Dusty Conversations Alive in The Splinters
"We gest talkin' boss. Gest talkin'"
A perpetual ritual is evident
(Writer's note: On any typical, sweltry July morning, this group of men somehow are drawn to the porch of the community general store. At the same time, every day, the group, a virtual mixture of races, ideas, and opinions. Sometimes there's a heated argument. Sometimes the guys just endure the heat and boredom. At first, the owners of the store were alarmed at the groups' presence, but after awhile, grew used to the group meeting on their porch for what seemed to be an important, life or death ritual.)
A slight breeze sifts through the area while a few houseflies are busy seeking to devour a rotting crumb or two of discarded food that an unknowing customer had dropped from their bologna sandwich they purchased inside the store. Bologna was a huge seller in this time frame.
Continued past photo below
An outcast's dream
AMONG THE DAYDREAMS
the Veterans discussed was the all-time daydream of having a good life with few bills to pay, a great job or business to run and everyday filled with hours of pure, clean sunshine. With no one talking or asking about what happened in the war. Men (and women) who came home from World War II were not greeted with a cushy job, new car, and a new suit of clothes. They were met with huge doses of real life.
A Happy Veterans Day to All of Our Veterans who were willing to give their all to preserve our freedoms.
Thank you, guys and gals, for being so sacrificially-minded and willing to go far away and beyond your reasonable service.
Time learns to crawl
Continued from above photo
Henry Belcher, an Army vet from World War II, breaks the boredom and speaks.
"Lawdy, lawdy, when will dis heat let up?" He says while fanning with his worn-out felt hat.
"Henry, you alwaze bellyachin' 'bout somethin' Thought you'se workin' at de' feerniture plant," replied Grover Terry, another Army vet who has been at home for about two months--penniless and almost destitute which is no way for an American veteran to be after he has offered to give his life for the freedoms Americans so take for granted.
"Grover! Just shut ye' trap. Everbody know'd that dey don't give a black man no job." Henry snaps.
"Yep, Henry. I can't blame ye thar, but looks like tuh me dat somebudy somewhar in dis sleepy settlemunt would give us a break."
(The men freeze as Mona Deline, a divorcee twice, sways and wiggles her way past them on her way into the store. Mona's timing is perfect as that gentle breeze catches the hem of her thin dress and lifts it up above her knees which causes the men's mouths to foam.)
"Man, did you see her?" Taylor Dupree, a Navy veteran exclaims.
"Taylor, we ain't blind. She was a real looker. I'd like to feed her some hot dinnuh tonight." Gary Barker says with a forlorn look on his face.
"And did ye' smell how good she smelled when she pranced by? Must be dat woman lotion them rich women gits from Atlanta, huh?" Henry continues.
"Yep. Atlanta fa-sure." Dupree chimes in.
"Who's for sneakin' 'hind this heah store 'n takin' a swig 'o this 'shine I found over in Kelsey's Woods?" Franklin Markham, an ex-Marine who came back home a week ago asks.
Continued below photos below
WHEN DAYDREAMS OF
were exhausted, the veterans from World War II, and I include all wars that involved the U.S.A., realized that they were not in Disneyworld, but the real world with its plight of racial bigotry, innocent people starving in and out of the states and this was too much for some vets to cope with, so they dove inside bottles of whiskey and some never came out. Funny how the easy, colorful dreams never last, but the ugly dreams do. Who can figure?
A walk down a dark road
The fixture (photo #1 at top)
was easily called the general or country store. Most folks in Post-World War II who had money to buy food and other needed-things, got their funds from selling a few eggs or maybe a few dollars they had from selling a cow. Life was not easy for returning Armed Forces vets. The general store was more of a therapeutic location for one or two, maybe more of these bruised vets to congregate once a week or twice a month and just be themselves.
Where is our next meal coming from? Photo #2
Even during the best of times, there were some families who were caught looking with so much progress to soak in and simply choked with the pressure--allowing the bank to foreclose on their house that the husband's G.I. Bill helped to make the down payment and of course, their car, a luxury they never had prior to the war, and some chose to live as best they could in discreet places while the husband took odd jobs or panhandled to get their next meal.
And for as many times these Army vets and their wives would start dreaming of better days, seemingly, another crushing blow from life's unlimited arsenal of pain would put them down on the cold ground again. In some cases, the once-friendly men of uniform and pride turned quickly into angry, depressed men who learned to survive any way they could to just live.
Progress on four wheels would be a great title for this deceptive "monster," who helped to change the landscape, literally, of our country. This device, a farmer's best friend, and his friends, roared upon the scene in America and fired-off a sure salvo of money to be made and shirts to be soaked with sweat, but this time around, without a beast of burden to carry the load.
Stories get knitted together
Continued from underneath photo
"Sho wish I could, Markam, but iffen my old lady smells dat on muh breath, I be's out thu house." Henry complains.
"Gots a half gallon, so whoze wid me? Come on now? It's just leven. Day's 'bout gone." "Okay den. Guess I'ze gonna sip it by myself." Franklin says trying to convince Henry to drink with him.
(Fifteen minutes pass).
"Anybudy heah 'bout old man Lukey passin' yestaday?" Dupree asks changing the subject.
"Nawww, Dupree, not mistuh Lukey. Hard to get that in muh head. Wy' Hez been a part of dis settlement as long as I kin remembuh." Markham answers.
"Preacher Billy wuz tellin' me 'bout his funeral dis monin' on muh way to thu sto. Said dey wuz no room fah peeple tuh sit. Hmmmpp, I knows dat when I goes, dey be plenty o' room. Haw, haw, haw." Dupree jokingly replies.
(The men are froze silent as Mona walks out of the store and heads back uptown.)
"Iz dat Markam back yet frum gettin' a swig?" Henry asks and very concerned.
"Henry! Are yew plum' dumm? Now do ye' seez Markam sittin' anywhur on dis poach?"
"Guess not. Thank I'll step back thah and seez if hez uh, knocked out." Henry says looking restless.
"Go on ahead, Henry. Weze ah knowin' youze ah gest lookin' fah a exkuse tuh get lit." Dupree laughs.
"Thought dat atter duh war wuz ovah, thangs heah might pick up some." William Holcomb, a retired Army vet says very sternly.
"Mr. Holcomb, it has. But not for us whoze foahfadders wore dem blame chains! Naw, suh! Weze as chained-up now as they wuz den." Dupree says growing irritated.
"I walked intuh the feed stoah Monday as a week ago and just said tuh Mr. Cantrell, de boss, dat I'd bez glad tuh sweep duh floahs and thangs for little uv nuthin. Know whut dat raskel said tuh me? You best git back to tuh cotton fields 'n not let any whites seez me thah." Henry says as if he is making a speech.
"Naw." Franklin replies with surpise.
"Yes, suh. He plum shoah did. And didn't crack a smile. Nuthin' I could do but leave, but ye know whut's so krookid? To feed muh kids I runs off a bit o' shine and sells it foah grub I git right heah in dis stoah, but de white man law alwaze knows 'bout de shine and throws muh bones in jail. Some friendly town, huh?" Henry says now going from irritated to angry.
A white man's view
"Well, Mr. Henry. I happen to be a white man and I got it as tough as you. I was told that when I got back from the war that merchants and plants would be glad to hire a vet and you know what, Mr. Henry? I've tromped up and down this town filling out job applications and pretty near begging for work and all I get is, economy's not strong enough yet. Check back later. No, Mr. Henry, blacks are not the only people who are hurting. "We" are too." Clint Jefferson, another Army vet says boldly.
(The evening sun is slowly sinking in the west).
Mr. Jim Cook, the proprietor of the country general store walks briskly from inside the store onto the splintered porch.
"Alright, guys. Time's up. Now hurry and get lost because I need to lock up," he yells to the collection of men sitting on his front porch.
"Was it those men again, Jim?" his pretty wife, Julie asks as she locks the cash register.
"Yep. Them again. I don't mind them talking, but keeping our storefront crowded might be keeping away business."
"Jim, you are right, but how do you kick the ghosts of vets who died for our little town off of our property for we owe them so much?"
"Dunno, Julie. I am too tired to think of it now. Let's take it up in the morning."
"Now that you have read my piece which I did as honestly and respectfully as possible to our African American veterans as well as our white veterans. The dialogue is written in the venacular and style of the men in Post World War II, rural and without glamour. No disrespect was intended. Just plain truth and respect."— Kenneth
"This" was a social event
AS LIFE, TIME, AND PROSPERITY SLOWLY CRAWLED
into the dismal future, Army and all Armed Forced vets and families took on new roles, scary roles, roles of fitting into a social hometown with social activities such as dances, tea parties, and when they could afford it, a backyard cook-out with neighbors. At first, (as photo above shows), men and women were frightened as newly-born fawns in the spring--afraid to move and yet afraid not to.
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