The Flowering Vine: The Iceman Cometh!


Mama say, “The Iceman is coming Ronnie”.  I say, “What?” She say, “I was just thinking Ronnie, Daddy’s 107th birthday will be celebrated by those who love and remember him on March 1, 2017. She slick didn’t answer my question.

“You know”, she paused, gazing ceilingward, “Our conversations have stirred the old dusty spirits of long lost memories. These same spirits have crept once again, and stubbornly, from the dusty hallways in my mind. They’ve slithered and slipped from the cracks and crevices to see what is the commotion. ‘What they say Mama!’ I chided her. “’Someone is here!’ they are whispering. ‘Who goes there—yonder—here, the chorus of their cracked voices croak”’. “That’s nice Mama, but what about that ‘Iceman’ what ‘sposed to be coming?” I queried, attempting to rebuke those old spirits that were shuffling—leaping—lunging—lounging, in her mind.

“Except for the few White people who lived in the settlement near Clayton, Alabama where Daddy lived with Grandma Mary, he didn’t know many people nor did he possess a sense of being discriminated against—until he entered school, that is” her voice trailed off. I could almost hear those old restless—ruthless—recalcitrant—refractory memories roiling around her consciousness.  “Um”, I grunted, hoping to shut those ghosts up for a moment, “What about the ‘Iceman’? When he coming” I goaded, I had to see this guy.

She ignored me—again, and continued, “He visited his Father’s plantation, played with his White sisters and brothers, and ate at their table. Daddy once told me that he did not know anyone of his ancestors as Black. There was never a mention of Grandma Mary’s parents. After years of concentrated study of an old photograph of her, I have summarily surmised that at least half of her puzzling parentage was also White” she grew quiet, as if she currently studied—scrutinized—surveyed—sympathized with, that old sepia-colored photograph.

“Immo knock that invisible darn picture right out of her hands”, I thought evilly to myself. I wanted more information on the “Iceman”. Mama continued, “Daddy’s education ended after 3rd grade. I guess he grew weary of having to run like a gazelle as you described in your last post” she laughed to herself, and then continued, “Even though Grandma Mary and Daddy were biracial, her and Leroy lived as Blacks. They made no attempt to ‘pass’ as it was called back then. ‘Passing’ meant that a person, light enough to be unrecognizable as Black, chose to live as a White”. “So,” I chimed in, hoping to break—bust—bash—barge into her reverie long enough get this question answered, “What about the ‘Iceman’?”

Have you ever felt invisible? Mama began her story again, “As he aged, that old foul villain, with the handlebar moustache, top hat, long black cape and white spats on his shoes; who went by the sobriquet, ‘Discrimination’ made his presence known. And from then on, wherever Daddy went, there he stood, cackling a vile laugh and wringing his long, white, bony hands”.  I looked up and Mama was wringing—wrenching–wrestling her hands against one another, as if envisioning this ‘Dick Dastardly’ reject, from ‘Perils of Penelope’. Sensing an opportunity—a break—a lull—a pause—a halt, in her discourse, I pounced! “Who is the ‘Iceman’?”

“For example, there were no hospitals for Black people”, she went on, as if I had again, done a “Sue Richards” impersonation. “The one or two hospitals that would take Black people put them in the basement.  The Black doctor, who had been taking care of them, possibly Dr. McCoo, was not allowed to practice in nor, attend to Blacks in the White hospitals. I am sure there were many other offenses that existed then, and still exist today. My first anamnesis, or as you phrase it Ronnie, “cryptic memory”, of Daddy having a REAL job was with the ice plant in Eufaula. By then he had married my Mom. I think I’ve given you that info”.

“The ‘Iceman’, finally I get to hear this story!” I shouted in my mind so loudly, my ears popped! Mama pause, and paused, and paused. I waited—wanted—wished—wondered, but she was done. “Damn, Damn, Damn!” my inner voice screeched, like an old Screech Owl that had just missed out on a juicy—jumpy—jittery—joyful mouse meal.


37 thoughts on “The Flowering Vine: The Iceman Cometh!

  1. Woebegone but Hopeful

    Enthralling Ron; the weaving of narrative, facts and imagery.
    No hospitals? What The –
    No I don’t get it, I just don’t get it.
    NRA I can just about grasp, Tea-Party…what nation hasn’t got a ‘Tea Party’? . Even a President Trump (as a warning how important it is for everyone to vote)…But this institutionalised hatred for another race??

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Woebegone but Hopeful

        I wonder if it ever occurs to anyone of the active racists that their antics have resulted in many of their fellow Americans being profiled, stereo-typed and thus treated to the same family of racial abuse by many a ‘liberal’ here in the UK.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow wow wow. LOVED this piece. I have to tell you, it really resonated with me. Okay, so I’m not black. BUT. I’m a Jew. Yet do I choose to ‘pass’ as a generic white Christian? Why, yes. I do not wear a Jewish star as jewellery. I do not have a “mezuzzah” on my door post as all good Jews do. I do not ever go to any synagogue. I do not worship any God or god. But I was born a Jew, and a Jew I am under the skin and will remain so until I’m gone. All of this, I suppose, is my subconscious way of negating (and evading) eons of anti-semitism and persecution. The hatred still goes on today in some quarters, as we all know. So I feel a certain kinship with your forbears who chose to pass.

    By the way, speaking of Blacks not being allowed in hospitals, have any of you ever seen the TV series, The Knick? It only lasted one season but it was AMAZING. It was about a hospital (called the Knickerbocker) set in the 1910s in lower Manhattan, and starred Clive Owen as an iconoclastic doctor who, yes, was not prejudiced against Blacks. In fact, his fellow surgeon who was Black himself (he’d studied in France – a whole ‘nuther sub-plot) started an unofficial clinic in the basement of the Knick for Black patients. This did not end happily! If you can find this show, it’s well worth a look. Amazing show. Can’t remember what network – might have been AMC. Or HBO. Or the Movie Network.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Ellie! I saw one episode, maybe it was the first, the “ambulance” was horse-drawn and was zipping down the cobblestone road. I loved that scene, particularly because I’ve worked in EMS for so many years.

      I was so looking forward to watching it for a many seasons. I like to record the whole season before watching; then I binge watch.

      I agree with you about the Jewish history and its parallels with the Black American experience, in particular, the slavery and oppression.

      So much of early Black American art and literature is steeped in Old Testament references.

      I agree wi


      1. Wait, so did you see all the eps in both seasons, or no? Not quite clear. I was really sad that it wasn’t renewed after the 2nd season. Sniff. At least, though, things got wound up – oh, I shouldn’t say more since maybe you didn’t watch all the eps!

        Yes, binge watching is a joy! I’ve done it with fave series like Six Feet Under, Stranger Things, and many more. So addictive!!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Tareau Barron

    “Even though Grandma Mary and Daddy were biracial, her and Leroy lived as Black’s. They made no attempt to ‘pass’ as it was called back then. ‘Passing meant that a person, light enough to be unrecognizable as Black, chose to live as a White” Wow ain’t that crazy that this still goes on today?

    Liked by 3 people

  4. The Iceman Cometh!
    I can’t wait for his ‘return.’ LOL!!!
    I love the way you and Aunt Jet are able to weave such a beautiful narrative while skillfully holding the reader’s attention the whole while.

    Talk about a great team? YAAAASSSS!

    But you know what Ron, I’ve often wondered why Granddaddy and his mother, Lula, didn’t opt to pass. I’ll be honest, as bad as things were back then for Blacks, I would have been very tempted to slip up North, create a fictitious background and fade to white. LOL.

    Not that I am not proud to be Black, but I’m just saying, if I looked like Granddaddy did I would have strongly considered it.

    Awesome post 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. It was – and is – good. But I want more about that Iceman too!

      Meanwhile – no HOSPITALS for “black folks”?!! I read many of these tales with my mouth open, but this one shocks me to my core.

      I had been told that there were segregated hospitals (also shameful), but NONE? No wonder there are so many folk remedies in your histories. I am so sorry – and I pray that we will not be returning to those unforgivable customs as the result of what’s happening politically, no doubt at this very moment.
      (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
      ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
      “It takes a village to transform a world!”

      Liked by 2 people

        1. I’m doing what I can do to attempt to hold back what will most certainly be coming if enough of us remain complacent.

          Meanwhile, maybe your best-seller would be a book containing those folk remedies. It looks like millions of people will be without health insurance, and will surely need them.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. I truly hope it is in our hands, those of us with cooler heads and more forward thinking minds.

          What I am afraid of most is that we will shift scapegoating, but not change the dynamic. It is already happening, you know.

          As Franklin said, “If we don’t all hang together, we will most certainly hang separately.”

          Liked by 1 person

    2. “Fade to White” LOL! That’s a great one.
      Yeah, it would have been MIIIIIGHTY tempting. It must have taken GRRREEAT strength, not to succumb to the temptation; escaping Jim Crow, Chain Gangs, Sharecropping, etc.. Choosing instead to suffer the slings and arrows of injustice. Wow, inspiring! !!!

      Liked by 2 people

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