Saturday, May 28, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Wandering Sweden

Forever A Hillbilly: Wandering Sweden:      We ran out of anything to do early one day, and showed up at our B&B a little early. The lady had sang in the Stockholm opera for...

Wandering Sweden

     We ran out of anything to do early one day, and showed up at our B&B a little early. The lady had sang in the Stockholm opera for many years. She was lonely, and happy to have somebody to talk to. She said she married an opera singer, and when her reviews started getting better that her husband's, he divorced her. She insisted that we come down for a glass of wine before bed. We don't really care for it, but went, just to be sociable. She had very fancy glasses, and a decorative decanter, along with all sorts of other goodies she had fixed. She just kept refilling our glasses.
      She suggested breakfast at nine, but we had a big day tomorrow, and Barbara just has a coffee fit well before nine. No addiction, though. Barbara begged her down to 8:30. But I think she realized the problem, though, because she brought up a thermos of coffee later. The next morning, we watched all her birds outside just flock to the oleo sprinkled with oats she pampered them with while eating a great breakfast ourselves.

     We said goodbye, and headed for the tourist office in Saffle. They lined us out good on the really big festival spread out over a dozen locations on a very large peninsula. Selling farm good, crafts, whatever they had. The area was called the Varmlands. We worked our way down the peninsula, then back up, hitting most of them. The parking and traffic was a problem. At one site, young men were getting to shoot an actual shotgun at targets. They acted like they had never actually seen a real gun before. That seems to be the case with most all countries we have been in. Most people in the world seem to have the impression that all Americans carry guns, like the wild west days. I have overheard many conversations to that effect, all over the world.
      Barbara was in her element, with these great crowds of people. Once, we were waiting in a very long line for the toilet. They all stood in absolute silence, not a word spoken. Barbara, of course, spoke. “You Swedish people sure are a quiet bunch!” An old man, way up the line, added, “Yes, we have always been a very stoic people.” That broke the ice, and the words came flooding out, along with much laughter. By the time our toilet turn had arrived, every one of them personally knew us, and all about our travels. A common question: “Do you have kin here? All other Americans go to Southern Europe.” Did we look blonde to them? Well, I could have been. A long time ago.
     By the time we got back off our tour, we were thinking about finding a place to lay our heads. The people at the Tourist office had been so helpful, we went back. They booked a Hostel on down the road. The directions sounded easy, but then nothing ever is. It was another Hostel, Barbara wasn't very happy about it, but our budget was. We thought we again had it to ourselves, but we walked right into a couple of guys when we walked down to the TV room. Barbara screamed. I did not. I'm more stoic. Barbara just does not like it, when someone we didn't invite walks into our Hostel.
      We saw the attraction that place offered before we left. It had a rushing river, and a series of locks and dams lifted and lowered boats from one large lake to another. At one point, there was an “Only one in the world” thing. Starting with the river on the bottom, a boat canal directly above, a foot bridge directly above that, then an automobile bridge directly above that. Four modes of travel occupying the same geographical space. Five, if a plane flew over. And what if a satellite flew directly over that?  Pretty cool.
     We drove to Goteborg. A major city. Actually, there are two little dashes above the “o” in the name to show how it is pronounced, a characteristic of most of their long words. But my computer, to my knowledge, can't do that. We figured since it was Sunday, the traffic would be light. It was true of most cities in the world we have seen, but not here, and in Los Angeles. We wandered aimlessly among the hoards of humanity awhile, before an avenue of escape presented itself, and we took it. The highlight of the day occurred when Barbara spotted a bull moose, in all its glory, just outside the city by the interstate. We had been seeing Moose signs along the road, and watched for one so long, we had given up. Actually, the tell-tale signs of wildlife, usually road kill, was very light the whole time.
      When we found a hotel, a ways down the line, it was too expensive. But, they said they had an older version across town, but we had to fix our own bedding. We took it. No breakfast, but $100. Isn't that just the way things are now? We were beginning to look at that price as “A cheap bargain.”
      We got a Kebab tonight, along with a Pizza. Their way of doing things was very different, and Barbara, in trying to figure out how to handle the ordering, got every single person in the cafe involved, helping her. Remembering Hillary Clinton's book, I told them, “It takes a village to keep her straightened out.” Many knew what I was referring to, and laughed. Most countries, all over the world, know about and love everything American. And, they loved us. It’s just America in general they have a problem with. Kebabs were beginning to not be so good. Getting a bit old, because they're the cheapest. So just quite naturally, we have seen a lot of them. But the pizza was good.

      The next day we just sort of took it easy. It drizzled all day. We went to a Bibliotek (Library) and Barbara got a free hour on a computer. She found we were still pretty close to budget, better than we had feared. That pepped us up. So Barb just had to go to a mall, spend some money. A worker at one store was looking at us, pointing and laughing, while we were still a long way off. Were my pants unzipped or something? But no. He was one of the crowd last night, helping Barbara order Pizza. “Was the Pizza good?"

Monday, May 23, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: A Glimpse at Auschwitz

Forever A Hillbilly: A Glimpse at Auschwitz: We arrived at Auschwitz, the Nazi Death Camp on Polish soil. I took good notes of our tour, hard as that was, re-wrote most of it, ready to...

A Glimpse at Auschwitz

We arrived at Auschwitz, the Nazi Death Camp on Polish soil. I took good notes of our tour, hard as that was, re-wrote most of it, ready to place it on my blog. Before posting, I decided to Google it, see if I was bringing anything new to the table. As you might have guessed, I was not. Pretty well everything I had written was right there, easily available to the world, as it has been for a long time. I had second thoughts. Why put myself, and my readers, through all this again?

     I will just give you a few of my impressions, then move on down the road. I'm sick at my stomach from my morning's reading on Google, as it is

     Our guide through the camp was a very nice young woman. She told us all the horrible details, didn't leave much out. I wondered, how could she stand to do that, all day every day? She never once smiled all the way through. I had about decided her job had rendered her incapable of smiling or being happy, and I could see how that could happen. Might have done the same thing to me.

     After the tour was finished, and we were outside that gate, I walked up to her. I told her what a good job she did, and guess what. A broad, beautiful smile spread across her face. Once outside those gates, she was a totally different person, bright, bubbly, and friendly. I began to realize, she had just blocked her life inside that camp off from the rest of her life. I guess that would be necessary, for a nice person like her to be able to do that job day after day, year in and year out. Someone has to do it. It needs to be told. The proof needs to be seen. And it's all right there.

     Right behind the Gas Chamber stood a very old, yet very nice house. It was blocked off from the hoards of tourists. It was obviously currently lived in, well kept up. I asked about that house. Seems it was taken over by the Nazis when the camp was constructed. It was used as the home of the camp commandant during the time the camp was in operation. After the war, it was reclaimed by the owners, and  the family currently lives  there. I didn't understand how they could do  that, right here in the middle of such horror. But, I guess the family home is the family home, wherever it now happens to be located. The small town there, once out of sight of that camp, could have been any small town, anywhere in the world. Business as usual. Some strong, tough people now live in that small town.

     There is one Polish man whose story must be told,  before I move on. Witold Pilecki was the only person ever to volunteer to be sent to Auschwitz during that horrible time. He survived there 945 days, managing to get out evidence of the genocide going on, through the Polish resistance organization. The message was sent out to the British in 1940. It was dismissed by the Allies as being exaggerated. Other messages were sent, but he was not  taken seriously. Even after he managed to escape in 1943, his personal testimony was not believed.  Eventually, the word came from so many who had somehow escaped that it could not be ignored. There was much discussion and disagreement about what was possible, and what should have been done. Bombing the camp would kill all the prisoners, and for some reason, bombing the railroad bringing prisoners in from many different locations in Eastern Europe was not considered doable. That discussion and argument continues to this day.

     Goodbye, Auschwitz. I've done my duty as a free man on my 69th birthday. I visited that horrible monument to what a few men, with unlimited power, are fully capable of doing to mankind. I won't be back, and I hope and pray that someday I can stop thinking and dreaming about that place. But I doubt it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Polio

Forever A Hillbilly: Polio: ACCEPTANCE COMES SLOWLY    By Jonnie Sue Gillum Willis      My sister, Jonnie, who I always think of as the Angel of Fourche Valley, tel...


ACCEPTANCE COMES SLOWLY    By Jonnie Sue Gillum Willis
     My sister, Jonnie, who I always think of as the Angel of Fourche Valley, tells in her own words of the struggle to save her life when Polio hits. Jonnie lived a full life, raising two fine girls and teaching young children for 30 years. Her determination drove her to find a way to do whatever needed to be done. In her book, I read " I always thought I was weaker that anyone else." I was shocked. Growing up 12 years behind Jonnie, I always thought she was the strongest person I had ever known. I still do.
Sadly, we lost Jonnie to Post Polio Syndrome a few years ago. Those breathing muscles, regenerated many years ago while she was in the Iron Lung, finally gave out. Jonnie was a blessing to our family, and everyone around her.

     " My parents, and my two older brothers and I lived with my Grandma Gillum until I was four and a half years old. From the start, I was the family weaklin'. They tell me that Grandma rocked me in her lap as long as she could hold me. Then I sat beside her as long as there was space. I remember rocking so hard in my own chair that I turned over. This girl might have been sickly, but determination led her to pick up the chair and ride it to many big towns which were foreign to my country environment.
     It seems that I had tonsulitis very often. The doctor never considered  me well.enough to remove my tonsils, until I was grown. Because of my weaknesses, I had to take many medications. Many months of my fifth grade year were spent in bed. I had some problem with my heart, and the doctor advised complete bed rest. Santa Clause Brought my gifts to my bedside table that year.
     Because of my frailty, Mom insisted  that I wear long handles and long stockings to school. My first grade picture reveals my rebellion. The stockings are rolled down and the long handles are rolled up.
     Several months of my first grade year I had to stay home battling bronchitis and tonsulitis. By that time, I was so caught up in the magic of reading, writing, and arithmetic that I kept up with my school work at home. School was such a joy.
     As I reached those pre-teen years, I felt it necessary to play as rough as my brothers and sisters. We would ride homemade carts with blinding speed down hills, played in the creek, built playhouses around trees, played ball, rode bushes to the ground, swung on grapevines, and climbed every tree in our yard.
     From a very young age, I struggled to get a squeaking sound from our worn-out pump organ. Then one day, I succeeded. That was it! I wanted to play the piano. Of course that was out of the question. We couldn't afford to buy a piano, and there was no piano teacher available in our small rural town of Wing. That didn't keep me from dreaming. I walked around playing the notes with my fingers in the air. One day I found an advertisement for music lessons by correspondence. I begged and pleaded and continued to play in the air until my Dad finally found an old piano that he could afford. Then he agreed to order 12 of the 96 lesson correspondence course. After he saw how faithfully I practiced, how hard I worked, he ordered the remaining lessons.I could picture myself as a famous musician, music teacher, or at least a church pianist. (This was a major, major concession for Dad, coming at about the time the sharecroppers notes were being paid off, many years after the Depression had ended - for others.) 

      In January of 1946, I accepted Christ as my Savior. I was on top of the world. I just knew I'd outgrown the health problems and live happily ever after. Ours was a very busy life, and I always enjoyed my part in our many jobs to be done. When a new brother, Pat, arrived I learned to help with the cooking, housework, food preservation, gardening, etc. I continued to make time for those all-important piano lessons for one year. That's when my world came tumbling down.

     The pain in my neck began on a hot, dry August day in 1946 when I was 13. My right arm was weak. Mom insisted that I rest while she, Jan, and Barbara continued to carry water from the creek, bringing it up the hill to water the flowers. (Mom always kept a variety of pretty flowers around the house, and always made time to care for them.) I insisted on carrying a bucket after they got it in the yard. I never realized that this would be the last thing my right arm and hand would ever do.

     The next day, I was in bed, in pain, with total paralysis in this arm and hand. My entire body grew weaker as I lay in bed for three days. The country doctor had never seen a case, but he suspected polio.(That country doctor was uncle Arthur) My parents hired a neighbor to take us to a doctor in Russellville. In a short time, he headed us to the University Hospital in Little Rock.After the painful spinal tap, my diagnosis of polio was confirmed. My memory left me after I was rolled through a door with a sign which read, "Isolation Ward - No Admittance." I was put to bed, unconscious, on a Saturday afternoon.

     By Tuesday morning, the doctor felt sure that I'd never survive, so he allowed Mom to put on a mask, a gown, and gloves to visit me. Evidently this was the turning point, because I remember the tears flowing as I opened my eyes and saw her. I couldn't talk because of a tube through my nose to my stomach. Also, my entire body except my head was in an iron lung. I can still hear the laborous sound as it forced my lungs to breathe. Since I am a very modest person, I still remember the embarassment as the doctor came to check on me daily, housed in this respirator for a week, no gown or covering was placed over my naked body. The pain in my neck had intensified because of the rubber collar surrounding it. I still have a scar from the irritation of that collar..

     Gradually, I learned to breathe without help. Then I was placed on a firm bed with no pillow. My left hand, eyes and mouth were all that moved above my waist. Both arms were tied above my head at night. Later, I learned this was to help my lungs expand.

     Two weeks after the initial attack, I was moved to Children's hospital. There was my Dad outside that isolation ward. He had spent many hours there the past two weeks. Tears of joy flowed from my eyes as he rode in the ambulance across town with me. During all this time to save my life, no brush or comb had ever touched my hair. It was matted, tangled, and dirty. I felt like a mess, but I was alive! As soon as they had me in bed one nurse shampooed and brushed my hair. After a bath I began to feel much better.

       Now the real workout began. The heat packs felt good to my sore, stiff muscles. Slowly, the physical therapy began to loosen my limbs. Strength gradually returned, and I couldn't wait to be on my feet again. I can still see the frightened shock on the nurse's face the first day I put one foot against the side of my bed and raised myself up. She was afraid I would fall flat on my face, but I didn't! From that day on, I began to experiment to see what I could do. Many days, planning creative ways to do simple daily tasks was half the challenge. There was no time to say "I can't". The act of sitting up in a wheelchair one afternoon was one of the hardest tasks I ever accomplished. I gradually relearned to walk, feed myself, and to write in manuscript with my left hand  (before polio, I was right handed.) Soon I was able to help other girls, and I felt like the most blessed girl in the ward.
     After three months I was fitted with brace around my body which held my right arm out and up. "Oh please, don't make me wear this out in public," were my thoughts as the nurse strapped it on. The Barnum and Bailey Circus had come to Little Rock and the nurse was taking some of us. "You might as well wear this and start getting used to the public," she said as we left the hospital. After I began to enjoy my first circus, I soon forgot how I looked.

    Just before Thanksgiving the doctor said I could go home. My dreams of going home and starting to school in the 8th grade had kept me going all those sleepless nights in the hospital. Dad came on the bus to get me. Normally the bus didn't come by our house. However, the driver made an exception and took us to our driveway. Seeing my home again and my family running to meet us brought tears of joy. I was a survivor, and I was home!"

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: The Early Days

Forever A Hillbilly: The Early Days: '      In my early days at St. Paul, I often went to Fayetteville, 35 miles away, to buy groceries and wash. Once, I was on the way...

The Early Days


     In my early days at St. Paul, I often went to Fayetteville, 35 miles away, to buy groceries and wash. Once, I was on the way. When I passed where a dirt road came into the Pig Trail, an old, old woman was standing on the roadside, and waved her arm up and down with authority, as if commanding me to stop, yet I could see fear in her eyes, as if afraid I would not. I turned around and went back. As she was getting in, she was saying, "I was beginnin' ta' think, I was jest' agona' have to lay out tonight." She then went on to say, She had been visiting kin, and lived in a little community half a dozen miles back toward St. Paul. When we reached Combs, I believe the community was, she pointed with authority up the road through town into the mountains. We passed a couple of young boys I recognized from school, and when they saw she was in the car with me, they pointed at us and just died laughing. I thought that was sure strange. She went on awhile about how those children were always scaring and annoying her. We passed through the village, but still she pointed on up into the mountains. A couple of miles into the hills, she pointed to a side road, little used. We went on until she pointed to a field, with a couple of bare, old tread marks across. A path that had not been traveled in a long, long time. Finally, the ruts came to a spot where a rushing creek cut the trail. I could not cross it, and I knew no one else had either, in my lifetime. She didn't say a thing, but I could see confusion and disappointment in her eyes.
      Well, all I knew was to go back to Combs, and ask around. I began to realize, she was taking me back up a trail to her past, where she was most likely now living, in her mind.
      When we got back to Combs, we were passing the spot where we had seen the two youngsters as we came up. Suddenly, a light seemed to flash on in her eyes. "Why, that there's my old house!" I let her out, I said goodbye, and she never said a word. As she went in the door, I headed out for Fayetteville.
      Over the years, I had forgotten this story. Then it all came flooding back to me a couple of days ago, as I listened to Anna Hartley, of the Hartley Family Bluegrass group sing a song she had written, inspired by one of many older ladies her and her family visits, who had Alzheimer's and was now living in her childhood.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Pearl's Papa......

Forever A Hillbilly: Pearl's Papa......: I always enjoy the stories of my friend Shirley. So I asked her to allow me to run this story tonight. I think you will like it too. Shirl...

Pearl's Papa......

I always enjoy the stories of my friend Shirley. So I asked her to allow me to run this story tonight. I think you will like it too. Shirley often writes under the pen name of Pearl.  Thanks, Shirley!  Pat

by Shirley McMillan

I guess I'll always be Daddy's little girl.  In spite of the fact that he gave me a belt whipping for nothing more than my hiding on top of the house for hours (I was convinced they liked my teenaged sister best), the good times far outnumbered the not so good. 

From the time I can first remember, I was trailing around after my daddy.  I followed him to the big barn through feed lot mud to get hay for the cows.  I braved the cow pies, flies, and bumble bees to get in and out of the little barn, where shelling corn on the old corn-sheller and playing in the bin full of hard yellow kernels was heaven to me.  Though I tried, I never accomplished getting milk out of a cow.  I was a great side-kick, though, as Daddy faithfully slopped the hogs and fed the cows after a long day as a minimum-wage carpenter. Hog-killing day was a time of excitement--from the dipping and cleaning of those huge beasts, to the cooking of cracklin's and hog's head and the stuffing of sausage sacks my mama had sewn.

As I grew into adolescence, Daddy helped me venture out by saddling "Ribbon", our faithful old horse who was almost ready for the glue factory.  As I rode horses and bicycles with the cousins and neighbors, I learned enough about life to ask Daddy embarrassing questions like, "Why do you have the dog penned up, Daddy?"  (A boy cousin had told me she was going to have puppies!) Daddy let me know after the third time I asked, determined to have an answer, that "little" girls weren't supposed to ask questions like that.  I shouldn't have been surprised, considering that he was a man so modest that he seldom ever came out of the bathroom less than fully clothed (even in his undershirt)!

In spite of the fact that I was a girl, Daddy let me help out on the farm.  From "driving" the hay truck as it coasted along in neutral and helping stack hay in the barn, to actually driving the tractor to cover the soybeans Daddy was planting for hay.  I eventually was trusted to drive the hay loader. I got to know my daddy quite well during those years.  I probably saw him a bit through rose-colored glasses, but he was and is pretty special.  He and Mama had me in church every time the doors were opened, and sometimes when they were not (they cleaned the church every Saturday for $10 a month for years!)  His sense of humor is unsurpassed (though not greatly appreciated by Mama!), and I guess I just now realized that he's a songwriter, because I've never heard "My Gal Don't Wear No Perfume" and "Ain't No Use In Me Workin' So Hard" coming from anybody's else's lips!

I think we kids must have had him wrapped around our little fingers!  I remember him in his carpenter overalls, giving my teen-aged brothers a dollar as they were about to leave for a date (gas was $.20 or $.30 a gallon back then!) A little pouting was known to change his mind about not letting me have the car to go to Gurdon on Friday night when I was in high school. He did check the mileage that night when I told him we would go to Arkadelphia. We sort of told the truth, just not the whole truth!  I'm sure he also became suspicious when during my senior year I accidentally missed the bus every day and was "forced" to drive the car to school!

His fathering instincts and fun carried over to his grandchildren and now even to the great-grandchildren.  I think he discovered the meaning of the scripture that says when you're older, people (in this case little people), will lead you around where you don't want to go!  I'm so thankful that they, too, can be "Daddy's little girls" or “Daddy’s little boys” to their Grandaddy Hershel!

In Memory of Hershel Manning 1919-2001