This is my father, Jesse Edward Taylor. I never got to know him.but I'm so glad he named me. Mary Oleene would have made me a nutcase. We had the same initials (Janet Elaine Taylor).
(1961) Trolls Live under a Bridge
I have no real recollection of living under a bridge or the troll that was there with me. However, I've heard the story so often, it seems like a memory, the kind that is so not funny I want to laugh. But this time the laughter is not mirthful or even sarcastic. No, this laughter would have to be hysterical.
I've always been precocious, or so I've been told by more than one person. And my mother was way overprotective. Now that I'm a mother, I can understand her need to keep me safe, especially after the incident with the troll.
Precocious—yes. At nine months old, I was already walking. The problem was that I had no smooth floors to walk upon.
My father was an abusive alcoholic. He could not keep a job. In January of 1961, he was out of work, and we were without a home. We literally lived under a bridge over a creek in Jones County, Mississippi. My mother cooked what small amount of food she could scrounge over an open campfire.
Though my dad had no money for food or lodging, he seemed to find dollars for liquor. I've often been told that when he was sober, he was a wonderful, loving man; but booze made him a demon. On this cold winter's night, he got his alcohol and when he returned to the "home," things got very ugly.
Drunk, he decided that I could not be his child. First, I was a girl. He would have had a boy. Second, I was a redhead. Both my parents had dark hair, my mother's so black it reflected blue highlights. Still, genetics passed on a recessive gene to me. My maternal grandmother was a redhead. Nonetheless, in his inebriated state, my father unreasonably decided I belonged to someone else. As such, he didn't want me. There upon, he lifted me and threw me into the creek.
My mother, who could not swim, jumped into the icy water after me. Obviously, the water must have been shallow enough for her to stand, and she rescued me.
I'm told she walked away that night and travelled miles in frigid temperatures to get to her mother, who, of course, took us in. I'm also told that I did not take another step for over a year.
Was my father a troll? Yes, at that time he was. But the troll was redeemable, and was redeemed many years later, though I never knew. I saw my father only twice as I grew up—once at age two where I'm told I hid behind a social worker and screamed, "Mean man," over and over; and again at age twelve in the grocery store by accident. I have a vague memory of hiding behind a lady with a broad rear and a vivid recall of my mother running over my heels with her shopping cart trying to get away from my father and him calling after her to wait.
I don't consciously remember my father trying to drown me, but those psychological scars must have imprinted on me if I called him a mean man at the age of two. And those wounds still ooze after all these years when I think about that time. Oh, it's so not funny I want to laugh. But…I just can't laugh this time.