Ramblings of Charles Prier – Writer-Insomniac-General Know-it-All

Ol’ Vernon

Some believed Vernon to be a good Christian man. Others believed the goodness might just be camouflage for his vitiated character. This contrast is varied among those who knew him. I believe there is clear evidence for both conditions. I knew him when I was a young teenager. My spiritual consciousness had not been awakened at the time so I was able to observe, probably with prejudice, evidence favoring camouflage.

He was a distant cousin of my mother and, as my dad used to say, from the halfassed side of the family. Me and his son, Elvin, who was a couple of years older than me, ran around together some in those days.  I can remember spending nights at his house. On those nights, after dark we would sit around the living room chatting, playing a board game or working on a jigsaw puzzle, Vernon would abruptly stop everything and read a chapter or a passage, out loud, from the Bible. He spoke with a dry monotone voice and thankfully added no commentary. After the Bible reading, he would insist that all the lights be turned out and we sat silently in the dark for a period of time. He held a flashlight and would randomly click it on for a second or two. I reasoned that it was to check that no one was asleep. Near the end of the dark time he would creep to the front door and appear to listen intently for anything he might hear outside. I wanted to ask why but didn’t.

Sitting there in the dark was awkward for me. I didn’t know what to do. Usually I would just fantasize about stuff I don’t wish to discuss here. . . Okay, just this one thing. His daughter, Joann, who was a little younger than me, frequently sat on the porch up at the store and ate ice cream. It was rumored that if you would buy her an ice cream cone, she would let you look up her dress while she ate it. I don’t know if that’s true since I never had the money to buy her an ice cream cone. My fantasy was more about having a nickel than buying her an Ice cream. Thinking back, Joann gained a lot of weight that summer.

Vernon used to ask questions that lacked grace. If I wore a new shirt he would ask, “How much did it cost?” I always answered with a lie. He often asked how much money my dad made. I always said I don’t know. His facial expression told me that he didn’t believe me, but actually I didn’t know.

Vernon used to take up collections for people. This was in the days before abundant welfare programs, and whenever someone was down sick and couldn’t work, the custom was to take up a collection for them, a love offering so to speak. Vernon was the first to begin taking up a collection. I wondered how much of the collection made it to its intended recipient and how much of it went into Vernon’s pocket.

Vernon was able to spin elaborate stories of those ailing and needing a collection. “Ol’ Ted Atkins  ’as been laid up for a while,” he would say. “You know he had appendicitis and an infection set in after that. He ain’t been able to do a lick of work in more than a month. It’s good that they don’t have no rent to pay but he and his family has to eat. They’ve already eaten a bunch of their chickens. Only have a few left, just enough for a few eggs. And them hens don’t lay very much since they only eat what they can scratch out of the ground. The kids are doing the chores around the house and keeping wood pile up. And Nellie, she takes care of him, cooks and keeps the house up, though some say not so good. She’s never worked outside the house. So, anything you could give would sure help them out and we’ll see they are taken care of as best as we can,” he’d conclude.

Vernon died in 1995. I hear someone took up a collection to help pay for his cremation.  –CP


Dancing in the Rain

I have come to the conclusion that good fortune is allocated to this planet daily. The allocation is relatively small compared to the population. Only a few of us will have good fortune on any particular day. The absence of good fortune is not necessarily misfortune; it could just be indifference. That’s because misfortune is allocated the same way as good fortune except with a smaller portion. It’s a lot like yawns which, as you know, hang around the room probably no more than two at a time; these are simply passed from person to person and back and forth in random order. Yawns do seem to congregate and linger in places where speakers are speaking to a group. Sometimes there are more than two in the room depending on the speaker, the subject and whether it is before or after dinner.

Again, good fortune is allocated daily, probably on a random basis. In ancient times it was thought that the charms and spells of a sorcerer could influence where good fortune settled. Nowadays we credit ourselves when we have good fortune and find someone else to blame when we don’t.

Some still cling to the ancient rituals of charms and spells. There’s the guy that confidently twirls his keys that are tethered to a rabbit’s foot which clearly represents misfortune for the rabbit. And there is the young lady who meditates in a painful yogic position to rid herself of bad karma she picked up in a past life through some misdeed she can’t remember.

I’m not sure that charms make any sense at all. I usually lose mine in the laundry or they simply vanish like the mate to the single sock remaining from my once favorite pair. And what is bad karma anyway but baggage from poor choices that will eventually catch up with you anyway. No, good fortune distribution is either random or some cosmic joke, else someone would have figured it out scientifically and bottled it. Maybe they have and are keeping it a secret; how is that for a conspiracy theory?

Perhaps the best we can do it take the bumps as they come and avoid blaming those receiving the day’s ration of good fortunate. I remember a quote by someone about weathering the storm that in essence says “don’t wait for the storm to pass, instead, learn to dance in the rain.”–CP

Karo Nut Pie

When I was a kid mom used to make pecan pies as a special treat. In those days we called them Karo nut pies because Karo syrup was used in the recipe. That was about the only place Karo syrup was used. It wasn’t very good on pancakes, or a buttered biscuit where sorghum molasses heated and poured on was preferred.

Making Karo nut pies was a big deal. The syrup was store-bought and because of sugar rationing during the war, was in short supply. The nuts had to be cracked and the goodies picked out. Pecans were used most often but black walnuts or even hickory nuts could be used. Even as a kid I helped with the nut cracking and goodie picking. We would sit under a shade tree and crack the nuts with a claw hammer on a big flat rock. I had to crack a lot of nuts because I ate about every other goodie. I remember that when we were cracking walnuts our hands would be stained black and look dirty for about a week afterwards. The pies made with walnuts were especially good but for digestive reasons you shouldn’t eat but one piece.

Years later during Navy boot camp, a bunch of us were sitting around talking about what we missed from back home, I mentioned that I sure would enjoy a big slice of Karo nut pie. A recruit from New Jersey asked, “What’s a Karo nut?”

There were giggles from some of my Arkansas buddies. Then one of them said “they’re nuts that come from Karo trees.”

“I never heard of a Karo tree,” he said.

“That’s understandable; they only grow on the side of the mountains in Arkansas.” The buddy responded. The others nodded in agreement and no one laughed.

I have a habit of looking at license plates as I drive about and especially on trips. When I see a car with New Jersey plates I always smile and wonder if the occupants have ever heard of a Karo tree. –CP


“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.” –Anonymous

Lifting or Leaning

From many years back I remember the gist of a little poem about Lifting and Leaning. The author’s premise is that there are only two types of people in the world “those who Lift and those who Lean.” Although I can’t remember many of the words or the author’s name, the little piece made an impression on me.
When I was young and inexperienced I believed that I was certainly a Lifter and that Leaners were of lesser character and should learn to lean upon themselves instead of us Lifters. I found it easy to dislike someone if they appeared to be leaning in any manner and felt that lifting out of love was surely a commitment to endure a heavy burden.
Later in life I began to evaluate my own actions in terms of Lifting or Leaning. I was horrified to observe that much of my own behavior was the leaning type; these, at first, were in mundane and unimportant areas of life, of course.
Time and experience have taught me that people sometimes lift though often they lean. I have learned that Leaners frequently believe they are Lifters and Lifters who complain about having to lift are really leaning. I believe that true Lifters enjoy lifting, and often seek opportunities to Lift almost as frequently as Leaners look for help.
It’s my carefully considered conclusion that there is really only one type of people in the world, “those who Lift, AND Lean.”

Not Chicken Little

Along with birds, some small wild animals, and one old, arrogant, and defiant squirrel, we live with a pet cat named Catalina. A few months ago, we were awarded custody of a baby duck and two baby chicks that were leftovers from a show-and-tell school project.

The duck and one of the chicks passed on while they were still cute but before there was any emotional attachment. Lucy, the toughest of the trio has survived past prime fryer stage in spite of her fleeting cuteness. We named her Lucy because of the possibility of having to change it to Luther if our gender assessment proved inaccurate.

Early on, Catalina wanted to stalk, kill, and eat the chick. She endured substantial stress as we humans quelled each of her attempts to capture the young chicken. Catalina’s efforts were relegated to catching grasshoppers and stalking but never catching the blue birds nesting nearby.

As Lucy reached the pullet stage, less and less human intervention was needed to assure her safety.

One day Catalina was stalking Lucy. Instead of avoiding contact, Lucy charged pecking the cat on the nose and chasing her up a tree. The blue birds noticed that the cat on the limb was too close to the nest and attacked her running her back down the tree where Lucy chased her around the yard until she lost interest.

They say that humans are the only animals that blush, but I know Catalina was blushing that day. In accordance with her nature, Catalina was simply exercising her rights when confronted with brutal intolerance. I think I know how she feels. There must be a life lesson in there somewhere.–CP

A moment too small

The crowd aimlessly paraded about whispering gossip and chatting meaninglessly; acquaintances, troubled by personal flaws, smiled, commented sweetly on the scene and then moved on. I held the innocent infant. Although aware of his illegitimacy, aware of the contempt silently adjudged to his father and aware of the pain and deeply disquieting sentiments haunting his maternal grandfather, I was content with my fleeting role. The young mother, unconcerned and perhaps unaware of the potential problems lurking in her future, sat next to me.

Suddenly in the stillness of time, the glowing face of the maternal grandfather appeared. Our eyes met and in that moment our minds exchanged an explosion of pure knowledge more detailed than can be achieved with words, images or thoughts. Jointly we acknowledged his grandson’s humanity and demanded the entire world accept his autonomy; wordlessly expressed therein was our common realization that his potential for success, even greatness, was not encumbered by the choices of others and the certainty that his birth was right with God.

Every child begins the world again.” – Henry David Thoreau

Just for the fun of it

 We played ball when I was a kid. Sometimes it was with a softball or just a rubber ball. Since hardly anyone had ball gloves, we rarely played hard ball. Sometimes even the bat was home-made, fashioned from a board or pole by someone handy with tools.

I remember a time at my uncle’s place, four or five of us were hitting and throwing a ball around in a freshly mowed hay-field near his house. Others joined us. Someone brought a real bat. Pieces of board appeared and served as markers for bases. Soon we had a crowd of all ages. Everyone got to play and no one kept score. We played till dusty dark – a full afternoon of ball playing, just for the fun of it.

My father was an orphan raised by elderly foster parents. He worked hard all his short life but he took having fun almost as seriously as work. On weekends, we would often picnic on a creek near a swimming hole. There was always a campfire and Mom would fry chicken in a cast iron Dutch oven and roast potatoes and corn-on-the-cob over the coals. We would play in the creek, fish, or hunt treasures till exhausted. These outings didn’t cost much so we could do them often just for the fun of it.

Without a special occasion, we would sometimes make ice cream. We had a hand-crank, ice-cream maker. The neighbors would come and everyone would get to help crank. Someone always put an ice chip down someone shirt – just for the fun of it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit my daddy’s knack doing things just for fun. Many of my leisure activities were attached to an obligation or associated somehow with work. Parties fulfilled social obligations or provided business contacts; even vacations were often combined with business trips. Like many of my associates, I rarely did anything just for the fun of it.

It’s sad that nowadays even kid’s ball games have evolved into achievement oriented, competitive, institutions like T-ball and little league championships and no longer exist just for the fun of it.

There are things I’ve learned to do just for fun. Parades are fun. I like to fish from the bank with a simple pole and worms for bait. Fancy boats and sophisticated fishing tackle seem to take the fun out of fishing.

This Fourth of July, on the spur-of-the-moment, we went out to watch the fireworks. Now we share a simple but pleasant memory.

The western skies near us offer beautiful sunsets almost daily. At one time, I would have felt obligated to fiddle with a camera and worry with framing, focus, and f-stops trying to capture in a single dimension the sunset’s unique beauty. How foolish;  it’s much better to caress and share the moment with someone you care about – just for the fun of it. –CP



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