The Murder of My Uncle Stanley

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“In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnished dove. In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Alfred Lord Tennyson – ‘Locksley Hall’

*

The Murder of My Uncle Stanley

‘It was a simple dream! Stanley Balsinger wanted to be the owner of a ‘Service Station’.

A large subset of that dream was to marry Johnnie, his long-time sweetheart, to live in quiet harmony with nature and with their God…to mirror a nurturing and peaceful life he had known.

At age 32 in the year of 1956, his dream of a service station came true, and he married Johnnie, his long-time sweetheart. One of his older brothers, John, had owned for years a popular service station in Knoxville, so it could be said ownership of such a business was in his blood.

There were blissful years to follow for Uncle Stanley. His parents, my grandparents (of course!), lived a short distance away, and there were many family weekends through this period when his siblings and their families would join in quiet weekend reunions, with good southern home cooking, churned home-made vanilla ice cream, juicy watermelons, new family gossip, and Stan’s Mom giving one of her long famous prayer wails, asking for blessings and forgiveness of sins…tears flowed and emotionally stirred souls let out gasps and moans. It was a fundamental cultural link, ‘sinners facing their angry but forgiving God’, a bible-belt heritage long on generational gravity.

In 1964 Susan was born, a daughter who was given much doting and love, a true blessing for the family… Her daddy was so proud of his beautiful daughter, and she got pretty much anything she wanted. The script for the family’s lives were natural and seemingly ordained.

In 1978, tragedy struck and left Johnnie and Susan heart-broken.

The location of Uncle Stanley’s Gulf Station was in a more isolated section of Knoxville than his older brother John’s station. My Uncle John’s station was on one of Knoxville’s busiest metro street corners and John’s hard work brought a long list of steady customers and friends. There were never any great competitive edginess in the brothers’ two stations – just sharing of ideas on how to grow and sustain a customer base.

Around 7:00 PM on Friday, April 21, 1978, Uncle Stanley was working alone at his station when 29-year-old Richard Houston robbed the station and took Stan’s wallet. The robbery was not enough for the miserable bastard. He ordered Stanley to a rest room on one side of the station, shoved him inside, and shot him three times. The miserable thug shot Stan in the mouth, and, while my uncle writhed in pain on the rest room floor, Houston shot him twice more in the heart and upper abdomen.

Houston slammed the door, got in his car and left.

Houston then went to a motel where he was staying, had three beers, had sex with a woman sharing his room, and shortly after their ‘fun time’ the two left to get fried chicken.

As timing would have it, a customer pulled into the service station for gas and saw Houston leaving, ultimately found Uncle Stanley in the rest room, and called the police.

The observant gas customer was very thorough in describing the criminal – six feet tall, around 170 pounds, short Afro haircut, wearing a leather jacket. The customer as well thoroughly IDed the car. It was a white ’64 or ’65 Ford Fairlane, with square tail lights, and chrome was missing on the passenger side of the car.

Approximately three hours after Stan’s murder, two detectives of the knoxville Police Department spotted the car and gave chase up to 70 miles per hour. In the car, they found Stan’s wallet and the service station receipts for the day’s business.

The robbery netted the lowlife reject $106.

In the motel room the detective found Houston’s leather jacket and recently washed clothing. The woman with Houston testified that the clothes were washed because of blood stains…

While awaiting his trial for murder/robbery of Uncle Stanley, Houston was indicted for  second degree murder charges in his possible involvement of 30 year-old Patricia Northern Evans’ homicide the year before. The authorities suspected his involvement in three other execution-style murders in the area…probably ‘drug related’! The gun found in the execution murders crime scene was identified by forensics as the same gun used in the Evans homicide. (NOTE: indicted along with Richard Houston was Edward Addison Goins, and I’ve found no further information in my limited means of searching about these homicides and/or court proceedings.

(Am I hiding not too well the anger and rage that still comes to me when I talk or write about this crime? I remember so well as a little boy those lovely family weekends where love showed up, when Uncle Stanley played catch with me on the lawn of the old railroad section house. Of all my dear Mother’s brothers and sisters, all with a sense of purpose in their lives, all of whom I loved, Uncle Stanley was my favorite. Those were the precious ‘memory keepers’ of my youth, some of the inestimable pieces of myself I find worth keeping.

No, I cannot with certainty wrap my mind around this killing of someone I loved. I can believe my Uncle tried to take the gun away from his killer…as Houston stated at a later court appearance. I can believe Stan tried to fight off this animal from hell. I can also come to tears believing, as my Uncle lay dying on the rest room floor, that mind flashes of his all too brief life came rushing to him: Johnnie’s love, Susan’t graduation from high school and college he would never see, the cherished love he carried for his family… He was a most humble and beautiful person in life, and I can believe Uncle Stanley is with God in that perfect dimension. I can hope, pray, and believe that we will meet again when it is ordained to happen.) 

Houston was originally sentenced to ‘Death’ for the Murder of my Uncle Stanley and also received a ‘Life Sentence’ for Armed Robbery.

After spending seventeen years on death row, in 1994 a judge threw out the Murder Conviction and the Armed Robbery conviction.

A prosecuting attorney quickly appealed that decision the next day.

In 1995, the Appellate Judge reinstated the ‘Life for Armed Robbery’ conviction while the prosecuters continued working for a possible retrial on the murder conviction and the reinstatement of the death penalty for Stanley’s murder.

In a 2009 ‘Plea Deal’, Richard Houston confessed to the murder of Stanley Balsinger and the ‘Death Sentence’ was dropped, the murder sentence reduced to ‘Life WITH the possibility of parole’.

Through the years, all the ‘appeals’, and ‘monkey-wonkey’ machinations of the judicial system,  ‘Life’ WITH the possibility of parole was renderd for my Uncle Stanley. Having served thirty years, many of which were spent on death row, Richard Houston was already eligible for parole.

The ‘Piece of S___’ is likely out there among us.

Perhaps I should be sorry showing my anger and hatred in this blog missile and in the fictional mysteries I write, most of which are inspired by true events.

I am not sorry! If some praise and profit come from my humble writing efforts, so be it! So be it if that doesn’t happen! It is my way to give something of myself to those who are taken from us by the evil in our world

Billy Ray Chitwood – February 20, 2018   

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Flowers and Fate

Flowers and Fate

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Flowers and Fate

(Flash Fiction Inspired by Truth)

“Red or yellow roses, Sir?” the older lady in the flower shop asked.

The young man in his early thirties smiled and raised his brow. “Now, how did you know it was to be roses, Millie?” He knew her from a name tag.

“It’s the body language, young man. Your step, your face, the happy gleam in your eyes.”

“Really! I’m that obvious?”

“You’re that obvious,” she teasingly grinned, “plus I’ve had this shop too many years not to know when love walks through the door.”

He put his hands on the counter and gently asked, “And, do you know how many roses I’ll be sending FTD today?”

“You’re a two-dozen fellow, I’m betting.” She pursed her lips.

“And, does my step, my face, and the happy gleam in my eyes tell you which color I’ll pick?”

“Red, of course! You’re obviously in love and you want the red roses to convey your love for the young lady.” She tilted her head slightly in a positive gesture.

“Why would I not choose yellow roses?” the man asked, amused by the conversation.

“Yellow roses would be fine, but you wish to make a deeper statement. Red gets the point of love across rather profoundly. They say, ‘I love you’. Yellow roses convey happiness and joy in more of a friendship fashion… My goodness, listen to me, giving you information you likely already know.”

“No, you’ve actually tagged me perfectly, and I thank you. It will be two dozen red roses, and I trust you will pick out twenty-four of your very best.”

“It will be my pleasure, plus an extra red rose to accentuate the strong statement. I shall make it a very special arrangement for you. You will wish a card sent with the roses…”

His name was Farris Stanley Ballanger. The flowers were going to Johnnie Ballanger, his wife. On a short business trip to help out one of his service station managers, he would be home tomorrow and wanted Johnnie to receive the flowers before his arrival.

Stan spent some time in thought at the counter as to the words he would put on the card. Smiling, finally satisfied with his choice of words, he placed the card in the accompanying envelope, wrote ‘Dear Sweet Johnnie’ on the front, and handed it to Millie.

Stan paid for the flowers and chatted a few moments more with Millie.

As Stan was about to leave the store, he asked: “Do you mind if I hug you, Millie? You are such a great person.”

Millie obliged, and Stan left the store.

Later around midnight as Stan closed and locked his service station, he was robbed at gunpoint, prodded to the ‘Men’s Room’ and shot to death at close range. His body was not found until daybreak when the service station attendants arrived for work.

Stan’s roses arrived the next morning before news of the robbery and homicide reached Johnnie. Her heart filled with love overflowing as she read what Stan had written on the card:

Love and Time Eternal

It matters not the hours, the days, the years, the lifetime we spend together!

What matters is all the love we have gathered in our hearts

That will last eternally…

Forever, Stanley

– Flash fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – February 14, 2018 (REVISIT) –

In Memory of my Uncle Stanley Balsinger who lives forever in my heart! (Brutally Murdered as he closed his place of business many years ago!) – We played ‘catch’ on the lawn back in the day!)

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Autumn and The Muse

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Autumn And The Muse

 

It was all so different these many years later…

 

The clapboard houses were all gone, replaced by small brick and hardwood homes with indoor plumbing. The dirt and gravel lanes were now paved although still isolated and rural. The old white church with its high steeple, now freshly painted, was the marker that let me know I was really home again.

 

It was like time had abbreviated everything I looked upon. The distance from church to Mama’s and Papa’s old house was hardly a quarter mile. The lanes that branched off the short stretch of road to the old sawmill and the railroad tracks were now unrecognizable, overgrown with brush, trees, and weeds… I could not even determine where the old sawmill and train tracks had been. Where so many years ago there had been Papa’s rows of corn, potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, and scallions was now tall green grass for a few grazing cows.

 

I smiled and pointed out to my wife Julie and son Scott where the old out-house had once stood, where Papa had once castrated the squealing hogs. I pointed out where old ‘Fred’ the mule used to lead the plow through the fields with a few ‘gees and haws’ from Papa. The little hamlet of Wooldridge was now all condensed for my memory but the thoughts, good and bad, raced through my aging brain…

 

It was here where some of the first memories were built of my displaced youth, where fear of the unknown and new experiences collided to make me a docile and disturbed little boy. It was here where my microcosmic world was filled with dreams and dark ugly shadows. Here was the nexus that was the foundation for all that I would become – the nomadic drifter in search of illusive dreams, the uncertain master of a fate always to be determined.

 

The tears were not seen through the smiles as I passed on to my son and wife the wisps of yesterday, but they were there…tears for Mama and Papa, their hard lives, yet their devotion to me…tears for the parents who fought, who loved and tried, but were unable to make things right for their family…tears for a life that could have been better in some ways but did, through all the wanderlust, bring me to wife Julie who personifies family, love and patience…tears for my beautiful children of whom I am so proud and love so deeply.

 

This day trip from my middle Tennessee home to the east Tennessee hamlet of my youth inspires this post. While there has to be some sadness – that’s the way I’m put together – it is likely one of the best days to go into my still active memory pages. The day serves to point out for me that, indeed, ‘everyone has to be from somewhere.’

Billy Ray Chitwood – February, 2018 (REV)

 

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MAMA’S MADNESS – Revisited




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To further prove my ineptness in marketing my books of Mystery, Suspense, Romance, et al, I offer this post – AND SEEK YOUR HELP!

I’ve revised some passive voice sections in the narrative of “Mama’s Madness” and replaced them with more active voice, not that passive is always bad. It’s that I fear I’ve used it too much in my books, a habit I fell into early on in my writing. Along with the passive voice changes, I also did some rewriting, further editing, and changing book covers – AGAIN! Not a ‘horn toot’ here, the book in its present form received some sixty reviews, many of which were five-stars. So, sure, I could be making a mistake with the change. But, hey, life is all about change. I simply believe MM should be in the ‘best seller’ rank, despite its ‘goshy-durn’ adult content that was inspired by a Northern Californis criminal case… That case made me angry, aggrieved, weep-emotional. I mean, this ‘Mama’ was from the fiery pits of Hell!

SO, as for SEEKING YOUR HELP, take a look at the cover that starts this post and give me your uninhibited yea or nay regarding liking it or not liking it! Sure will be appreciated! To help confuse the issue, I’m showing you the two previous covers I’ve used for MM before… Here they are:

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Label the TOP one ‘A’ and the two here ‘B’ & ‘C’. 

As a good author-friend (Vashti Quiroz Vega) over at RRBC/RWISA would say: “If you comment, you’ll make me smile!”

I can’t figure out how to get WordPress to move my ‘Comment Section’ above the dark box on my Blogsite…please scroll down til you find it! 

Hope you have time to read “Mama’s Madness” at some point, a thriller even though there is pure Evil in the content – inspired by true events!

Oh, PLEASE LOOK for the NEW edition of “Mama’s Madness” on Amazon and other ‘BUY’ sites later on this month… MAYBE, you wouldn’t mind helping me get the word out!

THANKS SO MUCH!

Billy Ray Chitwood – February 5, 2018

Please preview my books, read a few Amazon Reviews of my books, and a short ‘about me’ section at:

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Howling at the Moon

Howling at the Moon

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Howling at the Moon

My howl grows weaker as the Summers come and go,

And the Winter’s bitter gales bring harsh realities to my world.

My aging body grows weary in its long seasonal quest to know,

To find in my meandering search the truth unfurled.

*

Yet, some abiding glimmer of Faith bids me journey on

As I see the eager and young give rise to the next tomorrow,

To kindle old desires, awaken my mind to a new kinder dawn,

Tease me with truths-bearing wisdom I might better know.

*

Then, as years speed by steadily, and my steps limp along,

The world seems more precariously out of its orbital sync

As though some treacherous fate on wicked winds so strong’

Comes to claim its ownership of an orb no longer able to think.

Poem by Billy Ray Chitwood – February 2, 2018 (Prev)

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TIME of My Life

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TIME of My Life

TIME of My Life

-(A Poetic Moaning)-

Time, Time, Time.

Tick, Tick, Tick.

Are You a merciless menace

Of maddening passing?

Time, Time, Time.

Tick, Tick, Tick.

Can you not slow your pace?

Prithee, can you not provide more

Of your endless ticks?

I yet have books to write,

Poetry to pose a riddle,

Or, think romantic allusions

Of Love and Ventures past!

Why must you be the sole

Arbiter of my Soul, while

I suspect my God might

Approve your ever rapid

Transit through my Dawns

And my restless Eves of Doubts?

Your pendulum swings to and fro

In a mocking remembrance

Of an ambiguous and most

Impassioned wayward passage.

Is it that I have betrayed you?

Or, pray tell, is it that you have

Seduced me with your Lure to

Love’s easy Manipulative ways?  

When did you begin your ticking?

Are you synonymous with an

Infinite Divinity noble of promise?

Or, are you but a simple dream

That gives each of us a mare

To ride through a long night,

Some Lottery of Chance?

I plea for more thoughts to

Unscramble – an act doubtlessly

Vainglorious of deed and effort.

© Billy Ray Chitwood –01/23/18

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Somebody Likes Us

“Somebody Likes Us!”

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Don’t know about you, but, there are days when I feel all alone in the Arizona desert!

We all have our reasons for writing and it’s a good bet that most of those reasons are fairly standard…to fulfill a desire…to become established, famous, successful…to simply tell a story…to scratch an ego itch…for all these and many other reasons. Does it really matter what our reasons are for writing? Any reason is valid and need not be magnified, right? Well, not quite. Some might write to hurt someone, to slander, to libel, to ruin someone or some entity. Let’s just assume for this post that our reason for writing has a noble intent and has no malicious purpose…and, what we write is good. It’s a certainty we’ve picked up novels at the Book Store, read them, and announced them as crap-reads;

So, where are the sales, the 5-Star Reviews, the accolades we authors covet?

For some of us, we write a few books and here come the critics with their reviews that range from 5-Stars to 3-Stars, even lower. The world of reading thrives on reviews, what someone thinks about her/his reading experience. There are professional review services. There are housewives, husbands, people in book clubs, avid readers who are moved to comment about a writer’s effort. It is a fact of life in the relationship between reader and writer. We like those comments when they’re dripping with lovely words like, ‘great’, ‘brilliant’, ‘going to read more from this super author’… Oh, we salivate and pour some champagne. We begin to bore our spouses with our ceiling dances and loud hoots of joy.

So, you have written what you consider a relatively good book…sure, even you can in the final pre-publish reading find things you could change — extend a section, remove a section, embellish here, there, increase the length, decrease the length, and so forth. In the end, you feel that you have written an entertaining book, maybe not the perfect quintessential novel that you know is still inside you somewhere but a good book. The reviews line up, the 5-Stars, the 3-Stars, the 1-Star, the fractional Star, and you begin to analyze the reviews, maybe agree with a point or two the people are making. The emotions begin to swirl. Of course, you gravitate toward the 5-Star, 4-Star reviews and are elated. The bad reviews bring conflicting thought patterns…there is an initial sinking feeling which will become anger, denial, and, at some point, you will equivocate only to finally acknowledge that perhaps the negative points made in the bad reviews have validity.

Your thought processes on negative reviews from readers run the gamut. ‘What gives these people the right to publicly condemn your efforts, these Hannah Housewives, these Harold Hushpuppy husbands?’ Hell, you likely gave them the book free on amazon during a free giveaway day(s)! Cost them nothing and they’re critiquing you! You go back and re-read the fair-to-good reviews, get some renewed sustenance. But, most of all, you’re in a dither and doubting yourself and your writing talent because you could not please everyone. Chances are very good you are not being controlled by a publicist, someone who shelters you from this wasteful dithering, this minor earthquake inside your head. As an independent author you are a one-person publishing house, writing, editing, marketing, promoting, getting lost in all the digital world’s ‘ways and means.’

The really bad news is, of course, there are pitifully few sales… Ah, the aggravating world of the word-spinner! Where in the world did you get the idea you could write? 

Does an established, famous, author get a mixture of critiques? Perhaps not so many because the pros have the reading Pavlov public 5-Star oriented. But the truth is, yes, even these most popular penners of best sellers get their negative reviews as well. They have a much better shield in place to deflect the nasty words that cause the dithering.

All of this is not to say that you, I, and the countless other millions of writers do not have our book flaws. All of us have them! The temperaments of some writers are better than yours and they keep writing, getting away from the ‘passive’ passages of narrative, the cliches, too many ellipses, redundancy of words and phrases. We have many flaws in our books, and with each new book we write, we are getting less and less errata. We are, as they say, growing our craft. Will we get to that stage where we live among the giants of our writing world? Some will because talent cannot be denied too long. In the rare instance, enough money is spent to insure success – I can come up with my book-example of this, and I’m sure you can. Or, have our egos, our inner selves, betrayed us with pronouncements of our talent?

It is difficult to separate ourselves from the critics in the writing field, but we can remember what our reasons are for writing. We will still experience the dithering, but we have to stay true to whom we are. If we are getting 5-Stars along with some minimal Stars, somebody likes us. And, that is the message: remember your reasons for writing and just know that somebody likes us.

My belief is you are getting better with each writing effort. Just stay committed to your course…and…don’t…give…up!

Somebody Likes Us!

Billy Ray Chitwood – 01/17/18 – (Old post worth repeating.)

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The End

The End

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The End

I was a beaten man!

There was nothing left! No wife! No children! No job!

The only clothes I owned covered my body.

The black ashes that were once my house had an acrid, gagging odor, mixed with the smells of fire-fighting liquids, dampness, and death.

How does one describe a body bereft of feelings, a body with all its tears shed, a hollow core of nothingness covered with flesh? Nothing there! Nothing I could or would ever be able to find.

That was my truth!

Standing there in a starless night of misty rain and appropriate bleakness, looking for the last time at the sum of my existence, there in those black, damp clumps of earth and bones, there with the only pieces of love I had ever known, there in that eerie graveyard of ashes.

We had a silly argument after the boys were put to bed. I made a petulant escape into the night of bar rooms and feigned grievance … my starring role in a ‘D-Movie’.

I heard the sounds of fire engines through my whiskey haze and gave it little thought.

Fire engines rushed to others’ houses, not mine.

Finally, the Bacchus glow came, went, and I recognized the inanity of my actions.

That rapidly fading glow took me home where I would do my habitual ‘I’m sorry, sweetheart’! Repentence was an eager surge within me as I sped onward for home. It was then, the car finishing its sharp turn, when I saw the halo of red and white flashing lights ahead. My body began to quake as the first pang of alarm came to rest inside my imbued brain.

It was my home from which those wind-driven flames came … soon to be, at my arrival, the charred ruins of my only prized possessions.

I stumbled from the car, stunned, inconsolable, watching my neighbors holding hands, praying, tears flowing down their cheeks, already knowing what I was about to find out.

My wife, my kids, were consumed by the fire … a fire caused by my forgetting to turn off the barbeque.

I fell to my knees, grasped my head with both hands, heaving, roaring my grief in loud sobs, piercing the smoke-filled skies above. The concept of Time had no reality for me as I gasped and breathed in particles of ash.

People talked to me, uttered their pity and sorrow, tried humbly to comfort me. Their voices were lost in my sobbing growls. The movement of fire engines, firemen, my neighbors going back to their homes were on the periphery of my awareness. I shook my head in negation to acts of kindness, of pleas to help me. 

Then, I was alone with my mind and its torturous playback of my fatuous acts in life, alone with the agony which now possessed my soul.

For three days and nights, I stayed awake, unseen, not wanting to be seen, in the wooded area behind the damp ashes where once stood my home. I was soon bereft of any meaningful thought, on the brink of madness.

At 11:00 PM that third night I heard off in the distance the freight train whistle.

I walked the quarter mile to the trestle and watched for the light that would announce its coming. I listened for the roar from the rails.

Like a thief in the night I left the bush behind which I hid and stepped onto the trestle. The train’s beacon of light came onward toward me, and the faint whistle registered somewhere in a tunnel of my mind. 

The train was but a hundred yards away when I raised my arms to the heavens and cried, “Oh, God, please forgive me!”

Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – January 7, 2918 (Rev)

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Hearts Melt in the Snow

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Hearts Melt in the Snow

Mellowed by age, this ‘sunset’ heart still embraces the feelings that steal into its pulsing organ, that magic which changes the moods of scrooges and lightens the load of life’s vicissitudes.

I’ve always felt this organic change come over me during this special period of the year. I sense a commanding comaraderie and warmth emanating from people who normally seem  inclined to show gruff and negative personalities.

Makes me wonder…

Even warring people pause for their faiths, put on hold the bloodshed and killing at this time of the year.

Is the birthday of a Deity, a Deity Who wore human skin, bled from wounds of the sword, so manifest that it reaches the Souls of all? Even, those who wear their hatred as badges of honor? Is there an arcane flow of Spirituality running through so much of humanity?

Even the political personae seem to sincerely change from the many oratorical duels to pleasant grins of conciliation.

Is it the Christmas carol that speaks to us of a “Silent Night?” That speaks to us of a sacred “Little Town of Bethlehem? Perhaps the words from “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful” reach us in its divine plea!

Of course, I dismiss those believers of ‘from Darkness we come and to Darkness we go’! Dismiss them only because they cannot be reached, convinced that their ‘scientific knowledge’ beats out the ancient Prophets of the Old Testament and John, Mark, Matthew, Luke, Revelations of the New Testament. Though there are days when generational factions compete for their audiences, I hold as firmly as I can onto my Faith.

There are those, too, who languish in their dark prisons, or, lurk the dark alleys of our cities in search of criminal pursuits, those devoid of ‘Sense and Sensibility’…and, in most cases, they cannot be reached.

For the overwhelming numbers of us who wish to believe in a ‘Higher Order’, I can hold my belief that this ‘dynamic’ I feel during this season of giving, of love, is really a harbinger of ‘good tidings’ and a reminder that Love will conquer all.

Billy Ray Chitwood – December 15, 2017

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