Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Crackers Past

I've been over visiting on Aunty Belle's Front Porch learning about the heritage and culture of authentic Florida "Crackers."

That enlightenment over on the Porch got me to thinking about my growing up sweetheart.

He was a fourth , maybe fifth, generation Floridian. His Daddy, and two generations of grand daddies back were all barristers. They were well suited to "reading for the law" in that family. His daddy was fond of saying their Scotts heritage made them naturally lean toward "arguing a thing to a standstill." When I first started wearing my beau's big old chunky ring on a chain around my neck, his Daddy was well positioned with a downtown firm and was an adjunct professor of Law at the University.

Sadly, his Daddy had an overwelming problem with alcohol and depression which eventually cost him his career, and certainly much of his self respect. His father's decline landed them in the family homestead with his paternal grandmother none to happy about having a family of 8 move into her peaceful place. Eventually his professionally disgraced father did find a job doing title searches and his Mama got employed as the switchboard operator at the hospital. Slim, slim earnings for that large a family. Too slim to move out of Granny's house. His grandmother went to her grave believing, and stating often, the decline of her briliant son's life was due to his ,
"unfortunate choice of wife". I doubt that. But those two women forced to live together, did not result in a pleasant environment for growing up.

My Sweetheart was the eldest son in that family. He actually was the 4th generation to hold the family name, as in " Name N. Name, IV". He was big brother to 4 siblings and barely 10 months younger than his older sister. He was pressed, by his dad and his paternal grandparents, from a very young age, to understand what obligations to family, siblings, heritage that birth order required of him. Once they moved to his grandmothers, that ideology was reinforced daily.

In keeping with these teachings, my sweetheart started assuming some of the financial responsibilities for his family around age 14. He did the usual teenage jobs. He washed and prepped cars at the local Ford dealership , hosed out the kennels at the vets , he even did office to office courier work by bicycle. He was unfailingly careful about his manners, his presentation of self. His gaze was eye to eye, his handshake firm. He declined to accept his father's difficulties as his own. I never saw him hang his head in public over any embarassment or despair he might be feeling about his family. In private, he despaired often.

Eventually his dad left the title office and...just stayed home.
The family economics worsened.
I didn't hang out at his house, he came to mine.

On occasion though I would stop in at his house. His dad was always dressed in business clothes: starched perfectly ironed shirts, creased slacks, polished shoes . He was always reading something and was always...courtly?... in his demeanor toward me. Their house had a "Winter Porch" on the front; it was tiny, maybe seven feet deep and a dozen feet long and it was his Dad's domain. The room was stacked with every kind of book, magazine, periodical. He read stacks of newspapers every day. He positioned his favorite reading chair so he could look out at a little lake whenever he looked up from his reading. I never once drove there without his Dad being at the door to hold it open and tell me how fine a thing it was to see me again. He often queried what author I was currently favoring and I don't remember ever mentioning an author with whom he was unfamiliar. He loved literature, loved " the turn of a fine phrase", loved to engage in very comprehensive conversations about specific sections of specific books. I never, not in 5 years, ever saw his Dad look or smell or speak or act like a man who is down, out, or gripped by alcoholism.

Observing his Dad taught me my first lessons about potential gone awry.

By the time my Sweetheart was old enough to drive, he was out hunting . He absolutely knew the best locations to fish, to hunt, to pick wild berries. He fed his family on his skills. What they did not eat or put up he traded for vegetables, fruits, eggs. He, like the Crackers of Aunty's description, new every tree, bush, bird and creature in miles and miles of open Florida lands. He never poached or tresspassed. He had enormous love, and gratitude, for land, woods, streams, any part of the natural Florida landscape. He , and the lands, fed his family and kept them from the welfare category. More importantly they fed his spirits.

There was no money for "dating", but he generously shared with me his dearest loves. He knew which wild tree had the sweetest oranges, grapefruits, tangerines. He knew how to crack open a cocoanut and quench a big thrist. He knew where the wild blackberry brambles ripened first. On many a sunny afternoon he would take me to a place to show me some beautiful section of woods with a quiet little stream with his dinner in there , "waiting to come home to the skillet".
He taught me how to "see" where to dig for bait, he taught me to shoot a rifle and he tried hard to teach me how to use a sling shot. I think his assessment was against putting a bow and arrow in my posession. Mostly, as I recall, I was very good at taking the hide off my left forearm. He could hunt with a bow and arrow, a home made sling shot, a rifle and once, I swear, I saw him catch a wild turkey using nothing more than speed and cunning. I declined to ever go with him on the occasions he set out to go frog gigging.
Still, I learned much and respected more.

I didn't know, until Aunty's blog, that this my first real love, was a fine Cracker cultured man.
I am honored to have shared in this man's past. I elected to forgo a future with him.

I went out of state to college. The night before departing he asked if I would consider being his best girl forever. I turned him down. I loved him dearly for so many reasons.
I absolutely respected his sense of honor and integrity toward his family obligations but I had seen enough to know that I did not want to spend my life in that boat with him. I felt bad for a long time about that decision, but consoled myself with the thought the land would nurture him.

It has.

My fine young Cracker worked hard, paid and studied his way to a business degree and remained true to his nature. He developed a very successful enterprise as a wilderness guide. He'll take folks to hunt anything, with bowie knife, sling shot, bow, gun, whatever. If you want to learn how to track, or fish or hunt or survive on your own wits..... he's your man. As to his family obligations, he still looks after his siblings, especially the ones who followed in their dad's footsteps. He keeps the taxes paid on the family place and sends money to some of the others, but he learned to do it from a distance.

Honoring Requests

Recently a friend and I were having a chat about my childhood sweetheart. I asked if my friend had  ever read my blog post about him.  Friend had missed that posting and asked that I re-post it. There probably is a blogger way to re-post but ... it is not yet 7am .............
Post title is "Cracker's Past" original posting date  is 11/16/08

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Running on Empty!

Sorry I missed Mute Monday.
Just as well.
I find myself outraged by so many things these days it would be hard to choose the primary source!

Blowfish and I went away for a long birthday weekend. His, not mine. We went back up to Mermaid's location where spring is making a comeback ..... greener than green pastures, redbuds and dogwoods in bloom, massive tulips everywhere and smiles on most faces.
We had a great time.
Well except for the part about getting electrocuted in my hotel room.

The thing I found most interesting on this trip?
The HUGE amount of construction going on. Seems like every other place I have traveled to in the past year, the construction folks are not working. There we saw residential, commercial, retail, professional and recreational projects all under construction. It gave me some hope. Course I also read about a huge proposed project downtown where a grand new multi-use center was planned....seems they lost their primary investor who died without a will filed so this project is in limbo .... leaving a giant hole in the ground in the midst of the historic downtown district. Lots of letters to the editor about that!

I Probably saw more than the ususal amoount of real estate for sale but really restaurants, hotels, retail ... everybody was booming! I sure didn't see any souls around holding signs saying,
" will work for food".

So now I am back, trying to do the catching up at work, having a bit of trouble getting all my ducks to line up but it's the price you pay for going away!

Cruel man update:
the contractor and I made the trip to Chez Ugly the day before my little get away .... Mrs. was hopeful. Preacherman was cantankerous, argumentative and one time too many said,
" it is just ridiculous to spend money on fixing up a house for one foolish old woman on her way to the next place".
My mouth was too quick for my brain cause in a flash I was hearing my ownself say,
" Well preacherman, maybe it's about your salvation before you go to the next place"?
I knew when I heard it, I shouldnt have parted those lips .... then the sound of the Mrs. laughing spontaneously made me feel a whole lot better. I hope those stand up sons are still standing cause the preacherman was powerfully put out with his "boys interfering with his decision making".

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Holding the Dream

If y'all have not seen the youtube video of Susan Boyle please take a look.

I have now watched it three times, and each time I have a huge emotional response.

I am in a strange place in my head.
I , as you know, was deeply troubled by the woman having the terrible year in her terrible house. And as many of you noted, what a staggering thought to live someplace alien to your soul for twenty long years only to have your most basic need of light and space refered to as the
" foolish wishes of an old woman" I am certain the past twenty years in Chez Ugly was never any part of her dreams. ( If you missed the Easter eve post...her house is going to get improved, contractor will be on site tomorrow!) I have wondered if she even remembers her dreams, or still has them.

On another front, I've been having dreams about my mother. She is maybe ill, having some tests to determine if or what. I am praying hard for good news. In one of my recent dreams, my mother is young, full of laughter and enthusiasm and maybe what could be fairly called anticipation of what was to come. In our growing up years our Dad traveled Mondays thru Fridays. Fridays were always different at our house because Mom was different. Mom was different because her dearest love would be home for her to see, touch, feel, experience.

She bloomed every Friday.

That was long ago and really, I can hardly remember a time recently when I have seen her eagerly anticipate anything. I am not saying she doesn't, I'm saying I have not seen it. Maybe it is the result of numerous prescriptions for numerous medical issues just sapping the joy from her. Physical life is a daily struggle, but one she never shirks. I don't know if my mother still has dreams, but I do know I never want to reach the point where dreams are absent from my life.

So I was already at the point of wondering about the relationship between dreams and joy.

The adage about the journey being more important than the destination. yeah. Well, to someone as goal oriented as am I, making a long journey and not reaching the objective tends to make me
... er ..... vexxed.

So the Susan Boyle video resonated strongly with my current state of mind.
I think I heard her say she auditioned for the talent show to honor a deathbed promise to her Mum. So here came this amazing woman, a bit shy of 48, unemployed but still looking, alone in the world except for a cat . She went out on stage to face an audience of thousands and the dreaded Simon. She sang lyrics about dreams but,
was she in fact reaching for her dream, or her Mum's dream for her?
I say yeah! to her Mum for wrangling the promise. I will stand in line to buy this woman's first CD. I so hope for this woman, what comes next will be a blessing.

So Fishy wants to gain some wisdom from the bloggers.
What is your take on the relationship between dreams and joy?

Does anyone remember the story of Helen Hooven Santmyer? Helen always wanted to write a great novel but some how always put her desire to write on the back burner. Then...OMG....she was old, infirm, living in a nursing home when she realized her life was on a serious downslope and she'd never written her great novel. God only knows what was her catalyst but write she did! Helen wrote a more than 1200 page bestseller, which she finished and published at age 88.
If you have not ever read " ... and Ladies of the Club" ,
it speaks to a bygone era but to life essentials relative to all eras. All humans. I found it to be a pretty interesting "history" book too. I have kept my tattered paperback copy of Helen's book and I keep it where I can see it daily, as a bit of a prod to my psyche.

I am, as I mentioned, in a strange place in my head.
Trying to sort out my journey/ dreams/ joys and wondering if my GPS is malfunctioning.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Dear Boggers,
Have I  a got a great Easter present for us all. 
Never, never, never doubt the power of your prayers! 

Today I was out in the walled garden doing my spring chores when down the driveway came a very purposeful young man accompanied by a preteen daughter. 
 A son and granddaughter of the woman having a terrible year in her terrible house.

Son came to tell me to bring the contractor, get the project done and to forward all invoices to him as he and his remaining brother would see to it their mother's needs would be met. 
He very straightforwardly said, "my Dad is out of this loop". I did ask if his dad was aware of his ex-loop status and the son said, " my brother and I have made that clear".

I didn't wahoo! until they cleared the driveway.

Thanks so much all you awesome bloggers, I am grateful for all the help and really excited to share this rewarding news with you all for Easter!!!!
God bless you all.