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Friday 16 June

This time I think I'm going to get caught up, mostly because Tuesday, Wednesday, yesterday and today have been much simpler days.

Tuesday I walked into town and talked with Sherrie Puckett at Town Hall, then Carol Ann and her mother at the Flower Shop, and in the evening Gary Jessey took me to the midweek Bible study at Kingdom Hall. Wednesday I did even less: went to the library but mostly wrote, then went to Mass at St. George's and talked with the priest there Father Randall. Yesterday Thursday Susan dropped me off in Pound and I roved around a bit, then a girl's softball game, after which expected a quiet night but instead we spent half of it tearing apart the ceiling: Xel,º after 9 days not a peep, started meowing and we found her to be trapped in the joist space between the ground floor and the upper (where she still is). Today not much at all: putting the kitchen in order, a bit of unpacking, [etc.], then — now — she was off to the ER but first at 4:45 delivering me to Seco; except that the dinner group slated for tonight at the winery, onto which I'd hoped to piggyback, canceled: good thing that Susan waited while I checked, else I'da had to walk back, and I've done that road and wasn't in the mood. So I'm back home, and actually went online for about an hour or so, the first time since I left Chicago: Greyhound tickets ordered and paid for (I leave Nashville Sun. 25 at 11:15 A.M., arriving downtown Chicago at 9:25 P.M.: $59), checked on the White Sox (exactly where I left 'em, 1½ games behind the Tigers), looked at Seco's brand new site (started going up the day before yesterday),º and looked at my own site on a Windoze computer (occasional bits of it look inexplicably bad, black backgrounds where I explicitly specified some particular light color, big problems with most — but not quite all — the accented letters in polytonic Greek, etc.). And now I'm, as usual, catching up, especially since tomorrow we may well spend several hours in the car.

Tuesday then I was on the verge of frittering away the day in chit-chat, although some of it useful — French pronunciation on the veranda — so shook myself around 2 and walked into town, with just the loose idea of finding how best to see the Catholic church and the Methodist church (the latter the one with the fabled windows). In this frame of mind, passing Town Hall, what the heck, let's see what I can learn; wound up talking for some time — between phone calls and other visitors coming in for far more legitimate business, like renting town facilities for a child's birthday party or seeing about extending the sidewalk construction in Burdine — with the young efficient woman who despite demurrals seems to run the place, at least to the eye of this stray visitor: Sherrie Puckett is, I think, the Town Hall secretary, and also Mayor Shubert's daughter, and also a Republican even if he's a Democrat. I explained what I'm doing in town and showed her pieces of Tentacle-Baby, at which, to my very great surprise, she was horrified: her reaction to my photographs of the beautiful houses in the area (the one in Smoky Row, the one where I lost my tooth) was "I can't believe you're showing everybody the worst things about Jenkins!". Turns out we're in fact on near enough wavelengths: although not in the least interested in history — and that's perfectly fine, of course, tastes differ — her main objection was that I'm showing examples of how people don't take care of their houses, which is a crying shame; and of course I agree with that, and to some extent when I take these photos it's because I fear that a building may not be much longer for this world: i.e., with a bit (or a lot) of care the company store at Millstone could be like the one at Seco; although I'll admit to my liking the rawest possible structure, in its unvarnished lack of pretense. Anyway, Sherrie and I left more friends than we started, and I told her I hoped they could use the upcoming centennial maybe to drag in some money, some notoriety, the governor, whatever —

And on to the next, my only really planned, stop: at the Flower Shop, where again, like a cheveu sur la soupe, I walked in, poking my nose into things. . . . Carol Ann the owner, and a young girl who may have been her niece, visiting from college for a while, and then after a while, Carol Ann's mother, a Miss Thelma, a distinguished woman of about 75 maybe, with beautiful posture despite walking slowly with one of those little aluminum walker-type canes. We talked churches and stuff; Miss Thelma told me of her experience of black history in the area, how for example she had visited the colored school on #4 Hill, now totally demolished, a two-room building with a hot plate to feed the kids many of whom had little good food to eat elsewhere, and a waist-high bookcase about three feet wide: books for the whole school; she said she felt like crying, it was so bad. Also her life in Kona, how as a child she and her friends would go sit near the outdoor church services of the colored folk against the side of a hill — they had no building — and listen to the singing; and how, when crossing Seco from Kona on their way to Neon, within the limits of Seco, they were required to walk on the tracks, only moving aside when the train came thru, but right back on immediately afterwards: she saw this many times with her own eyes (though I didn't press the interpretation, whether it might have been just choice to walk on the tracks, or whether they were indeed coerced, as she said, and no reason at all not to believe her, of course). In my last days I might go back and listen to Miss Thelma some more, since she invited me to do that, after all.

And that was my little afternoon expedition; I walked back home to shower and change, to be ready to be picked up here by Gary Jessey at 6:45 to go to church. And me and him both on time, I found myself his guest at the regular 7 P.M. Tuesday Bible study at Kingdom Hall; a group of about fifteen people participating in the hour or so study of a very difficult subject, "the Ransom" in Witness shorthand — otherwise a very careful standard treatment, one of the best I've heard, of (a) why Redemption was needed; (b) how Redemption has been supplied, and exactly why in the form of Christ and the particular death he suffered by hanging on a tree. As it turned out, Gary was the week's leader, so he it was who navigated us thru the denomination's study guide and all the scriptural passages, calling on everyone present to read, or answer questions about what we were reading: I was surprised but felt quite privileged when he called on me to read a passage; and in a coupla spots, when the topic turned to the Roman flagrum and the mechanics of what is conventionally called crucifixion — long and perfectly accurate as far as I could tell excursus on the σταυρος and not being a cross as commonly represented — I contributed my share to the evening.1

And so, after a bit of quiet conversation, back home, to bed.

Wednesday even less: at around 3 P.M. I went and sat in the library and wrote; when they closed at 5 I meandered down a block to the fast-food joint, Hardee's, where I had what they called a Philly cheese steak: I doubt very much that it'd pass muster in Philadelphia, but have never had the real thing so who knows — a sludgy greyish patty of beef, an unidentifiable gooey whitish cheese, fries. I was hungry but it wasn't the best meal for anyone, and as Susan (repeatedly) points out, this is the kind of food that's responsible for much of the very frequent obesity in these parts.

Anyhow, at a bit before 6 I betook myself to St. George's and sat and waited for Mass. For a while (I think I was early) I was the only person there other than the priest preparing for Mass; for Mass we finally were eight congregants and the two celebrants. The sanctuary is strikingly beautiful, an intimate, devotional, numinous space, seating about 50‑80 depending on how packed, with 2 × 7 pews. A handsome boat-keel type wooden ceiling, four windows to a side: on the left St. George and his dragon, Lourdes, St. Joseph, Fatima; on the right (in reverse order, back from the altar toward the door) the first window I couldn't see, then the Eucharist, Guadalupe, and the window nearest me — I sat in the very back pew on the right — a nice window "Dedicated to and in memory of our miners and their families", with on the left, a mine portal and one miner, and on the right, Pope John Paul II and St. Peter's, with a banner going across the two halves reading SOLIDARNOSC. Behind the altar a Glory of clouds and rays, and the tabernacle in the center of course, and two kneeling angels one on either side, and banners reading THIS IS MY BELOVED SON or something very close to it. In the upper right, the hands of God and a Dove flying away from them — the attitude of Dove and hands rather remarkably conveying no impression of a captive bird released by human hands, but of two equal beings freely involved in the flight to earth. The net effect of the sanctuary very beautiful. Mass itself, of course, no surprises: a very brief very Catholic homily on 1 Kings 18:20‑39 and Matthew 5:17‑19; concelebrated by Father Collins, big tall strapping fellow about 60, and Father Randall the pastor, who must be nearing 80 and is now somewhat frail with age; the congregation consisting of four sari-clad Mother Teresa nuns, all from India, and the four remaining laypeople, of whom two were Pilipino.

After church — absolutely no opportunity, as elsewhere in Jenkins, to wander around the sanctuary and take photos — I sat with Father Randall and Father Collins; by way of introduction told 'em of course what I was doing: Father Randall's first immediate question was who was funding me. Anyhow the upshot of all this was that I might catch him (as I full well expected) at a better time, i.e. around 9 A.M. at his rather social breakfast at Hardee's: I haven't done this yet, so have no photographs of the inside of the church — although a fairly full set of the Calvary and Stations of Cross on the hillside behind it — and it's something I need to do before I leave. I did learn that it was mostly Fr. Randall himself who'd done the sculpture — apparently a material called, I hope I got it right, Plasti-Mold,a which can be molded but also then sanded, cut, drilled, etc. (I'd gone and squinted at the Stations, noticed that some paint was peeling off in spots, but that the sculpture itself was holding up very well, and I'd wondered what it was.)

[image ALT: A life-size crucifix, accompanied by the sculpted free-standing figures of two women and two men, one of them a Roman soldier with a lance, against a backdrop of tall trees. It is a view of the Crucifixion, the main element in a Calvary in the garden of St. George's Catholic Church in Jenkins, Kentucky.]
The Calvary on the hill just behind St. George's Catholic Church: the Crucifixion.

And with that, home and eventually to bed.

Thursday — well past noon, of course, Susan's schedule — she dropped me off in Pound, my idea; more the notion of getting out of the house on such a beautiful day — the weather has been consistently perfect from Day 1 here, with only two rains, both in the late evening — than any extraordinary desire to see Pound, even though I knew that my little pit stop in November hadn't done the place justice. This idea also sort of combined with fishing little Fang out of the vet's in Almira, finally got snipped for pissing on everything in sight in Susan's new house; so off to Pound I went.

My explorations were very tame, not a mile walking total, but attended by good fortune. First stop was to introduce myself to Rocky and Anita, now pals of Susan's, owners of the Fielder's Choice (sporting goods store) and attached, large, antique store: mostly china and furniture, thank goodness, and few books, else I'da been tempted to spend money. As it was, a White Sox baseball cap, $9 and good quality: at $22 at the ball park or elsewhere in Chicago, no way I'd been buying one; plus here the specious excuse of covering my pink scalp from excess sun.

I walked up the little hill to the Methodist Church, and by good luck found a young woman, Susan Bolling, and an older who may have been her Mom, who seemed genuinely pleased to tour me thru the sanctuary, and who rustled up a mimeographed pamphlet done for the church's centennial in 1984, with historical details; as often, strangers very nice to me: I'm sure they had other things to do, of course. Sanctuary nice, and since the church is the oldest in Pound, and Pound in turn proudly advertises itself as the oldest town in Wise County, I'll use the material to put up a little webpage, all the more so that, though the church is planning a site, it has none now.

Back down the hill, roamed off to First Baptist — large modern brick, stained glass windows often seen in the more prosperous churches in this area, closed; and road, across the Pound river, walk back into town;

[image ALT: A two‑lane road curving into a small town in the middle background; a car is entering town and an American flag flutters from a small pole attached to a telephone pole on the left of the road. It is a view of Pound, Virginia.]

Approaching Pound from the S on Old Indian Creek Road; the large white building is the Methodist church. The red sign to the right of the road commemorates the town's best sports teams over the years, a matter of civic pride in much of small-town America.

a barbecued pork sammich, small; and back to Fielder's Choice to call Susan on schedule, she swung by to chat with Anita a bit herself, pick me up, head back home via Almira and Fang. Before she got to Pound, I dropped in on Harold Greer to confirm my spelling of his name, round out the details I either didn't catch or get or register in November, etc. He introduced me to Linda Logan across the street, a third antique store; I told them about not having found Devil John's grave last time despite following instructions: they called around but confirmed instructions; Susan and I stopped there again, this time by full daylight, and repeated our full ambulation of it with the same results, no dice; Almira, Fang with much waiting, back to Jenkins, bed late (11 P.M.) but not intolerably sob — but not 5 minutes had gone by when Susan hollered she'd heard Xel, and the whole adventure started: three hours before we figured out that the cat was not in the ducts in the basement, but in the joist space between the kitchen and the bedroom upstairs, and had got in there via a hole in my bedroom closet across the hall. Nurse come trooping over from the hospital, bearing IV tubing and a syringe; I'd climbed up and torn out a section of the kitchen ceiling; Susan squeezed water into a small cup balanced on the lath up there, drenched herself a couple of times balancing all that, etc. Upshot: cat alive, not trapped but refusing to come out, and rehydrated after five days in the ceiling. To bed quite frazzled at 2:05 A.M.

Friday I frittered completely away — housecleaning, and now caught up more or less on diary — and Greyhound bus return ticket, first time I've been online since I left. Anyway, to bed.


Note in the Diary:

1 The Witnesses very much aware of how many other people view them: my seat neighbor Jerry Collins, in a stage whisper, told Gary shucks, there's a stranger with us, we'll have to wait until tomorrow to sacrifice that goat. . . .


Later Notes for the Web:

a I didn't; it's Sculpti-Mold.

b Inexplicably — maybe just too much to write, and me wanting to get to sleep — I never recorded the softball game I attended, although I pestered everybody in sight for days to find me some baseball or softball while I was in Jenkins, either Little League or Minor League (the nearest pro farm team seems to be in Bristol, TN). The Neon/Jenkins girls' 11‑inch softball team played visitors East Ridge, and I actually learned a fair amount about the game, including this: that catching a fly ball in professional baseball isn't half as hard as doing the same thing in Little League. The pros slug a ball way high up, and the fielder has plenty of time to spot and catch it; but a fly ball in Little League is a matter of split-second reactions and some very fast running.

[image ALT: A young girl in a baseball uniform, with a catcher's mitt on her left hand, intently leaning forward with her hands on her knees. Behind her at some distance, a small square out-of‑focus sign advertising Wall-Mart. She is a softball player at a night game in Neon, Kentucky.]
My neighbor's daughter Smitty, seen here playing an alert center field, caught at least two of these killer fly balls; but speak of fast reactions, I wasn't fast enough with the camera shutter to "catch" either one of them myself. The young ladies played a serious game.


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Page updated: 15 Dec 10