My Given name is Judy. My maiden name is Rozzelle. After three divorces, I have returned to my maiden name. It is a legal act that I had also committed following my second marriage to “he who will not be mentioned,” I legally changed my last name back to Coffin because it matched my children’s last name. Yes, this did upset the current Mrs. Coffin. However, I was Ms. Coffin.
My third marriage was an attempt at foreign relations. I married a Greek and you know how impossible it is to spell a Greek last name. Need I say more as to my choice to return to my maiden name, Rozzelle?
I returned to Shuffletown and the red-clay soil where my ancestral roots run eight generations deep. Like many of life’s travelers, my journey completed a circle. My linear journey had led me home where life began. Where I would began, again. It seemed very natural to return to my first, my maiden name. Oh, but there was so much more.
I became celibate for thirteen years which included the last six-months of my marriage. While heavily medicated with lithium, I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree from a reputable university within the allotted time. I had switched psychiatrists and the new doctor prescribed a drug that was a derivative of Thorazine. Plus, my psychiatrist suffered from narcolepsy. But I did not have insurance and he would accept me as a patient. Maybe we both slept through the sessions? Eventually, though I became addicted and my movements, even walking became a slow plodding.
I have proof of this. I keep a prescription bottle with one pill in an easily accessible drawer and I check on it, often. I do not want to forget. This is my personal miracle. I cannot give it away. I can try to share it. But, even, as I recall these times, as I write about them, I feel so sorry for the “me” I recall. Depression is like hiding in a maze.
That is what brought me to the moment, the moment I began to turn back into life away from depression and addiction. It was quite a ride until I crashed and realized that I was the only one responsible for the choices that brought me to this day.
I was sleepy all day no matter how many hours I had slept the night before. I am telling you this in order for you to understand that when people speak of me…they would not be referring to my good judgment. More probably, they are referring to my lack of common sense and my most recent hi-jinks. I earned it all, I have to say.
The wisdom of hindsight shows me that cancer saved my life and all my wrong choices turned out to be tragic miracles. I did waste a lot of time. That is my regret, but my greatest regret is all those many years of depression when I did not believe in myself.
I truly was embarrassed to be me. All that wasted time and shenanigans when if I had believed in me then, I would have been a better person for a longer time, but what would I have missed in my lifetime? What would I give up or change? Nothing and no one.
Legally, I became a Rozzelle, once more, in the month of December 1990. At the time, I was one of the original “mature” students who returned to college. I was fifty-five and thrice-divorced.
My father was lingering in a rest-home. I shared the home in Shuffletown with my eighteen year-old nephew who departed and returned through his second floor bedroom window. My beloved first cousin was dying of ovarian cancer; no one was fond of me at the time. I was most recently employed as a manual laborer in a wholesale flower-factory. At the moment, I read the notice that my name had been legally changed to Rozzelle standing in the hall of the University’s Drama Department.
Cancer saved my life. That is the only explanation I have for how I survived a six-year depression that included massive drug abuse and emotional ruins.
I am reprinting this today because twenty years later, I am still here and drug free. I am blessed.
From the sidelines, I have watched the Republican’s Party’s continuous, “War on Women.” Against all odds, they seem to be winning. As a former foot soldier in the 1960s and 1970s Battle for Feminine Equality. Watching the Republican Party hack away our granddaughters’ rights and our victories, well, as a grandmother and former foot soldier, it is beginning to piss me off.
For instance, the current Republican war against Planned Parenthood must cease. Women need Planned Parenthood because we are not all equal and for many women it is the only healthcare choice. Before destroying this pillar of womens’ rights, may I suggest a truce and a propaganda campaign that would make the National Rifle Association content and gun sales will pop off the shelves? Planned Parenthood will be able to spread their help to young women. They can reach out to the next generation, specifically, Virgins, which by Republican standards are sacred.
The answer lies in the gentle communities and churches of today who still celebrate what I refer to as Virgin Cotillions. The Cotillions are called Father/Daughter Dances. Wouldn’t that have been fun in the 1950s and 1960s, it would have been a dream come true, if my father had been able to get home from work in time. So many things, I wish we had thought of in an earlier decade.
Due to the sentimental aspects of such a night, the cherished moments between father and his virgin daughter, “The Virgin Balls,” are very popular among old standard communities, social organizations and churches. I remember the first time I saw a flyer for the annual Father/Daughter Dance at my veterinarian’s office. That was in the 1990s. It read like a promo for a celibate life. It’s a Virgin Ball.
It is possible to take this sacred night to a higher level by having the fathers’ present their daughters with a pink American M16 assault rifle embossed with the family crest, tattoo, pet, etc. etc. plus the date of the celebration. The NRA would sell the hell out of pink American M16s and Planned Parenthood can reach out to the next generation to offer help during her worthless years. The Father/Daughter Cotillions are wonderful opportunities to Arm Virgins.
Everybody gets a gun, Planned Parenthood will survive, and the sacred Virgins are protected. It would be easy such an easy advertising campaign to a specific audience, the beloved father-protector. Consider the following: “Do you want your daughter to have to carry a rapist’s baby to term,” as the Republicans would prefer? Protect your virgin, arm her.
Armed Virgins is a great idea waiting to be discovered. What is the best security for your daughter, you ask. It is an assault rifle which is more effective than a bat.
It would also ensure your youngest virgins would not be forced to become a mother, as Mike Huckabee prefers. But that gets into Armed Puberty and that is a subject for another day.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
During the horrible times in Ferguson, Missouri, a good-friend of mine from the Delta called and we spoke of the murder of Michael Brown. She escaped the Delta to become a liberal and a journalist. During our conversation, she told me a story behind the racial attitudes in the region called the Delta. Eight states make up this region: Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi. In many of those states the Confederate Flag still waves from porches and pick-up trucks.
The slaves who were fortunate enough to work in the plantations near the port cities of the Delta rivers shared one great fear—the fear of being sold down river. The plantations down the river were known to be the worst of the worst, where beatings were commonplace and families had no chance of staying together. These large, cotton plantations were run like a commercial industry. They treated the slaves like dogs and grew wealthy from their sweat and soul. The field work was hot, dirty and when the sun was at high noon it must have felt like they were in an oven. The sun-rays broiled them and the hard summer dirt cooked their bodies. A slave sold down river…rarely survived.
What I figure is this…The Delta has always been the land of the white man. I hope I am wrong, I often am wrong. What happened in Ferguson, Missouri, brought attention to the racist mind-set that has existed for centuries. The Ferguson police acted as if their racist mind-set was the norm. I pray that the death in Ferguson of college-bound Michael Brown will keep that light shining brightly until the Delta is a safe refuge for all God’s children.
I thought of this, as I read a list of racist words on Huffingtonpost.com today.
“Sold down the river:”
This phrase, meaning “betrayed” or “cheated” originated in the Mississippi River region during the American slave trade. “Troublesome” slaves would literally be sold down the river to southern Mississippi where the plantation conditions were much harsher.
Knowing the reality about the term today, I felt like speaking up for Ferguson, MO. As a southern white woman, I cannot believe that any man/woman/child could ever own another man and his family because of the color of their skin. Slavery was an abomination and a deep scar in our culture.
I read the rest of the list and the words are not worth repeating. Though, I do take exception to one term. I am sure what is written is true that slaves were kept in the upper gallery, the peanut gallery, during church.
I promise you, that when this old hippie grandmother uses the term, “peanut gallery,” I am referring to Howdy Dowdy and my formerly young children.
Also, I think I just offended the citizens of eight states. I am now leaving the country on a jet plane.
“Is Mt. Island Lake destined to be further polluted by another housing development on the Riverbend Peninsula?” I asked as we sat upon a porch watching the sun drop behind the horizon on Mt. Island Lake, NC.
He leaned forward to answer me. His spoke in soft and solemn tones, like a priest delivering unction,
“This is what you need to understand. The decision about the massive housing development to be built on the Riverbend Peninsula will not be a decision that is made by local people. The decision will be made by an international investment corporation.” He paused.
“The property is part of a family trust set up decades ago.” He continued. “The international investment firm’s daily objective is to find ways to invest and grow their clients’ trust funds. The corporation will make decisions about new housing development opportunities. Their only objective is to see that the trust fund will grow and support future generations. “
“And,” I said, “a dream once possible for all American citizens.”
We watched the setting sun. The sky was blushing with streaks of fiery-orange, purple, and peach. The last swats of blue sky linger and the shadowed tree tops outline the sunset like lace. Only the rivers and the thumbing of rocking chair broke the quiet. Twilight is the color of silence.
I thought about the hundreds of large homes, townhouses, cluster-homes and condos to be built on approximately 300 acres of the historic Riverbend Peninsula in Gaston County, North Carolina. The housing development will engulf the east and west shores where the land ends and the river rushes around the bend. The Riverbend Peninsula is shaped like a boot. The development will fill the boot from its toe to its ankle. The residents of the peninsula and many environmental groups abhor the proposed housing development and the destruction any further development will cause to the land, the residents, and Mt. Island Lake. In that
moment, I felt very depressed.
I was beginning to understand it may not impossible to stop development and destruction of the historic Riverbend Peninsula. It is highly improbable. Benjamin Franklin said it best, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
I settled deep into the cushions of the white-wicker rocking chair to listen as the river currents slapped against the pier’s pile-logs. It was a soul-soothing sound as the harsh reality of today’s culture of Corporate Personhood began to sink in. Reality sounded like a Grimm’s fairy tale that tells of global corporations acting as Fairy Godmothers with worldwide clout coddling and expanding the investments of the world’s most wealthy families. Their Fairy Godmother defeats dragons and dismisses pawns such as the middle class and the nation’s poor.
These Corporations are hired for one purpose…to make money. If not, not even their reputation can keep them from being fired by their wealthy clients.
Faceless men in blended silk suits will meet in the elegant offices located in skyscrapers to discuss how to make money. They will speak of percentages, dividends and bonuses while gazing down through their windows with only a bird’s eye view of all that is below.
Land owned on the Riverbend Peninsula provides an opportunity to further enrich their clients’ portfolios. The Corporate Personhood is a greedy Fairy Godmother who sees the green in nature as money.
To begin, they will hire a large, aggressive legal firm with local and regional clout to put together a team that will include developers, investors, surveyors, land developers and architects to pave the roads, bring in water and electricity, to the new dwellings. Brightly colored ribbons are tied around trees marking their fate and the waste of woodlands.
Yellow bulldozers will be brought to the peninsula on the back of trucks. By the end of the day a forest has become a pile of logs. As the land is prepared and the roads are built, sediment, cement, asphalt, dirt and chemical poisons will wash into the Catawba/Mt. Island Lake waters. The finishing touch will be the new trees brought in to line their streets to replace the original ancient hardwoods and pine.
Instead of a verdant green tree line running beside the boat as we cruise the lake, we will slow-down to stare at the enormous number of homes built by developers at the request of a global investment corporation. The faceless suits in high towers will never set foot upon the actual peninsula.
When ready, the legal firm will announce the development at community meetings. The housing development will be sold to their neighbors as an opportunity to maintain, leverage and grow their respective land values. Standing on tri-pods are meticulously graphic charts representing roads, home lots, gas lines, utilities and common areas. The charts resemble the color of rainbows. They were created by the marketing and public relations department. When the charts are finished no one but the art director can translate the color chart.
These same people and their oil investment partners are the ones who sold the merits of fracking to the State of Oklahoma which included the onset of daily earthquakes. It is a harsh reality to learn that there is nothing you can do to stop the pillage. Like Medusa’s snakes, more than forty or more piers will stretch deep into Mountain Island Lake. More oil and gas will wash into the Lake along with spent building materials. I am even concerned about how the new piers will affect the safety of boating on the Lake.
Neighbors can gather and defy the planned carnage of their land, but rarely are they successful. American citizens have lost their voices. Our cries are not heard inside the luxury offices above the fortieth floor. This is the harsh reality of Corporate Personhood.
Another harsh reality is the harm done to the Catawba River by Duke Energy’s coal-ash ponds that have leaked into the river since the Mt. Island Steam Plant began operations in 1929. Progress brought us electricity, but at a horrible price. Thru the passing decades coal-ash slurry has licked its way into the river bed like a long black tongue poisoning the river and the land. According to the pages of the Coal Ash Chronicles, “more than 25 percent of the chemical elements listed on the periodic table can be found in coal and coal-ash.” Just to name a few of the unseen poisons that invade the water we drink…
Duke Energy has grown from a local company to a nationwide corporation. Per their website, of their many financial sponsors are two global investment firms. Anchorage Capital Group is a private investment firm that “invests in opportunities with a view towards enhancing value as an active investor.” They manage more than $17.5 billion in assets. Their interests are in regional building and land development.
Another interested party, MatlinPatterson, a global investment firm, focuses on credit opportunities for homebuilders. MatlinPatterson is the controlling shareholder of Standard Pacific, one of the nation’s largest homebuilders.
The Catawba River basin is made up of eleven lakes. Lake James near Asheville, NC, is the first lake of the chain of lakes created by Duke Energy’s dams. While visiting in Marion, NC, I ate lunch on the shore of Lake James. I noticed how clear and clean the water currents were. The Lake is still clear enough that you can find a glimmer of a light topical shade of green outlining the crevices along the shore. This river does not contain a toxic coal-ash like the waters of Mt. Island Lake. The coal-ash contents of Mt. Island Lake hold biological waste, boiler slag, cleaning solvents, arsenic and many other unnamed disease ridden chemicals. Duke Energy also permits other industries to dump into their ponds.
Duke Energy’s ad campaigns are so misleading that recently I was told by Antoine James of the Charlotte Environmental Action Group, that Duke Energy has taken the stance that… “since arsenic is in apple juice… arsenic does not harm humans.”
The sun dropped behind the horizon leaving another hour of eventide. Drinks were passed and we spoke in whispers so as not to disturb. Below, a turtle popped his head out of the water, looked around, and quickly, dove out of sight. Herons wade in the shallow waters. In the distance Osprey chicks scream to be fed. Suddenly, from near the clouds, an Osprey shot like an arrow into the water’s surface. When he returns with a fish, we cheered his success as he struggled, wet and heavy with his bounty, to fly up into the sky. We cheered and toasted to feeding the young’uns.”
I gazed at the shore and where the ground had been washed away leaving a foot or so of tree roots tapping the river to feed the bodies of the natural world. Layers and layers of soil, worms, plants, dens, rocks and trees are exposed. “It is so awesome,” someone said.
“But the facts are grim,” came a whisper.
In the 1950s, enthusiastically, farmers used the pesticide DDT abundantly on their crops without noticing the lethal impact it was causing. Populations of Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Seagulls, Robins and many populations of song birds and sea birds disappeared. Since 1972, DDT was banned from use in the USA. Yet, the pesticides being used today contain elements that are as highly toxic. Will future generations of Osprey chicks survive?
In the summer of 2014, there are still a few undeveloped wild places where the shoreline is not despoiled. It is abundant with wild-life and mystery. Wildlife occupies this fading natural world which is so quickly disappearing under the ponderous grip of Greed, a deadly sin. Darkness had set in, covering our half of the world, to beckon sleep. I said my goodbyes with a heavy heart.
One morning, I caught a ride with the Catawba River keeper. We cruised with Captain Tony Mills up towards Cowan’s Dam. During the ride we slowed to look at a sunken boat near a coal-ash pond. We could see several leaks that allow coal-ash slurry to seep into Mt. Island Lake. Daily.
It was then on that bright blue morning, instead of listening and shaking my head, only action would settle the rumblings of my spirit and very soul. As a friend once told me, “A person has to do what they want to do. It is each individual’s journey.” The only power I have is the written word and my voice. If I was younger, I would have included marching.
Count the corporations. Count the corporations. They are listed from A – Z, all of them including AT&T, British Petroleum, Exxon, Insurance companies, energy companies, insurance companies, cable companies, etc. etc. All of these corporations have been given the rights of Personhood presented to them on a golden platter by the Supreme Court of America.
The corporations disguised as “Trusts” usually do not pay taxes because of being tax-exempt. They share the same rights as an American citizen, but corporations seem to be treated “more equal” than citizens.
Corporation personhood controls the management of local organizations. Chambers of Commerce, charter schools, family-owned corporations, pharmacies, colleges and universities. Their citizenship rights and tax breaks are far more important than the average citizen. Even the most powerful Homeowners’ Associations, (HOAs), are managed by national corporation personhoods.
Corporations may have been given personhood, but like robots they do not have a soul and their only religion is Money. Silently, unnoticed, and at this moment corporations are purchasing abandoned houses and neighborhoods, foreclosed homes, industrial and commercial properties and stealing universal water rights.
There is a neo-feudal system swallowing what is left of our individual rights. This time, we are not farmer peasants. Instead, we are worker-bees in skyscraper hives. The Chairman of the Board, aka “the” King, occupies the penthouse and the lesser royal executives occupy the offices above the fortieth floor. They do not want to be bothered.
The Catawba River of my youth, now known as, Mt. Island Lake, will most likely continue to be developed which will bring in revenue to many pockets and city budgets. There is little we can do about the pollution that will occur. An economic lesson, a tale of woe, whispered in a stoic voice, telling us to make our voices heard across the seas and above the fortieth floor.
I have written many stories concerning my adventures with Cousin Yvonne. I wrote many of them for her grandchildren who were young at the time of her death. There were a couple of stories concerning Yvonne that I never told except in intimate gatherings. Well, her grandchildren are grown with children of their own and what is more intimate than Facebook?
Once in a time long ago and faraway, the summer of ‘83, Cousin Yvonne, Frank Coley and I took a road trip. Yvonne had charted the trip from Shuffletown to the Outer Banks. She rode shotgun. I drove and Frank Coley sat in the back seat. He was the official beer drinker. During our five days of freedom, not one of us had a serious thought that wasn’t quickly extinguished.
A slight error was made in the length of time it took to make the first leg of the trip. We forgot to include the many extra stops we made on our way. It was after midnight, when we reached wherever we were to stop and sleep.
In the primitive world of the 1980s, the highways ran through a sleeping silent world void of blinking neon lights. Most of the existing motels and inns were closed up for the night by eleven. We looked and looked for a place to sleep. All we needed was a room with two full beds. We were budgeting.
But that is not what we got. Since all this happened in a time of long ago, I dimly remember recalling antique furniture, a roll-out bed for Frank and a double for us cousins. What I remember is more like a rental living room in a private home. Following this first night of sleep, I endured the nightly obligatory and colorful comments concerning my snoring.
The next morning, after refueling with junk food, gas and an extra twelve pack of beer, we set out for the Cape Lookout National Seashore. The trip was merry and foolish. For two days, we stayed somewhere in a motel with a pool. While I read a book in the room, Yvonne and Frank were tanning and drinking by the pool. Close to noon, Frank shot through the door like he was being chased.
“#%^&*(@#, there is a man out there with his family. He has a large chain hanging from his jeans and they are waiting for friends.”
“He’s been throwing his children into the pool and it’s aggravating, but Yvonne just sat up and hollered at him to say that if he threw his son into the pool one more time, I was going to beat him up. Look out the window to see what is going on.”
“I see a large man throwing a boy into the swimming pool,” I answered.
“Do you see Yvonne?”
“Maybe she is taking a nap.”
“You hope,” I laughed. “Let’s go pick up lunch.”
“Great idea, I will change clothes and we will sneak past the pool.”
“You can hide as I drive by,” I said.
Frank was the size of a small bear. He wore an untamed full beard; he was a sports announcer, a freelance writer and a sentimental, gentle man. Other than that, like Yvonne and me, he practiced the sport of humor. Wit is a blood sport in the South.
As we drove past the swimming pool, Yvonne’s head popped up like a chicken. She hollered, “Frank, don’t forget, you need to fight him.” She pointed at a tall, big man with twenty-four inches of chain hanging from his waist. He waved to us but Frank was lying down in the back seat.
At the mid-point of the trip, I called home. We had ordered our food. While we waited for lunch, I used the outside pay-phone. Everything was fine, but there was a message for Frank. His girlfriend had called to relay the news to Frank that her ex-husband had passed away.
I walked back to the restaurant and while frowning, I said to Frank, “I have some bad news.”
They called my number. My lunch was ready. I walked away without finishing the sentence. When I returned, Frank’s face was in a state of horror. “What is the bad news?” He rightfully demanded.
At the same time, I heard Yvonne say, “She is dumb as broccoli. It’s a good thing she has big boobs. ”
Another day, I remember Frank and Yvonne throwing pebbles at me after a ferry ride. It was a revolt against my snoring. The obligatory snide comments now began at breakfast and continued until we slept. We watched sunsets, swam, frolicked, and tore through the five days like children in an ice cream store. Until it was time to go home.
At some point on the trip home, Frank Coley announced from the back-seat, “I am horny.”
“As the cruise director, I told you that was not included in the trip agenda.” I answered.
“All I want is a little pussy.” Frank laughed.
“God, me too,” Yvonne spoke up. “Mine is as big as a bucket.”
I drove off the road.
There was only one summer camp for us rural kids, and that was church camp—Camp Stewart, it was called. We lived in the remotest corner of a kudzu-choked forest north of Shuffletown for a week of Bible study, evening vespers, and, on Saturday evening, skits. Presbyterians ran it. Our parents gave us no choice.
The actual camp wasn’t much. You could call it rustic, but it was downright primitive. We slept in tin-roofed cabins built on fieldstone foundations. There were paths, well worn, leading from each cabin to a cement-floored community bathroom. It had nowhere near enough individual shower stalls. And never, not once in that long, long week, did all the commodes flush properly. One or two was always plugged. I do not remember what I learned of Jesus Our Lord and Savior’s life back then, but I will never forget how the bathroom smelled.
I attended Camp Stewart with my cousin Yvonne. Yvonne from an early age was one of those children adults believed to be without malice. I knew better. But I will say she wasn’t afraid of Evil … and we were exposed to a lot of it at church camp. Every night our counselors would fill our heads not with images of the Christ child or stories of his apostles but instead, all manner of ghost stories involving chicken-headed ladies, bloodthirsty vampires, or pirates wandering around with swords through their eye sockets. I would listen to tales that made me want to cry, made me want to go home, made me stay awake for all 168 hours spent at camp while Yvonne yawned, totally unfazed. When the story was finished, our counselor would have us all get down on our knees and recite the Lord’s Prayer. I don’t think anybody, with the exception of men in foxholes, has ever recited the Lord’s Prayer with such fervor and hope as we seven cabin mates … leaving out Yvonne, of course, who was asleep before the amen.
Yvonne was in perfect control of not only her mind but mine, on occasion. There was a nice boy who rode our school bus, Dale Gordon, who was older, fourteen at least. He had a crush on me. I didn’t really fancy him … I was in love with Tommy White, forever, cross my heart and hope to die—but Yvonne got it into her head that Dale was the perfect mate for me. >She decided that, during this week at Camp Stewart, I should declare my love for him and reserve him for a wedding sometime in the next decade.
One morning as we sat rocking in chairs outside the camp store, writing postcards home–I was furiously scribbling Come get me, please?–Yvonne announced her plan.
“Judy?” She said, pursing her lips in that my-mind’s-made-up way of hers. “You ought to send Dale a card. Tell him how much you care for him and tell him you think there is a great future for you two.”
“Who?” I was underlining the phrase Come get me NOW.
“Dale Gordon. His daddy is a preacher and that would be good.”
I do not recall what she said to convince me this was a good idea. She must have told me it would get me home sooner, because fifteen minutes later, I had declared my undying love to this boy on the back of a two-cent postcard and mailed it.
Just as it slid out of my hand and down the chute, I experienced, for the first time in my life, second thoughts, the sensation of sinking regret. In the next couple decades, I married many men, but Dale, you can be sure, was not one of them.
But I got even with Cousin.
Every afternoon that week of camp, we had about an hour of free time before supper. Yvonne and I always headed to an oversized swing hung by ropes from the limb of a massive tree. The seat was so large we could stand facing each other, grab each rope, and pump. Boy, could we make that sucker swing. There were times, I swear, when it seemed like it was almost horizontal with the ground. The wind rushed past us and we held on for dear life. But we were young and invincible, so we kept pushing it a little higher, and a little faster, each day.
Well, one afternoon, just as we were swinging past Mars, the limb cracked. Yvonne always recalled that I landed on top of her. She hurt her neck. I hurt my back. People came running. The adults stood us up, brushed off our clothes, and asked us if we were trying to kill ourselves. They checked us for broken bones and then formed a circle around the swing to debate whether or not to fix it. Yvonne and I staggered off to supper.
Three decades later, a doctor convinced my cousin to have the cracked vertebrae in her neck repaired. After the operation, I went to see her. She was heavily sedated, but she rose from her pillow and pointed her finger at me like the ghost of Banquo.
“You did this to me when the swing broke! You landed on my fucking head, you idiot. This is all your fault.”
“Yeah, well!” I sputtered. “YOU shouldn’t have made me mail that postcard!” I rubbed my back, which still hurts me whenever it rains or I get worked up.
“Oh, yeah,” she said, dropping back on her pillow and closing her eyes. “I forgot that postcard.”
A smile spread over her face. Then she drifted off into a drugged sleep.
essay from my book, ShuffletownUSA.
There are only a few Rozzelles living around old Shuffletown these days, many have scattered to other locations. No matter wherever we are the Catawba River and probably a little river mud courses through our veins, hearts and souls.
Generation unto generation grew up on the Catawba River where we learned to swim, ate fresh caught bass and catfish by campfires. My brother, Frank, taught me to swim by throwing me out of a john boat and telling me to swim to shore. I suspect that is how most of us learned to swim back then. After all, we were river rats.
Families shared Sunday dinners at the long tables with city folk. Every one passed the platters of fried country ham, fried chicken, and fried fish caught daily from the river. Bowls of vegetables and relishes were next. No plate, bowl or platter was ever empty and the ice tea flowed.
The Catawba River has supported my family since around 1768 when it was called the Abernethy Ferry. In the early 1800s, a young Rozzelle from down east reached the Catawba River and fell in love with the ferryman’s daughter.
When the Abernethys completed their life’s journey, their Rozzelle grandsons ferried the river until the first covered bridge was built across the Catawba. When the bridge was burned during the Civil War we ferried the river once more. Another bridge was constructed, but the 1916 flood swallowed the bridge, the three-story Mountain Island Mill, and pushed a train engine off its trestle into the river where it still rests. The Rozzelle Ferry was back in business until 1929 when Duke Power completed the new bridge and opened the coal-fired steam plant. The old Rozzelle home stood above the river for more than two hundred years. It was burned to the ground by arsonists in the winter of ‘91.
Today, the only property I own near the river is a family cemetery on the Riverbend Penisula. Buried in this cemetery are the first settlers who built the first log cabins along the river’s banks. Some of the names are Cansler, Henderson, Fite, Abernethy, and Rozzelle. But there are more in unmarked graves whose gravestones were washed away in the 1916 flood. The biggest loss was an ancient Catawba Indian burial ground for it was swept into history.
There is a section of woods on the Riverbend Peninsula that is haunted. Old timers used to tell that no hunter could keep his hounds calm enough to hunt there. Instead, the hounds once unleashed they howled and ran for home as if they were running from the Hounds of Hell. I have been told that when the moon is dark and the wind is high, you can still hear echoes of howling dogs. Gold mines once riddled the peninsula. Confederate gold is said to have been buried on the peninsula in April of 1865. Down the Catawba River settlers sent cotton, iron, and produce for markets in Charleston and eventually their products reach the European markets. The history of this area begins with the Catawba River.
On Friday night, June 20, 2014, in the silence of twilight, I cruised the river with friends. Immediately, along the shallow waters, a heron flew parallel to our boat. We rode by an osprey nest and two osprey chicks chirped for dinner. The river was wide and the wind welcomed me back. Still, I returned home in sadness.
We rode around the end of the peninsula to a sand bar where children can swim and on weekends adults play. The boat was in the middle of the river far from shore and the river was only a few feet deep. So much sand and silt has washed onto the sand bar that in order not to harm your boat, you have to negotiate carefully around the sand bar.
We had Goat Island, sand bars and all when I was young, but nothing like this that I remember. The sand bar is grows when bulldozers break ground for a new housing development. While we were resting by the sand bar, I was told that a developer is preparing to build four hundred new homes on the tip of the peninsula. There will be sixty new boat landings built across from the sand bar. From what I understand those sixty piers will have to be built deep into the river to get past the shallow waters. This is what I have learned from the river neighbors. Many voices came from those who have spent their lives on the river and they have a lifetime of river knowledge.
The silt from the new development will build up the sand bar until it becomes a dangerous obstacle for boating. This is only my opinion, I have no engineer degree, but I believe that those who have lived by the river know it best. This is what I believe will happen. Maybe not during my lifetime, but developers are forever changing the geography of the river.
A beautiful new riverfront neighborhood will be built and nice people will move into the homes, townhouses and condos that are to be built. The river will become more polluted and the river bed will be thick with coal ash and silt. Already, we are advised not to eat the fish caught from the Catawba.
My concern is this. The water for homes from Belmont to Ballantyne to Rock Hill comes from the Catawba River. It is in danger now from the coal ash dams which currently have more than twelve places where coal ash is leaking into the Catawba. Daily. If the coal ash dam fails, we will have only a 24-hour warning, if that. I was told by a reliable source that Charlotte-Mecklenburg has only enough water in reserve to last for two days. Then our lives would become a nightmare.
The Rozzelles are pretty much history now, but I am dismayed by the damage done by the people who have claimed the river. Why are we not doing more to guarantee that our children and grandchildren will have clean water to drink and a river clean enough to swim? We can save the river, if we will? Or we can turn away and let it be polluted.
One does not own land or a river, we are only the caretakers. It is a huge responsibility and we should do no harm. Listen, whatever flows into the Catawba River runs through our faucets. How many chemicals do you want to swallow?
I watched Richard Sherman’s rant following the Seahawk’s defeat of the San Francisco’s 49’s. I didn’t watch the entire game. I am not a football fan. However, while watching Sherman’s rant, I turned to Lee, my faux-husband, and said, “Go Broncos.”
Two days later, after reading many articles on the subject of Sherman’s rant including his apology, I am still pulling for the Denver Broncos in the upcoming Super Bowl. I arrived at this decision for several reasons. These are my reasons and only my reasoning, if you disagree, that is your right and I respect that.
I know how badly these men want to play football. I worked for the long defunct World Football League. Yeah, I am woman of age. When they came to town, I was hired to be the PR Director’s assistant for the World Football League’s Charlotte Hornets. The Charlotte Hornets were the former New York Stars football team which overnight became the Charlotte Hornets.
This was long before women were allowed in the locker rooms. I had the credentials and I could have stepped inside their sacred space, but I had seen naked men before and I had been hollered at often by construction workers. I was thirty and did not care to plow that field. I left it for the next generation of women and they have my support.
Working for a football team taught me a lot about the players desire to play the game, the joy and the cruelties of the game. When the Hornets lost and they did, the team owner, Upton Bell, always sent me to Belmont Abbey University (where the team practiced) to meet the returning team. I was the also the one they sent when the paychecks did not arrive. The team knew that if I turned up the news was bad.
In the end, I referred to my trips to the Abbey as a venture to menopause manor. There is nothing more awful than a player who has just lost a game. When this happens, they do not simply walk away…they replay it in their heads for days and months, even years. Each loss causes career concerns.
It is a pitiful sight watching careers end, especially in the beleaguered World Football League that did not last much longer than a July Fourth fireworks display. I met many who played with the mighty Jets led by Joe Namath. Then, they were playing on hopes and dreams to keep their careers afloat.
The Charlotte Hornets football players were a great bunch and I cared for them. I noticed then and I am sure it is still prevalent now that the owners treat them like paid prostitutes or enslaved gladiators. The movie about Dallas football came out soon after my football career ended and I watched it with empathy knowing how true it portrayed the game.
One of my favorite team players was a big, tall gentle giant who was the only football player who voluntarily travelled with me to meet a group of physically challenged children. I will never forget how wonderful he was with the children, but I have lost his
name in the pages of time. I look back now and remember riding with him in his sterling white Rolls Royce into South Carolina to meet the children. He was just a great guy. I respected him.
It was the late 1970s, he was a black soft-spoken gentleman. I thought nothing of hopping in the car with him. Even while playing for a losing league and a failing team, he took time for the children. He was a star player, but I have also forgotten his team number so I cannot guess which position he played. He played hard in practice and on the field. I never heard him curse, though surely he did. We all did. It was survival time.
Since then, I have measured all football players beside my gentle giant. With this in mind, Richard Sherman shrinks to the size of Thom Thumb. You see it is a man’s choice to be a gentleman no matter his circumstances.
Many have defended Richard Sherman. One sports writer excuses Sherman’s antics by comparing him to famed wrestlers’ antics. I do agree that football players put their brains and bodies at extreme risks and some fans love it. In the passing years, the team players have become more brazen in their bragging and their antics off field. I am so sorry for this society’s worship of super heroes. It creates false illusions and ruins lives.
Still, many of the excuses for Richard Sherman also reminded me of a farm worker from my hometown, Shuffletown, North Carolina. Let me say first, Richard Sherman has been heralded as a supporter of charities and a good honest man off the field. I believe this about Mr. Sherman.
I mention the old farm worker because of one thing…men still wink at other men’s misdeeds if they are good and work hard at their chosen professions. This is a statement on the male culture that still survives today. If a man is good at what he does, other men often excuse their badass actions with a wink and shrug.
The farm worker was hired by every farmer in the area because he was such a good worker. It was whispered that he drank and beat his wife. But forty or more years after his death I asked a Shuffletown elder about the tragedies surrounding the hard working man. The elder replied, “I don’t know about that. All I know is that he was a hard-working man.”
I knew plenty of hard-working football players and coaches who didn’t know where their next paycheck was to be found. Some of them were stinkers, but as for my fated football team, the Charlotte Hornets, the majority were brave gentlemen in the face of desperation. I cannot help but remember my mighty gentle giant who rode with me that day and wonder why men do not encourage other men to become gentlemen instead of sports personalities filled with ranting, raging hormones that can act out worse than the fabled menopausal woman overcome with PMS carrying a hack saw.
I am a political junkie. It has caused me stress and disgust. So, now I meditate before i turn the TV news on and I never check the news during the day. life is better. However, I do keep one television on MSNBC…just in case of an addiction attack. I was passing through the living room yesterday and Al Sharpton was on television. I just cannot take Al Sharpton as a commentator knowing his past. But he has a nice intelligent newsman who works with him.
Yesterday, this reporter was reporting from Belmont, N.C. I turned to look to see who the white bigoted southerner spitting out stupidity was. This man runs a consignment shop in Belmont said that he knew for certain that Obama had entertained 1000 Muslims on the east lawn of the White House. There is no east lawn on White House grounds.
I was mortified at the way this man spoke of our president as being a traitor, a Muslim, and his favorite: born in Kenya. Any human being who listens to news other than Fox and has an IQ above 60 knows these are lies.
The white middle class and others are threatened because he never evolved beyond the separation of black and white races. Blacks have to be dumber and worse off than they are…this keeps his world safe and the uppity blacks in their place. I actually heard a friend from the south refer to Michelle Obama as uppity. I wanted to ask them if they meant to say that out loud, but it was not worth it. I cannot change another’s mind, no one can.
This Man from Belmont is not Godly. I would bet he is at his all white church every time the door opens, yet his words and actions surely embarrass Jesus and real Christians.
The odd thing is…I was home for Christmas last year and I bought a beautiful Christmas wreath from the Man of Belmont.. I remembered him because he was so friendly and he was the man on television. He was completely different then…I was white, my daughter was white and we were celebrating Christmas. he was very hospitable to my kind, but after seeing how really mean and bigoted he is…..I will not support his store and he and his clientele won’t even notice.
But I will know.
What has scared white southerners into this rabid frenzy of hate? They are led like sheep by clever fools. I fear for the south because the old white men’s club is threatened by a black president. Afterall, they fought the Civil War to keep slaves.
Here’s to the many southerners I know who are not of this ilk. I would bet that they are many. It is always the loud and the few who cause the problem. Mr. Belmont, that was truly embarrassing. I am sorry you will never understand what I am saying.
This is the third day of our government shutdown. We are waiting for the ingrates, the privileged wing of the Republican Tea Bagger Party to quit throwing temper tantrums. Instead the Republican Nut-bars have tried to put the blame on everyone, even tried to “Put the blame on Mame. Their audacity is second to none. These Dementers spray manure on everything that is not like “them.”
Every day the news is the same or worse. It consumes our media, warning of all that could happen if the Tea Baggers get their way. It consumes their lives and every waking moment – just hope it doesn’t soon devour life as we know it.
It feels like the TBs are demanding we follow them back into the dark ages of religion fundamentalism. They demand we adhere to the St. James Bible, the same bible Jesus carried during his ministry in Jerusalem. Women are evil and according to Hobby House the Jews killed Christ. This new Christian fundamentalism demands that we learn to hate others who are unlike them.
Part of this nation has been brain-washed by Fox Fantasy News and The TBs. Since the first days of George W. Bush’s tenure as president, this pseudo news station and the TBs led by Karl Rove have spread fear, lies, and hatred against President Obama and anyone who supports him.
Fox viewers are hampered by horse blinders… narrow vision. Many are old white people who see a threat lurking in every shadow in this, our changing world. I wouldn’t be surprised if the TBs and Fox News were flashing subliminal messages on television screens to keep their fans and constituents cleaving their guns to their chests. Karl Rove and FFN have practiced brainwashing on a level that the Manchurian Candidate and the Communist Party would respect.
Now, the TB Party has America in its grips. And as each day goes by, they are squeezing the life out of America.
The United States of America is being held captive by Republican hypocrites…it feels like the House of Representatives is pregnant with the Devil’s child – and we’re being held hostage in the hospital – to witness the birth.
Apologies to Jon, I stole his line. He knows which one. Thank you to the book, “Harry Potter,” for creating the Dementers. J-