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Jack Blanchard’s Little Miracle In Ashford, Alabama


When you’re hitch-hiking cross country you usually wind up taking circuitous routes, and getting stranded in places you never knew existed, and meeting people who are surprised that you exist. We were once detained as suspected chain gang escapees, which is where this story will eventually arrive.
You may be trying to go north, but find yourself heading east or west, and happy to get a ride, to get off the side of a long and often creepy road.
When hitching you see the roads differently. You notice the gum wrappers, cracks, puddles, weeds and insects on the shoulders. You get to know them well, sometimes being there for many hours.
A bend in the highway that cars disappear around in seconds, is a mystery to you. Maybe there’s a town up there, or an old gas station where you might get water, or a lucky ride, or more endless miles of nothing,
Hitch-hiking to a place a thousand miles from where you start can easily cover almost double the AAA route, moving laterally as often as forward. And you can plan on a number of extra days in the burning sun or cold rain.
This isn’t all bad. Looking back on it It’s an adventure. At the time it seemed like punishment.
Bob Egan and I were trying to get back to Buffalo from Florida, and got dropped off at nightfall in a tiny southern town, by a bakery truck driver going in for the night. The two-lane county road traffic amounted to a vehicle an hour, it was dark and getting chilly, we hadn’t eaten, and were practically broke.
We were in Ashford, Alabama, at the intersection of US84 (now called “Old US 84”), and the road going northward was the narrow County Road 55. There was a streetlight on the corner, so we stood under it, trying to look wholesome and non-threatening.
Kids from the village came around to watch us stand there. We were the biggest thing going on in town. They were just a few feet from us, but we couldn’t understand a single word they said. We were from another planet.
After an hour or maybe three, a dump truck rumbled toward us from the wrong direction. Shovels were hanging on its sides and clanging. It stopped and large elderly man in a plaid shirt got out. He was the sheriff or maybe the chief constable.
The big man was friendly, but said he had to take us in because we fitted the description of two chain gang escapees… two young Yankee fellas, one dark-haired and one blond. We tried to tell him how innocent and nice we were, but the report said that they were smooth talkers, and not to believe anything they said.
We climbed up into the truck cab and he drove us about two blocks to the police station, where we sat and were given coffee and a sandwich, while the sheriff made some phone calls. The police station was on Main, which in my memory was an unpaved dirt street.
After a while he said “We don’t have a regular jail here, but we’ve got a place for you to stay until court in the morning.” Then he drove us to a big wooden house of indeterminate color, and introduced us to a matronly lady who was the proprietor of this rooming house. She was as friendly as he was, but we were surely headed for life on the chain gang, and that took a little edge off the fun.
We did get some needed sleep and some breakfast in the morning. The rugged old cop picked us up and said we had been cleared of all suspicions. He drove us to the county line. Like an idiot I said “Good luck catching those guys.” He waved out the truck window and headed back to town.
It only took a few decades for me to figure out what really happened. He knew we would be stuck all night on that corner. He could see that we were tired and probably hungry, and he made the phone call to the boarding house lady to put us up for the night.
There were no escaped convicts. Just two youthful strangers who needed some help. I have a warm spot in my heart for Ashford, Alabama, and those good people.
Jack Blanchard

Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan… Home page: CD Baby: Videos: Restoration and mastering studio: 407 330 1611. Used with kind permission from Jack Blanchard and Lonnie Ratliff

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65 Year Old SA Woman Beaten, Stabbed and Burned

A DOMESTIC worker’s unease over the whereabouts of her employer led to police

making the gruesome discovery of the body of a local advocate at her Scottsville home.

Sixty-five-year-old Maria Susanna le Roux’s battered and decomposing body was found in the back yard of her Connaught Road house, near Comrades House. It is believed her body may have been burned, but this will be confirmed by a post-mortem. It is not known how long she had lain there.

The usually quiet road was a hive of police activity yesterday morning as more than 20 police vehicles, later accompanied by a mortuary van, started gathering outside the house.Police had to force their way into the house through a locked gate. They broke open a padlock on the gate and then broke open a door to enter the house. They found Le Roux’s body in the back yard.Her domestic worker, Goodness Mathe, told The Witness that she worked part-time for Le Roux and at another house in the same road. She became concerned when she couldn’t gain entry to the house and alerted the police.

Le Roux’s son, Eduard (40), described his mother as a strong-willed, intelligent woman who always went the extra mile for her clients. “She always fought for her clients, no matter what the consequences were,” he told The Witness of his mother, who had arrived in Pietermaritzburg from Durban in 1988. Le Roux was a divorced mother of three: Jacques (45), Eduard, and Annamarie (35); and a grandmother of three: Angelique (18), Claude (seven) and Clyde (three).

She practised in the high court in Durban and the magistrate’s court in Pietermaritzburg. “She was a role model for us; my brother, my sister and I, and to her grandchildren,” said Le Roux. He said funeral arrangements had not been made as the police were still busy with forensic investigations, but it would “probably be in Pietermaritzburg”, where she had lived for the past 24 years.

“We haven’t been given much detail about the murder, apart from being told that it was brutal.”  He said that most of Le Roux’s furniture and her car, a Mercedes-Benz C180, were stolen.“We’re astonished that people can be so brutal and commit such crimes. “It has impacted the whole family, from her children right up to her grandchildren,” said Le Roux.

Police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker said: “A post-mortem will be conducted to determine the cause of death and the circumstances around her death. “The motive is unknown at this stage. Mountain Rise police are investigating a case of murder and no arrest has been made at this stage.” He added that the provincial commissioner, Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni, was disturbed to hear of Le Roux’s murder and had ordered that an integrated task team be assembled to investigate.“I am confident that detectives will get to the bottom of this senseless attack,” Ngobeni said in a statement.

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