The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild
Published 9:15 am Saturday, May 12, 2018
By Gaye Hoots
My sister and I lived at the old Marchmont Plantation when we were in elementary school. We lived on one side of the house, and for the first few years, no one lived on the other side of the house. Mother had her washing machine and ironing board there. She and my sister, Faye, were washing clothes one evening when my Dad came home early.
He heard them and believed they were upstairs, so he went up to find them. Both my mom and sister were fearful of being alone in the house. They heard Dad’s footsteps and believed someone had broken into the house. He was walking back along the hallway overlooking the staircase when he saw my mom and sister below him, holding onto each other and tiptoeing toward the door to the back porch.
My dad was a prankster. When he saw they were shaking in their boots, he quietly slipped off his extra-large overall jacket, spread it out, and dropped it over the banister onto their heads. They screamed and bolted. Mother panicked, and shoving Faye aside, she ran out the door and onto the porch leaving Faye to fend for herself.
Marchmont had a root cellar dug under the house in the red clay soil. When it rained for several days, water would accumulate in the cellar. We always looked for snakes if we went into the cellar and killed two or three copperheads there.
Dad had gone on an overnight trip to buy cows, leaving Mother alone with two small girls and a baby. When Dad was gone overnight, Mother had me sleep with her. She felt more secure with me there.
It was raining heavily, and we awakened to the barks and cries of my puppy, Bob. The pup had fallen into the root cellar. I told Mother what had happened to Bob and that I was going to get him. “No, you could fall into the water, or be bitten by a snake. At least, wait until morning when you can see,” she said.
I explained that the pup would probably drown before morning, put on rubber boots, took a flashlight, and opened the cellar doors. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, Bob swam right to me, and I pulled him out of the water. I dried Bob with a towel and put him in a box on the porch for the rest of the night.
When I got back inside, Mother had not moved out of bed. She did ask if the pup was alive and if I was alright. It was a good thing we were because I do not believe she would have ventured out of bed if we hadn’t returned. “I prayed for you,” she assured me as I slipped back into the warm bed beside her.
My sister and I had daily chores at Marchmont. Something contaminated our well water, and for a few weeks, Faye and I had to carry buckets of water from a spring at the bottom of the hill below the house. The tin buckets had lids which helped keep us from spilling the water.
The area around the spring had several large fat frogs. One evening we decided to play a trick on Mother by catching frogs and putting them in the water buckets. We sat the buckets on the stove and waited for her to pull off the lids. Mother’s screeches did not disappoint us.
She made us catch the frogs and take them back to the spring before fetching fresh water in our buckets. We thought this was great fun. Perhaps these antics accounted for Mother’s anxiety.
By Marie Craig
As a child, I had a moderate amount of toys which were fun to play with. But my favorite thing to do was to gain access to my mother’s button jar. She had a big glass jar that had previously held peanut butter. I can remember having a bad cold and needing a quiet entertainment which was satisfied with studying all these buttons. I still have this container plus one of my own. If I find a stray button, I put it into my jar, not my mother’s. That would be a corruption of history.
I would sort them into colors in one session. Another time, I would rank them by size. I remembered the spare buttons from the new dress for me or my mother. I could hold the button and visualize the garment very clearly. It was as if she had instantly made me a new item of clothing. I have many fond memories of my mother sewing for me.
Many years later, my son had a girlfriend who was not really my choice for him. I tried to be hospitable and invited her to Sunday lunch. I used my best tablecloth and dishes in the dining room. After eating, somehow the conversation drifted to sewing and then to equipment. I brought my mother’s button jar to the table and poured them out. This girlfriend immediately became interested, and she asked questions about their derivation. We spent a long time discussing something as mundane as these buttons. This caused me to change my opinion of her. Anybody who would indulge a long conversation on something as silly as buttons was bound to be a special person.
Historically, buttons go way, way back. I have a big book that profiles the history and various uses. Some buttons, of course, tell stories such as career, military service, or awards. They are made of shells, metal, plastic, wood, or heavy fabric. Some are merely function, but some are beauty plus function. But I think the most important features of a button are the memories and nostalgia.
“Bixby’s Cool Moon”
By Mike Gowen
“Bixby, get yourself ready for bed,” mom called from the planet room.
“Ah, mom, do I have to go to bed now? The Star Blasters are playing the Sun Shields in laser football tonight.” I really didn’t care that much since my team was the Rocket Launchers, but if I got to stay up later, cool moon.
“Nice try Bix,” mom called. “Tomorrow’s a school day.”
Oh well, I took a shot. I continued playing with my Brainiac, my favorite toy at the moment and one every 10-year-old like myself had to have. It was a ball of light you could control just by thinking. Of course, once I got distracted while it was in flight, and it took out one of mom’s favorite vases. She took it away from me for a week.
I could hear mom coming so I reluctantly put it away and jumped into bed trying to look like I had been waiting.
“Mom, will you tell me a story?” I asked, again hoping to buy more time.
Mom looked at me, and I could tell she knew exactly what I was up to.
“How about a Bible story?”
“Sure Mom, but why do people still tell Bible stories?” I asked. The year was 2125, and we lived on Mars.
“How else will people learn about Jesus?” Mom replied. “Does this subject bore you?”
Mom was looking at me with an I’m not happy with you and choose your words carefully look.
“I didn’t mean anything by it, Mom. I’m glad you and Dad teach me about Jesus, and I really like the virtual church we go to. I meet kids from all over the galaxy without ever actually being in the same room. It’s just kids at school laugh at me whenever I mention God or church. They say technology has surpassed the need for religion.
“Bixby, there will always be those who refuse to believe. Those same people existed when Jesus was alive on earth. That’s what ultimately led to his crucifixion. But that was all part of God’s plan to send His Son to sacrifice Himself so people could have salvation. Now quit stalling, it’s getting late young man.”
Mom then proceeded to recite the story of David and Goliath, one of my favorite Bible stories. David was a shepherd boy. He had three older brothers who were in the Israelite army of King Saul. They were fighting a group of people called the Philistines. David’s father sent him to carry food to his brothers. When he got there, this giant of a man named Goliath was teasing the Israelites. Goliath was over nine feet tall, and every day for forty days, he had been giving the same challenge. Fight him, and if you win, the Philistines would surrender. Everyone was afraid of Goliath because of his size, so no one would fight him until David showed up. He told the King that he would fight Goliath. The King laughed at the thought of a boy wanting to fight. David insisted God was on his side, and eventually, King Saul let him fight believing he had nothing to lose. Armed with only a slingshot, David selected five smooth stones and started toward Goliath. The giant laughed when he saw David. Goliath thought he would quickly kill David and teach Saul a lesson for sending a boy to do a man’s job. David started running, and before Goliath could draw back his sword, David sent a stone flying from his slingshot that caught the giant in his forehead, killing him instantly. When the Philistines saw that Goliath had been killed, they ran and were defeated by the Israelites.
What a great story, Bixby thought. In a lot of ways, he felt like David. He was just a boy facing overwhelming odds when he tried to tell others about Jesus. Then again he thought, he wasn’t like David at all. David risked his life for what he believed in. The most he risked was being laughed at. Bixby decided if David could risk his life, the least he could do was risk his pride. He drifted off to sleep thinking about what a great day he was going to have at school tomorrow. He didn’t have a slingshot, but he had the same God on his side that David did, and that was definitely cool moon.
“Over the Ditch and Through the Field”
By Kevin F. Wishon
Life has plenty of lessons, and the act of operating a vehicle has plenty more. I’m very grateful for my well-being when I think about the many miles I have driven over the years. I’ve had a few close calls and bumps along the way but thankfully nothing worse. Nevertheless, I try to remind myself that each day is a new day, and what has been, is not a guarantee of any fewer incidents going forward.
No one forgets their first significant accident or close call. It leaves a scar on the memory that never completely heals. Even as I think about my own, I can feel my body tensing up and my heart rate increasing. Of course, I made several blunders before this occurrence. Once, I shifted a parked car into drive in an enclosed garage. On another occasion, I almost merged into another vehicle. As embarrassing as those moments were, nothing grabbed my attention like the following.
Many years ago, I had a job in Clemmons. At the time I was still unfamiliar with some of the roads in the area. Seeking a shortcut to Clemmons, I decided to take a different route. Eventually, this route led me to Hampton Road, which I knew would take me into Clemmons. I’d never driven the length of Hampton Road, so I wasn’t expecting the 20 mph curve I encountered while traveling 50 mph. On a different day and in a different car, I could’ve easily handled the situation, but I was inexperienced. As I entered the curve, I saw another vehicle approaching me and felt a collision was imminent. Defying logic, I panicked and let go of the steering wheel. My car continued onward crossing the road. Once off the road, my vehicle crossed a drainage ditch, went up a bank, and landed in a field. When I awoke from my shock, the car was still rolling across the hay field. After stopping, I got out to look for damage, and the occupants of the other vehicle called out to me asking if I was injured. I told them I was ok and eventually drove the car out of the field once I discovered it was fine. I, on the other hand, was shaking all over. How I drove away from that occurrence still perplexes me to this day. Today, houses and a fence occupy the very field where I once lost control.
Regardless, before I reached the end of Hampton Road that day, I understood the message I needed to hear: If unfamiliar with a road or area, slow down.
“Master Bean Stringer”
By Stephanie Williams Dean
I was never more than a professional table setter and Master of stringing green beans. Combined, these two chores did not create the kind of warm and tasty experience a little girl would like to have with her momma in the family kitchen. Lots of folks have memories baking cookies with their mommas when kids, right? Not me. Mom didn’t teach me to cook or bake anything. Not even one cookie, ever!
Just in case my memory had failed me, I called my sister, Suzanne, to inquire about her childhood acquired, cookie baking talents inspired by days in the kitchen with Mom. Not a single kitchen experience. Both of us were puzzled because our mother loved to cook. Plus, our mother never missed an opportunity to teach in the kitchen. Her big preach – table manners. My son, David, had only one memory – snapping beans. Well, we did eat lots of green beans!
However, good southern food was the focus of every meal at my family’s kitchen table whether holidays or routine days of the week. I descended from women who were considered to be great cooks. But, not just the women. My male cousin, Skipper, certainly owned the honor as he was executive chef of Cheekwood Estates and Gardens in Nashville.
Already married in my late teens, I taught myself to cook basic southern recipes and frequently entertained friends and family for dinner at my home. After moving to Winston Salem in 1985, I had a few “egads” moments when I realized my culinary skills would be called upon more frequently. At that time, I became very interested in cooking and had the pleasure of taking many culinary classes and receiving instruction from some of the city’s most well-known cooks and chefs.
The professional instruction provided the basic foundation from which I learned to cook and bake. The next ten years of subscriptions to the culinary magazine, Bon Appetit, elevated my cooking abilities to new heights, as I learned different combinations of foods and flavors. I’ve been cooking for dinner parties and events for many years now, and most people seem to enjoy my food.
But truly, I was little more than a child prodigy in the field of culinary arts as a master bean stringer, professional table setter, and self-taught cook.