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Tuesday, September 11, 2007


A college friend sent me this email today. He received this from someone he once worked with who was inspired to share her memory of a story that rings too true to keep in the vault.

"I was born and lived the first 25 years of my life in the small town of Starkville, Mississippi. Yesterday, my local Savannah newspaper published an Associated Press article that hurled me back to my childhood. The article devoted two pages to the creation of the Johnny Cash Flower Pickin' Festival on November 2 in Starkville. Forgive me as I flashback....

In 1965, Starkville was a small college town of about 10,000 people. One Sunday, I was attending Mrs. McIlwain's Sunday school class in the conservative First Methodist Church of Starkville when loud whispers were heard from the hall. As dutiful Southern children, we remained in our seats, waiting for sweet Mrs. McIlwain, about age 60 (or older), to enter the room as she did every Sunday. This Sunday, however, Mrs. McIlwain did not appear. The whispers grew louder and we soon learned that a young man had been arrested in Mrs. McIlwain's rose garden at 2 a.m. that morning.
His name was Johnny Cash and he was found naked in her garden, very drunk, and singing to her prize roses. The image of the pristine elderly Southern belle and her roses next to the image of a naked drunk man was enough, but when we learned that it was Johnny Cash who had entertained college students the night before, we were thrilled!

As the morning continued, we heard more rumors of Mr. Cash's wild night, including his rantings in the one room Starkville City Jail (envision Mayberry), the reaction of Mrs. McIlwain when he destroyed the roses she was saving for a Mother's Day celebration at the church, and the response of the local police force. For several days, it was the talk of Starkville, but, like most events in a small town, it soon was old news.

Several years later, however, the event was immortalized by Johnny Cash in a song, "Starkville City Jail" that appeared on his San Quentin Prison album. Soon"pilgrims" came to Starkville to see the jail and even Mrs. McIlwain gave a few tours of her garden.

In Mr. Cash's autobiography, he claims that he was arrested by police while walking from his motel to a grocery store. Nice try, Johnny, but you were not the "man in black" that night!

There is a movement to pardon Mr. Cash posthumously. In sharing this memory, I have to say that Mr. Cash was treated pretty well for the time period. After he was deemed to be sober the next morning, the police released him with no further actions. In 1965 rural Mississippi, that was the equivalent of Otis letting himself into the cell under Andy's watchful

I am thankful to Mr. Cash, however, for giving me this opportunity to share this 42 year old memory with you."


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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Now and Again

Canadian Geese. Naturalized Citizens or illegal aliens? We love them either way. They like our neighborhood so much they don't migrate anymore.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Memory of another time

work in progress: a study of another time. charcoal on panel. 8/2007 16" x 16"

Dust, rust and sin... dusk, lust and gin. Too many things and not enough clock... a theme dear readers should take to heart.


Sunday, September 02, 2007


Late this afternoon I was working in my studio when a long lost cousin who is my Dad's age rang me up on the telie. I am not sure we'd ever had a conversation before... maybe years ago when we both lived in New Orleans at the same time but were in very transitional periods. Anway - my father encouraged her to call me because our politics are very similiar and now that my family is online I am always receiving propagadistic emails from people who may be related to me - except for her. She sends excerpts from articles, usually critical of the "situation" we've gotten ourselves into in the "big house" in DC, Iraq, et al.. We spoke for a long while and I tried to work in the meantime knowing that I didn't want to hurt her feelings by cutting her off. We were burning daylight as we spoke - my best worktime.

Immediatly after I hung up with her my parents rang up to remind me that my Dad is having surgery on Tuesday... and to tell me that another cousin of mine, one I adored as a young girl - is in critical condition at a local hospital near them! I was told she had sepsis. They asked me questions about it. I don't know much about sepsis except I thought perhaps it was like a staff infection... something that could be fatal. (I watched a great deak of E.R. at one point in my life... I was in traction...) She is in her early 50's and had been feeling sick for the past month. She wasn't able to start the semester last week she was feeling so bad so she was admitted to the hospital at 10pm last night. All of her immediate relatives were gathering at her bedside once it was determined that her situation was critical. I hung up and thought about this sweet cousin and hoped she would get the care she needed to heal - quickly!

My parents called me a few hours later - 9:30 or so to tell me she died of Septic Shock. Her family thinks it was from some catfish she ate earlier last month. Is this possible? Who knows? I haven't seen this cousin for quite awhile but we have emailed each other in the past few years. She was always a bright light on my Dad's side of the family... once cute as a button: a giggley teenager and a cheerful, charming young adult. She attended college in my home town so she and her suiters would visit our house and I was always very impressed by her. It is very hard to impress most kides at that age... was a preteen who looked to her for guidance and as the oldest, believe me, I needed it. Was I a bridesmade or flower girl at her wedding? I seem to remember an illfitting dress made for an occassion that could only be a wedding. Everything was illfitting for me at that age... and maybe even until I was old enough to buy my own clothes.

My mother and I really only argued about one thing during those years... the length of my skirt. There is a mole on my thigh which I used as a point of comparison. If the skirt or dress covered the mole, it was TOO LONG. If I remember correcly my sweet cousin backed me up on this. She was, after all, a college student and could offer an unbiased opinion. My mother disagreed. I guess she didn't like the idea of her oldest daughter showing her ass in public... a legitimate concern since I was the definition of a clutzy teenager and a late bloomer, I hope. Have I bloomed yet? The jury would stil be out but I cannot deny the fact that I may go to seed very soon. Tis the season.

As I watch my sunflowers being devoured each day by the goldfinches, ants and bees I am accutely aware of the lifespan of a flower that is taller than I. I think about my family and the distance between us. I am sad that my beloved cousin is no longer here to bring joy to her two sons, husband and silblings. Her doting parents passed away years ago which is a blessing for all. I worry about my grandmother. She is in her 80's and this will hit her hard. Her family will mourn and wonder how this could have happened - how?

Why did she wait a month before she went to the doctor? I DO understand this...(which terrifys me even more...) I am not a big fan of the medical profession or insurance companies these days. I've had some t e r r i b l e, life altering exerpiences due to inept practicioners so I don't go running to the doctor at the first sign of a flu or cold or whatever. I hit the internet. It is my doctor until it is necessary to seek additional help; Who knows what would have happened if she had received help sooner...and according to my reading Sepsis is not something a middle age woman in good health would be suseptable to... unless she was exposed to a horrible toxin - like the one floating though the mail back in 2000 or 2001... one I won't even mention here it is so dreaded. Of course that is more than unlikely... and still, we are baffled and just sad.

Septis is one of the top ten killers in the United States. Maybe Bronze John would know that but did you? I didn't. I found a great deal of information on the web but the link in the title of this post was the most helpful: "Septic shock is the nation's 10th most frequent cause of death and the leading cause of hospital-related mortality."

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