Overheard, out and about, Mrs. Grundy sees all, tells all

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 30, 2011

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I spotted over at Covington Hall some pear trees, drooping with green pears among the green leaves, and thought of the harvest when one could look forward to pear cobblers, pear preserves, and pickled pears. I think Louise Barrow made the best pickled pears I’ve ever tasted. Hers had just the right touch of vinegar, sugar and cinnamon.

I gazed out at the canna, spider plants, crepe myrtles and petunias, and hummed a bit of “In the Good Ol’ Summer Time.”

I ran into a former student, Teresa (Lucas) Seay, at the Gitty-Up-‘n’-Go this week. She teaches third grade in W. S. Harlan.

A local Methodist minister was asked by a Baptist why the Methodists met only once a week whereas the Baptists met three times. Without hesitation, the Methodist minister answered, “We don’t have as much sin.”

“M.C.” Merrill and I talked by ‘phone the other day. She has a three-room apartment in Tuscaloosa and is enjoying the piano she used to teach her pupils their lessons. She plans regular returns to the “Dimple of Dixie” and misses her friends and church. She’s just the least bit homesick.

The Portly Gentleman motored down to DeFuniak Springs last weekend to eat seafood at McLain’s. He especially enjoyed the fried oysters. (It was a brave man “whut fust et” an oyster!) Oysters are appearing again on buffets. They were rarely seen after the oil spill in the Gulf.

Old Gried and Glutt have raised their gasoline prices again. I thought we would get some relief, but that was a pipe dream. I hope the poor things can get by on their pitiful profits.

The Verdict, a new restaurant, so named because it sits on the Golden Square near the courthouse, opened Wed., July 13. I enjoyed my first meal there this week, ordering beef tips over noodles, slaw and potato salad. The sunny location nestles in a corner of John Tisdale’s Prestwood Building and is managed by Rick and Christy Cartwright.

Seen at Capt. D.’s for Sunday lunch were Dr. Wayne and Lenora Johnson, Dr. Jim Krudop, Gerald “Bowdy” and Garlene Brown, Johnie and Wanda Davis (looking “spiffy” in matching outfits), Bill and Dianne Blocker, their granddaughter, Savannah, his sister, Connie Hanley, Charles and Autie Thomasson, Sonya Godwin, David Sanders and Marlin Dickins.

It was difficult to get the Johnsons to talk about their little grandson, Campbell; but they were finally convinced. Campbell’s latest interest is the mailbox and the post office, appropriate because this month is the anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Post Office. Perhaps Campbell was inspired by a neighbor, Roy Windham, retired postmaster here in Andalusia.

Irene (Davis) Butler served a birthday luncheon in her home last Saturday to honor four friends with July birthdays, Evelyn Murphree, Trudy Vickers, Robert Lee Holley and Joe Wingard. Others included were Lee and Cathy Enzor, Gordon Vickers, Dr. Barbara Linder and Sue (Bass) Wilson.

The buffet was laden with a cornucopia of dishes, prepared by the remarkable Mrs. Butler – green beans cooked with peaches, fried bread, chicken and dumplings, butter beans, slices of fried squash, a pork roast with optional barbecue sauce, potato salad, a chicken-rice casserole, roast beef with carrots, corn salad, pineapple-cheese casserole, slaw and frosted grapes.

Cathy Enzor assisted by pouring tea at the prettily appointed table, lovely with a lace cloth and lace napkins.

Lighted candles topped the birthday cake, and each honoree was required to make a wish before blowing out his candle.

Two hours of delightful conversation followed; and, as the ol’ country editors used to say, “A good time was had by all.”

Colonel Covington said in his talk at the Andalusia Lyceum that the federal government will eventually collapse upon itself. He reminded his listeners that America is not the federal government, that the people and land are America. So, if the government does collapse, the people can build a new government, as suggested by the “Declaration of Independence.” Perhaps, next time, the doors to Congress will be barred against Greed and Incompetence.

Colonel Covington also stated that the biggest expense in the country today is not the military, education, entitlements, or anything else, but sin.

Seen at Tabby D.’s were Al and Sue Brown (she’s Betty Baldwin’s sister), Herb and Sue Carlisle, Sara (Foreman) Hobson, Jean Jones, Derick Davis, John Thompson and Phillip Jones.

My cousin, Richard Dennis, has been named principal at Prattville High School. He was formerly principal at Wetumpka High and Holtville High.

Last week the Portly Gentleman was telling us about his trip to the national convention (“reunion”) of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Montgomery. He had to leave early because of an over-lapping convention of the Alabama Writers’ Conclave in Huntsville the same weekend. The Conclave is said to be the oldest writers’ group in the Nation.

The Portly One will pick up where he left off.

“Taking I-65 north, I stopped in Birmingham (actually, Homewood) to spend a couple of hours at my college alma mater, Samford (Howard, when I was a student). As is my little custom, I burst into song as I drove onto that lovely campus, using, of course, the original words to the alma mater, not the new ones. I wonder if Samford has ever thought of how many of the older graduates don’t like that change. Money lies with the older folks, you know.

“I went by the office in Brooks Hall of Dr. David Chapman, dean of Howard College, with whom I had gone to England; but he was out to lunch.

“After eating in the handsome dining hall, I waddled over to the English offices to visit Dr. Mark Baggett, a professor in English and in law, with whom Sue (Bass) Wilson and I had traveled to England. He’s an up-to-date, remarkable fellow, full of life, full of dreams.

“We had too short a time to catch up on common acquaintances.

“Mark walked me over to my car, introducing, on the way, a good friend of his, Dr. Larry J. Davenport, a professor of biology at Samford. Larry was kind enough to give me an autographed copy of his new book, Nature Journal.

“I had not been to Huntsville for 40 years or so, so everything seemed new. I was especially impressed at the beautiful mountains of North Alabama and the expansive Tennessee River when I crossed it.

“Driving through rain, I thought of the prediction of St. Swithin’s Day, that, if rain falls on July 15, it will fall for 40 more days.

“Suddenly I stopped, part of a traffic jam. Roadwork kept hundreds of us motorists creeping along like snails for the better part of an hour. What misery! I rolled down my window and propped my elbow there. To my surprise I heard my name, being called loudly.

“It was Melissa Coleman and a car filled with fellow Andalusians, on their way to Nashville, I think. They had spotted me among that congestion out in the middle of nowhere! I couldn’t believe it! You never know, do you?

“When the flow began again, I soon found myself at 565 and turned right toward Madison and Huntsville, easily finding the Marriott, a handsome hotel and site of the annual convention of the AWC. There I made myself to home for three days.

“The Marriott lies next to the space museum and its two large rockets, which I could see from my window, lighted at night. The advertisement for the Marriott tickled me, ‘We have space for you.’ Punny, isn’t it?

“I noticed that the Book of Mormon as well as a Gideon Bible is now placed in hotel rooms.

“I noticed, too, that the ‘necessary’ had two buttons on top, one larger than the other. I had never seen such. I’m still impressed when the paper is folded into a triangle.

“I took some time to study the ‘literature’ about Huntsville and decided it was both a lovely and historic place, deserving of more exploration. It had grown up around a big spring and was originally called Big Spring.

“There was a reception that night with tasty ‘finger foods.’ (All our classes and meals were taken within the hotel.) There was a bar; but since I don’t drink alcohol, I asked for water. Two dollars a bottle! I ate dry.

“The next morning I enjoyed a breakfast buffet in the hotel restaurant, the Seasons. This was followed by a session on writing a newspaper column. (I thought I could pass on some tips to Mrs. Grundy.) The teacher was Jennie Ivey, a columnist from Cookeville, Tenn., who sadly predicted the end of newspapers. She read a column by Rick Bragg, the popular Alabama writer, “The Roses of Fairhope,” as an excellent example of good writing.

“Each hour offered two choices for classes.

“My next session was with Sue Brannon Walker, Alabama’s poet laureate (official poet) and a college teacher of creative writing in Mobile, who introduced us to a cornucopia of new poetry forms, including a new kind of ‘sonnet.’

“A joint session for all before lunch was presented by Rabbi Rami Shapiro, a professor of religion at Middle Tennessee State University in Murphreesboro. His topic was ‘What Would Jesus Tweet?’

“The Rabbi led a lesson on aphorisms. He shared some of his and had his audience try their hands at writing these brief bits of wisdom, such as ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a corpse.’

“The Rabbi was frank, funny, and honest, easy to listen to, and involved his class delightfully. He said that we live in a ‘bumper-sticker culture,’ that ideas today must be presented concisely to be noticed, and that he disliked New-Age philosophy.

“I sat by the Rabbi at lunch in the Seasons and, influenced perhaps by his being Jewish, subconsciously ordered a Reuben sandwich. Other writers at table with us were Kathleen Thompson, Rob Gray, Joe Whitten and John Jeter.

“That afternoon I heard Jim Minick, author and poet, speak on memoir writing.

“This was followed by another class taught by Sue Walker.

“Between classes I ran into Linda (Marley) Summer, a cousin of our own Jimmy Marley. Their grandfather was a Methodist minister who preached in Newton. Others I met included John Jeter from Huntsville, a 1962 graduate of Howard College; Joe Whitten, who taught 39 years in Odenville (where Don and Dot Lingle retired), a poet and member of Friendship Baptist in Odenville; Tommy and Kathleen Thompson (Tommy is a friend of our Wyley Ward; Kathleen, a poet, quipped that ‘Baptists make the best Methodists’); Dorothy Vinson of Decatur, Charlie Kinnaird of Birmingham; and Leonard Temme (timmy) of Enterprise.

“That evening I attended the banquet given in memory, annually, of a former member, Grace Gravlee. I sat at table with Amy McBroom, Janet Anderson, Sara McDaris, Gladys Schaefer, Debbie West, Dorothy Vinson and Ricky and Joan Hazel. Joan sings opera.

“Somebody forgot to offer thanks.

“The Rabbi was the featured speaker. He spoke of the different understandings of the Bible, especially the Adam and Eve story, by Jews and Christians, as well as hell, religion, Job, Jesus, victimhood, the Left-Behind series, Thomas Keating, subversive humor, and Christian music. He said he liked Christian ‘rock.’

“An awards ceremony followed for those who had previously submitted their works and had been judged the best creative writers in various categories; and then, ‘open mic,’ during which anyone could read from his own works.

“The next morning I took breakfast in bed, which turned out less expensive than eating in the restaurant, even with a red carnation on my tray.

“Waiting for my first session, I met Jo (Wharton) Heath, an Auburn math professor, and her husband Bob.

“Attending Jim Minick again, I learned about ‘op eds’ (guest opinions opposite the editorial page). Jim spoke highly of Silas House, an author and novelist from Kentucky.

“My last session was again with Sue Walker, who spoke on publishing poetry, a favorite topic of those who attend the annual convention of AWC. In this class were Judge Debra Goldstein, author of the mystery, Maze in Blue; T.K. Thorne, who wrote the novel, Noah’s Wife; and P.T. Paul, poet, who said, ‘Fairhope has more writers per square foot than any other spot on the planet.’

“A business meeting ended the conference. Next year’s assembly was set for July 20 – 22, site unknown.

“With many prayers for protection I started south.

“Driving through Birmingham, I rattled over many destructive, jagged potholes on I-65.

“Below Birmingham the road was smooth.

“In Calera I stopped for lunch at the Cracker Barrel, enjoying steak and gravy, dumplings, turnips and corn-on-the-cob. I think C.B. has the best turnip greens I’ve ever eaten, save in the home.

“Waiting for my meal, I studied the decorations that cover the walls of Cracker Barrels all over. I noticed the picture of an elderly woman, set in an old-fashioned frame and wondered who she was and how her picture came there. She was ‘somebody’s darling,’ perhaps, a beloved wife, mother, grandmother. For all I know she might be kin to someone who happened to glance, unknowingly, at her. It’s rather sad how things are dispersed after one dies. Things, most precious to one, are thrown on the rubbish heap or destroyed. The picture, once so lovingly preserved, is ripped out of its frame and discarded to make room for another picture. ‘Somebody’s Darling’ is burned with the trash of the day, or left lying on the dusty floor of a condemned building, or handed to a thoughtless child to mark with his crayons. It’s sad to me. The dead cannot lift one hand to protect or preserve what was most precious to them. How helpless is one in death.

“In Clanton I pulled in to Durbin’s Farms and bought some peaches and a yellow-meated watermelon. All about were the wonders of summer – peas, butter beans, tomatoes, squash, eggplants, corn, boiled green peanuts, cucumbers, onions, potatoes, all so fresh, all so good!

“Thereafter I drove on to Montgomery and then home.”

Thank you, Portly Gentleman, for your account. Have a petit four on me.

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, I quote Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of France, “Behold it upon the table. I never fail to read it; and every day, with the same pleasure. Not only is one’s mind absorbed, it is controlled; and the same can never go astray with this book for its guide.”

Again, I ask that each citizen of Andalusia join the Covington Historical Society and pay its annual dues of $25 so as to help preserve the history of our county, whether you attend meetings or not. Mail to CHS, P.O., Box 1582, Andalusia 36420.

To commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States, let us return to this week 150 years ago.

The Crittenden Resolution passed in the Northern Congress, declaring the War was to be fought to preserve the Union and uphold the Constitution, not to alter slavery in its established form. (Those who believe that the War was all about slavery, should note this.)

There were conflicts in West Virginia, which had ripped itself from Old Virginia, and in New Mexico territory.

Lincoln appointed Gen. George McClellan commander of the Federal Army of the Potomac. (I call McClellan “Old Wait and See.”)

In federally held Missouri pro-North officers were elected to replace pro-South officers.

Remember to buy Sesquicentennial stamps.

The mysterian is again a tall, tan, Presbyterian man.

A notable July birthday of late is that of George Bernard Shaw, Irish-English playwright, best known for Pygmalion, later made into a musical, My Fair Lady.

Now, gentle reader, allow me to encourage each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend, Lord willing. Fare thee well.