When Leslie Burt Derryberry and Alice Mae Minerva Hopkins married in 1912, they took the "for better or worse, 'till death do we part" real seriously for the next 43 years. During those years, they worked side-by-side, day in, day out, and even found enough time to conceive 5 children (who, by the way, all turned out to be decent human beings).
Grandma always kept a large flower vase high up on her kitchen cupboard, where we kids couldn't break Grandfather's "apology vase". He'd "gifted" it to her after their first and only argument way back in 1912. They'd married on Saturday, honeymooned on Sunday, and then went straight to work in the cotton fields on Monday at daylight. Problem was his young ego despised the idea of his new bride working in the fields. He even went as far as to take his sharp "hog cuttin'" pocket knife to sever her cotton-sack's strap right off her chest. That's how the vase came into being. After the argument, and knowing what a fool he'd made of himself, Grandpa was too befuddled to even harness a mule, so he walked the mile to Barry, Texas (Pop. 267), and bought the only "classy" flower pot in town.
Education wise, they'd had to combine their years of schooling to have the 12 required for a diploma (she 9th grade, he 3rd grade). Yet, during those 43 years, they went from poor sharecroppers, to owners of 2 farms, totaling almost 200 acres.
Grandpa eventually died from too much work and too many roll-your-own Prince Albert Cigarettes. But, after he became too sick to work, and eventually bedridden, Grandma waited on him for the next four years, day and night. And, what was the last thing my Grandfather said to my Grandmother in thanks for their years together? "I never loved you Alice. I always loved Jewel!" (When Les and Alice tied-that-knot in 1912, my grandfather had been engaged to another young lady. Her name? Jewel.)
By the time I finished 8th grade, I had only seen my father about ten times in the last ten years. Each irregular reunion had meant more to me than anything imaginable. This time we were to rendezvous in Hillsboro, Texas, his mother’s, my grandmother’s home. I’d ironed my shirt and pants, polished my shoes, all I knew to do to make him like me, before walking a quarter mile down our dirt road to catch the bus to Hillsboro.
Uncle Ott met me at the bus stop in Hillsboro, “Your father must’ve missed his bus? Don’t worry. He’ll probably be on the 3:17.”
Uncle Ott had no more faith in my father than I did, but he hid it. “Let’s go across the street to Dairy Queen and get us a burger and malt. He’ll probably be on the 3:17.” But the 3:17 didn’t even slow down breezing through town, so Uncle Ott took me to my grandmother’s home. A police car followed us into the driveway.
“Do you know a Jack Leroy Hewett?” The policeman’s voice caused me to sink deeply into the car seat. He must be in jail again! “We have a report from Dallas that this man suffered a fatal heart attack on a Dallas city bus.” If Dad was coming to see me, why was he on a Dallas city bus? No, they'd made a mistake. He couldn’t be dead. No! But he could be in a hospital. They could have mixed up his records with someone else’s? He could’ve been beaten up again? Remember Granny Hewett mailing him a wallet once with her last $20 bill stuck inside. That time he’d been robbed in a toilet. They broke his nose, messed him up pretty bad.
But that was not to be.
Uncle Ott left for Dallas to identify the body. Granny Hewett passed out. I lost reality of life all together. My mind raced. I love you. I hate you. I hate you. “Why can’t you at least die in the right place, you bastard?!!!”
By age 18 I knew I'd learned a lot. Pecans only made a good crop each third year, cows gave their richest milk just after birthing a calf, and we'd never make more than beans and bread plowing 25 acres of cotton with a team of 2 horses.
In that year, 1959, I graduated high school and the only father I knew, my grandfather, was dying. No longer was he able to work beside me in the fields, spitting out orders. Instead, due to too many roll your own Prince Albert cigarettes, he was spitting out pieces of his lungs into a bedpan.
On Sundays, the only days I rested, unless a chicken needed its neck rung for lunch, I rested; and worried and wondered from our old decaying frame house setting high upon our hill, why each and every acre around and below us grew weeds and grass faster than I could chop them down. He and I had never won this battle together. Alone, I had no hope.
The farm was dying just like Grandfather. My love for farming had already died. All my life he had gone to the bank each winter and mortgaged our cows to feed them, and us. Each spring he had planted cotton and prayed God could out guess the weatherman and leave us enough crop to survive one more harvest. Sometimes God couldn't. Then Grandfather would hock more cows to get a bank loan, hoping for the best. To me, this never made sense; I did not love the land as he did.
That fall my grandfather went to the hospital. They put a tube through his manhood into his bladder, an oxygen mask over his face, and a needle into his arm to "feed" him. The suction hose they forced down his throat each time he choked on phlegm destroyed his vocal cords. After that he no longer had a way to say, "Please let me die!"
That same week a heavy frost fell across our farm. The weeds, the grass, our last crop, turned brown. And Grandfather returned home, in a casket. We moved his bed, and for one final night he slept there.
Looking back, wish I'd put a handful of the land he loved in his.
The rifle shot probably lasted less than half a second. Yet that sound still remains with me fifty-two years later. Her owner was drunk, but would have eventually killed her anyway. Because, because she was not a pure breed hunting dog. That quadro mix mongrel, blind in one eye, was a bitch in the worst way. Her owner had let untreated mange destroy half her coat. The bald areas, exposed to strong Texas sun and swamp mosquitos, had left her pathetic. Large brown, crying eyes were the only beauty she had left.
Please understand, 40 years ago east Texas men bragged more about their 'coon dogs than wife or male children. That's why Mixie, the mixed mongrel, lay dead that night; her head still buried inside a hole in the ground, her mouth still clinging to the tail of a fast digging armadillo.
Jim Posey, man's best friend's murderer, re loaded his rifle,"Just in case she moved again 'cause 'coon dogs don't dig up no armadillos." From the light of our coal oil lantern I saw he had made a clean kill. A hole behind her left front leg and a large bloody pit behind her right had destroyed both heart and lungs in one shot. Mixie would never embarrass him again.
I don't remember exactly what happened next. I do remember my 12 year old fists beating the face of a very large 35 year old man. I do remember wanting to kill a man for the first time in my life. I do remember gently pushing Mixie completely into that hole she had died in and sealing it with blood-stained dirt.
All love, hate, greed, worry, especially fear of dying, is only the ego seeking to perpetuate its non-natural non-necessary existence. During the 20th century alone, mankind destroyed over 20,000,000 of its fellow humans. A lower animal can only use its brute force. Human ego can collectively again destroy all civilization as it has done countless times before. This madness will only cease when enough of this planet's occupants have risen above this fleshy existence. And no matter how many civilizations it takes us before we collectively rise above the manifestations of the ego (sin) we will have to continue. Only when the masses have learned to disassociate from the carnal body will "we" (which in the reality of God is only one, one beyond space and time, of which we are all a part) be able to experience more of the far grander plan than our shallow minds at this stage can even begin to comprehend.
Go in peace knowing negative thoughts are only the vexations of a developing mind, which in the main scheme of things has no need of existence.
We each must find our own way out of this quagmire called "life." That is why we are here, to experience and solve problems. So don't wait for someone or some thing outside of you to "create" and "complete" your happiness. Your completeness and happiness were already "alive" and doing well inside you long before this life, so just open your mind to the wonders and opportunities already within your reach any time you decide to let go of "your needs" and move joyously forward in a world which was created solely for us to do with as we please. Never blame others for your unhappiness. It is simply a state of mind you have chosen to exist in. Much as "physician heal thy self,” we "sinners" don't need forgiveness or permission to be just as happy or as sad as we wish to be. But don't stunt your spiritual growth by looking outside yourself, denying your sole its right to grow from within. Needs of any type, love, sex, alcohol, drugs, are all ego-driven to fill a bottomless container of the non-spiritual self, that demon which anchors us all to our earthy existence. So please do not starve yourself from knowledge by not living in a "here and now" state of mine, ignoring the obvious, unable to see those beautiful, perfect trees because your forest is in the way. This acceptance is like water in a desert. That water needed is not seen because it is below the surface. In the spiritual sense there is enough "water" waiting and available to fill every ocean and stream in the universe, with still enough left over to flood all eternity with total love.
It is said there are none blinder than those who refuse to see. We are all blind to some degree. That is the reason for keeping the mind in the present, fully aware of all its surroundings; not to find fault or judge, but to observe, leaving emotion and ego out of it. I would ask you to print this and read it often, but each of us is different. You will eventually find your own path. That is the human condition beyond all written religions, beyond, far beyond, any dream any mortal can conceive or perceive because all and EVERYTHING is all around us, EVERYWHERE, if we were not too blind to see.
"What a pain-in-the-butt Christmas is"! That's what I was thinking entering Walgreen's this morning. Going down the isles, I found prices awfully, awfully high. Then I thought of those families who would Max their credit cards, then file bankruptcy when the bills came in January. Approaching the check-out counter, I thought a lot of very negative thoughts. Scrooge and me had a lot in common. But that was all about to change, even though I had no idea. It just happened.
In front of me at check-out there was only one purchaser, a young man about twenty. And, even though I was only in his presence for about 45 seconds, his memory will always be with me. I watched him clumsily pay for his purchase. The two $5 bills were easy. He "handed" them over with little problem. But it was the coins he had trouble with. With only three-fingers on his right hand, and a stump at the wrist on his left, it was harder, but he managed. Oh, and both of his legs were missing too. One nub of thigh began barely below the hip, the other appearing even shorter. And he still didn't have enough change to pay the tax on his purchase.
Standing there watching this poor young man, my eyes filled with tears. I paid the remainder of his bill with one of my $1 dollar bills. But what finished me off was him trying to give me back the change from my dollar with his two appendages that used to have hands. That's when I broke down and cried.
Who has problems? Not me.
Most people look forward to something, be it a trip to Europe or simply a quiet evening.
What if no one looked forward to anything? What if even winning millions in a lotto meant nothing? If there was a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y nothing to look forward to, we'd all be forced to look around ourselves, no matter where we were, or under what conditions we lived.
That's when the miracle occurs, when we actually see what has been before our eyes all our lives, but which society and our own internal egos have not allowed us to enjoy. Without time, our egos can not exist. That's why "it" spends so much time making us need "it." What if every event, good or bad, offered a golden opportunity for us to learn and experience; the exact reason we are all here to start with.