The Literary Corner: Renegade Writers Guild

Published 10:19 am Friday, June 2, 2017


By Gaye Hoots

Jim worked for my father and grandfather. He was one of my early childhood memories. When I was very young, he would sometimes bring his son, Bub, to work with him. Bub was a few years older than me. I remember him shooting my slingshot and hitting the weatherboarding on the back of my grandparent’s house. Bees swarmed out, became entangled in my hair, causing multiple stings. He did not know the bees were there and usually, we played without getting into trouble.

Jim had a fear of snakes, and I would take small ones to him to try and frighten him. This was before I was six years old. Once I was old enough to understand he was actually frightened of the snakes, I stopped. When we moved to Marchmont, it must have been difficult for him because that farm was infested with poisonous copperheads. We killed them frequently.

I was six when we moved. When the men were loading hay bales onto the back of the truck, my dad let me drive. I could guide the truck between the rows of hay bales. Dad had pointed to the pedals in the floorboards and told me not to touch either of them. At the end of the rows, he would get in and turn the truck into the next row. My curiosity got the best of me, and I gave the brake pedal a tap. This sent Jim off the back of the truck onto the ground. Dad revoked my driving privileges.

At Marchmont, Jim helped with the morning and evening milking in addition to other tasks.

It was during this time that his wife died. I remember going with my dad to their house for her wake and attending her funeral.

I missed the school bus one morning. Instead of going back home I started walking to school. One of Jim’s relatives picked me up and took me to school. Jim reported this to my dad. He was not trying to get me into trouble, but he was concerned about my safety. I remember seeing tears in his eyes when he believed my younger brother had drowned. He was extended family to us. When we moved to the farm in Advance, he did not help with the crops there. Jim remained at Marchmont. A relative of his, James Peoples and his family worked with us in Advance. James had a full-time day job, but his wife and kids worked with us through the week and James worked Saturdays. We worked together for several years.

The last time I saw Jim was after I was married and expecting my second child. Our yard had two acres of grass that I mowed with a push mower. Late in the pregnancy, I paid Jim to do the mowing until I was able to resume the job. This went smoothly until my second child was six weeks old. I had a doctor’s appointment and had placed Cami in her car seat. When I returned to take Kendra to the car, a black racer snake was stretched across the walk. These snakes are helpful in killing rodents and are not poisonous. Usually, I did not harm them. I didn’t want this one so close to the house.

I put Kendra in the car and found a long stick. Our large trash can sat nearby so I picked the snake up with the stick, placed it in the trash can, and put the lid on. I planned to deal with the snake later after the doctor visit.

When I returned home, the front lawn had been mowed but not the back yard. My husband was home. He informed me that Jim had ridden his tractor home. He left the message that he would not charge for the front lawn but would never mow for me again. I couldn’t understand the problem until I spotted the trash can that held the snake. It was lying on its side with the lid off. Jim must have thought I was up to my old tricks. My intention was to explain to him, but I never got around to paying him a visit.

A few years later, I was substitute teaching at Shady Grove and encountered his grandson in my class. This was a first or second-grade class, and the young man was not happy to be there. He openly defied me. The students told me he had done this with the teacher I was subbing for. I explained to him that he would not be sent from my class as he had been previously and told him to ask his grandfather about me.

The next day I had a sullen but submissive boy. “What did your grandfather tell you about me?” I asked.

“He said you was the meanest white girl he knowed,” he replied.

Things went smoothly after that. Several years later, I worked as an aide at Shady Grove and met another grandson. He was initially a challenge but made rapid progress. The last time I saw him, he was a senior in high school. He told me he had not made a grade below a C and had a football scholarship for college. My kids have seen him a time or two since. He had children of his own at Shady Grove when they saw him.

     I regret that I never took the time to clear the air with Jim. My memories of him were fond ones.

“Sunday Afternoon Singing”

By Marie Craig

     It’s such a joy to be able to read the old Davie County newspapers on the Internet now.  Go to the Library Website, click on Genealogy, and then click on Newspapers.  Choose the date and then you’ll be so busy enjoying old news, advertisements, and gossip columns that you’ll forget where you are.

     On one such event for me, I found the following sentence in the October 27, 1915, Davie Record.  “A three hour old-timey singing was held on Sunday afternoon in the Community Building using Christian Harmony songbooks.”

     Perhaps I need to explain some of this sentence.  The Community Building mentioned was the refurbishing of the old courthouse which used to sit in the middle of the town square.  All sorts of transportation drove around it.  It was built in 1839 at the intersection of Henderson Street (90 feet wide) and Factory Street (40 feet wide).  Henderson later was renamed Main Street, and Factory Street became Depot Street.  The courthouse was two stories high and the footprint was 45 by 40 feet.  In 1909, the new courthouse was completed, and the old one became a community building, showing silent movies and hosting other forms of entertainment.  It was this auditorium upstairs that was the location of the singing mentioned above.

     The other explanation needed to understand the sentence in 1915 concerns Christian Harmony method of scoring music.  The broad term, Shape Note Singing, has a long history of helping people learn to read music.  In our music today, you’ll see notes with the bodies all circles which are slightly oblong.  Shape note notation uses different shapes instead of the circles.  Remember when Maria told the Van Trapp children to sing in “Sound of Music” by teaching them do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do?  In one form of shape note singing, do is a triangle with base flat on the bottom.  Re is a half circle, mi is a diamond, fa is a right triangle, so is an ellipse, la is a square, ti is like an ice cream cone, side view, and do (an octave higher) is the same shape as lower do.

     Singers sit in a square with the song leader in the center.  There is usually no accompaniment.  The first time through the song, the names of the shapes are sung, instead of the actual words.  People who learn this method first can learn musical intervals between notes and can change to singing in other keys because do is the first note of every scale.  My mother could play a hymn from my old shape note hymnbook, but if the bodies of the notes were all round, like today’s music, she couldn’t play the song.

     Other types of shape note methods are Sacred Harp, Southern Harmony, and possibly others.  All the songs have wonderful pictorial messages of going through gates, etc., and being grateful for blessings and daily food.

     Several communities in the mountains still meet regularly to sing these old songs.  There are videos on YouTube of groups in Germany and Ireland singing this method.  I wish we had a group here in Davie that met regularly to enjoy this old style of learning to read the shapes and to sing.