The Adventures of Otto Peabody
Updated: Jul 6, 2022
My name is Otto Peabody. Most people call me by my nickname, Opie. I don't exactly remember when they started calling me that, but it was way back when I was a kid. The initials O.P. somehow became Opie, and I've been Opie ever since. That is better than Otto, the given name for which I'll never forgive my parents.
You probably never heard of the community where I grew up. It was Valley Station back then but now is referred to as southwestern Louisville. The area has a history dating back to the mid-nineteenth century when some smart folks in charge decided to drain the large swamp, and settlers began coming to the place. The major thoroughfare through the area was called The Salt River Turnpike, which later became known as Dixie Highway. Most of us still call it that today, and you'll find it on your map as 31W.
I come from a part of that history you don't hear anything about these days. I'm what they used to call a River Tramp. We lived on a homemade flat-bottomed shanty boat, and I guess we were as poor as anyone ever was, although I can't recall ever being hungry or anything. We floated down from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and I was born on the banks of the Ohio River.
Most people looked down on us and either pitied us or loathed us. The men were considered lazy, only working odd jobs, while women were thieves, stealing produce or poultry from local farmers. To my knowledge, my family never did those things, but I am sure some did. That is a bit of background; however, it is not the story I am here to tell.
I had a girlfriend in our tiny Shantytown, well, not a girlfriend in the romantic sense. She was my friend that happened to be a girl, ok? I admit to having a crush on her, but it was one-sided, as far as I know. Her name was Margaret Carpenter, and we all called her Margie. Margie had black hair and brown eyes, a few years older than me, showing the beginning stages of womanhood if you know what I mean. I loved her. We spent our time fishing, hunting turtles, swimming, and chasing lightning bugs.
Her good looks did not escape some of the older boys in our school, and they kept after her to go places with them. She always refused; one summer evening, a group of them showed up near Shantytown, and she made a fateful mistake. Walking along the riverbank with the group of six young fellas, they began playfully pulling and tugging back and forth. It escalated to more aggressive behavior, and Margie kept telling them to stop. I ran to her and told them to leave her alone, and they just laughed at me and held me back. Well, they didn't stop. They held her down and raped her right in front of me. They took turns, all six of them. Then the first guy retook her. I saw the whole damn thing and could do nothing.
Her family accused her of leading them on. The police did nothing, and nobody paid attention to me or believed me. Those six guys got away with it and didn't have to face any consequences. A few months later, Margie stripped naked, swam out to the middle of the river, and disappeared. They called it an accidental drowning, but I knew better. Margie was the best swimmer I ever saw, so it was a suicide. There was no justice for Margie. Those six fellas, Tim Mattingly, Bo Topton, Art Sullivan, Hugh Spencer, Billy Holliman, and Jim Morgan, never got punished. As for me, I consider them guilty of murder, and I have made it my life's work for forty-seven years to get justice for my friend.
After high school, I got my degree at the University of Louisville, followed by a master's degree from Western Kentucky University. I pursued those six rapists to where they lived, got a teaching job there, and one by one avenged Margie.
Tim Mattingly died in Colorado when his brakes failed, and his car drove off a mountain.
Bo Topton drowned in the Ohio River after falling from his boat while fishing.
Art Sullivan was in a bad car accident in Ohio and died without my help.
Bill Holliman, killed by his gun while climbing a fence, ruled a hunting accident.
Jim Morgan got killed on his farm in Liberty, Kentucky. He went headfirst into a woodchipper, trying to clear a clog.
There was only one left. Forty-seven years to get to this point. That house over there is mine. Hugh Spencer is my neighbor, just down the street. I should say he was my neighbor. Now he resides here among these trees underneath this fresh mound of dirt. I didn't intend for it to be this way, but old Hugh put it together and confronted me here. I had this shovel and figured I might as well get on with it. So you see, my work is complete, and you can call someone to tell my story. Blame me. Blame karma. It doesn't matter—Justice for Margie matters.
River Tramps know how to disappear, and now I will.
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