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Friday, October 13, 2017

Pete and Kate: Two Mules Remembered

My paternal grandfather, Carl Crain, worked two dark-colored mules named Pete and Kate. They pastured together and often pulled a 2-horse wagon. They slept in adjoining stalls in a tin-roofed barn in rural Greenville, S.C., in the early 1950s.

I recall “riding” Pete when I was about three years old. “Pa” (that’s what I called my paternal grandfather) plowed with Pete one afternoon and brought him, at end of day, to drink from a tin tub sitting under a spigot placed between Pa’s house and barn. My dad set me on Pete’s back, and that was fine until Pete lowered his head to drink. Fear of sliding down his long neck hit me, but I stayed on.  

“He’ll let you ride him,” Pa said, “but Kate won’t.”  

I distrusted Kate and thought she was aloof and mean. She appeared a little darker in color and heavier than Pete. A few red hairs flecked Pete’s coat, and his peaceful face shaded into gray-white around his muzzle. The pair did almost everything together – grazing, drinking from the creek, and rolling on their backs in the pasture after Pa took off their harnesses. Mules and horses roll after being worked in order to ease the irritation of drying sweat. They dry the sweat with dirt, and dirt also helps protect them from biting insects.

In the 1950s, I thought poor people were “mule folk” and rich people were “horse folk.” That’s how I perceived the “class system” in the rural South during the middle of the 20th century. But mules were highly valued in olden days. King David often rode them, and the “kings of the earth” sent mules as gifts to King Solomon.

A mule, the offspring (usually sterile) of a male donkey and a female horse, is said to possess the strength of a horse and the endurance and surefootedness of the donkey.

The late Ben Crain, great-grandfather to L.S. Crain, is pictured with two mules and a grandchild.

According to mulemuseum.org (MMO), the U.S. boasted an estimated 855,000 mules in 1808. By 1897, 2.2 million mules populated the U.S. before cotton boomed in Texas and numbers rose to 4.1 million. The U.S. Army last used mules in any great number in World War 1, according to MMO. In that war, 6-mule teams hauled 2,000-lb. wagons loaded with 3,000 lbs. of cargo. War wagons were useless in mountainous country, so an Army train of 50 or more mules, each carrying 250 pounds, would move in single file and cover 60 miles a day.

Ma (my paternal grandmother) and Pa married and sharecropped before purchasing a small farm. Pa worked as a carpenter and farmed “on the side.” Ma, a housewife, never worked at a “public job.” They usually kept two mules, two cows, one or two hogs, two beagles, a cat or two, and some chickens. Except for the hogs and chickens, their animals had names and my grandparents formed bonds with them. Philosopher RenĂ© Descarte reportedly regarded animals as “mindless machines” programmed with instincts. But, animals have feelings, and Pa and Ma believed righteous people took care of their animals (Proverbs 12:10).

My family (my parents, my younger sister, and I) lived near Ma and Pa, and I slept “many a night” at my grandparents’ house. Pa wore brogan shoes and overalls, except on Sundays or on Saturday mornings when he, driving his car, chauffeured Ma to Greenville to sell a little milk and butter.

When Pa drove his farm wagon, Pete and Kate pulled while I operated the brake if we descended a hill. The brake was a wooden pole I pushed against one of the rear, metal-rimmed wheels.  

Pictured is the late Homer Crain, son of Claude Crain (brother to Carl Crain), and a dappled mule. Homer served in the U.S. Army in World War II and was hit by a sniper’s bullet. He later became a pastor who walked with a limp.

I served as Pa’s water-boy during spring planting when I was five. “Take this water to Pa,” Ma would say as she dropped ice cubes into a quart-size Mason jar holding water. She’d insert wax paper between the jar and the lid to make sure I didn’t slosh out water as I trekked across the field. I’d walk under two tall pecan trees standing near Ma’s kitchen and head out – bare feet on plowed warm soil, water jar hugged to my torso. I’d see Pa and Pete (or Kate) plowing and planting – one man and one mule, working, so that the man could “earn his bread by the sweat of his brow.”

Pa would stop the mule, doff his straw hat, wipe his forehead on one arm of his long-sleeved work shirt, and drink. (The mule drank plenty of water at morning, noon, and night.)    

One spring day each year during my elementary school years, I skipped classes to help Pa fertilize a field for corn planting. Pete and Kate pulled the wagon as Pa and I set down 100-lb. sacks of guano (powdered bird droppings used as fertilizer) at intervals across the field. Pa then hitched Pete to a “distributor plow.” Using a bucket, I deposited fertilizer into the distributor’s box as Pa plowed, dispensing guano into furrows. As one guano sack emptied, I moved to another bag, as Pa continued plowing row by row. Pa talked to Pete, guiding him and saying “gee” and “haw,” as they traversed the field. According to “Wikipedia,” “Gee and haw are voice commands used to tell a draft animal or sled dog to turn right or left … ‘Gee’ (pronounced ‘jee’) has its first attested use in the 1620s in Scotland; the first known use of ‘haw’ was in 1777.”

The late Pinkney “Pink” Parker is pictured with a mule and a child, standing near his barn in Taylors, S.C. 

I was in third grade when Pa let Pete and Kate out of their stalls and into pasture on an overcast winter morning. He put up three bars to the barn’s pasture-side hallway. (The front side of the barn had no gate or bars.) Perhaps Pa reasoned that his mules stayed outside and weathered rains during most months and would be all right, or maybe he thought the rain would “hold off” until evening. He then drove to his carpenter job. A cold rain began around mid-morning.

Seeking shelter but blocked by the bars, Pete pushed through the barbed wire fence and kudzu located to the left of the barn. Beneath the kudzu lay a deep gully, and Pete mired up to his chest in that red-dirt ditch. I think he stood there for hours, sinking further into the muck as he struggled. Kate stayed in the pasture, perhaps sensing danger.   

That afternoon, Pa found Pete. My father and I soon arrived – neither family had a telephone – to visit my grandparents. The rain had mostly stopped, but the sky was still gray when I saw Pete. He stood, eyes pleading. About every 30 seconds, he flopped the right side of his neck against the bank sloping into the gully. He had worn off the kudzu on that side of the ditch.

Troy Burrell, a neighbor, stood near Pa. Before Dad and I arrived, they had placed a rope around Pete’s neck and tried to coax him to free himself, but the mud’s suction prevailed. Troy walked home and returned on a small tractor. They attached the rope to the tractor and dragged Pete, by his neck, from the mire. He lay a few feet from the gully on a flat, plowed field. He rested on his right side, with stiff legs stuck straight out before him. He appeared to me to resemble one of the plastic toy horses with unbendable legs that I often bought as a child at a dime store in town.

They said the circulation was gone in Pete’s cold legs. Hoping he would rise, they let him lie there for a while. But he didn’t get up, and they decided to put him out of his misery. I guess I was in Ma and Pa’s house or gone home with Dad when they dispatched Pete. I don’t remember hearing the shot. Pa told me that a man from Greenville came the next day and hauled away Pete’s body. I recall thinking it didn’t seem fair that Pete died in such a tragic way. He seemed the nicer mule of the pair.  

Perhaps Pete’s partner wasn’t as devoid of kindness as I had thought. A few months after Pete’s passing, Pa found Kate, dead. I asked him what happened to her.

“I think she grieved herself to death,” Pa said.

Lunch at the China Garden

I ate at the China Garden today. It’s an all-you-can-eat, sprawling Chinese restaurant in Aberdeen, N.C., located almost where Hwy. 15-501 intersects Hwy. 1. That area is a traffic hub in southern Moore County, where natives and relocated folk drive, shop, and eat together in peace, for the most part. 

When I head to China Garden, I often think of “Garden Party,” a song popularized by the late Rick Nelson. The first words of that tune go like this:

“Went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends / A chance to share old memories and play our songs again / When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name / No one recognized me, I didn't look the same / (chorus) But it's all right now, I learned my lesson well. / You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.”

When I hum “Garden Party,” I change those two words (“garden party”) to “China Garden.” Thus, I sing, “I went to the China Garden to reminisce with my old friends.”

Today, I did exactly that.

I motored to China Garden to dine and talk with two friends I worked with at the former Gulistan Carpet that manufactured carpet in Aberdeen.

Diane (that’s the name I’ll call her) and Dan (that’s what I’ll call him) were working at Gulistan when I arrived there in April 1989. We worked together until Gulistan closed in 2013. That’s a long time to be around each other in a small product development department. We got along pretty well.

I’m 70. Diane and Dan are in their fifties. They had to find other things to do after the company folded. Me? I retired. I was within two months of being 66 when Gulistan went, as they say, belly-up. Gulistan means “garden of roses” in Armenian. Gulistan didn’t get “nipped in the bud,” but it got nipped after it had bloomed and faded a bit. Around 400 people “walked” when “the bloom was off the rose.”  

We enjoyed lunch. The China Garden is spacious, and the music is soothingly Chinese. We talked about folk we used to work with. Some found other jobs. Some moved. Some died.

“Have you heard from _____ or _______,” Diane asked, referring to supervisors we worked for. 

“Who’s that?” I quipped, and then answered, “No.” 

We all smiled, enjoying the camaraderie that forms among lower-echelon “associates.”     

We chatted about our respective relatives and their ups and downs and health problems. We shared some of our own challenges.

During our last years at Gulistan, only five people worked in our office. We had to coordinate closely in order to design carpets and move them into production modes. The manufacturing group sometimes referred to our product development group as “problem development.” They seemingly wanted to “run” established products and not encounter challenges presented by introducing new styles.

Four of our five folk in Product Development, during the last few years our company “hung on,” were guys. (Diane was our office administrator.) We guys usually took breaks together. During watermelon season, we’d buy melons and cut them into slices we loved to eat during afternoon breaks. Two of our five fellow workers died not long after their Gulistan employment ended. Dan and I attended both funerals; we rode together to each service.

Diane, Dan, and I grew pretty close over all those years we worked alongside each other. We spent nearly two hours at lunch today. I enjoyed every minute we lingered at the China Garden.   

Saturday, June 17, 2017

When TV "Came In"

Phil Lister, pictured above in 1957, loved to play "cowboys" -- loved to act like the cowpokes he saw on TV. 

Dad bought our first television in 1954 when I was seven. My younger sister, Shirley, and I virtually welcomed Roy Rogers and Dale Evans into our small, shingled house in rural Taylors, S.C. We loved our black-and-white, 24-inch-screen TV.  

We soaked up “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin,” featuring Rusty, a boy orphaned by an American Indian raid, and Rin Tin Tin, a German shepherd dog. They lived on an army post called “Fort Apache.” We loved watching Westerns!

Mom and Dad liked “The Jackie Gleason Show” and “Dragnet.” Dad relished “The Life of Riley” starring William Bendix. A U.S. infantry veteran who fought in Germany in WWII, Dad smiled at “Riley” and his television predicaments. My parents also liked “You Bet Your Life,” a quiz show starring Groucho Marx.

Not everyone thought highly of “telly-vision.” A few pastors referred to it as “helly-vision.” I recall this joke from those days when TV sets came with “rabbit ears”(two extendable antenna on top):

An older lady bought a TV. One day, she looked out a window and saw her pastor arriving. She ran and threw a bed sheet over the TV that sported long “rabbit ears.” She welcomed her pastor and they sat to chat. Looking around the room, he saw the sheet and realized the two points poking upward beneath the sheet were antennae. He told the lady, “Well, you can hide the Devil, but you can’t hide his horns!”

“At the start of the decade [1950-60], there were about three million TV owners; by the end of it, there were 55 million, watching shows from 530 stations,” says Steve Wiegand, adding that the average price of a TV set was about $500 in 1949 but by 1953 had dropped to around $200.

Families huddled and watched shows. In 1954, the Toledo, Ohio, water commissioner reported that water consumption surged at certain times because so many people were simultaneously using their toilets during commercial breaks on the most popular shows.

Before TV came to our house, Mom persuaded Dad to read (several nights each week) to our family from “Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible for Young and Old.”   

Somehow, TV started replacing those “devotional times.” Instead of hearing how David defeated Goliath, we watched fictional Marshal Matt Dillon dispatch bad guys in “Dodge City, Kansas,” on a program called “Gunsmoke.” Instead of learning about Moses leading the Children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, we watched “Major Adams” lead actors in covered wagons toward California on a program called “Wagon Train.”  

Someone said, “Bad things seen on television may prove harmful, but TV’s greatest danger may lie in what it replaces.”    

During my fifth grade year at Mountain View Elementary (Greenville, S.C.), Mrs. Barton, a good teacher and a Southern Baptist, asked us to write something and read it in front of the class. Gladys King stood and read about her imaginary trip to the “Gunsmoke” version of Dodge City, where Matt Dillon was “the law” and Miss Kitty, Dillon’s friend, owned and managed the Long Branch Saloon.

“I walked down the street and met Marshall Dillon,” Gladys said. “Then, we went into the Long Branch, and I met Miss Kitty, and we had some beers.”

“Gladys!” exclaimed Mrs. Barton.

Gladys reddened, smiled sheepishly and finished her story.

Later that year, Mrs. Barton asked Kenneth Salmon a history question, and he gave an answer.

“That’s wrong,” Mrs. Barton said.

“I goofed,” Kenneth said. 

“Where’d you hear that word?” Mrs. Barton asked.

“I heard it on TV,” Kenneth said.

Mrs. Barton didn’t smile and went on with our lesson. 

 Pictured above are Genelia and Hovey Parker with their daughter and only child, Marian, who married Clifton Lister. Clifton and Marian have two sons: Phil and Mark.
    Shown above is a March 1957 photo of Phil Lister. He was around age seven in this photo.

I was about ten years old when I rode my bike a mile from home to visit Phil and Mark Lister. Phil was seven years old; Mark was three. Their parents are Clifton and Marian Lister. Their family then lived next door to Marian’s parents, the late Hovey and Genelia Parker. Hovey was my maternal grandma’s brother. He owned several acres and had fenced in a pasture for a horse he bought for Phil and Mark.  

“Hey, Steve!” Phil said, after their mother invited me into their house. “Let’s go to the basement and play cowboys!”

Many Westerns entertained us during those black-and-white TV days – stories about Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, the Cisco Kid and Pancho, Tex Ritter, Annie Oakley, and the Lone Ranger and Tonto. Many of us owned cap pistols, holsters and cowboy hats. Back then, we could tell who were the good and bad folk on TV Westerns.

Phil and Mark were wearing shorts; I had on long pants. We clamored into the basement and dreamed up a cowboy drama. We began acting out a scenario, but, after a while, Phil wanted a fight scene. I soon was laughing and “fighting off” Mark, with my back toward Phil. Suddenly, I felt something “ka-blam” me in the back of the head. Whoa! I placed my left hand on the rear of my skull and brought that hand around for a look. Have mercy! Blood was flowing. Phil ran screaming for his mama. Like a shadow, Mark ran behind him.

On television, Phil had seen cowboys get into fights, pick up chairs, and break them over the backs of opponents. When we began play-fighting, Phil picked up a straight-back chair and whopped me on the back. One leg of that chair caught me on the head. I still have a scar. (Some chairs used on cowboy TV shows were made, no doubt, to break apart, but the chair Phil used was not a fake TV prop.)    

Their mother, Marian, quickly brought me a towel for my head. She was thin and frail, back then, but she grabbed Phil by one arm and somehow laid hold of a long hickory. She jerked Phil out into the yard. I stood at the basement door, and Mark and I watched as Marian and Phil whirled round-and-round in what seemed like a kind of maypole dance – Marian was the pole; Phil was the not-so-happy dancer. As Marian laid on lashes, Phil circled his mother, who had a firm grip on his arm. As he tried to avoid stripes landing on his bare legs, Phil yelled, “I seen it on TV! I seen it on TV!”

Television can provide information, entertainment, inspiration and virtual companionship, and TV ads influence choices and decisions. I recently viewed 14 commercials during only one break in a program.  

Alfred Hitchcock said, “Seeing a murder on television . . . can help work off one’s antagonisms. And if you haven’t any antagonisms, the commercials will give you some.”

Neil Postman said, “Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas; they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.”

According to “Wikipedia,” Postman's best-known book is “Amusing Ourselves to Death” (1985). Postman warns of a decline in our media’s ability to share serious ideas and argues that TV replaces the written word and demeans and undermines political discourse “by turning real, complex issues into superficial images, less about ideas and thoughts and more about entertainment.”

Groucho Marx said, “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on a set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

Writer Jess C. Scott said, “People are sheep. TV is the shepherd.”

When I mentally search for an example of TV’s powerful influence, I think about the scar on the back of my head and about Phil’s mother lashing his legs as Phil yelled, “I seen it on TV! I seen it on TV!” 

 The above photo shows Mark Lister (left) and his older brother, Phil, as they pose with the famous Roy Rogers in 1993. Phil and Mark are singers and guitarists who worked for years in Nashville, Tennessee.  

"Bag Man"

“Bag Man” treks the sidewalks of a shopping hub in our area of North Carolina. Wearing long pants and a light gray coat and hat or, at times, a skullcap, he carries a backpack with perhaps 15 or 20 translucent plastic shopping bags attached. Some bags hang from his pants and pack and float like ethereal appendages to his body as cars pass, emitting exhaust-pipe breezes.

He’s evident: a young black man, medium build, maybe late twenties or early thirties, walking along . . . at times seemingly talking to himself or to an imaginary person.

I ask about him in Harris-Teeter grocery.

“Somebody said he stays at Motel Six,” an employee says. “If you try to give him food, he won’t take it – not even packaged food. They say he has some money.”

Two major highways intersect where Bag Man trods. Several fast-food stations, three drug stores, a grocery, a bank, and other shops provide backdrop for Bag Man’s stage. Once, my wife and I turn a corner, and he stands close by, under a dogwood near a bank office, shielded from noonday sun, resting from a shopping center reconnoiter.

Who is Bag Man? I don’t know; don’t know anyone who knows. He’s somebody’s son.

I’m in Walgreen’s one day, standing at checkout. I smell strong body odor and suspect Bag Man is near. I’d detected that same smell as he passed by me in Harris-Teeter. I look around but see no one like him. I look down, to the right side of the cash register, out of the way of where feet pass on the store exit path. There, stashed for his return, lay Bag Man’s backpack, bags attached and flowing from canvas straps. I don’t know if his backpack reeked or if his body odor lingered in the air. Bag Man was probably buying water to quench thirst derived from making his rounds, traipsing the shopping area on a scorching day. I take my receipt and head out the door.

Bag Man is familiar to many people in our area. He’s a “public figure,” whose disability is paraded before those of us who clamor on a clogged and busy “life’s highway.” And Bag Man is a reminder to us all that “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Friday, May 12, 2017

"A Second Chance" -- by Eva Crain, My Mother

Pictured is Eva Crain, my beloved mother.
This article is condensed from a March 1975 account written by my mother, Eva Crain, a former Faith Temple Church (Taylors, S.C.) member who worked at Roger Huntington Nursing Center in Greer, S.C., for over 20 years and died in 1989 at age 67.  

As a child, I was carried to church. At age 12, after accepting Christ as my Savior, I was baptized in an outdoor pool close to Double Spring Baptist Church where we attended.

After high school (Mountain View High School, Taylors, S.C.), I failed to trust God to keep me after he had saved me. I let Satan make me doubt that I had ever been saved. Through the counseling of our pastor and Scriptures, peace and assurance flooded my soul at about 19 years of age.

The first desire of my life after finishing high school in 1938 (when there were only eleven grades) was to go to Winthrop College to be a home economics teacher. I (one of eight children) was reared on a farm. My father said he wasn’t financially able to send me to college but would let me commute to a junior college, if I could find someone to ride with. I decided I’d stop my education, since I couldn’t go to college and stay.
My father consented for me to work in a sewing room. I’d said I’d never marry, but a certain young man changed my mind…for which I’m very thankful. (Eva and J.B. Crain married after he completed U.S. Army basic training.) My husband spent 18 months in Germany. God answered prayers and brought him home safely. After three years of marriage, God blessed our home with a son and then three years later, a daughter.

I thought about being a registered nurse, but that plan did not materialize either.

For 18 years, I was content to be a housewife and mother, though after the children were in school, I worked in a sewing room for a while. When efficiency experts came to the plants, I wasn’t able to make the production they seemed to think I should be doing. I was also sick part of the time. The doctor couldn’t discover the cause for several years, so I just went on hurting and working.

The doctor treated me for gall bladder trouble, but my condition worsened. A specialist took x-rays and found a large ulcer. I really had a battle with Satan. He tormented me with the thought that I wouldn’t make it through surgery. After a few days of torment, I prayed and believed God would see me through. I accepted the words of Paul in Philippians: “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain . . . .” God had been with me through forty years, and if it was his will for me to go to heaven, it would be my gain. I feel God guided the surgeon’s hands, and my health has been better with a third of my stomach (left) than before.

After meditation and prayer, an inner Voice kept telling me there was something better in life. There was a new nursing center being built near our home in Greer, and the Voice kept telling me to apply for a job there. I went to work two weeks before the building was opened and worked two years as a nurses’ aide. One day I heard about a program for Practical Nursing. I investigated and found they would take women up to 45 years of age. I was nearing 45, so I knew if I was to fulfill a desire I had since school days, I’d better get busy.

I started to school a week or so before our son entered his first year of college. When it came time for my books to be thrown at me, I felt I just couldn’t start back to school, but my son said, “Mother, you wanted to do this course, and you’ve got to stay in.”
So, I buckled down to the fact that it was God’s will that I was in nursing school and by His grace and help, I’d do the best I could. It proves out one of my favorite verses of Scripture: “He will do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think . . . .” 

I don’t claim to be perfect, but I feel that by obeying God’s voice after asking His help to go into nursing, I have come the nearest to being in God’s perfect will than ever before in my life.                      

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Grocery Shopping on Thursday, "Seniors Day"

On Thursday morning, April 27, 2017, I rose around 8:00 a.m. and decided to grocery-shop early, rather than wait until after exercising at around 2:30 – 4:00 p.m. at Gold’s Gym.

I shop at Harris-Teeter (HT) in Aberdeen, N.C., on Thursdays to get the Thursday “seniors day” five percent discount offered to folk over 60.  

So, “I washed my face and combed my hair and stumbled down the stairs to meet the day” (words from “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” a song by Kris Kristofferson).

Actually, I ate a bowl of cereal and “pilled up” (with legal prescription drugs, of course) after “washing up” and combing my hair. We have no stairs in our ranch-style house, but I identify with Kristofferson’s phrase: “stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.” I battle arthritis and neuropathy.

The HT parking lot was almost empty.

“I’m getting ahead of the madding crowd,” I thought, musing about times I shopped late on Thursdays and found “marked down” items had been scarfed up by old folk like me.

“Those selfish seniors,” I’ve thought, when I’ve seen empty shelves where bargain foods had rested. Old people can turn on each other when “savings” are involved.

I scurried, making good time inside the store. Near the milk, I took out my typed list of stuff Carol and I purchase. We don’t buy certain things every week, but, during my weekly grocery gathering, I unfold and peruse my listing of over 60 products we attempt to “keep in stock” at home.

I hadn’t forgotten anything we needed. I pocketed my list and headed to checkout.

“Oh, no,” I thought, when only two checkout registers were open and customers stood three-deep at each station. “No matter when you come here, they’re going to adjust the number of checkout stations to the number of people in the store.”

Waiting in line, I looked behind me and saw a gray-haired man I’d noticed at Gold’s Gym. We’d never met. Gym folk tend to go about their gym business and ignore each other. I remembered, however, that this man had smiled when we’d passed each other in the gym.

“Hi, I’ve seen you at Gold’s Gym,” I said.

“Yes, I haven’t been there enough, lately,” he said.

I learned that “John” (I’ll call him that) is 71, a year older than I am, and that he teaches college science courses.

“I retired from Gulistan Carpet as it closed,” I told him. “I have some arthritis and neuropathy, so I don’t do the treadmill, like I see you do at the gym. You’re doing well to be still teaching at your age.”

“Yes, they don’t want me to quit,” he said.

A large, decorated sheet cake lay in his shopping cart, and he held a bouquet of red roses.

“I’m organizing an honor society meeting at school,” John said. “It’s harder to get college kids together than it is high school kids, I think.”

By this time, my cashier had begun checking my groceries. John and I continued to talk. John had only given me his first name, though I had given him my full name. “Only giving a first name” is perhaps a way to seem “intimate” but retain some anonymity in “the information age.”

As my cashier continued working, a clerk from the store’s information counter motioned John to her station. He had only two items, so she hoped to help him process quicker.

John moved past me to the information counter. He and I finished our transactions at the same time.

“I’m sorry,” I said, as I pushed my shopping cart near to his. “I should have let you in front of me at checkout. I wasn’t thinking.”

“Oh, that’s OK,” he said, smiling.

“Good to meet you,” I said.

“You, too,” he said.

I was glad I’d shopped early and crossed John’s path. When I see him at the gym, I'll feel closer to him.  

Perhaps I’ll get in the habit of shopping early on “seniors day” at HT. Maybe next Thursday, I’ll rise with the sun and “wash my face and comb my hair and stumble down the stairs to meet the day.” 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Bad Habit Is Hard to Break

This morning I drove to The Barber Shop in Aberdeen NC. My usual hair-cutter, Linda, was not there when I arrived at 10:30 a.m.

“She called and said she’d be in after lunch,” a young man-barber said. “She said she wasn’t feeling well this morning.”

Three barbers (two gentlemen, one lady) were unoccupied, waiting for a customer.

I thought, “Should I let one of them cut my hair?” I’ve done that before when Linda was absent. I think they’re all good barbers.

Keith – sitting in the first chair (by the door) of seven barber chairs in the shop – was tap-tapping on his phone, perhaps searching the internet. He’s part-owner of The Barber Shop, along with Kim, the lady who works three chairs away from him.

I sat in a waiting-area chair and looked through a section of “The Fayetteville Observer.” In a few minutes, I said to Keith, “I’ll try to come back this afternoon.”

“OK,” he said.

I drove to Granny’s Donuts, a block away. An apple fritter and a buttermilk donut “called to me,” “speaking” from the array of goodies displayed in a glass case.

I bought, for Carol, a cinnamon thingy cooked in the shape of a honey bun. I ate my two tasty “forbidden fruits” before I arrived at home.

“Carol, I brought you a cinnamon thing from Granny’s,” I said, closing our front door.

“I don’t want it,” she said.

“OK,” I said.

I poured a half glass of milk and ate the cinnamon-flavored pastry.Then, I sat at my computer and felt guilty for eating three things I didn’t need. (I had eaten a bowl of cereal before driving to The Barber Shop.)

I thought, “I’ve developed a bad habit – going to Granny’s Donuts after a haircut.”

I looked on the internet and read this about “bad habits”:

“Bad habits interrupt your life and prevent you from accomplishing your goals. They jeopardize your health – both mentally and physically. And they waste your time and energy.”

“Amen,” I thought, while musing about how I often agree that something is true, yet I seemingly can’t muster the will power to act on that truth.