(The following is an excerpt from my book, "The Burlington Agreement.")
Butch Mason was known as the black sheep of the family. Because of his break from family traditions, he very seldom had any contact with the other Masons. He never had any interest in farming. Since he was a little boy, his only interest was in fighting. In his teens, he took up boxing and while a teenager was known to be the undisputed heavy weight champion of the area. He won, not by being the fastest or the most skillful, but by being able to take a punch. He could take a savage punch in the head or body without flinching, and then deliver a return punch that crushed bones and ruptured organs. He was a bull. Soon, he had no challengers.
But there was no living to be made in boxing at that time, so he worked in a factory that produced railroad car axles and wheels. Butch made good money because he could lift a railroad car axle with wheels attached, from the production line, carry it to and place it on the tracks to roll to the next assembly. Normally, it took two men to do that job, but Butch did it alone for the pay of one and a half men.
Butch was known, not only for fighting, but also for drinking. The Masons did not drink, but Butch did. He drank bourbon. And finally, Butch was known to frequent Ironton's brothel, Carolina's. His brothers never asked him and he never told them, but he did not go there to buy the services of the young women who worked there. He went there to be with the Madam, Carolina. She was at least 10 years older than he, but she looked younger than her years. She was small, about 5'2" tall, and had a nice, big busted figure with a small waist and ample, but firm, hips. Her complexion was cream colored. Her face was framed with soft, light brown hair. But her most noticeable feature was her calm, direct brown eyes. She had composure and a presence to which almost everyone deferred. Butch once heard someone say that she was an old soul, but he didn't know what that meant. Butch liked to sit and talk with her at a table back in the shadows, as he sipped his bourbon and watched her run the business. He admired the diplomatic way she handled unruly customers and the petty cattiness of the girls who worked there.
She knew he was not there to buy sex but simply because he liked being with her. She respected him for that and she liked being with him. Even though he was ten years younger than she, he didn't look it. He was large, with bulging ropy muscles, pale of complexion, with a head of coarse, unruly, dark brown hair. Too many times his nose had been broken, his eyes had been cut, and his lips had been split. It was known that he could take a punch, and his face showed that he had done so often. They were a strange pair, the large, beat up bull, and small, jaded woman who commanded respect, but they liked each other and enjoyed each other's company.
Carolina continued, "You are known as the champion heavy weight fighter in this area. The average man considers your fists to be lethal weapons. Also, you are a member of the Mason clan. And even though you say they have disowned you, everyone believes they would avenge any injury to you as a matter of family pride. They would have to because if it became know that a Mason could be killed without retribution, then all of them would be put at risk. It only has to be known that you own the business and I will be safe. I can run it. I can manage all aspects of the business. All that you have to do is stand behind me, keep me safe, and I will split the profits equally with you."
Butch knew that he only wanted to be with Carolina always, and that he would always keep her safe. "I don't want the money. Here with you is where I feel at home. This is where I belong. I will do it for you. I would do anything for you."
"Really? You would do anything for me?"
"Will you marry me?" beseeched Carolina with a tender smile.
"Well, I am going to need some time," answered Butch.
A pallor descended over Carolina.
"I see," she said. "Let's talk about the business. I think..." She choked back a sob. "I think..." The dam broke. She sobbed uncontrollably, as she pushed away from the table and ran to the bathroom. There she hung her head over the sink and gripped the edge tightly as she willed herself to quit crying.
Then she heard the voice in her head. Stop it. You are blubbering like a little girl. All of your life you have been abandoned, used, discarded, abused, and beaten. But you never cried before. Why are you crying now? Did you really think he would marry you? Butch Mason's strength is the envy of every man he meets, but no man is strong enough to walk the streets of Ironton, looking into the face of every man he passes, wondering which of them has been with his wife.
"All right. All right," said Carolina out loud, almost shouting. "I've got it. I really do. And as God is my witness, I will never cry again."
She splashed cold water on her face, patted it dry with a paper towel, and left the bathroom. Walking back to the table she thought, It's just business. We will talk business. We will forget that this ever happened.
But when she reached the table, Butch was gone. She asked the bartender, who said he left without a word. Carolina waited expectantly all night, but Butch never returned. As the hours mounted so did her fear that she had ruined it all. She had foolishly lost everything she wanted.
Butch worked the 8 AM to 4 PM shift at the railroad wheel and axle plant. He usually got to Carolina's at 6 PM. The next night she waited at their usual table. As she waited, she practiced her apology and her promise that it would never happen again. 6 PM passed. 6:15 PM passed. Carolina feared the worst. Then at 6:20 PM, the bartender came to her table and said, "Butch called. He asked for you to meet him at McArthur's for a celebratory dinner."
McArthur's, situated three blocks from Carolina's, was, at the time, the best restaurant in Ironton. Carolina was jubilant. Butch would run the business with her. They would be business partners. At least, she would have part of what she wanted. She stood to go, then realized that she was dressed like a brothel madam. Carolina understood that an essential part of any position of authority is to assume the mantle of the office. In her case, that was a red satin dress showing a lot of cleavage. She ran to her room. There, she selected a russet colored, fine wool tailored suit with matching veiled hat. She accessorized with a complementary fox stole, alligator pumps, and purse. She wore a short amber necklace and amber drop earrings.
McArthur's was crowded. She could barely get in the door and certainly could not see over the waiting crowd. Then she heard a high-pitched condescending voice saying, "Excuse me. Pardon me. Please make way."
The crowd parted, and before her stood a young man who was unmistakably the Maître D. He said simply, "Follow me."
Carolina looked for Butch as she followed the Maître D through the restaurant. Finally, she asked, "Where are we going?"
"Just a little further," he said as he proceeded down a wide, dimly lit, mahogany paneled hall. He stopped in front of a door, opened it, and stepped aside to let Carolina see.
It was a private dining room. It normally contained tables and seating for 24 guests. But tonight, there was one table for two in the center of the room. The rest of the room was filled with white roses, whose velvety soft pedals seemed to glow in the flickering candlelight. In her peripheral vision, she saw several waitstaff standing in the shadows, but her focus of attention was on a large, virile man who stood by the table dressed in a suit, white shirt, and tie, with a smile on his lips.
A waiter appeared from behind her to take her hat and stole. She walked to the table.
"Butch," said Carolina. "This is lovely. Does it mean that you will do it, you will be my partner, and we will run the business together?"
Butch said nothing. He pulled out her chair. She sat down. She looked questioningly at him as he stopped halfway past the table, turned to her, and went down on one knee. At first, she was concerned that he had tripped, but then she heard him say, as he held forth a small, royal blue, velvet box, from which sparkled a beautiful blue diamond ring, "Carolina, will you marry me? Will you be my wife? Will you let me be with you forever? Please"
Neither Carolina nor Butch knew what was about to happen on November 13, 1941.
However, you will know after you read the next blog which will appear on 12-26-17.