I fell in love for the first time in the fourth grade. The girl was named Kelley Haynie and she was blonde, beautiful and funny. She liked me too. I gave her a ring from the curtain rod in our living room to let her know how much I liked her.
I was not too smart with women but I knew if you liked them you gave them a ring. Unfortunately, when you are in the fourth grade the selection of rings available to you is limited. My mother never missed that ring that held up the curtain in our front room in the house on Saticoy Street.
We had that child love that never went past the giggling and running after each other stage. I had never liked any girls before this as I did not know what to do about them. I just remember running after her and laughing. We were both Munchkins in the high school play in 1969.
Our days were filled with the joy of that first love and the wonder of just being children. No kissing, not much touching, just lots of running, pulling hair and laughing mixed with an innocence and wonder. I have only felt this way once or twice since then.
Then one day it just ended.
I came into school that day and she was gone. Miss Hoover told us that Kelley would not be returning and that was it. Her desk was cleaned out; empty. They did not call her name in the roll call. My ring was gone and no one seemed to know what had happened. I was heartbroken. I finally heard about what had happened but I did not really understand it until I became an adult.
Kelly’s father was a deputy with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. He and others were attempting to serve a search warrant on a drug dealer’s residence in Fillmore. The place where they tried to serve the warrant was the home of the suspect’s father. He was 78 years old and he thought that the police were robbers trying to break into his place. He fired one shot and killed Deputy Haynie instantly.
He died on Friday, June 5th, 1970 at the age of 30.
I heard about Deputy Haynie from people who talked about the killing and how horrible it was. There were whispers and rumors that went from mouth to mouth with usually very little truth in between. What was distinct was the wave of anger and animosity directed toward the local Mexican community when it became known that Deputy Haynie’s killer was a Mexican man.
This was the way it was passed down to me in school. I remember two teachers whispering about the killing and how awful it was. I don’t remember too much about the particulars of their conversation but I do remember that it ended with the teachers saying “and you know it had to be a Mexican who killed him.” They looked at me and moved away, concerned that I had heard too much. I always heard too much it seemed and my mind remembers pretty well sometimes.
I did not know why they said this and I didn’t even remember it until I was an adult. I remember that the town and county residents got really upset when the district attorney decided not to file charges against the father because he was old, infirm, and had no criminal record to speak of, and was basically defending himself against unknown and unidentified intruders. There was talk that the police had not properly identified themselves and this error in procedure was what triggered the shooting.
Normally this lack of identification would not have been a problem if the suspect had actually been at the residence. The police had a policy in those days of breaking down the door first and asking questions later. If the dealer in question had been at his father’s he would have ended up dead or arrested and Miranda rights be dammed.
Unfortunately, it was an old, scared Mexican man who killed, and when it was discovered that he couldn’t defend himself from a wet dog if he had to, this twisted the situation from excessive to indefensible.
Me, all I wondered was where my ring ended up and if my blonde beauty was OK. When my father died two years later I finally understood that she was not OK and would never be OK again as long as her father was gone.
I cried that day for me, my father, Kelley, and her father. I cried years later for the system that allowed it to be OK to just blame it on Mexicans because people were hurt and angry. I’ve seen this scene replay itself again and again in the justice system since then and I know what it means.
I know that I wince now when I hear some atrocity has been committed. My first reaction is the hope that the person who committed the crime was not Mexican. I know that this is not a normal reaction but it’s unavoidable sometimes.
I know that there are distinct classes of Mexicans in the United States, and other places, and the one thing I know is that we all identify with each other on some level. That is to say that we all have some commonality in our lives and because of this we are deeply affected by those things that occur to our people, and all people, as a whole.
Maybe I’m wrong but at least that’s how it seems sometimes. When I see the mentions of Deputy Haynie and his sacrifice, I wonder what became of that blonde, green eyed goddess. Did she ever find happiness? I have to believe that she did because I think that if I did not have the hope that she did find happiness then all the dreams that I have had or will have in the future will just fade to black.
Every year they have a service and memorial at the government center to pay tribute to Deputy Haynie and all the others who have made the ultimate sacrifice in order to keep us safe and free. I have often thought about going there to find my golden goddess but I know that time has passed and what could I say anyway?
I was sorry but only for myself. I was sorry I lost Kelly and I was sorry that my father died when he was 39 and I was 12. It is only as an adult when I think of the circumstances that I get angry and wonder why it all happened and why my elephant’s memory heart needed to remember it all.
It reminds me that Robbie Robertson was right; the greatest love is the one that dies untold. These are the incidents that remind me I was always supposed to put all these letters and words in an order that made some sense in order to make everything make sense.
So I will keep on writing and wondering and maybe it will all come out good in the end.