I had a funny thing happen yesterday when I went to my childhood friend Marsh White’s visitation at the local funeral home here in Sherman. I was speaking with a woman named Betty who identified herself as Marsh’s cousin. I told her my name and she said, “When I was fifteen I worked one summer for one of the Leatherwood families there in Bonham.” I asked her if she knew which one (I had lots of aunts and uncles in Bonham at that time) and she said, “No, I just remember the family had a little boy and an older brother who was a teenager, but he wasn’t around all that much. And one day I came to work and I found that little boy sitting right in the middle of 9th street in a cardboard box.”
The box story is a Leatherwood family legend. “If it was a little boy, then it must have been my brother Sam,” I said. “That means you must have worked for my family.”
“I said to Mrs. Leatherwood I had half a mind to spank that boy for being in that box in the middle of a busy street and she told me, ‘Well, that would have been all right. You could have spanked him.'”
Betty shook her head. “At that time, there was no way that a black girl of fifteen could have spanked a little white boy without getting in trouble.”
It was the early 1960’s in rural Texas and that was the truth.
“I sure loved that house, though,” she said.
“Yes, that was a beautiful house for sure.”
I don’t remember Betty and she doesn’t remember me from that summer. I am guessing I was busy with my friends during that time and her job was to watch my little brother Sam, who would have been around four at the time.
The “box” story has been told and retold in Bonham for a long time and the boy in the box goes from Sam to brother George in the variations. It never goes to me – it was a Leatherwood boy – and it speaks of a different time in history because no one spends too much time wondering where in the heck my parents were that they didn’t notice their small child out in the street in a cardboard box. Of course, there was a lot of speculation as to which brother (or brothers) might have thought it was funny to put Sam out in that box. Good thing all the cars going by chose to drive around it rather than over it.
I have heard many accounts from people who have heard the “box” story and even a few accounts from people who were driving and avoided the box. I have never once spoken to the person who actually retrieved my little brother from the box and escorted him to safety.
When I came home from Marsh’s visitation, I said to my husband Ray, “Well, it was Sam in the box for sure. I met the woman who wanted to spank him for getting in it.”
Thanks, Betty, for clearing that up. It’s only been over fifty years now. It’s about time to set the record straight.