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Monday, November 28, 2016

Ma's Milk and Butter Route

Pictured (top) are my paternal grandparents, Carl and Lillian Crain, with twin calves in 1951. The second photo is of my grandparents dressed for church.

 Pictured are my grandparents in 1961 with their Guernsey cow and her twin calves.  

My paternal grandparents ran a Saturday milk-and-butter route in Greenville, S.C., in the early 1950s. I was then a child and loved the adventure of riding along to deliver moo juice and butter to a few city dwellers who wanted milk products “straight from the cow.”

My grandparents “on Daddy’s side” lived near Mountain View, a rural section of Greenville County. My parents, my younger sister, and I lived nearby. Most of our kin lived within 20 miles of each other.    

My tall, thin, black-haired Grandmother Lillian didn’t like being called “grandma,” so, to me, she became “Ma.” Granddaddy Carl became “Pa.”

A carpenter and farmer, Pa was thin till he threw his last pack of “Camels” way out into his cornfield when I was a kid. After that, a “bay window” grew onto his 5-ft. and 8-inch torso. Biscuits, ham, sausage, grits and red-eye gravy put pounds on Pa after he parted ways with “Nick O’Teen.” After quitting smoking, Pa fit in better at the Pentecostal church our families attended.

Pa tried factory work three times  – during which he labored evenings or nights at Woodside Mill (textiles) in Greenville, S.C. – but Ma worried and couldn’t stand Pa working second or third shift. They had sons – J.B., my father, and my Uncle Fred – but Ma wanted Pa home at night, because she’d hear things howling after dark, and she’d get “all tore up.”

Ma’s father, a farmer, had told her about a time when he was riding horseback on a dark night and a “painter” (a cougar or puma) “got after him.”  

“Daddy heard that painter running behind him,” Ma told me. “He rode hard to home, jumped off and run in the house. He saw that painter come in the yard. It scared the horse but didn’t bother him before he left.”

Ma had a melancholy temperament. She’d play her guitar and sing tearful tunes such as “Take Me Back To Renfro Valley” by John Lair. That song contains these words about Renfro Valley, Kentucky: “I was born in Renfro Valley / But I drifted far away / I came back to see the old home / And my friends of other days / Gone are old familiar faces / All the friends I used to know / Things have changed in Renfro Valley / Since the days of long ago.” 
Lillian Crain plays her guitar in her later years. 

My grandparents’ tin-roofed house sat about 100 yards off a paved road. It had no underpinning and rested on rock pillars. Two beagles, Mack and Tillie, lived under that abode.

Ma and Pa raised two hogs each year and kept chickens, two mules, and two cows. Pa preferred Guernsey or Jersey cows. “Their milk is richer than Holsteins,” he said.

Pa milked twice a day, and Ma strained the milk. She let it sit for a while and then poured off the top creamy part of the milk. Most of the milk went into the refrigerator and was used for drinking. The creamy milk went into a hand-operated churn in order to separate out the butter. Sometimes, I churned for Ma – moving a plunger up and down inside a large, brown butter churn.  

Ma strained that churned milk and butter and consolidated the butter into a mass. The milk that went through the strainer during that process was placed in the refrigerator and used for buttermilk. “Buttermilk is the liquid left behind after churning butter out of cream,” according to “Wikipedia.”

Ma cooled the butter with ice and placed part of that butter into a wooden mold. She held the mold over a plate and slowly pushed down on the mold’s plunger handle. The butter eased out as a “cake,” with a decorative design embossed (by the mold) on the top of the cake. Ma wrapped each of several cakes of butter in wax paper and stored them in the refrigerator.

On Saturday mornings, Ma and Pa loaded their car with milk products and we headed down Hwy. 253. We turned left onto Poinsett Hwy. in Greenville and passed Bruce’s Auction Barn where folk sold cattle, horses and mules. We drove on a tall bridge, and below us lay a railroad track and a giant junkyard. I often saw a steam shovel moving crushed cars. The scene reminded me of an illustrated children’s book Mother gave me: “Stevie the Steam Shovel.” I liked that book because Mother called me by my middle name, “Steve.”

Our first milk stop was in a cul-de-sac. A thin, brown-haired woman bought a gallon of fresh milk. A lady across the street took some of Ma’s butter and milk. We made other stops, but I especially recall this one:

One Saturday, we trekked up stone steps to an old house where a lady lived with her near-grown son, Steve. She invited us in and showed us some of Steve’s oil paintings. Steve met us but didn’t say much. One of his works depicted an antlered elk standing tall among mountain trees. I thought, “Someday, I’d like to paint like that.” The son’s artwork stirred me, and his name, “Steve,” seemed to confirm, in my young mind, a kind of “brotherhood.” I later became a high school art teacher. I liked to draw before I saw Steve’s painting, and there were other art influences that came later into my life, but there was something special about seeing Steve’s elk painting and finding out we had the same name. One never knows what inspiration one may find on a milk-and-butter route.

Mr. Robertson’s house was next in our usual routine. He lived high up off the street, across from Holmes Bible College, then located in downtown Greenville. Mr. Robertson (Mr. R) worked with the railroad as an engineer, I think. He was self-confident and liked Ma’s milk and buttermilk. His wife was quiet. Mr. R asked about hunting quail on Pa’s farm, so Pa invited him to his farm. One Saturday afternoon, Mr. R showed up in the latest hunting gear: hunting vest, hunting hat, and tall boots. I’d never seen an “in the flesh” man dressed like he came out of an ad in “Field & Stream Magazine.”

Mr. R did some shooting out among Pa’s 26 acres. The only problem was that Uncle Jim, one of Pa’s younger brothers, lived down the road. When Mr. R started shooting near Jim’s house, Jim, who wasn’t one to hold back opinions, quick-walked up into Pa’s field.

“You’ve shot up every bird around here,” Jim told Mr. R. “I think that’s about enough.”

Mr. R ended his bird-blasting and high-tailed it back to the city, where Uncle Jim thought he belonged.

Our last stop on Ma’s milk-and-butter route was near Mr. R’s residence. We walked from his house to reach the backdoor of a small, old house. A fenced-in alleyway lay behind the house we approached because city garbage-collecting trucks drove behind that house and others to make pick-ups.

I remember one Saturday when we moved through two gates and knocked on the back door of the small house.

“Well, hello,” an elderly lady said to Ma. “I see you have the little fellow with you, today.”

I often had seen the two little sisters. They wore print dresses and kept their gray hair in buns. Their thin ankles, slightly rounded middles, matchstick arms, and small noses caused me to think of them as birds flitting around inside a little birdhouse.

The more talkative sister took a gallon of milk and two cakes of butter from Ma and said, “We have something for the little fellow.”

From her kitchen table, she took a small cloth bear she and her sister had made by hand. He was light teal in color and had embroidered black eyes, a black nose, and a smiling red mouth. He had padding (stuffing), but was no more than a half-inch thick. He measured 3.5 inches wide from extended arm to extended arm and 4.5 inches high from bottom of leg to top of his head, not counting his ears.

I still have that bear. He’s been with my wife, Carol, and me through the raising of two daughters who played with him. We’ve  always called him “Little Bear.” He’s pretty worn, but he sits in a small rocking chair on a box on our kitchen table. One look at that bear and my mind goes back to many wonderful Saturdays I spent with Ma and Pa as we rode along on Ma’s milk-and-butter route.  

  Pictured is the little stuffed bear I still have.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Christian Pastor Killed in India

A Christian pastor was killed recently in India.

A friend of his, also a pastor (I’ll call him "Pastor H") in India, posted this message on Facebook on July 7, 2016:

"Dear spiritual brothers and sisters, friends, please pray for Pastor Maraiah, killed by Maoists in Andhra Pradesh. What a WONDERFUL TESTIMONY about [this] pastor and brother from Sarapaka."

Pastor Maraiah worked among the Koya people.

"He had been targeted by Naxales, just because he was bringing [the] Koya people to Christ," says Pastor H. "Several times he [was] warned by them [the Naxales]. His son [was] also was kidnapped earlier. Despite these [things], he never cared [about] their warning and proclaimed the Gospel and became a martyr for Christ."

Pastor H offered this prayer for his deceased friend:

"May the Lord comfort their family and church. May the Lord raise [up] many more kannaiahs. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."

On August 2, 2016, Pastor H posted this Facebook message:      

"Dear spiritual brothers and sisters, friends, as you all know, a few days back a pastor was tortured and killed by Maoists in Andhra Pradesh, but [there is] still no reaction from government. [This] coming week, me and friends [are] going to meet that pastor's family and [are] willing to support [them] financially. If anyone wants to support his family or is willing to come with me, please let me know before coming Sunday. God is going to change many Maoists [into] pastors and make them to do ministry in [the] same place. Soon, if God allows, [I] will raise support and build a church in same place. Hallelujah!!!"

Naxalites allegedly killed Pastor Mariah.

What is a “Naxalite”?

A “Naxal” or “Naxalite” is a member of any of the Communist guerrilla groups in India, mostly associated with the Communist Party of India (Maoist), according to internet sources (especially “Wikipedia”).

The term “Naxal” derives from the name of the village Naxalbari in West Bengal, where the movement had its origin. Naxalites are considered far-left radical communists, supportive of Maoist political sentiment and ideology.

The below information is from “Wikipedia” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naxalite%E2%80%93Maoist_insurgency):

The armed wing of the Naxalite–Maoists is called the PLGA (Peoples Liberation Guerrilla Army) and is estimated to have between 6,500 and 9,500 cadres, mostly armed with small arms. The Naxalites control territory throughout Bihar, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh states in India and claim to be supported by the poorest of the rural population, especially the Adivasis.

In 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the Naxalites the “single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country.”

It was estimated in 2007 that Naxalites were active across 40 percent of India’s geographical area in an area known as the "Red Corridor." 

What is the difference between Maoism and Naxalism? 

Maoism originated in China. Naxalism originated in India.

Maoism began in China as a form of Communist theory derived from the teachings of the Chinese leader Mao Zedong. Developed during the 1950s and ’60s, it was applied widely as the political-and-military guiding ideology of the Communist Party of China until 1977-78. Maoism emphasized the advancement of people’s social and economic life by establishing a classless society through armed revolution. … Maoism sees the agrarian peasantry, rather than the working class, as the key revolutionary force that can basically transform capitalist society towards socialism. Maoist philosophy: “Power flows from the barrel of the gun.”

Naxalism originated In India as a rebellion against lack of development and poverty at the local level in the rural parts of eastern India. . . . Their initial ideology came from Marx and Lenin. Later, they were also influenced by Mao Zedong’s communist theory.

The difference between Maoism and Naxalism, apart from their origins, is the scale of ideologies during their uprising. Maoism desires to take control of government and run government, enforcing its ideology on a whole country.

During the uprising of Naxalism, rural-area workers revolted against their masters and landlords, protesting marginalization of the poor or rural areas. Maoism’s aim was to fundamentally transform a country towards socialism, but Naxalism, originating in India, focused on the anger of working-class people. Naxalites reportedly now follow Maoist theory to achieve the same “end results” or goals.

Through the merger of the People's War and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), the Communist Party of India (Maoist) was formed in 2004 and aims to overthrow the government of India “through people's war.” Now, Naxalites work mostly under the influence of the CPI-Maoist, which is currently described as a terrorist organization by the Indian government because it organizes mass killings to further its ideology.

Though there were some differences in the ideology of Naxalism and the ideology of Maoism during their uprisings, the Naxalites now follow Maoist ideologies to achieve their common goals.

Many people are saddened by Pastor Maraiah's death. 

"The blood of the [Christian] martyrs is the seed of the Church." -- Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullian (Apologeticus, Chapter 50).

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Gas Shortage in North Carolina

I heard last Friday about the recent gas line spill in Alabama. A newscaster said there might be gas shortages in our area of central N.C. 

Alabama state workers discovered the leak Sept. 9 when they noticed a strong gasoline odor and sheen on a man-made retention pond, along with dead vegetation.

Internet sources say that Colonial Pipeline acknowledged that since the spill was spotted, between 252,000 gallons and 336,000 gallons of gasoline leaked from its pipeline near Helena, Alabama.

Since 2006, the company has reported 178 spills and other incidents that released a combined 193,000 gallons of hazardous liquids and caused $39 million in property damage. Most were caused by problems with materials, welding or some other equipment failure, according to federal accident records reviewed by The Associated Press. The spill reduced fuel supplies in at least five states – Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

Though I heard about the spill on Friday, I didn’t rush to gas up. My wife’s car was full of petro. My vehicle registered around one-half tank of go-juice.

I failed to think about getting gas on Saturday or Sunday. It crossed my mind on Sunday night. I was hearing more about shortages.

On Monday after lunch and before visiting Gold’s Gym, I stopped by Quality Mart, “our” gas station that sits within sight of Gold’s Gym in Southern Pines.  
I saw cars sitting at each of eight pumps – about two cars at each pump. I pulled near the first pump, which is closest to the station office, but had to wait while lady in front of me filled her car’s tank.

I cut my engine and waited as the lady, who appeared to be over 60 and wearing a hearing aid, moseyed toward the pump. She produced a credit card, inserted it in the credit card (CC) slot on the pump, and quickly withdrew the card. (The CC box asks customers to withdraw cards quickly.) She seemed to be taking her time. I saw her punch one of two choices: credit or debit. Then she entered her zip code to get an approval on her credit card. Next, she selected from high test, medium, or regular for gas. She pumped, and when through, hit a button and received a receipt for her gas. She entered her vehicle, fastened up, and drove away.  

“At last,” I thought.

I cranked and moved to the pump. The high-test and medium-grade gas selections had labels taped above them. Those labels told me there was no gas in either of those pumps. The “regular gas” selection was still available. I followed the same procedure the lady in front of me had because I, too, pay for gas with a credit card. I filled up: 10.309 gallons, $2.199 per gallon, total sale $22.67.

I wanted to kick myself for waiting till Monday to get gas.

“Why did I wait?” I asked myself. “That was cutting it close.”

The next day, my wife drove by that gas station and saw a sign saying “Closed.”

Friday, September 2, 2016

A Sous-Chef Helps with Breakfast and Storm Hermine Blows In

Carol and I rose around 9:00 a.m. this morning in Southern Pines, N.C., because we’d stayed up past midnight. We seldom make a big deal of breakfast – usually eat cereal and such – but Carol wanted to prepare an “egg breakfast” for us this morning. I, her “sous-chef,” laid out materials I’ve learned to gather when my wife decides to “make breakfast”:

Four eggs to scramble
Frying pan for scrambling eggs
Cheese (already-grated sharp cheddar)
Milk (one percent)
Hand towel spread on each serving tray
Plates and silverware on two trays
Four pieces of bread for toasting
Butter in small dish for microwaving
Tablespoons of strawberry jam on plates
Teabags (one de-caf, one caf)
Two cups of orange juice
Boiled water for tea
(Whew! I was tired already.)

Carol then stepped to the podium – I mean the stove – to conduct the breakfast-making. She cracked eggs, and mixed eggs, butter, milk, and cheese in the frying pan. I melted butter in a small dish in the microwave.

“Is it time to push down the toaster?” I asked, looking at four pieces of loaf bread sticking up from the toaster.

“Not yet,” she said.

I soon received the OK and pushed down two levers, lowering four slices of bread into the “tanning bed.”  

“You’re toast,” I thought, musing about the popular meaning of that phrase that has come “to indicate that the person being addressed is in deep trouble” (urbandictionary.com).   

I hurried two cups of orange juice into our living room and placed them on a nightstand sitting between our two recliners. We eat in that room and watch TV while we munch.

Carol poured boiling water into teacups. I used the contents of five sugar-substitute (with “stevia”) packets in with my de-caffeinated Lipton teabag. I plopped the contents of three sugar-substitute packets and a caffeinated tea bag into Carol's cup. She likes caffeine, but too much caffeine can mess with my heart’s rhythm. 

Carol continued scrambling eggs while I ejected the toast and smeared butter on it, spreading melted butter with a spoon. I cut the crusts off Carol’s toast, because she finds bread crusts hard to chew. I cut each of her two pieces of white bread in half. She wants her toast “just so.”   

Carol took the frying pan off the stove and brought it to the plates (sitting on trays). She divided the eggs, giving me a bit more than half of the mass.

I scurried with teas to the living room and set them on coasters lying on a nightstand. A lamp sits on the nightstand, along with some of my pens and pencils and Carol’s medicines and whatever. The stand is getting a bit cluttered.

Carol and I brought our trays to our recliners. She hit the mute button on the remote controlling the large TV sitting across the room. I asked a blessing on our food.

She de-muted the TV and a Raleigh, N.C., news reporter gave us the latest on Tropical Storm Hermine. A lady weather person said something such as this: “The storm will push through Georgia and South Carolina Friday before arriving in North Carolina late Friday."

“It’s a good day to stay inside,” I thought to myself. "I hope the power doesn’t go out.”

I washed the morning’s dishes and gazed out our kitchen window. The sky appeared gray, rain was falling lightly, and the wind was “getting up.” “Lord, please don’t let our electric go off,” I thought.

I moseyed to my computer and typed this account of our tasty Friday morning breakfast. I thought about how much my wife likes to watch TV on rainy days and about how I enjoy playing around on my computer. And I thought-prayed, “Lord, please don’t let our electric power go down. If it does, we’re ‘toast.’”

Thursday, April 7, 2016

UNC 'by 10 points' Ruined by a Buzzer-Beater Shot

“Ten points on North Carolina,” he said, smiling during mid-afternoon, Monday, April 4, 2016.  

He stood beside a strengthen-your-back machine at the Gold’s Gym located seven minutes from my Southern Pines home. His large-wheeled walker (with 6-inch wheels) featuring a seat and a “ruby red finish” stood near the exercise machine. He moved his legs slowly, stiffly. His feet dragged. He appeared to be in his early 60s.

“What’d you say?” I asked, scooting off a nearby machine and moving three feet in order to stand beside the trim, graying African-American man who evidenced a serious physical handicap.  

“Ten points on North Carolina,” he repeated.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship basketball game was slated for that evening in Houston, Texas: the University of North Carolina vs. Villanova University.  

“I’m rooting for UNC, too,” I said. “They may win by more than ten points.”

“Yep,” the man said. “They might.”

“UNC has some really good big men,” I noted.

I’d met this man before but forgotten his name.

“I’m Steve,” I said, reaching for his right hand.

“I’m William,” he said.

I don’t know if he remembered me. I felt bad for not recalling his name. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” someone said. Many times I’ve vowed to remember a person’s name (either a moniker or a surname) and within an hour or two forgotten. I felt glad that William reached out to me with his comment about UNC. In the Gold’s Gym I frequent, people often pass within a few feet of each other and seem to pretend that the humans they’re near are invisible.

“They’re there [in Gold’s Gym] on business,” a friend told me. “They don’t have time to talk to strangers. They’re trying to maintain their spaces. That’s just the way it is.”  

“How about just a nod of a head or a meeting of eyes,” I’d thought, remembering that now-overused summation: “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”  

“I’ll be watching the game, tonight, while you are,” I told William.

“I think they’ll win,” he said.

“It’s good to see you in here,” I said, glancing at his walker.

“I have a spinal-disconnect injury,” he said. “I need to exercise. I feel better when I do, and then I can go home and sleep.”

“Great to see you,” I said.

“Yep,” he replied, as he moved on to another machine.

That night, as I watched the game via TV, I remembered William’s words: “Ten points on North Carolina.”

The Tar Heels led by five points (39-34) at halftime but shot poorly during the second half.

UNC came back from 10 points down with five-and-a-half minutes left and from six points down with 1:52 to play. UNC’s Marcus Paige bucketed an outstanding 3-point shot from long distance to tie the game at 74-74. With 4.7 seconds left, Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono worked the ball upcourt and passed it off to teammate Kris Jenkins, who swished it from about two steps behind the 3-point line. Game over. The Villanova folk went wild.

I thought of William, probably sitting near his big-wheeled walker, watching the game end. I hoped he wasn’t too disappointed.

“Ten points on North Carolina,” he’d said, earlier that day.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Whiskey Money, Glassy Mountain, and a Preacher

My Uncle Fred recently told me about a preacher who “went back” on what he said from a pulpit.

When he quit working on his parents’ farm, located in the Mountain View Community of Greenville County, S.C., and began working “in the mill,” Fred rode to work with Jim Few. But Fred married Frances Hawkins and began riding to work with Frances, Mary Mason (Frances’ sister), Paul McKinney, and Kirby Lindsey (Frances’ brother-in-law). They all worked for the now-closed Southern Bleachery (SB), a cloth-processing mill, in Taylors, S.C. That group rode in a car driven by Haskell Harrison. Fred and Frances rode in a carpool for about 21 years, Fred says.

“Haskell picked us all up,” Fred says. “We paid him on each Friday for our rides to work and back.”

(Before Fred hired on at SB, Paul Belue worked there and drove a bus to collect riders to go to work at SB – sort of a “bus pool” from up around the Mountain View area.)

Haskell Harrison attended Glassy Mountain Church of God and is deceased. His son, Zeno Harrison, “leads singing at the Church of God in Greer [S.C.],” Fred says.

Fred doesn’t remember the name of the church Harrison attended when Harrison witnessed a particularly troubling conversation at that church. Fred had been working at SB for four or five years and was 24-25 years old when he heard about the preacher in the story that Haskell told to his carpool.

Glassy Mountain was the home of homemade whiskey back in the 1930s and ’40s, someone said. The Glassy Mountain area and “west of it,” included areas with names such as Callahan, Merridell, North Fork, Terry Creek, and Terrydell.   

Harrison said that selling homemade whiskey was prevalent where he lived. He told his carpool about a preacher who spoke at the church he attended and announced before the offering was received, “If you have money that you made from selling whiskey, don’t put that in the offering plate, because I don’t want it. If you’ve been making whiskey or dealing in it, don’t put money from it in the plate.”

After the service, a man told the minister, “Preacher, I had a hundred dollars in my pocket that I was going to give you, but I made it from selling whiskey.”

Harrison said he heard the preacher say, “That’s all right, brother. Just give it to me. It’ll spend OK.”

The members of the carpool group heard that story that portrayed a sad image of a preacher.

Hypocrites, especially “religious” ones, hurt people, but I believe most ministers who really preach the Gospel are not hypocrites.

People often get damaged by – or become disillusioned with – individual hypocrites or a local church. Someone said, “If being hurt by a church causes you to lose faith in God, then your faith was in people, not in God.”

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man” (Psalm 118:8).

But we have to trust other Christians to get much done in this world. We are supposed to act as “the Body of Christ” in a corporate sense and minister to each other and to the world.

Someone said, “If you have been let down by a Christian, pastor or church member, perhaps it is time to find another church, but your faith should not rest in man. When considering the eternal destination of your soul, don’t let the actions of sinful man determine your commitment or distract you from the Gospel message. Jesus Christ was not a hypocrite, in Him there is no deception, no dishonesty; in Him there is only truth.”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).