Reunions of the Past

Looking through the scattered pictures of time, I see faces with smiles that were made years ago, stuck in time that possess eternal happiness. Their silent breaths of air that sustains their posture forever. Remembering the very smiles that are made and the reasons they made them returns when I see the past. The reunions of the passed ones leave residual memories in the faces and smiles of their legacies left behind. Sometimes I see the past ones in the faces of my siblings and even further the memory of the few left from the generation before us in my aunts. Many years have passed, and many lives have come and gone. A time gone by, never to be seen of or heard again, without memories, much like the rivers moving along, never to see the same water twice. I say this to tell myself to stop and remember the smiles of family and friends, to make memories that last a lifetime as the smiles turn upward and lines begin to appear, familiar yet that age cannot change who they belong to. Wind changes the lay of the land as time does the faces of the youth of time gone by, this is us as we are supposed to be. I remember so many things from the past that the story is continuous. I see as a young boy tagging along behind his sisters down the old dirt road to the home of an elderly mother and her daughter, living alone, making it as we all did. Sitting outside with the two old spinsters, I watch my sister Brenda taking the pins out of the hair from the daughter of the old woman, a woman who is aged herself. Brenda takes the long, graying hair hair down, brushes it out almost waist length as Linda does the same to the older, frailer gray-haired mother. Braiding and brushing until the hair is high upon the top of their heads, out of the way from the hot southern wind that seems to never stop. As they sit, the younger old lady goes inside and comes back out with several glasses of Tang, a powdered orange drink over two or three pieces of ice, sharing what little of the best they had to offer, with appreciation and a need to participate in the visitation. I’m not sure what all they talked about, but I know those two old ladies never forgot my sisters. I know this because long after the older lady had passed, the daughter lived on, lived on long enough to know my sister Brenda had died, remembering Brenda’s smile, her gentleness with herself and her mother. We received a letter from her and of course by now she no longer lived in the country. She had been taken away, perhaps to an old folk’s home. She spoke of the kindness, gratitude and friendship she and her mother had with two young girls that they sat patiently to see now and again walking up the old dirt road to give a little time to them. To perhaps let the old ladies, relieve a little youth and appreciate the time to make friends of another generation.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

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Letting Go

I received an email recently from a dear childhood friend, one whom can relate to parts of their own childhood nightmares and realities that mirror my own. Many of these memories are resurrected from another time, especially the ones that we wish were not so memorable. They are brought to life to relive in a different light, a journey to complete what we missed earlier in life. He/she said it had started a healing process within, a feeling brought to the surface, “I know” that is hard to prepare a place for, but one that ultimately must be let go of. I certainly appreciate the words of kindness and am more than blessed to know that good still comes from the ashes of the Phoenix. The pandora’s box that I open sometimes exists in many who read my tales, my memoirs of an early life, a life of uncertainty and sometimes loneliness. Except that reliving those days leaves a heavy heart with lingering memories mixed with love/hate relationships, it allows us, (me) to compartmentalize and discard what Pandora thinks can still hurt me. You see, as you live, grow and finally at the near age of 60 understand that you are but one amongst millions who have helped to line the road to recovery from emotional abuse. You gradually realize that emotional abuse is often much worse than physical, although not minimized. As the years hurriedly pass by, the residue of these battle scars begins to fade. Not fading like a giant eraser has taken words that can never be unsaid, but the softening of deep, internal wounds, allowing one to be compassionate and feel empathy for those they see their past selves in. Instead of harboring a resentment force-field that repels forgiveness, these feelings of empathy and compassion allows us to exude a formidable ally within ourselves that carries hope to those who are less fortunate to have family or friends that freely give their strength for one to make another day. As I write these words without any form of outline, they still flow together in a story that says you are worth more than you have never been told many times. The oldest adage I can say I coined from growing up poor and without many amenities is this. “When I grow up, I will neither be cold in the winter or hot in the summer”. As life happened, this phrase became true. I knew from an early age that my life I had to live then was only temporary and through education many aspects of life will change. I am not a materialistic person as many who know me know this to be true. What this story says is that through lives like my own and yours my friend above, is that we did overcome what many thought would only be a continuance of the same. Adversaries can only make you bitter and unkind if we choose to own them, or them to own us. “This does not in any way mean my adult life has always been easy and that I have not made mistakes, or that I am a saint, for only God knows my story”. Owning those mistakes, seeking immediate forgiveness for them erases them from Pandora’s box. The question I beg to answer is this. Would I change anything about my childhood if I had the power to do so? Without a doubt that power does not exist for a child, but yes there would be changes made that would not have only affected myself and siblings, it would affect children across the globe. Unfortunately, the voice of a child is rarely heard or believed. All a child wants is a voice to say how they feel, say what is on their mind and be told the difference and steered in a direction of truth. Now my friends, pour a second cup of coffee and allow yourselves to feel anything you ever missed as a child and start letting go.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

The Old Ford Tractor

The dust rises up behind the little old Ford tractor as dad deep breaks the sandy ground, turning over soil that hasn’t seen the sunlight in probably years. This task is not easy when sand has a mind of its own, some places softer than others, digging deeper in the earth, sometimes raising the front of the tractor, much like popping a wheelie on your favorite bike. Plowing two rows at a time takes a while if you’ve ever given all the work to a small tractor. I should know, it’s the one I learned to drive on. It would take several days to plow forty acres. That would be a small task with today’s contraptions called tractors. Back then there were no air conditioners on them, we were lucky if there was a small canopy over the top. After the deep breaking was finished, we would change the plows and go to work again making furrows, trying hard to keep the front wheel in the furrow of the first one, often they weren’t that straight. Gradually that task was finished as well, now to put the planter boxes on and fill them with the pink colored, treated cotton seed. As dad planted, one of us boys always sat at the back, making sure the planter boxes were emptying about the same or making sure they weren’t stopped up. Before putting in the seed, I can see the little holes the seeds would eventually fall through and the mechanism that regulated the speed at which they would fall. This again took several days. After about a week you could see the cotton start to sprout, that is if there had been enough moisture and you weren’t dry planting, that was the worst, it may never come up and if it did, it was often spotty or late. After a couple of weeks’ worth of growing it was time to drag out the hoes and get ready for chopping, oh what fun! Somedays though, with today’s fast paced life, I might enjoy a job that didn’t take much thought. Usually cotton was planted on the south side of the farm and about half of the north. Part of the north field was used to plant sorghum (maize) for the hogs. This time of the year we had the hogs fenced in at the center of the farm, taking about ten acres. After harvesting in the fall, the whole farm was fenced off for the pigs, until the next spring, depending on how many pigs we had. I was one happy fellow when in the late 70’s dad began selling off all the hogs, only keeping what he thought was needed to eat. As I say that, I can remember the whole procedure dad used from killing the hog, putting it into boiling water, scraping the scalded skin off, removing all the hair, and stringing it up from the back tendons, gutting and chopping it up. Sounds gross I know, but that’s part of what we did growing up on the farm. That reminds me of a post someone placed on Facebook of someone saying that killing animals for food was cruelty to animals, “why don’t you go to the store and buy it”? Just thought I’d throw that in for comic relief. Growing up on a farm was never as easy as magazines make it look. Kudo’s to all of the farmers for all their hard work to provide for us.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

The Best of Buck and Wolfe

Buck was an Anatolian cross, a big guy with a huge loving heart and an ingrained protective device for us kids. We all loved him more than any pet we had ever had. Between him and our big German Sheppard we called Wolfe, we were protected. The coyotes are howling in the dark distance, hungry and ready to steal what ever is the easiest. Those two together could send off a pack of coyotes in a hurry. Every year my dad would order 100 baby chickens. Strange, I can remember them coming in at the post office. I remember how cute they all were, all different colors and grew into different sizes. Black Minorca’s would lay a large white egg, while the Dominique’s and big breasted Cornish grew larger. The Rhode Island Reds were the prettiest, especially when they were crossed with the spotted Dominique’s. Growing up they all became our pets and we hated to think of what they were raised for, but we all knew, it was a way of life. Without the animals we raised, we may have starved to death. We always had pigs, chickens and often rabbits that dad would raise for meat. We usually had a summer garden that was canned when it was ready. Back to my friends Buck and Wolfe. Dogs were truly our best friends. They were trained to keep the pigs in the hot wire fences. I can see them making their rounds completely around the farm several times a day, never to be told. Katy bar the door for the one that got out though, the fight was on and the pigs usually lost. More than one pig was injured by our dogs. Occasionally one had to be put down due to injuries. They were never malicious to people and were very behaved. Buck with his long, white fur that could almost be brushed was kind and loved to be petted. Wolfe with his brown and back fur that was easily identified anywhere. They were farm dogs, working dogs and friends, they did their job well. I suppose it was on a Sunday that we went to visit my grandmother and grandfather in Roaring Springs. Mom was always ready and happy to be with her mom and dad, so were we. Dad would usually have a big day with all the brother in laws. There were always at least half a dozen of them. The Sunday draws near closing and mom and her sisters tidy up my grandma’s little house and we all pile in our old car. As said before, no air conditioning, all the windows down and me calling back glass seat, if I was fast enough to beat Buddy to it. I didn’t know that going home that day would be one of the saddest of my childhood. After about an hours drive we made it home to the little farm, down the old dirt road. Dads work didn’t seem to ever be done, so as soon as we were home he would begin checking on the animals. He made sure they had water and walked the fence to remove any debris that might have blown up against the hot-wire fence and short it out. All the while Buck and Wolfe making every step. All was well until dad went to check on his chickens. He had a nice chicken coop built for them, one that could withstand coyotes with Buck and Wolfes help. Setting under our shaded play area, we see dad approaching quickly with a snarl, cursing and extremely distressed. First in his own way, let me say he loved Buck and Wolfe too, he’s the one that got them for us and we had had them for years. Anyway, what dad was doing was coming to the house to retrieve his 22 rifle. While we had been gone that day, the dogs had broken in dad’s chicken coop and killed all but one of dad’s chickens. 99 of 100 chickens were killed that day by our playful friends. The one chicken that was spared was quickly snuffed out by dad catching it and ringing its neck and throwing it across the ground. They were all dead. They were not eaten. All I remember was looking at the hole in the chicken wire the dogs had torn through, finding only brown and black hair, no evidence of a white strand anywhere. It was Wolfe, our German Sheppard that had gotten into the chicken house and had a field day of fury, displaying a scene of mass murder. On close inspection of Wolfe, there were places that he had hair missing, hair that was found clung to the wire of the chicken pen. I can still see my dad with the 22 rifle. Wolfe had not made it all the way to the house when dad called him when a shell ripped from the rifle, hitting Wolfe in the front leg. I can see him taking off as a streak of lightening, making it about 500 yards before another round was sounded and he fell. We were devastated, even more so that we were made to watch this extracurricular activity of how to prevent your food from being taken from you. After walking out and being satisfied that Wolfe was dead, my older brother, I believe Kenneth took off his collar, we couldn’t hold back our tears and our plea’s of remorse and how we would make it all better if he just wouldn’t kill Buck went unheard. Buck was a friend, he was a person, so soft, meek and loyal. We kept telling daddy that there was no white hair found in the chicken coop anywhere, begging, pleading through blurry eyes and breathless begs for him to please spare our dog. Buck was so obedient that he would come every time he was called, it didn’t matter how far away he was. He was not feared of us, because he had never been abused, he was all loved. If you can stand to continue reading my therapy session, I can tell you that daddy called Buck. He had been resting at the entrance under the house where it was cool, his favorite place. Daddy knew where he would be. I have to say I loved my daddy now, before I say I hated what he did. He called our friend Buck, Buck came right up to my dad, his pink tongue half way out of his mouth, showing the black outline of his lips, his eyes bright and alive. We were crying, we were witnessing trauma and it still lingers with me today. “Buck come here”, dad said. Buck gets up, his long white tail wagging, his stately tall body obeying the command. Dad grabs him by the top of his thick, leather collar and holds it for just a second, as if he was giving it a second thought. We held our breath in hopes and prayer as we hear a single shot go off. Dad had shot our Buck in the back of the head and in an instance, he was still, his large frame unable to drag us around or take a ride any longer. Our orders were given to go and bury the dogs. They were big and we weren’t able to carry them. So, to make a memory worse, we lifted Buck into our little, broken down wagon with the warped wheels, his bright red blood still dripping. Fighting back tears, Rodney, me, Buddy and Kenneth pulled the old wagon toward the old well house. Kenneth began digging a deep hole, Buddy and I tried to help as much as we could. I wished it had been a proper ceremony rather than digging a hole and throwing one of our best friends in and covering him with dirt. After we had finished with Buck, we gathered to where Wolfe had laid for a good 2 hours or so before we could get to him. He was stiffer than Buck, not as big, but beautiful just the same. Kenneth carried him. I was as mad at Wolfe as I was in love with him for doing what he had done. It gook a long time to adapt to farm life without those two. We kept their large, thick collars for a long time. One of the older boys had scarred their names into the collars. After they were gone, no other dog ever measured up, except one, nearly! Her name was Gal. She made a good pig dog and the pigs respected every round she made. She wasn’t quite as nice to look at, sandy brown, not very pretty and not as loving either. Perhaps we wouldn’t let it be so. I have forgiven many people for many things and I forgive my dad for what he did. I knew we were poor and a lot of energy and money had gone in to those chickens. They had just started laying and getting ready to start eating. Dad had a rage that day, one we had seen before, one that finally faded in later years. I waited for a long time, but no apology ever came. I remember those big ole boys as if yesterday. They followed us through the forest, up the shelter-belt, down the ravines and up the rows as we chopped the cotton. I have a memory box in my heart and mind where the good things go, they are there. I open the old box once in a while and see them with their sparkling eyes and eagerness to please. It was a short ride, but they took us lots of places.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

The Locust Bloom

Looking down the old dirt road at what used to be, I see furrowed rows where now mesquite trees have once again claimed their place. There are small drifts of sand, piled in swirls around fence posts, resembling what the wind must look like as it curves and turns around what it owns. They are made from the spring wind and unrelenting lack of rainfall as mother nature blows her breath. Tufts of dried grass can be seen bowing to the wind, brown and blending in with the elements, it’s master. The skies are clear, a magnificent blue, much like clear ocean water contrasting the irony of nature. What is known from what appears as desolate at times, this sandy place is home. It is an acquired taste to find the beauty in often barren times, but when the elements come together, it is quite beautiful. One accruing years of age can remember what our city used to be, what it held and what memories were made, the amenities it offered and the times the younger generation can only imagine. They will only learn what we already know through our telling the story, because time is moving too fast for them to stop and smell the locust blooms. Age in itself has its ways of causing visions of the past to appear. It is unforgiving, with a clock that suddenly begins to tick a little faster with every passing day. Some days hurry by with just a glimpse of sunshine before the dark falls again. The lonely locust trees are blooming. The ones that I long to smell each spring, the very ones I took my son to smell today, the very ones I smelled yesteryear. Sadly, their presence is becoming less and less as through the years they have also aged and began to fall by the wayside. Adding to the elements, consider the unexpected burst of cold that folds the newly budded blossom, causing them to wither and fall. Against natures odds, the blossoms are few and studded with thorns, yet their fragrance is astounding as they set there waiting to be noticed as part of the beauty of a barren landscape. Lest we forget we are still alive, take time to smell the locust blooms. For just a few short days from now, mother nature will claim their petals, making us wait for another revolution around the sun for their return.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

Something Beautiful Began to Appear

The evening sunset light is bright as it streams across my living room floor, carpeted and warm. Comfortable with the central air running, reminding me of a time the old four-inch wooden boards for a floor in the old farmhouse were never either carpeted or warm. They were often splintered, and mother always knew where a needle was to dig them out of our feet. All of this dims the reality of comfort as I see my mom stripping material of all kinds into about one-inch sizes, multi-length pieces. After many, many pieces had been cut and sewn into what was uncountable feet of strings, mom would choose three pieces of her strings. They were all different colors because of the many materials sewn together. Gathering her strings, she began to braid them together. The different colored material, some stripes, floral, plaid and solids began to make a color and pattern of their own. Her hands were small, slender and agile as she continued to plait the materials together. She was tedious with her work, making sure the braids were equally as tight as the next, sometimes taking them apart with her medium length sharp pointed fingernails to redo them. After braiding what she thought she would need, something beautiful began to appear. Mom would take the end of her braided material, bend it just a little until she had made a circle. I remember watching her knuckles bend as she used her needle and thread looping the material together, pushing the needle through with her thimble. Depending on what shape she wanted depended on the shape of the tight or elongated circle she chose to do. As the thread began to run short, she would run the thread through the same area several times and cut it off real close to her work. Un-threading the spool for more thread, I can see her stretch her slender arm out as long as she could get it, often biting the end of the thread from the spool. She would then put just the tip of the thread in her mouth, wetting it so it would be pointed, making it easier for her to thread it through the eye of her needle, pulling it the same length and magically spinning her finger until a knot was in the end of the thread. She is sitting in the floor, one knee bent behind her, the other leg out in front as she continues her work, berets holding her hair back. In goes the needle from one side, out through the other, over and over until the making of a rug appeared as she kept turning and sewing. Stretching and flattening the shape as it began to grow into a finished product that was both beautiful and useful, covering the splinters in the old wooden floor. Just a fleeting memory revived by the rays of sun peeking in my door reminding me of those one-inch strips of bright material.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

The Bootlegger’s House and the Bicycle

Sometimes for hours my brothers and I would sit in the car behind the old bootlegger’s house, waiting on dad to get his evening or daily drinks. Behind the bootlegger’s house were many shade trees and a swing between several of them. If it weren’t for the negativity the place portrayed, it would have been quite the place to play. Mr. G as I will call him, seemed like a nice man, short and slightly rotund with a bald head, not lacking for personality. He was usually jolly and didn’t like to see us sit in the car. There were times he would bring us out a soda while he and dad talked for hours and hours about nonsense. Conversations that became more nonsensical as the day drew on and the laughter became louder and peculiar, for nothing I heard was funny. He wasn’t a bad person, it’s just the way he made his living. The longer we stayed, the more visitors he would have and the bigger the population of drunks became. With each new visitor came more grandiose stories than the last. One of them usually had a pair of dice in his pocket, so the crap games began. It’s strange how perfect the life of an alcoholic is when they are nearly anesthetized. In general, none of them were violent. Most of them did however have a very extensive vocabulary of expletives and knowledge of anatomical body parts. Mr. G. was somewhat of a hoarder. He had old bicycles in his back yard that we boys would take off on and never be missed. My first bicycle came from Mr. G. It was old, with rust on the chain and a seat that looked as if rats had lived there. It was awesome though, it was mine, something of my own. My oldest brother Johnny found an old bicycle seat that was in better shape than the one that was on it was and replaced it for me. He took the chain off at daddy’s garage, cleaned it up good by using gasoline and a wire brush and soaking it in old motor oil that was kept after oil changes. Daddy always kept the oil and would pour it on the backs of the pigs to keep them from getting lice or other embedded varmints in their skin. I remember him keeping the oil in a 55-gallon drum. He would dunk our chickens in it. By the time he was done with that, the poor chickens were so heavy with oil they could hardly walk, much less fly up to roost. My brother Rodney and I usually had the task of cleaning out the chicken house and raking all of the debris out before the oiling process began. He would make us coat the roost of the chicken house with the oil too. “There won’t be any fleas or blue-bugs in here”, he would say. Blue bugs are a tick that love chickens. It will suck them to death, especially under their wings. This was another sort of ritual my dad had every year, much like the story I have told you of him making us take worm pills every spring. Passing by old Mr. G.’s bootlegged house, I find it to be as dilapidated as many of the unpleasant memories of my childhood. It kind of makes we wish it had looked like this as a child, maybe we wouldn’t have spent so much time there. But then again, there were other bootleggers in town, with much poorer reputations than Mr. G. At least he was nice to us. As my bicycle came together and Johnny finished it, Buddy and I now had transportation, to come and go as we pleased. As this memory runs on secondary to the initial posting of the bootlegger’s house, I remember Buddy and I coming down the west side of Isbell’s Drug store one day. Buddy was pumping me on the back of the bike. We loved to go fast, we didn’t love not having any brakes. Well, as we jump the small uneven pavement that annexed another part of property, the jerk knocked the chain off of the sprocket. Buddy realized the brakes were out. By now we were underneath the canopy of the Texaco station that sits where Arvis Davis parks some of his vehicles today. Knowing the intersection was next, I remember pulling the handlebars hard to the left, even though Buddy was in “control”. We took a spill and slid almost to the intersecting road. I’m not sure if I hadn’t that Buddy would have let us go into the intersection. Everyone that was in the station came running out to see two kids scraped from one end to the other. We got up, walked the bike to the corner where dads garage was and licked our wounds. As we looked at the bike, we realized the chain had come off of the sprocket. I can still see us unbolting the back wheel, putting the chain around the sprocket and the back wheel sprocket, me pulling the wheel tightly backward while Buddy is tightening the bolts. They sure don’t make bicycles the way they used to. Two memories tied together, the bootlegger’s house that we dreaded, yet held the bicycle that brought so much joy.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)