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

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



The Next House

A man researching his family history was looking for a distant uncle. He stopped by a house where a man was resting on a front porch swing. He approached the man and said, “I’m looking for Mister Daniels and I hear he lives somewhere here on this road; do you happen to know where he lives?”

The man looked him in the eye and answered, “Mister Daniels has passed on.” Then pointing to the next house, which was perhaps a quarter of a mile up the road, said, “He used to live right up there… His son lives there now.”

This little story reminds me that my father also set standards, I couldn’t meet, for human kindness and respect for the beliefs treasured by others.

It has been more than fifteen years since that day. Jeffery would be about twenty-five today.
I was deep in thought that summer morning when the desperate cries for help from my front yard penetrated the stillness of my small study.
I opened the door to see a youngster, I later learned was Jeffery, running up the street toward our house screaming for help at the top of his lungs. I grabbed the portable telephone and stepped to the porch prepared to call 911. A couple was running a short distance behind calling to him. The sobbing youngster quickly moved behind positioning me between him and the couple; all the while, crying that they were going to kill him.
Everyone seemed to start talking at once. Sorting through the confusion, I learned that Jeffery was the couple’s nephew; that they were contractors working on a job down the street; and there had been a minor altercation to which Jeffery overreacted. The Boy’s mother had allegedly placed him with his uncle because of behavior problems she couldn’t handle.
I realized I had become the mediator in a family dispute for which my qualifications to resolve had been inaccurately assumed. The only thing I was sure of was that Jeffery believed he was in danger.
“I’m sorry to put you in this situation”, said the uncle. “If you’ll just call his mother, she will tell you what I said is true.”
Jeffery said, “I don’t want to stay with them, I want to talk to my mom. I want to go home.”
“Calm down Jeffery, let him call your mom. Let’s get this mess straightened out so this man can go back to his business.” The uncle said.
I handed the phone to the uncle and asked him to dial her number. He dialed and handed it back. The boy’s mother repeated the uncle’s story to me adding that she had even called the police on occasion.
The thought, is this really his mom, went through my head. I said to her     “Jeffery wants to talk to you” and handed the phone to Jeffery.
“Momma please, I want to come home,” he said. “I’m scared. They say I am evil, there’s a demon in me.” His voice was loud and whiney. “Last night they took me to this place where all these people held me down and prayed over me. I’m scared; I think they want to kill me. Please… can I come home? I’ll be good. I promise.”
I don’t know what his mom said to him but after a few minutes, a glass of water, and promises from his uncle that he wasn’t in trouble Jeffery calmed down and they returned to their jobsite.
Through these years I catch myself watching half hoping to see him or his uncle; I haven’t seen either. Today I wonder about young Jeffery. Was he just a spoiled  young man with growing pains or a victim being traumatized by a cult or group of otherwise well-intentioned individuals. CP

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