The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 9:36 am Friday, November 30, 2018

“Changing Lanes”

By Kevin F. Wishon

“License and registration, please.” The sound of vehicle tires passing by on the pavement fills the air.

“Well, I have a license, but my registration is expired,” Wilbur Miller replies.

“Is that right.” Amused, the officer steps back and looks at the faded vehicle in front of him. Unable to get a family member to drive him to the doctor, Wilbur has taken matters into his own hands. Desperate, he pulled the tarp off his old sedan and cranked it up. He needed to make that appointment.

“Sir, what year is this vehicle?”

“I bought this car in 2015,” Wilbur replies proudly.

“And have you been driving this vehicle all the time?”

“Oh no. I haven’t driven this in a while. My family has been taking me everywhere lately. Although today, I have an important doctor’s appointment, and my family cannot take me. So, I made the decision to drive myself.”

“Regrettably, you will have to reschedule the appointment.” A wide-eyed look from Wilbur conveys more than any other response he can give.

“Mr. Miller, I’m not sure if you understand the situation. Do you know why I pulled you over?”

Uncertain, Wilbur shrugs his shoulders weakly. Finally, he replies, “Cause my registrations expired?” Laughter erupts from deep within the patrol officer’s abdomen.

“No! Your vehicle is unapproved for highway use.” Seeing the obvious confusion in Wilbur’s face, the officer clarifies his statement. “Sir, your car has a combustion engine. Combustion engines have not been legal for nearly ten years. All the cars on the highway now use electric, fuel cell, or kinetic energy. I pulled you over because your vehicle is obviously old and out of compliance.”

“I just thought everyone had bought the newer cars and never realized that the older cars were banned,” Wilbur remarks.

“Many older vehicles on the road have been converted from combustion to electric, but they have a decal indicating the upgrade. However, I did not see a decal on your rear bumper.”

“I guess I’ve been living under a rock,” Wilbur admitted sheepishly.

“Sir, why didn’t you call a ride-sharing service to get you to your doctor’s appointment?”

“Me – ride around with strangers? I’m not comfortable with that at all. That’s like crazy hitchhiking except you have to pay for the risk of riding with them!” The officer laughs at Wilbur’s Luddite mentality.

“All right Mr. Miller. You remind me of my grandpa. He disliked change. Nevertheless, I cannot allow you to continue operating this vehicle. The law requires I have this vehicle towed, and impounded to prevent further operation.”

“But today, I’m going to give you a digital records warning. Afterward, I will follow you back to your residence where you will park this vehicle permanently.” Surprised by the officer’s leniency, Wilbur stares at him. After a pause, the officer smiles and looks away. “I know change is hard and accepting change even more difficult. I just hope someone will show me some understanding when I get old and stuck in my ways.”

“The Poorhouse”

By Gaye Hoots

A few years before his death my grandfather told me that he had never borrowed money that he had to pay interest on because he was afraid that if he could not pay it back, he would end up in the county poorhouse. “The poorhouse is the worst place you can imagine. The people who have nothing and no one to help them go there. Orphans, widows, the disabled, and the ones who have lost their minds go there. Looking back, I could have bought anything I wanted and probably have paid for it, but fear of the poorhouse held me back,” he told me.

Around 1942 my grandparents and parents lived in Yadkin County North Carolina. They sold the farm they lived on to the government to build a dam for the area. The government abandoned the dam project, but the farm now belonged to the government. My father found a farm for sale in Advance on Peoples Creek Road, in a bend of the Yadkin River. Grandpa was about 60 years old when I was born in 1945. My dad managed the farm, and over time, they bought two more farms without financing them.

Ten years ago, I was visiting a farm in Yadkin County when the owner pointed to one of the farm’s outbuildings. It was an old wooden building about 20 feet by 15 feet. “That was the poorhouse from the county farm. I bought it and moved it here. Your great aunt Molly Shore and her husband were paid to prepare the meals and feed the people there,” he said.

I did some research and learned that in 1785, North Carolina passed a law allowing counties to establish poorhouses. Yadkin had a county farm with a building for orphans, a building for the poor, and a separate building for those with mental illnesses referred to as the “crazy house.” This was paid for by local taxes and operated until 1950. The first medications for mental illness hit the market in the 1940s, so the only way to keep some of this population from harming themselves or others was to restrain or lock them up. The building had bars over the windows.

Those who were physically able worked on the farm and raised food. They did all the work that it was possible for them to do. The farm in Yadkin County had about 200 people who died and were buried in unmarked graves behind the farm buildings. Kim Quintal wrote an article, “Going to the Poorhouse” that gives details of the life of an ancestor of hers who lived and died on the county farm in Yadkin County.

The poorhouse was the only form of social services available in those days before social security, mental health, and child protective services. My great aunt Molly was a tiny woman with a large presence. Nothing daunted her. I am a psychiatric nurse and felt a kinship with her when I learned that she also worked with this population.

    “Kudzu, Good or Bad?”

By Marie Craig

In the 1930s, my grandfather who lived with his family in Sheffield received advice from the county agriculture agent that his ravines and erosion areas could benefit from the planting of kudzu. So, David followed this advice, and it seemed to stop the deterioration of the land. That’s good. No, that’s bad. It took over and became invasive. But it did increase the nitrogen in the soil

My husband, Bill, worked for the United States Forest Service. He described a scene in Western North Carolina to me. Forest Service leaders from Washington, D.C. were traveling to a remote town to confer with the personnel there. This town had a short airport that had been created by leveling the top of a mountain. The local men were lined up at the airport eagerly awaiting the arrival of the small plane which carried their superiors. The plane landed and didn’t stop. It disappeared from sight over the edge of the mountain. That’s bad. No, that’s good because when the men ran over to the edge of the slope, they saw that the kudzu had stopped the plane in its tracks. Foresters hate kudzu because of the speed of growth, the density, and the entanglement.  But these foresters came out of the airplane singing the praises of kudzu.

Kudzu is rampant in many countries. That’s bad. No, that’s good because there are many ways it can be used. The blooms can be used to make kudzu jelly which is delicious. The tender leaves can be boiled and eaten like greens. The vines can be used for wreaths and baskets. I made a wreath once but was told jokingly not to set it on the ground. The roots are harvested in east countries to make starch products for food. Health food stores sell items derived from kudzu. Grazing animals can enjoy eating it and can help eradicate it. Tea made from kudzu is enjoyed in eastern countries.  The fiber can be made into paper or cloth.

As a joke, I cooked supper one night preparing several kudzu dishes. I swore my two young sons to secrecy. Bill, the forester, setting a good example for his sons, ate some of the spinach-like dish and drank his hot kudzu tea. He finally asked, “What am I eating?” We all had a good laugh over that. That’s good.

(With apologies to the recently-late Roy Clark who entertained us with this dialogue on Hee Haw.)