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Blast
from
the
River
City’s
Past!
 by
David
Hendriks
 August
27th

2010.

The
setting
–
Austin
High
School
versus
Decatur
High
School
at
Ogle
Stadium.

 10,000
people
filled
the
hallowed
grounds
as
cross
town
rivalries
battle
on
the
gridiron
to
claim
bragging
 rights
for
the
next
year.

The
flag
is
lifted
to
the
top
of
the
high
mast
in
the
southern
corner
of
the
 stadium.

As
the
gathering
rises
to
their
feet
the
“Star
Spangled
Banner”
is
sung
by
the
chorus
from
the
 both
schools
and
the
older
generation,
their
right
hand
placed
firmly
over
their
hearts,
sang
along.

 Sadly,
many
of
the
younger
generation
of
Austin
and
Decatur
High
school
classmates
seem
to
have
 forgotten
this
tradition
as
seen
in
this
photo.





 The
crowd
is
ready
for
another
Decatur
versus
Austin
High
School
game.

The
teams
enter
the
field
and
 gather
behind
their
respective
end
zones.

Austin’s
Football
team
runs
on
the
field
first.

The
Decatur
 High
School
team
is
gathered
behind
the
goal
post
at
the
north
side
of
the
field


“BOOM”
the
 cannon
erupts
with
a
huge
gunpowder
explosion.



Decatur
takes
to
the
field
while
the
somewhat
dazed
and
confused
crowd;
react
to
the
man‐made
 lightning
bolt!



TThhee

DDeeccaattuurr

RReedd

RRaaiiddeerrss

ttaakkee

ttoo

tthhee

ffiieelldd

w wiitthh

tthhee

BBllaassttiinngg

ooff

tthhee

CCaannnnoonn!!




 August
27,
2010
–
Photo
by
Kevin
Naumann
 
 
“What
the
heck
was
that?”
said
Bill
Cook
the
Municipal
Judge
for
Decatur.

Bill
was
sitting
in
front
of
me
 and
I
watched
as
he
brought
the
tips
of
his
shoulders
down
from
his
ears!

“Oh
that
was
the
Decatur
 High
School’s
cannon
being
shot
off.”

I
exclaimed.

“It’s
a
long
story”
as
I
began
to
relate
to
him
a
brief
 history
behind
the
cannon.

But
he
didn’t
hear
the
entire
story.

And
there
is
a
story
to
be
told
about
the
 cannon
we
hear
blasted
that
night
that
is
deeply
rooted
in
the
cross
town
high
school
football
history
 and
folklore.




Fiction,
Fact,
Folklore
or
Fable?

Many
stories
have
been
told
and
retold
over
the
years
by
both
 Decatur
and
Austin
students,
faculty,
friends,
mothers,
fathers,
newspapers
and
television
news
 broadcasts
about
the
Decatur
High
School
Cannon
and
its
rich
and
colorful
history.





 The
more
times
the
story
is
told,
the
taller
the
tale
becomes
and
now
it’s
approaching
Paul
Bunyan
 status
in
our
local
town
of
Decatur
Alabama.


So
much
factional
fiction
and
fictional
facts
have
been
 added
over
the
years
that
most
people
are
indeed
confused
about
what
really
did
happen.

Sadly
there
 are
even
those
who
don’t
even
know
there
is
a
story
to
be
told.

This
story
is
for
you
and
for
setting
the
 record
straight!





What
is
at
the
bottom
of
all
this
talk
that’s
been
going
on
for
forty‐five
years?



Should
we
start
at
the
 bottom
and
work
our
way
up
or
we
should
we
start
at
the
beginning
and
work
our
way
to
the
present?
 



 Earliest
made
pictures
of
the
DHS
Red
Raider
Cannon
in
1965.



Let’s
go
back,
way
back,
into
the
history
of
this
cannon.


 From
The
Decatur
Daily
Article
–
July
14,
1998
by
Karen
Middleton
‐

Bob
Hunter,
Decatur
High
Class
of
 1965
was
President
of
the
Key
Club,

when
members
decided
that
they
wanted
to
“leave
something
 permanent
to
the
school.”

“It
was
the
fall
of
’64
and
we
went
up
to
Union
City,
Tennessee
to
something
 called
the
Union
Gun
Works
and
bought
the
cannon,”
said
Hunter
in
the
article.

“It
wasn’t
a
real
Civil
 War
cannon
but
a
reproduction.

“My
dad
owned
Hunter
Furniture
and
we
took
one
of
the
delivery
 trucks
up
there
to
get
it.



We
brought
it
back
to
my
grandfather’s
farm
and
fired
it
off
a
few
times
to
 see
if
it
would
work.”

The
cannon
was
stored
at
the
State
Bonded
Warehouse
before
it
was
hauled
over
 to
Decatur
High
School
according
to
Key
Club
member
Mark
Lovelace.

“It
was
fired
the
first
time
at
our
 game
with
Muscle
Shoals.

It
was
Homecoming
game
here.”

 It
began
a
tradition
of
firing
off
the
cannon
after
each
Decatur
High
touchdown
and
the
Key
Club
was
 responsible
for
lighting
the
fuse!
 



Decatur
High
School
Yearbook
 The
series
dates
back
to
1965
when
Decatur
defeated
Austin
in
the
first
meeting
27‐7.
This
marked
the
 beginning
of
a
rivalry
that
fans
schedule
and
plan
events
around.
The
2010
game
was
a
great
game
for
 DHS
who
came
out
the
victor,
50‐21
but
for
the
AHS
fans
it’s
another
heartfelt
loss.

Decatur
high
leads
 the
series
33‐14.


Decatur
High
School
Yearbook
 
 It
must
have
been
great
fun
for
the
Decatur
High
School
crowd!

From
the
Austin
High
School
 perspective
the
firing
of
the
cannon
after
each
touchdown
was
getting
on
their
nerves.

Every
single
 time
Decatur
scored
a
touchdown
they
fired
their
cannon
off
and
the
Decatur
crowd
would
go
wild
with
 celebration!

Year
after
year
Austin
High
School
students
had
to
listen
to
this
blamed
thing
fire
again
and
 again
after
each
touchdown,
so
the
tension
had
been
building
for
years.



Decatur
High
School
Annual
 
 To
get
a
better
understanding
of
the
cross‐town
rivalry
I
think
it
is
important
that
we
look
back
a
little
 further
into
the
history
of
Decatur
Alabama.


 The
Decatur
High
School
Key
Club
is
part
of
the
Decatur
Kiwanis
Club.

The
Decatur
Kiwanis
Club
is
 deeply
rooted
in
the
annals
of
Decatur’s
History
and
was
an
integral
part
of
the
joining
of
the
two
sister
 cities
of
Decatur,
Alabama.





From
the
source
www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decatur,_Alabama

 New
Decatur,
Alabama
was
a
city
that
rose
out
of
the
ashes
of
former
Decatur
west
of
the
railroad
 tracks.
New
Decatur
was
founded
in
1887
and
incorporated
in
1889.
But
residents
of
the
older
Decatur
 resented
the
new
town,
founded
and
occupied
by
people
who
moved
from
the
northern
states.
 Animosity
built
until
New
Decatur
renamed
their
town
Albany,
after
Albany,
N.Y.,
in
September
1916.
 The
impetus
to
meld
the
two
towns
came
from
the
need
for
a
bridge,
instead
of
a
ferry,
across
the
 Tennessee
River.
The
Decatur
Kiwanis
Club
was
formed
with
an
equal
number
of
members
from
each
 town
to
organize
efforts
to
get
the
state
to
build
the
bridge.
In
1925,
the
two
cities
merged
to
form
one



City
of
Decatur.
There
is
a
noticeable
difference
between
the
two
sides
of
town.
The
cities
developed
 differently
at
different
times,
and
still
to
this
day
have
somewhat
different
cultures.



From
the
Decatur
Kiwanis
Club
web
site
‐
http://decaturkiwanis.org/history.htm
 



 Some
time
during
the
year
1919,
thirty
men
from
the
town
of
Decatur
and
thirty
men
from
the
town
of
 Albany
met
together
for
the
avowed
purpose
of
achieving
the
consolidation
of
those
two
warring
and
 divisive
municipalities.
These
were
leaders
with
foresight
dedicated
to
building
a
better
community
for
 themselves
and
for
those
to
come
after
them.
They
cast
about
for
an
organization
to
serve
as
a
vehicle
 for
their
efforts
and
after
reviewing
a
number
of
forms
of
organizations
and
clubs,
decided
that
Kiwanis
 International,
with
its
motto
"We
Build"
was
the
organization
most
likely
to
be
effective
in
their
 endeavor.
 Membership
was
originally
limited
to
sixty
men,
thirty
from
Decatur
and
thirty
from
Albany.
At
times
 there
was
a
waiting
list
for
membership.
When
Kiwanis
International
discovered
the
sixty
member
 limitation,
some
fifteen
or
twenty
years
later,
they
required
the
Decatur
club
to
eliminate
that
 requirement.
 Eventually
in
1927,
after
tireless
effort
and
Kiwanis
influence
in
the
state
legislature,
Decatur
and
Albany
 were
united
into
the
existing
community
of
Decatur.
It
is
safe
to
say
that
the
consolidation
was
brought
 about
by
the
Kiwanis
Club
of
Decatur.
 
 



Bridge
Dedication
–
Ca
1927
–
The
Decatur
Public
Library



Keller
Memorial
Bridge
Construction
–
Ca
1927
–
The
Decatur
Public
Library
 For
more
of
the
history
of
Decatur
be
sure
to
check
out
this
web
site.
 http://decatur‐al.gov/livework/decatur_then.html
 
 Thus
we
have
a
little
of
the
history
that
started
this
inter‐city
rivalry
that
still
exists
to
this
day!

With
the
 completion
of
Austin
High
School
in
1962,
the
city
was
again
split
in
two.

You
either
lived
on
the
east
 side
of
the
railroad
tracks
and
went
to
Decatur
High
School
or
you
lived
on
the
west
side
of
the
tracks
 and
went
to
Austin
High
School.





1965
Austin
High
School
Annual



1967
Decatur
High
School
Annual



The
Decatur
High
Key
Club
was
responsible
for
the
purchase
of
the
cannon.

The
Key
Club
was
 responsible
for
the
cannon
and
their
duties
included
keeping
the
cannon
in
sound
order
and
firing
it
 after
each
touchdown
the
football
teamed
scored.


 



The
Key
Club
is
an
international
student‐led
organization
which
provides
its
members
with
 opportunities
to
provide
service,
build
character
and
develop
leadership.

 The
Key
Club
pledge
–

 
“I pledge, on my honor, to uphold the Objects of Key Club International; to build my home, school and community; to serve my nation and God; and combat all forces which tend to undermine these institutions.” Underscore
placed
here
by
the
author
of
this
article
as
a
notation
to
remember.





 Decatur
High
School
Annual



Decatur
High
School
Annual
 
 Now
let
me
tell
you
the
story
of
what
happened
to
the
Decatur
High
School
cannon
in
1977.


 The
idea
began
to
spring
up
amongst
a
group
of
young,
seventeen
year
old
men
from
the
Austin
High
 School
Class
of
1978.

They
had
heard
enough
of
the
cannon!

They
were
going
to
silence
it
forever!

The
 four
young
men
were,
Jay
Jenkins,
Darryl
Mitchell,
Jeff
Coffey
and
Bob
Quarles.

Bob
actually
was
from
 the
AHS
Class
of
1979.




Darryl
Mitchell
(AHS
Class
of
1978)
offers
these
details
from
his
perspective.
“We
often
gathered
 together
at
Jeff’s
house
on
16th
Street
just
down
the
street
from
Austin
and
would
walk
to
school
 together
in
the
morning.”


During
their
gatherings
the
idea
hatched
and
began
to
grow
that
they
were
 going
to
silence
the
cannon
once
and
for
all.

They
were
going
to
snatch
the
cannon
from
Decatur
High
 School
before
the
Austin
vs.
Decatur
game,
which
was
to
be
played
on
November
4,
1977.

Back
then
 the
game
was
the
last
regular
game
of
the
season
for
both
teams.


 According
to
Bob
Quarles,
the
original
idea
behind
the
snatching
of
the
cannon
came
from
Jay
Jenkins.

 The
plan
was
schemed
and
plotted
and
bantered
amongst
each
other
as
they
dared
each
other
on.

They
 had
thought
about
borrowing
one
of
Jay’s
father’s
crane
trucks
then
hoist
the
entire
cannon
into
the
 back
of
the
truck
but
that
plan
didn’t
work
out
when
the
truck
was
on
a
job
at
the
time
right
before
the
 big
game.


 The
word
eventually
got
around
to
the
“Red
Raiders”
that
the
“Black
Bears”
were
going
to
take
off
with
 Decatur
High’s
prized
cannon.
Darryl
Mitchell
was
dating
a
girl
from
Decatur
High
School
and
he
let
her
 know
of
their
intentions
but
“I
kind
of
brushed
it
off
like
we
really
were
not
going
to
do
it”.






 Pictured
here
are
Molly
Williams,
Darryl
Mitchell,
Jeff
Coffey
 
before
the
1977
Homecoming
Parade
for
AHS.





 Darryl
states
that
when
it
came
time
to
snatch
the
cannon
they
found
that
some
Decatur
High
School
 students
were
gathered
around
guarding
the
cannon
which
stood
in
the
corner
of
the
field
at
Ogle



Stadium.

It
appears
that
the
some
of
the
“Red
Raiders”
students
took
it
serious
enough
that
they
 posted
guards
there
‘round
the
clock’
to
protect
their
prized
cannon.

However
it
began
to
sprinkle
late
 that
Fall
Saturday
night
in
1977
so
whoever
the
“guards”
were,
they
threw
in
the
towel
and
walked
off.


 Mr.
John
Roland
Jenkins,
Jay’s
father,
says
he
thinks
that
they
went
to
Hardees
to
grab
a
coke.

 Bob
Quarles
doesn’t
recall
being
forewarned
about
any
“guards”
being
on
duty
that
Thursday
night
 before
the
Austin
vs.
Decatur
game.

Bob
remembers
that
they
didn’t
see
anyone
at
all.

Instead
he
 remembers
that
they
heard
that
story
later
on
that
there
might
have
been
someone
in
the
bleachers
 watching
the
cannon.

He
said
that
if
there
was
anyone
keeping
an
eye
on
the
cannon,
then
they
were
 gone
by
the
time
they
arrived.

Dr.
Robert
Quarles
now
practices
nuclear
radiology,
diagnostic
radiology
 and
nuclear
medicine.


 Darryl
relates
the
story.
“It
was
a
cold,
rainy,
nasty
night.”

This
group
of
four
young
men
were
circling
 around
the
DHS
campus
in
Jay
Jenkins
father’s
1973
El
Camino
(white
with
wood
grain
sides).

Can
you
 imagine
them
sitting
like
sardines
in
this
little
car‐truck
on
this
drizzly
night
waiting
for
the
opportunity
 to
seize
the
Decatur
High
cannon?


 “We
were
well
prepared.”
says
Jeff
Coffey,
often
referred
to
as
“Theo”
by
his
friends.

Jeff
says
“We
had
 a
three
foot
long
bolt
cutter
to
cut
the
lock
and
chain
on
the
gate
to
the
Ogle
stadium
field.”

These
 daring
young
opportunists,
rushed
in
quickly,
to
gather
their
treasure
in
the
early
evening
hours
of
 November
3rd,
1977.

Swiftly
they
parked
the
El
Camino
and
Jay,
Bob,
Darryl
and
Jeff
rushed
in
hoping
no
 one
was
around.

But
no
one
was
around
at
least
none
that
could
be
observed.

But
they
were
still
at
risk
 of
someone
catching
them
in
the
middle
of
what
they
were
doing!


 Their
well
laid
plans
soon
turned
out
to
have
a
few
problems.

They
gathered
around
the
cannon
sitting
 there
all
by
itself.

They
tried
pushing
it
back
and
forth
a
bit
but
it
was
heavy!

They
pondered
first
to
 themselves
then
to
each
other.

How
do
you
get
a
900
pound
cannon
‐
wheels
and
all
‐
into
the
back
of
 an
El
Camino?

Even
if
they
got
it
back
to
the
truck,
they
wouldn’t
be
able
to
lift
it
up
into
the
bed
nor
 would
it
have
fit!


 So
young
Mr.
Darryl
Mitchell,
being
the
clever
young
man
he
was,
started
tugging
and
twisting
on
the
 barrel
and
it
slowly
started
to
slip
and
give.



They
quickly
undid
the
straps
that
held
the
barrel
of
the
 cannon
to
the
carriage.

All
four
heaved
and
lifted
the
350
pound
cannon
barrel
off
the
large
wooden
 wheels
and
walked
together
to
the
back
of
the
El
Camino.





 They
left
behind
the
carriage
and
wheels.

Mr.
Roland
Jenkins
remembers
that
Jay
told
him
that
his
 adrenaline
was
flowing
so
fast
that
“We
didn’t
even
feel
the
weight
of
the
cannon”
as
the
four
ran
off
 with
it.



Off
they
roared
into
the
dark,
tires
spinning,
with
the
cannon
sliding
around
and
banging
into
the
sides
 of
the
bed
of
the
El
Camino
truck/car
as
they
made
each
turn.

Jay
had
the
foresight
to
take
one
of
his
 mother’s
quilts
with
him
which
they
supposedly
used
that
to
wrap
up
the
barrel
of
the
cannon.

They
 discussed
amongst
themselves
“What
are
we
going
to
do
with
it
now?”

Jay
suggested
that
they
take
it
 back
His
father’s
business,
“Valley
Steel
Construction”
on
the
river
on
Hwy
20
and
fill
it
with
concrete.

 Then
they
would
return
it
back
to
its
rightful
place
on
the
field
at
Ogle
Stadium,
never
to
be
blasted
 again
after
a
touchdown.




 Darryl
Mitchell
said
“Let’s
go
over
to
Madison
and
get
some
beer
and
we’ll
figure
out
what
to
do
with
it
 after
that.”


 At
the
time,
Decatur
was
a
dry
town
and
if
you
wanted
any
beer,
you
had
to
cross
the
1
and
3/4
mile
 wide,
Tennessee
River,
to
go
over
to
the
wet
county
of
Madison
to
buy
beer.

There
were
two
bridges
 crossing
the
river
at
this
time
in
1977.


One
was
referred
to
at
the
time
as
the
“new
bridge”
built
in
1963
 and
the
other
was
the
old
“Keller
Memorial
Bridge”
built
in
1928,
named
in
honor
of
Helen
Keller
from
 Tuscumbia,
Alabama.





 Decatur
Alabama’s
Bridges
–
Fall
1977
 



So
“the
best
laid
plans
of
mice
and
men”
seemed
to
erode
when
they
came
to
the
bridge.

“Look
around.
 There
is
not
a
car
in
sight,
not
anyone”
said
Darryl.

Jeff
suggested
“Let’s
just
get
rid
of
it
now
and
toss
it
 off
the
bridge”
and
quickly
all
four
agreed.

They
were
driving
north
on
the
new
bridge
heading
out
of
 Decatur;
they
stopped
the
El
Camino
somewhere
along
the
top
of
the
bridge.

All
four
jumped
out
of
the
 cramped
El
Camino
and
grabbed
the
cannon
barrel
in
the
bed.


All
four
of
the
boys
lifted
the
cannon
 and
hurriedly
set
it
on
the
right
side
(east
side)
of
the
concrete
rail.

“All
together
now
–
heave!”

Darryl
 said.

They
heard
a
bell
ringing
sound.


“I
think
its
hung
up”.

Darryl
thought
it
had
lodged
on
the
large
 metal
structure
running
directly
under
the
bridge
because
it
made
it
large
“gong”
bell
sound.






 
 “No,
no,
I
heard
it
splash”
said
Jay
Jenkins.

Not
wanting
to
stand
around
and
discuss
it
any
further,
they
 went
off
to
Madison
to
get
some
beer.

“We’re
wanted
men,
we’ll
strike
again,
but
first
let’s
have
a
 beer!”
as
Jimmy
Buffett
immortalized
in
his
1973
song,
“The
Great
Filling
Station
Hold
Up.”


 Jeff
and
Darryl
returned
to
Darryl’s
house
and
Bob
and
Jay
went
home.

Darryl,
Jeff
and
Darryl’s
brother
 Tim
Mitchell
sat
around
discussing
the
night’s
events
at
the
Mitchell
residence.

Soon
the
conversation
 came
about,
that
they
should
have
a
cheer
to
shout
out
at
the
next
night’s
Austin
versus
Decatur
High
 School
football
game.

With
the
help
of
Darryl’s
brother,
Tim,
they
came
up
with
this
cheer
or
rather
 should
I
say,
insult!
 “Give
a
little
shake”
 “Give
a
little
quiver”
 “Your’re
damned
ole’
cannon”
 “Is
in
the
bottom
of
the
river.”



To
add
insult
to
injury
another
group
of
Austin
Students
had
put
together
a
plan
of
their
own,
not
 knowing
about
the
cannon
scheme.

They
were
going
to
paint
a
big
Austin
“

A ”
on
the
field
on
Thursday


night
before
the
November
4th
1977
game.

Danny
Gibson
from
the
AHS
Class
of
1979
recalls
“I’m
not
 saying
I
know
who
stole
the
cannon
but
the
same
night
the
cannon
was
stolen
someone
painted
a
big
 Austin
A
on
Decatur
side
of
the
field.


“It
took
about
twelve
cans
of
black
paint
and
four
guys
to
paint
 it."

Jim
Breeding
asked
the
art
teacher
to
help
him
make
a
stencil
for
the
A
and
she
did.

It
was
a
10
foot
 cardboard
cut‐out.


Mike
Krueger,
Jim
Breeding,
Ricky
Watson,
and
Danny
Gibson
snuck
out
that
night.

 The
boys
from
Austin
climbed
the
tall
fence
of
the
DHS
stadium
around
midnight
and
with
the
stencil
 and
spray
paint,
painted
the
Austin
A
on
the
football
field.

 As
Danny
Gibson
explains
“I
had
broke
my
leg
(tibia
and
fibula)
in
football
practice
earlier
in
the
year
 after
having
a
cast
up
to
my
posterior,
it
was
later
put
in
a
cast
up
to
my
knee.

I
was
in
that
stupid
cast
 for
three
months.
I
managed
to
climb
the
fence
with
the
rest
of
the
guys.


We
painted
the
big
A
near
 the
sidelines
where
the
Decatur
High
Football
squad
would
be
standing
so
they
could
see
it.”


They
 managed
to
get
the
job
done
and
sneak
back
into
their
rooms.

The
next
day
it
began
to
rain,
and
it
 appeared
to
them
that
their
handy
work
had
been
trampled
and
stomped
to
nothing
but
a
black
mess.


 These
were
the
sort
of
things
that
went
on
between
the
two
high
schools.

Arriving
at
Austin
one
 morning
the
students
and
faculty
are
greeted
with
this
view.

Someone
had
rearranged
the
words,
just
a
 little.


 



Decatur
High
School
changes
the
letters
on
the
Austin
“Coming
Events’
sign.


The
plot
thickens…
a
modern
day
“Civil
War”
break
out.

Jeff
Coffey
relates
the
story.
“I
was
on
his
way
 home
that
Thursday
night
after
tossing
the
cannon
in
the
river
and
as
I
went
by
Austin
High
School,
near
 my
home,
I
noticed
a
car
and
a
group
of
boys
bashing
out
the
windows
at
the
school”

Jeff
said,

“I
took
 down
the
car
tag
number
and
called
it
in
to
the
Decatur
Police
anonymously.”

What
had
happened
was
 that
the
supposed
DHS
guards
on
duty
at
Ogle
Stadium
came
back
and
found
their
cannon
gone!

So
in
 retribution,
some
members
of
Decatur
High
came
to
Austin’s
campus
and
busted
out
nearly
two
 hundred
glass
windows.

I
remember
coming
to
school
and
seeing
all
the
busted
out
windows.

It
was
 quiet
a
scandal.

The
names
of
the
vandals
were
soon
found
out
and
they
or
should
I
say,
their
parents,
 had
to
pay
for
replacement
of
all
the
windows.


I
truly
don’t
know
who
was
involved.


 Another
anthem
was
quickly
put
together
by
the
boys
from
Austin.
 “You
broke
a
few
windows,
 You
played
a
little
prank,
 What
about
the
cannon,
 the
damned
thing
sank.”
 Friday
morning
came
around
and
as
the
group
met
at
Jeff’s
house
they
walked
to
school.

Darryl
 explains,
“Even
before
we
had
crossed
the
street,
students
were
coming
up
to
us
and
saying
that
they
 had
heard
that
we
were
involved
in
the
stealing
of
the
cannon!”

Jay
Jenkins
was
said
to
have
exclaimed
 to
the
students
who
asked
about
it,
“What
are
you
talking
about?

You
think
we
were
involved?”

Jay
 had
a
knack
for
telling
the
truth
and
being
able
to
skate
around
the
direct
questions
according
to
writer
 of
this
article.

“Jay
and
I
were
best
friends”
recalls
David
Hendriks,
so
this
short
story
is
dedicated
to
 him.





rd

Jay
Jenkins
Died
–
June
23 ,
1978
in
a
one
person
car
accident
having
fallen
asleep
at
the
wheel.


 Jay
had
diabetes
and
sometimes
went
in
to
insulin
shock
and
would
become
groggy.





 The
word
quickly
spread
and
the
culprits
soon
spread
word
to
each
other
at
school
that
they
needed
 some
damage
control.

Darryl
called
a
meeting
at
the
AHS
campus
“Keep
a
lid
on
it.”



Darryl
explained
 that
no
one
within
the
group
was
to
say
they
had
anything
to
do
with
it,
especially
in
light
of
what
had
 happened
to
the
windows
of
Austin’s
school.

The
rumors
soon
swirled
and
before
long
there
was
even
 an
Austin
student
who
actually
took
credit
for
snatching
the
cannon.

Still
others
have
claimed
that
there
 was
an
entire
group
that
had
gathered
around
the
bridge
and
watched
the
cannon
as
it
was
thrown
off!


 Talk
about
lying
low,
these
four
young
men
did
their
best
to
keep
out
of
the
limelight
and
to
their
credit
 not
many
people
to
this
day
know
who
were
involved.

But
the
scandal
was
already
the
talk
of
everyone
 at
Austin
High
on
the
day
of
the
“big
game.”

Everyone
was
asking
“Who
did
it?

Who
stole
the
cannon?

 Where
is
the
cannon
at?”

Keeping
the
lid
on
it
eventually
led
to
more
rumors
and
the
list
of
culprits
 soon
expanded.



 The
Assistant
Principal
of
Austin
High
School
in
1977
was
Mr.
Lorenzo
Jackson.

Coach
Jackson
taught
 Civics
while
I
was
at
Austin
and
was
well
respected.

He
taught
with
an
air
of
authority
and
knew
his
 subject
well.

He
was
known
for
his
interesting
lessons
and
for
his
fairness
but
he
was
also
feared
for
his
 ability
to
dish
out
a
paddling
on
the
butt
that
you
weren’t
soon
to
forget.

You
didn’t
want
to
be
called
in
 to
his
office
for
a
conversation
as
I
can
personally
attest!




 
 Mr.
Jackson
called
William
Littrell
into
his
office
that
fateful
Monday
morning.
Everyone
knew
the
Littrell
 brothers
including
Mr.
Jackson.

He
was
especially
familiar
with
William.





William
is
seen
here
in
one
of
his
mug
shots
behind
bars
and
wearing
his
Willie
Nelson
t‐shirt.

 The
Bruin
1976
 
 I
had
a
conversation
with
William
and
he
explains
the
story
to
me
this
way.

Mr.
Lorenzo
Jackson
asked,

 “William,
did
you
have
anything
to
do
with
this?

William
knew
the
vast
consequences
of
what
would
 happen
to
him
‐
had
he
been
a
party
to
this
illustrious
event.

He
pleaded
“No
Mr.
Jackson,
I
swear,
I
 didn’t
have
any
part
of
it.

I
was
sick
as
a
dog
at
home
and
you
can
even
ask
my
Dad!”

This
conversation
 went
on
like
this
for
about
a
half
hour
according
to
William.

William
happened
to
be
guilty
by
 association
only.

Poor
ole
William
was
thinking
to
himself
“Why
me
Lord?

What
did
I
ever
do?”



“Don't cross him, don't boss him. He's wild in his sorrow: He's ridin' an' hidin his pain. Don't fight him, don't spite him; Just wait till tomorrow, Maybe he'll ride on again.” Willie Nelson “The Red Headed Stranger”



 
 “I
swear,
it
wasn’t
me,
I
was
sick
at
home
in
the
bed”
says
William.

Coach
Lorenzo
Jackson
kept
asking
 me
“Where
is
the
cannon
at?”

William
finally
offered
up
”I
don’t
know
but
if
you
want
to
find
out
for
 yourself,
you’d
better
get
your
skin
suit
on
and
go
looking
for
it
in
the
river!”

According
to
William
as
a
 personal
testimony
“I
never
ratted
out
my
friends”
whom
he
knew
were
involved
in
this
escapade.

And
 no,
he
did
not
go
around
saying
he
had
anything
to
do
with
the
cannon
being
tossed
off
the
bridge!

 Mr.
Jackson
said
“William,
I
believe
you
in
spite
of
yourself.”
Mr.
Jackson
let
William
go
without
having
 the
face
the
broad
side
of
a
large
wooden
paddle
kept
in
his
desk.

Some
thirty‐four
years
later,
William
 Littrell
confessed
to
me
“I
would
have
been
part
of
it
if
I
could,
but
I
truly
was
sick
that
night.”

William
 resides
in
Vinemont
Alabama
where
he
with
the
help
of
his
five
brothers
run
the
“Littrell
Brothers
 Lumber
Company”

He
can
be
found
every
Sunday
morning
singing
in
the
choir
at
his
church
and
plays
 the
occasional
guitar.

Perhaps
if
you’ll
hum
a
few
bars
to
“The
Red
Headed
Stranger”
he’ll
whip
out
his
 guitar
and
demonstrate
his
talent.

 But
the
investigation
was
far
from
over.

Mr.
Bearl
Whitsett,
Principal
of
Austin
High
School
called
Jay
 Jenkins
into
his
office.



Mr.
Whitsett
asked
Jay
a
lot
of
questions
and
finally
let
him
go
with
no
formal
punishment.

Jay’s
father,
 Mr.
Jenkins,
asked
Jay
later
on
if
he
had
told
Mr.
Whitsett
the
truth.

Jay
said
“Yes,
I
told
the
truth,
he
 just
didn’t
ask
the
right
questions!

Apparently
Jay
had
a
real
talent
for
skirting
around
the
issues.

He
 would
have
made
a
great
lawyer.


 Mrs.
Jenkins
said
she
thinks
another
reason
Jay
was
let
go
so
easily
that
day
is
that
the
Jenkins’
were
 neighbors
with
the
Whitsett’s
a
few
years
before
when
they
were
living
on
12th
Avenue.

Mrs.
Jenkins
 said
“Bearl,
just
really
didn’t
want
to
know.”
She
thinks
it
was
because
of
their
relationship
with
him.


 The
Jenkins
had
moved
from
Southwest
Decatur
to
Southeast
Decatur
and
they
were
living
on
Country
 Club
Road
back
in
1976.

Jay
continued
at
Austin
High
School
and
his
younger
sister,
Jan,
transferred
to
 Decatur
High
School
her
sophomore
year.

Jan
was
a
Junior
Cheerleader
at
DHS
when
all
this
happened
 and
she
had
to
endure
quite
a
bit
of
suspicion
and
criticism
herself,
from
her
older
brother’s
 involvement
with
the
disappearance
of
the
cannon,
her
mother
explained
to
me.

Mr.
and
Mrs.
Jenkins
 now
reside
in
Marietta
Georgia
having
moved
there
from
Decatur
in
2005.


 But
the
questioning
didn’t
stop
there.

“It
must
have
been
a
week
later,
when
Poochie
O’Hara
calls
me
 on
the
telephone”
recalls
Glenda
Jenkins.

“I
see,
un‐huh,
do
tell,
you
don’t
say!”
is
how
I
imagine
the
 conversation
went.

Glenda
was
38
years
old
at
the
time
and
she
speaks
to
her
husband,
John
Roland
 Jenkins
about
the
incident
as
soon
as
she
could.

Mr.
Jenkins
said
“I
had
a
lot
of
sorting
out
to
do!”





Mr.
and
Mrs.
Jenkins
recall
that
they
sat
Jay
down
and
asked
him
about
the
cannon
incident.

“Jay
told
 me,
that
Decatur
was
going
‘B B ang,
bang,
bang ’ 
every
time
they
scored
a
touchdown.”

Mr.
Jenkins
 continues
the
story,
“Dad
we
just
got
tired
of
hearing
that
cannon
go
off
all
the
time
against
Austin.”


 Mr.
Jenkins
asked
Jay
‐
“Where
is
the
cannon
at
now?”
Jay
being
evasive
as
he
was,
said
“Well,
Dad
all
I
 can
tell
you
is
that
nobody’s
going
to
steal
it
again!”


 That
explanation
wasn’t
going
to
work
this
time.
Mr.
Jenkins
asked
Jay
again.

“Where
is
the
cannon
at?”

 Jay
said,
“Well,
it’s
in
some
water
somewhere.”

Mr.
Jenkins
said,
“What
do
you
mean?”

Jay
replied
 “Well
if
you
are
going
to
go
find
it,
you’ll
have
to
swim!”


Jay
was
literally
over
a
barrel,
this
time
not
the
 barrel
of
the
cannon
but
the
barrel
he
was
soon
going
to
be
tarred
and
feathered
in,
if
he
didn’t
come
 up
with
some
plausible
facts.


 Mr.
Jenkins
getting
a
little
miffed
by
this
time
says
“Ok,
Jay
I’m
going
to
ask
you
one
more
time,
where
is
 the
cannon
at?”

Jay
says
“Well,
do
you
know
where
the
middle
of
the
bridge
is
crossing
the
river?

It’s
 there
at
the
bottom
of
the
river!”

Then
only,
then,
Jay
‘fesses
up’
to
his
parents
the
whole
story.
 That
didn’t
“settle”
too
well
with
Roland
Jenkins.

Jay’s
was
“grounded”
and
part
of
his
punishment
was
 that
he
was
going
to
have
to
find
a
way
to
get
it
out
of
the
river
and
return
it
to
Decatur
High
School.

 Mr.
Jenkins
recalls
that
both
he
and
Jay
had
become
certified
scuba
divers
in
1976.

Mr.
Jenkins
plan
was
 that
he
and
Jay
would
dive
down
to
the
bottom
of
the
Tennessee
River
and
find
the
cannon.

He
told
me
 that
they
would
rig
a
balloon
bag
and
float
it
to
the
surface
or
tie
a
chain
around
it
and
hoist
it
up
to
 their
boat.

They
never
got
around
to
doing
that
as
Jay
died
in
a
tragic
accident
soon
after
graduating
 Austin
in
June
1978.


 Game
night
–
November
4,
1977.

Austin
faced
Decatur
at
Ogle
Stadium.

Tension
was
really
tight.

 Decatur
High
School
students
were
not
amused,
not
in
the
least!

The
night
was
dampened
by
a
cold
 hard
rain.

Thankfully
no
fights
broke
out
that
night.
 I
remember
this
night
very
well.

As
a
17
year
old
student
of
AHS
at
the
time,
I
had
taken
on
the
role
of
 photographer
for
the
Austin
High
School
annual
staff.

The
photograph
below
is
one
of
the
pictures
that
 appeared
in
the
Austin
yearbook.

I
took
this
picture
that
night
with
my
father’s
Canon
F‐1
camera.

I
 remember
it
well
because
I
found
out
later
the
135mm
camera
lense
was
not
waterproof!

I
had
to
pay

 $135.00
to
have
the
lense
cleaned
up
from
the
job
I
had
working
at
a
gas
station
on
6th
Avenue.





Photo
and
Comments
made
at
the
time
‐
David
Hendriks.




 “Take
off
your
pants
 Get
on
a
Boat,
 Gotta
go
swimming
 Cause
your
cannon
won’t
float.”
 A
banner
was
made
and
it
was
placed
over
the
fence
rails
for
the
Decatur
High
students
to
see.

Kelley
 O’Hara
Holloway
recalls
“I
remember
making
a
big
huge
sign
that
said
BANG!

Every
time
DHS
scored
 during
the
game
we
held
up
that
sign.

Not
much
consolation.

Austin
went
3
and
9
that
year
in
football.


 



Decatur
High
School
Yearbook
‐
1978
 Even
though
the
heckling
cheers
from
Austin
students
helped
encourage
the
team,
the
Black
Bears
went
 down
to
the
Red
Raiders,
21‐0
as
the
final
buzzer
sounded.

The
Red
Raiders
got
the
final
say
on
who
 was
city
champs
that
year.

The
Austin
Black
Bears
went
down,
but
you
want
to
know
something
else
 friends
and
neighbors
–
so
did
the
cannon!

The
cannon
did
not
get
fired
after
the
three
touchdowns
 times
that
night.

And
for
many
nights
to
come!


 From
the
1998
Decatur
Daily
article.

“Former
Decatur
High
principal,
James
Milner
is
reluctant
to
point
 fingers.”

“One
night
it
just
came
up
missing.”
“It
was
rumored
that
the
Austin
Boys
just
got
tired
of
 hearing
it
shot
off
and
they
ran
off
with
it.”

“We
had
that
caisson
rolling
around
without
a
barrel
for
I
 don’t
know
how
long,
then
we
had
another
made.

But
it
never
did
look
the
same.”


Truth
is
“It
looked
 awful.”
according
to
John
Godwin,
DHS
Class
of
1979
–
John
said
“Some
Dad
had
taken
a
white
PVC
pipe,
 sprayed
it
black
and
mounted
it
to
the
carriage.”

“They
tried
shooting
a
few
M‐80s
in
it
but
it
was
never
 the
same.”

The
old
DHS
Key
Club
cannon,
minus
the
barrel,
was
unseen
and
unheard
of
for
years
and
 years
to
come.

The
tradition
of
shooting
off
the
cannon
had
died
but
the
tension
remained.

 As
the
old
saying
goes
“What
goes
around
comes
around.”
There
are
always
consequences
to
our
 behavior.

Not
only
had
a
bunch
of
windows
been
knocked
out
at
Austin
High
School,
the
shenanigans
 continued
back
in
1977.

Arriving
at
Austin
High
School
soon
after
this
illustrious
event,
the
word
soon
 spread
around
the
Austin
campus
that
the
head
of
our
illustrious
mascot
figure,
the
Austin
High
Black
 Bear,
was
amiss!





The
Black
Bear
stood
about
six
foot
high
and
eight
foot
long
in
the
foyer
of
the
gymnasium
which
is
 today
called
the
“Joe
Jones
Gymnasium”
in
honor
of
Coach
Jones
who
had
made
a
reputation
for
hard
 work
and
winning.





 Someone
had
cut
the
head
completely
off
the
Austin
High
Black
Bear,
much
to
the
chagrin
of
the
Austin
 students
and
faculty.

Students
were
gathered
around
and
talking
amongst
themselves
wondering
what
 had
happened
and
who
could
have
pulled
off
such
a
tumultuous
stunt?
 
 Decatur
High
School
had
its
tradition
of
having
its
cheerleaders
with
the
cannon
as
the
background
of
 many
photographs
as
shown
here
in
these
photographs.
 



 1966
Decatur
High
School
Annual



1966
Decatur
High
School
Annual
 
 
 Austin
High
School
too
had
its
tradition
of
having
its
cheerleader
photographs
taken
in
front
of
the
big
 Black
Bear.





Lee
Miles,
was
a
sophomore
at
Decatur
High
School
in
the
fall
of
1977
and
a
“Class
of
1980”
graduate.


 He
describes
the
story
of
the
caper
this
way.

“Mark
King
came
up
with
the
idea.”

“He
and
I
were
 buddies
at
the
time
and
I’m
not
sure
of
the
month
but
it
was
on
a
Friday
night.”

Mark
climbed
up
the
 side
of
Lee’s
house
around
2:00
AM
to
Lee’s
second
floor
bedroom.

Mark
and
Lee
had
snuck
out
several
 times
in
the
past
and
this
was
not
unusual
for
them.

Mark,
knocks
on
the
window
and
wakes
Lee
up
 from
a
sound
sleep
and
says
“Hey
wake
up!

We
are
going
to
go
somewhere!”

Lee
exclaims
“Huh,
what,
 where?”

Mark
says
“We
are
going
to
Austin
and
we
are
going
to
get
back
at
those
guys
for
throwing
the
 cannon
in
the
River!

We
are
going
to
get
the
Bear!”




 “That’s
fine,
let’s
do
it”
Lee
says.

In
the
pre‐dawn
hours
Mark
and
Lee
ride
over
to
the
campus
of
Austin
 High
School.

Mark
drives
around
to
the
back
of
the
gym.

Now
on
foot
they
were
looking
for
an
 entrance
into
the
gym.

They
soon
found
an
unlocked
window.

The
windows
were
about
“4’
x
1.5’
and
 swung
outwards
from
the
bottom.
Lee
helped
Mark
through
the
window
and
Mark
then
raced
around
 to
the
front
and
opened
up
a
door
for
Lee.

Mark
had
brought
a
hack
saw
and
a
BB
gun
he
had
gotten
in
 the
fourth
grade.


They
came
loaded
for
bear!






They
were
fully
prepared
for
action
and
spoiling
for
a
fight.
 “The
Black
Bear”
stood
approximately
six
feet
tall
and
was
six
foot
long
on
a
plywood
platform
with
its
 left
foot
on
a
stump.


The
bear
was
on
rollers
so
it
could
be
rolled
around.

It
stood
proudly
in
Austin’s
 gym
foyer.


 Even
if
they
wanted
to
take
the
whole
Bear,
it
wouldn’t
have
gone
through
the
doors!

But
they
couldn’t
 leave
without
trying
to
decapitate
the
bear’s
head.


Can
you
imagine
these
two
sixteen
year
old
boys
 trying
to
cut
through
the
Bear’s
neck,
approximately
five
feet
in
circumference,
with
a
little
metal
hack
 saw
blade?


 “It
took
an
hour
and
half
to
cut
the
bear’s
head
off”
an
exasperated
Lee
explains!

“We
took
turns
 hacking
at
it!

They
twisted,
pulled,
yanked
and
finally
got
the
head
off.

“I
was
sweating
to
death
it
was
 so
hot
and
we
were
scared
out
of
our
wits
that
we
would
be
caught.”
“We
had
a
BB
gun
with
us
and
we
 shot
a
few
lights
outs
and
a
dinged
a
few
windows.”

I
can
just
imagine
if
the
police
had
shown
up
at
that
 time
and
caught
them
in
the
middle
of
their
little
endeavor
holding
a
BB
gun
and
the
Black
Bear’s
head!

 I
suppose
the
police,
not
knowing
what
was
going
on
and
only
seeing
a
rifle
would
have
immediately
 pulled
down
on
them
‐
then
and
there.



 The
young
men
ran
off
putting
the
Bear’s
head
in
the
back
of
Mark’s
car
and
drove
back
to
Lee’s
house
 just
as
the
sun
was
coming
up.

Lee
put
the
Bear’s
head
in
his
bedroom
closet.

Lee
was
exhausted
and
 he
sleeps
in
on
Saturday
morning.

About
10
o’clock
the
next
morning,
Mark
knocks
on
the
door.

Mrs.
 Miles
answers
and
tells
Mark
“Lee
is
in
his
room.

Come
on
in.”

Mark
opens
Lee’s
bedroom
door
and
 tells
Lee
“I
don’t
think
this
is
a
safe
place
to
keep
the
Bear’s
head
so
let
me
take
it
with
me.”

Lee
says
 “That
is
fine,
I
don’t
care
‐
I
just
want
to
get
some
sleep!”

That
was
the
last
time
that
Lee
saw
of
the
 actual
Bear’s
head.

He
did
however
see
a
photo
in
“The
Decatur
Daily”
with
a
DHC
student,
holding
the
 Bear’s
head
in
a
photo.



 Let
us
fast
forward
to
Monday
afternoon
to
the
Decatur
High
School
campus.

The
rumor
mill
had
 already
cranked
up.
Rumor
was
at
Decatur
High
School,
that
someone
had
taken
the
Austin
High
School
 Black
Bear’s
head
off
and
Lee
was
to
blame!
Lees
says
that
Mark
King
apparently
had
gone
out
showing
 the
Bear’s
head
off!

He
had
gone
to
a
party
Saturday
night
at
Pat
Hennessy’s
house
with
the
Bear’s
 Head
in
his
car.

Mark
puts
it
on
his
head
and
walks
in
the
door.

What
a
riot
that
must
have
been!


He
 then
hands
it
out
to
the
party
goers.

Several
of
them
tried
it
on,
danced
about
and
had
a
good
belly‐ ripping
time
with
it.




 According
to
Peggy
Huey
McKleroy,
an
Austin
High
student,
she
was
a
witness
to
the
fun
that
the
 Decatur
bunch
were
having
with
the
Bear’s
head.

Peggy
tells
me
she
was
at
another
party
where
the
 Bear’s
head
showed
up.

“I
was
at
Curtis
Brannon’s
house
with
a
bunch
of
Decatur
High
students
and
 witnessed
the
fun
they
were
having.”

Peggy
says
“I
asked
to
borrow
Dr.
Brannon’s
phone
and
after
 calling
several
of
the
guys
who
were
in
on
the
taking
of
the
cannon
to
no
avail,
got
Jay
Jenkins
on
the
 phone
and
reported
what
I
was
seeing.”





The
decapitated
Bear’s
head
was
proudly
displayed
by
Mark
King
for
a
week
or
two.

According
to
Lee,
 when
asked
where
he
got
it,
Mark’s
story
was
“Lee
Miles
cut
the
thing
off
and
I
got
it
from
him!”

Lee
 exclaims
“He
took
no
responsibility
in
his
involvement
whatsoever!”



 Lee
tells
me
that
on
Tuesday,
the
talk
got
bigger,
on
Wednesday
it
was
sweltering
and
by
Thursday
the
 rumor
mill
had
reached
epic
proportions.

Lee
was
a
hero!

Lee
even
had
a
jersey
made
up
with
the
 letters
“BEAR
HUNTER”
across
the
back
of
his
jersey
which
he
wore
as
he
roamed
the
halls
of
Decatur
 High
School.

So
apparently
he
isn’t
as
innocent
as
he
proclaims.

 James
Milner
was
the
principal
of
Decatur
High
School
in
1977.



It
was
Thursday
afternoon
and
Lee
was
 sitting
in
class.

The
intercom
blasts
out
“Can
you
send
Lee
Miles
down
to
the
principal’s
office?”

 Everyone
stood
up
and
clapped
their
hands
together,
according
to
Lee.

Off
Lee
goes
dragging
his
heels
 making
his
way
to
the
dreaded
encounter
with
the
principal.

Lee
says
“I
had
been
suspended
so
many
 times
it
wasn’t
funny,
but
this
time
it
was
serious.”

Lee
walks
into
the
principal’s
office.

There
was
Mr.
 Milner
sitting
there
with
two
of
Decatur’s
finest.

Mr.
Milner
said
“Lee,
I
want
you
to
be
very
clear
with
 these
gentlemen
and
I
want
you
to
tell
them
exactly
what
happened.”

So
Lee
explained
exactly
what
 happened
down
to
the
last
detail.

The
Decatur
police
officers
stood
in
disbelief.

They
said,
“Are
you
 sure
of
what
you
are
saying?’
They
were
astonished
by
his
honesty.

Lee
said
“You
asked
me
to
tell
you
 the
truth,
what
more
do
you
want
me
to
say?”

“It’s
the
truth!


 Lee
was
dismissed
and
went
home.

At
7:00
that
night,
there
was
a
knock
on
the
door
of
the
Miles
house
 in
 Southeast
 Decatur.
 
 It
 was
 two
 officers
 from
 the
 Decatur
 Police
 Department.
 
 They
 introduced
 themselves
to
Mrs.
Miles.

They
said
they
were
there
to
issue
an
arrest
for
Lee’s
involvement
in
the
Bear
 head’s
decapitation
and
the
break
in
at
Austin
High
School.
Lee
says
he
got
“three
weekends
in
Juvenile
 Detention”
in
Hartselle,
Alabama
and
had
to
pay
a
$250.00
fine.

He
also
had
to
pay
restitution
for
the
 fiberglass
 repair
 needed
 to
 put
 the
 Bear’s
 head
 back
 on.
 
 Lee
 says
 that
 one
 of
 the
 kind
 police
 officers
 knew
a
little
about
fiberglass
repair
and
offered
to
help
do
the
job.


 Lee
 says
 “It
 was
 a
 life
 changing
 event
 for
 me
 that
 is
 for
 sure!”
 
 Lee
 Miles
 now
 lives
 in
 the
 Denver
 Colorado
area.

Lee
states
that
even
in
the
court
of
law,
Mark
refused
to
take
any
responsibility
in
the
 incident
therefore
they
are
not
on
the
best
of
terms.

In
hindsight,
Lee
confesses,
“I
really
wish
we
had
 thrown
the
darn
Bear’s
head
off
the
bridge!”


 Mr.
 Bearl
 Whitsett
 former
 Austin
 principal
 recalls
 it
 being
 a
 big
 shock,
 in
 a
 Decatur
 Daily
 article.

 Whitsett
said
the
beast’s
tongue
had
been
previously
cut
out,
but
nothing
prepared
him
for
the
ghastly
 sight.

“He
was
a
funny‐looking
thing.

We
walked
in
one
day
and
there
he
stood
–
a
bear
with
no
head.”

 Whitsett
 said
 it
 appeared
 that
 the
 culprit
 had
 rolled
 the
 bear
 on
 his
 wooden
 platform
 from
 the
 gym
 foyer
to
the
back
door,
intending
to
steal
the
mascot.

“He
couldn’t
get
it
through
the
door
because
it
 had
one
of
those
dividers,
so
he
just
cut
the
head
off.”




Bearl
Whitsett
9/19/2008
 Photo
taken
by
David
Hendriks
 
 The
bear’s
head
eventually
was
put
back
on
the
Austin
High
school’s
life
sized
fiberglass,
Black
Bear.

To
 this
day
it
stands
in
the
foyer
of
Austin’s
Auditorium,
minus
the
rolling
platform.





If
you
happen
to
get
a
chance
to
see
this
big
fellow,
be
sure
to
look
around
the
neck
for
the
fiberglass
 surgery
that
was
performed
putting
his
head
back
on!




 Over
the
years
the
Black
Bear
he
has
had
his
tongue
cut
out,
some
of
his
teeth
pulled
out,
its
head
cut
 off
and
suffered
other
indignities
as
well
as
seen
many
triumphs.


 



The
Bruin
–
1982
–
Page
31
 
 Whatever
became
of
the
High
School
anchor
many
of
my
AHS
classmates
asked?
 Students
often
gathered
around
the
old
anchor
for
conversations
and
photographs.

It
sat
in
the
middle
 of
Austin
High
School’s
campus.

It
was
painted
Austin’s
colors
–
Black
and
Orange.




 The
Austin
High
School
“Bruin”
Yearbooks
from
1975
through
1978
 are
filled
with
pictures
of
students
gathered
around
and
on
top
of
the
old
Navy
Anchor.


Although
it
was
painted
many
times,
I
can
safely
say
it
was
never
stolen.

What
I
can’t
say
is
that
no
one
 ever
attempted
to
steal
it.

Apparently
someone
did
one
night.

According
to
sources
the
villains
in
this



case,
backed
their
car
up
to
the
anchor
and
tied
a
rather
large
chain
around
their
bumper
to
the
Austin
 anchor.

“All
right
now
‐
give
it
a
little
pull,”
is
what
I
imagine
the
pranksters
said
to
the
driver.

That
 didn’t
achieve
their
results.
I
can
hear
them
now,
“Back
up
a
few
feet
and
give
it
a
little
slack!

Ok,
ready,
 now
stomp
on
it!”

I
can
just
see
it
now.

The
driver
gave
the
mighty
anchor
a
mighty
tug!


 Coming
to
school
the
next
morning
the
staff
and
students
at
Austin
were
amused
to
find
their
Anchor
 with
a
chain
tied
to
the
bumper
of
a
car.

The
mighty
anchor
not
only
weighed
5,000
pounds
it
was
 welded
into
the
concrete
ground!

It
is
reported
by
an
accurate
source
that
each
link
in
the
anchor’s
 chain
weighed
110
pounds.
I
would
love
to
know
who
was
behind
that
little
adventure
and
hear
their
 side
of
the
story.

 Yes
indeed
the
iron
boat
anchor
belonging
to
the
Navy
was
painted
many
a
time
but
it
was
never
hauled
 off
and
thrown
into
the
Tennessee
River!

So
the
question
remains,
where
is
the
anchor?


 Many
students
at
Austin
High
School
remember
Commander
Hatton.

After
he
left
Austin
in
1979,
he
 taught
at
Headland
High
School
in
Headland
Alabama.



 
 According
to
William
C.
Hatton
Jr.
“In
the
Summer
of
1979
my
dad
had
the
National
Guard
pick
up
the
 anchor
and
it
was
stored
at
the
Armory
on
the
Beltline
until
he
arranged
for
a
helicopter
from
Fort
 Rucker
(Training
Mission)
to
swing
by
and
pick
it
up
and
deliver
it
to
Headland
International
Airport.
It
 was
loaded
on
a
flatbed
trailer
and
as
your
picture
shows
it
is
sitting
in
front
of
Headland
High
School.




“He
did
this
without
permission
from
anyone
at
AHS.
But
it
was
still
US
Navy
property
and
the
school
 could
not
stop
it
from
being
moved.
He
did
not
see
eye
to
eye
with
certain
people
or
person
if
you
know
 what
I
mean.
Dad
passed
away
in
2003.”




 Ronnie
Morgan
(AHS
Class
of
1978)
reported
to
me
that
the
Navy
anchor
has
just
recently
been
moved
 in
September
2010
to
Rehobeth
High
School
in
Dothan
Alabama.




Keller
Bridge
Demolition.
 In
the
summer
of
1998
the
Keller
Memorial
Bridge
was
at
the
end
of
its
life
span,
having
being
opened
in
 1928.





The
beautiful
structure
had
long
been
a
fixture
of
the
Decatur
Community.


It
was
being
forced
out
to
 make
way
for
the
new
bridge
that
was
being
built
across
the
Tennessee
River
in
Decatur
in
the
name
of
 progress.
 
 The
 barges
 and
 tugs
 that
 worked
 the
 mighty
 Tennessee
 had
 often
 collided
 with
 the
 bridge
 trying
to
make
their
way
through
the
narrow
draw
bridge
opening.

I
personally
saw
the
scars
of
such
 accidents
 from
 the
 water
 level.
 
 I
 love
 the
 Tennessee
 River
 and
 I
 loved
 this
 old
 bridge
 and
 often
 wondered
of
the
stories
she
could
tell.


 I
was
given
a
love
for
the
river
from
my
father,
John
Hendriks
and
he
too
from
his
father
Louis
 Victor
 Hendriks
often
called
“Skipper”
by
his
friends,
for
his
love
of
the
Ouachita
River
and
his
many
custom
 made
boats
Camden
Arkansas.


This
is
a
photograph
taken
in
1924
of
my
grandfather
and
the
air‐boat
 he
made.





My
 grandfather
 claimed
 it
 was
 the
 second
 boat
 of
 its
 kind
 ever
 made.
 
 He
 saw
 the
 first
 one
 in
 Baton
 Rouge
Louisiana
and
he
came
back
to
Camden
Arkansas
and
made
his
own
from
memory.

I
remember
 sitting
on
Grandpas
knee.

He
said
it
would
go
about
75
miles
per
hour
across
the
water.

“I
came
around
 a
bend
in
the
river
really
fast
and
going
side‐ways.

It
scared
the
people
scrubbing
their
clothes
on
the
 washboard
 so
 much
 that
 they
 threw
 their
 clothes
 in
 the
 air
 and
 ran
 off
 screaming
 “Jesus,
 is
 coming,
 Jesus
is
coming!”

I
remember
Grandpa
chuckling
about
this
and
me
too
as
he
tickled
me.




 I
couldn’t
wait
for
my
Dad
to
come
home
from
his
job
at
Redstone
Arsenal
because
we
would
take
off
to
 the
Tennessee
River.

Many
times
we
would
climb
the
spires
of
the
Keller
Memorial
Bridge
to
jump
off
 into
the
river.

Often
times
we
would
sit
directly
under
the
draw
bridge
and
just
watch
and
listen
to
the
 cars
hum
across
the
draw
bridge
sections
above.

It
had
a
distinct
sound
that
refuses
to
be
erased
from
 my
memory.

Many
times
we
watched
as
the
towboat
captain
of
the
“Mary
Ethel”
maneuvered
his
 barges
between
the
Keller
Bridge
and
the
railroad
tracks
which
would
spin
around
on
its
axis.




The Port of Decatur's Mary Ethel towboat pushes barges up and down the Tennessee River. Mary Ethel, a twin screw push boat with 800 horsepower, was built in 1971.


 But
up
on
top
of
the
“Keller
bridge”
the
automobile
drivers
would
have
to
wait
for
up
to
a
half
hour
for
 all
the
traffic
to
clear
once
the
draw
bridge
was
lowered.


To
the
citizens
of
Decatur
it
was
just
par
for
 the
course
and
a
part
of
our
lives.

It
was
a
slower
paced
back
then.

No
instant
communications
via
cell
 phones.
 
 It
 was
 a
 time
 to
 get
 out
 of
 the
 car
 and
 just
 watch
 what
 was
 going
 on
 and
 talk
 to
 the
 fellow
 onlookers.





Photo
taken
1978
by
David
Hendriks


Many
civic
minded
citizens
did
not
want
the
Keller
bridge
to
be
completely
destroyed.

Attempts
were
 made
to
keep
it
partially
intact
so
that
visitors
could
walk
the
bridge.

Proposals
were
offered
to
set
up
 shops
along
the
bridge
to
promote
tourism
and
other
commercial
interests.

Efforts
were
made
to
save
 the
 bridge
 from
 destruction
 but
 to
 no
 avail.
 
 It
 would
 cost
 too
 much
 to
 maintain
 the
 old
 “Keller
 Memorial
Bridge”
and
none
of
the
money
that
was
budgeted
to
demolish
the
bridge���could
be
obtained
 for
future
uses.

The
old
bridge
was
doomed
and
had
to
come
down.

It
was
taken
down
in
stages
with
 dynamite
 blasts
 that
 took
 down
 sections
 at
 a
 time.
 
 It
 was
 carefully
 orchestrated
 with
 many
 environmental
concerns
as
well.


 An
article
appeared
in
The
Decatur
Daily
on
Saturday
morning,
July
11,
1998.





This
publicity
set
off
a
firestorm
of
interest
in
the
story
of
this
cannon
find.

Many
citizens
of
Decatur
 Alabama
had
their
own
story
about
the
cannon
found
at
the
bottom
of
the
Tennessee
River.

The
 Decatur
Daily
was
inundated
with
phone
calls
each
with
their
own
story
of
the
cannon
found
at
the
 bottom
of
the
river.

Was
it
a
civil
war
relic
tossed
into
the
river
to
keep
it
out
of
the
hands
of
advancing
 Union
forces?

Or
could
this
be
the
same
cannon
that
was
tossed
off
the
bridge
back
in
1977?

The
 Decatur
Daily
followed
up
with
a
few
more
articles.





In
 this
 article
 the
 writer
 Karen
 Middleton
 says
 that
 the
 taking
 of
 the
 cannon
 was
 in
 retaliation
 of
 the
 Bear’s
head
being
decapitated.
That
is
wrong.

It
was
the
other
way
around.

The
article
also
reports
that
 they
found
the
cannon
150
feet
from
the
Keller
Memorial
Bridge.


If
indeed
they
discovered
a
cannon
in
 that
area
then
it
would
not
be
the
cannon
tossed
off
the
bridge
that
night
on
November
3rd
1977.

But
 with
the
security
being
so
tight
at
the
time,
I
have
wondered
if
perhaps
they
said
this,
to
throw
the
scent
 off
the
trail.

A
civil
war
cannon
was
estimated
to
be
worth
$20,000
to
$50,000.

The
officials
of
Decatur
 didn’t
want
anyone
diving
around
looking
for
spoils
and
besides
that
the
Mayor
of
Decatur
had
already
 laid
claim
to
the
cannon.

Certainly
the
cannon
thrown
off
the
bridge
that
night
in
1977
would
not
have
 drifted
 two
 feet
 after
 hitting
 the
 water
 and
 it
 would
 have
 sat
 exactly
 where
 it
 landed.
 
 No
 amount
 of
 current
would
have
pushed
it
anywhere.
 
 Still
 another
 article
 appears
 that
 says
 “4
 cannons
 believed
 sighted
 under
 historic
 Keller
 bridge.”
 
 This
 only
added
fuel
to
the
fire.





Indeed
the
plot
thickens.
The
article
above
was
never
substantiated.
Joe
Hollis
is
now
deceased.

There
 were
no
follow
up
articles
concerning
the
cannon
or
any
other
cannons
being
raised
from
the
river.


The
 question
remains
–
“Where
is
the
cannon
at?”


 Robert
Parham
is
the
owner
of
the
“Blue
and
Gray
Museum”
on
Bank
Street
and
a
DHS
Class
of
1966.

 http://www.rparhamsrelics.com/

Mr.
Parham
is
considered
an
expert
on
Civil
War
history
in
the
city
of
 Decatur.


 Robert
 has
 heard
 the
 story
 of
 the
 DHS
 cannon
 barrel
 being
 tossed
 into
 the
 river
 many
 times.
 
 I
 interviewed
Mr.
Parham
at
his
shop
 and
he
said.
“Certainly
if
there
were
any
Civil
War
Cannon
at
the
 bottom
of
the
river,
it
would
have
been
raised!”

“It
would
have
taken
many
permits
and
authorizations
 from
state
and
federal
agencies
but
it
would
have
been
brought
to
the
surface.”

Mr.
Parham
continues.
 “If
 it
 was
 the
 old
 Decatur
 High
 cannon
 it
 would
 have
 been
 recovered
 by
 now.”
 
 Robert
 is
 not
 too
 convinced
that
it
was
ever
tossed
in
the
river
in
the
first
place
in
the
first
place.





Mr.
Parham
recalls
talking
to
the
Bridge
Lift
tender,
Coy
Clem,
and
he
told
me
he
never
saw
a
thing!

Mr.
 Clem
passed
away
September
19,
2010
at
the
age
of
87
after
serving
many
years
with
the
Decatur
Dixie
 Youth
and
the
Boys
Club.
 Robert
recalls
the
time
when
the
Keller
Bridge
was
being
brought
down.

He
said
there
was
a
floating
 platform
that
the
diver’s
used
as
their
base
station.

Robert
said
“The
divers
were
at
least
150
feet
west
 of
 the
 Keller
 Memorial
 Bridge
 working
 in
 that
 area.”
 
 
 
 He
 carefully
 described
 the
 story
 and
 witnesses
 who
can
attest
to
this
fact.
“There
is
no
way
a
cannon
tossed
off
the
bridge
could
have
drifted
that
far!”

 I
 concurred
 with
 him.
 
 But
 I
 suggested
 “What
 if
 the
 divers
 were
 doing
 something
 else
 that
 day
 like
 relocating
 mussels
 and
 not
 looking
 for
 the
 cannon?”
 I
 don’t
 think
 they
 were
 over
 the
 sight
 of
 the
 Decatur
 High
 School
 cannon
 or
 anywhere
 close.
 
 I
 wondered
 to
 myself,
 if
 the
 DHS
 cannon
 were
 discovered,
why
wasn’t
it
brought
up?


 The
 story
 of
 the
 cannon
 continues
 to
 this
 day.
 
 Over
 the
 years
 people
 continue
 to
 ask
 “Where
 is
 the
 cannon
now?”



The
answer
comes
in
two
parts.


 Part
 A
 ‐
 The
 barrel
 to
 the
 cannon
 is
 still
 at
 the
 bottom
 of
 the
 Tennessee
 River,
 sleeping
 with
 the
 whiskered
catfish.



 Part
B
‐
The
caisson,
wheels
and
axles
sat
unattended
hidden
away
under
the
bleachers
at
Ogle
stadium
 so
long
that
only
the
person
knew
where
it
was,
was
the
person
who
put
it
there!


 “I
guess
it
was
around
2005
or
so”
explains
John
Godwin
–
Class
of
DHS
1979.

“I
was
helping
tear
down
 a
float
that
had
been
in
the
homecoming
parade
the
day
before.

Nobody
had
heard
from
the
cannon
 for
years
and
I
was
reminiscing
about
the
cannon.

I
was
telling
the
story
of
the
cannon
and
wondering
 aloud
about
where
it
could
be.”

I
was
overheard
by
Mitch
Warren.

Mitch
was
in
charge
of
maintenance
 at
 Decatur
 High
 School
 and
 he
 said
 “I
 know
 exactly
 where
 it
 is!”
 
 He
 led
 John
 deep
 beneath
 of
 the
 structure
of
the
Ogle
Stadium
bleachers.

John
is
quoted
“It
was
in
a
room,
behind
a
room,
behind
the
 Austin
High
School’s
locker
room.

There
was
a
little
opening
in
the
wall
and
Mitch
shined
a
flashlight
 back
some
fifty
feet
where
we
could
see
the
wheel
of
the
cannon.”


 John
Godwin
was
very
excited
to
see
the
cannon
carriage!

His
excitement
turned
to
a
personal
interest
 in
seeing
the
cannon
restored
to
“its
glory
days”
and
John
sets
about
doing
just
that.

John
said
“I
called
 up
about
ten
of
my
old
friends
and
we
go
to
the
ball
field
just
before
a
Decatur
football
game.”

“We
 managed
 to
 move
 things
 around
 and
 brought
 the
 old
 cannon
 outside
 where
 is
 caused
 quite
 a
 stir
 amongst
the
football
players.

Coach
Adkins
was
not
pleased
with
my
actions
that
night
because
it
was
 taking
the
focus
off
the
ball
game!”


 But
 John
 was
 on
 a
 mission.
 
 He
 met
 with
 the
 principal
 of
 DHS,
 Mike
 Ward
 and
 the
 superintendent
 of
 education,
Sam
Houston
and
the
Decatur
Fire
Marshall.

Why
the
Fire
Marshall
you
ask?

Because
if
you
 are
going
to
fire
a
cannon
full
of
gun
powder
after
“nine‐eleven”,
you
had
better
make
sure
you
have
 the
law
on
your
side.

Imagine
the
fuss
and
commotion
there
would
be
amongst
the
neighbors,
including
 Decatur
 General
 Hospital
 just
 across
 the
 street
 from
 the
 stadium.
 
 You
 wouldn’t
 want
 to
 cause
 a
 problem
with
the
patients
in
intensive
care
would
you?



Decatur
 High
 School
 enlisted
 the
 help
 of
 Robert
 Slack
 former
 History
 teacher
 and
 current
 Vocation
 teacher
at
Decatur
High
School.

He
returned
the
cannon
to
its
former
glory.

Every
Friday
night
at
the
 Decatur
 High
 home
 football
 games,
 Mr.
 Slack
 and
 his
 assistant,
 with
 the
 help
 of
 a
 golf
 cart,
 roll
 the
 cannon
back
to
a
spot
in
the
Northwest
corner
of
the
field
at
Ogle
Stadium.





 



 September
3,
2010
–
Robert
Slack
–
Keeper
of
the
Cannon
–
Decatur
High
School
–
Ogle
Stadium.
 
 As
I
interviewed
Robert
on
Friday
night,
September
3rd,
2010,
I
was
excited
to
see
the
cannon
up
close.

I
 marveled
at
the
job
he
had
done
restoring
the
reproduction
Civil
War
Cannon.


I
made
mention
that
the
 barrel
is
no
longer
held
by
straps
to
the
trunnion
plate.

Robert
said,
“No,
I
made
certain
it
wasn’t
going
 anywhere
this
time!”

Indeed
it
is
not,
as
it
is
welded
to
the
carriage
and
for
another
good
reason
too,
it
 packs
a
mighty
mean
punch!
 Robert
had
done
his
research
well,
back
in
2005.

He
found
the
place
where
it
had
been
originally
 purchased
in
the
fall
of
1964.

Dixie
Gun
Works
of
Union
City
Tennessee
is
still
in
business
today.

 www.dixiegunworks.com

“I
was
able
to
order
the
exact
same
replica
barrel
that
the
Red
Raiders
cannon
 had
on
it
originally.”

Robert
continues.

“When
we
got
the
cannon
it
was
a
mess.

Several
of
the
wooden
 spindles
were
cracked
and
missing
when
we
found
it.”

He
pointed
out
several
of
the
spindles
he
had



made
in
the
Vocational
Education
shop
to
me
as
we
walked
around
it.

“It
had
been
painted
all
kinds
of
 different
colors
over
the
years
no
doubt
by
opposing
teams.”
he
offered
up
to
the
author
of
this
article.


 John
Godwin
says
they
were
hoping
to
blast
the
cannon
off
at
the
first
game
of
the
year
in
2006
but
 things
were
delayed
a
bit.

Robert
recalls
the
first
time
he
fired
the
cannon
off
at
a
ballgame.

We
had
 agreed
with
the
coaches
when
to
shoot
off
the
cannon.”

The
football
team
gathered
up
behind
the
goal
 posts
in
the
north
end
zone.

Coach
Adkins
told
his
team
“When
you
hear
the
cannon
‐
charge
through
 the
paper
banner
that
the
cheerleaders
have
across
the
goal
posts.”

The
boys
were
gathered
around,
 pumping
themselves,
high
fiving
and
chest
bumping
in
the
air,
when
suddenly
from
out
of
nowhere
it
 seemed,

“BOOM”.

 Not
expecting
anything
like
that
they
“Boys
of
Fall”
hunkered
down
to
the
ground
with
their
elbows
in
 the
air,
explained
Mr.
Slack.

They
didn’t
know
what
had
happened
but
after
they
regained
their
 composure
they
burst
through
the
banner,
thus
renewing
the
tradition
at
Decatur
High
School.

 However
now
it
is
not
blasted
after
each
touchdown
but
at
the
beginning
of
each
game
and
sometimes
 at
the
end
of
the
game.





September
3,
2010
–
Photograph
–
David
Hendriks


John
Godwin
does
the
radio

broadcasts
of
the
live
football
game.

“Right
before
I
hear
the
blast
from
 the
cannon,
the
air
is
literally
sucked
out
of
the
press
box,
then
“BOOM”.

”Even
though
I
am
 somewhat
expecting
it
these
days
it
still
causes
me
to
jump.”

An
observation
shared
by
many!






Robert
Slack
has
heard
and
seen
it
all.

“Last
year
we
had
a
Decatur
Police
officer
who
had
been
 stationed
in
Desert
Storm,
draw
his
weapon
and
hit
the
ground
on
his
belly!”

“Don’t
shoot,
it’s
only
 me!”

Mr.
Slack
said
“An
elderly
gentleman
standing
over
here
on
the
Decatur
sideline
wet
his
pants
and
 had
to
go
home
and
change”.

I
asked
Robert,
“Just
how
much
gunpowder
do
you
put
in
the
cannon?”

 He
said
that
he
started
off
putting
a
little
in
at
a
time
as
he
experimented.

“Over
the
past
few
years
I’ve
 experimented
with
anywhere
from
two
ounces
of
gunpowder
to
five
ounces.”

Ok,
I
ask,
“How
much
do
 you
use
now?

“Five
ounces!”

He
replied.

“Holy
smoke!”

I
exclaimed.

“That’s
the
stuff
that
legends
are
 made
from!”
 The
stories
will
go
on
and
on
as
well
they
should.

But
now
we
know
the
true
story
of
the
“The
Cannon
&
 the
Bear.”

Fiction,
Fact,
Folklore
or
Fable?

You
decide!
 



 David
Hendriks
–
September
3,
2010



AHS Cannon Story