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

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 6, 2011

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I saw Mrs. Gotrocks of Greenville drive up to get me. We had scheduled a ride over to the Andalusia Memorial Cemetery to see how the new fence was progressing. I had thought the fence would be up by now; but the last time I looked, there were five sections left to complete between the brick posts. The capstones, however, had been placed atop the posts since last I had looked.

Driving up to the Golden Square, to look around, we spotted Courtney Cook through the window of the new restaurant, the Verdict, and fell to talking about the Cook family – her dad, Allen Cook, the attorney; his dad, also Allen Cook, an attorney, and his dad, Dr. J. A. Cook, who was pastor of First Baptist here for 20 years and introduced the Cook family into Andalusia. Courtney is fourth generation of this distinguished and significant family in Andalusia history.

By the way, the owner of the Verdict told me that he considered naming it the Guilty Verdict; but his wife wouldn’t allow him.

At Tabby D.’s I ran into Harrell and Ann Cushing, dining with friends from Evergreen, Willene Whatley and John Nielsen.

Dr. Cushing has twice been pastor at First Baptist here and is presently interim pastor at Evergreen Baptist.

Mr. Nielsen is retired from the Knud Nielsen Company of Evergreen, a company founded by his father, an immigrant in 1911 from Denmark, now the largest company in the world devoted exclusively to dried flowers and materials. A third generation of Nielsens now runs the company.

Also seen were Mayor Earl Johnson, John Thompson, Allan and Nell (Martin) Wiggle and Tommy and Brenda Chambers of Florala.

Friday last the Portly Gentleman enjoyed the eclectic buffet at Sara‘s Big R in Florala. Sara Tucker has run the restaurant for 22 years. Big R stands for root beer. There used to be a Big R on River Falls Street in Andalusia.

Seen at the Steamboat for lunch was the good-natured Gary Buck.

Can anyone tell me where to find a Chinese chestnut tree in this area?

By the by, I am often embarrassed because I do not know someone’s name. Please let me know your name when I run into you out in public. I very much would like to include people in this column. Don’t hesitate to hand me your name on a slip of paper.

Seen at Tabby D.’s for lunch were Wade and Jearlon Rogers and his sister, Gayle Weaver.

The Murals Committee, chaired by Pat Palmore, met July 27 in City Hall with Wes Hardin, muralist from Dothan and painter of murals already completed here in the “Dimple of Dixie.”

The committee examined a sketch of a mural, featuring Hank and Audrey Williams, and listened to a report from David Fuqua, member in charge of including Andalusia in a Scenic Byway based on the Three-Notch Trail.

A visitor, Chuck Simon, spoke to the committee on the importance of Southern Range cattle (called Piney Wood cattle in Covington County) and that type of cattle as a future subject for a mural. Simon said the cattle originally came over with the Spaniards.

Other members present were Mary Lee Howard, Robert Anderon, Nancy Robbins and Joe Wingard.

Seen at David’s Catfish House for supper were Dr. Wayne and Lenora Johnson and their guest, Lesa (Merrell) Wiggins, a cousin from Memphis.

Lesa and her husband, Mark, formerly of Andalusia, recently returned from a 10-day tour aboard the Celebrity, a luxury liner with stops in Greece, Italy, Turkey and the Greek islands.

On her way down from Memphis, Lesa stopped in Birmingham to visit her sister as well as her mother, Frances Merrell, formerly of Andalusia.

Mark and Lesa’s daughter, Whitney Tolbert, is set to be graduated as a nurse practitioner from the University of Memphis August 14.

Travelling with Lesa was her sister, Connie Creech, and Connie’s daughter, Vanessa, all here to attend the funeral of Connie’s father-in-law.

I enjoyed a conversation by ‘phone with June (Skipper) Whittle of Georgiana the other day.

June, a retired banker, was the dearest friend of a late relative of mine, Mrs. Joe Shealy, nee Nell Goodwin.

June made available a collection of pictures that had belonged to Nell and to Nell’s Aunt Clarrine (Grace), Mrs. Edgar Goodwin, so that I could select some to save.

Seen at Subway for Sunday lunch were Dr. James Krudop, his brother, Richard Krudop, Dr. Wayne and Lenora Johnson, and Wayne and Angie (Baker) Sasser and their daughter, her spouse and granddaughters.

Dr. Krudop and Dr. Johnson joked that this was the third Sunday in a row that the two had run into each other for Sunday lunch.

Richard announced that he had a peach cobbler, waiting on him at home, one made with fresh peaches from Clanton.

Flowers at First Baptist Sunday were placed in memory of the late Allen Smyly on the occasion of his birthday by his loving family.

Rogerl Reeves sang “In the Garden,” his mother’s favorite hymn, as a special in the Baraca Class last Sunday, during the Sunday-School assembly. Present to hear her father sing was Rogerl’s beautiful daughter, Margo Reeves Watson.

In his sermon last Sunday morning Dr. Fred Karthaus reminded his congregation that Jesus is more than “a celestial Santa Claus.”

I received a beautiful ‘phone message from the beloved Jule (Bradley) Browder this week. Thank you, Jewel of My Heart.

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, I quote Lord Roberts, “You will find in this book guidance when you are in health, comfort when you are in sickness, and strength when you are in adversity.”

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 l582, Andalusia 36420.

CHS president Sue (Bass) Wilson asked me to include the address of a new CHS website: www.3nmsm.com.

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

For the first time in U.S. history (although it was never enforced), Congress passed a national income-tax bill (as well as a tariff) to raise money to support the Union in its war efforts. The plan was for citizens to pay 3 percent if they made over $800 a year.

Conflicts between the states continued in New Mexico and Missouri.

The Union blockades were effective, so the South resorted to blockade runners to slip past the Union ships to deliver and receive goods abroad. The reader will please recall that this is how Rhett Butler, a Southerner, made his millions in Gone with the Wind. With that money Butler built Scarlet’s mansion in Atlanta and restored Tara.

Lincoln decided to let it be known that any slaves, being used by the South to fight the North, would be freed if they deserted to the Union side (sounds like a game of Red Rover, Red Rover).

Union troops were stationed in Kentucky, a neutral state, to be sure it remained neutral. Not everyone in Kentucky liked this intrusion, of course.

Remember to buy Sesquicentennial stamps.

The mysterian for the third week is a tall, tan, Presbyterian man.

Notable birthdays this past week were those of Francis Scott Key, author of “The Star-spangled Banner,” which later was set to the tune of an old, drinking song, and became our national anthem; Percy Bysshe (rhymes with fish) Shelley, an English poet; and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, an English poet laureate, the greatest of the Victorian poets, and Shakespeare’s superior in poetic technicalities, his most famous lines being, “’Tis better to have loved and lost/ Than never to have loved at all.”

Colonel Covington said in a recent talk in the Andalusia Lyceum that the federal government has long been the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg. Now the eggs are becoming scarce. If loyalty to the federal government has been based on the desire for money, that loyalty may wane as the money wanes.

To retain its power, the federal government must be able to offer money to states, groups, other nations, and individuals.

It’s strange that the money offered by the federal government is actually money that belongs to those asking for money.

What a strange people to accept such a strange situation! The people give their money to the federal government; then, they beg for their money – and other people’s money – to be returned to them. Strange! Strange! Strange!

In another essay the Colonel discussed the party system of Democrats and Republicans. Again he reminded us that George Washington warned against “party spirit.”

“I have really seen party spirit at its worst the last weeks,” he said, “concerning the debt of our nation.”

“It would be better,” he continued, “to pass a Constitutional amendment, outlawing all political parties and allowing only individual independents.”

“It’s both Democrats and Republicans that have ruined our country,” he concluded.

While the Colonel was on his soap box, he lit into free verse, a type of modern poetry usually distinguished by irregular length of lines, lines beginning with lower-case letters, a mixture of meter (rhythm), and often the absence of punctuation. This type of poetry dominates the world of poetry today. It’s all the rage! It’s politically correct! Some magazines publish only free verse poetry. John Milton would have been laughed off the page!

Colonel Covington said that free verse is typical of our times because today a person wants to be free to do just as he pleases; that includes freedom in writing poetry. He wants to make up the rules, not follow the rules. The poet wants no restrictions, no rules, no punctuation, no regular lines and rhythm, no capitalization.

To illustrate how perfectly free verse blends in with today’s expectations, the Colonel mentioned examples of other “freedoms” today – freedom to abort babies, freedom to violate laws of immigration, freedom to be married to whom one pleases, freedom from God and rules and restraints – all right in line with this attitude that I may do whatever I please and no one had better find fault with me or dare say a word! If someone does have anything to say, it had better be praise for my life style! (It’s also known as being politically correct. Don’t dare come within a mile of hurting anyone’s feelings about anything! It’s the no-fault culture.)

The Colonel believes that much of what is called free verse is actually prose disguised as poetry. He called for a new name for the prose that looks like poetry and that may or may not have touches of poetry in it. Much of it is fine, he said, but it’s fine prose, not fine poetry.

“Without rhythm it is not poetry,” the Colonel said.

“Many who think they have written poetry have simply arranged prose to look like poetry. Many who think they are poets are not. Teachers mislead their students when they teach them that, by using a magic formula – like a list, that they have written poetry. A true poet is born, not made. A true poet has a feel for the rhythm that is necessary for poetry. A true poet is rare. Look at the anthologies and see just how rarely a real poet comes along. A true poet is the exception, not the rule.”

Then the Colonel took up another aspect of poetry.

“People should not be embarrassed if they do not understand the meaning of a poem. That is the fault of the poet. He should have been clear. That is why Longfellow is the most successful poet in American history. Though highly intelligent, sophisticated, and cultured, he wrote with consideration of his audience. He wrote so that people could understand. No wonder people don‘t read poetry today! No wonder poetry books don’t sell! People are made to feel dumb because they don’t ‘get’ it. Free verse is like abstract art. People don’t get it either. Like the artist, the poet may be intentionally abstract with his words to appear superior. It’s an ego trip for him. Poetry has become more and more unpopular because of writers who want to win a reputation, not communicate. One can associate the decline of the popularity of poetry and perhaps the decline of poetry itself with the rise of free verse.”

“There are some magazines that publish only free verse because the magazines want to appear on the ‘cutting edge.’ Again, it’s a matter of ego.”

“Accomplices to this promotion of free verse are those who read poetry aloud in a certain, artificial, poetic tone. That person could take a telephone directory and intone the contents so that the listener would believe he was hearing great poetry. There are preachers who do the same.”

“At a poetry workshop once I put together some ridiculous ‘free verse’ and volunteered to read it. Praise came flowing in. No one dared say he did not understand it. My joke was praised as poetry. Alas, it was not poetry. It was hogwash!”

“Poetry is not a matter of arranging words. It is a matter of arranging words in rhythm. If there is no rhythm, what one has is prose, not poetry. Prose has its own glory; it does not need to pretend to be poetry.”

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