Yellow Mama Archives II

Tom Barker

Acuff, Gale
Ahern, Edward
Allen, R. A.
Alleyne, Chris
Andes, Tom
Arnold, Sandra
Aronoff, Mikki
Ayers, Tony
Baber, Bill
Baird, Meg
Baker, J. D.
Balaz, Joe
Barker, Adelaide
Barker, Tom
Barnett, Brian
Barry, Tina
Bartlett, Daniel C.
Bates, Greta T.
Bayly, Karen
Beckman, Paul
Bellani, Arnaav
Berriozabal, Luis Cuauhtemoc
Beveridge, Robert
Blakey, James
Booth, Brenton
Bracken, Michael
Burke, Wayne F.
Burnwell, Otto
Campbell, J. J.
Cancel, Charlie
Capshaw, Ron
Carr, Steve
Carrabis, Joseph
Cartwright, Steve
Centorbi, David Calogero
Cherches, Peter
Christensen, Jan
Clifton, Gary
Cody, Bethany
Costello, Bruce
Coverly, Harris
Crist, Kenneth James
Cumming, Scott
Davie, Andrew
Davis, Michael D.
Degani, Gay
De Neve, M. A.
Dillon, John J.
Dinsmoor, Robert
Dominguez, Diana
Dorman, Roy
Doughty, Brandon
Doyle, John
Dunham, T. Fox
Ebel, Pamela
Fagan, Brian Peter
Fillion, Tom
Fortier, M. L.
Fowler, Michael
Galef, David
Garnet, George
Garrett, Jack
Graysol, Jacob
Grech, Amy
Greenberg, KJ Hannah
Grey, John
Hagerty, David
Hardin, Scott
Held, Shari
Hicks, Darryl
Hivner, Christopher
Hoerner, Keith
Hohmann, Kurt
Holt, M. J.
Holtzman, Bernard
Holtzman, Bernice
Holtzman, Rebecca
Hopson, Kevin
Hubbs, Damon
Irwin, Daniel S.
Jabaut, Mark
Jermin, Wayne
Jeschonek, Robert
Johns. Roger
Kanner, Mike
Karl, Frank S.
Kempe, Lucinda
Kennedy, Cecilia
Keshigian, Michael
Kirchner, Craig
Kitcher, William
Kompany, James
Kondek, Charlie
Koperwas, Tom
Kreuiter, Victor
Larsen, Ted R.
Le Due, Richard
Leotta, Joan
Lester, Louella
Lubaczewski, Paul
Lucas, Gregory E.
Luer, Ken
Lukas, Anthony
Lyon, Hillary
Mannone, John C.
Margel, Abe
Martinez, Richard
McConnell, Logan
McQuiston, Rick
Middleton, Bradford
Milam, Chris
Miller, Dawn L. C.
Mladinic, Peter
Mobili, Juan
Mullins, Ian
Myers, Beverle Graves
Myers, Jen
Newell, Ben
Nielsen, Ayaz Daryl
Nielsen, Judith
Onken, Bernard
Owen, Deidre J.
Park, Jon
Parker, Becky
Pettus, Robert
Plath, Rob
Potter, John R. C.
Prusky, Steve
Radcliffe, Paul
Reddick, Niles M.
Reedman, Maree
Reutter, G. Emil
Riekki, Ron
Robson, Merrilee
Rockwood, KM
Rollins, Janna
Rose, Brad
Rosmus, Cindy
Ross, Gary Earl
Rowland, C. A.
Saier, Monique
Sarkar, Partha
Scharhag, Lauren
Schauber, Karen
Schildgen, Bob
Schmitt, Di
Sesling, Zvi E.
Short, John
Simpson, Henry
Slota, Richelle Lee
Smith, Elena E.
Snell, Cheryl
Snethen, Daniel G.
Steven, Michael
Stoler, Cathi
Stoll, Don
Surkiewicz, Joe
Swartz, Justin
Taylor, J. M.
Temples. Phillip
Tobin, Tim
Traverso Jr., Dionisio "Don"
Turner, Lamont A.
Tustin, John
Tyrer, DJ
Varghese, Davis
Verlaine, Rp
Viola, Saira
Waldman, Dr. Mel
Al Wassif, Amirah
Weibezahl, Robert
Weil, Lester L.
Weisfeld, Victoria
Weld, Charles
White, Robb
Wilhide, Zachary
Williams, E. E.
Williams, K. A.
Wilsky, Jim
Wiseman-Rose, Sophia
Woods, Jonathan
Young, Mark
Zackel, Fred
Zelvin, Elizabeth
Zeigler, Martin
Zimmerman, Thomas
Zumpe, Lee Clark

Date With Yellow Mama


Tom Barker


           On the drive to Kilby Prison for my last visit with Jim, until we meet in Hell, the years cascaded back like bad scenes in a horror movie. We lived the life of badge packers who take no shit from anybody. Now, Jim lives in the devils' waiting room preparing for his dance with Yellow Mama—Alabama’s electric chair. Bad dreams pop up at night, like shooting range targets. I’ve counted the time in years, months, weeks, and days; now his time is down to hours. Jim's subscription to life ran out. Tomorrow Jim will be on the wrong side of the dirt.  At Midnight Jim rides the lightning.   

Thank god for a blasting hangover, or I would be riding the electric bolt to hell with him. I was off sick when he murdered Jazzy Red, the slick-talking black drug dealer. Jim said Jazzy argued with him and showed contempt. A trigger pull settled the argument. Jim shot the bastard and threw down a knife. It was just another misdemeanor murder where a cop kills a black dirtbag, and nobody gives a shit. No media coverage. Black dirtbags get killed all the time. WRONG.

In the last eight months, this killing, the fifth of a young black man by a Magic City cop stuck a stick in a hornet's nest. The scared shitless rookie working in my place told the shooting team what really happened. That fact hit the papers, and the civil rights protesters hit the streets. The NAACP called for a boycott. Now the big mules that owned the downtown businesses demanded action. Action came fast. The chief said Jim was a rotten apple. Magic City cops don't do that. The new Mayor and a crusading DA said they would hammer the rogue cop. They did.

A year later, I sat in the back row, the only uniformed cop in the courtroom. Jim Miller, a disgraced ten-year veteran of the Magic City Police Department, stood before the solemn judge who gave his sentence,  “The jury has found you guilty of first-degree murder during the commission of a felony. You have disgraced yourself and the police profession. Therefore, I sentence you to the prescribed penalty. You will be taken to Kilby Prison and put to death at a time designated by the Department of Corrections. May God have mercy on your soul.” That was it. 10-4 over and out. 

Three days later, I stood in the shadows with Leroy, a jail trustee who helped bring the inmates to the train platform. Leroy said that Boss Man Harry, the chief deputy, let trustees watch when relatives or friends caught the Midnight train. He showed me where to stand where we could not be seen.   

As Leroy explained, every Friday at Midnight, a black prison train backs into the dead-end siding and receives its load of souls bound for retribution and revenge. Unlike the hustle and bustle of passenger trains no one gets off until the Midnight Train vomits its human cargo inside the high thick walls of the state's prison. No one stands in queues at booking stations waiting to purchase tickets. No one waves at loved ones as the train and its solitary caged car leaves the station. 

An enforced eerie cemetery silence lay like a funeral shroud over the platform as I looked down the track. A lone flickering three-bulb metal light fixture dangled from the roof and cast a dim light on the surreal scene. Nine shackled and chained men and two boys sat with Jim on a concrete bench in the open-sided gunmetal platform staring down the tracks. I caught a whiff of the sour smell of sweaty and unwashed men mixed with the odor of feces and urine. Jim and another man wore red-scarlet jumpsuits.

"Leroy, what's with the red jumpsuits?"

“Boss Man Harry says they are Dead Men Walking. Them men gonna ride the lightning. He says they got a date with Yellow Mama,” Mister Boss Man.

Holy Shit, my thoughts shot back to our visit to Kilby and Yellow Mama.

Jim and I decided to attend one execution to watch the success of our war on crime. We got the grand tour escorted by a guard compliments of the warden.

We entered the chamber of death with a tall powerful guard with a broad chest, long arms, wide shoulders, short legs, buzz haircut, and a gravely smokers voice. I remember Jim saying, "I bet that SOB could drag a fighting inmate into the death chamber."  I can't remember his name, but he was proud of his job, and he had antifreeze for blood. He bounced around like he was amped on Meth and gave us a history lesson in a voice three clicks above loud.

          "There it is, " he said, pointing at the wooden garish yellow electric chair. "That's Yellow Mama. Alabama’s efficient killing machine. This is the most efficient, reliable way of killing evil sons-of- bitches known to man, You guys are welcome to go sit in her lap,” he said with a used car salesman's.

          We both declined.

          “The first degenerate asshole was electrocuted in 1927, I was told," he

blasted out at us.  “Since that date until now, there have been at least 153 men and women that have ridden the lightning to hell sitting in Yellow Mama's lap."

He paused, smiled, and continued. "I have only seen about twenty executions, and one of them was a mean black bitch from Magic City, where you guys are from.  Mildred Cato, you guys know her?"  He didn't wait for an answer. "She cried and shit all over herself as I dragged her in here and strapped her in?"

          "Damn, man. Do they all do that?" Jim asked.

          “What shit on themselves or have to be drug in?" He didn't wait for an

answer before roaring. "Well, they all shit and piss when the electricity hits them.  This place smells awful when that shit smell is mixed with the fried smell of flesh and organs.”

          I grabbed my mouth as the bile came up. The jerk wasn't finished.

          "We make them guys on death row come in here and clean up the mess.  What do you think of that?” He said and loudly laughed.

            I still had my hand over my mouth, and Jim stood silent as white as a ghost. Jim and I decided that we had seen and heard enough, so we headed back to Magic  City. We didn't want to see an execution.

My thoughts were dragged back to the platform when I heard the tall, powerful guard with a broad chest, long arms, wide shoulders, short legs, and buzz haircut roar. 

 "All right, you shit heads stand up and get in a line. No talking," he yelled as he racked one in the chamber of his shotgun. The sad tune of shuffling feet and the jiggling tinkling of metal ankle chains echoed on the dimly lit platform.   

       "Tighten the line up. Dick to assholes," the guard roared and laughed as if he had told a private joke. Jim’s heavy chains slid along the platform as he closed in on the man in front of him. My lower lip trembled with the wailing sound of the Midnight Train entering the terminal.   

Tom Barker is a well-published national and international expert on police misconduct and crime. His publications include scholarly books, textbooks, nonfiction books, fiction short stories and novels. One of his short stories, “Foul, Evil, Deeds” is a fictionalized account of the horrific 1963 Bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. His recent books—2020 publication date- include Aggressors in BlueExposing Police Sexual Misconduct—Palgrave-- and Law Enforcement Perpetrated Homicide—Accident to Murder. His short stories are based on real events. 

The story “Date With Yellow Mama” depicts not only the method, but the attitude behind Yellow Mama. 

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