My mind faded out; my vision blurred. I was thinking, “Am I the only person on this world? Is this really happening?” The whole event seemed surreal. After several seconds, or two years, things seemed to refocus. The volume turned up; I could once again make out the sounds of clinking glasses, feet squeaking on the floor, and voices. Oh the voices. They were getting progressively louder.
She was saying, “And the CRJ instructor said, ‘you wearing pants today? My students are goin’ to the prison.’ So we headed over there. I walked down the row and he said ‘Hay Massy.'” (Her name is Missy, but imagine a Southern drawl dripping in honey and matted with confectioners sugah.) “I said, ‘Hay Pee Wee.’ ‘NO TALKIN’ ON DEATH ROW.’ Sorra Bubba.’ I spoke to the deputy. Then we left.”
She was talking about the serial killer Donald Henry (Pee Wee) Gaskins, the man she’d known since she was a kid, the man who’d given her M & M’s for picking up his girlfriend’s children as a school bus driver when she was just a teen ager. Yeah, you read that right. In South Carolina in the 70’s one could drive a school bus at the age of 16! That’s more shocking than the fact that a serial killer was sweet on her!! The tale was too much for me; it sent me into a temporary tailspin.
Now generally speaking there would be nothing funny about a serial killer, but this story is written like a reality TV show, ‘Real Serial Killers of South Carolina.’ His “girlfriend” Suzanne said, “Oh Pee Wee, Jerry Lee (not his real name) is botherin’ me.” A couple of days later Pee Wee shows up with Jerry Lee in the trunk. “Suzy Girl, Jerry Lee ain’t gonna bother you no more.”
Apparently everyone one in the county knew Pee Wee. For a long time they thought he might have a still back in the woods. No, he had about 80 bodies buried back there. This was all being told to me by a woman a few years younger than I who I’d met serving on a professional team just the other day. No, it didn’t happen in 1955. I heard this conversation in 2015. Thus my loss of focus and my feeling that I was stuck temporarily in a time-travel vortex.
Now, Wikipedia will tell you that Pee Wee (aka the Red Neck Charles Manson) —look people you can’t make this stuff up—commenced to killin’ long about 1953. He was apprehended in 1975. He received the death penalty which was later commuted to life in prison when the death penalty was found to be unconstitutional.
But, nooooo. Pee Wee couldn’t leave well enough alone. He kilt one more in prison after the death penalty was reinstated. So, on September 6, 1991, ol’ Pee Wee Gaskins was executed by electric chair in South Carolina. My new friend Missy was not at his execution. The last time she lay witness to Pee Wee was when she saw him while visiting the prison with the CRJ students that day when she happened to wear pants to work (’cause it’s understood that you can’t wear a dress into a prison and it’s unusual that Missy would be wearin’ pants ’cause she gets hot all the time) and said “Hay Pee Wee,” even though she weren’t supposed to speak on the row.
At dinner that night when I was hearing this story, I told Missy that I had a blog and was going to write this story. I have permission to do so. I asked what the name should be. A college president piped up and said he thought it ought to be “Pee Wee’s M & M’s.” My thanks to him for his creativity.
Like I said, I don’t find anything humorous about serial killing, but this is one of the craziest stories I’ve ever heard at the dinner table. Had to tell it.
PS This post is dedicated to an awesome team of nine. They know who they are!!!