Category Archives: Parents

Missing women and sex selective abortion

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by.

As a person who never had an abortion and never intend to have one I’m either not qualified to have an opinion about anything related to the subject, or, I’m uniquely qualified by virtue of being potentially unbiased.  And because of my ambiguous position on the matter I was unaware of a battle raging worldwide over the concepts of ‘femicide’, ‘gendercide’, and ‘missing women’ with emphasis on abortion as a contributing factor.

 Sex-selective abortion in the context of abortion[edit]

MacPherson estimates that 100,000 sex-selective abortions every year continue to be performed in India.[79] For a contrasting perspective, in the United States with a population 14th of India, over 1.2 million abortions every year were performed between 1990-2007.[113] In England and Wales with a population 120th of India, over 189,000 abortions were performed in 2011, or a yearly rate of 17.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44.[114] The average for the European Union was 30 abortions per year per 1,000 women.[115]

Many scholars have noted the difficulty in reconciling the discriminatory nature of sex-selective abortion with the right of women to have control over their own bodies. This conflict manifests itself primarily when discussing laws about sex-selective abortion. Weiss (1995:205) writes: “The most obvious challenge sex-selective abortion represents for pro-choice feminists is the difficulty of reconciling a pro-choice position with moral objections one might have to sex selective abortion (especially since it has been used primarily on female fetuses), much less the advocacy of a law banning sex-selective abortion.”[116] As a result, arguments both for and against sex-selective abortion are typically highly reflective of one’s own personal beliefs about abortion in general. Warren (1985:104) argues that there is a difference between acting within one’s rights and acting upon the most morally sound choice, implying that sex-selective abortion might be within rights but not morally sound. Warren also notes that, if we are to ever reverse the trend of sex-selective abortion and high sex ratios, we must work to change the patriarchy-based society which breeds the strong son preference.[117]   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex-selective_abortion

 And thus arises the concept of [statistical] ‘missing women':

 

Estimates of missing women[edit]

Estimates of implied missing girls, considering the “normal” birth sex ratio to be the 103–107 range, vary considerably between researchers and underlying assumptions for expected post-birth mortality rates for men and women. For example, a 2005 study estimated that over 90 million females were “missing” from the expected population in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, South Korea and Taiwan alone, and suggested that sex-selective abortion plays a role in this deficit.[2][90] For early 1990s, Sen estimated 107 million missing women, Coale estimated 60 million as missing, while Klasen estimated 89 million missing women in China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, West Asia and Egypt.[16] Guilmoto,[12] in his 2010 report, uses recent data (except for Pakistan), and estimates a much lower number of missing girls, but notes that the higher sex ratios in numerous countries have created a gender gap – shortage of girls – in the 0–19 age group.

Country Gender gap
0-19 age group (2010)[12]
 % of minor
females[12]
Region Majority Religion
Afghanistan 265,000 3.0 South Asia Islam
Albania 21,000 4.2 Southeast Europe Islam
Armenia 35,000 8.4 Caucasus Christianity
Azerbaijan 111,000 8.3 Caucasus Islam
Bangladesh 416,000 1.4 South Asia Islam
China 25,112,000 15.0 East Asia  
Georgia 24,000 4.6 Caucasus Christianity
India 12,618,000 5.3 South Asia Hindu
Montenegro 3,000 3.6 Southeast Europe Christianity
Nepal 125,000 1.8 South Asia Hindu
Pakistan 206,000 0.5 South Asia Islam
South Korea 336,000 6.2 East Asia  
Singapore 21,000 3.5 Southeast Asia Buddhist
Viet Nam 139,000 1.0 Southeast Asia Buddhist

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex-selective_abortion

 All of which brings up some arresting questions.  Such as, is it possible to commit a gender-crime against a statistical human being that was legally erased as a fetus [whether it was aborted because of gender, or simply because it represented an inconvenience for the mother]?  Outside the context of statistics how can a parent who knows the sex of the fetus and chooses to abort be accused of doing it for the wrong reasons?  And what use is a law forbidding abortion for reasons that can only be known by the person making the decision to abort.

 Maybe I’m wrong, but my understanding is that inside the US a fetus does not become ‘human’, a person with legal rights, until it exits the body of the mother.  It doesn’t even have the rights of a corporation, which, as it happens, is human.

So how the hell can legions of non-human fetuses result in legions of ‘missing women’ after they reach statistical adulthood?

I’ll confess the whole damned thing is too much for my aging comprehension.

Makes me glad I never had an abortion, considering how I might be haunted by legions of missing ghost adults swarming around making statistical nuisances of themselves.

Old Jules

 

The Runaways – 1947

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

I wrote this post a year-or-two ago, but never posted it because it was overly long.  But because the nightmare post below seems to lead here, and the only news I have is Tabby-news, I’ll post it despite the length. 

The Runaways 1947

Causey, New Mexico, was a dot in the road.  Pavement from nowhere to nowhere running between a scattering of frame houses, a small roadside store and gas station.  A rock schoolhouse, a church, and a few rusting hulks of worn out farm machinery in the weeds.

Our cottage was on the same side of the road as the schoolhouse.  Most of the village was on the other side, including the windmill across the road from our house where my sister and I went for water and carrying the bucket between us to tote it home. 

To my tiny, four-year-old mind, the center of town was the store, diagonally across the road, to the left of the windmill.  Everything of importance happened there.  Cars from other places stopped for gas.  The store had Milk Nickles.  Ice cream on a stick, covered with chocolate.  Pure heaven that didn’t come often.

If the store was heaven, behind our house was hell.  The toilet.  A ramshackle tower with dust flecks floating in the shafts of light that came through the cracks between the boards, light coming through underneath where the ground had caved away from the wall.  Home of black widow spiders and the occasional rattlesnake.  The place was a chamber of terrors for me.  I was always certain I’d fall through the hole to the horrors beneath when I used it.

Our little cottage had two rooms.  A sort of kitchen, living area in front also had a little counter where my mom tried to operate a little variety store.  Keychains, trinkets, a handkerchief or two.  Things that wouldn’t be found across the street at the store. 

She was also a seamstress.  Most of my memories of that time include her huddled over a treddle sewing machine working on the felt curtains she was making for the stage of the school auditorium.  Mom was a woman twice divorced.  In 1947, that was no small thing.  In that time and place broken marriage was considered to be the fault of an untrained, unskilled, unwise, probably immoral woman.  Two divorces, three children, and no resources made my mother the subject of mistrust by the woman of the community, and disdain by the men.

Memories have probably faded and altered with the half century since all this happened.  The perspectives of a child plagued with fears and insecurities seem real in my recollections, but they, too, have probably been twisted with the turns and circles the planet has made around the sun; with the endless webs of human interactions, relationships formed and ended.

My sisters went to school in that village.  Frances, my sister who died a few years ago, must have been in the second grade.  Becky, maybe in the 5th.  I hung around doing whatever preschoolers do in that environment when everyone else is busy.  I have flashing memories of standing by the road throwing rocks at cars; trying to get the little girl down the road to show me her ‘wet-thing’. 
 
I remember being lonely; of wishing aloud my mom would give me a little brother to play with.  “I wish I could,” she’d reply, “but you tore me up so much when you were born, I can’t have any more kids.”

That trauma of my birth was a favorite theme of my mom.  She was fond of telling me how the doctors were long arriving when I was ready to be born;  how a nurse and my dad held her legs down so I couldn’t emerge until the proper people were there.  How it damaged her insides and caused her to have to undergo all kinds of surgery later.

I recall I felt pretty badly about that. 

During harvest season it seemed to me the entire community turned out to work in the fields.  We’d all gather in the pre-dawn at the store, then ride together to the cotton fields in the back of an open truck.  Mom and the girls were all there, along with the neighbors and some of their kids.  Two of the kids were about my age:  Wayne and Sharon Landrum.

In retrospect I doubt we pre-schoolers helped much.  My mom had put a strap on a pillowcase and promised a Milk-Nickle every time it was filled.  This was probably more to keep me busy and out of trouble than it was to pay for the ice cream bar.  I can’t imagine that a pillowcase would have held the ten pounds of cotton it would have taken to pay a nickle.

The lure of sweets weren’t sufficient to occupy smaller kids, I suppose.  There came a time when Wayne, Sharon, and I wandered off from the field.  At first it was just to take a walk, but the road was long and we must have made some turns.  Before too long we’d gotten so far from the farm we didn’t know the way back.  We were frightened and kept moving.

In the end we found the lights of a farmhouse sometime after dark.  The family brought us inside and fed us something.  We sat around a stove trying to keep warm until some of the searchers came and picked us up. 

In the morning at the store all those field workers who’d had to lose part of a day of wages wanted vivid descriptions of the spankings we got.  They wanted to make sure.

That was my first experience with running away, at least on my own part.  My mom had done some of it, running away from my dad and her second husband.  My dad had done some of it, letting his kids go off, first to Arizona into the shelter of a brutal, drunken step-dad, then into the shack in Causey.

Afterthought, July 9, 2013

Reading through it this morning I find it difficult to create a context for this anecdote that isn’t submerged and overwhelmed by 21st Century value judgements and popular perspectives created by generations of affluence and ease for the general population of the US. 

This isn’t a tale of ‘oh shit, we had it hard’, ‘oh damn, life is sure tough’, whining and complaining or just bragging.  It’s a statement of perspective.  In 1947 things were a lot different in a lot of ways. 

Every adult had been alive through the Great Depression.  Hardship was no stranger to most of them, and the yardsticks for measuring hardship would have all placed what happened with our tiny family as ‘challenging’.  Not easy, but certainly not ‘hard’.

What our little capsule of humanity went through wasn’t poverty.  And what’s measured today as poverty sure as hell wouldn’t have qualified, by any standard that existed at that time.  Compared to the conditions a huge part of humanity was enduring in 1947 we could as accurately been called wealthy, as poor.

Old Jules

The nightmares of acceptance

high water

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

Probably I was four years old, must have been 1947, I was a kid with a recurring nightmare.  I was walking along a raised roadway with my mom, my granddad, and my two sisters.  A deep gravel pit reached alongside the road and my feet slipped, I fell and began sliding into the pit screaming for help.  None of them looked around, none paused, they all just kept walking and I kept sliding and screaming until I’d wake.

With all these decades of hindsight I find that dream of a four-year-old amazing.  I had no business knowing that much about people, about life, about my particular gene-pool at that age. 

At the time my mom was between marriages and we were living in Causey, New Mexico in a two-room shack with no running water, an outdoor toilet, maybe no electricity, though we might have had electricity.  I can’t recall.  My granddad’s presence in the area was the only thing to draw us there.  My mom was doing anything, seamstress work, pulling cotton, trying to operate a miniscule variety store in the house to earn a living. 

A deeply troubled young woman with three kids and almost certainly more nightmares of her own to keep her company than anyone purely needs.  Her financial woes gradually improved when she married again, but my thought is her mental processes turned concurrently to lies and manipulation.  Maybe they’d never been otherwise.

Such a woman!  I don’t believe my sisters ever recovered from the experience of having her for a mother, of always being caught in the vice of ‘love your mother’ and that mother being a destructive, master manipulative sociopath.  I believe I did recover, but it’s just me believing it.  I do know that when she died a couple of years back and I heard the news I felt nothing but a sense of deep relief, of peace.

I suppose it was the neighbor got me thinking of this.  He came down bringing a cup of expensive coffee before dusk.  As we sat he told me about some trial in Florida of a man who killed someone who was beating him up in a parking lot.  An angry tale of violence and racial politics and justice.

As he described it to me I remembered something else he’d told me a while back, off-hand and matter-of-fact, about how his father had murdered two, maybe three people he [the neighbor] knew of.  One a whiskey salesman who didn’t get his purchases for the bar he operated delivered.  Beat him to death on the sidewalk in front of his bar.  Another salesman he beat badly might have lived, might have died.  I can’t recall for certain because when I heard the story I was still digesting the first salesman.

The next homicide by his father he was sure of involved a Mexican [or at least a Hispanic] who did farm work.  Evidently screwed up a switch on an irrigation pump.  That night the neighbor says the father took his .22 pistol and went out somewhere.  The next day the Mexican farm worker was found dead on the railroad tracks shot nine times with a .22, then run over by a train.

The jokes around town proclaimed it to be the most elaborate suicide ever.

When he told me this story it didn’t include any value judgements, no overtones, no repudiation, no anger of the sort contained in the story of the trial in Florida.

I suppose an infinite number of monkeys pounding an infinite number of typewriters will indeed eventually write the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, as someone claimed.  I’ve seen enough families and enough parenting this lifetime to accept that some families and some parenting must fall within the ‘normal’ part of the bell-shaped curve.

But to go a step further and suggest there’s enough ‘normal’ floating around among the father and mother components to celebrate seems to me to be a possible overstatement.  I count myself lucky my nightmares were only my own.  When Bobby Dylan’s song offered to let me be in his dream if I’d let him be in mine I was never tempted.  Still ain’t.

Old Jules

The price you can get for your kids has skyrocketed.

The National Debt

Time was when parents were reluctant to sell their children.  They could barely get enough to pay a week rent for a healthy, hard working, intelligent kid.

However, luckily in this 21st Century all that has changed.  You can get wars, weaponry,  welfare, superhighways, government grants, retirement for government officials, 87 layers of cops, national health care and a lot more.  All you have to do is sell your kids, worthless, illiterate and unlikely though they are. 

Heck, I guess the kids are all already sold.  It’s the grandkids and the rest of your progeny you’ll have to hock.  But the folks who loan money to the US government are still anxious to buy them.

Especially the Chinese.

Naked City in the Sticks

Good morning readers. Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

I’ve resisted posting a blog entry about this incident a couple of days now.  Felt I needed to allow it to settle in my mind enough to think calmly and clearly about it.

I’ve explained before that the nearest property line is almost 1/4 mile away from here.  No line-of-sight to the nearest dwellings.  Woods, rough roads and rough country between here and the nearest neighbor.  Aside from Gale, no reason whatever for anyone to be anywhere near here, and Gale rarely comes, never without honking his horn at the top of the hill. [That bluelike speck right-of-center in the pic is the roof of the cabin.  The barely-visible white loop's the turnaround.]

Sooooo.  A couple of days ago I’d just finished my afternoon solar shower, poured a couple of gallons of water over my head for a soapdown shampoo and rinse out in the driveway.  Went inside to towel off and stepped back outdoors onto the porch to let the sun finish things off.

“DAMMITTOHELLSHIT!”

A cammie 4-wheeler with two people aboard was creeping by about 30 feet from the porch.  I jumped back inside to throw on some trousers and by the time I got back outside it was gone.  Not a sign of whomever I was wanting to throw rocks at and shout lectures about respecting property lines and the not-to-be-aspired-to human trait of nosy intrusion.

Because that 4 wheeler wasn’t coming down the driveway.  It came from the direction of the chicken house.  Nothing in that direction for another quarter-mile to the north property boundary fence. 

Even though that new neighbor’s got 90-odd acres for himself and his family to fart around on knocking down trees and blasting away with every caliber firearm ever invented, 90 acres just isn’t big enough when a man’s richer than 18 inches up a bull’s ass.  Got rich early enough to get thinking he could run over everyone in reach, bluff whomever he couldn’t buy outright.

When he was coming down here trying to get me to go on wages working for him I had a vague suspicion this was the kind of thing he had in mind, ultimately.  Getting a leverage in place so’s he could do anything he pleased.  He’d already described every property and house within sight of here in enough detail to suggest he’d explored already what was none of his business.  Described it without blushing, as though it was a given.

Sometime during those visits he was making down here I asked permission to haul water from his well up beside the driveway, and he’d given permission.  His water’s nearer than Gale’s from here, and the road’s better.  I’d done it once already.

But after this incident I’ll be going back to hauling water from Gale’s.  And the only thing I’ve got to say to him about what happened the other day:

“Stay the hell away from this part of Gale’s property and keep the kids and grandkids away from it when they’re visiting.  One of the rare positive stereotypes about Texans is that they respect property lines.  Where the hell did you grow up?”

Says he reads this blog.  I hope he does.

Old Jules

The Occasional Crisis of Values – Philosophy by Limerick

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

Eavesdropping on a conversation between young adults at a nearby table in a restaurant Thursday led me into a lot of pondering afterward.  All these rosy-cheeked youngsters believed they had long lives ahead of them, believed a human life can be lived performing occupations and activities to give it value and meaning.   They wanted this for themselves and were searching the databases of wisdom available among the young for answers to where it might be found.

They didn’t want to waste their lives, as they believed their parents, other older folks they observed, were doing and have done.  They examined and discarded dozens of avenues of human endeavor as meaningless, having no worth. 

Buying and selling almost anything from automobiles to insurance to consumer products found no home with them.  Lawyering, law enforcement, engineering, health care, drew closer examination, but were found wanting.  They’d had been damned by close observation of these fields as manifested in their own homes and the homes of acquaintances.  

They’d seen the inside of the lives of people who spent their days doing these things, experienced their interactions with their children and other family members.  Judged the professions to be worthless as a way of passing time because the dysfunctional home lives of so many served as a testimony no relationship existed between earning an affluent lifestyle and anything admirable in personal behavior outside work environments. 

But underlying the entire conversation was the assumption some profession, some job, some means of earning a living, could provide value to their lives in ways they’d be able to recognize afterward.  The unspoken determination that when they reached, say, the age of that old cowboy-looking guy over there reading a book, they’d be able to look backward with confidence and satisfaction their lives had been worth the effort of living.

A few years from now they won’t be thinking of those things anymore, most likely.  They’ll become involved in trying to scratch out a living, satisfy a mate’s desire for a new car, trips to Europe, big house.  Keep kids in new clothing and whatever else people buy for their kids these days.  There’ll be no place left, no niche of yearning they’ll be able to allow.  The value of the lives they’re living will be manifested in the cars they drive.  The homes they sleep and entertain themselves inside.

By the time they arrive at the age of that old cowboy-looking guy over there they’ll be so far removed from concepts of life being worth living the default position will be a habit of thinking assigning it intrinsic value.  Worth prolonging at any cost, no matter how it’s been spent, how it’s currently being spent.

They’ll mercifully be spared asking themselves whether they’ve wasted their lives doing things that didn’t need doing, might well have left the world a better place if they hadn’t been done.

What’s important in life is official
Sign-painters declare, and initial,
“Portfolio sums
When we die, keep the bums
From the ponderous and superficial.”

Old Jules

One of the Fascinations of Christian TV

Maybe I should have explained this on my earlier post.  If my dad’s still alive he’s too old to care, and anyone else who might have once felt anything about it will also be old enough to handle it.

For me, discovering I had a biological half-brother didn’t come as a particular shock.  I’d always figured I probably had a few, maybe a lot.  My dad never made any bones about having been a rounder all his life.  His extra-marital affairs cost him a couple of marriages.

One night during the early 1980s, Dad and I were sitting in the parking lot of the Georgetown, Texas, hospital at 2:00 am, because his wife of the time was inside being treated in the Emergency Room.  They were visiting my wife and me over some holiday.

It was a long wait, and the conversation drifted to women, observations about them, stories about them, puzzlements about women we’d found during our individual experiences with them.  Somewhere during all that the subject of the products of our meanderings came into the discussion.

He said he didn’t actually know how many kids he’d left along his back trail, but one was a sure thing.  He’d first seen the guy on television because someone told him there was a televangelist who bore an amazing likeness, both in physical features and in mannerisms of speech and gesture.

Dad was mildly interested, enough to eventually watch the guy on television.  Which bowled him over.  He said it was like watching a movie of himself speaking at a Toastmaster meeting at an earlier age.  A suspicion dawned for him sufficiently to cause him to find out more about the man.  Where he was from, how old he was, and eventually to find out who the mother of the televangelist was.  He had, it turned out, vivid recollections of her when they both were a lot younger.

He didn’t name the man, and I didn’t give it a lot of thought for a number of years.  But early during my Christian television watching it came back full force.  For a moment I was disoriented, almost as though I watching my dad on television.  I truly was amazed and there was no doubt in my mind I was seeing my biological half-brother.  Just about my own age. 

My lady friend of the time, whom I made a point of having watch him without explaining, commented, “He looks and talks like you.  Weird.”

The man was a moving speaker and a faith healer of some fame.  So one of the attractions motivating me to rise at 3:00 am and watch Christian television was the strangeness of watching him, particularly. 

I always tried to catch his show and his appearances when I could.  If a person’s going to put himself through an experience of that sort, 3:00 am’s not an altogether bad time to do it.

Old Jules

Could you choose to live on the street?

That little farm you see down there is the place where I spent a good many of my formative years after my mother remarried and we moved to Portales, New Mexico. As you can see, we’d had a pretty good year for hay, which dates the picture to 1949, or 1950, before the big drought hit.

When we sat outdoors in the evening the red neon lights blinked “Schumpert Farm Supply” across the top of the long building running diagonally to the railroad tracks until I went to bed. From my limited perspective the Schumperts were ‘rich’. In that small town that railroad running through didn’t identify who was rich but it did identify who wasn’t. That little farm I lived on and no other property that side of the tracks had any rich people.

In the rigidly established social structure in Portales business men generally came down on the side of being ‘rich’, along with professors at Eastern New Mexico University, bankers, physicians, preachers, school teachers and a few elderly ladies who lived in houses big enough to be thought of as mansions. Farmers, ranchers, Mexicans and people who worked in the businesses weren’t ‘rich’.

I doubt the adults paid a lot of attention to the social strata, but school teachers did, and the kids adopted it more firmly than a religion. Rich kids were easy to recognize because they made good grades, weren’t hassled by teachers, got elected to everything, brought cookies to school Christmas, Easter and Halloween, and had the best bicycles early, cars later. For the most part they were insufferable snobs.

But not the Schumpert boys. I was in school with Stephen and Billy, and there was a precocious younger one I don’t recall the name of. Stephen was a year older than me, Billy a year younger, and there wasn’t a breath of snobbery in the entire family. Stephen, particularly, had a knack for getting in just the right amount of just the right kinds of trouble to keep from qualifying as a goody-goody. Good solid boys from a good solid family. I had a lot of respect for all of them.

I left that town early and stayed mostly away for several decades. I lost track of almost everyone I ever knew there.

But after Y2K when I moved into town to Grants, New Mexico, I came across Billy Schumpert being president of a bank there. Naturally we got together and talked about whatever we each knew that might interest the other. Billy’s the one told me what happened to Stephen.

Stephen worked as a bank examiner several years, then became president of a bank in Colorado, maybe Denver. Had a regular family, seemed to be destined to follow a career path and eventually retire. But one morning he didn’t show for work late in the 1980s. Nobody had any idea what became of him. He wasn’t a drinker, didn’t use drugs, didn’t have a ‘secret life’. He just vanished for no apparent reason.

Over time the police and other agencies gave up, assumed he was the victim of some crime, dead. But the family put up a reward for information about Stephen, sent private investigators and others searching for him. Eventually, six, seven years later they located him living under a bridge in Seattle.

Over time everyone who loved Stephen went up there trying to talk him into returning to real life, return home.

“No! I had enough!” That’s all he’d say and he never came back.

I’ve pondered Stephen a lot during the years since I learned what he’d done with his life. In some ways I think I understand, though I’m not sure. My own life has been a long series of reversals in direction. It’s meandered, cutting as wide a swath of human experience as I was able to pack into it. So, from that perspective, I can gnaw at the edges of understanding Stephen’s behavior. But I was a wild kid and I’ve always pushed the envelope, all my life.

Stephen was ‘tame’.

I’d like to see old Stephen again if he’s alive. He’d be 70, 71 years old now and maybe wiser than he was in the 1980s when something told him he’d had enough. I’d like to sit on the porch and talk with him a long time to come to know how he came to make his choice to isolate himself, to impoverish himself.

Simon & Garfunkel – Richard Cory 1966 live
http://youtu.be/euuCiSY0qYs

The Runaways, 1947

Causey, New Mexico, was a dot in the road.  Pavement from nowhere to nowhere running between a scattering of frame houses, a small roadside store and gas station.  A rock schoolhouse, a church, and a few rusting hulks of worn out farm machinery in the weeds. http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/nm/causey.html

Our cottage was on the same side of the road as the schoolhouse.  Most of the village was on the other side, including the windmill across the road from our house where my sister and I went for water and carrying the bucket between us to tote it home.

To my tiny, four-year-old mind, the center of town was the store, diagonally across the road, to the left of the windmill.  Everything of importance happened there.  Cars from other places stopped for gas.  The store had Milk Nickles.  Ice cream on a stick, covered with chocolate.  Pure heaven that didn’t come often.

If the store was heaven, behind our house was hell.  The toilet.  A ramshackle tower with dust flecks floating in the shafts of light that came through the cracks between the boards, light coming through underneath where the ground had caved away from the wall.  Home of black widow spiders and the occasional rattlesnake.  The place was a chamber of terrors for me.  I was always certain I’d fall through the hole to the horrors beneath when I used it.

Our little cottage had two rooms.  A sort of kitchen, living area in front also had a little counter where my mom tried to operate a little variety store.  Keychains, trinkets, a handkerchief or two.  Things that wouldn’t be found across the street at the store.

She was also a seamstress.  Most of my memories of that time include her huddled over a treadle sewing machine working on the felt curtains she was making for the stage of the school auditorium.  Mom was a woman twice divorced.  In 1947, that was no small thing.  In that time and place broken marriage was considered to be the fault of an untrained, unskilled, unwise, probably immoral woman.  Two divorces, three children, and no resources made my mother the subject of mistrust by the woman of the community, and disdain by the men.

Memories have probably faded and altered with the half century since all this happened.  The perspectives of a child plagued with fears and insecurities seem real in my recollections, but they, too, have probably been twisted with the turns and circles the planet has made around the sun; with the endless webs of human interactions, relationships formed and ended.

My sisters went to school in that village.  Frances, my sister who died a few years ago, must have been in the second grade.  Becky, maybe in the 5th.  I hung around doing whatever preschoolers do in that environment when everyone else is busy.  I have flashing memories of standing by the road throwing rocks at cars; trying to get the little girl down the road to show me her ‘wet-thing’.

I remember being lonely; of wishing aloud my mom would give me a little brother to play with.  “I wish I could,” she’d reply, “but you tore me up so much when you were born, I can’t have any more kids.”

That trauma of my birth was a favorite theme of my mom.  She was fond of telling me how the doctors were long arriving when I was ready to be born;  how a nurse and my dad held her legs down so I couldn’t emerge until the proper people were there.  How it damaged her insides and caused her to have to undergo all kinds of surgery later.

I recall I felt pretty badly about that.

During harvest season it seemed to me the entire community turned out to work in the fields.  We’d all gather in the pre-dawn at the store, then ride together to the cotton fields in the back of an open truck.  Mom and the girls were all there, along with the neighbors and some of their kids.  Two of the kids were about my age:  Wayne and Sharon Landrum.

In retrospect I doubt we preschoolers helped much.  My mom had put a strap on a pillowcase and promised a Milk-Nickle every time it was filled.  This was probably more to keep me busy and out of trouble than it was to pay for the ice cream bar.  I can’t imagine that a pillowcase would have held the ten pounds of cotton it would have taken to pay a nickle.

The lure of sweets weren’t sufficient to occupy smaller kids, I suppose.  There came a time when Wayne, Sharon, and I wandered off from the field.  At first it was just to take a walk, but the road was long and we must have made some turns.  Before too long we’d gotten so far from the farm we didn’t know the way back.  We were frightened and kept moving.

In the end we found the lights of a farmhouse sometime after dark.  The family brought us inside and fed us something.  We sat around a stove trying to keep warm until some of the searchers came and picked us up.

In the morning at the store all those field workers who’d had to lose part of a day of wages wanted vivid descriptions of the spankings we got.  They wanted to make sure.

That was my first experience with running away, at least on my own part.  My mom had done some of it, running away from my dad and her second husband.  My dad had done some of it, letting his kids go off, first to Arizona into the shelter of a brutal, drunken step-dad, then into the shack in Causey.

Old Jules

Johnny Cash– In Them Old Cotton Fields Back Home

A Question for the Brave New World



When I went back to my hometown as a young soldier on leave, Christmas, 1961, it was enough of an event to bring my granddad in from his hardscrabble farm.

We sat around the living room, my mom and step-dad, sisters, and granddad, mulling over the war we were certain to have with the Soviet Union soon.

At that point I was as well-educated (by usual standards) as any of the people in the room and all our ancestors by virtue of having completed high school prior to entering the Army.

In talking about the (then current) brink-of-war crisis my granddad muttered something in Latin.  My mother and step-dad cocked an ear.

“Cicero’s probably not the best place to gain any wisdom about America today,”  My step-dad frowned and adjusted his dentures, followed by another Latin quote.

“Neither is Pliny.”  My mom shook her head at both of them.

Young man who knew everything worth knowing, I was.

I didn’t know any Latin, didn’t know who Pliny was, nor Cicero.  I was as ‘well educated’ as anyone in the room and considered my knowledge sufficient to have a wealth of valuable opinion on the issues of the day.  I felt a vague discomfort with them spouting Latin back and forth at one another and naming people I knew nothing about.

I had reason to recall that conversation in 1976, the US Bicentennial year, when the state of America and the state of education was being examined and bandied about.  Thoughtful minds were concerning themselves that Americans were becoming illiterate and ill-educated.

The thinkers of 1976, asked Americans to ask themselves whether they were better educated than their parents and grandparents, despite many more years spent in formal educational institutions.

The general answer in polls was that Americans considered themselves more canny, better informed than their parents, though weaker in most areas of knowledge once considered essential for a person to be ‘educated’.

The moving finger writes and then moves on.

Are you better educated than your parents and grandparents?

Better educated?
Less well-educated?
Know more about everything but less well-educated?
Less well-educated, less well-informed than parents?
Smarter and with more common-sense without Latin, history, philosophy, and other useless studies?

Sam Cooke- Wonderful World