The Mississippi Delta is the kind of place where everyone shows up for a funeral.
It was on such a day in 1997 that Lucas McCarty and his grandfather had come to pay their respects to a young man who’d been killed in a car crash.
John Woods was there to bury his son.
Lucas and John had met a handful of times before, but that’s the day John found his new son and Lucas his “black daddy” – each one delivered in his own way from a tragic past.
John worked for Lucas’ grandfather on his catfish farm as an “oxygen man.” Catfish are fickle creatures, and if they don’t have enough oxygen, the whole lot of them can go belly up in minutes.
He’d gotten the job a decade earlier after getting out of jail. John had killed his brother-in-law on a lonely Delta road, according to T.R. Pearson’s “Year of Our Lord,” which tells about John and Lucas. John had been indicted and tried for first-degree murder, but the trial resulted in a hung jury. He was then indicted and tried for first-degree manslaughter – and this time the jury found him not guilty. He was a free man.
At about the time John was starting a new life, Lucas’ life was almost ending before it could even begin.
Elizabeth Lear McCarty’s heart sank when her son was born, the familiar cry of a baby’s entrance into the world replaced by phrases like “no heartbeat” and “no spontaneous respiration.”
Elizabeth says a botched delivery deprived her son of oxygen at birth, damaging his brain.
He was born “gray and dead,” she says.
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