Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A pre-school child, dressed neatly in t-shirt, shorts, and tennis shoes, rides a tricycle on the sidewalk. It seems new; it is clean and bright green. “Nice bike!” I say as I pass by. He smiles and says, “I got it at Christmas.” “Nice gift!” I say. “Have fun!” Passing by forty minutes later, I see him mowing with a bright plastic toy mower. “Come here!” shouts an adult from the front yard. “Just a minute!” he answers. “I’m busy here!”

An elementary school boy rides an old bicycle on the street beside the sidewalk. He wears headphones and smiles and waves as I pass by. He zigzags down the street, does a U-turn, passes by and waves again.

A thin young man with long dark hair and heavily tattooed forearms pushes a wheel chair down the street. In the wheelchair is a similar young thin man with long dark hair and heavily tattooed forearms. Brothers? Twins? They both greet me, “How’s it goin’?”

A young blond woman pulls a red Radio Flyer wagon with a red cover, like a Conestoga. Her hair is cut in bangs and she talks loudly on a cell phone and probably does not hear the mockingbird. In the wagon are two blond girls, laughing. The woman speaks to me, despite the telephone conversation, and the two children laugh and wave.

A dark haired and determined woman rides her bicycle purposely. Beside it jogs a pit bull. The dog is tired. I speak to her but not to the dog. He seems irritated.

A man greets me from a rocking chair on his porch, “Nice day for a walk.” I say, “Sure is. Come join me.” He says, “Better day to sit and rock.” I say, “I hear that!” And I think, when I get home, that’s what I’m planning to do. I’ll get the current issue of OUR STATE to read, a glass of cold water to sip, and I’ll rock and be Mr. Bob of the neighborhood.

EASTERTIDE. Considering the liturgical year, it was not long ago that I deemed myself Ordinary Time Bill. I didn’t really enjoy times marked for special celebrations. No longer, not right now. We Catholics celebrate Easter for 50 days beginning Easter Sunday. Seven weeks of Easter! Reading center on the joyous ministry of Jesus and of his followers. At church flowers at the altar are profuse, and on church columns hang swaths of flowers. The music and homilies are joyful.

The book is an interesting collection of folk speech. It’s fun. Here are examples from the book that my grandparents, parents, and I have used:

Grandparents: He’s the spitin’ image of his father; that yun’gun’s growin’ like a weed; she has a head full o’hair; I swanee; He was runnin’ ’round like a chicken with his head cut off; in all my born days; I’m gonna’ jerk a knot in you; Who in Sam Hill does he think he is? I’ll be there d’rectly; That’s a gracious plenty!’ in the heat of the day.

Mother: What he said don’t ‘mount to a hill o’beans; She took her own sweet time; They wouldn’t mind me (obey); He liked to had a fit; It finally dawned on me; Has the cat got your tongue?; She’s a bird; He bit off more than he could chew; She didn’t say peaturkey; The money is burnin’ a hole in your pocket; I nearly died laughing; I ran into her at the store (encountered); They’re like two peas in a pod; He’s got a head full of senses; I don’t want to hear a peep out of you; She talks a mile a minute; Sit down and cool off. Your face is red as a beet.

Father: He was bleedin’ like a stuck pig; He was naked as a jay bird; It didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell; he come by it honest (behavior related to that of parents); If the good Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise; It ain’t fit to eat; I gave it a lick and a promise; He jus’ up ‘n’ left; They’re eatin’ high on the hog; Close that pneumonia hole ( an open window or door); gyp joint; He ain’t right (crazy); He’s bad off (very sick); She’s no spring chicken; That’s a piss poor excuse; He needs takin’down a notch or two; as fast as greased lightning; sling a nasty (accelerate car quickly as you turn quickly); That’s all she wrote; They had a fallin’ out.

These two expressions I used in class in Colorado brought me questionable looks : mash the button [on the tape recorder] (push); crack the window (open only slightly).

This memoir recalls a boyhood in the small town Mebane, from the author’s birth to graduation from high school in 1959. It is an objective and personal look at the times from a given place. Memorable are the chapters on baseball, the account of Hurricane Hazel, seasonal boyhood activities, the fun of a newspaper route, visits to Burlington, and high school life, including the time working in a drug store. It’s an interesting and entertaining work.

READING. FICTION. Three selections from THE OXFORD BOOK OF SEA STORIES, selected by Tony Tanner (Oxford, 1994).
Joseph Conrad, “Initiation” (1904). Conrad’s writing style, including his eloquent diction. makes him one of my favorite writers. The story of a rescue of men floating for two weeks in a hurricane-disabled ship is the initiation of the title, from a romantic view of the sea as having “magnanimous greatness” to the knowledge of the sea that “plays with men till their hearts are broken, and wears stout ships to death,” that “knows no bond of plighted troth, no fidelity to misfortune, to long companionship, to long devotion.” The “true sea” is “open to all and faithful to none, it exercises its fascination for the undoing of the best.” The sentiment that the rescued captains speaks for his sunken ship is notable.

Peter Ustinov, “The Frontiers of the Sea” (1967). The story contrasts an old salt and his ability to read the sea and the sky in mystical awareness and the others of the Spanish village who are caught in the never ending busy-ness of political, religious, economic life. The story is well-done in its presentation of mysticism and its use of broad satire.

Washington Irving. “The Voyage” (1820) This selection from THE SKETCH BOOK is a genial and interesting narration of a trans-Atlantic voyage of the time.

READING. FICTION. Walker Percy, THE MOVIEGOER (Vantage, 1961). The novel contrasts the pleasure of ordinary life and the need to find its meaning and purpose. The first person narration is informal and often digressive. It held my interest throughout. Sometimes the message is direct. For instance, there is a harrowing speech in which a society matron praises the superiority of upper social classes and denounces everyone else. Often, though, the message is suggested. For instance, what is the idea behind the crippled boy and his suffering and the Catholic Church? I would have to read the book several times before I discussed with a book group; I would read it many times if I ever had to teach it. I don’t want to discuss or teach it.

Thank you for reading. I hope you are enjoying this beautiful spring.

About billwednesdayblog

Retired high school English and French teacher.
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2 Responses to Wednesday, May 21, 2014

  1. Irma says:

    Why goodness – it’s been a month of Sundays since I thought of some of those sayings! They were common in other parts of the South too.
    Walker Percy was a neighbor when I lived in Covington, La. I remember going to his home with our landlady who was a close friend of Walker’s & his wife. At the time I didn’t realize just who he was!!

  2. Margaret McNeely says:

    Seeing all of those sayings in one place sure tickled me!

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