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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MY NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE

Grim Reaper 2© 2017 Bill Murphy

I wrote of death in March of last year… DEATH AT AN EARLY AGE. It focused on the death of others.

Few of us, with the possible exception of combat military personnel, law enforcement, and firemen to name a few, ever face death up close and personal – then to have him turn and walk away.  I have, and it was a sobering experience.

I can’t remember the year, but Carol and I were on a weekend a trip to Birmingham to visit my sister and her family. Just east of Meridian, we stopped at the visitor’s center near the state line. It was around 9 or 10 in the morning, a bright and beautiful day. Numerous cars were in the parking lot as we parked and went inside. An elderly gentleman stood in the hallway outside the restrooms, no doubt waiting for his wife. NOT. He was the lookout. I walked past him and into the restroom.

It all happened in a flash. Out of nowhere, a rough hand grabbed my shirt collar, shoving me roughly against a sink. Something hard and cold was pressed against the back of my neck. A gun? It could have been a wooden dowel for all I knew, but his words convinced me not to take a chance on gun or wood.

“Quick,” he shouted, “gimmie your wallet, and your keys. Don’t turn around.” he said harshly, “and make it quick – or I’ll kill you, dude, ya hear?” He repeated this threat of death 3 times within the short space of time the attack was underway.  I complied.

What was I thinking you ask? Amazingly, it was NOT fear. Nor was it anger. Actually, what I felt was SURPRISE. I distinct remember thinking, So this is the way my life ends?

Then he yanked me backwards, and shoved me into one of the stalls. “Stay here,” he shouted again, “Stay for 5 minutes. Peek outside, and I’ll kill you dude!” And then there was silence. I think I waited only a minute, maybe less. Then I walked outside where Carol stood.

She will tell you that I can be easily rattled. But not that day. She said she could not believe how calm I was! “I just got mugged,” I told her. And relayed the whole story.

We quickly found the security guard, who’d seen nothing. The sheriff was called, who helped us get back into our locked vehicle. Carol’s purse was inside, so we still had keys. We drove a few mile up and down the highway, thinking we’d find my wallet the thieves had tossed out the window, but we didn’t. They got maybe $20 in cash, and no more. We immediately called and cancelled the credit cards.

This was an amazing learning experience for me. I was brought face to face with death, and yet, just as God promised in His word…

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

During the whole episode, I was NOT acting and thinking like Bill Murphy normally acts and thinks. The harsh and threatening words of the thief didn’t bring dread and fear – instead, they were miraculously overshadowed by peace and calmness!

There were not two in that bathroom that day, but THREE. Although I entered empty handed, God brought me His rod and staff!

 

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WE DODGED DHS

My Family@ 2017 Bill Murphy

In our home state of Mississippi, DHS stood for the Department of Human Services, which was once tasked with the awesome responsibility of protecting innocent children from neglect, abuse, and sorry parents. Today that agency is the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services. Carol and I somehow missed their attention on numerous occasions. Whew!

Our 4 girls are rather close in age, averaging 20 months between birth dates, so ‘big sisters‘ were never all that big, nor helpful. It was often like having quadruplets.

Our first parental semi-catastrophe occurred in 1970 when Lois was around 6 months. Carol and I attended Southside Baptist Church in Jackson, and were Sunday School teachers for high schoolers. Down the hill behind the church, was a softball field. We’d planned an after church picnic and ball games for the class. The teenage girls clamored over who would ‘take care of’ baby Lois.

This day, in the hectic rush to change clothes, transport food and equipment to the field, etc., Lois somehow ‘fell by the wayside.’ At the ball field, a full 15 minutes later, someone asked, “Where’s the baby?” She was just where we’d inadvertently left her, in her carrier, on the back steps of the church! Oops.

Several years later, it was Molly’s turn to be abandoned.

We were then attending First Pentecostal Church. Sunday night service was ‘the’ service of the week. We were present and accounted for at 6 PM, and considered it a ‘short service’ if the final amen came by 10. Sunday nights didn’t end there. It was either a late meal at Shoney’s, or else 3 or 4 families gathered at someone’s home for coffee and sandwiches. That particular night, we were the host. Molly as about 3 or 4 at the time.

All of our girls had friends from church, so they often as not rode to the after-church gathering with another family. We’d been home several minutes before anyone counted noses – are realized that Molly was not accounted for! The last time we knew where she was, she was fast asleep under the pew. Oops again.

A quick call to the church, and the person locking up for the night made a dash to the already locked sanctuary. Molly was none the wiser – still sleeping peacefully under the pew. Poor neglected child.

Some time after this, we were on vacation in the Smokey Mountains. See the photo above. The kids loved to hike, and we found a trail. Earlier, it had rained rather heavily, but we braved the soggy path anyway.

Shortly, we came to an ‘obstacle.’ The trail crossed a brook, with no bridge. A large, round log, perhaps 12 to 15’ long spanned the water. And what had once been a picturesque babbling brook, now, because of the heavy rain, was a mighty torrent rushing down the mountain side. Yes, we did. One by one, Carol and I walked our precious children across the wet log, several feet above these mighty rapids. If we’d slipped and fallen, our bodies would not have been found for days – and then, many miles away. Yes, we all made it. And no, we never told our parents about this foolhardy adventure.

We also lost Liz in crowded New Orleans in the French Quarter, for a long, long 2 or 3 minutes – when she turned left at an intersection and we walked straight. She was around 12 at the time. That was a heart stopper!

I’ll save the best (or should I say worst) example of our parenting decisions for last.

I can’t remember the exact year, but Tricia and Liz must have been around junior high age. Carol’s sister, Mary Ellen, and her family lived in Humble, Texas. We made the 450 mile trip several times each year, often leaving after 5 PM of Fridays and returning home in the wee hours of the following Monday. It was during this period that Carol developed her NASCAR/Indianapolis driving skills.

We left Mary Ellen’s late in the afternoon on our way home. This was in the days before cell phones and mobile internet. We had a CB RADIO! It was fun talking with the truckers.

While still inside Texas, we happened upon a trucker going our way… his destination that night was Jackson, MS! He was driving at a good, steady, speedy clip, so we stayed in his dust, chatting away continually. Soon we knew all about his kids and family. We even stopped for coffee, and met him face to face. I think he enjoyed our human company a few yards behind his rig. He had his dog beside him as a traveling companion.

Somewhere along the way, one of the kids made the remark that they wanted to RIDE WITH THE TRUCKER. You see where this is going.

It was finally decided that this utterly foolish idea was, perhaps, plausible. At the next truck stop, we pulled in, and exchanged two of our children for his dog. Looking back, I’m thinking what you’re thinking – WHAT WERE WE THINKING?

At the time, it really did seem like an educational adventure for the kids. I’ve never ridden in an 18 wheeler myself! But my 4 daughters have. Oh, we did have his license tag number!

After Liz and Tricia had their turn, and were safely returned to us, Lois and Molly had their turn in the big rig! The story doesn’t end there.

Sometime just before midnight, we arrived in Jackson. We followed him to the truck stop, not far from where we lived at the time, and brought him home with us, where Carol made a hot breakfast for everyone. Then we returned him back to his truck.

Amazingly, all 4 girls turned out amazingly well, in spite of their ding-a-ling parents … and without assistance from DHS.

 

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