The Lyncher In Me
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In June 1920, in Duluth, Minnesota, a mob of over 10,000 convened upon the police station, inflamed by the rumor that black circus workers had raped a white teenage girl--charges that would later be proven false. Three men were dragged from their cells and lynched in front of the cheering crowd. More than eighty years later, Warren Read--a fourth-grade teacher, devoted partner, and father to three boys--plugged his mother's maiden name into a computer search engine, then clicked on a link to a newspaper article that would forever alter his understanding of himself. Louis Dondino, his beloved great-grandfather, had incited the deadly riot on that dark summer night decades before. In his poignant memoir, Read explores the perspectives of both the victims and the perpetrators of this heinous crime. He investigates the impact--the denial and anger--that the long-held secrets had on his family. Through this examination of the generations affected by one horrific night, he discovers we must each take responsibility for "our deep-seated fears that lead us to emotional, social, or physical violence."
for recreation at this time were the menagerie workers (those who worked with the animals in the show) and the cook-tent staff. A favorite activity to occupy their time: dice. A person wandering off into the trees behind a raucous big top was quite likely to stumble head-on into a ﬁery game of craps. Perhaps it had been a ﬂask of booze tucked in Jimmie’s pocket, maybe the opportunity to duck into the low ravine for a momentary tryst with his girlfriend. It could have been the telltale hoots and
magniﬁed to such a degree that reason and logic were trampled underfoot. Lies swirled like a dust storm then, as they do today, and if time isn’t allowed for the particles to settle and the view to become clear, people die. “It could be your daughter or your wife,” someone had shouted as the rumors rolled over the streets of Duluth. In my case, on that numb, dark-blue evening, it was my sister. And I didn’t know what to do. CHAPTER 13 Like burrs to woolen socks, tagalongs clung to the Ford
Sometimes my grandmother would plead more loudly. “Ray,” she’d say, “I gotta get home and set the rolls up for tomorrow!” “Yeah, yeah, just a couple a’ beers. I ain’t gonna be long!” Defeated, my grandmother Margaret’s shoulders would drop helplessly. “Dadgummit, I knew he’d do this!” She’d sit quietly, just a faint whisper of a cry under her breath. If my mother began to get ﬁdgety and start to whine, her mother would be spurred into denial mode. “Oh well,” she’d tell her daughter, “he’ll be
grease (skunks in Pennytown must have been a nervous lot) and goose grease were given for croup, and sugar, administered daily for nine days, was the suggested treatment for worms. Cherry bark ﬁgured into a good cough syrup, as did onion juice and sugar. Overall, the community kept a ﬁrm grasp on their health, with the exception of occasional bouts of scarlet fever (during which the residents installed quarantine signs on the roads and paths leading into the hamlet). * * * Sometime between 1891
one of these to eviscerate with my own hands, I came to understand all too well the nature of this mess. I thought I might remove the seeds from the pulp, dry them out and propagate them. I wondered whether or not I could grow Osage Orange seedlings, plant the trees on my own property. In doing this, I would then have a piece of Pennytown in my own backyard, a reminder of my undying connection to Elmer’s roots. At ﬁrst cut, the center of the fruit oozed like a certain poison, gluey and thick