The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 1:48 pm Friday, April 14, 2023

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By Julie Terry Cartner

Like her co-workers, Madeline Keegan breathed a sigh of relief. Friday afternoon, 2:00, and soon the first full week of the school year would be over. This week was always exciting, challenging, fun, exhilarating, yes, all of these, but also, so very exhausting. Only teachers understood how difficult it was to learn the many faces, names, and personalities of each student so quickly. Children were tender, sensitive, and often insecure, and you never knew what trigger could send a child into a wretched ball of self-preservation. When children felt like they didn’t matter to you, sensitive ones would withdraw, and it could take months to woo them back out of their shells. So, it was imperative to learn the children as quickly as possible, their names and the individual details that made each unique.

In addition to the beginning of school duties, lesson plans, teaching, and supervising, and the nighttime duties of grading assignments and aligning goals with the individual needs of each student, Maddie had made flash cards with each child’s name and identifying characteristics and had studied until she knew she could name each one.

Now Maddie thought back through the list, making mental notes about each child. Jonathan is shy, but he can make friends. Monica is struggling in reading. Casey hates math, but he does okay in it, and Cami’s favorite period is recess. No wonder, Maddie thought, smiling, she’s got more energy than ten of me.

Then on to the more concerning students, James, she was pretty sure, had dyslexic issues. And Pam had interpersonal issues. She wanted to be the leader of each group and, if not, to be chosen first. She wasn’t a bully yet, but Maddie knew third grade was a pivotal year. She’d have to help Pam hone her leadership skills, turning her aggressive behavior into something more acceptable. Letting her eyes wander around her class, making sure each student was actually reading, rather than daydreaming, she smiled. She understood, they were as tired as she was. Then Maddie’s smile faded away when her eyes reached Thomas.

Thomas, she thought, he’ll be the one to break her heart. The way he curled up in his desk chair, the way he avoided interacting with the other children, the way he wouldn’t meet her eyes, these were all red flags, but they were just tiny pennants compared to the flashing banners of the other issues. He flinched if anyone made a sudden move, he was wearing long sleeves in the heat of August, and most seriously, he occasionally winced in pain; these behaviors screamed at Maddie there probably was a problem.

Of course, each symptom could be explained away: shyness for the first three, and some athletic pursuit like karate or soccer for the others. But when all combined, the possibility of abuse, whether it be bullying from other children or abuse from the home seemed a strong possibility.

Maddie knew the laws, and she knew her responsibilities as a teacher. But one must tread very carefully in situations like these. If she were correct, well, that was one thing, but if she were mistaken, she could burn bridges that could never be rebuilt. Regardless of what was going on, Maddie had no doubt that Thomas needed her, whether to bring him out of his shell or protect him, it mattered not. Maddie was a Mama Bear teacher; she protected all her cubs.

Just then, Thomas raised his hand. And when his sleeve slipped down, she saw the bruises around his wrist. She gently answered his question, helping him with a vocabulary word, and, at the same time, firmed her resolve. She would report the suspected abuse to those in authority that very day. Children deserve to live their lives free from fear. They deserve to be loved and cherished. They never deserve angry bruises.

• April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. “In 2021, there were 588,229 victims of child abuse in the United States, [and] about 4.8 children died each day of abuse and neglect. [“Child Abuse in the United States.” Statista. 2023. This only takes in the reported cases. In reality, the actual number is much higher.


By Marie Craig

I was given about fifty oranges recently that were wonderful and sweet and seedless.  I knew I couldn’t use them all, so it was fun to share them with neighbors. As I have enjoyed eating some of this citrus, I have had several strong memories come to me involving oranges.

My mother was raised on a farm in Sheffield.  An orange was a very special treat to her.  One of her uncles had moved his family to Winston-Salem but came back to visit in Sheffield for Christmas one year.  They brought my mother’s family a big box of oranges.  Savoring an occasional orange turned into nonchalance as the family quickly and casually used them up.  She said she’d walk by the place where food scraps went and wish she’d slowed down and appreciated them more.  Perhaps a lesson in gratitude and being present in the moment were the lessons she learned.

When I was in the first grade, I had a teacher who would end up in jail if she was teaching now.  I brought my lunch, so I wasn’t involved in this orange story but watched it unfold.  The other six-year-olds had been given an orange with their lunch.  They came back to the classroom carrying oranges and the teacher didn’t show up for some time.  One child suggested that they use their big fat red pencils to punch a hole in the orange.  Each child did this.  Another child said, “I think we are supposed to roll them to make them juicier.”   So the classmates did so, probably realizing that they should have done this first.  The teacher returned to find this mess. She went around the room feeling of every desk.  If it was sticky, that child got a hard spanking.  Even at that young age, I realized how unfair this was.  No six-year-old can deal with preparing an orange to eat.  An apple, maybe, but not an orange.  The dining hall manager should have had more sense than that.  The teacher was irresponsible in leaving her classroom alone.  This mean teacher was just asking for trouble.

A really good orange has a great aroma.  There are so many pictures that pop in your mind when the peel is cut or torn.  One year at Christmas, I prepared a few oranges for display in this manner.  Whole cloves were inserted into the whole orange.  This is a combination of wonderful fragrances.  It is time-consuming and makes your fingers sore, but the pattern of the cloves and the great nostalgic smell are worth the effort.  Cloves help the orange decorations to last longer and be more aromatic to instill a sense of the holiday season.

Oranges are special, not to mention their nutritional value to us.

The Peebles Family

By Gaye Hoots

Until I was 6 years old I lived at the end of Peoples’ Creek Road on my grandparents’ farm above the Yadkin River. Mr. Matt Peebles and his family lived on the adjoining farm, and I remember mother saying that she had told Genieva Peebles my name was Wanda Gaye when I was born. Genieva referred to me as Wandering Gaye, which would have been a good fit. Mr. Matt was a good farmer and a well-known baseball player. He had a son named James Peebles, whose family moved to our farmhouse at Advance, formerly owned by Anderson Potts.

When we lived with Grandpa, another James Peebles worked for my dad, and we called him Jim. I believe Jim and James were related. Jim worked for Dad for twenty-five or more years, and he sometimes brought his son, a few years older than me, to work with him. His son was also named James Peebles but was called Bub.

Once, I loaned Bub my slingshot, and he hit the side of our house with a stone. The swarm of bees nesting under the boards poured into my long hair. There were many stings, and my face was swollen for weeks. Bub did not know the bees were there and meant no harm.

Jim worked on the farm at Marchmont when we moved there, and my brother told me that the morning after his wife died, he showed up for work as usual. Dad realized something was wrong, and Jim told him of the death. There were four children, two of them were young. We attended her funeral, and I was impressed by the music, which appealed to me more than any I had heard. Jim continued to work for Dad, and I rarely saw Bub as he grew older.

I had often teased Jim with snakes when I was small, but he tried to look out for us. Once when I was seven, I missed the school bus and started the four-mile walk rather than return home. A relative of Jim’s picked me up and took me to school. When Jim learned of this, he told Dad, who instructed me never to do that again.

When I was married and had small kids, I asked Jim to mow my yard for a few weeks when my last child was born. I had cut it with a push mower, but he made short work of it with a riding mower. One morning as I was leaving to take the girls for a four-week checkup for the baby, a black racer curled up by my car. I usually did not harm black snakes, but because of the kids, I picked this one up with a stick and put it into an empty trashcan to deal with later.

After the appointment, I returned home to find my front yard mowed, and the back not cut. Roy told me Jim had left and told him that I did not owe anything for the front yard and that he would never be back to mow. I was perplexed until I saw the empty trashcan overturned with the lid off and the snake missing. Jim was terrified of snakes and as a child, I would catch garter snakes to scare him. He assumed I was up to my old tricks and was having none of that.

I always meant to explain, but I never saw him again. I was substituting for a teacher at Shady Grove, and a grandson of Jim’s was in the second-grade class I was subbing for. He refused to follow instructions and said he would leave the class. His classmates told me their teacher, who was taking mental health days, allowed him to go and stay out until the end of the day. I explained that would not happen and asked if Jim was his grandfather. I told him my maiden name and instructed him to ask Jim if he knew me. The next day he was sullen but compliant, and he told me Jim had said I was the meanest white girl he ever knew.

A few years later, I was a teacher’s aide and had Bub’s son in my class. He told me he would do no schoolwork and no one could make him. I told him the other ten kids wanted to learn and that he could waste his time but not theirs and to sit quietly unless he changed his mind and chose to join us. He did join us and worked hard. The last time I saw him, he was a senior, tall and muscular. He said he had not had a grade lower than a C and had a football scholarship offer. A few years after that, he had a family and asked my daughter to tell me he was doing well.

When I was at Shady Grove, Ruby Brown taught there. She was a sister to James Peebles and the daughter of Matt. James and his family lived on the farm at Advance, and we spent several summers working in tobacco with his family. His two daughters were near my age, and we enjoyed time we spent together. I called Christine a couple of years ago. and she was doing well, but Mary had health issues.

My brother called this week to inform me that Bub had died, I knew he was a barber and had his own business, but he had been a machinist also and worked at Ingersoll Rand for forty years. The Peebles family had a strong work ethic; some were teachers and coaches. I keep in touch with a grandson of James, whose grandkids I see in pictures on his site. They are the sixth generation of this family, counting from Mr. Matt, whom I remember well.