The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 12:43 pm Tuesday, January 16, 2024

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By Gaye Hoots

Many of my happiest memories are of the first six years of my life, living with my parents and grandparents on the banks of the Yadkin River at the end of Burton Road. We raised pigs, kept a dairy farm, and grew crops to sustain them and to sell. Grandpa raised a garden, kept an orchard, grew strawberries and grapes, set traps for rabbits, and made and set baskets to trap fish and sometimes a turtle. Blackberries grew wild and abundantly, and Grandma made delicious pies and syrup from them that we added to our tea.

Daddy was busy working the dairy and fields, but Grandpa let me follow him like a shadow while he tended crops with his horses and mules, and emptied rabbit gums, and fish baskets. He taught me to drop seeds and plants, pick ripe fruits, and care for animals. I got the runt pigs to bottle feed and Grandpa sometimes set me on the back of colts he trained. He taught me to shoot a Crackshot rifle and to ride a bike. I do not remember ever wishing for more than I had while living there.

The Burtons, Wallers, and Clines; were our neighbors: I have written about them in other articles. Kathleen Burton was one of my role models. She worked and had no children then, so she gave us a lot of attention.

When I was six years old, we moved a few miles away to the Marchmont, a thousand-acre property that Dad’s cousin purchased from the family that built the plantation-style house there. Dad managed that farm; and two farms of Grandpa’s; there were two diaries, and in addition to the usual crops he added tobacco, cotton, sheep, beef cattle, and cane.

This was the beginning of my independence. I no longer had Grandpa; Daddy was extremely busy, and Mama managed a household independently for the first time and had a four-year-old and a new baby. I was the protector when Dad was gone. I brought in wood from the garage at the bottom of the hill and watched for Copperheads because the property was infested with them. I learned to kill them with a hoe. I investigated and reassured her; if Mama heard a noise upstairs or in an empty room. If Daddy was gone, I would have to stay with her. This limited my time with him, but when we all worked the crops, he checked on us frequently and brought lunch and snacks.

When I was older, I helped in the dairy and was allowed to use the Ford tractor. While living there I attended first through sixth grade and developed a love of basketball and reading. Our neighbors were the Myers, Zimmermans, Slaters, and Blakelys, we had good playmates when we had free time. The farm overlooked the Yadkin, so we still had the view and access, and the Slaters used it for swimming.

When I was twelve, Dad bought a farm in Advance, formerly owned by Anderson Potts, and we moved there. This farm was added to the other properties he managed, and another farm was purchased by Grandpa in Farmington. Daddy managed all of these, and we worked crops on all the farms, Mama worked with us; and still did all the household chores with our help.

I assumed more responsibility, milking a Jersey cow twice daily, push mowing the yard, and a few household chores. I continued to play basketball at school; I needed to stay in the Honor Society to play basketball or date. I got my driver’s license, and Daddy bought a new car for the family. I was allowed to drive anywhere Mama needed to go, to school functions, and basketball practice, which meant going to Mocksville when I was in high school.

This was a time of many new friendships and maintaining close ties with peers from elementary school. By the end of my junior year, I made older friends and was planning to be married in the summer. I carried an extra class each year, instead of study hall, so senior English was the only credit I needed to graduate. Still, I attended my senior year because I wanted to graduate with my classmates.

To be continued.

Everyone Has a Story, Part II: His Eyes

By Julie Terry Cartner

His eyes. They still haunt me. Deep. Soulful. They said so much, far more than words. His shopping cart. His time-worn clothes. His posture. They all told a story, but his eyes, they told the story. Shoulders slumped in a discouragement, profound beyond words, the shoulders of a man who has reached his limit, they told the surface story, but his eyes, they came from the depth of his soul.

From a distance, they appeared both hopeful and hopeless, much like a stray puppy both craving and fearing attention, torn between the desire for a kind word and the fear of a heartless kick. Closer, I could see the deep brown pools of hope surrounded by black lashes of defeat.

His eyes met mine when I drove by, a moment in time, and yet an eternity in the annals of humanity. I already knew what I would do. As I placed my order at the drive through, I added a sandwich and a drink for this man, this stranger and yet not, a kindred soul. How could I possibly indulge in a frivolous drink for myself without taking care of his far greater need? When had he last eaten? Did he have a family? A wife? Parents? Children?

Caution and compassion warred in my brain. His need was clear. His desperation was clear. His confusion was clear. I could read it on his face. How could he be in this position, it queried. At the same time, it was also clear that he was younger, larger, and stronger than I. A small woman, a large man: only my vehicle was the equalizer.  In this current world of distrust, anger, and violence, I had no desire to be a victim, but I needed to help him. I needed to give him just a moment of escape from his current condition.

I rolled down my window and offered him the food and drink. “I hope I’m not offending you, but I thought you might enjoy some hot coffee and food on this cold day.”

Rising to his feet, he took the offering gratefully and gently, inherently understanding his size could engender fear. In a low, gravely voice, he gave a simple, “Thank you.” His eyes searched my face, looking for … what? More than food, I’m sure he just wanted to be seen – to be seen as a man, to be seen as a fellow human, to be seen as a person of value, regardless of his current condition. Mostly, he just wanted to be seen.

I hope my eyes said the words to him. I see you. I care for you as a fellow human. I value you. Your presence this day has enriched my life. The offering of food is more than just a sandwich and coffee, it is the acknowledgement and understanding that we are all in this world together, and our job is to care for each other. I hope your life improves, and does so quickly, and I hope we meet again in better circumstances. I simply said, “I care.”

I’m ashamed that I didn’t park the car and sit with him. I regret that I said so little and heard even less. I’m sorry I didn’t get to hear his story. Everyone has a story, and not giving him the opportunity to share his, fills me with remorse. And oh, his eyes…they still haunt me.

My Refrigerator

By Marie Craig

    …an appliance or compartment which is artificially kept cool and used to store food and drink.  Modern refrigerators generally make use of the cooling effect produced when a volatile liquid is forced to evaporate in a sealed system in which it can be condensed back to liquid outside the refrigerator.

     Whatever that means….But I’d rather think about what this big expensive machine in the kitchen means to us everyday.  It must be very important to earn five syllables.  Other equipment in the kitchen has only one: stove, sink, pans.  It means that food won’t spoil.  A cold liquid cools us in the summer.  Leftovers can lurk in there, sometimes to be discarded later.

     But the top interesting feature is the big flat door just waiting to attach children’s art, calendars, and to-do lists.  After my children left home, I decided that I would declutter and have a door with no attachments at all.  It looked very neat and tidy, but uninteresting.  That didn’t last long.  Right now, I have three quotes taped onto the door, and I’d like to share them.

     One: A cryptogram I worked on my iPad had this quote that supposedly is a Latin proverb: “No gain is so certain as that which proceeds from the economical use of what you already have.”  I am reminded of this quote when I’m in a store and pondering whether to buy something.  I ask myself: “Do I really need this?”  Sometimes the answer is no, and I’ve saved money and space in my home.

     Two: On the Internet I read these words attributed to Mary Kay Ash who founded Mary Kay beauty products and the home sales method of selling them.  “Pretend that every single person you encounter has a sign around their neck that says: Make Me Feel Important.  Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.”  What a great change in people’s attitudes and involvement that would make.  Parents who make their children feel important would do a great service to them and their futures.  Politeness to cashiers, etc. and calling him/her by name would be so special to the employee.

     Three: Sometimes I get overwhelmed with duties, dismal current events, and apprehension.  I found scripture that helps me focus on the positive.   I created some digital art that has a big yellow sun with rays emitting.  At the center of the sun, I inserted these words: 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

     What’s on your refrigerator and how does it help you?