December 27 '97              

Volume 82

Milk And Cookies Continuing A Tradition
One day, while searching my clipart collection for an image to tie to a recent Christmas memory, I discovered the clipart shown here, and recalled a Christmas tradition.  When I read Kim Goslin's Christmas memory I was reminded once again that when I was a child, we would always leave a glass of milk and usually a slice or two of one of Mom's freshly made cakes near the Christmas tree before going to bed on Christmas Eve.  We did so as an expression of thanks for Santa Claus coming to see us, and for all the Christmases that I remember, Santa ate all or part of the leavings.  I remember the enactment of this tradition more vividly during the years I watched my much younger siblings, Sarah and James, grow up.  I am sure there are many families that still continue to play out this or similar scene each Christmas.

Sometimes, I wonder if this started as an American tradition or if it began in Germany or England and was later adopted in this country.  Either way, it was a well established tradition when my mother was a child.  Mama must have told us a hundred times about how her parents practiced this tradition each Christmas Eve.  Mama's Mom was a renowned cook who made several cakes and pies each Christmas.  My granddad Crausby was about 6 feet four inches tall and weighed approximately 230 lbs.  Mama explained that her mother would cut a slice from each cake, leave the slices on a plate on the table with a glass of milk for Santa, and on Christmas morning there would only be crumbs left on the plate.  It was proof positive that Santa had not only been in the kitchen, but that he also enjoyed the desserts.

The above clipart shows a note to Santa as well as milk and cookies.  Personally, I cannot recall leaving a list of things I wanted from Santa, but I remember that my children did.  I checked with my daughter to see if she is faithful to uphold this cherished, family tradition.

"Oh, yes.  Anna makes sure we leave something for Santa," was her quick reply.

It is difficult to foreknow which family traditions will bear the test of time, but in this case I am comfortable in knowing that at least two generations of offspring have picked up the torch.

It is far too early to tell, but it may be that my granddaughter, Anna, will continue what I have begun in the way of chronicling the life and times of our family.  I feel this may be her calling for she has already shown an interest in writing.  Several years ago, Anna wrote a short fantasy about Mercury, incorporating both the planet and the automobile.  Rayanne has informed me that Anna also writes thank you letters to the tooth fairy and even leaves the tooth fairy a tip.  I don't know where she picked up the latter.  My children never left the tooth fairy any tips.  

Sandra Haley Christmas Near Carrollton

Hickory Grove Baptist Church is a modest looking country church located roughly six miles north of North Carrollton, MS.  A narrow, paved road leads off Highway 17, passes in front of the country church, and curves gently back into Highway 17 about a half-mile further.  I suppose the church road was once the main road, and the Highway Department later re-engineered the route to widen the thoroughfare without disturbing the cemetery that lies directly across the road from the church.

If you are a person who enjoys riding the back roads of rural Mississippi on quiet Sunday afternoons, you would enjoy the route that meanders from downtown North Carrollton along a mostly northerly direction until finally intersecting with Highway 51 in Grenada.  There are plenty of hills and more than enough curves to keep you alert on your leisurely ride.  You will find the route sparsely populated with houses ranging from those that, for lack of housing codes, would suffer condemnation and demolition to well kept homes that would appraise upwards of $100,000.

In many respects, Carroll county is just another rural county in north-central Mississippi.  If you mixed together a few hundred folks from North Mississippi, you probably couldn't pick out the ones from Carroll county—they simply don't look that much different from others.  However, if you could see them in their cars and trucks, it might be a little easier.  A friend of mine once commented that if you lived in Carroll county your dusty, dirty, or muddy vehicle would mark you as a resident.  Apparently, Carroll county has a disproportionate number of gravel roads compared to other counties.

Carroll county may not be, in all respects, a representative rural county, but to the extent that I have been exposed to this area, I find it an interesting place.  Some of its residents are more than a little interesting.  Such would be represented by the eccentric individual who constructed the most unusually decorated barbed wire fence that I have encountered.  Kim Goslin was first to bring the fence to my attention, and Kim is the individual who provided directions to the Hickory Grove Baptist Church.  Patsy Montgomery Patterson, a friend who lives in Pontotoc, grew up in Carrollton and earlier this year mentioned a couple of points of interest for me to explore in Carroll county. Both Kim and Patsy have shared their knowledge concerning the unique cemetery at Hickory Grove Baptist Church.

Sandra (Sandy) Faye Haley is buried in the cemetery across the road from the Hickory Grove Baptist Church.  In 1966, at the age of sixteen (or very close), Sandra Haley died by her own hand.  Sandy, like the teens of any generation past or present, felt she was more mature than her parents gave her credit for being.  Upset because her mother refused to grant her permission to attend a dance with her boyfriend on the eve of his departure for the Armed Forces, Sandy concocted a plan to teach her mother a lesson.  The next morning, Sandy decided to fake her suicide.  She hoped to ingest enough strychnine to convince her mother she really wanted to kill herself, believing Mom would be so distraught over her daughter's decision that she would regret having not decided differently.  Sandy went to the barn and found the rat poison. After swallowing a portion, she informed her parents of her actions, and the family made a vain attempt to get her to a medical facility before it was too late.  Sadly, the quantity of poison Sandy consumed took her life. Had she ingested slightly more of the poison, she would likely have regurgitated and survived.

Bill Nunley, a fellow employee at Lewis Grocer, grew up in Carrollton and remembers the tragedy.  Bill tells me Sandy was a Junior High Cheerleader. Bill attended the funeral and recalled the young man, who Sandy had wanted to date on his last night before leaving for "The Service," was so overcome with grief that he could not walk under his own power.  His parents had to hold him upright, and his feet literally drug the ground as he was brought to the gravesite.

Sandy's death is tragic, a flame extinguished ere it began to burn, a life sacrificed by an immature act, a needless death.  Yet among the deaths of all teens on a national level, Sandy's death would not stand out as the most unusual or bizarre.  Thus, nationally speaking, her death is reduced to a mere statistic, just as the death of all but the most famous among us is ultimately reduced to a statistic.

There are cases in which a person's death is overshadowed by the actions or reactions of others.  Thus, it would be with the death of Sandy Haley. Sandy's mother has found a way to deal with the tragedy in an unorthodox means.  Christmastime was extremely important to Sandy Haley, so her mother has sought solace by adorning her daughter's grave with Christmas decorations. Yet, even more unusual is the fact the decorations are maintained year round, rather than seasonally.

Over the years since Sandy's death, her mother, who becomes more eccentric with each passing year, has added more and more to the scene.  A few years ago, an electric meter was setup near the grave in order to supply electricity for the Christmas lights.  At night, when all is illuminated, seasonal music adds a bit of joy to an otherwise morbid scene.  Plywood cutouts of Mrs.  Claus, a sleigh, and reindeer are placed to the right of the grave.  A fully decorated Christmas tree is nearby.  Along the chain-link fence that encloses the corner of the cemetery near the graves of other Haley family members, are tinsel and balls.  An aluminum box, resembling an outdoor phone station, houses a lighted guest registry.  The grand scene has the look of an outdoor shrine.

Most likely, Sandy's mother cherishes her work as a monument to her daughter's memory.  The preceding statement is my assessment and is not intended as derisive or complimentary, though I cannot imagine why anyone would choose to memorialize a family member by this means.  I have never met Mrs.  Haley, now an octogenarian, so I am unable to form an opinion of her saneness.  I assume no right to judge how Mrs.  Haley chooses to deal with her grief, and my purpose in writing of this event is to share a story and describe what I have seen.  Each of us differs as to how we cope with adversity, trials, or tragedy.  I shall leave it to the psychologists and psychiatrists to determine which means are considered emotionally healthy.  

Baffling Balls    By Felicia Brown

Every year since I was litle my favorite thing to do is get up under the tree and stare at the glisting metalic balls as the colored lights shine on them. Then I stare at my distorted figure that reminds me of look through a peep hole I love the shine of the balls But after all the sweat and all the struggle of getting them down.  Every year I get to help get them down but in time I guess it's worth it.

The preceding is an unedited version contributed by Pat Fannin who taught Felicia in Elementary School several years ago.  Pat saved the story which sported a cover sheet consisting of a hand colored picture (waxed crayon medium) of a tired Santa resting on wrapped packages beside a Christmas tree. The title, My Christmas Story, was formed of handwritten, block letters, alternating first a red letter then a green letter.

Barbara and I framed the memory for a keepsake and presented it to Felicia Christmas Day.  We appreciate Pat sharing a student's memory in order to bring an extra bit of Christmas cheer to our family.  

Greenback Dollar

Once upon a time, the expression greenback dollar was a common phrase to describe the lowest denomination of U.S.  currency.  I haven't heard anyone use the term in many, many years.  It somehow found its way into an article I wrote in last week's RRN.  I did not reach into my subconscious and dredge it up, it simply appeared on the display of my laptop computer as I wrote about asking Mrs.  Young for some change to use the coin-operated car wash.

Singer/ songwriter, Woody Guthrie forever sealed the phrase in my memory with his mournful ballad of rejected love,

I don't want your greenback dollar,

I don't want your silver change,

All I want is your love darling,

Won't you take me back again.

Sarah thought the phrase silver change was silver chain, but after dragging out the album from my son's archives, I can definitively state the word change is correct.  It could as easily have been chain, and would not have changed the meaning of the lyrics.

I first heard the recording playing on a Magnavox stereo system I had purchased about the time I began teaching school.  I had something of a musical awakening around the same time.  During the years I played catch-up in cultivating my once dormant musical interest, I joined the Columbia Record Club.  After acing a Music Appreciation course at Ole Miss, achieving a perfect score on the listening part of the final exam to the complete astonishment of the professor (a significant accomplishment for a non-music major, so said the Prof.), I mistakenly believed I should choose classical music as my main interest on the record club application form.

I don't believe Woody Guthrie's folk music has ever qualified as classical music, but his Library Of Congress Recordings, a set of three record albums, is a classic bit of American History.  In the collection, Woody chronicles, in song, the years of the Great Depression and the famous Dust Bowl years. This is an era of history about which few Baby Boomers know anything, save that which their parents remembered and related to them.  It is an era no one wants to see replicated, and perhaps with modern farming methods and governmental controls in place to halt epidemic sell-off on Wall Street this may prove to be a part of history we shall not repeat.

In my limited research, I have been unable to find much about the term, greenback dollar.  The phrase originated during the Civil War when the Union printed paper money to help finance the war effort.  Greenbacks derive their name from the cheap, green ink that was used in their production.  I tend to believe the term eventually became a derogatory remark, insinuating the value of the paper currency was less than the value of gold.  In fact the original greenbacks could not exchanged for gold or silver coins It required the passing of a number of years before some folks trusted paper money to have the same value as gold, the standard upon which the paper currency was based, beginning with the issuance of gold certificates in 1865.  Silver certificates were issued about a decade later.

As our country grew to be a world power, greater confidence in our government manifested itself in the adoption of greenback currency as the preferred medium for consumers to exchange goods and money.  About the only gold coins you'll see today are part of some collector's showings or else crafted into rings or other jewelry.  The greenbacks of long ago have also been removed from circulation either by the Federal Reserve or by collectors, and if you possess even a single dollar with the inscription Silver Certificate you are probably hanging on to it, knowing it will increase in value.

In recent years, paper checks have provided consumers a more convenient means of exchange, and in the past decade, use of credit cards and debit or bank cards has gained widespread acceptance.  The federal government is in the process of migrating all federal payments to debit cards.  Food stamp issuance has already moved from paper to plastic debit cards in Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, in the Southeast, and is rapidly progressing toward plastic in all 50 states.  

Resolutions Revisited A Penny Saved Is Still A Penny

You only have a few days left to complete any left over '97 resolutions.  If you are as prone to neglect your well intentioned resolutions as much as I, then it didn't do either of us any good to make them in the first place.

I actually wrote down a few resolutions last year and for a while I did pretty good.  I was frustrated almost weekly during 1996 with the weather ruining my weekly car wash.  One of my resolutions resulted in my commitment to log the date and time of the car wash and the date and time of the precipitation that resulted in the undoing of my work.  For three or four months I recorded the data on a form.  I suppose I was disappointed that the data did not support my hypothesis and therefore ceased keeping the log.  You see, in '96, each time I washed my car it would rain within the next day or two.  Weather is pretty much cyclic in North Mississippi, anyway, and '96 really did have a lot of rainy Sundays and Mondays, the days after my Saturday car washings. 1997 began with a different cycle and the weekly showers came more and more frequently on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  After keeping the log for approximately four months I abandoned the project.

My resolution to shed a few pounds by reinstating an exercise regimen fell by the wayside far sooner than the car wash log.

A third resolution I made was to discontinue handling copper coins.  Freedom From Pennies seems a fit term for this effort.  This is one of the best kept resolutions I have ever made.  In fact, I have given no pennies as payment and only accepted pennies twice upon receiving change.  Once, at a drive-thru window, I failed to look at the change I was given and today, December 15, I forgot to tell the folks at the cleaners to keep the pennies.  You would think the folks who can remember I take my shirts unstarched, whose computer wants to know the last four digits of my phone number which they have finally memorized, could as easily remember that I don't take pennies.  I intend to return the one-cent Lincoln they slipped me when I drop off the next load of laundry.

Concerning resolutions for '98, I have not settled on whether to make a few or not.  

Bodock Beau  Car Trouble

Traveling the southern portion of Mississippi, recently, Beau noticed a strong vibration coming from the front, left side of his vintage Ford pickup.  He pulled onto the shoulder of the road, got out, and discovered his tire was flat.  He also discovered that his misfortune was multiplied, when he realized he was directly across from Whitfield, the State home for the mentally ill. Beau reached behind the seat of the pickup to retrieve his tire tool and scissor-jack then set about the despised chore of changing a flat tire.

"Boy, I am glad my spare is aired up," he thought, "and the weather is fair. Things could be worse."

He was beginning to feel better about his trouble when he heard something behind him.  Turning slightly and peering over his right shoulder he discovered a patient of the asylum leaning on the fence, studying the "situation".  As Beau removed each nut that held the wheel in place, he carefully put them inside the upended hubcap situated on the edge of the highway.  Beau had hardly removed the last nut from the wheel when the tire of a passing car struck the hubcap sending it along with the nuts flying in multiple directions. Beau searched hard for the missing nuts but could not find a single one of them.  He knew he needed the nuts to hold the spare and was perplexed as to how he would manage.

Realizing Beau's plight the previously silent inmate standing across the highway said he knew how Beau could mount the spare tire.

"All you have to do is take one nut off each of the other three wheels and put those three on the spare.  That should hold until you can get some more nuts." the inmate stated.

Beau marveled at the solution and thanked the inmate for the suggestion.

"You're welcome." The inmate replied.  "I may be nuts, but I ain't stupid!"

Editor's Note:

Beau wishes everyone a Happy New Year!

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