Cleo Wolfe was raised on a diet of armadillos, squirrels, possums, doves, stolen eggs, RC Cola, regular beatings from his bootlegger father, and Pentecostal beliefs from his mother. Educated along the Red River in a wet Oklahoma county inside a rough schoolhouse, he completed the sixth grade, far above his siblings and parents. The Wolfe house was barely a house. Four rooms in a shotgun layout crafted from cheap lumber and unpainted so it looked a dismal gray/brown color with a sagging porch and roof. The seven dwellers got used to loud arguments and rotten smells from their unwashed father and spoiled food he brought home in a gunny sack occasionally.
Cleo was small for his age and bullied by older boys as long as he could recall. When he turned twelve his mother sent him to Charlie’s Bar to fetch his old man. His father was drinking heavily and got angry when Cleo showed up to bring him home. The old man slapped him so hard Cleo’s mouth bled, and a customer took him to the dingy toilet to wash him clean. After wiping the blood from his face, the man proceeded to lock the door with a hook and take Cleo’s pants down. Cleo fought hard and the man had been drinking all afternoon. The man tripped as Cleo rained down blows hard into his groin and fell against the filthy commode. Cleo Wolfe unhooked the door and ran out the back door. He headed for the Farm to Market Road and began to hitchhike.
A car finally pulled over and stopped after about three hours into a long dark walk for Cleo Wolfe.
“Need a ride, son?” By this time Cleo was tired, afraid, hungry and disoriented from his hasty decision to run away from home.
“Yeah, I guess.” Cleo reached for the door handle and let himself in. The car started up and took off down the Oklahoma back road into a dark night. The man was wearing a suit that looked like he slept in it but had a cheerful attitude.”Where you headed son?” The man smiled at him.
“I…I just want to head out of here, out is this country.”
The man driving the car didn’t say anything for a least five minutes. When he spoke again his tone was lower and serious.
“Running away from your folks?” Cleo felt he had no choice but to be honest.
For the next twenty minutes Cleo recounted his poor and abusive young life. A cafe came into light as Cleo finished and the man pulled the car into the gravel lot under a neon sign that blinked green “Lorene’s Good Eats.” he killed the motor and opened the driver’s door.
“My name’s Elmer J. Johnson. I’m a preacher.” He stuck out his had and Cleo shook it.
“Cleo Wolfe, nice to meet you.”