AN ANGEL IN THE CLOSET

Sk. In Closet copy© 2018 Bill Murphy

We often hear of skeletons in the closet, of deep dark sins and secrets hidden away, musty and dusty and, we hope, dormant and forgotten.  But what of angels in the closet?

My family has one of each – and both are from the same closet!

I come from two large families, with a total of 13 uncles and aunts plus all their wives and husbands. This large collection of unique individuals has gifted me with a wealth of stories and life experiences.  One of my favorite story-treasures involves my mother’s older sister, Lillie Fairchild Padget, and her husband Fred Padget.

Uncle Fred and Aunt Lillie (who everyone in the family called Sister) lived in Bogalusa, Louisiana.  Uncle Fred died of a sudden heart attack in 1947, and Sister moved next door to us on Evergreen Street.  Now Uncle Fred had an evil skeleton in his closet, which Sister packed up and brought to Jackson when she moved from Bogalusa.  She kept it not in a closet, but in a large trunk.

Not long after settling into her new home in Mississippi, she joined Griffith Memorial Baptist Church on Silas Brown Street, near our home.  And she began to sew.  She made for herself a beautiful, white Easter dress.

She was oh so proud of that dress.  It was of the finest silk, and rivaled the elegance of any wedding dress!  That top quality garment hardy cost her pennies to make!  The smooth, lily white material she already had.  It was brought from Bogalusa in the trunk.

You see, Uncle Fred had been an officer in the Bogalusa chapter of the KKK.  Sister made that beautiful dress, a dress to wear to church to worship and honor her Lord and Savior on the day set aside to celebrate that marvelous day He arose from the dead!

Sacrilegious? NO!

Read your Bible.  Over and over again we read where God used the weak to defeat the strong, the fearful to instruct us in bravery, and the ugly as a radiant example of beauty. This former skeleton in a closet, a dark symbol of sin and shame, my dear Aunt Lillie transformed into an angelic statement of love and devotion to our Lord and Savior.  I know that He looked down on that silk’s new form, and smiled.

 

 

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BC, AD, and PCP

telephone© 2018 Bill Murphy

In school, we learned that history was divided by the birth of Christ… BC before, AD after.  Allow me to add another time-division… PCP – Pre Cell Phone.

You’ll have to be less than 50 in age to appreciate the amazing changes that we old geezers have seen and experienced.

I remember when our home phone number was 32246. No prefix. No area code. Think about that for a moment. In my home town of Jackson, MS –  that meant the number of telephones was limited to 99,999 telephones… which included private homes, schools, businesses, hospitals, public services… everyone!

We had only one telephone in our home… no extensions.  It was a ‘land-line,’ and all connections were made ‘physically’ over wires.  My aunt and uncle who lived across the street had a pedestal phone.  I always wanted one of those. I think they were classic, as far as telephones go.

Our telephone was located in the hallway, near the center of our home.  It sat on a small shelf, in a ‘nook’ recessed into the wall, with a flat shelf underneath which held the phone book.  There were numbers, 0 thru 9, arranged around a dial.  Each call required 5 ‘dials.‘  WHERE you talked was limited by the length of the telephone cord.

There was no such thing as recorded messages. ‘Speed dialing‘ was determined by the dexterity of your fingers.

Then came prefixes, which allowed the number of telephones within an area to increase. Our prefix was FLEETWOOD.  It was dialed as ‘FL.’  New telephones were required for this, for the addition of these alphabetical letters.

To make a long distance call, you had to call the phone company and be connected to the circuits which led out of town and to distances beyond.  There were extra charges for long distance… and it was not cheap.  You were charged by the minutes you talked.

With the advent of area codes, you no longer had to call the ‘long distance operator’ to make a long distance call.  But… the long distance calls still costs extra.

The first person I knew who had a ‘cell’ phone was my mother-in-law.  But it was not called a cell-phone.  It was called a ‘mobile phone.’  It would not fit in your pocket!  The thing came in a box about the size of two shoe boxes joined side by side.  It had a receiver to talk into and listen with, just like the telephones at home.  She had hers sitting on the ‘hump’ on the floor of her car, between the front seats.  It was next to impossible to use with the car in motion.

When wireless transmission really took off, there were not that many ‘mobile phones’ around. But there was plenty of PAGERS.  Both my wife and her sister worked for pager companies.  A pager was a small hand-held wireless device, that when your pager was called, it buzzed, and displayed the phone number you were to call.  It could also display a brief message.  But… you had to call the pager company and tell them what pager to page, and give them the number/message you wanted displayed on that pager.  Because my wife worked for the pager company, she put the pager software on our home computer… and I could page her directly!  “We’re out of milk,” I could tell her while she was on the way home.  What a time saver!

The first time this modern technology really rocked my world was in the mid 80s. Carol and I were on vacation in Maine.  We were walking down the main street of Machias, ME.  Carol noticed something in the window of shop and commented that her sister would like that.  There on the street, Carol paged Mary Ellen, describing the item.  Mary Ellen paged Carol back, and said, ‘yes,’ she wanted it.  Carol made the purchase.  From Maine to Mississippi, the deal was settled almost instantly.  That was truly amazing at the time!

And practically overnight it seemed, we had cell phones.  Gone were the days of being anchored to a wire when you made a call.  Now you could talk anywhere… outside, up a tree, under the house.  And just as suddenly, that expensive bane in the budget – LONG DISTANCE – was a thing of the past.

Today the world is at our fingertips.  ‘Back then,’ if your family didn’t have a set of encyclopedias, it required a trip to the library to learn the capital of Ireland.

But… all this miraculous ‘convenience’ has come at a terrible price.  We’ve loosing the gift of gab.  Our kids are not learning to communicate, not face to face.  Today people can hide behind a tiny screen and lash out and rip apart the lives of others.

Today we’re still chained to copper wires.  Today’s chains are the chargers – which people continue to lose – or to borrow… because they lack the responsibility to bring their own along.

When I was growing up, there was a box to be checked (hopefully) on our school report cards.  That box was: PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS.  Our kids today, sadly, are in training to lose this ability.

Oh, what were you saying?  I was reading a text.

Dipper… not the ‘big’ one.

Snuff©  2018   Bill Murphy

The only person in my family that I knew was a smoker was my Uncle Hilton, who lived across the street.  But, my maternal Grandmother, Emma Fairchild, was a dipper – a snuff dipper.

But one day, she made up her mind to quit.

I think I was pre-school at the time, or perhaps only 1st or 2nd grade.  She announced to the family the big news of snuffing out her snuff habit – and then did a very strange thing:  she asked my mother to pick up a new jar of (Garrett’s) snuff for her.

“Why?” asked my mother, “I thought you were quitting.”

Mamaw Fairchild explained that YES, she was definitely quitting the dusty habit.  However, she wanted a fresh bottle ‘just in case.’

Mom bought the bottle… the very bottle in the photo above.

Mamaw Fairchild put that new bottle of Garrett’s on the mantel… where it sat, unopened, until the day she died – many years later.

My mother saved the bottle, emptied the contents, placed a bright artificial flower bud in it, and placed that amber bottle on a shelf in our home.  Mom also removed the Garrett’s label.

This cherished story from childhood illustrates yet another reason why I hold my ancestor’s in such high esteem.  Mamaw Fairchild made up her mind, and stuck to her decision.  This little bottle is a physical reminder of her determination, to make her bad habit bite the dust!

 

 

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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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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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WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW

Tab Bottle© 2018 Bill Murphy 

What the world needs now is a healthy dose of individual responsible. Hey, a RESPONSIBILITY PILL would be great!

The truth is, each of us already have that responsibility! If you’re breathing, you HAVE responsibilities. The problem is that far too many folks either shirk their responsibilities through selfish denial, or are completely blind to the fact that their responsibilities are ever present, following them like a shadow which they choose to ignore.

We all have responsibilities, and we’re responsible for what we do about them. That’s life. In 1624 English poet John Donne wrote: No man is an island. That’s the honest truth in a nutshell! It was as true then, as it is today.

I suppose that what we need is a required responsibility wake-up pill.

Newton’s third law of physics states that: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It would appear that Newton’s law also applies to HUMAN interaction, more specifically, cause and effect interactions. Some call this karma. People who fail to recognize and accept their responsibilities are seemingly blind to the basic life principle of cause and effect.

CAUSE results in EFFECT.

EFFECT results in…

AFFECTS – Things which AFFECT our lives. These effect induced affects in turn often result in a whole new set of CAUSES. It can become an endless cycle, but the reasoning is not complicated. Let me explain from a life experience of my own.

I was around 20 at the time, living paycheck to paycheck, and it was less than 2 weeks before Christmas. Driving at night, on a 2 lane country road, I took a foolish chance and passed a slow vehicle on a hill. On the downhill side, sat a county trooper, who promptly pulled me over and issued a ticket. This ticket cost me money I didn’t have to spare.

The CAUSE: I Foolishly and irresponsibly, passed on a hill. (Against the law).

The EFFECT: Receiving a traffic citation, which I was responsible for paying.

The AFFECT on my life: I now had far LESS money to fund my Christmas plans and responsibilities. Oh how I wish I had taken a responsibility wake-up pill earlier that day!

I look around me, at my own life, and the painful memories of unrecognized or un-acted upon responsibilities. Oh how I’d like a do-over of those lost opportunities. And I see my own children, grand children, and great-grand kids, making similar mistakes. I want to scream out, STOP, LOOK… and RECOGNIZE what lies ahead. NOW is the time to do something responsible about it!

Yes, what the world needs now is a responsibility wake-up pill! That reminds me: I think its time to get my prescription refilled.

 

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