Pictured here is Agnes Joines, head knocker of our BROC group. That's Blue Ridge Opportunity Commission. BROC is involved with three counties, Wilkes, Ashe and Alleghany. Our branch is the Alleghany Planning Committee. Unfortunately, the county government started a totally unrelated committee called the Alleghany Planning Commission. It seems to me pointless to go on keeping the name we have, because it has been rendered meaningless. Commission or committee, which is it? Whichever. The group is partial to the name, because we've always used it and we had it first. It never meant much of anything before; we don't advertise, self-promote or appeal for money. Not high profile. The lowest of profiles. Stacy, our "secretary" (the S-word in the ABCs of forbidden words---I don't know of another word for her position---office person?), investigates sources for operating money, grants and such, and she helps the people who come through the door seeking assistance, like needing an electric bill paid in the winter when usage triples, firewood, needing repairs on a house, like replacing a window, fixing a leaking roof, and whatever else the need. This is among the poorest counties in the state. North Carolina has never been known for a money state. Our present republican government is consciously pushing the citizens of the state deeper in Depression, supplementing the national government's intent. I didn't realize the extent of poverty in the county until involvement with BROC. I prefer to call it BROC; it's easy to remember and specific to what it is. I, myself, am unable to remember if it is commission or committee. At the same time, I really don't care what it's called. What we do is my reason for being there.
Stacy is one of my favorite people in my world. This picture doesn't show her face well, but her attitude comes through clearly. Stacy has a brilliant mind, she just doesn't know it yet. She's on her way, though. Ten more years and she'll be blowing her own mind. She'll be saying, Ten years ago I wouldn't have dreamed I'd be where I am now. I don't think it's exaggeration. Stacy is serious. I mean serious. She is of a mind that life is serious. She takes it seriously. In fun, I have called her Stasi, which is all the more fun because she knows what it is, East German secret police, and doesn't hold it against me as an insult. From my perspective, it's a compliment, because I know she knows what it means, and it wouldn't be any fun if she didn't know what it meant. It's not even teasing. It's playing with words, linguistic humor, among my favorite kinds of humor. I only called her Stasi once; more than once it's boring. I can talk about things with Stacy I can't talk with the others about. Like today, I told her I'd just learned last week that all of Russia from the Ural Mountains eastward is Siberia. I'd believed Siberia was a section in the northeastern part of the country. It's the name of Asian Russia. She said she'd recently learned it, too, and told me about a globe her grandmother has with names of countries she'd never heard of. We do not ever talk politics for reasons we both understand. If we did, we would not talk at all. That's how I like to be with everybody I know. Put that old absolutist mind in gear and look out. I know so few people who agree with me politically that I can't talk political nonsense with anybody. How blessed is that? I like to dwell in the color zone between the extremes of black and white. In light, black is absence of colors and white is all colors. In pigment, black is all colors and white is absence of color. It's the rainbow in between. And light is particles that travel in waves.
Ernest is Agnes's husband of sixty years. They've been in love since school. Ernest is fresh out of a very long stay in the hospital, where Agnes said he like-to died twice. Agnes is a refreshing spirit! Ernest is 81 and did not look over 65 before the hospital stay. Today he was slow. Today I saw him look his age for the first time. It doesn't feel right seeing Ernest so bereft of his spirit. He plays bluegrass mandolin primarily, banjo, guitar, and bass. He plays old-time and country too, and sings. Agnes is a good singer of the old songs. In my early years in the mountains, they made an LP together singing hymns with preacher Earl Baker. Baker was the step-son of Henry Whitter, guitar picker of old-time music of the 1920s and 30s, of Grayson & Whitter (GB Grayson played old-time fiddle--has the name the best there ever was--and Henry Whitter did some singing). Henry Whitter spent his later years in Whitehead, just down the road. Earl Baker's daughter gave Whitter's guitar to the Blue Ridge Music Center. I don't usually get a kick out of things like Jimi Hendrix's guitar or even Carter Stanley's guitar, but when I saw Henry Whitter's guitar in its Plexiglas case on the wall, I felt it was something special. I can't explain why. I just felt it. Ernest Joines plays mandolin in the local bluegrass dance band, The Rise & Shine Band. They are the house band at the square-dance place, The Alleghany Jubilee on Main Street. It is the only place in Sparta anything is happening. Tuesday and Friday nights Main Street in front of the Jubilee is loaded with parked cars. Ernest and Agnes ran the Jubilee until Ernest fell into the hospital. A new couple have taken it over who have the personality for it like Ernest and Agnes do. They are part of our group, too, Jack and Linda Joines, but couldn't make it today. Agnes looked tired and drawn from half a year of stress. Having her Ernie back is everything to her now. Nobody in this world could have more loving care than Ernest.
ted, ernest, agnes, stacy, helen
It's Agnes's love that pulled him through. She thanked everybody for the prayers today. She said it's a miracle and she just wanted to give God the praise he was due. And that was it. No sermon, nothing political about Christian, no self-congratulations for going to church. This attitude is in the spirit of our group. We are about helping people having a hard time at helping themselves in an indifferent economy. We don't pat ourselves on the back for being righteous. Every one of us is one who believes the poor need help. We are people who believe Jesus had reason for recommending we help the poor. Churches that praise themselves for being Christian seldom do. We are not church affiliated. Individually, we all have our lives and can't do a whole lot. But together as a small group with clarity of intent we get quite a lot covered. Our fundraising event of the year is the Hillbilly Show in the school auditorium. It's a hometown stage version of the tv show HEE HAW, five dollars a ticket. In my Flatland years I hated it. When I moved to the mountains I watched it every week with neighbor Tom Pruitt and learned to love it. It is a very different perspective seeing it from inside hillbilly culture. The Hillbilly Show amounts to comedy skits absurd to ridiculous, and bluegrass, country and old-time music played by local musicians. I think of it as Dada theater. We couldn't put the show on last year due to Ernest in dire straits and Agnes stressed. Agnes is the director of the show. This year we're a whole lot behind and concerned. The local electric co-op came through with a great assist. Everything's gonna be all right. We have our Ernie back. I wanted to introduce you to everybody, but am running out of space. If you don't mind I'll take a little more space for you to meet Gary and Jean.
Gary Joines, pictured above, is a Marine, retired bank branch manager, fiddler, guitar and bass player, and he's Ernest's cousin. He plays bass in The Rise & Shine Band. A Marine fiddler seems like an oxymoron, but Gary is no kind of moron. He's a humble man with a wide range of talent. He's good at making a living in this world and he's an active artist. Ted Dorsett is here from Winston-Salem. He has a couple of donkeys too. Jean Osborne, pictured below, is the daughter of country singer Del Reeves' brother, Homer. Del Reeves is from here. Just about everybody in the county named Reeves is kin to him to some degree. His full name is Franklin Delano Reeves. Reckon they was democrats? Jean is a woman of a beautiful heart and soul. When I'm around Jean I see (feel) the brilliant light of a woman of true compassion, one who cares deeply. I don't know if that's how she sees herself. She's too humble to have such lofty beliefs about herself. A Jean moment popped into mind. In the time I was looking up titles of land transfers for a lawyer's office, Jean was doing same for another lawyer. I was in the vault at the register of deeds, and Jane, a woman doing same work for another lawyer, was in there. Jane is someone with a sense of humor all her own and she gives you nothing to go by whether it was a knife or fun. You're on your own to make it what you want it to be. Jane doesn't care. Jean came walking through the door, saw Jane first and said, "How you doin, Jane?" Jane replied without looking up from her work, "Me and TJ was doin just fine til you walked in." Jean stopped like Jane had cocked a gun in her face, thought better of it, knowing Jane, and proceeded, smiling forgiveness. They started talking freely. Jane counted on Jean to get the humor and she did. I can't leave out Helen Crouse. Helen took care of her husband in a long, slow decline after a debilitating stroke. Helen has a bright spirit too. I tend to like to sit next to Helen; she's a light-hearted refreshing spirit. I'm honored to have a place among these people.
jean and helen