April 22 '06


Volume 516


Tony’s Test Needed Some Time Together

On returning from my normal Saturday morning rounds, rounds in which I deliver a few newsletters into the hands of glad recipients, Barbara, who had made the rounds with me, noticed the message light blinking on our answering machine. She paused to check it.

"This is Jo Ellen," the caller announced, "Tony and I are over at Mrs. Austin’s house, helping cleanup. We’d love to see y’all, if you get a chance to drop by. We’ll be here all day."

If there was a hint in her message for someone to help, I didn’t detect it. Rather, it sounded to me as no more than an invitation to visit friends I seldom see.

Barbara and I drove to Columbia Street and parked in front of the house Mrs. Austin has called home for about forty years. The house where Tony grew up is next door and remains a family possession.

Tony was tinkering with the discharge chute on the riding mower, which sat on the front lawn. Tony’s wife, Jo Ellen, and his sister, Pat, were cleaning inside the house. The place was a beehive of activity, and it wasn’t long before Jo Ellen and Pat came outside to welcome us. The cool breeze from a fast moving cold front quickly blew us inside to enjoy a more comfortable temperature, where we found Miss Audie, resting on the couch. Just because her health doesn’t permit her to help, that’s not to say, she doesn’t want to be where the action is.

At ninety-four (I think), Miss Audie is awfully frail, weighing in at a number less than her age. Pat, a retired RN, insists on taking care of her mother, the upkeep of three houses, advising two grown children, and chasing after at least two grandchildren. Sure, it’s too much for one person, but don’t try telling that to Pat the workaholic. Miss Audie was glad to see us, though she’s all but lost her ability to speak. However, Pat either senses what her mom is trying to say or else in having been with her daily for the last two or more years, is able to comprehend the utterances that others can not.

After visiting briefly with our friends, I asked everyone their lunch plans and announced that Barbara and I had decided on our way over that we wanted to treat them to lunch. Fast food burgers seemed to be the group’s decision, so Barbara made a list of who wanted what, and she and I drove to Wendy’s restaurant. Unfortunately, diet Dr. Pepper was not on the menu, so we stopped by the Save-A-Lot store and found a soft drink machine adjacent to the Fred’s store that dispensed 12-ounce cans of diet Dr. Pepper at the almost unheard of price of $0.25. We also shopped the Save-A-Lot for a canned soup for Miss Audie, who doesn’t eat a big variety any more but has a definite preference for cream of chicken soup.

Back at the Austin house, we found Pat’s daughter, Beth, and her two pre-school aged children had driven over to check on the progress of the cleanup. Pat insisted the rest of us go ahead with eating while she microwaved the soup for Miss Audie and fed her. Pat joined us about the time we finished our sandwiches.

Tony had asked me earlier about where he could find a couple of cap-nuts to hammer onto the ends of a metal dowel that secured the plastic discharge chute to the deck of the riding mower. I suggested the True-Value Hardware Store. Since it was pretty high on his to-do list, the two of us left to drive to the hardware store in search of the cap-nuts.

I followed Tony out the front door and on what I thought was his route to the utility building, where he had taken the lawn mower while Barbara and I were out rounding up lunch. Instead he walked directly to his car.

"Don’t we need to measure that rod?" I quizzed.

"No, I’m pretty sure it’s a quarter-inch rod," he stated confidently.

As I was getting into Tony’s car, I noticed a compound bow in the back seat.

"Still into bows and arrows, Tony?" I asked, before following with, "There’s a guy here in Pontotoc who makes longbows."

Tony’s response surprised me, in that he really had no interest in longbows. That’s all we had for shooting arrows when he and I were youths, and knowing his respect for handcrafted items, I halfway expected he would want to pay a visit to the bow maker. Instead, he told me he no longer had the strength to draw the longbow and shoot with any accuracy.

"With that bow," he stated, indicating the one in the backseat, "I can sink ten arrows inside a two-inch circle at twenty-paces."

"Tony, there’s hardly room for ten arrows to fit inside a two-inch circle."

He grinned and responded, "I’ve Robin Hooded several," meaning he had split an arrow in the target with a second arrow.

"Well, I don’t have a bow, anymore. I guess James inherited it. I once loaned him my climbing tree-stand and my bow and arrows and haven’t seen them or had need of them since," I shared.

Our conversation changed about the time we got to the Hardware Store. A helpful clerk guided us to the section containing replacement lavatory faucets. Upon leaving the house, minutes earlier, Jo Ellen had run out with a broken cap with a "C" which identified the water supply as cold.

"I need one for each faucet," she pleaded.

Tony probably wouldn’t admit to being one, but he’s an intellectual. Having spent his career at the University of Arkansas, Medical Center, he’s probably rubbed shoulders with a lot of intellectuals.

Tony’s a lot like me in that he’s apt to supply more information on a particular subject than is necessary. As we followed a few steps behind the clerk, Tony was chattering away in intellectual jargon, oblivious of the educational level, not to mention the intellectual level, of the typical hardware clerk. I can’t recall the sentence he spoke or what it had to do with hardware, but when I heard "nebulous" trill off his tongue, I pulled him aside and told him to try conversing in our native tongue.

The clerk helped us find the replacement parts for the lavatory faucet, and Tony asked about the cap-nuts he needed. Again, the clerk politely led us to a rack of nuts and bolts, where Tony grabbed a pair of quarter-inch sized nuts, and headed to the checkout. I lagged back and studied the nuts and bolts, momentarily. The quarter-inch ones didn’t look big enough to me, but Tony said he’d come back for larger ones if the two he selected were too small.

At some point, after our trip to the hardware store, Tony asked if I had tried out the bamboo fly rod he handcrafted and gave me, more than a year ago.

"Well, no, I haven’t," I responded. "You told me you’d send me the fly line I need and some lures."

"Yeah," Jo Ellen, shared, "I remember that."

"First of all, they’re flies, not lures," Tony chided. "And, you can find fly line at any Wal-Mart."

"Not this one," I insisted, "I’ve looked. And, I know you anglers call your lures, flies."

"Do you know how to knot the fly line for the leader?"

"I know I used to stick a metal shaft with an eyelet in the end of the fly line," I shared, as Tony cringed.

"We don’t do that anymore. Look, when I get back home, I’ll gather up the things you need and ship them to you. Do you have a fly reel?"

"I do. In fact, I think you gave it to me, because it’s one you have to hand crank. If I’d bought one, it would have an automatic rewind."

He cringed again. Fly fishermen are serious about that which they do, to the point of spending thousands of dollars on fragile and delicate equipment and then practice their angling techniques to an art form. An automatic fly reel is to a serious angler what a Zebco 33 fishing reel is to a professional, tournament bass fisherman. In other words, it’s downright insulting.

The parts for the faucets fit, but the cap-nuts were too small. My fly line and flies are in the mail, I hope.

Barbara and I said our goodbyes to the women inside the house, but Tony followed us to the car.

"So, you think you can cast a fly from here to the corner of that fence?" he questioned with a grin.

"Not a problem," I shared. "Of course, I couldn’t standing right here, because of the trees behind me, but yeah, I can do it."

Tony wasn’t buying my brag. He paced off the distance to the fence.

"Almost sixty feet," he reported. "I don’t think so."

"I’ll tell you what; I’ll go so far as to say I could lay the leader on top of the fence."

"That means you would have to cast sixty-five feet, and I don’t believe you can do it."

It was an argument that would have to wait for another day. And, maybe Tony would prove me wrong. But, maybe, given the opportunity, I just might rise to my own expectations.

Driving back to our house, Barbara told me that when Tony and I left to go to the Hardware Store, Jo Ellen told her, "They needed some time together."

I agreed. Tony and I don’t get to spend much time together, but when we do it’s as though we both are bathed in the blessings of a lifelong friendship.

Easter 2006 Changes Considered

Mama’s no longer here to prepare an Easter meal for us, but there were a few brief years before she died, in which all four of her children ate as a family around her kitchen table. I can’t smell the food, but I can picture who sat where.

The sliding wooden doors are no longer in the rear of the sanctuary of FBC, Pontotoc. But, I can still hear them being slid open to make room for the crowds of Christians on Easter Sunday, who would pack the pews to overflowing, and the classroom space in the back of the auditorium would be opened up for the late arrivers or those who like to sit as far from the pulpit as possible. The wooden doors were taken out at the time of the renovation of the sanctuary in 1974, marking the first major changes to the sanctuary since the building was dedicated in 1914.

FBC, Pontotoc has since undergone further renovations of the space that comprises the sanctuary. The original balcony seating, choir seating and curved pews, like the sliding doors, are gone, too. The stained glass windows, the molding above the baptistery and that which borders the balcony, and the metal ceiling are about all that remains of the original look inside the sanctuary.

I’m now a fifty-year-plus member of FBC, Pontotoc, and though I’ve witnessed a lot of changes from styles of furnishings to worship styles to music and even preaching styles, I sometimes forget my children have witnessed some of the same changes. I was reminded of this fact, last Sunday, when Jason found out what church is like now that we have gone to three Sunday morning services. While the official attendance totaled more than seven hundred, the 11:00 service that he attended was a right smart shy of the five hundred and more who once packed the pews on Easter Sunday. After all, when one divides seven hundred into three parts, even three unequal parts, there’s not much chance of any one service having four hundred. So, for Jason, the service he attended didn’t live up to his expectations regarding attendance.

Jason doesn’t attend church as often as his mother and I would prefer, so it’s not like he’s had the opportunity to see the empty pews that we see every Sunday morning. I think he may have still been in a state of shock concerning attendance when the choir sang the call to worship, something he would later describe as awful, though I’m uncertain whether he meant the music was awful or the choir itself. He also didn’t like the choruses. The best he could do in the way of praise for any of the music was to say that Felicia did okay with her solo. I honestly don’t know where my son gets his critical ear. But, it’s probably inherited from the Crausby side of my family. As for me, I only know what I like and what I don’t like.

I’d prefer a return to a two-service format for Sunday mornings, and I figure there’s a better chance of getting Jason back next Easter if we do. However, until the present pastor burns himself out, three is what it must be.

Sarah had us over to her house for a traditional Carter Family Easter dinner. Though I remember when Mama was alive, Easter was a lot like Christmas and Thanksgiving in that the main course was chicken and dressing. I suppose as we’ve become more affluent, ham has replaced chicken and dressing. However, if we were really affluent, we’d probably eat out.

Sarah would have had plenty of food without the deviled eggs that Barbara made or the chocolate cake that Rayanne baked at my house Saturday afternoon. Sarah prepared a spiral sliced ham, creamed potatoes, English peas, corn and green bean casserole, and served rolls and iced tea with all of it. She also made two cakes; a strawberry shortcake and a coconut and divinity iced layer cake.

It wasn’t quite like the Easters I remember at Mama’s table, but it was a good time for our family. It was a time to remember and a time to be thankful for the first Easter when Christ rose in victory over death.

With any luck, my children and my grandchildren will one day reminisce about the Easters spent at Sarah’s house, and they’ll probably have more changes to report, as well.

Bodock Beau The Curtain Rods

Hortense Wakefield of Caledonia, MS sent the following our way. If divorce is the only recourse, one might actually consider this.

The Curtain Rods

She spent the first day packing her belongings into boxes, crates and suitcases. On the second day, she had the movers come and collect her things. On the third day, she sat down for the last time at their beautiful dining room table by candlelight, put on some soft background music, and feasted on a pound of shrimp, a jar of caviar, and a bottle of Chardonnay. When she had finished, she went into each and every room and deposited a few half-eaten shrimp shells dipped in caviar into the hollow of the curtain rods. She then cleaned up the kitchen and left.

When the husband returned with his new girlfriend, all was bliss for the first few days. Then slowly, the house began to smell. They tried everything, cleaning, mopping, and airing the place out. Vents were checked for dead rodents, and carpets were steam cleaned. Air fresheners were hung everywhere. Exterminators were brought in to set off gas canisters, during which they had to move out for a few days, and in the end they even paid to replace
the expensive wool carpeting. Nothing worked.

People stopped coming over to visit. Repairmen refused to work in the house. The maid quit. Finally, they could not take the stench any longer and decided to move. A month later, even though they had cut their price in half, they could not find a buyer for their stinky house. Word got out, and eventually, even the local realtors refused to return their calls.

Finally, they had to borrow a huge sum of money from the bank to purchase a new place. The ex-wife called the man, and asked how things were going. He told her the saga of the rotting house. She listened politely, and said that she missed her old home terribly, and would be willing to reduce her divorce settlement in exchange for getting the house back.

Knowing his ex-wife had no idea how bad the smell was, he agreed on a price that was about 1/10th of what the house had been worth, but only if she were to sign the papers that very day. She agreed, and within the hour his lawyers delivered the paperwork.

A week later the man and his girlfriend stood smiling as they watched the moving company pack everything to take to their new home, including the curtain rods.

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