The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 9:17 am Thursday, October 18, 2018

“Daddy’s Stories”

By Gaye Hoots

One of my favorite stories was about a young woman who sought Daddy’s advice on breeding cattle. The woman had married an older man who was wealthy. The couple owned a farm and were raising a rare breed of cattle. The husband died, and the wife continued to manage the farm. The bull died, and the woman was trying to decide whether to buy a five-thousand-dollar bull or to take her vet’s advice and use artificial insemination. She told Dad that several people at the cow sale had told her to seek his advice.

“Mam, if you can find a vet who takes as much interest in the job as your bull did then you might get the same results,” Dad told her.

Another story Dad often told was about his school teacher when he was a boy in Courtney, N.C., Hobble Shermer. Mr. Shermer spoke very precisely with perfect diction. He had witnessed a car wreck from his front porch and had to testify in court. A lawyer asked Mr. Shermer to describe what he witnessed.

“It was upon the morning of…. Mam and I were sitting on the front porch enjoying the cool refreshment of the breeze when a cloud of dust appeared on the horizon. A car was proceeding down the road at a tremendous rate of speed. How fast? I would say about the rate of a speeding bullet.”

The defense attorney tried to shake Mr. Shermer’s testimony, but every inquiry met with an unemotional statement sprinkled with descriptive phrases, so the lawyer finally gave up. Dad had the whole testimony memorized.

Dad never forgot a joke. Another favorite of mine was one about two men in a bar at closing time. One man told the bartender he needed one for the road because his wife was going to berate him. He stated he would turn the motor of his car off, turn the car lights off, and coast into his driveway. “I ease the front door open, take my shoes off and tip toe up the stairs. I don’t make a sound, but she will turn the light on and start yelling at me.”

“You are doing it all wrong’” the other guy said. “I start blowing the horn a block from my house, I screech the brakes and flash the lights as I pull into the drive. I slam the front door, run up the steps, flip on the bedroom light while pulling off my shirt. I yell ‘Lover Boy is home.’ You can’t wake my wife up.”

There is not a day that goes by without something reminding me of something he did or said. Every week I have people tell me they remember him and his humor. Laughter is as essential to me as sunshine is.

“Just Wrong”

By Kevin F. Wishon

“Mr. March, this is Sergeant Wilkinson with the Orange County Police Department here in Florida. Sir, we are trying to get in touch with you regarding a matter. We’ve been given your name by a local police department and would like for you to call us back as soon as possible…”

A phone number follows as I continue to stare at the answering machine. After replaying the message several times, stress falls upon me as I try to guess why the police are calling me. The possibilities make me feel lightheaded. Sick with worry, I pick up the phone and call the Orange County Police Department. After several call transfers, Detective Wilkinson picks up the line.

“Thank you for returning my call, Mr. March. The Orange County Police Department is contacting you to relay this news. Sir, I’m sorry to tell you that your ex-wife was recently murdered, and the coroner needs you to come to Florida to identify the body. I realize this may not be an ideal time, but proper identification of the body is needed to help with the case.”

Stunned, I finally cut in as the Sergeant begins giving me directions to the Orange County Police Department.

“Sir, I can’t help you. You have the wrong person.

“Mr. March, we were given your name from a database search, and it lists you as a former spouse,” he replies.

“No. You don’t understand. I can’t be the person you are looking for because I’m single. I’ve never been married.”

My head is spinning at this point, and I feel faint. Why are they so sure I’m the person they are seeking? Then a memory from my past changes everything.

“Oh, I think I know what has happened! It’s the other Mack March. There is another person with my name.”

“Another Mack March?” Sergeant Wilkinson asks. He is dubious. No doubt he hears plenty of people swear they are not who they are.

“Yes, he has a middle name different than mine. I met him in college, but I haven’t seen him for many years.

Sergeant pauses and says, “OK, I see here we have your first and last name, but no middle name, so that makes sense.” Then Sergeant Wilkinson laughs. “I guess I had you going there for a bit, didn’t I?”

Trying to hide the annoyed tone in my voice, I said, “Yes. You really did.”

“The CMTC”

By Marie Craig

“Thank goodness, school is finally out for this year.” Kelly voiced this to his parents on his first day of vacation in 1926

“I only have one more year, and I’ll be through school.”

His father looked at him and decided a lecture about attitude and growing up would do no good.  Kelly had moved from Wilkes County with his parents and two brothers when he was 12 into a farm home in Harmony.  Now, they were getting ready to move again, into a little town house in south Statesville.  Money was hard to come by, but his dad and his older brother were going to get jobs in a chair factory in Statesville close enough to walk to work.  Kelly figured he’d probably end up there also.

His dad said, “Come walk with me to the post office, Kelly.  Your mom wrote a letter to her parents in Traphill to give them our new address in Statesville.”

Harmony was a pleasant little village where Kelly had met lots of the people, and he realized he would miss them.  As they walked along, they talked about how different a big city like Statesville would be.

His dad loved to talk to everybody, and he had made good friends with the postmaster.  When they got there, he was tacking up a poster on the wall.

“Kelly, you might be interested in this government plan.”

Kelly walked up to the poster and read out loud: “Citizens Military Training Camp at Fort Bragg, Friday, July 2 through Saturday, July 31.  All young men under 24 years of age are encouraged to come for free military training.  You must be of good character, intelligence and physical condition.  You will get free uniforms, free meals, and free medical care.  Transportation costs are refunded on the basis of a nickel a mile.  There will be military training, practice in firing a Springfield ’03, marching, and exercise.  Ask the postmaster for more information.”

Kelly thought long and hard for a few minutes.  He did not want to go to war.  He remembered the horrible stories told about the Great War which had ended just eight years ago.  He was eight years old at the time, but he heard enough to want to avoid that.

“How far is it from Statesville to Fort Bragg?” he asked the postmaster.

“Oh, it’s about 150 miles.  You could ride the bus to Salisbury, on to Albemarle, through Carthage and then you’d be at Fort Bragg in a few hours.  They’d pay you back $7.50 each trip; that’s more than the ticket costs.”

“What do you think, dad?  I don’t think mom would want me to go, but it might be good for me.”

“It’s fine with me, and I’ll sweet talk your mom.”

So, early on July 2, his parents walked with him to the bus stop.  He almost turned around and went back home, but he was brave and went on his way.  When he got there, there was a long, long line of other young men.  A man took a group picture of this double line of them, and they each got a big copy of the photograph.  They gave each man a medical physical first and then showed them where they’d be staying.  The uniforms were new and scratchy, but Kelly soon got used to that and started enjoying his training.  Lots of the guys were really excited because they thought soldiering was a thrilling business.  It was hot at the base, but Kelly was able to march and drill in the heat.

Reveille was at 5:45 and after breakfast, they had military instruction.  At their classes, they were told that the CMTC, short for Citizens Military Training Camp, was the creation of General Pershing.  Kelly remembered hearing his name from during the World War.  Colonel Alexander E. Williams talked to them each morning, and required them to learn this motto: “The Army goes as far as it can – and then keeps going.”  They had some free time in the afternoons but had to keep exercising instead of just being lazy.  At 5 pm, they dressed in uniforms for retreat formation before eating.  Call to quarters was at 10 pm.

Kelly bought two postcards which had photographs of camp scenes with young men around tents, artillery practice, and other military skills.

The month went quickly, and Kelly received a Military Training Certificate.  It stated that he had attended the Basic Course of Instruction.  The second year that the guys could attend was the Red Course, third was white, and fourth was blue.  He also received a pin that contained the words: Marksman CMTC.

Kelly just attended in that one year, but it was good training for him.  He kept his memorabilia, and I now own and treasure the reminders of the year that my dad had a month of the military.

“Cooking By Color”

By Mike Gowen

My wife is a great cook, but since I work from home, I try to help when I can. The trouble is that while I know what I like, I fail when it comes to putting a proper menu together. I have no problem choosing a red wine for beef or a white wine for fish. When it comes to pairing foods, however, I come up short. It is not enough to know what tastes good or how to prepare it. My wife plans meals with careful consideration to nutritional aspects. Fat content, starches, and carbohydrates of foods are carefully analyzed. Me?  My scientific approach to cooking is this. I cook by color.

Simply put, I like a pretty plate. I’ll arrange a menu only to be told it’s wrong because I have put two starches together. Potatoes and macaroni on the same plate, the nerve! Don’t you know you can’t have two starches? Okay, I protest, but look how pretty the plate is! That one is white, and the other is yellow. Find a couple more colorful foods, and I’ve got a meal that not only tastes good, it looks good too. My wife sighs and rolls her eyes. I can imagine the response I would have gotten if I had attempted to educate my grandmothers about putting a proper meal together. My grandmother on my dad’s side cooked every day for 15 children. Homemade biscuits and gravy were a staple at every meal. Perhaps the fact that people worked as tirelessly as they did in those days allowed for the consumption of multiple starches and carbs at mealtime. Granny lived to be 99 and was still splitting and stacking her wood until her mid-90s. I suspect she did okay with meal planning. I’m not sure how they stacked up nutritionally, but the colors were outstanding.