Peanut was crying as Bryan led him home. He had been misbehaving and refusing to cooperate with the teenagers leading the backyard Bible club — a shortened form of vacation Bible school — so as the leaders had warned, Peanut was not allowed to stay. Minister of Students Bryan Harris had him by the hand, leading him up the sidewalk toward the humble house where he lived.
“Please, Mister Bryan,” Peanut begged. “Don’t take me home. If you take me home, my mama will notch me. Please don’t take me home.”
Bryan knew Peanut from other excursions into this poor section of Columbus, Mississippi, known familiarly as Frog Bottom. The child was always in trouble, never wanted to cooperate, and caught enough reprimands for a dozen children. He was poor, but all the children were poor. Today, Peanut was wearing nothing but a pair of raggedy cutoffs that came almost to the knees.
Through his tears, he said, “If you take me home, my mama will notch me.”
Bryan said, “I don’t understand. What do you mean ‘notch me’? Whatis that?”
Peanut said, “She cuts my leg.” He pulled his left pants leg up a few inches and Bryan saw something that shocks him to this day. Three parallel scars ran across Peanut’s leg, each 2 inches long and perhaps