Lay down with Dogs : Hugh Otis Bynum and the Scottsboro First Monday Bombing, by Woodfin, Byron
- ISBN: 9780817312848 | 0817312846
- Cover: Paperback
- Copyright: 11/6/2002
On the first Monday of each month, the square around the courthouse in Scottsboro, Alabama, takes on the look of a festive and colorful country fair as traders and bargain hunters gather for the traditional First Monday Trade Day. At the turn of the century, court was held on the first Monday of the month as the circuit judge made his scheduled visit to the county seat. Many residents of Jackson County had cases to be heard or were to be called as witnesses or just came to town that day to gawk and catch up on the latest gossip, and the tradition of First Monday Trade Day began.
Although First Monday would evolve into a large, open-air flea market, in the beginning it was an opportunity for farmers to trade cattle, mules, dogs, and other livestock for needed equipment or cash. As the tradition grew, much of the daily routine for the country folk paused for that one day when the family would load up the wagon and make the trip to Scottsboro. Later the wagons were replaced by pickup trucks and family cars.
There are the legends of those who became modestly wealthy by perfecting the art of bartering at First Monday. One story has it that an enterprising fellow started in the morning trading a pocketknife and wound up at the end of the day with a fine pair of plow mules. To this day, knife traders and whittlers can be found loitering about the courthouse on any given day of the week. They spend hours perfecting the art of shaving a cedar stick into paper thin strips that fall to the ground in springlike coils. Piles of the sweet-scented cedar shavings often litter the sidewalks around the courthouse and mark the spots where knife trading and tale swapping have occurred.
For the most part, First Monday was one of the few opportunities for many families to get away from the daily chores of country life in the rugged mountains and hollows of northeast Alabama. Throughout its history, First Monday has been as much a social event as an opportunity to find a bargain. Country and gospel music filled the air as fiddlers and self-taught musicians performed on the corners of the square or under the protection of the gazebo that sits by the main entrance to the courthouse. There were preachers who took advantage of the roaming audiences to thump their Bibles and spread the gospel of fire and brimstone. At election time, politicians also took advantage of the available crowds. Often a wagon or flatbed truck carrying a piano player or band would announce the vote stumper, who would try to harangue the crowd into believing he was the best candidate.
There was a multitude of farm tools and implements to haggle over. Plow points, furrowers, wagon trees and wagon wheels, bucksaws, one-man and two-man crosscut saws, double- and single-bit axes, wedges, mauls, cooper and shingle froes, every conceivable carpenter's tool, and every accoutrement of farming were available to the shrewd barterers. Work and pleasure horses, mules, goats, sheep, piglets, and shoats were also for trade. All breeds of hunting dogs could be found. Rabbit, coon, and fox hounds, bird dogs of all sorts, baying dogs, treeing dogs, and the occasional feist that someone would pass off as an excellent squirrel dog. Men in blue-bibbed overalls openly carried long guns, shotguns, and pistols as they searched for a potential buyer or someone with whom they might haggle out a trade. Poultry included geese and odd-looking guinea fowls and chickens of all types--fryers, layers, and the strutting game chickens the men bought to enter in the cockfights that were held secretly for both amusement and gambling. Vendors displayed used shoes, clothes, coats, shawls, and beautiful handmade quilts. Visitors saw huge metal milk cans and butter churns and handcrafted slat-bottomed chairs made from hickory or oak--anything and everything that could make the job easier or the task lighter could be found at First Monday. Today many of these items are valuable collectibles or antiques, but for much of the history of First Monday, these were items of necessity. No trip to First Monday would be complete without buying boiled or parched peanuts sold by vendors who cooked their foodstuffs as the customer watched.
One day each month the courthouse square in Scottsboro was transformed into a cacophonous blend of sights, sounds, and colors. On First Monday, the country life came to town. But not everyone cherished the tradition of First Monday. The retailers and businessmen whose shops lined the avenues surrounding the courthouse resented Trade Day. The friction of First Monday and the business community grew out of a simple fact. With the exception of the few eateries around the courthouse (such as Payne's Drug Store, where the thirsty could get a cold soda or a hamburger and milk shake), few retail businesses profited from First Monday. In fact, business was slowed on that day each month as the crowds descended on the square in Scottsboro to find a bargain. The swarm of First Monday visitors would take up all available parking, making it difficult for customers to do business with the retail shops.
Over the years the business community made several attempts to have an outright ban placed on First Monday. Every few years, the frustration would reach the point where businesses would form a delegation and make appeals to the county commissioners or the city council to stop the tradition or at least move it somewhere else. "Just get it off the square," would be their battle cry.
But stopping the tradition, an important seam in the fabric of Jackson County history, would prove to be impossible. Every effort by the business community to stop First Monday would be ignored by those who supplemented their livelihood by trading and selling their wares. Many of the businesses themselves finally moved from the square and relocated in the shopping centers and malls that sprang up along the major highway that connected Scottsboro with Huntsville and Chattanooga.
In the latter part of the 1970s, the health department began cracking down on the display and selling of livestock, fighting chickens, and dogs at First Monday, and in the 1980s, the sale of guns, once a major attraction, would also be banned. Eventually, Trade Day would lose its country fair appearance. More and more it became a tourist attraction and less of an opportunity to swap or find a bargain. Though it is still called First Monday, the crowds are now greatest on Sunday, and often by noon on Monday the peddlers have packed their things away and headed home. First Monday has less appeal for the locals, and fewer of those living in and around Scottsboro now make the monthly trek to find a bargain.
But in 1972, First Monday was as popular as ever. On the first Monday of December of that year peddlers, traders, and bargain hunters had filled up the sidewalks along the four sides of the Jackson County Courthouse. The town was decorated for Christmas, and on the previous Friday the Downtown Merchants Association had held the largest Christmas parade in the town's history. A pretty high school senior, Linda Gamble from Pisgah, Miss Jackson County Junior Miss, had ridden the winning parade float, sponsored by the Jaycees.
On that First Monday, Jackson County Probate Judge Robert I. Gentry stood on the steps of the courthouse and surveyed the crowd. Unlike the business community, Gentry generally enjoyed First Monday. The judge had a passion for antique furniture and in his spare time he would often make the round of the courthouse square on First Monday in search of furniture that could be bought, refinished, and resold for a profit. Gentry noted the weather was unusually warm for the time of year. Although winters in northeast Alabama rarely are severe and generally are short-lived, the weather this First Monday was exceptionally pleasant and no doubt was the main reason for such a large turnout of vendors and bargain hunters.
On that same morning, Hugh Otis Bynum, Jr., began the day as he had begun every other day for nearly twenty years. Bynum was the wealthiest landowner in town. The great-grandson of Robert Scott, the man who founded Scottsboro, Bynum had inherited much of his wealth and land from his father. Known as an eccentric, he lived alone in a rambling, two-story wooden frame house that had once been the family home. It was rumored that he slept on a mattress thrown on the floor of the nearly empty house. Over the years he had developed a ritualistic routine that revolved around the care of his prized Angus cattle.
Each day and each week the routine was the same: breakfast of oatmeal at the Variety Bake Shop on the courthouse square, lunch consisting of mashed potatoes and asparagus at Tom's Restaurant, also on the square, and dinner of eggs over-easy with sausage, also eaten at Tom's. On Sunday, he always took his meals at the Liberty Restaurant, located on the outskirts of town. Each day was filled with as many as a dozen trips to various cattle farms he owned or rented in and around Scottsboro.
On that First Monday in 1972, Bynum left his home at 7:30 and drove his luxury car the few blocks to the square. After breakfast at Fred Casteel's Variety Bake Shop, he drove to a cattle farm he owned at Tupelo Pike, some five miles outside of town. At about nine o'clock, after making sure the cattle were all right, Hugh Otis Bynum headed back to the square and Tom's Restaurant.
In another part of town, Scottsboro attorney Loy Campbell hurried to get his six-year-old daughter Ramona ready for school. Recently divorced, Campbell lived with his only child in a modest home on Hamlin Street less than a hundred yards from Caldwell Elementary School, where the girl was in the first grade. Campbell was a protective father, and it was his routine to get Ramona ready and drive her the short distance to the school entrance before heading into Scottsboro to the law office he shared with his brother, H. R. "Bunk" Campbell!
On Monday, 4 December 1972, Campbell had overslept and now he hurried to get the young girl off to school before classes began. He and Bunk and a younger brother, John Paul, a schoolteacher, had spent the weekend in Birmingham to attend the Alabama-Auburn football game. The three Campbell boys were graduates of the University of Alabama and avid Crimson Tide fans. Few college football rivalries match the intensity of the rivalry between Alabama and Auburn. Auburn had defeated Alabama 17-16 in a thrilling come-from-behind fourth-quarter scoring frenzy, and Loy was ready for the ribbing he would take from his friends downtown. He especially dreaded the good-natured teasing he would get from Judge Gentry, an Auburn graduate.
The Campbell brothers had not returned to Scottsboro until late Sunday, and by the time he had picked up Ramona from the friend's house where she had spent the weekend and gotten to his own home, it was close to 5 P.M. Tired from the trip to Birmingham, he simply had overslept that Monday morning. Though it had rained during the night, the weather had cleared somewhat, and he felt it would be all right this morning to let Ramona walk the short distance to the school. Loy walked the little girl a block to a corner crossing and watched as she entered the safety of the school. He then returned to his home and turned to the task of getting ready for work.
At a few minutes before 9:00 A.M. that first Monday of December 1972, Loy Campbell walked from his house to the 1971 Pontiac sedan parked in the driveway, got in the driver's seat, and put the key in the ignition.
Currents of Change
Scottsboro, Alabama, is a southern hamlet snuggled close to the banks of the Tennessee River. Flanked by the long bony ridge of Sand Mountain to the east and the Cumberland Mountain to the west, the town lies in a valley in the northeast corner of the state. Tennessee and Georgia can be reached in a few minutes' driving time.
For most of its history, Scottsboro has been a quiet agricultural town linked to the rest of the South by the Tennessee River and the railroad that runs from Chattanooga to Huntsville. Cotton was, for most of this century, the area's main crop. Reflecting the influence of cotton, most of the early manufacturing jobs were in textiles, and the textile industry remains an important contributor to the local economy. As cattle farming grew in the area, cotton slowly gave way to row crops, such as corn and soybeans, and the "land of cotton" became more and more a thing of the past. Today, farmers in Jackson County grow little cotton and the once bustling cotton gins are now idle.
Not until the late 1960s and early 1970s did Scottsboro begin
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