Today our host for #VerseLove is Chea of Texas, who inspires us to write poetry with regional dialect ~ to tell something as it really happened, in our home language. You can read her prompt and the poetry of others here. I’m sharing a phone conversation with my dad one early morning not too long ago and wrote it in prose during the Slice of Life Story Challenge.
Hopin' Folks Out
my phone rings early
I have a story I need to tell
while it’s fresh on my mind
before I forget
I grab my pen
It was back in the old days in rural Georgia
when I was preaching at Ohoopee
This was down around Highway 19
where you’d go through Wrightsville
meander over to Tennille
and then head on out to Sandersville
a sea of cotton fields
roads all red clay
Ohoopee was a church of miracles
a cured drunk who loved the Lord led the singin'
“On Jordan’s Stormy Banks,”
only he pronounced it Jurdan’s.
and he weren’t wrong.
a fellow named Noah in the church needed help finding where to dig his well
even with a name like Noah
back in those days
people were people
folks’ existence was all about
helpin' their neighbors out
now old Elvis heard about it“I’m coming over to hope you out”
I went over there too
to see Elvis hope his neighbor out
Elvis said he had a divinin' rod –
a hickory branch – to find water
I saw it with my own eyesthey dug that well right there
they called this place Possum Scuffle
back over in Harrison by Raines Store
over yonder by Deep Step and Goat Town
by Margaret Holmes's cannery ~
black eyed peas and collards.
in Acts 27
Luke is in a ship in a storm
using stabilizing ropes
~ also hawsers or helps
a help is a hope rope
on land or at seait's Biblical, Kimnow
youremember thatwrite it down
Think of the world which you carry within yourself…pay attention to what arises within you. – Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
We recently spent another Saturday savoring the morning hours with coffee and conversation in Zebulon, Georgia on our town square. We love the atmosphere of our small town coffee shop, restored from a historic building to the place we love and enjoy today by Dr. Dan Dunnahoo. You can read his story here. Dunnahoo, a retired Pike County art teacher known affectionately as “Dr. Dan” by locals, named the coffee shop 1828 Coffee Company because it was built in 1828 by Samuel Mitchell and still has the same wood floors that creaked under folks’ boots all those years ago, every plank restored and returned to its original position in the floor.
You can step back in time and order a cup of Zebulon Pike or any of their unique blends of coffee or tea and a cinnamon roll, then sit back and wonder about the history of this place and your own indelible time stamp on it, the dust of your own shoes settling somewhere beneath your feet between a crevice in the wood on the very dust brought in by those who used it as a trading post when it was first built. You can also wonder about those who later became proud first-ever owners of automobiles within its walls when it was a car dealership, and all the romance that bloomed here when it was an ice cream shop and young men brought their sweethearts here to share a date night treat – many of whom no doubt brought their own children back years later when it was a restaurant or an office.
Today, you can find a book in one of three Little Free Libraries here in this coffee house, hear live entertainment, or listen to students reciting poetry or performing a dramatic reading. Dr. Dan and his son-in-law Bryan open their doors to welcome a variety of events that shape the culture of this small town.
Next time you’re traveling through Zebulon, Georgia, be sure to stop in and say hello. Order coffee upstairs, admire the art, and then stroll downstairs where you can play a board game or sit outdoors on the brick patio and enjoy the sights of the town. If you happen to see a middle-aged woman huddled in a corner savoring coffee, reading, or writing, come introduce yourself – – it may be me!
When my phone rings in the early morning hours, I don’t panic and wonder what in the world has happened. A feeling of calm prevails. Things are as they have always been. There’s Dad.
I have a story I need to tell while it’s fresh on my mind, before I forget, he tells me. I grab my pen, the closest piece of paper, and listen, feverishly writing all that he shares.
It was back in the old days in rural Georgia when I was preaching at Ohoopee, he began. This was down around Highway 19, where you’d go through Wrightsville, meander over to Tennille, and then on out to Sandersville, where there were cotton fields everywhere and all the roads were red clay. And Ohoopee was a church of miracles. A cured drunk who loved the Lord led the singing, and the first time I stepped in there, they were singing “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks,” only he pronounced it Jurdan’s. And, as they say, “he weren’t wrong.”
There was a fellow by the name of Noah in the church, married to a lady named Nora, and Noah was having trouble finding where to dig his well. He needed help finding water. And back in those days, people were people and folks’ existence was all about helping their neighbors out.
Another couple in the church, Elvis and Helen, heard about it.“I’m coming over to hope you out,” Elvis told Noah, and when I heard that, I went over there too.
It wasn’t uncommon in those days to hear regional idioms and think of them as words misspoken, but these weren’t misspoken words – this was intentional language packed with meaning. Elvis was coming to hope his neighbor out.
Elvis said he had a divining rod – a hickory branch – that he could use to help him find water. Now Kim, believe what you will, but Elvis walked the grounds with that stick, and suddenly it tremored. I saw it with my own eyes. Right there, he said, was water. They marked the spot for the well and dug right there.
“Where exactly was this spot?” I was curious and had to know.
They called this area Possum Scuffle, he explained. It was back over in Harrison by Raines Store where they called it Deep Step and Goat Town, where a lady named Margaret Holmes had a cannery for black eyed peas and collards. They were the best you could get then and still are today.
“I believe you, Dad,” I assured him. “I’ve read about this. It’s a real thing.”
I had flashbacks to visiting the Foxfire Museum in Clayton, Georgia at the foot of Black Rock Mountain last April, where I saw in the holler the ways of a simpler way of life with a harder work ethic and more relying on God to bless the land – and people depending on each other – and wished that part of the world still existed.
Who am I to doubt a divining rod?
Now, I’m telling you all this because I’ve had one of those mornings where I’ve been playing with words, and I know you do the same thing, he continued. I’m still dwelling on the shipwreck passage in Acts 27, and there’s a Biblical connection I’ve discovered. Luke is the most likely author of the book, and he describes the ship being in a storm out in the Adriatic Sea near Malta. They used stabilizing ropes. In mariner’s terms, these are called hawsers. Today, we also call them helps, or help ropes.
I began to see where he was going with all of this. “Ah, I see. So hoping someone out is like using a help rope. Help is a hope rope.”
Exactly, he confirmed. Hope ropes tie it all together and make things possible. In Acts 27, the imperiled ship could have been dashed, save for the hope ropes.
That’s exactly what we need today in our communities – – to hope our neighbors out. We need to adopt the mindset of rural Georgia thinking back in the good days when folks extended not just a hand, but their whole selves – – divining rods and all.