David James is a musician, activist, adjunct faculty member, editor, writer, and grandfather. A first-time homeowner for one-and-a-half years, he hangs his wash on a line, gardens, cans, mows, edges, clears snow, splits wood, and uses tools.
You know, sometimes I think my troubles started when I learned how to read. A good book stops me in my tracks—political ones, such as The Way of the Knife—about the CIA’s secret army; histories, like Vietnam and America; novels, mysteries—I just finished a chronicle of the Gastonia, North Carolina, 1929 textile strike—and a novel that surrounded that experience with the beauty and anguish of the mountains: Call Home the Heart, by Olive Tilford Dargon.
The Alabama civil rights movement: Selma to Montgomery march, halted at the Edmund Pettus bridge (Tuesday, March 9, 1965). Jack Rabin collection on Alabama civil rights and southern activists, 1941-2004. Penn State Special Collections. Creative Commons license: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Twenty-fifteen is the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march. A person can get a good idea of the issues and the drama of the events down there back then by viewing the movie Selma, in local theaters this week. I’ve studied a lot of civil rights history.
Starting in 1967 and for many years, a bunch of us who were single and courting and subsequently married folk, gathered for Thanksgiving. We divided the food preparation almost by status, with the host gaining the honor of cooking the turkey, and others the subsidiary fare. I started out making a baked onion casserole. Sound strange? It’s delicious. You take Vidalia onions—very sweet—peel and slice them in half, and put them in a glass baking dish with some “cream-a”: cream of mushroom, chicken, onion, celery, or broccoli soup, thickened with flour and some milk.
My mother’s mother was named Ellen Morden Long. She was born in New York City in 1884, but lived her married life in Syracuse, New York. Ellen Long had a grandfather, my three times great grandfather, named Ralph Morden Long. He was born in 1788 in eastern Pennsylvania, but died on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, not too far from Brantford, where he was taken during the Revolutionary War by his grandmother Ann Durham Morden, who must have been a “loyalist”—on the British side, to flee to Canada.
I dug up still another patch of backyard Friday and Saturday, and the same thing happened as last time. My forearms swelled up. For a couple of days I looked like Popeye the Sailor Man. Right now, although the swelling has receded, “I’m itching like a man on a fuzzy tree,” although the other symptoms associated with that song have not displayed. I guess it could be mosquitos, although I didn’t hear them around my ears or see them alight. This pest is maybe chainsaw-us vexans, its cousin hammerdrill-us vexans, or sneakuponus vexans.
From the ethereal to the earthereal, the fun never stops. I woke up Monday morning with my arm hanging limp from my shoulder. A little body English would have swung it around in circles like a mean boy with his sister’s rag doll. Lit-tel story. Sunday I played bodhrán—the Irish frame drum—as I describe it, north-end-of-a-south-facing goat—to accompany a glorious choir, the St. Joseph Valley Camerata. I bought a new suit for the occasion! Know when the last time THAT happened? When I got married-1970.