understanding is that in 1923, a person's reputation was very important, especially if they were a public figure like a professional athlete. I would argue that a reputation is still important, although some would say I'm wrong. Professional athletes now are in the spotlight more so than ever, and they unfortunately often go astray and face criminal charges that are true.
My grandfather was old school -- I mean really old school. He believed a professional athlete should always behave like a gentleman. He wanted to be a good role model. He never turned down a request for an autograph, even if it pulled him away from his family for an entire meal (which happened many times). When he went in public people often recognized him and wanted to talk, or get an autograph. He never said no. People would write to him asking for autographs and he always sent them an autograph and a note, usually.
For many years, until he got too old, when he had a bill to pay, he went to the place he owed and paid the bill in cash. Sometimes it took hours, but he felt that was the way to do it.
My mother told me yesterday after reading the story that it felt surreal, seeing photos of her parents and her children in a glossy magazine. However, I know she is pleased with it. Papa wanted the story told, and told fairly. When she was grown, he asked her to write it. She is actually a good writer, but she just told him she couldn't do it. The story hit too close to home. It was too emotional for her.
I didn't hear the story of why he left major league baseball until I was in my 20's. Although I knew my writing skills needed a lot of work, I felt compelled to go to the library in Marietta and do some research, and try to understand that pivotal event in my grandparents' lives. I began a long quest to try to get the true story out there.
I didn't do it merely out of a sense of fairness, however. I did it because I love my grandfather. [Note I didn't use the past tense, "loved" - I think his soul still exists and that love never dies.]
I was 9 when Papa left this earth. His death left a huge gaping hole in my life. He and Mamaw had spent a lot of time with me and my brother Bruce. Sitting in his lap while he read to me was my oasis, my haven. My dad was energetic and sometimes exhausting to be around, but Papa was just the opposite.
In a way, I feel like a debt has been repaid, at least a little bit. Papa's influence on me was profound, despite the fact that he exited my life at a young age. He was a person of great character. He taught Sunday School for years. He neither smoked or drank and he never, ever cursed. He was quiet and thoughtful. He always did things carefully and deliberately, and he examined all sides of an issue before making up his mind.
My grandfather Thompson died when Dad was still young, 26. Papa became a surrogate father to my Dad. He also greatly influenced several of his nephews, mentoring and caring for them like a father. [In fact it was one of those nephews, Frank Hasty, who urged me to get the true story in print.]
Bob Hasty wasn't a perfect guy, but he lived and breathed love and honor.
Papa also taught me a lot about love. Despite the fact they went through many hardships together and things were often tumultuous, my grandparents had an incredible love. When he retired, he changed his habits a great deal. He got up every morning, dressed and shaved, and made breakfast for my grandmother. She used to say that she didn't even get out of bed until she smelled the bacon and the coffee. He also made sure the dishes were always washed. He taught himself to make cakes, just because he liked them so much. After years taking care of him and cooking all his meals, Mamaw was due for some TLC.
He did all that as much as possible, despite the fact that he had circulation problems with his legs, and a painful hip socket. Most of the time I remember him in his last few years, he was walking with crutches, and he would sit with his leg elevated above his heart. He was an athletic, active man, and the forced inactivity was galling to him, but he bore it with grace. He wouldn't even take pain medication unless the pain was just unbearable.
The lasting legacy he left me was gentleness. He was a huge man, incredibly strong, but he did everything for me a father would do, from changing diapers, to feeding me, to giving baths, reading stories, going for walks - when my dad was working or busy, Papaw was there. [Dad could be very gentle too, and did all those caretaking things, but he didn't exude calm the way Papaw did.]
Do we owe a debt to our parents and grandparents? I think so. I think we should live our lives with honor. I know the values my grandparents taught me were important to them, and I know I want my grandchildren to carry on that legacy.
Most importantly, I know Papa is still with me, watching over me, and helping me. Anything I can do to restore his rightful reputation and honor him, I will do.