En route to Birmingham, AL, May 1963
Don Ferrier continued to squirm in the driver’s seat of the unmarked sedan as it barreled down the road to Birmingham, Alabama. He’d been issued orders to travel to Birmingham with his colleague, Larry Chisum. Pushing the car at between eighty and ninety miles per hour, Don sought to expedite the ordeal. He punctuated the atmosphere by placing his .44 Magnum on the dashboard in open view of anyone outside the car. The Border Patrol was apparently needed to ensure a federal presence there as a counter force to the Alabama State Police and Bull Conner’s ruthless Birmingham police. Since the Border Patrol fell under the authority of the U.S. Attorney General’s office, Robert Kennedy decided to collect all available federal forces to intimidate George Wallace’s violation of federal civil rights law. Since neither the 1957 civil rights law, nor the brothers, John and Robert Kennedy, had any enthusiasm about really enforcing the civil and voting rights of the Negros in the south, Don thought the whole affair was just like the immigration programs he dealt with—a massive quixotic crusade, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
To add to his discomfort, Don Ferrier had reservations about stepping into the local Alabama authority. A descendant of the Old South, Don saw the confrontation as the sequel to the Civil War. But by some ironic misunderstanding, Don found himself in the federal camp, surrounded by self-righteous people, like his colleague Larry Chisum.
“I feel like this is what my job is all about—equal rights,” said Larry chattering away nervously with the speed at which Mike was driving. “It gives me a chance to do what the Kennedy’s say every American should do.”
Don felt nausea set in. He had to stop this dribble or he’d have to vomit.
“Yeah, well the guys at the office call us the KKK,” Don answered calmly.
“What?” Larry asked. “We are here to enforce the Attorney General’s orders. We are not KKK.”
“Yes we are,” Don shot back. “We’re Kennedy’s Koon Killers.”
Stunned into silence, Larry spoke very little after that.
With peace at last settling in, Don continued to think about this whole situation. How in the name of sanity could a nation indivisible, yet divisible, produce yet another series of violent episodes over drinking fountains, lunch counters, restrooms, and school rooms? He thought about the morons who tried to set his lawn on fire by burning a cross. Even his thirteen-year-old daughter was angry over such stupidity. That night his daughter had displayed more bravery than either the white robes or himself. The problem of being thrust into the conflict with ambivalent motivation was uncomfortable.
Having arrived in Birmingham in record time, the two Border Patrolmen stopped at the National Guard Headquarters to check in with the commander. There, they learned that no motel or hotel vacancies were available in town. With the press and civil rights leaders arriving hourly, the only safe beds available for them were the cots on the floor of the National Guard gymnasium.
That night, Don had trouble sleeping in the same room with fifty or sixty strange men. When he did manage to drop off to sleep in the early morning hours, he was awakened moments later by a blinding, bright light. The room was so bright that he could only see his cot and a figure standing at the foot of the bed. The figure was a small male, about five feet, seven inches tall, dressed in a ragged grey Confederate uniform. A dirty yellow bandana was wrapped around his throat. He had abundant, snow-white hair and matching mustache.
Then, the figure spoke, “Son, why are you here?”
“Who are you?” Don asked cautiously.
“Why are you here?”
“I’m here to stop the race riots.”
“Son, why are you here?”
“I just told you. Who are you?”
“Son, why are you here?”
“Look, whoever you are, I told you I’m here to stop the riots.”
“Son, why are you here?”
“To stop the fighting!” Don screamed.
“Son,” said the figure, reaching for the yellow bandana, “why are you here?”
“To stop this god-awful killing!”
Bud Ferrier loosened the yellow scarf with his frail fingers to reveal a horrible neck wound caused by the hangman’s rope. The wound began to bleed profusely. Blood soaked through the yellow scarf and seeped onto his grey uniform. Don screamed for him to stop the blood.
“Son, you stop the blood. Find the grey and yellow. It will stop the blood.”
The spirit faded as the light became fifty or sixty flashlights focusing on Don.
“Don, wake up!” Larry shouted.
“Where am I?”
“You’re here…in Birmingham.”
“Is he okay?” asked one of the federal agents with a Texas drawl.
“Yeah, I’m okay. I just had a dream,” Don answered.
Fifty or sixty Southern voices echoed their concern about the disruption as everyone began to once again settle down.
With the lights out again, Don began to realize where he was and who had been there. He had found the grey and yellow. They could stop the blood.