Time to git back into the fight

I hardly know where to start. Nelly said some of what I been feelin’, but there’s so much more. Mother Cray was such a big part a our lives and we hardly could make a decision of any kind without listenin’ for her advice.

Sometimes I think I can still hear her. The rockin’ chair will move an’ the whisper a the wind is almost like her voice. She was so dear to me, I don’t think my heart will ever be whole agin.

Near as we could tell, she was either 103 or 105. She didn’t have a birth certificate an’ she kind of got her years mixed up sometimes. I thought she would live forever, so when she took to her bed, we was all dumbfounded.

Still, I’m glad to know she didn’t have to endure a presidential election with that foul-mouthed, short-fingered vulgarian, Trump, as a candidate.

People say we mountain folk is dumb, but we know better than to vote for a mean-spirited, sexist, racist sociopath who talks about his own daughter like he wants to have his way with her.

Just because we’re farm women an’ we go to church don’t mean we’re dumb enough to fall for the Republicans an’ their backward ways. They call theirselves moral, but I’d for sure like to see where they get their definition.

They want us to shut up an’ do what we’re told, but me an’ Nell have a better idea: We will stand up and fight. We thought we fought all them battles back in the 1960s, an’ here we are, fightin’ them agin, an young women don’t understand what’s at stake because they didn’t experience bein’ fired because you’re in a family way or bein’ told you don’t need birth control unless you’re a loose woman.

I git mad when I think about all those dunderheads in Raleigh and the things they’re doin’ to hurt us all. Mother had a calming influence on us, but now I think me an Nell are ready to git really mad.

We’re startin’ a NOW chapter here in Remote, although we still don’t know whether we’ll stay here or go to Aunt Dumplin’s house in Spruce Pine. I think one a these houses will be a Air B an’ B. We cain’t bear to part with either one. We just got too many good memories in both places.

Anyway, we are back in the fight, an’ we’re fightin’ for our grandbabies. We are fierce, an’ the idiots need to be afraid.




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Two Little Old Crows

Hey, Nell here.  Well, first things first, I reckon.  Zelly and me are sorry to not have kept up our commitment to writing here. Since we were here the last time, we’ve been tending our old dear Mother.

We always thought she was tough as old boots and she was. But her heart couldn’t stand up to all that has been going on, in the family and in the Old North State.  She slowed down. Slower and slower.  Staying in bed of a morning, only sipping a little coffee and not eating much at all.

She finally took to her bed and there she stayed for the last few months, getting smaller and smaller.  I got a renter in at Auntie’s house and went back to the farm to keep things going.

There was many an evening when Mother would nod off early and me and Zell would set on the porch, talking quiet, telling the old stories of being young uns on the mountain.  Our children came on the weekends when they could and, well, we just watched the old girl fade away.

Y’all may have read the obituary a couple of weeks ago. She was a pain in my butt and opinionated as all get out and stubborn as a church mule. But we miss her out here. Farm ain’t the same without her.

Me and Zell are wearing traditional mourning clothes for a few more weeks and we’re back on the porch, talking, singing, remembering.  Chattering through the long evening hours like a pair of little old crows.

And tonight we was thinking we ought to start writing again here. We need to get ourselves out there again. Telling it like it is. Dogging that bunch of monkeys down in Raleigh.

It’s time we took the Old North State back from the folks hell bent on destroying her. We was talking tonight and we both reckon all this is what broke Mother Cray. We reckon she really died from a broken heart. And we ain’t aiming to follow her.

Carolina, Carolina!

Heaven’s blessings attend her!

While we live, we will cherish, protect and defend her.

Hoorah! Hoorah!

The Old North State forever!

Hoorah! Hoorah!

The good old North State.

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A House Divided

It is hard to be in the middle of a family disagreement at the very best of times. These are not the best of times, though all this rain has been an answer to my prayers.

I am still at Aunt Dumpling’s house and the work is almost finished here.  I have loved painting and even got the old Singer out to make gingham curtains for the bathroom.  Aunt D. had a box of trims and ribbons and I added some big rick-rack along the bottom of the little curtains. They are sweet, old-fashioned.

Most weekends are spent out at the farm. We’re covered up with Kentucky Wonder beans and I set to making a big batch of pickled beans to tide us over come winter time. I had spent the early morning on Saturday picking beans and came into the kitchen with about half a bushel.

My sister–who I love and who is one of my best friends–was hopping mad.  Mother was at the table, ready to string and break beans, and Zellie was jumping up and down and yelling about The Flag.

Honestly my back was hurting a little bit–and I’ll be honest with you that me and her have had some words about me staying in town so much.  So I was doing my level best to keep my head down and get my work done.

I don’t know why all them morons don’t sit down and shut the BLANK up!  You can’t say it ain’t about hate–it is, it is, it is.

Well, Mother had never heard her use that kind of language but I had, because we both have been known to cuss like sailors when we’re out of the house.  I set down and started stringing beans with Mother and Zell got us all some coffee.

Everything was peaceful for a few minutes and then, Lord help me, she wagged her finger in my direction and  said–what about you?  Ain’t you got nothing to say about the flag coming down in South Carolina?

I shook my head and said something like–well, about time, too. I reckon it’s good to get that done down there.  Now, I have not been down to South Carolina too much and I don’t care for it and so I don’t really know what they ought to be doing. But I was going along to get along, as Daddy used to say.

Heritage, she muttered.  It’s all about hate…and that’s it! She got up and stomped out to the smokehouse to check on the new hams that we hung up a week ago Monday.

Mother shook her head but it got me thinking about the old battle flag. And I thought about those wild old days in the late 70s.  My, it was wild and good.  We was happy and free and wild as bucks in them days.  My Uncle Rodney was still doing white liquor then and he’d pay us to keep the still supplied with good wood and we’d get pint jars in the end. Rodney used to put smashed up blueberries in it sometimes.  Lordy, it was a sin for sure.  But we loved it and lived to tell the tale.

Back then the flag was about us being wild and free and rebellious and not Baptist.  We didn’t even know any black people and figured we was the young generation of Southern rebels.  That’s all.  It was a sign of us being Southern and hillbillies and wild as hell.

And I know it come to mean hating people who ain’t like you and denying them the basic rights that all Americans is supposed to have.  But then, for us, it was a glorious rag of some happy days.

So I get sad thinking that there is just one way to look at it and I was talking to a woman at church about it Sunday morning.  Yes, I am not backwards about that no more–I do know black folks, and my friend Martie comes to our little old church with me sometimes.  Everybody seems to like her and I never hear no whisperings about her and that’s good.  And me and her talk about things that we can’t hardly talk to no one else about.

And I heard about how she had been laughed at and treated bad when she was young and that that flag had been part of it and she hated it and wanted it to go. And then I told her what I just told you all and she shook her head, but she was smiling.

I can’t hardly think of you that wild, Nell, she said.  I kind of shrugged my shoulders. When I was in school, my big brother was in the Black Panthers and I wanted to be, too, she said.  So I guess I can see that what you did was like the crazy redneck version of that. Being with your people, being free.  But I still don’t like it.

I was looking at her with my jaw hanging down.  Are you still in the Black Panthers, Martie?

She smiled this secret little smile.  That’s for me to know and you to find out, Nelda Cray.  And then we had pie. And me and her are going to talk more about how it was when we was young and how it is now and how it can be better for the children who come after us.

But things ain’t so smooth with my sister and I came back to town after church.  We’ll get over it–we always do. I’m thinking about what she said and I’m pondering that old war so long ago.  It was like this too.  Brother against brother–or for us, sister against sister.

Just like America was then–we are a house divided, aren’t we?

Lord have mercy.

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It ain’t about love, that’s for sure

flagHey, Zelda here. I been worryin’ about the racists among us here in this country, an specially in the South.

Folks been talkin’ about the Confederate battle flag like it’s some kinda symbol a love an kindness. I was hopin’ we could settle this like growed-up folks, but they’s still some folks talkin’ about “heritage, not hate.”

Let’s tell the truth here: That flag is about a heritage OF hate. Some folks been sayin’ today that the South Carolina legislature caved by votin’ to take the flag off government property.

You might notice that purty much everone talkin’ about keepin’ the flag is white. And it probably is part of their families’ past, but it’s not any more somthin’ to be proud of than if your granddaddy fought for the Nazis in World War II.

Now, the Republicans are standin’ up for it in a cynical act of panderin’ to the folks who claim they ain’t racist.

Well, let me say, if your symbol is offensive to a whole race of people, it needs to be retired. I don’t care if it don’t offend you. In fact, it probably means you’re somebody with a whole lot of privilege.

Now, most of us cain’t tell when we got privilege, but here are some hints:

  • You can git away with pushin’ people around to git your way.
  • You have the power to say y’uns is gonna keep that symbol because it don’t offend you.
  • You don’t care if it offends somebody an you think they’re stupid for bein’ offended.
  • You make feeble excuses, like sayin’, “it’s about heritage.”

If you cain’t see why people is offended by that flag, I’ll bet you believe the War Between the States was about states’ rights an that the slaves were happy and well cared for.

In that case, you’re the one with the problem here.



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We got a moment to breathe

Zelly here.

We got everthing in the ground an we’re seein’ sprouts all over the dang place.

Lookin’ around at the edges of the property, we’re seein’ berries takin’ shape. The old cherry tree was alive with blossoms, but we only got a few cherries. I guess that cold snap while it was bloomin’ kept the bees away. Pity. We’ll jest have to buy cherries if we want ’em.

Anyhow, did y’uns hear about the South Carolina man who got sick and turned from the Republican party?

He hated everthing about “Obamacare.” Refused to sign up for insurance an then got sick. Turns out he has diabetes, an that caused some mini strokes an then his eyesight started to go. Now, if you know anyone with diabetes, these are things that can happen if you don’t get the care you need.

So, anyway, he cain’t work no more an he finds out he needs surgery to save his eyesight. But since he cain’t work, he cain’t afford his surgery.

That’s because his state, like ours, refused to include poor folk in Medicaid. If you’re growed up an you’re not pregnant, good luck gettin’ health care.

Some folks are callin’ it “close the coverage gap,” but it’s about expanding Medicaid so all poor folk — most of whom is workin’ folk, by the way — can git covered.

It appears he needed to go blind to see the light. He figured he’d git help if he really needed it, an now he knows his buddies in the Republican party never gave a dam about him.

So, he done left the Republican party — said he wants to rip up his voter registration card on national TV to show people Republicans don’t care about nobody but theirselves. Daddy used to say it takes a muggin’ to make a Republican into a Democrat, an I guess that’s  true. This man woulda kept bein’ a selfish lout except he got sick.

He’s still without insurance, though, an still goin’ blind. He set up some kinda crowd funding thing, but I fear most people think he deserves his fate.

I don’t think anyone deserves to go blind or suffer from pain. But as Mother Cray says, karma can be cruel.

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Shoo, y’all, I been burning up the road between here and home.  Yep, I’m still at Aunt Dumpling’s and yep, it’s planting time.  So I am high-tailing it to the farm and back to the city almost ever dam day.

City doesn’t change much from one season to the next but the farm does.  I got onions and beets in last dark of the moon then got spring greens in last light of the moon. Now it’s dark again and I’m putting in carrots and parsnips and ruterbagers and such.

Hay is looking good. Grateful for the rain.

On the farm, the dogwoods are blooming up a storm and the orchard is full of blossom and bee. Never seen so many bees in many a long year. Reckon it is a good sign.

In the city, things are heating up at the book club. And we are pretty mad about Raleigh and all that horse manure down there. I wish it was horse manure–then it would be good for something.

So they are messing with education–again.  They are messing with abortions–again.  They are messing with taxes so that me and my sister had to actually  pay extra this year.  They think it’s important to squeeze the last drop of blood from these old turnips.

And I got no faith that my vote is going to make a lick of difference.  They are people all around me–my own people–who will vote for any goober who claims he’s “godly” whether he is or not.  And then they hunker down and tough it out–again.  And take some sort of sour pride in how tough they are.

Hell, we are tough and we can endure–haven’t we proved that time and time again? But how their hearts break when their young uns and especially their grandchildren have to go off the mountain to get any work.  Then they grieve and pray–and won’t life nary a finger more.

I say–and Daddy said–the Lord helps them as helps themselves. I reckon we got to fix this old mountain pride and muleheadedness and look to the future of our families. I want mine to be better off than I was (and am) and I want them to do it here at home.

Because I reckon the snotnoses down in Raleigh think we’re part of east Tennessee.

Shoot, why not?  I love the Vols.

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Spring is here, an Nelly’s still gone

I’m startin’ to think Nelly aims to stay at Aunt Dumplin’s. I miss her somethin’ terrible. She has settled in pretty good an I think she plans to start a book club. I’d be willin’ to drive the truck down there once a week for that if she picks the right books, but Mother Cray an I would really rather have her back here.

I miss my sister.

We been out turnin’ dirt in the gardens this week an she was in Spruce Pine. I guess I don’t begrudge her, but Mother Cray an I had no one to yell at when the governor was talkin’ on TV last week and Nelly was in Spruce Pine yellin’ at the TV there. We all got pretty worked up. Usually, we can calm each other down a bit, but I had such heartburn after the speech I had to take some Tums before I could sleep. I bet Nelly did too.

I also have to get used to sleepin’ with Cedric on the bed. Poor baby misses Aunt Dumplin an home, so I indulge him. He’s a good mouser, so I’ll reward him when he needs it. He likes to sleep next to my head an purr ever time I move.

He likes to come outside with us when we’re workin’ an he usually winds up killin’ somethin’ we don’t want in the house. Got a bog ol’ rat t’other day.

Now that winter seems to be gone, we have too much work to do outside. The grandkids been comin’ up on the weekends to help out, an some a the neighbors are helpin’ with mendin’ fences an’ tillin’ the vegetable beds.

Anyway, me an Nell is burnin’ up the phone wires (funny how we still say that when we got this wireless technology) callin’ each other.  She’s busy bakin’ bread an’ gettin’ involved with a women’s group. She’s tellin’ me we all need to join NOW an’ I’m thinkin’ she’s right, what with all the stupid crap Republican men have been sayin’ an doin’.

Did you know they put language in a sex trafficking bill that said women can’t have abortions if they been used as sex slaves? Yeah, we women need to rise up an put these idiot men in their place.


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Those Poor Young People

I went into Asheville this evening to set in with some folks holding a meeting about those three young folks that got shot down at Chapel Hill.  There was some prayers said and a couple of people spoke up about how sad they felt and how angry because they are all in college, too and they know how it feels to be young and strong and smart and have your whole life ahead of you.

And I think they felt a little scared, too, because everything in North Carolina feels dangerous and out of control to them. To me, too.  And I reckon to anyone who loves this place and knows it can be better, has been better.

So I just got back here to Aunt Dumpling’s house a few minutes ago and I had that long drive to think about how I feel about it.  About the children, of course, but all of what’s been happening here in the last years.  And I thought about was I scared or was I sad or was I mad.  And I am all them things.  The other thing I am is shamed.  I am ashamed.

Now other way around it.  I’ve been embarrassed and ill as a cat and have shook my head, not even believing what I’m reading and hearing. But it’s all come down to me feeling ashamed of who we are anymore. Who in the world shoots three young people who has their whole lives ahead of them? For a parking space or because they was Moslems or because they were foreign-looking?  For no reason that I can think of would someone do something so awful.

That man is a North Carolinian, just like me. And those fine young people were also North Carolinians, even if just for  little bit.  We are turning on our own, like a mad dog.  No good can come of it. And I don’t have no idea how to fix.

Good night to you.

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How the Governor Gave Me a Headache

It has been so cool up here this week.  The wind has been whipping through the eaves of this old house and rattling the shutters. Which need to be painted come spring.

Hey, it’s me, Nell.

I watched the Governor talking about the state of the Old North State. I had cleaned up the things from supper and decided I’d have me some hot chocolate while I watched it. Something sweet and something sour.

I am sorry to say that I can’t hardly stand to look at him.  My preacher would look sternly at me for admitting that, but I can’t bear it. Daddy used to say–grinning like a mule chewing barbed wire–and I always think about that when I look at the governor.  And he squints even though he wears glasses.  He’s a well-off feller from Charlotte so I know he can afford to change his specs.  Maybe he doesn’t have time to do it.

Lord have mercy.  So I drank my good hot chocolate and tried not to look at the tv and just listen.  And that is when and where I run into trouble.

I don’t have the kind of education I wish I did.  Just graduated high school and took some classes at community college. I’m not making excuses now–I am a good reader.  I read my Bible and just about ever thing else I can get ahold of it.  I wear them out at the library–they can’t hardly keep up with me.  Lord, I read the oatmeal box the other day because the roads was so bad they didn’t deliver the Asheville paper.

I know a lot of words and I know what words mean. And that’s what got me in trouble with the governor and his talk.  I could understand all the things he said but I could never figure out what he meant.  I guess I’m used to people saying what they mean–and meaning what they say. But I couldn’t get past all the words to get to what he was saying.

That seems to be the way of it these days.  I know politicians have always been that way.  Something else Daddy used to say–if a politician’s mouth is moving, he’s a lying.

I reckon its because I don’t have much real schooling myself that I hold so with education.  When the governor started up on that, I perked right up. But it sure did seem like he didn’t really say anything.  At least nothing I could get ahold of.

Might just have been me, but I don’t think so.

The old house is getting into shape and is plumb pretty.  I will be happy to get back to farming though–and that’s a fact.

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Laughin’ with the president

sotuHey, Zelly here.

Did y’uns watch the State a the Union address t’other night?

Well, me an Mother Cray did.

I bet you can guess what our favorite part was.

“I don’t have another campaign to run …”

An’ the childish Republicans applauded — for the only time all night.

Well, my president, who’s dang quick on his feet, answered ’em back: “I know because I won both of ’em.”

Then he grinned. I love that grin, an I hate the disrespect with which these folks treat our president. It just ain’t right.

Mother Cray an I laughed so hard poor ol’ Cedric jumped outta my lap an’ stared at us like we was crazy.

I know most people like to watch the president, but I get a kick outta watchin’ Joe Biden an that ol’ orange creep, John Boehner. He never smiled, never clapped, just set there lookin’ like his mama made him go to church when all his friends was goin’ swimmin’.

We actually stayed up late to watch it. With Nelly gone to Spruce Pine, me an Mother cray have a lot to do to keep up with things around here. Thank the good Lord it’s winter an we don’t have crops to worry about right now.

Nelly says she misses us here at home, but I believe she’s enjoyin’ the solitude. I’ll be glad to have her back here.

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