The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 1:28 pm Tuesday, October 31, 2023

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Zachary Smith Reynolds, Part I

By Linda H. Barnette

Zachary Smith Reynolds was the youngest child of R. J. and Katherine Reynolds, the famous tobacco family in Winston-Salem. His siblings were brother Dick and sisters Nancy and Mary, all born to the richest man in North Carolina at that time-1911. The children grew up at the now famous Reynolda House, an estate planned and built over a period of 6 years and completed in 1917, the master plan of Katherine Reynolds. Imagine this: she told her husband that she wanted a country estate, and he told her to get exactly what she wanted!

Reynolda is a 1,067-acre estate, which at the time that it was built, was astounding.  The house had 64 rooms, an elevator, 14 bathrooms, 2 kitchens, a pool, a bowling alley, and much more that was rare for that time period. It was furnished in exquisite pieces from all over the world as well as many famous paintings. The family employed numerous servants, and the children were brought up with every luxury, even their very own school on the estate.

Unfortunately, both parents died not long after the move to Reynolda, R. J. in 1919 and Katherine in 1921.  At that point the children became the responsibility of their father’s brother, William Neal Reynolds. They were all sent to boarding schools with Smith going to Woodberry Forest in Virginia, where he was very unhappy and eventually came back home and attended Reynolds High School and dropped out at 15. Early on he was interested in aviation probably because of his brother’s business.  Smith took flying lessons as a teen and bought his own airplane, got his pilot’s license, and entertained his family by putting on airshows for them on the front lawn at Reynolda.

His biggest achievement as a pilot was flying 17,000 miles over land in 1931-32. Unfortunately, his very expensive plane developed problems, and he was not able to complete his flight. He did make a name for himself in the aviation world, and his pilot’s license was signed by Orville Wright!!

Before his ill-fated flight, he had been dating Anne Cannon, heiress of the famous Cannon Mills family in Concord.  They married soon after, and the marriage ended in divorce after a short time.  Smith reportedly had a very bad temper. In any case, Anne had their daughter in 1930 and sent her to live with her grandparents in Blowing Rock.

Smith met the actress Libby Holman shortly after his divorce was final when he was visiting friends in New York City and saw her perform on Broadway. According to all descriptions, she was very beautiful and very popular, a talented singer several years his senior. He fell in love with her immediately and followed her all over the country insisting that she marry him. Because Smith threatened suicide several times, she finally agreed, and they were married on November 29, 1931, 6 days after his divorce from Anne Cannon was final.

Sources include visits to Reynolda, books about the family, as well as encyclopedia articles online.

Theological Ponderings

By Stephanie Williams Dean

Blaise Pascal was a child prodigy who grew into a French philosopher, scientist, mathematician, and theologian. As a young intellectual, he emphasized the human tragedy – divine through creation yet perfectly miserable due to the fall.

I first learned of what is known as “Pascal’s Wager” when I was taking a course in theology for graduate school. A wager is similar to an act of betting or gambling on the outcome of an unpredictable event.

Pascal’s wager promotes the idea that one should believe in God for practical reasons, because of what one can gain if theism is true – and what one has to lose if theism is false.

So Pascal offered a pragmatic reason for believing in God. He analyzed the conundrum this way – if we wager that God exists and we’re right – we gain an eternity in heaven. Pure bliss – the ultimate payoff. And if we wager that God exists and we’re wrong – we are no worse off.

But if we wager that God does not exist and we are wrong – we are much worse off. We lose eternal life and experience eternal misery instead.

I was taught of Pascal’s wager as an aspect of theology – and not as a reason to believe in God.  And I share this with you today in that same vein – theological information. To me, to believe in God because of a wager – would be a belief that flies in the face of faith.

However, Pascal argued that for a man who didn’t believe in God – it was a reason to believe. Do you think anyone could truly adopt a belief simply by deciding to?

“Farm Life”

By:  E. Bishop

     It used to be a very stable and lucrative crop for farmers; it did not require a lot of acreage to grow it; anyone growing it was called the 13th month farmer because before harvesting was even done, the farmer was already working on the next year’s crop.  Allotments for the crop were doled out; only specific amounts of acreage could be used in any given year or the farmer would be penalized. Under the “farmer certification” method through the Department of Agriculture, you certify your crop acreages (with copies of maps) instead of a reporter visiting your farm and measuring the crops (from letter my mother saved from April 1971).  I also have a saved common stock certificate at $5 per share with an accompanying card with the matching Certificate Number from 1947.  I find these saved artifacts interesting to read although I’m not sure what some really mean.  I do know though that harvesting tobacco in the hottest, most miserable part of the year was also the most physically demanding part of being a tobacco farmer.  And, it used to be one of the most labor intensive and time-consuming crops where the farmer spent more on hired labor costs than on any other crop.

     Instead of hiring helpers, most often the farmer’s children were the help.  But when the harvest came in and extra help was needed, neighbors pitched in knowing they may need help themselves.  It was hard work but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a little fun sometime too.

     One of the fun things I remember is riding the sled used to carry the pulled tobacco from the field. It was long and narrow with sacks tacked to the sides. A rough ride. Actually, that’s probably the only fun thing I remember!  My older brother Pete, who loved to tell stories from his childhood, had me record him telling the following story from those long ago days.

      “Back, back years ago when we was all young, Daddy raised tobacco, and he’d always get this  neighbor, Miss Emily, to help, and she would come in about daylight and start working in the field.  The field of tobacco was way over beside the house, tobacco barn was way around the road back in the woods over there (Pete would point in the direction where the old home place buildings stood) and uh, Daddy and John Albert  (another neighbor) was over there priming, uh, pulling tobacco off the stalk and putting it in the sled, and they’d bring it around to the, to the tobacco barn where Mother and others were all tying (putting tobacco on sticks).  John Albert and Miss Emily was over there picking and pulling, piling it up high on the sled; coming back to unload and go again.”

      “Well, about the second trip over that morning, the ole horse; had these three old horses but Daddy always used Ol’ Red and Ol’ Charlie to pull the sled.  Daddy went back and Ol’ Charlie he kept a-watching when he was loading that tobacco.  He just kept looking at him, then when they had that loaded and they pulled another armful each and went to lay it in the sled, Miss Emily got her arm full first and she went to put it in the sled, Ol’ Charlie, he took off with the sled about the time she bent over to put that armful in.  She wore big ol’ dresses; she was a big girl anyway, and she wore these big ol’ dresses and uh, when that ol’ horse took off with that sled, it just unraveled her, took all of her clothes off.  She didn’t have nothing on under that dress.”

     “And, and, and Daddy got that horse stopped; then, uh, she was standing there, and, took her arms to wrap around herself and said ‘Aw, shucks, it don’t matter.  I don’t got nothing you ain’t seen no way.’  Daddy said ‘Well,’ he tore one of the old sacks off the side of that tobacco sled and wrapped it around her and told her ‘Aw, , we can’t look at that all day.’ ”

     “And then, then, well he brought the sled and Ol’ Charlie, back and Mother got some clothes where Miss Emily could put on, and uh, uh, she worked right on the rest of the day like nothing ever happened.  That’s it.”