The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 1:46 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Food for Thought

By Julie Terry Cartner

Juggling the box of food in his arms, Jimmy opened the door for his guest. “Thank you, Mrs. Simms,” he said, “Our family will sure enjoy this generous gift.” Only eleven years old, Jimmy had been drilled by his mother to be courteous. Though cancer had taken her away last year, her gentle teaching had stayed with him. He peered into the box of food again. Maybe he and his brother wouldn’t go hungry over the Christmas break. As he shut the door, he rifled through the box and noted the packages of mac and cheese, his favorite, peanut butter and jelly, and wonder of wonders, a loaf of fresh bread. He saw milk, cheese, apples and bananas, and down in the bottom was that – yes, it was, a bag of chocolate chip cookies.

Jimmy noted the time. It was only a little after one in the afternoon, the first full day of Christmas vacation. Most kids looked forward to vacations from school, but he and his younger brother, Mitch had a love/hate relationship with holidays. Obviously, any self-respecting kid had to enjoy days off from schoolwork, but when they weren’t in school, they didn’t eat. In fact, lunch in the cafeteria yesterday had been their last meal, and he was hungry. Seemed like he was always hungry. He called Mitch downstairs.

Just as he expected, Mitch’s eyes lit up when he saw the box of food. Jimmy gave them each a banana, a glass of milk, and two chocolate chip cookies. “Shouldn’t we…” Mitch started to say, but stopped when Jimmy shook his head.

“Eat and enjoy this,” Jimmy said, “then we’ll make a plan. Don’t worry, Dad shouldn’t be home for at least another four or five hours. We have time to figure this out.” Nodding in agreement, the two boys dipped their Oreos in milk, laughing and chatting like two children should. But as soon as they finished their treat, they became serious.

“What are we going to tell Dad?” asked eight-year-old Mitch. “You know what he’ll do with all this food.” Yep, Jimmy knew. He’d sell it.

The boys’ dad wasn’t a terrible person. In some ways it would have been easier if he were. No, their dad had one vice, but that one vice was destroying their lives. It had been a problem when mom was alive, but now that she was gone, he had escalated. Their dad was a gambling addict. He was always sure that the next score, be it poker, horse racing, online betting, or if one of his cronies was around, it might be whether the car in front of them would make it through the light before it turned red. It mattered not. Jimmy’s dad would bet on anything. And, as a result, he would sell anything, absolutely anything, for the cash to support his addiction.

Jimmy and Mitch had learned from experience. After their dad had sold everything of value of his, he’d sold the boys’ things. First it was the furniture in their bedroom, then the train set their grandparents had sent them for Christmas one year, then finally, when their toys were gone, Dad had started selling their clothes. They never knew, when they got home from school, what would be left.

And so, they’d gotten smart. They kept changes of clothes in their bookbags and had hidden more under a loose board in their closet. They knew Dad would sell the food they’d just gotten. Christmas break lasted ten days. That was a long time to be hungry. “We have to hide some of it,” Jimmy said, “but we’ll put the milk and stuff like that in the frig. Maybe he won’t sell it.” And so, the boys hid what would fit in their secret cache and made sure there wasn’t a crumb in sight before their dad got home.

Some children dream of bicycles, and ponies, roller skates and gaming devices for Christmas. Jimmy and Mitch dreamed of keeping their food hidden from their dad so they would have something to eat each day.

“…as many as 13 million children in the United States live in ‘food insecure’ homes.” https://www.nokidhungry.org

Important Data

By Marie Craig

In the late 1970s, I was a member of an Extension Homemakers’ Club in Walhalla, S.C. The agent for the county presented lessons to us about cooking, sewing, family care, and current events. One lesson in 1976, because of the Bicentennial, featured family history. I had never compiled this information before, but the agent learned about this from another woman who was quite skilled at tracing family trees and preserving this data.  This presentation was interesting, and I wrote a letter to my mother and wished to know more. She wrote back with as much as she could remember. Sometimes, in the summer, we would take extensive vacations to distant locations for fun and enhancement for our two sons. But one year there was a gasoline shortage which prevented long distance trips.

But it was a marvelous vacation that year as my mother and we four traveled through North Carolina visiting family, cemeteries, and libraries to research our family. One destination we journeyed to was Wilkes and Alleghany counties. My dad was raised near there, and my mother remembered lots of his stories, relatives, and locations. We ended up one Sunday morning at a little mountain church that she recalled as being important. Our goal was to quietly tour the cemetery as the church goers met inside. But we were surprised and delighted because it was grave decoration day.

I found my great grandparents’ graves, and of course took photos with my camera. I looked for the oldest people roaming around in the tombstones and saw two elderly women. I asked them if they remembered my great grandfather. I had tried hard to determine his birthdate in vain. I had found eight references to his year of birth, and they were all different. Census, marriage records, child’s birth certificates, etc. had me confused. I had a strong goal to determine the exact date.

They surprised me by saying that they did remember.  These two sisters said that when they were little girls that he would sit under the apple tree and peel apples for them.  I loved that sweet memory of theirs and tried to picture me being with him also in this scene.

After gaining this personal description, I realized that having this positive episode was far more important than knowing exactly to the day when he was born.

It’s so crucial that we have stories and descriptions of our ancestors. This Christmas, when you’re with your loved ones, ask them questions about their lives. Years from now, you’ll be able to determine vital facts about them, but if you don’t learn these stories and experiences and write them down, they’ll be gone forever.

Foundations

By Gaye Hoots

A recent conversation with my first cousin Gene about our time living with our grandparents made me ponder their influence on our and our parents’ lives. We agreed with the theory that the first five years of life most strongly influence our personalities.

Gene’s parents moved out of the state when his father took a position with a company manufacturing goods for our military during WW11. I believe his mother worked there. They left Grandpa and Grandma Hoots to care for Gene. My grandparents lived in Yadkin County on land that had been in the Hoots family since the first Hoots, formerly Huth, fought in the Revolutionary War and was granted several hundred acres near Courtney N.C.

My parents married in 1942, and my mother joined the Hoots household. My father was the only one of their four sons living at home to help on the farm. Two of the sons fought in the war. My grandparents had survived the Depression here and struggled to raise their family. Shortly after my parents were married, the farm was sold to Grandpa’s brother-in-law and he purchased the farm at the end of Burton Rd. in Advance N.C. I joined the family in July 1945 and the war ended shortly after.

Gene’s parents returned and moved to Clemmons with Gene. Our grandpa was very stoic and had been a strict disciplinarian with his four boys. He was a very different man to Gene and me. He was patient and loving towards his animals and his grandchildren. Grandpa taught us to build and empty Rabbit gums, and fish, weave fish baskets, and tend them. We learned how to treat his dogs and the goats that ran in the yard. I was given runt pigs that would not have survived otherwise to raise on a bottle.

Grandpa had an old car that I drove as a child. He made bows and arrows, wooden knives, teepees, and other items for us to play with. He taught me to do handstands by doing them himself when he was in his sixties. He never used physical discipline with me and tried to keep Daddy from using it. Grandpa caught snakes and let me handle them and taught me respect for the loaded gun he kept propped in the corner of his bedroom. When I was six, he gave me and taught me to shoot a Crackshot rifle. He explained the dangers of the electric fence and the bull.

We learned to handle emergencies without panicking. I never recognized them as emergencies because he announced the issue with a plan of action for everyone, and we contained the problem. Grandpa and Daddy worked seven days a week if they were physically able. They both had an unlimited curiosity and quest for knowledge, particularly as it applied to farming. Both were good judges of character and got along well with people from all walks of life.

Gene followed in their footsteps, and so did I to a point. We both completed master’s degrees.  Gene has the same work ethic, and so did I until I retired. I learned to enjoy more leisure time reading and writing. Gene takes vacations and enjoys his family. He has written books and articles but also continues to work because that is what he prefers I still practice my nursing skills with family and friends but have no desire to join the workforce.

My father and Gene’s were strong, smart, successful men in their fields. My Uncle Jones worked for Reynolds until his death, and Uncle Edward had a memory for history that alcohol did not destroy. They did not inherit the strong will to live and survive anything that we did. Alcoholism destroyed Uncle Edward, and Uncle Jones died at his own hands after a long physical struggle.

I attribute this to genetics and not their childhood. I also believe their military experience contributed to this. We were taught to endure and never surrender, and we have strived to pass this on to our families.