Chapter 16

A few days after Johnny’s funeral, I marched with about 5,000 other protesters down Summit Avenue from Macalester College to the St. Paul capitol.  There were a lot of speakers that day on the capitol steps and they were all very angry.

President Johnson had just announced a new troop deployment to Viet Nam.

He had earlier ‘leaked’ to the media of a withdrawal of troops, something he often did to appease the war protesters…but the ‘withdrawal’ was just another wretched lie that would send more heart broken families and friends to grave sites over the next days, weeks, months and even years.

As frustration with the war increased, protesters were becoming more militant.  But they were passionately against the war…and that was all that mattered to me.

I was hurting and I needed to do something.

I needed to do more to help end this horror…to stop more young men from coming home in black body bags.

Johnny was gone…he would never hold me in his arms again…never!  I could not get past my sadness…I missed him so much.

I wanted everyone to know the anguish and pain that this stupid war was bringing to thousands of people like me.

I wanted everyone to know and to care and to do something…

I wanted the pain to go away…

I wanted Johnny back.

Chapter 18

Tommy began to  speak again and everyone looked back at him…but he was talking to me.

“Hey!  I like your idea.  What’s your name?” He called to me.

I shouted out my name.

Tommy said as he pointed to me…”That’s a great idea, Riley,  We need more ideas like that.”

“I think a hunger strike and chaining a few of us to that tower would get a lot of attention…but think…just think what would happen if we just blew the damn thing up.”  And then he paused…

Shocked silence at first…but then quiet murmuring and a smattering of applause.

So far the protests on this campus had been basically non-violent…peaceful…but some colleges and universities…Wisconsin for example…had seen major conflicts between the police and war protesters.

But so far…not at the University of Minnesota or at any  other locations around the state.

Tommy handled the reluctance and surprise of the crowd with ease.

“But…I wouldn’t want any protesters chained to the tower at the time…of course…” he joked and with that comment he again had the crowd completely with him.

Then he quickly shifted focus and stressed that civil disobedience like “hunger strikes” and “blocking roadways” would get massive coverage in the press…and that was the important thing.

He also mentioned again the “Snelling Avenue water tower idea” and my name…

And then after a couple more speakers… the rally was over.

 

Chapter 19

Later…at a little bar in Dinky Town…I saw Tommy siting with a bunch of other kids I had seen at the rally.  They were all sitting in a huge booth by the back wall.

I went over and introduced myself…just in case he had forgotten who I was.

I told him how impressed I was with his speech and told him I was eager to help in any way.

“Riley.  Of course I remember you!  Here sit down next to me.”  He said and patted the space next to him and everyone slid over.

Tommy said he had been talking to other anti-war protest leaders on other campuses across the country and they had been sharing strategies.

He was flying to Washington D.C. tomorrow to plan the inauguration protest…if Nixon was elected..

We sat and talked that night for hours and over the next several weeks, we got together to plan strategies and share more ideas.

We were all students…so we had to fit everything in around classes…but winter break was coming.

It was the middle of January when Tommy brought up the water tower idea again…only this time the plan was to blow it up.

“It’s the only way to get the press to pay attention,” Tommy said.  “And it will be safe…no one will be around in the dead of winter…I’ve checked it out many times and the place is always deserted…not one foot print in the snow.

“I talked with a couple of guys from New York and California and they all said…and I agree…we have to start making people sit up and take notice.”

“Blowing things up will do that…and we’ll get the front-page headlines we deserve.”

Everyone agreed with Tommy…but I did not.

“No.  Sorry…no violence.” I said.  “I’ll lay in the street.  I’ll get arrested.  I’ll chain myself to a building or whatever…but no violence that could possibly hurt innocent people.  Absolutely not.”

Sheila Baxter and her boyfriend Gerald Michaels were sitting next to me.  They were also working toward law degrees and had known Tommy when he was in California.

They also had come here on scholarship.

Another boy, Mikey Longwell was the organizer of a small group of kids who had been at the Wisconsin Dow Day protest…where there had been injuries…it was the first university protest to turn violent.

They listened to me and then turned back to Tommy.  It was like I hadn’t said anything at all.

I sat for a few more minutes shaking my head in disapproval.

Finally, I had enough.  I stood up and started to put on my jacket.

“I’m leaving.  I’m not doing this.” I said and started to walk out.

Tommy got up and followed me to the door.  He grabbed my arm so I couldn’t leave.

“You better keep quiet about this, Riley.  Remember all those people at that rally a few months ago?”

“They heard one thing over and over again…that ‘staging a protest at the water tower’ was your idea.”

And then Tommy smiled and my whole body suddenly got so cold I shivered.

I knew then that Tommy Clark could be very dangerous if you made him mad.  I think I just did.

I angrily pulled my arm away and walked out the door.

 

 

 

Chapter 20

I immediately went home and told my mom and dad about Tommy Clark’s plans.

They called my uncle, Carl Andrews, a retired St. Paul homicide detective…and then..everything happened very fast.

Within twenty-four hours, Tommy, Sheila, Gerald and Mikey were all  picked up for questioning by the St. Paul Police Department.

I, too, was questioned.  Initially, I was being considered the “instigator” of this plot…since Tommy and his friends had all said it was my idea…but California police records showed quite a history of “trouble making events” for Tommy Clark and that lifted all suspicion from me.

But I did have to admit the “chaining” and “hunger strike” plans were my idea.

We then had to appear before a grand jury to see if there was enough evidence for a felony charge.

Unfortunately, the grand jury determined there was not enough conclusive evidence that a crime was actually going to be committed.

Instead, they determined it was more likely just some “bragging” by some college kids who had had too many beers to drink…

And that Riley Sanderson…who had also been drinking when she had heard of these “let’s blow up the tower” plans…had just misinterpreted the whole thing.

Since no charges were filed, our names were never released but everyone knew quickly who we were…and Tommy was a hero to the more militant side of the anti-war movement.

The University of Minnesota, however, looked at this incident differently and decided to use this as an example to other students at the University who may be planning acts of civil disobedience in protesting the Viet Nam war…

They placed a full-page ad in the Minnesota Daily…citing the University’s policy regarding protests and rallies and consequences for unlawful behavior.

We were all called into the Dean’s office and expelled without any recourse.

Tommy and his friends’ scholarships were rescinded…and everything went on our permanent record.

It didn’t matter to me.  I was heading north as soon as possible.  My parents would be joining me.

“Time for new beginnings…” my dad had said.  “For all of us…”

But…just as I was leaving the building I realized that I had forgotten my gloves and walked back to get them.

Tommy, Sheila, Gerald and Mikey were all huddled together at a table quietly talking.

I could see that Sheila had been crying.  I knew how close she had been to getting her law degree and how much she had looked forward to being a lawyer.

I grabbed my gloves and turned back to the door.  Tommy spotted me.

“This isn’t over, ‘little girl’… far from it.  You made a very big mistake.”

And…then he gave be that chillingly, cold smile that I would never forget.

 

“FIRST LOVE.”

By

Tina Nelson

You really can’t go back…can you?

They say you never forget your first love.  I didn’t.  But maybe I should have.  Sometimes when you play with fire, you get burned.

******

Prologue:

He stood across from me and I wondered why we were in this strange, smoky place with all these odd people milling aimlessly around murmuring words but not really saying anything.

He had his usual self-confident, self-assured smile on his face.  I loved that smile.  As he leaned toward me, perhaps to kiss me, someone in the suddenly silent room whispered for all to hear.  “She’s departed from her mind, you know.”

He hesitated then, tilting his head to the side, placing his hands lightly on my shoulders.

“I guess there will be no romancing tonight…”  His smile had disappeared from his face.

“Not me.  Not me,” I said softly.

Then he drew me to him, holding me so close…and safe…just like before…all those years ago.

“It’s not too late then?”  He asked with a wondering that lingered in the air.  His words brushing my ear so only I could hear.

“No,” I said quietly.  “I’ve dreamed about you for so long.  I thought I would never see you again.”

He pulled back a little, those dark eyes searching mine, and then…pausing slightly as he had always done…kissed me gently on my lips.

And then I woke up…cheeks wet with tears.

 

 

 

Chapter 1

A long time ago…

Go back to a Minnesota cold November day.  I am standing in the lunch line at Portland High School, waiting for my favorite hot lunch…roast turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes…giggling not too loudly with my best friend, Melanie Taylor.  We were checking out all the cute, older boys surrounding us in line.

Mel and I had been best friends since 3rd grade and we had been looking forward to our entrance into 9th grade for every single moment of the whole, long, boring summer.

We were both fourteen and still too young for real summer jobs.  I wouldn’t turn fifteen until December.  Mel’s birthday was next week.

Baby sitting and walking back and forth to each other’s houses were the sum total of our summer.  We were gloriously tanned but impressively bored.

I hung out more at Mel’s house than she did at mine.  Unfortunately, it was neighborhood knowledge that my father Victor Jones drank too often and too much…that his beautiful wife, Kathy Jones deserved so much better and “Oh, that sweet, sweet Sam…it must be so hard for her.”

It was.

From age eleven on, I never knew a day when there wasn’t a lost, lonely feeling in the pit of my stomach and a thin veil of sadness around me that never quite lifted.

But that was about to change…

Chapter 2

For some unknown reason, Mel’s and my freshman science class ended with a shared lunch hour with a lot of the sophomores and juniors.  Happily, for us, many were drop-dead good-looking older boys.

So, every chance we had, we were looking at them and much to our delight…they were looking right back at us.  Were we innocent little lambs ready to be shorn?  Maybe, I don’t know.

So naive we were…and so dazed by all the attention.  And so very unprepared.

We had learned about dating and romance…and even sex…from books and movies…where no matter what happened, there was always a happy ending.

After all…it was 1957.

We were so very, very young.

We had tired weeks ago of the antics of the freshman boys…even the new ones from other schools in our district.  They couldn’t even drive a car, for heaven’s sake.

Suddenly, as we stood in line that November day, someone bumped into me from behind and my biology book flew out of my hand and skittered across the floor.

A group of older boys behind us in line laughed loudly and my face turned bright red.  I still blushed and hated myself every time it happened.

“You dropped your book,” one of them said, looking back at his friends, enjoying their approval and laughter.  He seemed so pleased with his joke.

I kneeled down to get my book and raising up, looked into the face of the most handsome boy I had ever seen.  His dark brown eyes were looking right at me and my breath was stilled for a moment.

He didn’t say he was sorry…because of course he wasn’t…I was just the random recipient of his stupid prank.

I tried to give him and his friends a big smile to show that I was cool and smooth and ‘not just some dumb, little, freshman girl’ but his look was so intense my smile froze crookedly on my face…not very cool at all.

His friends laughed even harder at my obvious embarrassment.  My cheeks flamed even more and tears jumped to my eyes.

He stopped laughing then and bent down to pick up a sheet of paper that had fallen out of my book.

“Here, I think this is yours too.”  He was almost apologetic.

He handed me the paper but my throat had closed and I couldn’t speak.  Couldn’t even say thanks.

I turned quickly away, brushing a stray tear off my cheek and willing my face to stop blushing.  He must think I’m a total idiot…still a child of the eighth grade, I thought.

“I am a total fool,” I muttered under my breath.

I moved up in the line, heart pounding from humiliation.

“Sam!  Do you know who that was?” asked Melanie.

I shook my head and stole a look back over my shoulder at the group of boys who were now admiring a very stunning and buxom teacher who had just walked by.

“No,” I mumbled…still feeling quite stupid.

“That’s Bobby Flanagan!  He’s the most popular boy at Portland!  All the girls are wild for him!  Even the senior girls and he’s only a sophomore!”  Melanie was all but jumping up and down.

“I think he likes you,”  she whispered to me…those magical words that best friends…no matter what age…say to each other whether they are true or not.

I turned back again and this time Bobby was looking right at me with a big grin on his face.

My heart literally skipped a beat…trite…but true nonetheless.

Samantha Jones…meet Bobby Flanagan…your First Love.