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Monday, August 10, 2009


queen anne's lace

We're a third of the way into August. Signs of autumn in the trees. Locust leaves are turning brown. In some of the trees I see a brown haze entering the green. Queen Anne's lace all over the meadows and unmowed places. They're thick this year. Black-eyed Susans among the Queen Anne's lace and heads of red clover. Two crows perched on fence posts. One crow flew down in a wide circle dive, extended its feet, slowed the flight down to a stop with a sweep of pinioned wings, and landed on the fence post. They come to a halt in the air just above where they want to put down, then drift 2 to 3 inches to landing site, a weightless landing.

Billowing clouds continue to ride the current of the New River channel west to east. This may be the hottest day of the year. It has a Tennessee Williams feel about it, too hot to do anything but sweat and talk Southern. The air is still. Crows walk about Jr's lawn looking for remains of apple slices I threw out earlier.

I've been wanting to tell you about a guy with a blog called Bear Bottom. He and his wife are brand new here. New as new gets. He started a blog when they bought the summer house, which is to be for a grandchild born not long after he started the blog, which tells about the birth of the child. I don't mean like a movie from Sweden showing a baby being born, just a baby picture at home a little while after it's born. He tells that he is writing the blog for this child so when he gets to be of an age, he can read grandpa's writings lto have a picture of grandpa's life and know a little bit about who grandpa was, as what he writes in the blog is like an open letter to the newborn child.

His name is Wendell Rowell. He writes well from the perspective of somebody brand new here discovering every weekend they spend at the mountain house, an aspect of where they are. Curiously, they have a few acres of Sherman Scott's farm in Pine Swamp. Sherman was someone important in the first half of my life here. He grew up on the farm next to me at Air Bellows. Jim and Charity Scott were Sherman's parents. They sold their farm in the wind tunnel of Air Bellows Gap, moving down out of the wind in the valley in Pine Swamp.

Sherman went to school in my house. He grew up among Tom, Millard and the rest of the Pruitts and Caudills of Air Bellows. Sherman was a bit slow. Tom said he was good in arithmetic, and didn't play with the other kids. They were probably playing rough and Sherman was a gentle lamb, possibly doted on by his mother who saw to it her disadvantaged baby boy was cared for. I picked him up for church meetings as we both went to Millard Pruitt's church. In the way he talked and the subject matter, he seemed a child, but he was also not a child. In some ways Sherman was an elderly man, and in some a little boy. On his farm, he was a boy. The cows were his pets.

I saw him one time walk into his herd of 20 or so head, arms out over their backs petting them and talking to them. They packed in around him and I was concerned for Sherman's safety, until I realized he did this every day. He loved them and they loved him. It seemed so intimate I felt awkward seeing it, but not for long. A beautiful moment. That's how I see Sherman when I remember him. And driving to town on his redbelly Ford tractor with a wooden box on the back, driving down Hwy 21 going to the grocery store in Sparta, 50 cars lined up behind him. He didn't have a driver's license, and it's legal to drive a tractor on the roads without one. Sherman was best known as the man driving the gray tractor.

Bert Holloway would sometimes ride with us. Bert was a little bit loose in the head like Sherman. To and from church, they would talk about girlfriends and money the whole way there and back. I have to admit it was funny. Their understanding of what they were talking about was like that of 6 or 7 year old boys. They were giggly and twittery about girlfriends and stone serious about money. Sherman lived on the interest from money his dad left him along with the farm.

Old man Jim Scott they said had every cent he ever earned. He was one of the people of these mountains who didn't trust banks and when the silver tongue of the mortician's son charmed him and so many others in this county, Jim Scott gave all his coffee can money to a bogus credit union. The man who did it is now unwelcome in his own county. In Sherman's personal mythology, he's the devil himself. He hurt a lot of good, honest, hard-working people, which I don't mean to sound like a cliche. It's just that's what they were. Innocents. He ruined his family name.

Years ago, a woman from the Florida Keys visiting here asked me if the people here were like on Andy Griffith Show. I automatically said, "There's nobody anyplace like on the Andy Griffith Show." Turned out that was a bit vehement a response to something meant simply to be nice. Another of those moments I'd have done better keeping my mouth shut or just say, I don't know. But I aint dead yet.

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