I was talking to to my sister Debbie on the phone and I was telling her that my son Anderson is the stingiest person that I know when it comes to money. He works part time while going to college, and he makes pretty good money, but he refuses to spend it on anything at all.
Let me tell you; his shoes are a mess.
Like a holey, holy mess.
But it has gotten really bad. He was walking around outside in the 3 feet of blizzard snow with his holey, holy mess shoes. He was out in the woods behind our house looking for a flash drive…I didn’t even ask. He pulled his shoes off when he came back inside and not only did he have holes in his shoes, but he didn’t have any socks on! My head exploded.
All I know is that that cheap son of mine better buy some damn shoes!
I told Debbie this. And she said, “tell Anderson he doesn’t want to end up like Rags.”
Now why does that sound familiar?
And then the sister, the one who I have to spoon feed memories to, reminded me of a one-time local fixture in the Dayton area I had forgotten about–Rags
You see, Rags was a kind of mystery man. A homeless man on the streets of Dayton who dressed in what at one time might have been clothes
and shoes made of ripped up rags wrapped around his feet. Even in winter. Even in the Blizzard of 1978. Oh, that was a Blizzard, I tell you.
This is Rags…
He was a recluse and a character. He seemed to prefer the streets and never stayed in homeless shelters. He was a fixture at the Dayton Library (oh, how I loved that library!) It wasn’t till after his death in 1980 that anyone in Dayton even knew his real name. But he left a lasting impression to the people he encountered the 10 years he lived on the streets of Dayton. And when he died, the citizens of Dayton gave him a proper funeral.
A proper funeral for Elias Joseph Barauskas, WWII Veteran, US Army. Born in 1919 in Waterbury, Connecticut to Lithuanian immigrants.
Elias Joseph Barauskas. Or did he prefer Rags. Anonymous.
What a life he lived. But what was he leaving behind?
Was it the war? Was he running from the law? Did he shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die?
When his brother was notified of his death, he said that Elias had left a hospital in Kentucky and they never heard from him again. Only a tiny clue, but a clue nonetheless.
But one thing I know, he is a hero. And even 36 years after his death he is still spoken of and remembered by all who encountered him.
And while researching Rags, my little trail of gems led me to another hero who walked the same streets of Dayton–Lucius Rice.
He was a barrier breaking police officer in the City of Dayton. Officer Rice was not the first black police officer in Dayton but he was one of the first, and the first to be promoted to detective. He joined the force in 1909 and in 1915 became one half of a black cop/white cop police team–the very first of its time. Think Danny Glover/Mel Gibson (wait, Mel Gibson pisses me off)…think Crockett and Tubbs…just not in Miami, but in Dayton. So think, no yachts, no fancy cars, no Easter-egg-colored outfits.
This is Lucius Rice.
He was born in 1879; fourteen years after the Civil War’s end. He was born in South Carolina, but he and his family jetted out of there. They were like “too, hot”, “too many racists”, “Let’s go to Dayton; it’ll be better there.” Ha
So handsome Lucius joined the police force. Was the Tubbs to his Crockett. And was bad ass. And you know it had to be hard being a black man telling people what to do and what not to do. He was promoted to supervisor in the police department. More telling people what to do that probably didn’t want to hear it.
But he was fearless.
In 1926 he attempted to apprehend a suspect wanted by the police. A shootout started. Lucius was shot in the stomach. As he fell to the ground, he shot and killed the assailant.
And he survived.
Then in 1939, he and his partner
Crockett Yendes were in pursuit of a suspected murderer. Again a shootout ensued. Again Lucius was shot in the stomach.
Bad ass. Fearless Bad ass.
But this time Lucius died.
He left behind a wife and two kids.
He left behind a legacy.
He was a hero.
Elias and Lucius. Both had different paths in life that brought them to the streets of Dayton. Both were heroes. Both deserve to be remembered.
Elias and Lucius.
This is were Anderson’s holey, holy mess shoes led me today.
Update: I found out today that Lucius Rice’s wife Dora was also a ground breaker. She was the first black police woman in the City of Dayton. She served for 10 years, starting in 1929 and left the force for heath reasons only 10 months before her husband was killed. Their son Robert Rice went to college and became a teacher. He also served in the Army in WWII. Just like Rags.
All things are cyclical.