September 2006 ARCHIVE
The New Pandemic: Outrage Fatigue

Are you tired?

I have outrage fatigue. No one is listening to 49 percent of us because the rightwing has turned the word “liberal” into an epithet almost as bad as “Nazi.”

In fact, liberals are honest Americans who question the truth behind the headlines. We have become the only voice left for the middle class. No liberal I know berates America or is bent on giving away our social security system, or surrendering to terrorists. And yet that is what the president accuses us of every day on the campaign trail.

I am emotionally spent from wondering, where is the outrage? Where are our American heroes?

I just want it better. I want a middle ground, an open discussion and a change of course. I am tired of looking for an honest politician.

I am tired of whining.

Tired of reading snippets of the horrid truth about the Iraq War. Two billion dollars a week spent on a war we are not winning. Think of what we could do for America with that money. It could be spent on our securing ports and airports, on building schools and highways, repairing bridges and tunnels. It would buy health insurance for every American. It would feed the hungry.

I am so tired of Bush and his gang ignoring evidence and feeding the American public only partial truths. I am tired of photos of our angry president on the front page, tired of his hollow swagger on the public stage, tired of 51 percent of Americans believing what he says.

I am exhausted by the damage he and his cronies have done to America in the eyes of the world. Even our allies are worn out from the the Bush team’s pretense that America is on the right track in our war against terrorism.

Terrorists hated us before 9/11, but they are growing in numbers due to our global policy. I am so tired of opinion that President Bush’s way is God’s way.

I am proud to say that I grew up Christian and I was taught that true Christians do not seek war, nor do they call other Christians who asks questions ugly names. And I was taught that when a neighbor casts a vote in an election that is not the same as mine…well, that is the American way and my neighbors are not my enemy.

I am so tired of fearful politicians who are afraid to stand up for America. I am tired and exhausted that the American media does not present fair reporting. Corporate media has let us down. They do not give us an honest two sided presentation of news. They have all turned their back on logic, good sense, and fair mindedness.
Like many other Americans, I fear we will be attacked again by terrorists. But I know that we are not going in the right direction to prevent such attacks. I am so tired that I have turned my back on news programs. I am tired of the nightmares. I will just wait hoping that America can celebrate another birthday without tragedy. If they do strike, I will just do what I can. I pray for the American spirit to survive.

However, I am never too tired to vote. I will have the strength to vote against lies and half truths.

I am so tired, yet the terrorists are only becoming stronger. They have the courage to call our President the Devil while the audience claps. Then, our enemies argue over whether of not that was an insult to the Devil. I am exhausted from it all.

In Honor of the Passing of Shuffletown

With the razing of Shuffletown Grocery and the removal of Mutt and Johnny Rozzelle’s brick home on the hill behind Bud’s Plants…progress has all but eliminated our semi-scenic crossroads community of Shuffletown. The world has become homogenized and we are experiencing the disappearance of hometowns, tractors, cornfields, and minnow farming.

We live in the now and we live in the past, but progress has overtaken Shuffletown. Except for Shuffletown Grill and the Volunteer Fire Department…memory is all that remains. Once Shuffletown was a semi-scenic tourist trap; well, maybe that was a little exaggerated, but not much…for one day in May 1983, Shuffletown was alive with tourists, musicians, a parked parade, and even, an Elvis impersonator. On this day, Shuffletown was mentioned on ABC’s morning show, reporters dined on baloney burgers and sausage biscuits at the Shuffletown Grill, prepared by the women of Cook’s Memorial Presbyterian Church. Phyllis Henline’s senior class students presented a production of “Billy Bob and Miranda,” a play based on Shakespeare’s, “Romeo and Juliet.”

It was a dazzling, sun-shiny spring day as legend, myth and exaggeration were exchanged; Shuffletonians have always enjoyed sharing unsubstantiated first-person accounts of historic and just plain odd events. A favorite topic for the day was the legend that Abraham Lincoln’s mom, Nancy Hanks, who once worked as a big hearted waitress at the Rozzelle Ferry Inn.

At that time, Shuffletown was home to the world-famous and renowned Shuffletown Dragstrip, minnow farming, and the famous arborists, Maude and Estelle Kerns. The Kerns sisters lived behind a jungle of plants beneath a spreading oak tree in the Southeast corner of the crossroads. The Crown “Quick Mart” now stands where their ancient house once stood. For decades, neighbors in search of buried Confederate treasure assisted the Kerns sisters in digging up most of their yard. When the hole was dug and no treasure was found…the sisters would stick another plant in the ground. Everything, from hostas to sunflowers to daffodils and yucca plants, flourished in their yard.

Little did we know that day in May 1983 that Shuffletown, an American hometown, had only twenty-odd years remaining. Even then, it was an endangered species and that is why the spring festival was aptly named, “The Shuffletown Mayday Mayday Festival and Yard Sale.” Now, Shuffletown is history.

As I sit here musing over these most recent changes, I wonder if the ever popular Southern “eccentrics” are also endangered. The South is a haunted and humid territory that has lived under the shadow of a war lost and a unique partnership with the soil. Newcomers and outsiders, despite the fact that several renowned universities are located in the South, still prefer to believe that we are all uneducated rednecks.

During my stay in Los Angeles, I have met people who have never heard of Charleston, SC. If it wasn’t for the banking industry, well, the truly uneducated would name Charlotte as the capital of West Virginia which is not even a Southern state.

In honor of the passing of Shuffletown, I have gathered a couple of my Southern stories, tales that could have only happened in the South or comments that could have only been made by irrepressible Southern natives. I hope these stories encourage the odd, the wacky, the opinionated, the strong, and the unique to keep up the good work.

I have a friend who hails from a small town in Tennessee who recalls that the city hall janitor also moonlighted as the county coroner. The arrangement worked out well until one day the janitor/coroner released a report that a murder victim had stabbed himself twenty-three times. It was the worst case of suicide ever recorded in Tennessee.

And there is my friend, Loralee, who lives in Washington, DC, and consistently refers to our capital city as “occupied territory.”

My all-time favorite story of Southern rural life was told to me by a friend who grew up in pocket-sized town in South Carolina. Tyrone was one of the town’s eccentric residents. Tyrone was a pleasant fellow who suffered from the affliction “som’er teeth.” For the unlearned… this meant some of his teeth were gone and some were not. However, the day came when the local dentist pulled the last of Tyrone’s teeth.

Tyrone having never managed to hold down a full time job for longer than a day was spending the rest of his days eating soft food. Since his momma’s passing, Tyrone had depended on odd jobs and the kindness of neighbors to survive. Mostly, Tyrone just hung out waiting on someone to ask him to repair a lawn mower or run an errand. With each visit home, my friend could count on running into Tyrone at which time, they would exchange pleasantries about the weather, wooly worms and fishing. During one visit she noticed that Tyrone had a mouth full of teeth. “Why Tyrone,” she said. “Those are fine teeth you’ve got there. Now you can eat spare ribs and corn on the cob.”

“You know,” Tyrone replied, “I was down at the funeral parlor and they had a bowl of teeth. It didn’t take long for me to find a pair that fit.”

Recently, my son-in-law answered a desperate plea. This tale provides hope that the younger generation will carry on our traditions. His story could have happened only in the South. In an attempt to restore sanity to his place of work, he had to shoot a dead rooster.

You see, my son-in-law, Barry, works in an industrial complex. According to this most recent “Jack tale”, I have decided that this place, if it was not on the back roads of a Southern city, would exist only in a parallel universe.

They have several acres where their offices are located and a large warehouse. It is surrounded by a fence, but Southerners know…fences rarely deter wildlife. One day, a rooster and a hen jumped the fence and set up housekeeping in their facility. At first, their co-habitation was beneficial to all. The free range hen contributed eggs as rent payment. Her roosting places were unique; she preferred hats, machinery, chair seats and mail boxes. A well-meaning employee built a chicken coop with a fence around it. For a couple of months life was good, the chickens were happy and the eggs were organic. After all, organic eggs lain by free range chickens would cost more than $2.99 a dozen in grocery stores.

Enter the villain, a feral cat. One sultry summer night…the green eyes of a hungry cat peeked over the fence. On this dark night, this feral intruder grabbed the hen and ate her. There were only a few feathers left to signify her existence.

Now, those of us born in the country know that you can’t keep an egg-sucking hound out of the henhouse once he has tasted an omelet. We now know that once a feral cat tastes chicken breasts, they become stealthy and adversarial gourmands.

Did I mention that this is a tragic story? Before leaving work the evening following the hen’s death, Barry decided to shut the rooster up in the chicken coop to protect him from the feral cat.

The next morning, when the first person arrived at work, they went to the chicken coop to let the rooster out into the yard. The rooster stepped out into the open range and began to run in circles. The dismayed rooster was headless, having been recently relieved of his head by the cat.

The tenacious green-eyed villain had climbed to the top of the door,  reached in and grabbed himself a neck for breakfast.

Chickens do not die in a tidy fashion. It is not a pretty sight. It just takes a chicken a longer time to “give up the goat”, so-to-speak, and lay down dead. City folks aren’t aware of this phenomenon, but country folks are.

To bring calm to chaos, a quick thinking employee stuck a licensed gun into Barry’s hand and begged him to shoot the dead, but active rooster.    Being good souls, before leaving work on that fateful day, they bought a humane trap and stocked it with a fresh chicken breast.  The cat took the bait and the feral cat society was called to rescue the cat. Hopefully, the cat has been spayed and is living happily ever after in some yard without chickens. However, I am willing to bet that that cat will always dream of the wild and the taste of fresh chicken. The world changes constantly, but nature never waivers.

While there are plenty of genteel Southern towns, Shuffletown was not one of them. She was a place where our ancestors led hard scrabble lives, we shared our home site with the Catawba River. Shuffletonians were once known as “river rats.” Shuffletonians were cantankerous, knew their neighbors and, well, we were real. Just as many Southern eccentrics are not within shouting distance of observing the world as others may do, but their approach always proves to be on a collision course with reality. It is not that we are not smart and educated; it is only that we prefer to think a little differently…inside or outside of the box.  Shuffletown deserves a wake similar to Finnegan’s or at least a womanless wedding to celebrate what once was a semi-scenic community where the men were hardy, the women were tolerant, and the children were free range. May we always remember there once was a place called Shuffletown.

I Have Stayed Too Long in California

I have stayed too long in California. It is time to come home. I have overstayed my welcome in the TMS (“Too Much Sun”) of California. We have sun in the Southern states. We get enough sun to be happy, but we can still think, for the most part. We know what is odd and who is odd; and we tolerate them. I am beginning to suspect the constant Los Angeles TMS has caused brain damage. Readers may recall that I made reference to the phenomena last year—except it was happening to other people, not me…

Why do I suspect this? It happened last night. I elected to stay home from a meeting because it was too cold to go outside. It was 59 degrees and with the wind chill factor, it was a chilly 58 degrees… I turned up the heat and stayed home. Living in Los Angeles makes the South look sensible. My blood has thinned from the constant sun and I am losing all remnants of logic.

A person can stay too long in L.A. This is particularly true when your birth place is below the Mason Dixon Line and you are fond of exaggeration. We have always encouraged individuality in the South, but in California even the most bizarre individuals simply blend into the crowd. While Southerners are prone to flights of fantasy, the citizens of Los Angeles live in a world of fantasy.

When you drop a Southerner into the Western Culture known as California, what you get is overexposure. My friend, Debbie, is an excellent example of what can happen to a Southerner who stays too long in the LA sun.

Debbie is a former beauty queen from Atlanta and a former member of the Rejuvenating Society of the Virgin Phoenix (RSVP). Many of you have met these RSVP ladies. In college their misdeeds and adventures were legend–for never having really happened–even though, they really happened. For example, it didn’t count because she had her fingers crossed instead of her legs; it didn’t count because she still had her boots on; and it didn’t count if she had been sleeping.

Debbie’s age is somewhere between thirty-eight and fifty-three. For years Debbie has told me that she has never married. Recently, we shared a long lunch and she confided in me that she was married once in Las Vegas, but it didn’t count because she doesn’t remember the ceremony. And further, she confessed, “I did marry him one more time when his green card came up for expiration or something, but that didn’t count because it was also in Las Vegas. “It all seems like a dream, anyhow,” she added, “I look at it as a long engagement.” See what I mean? Debbie has stayed (way) too long in LA Sun. She is definitely afflicted with TMS.

Another reason, I suspect, that I have stayed in Los Angeles too long is…
I no longer stare at women wearing the combination of hot pants and sheepskin boots. These fur boots are worn in January and July; in 60 degree weather and 100 degree weather. Having stayed too long, I can, also, select five women from any crowd who consider their primary physician to be their plastic surgeon. In L.A., Botox is sold on street corners.

For instance, you can walk into any of the hundreds of restaurants in Los Angeles and ask for sweet ice tea, but not one will have it on the menu. You can dine on sheep’s head, octopus, or sweetbreads, but never enjoy a tall glass of sweet iced tea. However, there will always be on the table ten different types of sweetener and each tiny little packet will be imprinted with the obligatory note: no harm was done to animals in the development of this product.

In West Hollywood, a city within Los Angeles, you can purchase whips and chains for your own personal amusement, but it is against the law to chop off a puppy’s tail. I think that makes sense. If someone is crazy enough to enjoy being beaten, they deserve to be beaten. But the puppy does not volunteer for the knife. His tail is cut off without his permission.

In Los Angeles, backyards, if you have one, are the size of postage stamps. But this slice of dirt and grass barely larger than a single car garage will be maintained on a weekly basis by three Latin men and two Japanese gardeners. It will be landscaped to include a palm tree, two Japanese maples, an abundance of tropical plants and a cascading waterfall. The lawn could be mowed with an electric razor or clipped with scissors. The scissors method would require ten minutes so is usually considered too time consuming.

The final reason I need to come home is because whooping cough is on the rise in California and, I caught it. Recently, I visited my doctor for what I thought was a cold. During the appointment she decided to run a blood test for whooping cough. A week later she called to notify me that the test was positive and that she had turned my name into the Los Angeles County Health Department and the CDC (Center for Disease Control). I am now on a first name basis with the nurses at the County Health Department and they have informed me that adult whooping cough cases are on the rise in California, which means it will soon be on the rise across the country…

You would think a woman with three, used, white wedding gowns would slide effortlessly into the culture of Los Angeles, but it is all too much for me. I am coming home to NASCAR country where professionals are paid big bucks to drive fast and fishtail while driving in circles. Drivers in L.A. will do it for free. In this “All about Me” place known as Los Angeles, there are no rules. Los Angeles makes the South look like the home of good sense, sound thinking and compelling logic.

— From Ferry Tales, a monthly column by Judy Rozzelle in the Mt. Island Monitor, Huntersville, NC

James Eubanks

There is a song that many do not hear. There is a rhythm that many do not know. It is the song of life. James Eubanks has heard this song for as long as he can recall. Eubanks was born into poverty and hard work, and he was born singing, “Hallelujah.” James Eubanks was born happy, optimistic, and curious. These three traits made him a good neighbor and a hard-working man.

“Children were born to be farm hands back then,” he says, “I remember how cold we used to get, going out to pick cotton on early mornings. But hard work quickly warmed us up.”

James Eubanks never attended school. “You didn’t need an education to follow a mule,” he said. “Me and my (eleven, six boys and six girls) brothers and sisters worked all day in the crop fields. We started work at the first light of day and didn’t quit until after dusk. By noon we were dead tired. You just don’t know how hot you can be until you are caught standing between the noon day sun and the dry dusty earth.

“We always looked forward to lunch time. Our mom would fix a pot of beans and fill an empty eight-pound lard bucket to the brim for lunch. Then she would make enough biscuits to fill another empty eight-pound lard bucket. That was lunch. Around noon someone would go down to a creek or a well and draw water for us to drink. Then we all gathered around and shared the lunch Mom had prepared. When we finished lunch, we were ready for several more hours of hoeing or harvesting.”

“Word got around about my family. We were known for our hard work and we were hired as tenant farmers at several farms around Jefferson, South Carolina. My family moved so much that when the hens heard a wagon rumbling down the road, they would sit down and cross their legs. You know, when a farm family moved, you tied the chickens legs together before you threw them in the wagon for the trip.”

“When we moved into an old cabin, we cleaned that place up like it was a mansion. Mom made a broom out of corn shucks and we scrubbed the floor with creek sand until it shined. The floor planks in some of those homes were so sparse that you could see the chickens scratching around underneath the house.”

James never learned to read and write, but he worked fifteen years in a cotton mill before moving to Charlotte to become a butcher for an A & P Grocery in the early 1960s.

“Now, I don’t mean to be bragging,” he says with a smile, “but I have had a good life. I spent a lot of time hunting and fishing; I have eaten a lot of squirrels; and I have been blessed.”

Life has been good to James Eubanks because he has been good to neighbors and many animals. Behind his home on Mt. Holly-Huntersville Road is a pet graveyard with hand-made tombstones. Here lies Ginger, Joy, Hobo, Pepper, Dusty, Sparky, Daddy Long Legs, Whitey, Gray, and Busy Britches. In the 1990s, James had a 1981 Toyota pick-up truck and whenever he got in it to go somewhere, five dogs would jump into the bed of the truck.

It is part of James’ good nature that has brought him good luck in his life and a basic rule of thumb he has always lived by is…James believes in being a good neighbor. Before the turn of the 21st Century, James and his neighbors formed a co-op. James refers to his team of neighbors as “The Clan.”

“If your hay needed harvesting, if your fence needed mending, if your barn needed work, we all got together and got it done, usually in one day,” James says. Members of The Clan were a mixed group of African Americans and white farmers. If you wanted to work with your neighbors, then you were part of The Clan. The color of a person’s skin don’t make any difference when it comes to hard work.”

One of James most rewarding friendships began with a bolt. Right after moving to the Shuffletown area, Eubanks noticed Mary Alice Abernathy wearing a large bonnet and plowing the field with an FCX Coop tractor.

“I stopped to ask about something and noticed that the plow needed a strong bolt. I fixed it with a bolt I had in the truck. On that visit I met Jesse Phillips, who worked for the Abernathy women all his life.
Jesse helped out with everything on their farm. I became friends with Jesse and stopped by often to help him out with his chores. The Abernathy women watched me like a hawk. They didn’t know me and they didn’t know what to make of me. Finally, one day, I told them they didn’t have a thing I wanted. I was just there to help out. From that day on, we were all friends.”

The Abernathy family came to the area around 1750s and built a two room log cabin by the side of the road. Their farm was made up of more than 78 acres and running it required a lot of hard work. Their father, Francis Abernathy, was the local blacksmith, farmer, veterinarian, and guidance counselor. If a family was in trouble, he would light a lantern; go on down the road to see if he could help them work through their troubles. Farmers brought him their sick animals and their plows to be mended. When he died, the three Abernathy spinsters took over running the farm. Local legend suggests that they never met a man who could build a fence as good as they could and, therefore, the Abernathy women never married.

Jesse died one day of a heart attack when he was preparing to milk the Jersey cows. It seemed natural to James that he should step in and assist the women. In the next decade he doubled their herd of cows and helped them harvest and plant their crops. He took care of them and watched over them as they grew elderly. Miss Lucy Abernathy died of cancer and Miss Lavenia died of congestive heart failure leaving Mary Alice Abernathy alone.

James and Mary Alice became fast friends. There were many similarities between James Eubanks and her father, Francis Abernathy. James also enjoyed working with metal, he cared for animals and he was a good farmer.

One afternoon, one of Mary Alice’s cats was under the hood of a car when the engine was started. “That cat’s neck was torn up when it jumped out,” says James. “We hated to see the cat like that. So we decided to fix the wound. We got one of Mr. Abernathy’s crooked needles, cut a Clorox bottle into two pieces and made the top wide enough to fit the top of the bottle around the cat’s neck. Then we sat the cat into the bottle and stuck her neck through the top half of the bottle. Once we did that, I sewed up the cat’s neck. The cat lived for more than two more years, until it got hit by a car on Mt. Holly- Huntersville Road.”

Despite his lack of education, James Eubanks is a renaissance man. He is a self-taught engineer, builder and carpenter, architect, welder, farmer and inventor. In an era when men were born into poverty and pain, James Eubanks became a student of life. One of his prized possessions is a walking stick he fashioned for Miss Mary Alice. It is a walking stick with a small hoe blade attached to the end of it.

“I had noticed that as Miss Mary Alice walked around the farm, she would dig away at weeds with the end of her cane. So, I made her a cane that was also a handy tool. The cane pleased her and she loved digging up weeds with it.”

In his time, James has designed and built wood splitters, plows and hinges. But it is his barn design that captured the attention of many neighbors. One evening when he was in his tool shed, James drew what he thought would be a good barn. “I didn’t know the dimensions, but I knew what was needed to make a good barn.” The next day, he took it to Ross and Don Tench. They laid out the dimensions and height of the barn. The men of the neighborhood co-op came together and the barn was constructed. James cast the hinges for the barn in his welding shop. Today there are more than twelve barns built to Eubanks’ design. The barns are located in Shuffletown, Long Creek, Huntersville, and Marion. Eubanks forged the hinges for each barn in his shop, doing what he readily admits is his favorite activity, working with metal.

Mike Lucas built the Eubanks barn in Shuffletown and built a new one when he and his wife, Jill, moved to Marion, North Carolina. “It is a good looking barn,” Mike says, “and it is practical.” James Eubanks could have ruled the world if he had had just a high school education,” said Mike.

In the late 1990s, Mary Alice Abernathy’s body just wore out. In her will, she left the farm to James Eubanks for his kindness and care during her lifetime.

Often, we forget the proud journey of a life, especially when it is not written down. James Eubanks was born into hard times as were most of our parents and grandparents. In these lives we find the strength of lessons learned and challenges overcome. Joseph Campbell said that every life is a hero’s tale. Certainly, James Eubanks life is a hero’s tale.

— From Ferry Tales, a monthly column by Judy Rozzelle in the Mt. Island Monitor, Huntersville, NC

Navy Beans

I moved home to Shuffletown from the city when my last child graduated from high school. I had promised my dad that I would return once my kids were grown. I moved into Dad’s small yellow rental house on Mt. Holly Huntersville Rd. about three hundred yards from the Shuffletown crossroads. Dad was probably the only family member delighted by my return.Well, that’s not completely true. I do believe my Cousin Phyllis enjoyed my three year retreat to Shuffletown as it provided a grand opportunity to continue the love-hate relationship of our childhood. We visited over coffee, watched television together late into the night.

And we traveled together. Phyllis, who taught Shakespeare at the local high school, made reservations for visits to England while I treated her with trips to resorts that offered me, free accommodations in trade for articles I would write in travel magazines. At that time, I was still a member in good standing of a regional outdoor writers’ association. Every year, I received an invitation to their annual convention. With my two kids in tow, I had attended one of their conventions back in the 1970s. I had a wonderful time. I learned to shoot a bow and arrow and met several interesting men some of whom had a full set of teeth.

The ratio of men to women outdoor writers, at that time, was 51 to two. Back in 1971, the only reason I had only been invited to join the circle of men was because I signed my articles on marlin fishing and boat building with my initials, not my first name.

When I received the annual invitation to the convention, I became obsessed with the idea that this would be a grand adventure for me and Phyllis. The writers’ convention was to be held at a large state park in Tennessee.

“Why don’t you come along with me to the convention,” I asked Phyllis on one of our convenience store runs, trying not to sound too attached to the idea.

“What?” she retorted? “Are you asking me to go as your spouse?”

“Well, I am currently without a spouse,” I responded.

“They’ll think we are lesbians?”

“Somehow, I doubt it,” I replied. “We will wear heels to the banquet on the first night.”

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On the Loss of a Friend

One of my dear friends, Pat Henderson, passed away while I am far from home. The reality of the loss has not completely hit me because in my mind’s eye, she is still sitting on her front porch watching the world go by or comfortably ensconced in her favorite overstuffed chair in her living room. Unlike other neighbors, I have not seen the funeral bow tied to the entrance of her home. And, I know that out of habit, the first place I will look when I return home in March is Pat’s house, but she will not come out to wave at me and holler across the way, “Welcome home, neighbor.”

I will miss her. I will miss sitting with her on her front porch in late afternoon watching the sun set. From her perch on the front porch she invited us to sit with her. Pat’s laughter was contagious. I have a lovely group of neighbors and Pat’s porch was where we gathered in the gloaming of the day. She encouraged us to us to come sit a while and do nothing other than visit with each other. It was a time to pause and forget about the trials of the day. Pat’s porch was a knitting point for the neighborhood.

Pat was a card-carrying, joyfully cantankerous woman. She loved living, her family, her friends, and our little community. She loved the color purple, shopping, visiting the beauty salon to have her hair done; she loved spending time with her large family.

I used to watch for her red Chevrolet Impala pulling into her parking space. Our neighbor, Marion Davis, rolled her garbage can out for her each Wednesday afternoon. Shirley Weeks cared for Pat’s flowers and many others in the community enjoyed helping her with her chores. When she had been to the grocery store, I rushed over to help her bring in her groceries. These acts of kindness made us all better people.

There is a now a hole in our community, our circle of friends. There is one less hand to hold, one less person to laugh with, and one less person to care for. I have lost the sound of her laughter. It is a time of adjustment for all those who knew Pat Henderson.

One of my friends noted recently in an email that she had lost three good friends in the previous month and how sad it had left her. She further noted that she felt as if she was being selfish in that she could not shake the feeling of loss. I don’t think she could have been more wrong. Because, when we lose a close friend, we lose so many things that go unnoticed. We are forced to adjust our daily living. And we are encouraged to avoid grieving, a human emotion that is primal to our existence.

We knew Pat was ill and that one day she would not be with us, but harsh realities are often pushed to the back of the closet where we pretend it will never really happen. When my cousin, Phyllis Henline, died, I had spent many nights with her. Death stood just outside the door, but we never had the nerve to speak of death or how we would continue living without her. I didn’t do a very good job of living after her funeral. The void was too big and too quickly there were other family deaths. So, therefore, I am a big proponent of setting side time to properly grieve.

When we lose a friend…we lose part of our future. It certainly changes our future. Our ancestors knew that death causes a seismic shift in our personal worlds. They knew the importance of grieving.

In this disposable age we have dispensed with many of the old funeral rites. Our forefathers understood the importance of taking time to grieve.

I am not recommending that we return to the days when we held wakes and brought the casket back to the house for visitation, but I am suggesting that we set more time aside for grieving. It is after the funeral that the void comes in and sits down next to us. The grieving is not over when the last hymn is sung and we follow the casket to the grave.

Today, we return to work the next day or as soon as possible…to begin again, as if nothing has happened. What if we still wore black arm bands for thirty days following the funeral? It would be an outward sign of our loss and honoring the ones who have gone ahead. It would help us in our grieving and possibly create a kinder world. Many religions still do this today and it would not hinder our office work. It would only by a symbol of respect and a way to silently grieve.

Funerals are for the living, those who grieve. We need to acknowledge this. Grief, like a fog, hovers about the friends and family of the departed for many months and, sometimes, years.

W. H. Auden wrote a poem entitled Funeral Blues. It captures the essence of grief. I would like to offer a verse from it to all who have recently lost a loved one or a close friend.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos, and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead
Put Crepe bows round the white neck of the public doves
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

I believe that just as a river winds around a bend and disappears from sight, it is still there, though out of sight. So it is with death. Our loved ones have only gone ahead, around the bend, where they wait for us to laugh and love again. Good bye, Dear Pat, thank you for your laughter, friendship and the memories. We grieve for you.

— From Ferry Tales, a monthly column by Judy Rozzelle in the Mt. Island Monitor, Huntersville, NC

The World Is on Fire – Can Women Save the Day?

There is a problem in our global community — and it is women. I am not talking politics or women in politics, they are an unknown gender having become like their male cohorts: What they say today, they won’t repeat or recall tomorrow. Let’s just say that today’s politicians deal in illusions. It is done with smoke and mirrors. Polls, all askew and slanted, make their minds see-saw. Politicians have become the mythical shape shifters you read about in science fiction.

I am talking about personal power. Women have forgotten that we shape the world. Women are the hearth; women create the home, women nurture. History down through the ages has proven that if man is left to his own devices he will destroy himself. Enlightenment comes from women. Women must stand beside men and whisper wisdom into their ears. According to the ancient Kabbalah, women are the spiritual centers of marriages.

We birth the babies — we populate the world — we can and should shape the world. The world is on fire and women can help put it out. We can steer the men of the world to “Seek another way.” Women can shift the world back to reason and compassion. All women are responsible for shaping the world, “the hand that rocks the cradle — shapes the world.” There are so many ways to nurture and support. Men are destroying themselves and our world. It is their nature to fight. Men must be shown another way for our survival on this planet. It is time for peace and it is up to women to change the world and restore order.

The hard-earned freedoms most Western women enjoy today were not easily bestowed. At the turn of the twentieth century, suffragists ran the risk of being involuntarily admitted to mental asylums. In 1917 women picketed the White House. President Wilson’s administration had them arrested and jailed. When they went on a hunger strike they were force fed. Briefly, the leaders of the Suffrage Movement established a third political party, The Women’s Party. We do not want to go back fifty or 100 years; and we do not want to wait fifty or a hundred years for our sisters to awaken or catch up.

Why do 21st century women wear robes that are ancient symbols? They are relics from ancient eras and whereas 40 years ago Americans thought this style of dress was an oddity and quaint, now we see them as dark symbols of oppression.

Knowing human nature as we do, there cannot be one simple answer. Some women take pride in wearing the “chador” because they show their status in society; other tolerate them and wear them with the same sort of reverence as Catholic women who wear lace veils to Mass. Still others must hate wearing them. As for me, I am proud to sit in church hatless. It is my way of saying, how grateful I am I was not created bald.

The wearing of the ancient robes becomes more commonplace as you move into extremely impoverished countries like Afghanistan or extremely repressive and fundamentalist societies like Saudi Arabia. Women are so much more than their wardrobe. Women have spirit and wisdom that needs to be unleashed. Now.

American women were trained as Home Guards during World War I and we rolled up our sleeves and went to work in factories and shipyards during World War II.

Today, we are doctors, lawyers, accountants, and first and foremost, mothers. While the world casts aside axe murders and terrorists, who stands beside these unfortunate souls, who cries over their graves — their Mothers.

God did not intend for women to take a secondary role or to quietly accept second class citizenship. How can a woman accept the statement, “I divorce you; I divorce you; I divorce you,” without recourse? Without equality, without an education, we are slaves.

This is the time to encourage women all over the globe to be heard. I am not suggesting that women should turn from their chosen religion or remove their chadors, but I believe it is time to bring feminine energy to a world on fire. And this requires all women to be joined in unity for world peace. Women should never allow themselves to remain uneducated, and we should fight like rabid tigers to see that our daughters do not face the same fate. When the Taliban burns a girls’ school we should all rise up in outrage.

Jihads and religious fervor are holding back social evolution in the Middle-East. In plain talk, their energies are out of sync. Its Yin and Yang are lop-sided. The Yin and Yang of life is out of sync in the Middle-East. When men hold complete domination over women — their society is out of balance. The circle of Yin and Yang is a Chinese symbol of perfect balance. When either sex dominates, a country’s Yin and Yang is unbalanced. It is time to take a little Yin out of the Yang and bring the world back in balance.

Where do we begin? One place would be to follow the solution offered by Athenian women in the Aristophanes’ Greek play, “Lysistrata.” The plot is simple. Athenian women fed up with the Peloponnesian War go on a sex strike to force their husbands to vote for peace with Sparta. At that time, the Peloponnesian War had lasted twenty one years —

The simple solution should begin at the top echelons of our society. Laura Bush must stop sleeping with George W. and Tony’s Blair’s wife should follow suit. Lynne Cheney should make the same choice and lock Vice President Cheney out of the bedroom. How hard could that be? Mrs. Rumsfeld could seek refuge in a spiritual retreat until Rumy seeks another solution to war. Wives and mistresses of all Senators and Congressmen should lock the door to their boudoirs. Tony Snow’s wife should lock him out of his house just because he disrespectfully blamed today’s mess on the President’s father, President George Herbert Walker Bush I.

And in the Middle-East wives should band together and carry wrought iron frying pans under their chadors. It is amazing the damage a well-seasoned iron frying pan can have on a man’s thinking. And consider this, when a man has several wives — he is outnumbered. As my good friend, Mabel, used to say, “My husband would never hit me. He has to sleep sometime.”

When women forget their power and grace — the world slides into darkness. Hundreds of women die in the Middle-East each year because they cannot see oncoming traffic through the tiny slits that reveal their eyes.

Women must give birth to peace in our global community. Ask any self respecting young Southern female driving a Dodge Hemi how she would respond to demands from her boyfriend that she walk three paces behind him, stay home while he goes out and parties, or that she was no longer allowed to read or write. She would “run him over.”

Dignity is a basic human right. There is nothing dignified about being subservient. Our Arab sisters deserve better. Sisters, snap the locks shut, buy a cast iron skillet and look forward to driving your first Dodge Hemi.

LA – Too Much Sunshine

Los Angeles — There is an enchantment that exists in this sun drenched land just as surely as the marine layer rolls in from the Pacific each evening. Like a mist the enchantment seeps into your heart and binds you to Los Angeles. I believe the magic ingredient is the sun. Mankind has an internal need to bask in sunlight and when we are deprived of it many suffer from depression, but has anyone ever studied what happens when we are exposed too much sunshine.

They should begin such a study and they should begin in Los Angeles. In America’s southern states, the sun and rain mate to dance like lovers creating an abundance of trees and rivers. This is not the case in Los Angeles. Here sunshine is as constant and steady as a clock’s second hand. The sun pours into the soul like an overflowing cup and speeds up the body’s energy.

After two winters in Los Angeles and it is, to say the least, a hypnotic place.  Until this recent monsoon, dawn means another day of sun shine in Los Angeles.

I contend that this constant exposure to sun over-charges energy cells creating a rare condition I call Too Much Sun (TMS). Due to the lack of abundant shade trees they receive massive amounts of sunshine. You just don’t find a lot of trees growing in deserts and LA is no exception. Palm trees that grow to heights of 150 – 300 ft. do not create shade nor do most cactuses.

TMS stokes Los Angelinos with too much energy causing a belief in immortality, ambition, dreamscapes and the sport of chasing youth. TMS causes a disconnect with reality. How else would you explain millions of people disregarding fault lines and earthquakes? Each day on their interstates Californians deny the law of physics by proving that two cars can occupy the same space. They paper clip their houses to the side of cliffs and are totally shocked when the homes roll downhill. Southern Californians believe that either a lawsuit or a plastic surgeon can cure all ills. Los Angeles is a parallel universe.

Southern California encourages eccentrics and individuality as surely as the South once did. Stir in Too Much Sunshine and you have a mix of people that can delight and stun the average person.

Los Angelinos like animals. Their legislature has stated that anyone who has a pet is not an owner but a guardian of the chosen pet. With the exception of restaurants and many shopping malls well-mannered pets are welcome in retail shops. Recently, Lee and I were visiting a boutique with my two small Pomeranians, Jipper and Sassy. While I was trying on a belt, the saleslady petted my dogs.

Jipper and Sassy are beggars. They roll over, perform tricks, and beg for attention. It is a sport with them. They were standing on tip toes begging for more pats and a scratch behind their ears. As I purchased the belt, Lee told the saleslady that they were rescued dogs. Her response was, “My goodness, what do they rescue, cats?” Certainly, this was an LA Moment and a good example of TMS.

Later, we were carrying the dogs while descending to the parking lot on an escalator. One lady leaned over the top of the escalator as we descended and said, “Your dogs are Pomeranians. I know because I have a German shepherd.”

I was still pondering that comment when the lady in front of us turned and said, “Well, I was just thrown out of Nordstrom’s because of my dog. Were you?” She was dressed in leather, wore an abundance of jewelry and carried many packages. I kept looking for her dog, but none of the packages were moving and I could not see a dog anywhere. As we were waiting for the valet to bring our cars to the front, she turned to talk to us. When she did, there was a very small dog snuggled in her cleavage. My first instinct was to point at it.

She pulled her out and introduced us to Bijou, a fawn colored Applehead Chihuahua. Bijou could not have weighed much more than a pound, but she was dressed in a pink tutu and a jeweled collar. Before I could ask if the dog could dance, the valet drove up in a large white Hummer and held the door for her to get into the car. In a flash, Bijou was tucked back into her spot close to her owner’s heart and they drove off to another adventure. Wouldn’t you consider that this was a case of TMS? I think so.

Not long ago, we went to movie theatre near the campus of UCLA. It was a wonderful old art deco theatre. The theatre reminded me of the Carolina Theatre in downtown Charlotte when I was young. The ticket taker was old enough to have been working at the theatre since the 1940s. I just hope they keep an oxygen tank nearby for him.

People were filing into the theatre, locating their seats and talking softly as we waited for the movie to begin. We had seated ourselves at the end of a row. A couple came to the row and we stood to let them enter. The man was very nice looking with a shock of gray hair. He looked very familiar and I assumed he was a television commentator. His wife moved to slide past us, but he said, “Before we sit down, may I ask something. Are you a Democrat?”

Well, he had asked me not Lee, so I responded, “Why yes, I am. I am a raging Democrat.”

He smiled, congratulated me and sat down by me. I kept trying to figure out who he was. He had a deep voice and I figured I knew him from television. Just as the curtain parted and the previews began, I knew who he was. This amiable man was former presidential candidate, Michael S. Dukakis who obviously suffers from TMS.

I leaned over and said, “I voted for you for President.”

Ode to Broads, Gratitude for Girlfriends, Hats off to Grumpy Old Ladies

Recently, I had dinner with several friends. The food was peppered with attitude and laughter. It was a meal that left me warm on the inside long after we had parted and gone to our separate homes. I have shared many dinners with these ladies. Long ago, I dubbed us The Grumpy Old Ladies of Shuffletown.

First, let me make one thing clear…the GOLS are not grumpy or old. Well, they are only old if you are a reader under the age of forty. GOLS are usually women who are older than fifty enjoying their wisdom years.

GOLS have, in fact, reached an age where we are still independent and free– not locked up in a mauve-painted room wearing a straight jacket is proof aplenty that we have survived and surpassed. Most of us are past the travails of menopause; PMS is a choice; you see, we are Broads.

Let’s define the term, “Broads.” A broad is any female who is not a “chick.”

A broad is not a “tomato.” A broad is harder to push around that a younger woman. I do not consider the term, “Broad” derogative. It is an earned title.

A broad is a force to deal with. It is popular today to refer to the three ages of women as maiden, mother, and crone. Well, I prefer Broads to crones, but I find no offense in crone. It is just that the term “crone,” doesn’t sound like fun. A broad is a woman past the age of fifty enjoying her wisdom years; a broad is wise, stubborn, and has an attitude.

Dorothy L. Sayers was speaking to broads when she said, “Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force.”

Broads are good neighbors, grandmothers, aunts, and friends; broads have faced hard winters and each one has a story.

Broads are fun. Broads are the girlfriends you meet along the way; the women who sit with you when life is hard and hold a lantern to light the way; they are women who giggle with you in irreverent places; ladies who wink at life. Broads are quilters who have stitched their bits and pieces of their lives together as required by circumstances, adjustments and reconstruction. Broads have hard earned wisdom.

These women are real; beautiful in many ways, but as you know the best people are often not golden and bright, nor perfect and unflawed. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, some of us are covered in rust and have broken nails.

Bette Davis was a broad. She knew the advantages of being a broad. She said: “If you want a thing done well, get a couple of old broads to do it.” All friendships are blessings. Friendships with broads are the spice of life.

The recent dinner with the GOLS reminded me of the importance of women companions. The GOLS are a pride of individuals who know the secrets of life. But we each only know one of life’s secrets. This is why we need many girl friends. A circle of friends provides a pool of wisdom to draw upon. Women gather in circles because there is always room for one more, always room for another viewpoint.

I am beginning this New Year in gratitude of the women foot soldiers I have met along my life’s journey. While Hollywood is handing out Golden Globe Awards and magazines are selecting people of the year for their covers, I would like to suggest that you take time to honor a broad. Take a broad to lunch.

In the spirit of Bette Davis, I am going to take time to honor several women I know who have a twinkle in their eye and a wink for the future with a Grand Old Broads Award.

My first award would go to Frances Haines who in her 90s is an artist and recently held an art showing that raised more than $3,000.00 for charity and still is very quotable. I recently heard her say, “I got my wings clipped. But I can still paint; I can still see; I can still hear; I’ve got my teeth; you just take what you have and do the best you can with it.”

I would like to honor Belle Banks. Belle is the gracious hostess of the antebellum mansion, Cedar Grove. She writes a weekly column for the Lake Norman Times. Belle recently gave her last public performance in the role of Mrs. Santa Claus. In her weekly column, she wrote, “We were two old dames who had a blast together.” Recently, I was a guest in Belle’s home and she is still having a blast. Sonia Morrison, who celebrated her 80th birthday and retired from her job so she could have more time to take more cruises and do more dancing.

There are so many other wonderful broads in my life and I am grateful for each one. I am so appreciative for the Grumpy Old Ladies of Shuffletown. They entered my life and blessed it with shared laughter.

Thank you to all the women who touch my life. Thank you for your spunk, kindness, patience and wisdom. Thank you for your enduring friendship and for sharing life as it passes.

Ma Joad said it best in John Steinbeck’s novel, Grapes of Wrath. She said: “Well, Pa, a woman can change better than a man. A man lives – well, in jerks. Baby’s born or somebody dies, and that’s a jerk. He gets a farm or loses it, and that is a jerk. With a woman, it’s all in one flow, like a stream – little eddies and waterfalls, but the river, it goes right on. Women look at it that way.”

Broads have experience with the river of life. Take a broad to lunch; sit back, learn, laugh and, most of all, enjoy.

— From Ferry Tales, a monthly column by Judy Rozzelle in the Mt. Island Monitor, Huntersville, NC

God Bless Aunt Nancy

God Bless Aunt Nancy and all the Other “Aunt Nancys”

Mostly, I didn’t like Aunt Nancy and mostly, she didn’t like me. At least that is how it was for most of our lives.

Until I was fifteen, she was the family “Old Maid.” She was uptight, devout, priggish, and wore her hair in tight waves around her face. She led an organized and scheduled life. She was close to forty when she married, but marriage didn’t change her too much. She and Uncle Willis had a quiet marriage and after a couple of years, they moved into separate bedrooms.

When I saw her coming, I saw trouble. I suspect that as a child, I represented a world she would never know and wasn’t the least interested in.

I was a slob, tardy, rowdy, and most often, had a remnant of chewed bubble gum in my uncombed hair. My behavior never upset my parents as much as it upset Aunt Nancy. My existence just plain exasperated Aunt Nancy. For example, when she was the teacher of my third grade Sunday school class, she instructed us to memorize a Bible verse to be recited the following week. The next Sunday, I was the first person she called on; I stood and recited, “Jesus wept,” the shortest verse in the Bible. While the other children snickered, Aunt Nancy fought back tears and, I suspect, prayed for lightening to strike me.

Aunt Nancy’s professional career had been in banking, but in her retirement years, she had me. On my third and final return to Shuffletown due to divorce, like a screw being anchored in hard wood, I was spiraling hard into a depression.

Yet, at the end of her life and the renaissance of mine, it was Aunt Nancy who picked me up, dusted me off and set me upright, again. And I am grateful.

She was there for me. During those dark days, Aunt Nancy became my support group. She didn’t like me any better, nor I her, but during that time we set that aside and accepted that we were family. Unnoticed by either of us, we began to care for each other. We suspended animosities and Aunt Nancy wrote my salvation in indelible ink into her life mission statement.

I led a hard life back then. Wrong choices led into prescription drug addiction, aching loneliness, and eventually cancer. During my recovery, Aunt Nancy was my constant support and companion. I found comfort just sitting beside her and talking. She became the Beatrice of my life, my journey. She had helped me structure a budget to pay medical bills. She balanced my checkbook, helped me set up payment plans with doctors and brought my life into balance.

She kept a straight back chair alongside her big, tan corduroy, overstuffed chair where she sat each day. She kept a pillow for her elbow in the chair. She broke her elbow on a trip to Disneyland with a Christian tour group. The old injury often ached – it was an unpleasant reminder that this same Christian tour group never sent her flowers–while she was in the hospital–in another state–among strangers; nor did they send flowers, best wishes, or acknowledge her return home to Charlotte.

When I came in, I would pick up the cushion and sit down in the straight chair. I guess I wanted to be near her. On the other side of her chair was the telephone within arm’s reach. She spoke on the phone for more than fifteen minutes each hour, except, of course, when her favorite daytime soap was airing.

We rarely had meaningful conversations. We talked about regular things; family news, the weather, what the preacher said on Sunday, and who was sick in the community. I am not sure that we really got a long any better. I think I mostly had learned to steer clear of subjects that would irritate her. I never stopped being afraid of her and I always felt just one step away from reminding her of the child who memorized the Bible shortest verse, Jesus wept.

I needed her; I had begun to care dearly for her; and it became important to earn her love and her respect. Aunt Nancy represented all things good and virtuous. In those times, when I was a slaying dragons, Aunt Nancy sat by me and set aside her judgments of me.

And the times I recall most fondly of those years are Friday afternoons. During the work week, she babysat my little dog, Gracious. I would drop Gracious off each morning and pick her up each afternoon.

In the morning, she and Uncle Willis would always be eating breakfast, I would open the door, set Gracious on the floor, and Aunt Nancy would lay down her wheat toast, slide away from the table, pat her lap and Gracious would run to her. In the afternoon when I arrived, Gracious would be in her lap sleeping while Aunt Nancy watched the news or talked on the phone. It was an arrangement that pleased everyone.

When winter passed and the days became longer, Aunt Nancy would encourage me to stay and visit especially on Friday afternoons. My lingering became a ritual. On a yawning Friday afternoon I would step out of my car and shortly, Aunt Nancy would step lightly down the back door steps. Gracious would bound into the freedom of the yard and I would retrieve two webbed lawn chairs from the storage shed near the car port. Then, we sat in silence, mostly, and wait for the sky to change from blue to orange to blackberry to twilight.

In the gloaming, this twilight time, we renewed family threads and connections. Too old to worry about the differences in our lives, we would slide into the quiet comfort of our company. Again, our conversations covered many things, community, family, births, marriages, and the infirm. During these afternoon visits, Aunt Nancy talked to me about change and if I had a penny for every time she said: “change was the only constant in life”, well, I could pay cash for a Lexus.

Aunt Nancy understood that nothing in life was permanent except the frailty of the human soul and the necessity of faith. As day faded into evening, Aunt Nancy led me back to earth.

Old habits die hard and sometimes, we disagreed. During this time, I returned to writing and each time an article was published, Aunt Nancy would take umbrage with some fact in the essay. We debated the most trivial of things and facts never got in the way of Aunt Nancy’s opinion.

We even argued over when the road in front of her house was paved. To settle the argument, I called the public library’s reference desk to settle the dispute. They confirmed my side of the argument. Aunt Nancy’s reply was, “Well, you can’t believe everything people tell you.”

Aunt Nancy and her home became my safe haven. A place I felt welcome, even when she would turn to me and say: “I am tired; now, go home.”

In too short a time, Aunt Nancy had become the only surviving member of our father’s siblings. She became the lynchpin, the cog that held the Rozzelle family together. She was the clearing house for family information. When times began to change in our world; when old home places were sold; when commerce came to the crossroads and Shuffletown Grocery was sold; and Rozzelles began to move away from the area, she comforted us. Still, as she continued to remind us, “The only constant is change.”

My sister, Jill, reminded me last week that it had been a year and a half since Aunt Nancy died. It doesn’t seem possible that it has been that long. Yet, it also seems like a century since I unfolded a lawn chair and sat with her at sunset. Since her death, it and the world I once shared with my sister and brother exists only in small pockets around Shuffletown. There are only remnants of places where we were once family. We have drifted, like planets escaping gravity, to far away places.

I was acutely aware of this, last month, when I stopped at the red light at Shuffletown crossroads. The crossroads were dark. There were no porch lights on. There are no front porches, left. Aunt Alma and Uncle Ed’s home is gone from the southwestern corner. Uncle Johnny and Aunt Mutt’s house in the Northwest corner stands empty and waits for the next chapter. The swimming pool behind Cousin Phyllis’ house is empty and looks lonely.

Once upon a time, in Aunt Nancy’s era, if you lived more than a mile or two from the crossroads of Mt. Holly-Huntersville Rd. and Rozzelles Ferry lived out of town. Now, I live three time zones away.

Kinfolks and generations of neighbors can be too real and too challenging for many of us. But change has found us and, as it turns out, Aunt Nancy was right about many things.

Change is constant and once it begins in earnest, it picks up speed. Sometimes, I call my sister and brother for no reason other than to remind myself that once we were neighbors.

When Aunt Nancy died in June of 2004, she took with her an era. As surely as the closing of her casket, the door to a time and the memory of a place disappeared into obscurity. It seems as though she had departed a hundred years ago. This is an ode to Aunt Nancy and to all the Aunt Nancy’s of the world: there are too few of them left. If you listen to them…they will right your world.

Ferry Tales, Mt. Island Monitor