Ron’s Time Tunnel: Snakebit!

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Gramp got snake bit! I was a small child the first time I heard the story of my grandma—Gramp—being bitten by the baby “Diamondback rattlesnake” (one of the most poisonous snakes in the U.S.), but of course, I heard it many times afterwards.  According to her, she came very close to “meeting my maker that day and the days that followed”.

It happened one day when, as a young woman, she was picking peas from the pea patch. She didn’t see the miniature viper, nor did she hear him, for the baby rattlesnakes don’t have fully developed rattles like the older, more mature ones do, but they pack more venom—ounce for ounce—than the biggest of rattlers.

A baby Diamondback only has a “bud” on the tip of its tail; and though instinctively, they shake their little tail buds furiously when threatened, the bud makes little or no noise. A beetle’s buzz is probably louder.

As she stepped within range of the small serpent, he struck! His tiny teeth—needle sharp—sank into her ankle. The several days following the bite, were full of; consternation, concern, and care for the young woman lying upon her bed in a feverish heap.

The near invisible puncture mark just above her ankle grew insidiously—over the next several days—into a festering black and blue mound of excruciatingly painful flesh.

Her father, the Right Reverend A. Jordan Smith, prayed fervently and furiously over his baby daughter. He’d also incised an “x” over the bite and attempted to suck the poison from the wound—as was the custom of that day.

Her mother Mollie’s loving hands, caressed, soothed and applied cool compresses to her forehead in a vain attempt to quench the flames of the demon’s fire raging within her. But, despite the prayers and loving care lavished upon the girl, she still inched ever closer towards the precipice of death.

On the third or fourth day, just before the moment of “all hope is lost”, the local “Two-Heads” made an unannounced visit; having obviously been summoned by an anonymous well-wisher. Without a word, the small group surrounding grandma’s bed parted like the Red Sea to let the “Two-Headed” Moses pass. The “Two-Heads” raised his gnarled staff towards the low ceiling of the old weather-beaten, wood-framed house and prayed softly, unlike like the Right Reverend.

The “Two-Heads” then took a wad of “well-chawed” chewing tobacco from his mouth. He made the “chawed” tobacco into a poultice and placed it upon the wound, atop the mound of feverish flesh on Gramp’s ankle. “Leave it there until I return”, he’d told them; then he left.

The next day the “Two-Heads” returned. He removed the “bacca” poultice and placed it back into his mouth where he once again began to chew it; not unlike an old cow chewing a cud. He then removed a frog from inside his ragged cloak. Mumbling unintelligibly, he took out a razor-sharp pocket knife and split the frog, along his soft underbelly—from just below his mouth to a point between his two back legs. He then placed the split side of the frog over the snake bitten area—guts and all—on grandma’s ankle. He turned to face the small group of beloved family members and again issued a caution, “Do not remove the toad frog until I return”. After he issued the caution, he left.

The next morning, the sun rose, the cock crowed thrice, and Gramp sat up; afebrile, countenance glowing, and body fully healed. All who saw it were amazed and prayerfully thankful to Go no nod up above, that the young lady had been brought back from the “jaws of death”; presumably, by a “Two-Headed” man, a plug of “chawing tobacco” and a split “toad-frog”.

Some say that the tobacco and the dead frog, drew the poison from Gramp’s body. They commented that the “old folks say” that it has something to do with the snake preying on the frog, in natural life, and the frog preying on the snake, in the spiritual realm! Who knows? The Word does say the “first shall be last and the last shall be first”!

Here’s a short story from Africa, that might shed some light on the mystery

FROG and SNAKE: An African Folktale

“Ma Frog and Ma Snake had little girls, and both girls wanted to go out to play one sunny afternoon. Ma Snake said, “Look out for things with big paws and shiny claws. Be careful in the bush, little one, and be home before dark.”

The young snake sang as she slithered through the grass, “Sssss, look out for Paws-and-Claws, sssss.”

Nearby, Ma Frog called out, “Be wary of things that poke or snap. Don’t wander into the bush alone, my child, and be home before sundown.”

The young frog sang as she hopped away, “Rrrribit, be wary of the Poke-or-Snap, rrrribit.”

Snake and Frog were still singing when they met along the way, and they almost bumped into each other. A surprised Frog asked Snake, “Are you a ‘Poke-or-Snap?”

“Oh no,” Snake said with a laugh. “Of course not! I’m a snake, and I slip and slide. Are you a ‘Paws-and-Claws?’”

“Goodness no!” replied Frog, who also laughed. “I’m a Frog. I hop and plop.”

As Frog and Snake wandered together into the bush, they decided to become friends. They hugged and sang:

“Let’s make a wish,

and hope it comes true,

to be friends forever,

me and you.”

Frog and Snake snacked on fruit flies and crunchy bugs. Frog showed Snake how to hop. “Watch me!” she said as she hopped up, up in the air and came down with a PLOP!

Snake tried to hop but ended up getting in quite a tangle on the ground. Then Snake showed Frog how to slither. She went to the top of a mound and slid down – SWOOSH! Frog tried to slide but came down in a clumsy tumble.

Frog and Snake laughed at their mistakes. Dusk arrived soon after, and they knew it was time to go home. “Let’s play again tomorrow,” said Frog. “After all, we’re friends now.”

“Yes we are,” replied Snake. “I will see you tomorrow.” They hugged again and said goodbye.

Frog replied, “Oh, I had such a fun day. I met a snake, and we played together. She taught me to slide, and now we are best friends.”

Ma Frog was horrified. “A snake? Dear child, don’t you know that snakes eat frogs? Snakes are bad, and you must promise me that you will never play with snakes again.”

Frog shivered. “Yes,” she answered. “I understand.”

Nearby, Snake arrived home. Ma Snake said, “My, my. You look tired. Where have you been?”

Snake happily replied, “I have a new friend named Frog. We played, and she showed me how to hop.”

Ma Snake was shocked, “A frog? Little one, you are a snake, and snakes are supposed to eat frogs!”

Ma snake continued, “The next time you see her, you must gobble her up.”

Snake lowered her head and answered, “Yes, Mama. I understand.” The next day Snake went to Frog’s house and called out, “Frog, let’s play together!”

Frog huddled inside her house. “Ha!” she said. “My mother told me how snakes really like to play. No thanks. I’m going to stay right here where I’ll be safe.”

“Ah,” Snake said. “My mother talked to me too, and she told me all about frogs and what I should do.”

Snake continued, “So, I guess there is nothing more to say but goodbye.”

“Farewell,” said Frog.

Frog and Snake never played with each other again.

(“Why Frog and Snake Never Play Together” 26 Nov 2007. http://www.howstuffworks.com/why-frog-and-snake-never-play-together-story.htm#> 28 October 2016)

MORAL: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” (NELSON MANDELLA)

Ron’s Time Tunnel: Well I’ll be a “Tom Tanka!”

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As a youngster, I always got great enjoyment from visiting Aunt Annie Bell and Uncle Croff. I especially enjoyed watching Uncle Croff work on the little boat motor that was “sometimes” used to propel the little green and silver “jon boat”–green where the paint remained and silver where it had worn away—he and my daddy shared ownership of. I say “sometimes” because, more times than not, Uncle Croff and Daddy “motored” out onto the water, in the little boat, but had to paddle it back in.

Uncle Croff was forever tinkering with the motor. Often, Daddy, with us kids in tow, would ride over to his house to check on his progress and to see if any “patabah worms” were on his “patabah tree” (our word “patabah”, I later learned, was actually a transliteration of “catalpa” or “Catawba”).

Entomologically speaking, Catalpa or Catawba worms are hairless caterpillars of the Sphinx Moth, whose taxonomic designation is, “Ceratomia catalpa”; of course, none of us knew that then, not even my “college educated” father. All we knew, was that they made for some awesome fish bait.

Many days, Uncle Croff could be found in the backyard of his home, with the boat motor attached to the inside lip of a 50-gallon drum of oily water. He’d tinker a bit then yank the starter cord, causing the motor to cough, sputter and spit, much like Uncle Croff coughed, sputtered, and spit when he hocked up his huge luggies.

Occasionally, and I do mean occasionally, the motor would crank. The motor would growl to life, its propeller, submerged deep inside the barrel, causing the water below to churn and the water at the surface to bubble, boil and smoke like some wicked, “witches brew”.

“Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and caldron bubble.”

On the few occasions when the motor started—and stayed running—the reticent smirk, which served as Uncle Croff’s smile, and the jubilant grin, that breached Daddy’s face, bore witness to how much that seemingly simple act meant to them, as they spoke loudly over the roar of the motor about the upcoming fishing trip that was sure to happen, now that the motor was “running”.

It was on one of these occasions that Uncle Croff shared the following “lie” with us; of course, all of Uncle Croff’s “lies” were “true”, (I’ll leave you to ponder that statement as we listen to Uncle Croff’s tale);

‘So, a little Black boy and his daddy was fishing from the bank at the ‘backup water’ one day. This was the little ‘Tom Tanka’s’ first time fishing in such a large body of water (“Tom Tanka”, being one of Uncle’s favorite terms of “endearment”). He was used to fishing on creeks and such.

The day was a nice, quiet day. Off in the distance could be heard the occasional splash of a big bass jumpin’ up out of the water to catch a mayfly, or ‘snake doctor’, or some such flyin’ booger, then come’a splashin’ back down into the water. That sound always made me want to throw my fishin’ line out to the spot where he splashed, but I guess those jumpin’ fish only like flyin’ boogers, ‘cause I never caught a one of ‘em.

The only other sounds which was heard was of a Whip-Poor-Will and a ole Screech Owl talkin’ to once another. The Whip-Poor-Will called, unmercifully, for the floggin’ of some poor miscreant named Will, who the owl must have not have heard tell of, b‘cause he kept’a  hollerin’ back, “Who? Who? Who?”

Then the Whippoorwill would holler back, ‘Whip-Poor-Will!’

I always wondered what old Will had done, to deserve such a whipping. Perhaps he done stole a pie coolin’ in some poor widow’s window, who knows?

Well, anyhigh, they’d been fishing for an hour of two when slowly, another sound creeped to within earshot of the boy and his daddy. It started off as a low hum, like locusts hummin’ in the trees, but wasn’t no locusts yet ‘cause it was still early in the day.

The hum increased to a buzz, like a old worrisome horsefly buzzin’ ‘round ya ears. Then it was a moan, like the sound Sister Bessie make when she gits the Holy Ghost. Then all of a suddenly, it quit. There was nothin’ but silence, ‘ceptin’ for Whippoorwill callin and the old owl saying who, who, who.

The boy and his daddy peered off into the direction the sound had been comin’ from and could jest make out the figure of two White men sittin’ on a jon boat. ‘Them there is White men boy’, the boy’s daddy whispered. The little boy sat awestruck cause he had never seen White Men a’fore.

One of the men was drinking from a jug of “spirits” and the other was tuggin’ furiously at the starter cord which was attached to the little motor, on the back end of the john boat. Parently, it had done choked out and he was temptin’ to get it started again.

The boat had continued to drift closer towards the boy and his dad. Now they voices could be heard and the two White Men, by tone and gesture, appeared to be arguin’. The one who’d been sipping the liquor from the jug, hollered out, “Dammit man! The damnation thang is probably out of gas!”, with that he grabbed a large gasoline can from the bottom of the boat and began to stumble toward the back of the boat, where stood the other man, with one hand on his hip and the other scratching his shiny white forehead.

Along the way, the boozer tripped on somethin’ and the gasoline can flew outta his hands into the water; all of the gasoline spilt out the can and into the water.

The other man, yelled at the tipsy one saying, ‘If you weren’t a dranking this here ‘shine you wouldn’t a have spilled the gasoline ya dang old drunk!’  With that he reached into the bottom of the boat and grabbed out a jug of shine. He uncorked it and poured it into the water, while his snookered partna scrambled to get to his feet to stop him. The tippler was unsuccessful, as the stream of shine hit the water with a splash.

The man who was still standing, grabbed a second jug from outta the bottom of the boat and poured it into the water, while the ole stumblebum railed aginst him. The man poured the second jug into the water. ‘Now grab a paddle you ole drunk and start to paddle’, he said as he pulled out a pack of cigarette papers from his vest pocket.

He loaded a cigarette paper with tobacco from a red can and licked it closed, then he pulled a match out of from his front pocket and struck it against the back pocket of his dungarees. After lighting his cigarette, he tossed the match into the water, setting alight the ‘shine and gasoline mixture, thus causing a great explosion and a fire that spread acrost the water!

The little boy was awestruck! When him and his daddy return’t home, he couldn’t wait to tell his momma what he had seent. ‘Ma!’ he yelled, mostly out of breath. I saw the most amazing thing today’. ‘You did honey?’ asked the momma, ‘And what was that?’ she finished. ‘Daddy showed me a White Man. ‘He did reply the momma’, ‘Yeah it was amazin’, finished the little ‘Tom Tanka’.

‘These two White men was on a boat. One of ‘em was drunk!  They started to argue and the drunk one fell down. The other one musta been real mad ‘cause, he grabbed thunder outta his shirt pocket and lightening outta his front pocket! Then he scratched his ass and set the whole world on fire! Ma! Them White Men is some TOM TANKAS!’

Momma chastised the little Tom Tanka for exaggerating and cussing, and sent him out to clean the fish.

The moral of the story is this: Perspective is a Sumbitch!

Ron’s Time Tunnel: This Land is Your Land

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Picture taken by R. Brown at Panama City Beach, FL

In the year 1970, the “black” and “white” schools of Randolph County integrated. The conclusion of that school year marked three memorable moments for me. First, I had to leave the nurturing instruction, provided by my favorite teacher of all times, Ms. Dorothy Marlin.  Secondly, I was going from the third to the fourth grade and last but not least, 1970 was the last year that my class would be populated by black kids only. The white kids were coming to our school in the fall.

The state of Georgia and Randolph County were not exactly “chomping at the bit” to integrate their schools. The Supreme Court had actually declared that “Separate but Equal” was a “flawed standard” and called for desegregation with the “Brown-v-The Board of Education” case in 1954. Then the Supreme Court had to further prod the prodigious asses of the ponderous system of segregation by stating, in 1955; “’Hey guys let’s get this done with ‘ALL DELIBERATE SPEED ’”. The Supreme Court had to intervene, once again, with the Civil Rights act of 1968 before much got done. Then in 1970, sixteen years after the landmark “Brown-v-The Board of Education” decision, integration trickled into Randolph County Schools.

Here, in retrospect, is what I find remarkable about the whole process; all of the Black kids were required to attend Summer School that summer. This action was based on the assumption, by the “powers that be”, that the White kids were, academically, more advanced than the Black kids; who would therefore need that summer to “catch up” with the White kids; so as not impede their learning process.

Whether or not the White kids were smarter than we were, I had no idea; but what I did know was that the books we used were provided, second-hand, from the neighboring “white” school. So, if having the newer edition of the textbook was a portent of academic excellence, then the White kids had that in spades. Every “new” textbook I received, during those years, already had several names of previous users on the inside cover. I would often daydream about just what little “Robert Winslow Brent” looked like; how he spoke; what he did after school; what games he played or what toys he got for Christmas.

So we spent that summer learning to play “new” games; reading “new” books and getting used to White teachers. When fall arrived, bringing with it a new season called integration, I discovered the following things: White kids were no more or less smart than their Black counterparts; some of them were brilliant and some were academically challenged; some of them were boisterous and some were shy; some of them were nice and others were not so nice. Basically, I learned that besides being “White” they were no different than us Black kids. And! I learned that Robert was called “Bob” for short.

One other thing I learned was the following song by Woody Guthrie; taught to us by those benevolent White teachers that came to “enlighten” us that summer:

THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND

This land is your land. This land is my land.

From California to the New York island;

From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters

This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,

I saw above me that endless skyway:

I saw below me that golden valley:

This land was made for you and me.

Ron’s Time Tunnel: Church Hats!

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1 Corinthians 11:5-6 reads, “5.) But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6.) For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.”

Some have taken these verses to mean that a woman must have her head covered with some sort of hat while worshipping. But, NONE have taken it to such extremes as have some of my African American sisters. This was especially true in the older days. Every good, God-fearing Christian woman worth her salt, possessed an impressive array of extravagant “Church Hats”. My Grandmother had such a collection; as did many of the older ladies in my church.

Although the popularity of the “Church Hat” has faded over the years, there are still some ladies who wear them proudly. I know of one lady, in particular, who always “dresses to the nines”; from the bottom of her high-heeled shoes, to the top of her immaculately ornamented head. She is always stylishly late (I assume, to ensure that all eyes are on her). She then walks slowly and deliberately to the front of the church and sits in the center of the very first pew.

 As the church service progresses, her huge hat can be seen tilting; first to the left; then to the right; then back, and finally forward.  Then it rests there quietly until a shout, a “hand clap of praise”, or some other loud noise, awakens its owner from her slumber; jerking it back to its upright and attentive position, while its owner interjects a perfectly timed, “Hallelujah! Amen!” as if she’d been listening to the proceedings the whole time.

 My Father once told the following story, during one of his speeches: “A certain lady had purchased a brand new “Church Hat”. The hat was elaborately decorated with flowers and fruit and was very, very large. She could hardly wait for Sunday to come so that she could show it off.

 When Sunday arrived, the lady put on her very best “Sunday-go-to-meeting” dress and shoes; topped off by her brand new hat.  When she arrived at church, she strode confidently and proudly down the center isle toward the front of the church.

As she made her way forward, she couldn’t help but notice that everyone was looking at her and her hat. Some whispered quietly amongst themselves. She made her way to the front pew and sat proudly; displaying her hat for all to see.

 After the church service was over, a kindly old gentleman walked up to the lady. She greeted him; full of pride and prepared to receive the compliments she knew her new hat would generate.

‘Ma’am’, whispered the old man, ‘your hat’, ‘Yes! Yes!’ replied the lady expectantly.

‘Your hat’ continued the old man, ‘has got one of the biggest, ugliest, hairiest, yellow, green and orange worms I’ve ever done seen on it, and he’s eating them fruits and flowers up there!’

With that, the lady slammed the hat to the ground, stomped the caterpillar to smithereens and ran screaming all of the way home.”

 In summary: I believe that 1 Corinthian 11, when taken in its proper context, refers to the Christian fact that; the head of the man is Christ and is so covered. The head of the woman is man and should be covered by the man. Not physically covered, but spiritually; just as the man’s head is covered by Christ. But I do enjoy the hats so very, very much.  

 Also, it should be noted that the story of the lady with the caterpillar on her hat, should serve as a precautionary reminder that, not everyone who is looking at you, is looking at you for the reason you think they are. Not ALL attention is GOOD attention.  

 And then there are the attention seekers. These people long to be the center of attention at all times. Some people use YOUR pain and YOUR struggles to garner attention for themselves. I call these people “Munchausen by Proxy” attention seekers. Be cautious of these people for, they are not your friends.

Ron’s Time Tunnel: What’s That Smell?

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I grew up in Cuthbert, Georgia, and although I wasn’t attuned to it in my youth, racial bias and prejudice were interwoven into the “colored” fabric of our lives there. In retrospect, I don’t see how I could have missed it, but as I matured, the signs became obvious.

Going into the Air Force and experiencing the climate of comradery which dominated the atmosphere there, gave me a broader perspective on race relations; being exposed to the fresh air of diversity, made the malodorous and stagnant air of my beloved home, by contrast, even more oppressively obvious.

It’s kind of like working all week at a paper mill, or the chicken plant—whose efflux blankets the town of Cuthbert when the wind is right—then getting off for the weekend; enjoying the comforts and pleasantly familiar smells of home all weekend; then afterwards, going back into the plant on Monday morning.

When you first enter the chicken plant, on Monday morning, the rancid smell assails your now “virgin” nostrils, but after a few days, or even hours, you become acclimated to it. It becomes almost unnoticeable. That’s what leaving Cuthbert; staying away for a while (e.g. the Military) then coming back felt like, when it came to my hometown’s racial climate.

I recall one such instance, in which my father and I had driven to town to get gas at a “filling station” on “the square”. Every small, southern town worth its salt, has a “square”, but Cuthbert’s “square” is more of a “squircle”—a real word by the way—than a square. The “squircle” has thrived for decades under the vigilant gaze of a life-sized statue bedecked in full Confederate Army officer regalia, with all of the accoutrements deserving of such an immortally heroic figure.

As a child, I thought this monument was an image of “General Cuthbert”. I was never told that his name was Cuthbert, neither did I read it anywhere. It just seemed to me that he must be “General Cuthbert”. Why else would he have been given such a prestigiously prominent post?

Since that time, I’ve had an opportunity to read the plaque affixed to the pedestal only to find out, rather disappointedly, that he was not “General Cuthbert” after all, in fact, he was no one, in particular.

Yes! He stood high above the “square”, on a pedestal, surrounded by stone cannons, his stony gaze, unwavering; that is, until “Drunk Guy” drove across the park proper and crashed into his pedestal, thus knocking the old fellow from his perch and sending him crashing, unceremoniously, to the ground below; shattering his “body” into to several rocky chunks.

Some say that guy wasn’t so drunk after all.

Personally, I was glad to see the old guy go down and I don’t think I was alone in my sentiments. To me, the old “General” represented a time of pain, sorrow and oppression for Black people. A time that we’d rather not see “memorialized” so obtrusively and prominently, in the very center of the town that we call home. Now, thank God Almighty, he was no more, OR WAS HE?

Well, as it turns out, the encounter with “the Drunk Guy”, was not the “General’s last stand” for some of the good “citizens” of Cuthbert, in an awesome display of “philanthropy”—obviously borne of some misplaced sense of “patriotism”—thought it not robbery to donate the funds necessary to re-erect that old phallus. Soon another, identical image of the old bastard, forged in the depths of Confederate hell, was brought forth—shinning white and new—and deposited, ceremoniously I might add, atop the moldy marbled plinth.

This, the current incarnation of “The General”, is actually his third. He was first erected in 1894, but he was subsequently, blown from his lofty perch by the “cyclone of 1909”. In his falling, he lost his left hand and was thus, retired to “Greenwood Cemetery”; the final resting place of many of the Confederate dead he’d so proudly represented, for so many decades.

His second “incarnation”, or one MIGHT say, his first RE-incarnation, was in the 1940’s, when the cyclone “victim” was replaced by a fresh-faced recruit, identical to the first one. Then came the “Drunk Guy”!

Something stinks!

But I digress; back at the “filling station”. My father had an “account” at the filling station. If one was “fortunate” enough to have had such an account, one could get gas on credit and pay at the end of the month. Once at the filling station, a young Black fellow sprinted cat-like, up to the driver’s side window of the car and asked, “How much?” “Fill her up”, Dad told the boy. It appears to me now, that all of the “pumpers” back then, were black guys and the white guys ran the cash register.

When my father went to “sign” for his gas, the owner/cashier greeted him warmly, “Hey there Fletcher. D’ja fill er up today?” “Yes sir Mr. White!” my father replied. “Well awright Fletcher, jest sign rat cheer and have a good ‘un now, ya hear?”  the owner/cashier chimed arrogantly.

Here’s what I found odiferous about the situation; why did my father refer to Mr. White as “Mr.” and Mr. White refer to my father by his first name? My father was, at least, as old as Mr. White, an educated man, and a respected member of the community.

Scenes of this nature, unfortunately, were commonplace in those times, but like the smell of the plant—to one grown unaccustomed to its odor—they were especially noxious to the olfactics. Where was the MUTUAL respect?

Let me share with you, a few of my thoughts and observations about racism, racial bias, and prejudice:

• Prejudice judges a person by his/her outward appearance, without regard to what is in the person’s heart or mind.

• Prejudice is the mark of an ignorant mind that perceives itself to be enlightened.

• Prejudice assumes it understands the actions and behaviors of others while having no knowledge or facts about the person or persons.

• Prejudice has its roots in ignorance and breeds ever increasing ignorance.

• Discrimination deprives a person or group of persons of their Constitutional rights of: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

• Discrimination deprives a person or persons of the right to belong to society.

• Stereotyping deprives a person of the right to be an individual.

• Racism is a small-minded man’s way of raising himself above others. He elevates himself by demeaning others.

God does not look at the same things that people look at; people look at outward appearance, but the Lord looks into a man’s heart.

    

     

     

      

     

Ron’s Time Tunnel: SEASONS

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“The coming and going of the seasons give us more than the springtimes, summers, autumns, and winters of our lives. It reflects the coming and going of the circumstances of our lives like the glassy surface of a pond that shows our faces radiant with joy or contorted with pain.” ~Gary Zukav

I remember the “Big Snow” in Cuthbert, Georgia; around 1974 or ’75 I think it was. I can recall riding with my Grandmother down Andrew Street when it first started to snow.  Sitting in the front seat of the old Pontiac, I looked up at the gray sky through the front windshield and through some strange optical effect, the falling snow seemed to swirl down from a single focal point; a kind of “singularity” in a “Big Bang” of snowfall.

It snowed all night. When we peered out the windows the next morning the world was covered with a thick, white and undulating sheet of new-fallen snow; a sheet whiter than the clean, bleached white sheets on Grandma’s clothesline.  We ran from window to window; gazing out until our mind’s camera had developed a panoramic view of the entire surreal scene. We dared not go out in the snow because we lacked proper attire.

Grandmothers are notorious for insisting that no one goes out in inclement weather without proper head covering, shoes and coats but, when she’d had enough of our begging to go out and she’d tired of the deep, sad, longing in our eyes, she acquiesced, but not without compromise. We had to wear winter clothes from her closet so as to be properly protected from catching an awful disease, known only to old people, called “consumption”.

So there we were, finally, outside in the deepest whitest snow we’d ever seen. I looked goofy with my Grandmothers floppy, shiny, fake-leather hat; an oversized coat and her knee high patent-leather boots. My brother faired a little better.

He was adorned in her brown leather-like tam, gloves and a matching jacket with fake fur around the collar. He actually looked rather dapper with the brown tam cocked rakishly to the side. That day, while the rest of the world had come to a screeching halt, we made our first snowmen; had snowball fights; made angels in the snow and even pissed in the snow thus soiling its virgin whiteness with our little yellow pee stains.

We enjoyed that winter and many others, but we were always joyous when spring came and the snow and ice thawed. In spring-time, the earth gives birth to new life. Nature’s first green begins to sprout. From golden hued saplings to the jolly green giants, the trees rejuvenate; the flowers bloom; butterflies flutter in the spring breeze; the bees buzz busily about their busy little bee business and the robins flock into any tree which bears berries. Sometimes the robins get so drunk on fermented China-berries that they fall to the ground like dead men. They’re not really dead though, just dead drunk. On the other hand, spring also brings rain, storms, tornados and flooding.

Summer brings its insufferable heat and long lazy days. It brings drought and high electric bills. As children we walked the scorching gravel and asphalt streets in bare feet. The heat snaked  up from the pavement in transparent waves; striking us in the face like the heat from the devil’s hot breath; causing all who dared to venture outside to twist their countenance into the same squinty frown.  But we were out of school! And, the swimming pool was open.

The swimming pool opened up in June.  We would scrape up the $1.00 admission fee and maybe enough for a coca-cola and a hotdog.  We would splash swim play until the lifeguard blew his whistle signaling time for us to head home.  Then we walked home on the hot asphalt and gravel; hungry exhausted and ashy; looking like little phoenix’s who’ve just risen fresh from the fire’s hot, grey ash.

Then there’s autumn. For the children it is back to the grind of school.  But, autumn is also football, hunting and basketball season. It is the season with the most pleasant weather and the season when nature puts on her most dazzling display of color; splashes of red, orange, brown, yellow and green; the season of long, crooked shadows that lean drunkenly as if belonging to old, tall, leaning drunks. Autumn is the season which makes you want to say, in the words of Sophia from “The Color Purple, “I knowed they is a God.”

So now, I’ve once again, “fetched a compass”. I’ve gone all around by Robin Hood’s barn? What is the point of these verbal meanderings? Well, it’s all about “Seasons”; the seasons of nature and the “seasons” of life.

I constantly hear musings about what “seasons” a person is in; especially from my fellow Christians. We set watch for our “seasons”; our seasons of troubles; seasons of prosperity; seasons of healing; seasons of success in business and relationships.  When things are not going as we expect them to, we like to say, “It’s not my season yet” or “My season is coming; or “I’m entering a new season and my life is soon to change”; just as the seasons in nature change.

But the news here is this; in nature the different seasons come no matter what we do. The seasons come; unchanging, undeterred, and relentlessly chronological. Each year the seasons march incessantly forward because time marches incessantly forward and the seasons are inextricably interwoven with time. What changes is what we do in the season. The seasons are coming! Make no mistake about it. There’s nothing we can do to stop them.

It’s all a matter of perspective. There is no “good” season, not is there a “bad” season. There are just “DIFFERENT SEASONS”. Spring is no better or worse than fall, for all have their good AND bad points. What matters is what you do in the season; in “summer” do “summer activities”; in “winter” do “winter activities” and the same goes for autumn and spring.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, King James Version (KJV) says; “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” This verse tells us that there are things to do in every season, but you can’t do everything in every season. It doesn’t tell us to sit in the house all “winter” waiting for “spring”! We’re not to put our lives on hold while we await the proper “season”. We should do what we can in the season we’re in.

Jeremiah 8:7-8 says; ‘”7.) Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration. But my people do not know the requirements of the Lord. 8.) “‘How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?”’ What? Even the stork and the dove know what to do in their seasons.

Ron’s Time Tunnel: Written In Stone

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When Gramp started to get old, she started to lose her short-term memory.  We didn’t know exactly what it was at the time, but looking back, I suspect that it was Alzheimer’s disease or Organic Brain Syndrome. In either case, it resulted in her experiencing a loss of her short-term memory. She could remember stories and events from decades before like they happened yesterday, but, she couldn’t remember yesterday.

Late one evening, I returned home on leave from the military. It was my first trip home since joining the Air Force in July of 1979. I knocked on the door. The porch light winked on and Gramp’s familiar old face appeared at the door.

I said, “Hey Gramp!” to which she cheerfully replied, “Hey there!”

But, she didn’t let me in right away.

So I asked her, “Don’t you recognize me?” to which she responded,

“Of course!”, but she still didn’t let me in.

So I asked her if she knew who I was and she answered,

“Yes! You’re my nephew Jack Mitchell!”

“I said, No Gramp, I’m your grandson Ronnie.”

Suddenly her eyes brightened with recognition and she said joyfully,

“Oh yeah! You’re the one in the Army! Come on in boy!”

In those days and in this part of the world, every military serviceman or servicewoman was in the “Army”, no matter what branch they really served in.

The point of this little story is this; In spite of health issues which impaired her memory, with a little prompting, Gramp could remember that her grandson was a military serviceman, even if she did have the wrong branch of service. That’s more than I can say for the United States Government and the politicians who, MIS-manage, MIS-lead and MIS-informs its citizens.

These so-called leaders have conveniently forgotten or broken the promises made to the U.S. serviceman and servicewoman throughout the years; promises that were written on paper, in the hearts and minds of the citizenry as well as IN STONE; promises inscribed in stone because of its proven durability; promises inscribed in stone because of its hardness and toughness.

Stone monuments, like the pyramids have endured for thousands of years. God even wrote the Ten Commandments in stone. Things are inscribed in stone so that we might never forget them and so that we would have constant reminders for eternity.

We have constant reminders of the sacrifices made for these promises in the Gardens of Stone like Arlington National Cemetery, and Andersonville.  A stone wall in the Lincoln Monument bears the following inscription from the Gettysburg Address; “BUT IN A LARGER SENSE, WE CANNOT DEDICATE-WE CANNOT CONSECRATE-WE CANNOT HALLOW-THIS GROUND. THE BRAVE MEN LIVING AND DEAD, WHO STRUGGLED HERE, HAVE CONSECRATED, FAR ABOVE OUR POOR POWER TO ADD OR DETRACT”.

It is important to note that President Lincoln did not forget the LIVING in his panegyric. The stone Tomb of the Unknowns bears the inscription, HERE RESTS, IN HONORED GLORY; AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN ONLY TO GOD.

The WWII memorial inscription, written in stone, says, OUR DEBT TO THE HEROIC MEN AND WOMEN IN THE SERVICE OF OUR COUNTRY CAN NEVER BE REPAID. THEY HAVE EARNED OUR UNDYING GRATITUDE. AMERICA WILL NEVER FORGET THEIR SACRIFICES. The words, DEBT, EARNED, GRATITUDE, NEVER FORGET and REPAID, stand out here.

The Viet Nam War Memorial is inscribed with the 58,286 names of the men and women who died or went missing in action to EARN our GRATITUDE. The stone wall of the Korean War Memorial simply states, FREEDOM IS NOT FREE.

We have memorialized the fallen servicemen and women in stone but some among us have forgotten the promises made to the living. Each year the once concrete promises made to our living, active duty servicemen, servicewomen, and vets is being chipped into dust. When I joined the Air Force, we were promised free medical care for life if we served twenty honorable, faithful and dedicated years. Well, now we have to pay for this service.

I’m not complaining…much; because the price I pay is meager in comparison to the civilian rates. But, it’s not free, as was promised.  Retirement pay, which once was considered sacred, is becoming an option on the chopping block of the politicians. What about the recent VA debacle, which saw veterans die while waiting for the PROMISE of medical treatment, EARNED in battle? We have memorialized the fallen but our political leaders have forgotten the living.

The word NEPENTHE refers to a legendary potion purported to have existed in the olden times of Greece.  This potion causes forgetfulness.  It would seem that our political leaders have become drunk on the “NEPENTHE” of power; of riches; of fame and of vanity, for they have conveniently forgotten the promises made in STONE and replaced them with promises written on glass and with invisible ink; promises that disappear or are easily broken at the whim of privileged civilians, who have never served a day of military service in their lives, for political gain and hidden agendas.

I’ve made this forecast before but I’ll make it again. As long as the benefits of choosing a military career balance with or outweigh the risks, the ideal of an “all-volunteer force” is secure. But, once the risks begin to outweigh the benefits, people will be less inclined to volunteer for military service and so consequently, recruitment will go down. When recruitment goes down, military readiness will suffer; when military readiness suffers, these same leaders will begin to explore other options to increase military readiness.

These options will be the death of the “all volunteer force; mandatory service obligation (the draft) will be at the forefront of the solution to the manning problem; then EVERYONE can lace up their boots; Simple logic, simple math.

This forecast may NOT BE WRITTEN IN STONE but the WRITING IS ON THE WALL!

Ron’s Time Tunnel: What Were You Doing?

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  • 08:30, on the morning of September 11, 2001, I left home, headed for work on my new job as the EMS Director for Clay County EMS. I drove south of Highway 27, in my 1995 black Firebird, listening to my “Candy Rain” CD by “Soul for Real”.
  • 08:46 Flight 11 crashes at roughly 466 mph (790 km/h or 219m/s or 425 knots) into the north face of the North Tower (1 WTC) of the World Trade Center. ”~Wikipedia.  I, of course, was completely unaware of this event, as I cruised blissfully through the country side.
  • At 09:03, I walked into the dayroom of Clay County EMS just as; “Flight 175 crashed at about 590 mph (950 km/h, 264 m/s or 513 knots) into the south face of the South Tower (2 WTC) of the World Trade Center, between floors 77 and 85.” ~Wikipedia. I stood there in awe and wondered to myself and possibly aloud “What the F**k?”—I was still using profanity at that time.

As the story developed, we learned what had happened.

The story and the subsequent set of events and circumstances it spawned filled the news airwaves. Any other events or concerns were forgotten.  Does anyone remember Gary Condit? He was a politician and member of the Democratic Party who served in the House of Representatives for the 18th congressional district in the state of California from 1989 to 2003.

He was also the lead story before the tragic terrorist events of “9-11”, who purportedly had an extramarital affair with intern; Chandra Levy, which was exposed after Levy’s disappearance in May 2001.  He was also alleged to have murdered her. That story disappeared from the news.

The economy was tanking. President George W. Bush was under considerable fire for his failing economic policies. During this time, EVERYONE forgot about the economy and Ms. Levy’s death and banned together in a united front against the terrorists. The “patriotic spirit” was at an all-time high. The political parties forgot about their differences and pledged to work together.

Finally, politicians would reach across party lines!

Finally, “Partisan Politics” would be nullified!

Finally, our country could again, move forward in a spirit of unity instead of stagnating in a pool of hate, vengeance and petty bickering!

Finally, brotherhood would prevail!

But alas, the “Human Factor” was destined to show up and show out!

Alas! our natural, self-serving tendency would rear its ugly head.

One day, in the aftermath of the tragic events, and during the “Feel Good Era”, I remember having a conversation with one of my EMT’s Lloyd Brown aka. “Lightning”. I said, ‘“Man, you just watch, everything is all love, hugs, kisses, and handshakes right now, but just wait and watch. In a few months or a year, it’ll be business as usual. Everyone will have gotten over this patriotism, brotherhood and love shit. The politicians will be back at their same old political bullshit and ‘Bi-Partisan’ fighting. All will be ‘un-well’ with the world again.”’ NOW LOOK AT TODAY’S STATE OF AFFAIRS!

If anyone out there is contemplating ways to honor the lives lost on that fateful day in 2001, I suggest the following: Post memes, wave flags, have parades and special events to mark the “9-11” Tragedy, BUT MORE THAN THAT! LET’S TRY TO REMEMBER THE FEELING WE HAD AS WE UNITED IN A COMMON CAUSE. THAT’S WHAT IS NEEDED; NOW MORE THAN EVER!

Ron’s Time Tunnel: When I Was Your Age

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Those of my Grandma’s generation were rather fond of reminding the youth of my generation how much better things were when they were young. They spoke of how the younger generation—the generation of degeneration—was headed headlong into the archetypal pits of “hell” in the proverbial “hand basket”.  They sometimes cursed us to a life of raising children and grandchildren that would give us just as much hell as we, allegedly, gave them. Sometimes they would just sit back and tell stories, fascinating stories about the “old days”.  I wrote this poem in memory of, and as a eulogy to, “the good old days”.

WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE

When I was your age, we didn’t have any shoes.
We walked ten miles barefooted, just to get to school.

An ordinary bucket served as our lunchbox,
With biscuits to eat and some syrup to sop.

I only had one dress to wear and I wore it every day.
Mama washed it with lye soap, until the stains went away.

We wore overalls with dozens of holes and patches;
Made of calico, denim, and even burlap swatches.

When I was your age, I didn’t learn algebra and calculus.
I learned my “times tables” and “ciphered” with an abacus.

When Mama combed my hair and I squirmed or acted bad,
She hit me on the head with the brush or whatever else she had.

As a matter of fact, when-so-ever we sassed or disobeyed,
She whipped our tails with a switch and made us all behave.

When I was your age, I was actually older than you.
When I was going on one year old, I was really going on two.

Young’uns today are served on a silver platter.
My folks just looked at my empty hands and asked, “What’s the matter?”

When I was your age, children were seen and not heard.
You got your teeth knocked out if you even whispered a word.

Children today awaken on Christmas morn, to piles of pirate’s loot.
All we got for Christmas was some walnuts, hard candy, and fruit.

We used kerosene lamps and candles at nighttime to see.
We had to carry them with us when we went to the outhouse to pee.

We got up with the chickens and did our chores without a peep.
When the sun went down, we went back to sleep.

When I was your age, we didn’t have; marijuana, coke and heroin.
We had Coca-Cola with real cocaine within.

Those were the good old days.
When I was your age!

~by Ronald Brown (2015)

 

 

 

Ron’s Time Tunnel: The Birds

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A myriad of birds flew through my childhood. Everywhere, there were birds of both the literal and figurative ilk. Some came by way of stories told by the “old folks”, others flew in from childhood adventures. TAKE HEED.

THE BIRDS

High above the Eagle flies,

Lord and master of the skies;

Wings outstretched to catch the breeze.

Dad said, “Time flies on wings like these”.

He once spoke of an outlandishly odd bird,

Who only flew backwards, or so he’d heard.

The bird cared not about where it was going.

It only cared where it had been.

One bird gave a monkey a terrible ride.

He dove, dipped, flipped and turned on his side.

He rocketed straight up like a jet plane in flight,

but the monkey held the birds neck with all of his might.

The bird squealed, “Please loosen your hold, I can’t breathe!”

But the monkey tightened his grip and dug in with his knees.

He said, “Mr. Bird, Mr. Bird if you don’t want to die tonight,

Stop this hellish flying; straighten up and fly right!”

On Sundays or when ironing, my Grandma would sing;

“Oh Glory, I’ll fly away on some glad morning!

Some glad day when this life is over, I’ll fly away.

Just like a Mourning Dove on that Great Getting Up Day”.

And how about the parrot that just sits in his cage,

talking and talking as if he were a sage,

but fly he does not nor does he sing.

Didn’t he hear Maya explain “Why the caged bird sings”?

You see he couldn’t fly even if he was free

Because his wings have been clipped for a paltry fee.

Talking and talking like some kind of big shot.

But fly like the other birds, that he does not.

In our youth, we shot robins with BB guns.

That’s how we started our springtime fun.

Some may frown at Robin Redbreast’s death,

But it thrilled us to death, to put a bullet in his chest.

A bird is the reason my ear constantly rings.

Once Block, Dad and I were small game hunting.

“White Cloud” was with us too, but walking behind.

I believe the year was nineteen seventy-nine.

We were hunting rabbit but jumped some quail.

One flew so close, I could touch his tail.

White Cloud raised his gun and picked him off in mid-air

I’m sure to this day, that I felt buckshot part my hair

Dazed I stood as bells rang in my head.

It was then that I remembered what father had said.

I could hear his voice rising above the constant ring

And these are the words that he was saying;

“High above the Eagle flies

Lord and master of the skies

Wings outstretched to catch the breeze

Time flies on wings like these”.

By Ron Brown