May 24 '08
Volume 625

Dynamite Hill Death Of A Salesman

My aunt called him brother, but my mother called him Jimmy. Two persons with a common mother and different fathers are half-siblings, but Mom only admitted such was the case when the point was pressed. Perhaps Mom’s reason for withholding full family recognition of her half-brother was rooted in the times, where persons born outside of wedlock often suffered ostracizing by others. Perhaps Mom’s reasoning ran much deeper. After all, she had idolized her father (William Fredrick "Fred" Crausby), and when he died following injuries from a bus/car wreck, she was devastated.

What followed was rarely discussed in the open atmosphere of conversations in the dining room or living room, but my late Aunt Jo phrased it a few months prior to her death in dated terms, "Mama acted ugly."

My grandmother’s "ugliness" netted me an uncle, five years older than me, but I was not allowed to call him Uncle, as mother insisted Jimmy was sufficient.

A rift in the relationship between my mother and her mother would survive in varying degrees until my grandmother’s death in 1973. I never knew the name of Jimmy’s father. Mama had a way of changing the subject or deflecting the question whenever she was asked of Jimmy’s dad.

My mother was eleven years old at the time of her father’s death. How soon after her husband’s death grandmother starting "acting ugly," is no longer germane, but at age sixteen, my mother married William Henry Carter who offered to "get her away from all this," an apparent reference to the disreputable circumstances at home.

In my early years, I didn’t know Jimmy Crausby very well. My family moved from Pontotoc when I was two years old and returned nine years later. I have a few memories of visiting my grandmother, Mama Nona, and her second husband, "Little Man" Enlow, but I don’t recall anything of Jimmy Crausby during the years we lived away from Pontotoc.

Mama Nona and Jimmy lived on Inzer Street for a few years before selling their place to my Aunt Jo and Uncle Julius Lee "Pearlie" Collins. My parents’ home, the old Owen place, on Woodland Street, was also home to my grandparents, Hayden and Becky Carter, formerly of Thaxton, at the time of their respective deaths in 1960. Around 1962, Mama Nona and Jimmy moved into the "other side" of our home on Woodland Street, the part my grandparents had utilized.

My memories of Jimmy Crausby pretty much began during my later years of high school and college. I remember Aunt Jo buying a new 1958 Chevrolet, which Jimmy drove on occasion. During this time, Jimmy’s best friend was Billy Joe Kidd. The two of them spent a lot of time together. Both of them enjoyed singing and were members of West Heights Baptist Church in Pontotoc.

I was probably a college student at the time Jimmy invited me to go deer hunting with him. Mama figured I would get shot in the woods, and she wouldn’t hear of me going off with Jimmy. However, when Jimmy and Billy Joe became interested in archery, I did get to go with them occasionally to an archery range a few miles southeast of Pontotoc, just off Hwy. 41. I remember it was hard for me to pull a bow with a draw weight of forty pounds, but Jimmy and Billy Joe could do pretty well with draw weights of sixty pounds or more.

Jimmy became a salesman for a small wholesale company and visited area stores assigned to his route. Later, he married Linda Todd, whose family lived a block away from my parents. Though, I didn’t attend the marriage ceremony, my sister relates that Billy Joe sang at the wedding.

"He sang How Great Thou Art, about as well as I’ve ever heard it sung," Sarah recently shared. "And I’ve heard it sung by persons who were trained for the opera."

One would think that two young men of such a close friendship, would never have become sworn enemies, but it happened. Barbara and I were living in Ripley at the time the friendship between Jimmy Crausby and Billy Joe Kidd dissolved.

Billy Joe and his wife filed for a divorce and a custody battle ensued over their daughter. In those years, there was nothing like a no-fault divorce, where a husband and wife could breakup housekeeping over something trivial or in legal parlance, "irreconcilable differences." Linda, Jimmy’s wife, was a friend of Billy Joe’s wife. She may have influenced Jimmy to testify against his friend.

Jimmy’s testimony, that he walked into Billy Joe’s store (convenience store on Hwy. 9 South) and found Billy Joe on the floor behind the counter in the throes of adultery, may have been the deciding factor in child custody being awarded to Billy Joe’s wife. Whether or not Jimmy supplied the testimony most damaging to his friend’s divorce case, there can be no doubt that Jimmy Crausby nailed his own coffin shut on that day.

When Jimmy Crausby lived on Inzer Street, one of his neighbors was Lamar Roberts. Jimmy Roberts was a youngster at the time, but he has fond memories of Jimmy Crausby. Recently, Jimmy Roberts recounted how Jimmy Crausby was always friendly toward him and his family, and stated how he was impressed that Jimmy took time to stop and chat with a young kid. Most of us go through life without realizing how the small things we do for others are often the things that others recall about us.

Friend, Jimmy Roberts, also told me he was a law student at Ole Miss when Billy Joe Kidd was on trial for the death of Jimmy Crausby. The trial and its outcome were important to Jimmy, from both a legal perspective and his own personal knowledge of the deceased. Most of the persons who know what actually happened on that fatal December night in 1968 are no longer living, but the testimonies of several witnesses who arrived on the scene that evening provide some insight into what took place.

Shortly after the divorce case was settled, Jimmy Crausby began to receive threatening phone calls. Caller ID didn’t exist in that era, so there was little to support Jimmy’s belief the calls were from either family or friends of Billy Joe Kidd. Also, the caller or callers muffled their voice in order to avoid recognition. As I recall, there was a period of time when Jimmy offered to meet with the caller and would drive to a designated place only to have no one show up. After several no-shows, Jimmy was quite angry.

Circumstances often drive persons to desperate measures, and Jimmy took to carrying a .38 revolver in his car. On the night of his death, he received another threatening phone call, but this time, according to family remembrances, he recognized the caller’s voice as that of his former friend, Billy Joe Kidd. The two agreed to meet alone at a site on Clark Street known as Dynamite Hill, so named because of a structure the City of Pontotoc used for the storage of dynamite. At that time, Clark Street connected Hwy. 6 and Brooks Street.

Joe Kidd did not keep his pledge to meet Jimmy Crausby alone. Joe’s dad, Walter "Honey" Kidd, his sister, Dot Kidd, and Joe’s daughter, all arrived at the scene in time to witness and/or participate in the fighting that followed. Apparently, heated words were exchanged before the shooting and knifing occurred. The order of events, as related during the murder trial that followed, is weighted favorably on the part of the defendant as only Joe Kidd and members of his family survived to testify.

Jimmy’s revolver was fired several times with one bullet striking the elder Kidd in the chest fatally wounding him, and one bullet severing the right index finger of Joe Kidd. Joe was also shot in the chest. The abdomen of Jimmy Crausby was opened by a knife wound, partially disemboweling him.

As participants in the melee left the scene, Jimmy Crausby drove his car to the foot of the hill stopping at the intersection of Hwy. 6 and Clark Street. A passerby, seeing Jimmy bleeding and bent over in front of his car, stopped to assist him. Soon a crowd had gathered. Those who heard Jimmy speak recall him stating that "Joe and Walt" had cut him. Jimmy was eventually taken to the Pontotoc Hospital and died on the operating table.

Among the passersby who stopped on the side of the highway to help, were George and Ruth Simon. Mrs. Simon was wearing a mink coat, and when she heard Jimmy tell bystanders that he was cold, she took her mink coat and placed it on him for warmth. Her selfless act of kindness was one my family has never forgotten.

Though murder charges were filed, a Pontotoc County jury found Joe Kidd guilty of manslaughter. The conviction was later voided and remanded to the lower court by the Mississippi Supreme Court, which ruled in part that the dying declaration was not a dying declaration in that the victim was "in no fear of impending death" but hopeful of recovery at the time the statement was made.

This contradicts the testimony of James H. Brandon, a special investigator for the Memphis Police Department, who was visiting his parents home, which is near the intersection where Crausby was found bleeding.

Brandon stated Jimmy said, "I know I’m dying, don’t leave me here, get me to the hospital."

In light of Crausby’s death some five hours after being knifed, it would seem the High Court made a "bad call."

Most members of my family believe Billy Joe held Jimmy while Walter Kidd cut him. Apart from the testimony by members of the Kidd family, we have no way of knowing if Jimmy fired his gun in self-defense or not. Every story has two sides, but unfortunately no one on my family’s side was a witness to the criminal act and Jimmy Crausby didn’t survive to give his account of the events that night on Dynamite Hill.

The tragic outcome of this event is not bereft of speculation: Jimmy Crausby may have been the aggressor in the fight. Billy Joe Kidd may have told the truth. Jimmy may have been the victim of a planned attack on his person. Justice may have been served by the courts.

Yet, two people died in the violence; family and friends on both sides carry emotional scars from that night, but what really happened on Dynamite Hill is something most of us will never know.

Bodock Beau Political Short Cuts

Found among items of interest in a recent issue of The Patriot Post:

"Anybody who’s convinced that Barack Obama belongs in the White House, except as part of a tour group, is the same sort of twit who actually believes that Jimmy Carter is a living saint and that Hillary Clinton is the smartest woman in America." —Burt Prelutsky

Jay Leno: It was quite a weekend, politically. An estimated 75,000 people attended a Barack Obama rally on the banks of the Willamette River. And if you believe the media, listen to this: After the rally, Barack Obama fed them all with just five loaves of bread and two fish.

The oldest serving member of Congress, former Klan member, Senator Robert Byrd, has endorsed Barack Obama for president. That’s got to make Hillary feel good, huh? Even the Klan guy is going, "I’m gonna go with the black guy."

Hillary Clinton is doing whatever she can to stay in the race. Yeah, things are not looking good for Hillary. In fact, today, she was thinking of changing her name to "Gas Prices" just to see her numbers go up.

In response to climate change, Barack Obama said we can’t drive our SUVs, keep our houses at 72 degrees, and eat all we want. When Al Gore heard we can’t eat all we want, he called Obama a global warming fanatic.

All eyes are on Al Gore now. Ooh, who’s Al Gore going to endorse? And analysts think Gore will jump on the Obama bandwagon. Have you seen the size of Al Gore lately? That could be the end of the bandwagon.


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