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Saturday, August 8, 2015

MY TEACHER TOM PRUITT

grandma moses
 
Earlier today I sat with a notebook kept from seven months before the move to the mountains through the first five months in the mountains. I read a few pages, the first time visiting Tom Pruitt in his home, working with Bill Pruitt and getting to know him. It brought memories, but the writing was dull and boring. I have tried keeping notebooks and journals, over and over falling into the same ditch, until I see no point in writing to myself. It has never clicked for me. The writing starts boring and degenerates to brief notes and found quotations, fades out. I thought I'd try an online journal. I would be writing to myself, examining self, but some other people see it, so I can write to people besides myself to inspire writing to myself. You reading these writings give them life. I write much better for you than I do for myself, though I attempt to write to my own higher standard writing to you, more than I do for to self. I can't help but think I already know what I'm telling myself at some future date when I may see it or may not. It feels pointless down deep. When I do look back at it, I'm bored. The best the notebook does for me now is trigger memories. And that's a good thing. I like remembering my early experiences getting acquainted with people I would call my teachers in later years. The notebook helps remember forgotten details. I'd forgotten Bill told me about the hell his wife put him through over the last two years since their divorce.
 
grandma moses
 
I'd forgotten how radically different Tom Pruitt was from anyone I'd ever known or met. Maybe my grandfather's brother, Uncle Frank, was something like Tom, though I only knew Frank in childhood thinking he was an interesting character, but far, far away, another Age, another Time. I wanted to know him, but couldn't. People of his generation didn't talk to kids but to tell them what to do. And this kid, age ten, did not know how to talk to an eighty year old farmer. Whenever I was around him, which wasn't much, I watched him in curiosity from afar. Bib overalls and white hair. I never knew my grandfather Brink's family very well. They were Germans and his wife, my grandmother, did not like them. She said of grandpa's older brother, Herman, he was one of them mean Germans. I was afraid of them. They talked hard to kids, threatening, and the kids my age were feisty and mean. I just wanted to float down the river, like Hiawatha, supine in my canoe. I did not want to fight a bunch of third and fourth cousins I knew could kick my ass and laugh at me doing it. Tom Pruitt was as different as grandpa's brother, Frank, not as distant, though from a place as distant in time from the world I knew as Frank.
 
grandma moses
 
Tom could talk, liked having somebody to talk to who listened to him. Tom was not threatening in any way. He was more like a monk than anything else I can think of. He lived in solitude, could sit in his house days in a row all winter long looking at the wall, keeping the fire going, spitting into a Maxwell House instant coffee jar on the floor beside his chair. In my note about him, I mentioned he looked like he never washed. He wore khaki pants and long-sleeved shirt, and was in his stocking feet. They had holes in the toes. The room he lived in smelled of wood smoke and dried snuff powder. It was not an unpleasant aroma. Three calendars on different walls. None were the same year and none the same month. The most recent one had been there several years. He kept his .38 handgun in a shoulder holster hanging over his bedpost. He tucked it in his belt when he took it into the field after the bull reached a certain age. He said you can have a young bull that's tame and friendly, but after a certain age, you can never be sure about a bull. He told me several bull stories of his experience and people he's known. He carried his gun because no bull was going to run him down. He knew he did not have a chance against a bull without a weapon. His telling was instruction as well as recounting experience. He never steered me wrong in his instruction. Tom was a teacher I could count on.
 
grandma moses
 
He took me to a Regular Baptist church meeting one Saturday night after I'd been here a year, they meet Saturday night and Sunday morning once a month, to hear a preacher from West Virginia to be preaching that night. Over the course of a year he'd told me quite a lot about the church, their beliefs. He'd told me that when the Spirit enters the preacher, the whole house feels it. He said you feel a rush up your spine, you look around and you'll see everybody else felt it. That night, the West Virginia preacher couldn't make it. Four Union Baptist preachers were there, evidently to hear him. It was Tom's brother Millard's church,  Laurel Glenn. Two n's. A mistake that stuck. Four preachers got up, one at a time, talked, hopped about, pretending to be in the spirit, but not there. At the end, Millard stood up to dismiss everybody, talked some and the Spirit hit him. He took off like a rocket. I felt the rush up my spine, looked around and everybody else was feeling it. I noticed while the other preachers were talking, people all over the house were talking to each other in whispers. After the Spirit hit Millard, not a word was spoken by anyone else. Everyone's undivided attention was on what he was saying. The people in the church listen especially close when a preacher is in the Spirit. I went back the next morning, and continued to go back for the next fourteen years.
 
grandma moses herself
 
 
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