She is 98 years old and sports a white flock of hair dangling over a pair of bright blue eyes and a contagious smile. Meet Eleanor. I had a long talk with her recently and asked about all the changes she witnessed during her lifetime. At one point she looked far into the distance and said,
“I remember when I was about six or seven in Monett, Missouri, every Saturday night the KKK rode into town on horseback in their white sheets.”
Monett is located in very southern Missouri where meth labs now dot the wooded rural countryside. In her small town of 1921 they were not dealing with meth. Their issue was systematic prejudice and racism. I asked her what happened.
“Everyone ran inside, off the streets. It’s not like they had a crowd for a parade. They rode into town and the streets emptied. You can imagine the spectacle from the point of view of a young person.”
Well, how many KKK folks were there?
“They always came in with maybe a dozen, maybe fifteen.”
If everyone always ran inside – all colors – what were they attempting to do?
“Intimidation. They wanted to intimidate whites and blacks alike. Fill us with fear so they could continue to spout off their hate.”
Was there ever a lynching?
“Back in my mother’s time, the late 1800’s. She told me. It was the Klan then, too. I never saw that in my time but they still resorted to threat and big drama.”
Well, what happened to them?
“Everything changes. And sometimes the bad side just washes away. So don’t worry so much about time flushing everything away. Some things need to disappear in order to make room for the good. There are no good old days, just days. And we try to make ours the best we can.”