The Flowering Vine: Run Boy Run!

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Run Boy Run

(A song by)

Yoann Lemoine

Run boy run! This world is not made for you

Run boy run! They’re trying to catch you

Run boy run! Running is, a victory

Run boy run! Beauty lays behind the hills

Run boy run! The sun will be guiding you

Run boy run! They’re dying to stop you

Run boy run! This race is a prophecy

Run boy run! Break out from society

Tomorrow is another day

And you won’t have to hide away

You’ll be a man, boy!

But for now, it’s time to run, it’s time to run!

Run boy run! This ride is a journey to

Run boy run! The secret inside of you

Run boy run! This race is a prophecy

Run boy run! And disappear in the trees

Tomorrow is another day

And you won’t have to hide away

You’ll be a man, boy!

But for now, it’s time to run, it’s time to run!

Tomorrow is another day

And when the night fades away

You’ll be a man, boy!

But for now, it’s time to run, it’s time to run!

In youth, I ran like a gazelle. I first became aware of that “fact”, in the seventh grade. At that time, junior high school—of which seventh grade was a part—was on the same campus as the high school. The school was only a block from my home so, of course, I walked to and from school.

It was upon entering this phase of my education, that my very best friend—Curtis—turned on me. I didn’t know why it happened then and I don’t know now; maybe it was part of the “adolescent developmental stage”—children do get a bit rowdy at that age.

Whatever the cause, he did it. He turned on me—his best friend. We’d been besties since first grade. He even called my grandma—who was a teacher at our elementary school—Granny! We were brothers; tighter than panty hose two sizes small, but that year, something changed.

Curtis teamed up with two known bullies, and for most of that school year, joined them in chasing me every day, after school. Each day, the school bell signaling the end of the school day, was for me, analogous to the firing of a starter pistol. Upon hearing it, I ran like a gazelle: out of the classroom; through the hallways leading to the outside world and down the hill, on top of which, the school campus stood.

Once I hit the pavement of that downhill street, I knew I was home free, for I ran like a gazelle! Through the path that led behind the little church on the street below I flew, then another twenty or so yards, and I was home free. I never looked back to see if the boys were closing the distance. I knew they weren’t. I knew, and they learned, that to continue the chase, would be futile because, I ran like a gazelle. No shit!

However, one dreadful day, they got me. I didn’t say they caught me; no, they were never able to do that! I said they GOT me. They intercepted me. As I headed down behind the church, a big bully named Leaker stood in the path. One of the boys—it could have been Curtis, I don’t know—yelled out, “Leaker, stop him!”. Leaker stuck out a big yellow arm—just as I was about to streak past—and stopped me cold; knocking the breath—the very life, it seemed—right out of my body.

I laid there on the ground, dazed and confused; looking up into the blue sky—into heaven. I saw the heads and shoulders of Curtis and the bullies, forming a circle around me; no angels in this heaven. They grabbed me by my leg and dragged me, like a rag doll, back up the hill and proceeded to kick my ass. “Finally”, I thought, “the end has come”.

In spite of the beating I took that day, I lived. Curtis and I became best friends again in the eighth grade. I knocked one of the bullies silly when, at a later date, he tried to bully me on his own. I was threatened by another of the bullies, Andy, after I’d reported him for throwing pecan shells at the other students, but the sight of my Dad’s “Hawk Bill”, changed his mind.  I continued to run like a gazelle, but as a member of the track team; earning 3 letters and a trophy, before my high school education was completed.

Granddaddy Leroy knew exactly why the children at his school turned their ire against him. He was too White.  They let him know every day, with heatedly hurled epithets. “Hey White Boy”, would have been the gentler and most benign of their loathsome lexicon. I can imagine that they called him “Cracker”. I can imagine that they might have called him “Milkman”, “Flour bag”, or “Pale-face”.

They teased him because his father was White. They teased him because his complexion was lighter than theirs. Maybe they called him “Massuh’s Nigger”, “Massuh’s boy” or “Po-Bucker”. It’s impudently ironic that they would have been abjectly averse to being called “Nigger” or “Coon”, by Whites. But they were just children. Children can be ignorant! Children can be mean!

However, things could have been exponentially worse, if not for the actions of the benevolent teacher who oversaw the school. Each day, she’d let little Leroy leave earlier than the other children, so he could avoid their malicious onslaught. He would then run as fast as he could, until he was way ahead of the others.

I can relate to my Granddaddy’s torment; in kind, if not in the magnitude. I imagine that, when that teacher opened that door, Leroy ran like a gazelle; just like a gazelle I tell you!

The Flowering Vine: She Needed Me…

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She wanted him

BUT he wanted me

So she

Stormed

And she seethed

 

She wanted him

BUT he wanted me

So she

Sought

And she stalked

 

She wanted him

BUT he wanted me

So she

Schemed

And she steamed

 

She wanted him

So she needed me

to be

Silenced

Sequestered

Severed

And sliced

Eternally

encased

And placed…

out of sight.

 

For Aunt Elvy’s daughter, Alberta, (Mother’s dear first cousin and friend), reportedly murdered by a jealous rival.

 

 

 

 

 

The Flowering Vine: FACTORS of CAUSATION for the MULTIPLE and TRAUMATIC LOSS of LEROY’S PHALANGES

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The Cut Finger (a poem)

 by Ellis Parker Butler

An’ shure, me lad, ‘t is bleedin’;

But come, me hearty laddy buck, be brave an’ do not cry;

A lad that’s learnin’ readin’ sh’u’d be far beyant the heedin’

Av a tiny bit o’ finger cut that hurrts a bit foreby.

‘Ere ye come till wan an’ twinty

Ye’ll be havin’ hurrts in plinty

An’ ye’ll learn a bit o’ bleedin’ doesn’t mean ye’re goin’ t’ die

(excerpted from the poem, A CUT FINGER) 

Jerry Garcia, Grateful Dead guitarist; actress, Daryl Hannah; outlaw, Jesse James; James Doohan, “Scotty” of the Starship Enterprise; Christian Bale, the iconic star of the Batman movie; female members of the Dugum Dani tribe of Guinea; my late father’s, late first cousin, Congo, of Congo’s Cargo fame (see my story, Congo’s Cargo), and my granddaddy Leroy, ALL have one particularly peculiar commonality. They are all missing a part, or all of one or more digits—a.k.a. fingers.

  • Jerry Garcia, lost his finger while assisting his father with wood-chopping duties.
  • The rope pulley, on her grandmother’s well, divested the actress, Darryl Hannah—star of the 1980’s movie, “10”, in which, she was touted as being the “perfect woman”; a “10” on a scale of 1 to 10—of her digit, thus, leaving Daryl one finger shy of being an actual10” (or more accurately—having 10).
  • During WWII, James Doohan, who portrayed the venerable and irrepressible character, Scottie, on the USS Starship Enterprise, also served with the Royal Canadian Artillery Unit, where his heroic acts included; shooting two snipers and leading his men to higher ground through a field of anti-tank mines.

He was crossing between command posts when he was hit by six rounds fired from a Bren Gun by a nervous Canadian sentry—his own man! He received; four wounds in his leg, one in the chest, and one through his right bird finger. 

Although a fan of the Star Trek TV shows, I never noticed the missing finger, but it does explain why Scottie never gave Captain Kirk, the finger, when the Captain would demand, unrelentingly, “Scottie! We need more power!”

  • Jesse James—the infamous “outlaw” of the Old West—is alleged to have been missing a finger also; shot off while cleaning his shotgun, however, modern historians don’t agree on which digit Jesse James was missing, but I’d bet a dollar-to-a-dime that it is was not his “trigger finger”.
  • Christian Bale played Batman in three different movies. He has also had roles in many other successful movies. I’ve never noticed a missing finger.
  • It is a funerary tradition—in the Dugum Dani tribe—for young women or girls, to disjoin themselves from the distal phalange of one of their digits, whenever family members die. To not perform this ritual, would incur the wrath of a “Ghost Warrior”, whom it was thought, would terrorize the village. They simply could not have that sort of thing going on so; chop, chop!
  • I’m not sure how cousin Congo lost his finger. He was a mechanic so, maybe he was trying to make a Car-Go!

Granddaddy Leroy was missing parts of several fingers, however, I never had the courage to ask him about the factors of causation for the state of his extremities, but my Mom and her siblings did. This is how she related his ensuing response to me:

“My daddy had four and a half fingers on each hand. One of us inquisitive kids asked him what happened to his fingers. He patiently replied, ‘This finger got caught in a folding chair. It had to be taken off by the doctor’, he explained, as he held his hand out for us to see; his ineradicable, ‘roll-your-own’ cigarette, dangling precariously from his lips.

He held his hands before him, turning them slowly, first this way, then that; staring at them as he talked as if, once again, experiencing the painful event he was describing, then he pressed on, ‘the other hand’s missing finger was caused when me, Coley, and Jimmy was foolin’ around near the choppin’ block. I bet them that they wouldn’t cut off my finger.

So, I laid my hand on the choppin’ block’, then he paused. A shadow crossed his face, his brow furrowed, as if he was asking his hands, ‘Why?’, then the shadow and the furrowed brow were gone, and the insuppressible smile was back. Now, more matter-of-factly, he continued, ‘I lifted my hand from the choppin’ block and half of this finger’, he said, pointing at the missing finger, ‘was gone!’ he finished, indicating the remaining half of the victim of this aggravated assault of a phalange.” Thus, Mom completed her recounting of the Factors of Causation for the Multiple and Traumatic Loss of Leroy’s Phalanges.

In a different place and in a different time, my brother, Eric, was born with two extra digits. I wonder if some version of the Entanglement Theory could be implicated in these events? My paternal Granddaddy was missing a couple of legs, but that’s a story for another day.

In short (that’s a joke) …

Granddaddy didn’t seem to be, in any way, impaired by these missing digits. He worked, he tinkered, he rolled those cigarettes, and most of all, he cared for and provided for; his wife, his children, and grandchildren.

As for his Marbles game? Well, let’s do some reasoning, by way of induction:

  • Jerry Garcia, played the heck out of his guitar, until his recent death.
  • Daryl played a mermaid, among other things, and is still considered, a “10”!
  • Scottie, served as engineer of a starship.
  • Jesse was so good with his gun, that over the course of 15 years, held up 11 banks, seven trains, three stagecoaches, one county fair and a payroll courier, in the process stealing some $200,000 and killing at least 16 men.
  • Christian Bale played one the greatest superheroes of all time without missing a single bat beat.
  • Old Dugum women can still be seen walking around with several missing fingers and finger joints, having successfully birthed and raised children and taken care of their warrior husbands.
  • Congo continued to make Cars Go, until he had a stroke in his 60’s!

So, yes!  I believe he adapted to the missing fingers and became one of the deadliest Marble’s marksmen of all time, thus proving that, if you have the will, you can overcome any obstacle.

But I wonder if the children—who picked on him for his “Whiteness” and whom he ran from every day to avoid their hurtful remarks—also teased him about his missing fingers? Hmmm!

To Be Continued…

The Flowering Vine: Baking with Ma Allie

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Since it’s ‘Birthday season’ around these parts, I’ve decided it might be fun to ask Ma Allie (Mother’s mother) to assist me with baking a cake.

Does it matter that she died several years before I was born?

Not to me 😉

I love a challenge!

You game?

Let’s call her and see what happens…

Here goes…

Ma Allie, come forth!

Ma Allie, come forth!

Ma Allie, come forth!

(I once saw someone conjure a ghost using similar phrasing on an old episode of Bewitched.)

 

MA ALLIE:  I’m Allie!  Who are you?

GWIN:  Hey!  My name is Gwin, I’m one of your great- granddaughters…one of Annie Maude’s grandchildren.

MA ALLIE:  Which one o’ her chiren you belong to?

GWIN: I belong to Jimmie.

MA ALLIE:  Well sir!  You shole favor him too!

MA ALLIE:  Now, what ‘choo want wit’ me?

GWIN: Well, I wanted to bake a cake so I decided to ask you to help instead of me looking it up on the web.  

MA ALLIE: (Confounded) Looking’ on a web?  Y’all done started lookin’ at webs to find out what ‘choo wanna know?

Lawd ha’mercy!

GWIN: It’s a long story and I can’t tell it.

Can you PLEASE help me?

MA ALLIE:  Okay baby…

Now, I use my special green cup when I bake.

GWIN: Is it a measuring cup?  I mean… is it 8 ounces?

MA ALLIE: (Kinda irritated) Baby I don’t know nothin’ ’bout no ounces… It’s just a cup. That’s all I know to tell ya.

I bake wit’ it and sometimes I drank my coffee from it.

Now go get your flour, baking powder, and sugar…then get some butter, milk, eggs and some vanilla.

GWIN: Do I need a tablespoon or a teaspoon for the vanilla?

MA ALLIE: (A bit more irritated)  What?

MA ALLIE:  All you need is a kitchen spoon….when it’s time, put in a li’l…not too much.

Now get a bowl and mix up all your wet thangs and then add yo’ dry things in with the wet.

After you done that, get ‘choo a good wooden spoon and stir it up real nice.

Once you got it all mix up good, pour it into your cake pans ….you ought’a have enough for two layers.

GWIN: How long do I bake it?

MA ALLIE:  (Slightly annoyed) Jus’ watch it and use your senses baby….look at it…smell of it…when you can smell it from anywhere in the house it’s ’bout ready.

You’ll know when to take it out.

Jesus!

Baby, I’m sorry, I got to go on back now.

GWIN: (Highly stressed) Wait, Ma Allie!  What temperature do I need to set the oven for?

MA ALLIE:  (Confused) Temperature?  Honey, I don’t know what ‘choo talkin’ ’bout!

GWIN:  (Even more confused) You know… the oven temperature.

Come look at my stove…right here… this is where you set the oven temperature.

MA ALLIE:  (Dumbfounded) Baby I ain’t never baked in no oven like that before in my life!

GWIN: (Stumped) What do I do now?

MA ALLIE:  (Chuckling Sarcastically) You better go check wit’ that magic web you was tellin’ me ’bout before.

Ask IT to tell ya !  

‘Bye now!

GWIN: (Stuck with raw cake batter in pans) Oh good grief!

MOTHER, COME FORTH!!!

 

old-stove

 

 

 

The Flowering Vine: Mary, Don’t You Weep

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Mary, Don’t You Weep

Oh, Mary, don’t you weep, don’t you mourn.

Oh, Mary, don’t you weep, don’t you mourn.

Didn’t Pharaoh’s army get drowned?

Oh, Mary, don’t you weep.

Cheer up, sisters and don’t you cry.

There’ll be good times bye and bye.

Didn’t Pharaoh’s army get drowned?

Oh, Mary, don’t you weep.

(Aretha Franklin – Mary, Don’t You Weep)

“Why didn’t he come Lee?”, Bernard asked his older brother plaintively. “Don’t you understand ‘Nard? There ain’t no such thing as Sandy Clause, probably nevah wuz”, replied Leroy, in a voice laden with sadness, disappointment, and a tiny tinge of anger. Always an extremely astute child, in the few hours since finding the empty stockings, he’d come to realize, that Mary’s absence was directly connected to the absence of stuff in their stockings. “Why didn’t Jim tell us?” Leroy whispered under his breath, to no one in particular.

The boys got dressed slowly, lethargically; like two convicts clothing themselves before meeting the hangman. That’s what facing a Christmas Day felt like for two boys begrudged the boon usually associated with Christmastide. Once dressed and outdoors, they sat on the woodpile, staring at the ground; frozen, white breath fleeing their mouths, like souls exiting cold, lifeless bodies.

Then faintly, at first, gradually growing louder, like thunder from an advancing storm, the boys heard it; the unmistakable grumbling rumble of wagons approaching. The boys lifted their heads, straightened their bodies and turned towards the approaching sound. “Hey boys!”, came the liltingly gay voice of Ma Hallie, as her wagon rolled to a halt in front of the house. Pa Babe sat at her side atop the buckboard. Their wagon was followed by the blacksmith’s wagon, the owner of which, pulled sharply on the reins while emitting a hearty, “Whoa mule!”. The sharply dressed figure of Doc McCoo, rode shotgun.

Ma Hallie sprang down from the wagon, dress tail flying, like a sheet hung out to dry on a windy day. She reached in the back of the wagon and pulled out a wicker basket covered with a snow-white cloth. As Ma Hallie approached the boys, the smell of fried chicken marched before her, like an advance guard, striking the boys in their guts, causing their bellies to growl like angered lions. The rest of the group stepped down from the wagons as Jim and Coley exited the house to investigate the commotion.

“Take this basket in the house boys!”, Ma Hallie commanded, an order the boys obeyed with the zeal of Zouaves toadying to some great general. The smithy came forward holding three iron rings of ascending circumference, paired with hooked iron rods, which lengths duplicated the diameters of the hoops. The hoops and rods clanged together musically as the smithy approached Coley and Jim. The blacksmith conveyed the hoops and rods to Coley, along with the instructions; “The big ‘un fer you and the lil’ ‘un fer the youngest ‘un. Give the other’n to that brave boy Leroy”.

The blacksmith’s gifts, forged in his foundry, were called variably; “hoop-and-rod” or “hoop-and-stick”. The rod or stick was used to usher the hoop, as it rolled along the ground in whatever game the hoopsters might be playing; the number and variety of games that could be played with the toy, were limited only by the hoopster’s imagination. They were a common and popular toy among rural children. Some were simply bicycle rims and sticks; few were custom forged like these.

Leroy exited the house, licking his fingers. He’d obviously, taken an advance on a chicken leg, and was now, smiling with satisfaction, but the sight of the hoops elevated his elation. The boys were about to take off down the dusty dirt road with their hoops, when Doc McCoo stepped, abruptly, in front of them. In his hands, he held three, small, burlap bags, which rattled and clicked as he handed them to the boys. “Enjoy”, he enjoined, his grey eyes sparkling over the top of his round, wire-framed spectacles as he looked down at the boys and smiled a huge, pearly-white smile. He then handed Jim a neatly folded, crisp, one dollar bill. Jim thanked Doc profusely, while quickly shoving the buck into his pants pocket.

The younger boys opened their bags and reached in. Inside each bag were seven shiny, bright, multi-colored marbles. The joyful shine in the boy’s eyes rivaled that of the marbles’ that they held in their excitedly trembling hands. Leroy, especially, stared; mesmerized at a quarter-sized, green, and yellow, “Cat’s Eye”, marble. “This one”, he spoke quietly. “This one will be my ‘shooter’. I ain’t gonna never lose a game with this”. This declaration proved to be bona fide; that is, until Coley cut off two of Leroy’s fingers.

To be continued…

The Flowering Vine: ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas

 

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If you haven’t already, please read parts 1 and 2 to this story 🙂

‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

These words, from the well-worn Yuletide ballad, swirled through Leroy’s head, as he weathered the rough ride back to his beloved grandmother, Mary. He’d learned the words of the rhyme while visiting with the little White boys and girls up at old Marse Hatfield’s house; his brothers, sisters and cousins, he’d been told. He’d sat, attentively, at the feet of Marse’s wife, along with the rest of the children as she’d served up the sonnet with almost as much spirit and spice as the ceramic cup of egg nog that had sat warmly in the palms of his hands.

Now, however, he could only remember the first stanza and so recited it to himself, in a vain effort to take his mind off of the fact that he was now riding roughly, albeit speedily, back to the location of his injured grandma. He held on for dear life, in the back of the buckboard of the kindly couple who’d seen fit to stop; and who had, after listening to his plight, offered their able assistance.

He guided them directly back to where his grandmother and Bernard were waiting. The lady gathered her long skirt and leaped from the wagon. As she rushed over and kneeled down to tend to Mary, she directed the man to “take them boys and bring back help. Bring Doc McCoo!” And with those words, the man hustled Leroy and Bernard into the wagon, then barked a hoarse “YA!” to his mule, and away they went; dashing down the dirt road; churning up a whirlwind of dust as they did so.

The lady who had stayed with Mary, laid her hands upon the injured leg; an action which Mary later related, “eased the pain mightily”. She’d stated, in a later recounting of the events, that the lady was “a gifted woman, a healer”. After what seemed, to Mary, like an eternity, she felt, more than heard, the rumble of wagons coming down the road, “Thank ya Lawd”, she whispered silently, and faded into a state of, not unwelcome, unconsciousness.

When Mary awakened, she found herself in a strange home, staring at blurred human forms milling about. Doc McCoo’s yellow, be-spectacled face slowly came into focus. “Mary”, he said, in his slow, deep, mellow voice, “you’ve taken a bad spill; broken your femu… uh, uh, your thigh bone. You’re going to have to stay here at the home of these kind people for a few weeks. You can’t be moved. We had a time setting your thigh bone. The muscles in your leg had contracted, like a cramp.” Mary listened intently.

“I had to call for the bonesetter from town to assist me. He had to close up his blacksmithy shop to come help us, and still it took the help of Mr. Babe and your neighbors here, to help me straighten that leg out. You have some strong muscles lady!” Doc McCoo made this last statement while shaking his head, in awe of Mary’s strength.

“I thought I would have to use ether or laudanum on you, so you wouldn’t remember the pain, but Ma Hallie here” he said while gesturing towards the lady who’d sat with Mary until help had come, then continued, “must have had some kind of a soothing effect on you, because you didn’t whimper or moan, neither on the wagon ride up here nor whilst we were setting that leg bone”.

Somewhere, in the back of her mind, Mary could hear Doc McCoo, giving further instructions for her continued care, to the owners of the home; the home that would be her “hospital room” for the next two weeks. She heard him say something about “laudanum” and “splints”, but her main thoughts were on the fact that Christmas was a week away. “What am I gonna do ‘bout them children?” she asked herself, “They gone be ‘spectin sumthin in they stockings on Christmas Day”.

The purpose for Mary’s trip into town had been to try to pick up extra “wash work” from some of the White ladies there, so she’d have enough money to put something other than pecans and hickory nuts, in her children’s and grandchildren’s Christmas stockings. Now her plans were derailed. “Jim can’t do no wash, that’s ‘woman’s work’, she thought. “Besides, he got his hands full, looking after the children and working the farm and such”.

Lula had moved away with a man named Edwards, after Bernard had been born. Mary had been the only hope of a “merry” Christmas for her children and grandchildren. “Lawd, please let ‘Sandy Claus’ be real this Christmas”, she prayed silently; hopelessly.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; the stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.” Leroy recited the only words that he could remember from the poem, while standing before the fireplace; staring at the empty stockings hanging there; holding little Bernard’s hand. “Tomorrow”, he thought to himself, “tomorrow”, then trudged off to bed, “in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there”.

The next day, Christmas day, looked promising and bright! The orange glow of the morning sun was just starting to fill the sky. Leroy jumped up and awakened Bernard. They dashed to the fireplace, where the stockings hung limply! Slowly, expectantly, nervously, Leroy reached out to feel for the contents of the stockings, but felt nothing. The stockings, which had been hung by the chimney with such care, were empty.

Down the road, a mile or two…Mary wept.

To be continued…

 

The Flowering Vine: Thank You

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In today’s installment of The Flowering Vine, we find Ma Hallie (Mother’s maternal Aunt) talking about a situation that she and her brother Babe had encountered earlier that day.  

Note:  Mother’s side of the family would often add the terms “Ma” or “Pa” to the first names of older relatives.  

Here, Ma Hallie refers to her brother as Babe, but, Mother would have referred to him as Pa Babe just as she referred to her aunt Hallie as Ma Hallie.

 

Lord, y’all….. me an’ Babe done had us a day to-DAY!

Whew!

You know we had to go out Clayton way this mornin’?

Well when we was comin’ out from out there we run up on this l’il White boy in the woods lookin’ for somebody to help his granmamma.

He say they was in a accident an’ his granmamma done hurt her leg an’ can’t move.

Cos’ Babe told the boy to get on up in the Buggy so he could lead us to her.

Allie, I tell you, this li’l boy warn’t no older than Annie Maude and Ted but he led us right on through them woods to where his granmamma was.

Chile, Babe hadn’t even stopped good when that po’ creeter jumped down out that buggy an’ ran over to a colored ‘oman layed out on the ground wit’ another  li’l boy huddled up ‘gainst her.

The other li’l boy was colored too!

God….Y’all…that thang know it confounded the devil outta me!

I couldn’t make no sense out it!

Cos’ I didn’t say nothin’…..that warn’t the time.

I jus’ wonder where she got da li’l White boy from?

Uhmm!

Jesus!

Anyway, she looked to be pretty bad off an’ we ain’t had no time to waste.

So, I looked at Babe an’ told him to go ‘head on an’ take dem boys to get help cause I knew this was gon’ be mo’ than a notion.

By time Babe pulled off, I looked up to the sky an’ said, “Lord, this ‘oman in a bad way, she got li’l chillun an’ she need you Jesus.”

Then I got on my knees …right ‘side her…put ma hands on her leg and said my scriptures:

By His stripes, you are healed.

By His stripes, you are healed.

By His stripes, you are healed.

Y’all I done that near ’bout the whole time.

Next thang I know, Babe done pulled up wit’ somebody….say he gon’ take care of everything.

Elvy…Allie…y’all…when I went to get up, that ‘oman grabbed hold my hand an’ look me dead in my eyes Jesus!

She held me there for the longest time…

Jus’ lookin’!

Ain’t said a word!

Then… she went on an’ let me go.

Babe say it seem like she done that to tell me “Thank you.”

I thought ’bout what he said.

So I whispered– where only God could hear me–

“You welcome.”

 

 

The Flowering Vine: Dem Bones

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Today’s “Flowering Vine” entry tells the tale of an event involving my and Ron’s Grandfather (Leroy), our Great- Grandmother (Mary), and our uncle (Bernard).

 

Dem Bones

-By Ron Brown

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, and caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.

Leroy’s sixth birthday was made even more special because Mary was headed into town and—as was her custom—had invited Leroy and—by default—Bernard to ride along.  When Leroy turned six years old, he was already tall. He towered over his little, “brown brother”, Bernard. Leroy was Mary’s pride and joy. He was, in her words, “Grandma’s big boy”. Leroy always rode “shotgun”, while Bernard scooted from one side of the back of the wagon, to the other, depending upon which side’s sights were more stimulating.

For Leroy, what was in front of him, was much more mesmerizing than what was to the left, right or the rear of him. He sat quietly, keeping his eyes forward. Mary admired him for this trait and would often encourage him by leaning over to him and whispering, “That’s right Grandma’s big boy, keep them eyeballs peeled”.

This day however, as they rolled down the rambling road, neither Mary’s fierce focus nor Leroy’s eagle eyes could have saved them from what happened next, for just ahead of them, from out of the roadside briars and bramble shot a streak of white. It slithered swiftly and silently across the road in front of the two black mules hitched to Mary’s buckboard.

The two black mules reared simultaneously, at the sight of the albino coachwhip. The sudden jerk of the reins, held tightly in Mary’s tenacious grip, snatched her formidable form forward, in front of the wagon and behind the mules. The mules stepped back; one of them, adventitiously, stomping Mary’s thigh, fracturing her femur. Leroy heard the sickening crack as the bone in his grandmother’s thigh gave way to the weight of the thousand-pound animal’s hoof. The usually silent Leroy, screamed; the usually vocal Mary, was silent.

Leroy leaped down from his perch on the wagon’s seat, then calmed the frightened mules, whose pallid pariah, had now disappeared into the underbrush on the opposite side of the dirt road. Once the mules had regained their composure, Leroy rushed over to Mary and kneeled down beside her. She looked at him affectionately, then gently stroked the side of his face with a trembling hand and wheezed, go get help Grandma’s big boy.

Mary was careful not to instill any additional fear or panic into her grandson. Leroy worked his jaw muscles viciously, as he struggled to maintain his customary calmness. Leroy, looked sternly upon his baby brother Bernard and chided him, “Stay with Grandma boy, I’m going to get help!” and away he went, as fast as his long, lanky legs would carry him. The nearest house was just over a mile down the torturously twisting, dust-topped road.

And He said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knoweth. Again, he said unto me, ‘Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord”.

Mary lay quietly in the dust and sang to herself softly:

“Ezekiel connected dem—dry bones,

Ezekiel connected dem—dry bones,

Ezekiel in the Valley of—Dry Bones,

Now hear the word of the Lord.”

To be continued…

The Flowering Vine: Mother Speaks on Botanicals and Books

cabinet-1786098_1920

 

In today’s entry of “The Flowering Vine,” “Mother,” who was both my and Ron’s Grandmother talks about natural healing as well as barriers to healthcare and education for ‘Colored’ people in the Jim Crow South.  She also discusses a bit more about her own education.

For those of you who are interested, I included a link in today’s story to a book about Mother’s school, Ballard Normal, in Macon, GA. 

It is important to note that students at ‘Ballard’ were being groomed to pursue careers in education as opposed to more traditional vocations.

It should also be noted that “Mother,” whose name was Annie Maude, lived to be 100 years old.  

She passed away in the Spring of 2012.

By the way, although “Mother” was highly educated and very well read, she typically used an informal conversational style in the vernacular of that timeframe–especially when speaking with close family and friends (which all of you are!)

Much of Mother’s recollections for today’s story are set in Alabama during the early to late 1920’s. 

______________

Annie Maude!

Get out that book and come go with me and Elvy down to the patch!

You hear me?

I ain’t gon’tell you no mo.’

Now listen here, when we get out there, I want you to watch how me and Elvy go through them bushes.
Watch what we pick!
One day you gon’ need them same plants to make your teas and rubs for when you get married and your chillun’ get sick and thang.
We ain’t always gon’ be ‘roun’ to do it for ya.
You gon’ have to learn for ya self now!
__________
Chile, I wasn’t thinkin’ ‘bout goin’ out in no woods lookin’ for nothin’!
HA!
I wasn’t hardly thinkin’ ‘bout that!
But you know that didn’t stop Mama from makin’ me go with her and Aunt Elvy to hunt for herbs.
As I got older,  I wish I hadda paid more attention to what they was doin’ because Mama and Aunt Elvy-nem knew how to find all kind of plants, roots and herbs to make teas, tonics and tinctures.
They could cure just about any sickness under creation!
Lemme tell ya, one time I got so sick from throwin’ up I started havin’ what they call a ‘bilious attack!’
You know that’s when you go to dry-heavin’ ‘cause ain’ nothin’ left on your stomach but yellow bile.
Chile, Aunt Elvy fixed me some tea made out of somethin’ she got out them woods…
Lawd have mercy!
I don’t know what it was but after I drank it I soon got alright.
Folks have said that Mama-nem knew how to do root work too….but I ain’t never seen ’em do it.
All I know about is the cures they had for regular ailments.
I ain’t never seen ‘em do no Hoodoo!
Hmmm….Gwin, I say, I ain’t never seen ‘em do Hoodoo but that don’t mean they ain’t never done it!
I learned long time ago to never say ‘never.’
HA!
I’m tellin’ you chile!
But you know what?  They say Ma Hallie could lay her hands on folks and heal an injury …say she didn’t use nothin’ but her hands!
You reckon folks thought that was Hoodoo?
HA!
Anyway…
Back then, we had to work with what we had ‘cause Colored people couldn’t just run to no medical doctors or psychiatrists or nothin’like that.
You know them White doctor’s wouldn’t take no Colored patients-even if they did have the money to pay ’em.
Ooh!
It was just a shame!

 

I’ve known folks to bleed to death ’cause no White Doctor would help ’em!

Humph!

Jesus!

Anyway, Mama-nem wanted me to learn ‘bout them herbs but nooooo, at that time, I was more interested in gettin’ my lesson.
See, you gotta remember back then a lot of folks didn’t go to school so they couldn’t read too well.
And if they was able to go to school they usually didn’t go no farther than the elementary grades.
I’m talking’ ‘bout white folks too now!
And even then people usually had to quit so they could work and help take care of the family.
Chile, times was hard for everybody!
Children these days ain’t got no idea how hard it used to be to get an education.
Some of ‘em take it for granted.
Honey, in my day, it was near’ bout impossible for folks to go past the 8th grade.
Especially Coloreds.
I just thank the Lord that I had a chance to go a little higher than that.
You see, after I finished 8th grade over here, Mama-nem used what little money they had to send me to school over in Georgia.
While I was there I completed both the 9th and the 10th grade!
I was on a path to become a teacher!
But not too long after I started the 11th grade, Ma Hallie called me back home ‘cause Mama had done got bad off.
Of course I had to help take care of her so I never did get to go back to school.
Hmm hmm hmm!
But you know The Lord knew what he was doin’ ‘cause if I had stayed over in Macon, I might not have ever met and married Leroy and none of y’all woulda been born!
Shole wouldn’t have been!
_________
Anyway…
Gwin, look at me! I been doin’ all the talkin!’
“That’s alright Grandma, I love hearing those old stories!”
Humph, when I was your age I used to like to listen to the ‘old folks’ tell stories too.
Now it looks like I’m the ‘old folks.’
 HA!

The Flowering Vine: The Reaper

sharecroppers_chopping_cotton_-_1941

The Reaper is a continuation of “To Mary” written by Ron Brown.  

 

Behold her, single in the field,

Yon solitary Highland Lass!

Reaping and singing by herself;

Stop here, or gently pass!

Alone she cuts and binds the grain,

And sings a melancholy strain;

O listen! for the Vale profound

Is overflowing with the sound.

All along the way, other sharecroppers could be seen laboring in their rented fields; men in torn, tattered overalls, and summer hats of plaited straw; women in patched osnaburg, cotton, and “plains” dresses with aprons; their heads covered with a rainbow of colored head wraps. The children were dressed as miniature versions of their parents. Everyone could be seen, swinging hoes and chopping cotton; dripping in sweat beneath the relentless Alabama sun.

As the old wagon crested the hill, Mary gave an ear-shattering shout to the figure below, toiling tediously in their own field. The weather-beaten house; with its small smokehouse, creaky corn crib, old outhouse, battered barn, and shady old oak, with the rope swing hanging from one of its strong, gnarled limbs; all surrounded by the slate-grey soil, now being tended by Jim; looked inviting, despite the fact that it was hardly large enough to accommodate Mary’s brood.

Jim ceased his tireless striving, as the wagon rattled to a halt in front of the house. Coley, disembarked the wagon and hitched the mules to the hitching post while the rest of the rest of the rowdy remnant, dismounted in a din of disorderliness. However, the confusion and chaos, almost magically, morphed into the apotheosis of order and the definition of discipline when Mary commanded, “Unload these supplies chillun!”

Lula, however, was exempt from this chore because her beautiful baby, little Leroy, needed tending to, immediately!

After receiving a briefing from Jim, on his progress—or lack thereof (due to no fault of his own, of course)—Mary declared the day’s work done and they all retired into the small house as the sun sank low. It was getting late in the evening.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt

More welcome notes to weary bands

Of travellers in some shady haunt,

Among Arabian sands:

A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard

In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,

Breaking the silence of the seas

Among the farthest Hebrides

Ella and Lula—who was now, temporarily relieved of baby business by Mary—prepared the evenings fare, while Mary—sitting in her old rocker—gently rocked Leroy to sleep. The rhythmic creak of the rocker curiously comforting to all, as they sat about and listened as Mary lamented the lack of fairness, wrapped in the hardship of the system, that was “sharecropping”.

She recounted the events of April, a year ago, when the notorious “Cyclone of 1909” struck the Southeastern states, including Barbour County Alabama, with a fierceness that fazed even the most stout-hearted of Southerners. She recalled being “summoned” up to the “big house” by ole Marse Hatfield.

‘“Mary’, he’d said, as he pulled on that old corncob pipe and blowed out that smoke in swirlin streams, like he wuz tryin’ to shape his words with it, ‘I know you don’t have no man’—like he ain’t tried to be my “man” evry since old man Harrell let me loose—anyways he went on; ‘even though your boy Jim is nigh grown’, then he blowed more smoke ‘I’ve got a proposition fer ya. Iffen you and yo young’uns wuz to gather up all of that corn, that the storm done blowed down up d’ere in the noff field, I’ll haul it to market fer ya and sell it fer you and give ya half the proceedin’s.

Natchully I seen that as a good deal. Ya’ll remember how we labored in that noff field fom sun-up, ta sundown. My po back ached me a’plenty. Ya’ll chilluns wuz so tied that ya’ll went off to bed without eatin’ a thing.

We’uns stacked that corn in piles taller than what Jim is, so’s Marse Hatfield’s big old wagons could just roll up to the piles and we toss the corn in ‘em till day wuz full. We worked for eight days straight! When finally, we wuz done, and ole Marse’s wagons was filled, I couln’t help but smile, watching them wagons ride off towards the settin’ sun. I knowed day would be money comin’ back to us, that is, if ole Marse wuz true to his word. But he wuzn’t!

We waited weeks and months for ole Marse to send our share of the proceedin’s for the sellin’ of the corn we’d picked, but nothin’ come. Bye and bye, I went up yonder on that hill and waited six hours fo ole Marse would see me. When he finally come a stalkin’ outta his liberry, he looked at me and say in his gruff voice, ‘What chu want gal?’

I say, Marse, I come for the money from the sellin’ of the corn. Ole Marse say, wit his eyes squinched and his pipe ‘tween his teef, “What corn?” I say, the corn we picked up that wuz knocked down by the cyclone, but he jest shake his big head and say, “I don’t know nuffin’ bout no corn!” and walked away.

Will no one tell me what she sings?—

Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow

For old, unhappy, far-off things,

And battles long ago:

Or is it some more humble lay,

Familiar matter of to-day?

Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,

That has been, and may be again?

See, that how dey do us Colored folks, don’t matter how light yo skin is. So, ya better have sum else goin’ fer ya!’”

As Mary finished her story, she looked around to see that everyone was asleep, except little Leroy. He was listening!

Whate’er the theme, the Maiden sang

As if her song could have no ending;

I saw her singing at her work,

And o’er the sickle bending;—

I listened, motionless and still;

And, as I mounted up the hill,

The music in my heart I bore,

Long after it was heard no more

Poem, “The Solitary Reaper” by William Wordsworth

to be continued