|By Alias ||
Posted 05-03-2004 at 09:36:58
[Reply] [No Email]
Dear Lord, if it suits you and you can see your way clear,
Please look after my friend Tom way up there in Heaven.
And, Lord, if it ainít asking too much, could you please
give old Tom a nice stream with 2 or 3 good size holes
where he can throw out a line and while away eternity,
jesta fishing and generally pleasuring himself with the
gloryies of your very own wonderful nature.
And Lord, atter old Tom get through wif him fishing
Maybe you could fix it sos he could walk on back
to his very own cabin where his wife Cleo be waiting
wif a pan of frash baked cornbread and a pot of
boiled polk salat wif a few sprigs of dandelion greens
and a little piece of salt pork mixed in fer seasoning.
And one more thang Lord, but only if it pleases you,
Could you see to it that old Tom has his own little
garden plot where he can grow his very own collards
and potatoes and all them other vegetables which he love
especially them big old round tomatoes. You know the
kind Lord, theys the ones that cover a whole slice of bread.
Now Lord, if you could do these things for old Tom,
it would be as close to paradise, for him, as any city
built of gold. But, only if itís in your plans Lord,
Cause we haf to member, itís your will what matters.
But, like I said, if youíd kindly do these thangs, I would
be much obliged and I would give you the praise and the
power and the glory forever, amen.
I was about eight years old the first time I saw Tom Ervin. My father, Mal, had bought the single story, four room bungalow at 608 Cherry Street in Elizabethton. Now, it wasnít much of a house, as houses go. But, it was a far cry better than the dilapidated shack we were renting. So, on moving day, Tom, who lived in the house next door, came over to get acquainted and to see if we needed any help. It was easy to see that Mal and Tom hit it off right away. Of course, Tom was a much older man than Mal. And, true to his upbringing, Mal, without effort, showed proper respect to the older gentleman. Likewise, Tom sensed a genuine honesty in the younger man and so it was that they became good friend. Furthermore, it was a lasting friendship. For, as long as they knew each other, there was never a cross word spoken between the two of them.
There were three other people living in Tomís house; his daughter, Gertrude; his son-in-law, whose name I canít recall; and Gertrudeís son, John Mack, whose last name I never knew. Although, I suspect it was the same as Tomís. Reason being, I think the boy was born out of an unsanctioned, Illegal, and wholly unholy relationship. Now Gertrude and her husband both worked during the week but on Saturday night they would dress up and head for the dance hall over in Bear town. Bear town being located on the outer edge of Elizabethton where mostly Negroes lived. John Mack, was a teenager whose only ambition was to play the trumpet in a jazz band. Now, if you have ever seen a black man walking, shucking and a jiving, swinging his arms behind his butt in much the same fashion as a mule swatting flies with his tail, you might be inclined to think he is rhythmic. And, if youíve ever witnessed a black marching band in a parade, you might think that all black people are musically, or at least rhythmically incline. But, I for one can dispute that belief on the grounds that John Mack had no, and I repeat, NO musical or rhythmic talents, no way, no how, what-so-ever.
In fact, whenever he blew his trumpet, the sound was so bad, old Tom would run him out of the house. So, where do you think he went? Thatís right, he headed straight for the outhouse, out back, where he would sit on the throne and blow away. Now, in those days all the houses on Cherry street had outdoor plumbing. There was city water, but, no city sewer. What you had was a small building with a crescent on the door built over a hole in the ground. Now, it was usually call the business house. By that, it was where you went to do your business. And the faster you did your business, the better. Because, the smell inside the little building could bring about asphyxiation. But, poor dumb John Mack would sit in there for as much as an hour on good days, doing his darndest to perfect a talent that didnít exist. even though I was just a towheaded boy, I knew good music from bad. But, even if I hadnít, I knew the out house was not an ideal place to while away the hours. Especially when the sun was high in the sky.
For some reason or another, Tom took to me in a special sort of way. Also, I found him to be to my liking. Now, I donít think Tom ever considered that I was white. And, I never thought of him as a Negro. All I knew was that he would take me fishing down at the doe river. Also, he let me use one of his bamboo poles. Now, as far as I was concerned, you canít ask much more from a friend, than to take you fishing and furnish you a pole. So, on any given day, we two, would stroll side by side with poles over our shoulders and a tin can of worms heading on down to the ole fishing hole.
TO BE CONTINUED..........sorry I have to leave you now. Wife is a calling.