It's a Great Day in Kelso. Tennessee


Troubles…

When we look back over the course of our lives, we can see distinct division of phases: babyhood, the elementary years, junior high, high school, college/early career…you get the drift.  When the phases of our lives are written in two dimensions like that, they seem so dull and colorless.  But when we remember, we think of the bright spots and the shadows that highlight events so that they become three-dimensional and when time, whether short periods or long periods, is added a fourth dimensional event is born.  So many things contribute to the rounding and plumping of our memories: laughter, babies, love, sorrow, pain…they all add a distinct hue and shade to our memories.  Sometimes our lives are just going along as normal.  In my vision of “normal” everyone is well except for the odd cold or scrape, the bills are caught up but the water heater is going out, its neither winter nor summer and the windows are open with the breeze pouring through the house, bringing fresh outdoor scents of freshly cut grass, sweet floral notes and a hint of the healthy herd of cows across the way. Chicken is frying and the beans are simmering and I’m putting the cake in the oven when, all at once, an ill wind blows.  I can feel it in my heart, I can sense its evil presence on my skin, my eyes mist with the dusty gloom of Troubles ahead…and the rain comes pouring in the windows of my phase of life.  Now when it rains for real, we can close the windows and mop up the mess, but when Trouble blows through that window then you know your entire phase is about to change.  I’ve had my share of Troubles this year.  What they are is not important, not really.  Everyone has Troubles at one point or another in life and we prove our resilience by working through them or climbing over them or sweeping them away.  But sometimes Troubles come flooding through the windows of life and sweep you and all you know along with the flow and the mess is much, much harder to clean up.  But eventually you will pick yourself up, clean yourself off, straighten your shoulders and wade back into the fray.  And Trouble better look out then: its got YOU to deal with.  

To all my friends who have been so faithful to read my silly words and to love, pray and support me through all the Troubles life has thrown to me, I thank you.  Life has dealt me a hard hand to play once again, but I intend to stop whining and cowering in the corner now and stand up, square my shoulders and deal with my Troubles.  

Going to a Happy Place…

"Relax," they said.  "Breathe slowly; in through your nose, out through your mouth.  Relax.  Close your eyes.  Take deep breaths." I could hear the rattle of nameless, pointy instruments on a metal tray.  "You’re doing fine.  Take deep breaths.  Just relax." There was a bright light, many bright lights in my eyes, so that even though I closed them the rays of light penetrated my eyelids like magenta and violet spaghetti tumbling endlessly in a sunflower and teal spotted colander.  "Keep breathing.  In through the nose, out through the mouth.  Relax." I could smell a strong scent of alcohol and, embarrassingly, the fetid aroma of my own sweat.  The room was uneasily hot. Someone was attempting to roll a cart with mysterious, medical-type items on it.  The wheel was stuck.  Eventually the attention of everyone in the room was focused on the problematic wheel, to no avail.  Opinions were weighed, a mild argument broke out, there was a loud bang and clatter and I jerked upright and gasped at the rudeness of the noise.  All at once they surrounded me again, urging me to lie down, saying "Breathe slowly; in through your nose, out through your mouth.  Take deep breaths. Relax."  Relax?! Were they kidding?  One young woman noticed my expression.  She had kind eyes.  She looked down at me and said, "Try to take yourself out of the room for a minute. It will help with the pain. Imagine you are somewhere else. Go to your happy place."  Good idea.  But where would THAT be?

The Preacher and I have been blessed by the opportunity to travel a bit.  This great country has shown us a number of her beauties.  I thought about some of the wonderful things I had experienced, and all the places I have promised to see again and wished to soak up  the riches found there.  Perhaps, in my mind travels, I could go to the coast of California.  I could travel to the rocky shore near Vandenburg Air Force Base.  There the Pacific Ocean roars with rage as it finds itself terminated by the land.  The enormous waves crash in passionate fury as they meet the cool and immovable rock.  The spray reaches high in the sky and when sky and water meet, they created prismatic diamonds of wonder that sprinkle salty magic on your face.  The air is brisk, briny and clear and the view takes the breath and reduces my fears to a misty-eyed optimism. A beautiful place to go; truly a happy place. 

Perhaps my mind travels could take me to Sedona, where the fragrance of the dry desert air mixes with the fine dust to create a rarefied atmosphere of peace and tranquility.  No wonder New-Agers love it: anyone can believe in harmony and renewal among the ancient formations and landmarks of the desert.  And at sunset…at sunset there is a beauty all its own.  The tangerine sun gives way to persimmon and cherry slashes against the hackneyed turquoise sky.  The sky IS turquoise, and the rocks and earth are colored brick and rust and ocher. As the night coolness begins to fall, the restorative energy of the place fosters a deep sense of well-being.  It is another happy place to go.  

Then I think of the Great Smokey Mountains.  Not far from home, the mountains are beautiful at any time of year, but in the warm months they are an oasis of cool luxury.  Clear mountain streams tumble hither and yon, and the greens of the place fascinate the mind and eye: olive, mint, kiwi, lime and avocado hues all stain the air with a permeable veil of thick, sweet, moist, apple-green air. The atmosphere is infused like a strong tea with the heady aromas of pine, cedar, and innumerable floral tints. Bird trill from the forest and deer are thickly clustered and easily visible. Not so visible, but still around the corner, are black bears, roaming surprisingly free in the lush, primeval environment.  They will leave you alone if you leave them alone, an attitude I really appreciate right about now. 

OUCH! The procedure begins. “Relax”, they say, “take deep breaths.  Focus on your happy place.” Easier said than…wait a minute.  No wonder I couldn’t settle.  I tell them to just hang on a doggone minute.  I think, focus, center myself and I travel to…

Kelso, Tennessee: home, the ultimate Happy Place.  A slightly messy house filled with peace and warmth. The starched curtains of my bedroom that frame the window with the ever-changing but ever-constant view of a simple front yard that ends at the road that borders the field with the healthy herd of Black Angus cows. The voices of my adult children, raised in laughter; Daisy’s grinning companionship, the sweet, small sounds of the breath of my Love as he sleeps beside me; they’re all there.  I think of all the meals I’ve cooked, all the friends who have visited, the photographs and the music and the sounds of merriment. I remember all the children who have visited me, their sweet smiles and their tiny hands as we play with Play Dough and put bows in Daisy’s top knot. I think of Christmas and Easter and Independence Day and Thanksgiving with their attendant feasts and guests. There have been hard times there, but for every hardship I can think of dozens of jokes and celebrations and tears of joy. I hope the young woman with the kind eyes has a Happy Place of her own. 

Soon I am told that its all over. I smile, stretch, and the kind young woman steadies me as I sit up. I rest a minute. Then I get up and I go.  I go Home. 

The REAL Preacher’s Wife of Kelso (III)

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Soap Opera Saturday”.  The events of this week are (sorta) fictitious, and by that I mean mostly true.  Names have been changed to protect the innocent (OK, to avoid charges of defamation). 

Many things had challenged her, many things had honed her into the woman she was.  But never, in all her years had she faced a challenge quite like this.  She was a peace-loving soul and rarely got angry.  But she was angry now; although, the word “angry” did not quite convey the raging inferno hiding within.  Her fury was cold rather than hot, and it flooded her veins with fire and ice.  A rigid  determination crept over her face.  The intensity of her steely stare could cut diamonds. She wondered if he knew he was no match for her.  He had gone too far.  If he didn’t know it now, he would know it soon. 

It was a showdown.  The setting made an old, western, gunfight-to-the-death scene look like a relaxed day by the pool.  They glared at each other across space.  Time, kept by an old-fashioned clock on the wall, ticked slowly by as the gaze lengthened and grew in malignity. One bead of sweat glistened, gathered its brethren, and slid down his face.  She knew at that moment that she would win.  But he had not yet capitulated.  He had no idea that he was beaten.  And still, they waited; silent, menacing, ominous. She fancied she could hear the theme from “High Noon” playing in the background.  Still she watched him, waiting. At last he broke: voice trembling he made a false start; his voice was too high and the squeak he uttered sounded like a wounded animal: “EEhh..”. He cleared his throat.  The sound burst the silence like the first volley of gunfire.  She didn’t flinch.  She knew he was shooting wide.

"I just don’t know what you expect!" he burst out.  She decided it was finally time to speak, to shoot him down in cold blood.  She hoped that the long silence had not inflicted the indignity of a raspy throat on her.  She paused, spoke slowly, distinctly, quietly, each word piercing the air like a shiny, silver bullet, seeking its home: "I EXPECT, " pause, she was still firm, collected and cool. He leaned forward to better hear her cold, clear voice, she leaned further back, luring him to his doom. Another drip, no two, three, five drips of sweat snaked down his brow.  She tried not to smile.  "I EXPECT you to keep YOUR promise!" He winced from the pain.  She could tell from the searching look he gave her that she was betraying nothing but frigid disdain.  She wondered idly why she had never taken to poker.  He made another attempt, trying to deepen his voice.  He failed.  He once more had to clear his throat.  He looked and sounded like a twenty-something kid.  He WAS a twenty-something kid.  And he thought he could take HER in a fight, because she was old, because she had gray hair, because she was a woman and he was a man, because he was young and strong.  Ah, yes; they all thought that.  They never took into account the triumph of wisdom, life experience and femininity over brawn and audacity.  He would learn.  He would learn the hard way.  And she was happy to administer this lesson. 

Out of the corner of her eye she saw them: his henchmen, Shmadam and Shmike (all names changed).  They circled her, coming up on her blind sides.  She included them in a grim smile.  First she would finish Shtyrone.  Then she would take care of them.  Like shooting fish in a barrel. She would enjoy it.  But back to the business at hand…

He tried again: “I know I told you when we signed the papers that you could have the upgraded 17 inch wheels…” She cut across him, “That’s right, you DID promise that…” “But I didn’t KNOW that we couldn’t get them!”  His pseudo-earnest, pseudo-sweet, pseudo-boyish face gleamed at her in a manner that had probably worked on many women before.  It was ALMOST sad…No…no it wasn’t.  Maybe it wasn’t right to enjoy his destruction this much.  But she did…

"Then, Shtyrone, since you didn’t KNOW that then you were just flat-out lying! Come on in Shmadam and Shmike, you’re not above this either.  You both assured me and you were both lying too!  How are you going to fix this?  HOW?  How far do we have to go?  ’Cause believe me, I’ll go there!"  They stood there stammering, offering air-fresheners that could be clipped on the A/C vents, cheap hub caps, a hat.  She flew into them all; just like a hungry fox among baby chicks.  She chewed and she gnashed, she stormed and she shouted, she ripped and she slashed.  At one point, one, single, tiny, crystalline tear dropped: that tore it.  They ran, they scattered, they made phone calls, they placated.  She stamped, she threatened, she made phone calls, she raged.  Their career-blood splattered the walls and yet she stormed; nothing short of annihilation would soothe the savage beast that was roaring within her breast.  Well, maybe ONE thing….

I won’t be back at the Blog until Tuesday, ya’ll.  Monday I’ve got an appointment to get my upgraded tires.  Very upgraded.  My 18” disc alloy limited edition wheels. The ones I wanted all along.  

NOTE: No ACTUAL cussing went on at the car dealership, and no animals were harmed in the making of this post.  However, it was a bad day for one particular car salesman, his manager and service manager. They are all expected to fully recover from their injuries.  

BONUS UPDATE:

Shtyrone has quit the car business and has taken up the study of Feng Shui.  He has, since “the encounter” been hospitalized due to severe dehydration from over-sweating, but has since been released and his condition remains stable. His hobbies now include spooning applesauce into his mouth all by himself and learning to use his drool creatively. 

Shmadam is still in the car business; as a matter of fact, he is still in the dealership, under his desk, undergoing intense therapy with a team of experts.  There is hope that in time he will once again be in big-boy pants and will stop sobbing uncontrollably. 

Shmike was last seen running naked down Interstate 65 going toward Birmingham.  His wounds appear superficial and he is not considered a threat, as long as no graying ladies  go near him, particularly if they are driving red Beetles with upgraded wheels. 

A True Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, in the faraway, magical land of Pulaski, there lived a family: a Mommy, a Daddy and a precious little boy.  They weren’t wealthy, but there was a lot of love in the little house on Cedar Lane.  The little family had sunshine for laughter for breakfast and tucked themselves in at night in rainbow blankets.  They smiled and played and everyone thought, “How happy that little family is!” But no one knew that each member of the happy little family had a tiny little hole in their hearts.  You couldn’t see it, you couldn’t smell it, you couldn’t touch it, but it was there.  And the angels looked down from heaven and wept.  Something, the angels decided, something must be done.  

So the angels grabbed a handful of sunshine and made a smile.  They took a bit of moon glow and made little eyes.  They took the sound from a bubbling brook and made laughter.  They searched and searched and finally found a perfect raindrop and made a dimple. Then they snatched a twinkle from her Daddy’s eye. They took all these and, out of a soft, fluffy little cloud made a sweet little baby girl.  

On a dreary, drizzly, foggy day the angels took a tiny little blanket made from wishes and dreams, wrapped the baby girl in it and floated her from heaven into her happy Mommy’s arms.  And from that day forward, the family on Cedar Lane in the magical land of Pulaski no longer had holes in their hearts.  

My Baby is turning 29 (for the first time, she says) today.  It seems only a day or two ago that she fulfilled all my hopes and dreams and completed our happy family. Now she is this beautiful, mature, amazing creature who astounds me with her vivacity and zest for living.  The dimple, the smile, the laugh, the twinkle: they are all still there, better than ever.  And she has exceeded, millions of times over, my expectations of her.  She brings me happiness. And I feel sorry for everyone who does not have the privilege of knowing her. I hope you have a Happy Birthday Kristen.  I love you—

Mom

The Great Snake Controversy (Part II)

PLEASE NOTE:  This is a continuation from yesterday’s blog.  It probably won’t make sense unless you read “The Great Snake Controversy (Part I).  Not that my blog makes a lot of sense anyway…

To recap: yesterday I revealed the facts surrounding the discovery of the Snake in “The Great Snake Controversy”.  Briefly, the Preacher and I had discovered a baby copperhead snake in our yard, had scooped him up and sealed him in a plastic food container, and were contemplating his release when the snake let us know that if and when he could get to us, we were definitely on his “Hit” list, in the most literal sense. To continue…

The captive continued to strike the container, to the extent that he was soon  pouncing from a petite poisonous puddle as he predicated the perpetration of perils through the partitions of his plastic prison (OK, I’m done with THAT).  The Preacher and I pondered the possibilities that had protruded into our perfect and peaceful day (OK, I clearly WASN’T done, but am now).  Various means of extricating ourselves were presented.  The Preacher and I preferred the prisoner pursue his particular pastimes at a place less precarious to our persons (OK, OK, I really am finished this time. No, really). That is when we realized our prisoner must perish (last one).

Now in Tennessee it is illegal to kill wildlife, including snakes, unless duly authorized by license during posted hunting seasons or when said wildlife threatens harm, life or limb.  Herpetologists will scorn our decision based on the fact that the creature was so young, he was tiny and the fact that copperhead venom is not considered life-threatening, although it is hemolytic (meaning it has the “particularly gruesome effect of breaking down the flesh”).  However, since there were no herpetologists around at the time, and the snake repeated monotonously his desire to see the particularly gruesome effect of the breaking down of our flesh, we took the wildlife laws literally and decided we felt our life and limbs were sufficiently threatened.  All that remained was to choose the method.      

The little guy was already sealed tightly in the plastic container.  His fury and insistence on release suggested one possibility: simply leave him there, out on the porch with the lid weighted down and walk away.  He woulds soon perish of asphyxiation. The Preacher and I tossed that idea aside very quickly.  We had never killed a snake before and although it seemed indicated at this point, we were not cruel people and that just sounded mean.  Drowning was supposed to be humane, but how to get him submerged in a bucket of water?  Snakes can swim, and if we opened holes in the container we might puncture him (ew!) or make the hole big enough for escape so that he could fulfill the promises he was making to us.  We contemplated.  Then an idea came to me.

Snakes are reptiles, reptiles are cold-blooded creatures.  Dude was already sealed in airtight plastic.  Why not put him in the freezer?  He would get cold, calm down, fall asleep and while rocking night-night in sleepy land he would just freeze to death.  Brilliant, right? It was humane to the snake, safe for the people, non-traumatic to all, so it was a good plan. Right?  Wrong.  The Preacher took instant and intense exception to my idea.  He felt that if smothering was cruel, then freezing was cruel in the opposite direction. Plus, he would never eat the food from the freezer knowing what had occurred in such close proximity. I strove to remind the Preacher that the freezer was already full of dead animals, a point that caused much thoughtfulness and vegetarianism in the Preacher for some time to come. Queasily green, the Preacher debated the point and the snake attempted another fierce and murderous assault on the vessel, and got his little needle-like fang stuck in the side of the container.  It appeared to be trying to pump venom into the “wound” but seemed to be dry.  It was no wonder; he was slipping around in a puddle of venom and vitriol and seemed to have used an unholy amount in his attack.  This dry bite gave the Preacher an Idea.

Inside the house we had a .40 caliber, semi-automatic pistol.  I know very little about guns except, of course, the Official Red Ryder Range Air Rifle (in pink) that Jonathan gave me for Mother’s Day one year.  Its as deadly a piece of weaponry as I’ve ever seen, but not suitable for snakeocide. (Actually, true story, I nearly shot my eye out on my first run with it, but that’s another story.)  Anyhow, the Preacher had been a’itchin’ (desiring intently) to shoot something besides milk jugs with that .40 caliber, and he figured his time had come.  

Now when the Preacher and Jonathan did target practice in the back yard with that gun, they left holes big enough to plant small trees in the ground.  When the plastic milk jugs were hit, it looked like someone had thrown a baseball through them.  I was of the decided opinion that this was a LITTLE too much gun for the intended purpose, but by this time neighbors were gathering, mostly men, and the testosterone was thick in the air and I was considerably outnumbered. I love Southern men, and one Southern man in particular, but when it comes to choosing between a low-key, non-violent solution that a peace-loving wife suggests and firing a gun to make a big, ol’ bang—well then, Southern men find the answer clear.  

The gun was duly brought forth, admired and loaded.  The Preacher figured since the snake was dry and getting tuckered out, that if he opened the container and tossed the snake out while holding the gun at the ready, then he would have sufficient time to take aim and fire.  I was protesting that this was also a good sign that our little serpent friend could be safely tossed into some dry leaves down in the woods, but by this time the gathered gentlemen wanted to see the shootin’ and they looked at me with the gentle derision that even the best of men, even Southern men, level occasionally at the fairer sex.  Everyone stood back at a safe distance, in case the Preacher miscalculated or the snake wasn’t actually dry and decided to take refuge up a britches leg. The lid was loosened, the air was tense, a hush fell among us.  In a motion too swift to describe, the Preacher flung off the lid, tossed the snake and fired.  Bang, bang! Bang-bang-bang-bang! Dirt was flying, smoke was slithering out of the gun barrel and the combined aromas of gunpowder, sulfur and manhood filled the air.  While the Preacher was busy receiving back pats and handshakes, I went in for a closer look. 

The Preacher had fired six closely grouped shots, making a crater in the yard big enough to hold a case of Sun Drop.  Smoke and dust were still settling, but try as I might I couldn’t find one bit of snake remains; not one little, tiny bit. But toward the woods I fancied I saw blades of grass rapidly bending away from us as though a whip was racing in an erratic pattern toward the creek at the bottom of the hill.  The Preacher maintains to this very day that the reason there were no snake remains was that the force of the gunfire had completely disintegrated all traces of the diminutive desperado, and that I couldn’t have seen the snake slither away because it was extremely dead, with prejudice.  I forcibly disagree.

These are the facts of the case in “The Great Snake Controversy” that is still hotly debated until this day.  We will never know the truth.  But to this day, we have never seen another copperhead snake in our environs again.  But one solid, chilling fact remains: where there are babies, there are mamas and daddies.  And brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles and third cousins twice removed….and it doesn’t matter who wins the argument, or even if it is never settled at all; they’re still out there. 

The Great Snake Controversy (Part I)

Over the next couple of days I plan to reveal to the world the facts and review my version of the evidence from “The Great Snake Controversy”.  It is my opinion that it is time the Truth be told about my part in the events, and history may judge the outcome.  For the more sensitive readers please beware: graphic and explicit details will be revealed in this account.  Proceed at the risk of your own peace of mind. 

It was mid-spring in 2005. It was one of those days that the season had clearly borrowed from late July; the temperature was in the mid-nineties, the humidity was thick as a Georgian’s accent, and the sunshine was as intense as the Alabama-Notre Dame 2013 college football championship game (Roll Tide!). The Preacher and I had been working outside, readying the flower beds for summer and planting so many zinnias that they could be seen from outer space when in bloom.  One must water the ground well after planting seeds, so the Preacher hooked up the hose and watered the flowerbed for me.  I filled a few flowerpots with marigolds and he met me at the back porch, water still running, to water those as well.  Of course, I spilled some dirt when I was filling the pots and the Preacher kindly rinsed off the porch and my tools.  Then he was ready to turn off the water at the spigot.  Now I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hose that hooks up perfectly to a spigot.  There is almost always at least a drip of water.  This was the case here; however, the water had been running for some time and the drip was fairly fast.  So when the Preacher went to turn off the water, he found a snake underneath the spigot in the shade, reared up, sipping water as it dripped down.  

We live in the country.  We are technically visitors here; the animals had claimed this land long before people came along and “bought” and “sold” little square pieces to place our shelters.  After we are dead and our dwellings fall to dust, they will still be here.  Snakes are one of the varieties of wildlife that don’t recognize our claims to the land.  We are accustomed to snakes around here; we see them often sunning themselves or crossing the road or doing other snaky things.  Many of them are harmless to people; black racers, green snakes, garter snakes and rat snakes.  But we do have the occasional water moccasin and copperhead, and any blackberry picker knows to watch and listen for rattlesnakes.  When the Preacher examined our visitor, he was unsure of what variety the snake was but one thing was abundantly clear: it was young.  Approximately the length and diameter of a pencil, the thirsty baby paid no heed to the Preacher but continued to drink the cool, clear drops as they trickled down.  Now, we have no particular prejudice against snakes, we are not violent people nor do we believe in wholesale snake-killing,  but we didn’t want the critters right next to the house.  So we decided we must re-locate the creature, maybe down in the woods near the sweet, flowing stream where he can find insects, amphibian prey and water. But first it behooved us to identify him so we could determine what precautions to take during the re-location process.  The plan was that the Preacher would watch the snake, and I would find a snake-proof vessel to scoop it up in. The Preacher directed me to find something and hurry!

I raced (as much as I am able) inside. I was in a quandary: it had to be an item that could be thrown away because, well, yuck! But it should be clear and something that would protect the Preacher if the tiny suspect was malicious. Aha! My new miracle food saver plastic thingy! Clear and with an airtight lid, it was also large enough to place over the snake without pinching its tail, in case it WASN’T a nasty desperado, but thick and rigid enough for protection in case it WAS.  I scurried out like a dog with a bone and presented it to the Preacher.  In one swoop, he scooped the snake up and snapped on the lid.  We carried him into the sunlight for a closer look. 

It took less than three seconds to identify the diminutive villain: a copperhead.  His head shone with the brightness of a new penny the instant the light bounced off his broad, arrow-shaped head.  The body was dull colored with subtle darker banding that would make him difficult to see in all the leaves I had (shudder) just hand-raked from my flowerbed. But color was not what helped determine his identity: within milliseconds this pint-sized protagonist had struck probably a dozen times at the location of the Preacher’s thumb (thank God, OUTSIDE the portable, plastic prison) and the venom was flowing down the side of the container.  His rage was exposed in the dedication and viciousness of the attack on the side of the container.  Despite his size, he wrestled with the confines of the food-saver like an enraged tiger, striking over and over, dripping rancor and venom and flinging his entire two ounces with fury against the bottom and the sides of the container and even attempting to fling himself through the top.  It would be highly injudicious to even attempt to release him from the container.  In his current state, he would probably turn around and do his dirty worst.  I peered at him from the side.  He glared back at me.  I can say that if I ever come across Satan in the flesh, I know what his eyes will look like based upon that encounter.  With all the force in its body, it struck and had my miracle food container not lived up to its promise, the little villain would have injected the fresh flow of venom, oozing now down the side of the container, into my very eyes.  In in that moment, the Preacher and I both knew. We began to plan a crime…the crime of murder…

(TO BE CONTINUED)

Talkin’ Southern in the South

Speaking a Southern dialect is not the only thing that makes one a Southerner, but it’s a start. The Census Bureau, bless their hearts, (an insult according to some) classifies parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania as Southern.  But Lord love ‘em (a denotation of a gentle, wistful emotion at one’s misfortune) they ain’t (indeed, I ain’t ashamed of the word ain’t) Southern. And by the way, I ain’t ignorant if I use a perfectly good word that has been consistently used in literature and speech since the sixteenth century. It isn’t a matter of Ignorance when we speak our dialect, but a matter of Preference.  And that’s the key to understanding Southern speech.

When a Southerner approaches a word, we attempt to do so with grace and dignity.  It is not a thing to be rushed; Southern speech is slow.  Maybe it’s the heat, or maybe just good manners.  We would not rush a word as we would not rush our feeble little grandmothers down an icy sidewalk. We linger with delight over vowels and caress our consonants with tender care.  One mustn’t harm the melodious resonance of the potential of the word with harshness; one must cherish the brief interaction and the distinct pleasure of the taste and aroma of the word.  Southern speech sounds lazy; it is definitely not.  In it you will find the culmination of the combined words and patterns, lilts and drawls, of Scottish, Irish, Elizabethan English, French, Welsh and about a dozen African languages and dialects.  Such a process is not lazy; rather, it is inclusive, gentle, warm, friendly and refined. 

Southerner’s love their colorful phrases (praise the Lord and pass the cornbread). It comes off stiff and shrill when attempted by a non-professional (Lord love a duck). But when a Southern gentleman whispers into a woman’s ear and tells her she’s “purtier than a peach blossom and sweeter too”, then that woman (if she has the sense God gave a Bessie bug) will melt in a puddle of giddiness from which there is little hope of recovery.  And if a Southern gal looks at a man, any man, and tells him he’s “handsomer than a foggy mornin’ over the cotton field”, then he mites well (might as well) give up: he done caught.  

Southerners grow up with soft and easygoing inflections all around us. And manners are fed to us with our strained peas. We are taught my our Mamas and Daddies (pronounced “deddys”) to say slowly and distinctly, “yes ma’am” and “nossir” and to ask politely to go fishin or shoppin (don’t beat those g’s to death now, just salute ‘em and go on talkin).  Then we go to the movies and watch while Nick Gage shouts across the silver screen in that hard, plastic, brittle parody of our speech: “you-all ain’t a gonna tayke mae uhliiiive”.  It’s a critical moment in the film, but we burst out laughin. Some folks just don’t get it (God help ‘em). And by the way, in case you didn’t notice, the Good Lord makes frequent appearances in our day-to-day speech, and I don’t mean cussin.  “Show some respect” is the mantra that is observed, whether it be our deity, our speech, or the check-out girl at the local Piggly Wiggly.

Southern is not a location, it’s an emotion. It’s not geography, its history. Southern is not grammatical, it’s theatrical.  It is the embodiment of generations of breeding, tradition, art, science and music. It is a multilingual, multicultural, multicolored pattern of living that can no more be described than the feelings that one experiences for their Mother or their Flag.  These irresistible and innate feelings overwhelm our hearts and flow from our speech. So maybe “authorities” (bless their hearts) might judge our vernacular and call us ignorant.  We know better, Lord love ‘em. 

The REAL Preacher’s Wife of Kelso (II)

Thank you for joining us on this  edition of “Soap Opera Saturday”

(cue dramatic, brooding music with lots of violin, fading to deep bass)

She sat in the car, watching the icy rain with a blank stare.  Fear gripped her like a cold, desperate hand.  She was in a state of shock, a state beyond reason.  The reality of her exploits crept upon her dazed mind and exploded with the harsh truths of her actions.  This was so unlike her.  Or maybe it wasn’t.  Maybe this was exactly who she was.  Or maybe it was her destiny.  At one point she would have to exit the car, and enter her reality once again.  Was it too late?  Was there any way out of this?  Would He suspect? Would He KNOW?  Her mind desperately clawed at possibilities; she could surely find an answer.  She could surely find a way.  And inside (she shuddered)—inside He was waiting.  

Suddenly she flung her head up, threw off her fears and with posture borne of defiance she shook herself.  How dare He.  How dare HE intimidate HER!  She would refuse to be frightened.  She would show him what courage looked like. Perhaps she was the one, the one who dared.  She threw open the door of the car, straightened herself to her full height and entered the house with her head high, chin up-tilted, boldly venturing upon her mission. She was afraid inside, oh yes, but  her visage gave no hint of the trembling within.  Her path was clear. 

He sat there, waiting on her in the gathering dusk.  A single lamp illuminated the room and feebly pushed at the rapidly advancing dark. He glanced at her, expectantly. The moment of truth.  Did He know?  Could He tell, just by looking at her?  What would He say, what would He do?  Was this her last moments on earth?  Was the last thing she would ever see be the image of His waiting form, sitting there, looking at her, holding a dark object?  What WAS that object?  Could it be…was it…?? Surely not!  Surely He wouldn’t stoop to…

He looked at her intently.  His gaze raked over her, his eye gleamed.  ”Hello”, he says.  ”I take it that you went…there.”  ”Yes!” she flings at him; “I’ve been there, all afternoon. It’s time you knew…” “I know” he breaks in, calmly fondling the cold, dark gray object in his hand, “I saw it written down on your calendar.” She flinches briefly with fear, but straightens herself almost immediately. Just like a rabbit, fascinated before a cobra, she is fascinated by the dull, blue-gray gleam of what He holds, and she is sure that HE is aware of it.  ”So, you know already.” “Yes,” he replies, “How much?”  ”W-what d-do you m-mean”, she stammers. “Don’t play innocent with me!” he replies in a cold, steely voice.  ”You know what I mean.” She opens her bag, removes a small piece of paper and timidly approaches him. He sighs.  ”Well, at least its not as bad as last time.  Its OK, I LIKE your hair like that. Even if they DO charge an arm and a leg at that place.” “Its a salon.” “Whatever.” “If you’re not mad, then why are you threatening me with a gun?” “Um…this is a remote.  You really need to quit writing that blog soap opera thing.  Its messing with your head. Can I finish the news now?”  

(cue “wah-wah” trombone followed by bubbly piccolo trill)

Be sure to tune in next week for another episode of The REAL Preacher’s Wife of Kelso!

The Semi-Unofficial Drink Of Kelso, Tennessee

One day in 1949, a man named Charles Lazier was tooling about in the family car when genius inspired him.  Perhaps moved by the beauty of the sunlight, Charles Lazier scribbled down a formula for citrus soda and gave it to his son, Charles Jr. who developed the formula to create Sun Drop.

Sun Drop was released regionally in 1951 and soon became a local legend.  It is truly a unique beverage. The flavor, color and general effect of the beverage is hard to describe, but I’ll take a stab at it. Try to picture a summertime day in Tennessee close to sunset. It is silkily warm with a soft, caressing breeze. The sky is more than blue: it is aquamarine and turquoise, fading to lapis lazuli and deep sapphire. The western sky is full of impressionist washes of jewel-toned shades: ruby, coral, garnet, amber, amethyst and citrine.  The trees range in shade from emerald to peridot and profusions of flowers reveal the source of the sunset’s inspiration.  The air is thickly perfumed with cultivated blossoms of every description, as well as thick masses of climbing honeysuckle, pine trees and freshly cut grass. Stars begin to appear like diamonds in the velvet drapery of the skies and in the east a full moon waits for its cue to ascend like a golden coin.  Mellow sounds fill the air:  the distant laughter of children, cicadas and night birds calling, the occasional soft mooing of healthy cows, the chirps of crickets and the croak of frogs enjoying the cool, shimmering silver surface on the pond that’s just down the hill.  You’re sitting on a deep, wooden porch in a swing with your sweetheart next to you.  A loyal pet lies at your feet.  You are at utter and complete peace with the world and everything in it. THAT is what Sun Drop tastes like.  

There is a division among Sun Drop drinkers: Regular or Diet.  Despite marketing claims, there is a huge difference. I’m a Diet gal myself, although I have been known to kick back a regular at times in case of headache. Regular Sun Drop may be the best little-known remedy for headache due to its caffeine punch.  Folks around these parts have done some amazing things while under its influence, like perfecting the art of flirting, giving birth to good ol’ boys and squeezing every drop out of life.  Sun Drop is now available nationwide, so we no longer have to smuggle them nefariously to our out of state friends-and-relations.  If you like yourself, try one.  If you love yourself, find one in a glass bottle.  Sun Drop is the Semi-Unofficial Drink of Kelso, Tennessee.  

A True Event…

Following is a detailed account, taken from my Facebook homepage, of actual events that happened to me.  I have replaced names with the initials of the friends who posted comments to me in order to preserve their privacy. Some points were edited for clarification but the events at the core of the story are definitely true.  This was in September, 2012 and I was recovering from major surgery on my foot and was still unable to move with ease.  If you were part of the original conversation, you may be interested in the conclusion to the story, which happened in December.  I’ve included an account of that below. 

ME: OK…so…last night, midnight, my bedside light turns on. By its self. Today, sitting with Kristen in the living room, we hear a noise in the bedroom. We go and check it out and it looks like somebody just raked everything off my dresser. But we were alone in the house. We came back to the living room, Kristen had a Dr. Pepper on a table, we are across the room and Daisy is outside, the Dr. Pepper jumps UP and tips over. Now I’m alone. My foot is swollen, I can barely move and Don has gone to Church. It will be dark soon…
SJT: Sounds to me like you better hobble on over to the closet and lock yourself in…with a flash light I might add! That is just freaky…
ME: OK, I thought the closet thing was a good idea. I couldn’t find a flashlight, but I had plenty of candles and matches. I gathered up Daisy, crawled in the closet and lit a candle. Something blew the candle out.  I got the heck out  of the closet. Looking for Holy Water but I only have Sun-Drop. 
SJT: I don’t think the Sun-Drop will help! With all that action, I would use some garlic.  Isn’t that supposed to get rid of the ghosts? (per old wives tale…) 
TS: Sun-Drop will do just fine!  Its the Southern version of Holy Water!
ME: OK, sitting at the computer, no garlic cloves, so I sprinkle a ring of garlic salt around me.  I think a minute, go get a Sun-Drop.  Good to go. 
BDP: If ur having Sun-Drop, I’ll come join u & ur ghost.  We’ll be superheroes!
ME: Daisy is missing!  I can’t find her anywhere! I think something got her!
ME: Daisy hides behind curtain. When I scuttle frantically by, looking for her she jumps out and pounces on me.  NOT FUNNY…(gotta go change underwear)
TS: Drink another Sun-Drop.
ME: Drink Sun-Drop, lamp falls over.  Same lamp.  
TS: Drink another Sun-Drop.
ME: Lights all over house are going off and on, off and on…third Sun-Drop, getting bored.  Watching TV (Agatha Christie mystery).  TV is OK so whatever…
TS: Keep up the Sun-Drop.
ME: Door squeaks…slooooowwwwwwly opens.  Nothing there.  Drink another Sun-Drop.
TS: LOL…keep drinking the Sun-Drop, sounds like your visitor is getting nervous.
NEXT MORNING—
ME: I survived the night.  Got up about 13 times for bathroom (Sun-Drop) and informed any lingering entities that I was pretty hacked off and if anyone had anything to say then ….BRING IT ON! (I have two more cases of Sun-Drop in the utility room and I’m not afraid to use it!) I think I heard a little whimpering around 3:00am, but all-in-all things are back to normal.  
__________________________________________________________________________
Within the next couple of months, more periods of weird stuff happened, usually when I was out of Sun-Drop.  Daisy kept watching invisible shows, the lights started flickering for Don and several times the bedroom lights turned themselves on in the middle of the night.  I went from scared to bored, from bored to angry, from angry to vindictive: I started telling lingering spirits scary stories about the effects of Sun-Drop on the afterlife.  We named our spirit Matilda and mistreated her shamefully. Even though Kristen was present for part of the events, I don’t think she ever really believed me.  And Kristen can be a smarty pants sometimes too.  So, I wrapped Matilda in a box and gave her to Kristen for Christmas.  You can laugh if you want, but the day after Christmas Kristen is sitting quietly in her apartment when a light behind her turned itself on without human aid.  Hey, I never said I was nice…