BACK IN MOLASSISSIPPI

DixieSorghum

© 2018 by Bill Murphy

Once a Mississippian, always a Mississippian I say.  I was born and raised in the fair Magnolia State, and until age 70, lived here.  I currently live in SOUTHERN Illinois, a far cry from the graft and guns of Chicago.  In the previous sentence, I used the word ‘here’ because I am HERE as I write these words, visiting friends and relatives.

I’ve just returned for a store which shall remain unnamed. The name doesn’t matter.  It’s just a deep-south-Mississippi type place.  OK.  It was Dollar General.

The store was crowded.  There was only one cashier on hand to accept my one dollar for my one item.  But I was the 9th one in line.  Patience is a virtue scripture tells me.  Mine keep trying to slip from my grasp.

There was one other ‘employee’ in sight, obviously one in management.  He kept ambling to and fro, in places that only employees should go, inspecting and moving around items that customers would not be allowed to handle.  I say he was ‘ambling,’ because his movement could in no way be labeled as walking.  It was more a slow shuffle, an amble… what one does when they have all the time in the world – and are using it.

Mr. Molasses was obviously being paid by the hour, and Dollar General and the 9 of us in the check-out line were NOT getting our dollars worth.

Yes.  I was back home… in Mississippi.  I didn’t need the cotton fields, cornbread, boiled peanuts, and Ole Miss bumper stickers to reming me.  And I sure didn’t need a map to tell me that I was back home in MOLASSISSIPPI.

 

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HEY… STOP! THAT’S MINE!

32861035_2109220632690321_9168652190703681536_n© 2018 Bill Murphy

We have varying opinions as to ‘entitlement.’ We all believe that certain things are ours by right… what ever our perception of ‘right’ might be.

However, the final authority on the matter of entitlement is the final authority on all matters concerning things human… God’s Word.

It says:

It is in the plan that all men die once. After that, they will stand before God and be judged.

Hebrews 9:26-28 – New Life Version (NLV)

That scripture tells me that we are all entitled to death… and judgement.

Just days ago, a central portion of my little life came crashing down, or should I say more correctly… began drying up!

For days on end, half a dozen counties in our immediate area were without WATER! The reason for this was that the single fresh water SUPPLY line ruptured at the area’s water treatment facility! This forced the treatment plant to be shut down until this large pipe could be repaired/replaced. Several counties were left with only the water remaining in their local storage tanks… which rapidly began dwindling. Because firefighters NEED water to fight fires, local water departments were forced to CUT OFF water supply to homes and businesses… in order to hold an emergency supply on hand.

Needless to say, there was a sudden run on bottled water!

Water is such a common thing. We take it for granted. Turn the faucet… and there it is… flowing fresh and clear. Yet oh so many in this world do not have the ‘luxury’ of a water faucet in their home… nor even a single one in their community! Many must walk miles each day, filling containers with water which is NOT fresh and clear, just to supply their needs. I had to drive all the way (maybe 5 miles) into Carbondale for water.

I gained a whole new appreciation for fresh water that week… and for faucets which freely dispense that sweet nectar of life.

I also realized that deep inside I was beginning to feel somewhat ‘wronged,’ and put-out… because I was being denied that which I was ‘entitled to’ as a tax paying citizen.

Thankfully, God helped me sort out my feelings… to separate the facts from the folly. My belief is that just because I was born in America to American parents… and not in some third-world country to impoverished parents… does not in any way give me a ‘right’ to expectations I have created for myself… not even the simple, everyday things like fresh water.

Yes, I worked. I saved. I prepared for the future. Those things I earned in payment for my labors. Basically, what I’m saying is, “I bought water!”

But where do ‘earnings’ end and ‘entitlement’ begin? And… is there not a difference between the two?

I believer there is.

I remember when just a child in grade school, not long after learning to read… I saw a one-picture political-style cartoon in a newspaper that, for the life of me, I could not understand at the time. I made no sense to me. It showed to two obviously well-to-do gentlemen on a city street, looking down on a poor beggar in the gutter. One rich man was saying to the other, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

That week of no water, that cartoon came back to my memory, the meaning crystal clear.

 

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THE PASS OUT KID

Passed Out© 2018 Bill Murphy

If you can’t remember my name, just call me ‘The Pass Out Kid.’ I’ll answer to that.

The first time I passed out, it was not technically a ‘pass-out.‘ It was a knock out. I was about 5 at the time, and was downtown with Mamaw Fairchild.  We were waiting for the light to change to cross the street… at the southeast corner by the Post Office.  Impatient, I pulled away from her, and stepped into the path of a turning car.  Boink!  I was knocked cold.  My poor grandmother faired worse, she almost had a heart attack.

Fast forward 14 years.  I was getting married, and the state of MS required a blood test.  I was home for the weekend, from MS State, and for what ever reason, my blood test was being administered by our family doctor.  His office was closed on weekends, but he met me there that hot afternoon.  The A/C was off, so it must have been the heat that tripped my switch.  No sooner than the needle went in – that I went out – and onto the floor.

About 10 years ago, the ‘Fearless Foursome‘ as we called ourselves, were on vacation.  It was another long motor trip – my mother-in-law and sister-in-law,  the wife and yours truly. We were in Wyoming.  We just happened to be in the most sparsely populated county in the most sparsely populated state in the nation.  While climbing over (and down into) a very rough and rocky area that folks our age should never attempt,  Carol slipped and banged her leg.  We iced it down, and filled her with aspirin, but to no avail.

A few miles down the road we found a very nice but TINY little county hospital.  Her leg was X-rayed.  I think I remember them saying, “Broken in two places,” before I hit the floor.  I calling that one a ‘sympathetic’ pass out.

(So far) the last pass-out came about 2 years ago.  We were in Minneapolis visiting our eldest daughter and her husband.  It was the end of summer, yet still rather hot. They’d gotten tickets for us to see the Vikings play a pre-season NFL game.

It was crowded… very crowded.  In the stands, it was hot in the sun… very hot.  It seemed that the gigantic speakers were right beside me… and they were very loud… very, very, very loud.

All they played was rap.

I began to wish that I was somewhere else.  I wasn’t choosey – most any other place would do.  When I regained consciousness, I  HAD been somewhere else!  I’d been to la-la land.

While I was still in the sweet land where rappers don’t rap, the EMTs had been called. Despite my objections that I’d just ‘stepped out‘ for a moment, they nevertheless packed me up and transported me to the hospital.  They suspected that I’d had a heart attack.  No, it was those frazzling SPEAKERS that were attacking ME!  A few hours later, I was discharged with the diagnosis of SENSORY OVERLOAD.

They don’t let me go to football games any more.

 

 

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LEAKING COFFEE

Mug© 2018 Bill Murphy

At my age, there are times when I have difficult getting all my ducks in a row.  Today was one of those days.

I was preparing to leave for a work-meeting of my writer’s group.  We were to assemble a display of group projects. While keeping one eye on the clock so as not to be late, I was busy gathering the supplies I’d need: two large aluminum display easels, notebook, pen and pencil, razor knife… and a grande-size coffee in a plastic travel mug – without a lid.  I’ve lost the lid.

As I walked out the door, I decided I might need a light jacket.  “You left the jacket in the car,” my wife remarked.

Reaching the car, I sat the coffee on the hood, put everything inside, and located the jacket – carelessly tossed on the back seat.  Then I jumped inside, and was on my way.

But… one of my ducks had gotten out of his row.

I backed into the street, then headed the 100 yards or so to the intersection, and turn left. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a red flash… or something.  Coffee mug!

I’d left the travel mug on the hood, and somehow, it remained there until I made that hard left at the end of our street.  I jumped out to behold a truly amazing sight!  The now empty travel mug lay in the street almost exactly where I began my turn.

From where it lay, a long light brown wet 90 degree arc was painted on the street.  It was a ‘perfect’ arc, smooth and uniform.  It could not have been rendered better by a street artist using a compass.

I still drink my coffee the way my grandmother taught me 75 years ago – cream and sugar – heavy on both.  Knowing that surely there was coffee on the car (which is white) and knowing this would dry to a sticky mess, and knowing that we had bottled water in the car, I had the means to wash down the offending portions of the vehicle.

About this time an elderly couple (obviously older than me) pulled along side.  “Are you leaking water?” he asking.

“No, coffee,” I replied.

 

 

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GRANDPA PAT AND THE HEIFER

102 & Pat Fairchild copy

© 2018  Bill Murphy

The man on the left in the photo above is my maternal grandfather, Patrick Henry Fairchild.  He was an engineer for the Canton and Carthage Rail Road.  This treasured photo was taken in the early 1930s.

Grandpa Pat had two sons, both railroad men… and two daughters.  One daughter married a railroad man, the other married my father, a grocer.  So my hands-on railroading experience is limited to model trains, although I do like to think that I have at least some ‘coal dust’ in my blood.

Railroad men have stories.  My favorite of Grandpa Pat’s involved a heifer.

In the 1930s, the Canton and Carthage was primarily a logging RR.  The ‘big’ sawmill/lumber yard in the area was located in Canton.  The Fairchild’s lived in McAfee, a thriving RR community just west of Carthage.  Grandpa Fairchild made the Canton run numerous times.

There was a slight ‘hill’ along the Carthage/Canton route, a grade that required a second locomotive when pulling an especially long and heavy load to the mill.  But Grandpa Pat mastered the art traversing this grade using only ONE engine.  Speed was the key.  Simple inertia did the work.

On the day in question, Grandpa Pat was pulling a long and heavy load.  He’d gotten up the speed he needed, when… looking ahead, he saw a cow standing on the tracks!  Grandpa Pat never slowed.  That’s what that angular device on the front of a locomotive is for.  And that’s why it’s called a ‘cow-catcher.’  Scratch one heifer.

The next day, a very angry farmer showed up at the RR Superintendent’s office, demanding payment for his lost animal.

The company paid the farmer.  And Grandpa Pat was called before the superintendent.

“Pat,” he said angrily, “I hear that you killed a heifer on the tracks yesterday, and that you made no attempt to stop and clear the tracks.  You know full well that we don’t like to rile the local folks around here.  We had to pay that farmer $35 for the cow you killed!  I hope you have a good answer for what you did!”

“I do,” replied my Grandpa.  “That run yesterday, with that load I carried, usually requires two locomotives.  I made it with only one.  May I ask, sir… how much would that second locomotive have cost you?”

(Now remember, this was in the 1930s)

“Well,” the superintendent said, “around $45 I suppose.”

“Do you want to give me that $10 I saved you – now,” replied Grandpa Pat, “or just put it on my paycheck at the end of the week?”  Case closed!

The engine (#102) in the photo could be the engine in this story, and one of the two well dressed gentlemen could be the superintendent.

 

 

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Billy Trauma – Carthage, MS

Goshen WP

© 2018 Bill Murphy

My father, William Hendrix Murphy, was named after his maternal great-grandfather, William Hendrix.  It seems that everyone in the Carthage area has nicknames, and my Dad’s grandfather was referred to as ‘Uncle Billy Hendrix.’   I’m not sure where the ‘Uncle’ came from.  Dad chose to go by Hendrix, which the family shortened to ‘Hinx.’

Mom and Dad were both from Carthage, Mississippi.  After they married, they moved to the big city of Jackson, MS.  When I came along in 1941, and was given the name William Hendrix Murphy, Jr.,  Mom immediately began calling me Billy.  But everyone in the Carthage area, especially my many aunts, uncles, and cousins (Dad was one of 11 children) immediately applied the resurrected name of ‘Billy Hendrix’ to me.  It was only logical I suppose, as I was Billy, son of Hendrix.  One of my treasured keepsakes is an engraved keychain given as a high school graduation gift – from Carthage – engraved not with WHM, but… BHM.  I suppose that was my first ‘Carthage Trauma.’  I didn’t like the added ‘Hendrix’ to my name.  I thought my name was plain ole Billy.  Oh well.

My first genuine trauma came when I was around 4.  I dearly LOVED going to Carthage.  It was a whole new world.  It was not all asphalt and concrete.  Carthage had gravel roads, hay, horses, cows, chickens ,pigs, fresh-laid eggs, popcorn still on the stalk, and peanuts in the ground!  It was a zoo and a large park all rolled into one.  My grandmother, Momma Murphy, still cooked (by choice) on a wood burning stove!  They even still had an outhouse, with two holes.

We visited my grandparents OFTEN, at least once a month.  One Sunday evening as my parents were getting ready to leave, I begged and pleaded to STAY!  I must have put up a strong argument, because they relented.  I got to stay!  A few hours later, it was dark. And I had a sudden, over whelming attack of extreme home-sickness.  There’s no sickness quite as gut-wrenching as home-sickness, especially to a small child.  Momma Murphy called Dad, asking him to come back and get me.  (That was a long-distance call back then).  His answer, “I can’t come until I get off work TOMORROW!”  That was one traumatic night!

A sister of my Dad lived a few miles north/east of Carthage, very close to the family’s home church, Goshen Methodist.  The photo at top is a watercolor of Goshen Church that I did for Dad for Christmas of 1971.  That particular weekend, while I was still in grammar school, we drove out to visit my aunt’s family.  The problem was, along the narrow, winding, gravel Goshen Road, a small forest fire was slowly burning out.  I suppose Dad had no doubt phoned ahead and learned it was safe to traverse Goshen Road.  I suppose.

Anyway, off we went.  For what seemed like miles, the smoke was as thick as pea soup fog.  But the most frightening thing was – on both sides of the road you could still see FLAMES!  It sure brought to mind that time honored saying I’m sure you’ve heard – We’ll all be killed!  Thankfully, we weren’t even singed.

Trauma three happened at Goshen Church.

It was during the same general time period as my forest fire near death experience.  Goshen was having a festive dinner-on-the-ground after church.  Church was much like school in the late 40s’early 50s, in that most folks attended church close to home – often within walking distance.  Goshen Church was like that, but being ‘in the country,’ most members didn’t live exactly within walking distance.  Bringing hot foods (which would get cold) and cold foods (which would get hot) to the church (which had no kitchen) – presented a problem during muggy Mississippi Summertime.  So immediately after church, many hastily returned home to pick up their food.

We young-ones were gaily playing in the church yard, when a returning family drove up with their food – and with an unexpected surprise.

We suddenly heard screaming and shouting.  A large commotion gathered behind their vehicle. We dashed over to see for ourselves.  My, oh my.  What a terrible sight!

It seems that while most of that family was inside their home, one of the younger children took their pet goat (on a leash) out for a walk.  You guessed it!  The child tied the leash to the back of the car, and forgot about it!

Goshen Road was a rough, dusty, graveled road.  Natural sandpaper.

The poor goat behind the car was only half a goat, a dry and dusty half-goat.  It had only two legs now, both on the same side.  Someone flipped it over.  It was dry, dusty, and hollow inside.  You could see all the ribs, the back side of the ribs.  Yes, it was a traumatic sight to behold, the stuff of nightmares.  The family’s children were going bonkers.  I thought I’d be sick.

I suppose one could say that there was 1.5 Billy’s at that Goshen Gathering – me and the half-billy.

 

 

 

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THE ULTIMATE BUG

Spider 1

© 2018 by Bill Murphy

It was a strange bug indeed, very strange.

He noticed it quite by accident, when he thought he saw movement on the carpeted steps leading to the upstairs bedroom.  It was tiny, hardly 1/2 inch long, and beige in color.  It blended perfectly with the carpet.  He snapped on the stairway light, and leaned to have a closer look.

It appeared spider-like, but this bug had 6 legs.  Two long antennae poked from the head, giving the illusion of an 8th set of legs.  For a brief moment, he thought the thing had turned to look at him.  That’s when he stepped down on it, hard – and continued on up the steps.

Paul Nelson had packing to do.  He‘d pick up the dead bug when he returned downstairs – with a wad of tissue in hand.  That morning, before reporting for his shift as a 911 operator, he’d taken the time to lay socks, underwear, and pajamas on the bed.  Two suits, dress and casual shirts, and pants, on hangers hung on a rack attached to the back of the bedroom door.  Soon, his suitcase and hand-up bag were packed and ready.

Grabbing a length of toilet tissue from the upstairs bathroom, he headed back down the steps, careful to watch where he stepped.  The bug was on the 4th step from the bottom. But it was not where Paul Nelson had ground it into the carpet… it was a full 18 inches closer to the wall… and still crawling.

He stepped down on it again, harder this time.  Lifting his foot, he saw that it was again, obviously dead.  It looked dead.  He continued down the steps and into the kitchen.  The kitchen trash, where he knew he’d find an empty soup can, sat in the corner near the steps.  He returned to the steps, picked up the bug with the wad of tissue, and stuffed both into the soup can, which he crammed back into the trash can.  There!  That takes care of it.

He returned upstairs, took the suitcase off the bed, and sat it beside the bedroom door. He then took the hang-up bag downstairs and hung it by the front door.  He would have taken the suitcase downstairs also, but he still needed his shaving bag in the morning, so he’d add it to the suitcase then.  On his return upstairs, and as he walked past the kitchen trash can, he didn’t hear the soft scratching sounds coming from deep within the trash.

He set the alarm for 5.  One of his co-workers would be picking him up at 5:45 to take him to the airport.  His flight to Washington DC would be leaving at 7:45.

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Paul Nelson had a strange dream that night.  At least he thought it was a dream.

The alarm rang 5:45.  He pulled himself out of bed, and seemingly by rote, completed his morning bath ritual, and dressed.  Next he packed the shaving kit into the suitcase, and took it downstairs – and waited, until he heard the honk of a car horn.  Picking up the clothes bag and suitcase, he exited the front door.  It was a short walk to the curb, where his co-worker sat waiting in his vehicle.  Paul Nelson placed the luggage on the back seat, and then sat in the front, staring ahead.

“What’s wrong Paul? You look funny – troubled, or something,” said his friend.

“No, I’m ok. Let’s get to the airport,” replied Paul.

“I’ll bet you’re just nervous.  I know I’d be.  I’d be as nervous as a long-tail cat in a room filled with rocking chairs.  Golly, and meeting the President too.  And getting that award – Paul Nelson, 911 Operator of the Year.  How lucky can one man be!”

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Paul Nelson didn’t have a strange dream as he thought he did.  It was real.  It was very real.  He only thought he was dreaming – that is, while he could still dream, and while he remained in possession of his own brain.  He thought he was dreaming about the strange insect crawling into his ear, and into his brain.

But it wasn’t an insect.  And it wasn’t a dream.  Paul Nelson is now no longer thinking for himself.  The mind of Paul Nelson has ceased to exist.  It has been hijacked, and replaced.

It is less than 40 feet from the kitchen trash can to Paul Nelson’s bedroom upstairs.  It is approximately 400 miles from Paul Wilson’s home to Washington DC.  And it is close to 4 light years across the milky way, to the home base of the mechanical insect-like drone.  Tomorrow the drone will made its final journey, an undetected transfer from Paul Nelson into the most power and influential leader on this element-rich planet.

The President is known to be a hugger.  4 inches is all that is required for the transfer… for that final journey.

The rest, as they say, will be history.

 

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