Thursday, January 8, 2009


Billy Ray Barnwell here, Virgil Abernathy dropped by for a visit the other day and we were just sitting around chatting when out of a clear blue sky he said, “So how long have you been a philanthropist?” which threw me for a second because I consider myself to be pretty tightfisted with my money, which by the way I don’t have much of at all and certainly am not in the habit of giving away, so I said “What makes you think I’m a philanthropist?” and he pointed up at my bookshelf. As I turned to see where he was pointing he said “I didn’t know you collected coins.” I suppressed a grin and said “You’re not thinking of a philanthropist, that’s the wrong word, you’re thinking of a philatelist, but that’s also the wrong word, a philatelist is someone who collects stamps, there’s another word that means someone who collects coins” and he said “What is it?” and I said “Numismatist” and he said “Well I knew it started with a P” and I said “Numismatist doesn’t start with a P” and he said “What does it start with?” and I said “An N” and here’s why I’m telling you this story, he said “Are you sure?” and it was like Copernicus and the solar system all over again, people simply refuse to believe the truth when they hear it, I mean sometimes he mispronounces the word plethora on purpose just to provoke me into correcting him, Virgil Abernathy I mean, not Copernicus, but he was serious as all get out, and if people aren’t using the wrong word they’re mispronouncing the right word, have you noticed that some people add an R in subsidiary and say subsiderary and some people drop an R from peripheral and say periphial and many times they’re the same people? Some people just flat out use the wrong word, for example Udella Mabry says ideal instead of idea, as in “I have no ideal what to have for dinner” or as in “I have an ideal, let’s go out for dinner” and she also says whelps instead of welts, as in “his arm was covered with big red whelps” but so far I have restrained myself from correcting her because I have just enough brain cells left to know that Virgil Abernathy and Udella Mabry are two very different people, and even Mr. D. P. Morris, my old English teacher back in Not Grapevine Texas, would drop an R from orchestra and say ochestra but he would add an R in appetite and say appertite, go figure. I prolly say some things wrong also, but it’s easier to hear when another person does it. We humans, and I don’t know who else would be reading this, are pretty quick to criticize and pretty slow to learn, so when I happen to point a finger at somebody else I always try to remember that I have three fingers pointing back at myself, but sometimes I forget. What really gets my goat is finding errors in magazines and newspapers that wouldn’t be there if the editor or facts-checker had half a brain. Case in point, one of the grandkids brought home an issue of My Weekly Reader from school last month and showed me an article about places to visit when you are in Washington D.C., one picture that caught my eye showed the new Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial which has a statue not only of FDR but also of his little dog, which anybody at all of a certain age knows was named Fala, the dog I mean, not the statue, but there in My Weekly Reader for all children everywhere to see it said the dog’s name was Falo, it made me so angry I wanted to spit, and recently in a local glossy free monthly magazine called Points North which is aimed at the upscale, affluent, high-income people who are taking over everything between the city of Atlanta and the mountains of North Carolina there was an article telling about an exhibit having to do with former First Ladies at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, it’s the exhibit that’s at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, not the former First Ladies, and the article included a full-page black-and-white photo of six former First Ladies on somebody’s front porch, it was a wonder, Lady Bird Johnson and Pat Nixon were sitting on the left, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush were standing in the middle, and Rosalyn Carter and Betty Ford were sitting on the right, but the caption to the photograph said, “Left to right: Former First Ladies Lady Bird Johnson, Mamie Eisenhower, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Rosalyn Carter, and Pat Nixon” which was just wrong, wrong, wrong, I mean, even I prolly wouldn’t be able to identify anyone prior to Eleanor Roosevelt except for maybe Martha Washington and Mary Todd Lincoln, I wouldn’t know Edith Boling Galt Wilson from Grace Goodhue Coolidge, but how anyone old enough to hold a job in journalism today could mistake Pat Nixon for Mamie Eisenhower or think that Betty Ford was Pat Nixon is beyond me, that’s just plain incompetence, four right out of six is sixty-six and two-thirds per cent which is a D or maybe an F in my book, but I bet that magazine’s editor can name every contestant in the final twelve on American Idol, so what does that say about where we are as a society?

On another note entirely, it hit me all of a sudden a couple of days ago that the eastern half of Cherokee County Georgia where Brother Rathbone’s church is is a lot like the hem of the high priest’s garment in ancient Israel as described in the Old Testament, because if you went around the hem of the high priest’s garment in ancient Israel as described in the Old Testament you would see a bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate, and if you go around the eastern half of Cherokee County Georgia where Brother Rathbone’s church is you will see a farm and a subdivision, a farm and a subdivision, what I’m trying to tell you is the real estate developers are going like gangbusters in our area, they’re taking over our fair county, the modern world is crowding out the horses and cows and sheep, traffic is increasing on all of our two-lane roads, which are the only kind we have, and it is clear as a bell (and a pomegranate) that what some people call progress has arrived, we have gone from rural to not suburban exactly, more exurban if you ask me, which you didn’t but I’m just saying. We now have a supermarket four miles west of us and another one four miles east of us along with the usual hamburger and pizza joints, a couple of Mexican restaurants, a Chinese take-out place, five nail salons, four gas stations, three dry cleaners, two drive-through banks, and a partridge in a pear tree where there used to be open land, they’ve already cleared the land for a carwash and a fried chicken place, that’s two places actually, nobody is going to wash your car and sell you fried chicken at the same place, nobody in his right mind anyway, and up at the corner a mile from my house a new elementary school is being erected as we speak so that the offspring of all the new people moving into all the new subdivisions can receive an education, the four-way stop sign has been replaced by a flashing red light, God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world to hear all the local elected officials tell it, we’re practically uptown, and even though it is still twenty miles to a real mall with major department stores we cannot be considered country bumpkins any more, except maybe for the neighbor who A flies a Confederate flag in his front yard and B told me once that Teddy Kennedy lives in Highness Port Matchatoochitts, that’s what happens to a person’s brain when that person lives too close to a chicken farm for too many years, the aroma alone could stop you in your tracks, to say nothing of a thousand teenaged roosters crowing every morning at dawn, it proves that even though God may be in His heaven, all is not right with the world, thank goodness the one between my house and the new elementary school, chicken farm I mean, not Heaven, will be torn down and only a memory before any children start arriving for classroom instruction, and this is Billy Ray Barnwell signing off.

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