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Archive for January, 2014

“Ah’m sa glad to git back down home whur they call it a ‘bush hawg’!”
(and not a “brush-hahg”)
—My SEARK country cousin after returning from
agri school in Fayetteville in the Ozarks

Although I keep saying that I must stop blogging due to my increasing age and declining health, I keep being provided fascinating tidbits sent to me by faithful friends, family members, and readers.

I have accumulated some of these tidbits, organized them into categories, and now offer them here in this post for your enjoyment and benefit. I hope you will at least skim through these quotes, links, excerpts, and photos and examine those that appeal to you most.

Dialect

  “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”
—Matthew 26:73 NIV

“An [American’s] way of speaking absolutely classifies him.
The moment he talks he makes some other
[American] despise him.”
—“Why Can’t the English Teach Their Children How to Speak,”
from the musical My Fair Lady

In a recent issue of the New York Times there appeared an interesting dialect quiz in which Americans’ geographical area of the United States can be deduced by their speech or accent. To read that article titled “How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk,” and to take this quiz, click here or go to this Web site.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/12/20/sunday-review/dialect-quiz-map.html?_r=0

Incidentally, my test results showed that I speak like a native of a triangular area bound by Little Rock, Arkansas, on the top; Shreveport, Louisiana, on the bottom left; and Jackson, Mississippi, on the bottom right. That area is precisely correct since it basically centers on the Delta of Southeast Arkansas where I was born and raised and spent much of my adult life.

Mari’s quiz results showed her speech to be closer to that of residents of a similar area farther south and east bounded by Little Rock, Jackson, Mississippi, and Birmingham, Alabama. That is a bit of a surprise since we both came from the same area in SEARK and have lived in the same cities in Arkansas, South Carolina, and Oklahoma.

I encourage you to take the quiz and to see how accurate you feel your results are. (To read my earlier post titled “Some Southern Stuff IV: Do You Speak Southern?” which includes another similar dialect quiz, click here.)

The Delta

Aerial photo of the Delta flatlands

Aerial photo of the Delta flatlands by Sarah Beaugez (to magnify, click on the photo)

To learn more about Sarah Beaugez and her photographs of the Delta and her writings about it, click here or go to her Web site at http://sarahbeaugez.zenfolio.com/p186231761. Once there, to watch a slideshow of some of Sarah’s Delta photos set to the song “Ode to Billie Joe” sung by Bobbie Gentry, click on “Slideshow” in the upper right hand corner of the home page.

I have always loved the song in this video since I remember so well the first time I heard it. It was back in the summer of about 1967 or 68 when Mari and I were home in McGehee from the University of Arkansas where I had gone back from Holly Grove to get my master’s degree in French.

While there I received a call from one of my former Ouachita Baptist College teachers who invited me to come to Judson College (a Southern Baptist girls’ college) in Marion, Alabama, for an interview for a teaching position in business.

Mari and I were driving on Highway 82 between Greenwood and Columbus, Mississippi, near Starkville when we heard this song by Bobbie Gentry on the radio. Thinking it was a local production I turned to Mari and said, “Boy, that is really good. Somebody ought to take that song and put it out nationally.” Of course, “somebody” did do just that, and it became a monster hit.

Now whenever I hear it I am transported back to the hills and two-lane highways of East Mississippi and to a simpler, happier, and healthier time and place in my past. I wish I could go back now—but as I say in one of my nostalgic poems, “. . . time never runs in reverse.”

So thanks to Sarah Beaugez for taking me back there for a few precious moments.

Incidentally, here is what Sarah has to say about a person with passion. It could have been written about me and my passion for the Delta (italics mine):

“His passion for the land was palpable. He knew each and every curve and line in each field. They were not simply parcels of earth; they were intimately known patches of rich, black, Delta dirt; each with a name; each with their own identity. He was most certainly passionate about each one.

“Passion does not begin with love. Passion begins with the way that one lives life; living as though everything that one encounters is unique in and of itself. The object of passion can be a thing, a concept, or a person. It matters not. If one is passionate about anything then it seems one is passionate about all things. The only thing that one who is passionate seems to care about is that anyone could be dispassionate… about life. About living…”

Page from 1958 Look magazine article titled "The Shrinking South"

Page from 1958 Look magazine article by Hodding Carter of Greenville, MS, titled “The Shrinking South” with photos made in Arkansas City and showing the migration of Southern blacks to the North. The caption reads “Even the river’s moved away.” (To magnify, click on the photo.)

To view a musical video titled “Darkness on the Delta,” sent to me by Pat Scavo, click here.

To view another version of “Darkness on the Delta” by Duff Dorrough of Pocahontas, Arkansas, from Best of Duff album, published on October 8, 2012, click here.

To learn more about the theme song of the Delta, “Darkness on the Delta,” click here.

To hear Jimmie Rodgers, a 1930s folksinger with a distinctive Mississippi accent, singing the classic, must-hear “Mississippi Delta Blues,” click here.

To view a musical video with an original song by Marty Denton of McGehee, Arkansas, titled “Their Shadows” about the Japanese Relocation Camps in the Delta of Southeast Arkansas, click here.

To learn more about the WWII Japanese-American Relocation camps in the Southeast Arkansas Delta, go to: “Opening of WWII Japanese American Internment Camps Museum,“Camp Nine: A Book Review with Quotes about the Arkansas Delta,” and “The Red Kimono: A Book Review about WWII Japanese Relocation Camps.”

Woman from the past picking cotton in an Arkansas Delta field

Woman from the past in an Arkansas Delta cotton field (to magnify, click on the photo from the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture)

To visit a Web site about the historic Mississippi River port city of Helena, Arkansas, and its Delta Cultural Center, click here.

Mississippi River 

The Kate Adams steamboat on the Mississippi River near Arkansas City, Arkansas

The Kate Adams steamboat on the Mississippi River near Arkansas City, Arkansas, historic riverport and our county seat

“Muddy Mississippi River water leaves a stain on the soul that is virtually impossible to get out . . . assuming any fool would try.”
—Jimmy Peacock

Recently my longtime friend Danny Lynchard, a native of the Mississippi River Delta town of Cleveland, Mississippi, and director of the Tulsa Police and Fire Chaplaincy Corps, had this to say about the Mighty Mississippi (italics mine):

“I often thought of the Mississippi River as the spinal cord of America. Everything came through it and filtered into the body of the country around it. It was deep in legend, mythology and livelihood.  Everything was bigger in the Mississippi. The boats, the trotlines, the bait you used and the mighty catfish.

“It was part of many of the family stories of both tragedy and triumph. It belonged to us and we belonged to it. It could give life or take life giving it an almost human quality . . . at least a personality. It could permanently stain your clothes but more importantly and less noticed, it would stain your soul with its presence and power. Like its rushing waters, it forced itself into your heart bringing both hope and fear. No man could tame it yet all men claimed it as their own. In some ways, it even helped me understand the Almighty. You could work with Old Man River and he could bring many a blessing and joy. You could work against him, and one day, pay the price.”

To read an article titled “Mapping the Lower Mississippi Water Trail” sent to me by Pat Scavo on November 16, 2013, click here.

To read an article sent to me by Pat Scavo on December 2, 2013, titled “Rivers’ garbageman named CNN Hero of the Year” for cleaning up the Mississippi and other rivers, click here.

Nostalgia

An antique Arkansas gas pump from our childhood days

An antique Arkansas gas pump from our childhood days

“Nostalgia is just not what it used to be.”
—Anonymous

“. . . nostalgia for certain values tends to set in just as they’re disappearing.
Happily, nostalgia can bring those values back, too. . . .
We can choose how we live.
With cheer and faith or temper and worst behavior.”
Paul Greenberg, “It really is a wonderful life,”
Tulsa World, December 19, 2013
(For more on this subject, see my previous post.)

To view a video by McGehee native Marty Denton singing his song about yesterday with photos from McGehee and the Vietnam War, titled “Never Forgotten, Only a Dream Away,” sent to me by Pat Scavo on October 24, 2013, click here.

To view the Statler Brothers singing “Do You Remember These?” with nostalgic photos sent to me by Andy Herren on December 6, 2013, and titled “Take a Stroll Down Memory Lane,” click here.

To view a musical slideshow sent to me by Pat Scavo from Facebook on January 7, 2014, of a song by Marty Denton and others titled, “Everything that’s blue won’t make you sad,” click here.

And as a Grand Finale to the subject of nostalgia, here is a link to “Railroad Jack’s Photostream from the 1950’s” sent to me on January 24, 2014, by Pat Scavo, who writes: “Be sure and  ‘mouse-over’  each photo and  look at the link at the top to FAVORITES to  see Liz!” Liz, of course, being Elizabeth Taylor, my Screen Idol! (For more on this subject of the Lovely Liz, see my earlier post, “My Lifelong Attraction to Black Beauty.”)

The 275 photos in three sections from the 1950s featured on the site include places (drive-ins, supermarkets, car dealerships, gas stations, etc); musicians (Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, etc.); cars (Fords, Chevys, Chryslers, hot rods, dragsters, etc.); movie stars (Marlon Brando, James Dean, Robert Mitchum, Natalie Wood, etc.); sexpots (Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Jayne Mansfield, etc.), and many other 1950’s icons.

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“If you look like your passport photo, then in all probability you need the journey.”
—Earl Wilson

“The journey from ego to soul takes going from a me-full life to a meaningful life.”
—Rabbi David Aaron, quote provided by Dr. Paul Talmadge

In my previous post, titled “Addenda to Blog: Christmas and Our Fifty-First Anniversary,” I offered some quotes, photos, links and other materials on these subjects that had been sent to me after my final regular blog post.

Since that time I have received several related contributions on nostalgia for the past from interested readers. I have also received some fresh inspiration from a current Walt Disney movie titled Saving Mr. Banks that seems to relate to me in a special personal way. Finally, I have also been inspired by two entries from a daily devotional to describe an incident that occurred during the recent holiday/holy day period that spoke to me about my life in a way that may also speak to the lives of many of my readers.

Perhaps each of us needs to begin this “journey from ego to soul” as we enter this new year in our daily lives.

Nostalgia and the Power of Storytelling

“. . . nostalgia for certain values tends to set in
just as they’re disappearing.
Happily, nostalgia can bring those values back, too. . . .
We can choose how we live.
With cheer and faith or temper and worst behavior.”
—Paul Greenberg, “It really is a wonderful life,”
Tulsa World, December 19, 2013

“Did you think that Mary Poppins came to rescue the children?”
—The author of the Mary Poppins books
to members of the Walt Disney film organization

In a composite of several online reviews of the current Walt Disney movie titled Saving Mr. Banks, Disney is quoted as saying to Mrs. J. L. Travers, the author of the books on which he based his 1964 movie Mary Poppins (italics mine):

“That’s what we storytellers do. We restore order through imagination. We inspire people, we give hope. Again and again.”

Then he concludes his remarks to her by stating: “Forgiveness. It’s what I learned from your books.”

In this same vein, Willa Cather, noted author of days gone by, once wrote: “Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.”

That’s why throughout this entire blog my goal, purpose, and efforts have been to share some of my life experiences with others in hopes that through them not only will I somehow “Save Mr. Peacock,” but that I will also perhaps help to save others—even you!

Saving the Present by Recalling the Past

“I’ve got to the age and stage of my life that
the only things I can remember
are the things I cannot stand to recall!”

—Jimmy Peacock

Writers are exorcists of their own demons.”
(This is my favorite quote—
it’s what I am doing when I write,
and why I share it on my blog.)
—Mario Vargas Llosa

In one of my endless self-quotes I note: “We preserve the past by writing about it.” But not only can we preserve the past by writing about it, we can also redeem it and benefit from it in facing a new and different set of life experiences.

If you saw that classic 1964 Walt Disney movie titled Mary Poppins, you will recall that Mary Poppins came to the George Banks household in London in response to a simple, childish letter requesting a new nanny written by the two Banks children: Jane and Michael.

In that original Disney version, a sort of compilation based on eight books by author P. L. Travers, Mary Poppins was a pivotal character in the struggle to “save” the seemingly secure Banks household from their daily unresolved and even unacknowledged failures and conflicts.

But Mrs. Travers, the author of the series of Mary Poppins books on which that movie was based, did not approve of the proposed Disney musical film version of it. As such, she would not formally sign a legally binding contract for Disney to produce the film version of her works that she imagined him making: a sort of happy-go-lucky, “feel-good” family musical with a typical Disney “happy ending.”

The new 2013 movie titled Saving Mr. Banks, currently playing in “select theaters” across the country and indeed around the world, is an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look into the reasons Disney wanted to make that “frothy” movie back in 1964, and the conflicting reasons Mrs. Travers did not want it made that way.

I will not spoil the film for those who have not yet seen it, but I will say, as noted by its title, that the story behind the film involves the early life of Mrs. Travers as portrayed through her flashbacks of her childhood, especially those memories that reveal her special but questionable relationship with her own father.

Finally, after repeated conflicts between the “irascible” Mrs. Travers and the “frustrated” Disney screen writers and music composers, the unresolved issue is appealed to the renowned and revered Walt Disney himself.  In a crucial conversation between Disney (Tom Hanks) and Mrs. Travers (Emma Thompson), the exchange between them reveals much about her way of dealing with her own life, especially her troubled childhood, through her writings.

That crucial confrontation allows Disney the opportunity to draw upon his own difficult childhood in a final attempt to convince Travers why she, as a storyteller, should trust him and his staff to present the message of her precious personal family story in the way they envision it.

Since I am also a storyteller who experiences flashbacks of scenes and incidents from my own idyllic childhood and less than idyllic adulthood, naturally the film was as fascinating to me as it was disturbing and insightful. In a way, and to a certain extent, it was also cathartic, as the final Disney version of her story was to a very reluctant and even skeptical Mrs. Travers.

By some mysterious, “magical” means the final film version of her personal and painful story is brought to the screen in a way that moves her to tears of release and hope for a new life free of those “demons” from her own past. In fact, in a sense, the final resolution of the ongoing conflict between Disney and the author might also be titled “Saving Mrs. Travers.”

That’s why I titled this post “Saving Mr. Peacock.” Because for at least forty-plus years I have been trying to do that very thing—save myself by exorcizing my own demons through my writings and through carefully selected citations of self-quotes and quotations and excerpts from the writings of others.

It is also why I highly recommend viewing this film with that understanding, purpose, and goal in mind. Who knows, it might just save you from your past, whether that past is troubled like Mrs. Travers’, difficult like Mr. Disney’s, or idyllic, nostalgic, and painful to recall like Mr. Peacock’s.

Recalling the Past through Stories 

“The road to the future runs through the past.”
—Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Faith:
Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World 

“What are we but our stories?”
—James Patterson, Sam’s Letters to Jennifer 

In the January 4, 2014, entry in the Episcopal daily devotional Forward Day by Day, the writer says of the importance of stories and storytelling (italics mine):

“Stories unite us and keep us connected. . . . [they allow] us to recall and share with others what has meaning in our lives; the people, places, and events, and all that we hold sacred. Stories are the gospel of our lives. They bear witness to where we have been, what we’ve come through, and Who brought us here. . . . They are the modern stones of remembrance we lay to recall, to impart to others, and to remain connected to God.” (Copyright 2014 Forward Movement. All rights reserved. Used by permission.) (www.forwardmovement.org)

In the January 7 entry of that same devotional it is stated about memory (italics in original):

 “When we remember, we do not simply recall, but we reconnect. Our memories keep us connected to home, family, friends and God. . . . Don’t ever forget who you are, where you have come from, and the God who brought you here.” (Copyright 2014 Forward Movement. All rights reserved. Used by permission.) (www.forwardmovement.org)

For more on this subject of recalling and redeeming the past through memory and stories, see my earlier post titled “A Summary of My Personal Spirituality and Pilgrimage” based on Frederick Beuchner’s philosophy of “biography as theology.”

In “American Stories: My Family Tree” by David Laskin in the December 29 issue of Parade magazine, Ancestry.com CEO Tim Sullivan states: “We are where we come from.” This statement reflects my own self-quote and philosophy that “where you’re from is who you are.”

In that sense, “where you’re from” includes not only where you were born and raised but also every place you have ever been, everything you have ever done or experienced, and every person you have ever known, even every story you have ever heard or told.

This is what Disney was trying to tell Mrs. Travers about her stories of the imaginary Mary Poppins, whom it turns out was a real person and not a figment of Mrs. Travers’ fertile imagination. He wanted her to realize that as a storyteller himself, he knew and appreciated the value, importance, and power of storytelling not only to preserve and redeem the past (whether good or bad or otherwise) but also to inspire hope for a better future.

In that sense, storytelling is not only entertaining, it is therapeutic—as much for the ones who recount the stories as for those who hear them and benefit from them.

In conclusion, the following anecdote written at the end of 2013 is an example of the power of a simple story to relate a seemingly insignificant incident from the past and to draw from it a very significant lesson for the future.

“Did You See Any Angels This Christmas?” 

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
—Hebrews 13:2 NIV

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
—Matthew 25:40 NIV

After publishing my Christmas/fifty-first wedding anniversary addenda post (see previous post on this blog), I was reminded of another “holiday/holy day” incident that occurred in my life recently. I hope you will draw the same lesson from it that I did.

In light of all the Christmas messages to which we are rightly exposed every year, as a Christian and a religious copyeditor I could not help but do as the Virgin Mary and “keep all these things and ponder them in [my] heart” (see Luke 2:19 KJV).

Here is the incident about which I am still pondering the spiritual significance at this waning time in the year and in the fading years of my earthly life.

Returning to Sapulpa from one of our twice-to-thrice-weekly medical trips to Tulsa, Mari pulled into the local drugstore parking lot (I don’t drive anymore) and got out to go in and leave or pick up another one of my endless prescriptions.

While she did so, I sat in the car on the passenger side since one of my health issues is dizziness and a lack of balance, and I did not want Mari to have to help me in and out of the car and the store.

Looked to my right I saw Mari in the middle of the drugstore parking lot conversing with a very thin young woman who was holding the hand of her son, barely more than a toddler. I could tell from their brief conversation that the young woman, whom I did not know, had asked Mari for some money and that Mari had said that she was sorry but she did not have any small bills to give her.

When Mari turned and entered the drugstore and the young woman turned in my direction, I could tell by the pained expression on her face that she was greatly distressed.  So carefully I opened the car door, eased my way out of the vehicle, and cautiously wobbled toward the young woman who looked up at me with a blank stare.

As I approached her, I asked simply, “Do you have a problem?”

She quickly began to explain that her car had run out of gas in the parking lot of the adjacent farm and ranch supply store. She went on to say that she had to get her son back home to a neighboring small town about forty miles away on the other side of the bustling Tulsa metroplex. She concluded her remarks with the woeful lament, “I only have two dollars, which won’t buy anything, and no one will help me.”

At this last statement, her pent-up tears began to flow freely down her face as she looked down at the innocent, grinning face of her son, and then back up to my own with a pleading look of need and despair.

Reaching into my back pocket, I retrieved my wallet, took out a twenty-dollar bill, and handed it to her, saying, “Here, will this help?”

“Oh, yes,” she exclaimed gratefully. “Thank you so much!”

Then looking back down at her little boy she tugged at his hand and said, “Say ‘thank you’ to the nice gentleman.” (She might have said “nice old gentleman” for I am sure that is what she meant, given her age and mine.)

“T’ank kew,” the little type murmured as he pulled the candy lollipop he was sucking on out of his generously smeared mouth and cherry-stained lips and teeth.

After I had made my way carefully back to the car and sat down in the passenger seat, I looked to my right to see what happened to the young woman and her somewhat bedraggled minion. She was nowhere to be seen. Quickly my eyes ranged all over the drugstore parking lot and the one in front of the agri store next to it. But there was no mother and child anywhere in sight.

Suddenly it hit me. Of course, she would not be going back to her car in the parking lot on the right, but to the gas station to the left.

Sure enough, there she was, taking toddler steps and leading her dawdling darling across the parking lot of the storefront church toward the Quik Trip station and convenience store on the far street corner.

Then it also occurred to me that once she got there she would have to purchase a gas can and fill it up, and then make the arduous trek on foot back across those parking lots to her disabled car with a full two-gallon can of gasoline in one hand and her little tyke’s tiny, grimy hand in the other.

By this time Mari had returned and gotten back in the driver’s seat. So as quickly as possible I told her what had happened as she deftly guided the car out into the four-lane, late-afternoon holiday traffic and stated speeding away so that I quickly lost sight forever of the young woman and her grungy son.

Of course, I had already realized that unlike the biblical scribe (which is what I have been for the past thirty-plus years as a religious copyeditor) in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, I had not “passed by” the helpless young woman and her child “on the other side.” However, at the same time unlike that Good Samaritan I had not stayed with the lady and child and truly met her need and his.

I realized that I should have told her to wait until Mari returned. Then we should have driven her and her youthful charge to the Quik Trip, helped her buy a gas can and fill it up, and then driven her and her son back to her car and made sure that it started after being drained totally dry.

I also realized that although I had given her ten times the amount of money she had on her before my act of kindness, she still had to drive forty miles home through horrible holiday traffic and widespread highway construction with her little tyke . . . and then what? How much would she have left of my “great gift” to buy food for their evening meal? And what kind of Christmas was she and the boy going to have with her two dollars and the few “loaves and fishes” left over from my “largesse”?

So I was immediately stricken with mixed emotions. At least I didn’t go away from that experience like Ebenezer Scrooge, who lashed out at a couple of gentleman who dared to ask him to donate something for the care of the hungry and needy at Christmas, and then as Dickens tells us of the old miser, “went away with a raised estimation of himself.” At the same time, did I truly “show hospitality to strangers” and thus perhaps “entertain angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2 KJV)?

But perhaps the most important question at this holy time of year is: Did I act more like the traditional but nonscriptural “kindly innkeeper” in the Nativity Story and provide only the barest of comfort to a Mother and Child in their time of greatest need?

And will I learn from this incident and resolve that in this New Year I will “do for the least of these” as though I am doing it for the Holy Child of Bethlehem and His Beloved Mother?

Will you? Will all of us? Will any of us?

Jimmy Peacock
December 19, 2013

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