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Storms and Rainbows

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Late yesterday afternoon, storms attacked the Upstate. Hail, wind, and rain pounded trees, homes, and businesses. Leaves and limbs littered the ground, and hail piled up on roofs. The driving rain slowed traffic, and standing water puddled in yards and on roads. Scattered tree limbs littered and waited for pick up.

Those menacing clouds warned us of the fury that was forthcoming, but there was nothing to do. They towered over us in shades of black and gray. Yes, drivers slowed down. Playing children sought indoor games, and people ran to close car windows.

Lasting only minutes, there was concrete damage.

But then came the rainbows. From various places in the county, men and women posted pictures of rainbows; some were beautiful double arcs of color. From the reds on the outer rims to the violet shades inside, the seven colors brought light and brightness back into the skies.

The Irish leprechaun’s secret hiding place for his pot of gold is usually said to be at the end of the rainbow. This place is impossible to reach, because the rainbow is an optical effect which depends on the location of the viewer.

My brother and I used to beg Daddy to find the end of the rainbow, and sometimes he would go along with our desire to find that pot. It was amazing to us how the rainbow moved away from us until it finally disappeared.

Artists include rainbows in their paintings. “The Rainbow” is an 1878 oil painting by American artist George Inness, located in the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which is in Indianapolis, Indiana. It depicts a rainbow arcing across the sky after a storm.

Inness, George – The Rainbow – Google Art Project.jpg

In Genesis 9, as part of the flood story of Noah, the rainbow is a sign of God’s covenant to never destroy all life on earth with a global flood again. I believe in God’s love for mankind, and a rainbow affirms His glory. It leaves me with a gasp in my heart.

When I was in sixth grade, my teacher required us to memorize a poem each month. One we memorized was by William Wordsworth called “My Heart Leaps Up.”

“My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.”

From childhood to manhood, rainbows bring the poet joy. As the speaker says, he wants to hold fast to the wonder he had of rainbows as a child. I believe I do, too.

Memorial Day Ceremony

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On Sunday, May 24, 2015, I attended the Memorial Day Ceremony at Veterans Pointe Memorial Park in Spartanburg, SC. It was hosted by the American Legion Post 28.

All were there to honor those men and women from Spartanburg County who had given their lives in the service of their country. It was a solemn occasion, marked by speeches and the reading of the names of those from my home town who lost their lives fighting for my freedom. One thing I noted was that the majority served in the army; that is the branch of service that my dad and both his brothers served in.

Among many veterans and spectators were one Gold Star Family that had lost a son and nine Blue Star Mothers who now have children in harm’s way.

The term Gold Star family is a modern reference that comes from the Service Flag. These flags/banners were first flown by families during World War I. The flag included a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the armed forces of the United States, during any period of war or hostilities in which the armed forces of the United States were engaged. If that loved one died, the blue star was replaced by a gold star. This allowed members of the community to know the price that the family had paid in the cause of freedom.

There was a POW/MIA Recognition that included presenting the POW/MIA flat. This flag, with its black field and white letters, was raised to the tune of “Amazing Grace” played by bagpipes. A small table was set for a solitary soldier that was not with us. John J. Barron spoke of the five bodies this year that had been accounted for; one was from WW II.

The keynote speaker was Lt. Colonel Arthur T. Ballard, USAF Ret. Here is a link to his speech and some photos from the event.

http://www.goupstate.com/article/20150524/ARTICLES/150529848

“Decoration Day”
May 25, 1882

“Sleep, comrades, sleep and rest
On this Field of the Grounded Arms,
Where foes no more molest,
Nor sentry’s shot alarms!

Ye have slept on the ground before,
And started to your feet
At the cannon’s sudden roar,
Or the drum’s redoubling beat.

But in this camp of Death
No sound your slumber breaks;
Here is no fevered breath,
No wound that bleeds and aches.

All is repose and peace,
Untrampled lies the sod;
The shouts of battle cease,
It is the Truce of God!

Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
The thoughts of men shall be
As sentinels to keep
Your rest from danger free.

Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.”

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I set an alarm today, so that we wouldn’t forget to stop and remember those who have given their lives for us and our country. Rather than only at 3:00 on Memorial Day, I believe we need to be grateful every day.

Books and More Books at the SC Book Festival

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What a delight it was to spend the day at the South Carolina Book Festival yesterday http://scbookfestival.org/. It was fun to see the familiar faces of Kate Salley Palmer and Ann B. Ross. Kate had her new book, “Hostie,” and her illustrations, as always, are excellent. Ann Ross spoke to my book club on Wednesday afternoon, and I bought her new book on Miss Julia. Rubbing shoulders with these women and other notables was quite an experience.

We are blessed to live in a state that believes in the importance of the written words in books. Book stores like Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, Books on Broad in Camden, and Fiction Addiction in Greenville make sure that we have good books at our fingertips.

How grateful I am that Hub City Writers Project and Harrelson Press have seen potential in my writing, as well as many others. I enjoyed spending the day with Merianna Harrelson at the festival.

Thankfully, I was born into a family of readers; books, magazines, and newspapers abounded in every room. Visiting the library in the summer was a treat every two weeks; I always took home the maximum of fifteen books. Sometimes we even read the same books and had our own book discussions. It was interesting to agree and disagree. Mother and I read a lot of historical fiction. My dad, brother, and I read mysteries; Pat Conroy, Robert Ludlum, and Patricia Cornwall are a few favorites.

Maya Angelou said, “Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” Obviously, my parents concurred.

One of the courses that I taught for several years at USC Upstate was reading for the secondary teachers. Those investing their lives in science and math courses were often unsure as to the relevance of reading in their future classrooms. Realization that reading was the cornerstone to success in each course had to be established, as the three R’s were explored.

I tell people that today we are a household that is book-poor; I guess there could be worse things to spend our money on. John was kind to buy my chosen books for Mother’s Day; they are waiting patiently on the stack in the sun room.

Do you think I might be addicted to reading? Are you? (By the way, I have two others: chocolate and coffee. They all three mesh well together.)

Meeting a Carolina Dog

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I had the opportunity yesterday to sign books at the SC Book Festival in Columbia. My publisher, Harrelson Press, had a booth next to the author, Allen Paul. He was selling his book, “Honey, the Dixie Dingo Dog,” and the ginger-colored Honey was with him.

Honey is a friendly Carolina Dog. She enjoyed her treats, as well as all of the children and adults that stopped to meet her. Giving random dog kisses, she would lean in for petting and hugs. Obviously loving people as a family dog, she was well-behaved and even took a couple of naps under the table.

Some Carolina dogs live in the wild with their packs. Ten-year-old Honey obviously loved her human pack, Betsy and Allen. Studies reveal that Carolina dogs are America’s native dog. One theory says they came from the Middle East and crossed the Ice Age land bridge some 12,000 years ago. They were camp followers of their human family.

Carolina Dogs were Indian dogs and were the first domesticated dog of the Americas. The Carolina Dog comes out of the American Deep South. They are often called “Old Yaller” in the South because of their coat’s color. (Perhaps you remember either the book or the movie, “Old Yeller.” The look and the traits of the dog follow what is known about a Carolina dog.)

The breed’s common traits are rare; they include a fishhook tail, a lupine face, and large ears. Digging snout pits is fun entertainment for them.

The New York Times published this article on Carolina dogs in 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/…/a-dog-that-goes-way-back.ht…; It includes many other facts about this breed.

Richard Blake commented on “Honey the Dixie Dingo Dog.”(available on Amazon) “There are lessons we can all learn from dogs like Honey. She demonstrated loyalty to family (her pack) and the benefit of receiving the strength to overcome adversity when working together. Another take away I noted is a lesson Honey learned from her Mama and Papa: ‘Be careful who you run with-watch where you step and to live and let live, or to respect others.'”

Those sound like good lessons for all of us.

Citation, A Triple Crown Winner

The Triple Crown of horse racing consists of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. It traditionally starts on the First Saturday in May with the Kentucky Derby, then two weeks later with the Preakness Stakes followed by the Belmont Stakes three weeks after that.

The race is known in the United States as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports”, and I can’t wait to watch the Derby in two days. I have listened to it on the radio at Mirror Lake Farm, my grandmother’s farm in Kentucky, and watched it on television with family and friends for all of my life.

My dad always made us stand up to sing “My Old Kentucky Home,” and it is a pleasure to continue that tradition. He instilled in us a love of his birth state, and that included the horses.

William Monroe Wright, successful entrepreneur and owner of Calumet Baking Powder, established Calumet on a small Lexington, Kentucky farm in 1924. This Thoroughbred nursery resounds with the beauty of the Bluegrass State. http://calumetfarm.com/photos

Citation was born, raised, and trained at Calumet. He won the Triple Crown in 1948, the year I was born. Citation became the 8th Triple Crown winner.

Here is his Derby win. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MK4lGpFi5lY

My dad took Critt and me to Calumet Farm every year that we visited my grandmother in Shelbyville. This was one of our day trips. Not only would we tour the stables to pat the horses, he would take us to the back roads to find the horses in the fields. Apples in hand, Daddy would bribe the horses to the fences for us to talk to and pet.

In my mind today, they were huge, magnificent animals. I stood in awe and wariness of their beauty and strength. Daddy had no fear, as he savored being in their presence.

Yes, Kentucky, horses, and the Kentucky Derby are all on my mind this week.

I tend to agree with what Daniel Boone said about Kentucky: “Soon after, I returned home to my family, with a determination to bring them as soon as possible to live in Kentucky, which I esteemed a second paradise, at the risk of my life and fortune.”

Hobos

While writing about the women in John’s family who worked in upstate mills, I have learned many other things about America’s society.

His aunt Annie Mae loved to cook and loved to help hobos; it appears these two go together. During the Great Depression, there were many on the roads, including male and female teenagers. She sent those who stopped at her house off with a full stomach.

Hobos rode the rails and walked the roads, alone and in groups, but it was a solitary and lonely life. There was competition for jobs and for handouts. Sleeping under bridges or in a hobo jungle, where some lived together in community, the future was unknown.

But they also had an interesting code of conduct.

Surprisingly, the list of people who rode the rails includes many who later became famous –
Novelist Louis L’Amour
TV host Art Linkletter
Oil billionaire H. L. Hunt
Journalist Eric Sevareid
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas
Poet Carl Sandburg

This group had their own language.

Because of their willingness to take the jobs that no one else wanted, hobos were tolerated by some. Regardless, life as a hobo was difficult and dangerous. To help each other out, these vagabonds developed their own secret language to direct other hobos to food, water, or work – or away from dangerous situations.

The Hobo Code helped add a small element of safety when traveling to new places. In their travels for work, hobos made marks with chalk, paint or coal on walls, sidewalks, fences and posts. The signs were meant to let others know what was ahead.

An ethical code was created by Tourist Union #63 during its 1889 National Hobo Convention in St. Louis Missouri.[16] This code was voted upon as a concrete set of laws to govern the Nation-wide Hobo Body; it reads this way:

  1. Decide your own life, don’t let another person run or rule you.
  2. When in town, always respect the local law and officials, and try to be a gentleman at all times.
  3. Don’t take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or other hobos.
  4. Always try to find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a business along, but ensure employment should you return to that town again.
  5. When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts.
  6. Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals’ treatment of other hobos.
  7. When jungling in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out, another hobo will be coming along who will need them as badly, if not worse than you.
  8. Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling.
  9. If in a community jungle, always pitch in and help.
  10. Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible.
  11. When traveling, ride your train respectfully, take no personal chances, cause no problems with the operating crew or host railroad, act like an extra crew member.
  12. Do not cause problems in a train yard, another hobo will be coming along who will need passage through that yard.
  13. Do not allow other hobos to molest children, expose all molesters to authorities, they are the worst garbage to infest any society.
  14. Help all runaway children, and try to induce them to return home.
  15. Help your fellow hobos whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday.
  16. If present at a hobo court and you have testimony, give it. Whether for or against the accused, your voice counts!

Bankers without jobs and migrant families all jumped the rails looking for work and/or help to survive their situations. Though it was an independent life, it was not easy with the lack of daily stability.

In the 1930s, Albert Tackis’s family lived in the small West Virginia town of Colliers, where their house backed onto the Burgettstown Grade. Two-engined freight trains stopped at a water tank behind the house before starting the 30-mile haul to Burgettstown. In summer, Albert would see 60 or 70 hobos climb off the cars to stretch their legs, every train delivering as many as eight hobos who came to the Tackis home to ask for food.

“We were five people in our family: mother, father, grandpap, my sister and me. Grandpap grew all our fruit and vegetables in his garden. In season, mother canned vegetables and made jellies. Every week, she baked 21 loaves of bread.

Albert tells it this way:

“When grandpap saw the hobos coming to our house, he alerted mother who would start making egg sandwiches and packing bags with carrots, tomatoes, apples and peaches. Grandpap always had something for the hobos to do. There would be wood to chop, cans to pick bugs and insects in his garden, buckets to fetch water from a spring. The hobos worked for about 20 minutes and then hopped back on the train with a good meal in hand.”

Ann Walko was also deeply moved by her mother’s compassion for the downtrodden who came to their home at Wall, Pennsylvania where freight trains were broken up and re-routed.

“One day a man came to our door asking for food. Mother invited him in but he stood in silence for a moment.

“‘I have a family with me,’ he said.

“Mother said she would feed them too. He brought his wife and three children. They still refused to come inside so mother spread two rugs on the ground for them. They ate her home-made bread and baked beans and couldn’t thank us enough. In a way what a beautiful time it was.”

As Albert Schweitzer said,  “The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”

In every community and town, there are opportunities to serve. I wonder what they would look like if we all chose to “serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”

“Little Mistress Chicken”

Little Mistress Chicken
By Mrs. Gordon Rose

Several years ago, I found the 1969 reprint of this book on a shelf in Books on Broad in Camden and was drawn to it because of the illustrations. Though in pen and ink, the details are realistic and give a vivid portrait of the characters and the happenings.

“Little Mistress Chicken” first appeared in serial form in The Youth’s Companion. It was republished in 1913 and 1925, reprinted in 1993.



This is the innocent heroine.

Maybe you are familiar with the now non-existent town of Childsbury, St. John, Berkeley, but I had never heard of it. James Childs built a settlement here in 1707; it was one of the first towns laid out in Carolina by the English settlers. He built a ferry and gave 600 acres away to others for farming. Property was given for a college, a free school, a schoolmaster’s house, a town square, and a place of worship.

Catherine Chicken was the great granddaughter of James Childs. Her story is ghoulish, at best, and abusive at its worst. The cruelty, greed, and pride of the schoolmaster, Monsieur Dutarque astounded me. He tied the young girl to a stone in the local cemetery. He deserved to be run out of town in 1748.

This is the Strawberry Chapel where the young Catherine Chicken was tied to the tombstone by her teacher. It was built around 1725. Various legends and tales surround the chapel of Strawberry that is now on private property and closed to the public.Four services are held there each year, and it is on the National Register.

Strawberry-Chapel-and-Childsbury-Town

A chapel of simple yet dignified architecture,  Strawberry is located on Highway 44 just off SC Highway 402 on the Cooper River approximately 10 miles from Moncks Corner.

In the book, Catherine’s story is told in the vernacular of the day, and the suspense is real. I was delighted that she did “live happily ever after” after she was rescued by a slave and then her Aunt Ann. She married Mr. Benjamin Simons but carried the memories from that nightmarish night in the cemetery to her death.

Looking at this illustration, a reader can understand why.

Many authors choose to dedicate their work to someone. The dedication of this reprint reads,
“To the Colonial Dames of South Carolina, lovers of local tradition, guardians of thrilling memories, this bit of family history is dedicated.”

Catherine’s story is tragic, but she is saved. As Maya Angelou once said, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

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