L.C. Swindle Faces Bank Robber at Ray City – February 28,1939

On February 28, 1939, 72 years ago today, the Farmer’s bank at Ray City was the scene of a hold-up. The  Bank cashier was  L.C. Swindle.

Leonard Columbus Swindle was born May 20, 1880, the son of Margaret M. Futch and George Emory Swindle.  He was the grand son of Nancy Jane Parker and James Swindle. As a boy, he grew up on the on the Swindle homeplace near Ray City, GA. Later he lived in Cecil, and Valdosta. In Valdosta, L.C. was employed as a store clerk.

As of September 12, 1918, Leonard Columbus Swindle and his wife Mary Coley Swindle were residing in Barretts, GA about five miles south of Ray City when he registered for the WWI draft. He was a farmer, tall and slender with blue eyes and dark hair.

By 1930, L.C. and Mary had moved back to Ray City,GA. Mary worked as a store clerk and L.C. worked in a cotton warehouse, probably for his brother James H. “Jim” Swindle who owned the cotton warehouse at Ray City.

Later,  L. C. Swindle drawing on his business experience operated and controlled the Farmers Bank at Ray City.  It was there, on February 28, 1939, working as Cashier that he faced the gun of a bank robber.

Atlanta Constitution
March 1, 1939

LONE BANDIT ROBS BANK AT RAY CITY
Early Morning Holdup Man Gets $655; Police Take Up Hunt.

RAY CITY, Ga., Feb. 28.  Police searched for an armed bandit who robbed the Farmers’ bank here of $633 today when he was admitted before the regular opening hour to get change for a $20 bill.
Cashier L.C. Swindle reported the robbery to police and fixed the time at about 7:15 o’clock.  He said he had gone to the bank early to work on some insurance papers.  Someone knocked on the door and asked if he could get $20 changed.
Swindle said such requests before the bank  opens are frequent and he told the man he would let him in.
“He walked to the cashier’s window and laid a $20 bill on the counter,” Swindle related. “I asked how he wanted the money and as I was counting it out, the man said, ‘wait a minute.'”
When he looked up, Swindle said, a gun was pointed at him and the man said “give it all to me.”  Swindle added the man scooped up the cash and warned him to “stay in here,” and fled.
Sheriff N.N. Hughes, of Nashville, came here to investigate the case, and said the cashier described the man. Details were withheld until after search of the vicinity.
Hughes said he would search for two men reported seen near the bank early in the morning.  The sheriff said Swindle was unable to tell him whether or not the bandit was in a car, as the blinds were down and a radio playing drowned out possible motor noise.  Others said they heard a car about the time of the robbery.

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Ray City Child Dies From Bite Of Rattle Snake, 1925

The September 4, 1925 Nashville Herald reported the tragic death of Merle Elizabeth Langford.

Child Dies From Bite Of Rattle Snake

     Little Muriel Langford, the 5-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Luther Langford, who resides about a mile from Ray City on the Milltown-Ray City road died Tuesday morning from what was thought to be the bite of a rattle snake.

     The child was playing in a potato patch, near the house, while her mother was working nearby, when she cried out and ran to her mother. The mother thinking the child had fallen down and hurt herself took her into her arms to console it when she noticed that blood was oozing from her leg just above the ankle. Thinking that possibly the child had been bitten by a snake or some reptile the mother started for the house but before reaching the house the child had become limp.  The father, who was at the home of a brother nearby was notified and an effort to secure a physician in Ray City failing, Dr. Smith of Milltown was summoned and arrived within a short time after the child was bitten. Dr. Sloan of Stockton was passing and was also called in and both these physicians rendered all the aid that medical skill could give, but the child died within half an hour after their arrival. 

     The funeral services were held at Beaver Dam church and the internment took place in the church grave yard Wednesday, Rev A. W. Smith of Ray City and Hahira conducting the rites.

Merle Elizabeth Langford, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

Merle Elizabeth Langford, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

Rattlesnakes have always been a part of Wiregrass Georgia.  The New Georgia Encyclopedia entry on Georgia folklore observes, “In its unburnt state, wiregrass became an integral part of the terrain and served as cover for wildlife, a place where quail might nest or predators like rattlesnakes might lurk.”    As early as 1763, European text were referring to the venomous rattlesnakes of Georgia.  A Universal History, published that year in London over-optimistically reported, “Their woods abound with … snakes-; but none of them, except the rattle-snake, are venomous and, as in Louisiana, the natives have a ready and infallible cure for its bite.”  By 1804, treatments for rattlesnake bites were discussed in Georgia newspapers. In the Southern Botanical Journal of  August 4, 1838  Thomas Fuller Hazzard of St. Simons Island discussed additional treatments for venomous reptile bites and cases where the victims survived. But  he also noted, “many persons die annually from the bites of poisonous reptiles in Georgia and Carolina.”

The New Georgia Encyclopedia goes on to discuss the Wiregrass ecosystem as a source for Georgia folklore and the rattlesnake motif in storytelling.

Rattlesnakes constitute another popular motif.  A rationale for ritually burning the forest, unchecked rattlesnake populations represent a real threat to people. Personal experience narratives, as the prime prose narrative form of our times, frequently function as cautionary tales, warning about this potential threat. Several wiregrass Georgia towns (Claxton, Whigham) annually host rattlesnake roundups. These festivals shift public attention to the prevalence of this dangerous species, especially since local laws prohibit burning the woods without a special permit. Instead, communities sponsor roundups in which competitors literally capture hundreds of snakes. Every year, for example, as many as 20,000 people attend the parade and festival in Whigham (population 605). Claxton promotes its roundup as “the beauty with the beasts” competition: the judging of the snake competition occurs at the same time as the crowning of the Roundup Queen.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  in Atlanta, GA only a handful of  snakebite fatalities occur  annually in the U.S. today.

Venomous snakes found in the United States include rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths/water moccasins, and coral snakes…. It has been estimated that 7,000–8,000 people per year receive venomous bites in the United States, and about 5 of those people die. The number of deaths would be much higher if people did not seek medical care….There are many species of rattlesnakes in the United States. Rattlesnakes are the largest of the venomous snakes in the United States. They can accurately strike at up to one-third their body length. Rattlesnakes use their rattles or tails as a warning when they feel threatened. Rattlesnakes may be found sunning themselves near logs, boulders, or open areas. These snakes may be found in most work habitats including the mountains, prairies, deserts, and beaches.

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Marjorie Johnson Nash Widowed in 1962

Marjorie Ruth Johnson, daughter of  Mr. and Mrs. Lacy Johnson of Ray City, GA, attended  Nashville High School, Nashville, GA. She married high school classmate William E. Nash, on September 9, 1951.  Tragically, their marriage was cut short when Billy Nash died in an automobile accident in 1962.

Nashville Herald
December 6, 1962

Billy Nash Laid To Rest Thursday

    Funeral services were held Saturday, December 1, 1962, for William E. (Billy) Nash, who passed away at the age of 31 on Thursday, November 29, 1962, the victim of a tragic traffic accident.
    He had lived in Berrien County all of his life, having been born on October 29, 1931, a son of Dewey and Louise Cato Nash of Route 2, Nashville.  At the time of his untimely death, he had been engaged in farming. Mr. Nash had been a member of the Community Methodist Church and served on the Board of Stewards of the Church.
    The last sad rites were conducted by Rev. Felton Gaskins and Rev. D.R. Dixon at Long Bridge Church, with interment following in the Long Bridge cemetery.  Appropriate music was furnished by a quartet compose(d) of Roy F. Davis, Herbert Griffin, Owen Griffin and Mrs. Carl Wilkerson, who movingly rendered O Come Angel Band, When They Ring Those Golden Bells, and God Will Take Care of You.
    Active pallbearers were Lewis Fountain, Clyde Moore, Furman Ray, Buren Allen, Ferrell Herring, Charles Moore; those serving as honorary pallbearers were Pete Akins, Alton Akins, C.B. Ray, Harmon Cornelius, Isbon Walker, J.B. Bennett, Roy Allen, W.H. Dix, F.P. Griner, A.D. Osborne, A.C. Kimble, and C.H. Ray.
    The deceased is survived by his wife, the former Marjorie Ruth Johnson, whom he married on September 9, 1951, two sons, Dale and Donnie Nash, one daughter, Sheryl; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Dewey Nash; two brothers, Ernie Nash, of Nashville, Kenneth Nash, of Atlanta; one sister, Mrs. Vernice Boggs of Atlanta.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker.

William Edward Nash, Long Bridge Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

William Edward Nash, Long Bridge Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

1951 Engagement of Marjorie Johnson and P.F.C. William Nash

Marjorie Ruth Johnson, the daughter of Lacy Johnson of Ray City, GA, attended high school in Nashville, GA and graduated with the class of 1951. After completing high school, she married William E. Nash a classmate who graduated with the class of 1948.

Nashville Herald
June 14, 1951 

Miss Johnson to Wed P.F.C. Nash

   Mr. and Mrs. Lacy Johnson of Ray City announce the engagement of their daughter, Marjorie Ruth, to Pfc. William E. Nash.
    The bride-elect is a graduate of Nashville high school of the 1951 class. She was an active member of the Glee Club, Tri-Hi-Y, student council and other activities. She is employed at the Dixieland store in Nashville.
     Mr. Nash is graduate of Nashville high school of the 1948 class and is now serving in the Air Force. At the present time he is stationed at McDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.
     The wedding date will be announced later.

William E. Nash, 1948, Nashville, Berrien County, GA. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

William E. Nash, 1948, Nashville, Berrien County, GA. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Fatal Ray City Knife Battle Results From Tossing Hat After Church

The Thursday, June 14, 1951 edition of the Nashville Herald reported on the tragic death of 16-year old “Son” Foster.

Nashville Herald
Thursday, June 14, 1951

“Son” Foster Dies from Knife Wound; Negro is Jailed

    “Son” Foster, 16 year old negro of Lois District, bled to death Sunday from a three inch knife wound in his chest, according to Sheriff J.R. Nix.
    Sheriff Nix said that eyewitnesses stated that the wound was received in a knife battle. Eugene Harris, Negro, has been charged with murder and lodged in the Berrien County jail as a result of the fight.
    The Sheriff stated that the fight occurred near Ray City shortly after the two men had returned from church. The brawl after an argument over which of the two men had lost a game they had been playing by tossing a hat.
    Harris is expected to be called for trial on the second Monday of September.

Ray City Girls Retreat at Epworth on St. Simons Island

In 1950, the Methodists of south Georgia established a religious center on the Georgia coast. Epworth by the Sea began as “a small rustic camp facility with a few old plantation buildings” on St. Simons Island.

Patricia Bradford, 1951 Junior Class portrait, Ray City School, Ray City, GA.

Patricia Bradford attended a retreat for Methodist youth at Epworth by the Sea, St. Simons Island, GA. 1951 Junior Class portrait, Ray City School, Ray City, GA.

Young Methodist from all over the state were drawn to the new retreat center, and in the summer of 1951 two young women from Ray City, GA attended the annual retreat.

   Nashville Herald
   June 14, 1951

    Ray City Girls attend Retreat

    Miss Betty Jo Webb and Miss Patricia Bradford attended the annual district officer’s retreat on June the 7, 8, 9, and 10.
    The event was at Epworth by the Sea, the Youth Center for Methodist Young people on St. Simon’s Island.

Betty Jo Webb and Patricia Bradford lived in neighboring houses on Main Street in Ray City, GA.  Betty Jo Webb’s parents were Garth Webb, Postmaster of Ray City, and Jessie Francis Webb, a teacher at the Ray City School.  Patricia Bradford’s parents were Leon Bradford, a Ray City Barber, and Lula Eudora Bradford.  Patricia Bradford later married  Ray City lumberman Thomas Studstill, a son of Thomas Julian “Boots” Studstill and Maudell Vaughn Studstill.

The  historical marker at the site of Epworth by the Sea describes how the center was founded.

 Epworth Pioneers

In 1945, South Georgia Methodists resolved to establish a religious center. After searching four years for a site, the Sea Island Company offered to sell them 43.53 acres of the Hamilton Plantation. Because the Conference did not have the $40,000, Bishop Arthur J. Moore asked nine laymen to join him in signing a bank note for a tenth of the purchase price. Not one refused. Since D. Abbott Turner never signed a note, he gave $4,000 in cash. Later known as Epworth Pioneers, they were A.J. Strickland, Jr., Alfred W. Jones, Sr., Blasingame, J. Slater Wright, Ben J. Tarbutton, Sr., Leo B. Huckabee, Jerome Crawley, George T. Morris and D. Abbott Turner. On July 25, 1950, in the Wesley tradition, almost 800 Methodists met under moss draped live oaks for the formal opening. Churches and individuals responded, paid the debt and began a tradition of love, prayers and financial support which makes God’s ministry at Epworth possible. 

 
 
 

 

 

Epworth Pioneers Historical Marker. Image courtesy of David Seibert and http://www.hmdb.org

Epworth Pioneers Historical Marker. Image courtesy of David Seibert and http://www.hmdb.org

Epworth

Ray City Masons Celebrated Saint John the Baptist Day In 1936

Masons Lodge 553, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia

Masons Lodge 553, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia

A 1936 newspaper clipping commented on the activities of the Ray City Masonic lodge No. 553,

Atlanta Daily World
July 8, 1936 Pg 2
Valdosta, Ga.

St. John’s Day was held at Ray City last Sunday. Prof. C.O. Davis was the speaker. Prof. Davis is the Deputy Grand Master of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Georgia.

Masons have been a part of Ray City, GA history since the beginning of the town.   The lodge in Ray City was constituted in 1909. In 1910, as the Methodist church was being organized in Ray City, a revival was held in the Masonic hall.

Ray City founder Thomas M. Ray was a Mason, as were Perry Thomas Knight, A. J. Pert, James Henry Swindle, Caswell Yawn, Dr. Pierce Hubert, Hod Clements, D. Edwin Griner and Lucius Jordan Clements among others.   In 1909, Lacy Lester Shaw served treasurer of Ray City lodge No. 553. From 1858 to 1878 Hardeman Sirmans was a member Butler Lodge, No. 211 in Milltown.

At the time of his death in 1907 Judge A. H. Hansell, of the Southern Circuit, was the oldest living Mason in the state of Georgia.

A marble stone set in the only remaining commercial brick building in Ray City, designates it as the “Masonic Building,” one time home of the Free & Accepted Masons Lodge No. 553.  At Brian Brown’s  Vanishing South Georgia blog, Ray City residents have commented on the history of this building, which once was home to the Ray City drugstore and later, the Victory Soda Shop.

Lucius Jordan Clements and Eugenia Watkins Clements in Masonic garb.

Lucius Jordan Clements and Eugenia Watkins Clements in Masonic garb. Image courtesy of http://www.yatesville.net/

The Free and Accepted Masons were active in the Wiregrass long before the formation of the lodge at Ray City in 1909.   Lodge No. 211 was incorporated 50 years earlier at Milltown (nka Lakeland, GA) in 1858.  Somewhat earlier, St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184 was constituted at Troupville on November 2, 1854.   Circuit riding Methodist reverend John Slade was a member there,  as were Norman Campbell, and William C. Newbern.   Andrew J. Liles,  postmaster of Milltown, was a member. The Masonic lodge at old Troupville met on the first and third Tuesday nights upstairs in Swains Hotel, situated on the banks of Little River and owned by Morgan G. Swain.

According to the History of Lowndes County, GA, the officers  of St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184 were:

Reverend Thomas W. Ellis, Worshipful Master;
Ephriam H. Platt, Senior Warden;
Benjamin C. Clay, Junior Warden;
Charles H. Howell, Secretary;
John Brown, Treasurer;
William H. Dasher, Senior Deacon;
J. T. C. Adams, Junior Deacon;
John B. Cashan, Tyler.

Other founding members in addition to  those mentioned above were:

William T. Roberts, James H. Carroll, Adam Graham, Thomas Moore, William Dees, Daniel Mathis, Thomas D. Wilkes, S. D. Smith, James Harrell, J. N. Waddy. William J. Mabry, George Brown, William Jones, J. C. Pautelle, J. R. M. Smith, Reverend F. R. C. Ellis, Robert B. Hester, , William Godfrey, W. D. M. Howell, Hustice Moore, J. Harris, W. H. Carter,  William A. Sanford, Willis Allen, Jeremiah Williams, William A. Carter, John R. Walker, William D. Martin, J. E. Stephens, R. W. Leverett, L. M. Ayers, S. Manning, James Carter, Willis Roland, John W. Clark, James A. Darsey,  the Entered Apprentices Judge Richard A. Peeples, William Ashley, J. J. Goldwire, snd Fellowcrafts William T. Roberts and Moses Smith.

Troupville lodge member William J. Mabry, moved in 1856 to Nashville, GA, seat of the newly created Berrien County, where he built the first Berrien court house in 1857 and also became the first Worshipful Master of Duncan Lodge No. 3. Later, the St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184 was moved from Troupville to Valdosta, GA.

A post on the Masonic Traveler Blog by mason and artist, Greg Stewart explains the significance of Saint John the Baptist Day.

The Saint’s Johns appear to Freemasons in several places in our catechisms. Their proximity and use in our rituals have been questioned for many years as to their use and placement. Looked at together, saint John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist serve to represent the balance in Masonry between zeal for the fraternity and learned equilibrium. The Saints John, stand in perfect parallel harmony representing that balance.

From a historical approach, The Saint John’s festival is said to be a widely celebrated Masonic holiday. Traditionally June 24th (or the summer Solstice) is taken to be John the Baptist’s day, which is celebrated in many cultures around the world. According to McCoy’s Masonic Dictionary, the Festival of St. John in summer is a duty of every Mason to participate in, and should serve to be a renewal and strengthening of fraternal ties and a celebration of Masonry from “olden-times”. It functions as a connection between the past and the future.

More on St. John’s Day via Masonic Traveler: Saint John the Baptist Day, Duality in One. June 24th.

Other Ray City Masons:

  • Eddie D. Boyette
  • Philip Dewitt Carter
  • Lorenzo D. Carter
  • William I. Barker
  • Dr. B. F. Julian
  • William Lawrence Swindle

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J.I. Clements, Jr of Ray City ~ Georgia Southern Hall of Famer

J.I. Clements, Jr. was born and raised in Ray City, Georgia, a son of James I. Clements and Annie May Carter.  He attended Norman Junior College in Norman Park, GA, served in the Army during WWII, then completed his bachelor and masters degrees at Eastern Kentucky University.

After graduating, J.I. Clements joined the athletic department at Georgia Southern University as an assistant coach for the basketball team. At the time, his brother Mason Clements was playing third base for the Georgia Southern baseball team, and brother Keith Clements played center field.  J.I. Clements was five years older than Mason and was named head coach of the baseball team in 1949, Mason’s last season.

J.I. Clements was inducted into the Georgia Southern University Athletics Hall of Fame in 1990.

J.I. Clements Bio

Courtesy: GeorgiaSouthernEagles.com
Release: 01/08/2008

Head Coach of Georgia Southern’s 1962 National Champion Baseball Team… Served as Coach, Athletic Business Manager and Athletic Director from 1948 until his death in 1984… Born November 26, 1920 in Ray City, Georgia; died October 25, 1984 in Atlanta… Received bachelor’s (1947) and master’s (1948) degrees from Easter Kentucky University… Was assistant basketball coach, 1948-62; athletic business manager, 1957-74, and athletic director 1967-74, but is best remembered as head baseball coach from 1949 through 1966 and again in 1968… Had career record of 320-205 and led Georgia Southern to four National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics District 25 championships… The 1962 squad’s national title was the first ever for a Georgia Southern team… Led GSC to second place finishes in 1960 and 1968, and a third place standing in 1964… Served as president of NAIA Baseball Coaches Association (1962-64) and was a member of the U.S. Olympic baseball Committee in 1964… Inducted into the U.S. Baseball Federation Hall of Fame and the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame… Was NAIA National ‘Coach of the Year’ in 1963… As administrator, led Georgia Southern from NAIA to NCAA Division II status in 1970 and to Division I level a year later… Eagle baseball, golf and tennis all represented school at NCAA I championship events during 1973-74 season… Named 1974 Georgia Sports ‘Administrator of the Year’ by Georgia Athletic Hall of Fame… Baseball Stadium was name in his honor in 1985.

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J.I. Clements, Jr. Goes to College

J.I. Clements, Jr. Class of 1948, Eastern Kentucky University.

J.I. Clements, Jr. Class of 1948, Eastern Kentucky University.

James Irwin Clements, Jr. was born November 26, 1920 in Ray City, Georgia, the son of James I. Clements and Annie May Carter.  His father and uncle Joe Clements ran the family business, the Clements Sawmill .

The Clements family was among the most prominent families in Ray City.  The Clements sawmill was the largest industry and largest employer in Ray City.  After the Clements sold the lumber business about 1923, J.I.’s father went into the retail grocery business.

In 1940, J.I. Clements Jr. attended Norman Junior College, at Norman Park, GA, where he was engaged in student government.

 

Atlanta Constitution
October 12, 1940

STUDENT OFFICER NAMED

NORMAN PARK, Ga., Oct 11. In a runover election yesterday, J.I. Clements Jr., of Ray City, was elected secretary-treasurer of the student body of Norman Junior College over Warren Horton of Lake Wales, Fla., runner-up, and Earl Swindel of Ray City.  Doyle Rentz, Norman Park, student president, and Brown Pinkston, Tifton, vice president, already have taken over their new posts.

Brand Hall at Norman College, Norman Park, GA

Brand Hall at Norman College, Norman Park, GA

On June, 8 1944 James I Clements Jr enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army.  At 23 years of age, he was married, five feet eight inches tall and weighed 190 pounds.  He had two years of college education and was employed in the category of “Athletes, sports instructors, and sports officials.” He enlisted at Fort McPherson, Atlanta, GA.

 After the war he returned to school, attending Eastern Kentucky University.  He played on the baseball team and was a member of Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society in Education. He received a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education in 1947, and his master’s degree in 1948.

Eastern Kentucky University Baseball Team, 1949. First Row: Left to Right--Capt. Pete Nonnemacher, Roger Parsons, Jimmy Cinnamon, Dick Scherrbaum, Mac McCarty. Second Row: Left to Right--Lonnie Nelson, Howard Bartlett, Charles combs, Luther Wren, J. I. Clements, Jim Thompson, Coach "Turkey" Hughes, Manager Charles Spicer. Third Row: Left to Right--Don Newsom, Ted Dunn, Ed Lewicki, Ray Giltner, Goebel Ritter, Carl Eagle, Jack Meeks.

Eastern Kentucky University Baseball Team, 1949.

First Row: Left to Right–Capt. Pete Nonnemacher, Roger Parsons, Jimmy Cinnamon, Dick Scherrbaum, Mac McCarty.
Second Row: Left to Right–Lonnie Nelson, Howard Bartlett, Charles combs, Luther Wren, J. I. Clements, Jim Thompson, Coach “Turkey” Hughes, Manager Charles Spicer.
Third Row: Left to Right–Don Newsom, Ted Dunn, Ed Lewicki, Ray Giltner, Goebel Ritter, Carl Eagle, Jack Meeks.

Fleet-footed Craps Shooter Fled Through Ray City After Murder

Another fugitive passes through Ray City history.

Atlanta Daily World
September 18, 1941 Pg 1

MAN COVERS 70 MILES IN 22 HOURS FOLLOWING SLAYING

MOULTRIE, Ga., Following a dice game killing, an un-named man is said to have covered 70 miles in 22 hours on foot before he was arrested.  Sheriff T.V. Beard said the murderer was cornered in a field near a turpentine still in Clinch county after a chase through Lakeland, Nashville and Ray City, from a starting point in Ellenton, Ga.  The slaying reportedly followed an argument over a 10-cent wager on the dice.

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