We are Americans

There is so much chatter about the oil explosion in the Gulf, but so little action. We do know now that possibly every Friday, Obama will walk the coast and talk to strangers. When he returns, nothing happens. We in the people watch media images of talking heads, oil-soaked birds, oiled crab and sick dolphins. I have not seen any action. So, I ask myself every morning, “Why doesn’t the government do something?”

Send the Navy, send in the Marines. Send the unemployed. Isn’t contaminating the world more important that wars and hate? There is nothing to be patient about…this is a tragedy of world proportions. If the oil globs are on Florida beaches today, tomorrow…the Islands of Novia Scotia, all too soon oil globs will reach “The Halls of Montezuma.”

What happened to the old American way of life, have we forgotten all that our parents and grandparents taught us? It used to be that each generation taught their children to stand up and claim their mistakes because it made us a better person. Now it is standard to blame problems on your neighbor’s political party. This is not the American way.

Our fathers and mothers once taught us the importance of respect for ourselves and others. Back in a time, “a handshake was as good as a contract and things were built just so.”

I grew up country. A farmer’s child. My parents grew up during the depression. My mother had to quit school and help run the house when her mother became too ill to care for her eight brothers and sisters. My father was the eldest son of five children. His father became ill and he took his place running the farm, this meant he quit school at sixteen. My father worked the farm until noon, Then he would eat dinner, shower, and change into a suit. He was circulation manager of the western counties. He never came home from work before 8 p.m.

I was raised around people who grew up during the depression and frought World War II. Many of them had not had the privilege to complete high school. If a job needed doing…their generation, and our grandparents got it done. They built America.

Why are we, the children of mighty forefathers standing dumbstruck passively watching the Gulf, the sea, and the oceans being poisoned.

Are we so separated from the ways of nature that instead of becoming a land of opportunities, America has become the land of the silent peasant watching the angry peasants. This is so sad because we all live on this one earth. In this time of change, instead of pulling apart, why aren’t we pulling together? Especially, at a time when we all are losing a way of life. Has anyone noticed that harm is done to the earth in our name?

Where are the farmers who could ship loads of hay? If hay is the answer will someone place it along the wetlands and retrieve it to save the day?

If Kevin Costner has spent millions funding a device that can separate oil water…why is it not in use now. But, the whole Gulf oil mess broke down along political parties. This at a time when Anerica’s resources are dwindling.

It is time to remember that America was shaped by people working together. We are the government. We are America.

Does anyone hear the individual voices of America, not anymore. We have done this to ourselves and we need to help each other not fight over Liberal or Conservative. Didn’t our ancestors want us to pull together for each other where there was trouble.

As fathers drive their boats across America’s rivers and lakes, remember all that is nature belong to the Eternal, the God of many names. It is up to us to keep America safe and clean. It is time to label ourselves Americans, roll up our sleeves, and throw away individual labels until our world is repaired. It is the American Way.

Dead Relatives and me…

I own a cemetery and it is occupied by relatives. This might seem like a strange sort of investment holding, but there’s nothing untoward here. I had nothing to do with the demise of any of the relatives, and the cemetery is not in my backyard beneath the rose bushes. Instead, it is unmarked and obscured in deep woods. This dear piece of earth came to me through a quick claim. I was fortunate enough to be hired for a research project. I needed money. I certainly never had any intentions of acquiring said cemetery.

In the fall of 2002, I convinced a friend to hire me to research the history of the Riverbend community. Well, one thing led to another, and in the spring of 2003, I drove to the Gaston County Courthouse, gave the Clerk of Court the filing fee, signed my name on a deed and became the owner of an old and ancient graves. Through a curiously circuitous journey, I was led to these forgotten relatives.

During my history project, I interviewed everyone I could find who would sit and answer questions about Riverbend, including the peninsula historian, Calvin Hart. Calvin knew someone who had an old map of the peninsula. Another person came up with letters and photos of the old Henderson place, and the location of the Henderson ferry which took them across the river to one of the area’s first church, Hopedale on Beatties Ford Rd. I read the tombstones in the Lineberger Cemetery at the end of the peninsula. I spent days shuffling through the archives in the Lincoln County Museum.

I met cousins, grandparents, uncles, and aunts, most of who were dead. I read about ancestry that claims blood kin from Pocahontas and Norman Vikings. Family legend states that John Abernethy, one of the first pioneers to ford the Catawba, arrived from Virginia, and told that one of his grandmothers was Pocahontas. I read of a relative who died in a duel, another was appointed to a government office and when he was excused from the office, he refused to leave.

In Gaston County records there is a reference to an Abernethy family operating a ferry in 1764. This same ferry would be purchased in the next century by Richard Rozzelle, my great, great, and great-grandfather.

Among the early pioneers were Jacob Forney (arrived in 1752) followed by multitudes of new back-country settlers. Among the next wave were the families of Johnson, Mauney, Alexander, Abernethy, McCorkle, Cansler, Rhyne, Hoke, Lineberger, McLean, Howard, Reid, Reinhardt, Reep, Warlick, Chronicle, Dellinger and Ramsour. The Dutch pioneers arriving from Pennsylvania to settle along the Catawba were from the Palatinate Region of Germany. The Scots-Irish were peasant from the Plantation of Ulster.

It was in a conversation with a friend that sent me in search of a forgotten graveyard. I followed my instincts and parked along a country road one bright fall day…I entered the woods looking for a “supposed” cemetery. Leaves crunched beneath our footfalls. Unseen mourning doves called from the brush, periwinkle carpeted the ground, and the trees were thicker than rush-hour traffic. My feet were deep in leaves dropped by many fall seasons, it was quiet. It was spooky. I glanced into the trees one last time before turning back. Suddenly, I saw five tombstones standing among the trees.

These moss-covered slabs marked the final resting place of the first pioneer families to carve out hoe on the Riverbend Peninsula. More than one grave was sunken and most tombstones were broken, scattered, and in various states of disintegration.

Among the tombstones are all are proof of lives that are now long forgotten. James A. Henderson (b. 1796-d. April 18, 1888) rests here as does his wife, Linia Parr Abernethy (b. 1811-d. November 20, 1888). Beneath the fourth tombstone lies their daughter, Mary Adeline Craig, wife of S. W. Craig. Mary was born in 1831 and died April 20, 1855, one month after giving birth to her daughter, Mary Laura Elizabeth Craig.

James and Linia doubtless made many sad pilgrimages to this graveyard. They buried two sons, William Adolphus Henderson (b. 1842 d. 1862), James Lawson Henderson (b. 1839 d. 1864) and their granddaughter, Mary Laura Elizabeth Craig (b. March 5, 1855 d. 1868). Mary Laura Elizabeth was only thirteen at the time of her death. James and Linia Henderson carried on with the task of living for more than 20 years before they joined their children in the cemetery.

According to a letter written by James Abernethy Henderson on September 19, 1962, James Abernethy, one of Henderson’s ancestors, arrived in the Riverbend/South Forks area in the summer of 1769. He traveled to the area with his brother-in-law, Robert Abernethy, Jr. and Robert’s wife, Sarah Abernethy. Robert’s elderly parents were traveling with them as were his two brothers, David and Miles Abernethy, James was known in the family as Cousin James.

They crossed the river at Beatties Ford and settled on the western banks of the
Catawba River. The letter further states that James married Elizabeth Cox Abernethy and they were the parents of seven children. Among the children was a set of twins, Elizabeth and Mary who was nicknamed Polly.

Elizabeth married William Henderson. They had 10 children. Their first born child was James A. Henderson who rests by his wife, Linia Abernethy, daughter of Miles and Susan Paar Abernethy. Her sister, Mary (Polly) Abernethy married Richard Rozzelle and they had six children.

Richard and Mary Rozzelle settled on what became Old Plank Road and were neighbors of Anna Morrison, wife of Civil War legend Stonewall Jackson. Though the Jacksons lived in Virginia, Mrs. Jackson settled in the Charlotte area after the war.

The landscape changes, and decades pass, but as each generation births a new generation into their life’s journey to experience laughter, contentment, and tears; mortgages, weddings, and wars; ancestors are forgotten. If we do not know our history, our forefathers, if we erase history; how will we know who we are?

“Think of all that has happened here, on this earth. All the blood, hot and strong for living, pleasuring, that has soaked back into it.” William Faulkner, “Big Woods”

The Wisdom of Water

Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean
over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you,
you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.
~ Winnie-the-Pooh

Saving Historic Mountain Island Lake

There is unrest among the neighbors of Mountain Island Lake. Newcomers want to halt efforts to increase regulation and fees related to recreation on the lake, while old-timers — many of whose families were living on its shores long before the Catawba River was dammed, in 1924, to create the lake — want to preserve what remains of the lake’s natural beauty and resources.

And while the debate goes on, hardly anyone is discussing the central role the river has played in history, and the impact those events have had on the nation, the state and the region.

Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing a series of essays on the history of Mountain Island Lake region going back to the original settlers of the region. The essays are intended to provide context about the lake’s past as we debate its future, which at the moment appears to be perilous.

First, for those not familiar with the current crisis, here is some background information:

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To Arms, Liberals!

Gym memberships are out, the latest to-die-for accessory is a militia membership. It is time for the Westside liberals to man (and woman) up.

According to news reports, Oklahoma is considering raising a state militia. Sean Murphy and Tim Talley spoke with Oklahoma’s Tea Party leaders and conservative lawmakers who consider a state militia a pretty good idea.

Frustrated by recent political setbacks, tea party leaders and some conservative members of the Oklahoma Legislature say they would like to create a new volunteer militia to help defend against what they believe are improper federal infringements on state sovereignty.

Tea party movement leaders say they’ve discussed the idea with several supportive lawmakers and hope to get legislation next year to recognize a new volunteer force. They say the unit would not resemble militia groups that have been raided for allegedly plotting attacks on law enforcement officers.

Following on the heels of the report of Oklahoma conservatives’ desire for a militia, Newt Gingrich anointed the Tea Party organization as the militant wing of the Republican Party. A statement he is redefining this week.

Newt Gingrich makes no apology for referring to the tea party’s future as a “militant wing of the Republican Party” during a speaking engagement in York, Pa., last week.

If the right is going to arm themselves, the liberal left should consider a militia strategy. So, if joining a militia is the 2010 equivalent to a gym membership in the 1990s, this straight grandmother is looking to the boys and girls in the Weho hood, West Hollywood. Gays spearheaded the join-the-gym movement; hopefully they will be ahead of the curve on militias.

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Unleash the Christians…

It seems that evangelist Franklin Graham may be uninvited to attend Prayer Day, May 6, 2010. The Pentagon has no idea of the wrath they will incur for not allowing Billy Graham’s son to attend America’s National Prayer Day. I am not a fan of Franklin Graham. But even I take offense that he is not invited to National Prayer Day.

If you grew up in the South in the 1950s and 1960s, Billy Graham was the way to heaven. I was just as irreverent then as I am now, but each time Billy Graham came to his hometown, Charlotte, NC, to hold week-long preaching services…my parents either took or sent me with the hope that Billy Graham, a diary farmer’s son, would save my soul. When I was a teenager with a driver’s license, when Billy called for sinners to come to the front. I left my balcony seat and followed the crowd as they marched into the auditorium. Before we reached the entrance, I went to my car.

Franklin Graham was once the black sheep in the family, but like all prodigal sons, he returned to the fold. Once back in the family, he took over the family’s religious operations by unseating his sister in a first-son coupe.

Franklin has a flair for showmanship, like that of Papa Joe Jackson of the singing Jackson Family. Franklin built a barn with a mooing mechanical cow to honor his father’s youth spent on a farm. His parents are buried behind the barn. His mother never wanted to be buried there, she preferred the mountains. In the end, she changed her mind. For a nominal fee the red-barn and mechical mooing cow are open to the public. It is a Christian tourist destination. However, Graham also does a lot of good in this world. His Christmas shoeboxes have brought gifts to children in many countries.

This is what I do not understand. It seems that after 9/11 Franklin Graham said some bad things about the Muslim religion. Nothing worse than has been said by others horrified by a religion that condones the beating and killing of women and children. When a muslim girl is raped; she is often killed by her family to avoid bringing shame on the family.

Obviously, the Pentagon and the Colorado-based National Day of Prayer Task Force are handling this situation the way they fight wars. This is not good. I guess the generals think Franklin Graham being from the South, is too dumb to know how to say a prayer that will not offend other religions.

I believe that are many ways to the top of the mountain. I believe the Eternal answers to many names. If the Colorado-based National Day of Prayer Task Force does recind Franklin Graham’s invitation, they should just cancel the Day of Prayer. It is hard these days to find a religion without blood on their hands.

Supreme Court says…

In January, the United States Supreme Court decreed that it was legal for corporations, banks, and billionaires to bribe our political leaders. There goes the importance of truth in advertising and political campaigns, but truthfully that boat has sailed. Our elected officials, local and nationally, have long been on the payroll of lobbyists and foreign corporations.

Most recently, in the name of free speech, the United States Supreme Court in all its wisdom proclaimed that videos of animal cruelty were legal. That means that not only is it all right to harm and maim your dog…you can film it for the next family reunion and sell copies.

The Supreme Court has legalized violence against animals. Animals lost their rights this week. We lost control of our political system with their earlier decision that legalized corporate bribery. What is next?

What we have here is a backward Supreme Court that is turning its back on the American citizens. The next ruling could be that “promiscuous women cause earthquakes.”

Ode to Sassy

In a moment, my arms were empty and I would never, again, see her happy smile. Our life changed the moment Sassy died. Diabetes killed her. Her doctors had tried valiantly to save her, but her pancreas, smaller than a thumb, gave out…this time we would not bring her home. We made the only decision a caring parent of a pet-child can make.

Her small fox-like face and black fur were particularly pretty against the soft blue blanket I had wrapped around her. I held her like a swaddled infant and sang softly to her as I had done so many times in our years together. Then, in a moment, she closed her eyes and left. In a moment, everything changed. She will no longer scratch at my leg when I have been writing too long. My arms will always be empty of her black fur, nor will I again, see her mischievous, happy smile. In a moment, our hearts broke. Our world changed.

For the past three years, we had adjusted our life to caring for Sassy. We fed her on a strict schedule and prepared her meals in our kitchen. Our weekend activities began or ended only before or after Sassy had been fed and given her last insulin shot for the day. We never gave a moment’s thought to any other choices.

Sassy must have known that her time on earth would be limited to almost six, short years. Sassy was a black toy Pomeranian I rescued from a puppy mill. The cages behind the double-wide were guarded by large, high strung dogs. We followed instructions and stayed in the car.

After a short wait, a woman appeared out of the trailer carrying a puppy wrapped in a towel. I stepped out of the car, took the wet puppy placed it underneath my winter coat and held her under my heart.

You were so tiny and shivering, all black fur and small enough to fit into a ladies glove, you became mine the moment our hearts met. Lee paid the agreed upon bail and we drove away. Leaving what would have been a short, unhappy life of a puppy-mill bitch-dog. Lee named her. I sang to her. And Jipper, her three year old brother, also a Pomeranian, licked her face. You were six weeks old and not as long as the television remote. As you know, we spent most of that first night watching you. We were family.

As she grew, Sassy became, not the seven-pound toy Pomeranian, instead, Sassy was a dog. Sassy grew to fourteen pounds and was sassy. She trained her father to take her out at 2 a.m. two or three nights a week. She convinced him to rise and walk her by licking his bald head until he relented. Their nightly sojourns continued until she left us.

Once, when the four of us, Lee, me, Jipper, and Sassy, were visiting our home in North Carolina, we had a picnic. During the evening someone gave Sassy a spear of cooked broccoli. Since, she was probably already full, she buried the broccoli. We left for Los Angeles the next day, not to return to our home in NC for three months. The morning we arrived we were all out checking the garden on the back patio. Sassy dug up her broccoli and ate it.

In Los Angeles, there are claw marks on the Palm tree on the corner, where the squirrel waited for Sassy on morning walks. It was a game of seek and catch, the squirrel never lost because between the two of them; only the squirrel could climb trees. A fact which had not gone unnoticed by Sassy who during her lifetime made several attempts and did learn to climb the palm tree until gravity won. Sassy loved to run, she would run in circles until she tired and then she would fall asleep. like an innocent in summer grass. Each day we fell more and more in love with our little angel clown. Sassy and Jipper adored each other. Like all sisters and brothers, they picked on the other and kept each other company at the vet’s office, and when we were absent.

Life with Sassy was never boring and Sassy seemed happy even when she was sick. But I would say that the happiest day of Sassy’s life was a December day on a small farm outside Los Angeles. It was a curious and handsome house and you explored every nook and cranny. We spent the day with friends who raised twenty or so chickens. If we were outside, Sassy was chasing a chicken or chickens. They were running and trying for take-off’s that would land them safely on the lower limbs.

The squawking was louder than a Lady GaGa concert. Once, the chickens tried a strategy; they all gathered in the henhouse waiting for Sassy to run into their domain where they would peck the little aggravation in the head. Sassy trotted over to the hen house…stuck her head inside, and decided her job was done. She cut and ran for the porch. No one, there was no distraction that could stop Sassy from chasing the chickens. It lasted all day tiring all.

We left as the sun was beginning to spread across the horizon. By this time, the chickens were exhausted and so was Sassy. Both were too tired to run. As we walked to the car, a chicken would step from the crowd and take their turn walking in circles and letting Sassy sniff her feathers.

Sassy’s last trip was to the Atlantic Ocean. It is a natural…a beach and a dog. She ran straight into the sea. She chased every bird that had the audacity to land on her beach. She followed them into the water. I saw her jump over sea foam and seemed startled when the water was deeper on the other side. We walked up and down the beach and when Sassy tired; we carried her home. Sassy, you were my perfect angel and the only dog I ever raised from a puppy.

We knew she was not feeling well, and when we got home; we took her to the vet. We did not know that seven days later; she would be worse not better, ready to come home. It had been a week of tubes and shots, but she lay in her cage and smiled at everyone who passed. We visited her twice a day and she brightened with each visit. But, she was far too sick to recover. Her pancreas was destroyed.

Before noon, on Friday, January 22, 2010, I kissed her goodbye and together her parents grieved for our dog-child. She gave us laughter and unconditional love, I read once that God created dogs to show us unconditional love; hoping maybe we would learn from them. We said goodbye to our wonderful companion. Sassy was of another time. A time when there was a land called Pomerania where a proud breed of dogs known as Pomeranians herded sheep…and chickens. Some say pomeranians could climb trees.

The Pope Makes Excuses…

I truly believe that any church that turned its back on 200 deaf-mute children has sacrificed its rights to exist ungoverned. If these men answer only to God, let them hit the road with a staff and see how life is lived. Before you disagree with me…look into the innocent eyes of a child knowing his cannot speak. Was there not one priest who cared enough to save them?

I am biased. I was raised a Protestant. My Carolina back country ancestors were Presbyterians, Methodists, and Lutherans. So you understand why within my heart, I do not need anointed priests to speak with God. Centuries ago, we came to America to worship freely. I am biased because one generation of our family included several relatives who could not hear.

Recently, at CNN, I read an article that reported that there is a bill in the Connecticut legislature that would remove the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases. In response to this legislature, the state’s three Roman Catholic Bishops released a letter to parishioners asking them to oppose the measure.

This letter crosses the bounds of separation of church and state, plus the bounds of decency. Writing and mailing such a letter to a congregation is an act of unmitigated gall by the Roman Catholic Church.

According to CNN the letter is posted on the Web site of the Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference, the public policy and advocacy office of the state’s Roman Catholic Bishops. Below are excerpts from the article:

A bill in Connecticut’s legislature that would remove the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases has sparked a fervent response from the state’s Roman Catholic bishops, who released a letter to parishioners Saturday imploring them to oppose the measure.

Under current Connecticut law, sexual abuse victims have 30 years past their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit. The proposed change to the law would rescind that statute of limitations.
The proposed change to the law would put “all Church institutions, including your parish, at risk,” says the letter, which was signed by Connecticut’s three Roman Catholic bishops.

The bill has been revised to address some of the church’s concerns about frivolous abuse claims against it, according to Connecticut state Rep. Beth Bye, one of the bill’s sponsors.
“The church didn’t recognize that this bill makes improvements,” Bye said. “The victims — their lives have been changed and some will never recover from years of sexual abuse. For me, it’s about giving them access to the courts.”

Under the bill’s provisions, anyone older than 48 who makes a sex abuse claim against the church would need to join an existing claim filed by someone 48 or younger. Older claimants would need to show substantial proof that they were abused.

“They were worried about frivolous lawsuits and so we made the bar high,” Bye said.

The Roman Catholic Church is accused of dire and dreadful offenses, criminal offenses. The Pope and the Roman Catholic Church leaders are a symbol of the hypocrisy in our culture and our times. If ever I was caught in a misdeed, my parents taught me to stand accountable. These selfish old men should do the same.

On another note, an article at the Huffingtonpost.com reports that the Vatican was created by Mussolini.

There was a time when the church was a sanctuary for all not just holy adorned men in ruffled petticoats. The bishops in Connection seem to fear holding the Catholic Church up to scrutiny.

Watching the Catholic Church go through the throes of denial is like watching a tennis match as the Pontiff’s bishops and boys in velvet point fingers in many directions … determined never to admit the “dark uglies” within the Catholic Church. First they pointed their fingers at the New York Times, when that didn’t take, from the pulpit they called the victims to task and declared the church’s freedom from criminal courts.

When the church or any religion begins to lie and to cover up atrocities, society follows suit. Lies are now part of our culture. Our media knows no laws and limits, each day they print their version of the truth. Listening and watching to the media reminds me of the proverbial elephant that is always being felt up and described by five blind men. Lying makes everything easier and besides, the church forgives, if a politician’s mouth is open they are lying about something. Hypocrisy. Everybody’s doing it. And now, there is meanness in the streets. Bullies rule.

Class of 1959

The 1959 senior classmates of North Mecklenburg celebrated their 50th reunion at Pine Island Country Club during the Thanksgiving Holiday. Every one in attendance had a great time. There were no damages to the property other than two small fires inadvertently set by a speaker, and the club owner. And a very sincere thank-you to Charles Barton and Johnny Bailey for taking control of the situation when I set my speech on fire.

I hope we meet again, soon, the seniors of 1959…for obvious reasons. Maybe next time, we should gather in the summer…near water? The planning committee did a great job…thank you, Shirley Thrower Casper, Jeff Jones, Kay Broome Jenkins, Martha Fortner McInnis, Charles Barton, and Tommy Watkins. A very special thanks to Larry and Sherri Griffin, Miriam Moore and Midgie Wilson Brawley, they are the glue that has held us all together for so many years. I am posting my comments for the classmates who missed being with us for the occasion. I hope they will join us next time.

“I was talked into speaking tonight by Midgie Wilson Brawley. Midgie felt that if I told a little about myself…everyone should feel pretty good about themselves and then you will step forward and share a little about your life journey.

Let’s begin with acquired names: my tombstone will have to be cross-referenced. Judy Rozzelle became Judy Rozzelle Coffin Somers Coffin Savranakis, a Greek last name that took me three days to learn how to spell. After that foray into failed foreign relations, I returned to my original name, Judy Rozzelle.

I moved back home to Shuffletown and through no fault of my own, I was celibate for thirteen years. I shared my ancestral home in Shuffletown with my 19 year old nephew who departed and returned through the second floor bedroom window. I was robbed seven times, and sought psychiatric help. In 1992, while heavily medicated; I graduated from college, even passed the GMAT to enroll in the graduate program.

And the man who brought me here tonight, and to our reunion five years ago, is Lee Ryan. We met at Cousin Phyllis Rozzelle Henline’s funeral; I chased him until I exhausted him. We do not feel the need to marry since Lee is my third cousin and in some states it might be illegal. There will be no children from the union. After seven years together, we plan on living happily ever after.

I’m telling you all this as a testament to the human spirit. In our senior annual, there is a printed slogan….”Seniors’ face an ending and a beginning.”
And that is what life is, change. Life takes hold of everyone and tests all. No one escapes.

It is not what happens to you in life, but how you handle it.”