"Novella - Unwanted Dog"

Chapter 1
Unwanted Dog-Prologue

By Brett Matthew West

Recorded by Jean Shepard in March of 1973, "Slippin' Away" reached the Number 4 slot on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. The Bill Anderson-written Hit fit snug with my mood that day as I made my journey. I kept singing the song's refrain and let the words filter through my mind. They indicated beyond doubt how I felt about my life in general in the moment.

A long-time personal friend, a story I will save for another day, "The Whisperer," as Bill is famously known, penned "I can feel it slippin' away. Slowly, slowly, slippin' away."

I sure wished Hermitage Hall would slip away. The sooner the better. You may not be familiar right now with what Hermitage Hall is. Stay around, and before the robins migrate South for the Winter season you will be.

Over the course of the last fifty years or so, what Hit Country music recording has Bill Anderson not written or been involved with? His accolades are too numerous to list in my simple autobiography. However, I will be eternally grateful Bill arranged for me to sit on the stage while the Grand Ole Opry performed one Saturday night. A pleasure I may never experience again.


UNFATHOMABLE. A SIMPLE WORD MEANING INCAPABLE OF BEING FULLY UNDERSTOOD TO THE HUMAN MIND, AS THE REALITY OF THE SITUATION WAS TO MINE. And, while it may seem unfathomable, I was adopted by an unknown stranger I begged money from in a Walmart parking lot. Allow me to take you through that adventure.

Like all stories to enrapture, there must be a commencement. So, let's start alongside an examination of Andrew Jackson's famous residence known as The Hermitage. Located about two miles from the Cumberland and Stones Rivers, the 1,120 acre site can be discovered in a secluded meadow. The famous former home of the seventh President of the United States began life as a cotton plantation. In 1910, the Hermitage Hotel launched operations. Since those early days, the site boasts the claim of having accommodated many celebrities and Presidents. Still does.

Noble and impressive in appearance, with an admired style, the red brick Davidson County Hermitage Hall Complex stood at 2121 8th Avenue South in Downtown Nashville near one of the finest examples of everything the city offered, the popular and glorious Broadway Street. What was the significance of this road as it meandered along its run through the heart of the Downtown area? To this day, Broadway Street has remained the home of many of the finest restaurants, bars, and music venues Music City has ever provided.

Room 3B, on the Veranda Wing of the complex, was where I was supposed to be living. However, there were no open-walls, or roofed porches, attached to the exterior of the building. No rails surrounded the structure. Nothing indicated welcoming verandas at all. The residential facility provided crisis intervention, on-site educational programs, and 24-hour staff supervision for the proper care of boys with no place else to go.

Nashville of that era saw Freddy Hart's "Easy Loving" become a Country Music Song of the Year. If loving was so easy, I sure didn't get very much when those portions were doled out. Other happenings around town back then included drive-in theatres being all the rage. I heard attendees pulled up to their spots, parked their vehicles in the darkness, and whiled away the time in make out mode as the movie they were supposed to be watching droned on and on and on. I've often wondered if that was how I was conceived?

For Nashvillians, Woody Allen's films debuted at the popular Loew's Crescent Theatre Downtown on Church Street. And, kids actually got out of their scholastic endeavors to attend the annual State Fair. On television, everyone watched "All In The Family" featuring Archie and Edith Bunker. As I write my autobiography, I find that comical because I never possessed family bonds.

Many times throughout my earliest years, various staff members of Hermitage Hall, in their unique tone, informed me I had been unceremoniously placed in the facility upon birth by royal decree of someone named Davidson County Juvenile Court Magistrate Josiah Ellington. We never formally met. Much too young to recollect this event, I did not harbor his erroneous decision against him. There was no animosity, no distaste, no resentment, and no anger. At least, none directed straight at the individual. I'm sure he only performed the task necessary as required by his lofted position.

My official entrance records into Hermitage Hall indicated to me the male half of the two people most prominent in my conception had been murdered in prison by a lifer. Shed no crocodiles for me, Matilda. I never knew the bank robber found bludgeoned to death in his cell by overnight correctional officers after serving seven months of a three decade stretch.

Her name redacted, those records further enlightened me three facts about the female side of the aforementioned equation. She was the product of a bad relationship. She was a mere child of fifteen when I plopped out of her womb, and, she died soon thereafter.

Do I own verified evidence of the fates alleged to have befallen either one of these two persons? In truth, no. I simply have versions of tales relayed by Hermitage Hall staff members. I will admit their insights changed on more than one occasion. Most of them held agendas of their own as to what may have been realistic in its application to my parentage. Par for the course for Hermitage Hall.

I have never shaken family trees, or searched genealogical wonders, in a quest to locate any kin. To my knowledge, I have no known blood relatives. If they existed, none have ever stepped forward to claim this waif. Honestly, as I approach the waning years of my life, and extermination is bound to soon follow, I do not give two shakes to a shit whether they managed to keep the wolf from their doors, ever drew a breath of fresh air, or rotted in the deepest open pits of the fires of Hades.

I have much more important, and pressing, issues to confront. To begin with this insidious monster known as Basal Cell Carcinoma, and the thirty-four documented tumors I have had to date. That nonsense would slow anyone down, and affect all areas of their lives. One of the biggest for me has been the ailment tries to cut into my writing time. There are days when I do not have the energy to post, edit, review, or much of anything else. Especially not on the scale I once did.

The physical location of Hermitage Hall placed it eight blocks from what became famous as Music Row on 16th Avenue South. Music Row was considered the Heart of Nashville's Entertainment Industry. The group home was also located in close proximity to what, some twenty years or so later, became my all-time favorite restaurant, Monell's. Here, you "Enter as strangers and leave as friends" as the amazing staff there liked to claim.

Monell's offered much more than wonderful Country banquets served family-style. Remember to pass everything to the left around the table. If you leave hungry it is your own fault. I have often come to Monell's to write. In fact, I have penned many of my articles, both for FanStory, as well as a myriad of others I have sold to the highest bidder in my Freelance Writer days, right here at Monell's. It is kind of a home away from home for me.

You stroll down a sidewalk that leads to their entrance, which happens to be in the back of the 1880s Victorian manor. As you round the corner of the building, you encounter a small cement pond full of nishikigoi. You can feed these colorful carp with the pellets Monell's provides for this purpose. But, no fishing allowed.

Past that point, you observe a scenic gazebo, with wooden swings, in the middle of a Venetian garden. I have spent countless hours enjoying the serenity of this gazebo. Because Monell's is almost always packed with guests, the gazebo is ideal for those with a social bend. I definitely recommend Monell's to everyone who visits my fair city.

This morning, in an effort to bring them to you, I have come to Monell's to attempt to reacquaint myself with memories that have been mostly suppressed for some 50 years now. Looking back into the far reached corners of my mind, I could write a book on the roads I took and the lessons I learned. I invite you to tag along on my journey.


NOTE: Chapter One will recount the altercation I got into, and one of the reasons I strayed from Hermitage Hall, on the most fateful day of my life.

Author Notes Bosco, by Linda Wetzel, selected to complement my autobiography.

Chapter 1
Unwanted Dog-1

By Brett Matthew West

The April 1973, Epic Records label released, Kenny O'Dell written, and Charlie Rich performed song, Behind Closed Doors defined life in Hermitage Hall fairly well when it stated "no one knows what goes on behind closed doors."

Charlie Rich's first Number One Hit spent twenty weeks on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and garnished the Single of the Year Award, and the Song of the Year Award, from the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.

Additionally, the song reaped Grammy Awards for Best Country Song and Best Country Vocal Performance, Male.


I NEVER FIT IN ABUNDANTLY WELL AT HERMITAGE HALL. Most of that was by my own design. I skirmished regularly with other boys living there over petty squabbles. If you did not stand up for yourself you became an easy target for bullying, and I never signed on for any of that foolishness.

My rule of thumb became when their opinion differed from mine fisticuffs soon followed. I developed a certain talent for, and grew pretty adept at throwing hands, and feet, and anything else, nailed down or otherwise. My frequent weapons were rocks, and books, and whatever it took to get the message across loud and clear. In a jungle where the strongest survived, those things mattered not to me.

Physically, I was one of the smallest boys at Hermitage Hall. Now, this gentle giant, right, remains vertically challenged at five feet and five inches tall. In today's world one can not say the word "short" without being politically incorrect. Of course, that's never stopped me before in saying just exactly the words on my mind at that moment.

Fighting was strictly against the Hermitage Hall Code of Conduct and the reason for the altercation did not matter one iota. Two posteriors were going to get thoroughly flogged by King Tubbo's flaunted Big Bertha. One of my favorite maneuvers when I fought was to grab two hands full of the hair on top of my opponent's head, and for all I was worth, try to yank it out by the roots. The louder they screamed in agony the harder I pulled. Soon, they saw the light and left me alone, which made me much happier. Truth be told that was all I wanted.

One particular incident that occurred in the cafeteria the day I strolled off the premises, helped end me up in a certain esteemed Wal-Mart parking lot. For whatever reason there may be, this occurrence has stuck with me all these years later. I don't remember what nasty swill of kitchen refuge they prepared for our consumption. Suppose that does not matter now, and doubt if the resident pigs at Hermitage Hall would have wallowed in the slop, even if all they tried to do was spread their scent.

Phillip Gobertson was a loudmouthed muttonhead. He fancied himself an intimidator. No one liked him because of his tormenting anyone he saw as vulnerable. He'd been at Hermitage Hall a transient while. I do not know if the chubby tadpole aged out of the system there or not. For all I know, it is much more probable he wound up serving time in the Big Boys' House. You know, the one with all those steel bars that adorn the joint. Either way, I could care less, but don't.

As soon as Phillip approached me, I sensed a battle brewing. However, I was alerted to whatever he had in mind. For two days he'd tried to engage me in conflict. In front of a captive audience he made his move. That was not a wise decision on his part.

Phillip glared a threat and gaped, "Guess I'm gonna have to punch you now!"

I dropped my fork on my plate, right in the middle of what was supposed to be instant mashed potatoes, or a close proximity thereof. I glowered back at him just as menacingly as he had been and replied, "Guess you're gonna have to try!"

Phillip had thirty pounds of excess blubber on me. Much quicker than my contested dispute, I bolted off my chair and grabbed him around his ample waist. Rapidly, I tackled him to the floor like a middle linebacker brought down a flat-footed fullback. Phillip laid on his back. The poor floor had to support all his weight. I almost felt pity for it.

As a crowd of boys gathered around us whooping, hollering, and encouraging the two banty roosters into combat, I reached up on the refreshment table situated near to where I had been seated. I grabbed the punchbowl and poured its ice cold liquid contents over Phillip's carrot-top. This sent raspberry punch racing down his chest. It pooled on the floor around where he laid shivering in the mess. I left him there in tears, humiliated by what I'd done. I never claimed to fight fair.

The altercation cost me to lose my canteen privileges for a month. So what! I seldom enjoyed any of the treats there. I also had a mandatory consultation with Doctor Angelica Oliverez. She handled all the so-called anger management issues Hermitage Hall felt us boys displayed. Whoop-de-freaking-do!

What ticked me off the most about this incident was later I heard Phillip walked away from the altercation unscathed. He was not disciplined at all for the confrontation he caused. I simply finished the bruhaha. I couldn't concern myself with that matter though. I held larger visions of grandeur that involved five sticky little fingers. You can probably guess without much effort what they were up to.


In Chapter 4 I will detail the final straw that caused me to depart Hermitage Hall on the most fateful day of my life.

Author Notes Bosco, by Linda Wetzel, complements my autobiography.

Chapter 4
Unwanted Dog-4

By Brett Matthew West

The Bobby Braddock-written, John Anderson-recorded song, "Would You Catch A Falling Star" was recorded on April 17, 1982 on the Warner Brothers Nashville record label.

"Would You Catch A Falling Star reached the Number 6 position on the Billboard Hot Country Singles And Tracks chart.

The song's lyric "Would you catch a falling star before he crashes to the ground" pretty well summed up how I felt after my fight with Phillip Gobertson in the cafeteria.

Little did I know I was about to plummet even further.


SUPERINTENDENT GAIL MCCLELLAN HAD SPENT THE DAY TOURING HERMITAGE HALL. I supposed the head honcho, and resident peckerhead extraordinnaire, could do that in his waddling steps if he so desired. King Tubbo suffered from a permanent weakness in his hip girdle and upper thigh muscles brought on by excess tonnage. His obviously not the best locomotion manifested in resembling a duck when he paraded. I knew McClellan's whereabouts when he unceremoniously barged abruptly into the sanctuary of my room on the east end of the third floor and slammed the door closed behind him. It about flew off its rusted hinges.

Shirtless and barefooted, I had changed into cutoff jeans. You know the kind I'm talking about. The ones with all the loose strings that dangled from the legs once your handiwork with scissors finished. You probably had a pair or two youself.

This was a direct violation of Hermitage Hall's exhalted dress code that stated "Boys are to remain fully clothed at all times." Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! And, I do mean that sarcastically.

I was so attired because, as usual, the air conditioning unit in my room was on the fritz and it was June 22nd. Another blistering hot day in Nashville. The first day of Summer always was. So, I ask you, what else is a boy supposed to do in a situation like that?

Rumors had it McClellan held a particular taste for little tykes. One he should not have possessed. Not alone, he topped the list of the most unpopular staff in the facility. In my book, all employees of Hermitage Hall filled that praiseworthy register.

Allow me to paint his portrait for you. Short and stout, to put McClellan's physical description in mild terms, King Tubbo was follicly challenged and bespectacled. The fearless leader of the dread always wore white suits that looked lIke they had just been laundered in a bottle of Clorox. He must have carried 325, or more, rotund pounds on his five foot eight inch frame. Right away, I noticed McClellan in rare form. A smile creased his face. Normally, King Tubbo's expression was a stern scowl. I feigned concern the grin would fracture his portly face.

He began his spiel, "Well, well. If it isn't our resident hellcat wolverine once again breaking the established rules of our fine institution."

My reputation of "hellcat wolverine" suited me. Later in life, I used it in one of my social media addresses. It seemed I always locked horns with someone at Hermitage Hall. Somebody needed to carry the mantra. I decided it may as well be me. I stared back at the nuisance who'd disturbed my peace and attempted to wish him away. Much to my chagrin, the pest didn't leave.

"I'm in the privacy of my room," I commented.

King Tubbo's stern response arose immediately. He bellowed, "Whether they are in the infirmary, the classroom, on the exercise yard we graciously provide them, or in the confines of their rooms, boys here at Hermitage Hall have no privacy! Do I make myself clear? The rules are the rules, and you seem to constantly shatter them in a concerted effort to see what you can escape with."

I could not deny that fact, nor could I insinuate not being aware they had cameras scattered all over the property spying on us. That included in the shower rooms.

McClellan paused a moment to huff, puff, and catch his breath. I smelled more than a little nip of vodka. King Tubbo was easily winded. He continued his lecture by telling me, "I could enforce the required consequences of another round with Big Bertha for your unwarranted actions. However, this one time I offer an olive branch and will get right to the point of why I am darkening your door."

I couldn't wait to hear his proposal and wondered what McClelland demanded from me. The sooner he finished barking and disappeared the better.

"Tonight, at 8 o'clock sharp, and not one second later, you are to be freshly showered. Your blond hair is to be properly shampooed and neatly combed into place. And, I do mean every last hair on the top of your head, especially that unmitigated, god-awful, cowlick of yours. At that time you will report to the Executive Suite on the fifth floor. Moreover, you will ensure you are dressed in clean, snow-white Fruit of the Looms. You will don clean black socks and closed-toed shoes on your feet. Not your worn out boots. In addition, you will wear a spotless, button-down, long-sleeved shirt and your best pair of pressed slacks. Make sure you iron them properly. Upon your arrival, a suitable tie will be provided to you. Do you have any questions pertaining to these matters you wish to discuss with me at this moment?"

My initial reaction was desperately wanting to ask King Tubbo, "Is it true pigs can fly?"

That was a direct reference to his physical resemblence to a ham sandwich product. However, the little smart ass I could be set aside, I responded with a simple "Nope." What I truly desired was for McClellan to vanish into thin air, or otherwise. I did not want to accept his generous, for lack of a better word, invitation, either. Discretion being the better part of valor, I had no choice.

The occasion King Tubbo addressed was his annual Summer Solstice Ball in support of raising capital to assist in carrying on the "prison" known as Hermitage Hall. The event would draw from the beau-monde of many walks of life in Nashville society. They always had before. These were Big Money contributors to the cause. In return, they expected to be, shall we say "entertained"?

Many of the boys I was on speaking terms with, and there wasn't but a trickle of them at the time, had talked about this event for the last month. Not all of them would be in attendance at the gala, only a hand-chosen few. Apparently, whether I liked the predicament I found myself engulfed in or not, I was one of the slaughtered sheep.

The chatter was these High Dollar attendees demanded a particular species of boys for their cream of the crop affair. The happier they were with the variety of boys presented as their escorts for the evening the more currency they tended to endow. Favors brought favors in return.

So much for my planned activities of the night that included turning out the overhead light in my room, illuminating a flickering candle, and enjoying my Edgar Allen Poe horror stories. Quote the raven, "Nevermore."

Instead, I was required to be at these unwanted festivities I cared nothing about. Like Wile E. Coyote, of the Looney Tunes cartoons on television, I would rather be run over by a steamroller. It would be a lot less painful. All of us boys knew what happened at one of King Tubbo's famous celebrations. We were the star attractions.

Don't allow anyone to fool you. Sometimes in the grand scheme of life, blond hair and blue eyes aren't all they are cracked up to be. Little did I know how close I was to wrapping up my stay at Hermitage Hall. A place I passionately despised.


In Chapter Five, I had no plans, no future, and wasn't sure I even wanted to experience one if it existed. With nothing else to do, and no place to go, I ran away from Hermitage Hall.

Author Notes Bosco, by Linda Wetzel, selected to complement my autobiography.

Chapter 5
Unwanted Dog - 5

By Brett Matthew West

I knew the pick-up line My Life Began In A Wal-Mart Parking Lot When I Was A Twelve Year Old Rapscallion would pique your interest. After all, curiosity is human nature. Therefore, you could not help yourself.

If I opened up a book, and read that vaunted line, I would dern well want to gain an understanding of just what the heck the author is muttering about. I assure you what I claimed is the absolute, unabridged, truth. Allow me to tell you the details beginning with this chapter.

"I'm beginning to think I get my kicks from being hurt" - Johnny Rodriguez and Tom T. Hall, Track 1 from his 1973 Mercury Records album Introducing Johnny Rodriguez.

Saturday, June 9, 1973. Co-written by Johnny Rodriguez and Tom T. Hall, "You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me) ran the gamut as the Number One song played on the radio. At that time, the tune made Johnny Rodriguez, all of twenty-one years old, the youngest Country Performer to place a Number One Hit on what was then called the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart. The song was Johnny Rodriguez's second appearance on this chart and became the unofficial theme song of the legion of miscreants who dwelt in Hermitage Hall, myself included.


I YEARNED TO BE INCARCERATED BY THE FREEDOM OF THE ROAD AND ESCAPE THE "PRISON" THAT CONFINED ME. Though it was strictly against the repulsive taboos of the known, and unknown world, more times than not I strolled away from the five-and-a-half acres of dust that encircled Hermitage Hall.

Getting caught breaking such insidious rules resulted in an immediate session with Big Bertha, the Superintendent's lethal well-worn strap. Should I get graphic with what his favorite implement of torture did to young, tender flesh? Maybe, I'll leave that imagery up to your vivid imagination.

Cocooned snug away from where I possessed no desire to be, I envisioned life would be grandiose on the trifled highway to terra incognita. There, I could venture through its unexplored territory, or anywhere else, except where I was forced to exist. An unattainable, illusory pipe dream? Perhaps.

I'd heard mapmakers of long ago labeled such uncharted regions as "HIC SVNT DRACONES," the Latin form of here are dragons. Though I did not believe in such imminent creatures, the thought of encountering Puff, the Magic Dragon intrigued me.

I often considered this perspective and came to the same fateful conclusion. This recalcitrant vagabond would ramble the forbidden journey, with a strong inward conviction of impending misfortune, long past the time Hell froze over solid and loosed its vile furies.

Maybe they would devour Hermitage Hall with vengeance and retribution for its crimes against the natural order that pertained to us misfortunate boys who resided there. With any good serendipity, the dive would be nothing more than a long-forgotten nightmare. However, at the time freedom was not my forte. A few years later, in 1984 to be exact, a tornado and fire answered my prayers. Bye-bye Hermitage Hall.

The cards I'd been dealt bellowed, "You don't hold the winning hand, you pathetic L-O-S-E-R!"

Try as hard as I may, it became harder and harder to build anything on the grit shifting through my outstretched fingers. I stared down at the splintered cracks in the dirty sidewalk, and made my way to nowhere in a syncopated rhythm of movement. A crumpled Arby's bag, once white, but now grease-stained, littered the tiny patch of grass in the median. I couldn't resist the temptation. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Kick!

A half-filled Pepsi cup, mostly partially melted ice, sailed out from underneath my scuffed Tony Lamas, a donation from the local chapter of the Salvation Army. The boots presented chipped uppers and holes that began to peek through. These formed the unique shapes of mouths that exposed my dirty toes. The soles of those boots had also begun the separation process from the uppers and flapped with each bit of movement. I know you are familiar with that click-clack click-clack sound. And no, I was not a horse prancing around on cobblestones.

In the world of Hermitage Hall footwear, mine reigned supreme among those in the worst condition. Never one of King Tubbo's favorite short-statured lilliputians, they were the only pair I owned. What could I do but wear them, when I wore shoes at all? I much rather preferred to be barefooted. Still do, as I find shoes much too confining. Were you born with them on? No, and there is not one good reason to be forced to have to wear such discomforting atrocities.

The alleged to be low-fat, and good for growing adolescents like moi, imitation, pasteurized, kamaboko, I'd been served for dinner the night before did not sit well in the pit of my churning stomach. These sliced hooplas are nothing more than processed, pureed, and deboned white fish, with man-made additives and flavorings tossed in for good measures. Formed into loaves, they are steamed until fully cooked and firm.

Danger lurked. Because on top of everything else, I felt I could go postal.


*****Coming soon, Chapter Six will provide a looky-loo into what my life on the streets was like.

Author Notes Boscoe, by Linda Wetzel, complements my autobiography.

Four years ago I wrote my autobiography Unwanted Dog. The FanStory system has seen fit to make the book "unretreivable", according to Tom. This is a reposting of that book.

Chapter 6
Unwanted Dog-6

By Brett Matthew West

"Slippin' Away" - Recorded in March of 1973, and Number Four on the Billboard Country chart, the Bill Anderson-written, Jean Shepard-recorded, Hit "Slippin' Away" fit nicely with my mood that day as I made my journey. I kept singing the song's refrain in my mind.

A long-time friend, "The Whisperer" as Bill is famously known, wrote "I can feel it slippin' away. Slowly, slowly, slippin' away".

I sure wished Hermitage Hall would. The sooner the better.

Over the course of the last fifty years or so, what Hit Country music recording has Bill Anderson not written or been involved with? His accolades are too numerous to list in my simple book. However, I will be eternally grateful Bill arranged for me to sit on the stage while the Grand Ole Opry performed one Saturday night. A pleasure I may never experience again.


AN OVERWHELMING CASE OF BUTT GLAUCOMA ENGULFED ME. I felt I would drown in the notion. This meant I could never see my posterior returning back to Hermitage Hall.

I was too youthful to recall when I was originally surrendered to the custody of Hermitage Hall. I have been informed I was pretty much left on the doorstep right after the stork delivered me. Nor can I quote the circumstances thereof.

To this day no living blood relative has ever materialized to proclaim our mutual kinship. Neither have I shaken any family trees, or enlisted any geneological records, in an effort to locate them. The situation does not bother me. As I approach my Senior years, much faster than I care to admit, and cancer (Basal Cell Carcinoma) seems to want to become a close personal acquaintance of mine, (thirteen tumors to date) I do not give two shakes to a shit if any exist. I stopped worrying about that prospective multiple blue moons ago.

I rounded the corner of the greystone McSherry's Used Furniture Outlet and allowed my wandering mind to scatter in all different directions. It usually did. Six cement steps led to the front door of the business. I know. I counted them. Seen through the establishment's canted bay window, with its flat front and angled dual sides, the open floor plan once housed couches, chairs, tables, beds, and what-nots in various shapes, sizes, and hues. In its heyday, McSherry's contained the largest selection of somewhat-used accessories to adorn any home. All at a reasonable cost, of course. How sad, or at least nostalgic. Times, they sure do change everything the monster pertains to.

Like many businesses of that era, the now defunct retailer succumbed to stagflation and the stock market crash of 1973. These unfortunate incidents featured price controls, high inflation, slow economic growth, and a large amount of unemployment. All attributed to skyrocketed gas prices, OPEC's raised oil costs, and embargoed oil exports.

At the time, just trying to survive from one moment to the next, I paid no attention to any such affairs. If I'd been asked about them, my pat answer would have been a blank expression. I would not have even known the words you spoke. They were way beyond the grasp of a twelve year old, especially one with much more important thoughts to consider. Issues like now that I've run away from Hermitage Hall for good, where do I go from here?

I moved on. Don't ask me why but lava lamps, with their boluses of colored wax-mixture and incandescent lightbulbs, flashed through my memory banks. Associated incessantly with the hippie culture, these decorative lamps were chic. They worked by reducing the wax's density and the liquid's surface tension. In sequence, this caused the wax to rise through the liquid, cool, and lose its buoyance. Before long, the wax fell back to the lamp's bottom in a continuous cycle suggestive of the smooth, ropy surface of undulated pahoehoe lava. Thus their nomenclature.

The other excitement of that particular Saturday occured in the world of sports. Thoroughbred horse racing to be exact. Secretariat won the 105th Belmont Stakes by the widest margin ever at the track against four highly overmatched opponents. Big Red, as the super horse became known, also set the American record on dirt of a staggering two minutes and twenty-four seconds for the mile-and-a-half distance. Twice A Prince, My Gallant, PVT Smiles, and Sham proved no competition in the battle. Two weeks earlier on June 9th, I had watched the bruhaha on the Black and White television set in the Recreation Room of Hermitage Hall.Thoroughbred horse racing remains one of my choices in recreational activities. I could truthfully inform you I have won my fair share of bets in the game.

Much more of a day-dreamer than a television watcher, especially in the fulfillment of wishes and hopes, I recalled something I'd heard Macdonald Carey state on NBC. Truer words seldom expressed when he pronounced, "As sands through the hourglass so are the days of our lives." The famous lead-in described me categorically. These defiantly were the days of my life. The tighter the knit, the warmer the fit.

Perhaps I should have been crushed by the burden of my lot. I wasn't. I was happy to be away from Hermitage Hall, and though totally on my own in a world waiting to gorge a feast on those cast aside by humanity, I was carefree.

A bluebird chirped overhead. I scanned all around for where the joyous sound emitted. The high-pitched declaration caused me to pine to fly away on his wings. I knew I couldn't. Somebody else may have been angry, and someone else may have been hurt. I shook back my pullover, with its imprinted wolf head on the front. Powerfully built, and heavily muscled, these canids always were my favorite animals.

I made a snap decision and beelined against a yellow light. My mind recalled how holes in the ceiling of the Hermitage Hall cafeteria allowed water to drip into our morning milk. The memory passed as I sojourned on my trek to obscurity.


In Chapter Seven, death stared me in the face. I didn't blink.

Author Notes Bosco, by Linda Wetzel, complements my autobiography.

Chapter 7
Unwanted Dog-7

By Brett Matthew West

Released by her own Dolly Records recording company, The Dolly Parton-written song "Together You And I" was the first Single from her 2011 Better Day album. The song was also a remake of her 1974 Hit Duet with Porter Wagoner on their Porter 'n' Dolly album.

Dolly debuted "Together You And I" on the May 27, 2011 edition of the Ellen DeGeneres television program.

Released on April 19, 2004, the "Big Kenny" William Kenneth Alphin and John Rich co-written "Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)" was the second Single from their Horse Of A Different Color album on the Warner Bros. Nashville record label.

A fusion of Country Rock and Country Rap, "Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)" was featured by ESPN in their 2004 World Series of Poker commercials.

"Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)" also appeared in the "Death Be Not Proud" episode of the Boston Legal television series.


AS PEACEFUL AS THE RIVER BELOW ME, I CROSSED WHAT BECAME A NASHVILLE LANDMARK; THE SHELBY STREET BRIDGE OVER THE CUMBERLAND RIVER. Suffering from the familiar glassy eyed stare of vasodilation, a white beard wore psychodelic flip flops on his stubby toes. He held a bamboo fishing pole in his hand. Its line dangled over a rail of the bridge. An unzipped jacket, with a Vietnam War Veteran patch sewn on the sleeve, draped his shoulders. Ragged shorts revealed his protruded knocked knees. A sudden jerk indicated he had a nibble. Probably a catfish. I gave him a quick thumbs up as I strolled by and stepped off the bridge at its end. My movement forced an oncoming car to slam on its brakes to avoid running me over.

The terrified driver, probably not much older than this morning's oatmeal, mouthed, "Motherf_____!" In my direction.

"Butthole!" I returned the pleasantry with a single-fingered salute. The extended high, hard, middle one, of course.

He regained his composure, sipped from a paper bag, and sped off. The blue beacon of a Davidson County cruiser flashed.

"Ticket City." I smiled, pleased by my actions.

The Shelby Street bridge was the first one in the United States to contain concrete trusses. If you know anything about Country music, you should be familiar with this National Register of Historic Places bridge. Video appearances for the structure have included Dolly Parton's "Together You And I," Big and Rich's "Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)," and many others.

A prehistoric Smilodon's foreleg and fang had been found two years earlier not far from where I stood. Robustly built with broad limbs, a short tail, and short feet, Smilodons are more commonly known as saber-toothed tigers. They existed during the Pliestocene Era, up to about 10,000 years ago. These apex predators feasted on prehistoric bison.

The specimen had been unearthed in a cave system beneath the construction site of the First American National Bank building on Deaderick Street. This road can be found in the Kerrigan Basin, not far from the State Capitol, or the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum.

The fossil's breaking news story made the headlines of the Tennessean Newspaper and became fashionable in Downtown Nashville. In 1998, the detection evolved into the logo of our city's National Hockey League team, the Predators, and its mascot, Gnash.

So, the age old question remained of where did life begin? I've always believed at conception. You know, that physical coalescence of a male and a female in the act of reproducing another human. If you cared to google this information for whatever purpose you may encounter, current statistics indicated there are approximately seven billion or more such creatures roaming the face of the Earth. They came in diverse shapes and sizes, as well as a multitude of different hues and tones. They also contained a vast array of other qualities. Some more desirable than others.

I never catered to fate. Destiny did me no favors, at least, not positive interactions. The morning sky did not open up, nor did a voice out of the blue confront me. I was far from these miraculous happenings. Marginally no more than a street urchin, and a rowdy hooligan to boot, this young scamp's misfortunes would soon turn forever on a chance encounter.


In Chapter Eight, sleeping under a downtown underpass, my restless mind recalls the day's events, including some I have not mentioned yet.

Author Notes Boscoe, by Linda Wetzel, complements my autobiography.

Chapter 8
Unwanted Dog-8

By Brett Matthew West

If I could only pick the lyrics of one song to define the depths of my hatred of Hermitage Hall, especially when I was twelve years old, unquestionably that tune would be the "Man in Black" Johnny Cash's "San Quentin."

The 31st album, and 2nd Live album, by Johnny Cash recorded at San Quentin State Prison in California, "Johnny Cash At San Quentin" was released by Columbia Records on June 16, 1969. The actual concert had been performed on February 24, 1969.

"Johnny Cash At San Quentin" was nominated for several Grammy Awards including Album of the Year, and won the Best Male Country Vocal Performance Grammy Award for "A Boy Named Sue."

The album cover for "Johnny Cash At San Quentin" has become an iconic image of the "Man in Black."

Lyrics from "San Quentin" I so easily applied to my hatred of Hermitage Hall, and the prison I felt I was locked in tighter than a snare drum, included:

"I hate every inch of you."

"What good do you think you do?"

"May you rot and burn in hell! May your walls fall and may I live to tell. May all the world forget you ever stood. May all the world regret you did no good."

(All lyrics written by Johnny Cash.)

Any questions about how I felt?


EVENING SHADOWS CREPT OVER THE DOWNTOWN AREA. Faint light from the city's bustling nightlife, and a sky full of twinkling stars, cast an eerie sliver of light around me. I laid back as comfortably as I could and allowed my mind to mentally inventory the day's activities. Looking up, I spotted Venus and Jupiter, two of the so called "bright planets" that can easily be seen with the human eyes.

I told myself what I fantasized, "If only I had a way to get there." Of course, I did not. I would have gone right then.

I knew the dangers of sleeping beneath a downtown underpass. This tot could wake up dead. It sure felt cozier than I ever did sleeping in a Hermitage Hall bed.

The first thought that popped into my tired head was rules, and how many I'd broken that day. The notion pleased me. Hermitage Hall seemed to be chocked full of mundane regulations that affected every miniscule breath boys confined there drew. To make matters worse, I'd violated the strictest of them all. The cream of the crop cherry on top of the ice cream. A warm feeling of pride settled over my being as I realized this fact. No boys, myself included, or probably more accurately stated, ESPECIALLY me, were permitted to leave the premises of Hermitage Hall for any reason whatsoever without being accompanied by an appointed staffmember. You know what? I didn't care.

King Tubbo departed my room earlier that day, having informed me I was required to attend his precious Summer Solstice Ball against my fervent desires. This made me furious. I slammed my room's door in anger. The BANG!!! echoed down the hall. I was fed up with him, his wacky cockamamy staff, Hermitage Hall, all their endless demands, and the rest of the whole shebang pertaining to the place. They danced on my very last nerve. In more ways than one. That was not a good place to be.

I decided I'd make an appearance alright, just not the kind King Tubbo expected. Instead, for the live performance of the day, I'd imitate Escape Artiste Extraordinnaire Harry Houdini and magically disappear. I threw on a white tee shirt and my worn out Durangos. Nonchalantly, I made my way down the wooden floor hallway to the stairs that led to the foyer of Hermitage Hall as if I wasn't up to any deviousness. I passed a couple boys seated on overstuffed lounge chairs, donated Goodwill specials. Wrapped up in Gotham City escapades, they read Batman comic books. Neither one of them noticed my presence, so I did not speak to either Robbie Kowalski or Georgie Andrews, though I knew them well. They were what you may refer to as running buddies of mine. It felt like a mile-and-a-half's distance from where I'd passed Robbie and Georgie to the electric, sliding glass door entrance of the facility.

"Church mice," I reminded myself to remain as quiet as possible.

A quick survey of the area ensured my movements weren't observed by Eleanor Salisbury. The old matron attended the Visitors Desk. Pushing nine decades for all she was worth, the ancient battle-axe was consumed in working a puzzle. One of those Word Finds from what I could determine. So far, Lady Luck treated me well. Usually she played a mean game where I was concerned.

Scurrying outside to freedom, I sped across the gravel parking lot that only had four Crown Victorias parked in it. The vehicles belonged to Upper Management members of Hermitage Hall. I battled the urge to key everyone of them as I strolled by. My heart ached to! Even though it was difficult for me to contain myself, I refrained from those cravings, with one exception.

You guessed it, the car King Tubbo drove. So much for its pretty little new paint job. My intentional vandalism act with the small end of my room key scratched my calling card, my initials, across the hood. For good measure, I kicked a dent in the driver's door with the sole of my boot.

When the tape was reviewed in the Security Office later that afternoon, which was standard protocol, my decampment from Hermitage Hall would become readily noticed. King Tubbo would immediately place a Missing Person All Points Bulletin on me with local law enforcement officials. My advantage was I would have about a three hour headstart on being located.

Should I be found and returned back to the Center, as all previous runaways had been, I would face what King Tubbo called "the swiftest, direst, consequences" he and his henchmen could fathom. If they could get away with such trivial pursuits, no doubt they'd publicly tar and feather me, or boil me in a vat of oil to a crisp, crackling, crunch. Fried moppet. Our disdain for one another ran rampant. We sure weren't old friends making fond memories. Meted out, my punishment would be corporal and severe. King Tubbo enjoyed making examples out of boys to dissuade others from breaking his precious rules. The thought made me squirm.

The more I considered that prospect the more I felt slight tinges of angst race down the grimy seat of my jeans. However, I could not worry about that burning bridge until I crossed its trusses. I rolled over on my belly and placed my sleepy head on top of my folded arms. What this exhausted squirt would have given to have his comfy pillow.


In Chapter Nine, I continue to recount the events of the day I ran away from Hermitage Hall, including five sticky little fingers and my creative decorating capabilities.

Author Notes Boscoe, by Linda Wetzel, selected to complement my autobiography.

Chapter 9
Unwanted Dog-9

By Brett Matthew West

Three lines of lyrics from the 1986 Johnny Paycheck-written Country music Classic known as "Old Violin" fit me the best on the day I absconded from Hermitage Hall.

Released on the Mercury Records label, "Old Violin" was recorded at the East Avalon Recorders Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

Those lyrics are:

"Well, I can't recall one time in my life
I've felt as lonely as I do tonight
I feel like I could lay down and get up no more"


I LIKE MY PILLOW ROCK HARD, SOMETHING I CAN FIRMLY SETTLE MY THICK BLOND HEAD ON. Soft and squishy ones are not my cup of tea. Unable to drift off to Slumber Land, I watched an ant struggle to tote a wisp of grass. His labor bored me, therefore, his moments were numbered. I smirked and swatted the creepy-crawly with the palm of my hand. Not contented, I flicked the pest aside with a finger.

The blared horn of a passing truck was not loud enough to drown out the buzz of an aggravating mosquito. I realized the minibeasts nested in moist, stagnant bodies of water. Regardless of what the pesky nuisance claimed, the inner workings of my right ear were not the loathsome critter's private residence. From my viewpoint, I had no idea what triggered that truck's reaction.

I turned over on my back, interlocked my fingers, and placed them beneath my head. It did not take me long to recall three blocks north of where I bedded down I had turned right on Demonbreun Street, which in time became one of the main arteries through Downtown Nashville.

Some interesting history about the person Demonbreun Street was named after exists. His name was Jacques-Timothee Boucher, Nashville's first White citizen. His name became anglicized into Timothy Demonbreun. He was a French-Canadian fur trader, an American Revolutionary War Lieutenant, and an Illinois Territory Lieutenant-Governor.

Demonbreun was discovered in what was established as Fort Nashborough in 1778 by the Wataugas. These were frontier settlers from Elizabethton, Tennessee, who developed into the Volunteer State. The Wataugas were perhaps the first attempt by American-born colonists to form a democratic government independent of British rule prior to the American Revolution.

My throat parched from the walking I'd accomplished that afternoon, I ventured onto a Gulf gas station property. I saw the company's famous round orange disc logo sign that contained the bold blue lettering of its name. There were two stand-alone pumps with wide display screens, an eight-foot long rubber hose with a brass end for pumping gas, and a disc logo attached to the top. I had no money in my pockets, not even two pennies I could rub together for prosperity.

I discovered I had five sticky little fingers with an inclination to satisfy my needs. I strolled inside the building and hummed a Buddy Holley tune called "Peggy Sue." A brown-skinned clerk stood behind the counter. His eyes coal black, he had a flat, broad, aquiline Punjabi nose.

I noticed he donned a collarless, slim-fitting kurta that fell to his knees. The garment possessed a unique tie-dyed pattern. Recent study in my history class in school, when I paid attention at all, told me it was a Bandhani. I knew this pattern was created by plucking the cloth with the fingernails. In turn, this caused tiny bindings that formed figurative designs.

I told myself, "Sometimes, it does you well knucklehead to put forth a concerted effort to pick up what someone else is putting down. You know, ding-dong, listen." Though Big Bertha taught me a few, I could have used more lessons in that endeavor.

The Punjabi behind the cash register was distracted by a Black woman wearing a red, flower-patterned kimono. She attempted to purchase gasoline on a credit card that denied the sale. Like a bad headache, she grew more frustrated and obnoxious as they spoke.

"You better find a way to make this card work! I know there is still credit on this card!"

On edge, he explained much to her chagrin, "There is nothing I can do. You will need to contact our company headquarters in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania who issued you this card to find out why it will not allow your purchase."

Enraged, the woman bellowed, "Give me that worthless piece of crap!" She snatched the card out of his hand, puffed heavily, and blew out the door.

I thought to myself, "And, there she goes. Hurricane Mrytle!"

The only other customer in the store was an auburn-haired young woman. She had a baby in a stroller. Her desire was a carton of milk for the infant to drink. I watched her retrieve food stamps from her purse.

Made to myself, that act elicited the comment, "Must be nice to live on free food tickets."

Enough distractions occupied the clerk for me to remove a can of Pepsi from the cooler and head for the men's bathroom to consume its ice-cold contents. I entered an empty stall and closed its grey metal door behind me. In anticipation, I twisted the lock so I could be alone in privacy to enjoy my soda.

I sat down on top of the toilet seat and relaxed. The first time I'd done so all day. I popped open the tab on top of the can. Remember those funky little metal pieces Pepsi had on top of their sodas back then? Soon, a brown floatie magically appeared. Natural production everyone commits.

The cold liquid trickled down the back of my dry throat. It tasted as good as I knew it would. When done, I dropped the empty can into the toilet and waited for it to settle into the hole, then flushed the commode. Water began to overspill the bowl onto the floor. I leapt back out of the stall to avoid getting my boots soaked.

Gazelle swift, I exited the store. On my way out, the Punjabi stared at me. I'm sure he wondered what no good I had been up to? However, without proof he had no grounds to detain me.

Was I appalled by what I did? Let's see, Webster says appalled means, "affected by strong feelings of shock and dismay." Therefore, the answer was no. I was neither one of those. Although I never attended religious services, I was no moralizer. I left all that up to the preachers who visited Hermitage Hall on Sundays.

As I drifted off to fitful slumber, I felt like an exquisitely crafted Stradivarius, with its brilliant sound, about to be stowed away and never strummed again. I glanced in the mirror in the distant corner of my mind. That ancient question one often wonders in troubled times like these stared back at me. "Brett, where do you go from here?"

There wasn't a miniscule dime's worth of difference.


In Chapter Ten I will tell you about being devoured by a lion.

Author Notes Bosco, by Linda Wetzel, complements my autobiography.

Chapter 10
Unwanted Dog-10

By Brett Matthew West

"Mr. Sandman bring me a dream" is a line of lyric from a popular song written by Pat Ballard in 1954. The song has been recorded by many singers.

In January of 1978 Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and Linda Ronstadt recorded a version of "Mr. Sandman" for a trio album that was later scrapped.

Emmylou Harris released her version of "Mr. Sandman" on her 1981 Warner Brothers Nashville album "Evangeline". Her Single reached Number Ten on the Billboard Country Singles chart, and became a Hit in several countries.

In 1954, Vaughn Monroe and his orchestra were the first Performers to record "Mr. Sandman". Others who have recorded the song include The Chordettes, The Four Aces, Bert Kaempfert, and Chet Atkins.

In 1954, Chet Atkins' Instrumental version of "Mr. Sandman" reached Number Fifteen on the Billboard Country and Western Records chart for Best Sides In Stores and Number Thirteen for Most Played By Disc Jockeys.


EVENTS IN MY WORLD HAD NOT ALWAYS BEEN SO DISCUMBOBULATED. I constantly felt something wasn't quite copacetic. The passion became a vice I could not turn loose of. It filled my every thought, dream, and waking moment, as the old saying goes.

I could be a scared little boy as the entirety of my universe crashed down around me in little bitty pieces. When this occurred, I became no more than a loner wandering through a vast wilderness I could not escape. My sole existence stirred around trying to figure this dilemma out.

Other times full of myself, rambunctious, and ready to take on the world, I was convinced a planetary paradigm shift was underway I was caught up in the middle of. My cosmos resembled an asylum zoo with me the only wildebeest to roam the confines. Sans a beard, tufted tail with a plume at the end, mane, downward curved horns, and sloped back, I sadly lacked in that department.

My overactive mind clocked ninety miles a minute. I rolled over on my side in a fetal position and faded back to sleep.


Once again, I struggled to open the bulky chain-link door of Gyro's enclosure, and swung its hook into a waiting eye to keep the gate open. That chore completed, I dragged the opaque feed bucket inside. A swarm of flies swatted away, I dumped the fifty pounds of bloody beef in a heap and backed off five steps. There, I flipped the container over and perched on top of it. From this vantage point, I would watch the pride male feed. This was my condemnation. Seemed a millenia had passed since my sentence was handed down.

In reality, sitting with Gyro became the best part of my day. Curious, I scanned the tundra at the far end of his enclosure. Unable to locate Gyro, I pondered where the monstrous kitty was. Gyro almost always waited for me to open the gate. I heard a loud splash.

Panicked, I exclaimed, "What? No!"

The last time Gyro fell into the water-filled moat it took me three hours to coax the terrified animal, with its wingless body and eagle head, back to dry land. What a task that was! I did not relish playing guardian to a five hundred pound pissed off, soaked, beast again.

I threw open the keeper's gate and raced full throttled to the moat surrounding Gyro's enclosure. In silence, I stood there. Gyro lurched between me and the opened gate. His amber eyes transfixed in horror to my face, Gyro swished his tail methodically back and forth. I saw the beef I'd fed him untouched. Gyro sashayed forward. Then back. I recognized his hunting posture. I forced myself to remain still.

Desperate, I whispered to him, "Be a real good pussycat and go eat your food."

A mental picture of my skin staying on the outside of my body where it belonged flashed through my terrified mind. I sensed Gyro's movement and saw him explode from the grass. He picked up speed. Dust columned into the air as Gyro zoomed at me.

His massive head barreled into my chest. The wrecking ball maneuver knocked the breath out of me. I sailed airborne and landed fifteen feet away from the attack. Groggy, and befuddled, I could not think straight. Gyro's loud growl thundered in my ears and shattered my eardrums.

The monster placed his massive paws on my shoulders and pinned me to the ground. He chomped down on my exposed face. Gyro's upper canines punctured this rag doll's eyes. He shook my head furiously. The last noise my brain registered before I died was my snapped broken neck. It sounded like a twig breaking.


Soaked in sweat, I bolted awake and exhaled a heavy breath. I took stock of my body parts by gently patting each one of them to ensure they were all in their proper places and tried to reassure myself, "It was only a nightmare!" I am not sure I did a bang up job of convincing myself I told the truth.

For several long moments I sat there to regain my bearings. Suddenly, alarmed by what I noticed, I involuntariy sprang to my feet. An apprehension of danger overtook me. I asked myself, "How did my boots get off?"

I did not remember removing them. If not me, who? The notion was insane. Impossible. Absurd.

I could not wait to crawl out from beneath that underpass.


In Chapter Eleven I will provide some of my thoughts about being an unwanted dog.

Author Notes Boscoe, by Linda Wetzel, selected to complement my autobiography.

Chapter 11
Unwanted Dog-11

By Brett Matthew West

"The nearest thing to heaven is a child" is a line of lyric from the Hit Song "Thank God For Kids" by Eddy Raven, a Raggae, Cajun, and Country music singer and songwriter.

Originally written in 1976 "Thank God For Kids" has been recorded by several popular Performers including Kenny Chesney in 2004 on his album "All I Want For Christmas Is A Real Good Tan" and John Rich in 2011 for his Extended Play "For The Kids"

Perhaps the most famous version of the song was released on November 20, 1982 by the Oak Ridge Boys on their 1982 MCA Records album known as "Christmas". Their song spent sixteen weeks on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and peaked at Number Three on that chart.

Eddy Raven tells the story he sat down to write a song, not "Thank God For Kids", and his three- year-old son Ryan came in the room with his toy guitar and asked him what he was doing. So, he told him. Raven further elaborated that Ryan told his father he would help him write the song. Then, Sesame Street came on tv and Ryan ran out of the room to go watch the program. This led to Raven writing "Thank God For Kids".


I SAW A WIND-BENT SIGN FOR NASHVILLE ARCADE GAMES. That got me thinking sometimes I wished I could keep my otherwise big mouth locked in a cage. There are those occasions when I tended to express whatever is on my mind regardless how it spewed forth. This was one of those incited incidents.

"No matter what may be your lot in life build something on it," these words from Dusty West have always resonated with me. They are so full of truth.

(Time out for a short commentary)

An indictment I have always held against the adoption system is the fact it seemed nobody wanted to adopt hard-to-place children like I was. Most people wanted adoptees to be newborns they could raise the way they wanted the kid to grow up. For many prospective adopters the disease of older children, their cancer so to speak, was their age. That is the unfortunate reality of life.

For senior citizens of the adoption world, those who are already set in their ways, more times than not, they simply aged out of the system at either 18 or 21. This depended on the state in which they resided. I figured that certainly would be my experience. However, older children have emotions and feelings too. They needed to belong to a stable environment where they received proper guidance, not just be window-dressing.

As I reflected on these comments, the feelings I had back then returned to me in a flood. I felt like a dog in the pound nobody wanted. You know the one I am talking about. I'm sure you all have seen them several times.

These are the dogs who are curled up in a tight ball in the far corner of their cages with their ears pinned tightly down, and the saddest expressions on their faces. Why are they demonstrating these emotions? Because they knew no matter what they did it was never going to be good enough to make anybody love them and take them home.

Like these unwanted dogs, I was nothing more than a toy to be played with for a short period of time, then cast aside when something more alluring came along. It happened over and over and over again each time someone considering adopting a child came to Hermitage Hall. Nothing more than the Children Are Cute To Look At, They Are Fun To Play With, But Go Home With Somebody Else Syndrome that so viciously repeated itself.

One thing was sure. I would never allow any thoughts of suicide to enter my mind as I knew they had with other boys at Hermitage Hall. On many days, especially those filled with rejection, self-slaughter, the very act of causing my own death, would have been a viable option. Boy, I can hear the responses that comment is going to elicit.

Unless, and until, you have walked a mile in the shoes of an unwanted child packed inside an orphanage like a can of sardines, can you really, honestly, and truly tell me I should not have felt that way? That I should have just kept a stiff upper lip? That everything was going to be okay? Believe me when I tell you, for many children in my situation at that time, those words are hollow and contained no meaning.

Suicide was not my forte. As I saw the plight I was in, it would have been the coward's way out. After all, I was only twelve years old then. I just knew there had to be a life waiting for me out there somewhere beyond the confining walls of Hermitage Hall. That was what I always held on to. That singular thought kept me going. One way or another, my ship was going to come sailing in and I would go floating away on the river I was destined to discover.

If you were to Google this information you would discover there are presently more than 122,000 older children available for adoption out there right now waiting to become anything other than Unwanted Dogs. There are enough potential adoptees to fill the populations of at least one hundred American cities with 100,000 residents. These include localities such as Rochester, Minnesota; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Hartford, Connecticut just to name a few.

Here are some other facts:

-5,000,000 Americans have been adopted
-2 to 4 percent of American families have adopted
-2.5 percent of all American children under 18 years old are adopted

(Time back in)


In Chapter 12 feeling brazen and bold as I departed the gas station I pilfered the soda in, I decided if I was going to remain on the streets I needed to be armed. A dangerous situation for a youngster with nothing but time on his hands. I had a real good notion where to find exactly what I sought.

Author Notes Boscoe, by Linda Wetzel, selected to complement my autobiography.

Chapter 12
Unwanted Dog-12

By Brett Matthew West

Released on the Smash record label in January 1965, "King of the Road" was written and recorded by the Country Music Hall of Famer Roger Miller.

Roger Miller's fifth Single for Smash records, "King of the Road" tells the story of a down-and-out hobo who revels in his freedom.

One of the main lyrics of the song is "I'm a man of means by no means." Another is "King of the road".

The two of them seemed to fit me well at the time. Aw, but is anybody really ten feet tall and bulletproof?


I HAD NO SPECIAL PLACE TO GO AND THE REST OF MY LIFE TO GET THERE. For the most part, the hoards of plebians I encountered as I milled around Downtown Nashville ignored my presence. That was more than okay by me. Faded into the shadows perhaps I'd disappear.

No telling what event drew so many people. Plenty always happened in Music City as those of you who have ever been here could attest to. The only thing I knew for sure was I would never return to Hermitage Hall if there was any way I could prevent the purgatory's occurrence.

I quickly tired of being pushed, shoved, and batted around like the little silver orb inside a pinball machine. Bounced into by this stranger. Stumbled over by another. It was plenty to make me yell, "Enough already! Go find someone else to torment!"

Do you remember those strange contraptions? At one time their playing was actually banned in many cities around the country. Bet you did not remember that news, did you? I made my way to a pedestrian bridge that crossed the Cumberland River, a popular swimming and fishing locale. Non-stop, bumper-to-bumper, traffic whizzed by my perch in all directions. I stopped counting after about a million vehicles. Yes, that is a slight exaggeration, but not by much.

A semi rolled up. The 53-footer stopped at a red light. I heard his Jake Bark's loud blat-blat-blat sound. Back then, I was unfamiliar with this term, but it is made by compressed air being forced through the exhaust valve in the engine cylinder. Amazing what this boy learned under the tutelege of Dusty West. When the signal cycled, and changed to green, the vehicle lumbered on its journey.

I said to myself, "If only I could be inside one of those rigs headed anywhere but here."

My yearning remained wishful dreaming. I had no method of departing Nashville and had to make do with where I was abandoned. With multitudes of people roaming about it dawned on me I needed to find some protection in the event I encountered the wrong neurotic psychopath. One never knew what dangers lurked out there.

I held what I considered a real good idea where I could locate what I hunted. I knew several vagrants were often spotted in the area I approached. I'd seen them from the window of Hermitage Hall's clangorous Bluebird 44-passenger bus while on different day trips they provided us boys. A gun. A blade. They were of little significance to me. I wanted something in my pocket just in case I confronted a situation where I needed fortification.

Feeling brazen and bold was not a good combination for a young boy with nothing but time on his hands. Time, that rhythmic mocking that never slowed down for anybody. Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock. The metronome droned on...and on...and on...

Once each precious second dissipated, try as hard as you may, you could never retrieve it again. The clock's ceaseless ticking reminded me so much of my endless days at Hermitage Hall.

My primary target laid in a tight, tucked, semi-fetal position lost in Sawing Logs Land. I spotted the tramp under the Jefferson Street bridge. His grizzled, stubble-adorned left cheek rested on his folded, withered, hands that served as his pillow.

In close proximity, for all I knew his tattered, dirty, pack must have contained all his worldly possessions. I did not know, or care, why he was on the streets. My keen eye observed the bottom of his canvas bag was caked in dry mud. That told me he'd been homeless for awhile. Who knew what else infested his tote. I decided to rifle through his property on the off-chance I might discover what I sought. I had no way of assurance he carried cutlery, but I had to begin my quest for a blade somewhere.

This thought entered my mind, "There ain't no telling what goodies you might find in there."

Quietly, so as to not rouse him from his slumber, I advanced a few steps forward never taking my line of vision off him. I saw no need for the confrontation sure to transpire if he caught me robbing from the old hen. Disregarding the small puddles that would saturate the knees of my jeans, I knelt down beside the pack and told the decrepit galoot to, "Stay in Dreamland. I'll be out of here in a flash."

Inhaling a deep breath, I double-checked to ensure the transient wonder wasn't playing oppossum. He didn't stir. Post haste, I unzipped the bag and reached into the pack. The first item I removed was a half-smoked stogie. Its end had been disgustingly chewed off.

Barely audible enough to be heard, I muttered to myself, "Gross!"

What I wanted to do was puke my guts out, and almost did, but managed to keep the limited contents inside my stomach where they settled. With a scrunched up expression on my youthful face, I wiped my fingers on the seat of my jeans. Served me right for stealing from him, I supposed.

Torn remnants of a filthy tee shirt came out of the bag next. Two small, round, blue pills dropped out of its pocket. Your guess is as good as mine as to what those were. I left them laying in the dirt between us. I also found a used hypodermic syringe. All I would have needed was to accidentally prick myself with that scuzzy needle.

Grabbing the pack with both hands, I turned it upside down and shook the remainder of its containments out in a scattered pile. Nothing useful appeared. There was a pair of crusty underwear that led the charge of the bag's cargo as it fell to the ground.

Like the good little laddie I always am, I retrieved the wares from off the ground and commenced to stuff them back inside the bag. I left the underwear where it fell and hoped there were no brown streaks inside them. I did not check for "tread tracks". Finished with that chore, I rezipped the bag and spotted a small pouch on its front I quickly unzipped.

Sleeping Beauty received another peek as I removed a red bandana from the pouch. Feeling something hard wrapped up in the handkerchief, I unfolded the cloth and struck bonanza gold. The ancient hobo stirred as I shoved the rolled up head covering back into the pouch.

He noticed my presence and sprung up to a seated position in an exasperated manner. I waved bye with my left hand, and its five spread fingers, in his face. I didn't dawdle around to hear what obscene profanities he exclaimed.

As he grabbed his pack, and clutched it for all he was worth, I made steps as fast as I could lay them down. Somewhere I had heard that old adage, "Never run with a sharp object in your pocket". Did I listen to those sage words of wisdom? What do you think?

All the time, I crammed my new prized possession deep into the right front pocket of my denims. Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics had nothing on the smoke I left in my wake. Not once did I glance back over my shoulder to see if the bum chased me. I easily would have outrun him.

I'll confess I was more than a little klepto in those days. If something was not nailed down tight, and I even remotely decided I needed whatever the item was, it belonged to me. I considered my actions to be the survival of the fittest. A couple strategically placed sessions under the supervision of Dusty West's patented tail end warmer curbed me of that appetite prudently. That was how I absconded with the switchblade knife I mentioned in Chapter One of my autobiography.

If only for a fleeted moment, I felt like the King of the Road. That sensation did not last long. I knew snakes crawled at night, and when the cat was away the mice would play. What I observed popped those words into the empty space between my ears.

The slippery reptiles wore Davidson County blues, carried badges, wielded nightsticks, were armed with pistols, and had one singular, tunnel-visioned, thought on their minds.



In Chapter 13, I desperately tried to outrun the wind.

Author Notes Boscoe, by Linda Wetzel, selected to complement my autobiography.

Chapter 13
Unwanted Dog-13

By Brett Matthew West

Released on the Epic records label album Clean Shirt in June 1991, "Trying To Outrun The Wind" was co-written by Troy Seals, Eddie Setser, and Tom Davey.

Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson recorded "Trying To Outrun The Wind" as a duet. Though the song did not chart, the Clean Shirt album reached the Number 28 position on the Billboard Hot Country Singles And Tracks Chart.

Part of the lyrics of "Trying To Outrun The Wind" best summed this incident up for me:

"He'll keep you from knowing
Where he's been or going
You'll see the distance
Right there in his eyes
Just short of stealing
He'll take your feelings
Pull at your heart strings
Till they come untied"

"He's like an old stallion
Who's longing for freedom
Trying to outrun the wind"


A STRONG BLUSTERY WIND SCOURGED THE STREET FROM THE EAST SIDE TO THE WEST. Some unknown object brushed against the leather upper of my left boot. I glanced down in wonder and discovered a grease-stained Taco Bell wrapper. None of the illustrious chain's restaurants permeated the neighborhood. The muck could have only come from some uppity obtuse schnook chucking the junk food casing out the open window of their vehicle at close to a hundred miles an hour as they paraded by. This indicated to me some flapdoodles were just ignorant porkers. Perhaps that incident became the foundation of why to this day I despise litterbugs. I say splat them all! That would resolve the problem.

The perplexity occurred near the intersection of Second Street South and Demonbreun Street, adjacent to the Gulch. Modern Day attractions you may be familiar with in this district of Nashville include the Frist Art Museum, The Station Inn for Bluegrass music, and the Mercy Lounge for Indie, Soul, and Folk gigs. Chic high-end fashion boutiques, and fine dining establishments are others.

The Wild West outlaws Jesse and Frank James once called this upscale area home when they tried to settle down. Frank much more successfully than Jesse. Of course, in that timeframe, the Gulch was not upscale, nor was it a whole lot of anything else. Additionally, most of these allures did not exist when I was twelve years old.

A mental "DANGER" warning flashed through my encumbered mind. Temporarily, the overload impeded my prompt response and hesitated my course of action. I shifted my weight and felt the pavement beneath my feet. I stood in the middle of a rough patch of poorly poured concrete that had been worn away by traffic. Bumpy air pockets and cracks prevailed. The sheer movement brought me back to my senses.

In an uncompromised resolve I allowed no concessions. I chided myself, "That stupidity could lead to your undoing, you asinine dork!"

So much for tending to my own affairs. I did not initially spot the reason for the sword of Damocles, or its clear and imminent threat. (I know, at 12 years old I would not have known anything about that idiom, or what it meant. However, I have always wanted to manipulate that expression into my writing. So, humor me, okay? Because now I have.)

Seventy-five yards from where I strolled merrily along my way stood a lanky law enforcement officer built like the famous Mr. America, Mr. Universe, Mr. World, and Mr. Olympia bodybuilder of the day, Frank Zane. Like him, the copper had focused on sculpting the symmetry and proportion of his body into a Monet-ish work of art. His height was probably just over six axe handles tall.

By postulation, I guesstimated he tipped the scales around 180 pounds. One thing for sure, the constable did not look like no gawky lad with zits decorating his face. More than that, he was way too close for comfort.

The police officer held his two-way Motorola walkie-talkie in his hand and stared straight at me. I heard him say, "Subject is 10-20 between the Farmers Life building and the Masterson Tower."

I did not know what 10-20 meant, but I knew my locale and suspected something I wanted no part of was about to commence. Ceasing my steps forward, I waited for his next utterances.

He placed himself in a precarious position where he was most unwelcomed and pointed an elongated finger in my direction. In a calm voice I understood required my immediate cooperation he said, "You, the blond gnome in the worn out boots. Get your tiny potato head over here. PRONTO! We've been busy looking all over creation for you."

I knew I was diminitive, and could be mischievous when I wanted to be, but I never realized I was a lawn ornament. That designation held true for all the gnomes I'd ever encountered anyway. There's no denying the fact Nashville is almost always lined with wall-to-wall people in the downtown area and several passersby heard his remarks. They glared at me with daggers of rage and hate while they reflected on what Caper of the Century I'd committed. Hermitage Hall certainly wasted no time notifying the law about my unauthorized escape from their facility.

Like a ten ounce Coke bottle with the phrase "No Deposit No Return" etched on its glass side, I was not harking back there.


In Chapter 14, I make a desperate break for freedom.

Author Notes Boscoe, by Linda Wetzel, selected to complement my autobiography.

Chapter 14
Unwanted Dog-14

By Brett Matthew West

"The Race Is On" was written by Don Rollins and recorded by George Jones on his September 26, 1964 United Artists record label album I Get Lonely In A Hurry.

A staple George Jones performed in almost every live performance, "The Race Is On" reached the Number Three position on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.

George Jones recorded "The Race Is On" a second time for his April 1965 United Artists record label album of the same name.

Part of the song's lyrics included:

"Now the race is on
And here comes pride in the backstretch
Heartache's goin' to the inside
My tears are holdin' back
They're tryin' not to fall
My heart's out of the runnin'
True love's scratched for another's sake
The race is on and it looks like heartaches
And the winner loses all"

This was one race I could not afford to lose.


I SURVEYED MY SURROUNDINGS IN A FRANTIC EFFORT TO FORM AN ESCAPE PLAN, WHICH WAS THE ONLY THOUGHT ON MY MIND. The 409-foot tall Life and Casualty Tower that had been constructed in 1957, and was the first skyscraper in Nashville, became the focal point of my observation. During the building's early days, its sign at the apex changed colors to indicate weather forecasts. Today there are thirty-nine such ginormous creations in town, with another twenty-two either under construction or approved to be built. That placed me on Church Street, but, I sure was not in no sanctuary.

A variety of independently owned and operated mom-and-pop establishments, including Miller's Bookstore, Johnson's Green Grocer, and Drysdale's Candle Shop, surrounded the multi-story edifice. They lined both sides of the street I was corralled in. A suffocating feeling of being enclosed like a wild mustang engulfed me. In order to have any chance to keep my prized freedom I knew I had to stay calm and slowed down my breathing.

"Remain in the moment and unflappable." These words of wisdom came from Shifu Chao Feng. He once taught my tai chi class at Hermitage Hall. He also told us, "The principles of tai chi were based on ancient Chinese taoism and stressed the natural balance in all things." I'd soon find out just how much the martial arts exercises he'd taught us had increased my aerobic capacity.

As I stepped towards the officer an austere and somber expression crossed his face. He announced into his radio's mouthpiece, "Delinquent is 10-76 to my position."

I was unsure of what he meant. At the time I had not yet learned the police 10 Code. Located next to Thompson's Taxidermy, a small crevice, not much bigger than a rabbit hole, caught my attention. The narrow fissure signaled what I thought might be a possible exit. I'd previously been in this shop. They kept a stuffed partridge, centered in a bulrushes and cattails-filled wetlands habitat, in the store's display window I'd wanted to examine up closer.

The egress never looked better to a boy in reckless abandonment. Full of disregard for the consequences of my swift actions, I darted for the daylight I'd ascertained. If only I had the wings of a hunting eagle swooped down after prey its keen eye spotted from its lofty eyrie. Alas, I did not and knew it was a long shot. What other choice option did I possess? More important, where was Greyhound when I urgently needed the vaunted carrier to whisk me out of harm's way?

Irritated by my gesture the gumshoe squawked, "Juvenile now headed south in the alley behind Drysdale's Candle Shop. All units move into perimeter position!" Smothered with enthusiasm for capturing this runaway, he was in what you might call avid hot pursuit.

A silver-haired senior citizen pushed a shopping buggy towards the entryway of Johnson's Green Grocer. I snatched it out of her wrinkled hand. Without breaking stride, I hurled the wire winnebago in the direction of the cop chasing me. The cart hit a pothole in the road and tilted on its right side. The old lady's purse spilled from the basket. I did not have time to notice what contents sprang forth.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the athletic police officer caught the grocery hauler before it tipped over. Her eyebrows contracted down and close to one another, the elderly woman stood frozen in place with an "I can't believe that little boy just did that!" annoyed scowl on her face. I didn't get a good look at her, except the dermoid cyst on the tip of her drooped beak and her square jaw. I glanced around for her broom and black cat but did not see them.

I mumbled, "Looks just like Marie Laveau, the most famous voodoo queen whoever existed. Must be from New Orleans."

A cluster of strangers I could not avoid stood in my path. I forced my way into the middle of the dingbats and do-dos and yelled, "Coming through!"

One of them encouraged the others, "Get him!"

A grey business suit reached for my arm.

I pulled free. In anger I screamed, "Keep your paws off the merchandise. I'm not for sale, Yappy Doodle!"

That was not the golden opportunity for the wannabe, who must have aspired to be some sort of hero, to play Good Samaritan and assist the law in apprehending me. I wanted to yank my boots off and run in bare feet. I would have heaved them at his head. Wearing heavier, they slowed down my steps.

I saw my police adversary closing the gap between us and began to feel his hot breath on the nape of my neck.


In Chapter Fifteen, my pursuit comes to an end.

Author Notes Boscoe, by Linda Wetzel, selected to complement my autobiography.

Chapter 15
Unwanted Dog-15

By Brett Matthew West

Recorded on the RCA record label, and released in October of 1978, "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out Of Hand" was the second Single from Waylon Jennings' I've Always Been Crazy album.

Written by Waylon Jennings, "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out Of Hand" peaked at the Number 5 position on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.

A portion of the lyrics of "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out Of Hand" include:

"I'm for law and order the way it should be
This song's about the night they spent protecting you from me
Someone called me an outlaw in some old magazine
New York City sent a posse like I ain't never seen"

I did not consider myself to be an outlaw by any stretch of the imagination. But I sure felt this police chase got way out of hand.


AS I BOUNDED DOWN THE ALLEY IN LEAPING STRIDES THAT SPRUNG MY STEPS WITH EACH IMPACT, I DID NOT GALLOP, I DID NOT HURTLE, AND I DID NOT DALLY. My only thought was escape, not that the world speed record at that time was six-hundred-and-thirty miles an hour. This achievement had been established by the rocket-powered Blue Flame vehicle driven by the motorsport driver Gary Gabelich at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. If Davidson County's finest wanted me, I proposed to try to shatter that accomplishment on foot. I would attempt anything to avoid being forcefully rejoined with Hermitage Hall.

Just shy of a full blown panic attack, I could not cram enough oxygen through my nose and mouth to keep my breathing from becoming laborious. The harder I sprinted the higher the number of breaths it seemed I swallowed. The intense active breathing of hyperpnea from exertion began to settle in. The deeper breaths expanding my lungs.

I cannonballed down the avenue for six city blocks like a flame about three feet high scorched my tiny hind end and my blond head was about to catch. My lungs ignited as air grew harder to inhale. I snuck a glance back over my right shoulder and saw the uniform stayed close behind me. Desperate to avoid capture, I urgently summoned my strength, picked up my pace, and tromped heavy foot pressure on the pavement beneath my path.

I'd never attempted to outrun the police before. Passage away from this locality was what I vehemently needed. Being nailed, jailed, collected up and sent on my way did not fascinate my better senses. I scurried in rapid steps onto 3rd Avenue South and beheld a remarkable sight; four more adversaries dressed like my stalker. A loud horn blew as I scrambled in haste across the street without looking where I was going.

Needless to elaborate, I didn't have time to explain the finer points of life to the bedraggled Golden Ager behind the wheel of the turquoise Florian that practically broadsided me. He slammed on his brakes. I heard his tires squeal loudly as their tread skidded against the surface of the road in an effort to gain traction. I thought he might have a heart attack. Instead of exchanging polite conversation with the Mario Andretti wannabe, I rounded the corner of the Havenasher Furniture Restoration Store on Elm Pike and gained a second wind as I zoomed along.

Certain I could find a route to evade my trackers, I raced past a green dipsty dumpster and rounded a corner...smack dab into a red brick retainer wall I did not know impeded me. Fortunately, I braced the full tilt impact with my hands and bounced off the barrier unharmed.

If I had been a proponent of profanity I would have thunderously screamed loud enough to wake all the dead, "SON OF A GOBSTOPPING B-----!" And, I do not mean female dog.

As Bugs Bunny exclaimed, "Definitely a wrong turn at Pismo Beach!"

"Got'cha!" the lawman said with a wide smirk on his face. He grabbed me forcefully by my shoulders and spun me around to face him. "You stand right still before I whop you a real good one up aside your head with my nightstick! Make me hafta chase after you. What is wrong with that picture?"

My eyes scanned the area to see if I could make a desperate departure. "Almost got away."

"What you almost got was creamed by that car you bolted in front of, wiseacre. And, Bubba, I thought you were going to burrow right through that wall."

"Should have."

"What you should have done, Speed Burner, was never have run off from where you orphans belong at Hermitage Hall. But, I assure you, your running days are done Mr. Think-You-Know-It-All-And-Don't-Even-Know-What-The-Questions-Of-Life-Are-All-About-Yet. Now, you do like I told you and stand right still until the car gets here. We'll have you back in no time."

I watched his partners in crime swiftly approach. Surrounded on all four sides, I knew my gig was up and it was time to raise the white flag of surrender. So much for my eluding the long arm of the law. In retrospect, I didn't last a hot minute. A squad car arrived and I was placed onto the backseat of the cruiser. Steel bars seperated the rear of the front seat of the vehicle from the section I was caged in.

I thought to myself, "So, this is what it feels like to be an outlaw."


In Chapter Sixteen, I am processed at the precinct.

Author Notes Boscoe, by Linda Wetzel, selected to complement my autobiography.

Chapter 16
Unwanted Dog-16

By Brett Matthew West

Released on the Epic records label in September of 1981 "Still Doin' Time" was co-written by John Moffatt and Michael P. Heeney, and recorded by George Jones, one of Country music's most iconic Performers.

A song about a man who is a prisoner of alcohol, "Still Doin' Time" was the first Single from George Jones' Still The Same Ole Me album and his 8th Number One Country Single on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.

Part of the lyrics for "Still Doin' Time" include:

"Still doin' time in a honkey-tonk prison
Still doin' time where a man ain't forgiven
My poor heart is breakin'
But there's no escapin'
Each morning I wake up and find
Still doin' time"

That was exactly how I felt about all the years I rotted away locked up inside Hermitage Hall.


CONTENTIOUS AND IRRECONCILABLE, I HAD NO DESIRE TO DROWN IN THE PREDICAMENT I FOUND MYSELF IN. I wanted to kick the car door open and jump out but could not position myself to where I may have been able to manage the act. Not much I wanted to recall, my whole world flashed in front of my eyes as I stared out the window of the cruiser while transported to the Main Street Police Substation. There wasn't anything else I could do but fret.

We reached our destination after three left turns and a couple rights. The trip did not take long. My freedom unceremoniously wrenched from me soured my disposition. I hesitated upon arrival at the stationhouse and became uncooperative exiting the vehicle.

One of the transporters threatened me. His gruff demeanor and icy stare plumbed his darkest depths. "Get out or we will pull you out! Don't make this any harder on yourself, Brett."

I delayed a moment longer before stepping out of the vehicle one reluctant foot in front of the other.

His partner said, "Atta good boy. Now you're using your head."

Inside, I was escorted past three holding cells. They offered concrete floors and iron bars. I had never been in a police station before and wasn't impressed with what I observed. I noticed how busy the joint was. Armed officers scurried about in all different directions. Although I didn't understand much of what was relayed, I overheard the cackling of several radio transmissions.

One said, "Unit 14, see the manager of the Willow Woods Apartments, 2111 Oakdell, possible 10-76 in process."

A uniform on the desk shook his head in disbelief and stated, "This is going to be a crazy shift. The lunatic prowlers are already out."

Passing by the lock-ups, I asked, "What kind of drunks are those?" Of course, I got no response.

I noticed the detainees' blood-shot red eyes and unkempt fly-away hair that looked like it'd never seen a comb. Their ragged clothes disheveled, a strong smell of alcohol permeated the air. They resembled living proof there is sorrow on the rocks. One paced his cell. I noticed he weaved from right to left.

I asked myself, "Wait a minute, isn't he the bum you lifted the pocket knife off of?"

I'd almost forgotten about the tramp. Noticing the slovenly litter lout brought back his memory. Getting out of the range of the stinking aroma my olfactories seized on pleased me.

Delivered to Waiting Room A at the end of a short corridor, I did not feel the calm harmony its white walls were intended to produce. Disinterested in his current activity, the escort who accompanied me down the hallway twiddled his thumbs in front of him as we walked. He pulled out a chair, and swept his arm wide, to motion me into a metallic folding seat at the head of an elongated rectangular table. Three others stood positioned around the furnishing. Once I was situated, he disappeared.

A geriatric officer soon entered the room. I honed in on his receded hairline and the dark age spot in the center of his forehead. Though not portly, the obvious beginning of his middle age spread became apparent. He was kind of a paternal-appearing appiration from what I deduced. He attempted to begin his interrogation by introducing himself in a cordial manner. I listened close to detect if his friendliness appeared sincere.

"I'm Sergeant Edward Smalley."

I remained silent. I would not have given a flip if he was Santa Claus and stuffed a room full of my favorite gifts under the Christmas tree I never had.

"So, you ran away from Hermitage Hall, did you?"

"And, I'm not going back there no matter what!"

"Awesome. As soon as we have a cruiser available we will return you back where you belong."

Back to where I belong? Did the deaf mute not hear what I aforementioned? Hermitage Hall was the last place I intended to visit!

"In the meantime, Brett, why don't you tell me about yourself? The floor's all yours. That's what I'm here for."

Wasted words were not my forte. Exhausted from the day's capers, I looked away from him. What I longed for was release from incarceration. I was fairly certain that was not going to occur.

Frustrated, he caved in. He rose from his perch and told me, "Suit yourself. It's almost seven. You must be hungry. I'll bring you back some dinner."

Feasting was not on my mind anymore than yapping had been. All I cared about was getting out of there. Since I did not have a keycard like the one I watched him use to exit the room, I was trapped to my own inclinations. I felt like a condemned inmate on Death Row.

"Would that be so bad?" I asked myself.

Even being left unattended in that holding room felt better than the dreaded prospect of being shipped back to Hermitage Hall. I looked at the clock hung on the far wall. The big hand was on the twenty-eight and the little hand straight up on the one. That told me it was the next morning. Time flies when you're having fun, doesn't it? The problem remained I did not enjoy myself one iota. Two hours earlier, I started pacing back and forth from one corner of the room to another. Caged lion in a looney bend here I come.

Growing more impatient with every passed tick of time, and left in this unfathomable lurch stewing in my own juices, I curtly wondered, "Where are those boys in blue?"

Officer Smalley strolled back in. He held a package of Lance's peanut butter crackers from a vending machine in one hand and a Styrofoam cup of lukewarm water in his other mitt. He called these dinner. Famished, I gobbled the unbroken crackers.

I did not hold being detained against Officer Smalley. He was only doing his job protecting the fine citizens of Nashville from a ruthless ruffian like me. Oh yes, I did! Mad as a hornet whose newly constructed nest had been disturbed for no good reason, my intense but unexpressed anger seethed.

One good thing resulted though. At no point did they frisk me, or find my switchblade knife. I supposed they naturally assumed as a juvenile, I would not be in possession of anything of that sort in their precious police station.

Possessing no way out, I reluctantly told myself, "It will not be long before you are returned to the one place you do not ever want to be again."


In Chapter Seventeen I am confronted by King Tubbo.

Author Notes Ready to go, by Lilibug6, selected to complement this chapter of my autobiography.

Chapter 17
Unwanted Dog-17

By Brett Matthew West

Vernon Dalhart, who's recording of the "Wreck of the Old 97" became the first million selling Country song, recorded "The Prisoner's Song" on August 13, 1924 on the Victor record label in New York City. "Wreck of the Old 97" was its B Side (flip side).

It is thought more than seven million copies of "The Prisoner's Song" were sold as well as more than one million copies of the song's sheet music.

I could well relate to a portion of the song's lyrics.

"I'll be carried to the new jail tomorrow
With the cold prison bars all around me
And my head on a pillow of stone
And there I'd be willing to die"


DERIVED FROM THE MID-16TH CENTURY LATIN, THE WORD PRISTINE IS AN ADJECTIVE DEFINED AS UNSPOILED, NOT CORRUPTED, NOT POLLUTED. Pure. Free from contamination. Not one bit of which described Hermitage Hall in all of its non-shining glory.

Can somebody explain to me how Hermitage Hall could possibly have enjoyed its exhalted reputation in Nashville as the finest facility of its kind for wayward boys, and a wide mix thereof? Some of them headstrong, obstinate, and rebellious. Others, like me, self-willed, stubborn, and perhaps even a mite recalcitrant.

Our uncooperative attitudes towards authority, and the established order we disagreed with, always displayed, mostly in peaceful ways, unlike the violent protests of extending the Viet Nam War that happened all around us. The murders of four college students by Ohio National Guardsmen at Kent State probably one of the most extreme examples of these tits for tats.

Appearances deceive, perspectives betray, and false fronts mask realities. Meted out consequences for the simplest inappropriate misbehaviors swift and severe, boys were required to toe a mighty thin line. Commonplace, physical injuries and emotional traumas, as well as random atrocities committed against residents by Hermitage Hall staff remained unreported, probably to this day.

I was eating. No, I guess I should more correctly state I was playing with my breakfast...again. Something I did with most of the pig slop thrown at us boys two, or three, times a day when they fed us our allotted intakes. Served on a cob, starchy maize wrapped in a husk, and soybeans, the most important protein source for feed farm animals, frequented most dining expeditions.

Served with regularity, rancid and festered sausage patties were the norm. What looked like nodular acne decorated the meat, so did a slight ooze of blood when it was spread apart. These, and rubbery eggs, were the gruel of the morning. Probably made from a combination of potato starch and cellulose, or some such concoctions, their whites and yolks mixed together. These imposters were indeed fake eggs, and frigid, as usual.

There was no juice, no fruit, and no toast. The lame excuse they gave us was, "The toaster is on the fritz. Be thankful we went to the bother of feeding you ingrates at all!"

Although I did not have much in the nourishment department the day before, I wasn't about to swallow the putrid decompositions they served us either. I was consumed in the middle of a daydream, when an announcement broadcasted over the PA system loud enough for a deaf elephant to hear. That was never good news.

"9-9-5-1-3, get your goat-stinking ass in my office. IMMEDIATELY!"

Several boys in the cafeteria who heard the proclamation whispered among themselves. I heard a couple say, "Umm! You are in monstrously B - I - G trouble, Brett!" Their stress was on the spelled out word "BIG".

Annoyed, my plastic fork sailed into the middle of my water cup. A bit splashed over the edge of the Styrofoam. I did not wipe the mess up. "What else is new?"

Alex Carson gasped, "Tubbo called you by your resident number, not your name!" He inhaled suddenly in astonishment and foreshadowing of the deed's meaning.

It seemed I always remained in boiling hot water at Hermitage Hall over something. I felt singlemost so. All of us knew being directed to King Tubbo's office was to be avoided at all costs. That dungeon stayed a place we did not want to be found. I had no desire for an encounter with him, or his flaunted girlfriend, Big Bertha.

I heaved my chair back away from the table and stood up. The motion made a loud squeak on what remained of the ancient linoleum covering the floor. Several boys who heard the commotion laughed out loud.

"I know what this is about," my tablemate Robbie Kowalski said.

Agreeing with him, I knew my fate too well. "I'll probably get a real good lecture for breaking Tubbo's Number One rule."

Without much sympathy, Robbie stated, "You're the one who run away, Brett, and got brought back by the coppers!"

"News travels fast in this small town," I replied.

Before I moved, four hands tightened firm vice-like grips on my shoulders. Pain radiated down my arms and out my fingertips. It coursed through my torso and cascaded down into my feet. Gobsmacked expressions ornamented the stunned faces of boys around me. An eerie silence descended over the room. I was a blighted malefactor of King Tubbo's reprehensible henchmen.

"You were summoned to the office immediately two minutes ago," Joshua Tobias said.

"When Superintendent McClellan calls that is more than ample time for any of you boys to respond. Let's go, Ratbag. You are in deep kimchi!" Bart Lassiter informed me.


In Chapter Eighteen, I am confronted by King Tubbo for my daring escape from Hermitage Hall.

Author Notes Wet dog, by lynnkah, selected to complement this chapter of my autobiography.

deep kimchi = BIG trouble

Chapter 18
Unwanted Dog-18

By Brett Matthew West

Released on January 25, 1983 on the Epic record label "Reasons To Quit" was written by the Country Music Legend Merle Haggard. "Reasons To Quit" was performed as a Duet by him and fellow Country Music Legend Willie Nelson as the Lead Single from their Pancho & Lefty Album.

"Reasons To Quit" reached the Number Six position on the Billboard Hot Country Singles And Tracks chart.

Some pertinent lyrics from "Reasons To Quit" include:

"So we keep smokin' and we keep drinkin'
Havin' fun and never thinkin'
Laughin' at the price tag that we pay"

"And the reason to quit
Don't outnumber all the reasons why"


MY TONE OF VOICE AT A FEVER-PITCHED EMOTION BECAUSE OF BEING MANHANDLED, I ROLLED MY EYES AND DEMANDED, "Let go of me you doppleganger toads!" I had just recently learned the meaning of the word.

Forcefully dragged between the two henchmen toward our predetermined destination, I grew bolder with each step and struggled to free myself from their grasps. This failure resulted in digging my heels into the floor. I slow-walked in an effort to halt the parade. My languid movements, and deliberate lethargy, could not have turned around the Titanic, or kept the famous ship from careening into the dreaded iceberg that doomed the vessel. The henchmen yanked my arms harder. This certification of pulled muscles increased the discomfort I felt and caused me to comply with their wishes. We inched forward.

Braggadocious, with an empty air of swagger, I told them, "Let King Tubbo rattle on. That's all he ever does. It means nothing."

My comment drew no response from my escorts. We crossed the foyer of Hermitage Hall. A new photograph of King Tubbo adorned the near wall. I read the inscription underneath the portrait of him decked out in his fancy white suit and laughed out loud.

The plaque's brass-plated engraving stated, "Superintendent Gail McClellan, the State of Tennessee Orphanage Director of the Year." The plate's clean-edged appearance indicated a high quality burin had been used to produce the design of the lettering.

Since my return I had paid no attention to the piece of homage and asked, "When did he receive that recognition?"

Henchman Tobias let slip, "The night of his Summer Solstice Ball. If you had not run away you would have watched him receive the award."

We entered King Tubbo's office without knocking. He sat in stoic contemplation that appeared to be on the situation at hand behind his big, expensive, and expansive desk awaiting my arrival. I attempted to read the emotions his stiff body language radiated. A near blank expression displayed on his face and screamed I would not get into a close chumminess with him. No balloons or cakes welcomed me back to Hermitage Hall, so I figured there would be no party. The oversight was mox nix to me. His two cronies seated themselves in upholstered recliners, complete with ergonomic foot rests, along the near wall. They did not hold the same rank in the Hermitage Hall hierarchy, but they were truly three of a kind.

King Tubbo's glare strong, and his mind set hard, his steely eyes cut to a black, high-backed chair in front of his desk. "Sit down, while you still can."

Its meteoric repulsive overtone characterized by an intense apprehension, I honed in on the abominable thickness of the atmosphere that filled the room. Soiled by accumulated sticky residue substances, a besmeared, transparent ash pot contained the burnt end of a thick, roll-your-own, blunt. Its thin, round, and crisp rice paper wrapper easy to recognize.

An irritating smart-ass, and wannabe know everything, I almost asked him, "What did you strengthen the wrappers with?"

I heard somewhere tapioca made them thinner and more glutinous, while salt made them dry and elastic. Somehow, I kept my otherwise big mouth shut and observed King Tubbo insert the tip of the Fat Boy between his lips by roach clip metal tweezers.

Obviously not a beginner, without allowing the smoke to fill his mouth, King Tubbo sucked it down inside his lungs. He removed the blunt from between his watermelon-sized labiums and took a quick breath. A couple seconds thereafter, he released the smoke and air from his lungs then repeated the process. We all knew he possessed several addictions. This isolated incident became the only time I witnessed this particular obsession firsthand.

I noticed he did not puff away in rapid succession like most cigarette smokers did. The aroma of the burning weed nauseated me. I about ejected the contents of my stomach on King Tubbo just for malice. The intentional desire to disregard his wellbeing rankled inside me.

Thus was the counterculture of the 1970s. Tie-dye, acid, mushrooms, and marijuana hallmarked the decade I lived in at the time. The popularity of getting high was mostly a protest against the Viet Nam War.

These disenchantments included "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"

This popular slogan was chanted almost every time the 36th President of the United States publicly appeared. Though I have never done illegal drugs of any nature, sans underaged alcohol consumption, watching King Tubbo waste his life away smoking a joint did not impress me.

Cruel chastisement her malicious, violent intent the Reform School strap unaffectionately known as Big Bertha hung on a peg in the wall behind King Tubbo. Fourteen inches long, and half an inch wide, she possessed a hickory handle for a firmer grip. Hermitage Hall remained absent from strong outside oversight. On many horrific occasions Big Bertha had been employed on boys unable to defend themselves from her torturous assault. This created lasting impressions of injustices rendered.

As he looked up from a notepad on top of his desk, steam billowed out King Tubbo's ears, circled upwards, and created what appeared to be fierce pointed horns on top of his bald cranium. Taken ghastly aback, the rancorous serpent's repugnancy spewed forth. His macabre, astonishing tirade of criticisms, and accusations of what he considered my personal shortcomings and offenses, thundered.


In Chapter Nineteen, King Tubbo and I cross swords.

Author Notes Bosco, by Linda Wetzel, selected to complement my autobiography.

Chapter 19
Unwanted Dog-19

By Brett Matthew West

Co-written by Don Wayne and Walter Haynes, "It's Time To Pay The Fiddler" was recorded on the MCA records label on June 6, 1974 at the world famous Bradley Barn in Nashville, Tennessee.

Released in November of 1974, "It's Time To Pay The Fiddler" was the first Single from Cal Smith's album of the same name, as well as his third Number One recording on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.

Other popular Performers who have recorded versions of "It's Time To Pay The Fiddler" include Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn.

A couple pertinent lyrics from "It's Time To Pay The Fiddler" include:

"Well, it's time to pay the fiddler
and, today's the day the first installment's due"


WHETHER THE PUNGENT AROMA EMITTED FROM HIS PROBLEM FOOT ODOR, OR HIS VOLCANIC-BREATH MOUTH THAT ANTISEPTIC MOUTHWASH NEVER TOUCHED, I WISHED KING TUBBO WOULD HAVE BACKED AWAY A GRAND TEN MILES. The strong and sharp stench clogged my sinuses. I wondered when the last time was he washed the bacteria off his pedal extremities and the fungus from between his fat toes? Bromodosis did him no favors, neither did halitosis. The sulfuric transmission reminded me of the rotten eggs Hermitage Hall was famous for. Sour onions immediately came to my mind's eye. Somebody needed to introduce him to anti-fungal soap, and H-2-O, in a desperate manner.

His ill-tempered, acidic disposition flooded the room. Unpleasant, his agitated demeanor highlighted King Tubbo's puckered mouth and crumpled out of shape nose. Squashed together, his nostrils produced unsightly creases that did not resemble bunny lines. I noticed no vinegar on his desk, so I knew the grotesque expression of disgust did not emanate from something he'd swallowed. Tightened small folds of wrinkled skin appeared on his lips. I waited for the mallet to drop square on the nail's head. Better there than on mine. I realized his goal to attempt to intimidate me.

Wrathful to the point his body trembled, King Tubbo barraged quick and heavy, "You chose to embarass me in front of my distinguished and honored guests! Did you really think your running away from Hermitage Hall, especially on such an auspicious occasion as the day of my Summer Solstice Ball, would go unnoticed you pissant?"

I recalled the word "pissant" meant a person of no significance, and an annoyance I morphed into. My focus did not fall on trivial matters but shot straight to showdown mode. This battle royal between King Tubbo and myself required resolution. The challenge commenced.

"All they wanted to do was stare through hidden peepholes at half-dressed boys. They're perverts. Like you!"

King Tubbo inhaled a deep breath. I watched him contemplate what he intended to express before he thundered, "You bastard! It is time you learned a hard lesson there are consequences for breaking the rules here at this fine institution. All you do is whatever suits your own desires. That is going to change!"

I stared back at King Tubbo. He foamed at the mouth. As I listened to his rant, I wondered if he was rabid.

King Tubbo's obnoxious vocalization squealed a long, high-pitched squawk, "From now on you will not be able to drop your pants to take a crap without someone standing over you and monitoring your every movement. Do you understand me, pygmy?"

I'd heard enough. In total incredulity of King Tubbo's harangue, I leaped out of my chair and turned my body counterclockwise so my posterior aimed at his face. I pointed to the appropriate body part, and brazenly exclaimed, "Bite me, Tubbo. Right in the middle of my hunky-dory butt!"

The vulgarity ignited his vengeful fire more, but I did not care. This was the first time I'd called McClellan "Tubbo" to his repulsive mug.

He jerked Big Bertha off the wall and tested me to see if I would quake in my mukluk slippers. He enjoyed terrorizing boys, and derived self-importance, as well as a sense of power, from these episodes. "You ever call me that again not only will I slap your teeth out of your belligerent mouth, I will yank your tongue out and slice it off with a box cutter you pathetic piece of filth!"

I was not afraid of him.

"Stand up and remove your shirt!"

I observed the strop in King Tubbo's hand and knew he intended to chastise me into submission. He regularly perpetrated his handiwork on selected victims. No way did I want to feel the biting sting of Big Bertha, though I had before. I saw no available exits. I was in this quandary, all the way up to my ears. There was no reason to hold back and I did not.

Summoning the strength of a majestic oak tree, I stalwartly replied, "Not a snowball's chance in hell!"

When word of my keelhauling spread around Hermitage Hall, as these flayings always did, other boys would whisper and secretly talk about the incident. Some openly dished the dirt about them. Each wondered when their turn would arrive. While the ignominious debacle settled over my universe, I thought to myself, 'I may lose this battle'. However, I vowed, 'I will win this war.'

I could either cower in the corner from the menace or fight back. I knew courage did not always shout in a deep loud roar. Sometimes, it can best be expressed in how a message is stated. Unyielding in attitude, I adamantly challenged him to combat. "Make me!"

King Tubbo scowled daggers. He said, "Most boys in your position are trembling by now. And, yet you, you continue to be defiant." He expressed the whites of his wide opened eyes, furrowed his brow, and tightened the muscles of his neck and face. Authoritative, he enjoined his accomplices, "Brett wants to do things the hard way? Pick him up out of his chair and strip his shirt off him! It's time Big Bertha teaches this wayward dullard some proper manners!"

"You can't touch me!" I recoiled at the prospect as the henchmen pounced on me. I felt my tee shirt yanked over my head and my back bared. I struggled furiously to escape their taut grip. I could not.

"Au contraire, you spineless wonder!" King Tubbo apprised me. "Chapter 12, Appendix C, Subparagraph 8, of the Rules and Regulations Handbook each one of you boys are so graciously afforded upon your admittance to Hermitage Hall, specifically states that I am delegated to enforce whatever standards are required to maintain order here. That includes the imposition of institutional corporal correction when warranted. Perhaps, in all the years you have been confined in this establishment you should have read this manual a long time ago. Provided you have the ability to read." He smiled. "I should know. I wrote the book."

King Tubbo continued his justification for the impending circumstance by saying, "Your repeated inappropriate behaviors, coupled with your continual rule breaking, now culminated by your unauthorized departure from Hermitage Hall, more than qualifies you for the infliction of said castigation," For good measure he gleefully threw in, "And, by the way, just for your own information Mister Know-It-All, nobody is going to say anything about what I do to any of you swinish multitude of boys. EVER! Simply stated, no one, not one single, solitary, person in this whole wide world, especially me, gives a rat's shit about any of you at all! Do you hear me? No one!"

King Tubbo charged his compadres, "Unlike this inconsiderate guttersnipe, I am going to enjoy every delightful moment of this." He pirouetted to me and vowed, "You are going to cry. Not only that, but you will howl like a rhesus monkey long and loud enough for everyone on this campus to distinctly hear every sound you utter! Your actions are going to change. Mr. Tobias, lower his pants!"


In Chapter Twenty, I pay the fiddler for running away from Hermitage Hall.


Chapter Twenty contains graphic physical violence. If this bothers you suggest you skip reading the next chapter. It is not a pretty picture!

Author Notes Bosco, by Linda Wetzel, selected to complement my autobiography.

Chapter 20
Unwanted Dog-20

By Brett Matthew West

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

I feel I should caution my readers I wrote this chapter in graphic detail to capture the entire essence of the incident described. I did not color the text. King Tubbo performed enough of that. Therefore, the violence in this portion of my autobiography may not, probably more correctly stated, is not suitable for all FanStorians to peruse. I fully understand if you elect to not read this depiction of my encounter with Big Bertha, King Tubbo's bombastic reform school strap, with its theatrial style too declamatory for the sentiment expressed. If this be you, I strongly encourage you to cease reading at the end of this WARNING! If one is going to write their autobiography, the unfortunate truth is you must simply tell the story as it transpired.


Per Request (Cast of Characters for new readers):

Gale McClellan - Superintendent of the Hermitage Hall orphanage. Commonly referred to by the boys housed there as King Tubbo
Mr. Tobias - Assistant Director and King Tubbo's main henchman
Big Bertha - Hermitage Hall's reform school strap
Brett Matthew West - narrator and 12 years old at the time of this incident

REBEL AS I MAY, I WAS NO PHYSICAL MATCH FOR THE HENCHMEN, ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING THERE WERE TWO OF THEM AND ONLY ONE OF ME. An enraged coward alone, King Tubbo always tried to stack the odds in his favor when he dealt with boys. I felt myself dragged against my will half-way across his desk and the boots on my feet kicked slightly apart. Fully exposed for King Tubbo's aesthetic pleasure, my bare back remained opened to view and lacked protection. A trace of nervousness settled over me with no way to distract my attention to anything except the inauspicious predicament encountered. The ferocious thunder boomer left the rapid impression something hostile was going to occur.

Taciturn and bridled, I threw up my head and drew in my chin. My tempermental disinclination asked myself, "What have I gotten into this time?" Though they had descended around my ankles, and laid partly on the floor where I stood, it was a good thing I had put on clean, white undies that morning.

King Tubbo popped Big Bertha. His concerted effort meant to intimidate me. Resembling a sonic boom, an explosive woosh radiated. The noise resulted in my instinctive, startled, reaction and I gasped a quick, vocalized, breath.

He instructed his cohort, "Hold him down tight, Mr. Tobias."

When the words escaped his mouth, I keenly perceived my muscles involuntarily tensed in anticipation of the distress soon to begin.

The task accomplished by his henchmen, King Tubbo informed me, "Now that I have your undivided awareness, Brett, we shall commence the administration of your required comeuppance. I will cease the session upon your reception of the tenth stroke!"

I attempted to force the leery anticipation, and realistic suspicion of intense pain, out of my mind. King Tubbo's full attention descended on the pale white canvas that represented my nether regions. He displayed no sympathy for my inenviable condition, or compassion for the chain of events incapable of being avoided. I suppose he thought he was Rembrandt creating a masterpiece.

No anti-inflammatory could prepare me for the burning sensation that flew down my legs with the deliverance of the first sizzling lash. Bull's-eye! As though sowing seeds, a sharp, prickly heat disseminated from the gluteus maximus. The uncontrolled misery careened to the femur's bony protuberance of the thigh. Something like I'd never felt before, the stroke landed precisely where King Tubbo intended for the throb to. The thrusted sting palpitated. Involuntarily, my body made an abrupt, unsteady, lurch. The red and swollen wheal, with its clearly defined edges Big Bertha left, rocketed off my flesh.

As the wildfire from the castigation steamed, the top quarter of my haunches convulsed emphatically. Forced tremulous locomotion. Thrash Number Two entwined the infuriated torrent. That hammer mauled just below the vicinity the first attacker ambushed me. My hands tightened into fists as my slouched shoulders extended back and down. The positioning of my right foot, now slightly in front of my left, resembled a diamond shape.

A strained grimace of anguish contorted my face in a violent manner. My blue eyes squeezed tight until only my eyelids showed. My nose scrunched in disgust, and my mouth opened wide to display my clenched pearly whites. I jigged three times in rapid succession and still had eight more clobbers to endure...somehow!

Lash Number Three painted my caboose the deep reddish-rose color of amaranth as blood was sucked up under the skin. An inclination to purple, blue, and black patches soon ensued. Battered and bruised, but certainly not broken, unlike other boys I knew who previously endured King Tubbo's wrath, I refused to wail out or allow him the satisfaction of knowing he'd subdued me into a state of depressed reflection. There would be no prolonged, high-pitched, audible laments from this victim. I determined that would not occur no matter what indignations I suffered. The stubborn determination and resolve I developed living my whole life in Hermitage Hall had seen me through many obstacles. With the henchmen restraining my movement, I had no option but remain under Big Bertha's tutelege. I fought back the ocean of tears wanting to burst forth and clung to what little bit of my pride remained.

Unhesitant and lively, Lashes Number Four, Five, and Six were administered in a rapid continuous stream that stole my breath away. The intense consternation scrambled my faculties.

Agitated with my continued silence, an iritated King Tubbo rubbed his chin. His anger explosive, in distress he bemoaned, "I can not believe you have not uttered as much as one little whimper since your chastening began. You are going to understand you did several things wrong and you are going to regret them. Most of all, you are going to yelp, loud!"

My posterior puffed in size from King Tubbo's onslaught, I filled my lungs with air and tried to resist the reception of Lash Number Seven. It, along with Lash Number Eight, were applied with increased vigor in a contrived effort to extol the verbal response he demanded. None came.

Courageously determined, with no cause for hope, I withstood their ferocious intensity. Valiantly, I struggled to free myself from the clutches of the henchmen. My energy about exhausted, and not wanting to cope anymore with my reprimand, I looked Mr. Tobias in the eyes. Emphatic, I entreated, "Let go of me!" The more I exerted to produce my yearned for effect the tighter he grasped my pulsating wrists.

Exuberent, he laughed, "No way! We're not done with you. Mr. McCllelan, I believe the message is starting to sink into Brett's stubbornness."

Drawing Big Bertha back to continue my persecution , King Tubbo responded, "It has often been said if you want to get a message into a boy's head go through his behind."

Lash Number Nine, and Lash Number Ten, were applied to the back of my upper legs. These bludgeonings hurt worst of all. By far, this episode was the absolute worst punishment I ever suffered.

King Tubbo assured me, "You will not sit for a few days. That much is certain. Heed my warning. Do not be summoned to my office again for a repeat performance. I will increase the number of lashes delivered with each appearance."

He hung Big Bertha back on the wall behind his desk and I was released by the henchmen. My hands immediately rubbed my inflamed wounds. Slowly, I pulled my undies and bluejeans up. The pain so severe, I almost could not tolerate wearing them.

Barely able to walk in listless baby steps, I started to leave his office. I paused outside the door. Out of sight, I eavesdropped on a conversation not intended for me to hear.

King Tubbo asked Mr. Tobias, "Do you know how much I hate that boy?"

"About as much as he despises you, Gale."

"You are so right. All that boy, or any of them, have been good for is whipping. I extract great pleasure in my excursions to Flog City."

They popped a cork on a Chardonnay bottle and guffawed, "I will definately drink to those words of wisdom!"

The bitterness in his voice apparent, King Tubbo demonstratively bewailed as though he wanted the far reaches of the universe to hear, "If I could move that radical malcontent I would. However, having been an orphanage lifer no other facility in Nashville will take him." He laid a hundred dollar bill on the table from the wallet he retrieved from his hip pocket. "My money says he will be back in here soon for another healthy dose. You going to take me up on my gentleman's wager, Mr. Tobias?"

I filed their conversation into my memory banks, and gentle as I could, Damaged Goods ambled to his room.


Chapter 21 brings me up to a certain Walmart parking lot where I first chance encountered Dusty West.

Author Notes Bosco, by Linda Wetzel, selected to complement my autobiography.

Chapter 21
Unwanted Dog-21

By Brett Matthew West

Released on the RCA Victor record label on January 13, 1975 "The Bargain Store" was written and recorded by Dolly Parton.

"The Bargain Store" was the first Single from her album of the same name, and Dolly Parton's fifth Number One Hit on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. "The Bargain Store" remained in that position for one week and spent a total of nine weeks on the chart.

Interestingly, the lyrics "The bargain store is open come inside. You can easily afford the price," which tends to fit Walmart to a tee, caused the song to be dropped from the playlist of several Country music stations who viewed it as a thinly disguised reference to prostitution


KING TUBBO'S EXAMPLE ESTABLISHED, I ACHED FOUR BRUTALLY AGONIZING DAYS AFTER I RECEIVED MY SAVAGE REBUKE FROM BIG BERTHA BEFORE I ESCAPED HERMITAGE HALL FOR THE SECOND TIME. I connived every way imaginable, and would have stooped to any dishonest level necessary, to place my hands on my scorned enemy. My derision obvious, as displayed in my snapping at small annoyances, and the subtle ways I put other boys down in unflattering means without caring if those actions made me look petty. I felt like a victim and expressed my emotions. I deeply resented the fact I could not abscond with that heinous abomination. It would have magically disappeared. However, the condemnable disparager was never left unattended.

The Nashville morning sky was overcast. To distinguish the exact borders of the individual dense grey clouds became a depressed impossibility. It would probably rain. I did not care. I had been soaked before. My target was the packed parking lot of one of the world's largest retail box stores. This one sat at 5824 Nolensville Pike. Everybody's been to one, probably more times than some would care to admit to.

Locally referred to as the New South citadel, Nolensville Pike now houses a variety of used car dealerships, immigrant entrepreneurs, and is Nashville's international corridor. Among the sites found there are Kurdish bakers, Mexican restaurants that feature empanadas stuffed with Tennessee fruits, and produce grown by Burmese, Rwandan, and Bhutan agricultural workers.

Allow me to ask this one question that only contains three little letters...w-h-y? I mean, all-in-all Walmarts are the same wherever one goes. Nothing more than a giant nightmare with wall-to-wall overzealous shoppers specializing in pushing and shoving their way around the inside. Ever been Black Friday shopping on a Thanksgiving night? Says all that needs to be stated. No wolf tickets need to be sold.

"That's mine!" "Get out of my way!" You've heard these derogatory, snide, attitudes and more while at Walmart no doubt.

The outside of Wally World is no better. Don't you just hate it when unattended carts litter the parking lot, bang into, scratch, and ding your vehicle after you depart your car? As I strolled through the stalls, and pedestrian tripping hazards known as wheelstops, that morning it wasn't hard to spot several of these occurrences. It warmed my heart to watch those black wheels roll, and it did not require much inertia to start the energy in motion.

Unaffected by the factors mentioned above, many people fancy obtaining wonderful deals on all kinds of merchandise inside the store. If Walmart is so amazingly incredulous why do they wind up paying the very same prices for most items they could purchase elsewhere? Yes, my opinion of Walmart was not real positive back in the day as one could easily surmise. Confidentially, all these years later my inclination has remained the same.

Need an optometrist? Go to Walmart. Enjoy Nathan's hotdogs? Go to Walmart. Perhaps a Miracle Ear hearing aid is in order, or you desire to file taxes. Once again, you got it. Go to Walmart. All these concessions, and many others, conduct business inside any Walmart one cared to enter, and were discovered inside this particular Walmart.

I'd noticed them on previous Hermitage Hall-sponsored outings. Oh, and don't forget to complete all one's banking needs, as well as obtain necessary pharmaceuticals, while there too. When you stop and dwell on the microcosm that is Walmart it is actually mindblowing. Here is a newsflash. All these can be accomplished prior to interacting with the Walmart proper.

On that occasion, to me Walmart meant lots of patrons with cashola. I knew by turning on my little boy charms I would obtain the green from someone. The sufferer really did not matter. After all, who can say no to, and resist, sad puppy dog eyes and a polite manner, even if the persona they perceived of my personality was faked?

Under a systematic review, I monitored several prospects kibitzing random conversations in the parking lot as they placed their store-bought wares into their vehicles. My tactics included the number of bags they removed from their buggies, the condition of their cars, and how they were attired. No need wasting efforts on targets I deduced possessed nothing to offer.

There was a mid-twenties mother with twin terrorizors still riding in the cart. Their diapered behinds in the seat as she scurried to her Chevrolet Suburban. Beyond them, I spied an elderly woman. And, I do mean an antique. She must have pushed eighty for all she was worth. Probably as not to strain herself, she toted her clutch and one tiny plastic bag in the half-moon shape of a banana. Knee-highs rolled down, she wore plastic pink curlers under a scarf on her head and traipsed in meticulous careful steps. I considered the solicious granny for a fleeted second and decided this pond tendered better ducks. That's when I designated my bullseye.


In Chapter Twenty-Two, I get into a confrontation with a bearded stranger.

Author Notes Don't box me in, by AV Murray, selected to complement this chapter of my autobiography.

Chapter 22
Unwanted Dog-22

By Brett Matthew West

Recorded at the world famous Bradley Barn on April 25, 1972, on the Decca records label, "They Don't Make 'Em Like My Daddy Anymore" was the first Single on the "Coal Miner's Daughter" Loretta Lynn's album of the same name.

Written by Jerry Crutchfield, "They Don't Make 'Em Like My Daddy Anymore" reached the Number Four position on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.

Lyrics from "They Don't Make 'Em Like My Daddy Anymore" included:

"My daddy wasn't one that tried to make no big impressions
Just one heck of a man who worked for what he got."


"They don't make 'em like my daddy anymore
Guess they've thrown away the pattern through the years
In this great big land of freedom, at a time we really need 'em,
They don't Make 'Em Like My Daddy Anymore"


THE RECIPIENT I SELECTED HAD AN OVERFLOWING CART FULL OF GROCERIES HE SEPERATED AND PLACED IN WOODEN CRATES IN THE BED OF HIS POWDER BLUE F150 PICKUP TRUCK WITH ITS THREE-PIECE FORGED DRAG RACING WHEELS. That was a real good sign. As I slowly approached, I sized him up and down to form an opinion of the approximately six-foot-tall fashionable social climber. Fortunately, my slanted sentiment was wrong about him. I pondered why he held a handful of receipts and checked each item off as he placed them in his truck. I counted nine sales slips. Later, I discovered the reason for his meticulousness. He was on his monthly grocery shopping trip for his donations in support of the non-profit charities he contributed to around the Nashville area and ensured he did not omit anything. Eventually, I accompanied him on these excursions. They became a family outing for us. Perhaps that is the reason why when I grew up, and learned from his example, I began donating to the local foodbanks here in Nashville. To this day, I still do.

I told myself, "Don't go pointing your finger at nobody, Brett. It's plain to see this guy ain't no saint. He don't do no water walking. No one does."

With continued observation, I contemplated what I was going to say to this gentleman with the daunting whiskers that hung down to the middle of his chest and tended to intimidate. I wondered if I snuggled beneath his beard if the monstrous growth would keep me warmer than the sheer duvet Hermitage Hall provided for my bed. If he had been adorned in a red and white suit, I would have sworn I'd unexpectedly encountered Santy Claus sans the pot belly. Obviously no sugarholic, one look and I knew he had to be some sort of exercise guru. The form and development of his physically refined physique indicated as much. His solid, medium frame displayed narrow hips and very little body fat. I surmised he was probably athletic, possibly a swimmer or the guard on a basketball team. I also noticed the contemporaneous Christian Dior shades on top of his deep version of shoulder-length jet black hair that flowed down his back.

'Good morning, sir," somehow did not appeal to my thought processes. I decided I needed something more enchanting to say to him.

He glanced up and watched me saunter merrily along in no hurry behind the orange Fiat Sport Spider two spaces down from where he parked. Attracted to the shiny machine, I could not keep my hands from touching the dual-door convertible as I passed by and examined the roadster up close. My footsteps slow and relaxed, I imagined what he interpreted of my actions.

As I stood behind the tailgate of his truck, and rested my dirty elbow on it, I made my effort as best as I could with a simple, "Nice ride!"

Silently, I wondered if he used the tailgate as a pregame party area during football games or an outdoor workstation? Maybe he preferred to use the metallic entrance to his truck's bed for a measuring tool?

Straightforward and candid as he placed a couple more bags in the vehicle, all this man of few words unpretentiously said was, "It'll do."

"Bet it rides smoothhhhhh!" I mischieviously stated deliberately stressing the significance of the last word for affect.

"You're playing me, kid, and I don't like when people do. I'm busy here, so what do you want?" He cut to the chase.

His tone enlightened me he had no intention of wasting time on insignificant topics. The gig played its course and this scoundrel had been exposed. I decided I might as well abruptly blurt out what occupied my mind and spoke without thought, "Spare a couple bucks?"

He looked at me but did not utter a syllable.

I felt I had lost the game, and discouraged remarked, "Hey, a boy's gotta eat you know."

With little energy exerted, he heaved a fifty pound bag of Purina dog food into the truck and told me, "Go hustle somebody else, Squirt. I won't give you one red cent!" He paused. Like an angry parent he wondered, "By the way, where's your folks? Do they know you're out here panhandling from strangers, and need to have your tail end worn out for your misbehavior, young man?"

An emotional vibe I never felt before stirred somewhere deep inside me. I knew it wasn't indigestion and turned my face away. That was not my nature. I chided myself, "What's gotten into you all of a sudden? You get your act together. You don't even know this dude!"

He must have noticed my distressed composure. His tempered modulation changed when he said, "Listen, if you're hungry, I'll take you across the street to McDonald's and buy you a burger. But, that's all you're gonna weasel out of me. After that, we go seperate ways."

To use his own word that day, neither one of us realized it at the time but I would continue to weasel what I wanted out of him for about the next decade. Some things much easier than others. Teasingly, as the years went along and I wanted a mundane trinket or another from him, he would call me his "Little Weasler."

My bigger needs required more effort. Looking back, I can honestly say as sure as I breath oxygen, I got a lot of what I wanted from him and much more than I ever imagined. I never expected this chance encounter to have the profound effect, or forever change the course of my life, the way that it did. Although I had no way of knowing it at that precise moment, I had just met my dad.

He fished a key out of the front right pocket of his designer Levis, smiled, and told me, "Climb in already. I'm not walking."

I waited for him to unlock the pickup then scampered into the cab of the truck. That was the extent of our conversation at Walmart. Most of our talking was done while munching Mikey D's.


In Chapter 23, Dusty West and I eat burgers for lunch. But, what went wrong from there?

Author Notes Woe is me!, by cleo85, selected to complement this chapter of my autobiography.

Chapter 23
Unwanted Dog-23

By Brett Matthew West

"Burgers And Fries" was written by the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Ben Peters and recorded by the Country Music Hall of Fame member Charley Pride.

Charley Pride recorded 68 songs written by Ben Peters. Six of them reached the Number One position on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.

Charley Pride was one of the bestselling Singers for RCA Records. He recorded 52 Top Ten songs, 30 of which reached the Number One position on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.

Ben Peters also wrote Hit songs recorded by Eddy Arnold, Lynn Anderson, Freddy Fender, Kenny Rogers, and others.

Released in October of 1978, on the RCA Records label, "Burgers And Fries" reached the Number 2 position on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.

"Burgers And Fries" was featured in the Paramount Pictures 1997 Thriller "Breakdown" that starred Kurt Russell.

Pertinent lyrics from "Burgers And Fries" included:

"Burgers and fries and cherry pies
It was simple and good back then
In a world we used to know."

"All the things we used to say
little things we did each day
oh I long to do the things we did before"


HIS RIGHT HAND RAISED HIGH IN THE SKY, WITH HIS PALM EXTENDED IN AN EXAGGERATED "HELLO!", A TWENTY-FIVE FOOT TALL INFLATABLE RONALD MCDONALD GREETED CUSTOMERS AS THEY ENTERED THE RESTAURANT. The iconic clown's crooked teeth, black eyes, red hair and shoes apparant. My heart raced for a fleeted instance. An unruly emotion overwhelmed me of how the switchblade knife in the pocket of my jeans could pop him. KER-BOOM! Though an activity I did not want to miss out on, and curious how loud the noise of the air suddenly escaping from the balloon would be, I thought better of performing the act.

"Ever hear the expression for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction?" This was the first question Dusty West asked after we'd placed our orders at the counter.

At the time, I did not know his question paraphrased Newton's Third Law of Motion, nor was the relative truth on my mind. I had much to learn. Instead, I eyeballed the girl behind the cash register and reckoned she couldn't be much older than me. At least, with her auburn hair tied in ponytails, she did not appear to be. Her nametag listed her as Veronica. After we left the counter with our Egg McMuffins in hand, and located a table away from the hubbub of other customers scattered around the dining room, I never saw her again.

For those unfamiliar with this unique breakfast sandwich it included a slice of Canadian bacon, and a slice of American cheese, on a grill-fried, broken-yolked egg that had been cooked in a Teflon ring surrounded by an outer metal structure. These items were served on a toasted and buttered English muffin covered in hollandaise sauce. Veronica even threw in a small tub of strawberry preserves, for appeal no doubt, intended to add a sweet and savory taste to the McMuffin. Its cost? A whopping sixty-three pennies! I didn't have nary a one in my pocket.

My response to Dusty's question was an innocent, "What?"

Dusty said, "Don't what me, pipsqueak. You did not do so, but, I could tell by the gleam in your peepers as we entered you had something mischievious on your mind pertaining to that balloon outside. When I saw that, I almost turned around and walked away. Destroying someone else's property for no valid reason is not the proper way for you to behave."

Busted! Off to a rousing rocky start. I stared back at him but did not utter a sound.

Dusty unwrapped his McMuffin, and sipped a swallow of Pepsi through the plastic straw in his cup. Not letting up, he asked, "What I'd really like to know is what a runt like you is doing on the streets? I mean, here you are with no money, nobody with you, and that's a good way for you to get yourself killed. Where did you come from anyway? Let me take a wild guess. You are a runaway. Your dad got on you about something. You didn't like it, so you ran away from home. Didn't you?"

I realized Dusty had a gazillion questions he expected answers for. Somehow, the thought of him being a danger to me never crossed my mind. Quickly, without properly chewing my food, I gulped a bite and replied, "Hermitage Hall, that place everyone thinks is a great big pie in the sky."

Before I could say anything more, Dusty replied, "From what I hear, and read about in the Tennessean newspaper, that's a good location for boys who have nowhere else to go."

I about choked on a piece of bacon and more than slightly rolled my eyes upward into my head.

Dusty looked flabbergasted by my response and said, "Tell me what I'm missing."

Staring straight at him, I remarked, "Only The fact they treat us worse than criminals!"

Dusty glanced at the wolf imprinted on the front of my weather-faded pullover like he did not know what to make of me. I wore the garment loose under my unbuttoned jean vest. Ten minutes earlier, I had never crossed his path.

He said, "Three square meals a day, and a warm, comfortable, bed to go nighty-night in, are nothing to sneeze at. You stay on the streets long enough you will learn real quick many homeless people don't have that much going for them."

He wasn't telling me anything I had not recently experienced myself. However, I did not share that information.

As we sat there and talked openly about whatever came to mind, Dusty continued, "Activities galore. What more could you want?"

I recalled my encounter with King Tubbo's lethal reform school strap, Big Bertha, earlier that week and stated, "Somebody who doesn't whip the hide off us for every little thing we do wrong would be a good start."

The remark grabbed his attention. I divulged the gory details that surrounded the incident and watched Dusty's demeanor turn to stunned rage. I told him, "So, you see. I can't go back to Hermitage Hall. I'm gonna get it again. Only worse!"

I half expected him to impart to me I blew the situation way out of proportion. To my surprise, he did not.

Dusty seemed unsure what to relay except, "Perhaps you should have considered that option before you ran away again. Not smart. Their rules are their rules and they must be in place for a reason."

I wasn't totally sure I liked much of what this man presented. Perhaps a little more sympathetic understanding on his part would have been more appropriate to me.


In Chapter 24, Dusty and I continued talking while eating Egg McMuffins at Mickie D's. But, will the iceberg between us fracture?

Author Notes Wet dog, by lynnkah, selected to complement this chapter of my autobiography.

Chapter 24
Unwanted Dog-24

By Brett Matthew West


Perhaps searching for the right words, I hesitated. "I've been told a couple ways. First, my mother died of cancer and I had no other relatives to take me in. My official records there say I was left by an unknown lady who dropped me off and walked away without any explanation. They tell us boys anything they want to. So, I really don't know how to answer that."

Dusty's next question came, "Where is your father?"

Full of disdain I answered, "If he is who I've been told he is, and is who I think he is, the insane psychopath is six feet in the ground. That's a real good place for him, too!"

"That's not nice to say about your father," Dusty reprimanded me.

"He was never there for me!" I retorted.

Still trying to put the puzzle pieces together in their proper places, Dusty asked, "Why not?"

"Because the man I've been told was my father spent nine years in prison for armed robbery before he was killed by another gangster wannabe," I responded.

"That's not good."

"I don't care."

Not totally sure if the man I talked about was my biological father or not, it truly did not matter to me. To this day, I still do not know what my geneology is, nor have I researched the topic. At this point in my life it is of no interest to me. No one has ever come forth to claim a blood relationship with me and I always chose to leave it rest. Should someone magically appear out of the blue, and make this wild accusation, I am not 100 percent convinced I would be in agreement to even listen to them spout off.

We changed the subject again.

"When you're twelve years old some people frown on you being on your own," I began.

"Correction, when you're twelve years old you have no business being on your own. It sounds like you've been knocked around some in your short life time. Join the club, Tonto. But, don't sing the blues to me because I don't want to hear them. The streets are very dangerous to your health, Brett. I know, I see bad things happen all the time. There's a lot of treacherous people out there you're really not even aware of."

I puffed my chest out and boasted, "I can handle myself."

"Is that right? Do you even know what a pedophile is?" Dusty asked.

"Sure, he's a guy who likes little boys in ways he shouldn't like little boys," I answered him, then asked a question of my own, "Who doesn't know what a pervert is?"

Dusty paused a moment. He reflected on my answer, then said, "Many dangers lurk in the shadows, too. You never know what they may be. Is any of what I'm saying getting through that foot-thick noggin of yours?"

His words sank in deep. He wasn't saying anything I wanted to hear but distant bells rang clear. I took another bite of my sandwich.

"That's why I carry a switchblade knife. A boy in my position has very little to cling to," I told him.

Caught off guard by my admission, Dusty responded, "A switchblade knife! You better be careful you don't cut yourself on something that sharp." He muttered under his breath, "If you were my son, and told me you had a switchblade knife, I'd...!"

I heard what he whispered, and curious, asked him, "If I were your son, what?"

Distinctly spoken, and very parentally stated, Dusty said, "Young man, if you were my son, and told me you carried a switchblade knife in your pocket, I'd pluck every single one of your tail feathers one at a time until they all disappeared, you little banty rooster."

When will I ever learn to see foreshadowing? A couple months down the road that's exactly what Dusty did when he confiscated my switchblade knife. But, that is jumping the gun.

The more we talked the closer I listened to what Dusty told me. All the time, I wondered to myself, "How is this dude breaking through your wall of defenses when no one else could?"

The obstruction penetrated, Dusty didn't just break through the fortified ramparts I erected long ago for self-protection, he fragmented their cores to shredded remnants.

A couple hours flew by as we conversed. I reached a subjective conclusion that cut against every fiber of my being and said exactly what was on my mind, "I wish you could be with me when I go back to Hermitage Hall."

Dusty shook his head "No". His action assured me my fervent, sincere, desire was not going to happen. "Your returning back to Hermitage Hall is a decision you need to make, and be brave enough to face on your own."

On my own. The story of my life.

I pushed my chair back away from the table and stated, "I can handle what is waiting for me when I get there."

Dusty looked at me but did not speak. I wondered if he didn't test my mettle?

I graciously told him, "I know I'll never see you again, so thanks for the lunch. It was good."

Fighting back a tear formed in the corner of my eye, I scurried out of the restaurant as fast as I could motor leaving Dusty to clean up our mess. I was not about to let him see me cry.

Safely outside the establishment, I asked myself, "What is this strange stranglehold this guy had you tightly in? You've never felt anything like it before."

The fragile glass menagerie shattered into fragmentary shards. My splintered bleeding heart pined for Dusty to call me back and dress the wounds life cocooned me in. No sound came. Leaving Dusty behind in that McDonald's, under those golden arches, was the second hardest thing I ever did in my entire life. Compared to exiting that McDonald's without him, returning back to Hermitage Hall was a cakewalk. Maybe I had allowed my overly vivid imagination to run wild? Maybe I yearned for more out of that situation than what was there?

I screamed at myself, "Hey, stupid! Get those rocks out of your head! There ain't never been no gold at the end of your rainbow and there never will be!"

Unbeknownst to me, and I learned this after we got together, Dusty headed for the nearest pay phone he could find and dialed a number. Upon the receiver being picked up, he said, "Frazier, you're going fishing and I'm collecting in spades. I want anything you can dig up on a boy who just entered my life unexpectedly. He is a blond haired, blue-eyed rugrat rapscallion at Hermitage Hall and said his name is Brett, something or other. I forget now. Give me everything you got, down to the correct size of his tighty-whities, and I mean yesterday! Call me back ASAP with the report. And-a, don't let on to anyone, especially him, I'm the one you're working for."


In Chapter 25, does whiskey talk?

Author Notes Jack watching TV, by hchriste, selected to complement this chapter of my autobiography.

Chapter 25
Unwanted Dog - 25

By Brett Matthew West

While I did not live this chapter of my autobiography firsthand, I have been told this information so many times over the years by Dusty that I can recite the whole episode verbatim in my slumber. So, that is what I am going to do.


For the first two weeks after we shared McMuffins at Mickey D's, Dusty vacationed in the Poconos, where he would one day take me to show me one of his favorite getaways. While there, he enjoyed several rounds of 18-holes. A sport he attempted in vain to teach me how to play. I never did comprehend the logic behind hitting a golf ball, then chasing it, only to whack it somewhere else again. I guess I could not see the sense in those actions. However, Putt-Putt's a different situation altogether.

Dusty also favored whitewater rafting on Lake Wallenpaupack. That activity is a first class blast! He also explored the Hickory Run State Park and Boulder Fields, where he hiked the scenic, out-and-back, mile-and-a-half long Shades of Death Trail as well as enjoyed several other luxuries.

Upon his return, it was 9:30pm on Saturday night and Dusty was back at the Nashville Palace on MaGavoc Pike across from the Opryland Hotel. To this day this venue remains a popular tourist destination. Lorrie Morgan, Ricky Van Shelton, and perhaps Nashville's most famous dishwasher of them all, Randy Travis, got their starts here. On this particular night, the house-band Zelder Mill rocked the stage.

Seated at the end of the bar nursing a double-strained, emulsified, whiskey sour, Dusty observed a long-time acquaintance mouth to him from across the room, "Sounding good tonight as usual, dude."

The lighting and sound engineer for the establishment, Dusty prided himself on the quality of his work. This became another lesson over the course of time he taught me to learn well. Dusty was never satisfied with his efforts unless the crowd obviously savored the live performances of the Palace. To him, there was nothing better than excellent food and even better Country music. Not in our town, anyway. I can not state I disagree with his assessment.

Dancers gyrated to the beat of the music and boots were scooted. Contented, Dusty sat back, relaxed, and soaked up the pleasant evening. He finished the drink in the rocks glass he held in his hand and called the bartender's attention for another round. Three was his limit while he was on the clock though.

"Okay. I've known you well for the last four years, my friend. And, I know you only guzzle your drinks when there's something important on your mind. So, spill it already. What's gnawing at you tonight?" Travis MacNamara questioned as he placed another full glass on the bar in front of Dusty.

"Sometimes the damnest things happen when you least expect them to, amigo," Dusty responded. He never had any problem opening up to the bartender.

"Let me take a wild guess. You've been offered work, and more money, somewhere else. Right?" MacNamara asked him. Then teased, "You're always moving up in the world, aren't cha?"

"If you stay stagnant you tend to fizzle out," Dusty laughed and answered his friend's question. "No, nothing that exciting is happening, Travis. To tell the truth, I've met someone I can't get off my mind even though they probably have no business being there cluttering up the crawl space."

"Do I hear the wedding march "dum dum, de dum!" in your future, you sly mongrel?" MacNamara wondered. "You of all people. That would be a shocker around here."

Dusty laughed, "Me? Get married? Spare me the agony. As you know, I never say never. But, matrimony bells are not going to happen in this lifetime."

"Okay, now you've got my curiosity up. But, first, let me go pour these guys another round. You know, make some cashola if I have to," MacNamara told him. He pointed to two customers at the end of the bar, departed, refilled their liquor, and returned to Dusty. "I'm all ears. Squawk. Pocahontas."

"I met this kid panhandling at Walmart on Nolensville Pike and I bought him lunch at McDonald's," Dusty began.

"Holy sh__! You did what?" MacNamara exclaimed stunned by the news relayed to him. "I'm not sure I like the reverberation of where this is going, Dusty. Go ahead and get it off your chest, I guess. Man, you play with fire you're gonna get b-u-r-n-e-d!"

"He's a boy from Hermitage Hall," Dusty admitted.

Concerned for his workmate, MacNamara wanted to know, "The plot sickens, Dusty, but, the question is have you lost your ever-loving gobstopper mind?"

"Maybe I have and perhaps I have not," Dusty responded, "I don't know. I'm not sure."

MacNamara received another request from a money spender. He hurried away to pour a drink. Inquisitively probing, he returned to the conversation he'd left and said, "Continue your tale of woe, Dusty. This ought to be real good. The best joke I've heard in a long time. How could you have possibly gotten yourself wrapped up in such a mess like this? That's all I want to know."

"I only intended, out of the kindness of my heart, to help the kid out with some nourishment. Anyway, he proceeded to tell me quite a story about his past and being an orphan alone in the world. What a doozy his narrative was, too. The kind of stuff Hit Country songs are written about. The problem is. Travis, I believed every word the little elf said. He seemed so sincere he actually cried when he ran out of McDonald's. I don't think he wanted me to see him do that, but I did," Dusty reiterated.

"They all do, Dusty. So, once again I will distinctly ask you are you off your rocker, your meds, or do you have a screw loose in that noggin of yours? Git a grip on reality will you, my friend, before it is way too late? Cause right now, you're so far out there in La La Land some place you'll never get back," MacNamara told him.

"I'm considering fostering him," Dusty confessed.

"Say what? Since when are you, of all the people in this world, willing to sacrifice YOUR freedom? The very freedom you hold so near and dear no one could pry it away from you with a double-edged crowbar, especially for some kid you don't even know. You want my opinion, I think you need a shrink. You've been working much too hard," MacNamara chided him.

"His name is Brett," Dusty commented hearing a noise he did not like. "I need to go look at that squealing woofer." He handed his empty glass to the bartender and stepped down off his stool to attend to the nuisance that distracted him.

As Dusty departed, MacNamara shook his head from side to side and said, "Man, I hope for your sake that's just the whiskey talking and you return back to your senses pronto. Amazing!" He wiped a glass and turned to serve another patron.

Dusty had heard much the same response from others he'd discussed the subject with. Each one of them thought he was making a huge mistake. Every time he asked himself, "It's my error to make, isn't It?" He knew the question required resolution.


In Chapter 26, Dusty placed the wheels in motion.

Author Notes Jack watching TV, by hchriste, selected to complement this chapter of my autobiography.

Chapter 26
Unwanted Dog - Chapter 26

By Brett Matthew West

Six unfathomable weeks. That's how much time elapsed since Dusty had bought me an Egg McMuffin at McDonalds. I was over my infatuation with him, or so I thought I had outgrown that pipe dream. There had been no word from him at all. No phone calls. Not even one simple letter telling me to go fly a kite or anything else. Sometimes, silence is not golden no matter what people may wish to claim.

Did I really expect my fantasy to come true? Why would it? Nothing I had ever desired before happened. I will admit, for a while I clung to the feeble possibility of such an event occurring, but nothing panned out. Another dead end. That's all my chance encounter with Dusty West developed into.

As they say in the game of Monopoly, "Do not pass Go. Do not collect two hundred dollars."

I kicked a soccer ball around with some other boys in the Hermitage Hall play yard to pass the time. There wasn't much else to do that morning. I wore a dark shaded Navy-blue jersey with the Number 13, my favorite number, imprinted on the back in white lettering. I further adorned myself in blue and white-striped athletic shorts. These were my newest additions from the rejects Goodwill donated to us boys. You might even say these were typically our Sunday Best attirement. On my feet, I wore thigh-high white socks and sneakers.

Over by the near fence that enclosed the playground area, I retrieved the ball Tommy Johansson kicked up there. I do not recall much about the buck-toothed Tommy except we all referred to him as Keratin because his lips resembled a chicken's beak, or at least we thought. Young kids can be so cruel, can't they? I seemed to remember Tommy as a curly-haired, sawed-off runt.

I bent over to pick up the ball. After straightening back up again, I noticed a sight to behold parked in the gravel Visitors Parking area. I did an immediate double-take to make sure my eyes did not deceive me.

Holding the soccer ball under my right arm, I convinced myself, "No way! Not possible!" Surely, I was mistaken what I thought I observed sitting there.

Tommy noticed my actions and asked, "What 'cha gawking at, Brett?"

"Nothing," I told him.

I placed the ball back on the ground, ready to kick the sphere to Rodney Cromwell who had joined us.

A loud page blared over the PA system that said, "Brett Matthew, report to Superintendent McClellon's office immediately!"

"Boy, Brett. King Tubbo sure does love you a whole lot," Rodney teasingly remarked trying to roust my goat.

"Yes, he loves to constantly yell at me for no good reason," I countered and headed where I'd too often been.

Upon my arrival, I noticed Big Bertha was conspicuously absent from where King Tubbo always kept the formidable strap hanging on the wall. Undoubtedly, he'd stuffed the castigator into one of the drawers of his desk so the weapon remained out of sight, and out of mind, while there were visitors in his office. A well-known fact was he had always done so before.

I recollected on two separate occasions King Tubbo told me in no uncertain terms, "My office report will state the bruises you incurred were obtained by your horseplaying on the top of the stairs and falling down the flight."

The lying bast___!

The unfortunate truth was nobody would even question the validity of his statement. Thus was the plight of us boys woeful enough to reside at Hermitage Hall.

Brenda Smith became the first to acknowledge my presence in the room. She was my recently appointed case manager. I had only conversed with her a time or two.

King Tubbo scowled at me, "You know Mr. Dusty West. He has informed me about a lunch he previously purchased you at a certain McDonalds during one of your unauthorized escapades."

Dusty and I exchanged glances. I wasn't sure I agreed he should have enlightened King Tubbo to that privileged information. However, I left well enough alone and kept my otherwise big mouth closed tight. The whole zipped lips routine. That was also one strapping from King Tubbo I hoped to avoid, and one I was certain to receive had we not been in mixed company.

"Mr. West has graciously requested through the proper channels to foster you until suitable permanent arrangements can be located for a home for you," Brenda Smith explained the purpose of our little get together. "Understand, Brett, there are a lot of legal matters that will have to be encountered before that event would happen."

A brief silence enveloped the room. I supposed they awaited my response to the news I'd just been provided. I said nothing.

Brenda Smith told me, "I had to wait to receive the court approved home study, Mr. West's fingerprints from the police, his final background check, and the judge's approval before I informed you of the situation, Brett. I did not want to build your hopes up too high, run into a snag along the way, and see them crash down."

I thought to myself, 'Things like this are not supposed to happen to Rumpelstiltskins like me.'

I fought to contain the excitement compounded deep inside me. Still, I wanted, no, I needed, to hear what Dusty had to say to me.

He began, "Brett, I know I am not going to be perfect at this fostering stuff. I've never done anything like this before. I never thought I would. That is, until I met you. I'm going to have to learn my way around what I'm doing, and I know I'm going to make some mistakes along the way." He paused a moment to observe my response before he said, "Ultimately, the decision is yours alone to make. But, I'm willing to try if you are. The question is, are you...son?"

That was the first time Dusty West called me his "son" I told him, "I'm going to go pack my stuff!"

Before any of them could speak, or worse, change their minds, I sprinted out of King Tubbo's office, passed the receptionist seated at her mahogany desk, and crossed the foyer. Taking them two at a time, I flew up the stairs, and into my room. Stated blunt, I hauled ass! Less than five minutes later I returned to the room with my small bag in hand.

Dusty and I walked through the sliding glass doors that exited Hermitage Hall. We made our ways to the Visitors Parking area. The boys I'd been kicking the soccer ball around with stood wide-eyed, their noses stuck through the chain link fence surrounding the playground. Their hair unkempt and matted with perspiration.

"Where you going, Brett?" Rodney Cromwell wondered, as we all did on those extremely rare instances one of us boys was removed from Hermitage Hall.

Dusty unlocked his truck and I emphatically replied to Rodney's question, "As far away from this place as I can get and I'm never looking back!"

I climbed inside the cab, settled myself, and eyeballed Dusty. Off on the horizon, I heard the rumbling sounds of distant drums. As I listened close, they began to crescendo louder and louder and louder.

The Unwanted Dog was going home.

Author Notes Darling, who is that?, by avmurray, selected to complement this chapter of my autobiography.

Chapter 27
Unwanted Dog-27

By Brett Matthew West

Ecstatic is defined as feeling or expressing overwhelming happiness or joyful excitement. See if you can guess if this adequate description fits me upon my arrival at our destination. My bet would be you would not require three attempts to produce the correct answer.

The first event that occurred after Dusty and I walked through the mahogany front door was to reach a verbal contract that changed my life. I so desperately desired to believe what he told me, but twelve years in Hermitage Hall had produced a barrier I knew I had to break down if I was ever going to believe anything anyone said. There is an expression "I'm from Missouri. Show me" that dictated at that time the way I generally felt about words people spoke.

Out in one of the rural areas of Davidson County, Dusty had purchased the one-time working cattle farm he called Country Comfort about six years prior to my arrival. I liked the idea there was only one gravel road between his spread and the nearest town. The peace and quiet pleased me.

As Dusty explained, Country Comfort, like much of the area, had a lot of history associated with the property. Originally homesteaded during the Civil War era, Country Comfort's roots made the plaster and brick home one of the most ancient, private, domiciles in Nashville.

The history surrounding Country Comfort was established prior to the War Between The States being contested. Probably a good millennium or longer. Dusty told me at least five different tribes of Indians were known to have occupied the land. Over the years, I have discovered many arrowheads, and other odd trinkets, around the vicinity of Country Comfort.

Here is a little tidbit about these five groups of Indians that in time I came to appreciate the more I learned about them, including the formative years I wore nothing but moccasins on my feet.

-The nomadic Paleo-Indians were possibly the first ones to inhabit the Nashville region somewhere around 15000BC-8000BC.

-The Mississippi Mound Builders came next. Famous for the mounds of earth they built, the one in Nashville stood ten feet tall and possessed a ninety foot long diameter. This mound was located on the site where the Jefferson Street bridge now stands, and probably some 14,000 years old. These people were corn growers, and painted elaborate pottery. They also seemed to mysteriously disappear as time elapsed.

Jefferson Street became important as the cultural center of the African-American community of Nashville.

-The Yuchi Indians of the 16th Century provided their word "Tanasi," which gave its name to the State of Tennessee.

-The Chickasaws, who claimed much of Western Tennessee as their hunting ground, mainly for deer and wild turkeys.

-The Cherokee, who claimed Southeastern Tennessee as their homeland.

I found, for the most part, the stresses of life at Country Comfort ran on a slower pace than anything I experienced at Hermitage Hall. One of my favorite activities, which became an unspoken chore, was to feed the wild animals that often visited the calmness surrounding Country Comfort. These included plenty of different varieties of birds.

The light of day had not broken before I'd get out of bed and scatter feed around the property I now own. The task completed, I frequently plopped down in my chair at the patio table. Eagerly, I anticipated the arrival of my breakfast guests. To this day, I still feed flocks of blue jays with their noisy calls, perky crests, and blue, white and black plumages. Not to be outdone by their cousins, are the long-tailed cardinal songbirds, and their short, thick bills, that take refuge at the parceled frontage of my residence.

At one time, before I inherited Country Comfort, I resided in a one-room log cabin Dusty constructed on the property before he ever encountered this wayward soul. I do not like to profess I "own" Country Comfort. In my view, I am simply the current caretaker. The place was here long before me, and no doubt, will be after I am dead and gone. Though I plan to reside there until that fateful day comes. All these years, I have tried to be nothing more than the best provider of care for Country Comfort I could be.


Author Notes Don't box me in, by avmurray, selected to complement this chapter of my autobiography.

Chapter 28
Unwanted Dog-28

By Brett Matthew West

I have repeatedly told readers Dusty West adopted me. So, perhaps now would be a good time to unload some insider secrets about this, in my humble opinion, awesome individual.

Dusty's mother Lois was quiet and reserved.

I frequently heard him say, "She was the opposite of my father."

His name was William, however, everyone called him "Buck" because he was an avid deer hunter in his younger days around the Asheville, North Carolina area where he grew up.

Lois West expressed herself through her artistic flair, creative writing, and poetry. Dusty told me she had been a life-long writer almost from the time she left the cradle. He once mentioned she wrote an ode for her mother, and when the matriarch of the Nelson side of Dusty's family died at 102 years old, his family had the dedication engraved on her tombstone.

Dusty's mother encouraged him to write, but his calling was in another avenue of displaying his imaginativeness that involved lighting, sound, and other behind-the-scenes projects of the Country Music industry's up-and-comers, Indies, and those not signed to major record labels.

One dreary day, as yours truly whined about being stuck inside during another of the thunderstorms Nashville is famous for, Dusty placed a pencil, eraser, and ringed notebook on the table in front of me. Somehow, that simple act appealed more to me than the gusting wind, heavy lightning, and hail I observed out the living room window. His generosity kindled a fire which has, through many twists and turns, led to me now penning my autobiography and writing about him. Just one of the many special favors Dusty enlightened my pathway with.

Needless to say, Dusty had powerful impacts on me. He cared about the things I did and demonstrated his kindness through little maneuvers. More than one chilly winter night he wrapped bricks he warmed in the fireplace in cloth and put them on my feet when I was in bed. Toasty warm and, oh so welcomed!

Dusty was the younger of twin boys and referred to himself as "The Runt." All of five feet and six inches tall, Dusty may have been shorter in stature than most men stood, but he did more for me than anyone else. I will always considered him a giant with the true measurement of what a real man was. This included such qualities as forgiving another's faults, apologizing for any griefs he caused, and being compassionate enough to lend a helping hand. Unfortunately, his older brother Tyler died from spinal meningitis soon after birth. That ailment seemed to be rather rampant when Dusty was a boy.

Tyler's death continued to hold sway over Dusty. I remember on his deathbed he told me, "I'll never understand why I was allowed to live out my life but Tyler perished."

Life has such a mysterious way of wrapping itself around you, and things do occur there seems to be no explanations for. What else can you chalk something like that incident up to?

Never wealthy in terms of money possession, Buck West moved his unassuming family to the Nashville area and purchased Country Comfort. Farming caught his fancy and they were satisfied with the parcel. The trade had been passed down through the West lineage for multiple generations. In time, he expanded the acreage. A good team of mules, a tractor, and a plow, assisted him in pulling up a living through his strong back for the three of them mainly from potatoes, corn, and a section of cotton.

In time, Buck West added another title to his job resume. He operated his own bootlegging operation that grew in popularity with its illegal production, closed doors sales, and widespread distribution services. Business to the locals around his homestead became more profitable than working the land offered.

Dusty told me several stories about how many of his parents' friends frequented Country Comfort as a place to land while going through divorces or other major life altering events. Tales also abounded about Buck West hiring off-duty deputy sheriffs to park their cars on the property at night to cut down on "certain" riff raff troubles that occasionally popped up from low social class persons with bothersome reputations.


Author Notes Jack watching TV, by hchriste, selected to complement this chapter of my autobiography.

Chapter 29
Unwanted Dog-29

By Brett Matthew West

As Buck and Lois West celebrated the arrival of 1930, and the newest decade, little did they know some of what the year would bring. Of these occurrences, perhaps the major happening was the Great Depression. This drastic situation, the worst economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world, ground the economy of the country to a halt. On a more positive note, construction began on the Empire State Building in New York City, the planet Pluto was discovered, and frozen foods were first created.

The happy sodbusters did not expect the manner in which their twin sons would arrive. February 22nd rolled around. Country doctor Phillip Gardner tended to Lois as her labor pains began. Buck built a pallet of blankets near their franklin stove so Dr. Gardner could keep warm as the chilly night progressed. The metal-lined fireplace contained a hollow baffle near its rear that transferred heat to the air in the room. It also featured an inverted siphon flue that drew hot fumes around the baffle. Outside, a downpour descended upon their home.

Dusty once told me, "That's the typical way things were handled in rural parts during those times. They were our so-called modern conveniences. I waited until about 9:17 the next morning to make my official debut appearance into the world."

Soon after I moved into Country Comfort, Dusty and I discussed the popular sounds we listened to. When you lived in Nashville there was only one variety. Is there any wonder why the town is well regarded as The Home of Country Music? Back then, for me they were "How Much More Can She Stand" by Conway Twitty, "How Can I Unlove You" by Lynn Anderson, and "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo" by Stonewall Jackson.

Dusty proceeded to inform me, "Some of my best growing up days centered around listening to the Stars of the Grand Ole Opry on a blue transistor radio. I'd turn that sucker up out in the barn as loud as it would play. It was majestic!"

Later, I would come to learn how much of an impact music had on him.

I asked, "What about TV? Didn't you watch television when you were my age?"

Dusty laughed and said, "I was a teen in the 1940s before we obtained our first black and white television set. The monstrousity was big and box-like, about the size of a refrigerator. It had a small screen and scrolls on its side."

Red maples, waxy-leafed Tulip Poplars, Dogwoods, and hickory trees can be located not far from the confines of Country Comfort. As a boy, Dusty spent many hours in those woods. Buck taught him to become an outdoorsman at a tender, young, age. Tarzan had nothing on the way he could swing in those trees. However, Dusty always had to be on the lookout for corn snakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, and timber rattlers, among others. Though a potential threat to his wellbeing, Dusty had no ingrained fear of the hazards he often encountered.

He told me, "Once, I jumped off our rickety old yellow school bus and stepped on a corn snake."

My eyes grew wider at his proclamation.

Dusty looked at me and explained, "Corn snakes aren't venomous and they help control the populations of rodents that damage crops. Anyway, I went to grab the slithery beast. It bit me on the arm. I pulled it off with my other hand. But, growing up in the woods gave me confidence I could survive anything that came my way."

All the time I knew Dusty he never lost that wonderment.

One clear, bright, Saturday afternoon, I bellyached about being bored and told Dusty, "I wish I had something to do."

He asked me, "What do you mean you have nothing to do? We did not have our first color TV set until 1954. I was 24 years old. Take Thunder and go down to the bridge. Fresh catfish would taste mighty fine for supper."

I hustled out the door, grabbed my fishing rod from the barn, and called our German Shepherd. Thunder not only became my constant companion but sported a midnight black patch that covered most of his back. The marking symbolic of his name.

Off we trotted south to the nearby creek that flowed not far from Country Comfort.


Author Notes My sons dog Assassin, by Lilibug6, selected to complement this chapter of my autobiography.

Chapter 30
Unwanted Dog-30

By Brett Matthew West

(Note For New Readers: My autobiography details the true story of how I was adopted by an unknown stranger I begged money from in a Walmart parking lot.)


Dusty accepted no excuses for me not to obtain an education or make the best grades I could. That was one game he never wavered on.

He told me, "While I missed some days of school because it was necessary to help my family with farm chores, especially around harvest season, that does not mean I will tolerate you doing the same thing."

I hemmed and hawed a moment.

Dusty seized the opportunity. "I know all about your lackadaisical, do not give a care, attitude you had at Hermitage Hall when it came to you attending school. You've told me all about those days. Henceforth, nothing but your very best efforts in your schoolwork are acceptable to me."

He was absolutely correct about my sentiments towards school, and dare I say life, where Hermitage Hall was concerned? However, an unbreakable law had been laid down and expectations clear. I not only studied the subjects normally learned in school, physical education and lunch became my favorites.

I immersed myself in several after school activities, Chess Club, baseball, and Cross Country track to name a few that occupied some of my time. In addition, I received a substantial indoctrination, and devout appreciation for music, particularly Country music, I carry with me today.

Strolling around Country Comfort one leisure-filled afternoon, Dusty said, "For your first daily project upon arriving home from school, I want you to change into some form of play clothes to make your school clothes last longer."

Like any typical boy, I tended to outgrow my wardrobes before I outwore them. After changing clothes, I completed any homework assignments.

Dusty offered, "I'll look your homework over when you tell me you have completed it and you can correct any errors I find."

I never minded working around Country Comfort, though that implied such labor as picking cotton by hand. At no time did I become proficient in the menial endeavor. Everyone else easily out-picked what I produced.

Hand-picking cotton from plants that averaged less than three feet high was laborious. To pick, you grasped the bolls at the base and twisted the exposed white, fluffy, lint out. The cotton plants were sticky and filthy to work with. Picking cotton required constant stooping and cuts from the sharp ends of the bolls never ceased. Worst of all, a field of cotton usually could not be reaped in one effort because the entire crop never seemed to be ready at the same time. I sure was happy when Dusty purchased spindle harvesters to perform the process.

Among the several lessons of life Dusty taught me was the value of hard work and to apply myself to whatever undertaking came my way.

He told me, "Your word is your bond. If you can not truthfully follow through with what you say, never put your name on a contract. It becomes meaningless."

I never forgot those sage words and tried to abide by his comments.

Outgoing, and able to converse with anyone, Dusty never met a stranger. He'd say, "They're only a person I have not met yet."

I often struggled with that statement. I suppose twelve years in Hermitage Hall would make anyone suspicious and leery upon first encounters. Though I think I have improved somewhat as years have passed by, I still tend to remain more on the quiet side until a person has proven their true colors to me.

Mostly because of his work, Dusty had many acquaintances and welcomed them to Country Comfort. Growing up, it seemed a steady stream of people passed through our front doors. Music was one of the hugest parts of our existence. Dusty, and these allotments of personalities, made a ton of music. Pleasant to the ears, I'd sit back, make myself comfy, and listen to the sounds they produced. I got to attend many performances.

Dusty gave me a Gibson six-string. Mandolin, harmonica, drums, fiddle, and piano tunes rained down on Country Comfort. Dusty's face lit up every time I attempted to play my guitar. I think I learned three chords, G, C, and D. Do I regret not learning how to play the guitar? Although I had much more than a qualified teacher at my disposal, I lacked the desire to learn and put the guitar down within six months. Did that disappoint Dusty? Yes, I am rather sure my act did. A pained expression on his face convinced me so. However, he allowed the situation to slide.

To this day the only thing I can play is the radio, which I keep on Willie's Roadhouse, Channel 59, on Sirius radio. The station is owned by the Red-Headed Stranger Willie Nelson. Can you believe his upcoming birthday will make him ninety years old? Strong as ever, he is still burning up the highways and making records.

Though I have authored several song lyrics, I remember having told Dusty, "Being a Country Music Performer's never appealed to me."

One such lyric I entitled No Such Thing As Angels. I considered this piece of music to be the apex of my writing career and probably always will. That covers all the stories and books I've penned, yes, my Cody Schroder ones included, as well as this autobiography. I've even had the brazen audacity to post some of my lyrics right here on FanStory.

Aside from the operation of Country Comfort, Dusty made his living as a lighting and sound engineer for several Artists.

Out of the blue, I informed him, "That's good enough for me. I have other mountains I want to conquer."


Author Notes Sari, by avmurray, selected to complement this chapter of my autobiography.

Chapter 31
Unwanted Dog-31

By Brett Matthew West

When I turned thirteen I decided for my birthday present I would kill myself.

Amazingly, Dusty did not complete the feat, which surprised the fire out of me. Under the circumstances, in his position I would have murderized me.

Red-headed, with a face full of spotted freckles, Jennifer Davis was a girl in my Biology class I truly wanted to perform an experiment on. Call me a little Mister Mad Scientist if you desire, but she stirred certain hormonal vibes when I spent time around her. Jennifer seemed to like me, at least the constant notes she slipped my way indicated as much. After a small dose of coaxing, I persuaded Jennifer to come to Country Comfort one Saturday morning.

After several months under Dusty's tutelege, I was crammed full of wild oats needing to be sowed. Though I did not have a driver's license, and some people told me I was three years too young to obtain one, Buck had a beat-up work truck parked in the barn. Shaded sort of like the skin tone in anime art, this once cream colored, unpretentious excuse for a jalopy, was used exclusively to haul heavy items, such as timbered trees, around the farm.

The key always kept in the ignition, the vehicle possessed dented doors, torn interior seats, tires more on the bald side than they safely should have been, missing front and rear fenders, a multi-scratched bed, and rust on the body that never improved the truck's physical appearance. The hauler lacked anything in the way of exquisite beauty.

Dusty, Buck, and Lois went to Springfield, a town thirty miles southeast of Nashville, to purchase supplies. They left me home alone not knowing Jennifer was soon to arrive.

As they departed, Dusty's last words to me were an emphatic, "Do not leave Country Comfort."

Soon after the trio pulled out of sight, and Jennifer arrived, I talked her into complete disobedience of Dusty's instructions.

"C'mon. This will be fun! I promise we won't leave the property." I assured her.

Jennifer hesitated long enough to consider my proposal then scampered to the barn with me in hot pursuit. The chase was on. She was taken aback when she realized what I had in mind.

"Whose stockpiled piece of junk is that? Is it safe to even ride in?" Jennifer asked.

This impression artiste extraordinnaire lied, "Buck's. He's teaching me to drive around here. Get in."

Without another word, or questioned glance, Jennifer yanked the door open by its handle, climbed up onto the torn seat, and slammed the door shut. I joined her behind the wheel, reached down and turned the key. A smile crossed my face when the engine coughed to life.

I looked at Jennifer and said, "We'll go down by the creek. I wanna show you something."

"Will I like it?" she asked.

"I do," I responded.

With my foot on the pedal, I was barely tall enough to see out the window with my eyes more or less looking skyward instead of straight ahead like they should have been. Completely inexperienced driving, somehow I managed to back the truck up, make a right cantor, and headed towards the woods. Jennifer giggled all the while.

Not a good judge of speed, I traveled at a quick clip down the side of a hill. I barely missed side-swiping a big oak. Jennifer thought that maneuver was hysterical. Whipping the steering wheel hard to the left, I kept going. Neither one of us had seatbelts and would not have worn them if the truck had so been equipped.

I reached the creek and pressed down hard on the brake, stopping the truck. In my haste, I jammed the transmission lever into "N," not "P," where it should have been.

I told Jennifer, "This way."

We got out of the truck while it sat there and idled. As we walked off towards what I wanted to show her, wouldn't you know the stupid thing lurched forward. I slapped both palms of my hands against the sides of my head. Hopeless, and helpless, we watched Buck's truck roll between two hickories and come to a stop wedged between them.

When Dusty, Buck, and Lois returned home from Springfield, needless to say, I got the hardest disciplining from Dusty I ever received. I knew I deserved every bit of what he gave me and much more. I also had to apologize to Jennifer's parents for my incredulous actions. Worst of all, I never got to conduct my experiment on her.

For some unknown reason after that day, Jennifer no longer wanted to do anything with moi. I wondered why?

Author Notes I swear we didn't do it, by cleo85, selected to complement this chapter of my autobiography.

Chapter 32
Unwanted Dog-32

By Brett Matthew West

Within the context of Coordinated Universal Time, 1972 was the longest year on record because two leap seconds were added to the 366-day calendar. This event has never been duplicated.

Sandwiched between the April 22nd mass anti-Viet Nam War demonstrations sponsored by the National Peace Action Coalition, the People's Coalition for Peace and Justice, and other organizations that attracted about 100,000 demonstrators in New York City, 12,000 in Los Angeles, another 25,000 in San Fransisco, and the October 14th Peace March to End the Viet Nam War, a "silent-march" demonstration from the San Fransisco City Hall to the Golden Gate Bridge, that drew some 2,000 attendees, Dusty took a temporary job at the Griffin Hill Mill.

The reason he gave me was because he had a growing extra mouth to nourish, and his work as a lighting and sound engineer did not afford him what he felt was sufficient enough cash to comfortably care for his added expenditure. Therefore, for the interim he would labor for two employers.

Unfortunately, the position Dusty accepted was the worst in the mill.

While I listened to what he told me, Dusty explained, "Wherever there is a problem or trouble is where I am sent. That is the role of the utility worker."

A short time later, he was transferred to the recovery area of the plant. Although a step up the rung on the ladder, I was not real happy about this move either. All I could see was something go tragically wrong, and Dusty get injured.

He told me, "Part of my job is to work with caustic chemicals."

"What's that mean?"

"They're dangerous chemicals that can burn your eyes, your skin, your nose, your mouth, and your lungs if you aren't careful how you use them. They dissolve wood chips."

"I don't like you being around them!"

Noticing my worry, Dusty quickly assured me, "I'm cautious when I handle them. I've already told you the chips go in silos."

"Like the one we put corn in out beside the barn."

"After the wood chips go in the silos, I put the chemicals in and steam them, which mushes them."

"I found the shirt you threw away when you came home the other night."

"I had to trash that shirt. I got some chemicals on it and they burned holes in the front of it. But, I did not get hurt."

"What about that smelled stuff?"

Dusty corrected me, "You mean the smelt."

"Yea, that stuff."

"I pour smelt into big empty drums full of liquid hotter than it is. I also have to keep them from getting clogged up. Because, if you get that stuff on your skin the lime, sodium hydroxide, and sodium sulfide will burn you. I realize these are big terms for you to understand, however, if you want to know what these products are, I'll be glad to explain them to you."

I knew Dusty worked as hard as he could to reach his goals. It would have been wrong of me to fault him for doing so. Though I did not like him working at the mill, and constantly worried about him getting hurt, the lesson Dusty taught me by working there was a parent makes whatever sacrifices are required to ensure the needs of their offspring are met. Mine were.

Ten months later, I was well pleased when Dusty told me his temporary job at the mill ended. Fewer monsters invaded my nighttime slumber. I much preferred Dusty's other gig, the one where he worked the sound equipment, speakers, sound board, microphones, and lighting. Sometimes, I even helped him pack as many as 5,000 record albums in the belly of some performer's tour bus.

Author Notes Strange Planet, by lynnkah, selected to complement this chapter of my autobiography.

Chapter 33
Unwanted Dog-33

By Brett Matthew West

For the benefit of new readers this chapter continues my autobiography of how I was adopted by an unknown stranger I begged money from in a Walmart parking lot.

Now being fostered, I had only been on his farm he called Country Comfort a short while, and we were conversing on a rainy day.


Most of my life people have commented about me being more of the quiet and laid back personality type.

When we discussed the matter from out of the blue one rainy afternoon, Dad told me, "You're more flexible and even keeled." He paused, considered for a moment and continued, "However, you do have a bad habit of procrastinating where chores are concerned."

Consistent with just about everything I did, I knew the truth of his comment and asked, "So, I would be labeled a Type B then?"

Playful, Dad sped the palm of his hand backwards and forwards through my hair. Friction from the motion destroyed my fresh-combed smooth locks. He said, "But, don't let that get you down. You do have an uncanny ability to stay in the moment."

He told me the story about his worst experience on a school bus. His tale of woe began, "Homeward bound, the bus rumbled down the highway pretty quick at close to forty miles an hour. I wanted to talk to my friend, Gale Smothers. I stood up to move from the side where I sat, to the other side where he sat half on and half off his seat. I did not know the back door of the rickety old rambler was unlocked and stumbled against it. The door swung open and I fell out of the bus."

Surprised, I exclaimed, "You're lucky you weren't killed!"

Dad smiled. "Guess I had more to still do in you. I broke my right leg and got several abrasions from the fall. At the hospital the doctor drilled holes in my thigh and I spent some time in traction before I went home on crutches."

I remembered another incident that involved a school bus I thought was comical when it happened. Several months later, I still did and confessed, "Once, our school bus driver did the best he could to get us back to Hermitage Hall as fast as he could."

"No doubt, you boys were acting out again," Dad said.

That part I didn't have to admit. We were. In battle royal fashion. I was being as boisterous as possible. You might even say I screamed at the top of my lungs, something I enjoyed doing.

Exasperated, Mr. Bradshaw slammed on the brakes of the bus and tromped down the aisle. He grabbed my shoulder, and just as loud as I had been threatened me, "Shut up or I swear when we get back to Hermitage Hall you will have an immediate date with Big Bertha!"

I had not meant to upset the driver. Yes I did. That became my full intention. I knew the crotchety old goat needed to focus all his attention on the road to keep the bus safe. I liked to parody the staff of Hermitage Hall in exaggerated, humorous, movements. I could walk and talk like them, and did so in taunting postures. My imitative exploits and ridicules made the other boys snicker. Earning good grades never reached the Number One priority position on my bucket list. At least, not until after Dad got a hold of me.

As he often said, "Things change. Turn around and they'll change again."

I always enjoyed my boyhood time at Country Comfort. Dad insisted the farm be a peaceful place. We never locked our doors. There was no need to, not even at night. You would not do that today, would you? As I went through my growing teenage years, I never owned a key for our home. No matter what time I came back at night I knew the door would be unlocked and Dad would wait up for my arrival.

If only life could be that simple and good in these modern times. Maybe we would not have the consequential problems in our society we do today. Or at least, not at the level most of them remain.

Author Notes Ready to play, by avmurray, selected to complement this chapter of my autobiography.

One of thousands of stories, poems and books available online at

You've read it - now go back to to comment on each chapter and show your thanks to the author!

© Copyright 2015 Brett Matthew West All rights reserved.
Brett Matthew West has granted, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.

© 2015, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Terms under which this service is provided to you. Privacy Statement