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Sunday, January 4, 2015

A DEAD BATTERY AND HILLBILLY PREACHING

joel shapiro

The car is driving me wild. Dead battery again. I'm thinking I've found the source of the drain on the battery. I have thought it was the gps plugged into the lighter hole. But it was there for a long time not draining the battery. A few days ago I pulled a fuse thinking it might help the door latch that was locked up to operate; the door locks and interior lights work on this one fuse. The door latch started working again after the temperature rose above freezing. The battery was fine. I put the fuse back into its slot when the door latch started working. Dead battery. Whatever is draining the battery, I suspect, is in the realm of that one fuse. I can get along without interior lights and without door locks. The door locks annoy me anyway. The doors lock automatically when I take the transmission out of Park. I don't like that. If I need out of the car in a hurry, I don't want to be fooling around trying to get it unlocked first. I carry a small flashlight in a pocket. Around here, there is no need to lock a car, unless it's near Christmas and the car is full of boxes and bags in a parking lot at night. There is an old country saying that locks keep an honest man honest. They don't stop thieves with intent. I never keep anything in my car to tempt somebody walking by. When I leave camera in car, I bury it under papers, trash, a jacket, a hat. I pulled the fuse again today, this time to stay out, at least long enough to see if the battery will keep a charge without it. First thing I checked this morning was the water level in the battery. It was fine. Tomorrow morning, neighbor Allen will drive over and let me jump my car from his battery. Come to think of it, that won't work. He's borrowed an old Studebaker pickup from a friend for hauling in some firewood. His car is not here. So much for that. The Studebaker battery is probably a 6 volt, and mine is 12. I'll figure something out. The battery can't get any deader. Late afternoon, my friends Lucas and Judy will be arriving for a few days. Their car's battery will accord with mine.  

joel shapiro

If all my neighbors were country people, I could stop any car driving by. My neighbors are city people, Republican exurbanites. They don't like to be bothered. And I don't like to bother them. I'll work it out. The county changed after 1980 when the farms went away. The old people who kept their farms died out and the heirs divided the farm into lots, making subdivisions and a lot of money. Some sold the farms to Christmas tree growers. Much as I regretted the Bush-Cheney economy, it put a stop to suburbanites getting away from the enwords. They watch so much tv they think the enwords are lurking in every shadow to rob and kill them. They can't sell their houses in the city to pay for their mountain houses, and they can't sell a mountain house. Several of them have gone back to the city. It's rough on the contractors and carpenters and the town merchants who had begun to count on people coming in here from Away. They stopped coming and the town is now languishing, just short of plywood on the windows. It's not mine to wish it was one way or another. It's mine to go on about my life and let the world around me change as it will. It's mine to do, because that's how things are. I like it or don't like it is neither here nor there. What matters is that I have peace in my heart. I don't have a great deal of time left and am glad of it. My house is one of the last original houses in Air Bellows. Allen, my next door neighbor, lives in a little old farm house he's restored. Old man Tom Pruitt's house has been let go down since he died. The owner won't sell it and won't fix it up. It was twenty-four years ago he died. The house has been empty ever since with a poacher staying in it during hunting season until he stopped hunting. He hunted anywhere he pleased, on anybody's land, on Parkway land. The law knew about him, but never caught up with him. The beautiful old house, built a year or two after 1900, made of oak, now looks like a haunted house and is past restoration. 

joel shapiro

Yesterday, riding with Melvin on the way home from watching tv football at Justin's, we passed Laurel Glenn church, where I went regularly fourteen years and left twenty-three years ago. They locked the door and turned off the electricity twenty years ago. It was one of the beautiful mountain churches of an architecture so simple it had Japanese style. No steeple, no cross, a plain white wooden building with a silver tin roof. It had an outhouse among the trees out back. Seeing it go by in the foggy night, white in the darkness, I felt again my fondness for the building itself and what I know went on inside. I stopped one day to look in the windows. Everything was lined up like when it was living, covered in a film of dust. I loved that place in a deep heart-felt way. Much love energy flowed inside those walls and beautiful hillbilly singing. Originally, it was the church in the Glade Valley region the black farmers of the area went to. It was the black people, the Choates, who built the church in the 1920s. Their cemetery was the other side of what was then a dirt road. The door faced the cemetery, south, where it could be seen from the pulpit at the opposite wall. In the 1950s, white Regular Baptists bought it after the black population thinned out so much they had to shut the church door. Most white kids leave here after school. All black kids leave, with rare exceptions, the exceptions that prove the rule. And some kill themselves. The white people changed the door to a wall facing east where they put their own cemetery the other side of another dirt road. They built a pulpit area on the opposite wall and covered the old walls with wood paneling. The floors were pine with so many knots I sometimes thought of it as the night sky with stars. It never failed to amuse me when I thought about the little church with the most vehemently racist man I've ever known preaching in what used to be a nigger church. 

joel shapiro

In the old Regular Baptist way, the preacher was just a man like everybody else. No collection plate. He worked, had his own ways, beliefs, temperament. He did not have to be educated, not even able to read. The old-time preaching way works best with the least education. It's a matter of opening up to be "a vessel" for the Holy Spirit to flow through, a voice for the spirit to talk with. I found in all the different preachers I heard that education past sixth or seventh grade inhibited the freedom to open up and allow the spirit. Millard Pruitt, the preacher, grew up in old-man Tom's house up Waterfall road. He was Tom's youngest brother. I felt like they were each other's favorite brother. They were the last two to die out. Millard was a man braced against everything and everybody. He'd make me think of William Blake's line, Damn braces, bless relaxes. He was all about condemning, punishment, overseeing with the most judgmental eye I've known. And an ego that was outta sight. He had a loving heart, told me hundreds of stories from his life, stories of the people that lived in Air Bellows, Whitehead, the county. He was adamantine in every part of his mind, unyielding. It even embarrassed his wife how much he hated niggers. It bothered me for quite awhile until one day I realized I am not here to change him. I appreciated him as an intelligent man in many ways, a brilliant mind in a Sixteenth Century theology that goes back to medieval and perhaps neolithic. Would not entertain any notion that the earth was round. The Bible says it has four corners. I had never known anyone like Millard. I found him fascinating all the years I knew him. I respected his theology as John Milton's. I wasn't there to judge, but to learn what the old-time religion was like, to see what was there for my own spiritual path. He gave me the best education I could ask for. In the pulpit, Millard had a facility for receiving the spirit that made other preachers jealous. When the spirit o'ertook him, only love flowed on his voice. The only subject I ever heard him preach was love. This was my evidence that what was coming through had no part of his mind in it. It was such beautiful preaching I never allowed myself to make a tape of it. It was too spontaneous for the moment, for the moment only. 

joel shapiro


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