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Sunday, September 30, 2012

LwH: Luxury

Greetings friends,

We are back from a weekend in Sacramento attending the big reptile show at the convention center downtown. There were lots of animals and big crowds looking at them. No, I didn't bring a new critter home.

I am hopeful that my friends who own Professional Reptiles and Ron's Reptiles did well financially, because it is an expensive undertaking to vend at these shows and I want all of their hard work to pay off.

The local restaurants seemed to be busy, but complained of lower numbers than they were used to. It was very pleasant weather to walk around the 15th and "L" street area and I only saw two homeless guys during the entire weekend. That may be due to the numerous security officers in the yellow shirts and black shorts we saw patrolling everywhere in the evenings.

We stayed at the Residence Inn (a Marriott property) on 15th Street and were able to just park the car in the garage and walk everywhere, which is our favorite way to operate.

While we were gone Mr S. took delivery on what was supposed to be a replacement power chair, but he says they gave him a regular wheel chair instead. Tomorrow we will have to check that out and see what is going on. Just when you think it is safe to leave for two days... wrong answer!

This afternoon we were able to pass along a wooden toy box and some toys that belonged to my daughter when she was a little girl. The happy recipient is her own daughter (our granddaughter) so all is well. It was fun to see the grown up girl still fascinated by her old things and the amazement of her daughter as she discovered new things in the bottom of the box. The spot being vacated in the sun room will be occupied very soon by our newly constructed table.

This evening I bring you the fourth installment of Living with Horses, entitled Luxury, something that I had abandoned when I moved into a tent to babysit horses. Keep in mind that this is a true story about real people, who live in middle Georgia, which at the time was still firmly mired in the 1950's. Enjoy!

4. Living with Horses; Luxury

NOTE: On the advice of my editors, I have removed the last names of those in the story to avoid legal complications as this a true story about real people.

How does someone take their pants off while running?

My curiosity was such that I came out of "hiding" and walked out into the road to join the elderly black man who was possibly wondering the same thing. Together we watched the strange sight of one large old white man with no pants on, running down the two-lane blacktop for all he was worth. It was truly a sight to see on that hot June day and we were savoring it, as if we knew that this was a one-of-a-kind event and it would be a real crime to not catch all of it.

When the old farmer got too far away to watch closely, we gathered our wits about us and I introduced myself and offered my hand to my new friend. I figured that we had to be friends after what we had just experienced. That and there was no reason not to be. We stepped off of the pavement and into the shade as we continued our conversation and waited to see if the farmer would come back. From what I could see, it wasn't likely.

My new friend and most excellent mule skinner and farmer, had been named Seth by his mother some 68 years earlier and had been born and raised "right here" he said. I asked him if he meant Warrenton, or just Georgia in general by, "right here"?

Seth laughed at me and said, "No boy, RIGHT HERE" and pointed at the ground where we were standing, in the shade of this great oak tree. Sure enough in the brush there were the remains of an old brick chimney! He said that his family used to live in an old wooden house that creaked when the wind blew, right where the garden plot is now. When he was a young boy that old house caught fire in the middle of the night and burned to the ground with his entire family in it, except for an older married sister who had moved away a few years earlier and he never saw again. He figured that she thought that he had died too and never came back. Seth had gone out to sleep in the hay near his daddy's mule where he didn't have to share the bed with three others and especially when one was a bed-wetter. He said it was a lot cooler too, and the house was stuffy and smelled funny like "old people's feet". A smell that I had never contemplated, I must admit.

He said that "Old" Mr. T., (the daddy to the Mr. T. that had run off down the highway giving out war whoops), had arrived with his farm hands in his trucks, but it was too late to do anything, the house was burned to the floor and in the pile of debris was the remains of his eight brothers and sisters, his mother and father, and his grandmother. Old Mr T. had the bodies brought out of the rubble and covered with blankets and Seth was wrapped up in the old man's jacket and put inside the truck cab. He also made all the arrangements for the funeral and burying. Seth had heard comments from other white men in town that they should just dig a hole and shove all of the bodies and the remnants of the house into it and not "waste" good burial plots. It is hard to imagine the pain he had to suffer as he listened to prejudice and hate spouted about the family he had just lost. And from "good Christians" by their own description.

Inside that truck was a white boy who was exactly the same age as him (both born on the same day in 1903), sitting there with an expression of shock on his face, after having seen the bodies coming out of the ashes. The white boy's name was "C.R." T. III ... The "C.R." standing for Clancy Redoubt and while highly traditional in origin (as it was his father and grandfather's name too), it was certain to cause a fight if anything but "CR" was used within earshot of this nine year old boy.

Old Mr. T. took Seth into his home and raised him alongside of CR as an equal, even giving him his last name and formally adopting him to protect him from whatever evils which might befall him otherwise. This act of human kindness and decency gave him a home and family, and a white brother from whom he became inseparable (and who we just watched sprinting the two miles to the "big house" in his underwear).  Old Mr. T. and Seth's father had been friends, fellow farmers, and devout Baptists in that same little community for all of their lives. There was never any question in his mind about what to do with the young boy.

Seth believed that his family had possibly been murdered, because no one escaped the burning house in that 1912 fire, and he thought that he had heard a vehicle drive away. There were surely people sleeping near a window or door and logically should have gotten out. The fire and subsequent deaths were ruled "accidental", but popular sentiment said that money would not have been "wasted" investigating the demise of negros. Seth's father owned his property and house and that was a rarity in itself for a black man in those times. He had been offered a very low price for the property but wouldn't sell.

There was a feeling of resentment and animosity in the community towards Old Mr T. for treating a "colored" boy like he was white and they made sure that he was aware of their disapproval at every opportunity. Which I was told backfired, because he was more stubborn than his mule by all accounts, and the ignorance of the community couldn't sway him.

We waited long enough for the bees to calm down and carefully picked up the pants out of the street (checking for trapped bees) and retrieved the truck keys and after securing the mule to the oak tree with a long rope so he could graze, we drove to the big house. Actually I drove, Seth didn't have a driver's license. He was going to get in the back of the truck, when I stopped him and insisted that he get in the cab with me. He smiled and said, "You sure ain't from around here!" 

When we pulled up in front of the house, Mr. T. was sitting on the front porch, still in his drawers, gulping down a big glass of iced tea that Mrs. T. had brought out. He was red faced and sweating like crazy, but he said that he felt fine and only had one sting after all of that. Another small miracle, given the number of bees that entered his pants!

You could have knocked me over with a feather when Mr. T. greeted me by name! I had figured that he couldn't miss those flashy horses running around and I was correct, but how in the world did he know my name? What followed was a lesson in "small town USA" reality.

When the Captain and his brother had dropped me off with all the BS about staying hidden and watch out for this and that, they were supposed to be on their way home. Instead they went to the barber shop in Warrenton for a haircut, and blabbed everything to total strangers and from there it was all over town in a flash.

Mr. T. was in town and heard the juicy gossip before the two brothers had even left the barber shop. He knew my name, how many horses were there and that there was a retired Army Colonel looking for them, and had been very curious to see the "White Boy Who Runs with Horses" and the very fine horse flesh up close.

Mrs T. said that he decided to put the garden in the clearing by Seth's old home when he first found out about me and had been driving past our gate watching constantly. He had 700 acres of good growing dirt surrounding his house, with running water and lots of help available and tractors, etc., but the soil just wasn't right (so he said) for growing the best tomatoes and peppers. That garden spot across from our gate was the best in the county.

It would have been a breach of Southern etiquette for him to "interfere", or make the first contact with me. I was in "hiding" after all, and even though I was "hiding in plain sight", and the horses were frequently at the water trough, right by the road, he couldn't "go first" so to speak. I don't believe that he would have chosen a "Close Encounter of the Yellow Jacket Kind" as the way to get me to come out of the, woods, that is. But it did work out that way and we became good friends rather quickly.

I was extended the offer of dinner, which I gratefully accepted. We were even going to eat INDOORS, with plates and silverware, sitting at a table! I was glad that I had grabbed a shirt before driving here, I would have been mortified to sit at a dinner table without my shirt on. It wasn't that I was ashamed of my body or anything, but it just wasn't something that was done in polite company. Mrs T. was a Southern Belle and it just would not have been proper.

I had learned an appreciation for the finer things in life; things that I had been taking for granted in my short 18 year life span, like running water and tables and chairs, and cooking food on a stove and not having to scrape the burnt part off before you attempted to chew what you had just cooked. Clean towels and napkins to wipe your face with. The single greatest thing of all was the "best seat in the house."

How do you spell Luxury and Relief all at once? T-O-I-L-E-T... INDOOR PLUMBING! Ain't life grand in civilization!


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