CLASSIC LUNAR – “MANGUM REPORT – REVISED” February 6, 2018

SPECIAL “BEAT DOOK” EDITION OF THE LUNAR REPORT.  FROM NOV. 6, 2009
(The original was written and posted about eight years ago, during football season.  Well, this is hoops time!  My revisions pretty much only deleted references to that strange oblong leather ball!)
It seems I have had a request from a friend of mine, Robin, to post a special “Beat Dook Lunar Report.”  So – Here ya go, Robin! Some Dook stuff with a personal touch.

Note to my Florida friends: This weekend will not compare with a drunken Gator-Bulldog affair, but Dook is the major rival of the University of North Carolina. The game is this Thursday.

Just a couple of side bars here. When my brother was a toddler, he lived with my parents in Victory Village, the married student housing on the UNC campus at the time. Word has it that his first words were, “Beat Dook.”

Granddaddy Mangum and Dickie

 Two days after my son was born, the wife and I drove him through the UNC campus and past the Dean Dome. We told him that if he decided to attend NC State, we would disown him. But that if he chose Dook, we would shoot him.

Dean Dome!!

Now to the meat of all this. The UNC-Dook rivalry actually began way before either school had a basketball team. It began with a major dispute that involved land and bastard children between the Duke family and my family, the Mangums. (My Mom is a Mangum.) There are details in an article written in the Raleigh News and Observer about 23 years ago. The entire article is below.

Mangum Dormitory

At any rate, the Duke family money went to Trinity College (now Duke University), and the Mangum money went to UNC. And the rivalry began. And it all started with MY family and that miserable Duke family.

One more thing. As they say around here, “Go to hell, Dook!”

 

The News & Observer (includes Chapel Hill News) (Raleigh, NC)

The News & ObserverMarch 5, 1994

The UNC-Duke rivalry’s hidden side.  Leading families feuded for years
Author: CRAIG WHITLOCK; STAFF WRITER
Edition: FINALSection: NEWSPage: B1Index
Terms:UNC-CH; Duke;

Washington Duke, Willie P. Mangum HISTORY

Article Text:

It happened long ago, in the year 1794, but just as lustful folks are prone to do these days, Taylor Duke ignored the risks and seduced a local gal by the name of Chaney Mangum.  Duke, a weather-beaten Orange County farmer, figured nobody would learn about the indiscretion, least of all his wife. But when Mangum bore his bastard son nine months later, it blew his cover.

It also ignited one of the most enduring blood feuds ever seen in these parts.  The Dukes, for whom the university is named, and the Mangums, some of the University of North Carolina’s biggest benefactors, have been at loggerheads ever since, with the vendetta spreading to the worlds of business and politics.  And more recently, basketball.  

Tonight, the feud resumes in all its glory when the UNC Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils take the court in Durham.  The winner not only will claim basketball supremacy, but will momentarily gain the upper hand in a family feud that has boiled for 200 years.  

Both clans are rooted in the rural villages of Red Mountain and Bahama, in what is now northern Durham County.  On the surface, the backgrounds are similar.  Both families grew tobacco.  Both thrived in business and influenced politics.But family members, particularly during the 19th century, shuddered at the thought that the Dukes or Mangums had anything in common.   Over the years, they’ve battled over politics, competed for higher social standing and, on occasion, lusted after one another.  

William Preston Mangum II, a family historian, says the two sides don’t fuss as viciously as, say, the gunslinging Hatfields and McCoys.   But they don’t exactly get together for Sunday dinner either.”  I don’t want to say hatred, but underlying these two families is a desire to get the better of each other,” he said in a recent interview at, appropriately, the Washington Duke Inn in Durham.   “There definitely are ill feelings.”

Especially noteworthy is how the families took their rivalry to the rarefied arena of higher education.  The Dukes nurtured fledgling Trinity College in Durham, pumping so much tobacco money into the school that its trustees renamed it Duke University in 1929.  Less publicized is how the Mangums directed their generosity to the state university nine miles away in Chapel Hill.  The Mangums were crucial in helping the university survive its first century.   Willie P. Mangum served on the board of trustees for 43 years.   Adolphus Mangum, a professor, helped reopen the school after the Civil War.   Charles Staples Mangum founded the UNC School of Public Health.   Countless other Mangums graduated from UNC.   A dormitory and several academic awards are named after the family.

The campus connection is where the basketball game fits in.  Both teams have jockeyed all season for the country’s top ranking.   Between them, they’ve won the last three national championships and are two of the most successful programs of all time.  All told, it’s one of the most deep-seated and unforgiving rivalries in the nation.

Taylor Duke couldn’t have known at the time that his amorous urges would cause such a long-lasting fuss.   All he knew was that a comely maiden, Chaney Mangum, had caught his eye.  As can happen when such desires manifest themselves, Chaney Mangum bore a son.   At first, the father’s identity was kept quiet and the adulterous Duke was spared any public shame.   But the secret didn’t last long.  The couple had difficulty containing their affection.   One thing led to another, and the still-unmarried Chaney Mangum had another child.  This time, the Mangums identified Duke as the suspected father in both cases.  Angered by his cavalier attitude, they took him to court and forced him to pay $5 a year in child support.   The judgment was no small debt for the prolific Duke, who had 10 other children.

In the 1800s, the feud extended beyond the bedroom and into the! politic al realm.   For a time, the Mangums reigned supreme, although the Dukes did their best to discredit their neighbors.  Willie P. Mangum was the most famous of the bunch.   An 1815 UNC graduate, he served 23 years in Congress.   He was also a founder of the Whig party and ran for president in 1836.   He carried South Carolina in the election, but not his home state — thanks to opposition from people like the Dukes.  The Dukes were fervent Democratic Republicans and were vocal about it, something that caused Willie Mangum no small amount of consternation.

In the 1830s, a supporter wrote Mangum in Washington to report on the political troublemakers back home.   The writer singled out the Dukes, calling them, with uncanny foresight, part of “a Devilish clan.”  The Mangums weren’t above making fun of the Dukes, either.   One 19th century Mangum noted in his will that he owned a horse named Duke.

After the Civil War, the families’ fortunes changed. The Mangums, part of the Old South’s aristocracy, lost virtually everything. The Dukes, on the other hand, made the most of Reconstruction, thanks to tobacco.  Washington Duke, a legitimate son of Taylor Duke, raised bright leaf tobacco and entered the manufacturing side of the business.   Soon he and his three sons had created a fabulously profitable enterprise.  

Suddenly flush with money, the Dukes didn’t hesitate to throw their weight around.  In 1881, for example, residents of eastern Orange County wanted to split off and form a new county.   The leading proposal was to name it after Willie P. Mangum, the former lawmaker.  But Washington Duke nixed the idea.   He vowed to yank the Dukes’ considerable assets from the area if he had to live in Mangum County.   The threat worked: The jurisdiction became known as Durham County.  

The mostly forgotten conflict is detailed in Willie Mangum’s papers, stored at the Southern Histo! rical Collection in Chapel Hill.  “A lot of people have never heard that before,” says William Preston Mangum, the family historian. “But it’s a true story.”

After two centuries, the feud has cooled somewhat, no longer colored by nasty court battles or political fights.   But the two families remain ever loyal to their respective schools.   The Duke kids still go to their university.   And virtually all the Mangums go to UNC.  The bumper sticker on William P. Mangum’s Oldsmobile reveals as much: “Tar Heel by birth, Carolinian by the grace of God.”

Copyright 1994 by The News & Observer Pub. Co.Record Number: RNOB172307

LUNACY – “DROPPING NEW YEARS” December 31, 2017

(This may be a Lunacy, but it’s mostly true!)

I’m not much of an “out with old – in with the new” kind of guy. In my older years, I prefer to focus only on what’s new. Well, this New Year’s Eve is different.

And I guess it’s my own fault.

I did about eight hours of work today. Just to free up my time for a New Year’s day off. And my work involves, among other things, just my ability to hold onto stuff. Small things. Lightweight stuff. Just holding onto those things is a major factor in finishing my work in a timely manner, and – most of all – a major factor in helping me to avoid self anger.

Well, I probably could have finished today’s work in thirty-minutes. The eight hours were fraught with self anger! Y’all get it, right?

When I finished the work I was doing at a Food Lion, I took a bunch of collards, a can of Brunswick Stew and a two-pack of Food Lion butter to the express checkout lane at that store. Like I do every time I check out at Food Lion, tonight I took out my keys to show the clerk my MVP tag and my debit card to pay for the collards, stew and butter. Well, before the clerk could ring up even one item, I dropped something. I think it was my keys. I just said to myself, “Well, damn!”

Then I looked at the cashier and told her the truth. I said to her, “Look, every third thing I touch, I drop!” She loved it!  At least, I got a good laugh from her. That kind of made my constant dropping of things today worthwhile. Just to get that laugh.

But it didn’t end at Food Lion. I still had some clerical work to do once I got home. So, as usual, I fixed myself a cocktail to sip while finishing the work. Tonight I chose to use my favorite of the two cocktail glasses I have. At some point, I paused the work, took a sip and placed my favorite glass on the end table. Before I could even focus on the work after that sip, I heard glass breaking and liquid splashing.  I missed the damned table.

I don’t know exactly how long I have had that glass. I do know that I have had it for years – maybe decades! I really did love that glass thing. And when it broke? I must have uttered a cuss word or two. But then I smiled and said, “Hell. It’s New Year’s Eve. Out with old and in with the new!”

Now, the “out with the old,” when it comes to that glass, is clear to me. But “in with the new?” I was at a loss with that notion for a brief time. Then I realized that my birthday is only twelve days away. And since I now have only one cocktail glass, and I know how thoughtful and giving are my friends, well – the specs on my favorite was roughly four-inches in height, and two inches in diameter with a tapered base. I will accept single glasses or sets.

But– most importantly to us all!  Let’s hang onto the old as long as we can.  When that stuff breaks down, let’s hang onto the memories.  And allow those memories to grace our lives with all the new stuff God and others will be sending our way.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!  AND CHEERS, Y’ALL!

THE LUNAR REPORT – “CHRISTMAS REGRETS” December 17, 2017

 

Christmas is such a wonderful time of joy. Of life. Of promise. Of God given love.

But fears and regrets and fears of possible future regrets seem to dominate this joyous season. I see it every day in other folks. And I feel it most days around this time of year.

I should be writing about happy things right now. I really should. But this is intended for folks like me. Folks who feel anxious and regretful at this time of year.

I will be honest here. I have been in a real sort of funk lately. Part of me wants to engage in the season. But a major part of me wants to just fall asleep until I awaken on January 2. For me, this seems to happen every year at this time.

I have very fond memories of waking up as a child to find that Santa left for me a red Rollfast. Or a basketball. A baseball glove. Or a watch or underwear!

My favorite gift may have been the belt my brother hung on the tree for me one year. He didn’t even wrap it. I hope he does not regret the delivery of that gift. It’s definitely one of my favorite Christmas memories.

I also have memories of my mom and her incredibly stressful moments. Like most moms back then, all she wanted was a Norman Rockwell kind of real life image on Christmas day. Like most moms, she never really achieved that goal.

I don’t know. Maybe the same pressure my mom felt all those years ago is the same pressure that drags many of us down.

I was never a Rockwell guy, but I do remember being extremely diligent, regardless of my anxiety, in trying to find or create the perfect gifts for my young son. I failed miserably. And the regrets are abundant. Thank God my son’s mom was more diligent!

This morning, I saw one of my grandsons, his brother and mom. That simple and innocent engagement brought me back from the doldrums. There were no gifts exchanged. Just hugs and smiles and laughs and the God driven words, “I love you.”

Maybe others feel the same as me. Maybe the regrets and fears of future ones hamper us all. But God has sort of lead me down a path that makes me less anxious for January 2 these days. It’s become a tradition for me.

Every Christmas Eve, for almost a decade, I have visited a Walgreens or Dollar General and bought simple gifts that my grandchildren might enjoy. Then I find, as I have for decades, a local bar, have two drinks, toast my dad and mom, and thank God for the opportunity to share just a few moments with a bartender I don’t even know.

And my grandchildren? They love the stupid ten-dollar gifts from Walgreens and Dollar General.

Their responses show me the joy and promise of life.

And their God given love, on every Christmas morning, replaces all of my fears and regrets.

All of them.

Merry Christmas, y’all! And cheers!

THE LUNAR REPORT – “THANKFUL LIST” November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. But I will be honest with you.  Today I really didn’t much feel like driving the thirty minutes to my son’s house to spend just a few hours with him, his wife, their children and her family.

But I did. And the trip validated my thankful list.

Big time.

We all are or should be extremely thankful for many things. Not just on this holiday, but every day. This past week, I have tried to mentally compose a list of all the things for which I do and need to thank God.

It’s an impossible task that always seems to frustrate me.

This afternoon, when I arrived at my son’s house and after doing our usual handshake and hug, my son kind of laid down the law on things. He said something like, “Look, you can only have one serving of food today. No seconds.”

That stunned me a bit, and I wondered why. My first thought was that maybe he and his wife couldn’t afford to feed us all, and yet his wife, just the day before, turned down my offer to bring something. I was confused a bit. But, whatever was going on, I thought to myself, “Well, hell. I don’t eat that damned much anyway!”

Then my son said, “Of course, you don’t eat that much anyway.” After we both arrived at one of the same conclusions, I realized there were some uncertain ones as well. Then he explained things.

Late on the night before Thanksgiving, my son met a homeless man while doing some Uber driving in Charlotte. He promised the man that he would bring some of our Thanksgiving food to him and his homeless friends.

As I was preparing to leave and go home, my son was preparing plates of foil wrapped Thanksgiving food to drive to Charlotte. Shortly after I left, he and his wife left as well. To share some damned good food with some folks who really needed it.

Look, it is difficult to compose a “thankful list” of all of the wonderful things God and others have given us. But, damn! My son and his wife, on this very Thanksgiving day, solidified the number one and number two spots on that list. Of that I am sure.

I am also suddenly and totally aware of the number three thankful item on that list.

That God removed me from my easy chair and delivered me to witness, in person, my number one and two.

Thank you, God.

Thank you, son and daughter.

THE LUNAR REPORT – “DIVISION” November 5, 2017

Less than 24 hours after my son and I had a rather heated discussion about the many divisions in our country right now, the Texas church killings happened. The heat happened last night when I somehow allowed a sort of “political nerve” to be triggered. All day long, I had been regretting that nerve allowance. Later today, the reasons that discussion, that nerve and everything we discussed last night suddenly became clear to me.

My son’s words that somehow bypassed my ears last night somehow found a place in my heart on this night.

We are a divided country right now. For whatever reasons. There will likely be more domestic and other terrorism to come our way. There will continue to be hate words spewing from the mouths and keyboards we all posses. And it is a certainty that politicians and select groups and others who benefit from the divisiveness will continue to drag us all down.

So, what did I learn from my insightful son last night and the Texas deaths of today?

I learned that, damn it, there has been no better time for us to all rid ourselves of the shackles of divisiveness. There has been no better time for us to all, through God or through just human decency, meld our hearts and souls into one. And to do whatever the hell we can to just make all of the lives that God created have eternally loving meanings.

There are way too many folks – folks like us, who simply cherish God and life and the lives of each other – to allow our divisiveness to continue to fester. And for those who are not at all like us? They deserve the eternal embraces and love that God allows us to share.  Without inhibition.  Without obligatory notions.

Thank you, son. For your words that I chose not to hear last night. You made a real difference, my friend.

 

 

 

 

THE LUNAR REPORT – “UNDENIABLE” August 13, 2007

We believe what we believe. And we behave along the paths to where our beliefs guide us. That simple notion is undeniable, I think.

If any of you are like me, then you must feel the same way as I when it comes to the August 12th stuff that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Black lives matter. White lives matter. Hispanic lives and Asian ones and others matter as well.

President Trump’s life matters. So does Hillary Clinton’s. So do the live’s of Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer. Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi, too.

The lives of the white supremacists matter. So do those of the folks who detest that supremacist population.

Other lives that matter? Many of you will hate me for saying this. But Adolph Hitler’s life matters. So does Saddam Hussein’s and Osama Bin Laden’s. But so, too, does Franklin Roosevelt’s and Winston Churchill’s. George Bush’s and Barrack Obama’s lives matter, too.

My life matters. And so does yours. I believe and trust that guided path.

My knowledge of such stuff that led me down this path is a bit muddled. It really is. I rarely read the Bible or attend church. But my faith in God has led me to a totally unsubstantiated but profound and equally total belief. That God put us all here for a generally single reason. My belief is really that simple.

He gave us the earth. He gave us life. And he instructed us to, through all religions and races and beliefs and behavior, make the best of things. To make Him proud. To validate His gift to us all.

I watched some news tonight about the Charlottesville event. After viewing and hearing all the stuff on television – the demonstration, the hatred, the anti-demonstration, the deaths and injuries, the eagerness to place blame on one group or person or another – well I kind of shuddered a bit.

This is not at all what God expects of us.

If my sort of muddled beliefs and understanding is somehow and one day made clear to me and to us all, well our paths will become clear. Until that time, I hope we all can at least consider the life and love that God has offered to all of us.

That life and love is undeniable.

THE LUNAR REPORT – “FORTY DOLLARS” July 16, 2017

Twice a year, as a child and a teen, I would wake up and find at least forty dollars on the kitchen counter. The man who left it there, before he went to work, used that cash to encourage his wife and children to buy shirts, underwear and other things for him on his birthday and Father’s Day. I thought that to be a selfish notion.

At least I did for a while.

The man had quite a few faults. So did his wife. So did his oldest son, middle daughter and youngest son. Unlike the rest of his family, I think he confronted those faults. In bold and honest and loving ways. That was the very real value of his life.

I have never doubted the man’s words. Or actions, for that matter. Well, maybe I did. For a while.

One time, his youngest son, who had recently become a legal driver, drove the man’s new Chevy Impala to a friend’s nearby house. The next door neighbor of that kid’s friend chose to back into the left side of that brand new Chevy. The kid was afraid to tell his dad. But the kid’s mom encouraged him to confront the man, and to be honest.

It was the very first new car the man ever bought. The news his son was about to deliver would have angered even a saint. So, he timidly approached his dad and said, “Daddy. My friend’s next door neighbor backed into the new Impala and damaged the left side.”

The man should have gone into an uncontrollable rage. Instead, he gave a simple and brief look at the kid and boldly said, “Damn! I thought I would be the first one to wreck that car.”

At some point, his youngest son was attending, as a freshman, The University Of North Carolina. The young guy was missing his home, five-hundred miles away. And the high school sweetheart he left there. The kid told the man that he was ready to come back home. The man’s reply? “Stay one full semester, and I promise you that you will never want to leave Chapel Hill.” The kid didn’t trust his advice. He thought the man was lying. But he stayed anyway. And, damn. The man was right.

I could go on and on about this man. But one sort of final thing about him is this. One day on his birthday, a day when he knew none of his young kids could provide a gift to him, he knew what to expect – a couple of disappointed children. So he did what he had to do. On that day, he bought and installed for his kids a backyard swing set. He gave his kids a gift on HIS birthday! And this may not be true, but I believe he lovingly wished the kids a happy birthday on that day. At least that’s what I believe and feel.

I will be honest with you. Until tonight, I never understood what that kitchen counter cash was all about. Now I know. If that man could leave forty dollars for his family to spend on him, then, certainly, he could afford a trip to Lebo’s Big Man Clothing store himself. Any time he wanted to. He didn’t need shirts and underwear from his wife and kids.

All he needed on those days was to show his love. He left that cash to make his wife and kids feel good about themselves and about giving to the man he knew we all loved. I am convinced of that now.

The man I am talking about is my dad.

Look, my brother’s birth year is 1945. My sister’s is 1952. Mine is 1954. And the birth year of the last of the man’s 17 children, grandchildren and greats was just five years ago. My life and those of the others are defined by that kitchen counter forty dollars. The lives of each of us began long before any of us actually reached our place on earth.

All of us were born on July 16, 1921.

So was my dad.

Happy Birthday, Joe! Thank you for giving our lives real value.

Click HERE for “Pie Safe. on Lunacy”

LUNACY – “PIE SAFE” July 16, 20017

Look. This a Lunacy. So I need to at least attempt some humor here. I will likely fail. This is really just about a pie safe, though. Bear with me okay?

My mom was a Baptist from Burlington, North Carolina. My dad was a Methodist from nearby Graham, a town whose city limit sign is a mere two inches from the same Burlington sign.

When I was a child, Burlington folks were the elite of Alamance County. The Grahamites were outcasts even though Graham was and is the county seat.

My mom is a Mangum. My dad is a Moon. Mangums are die hard Democrats. Moons are die hard Republicans.

I think you get where I am going with this, right? My siblings and I were a confused bunch! At least, I was.

A few blocks from Maple Avenue in Burlington

The first couple of years of my life, I lived in one of Granddaddy Mangum’s Burlington rental homes. The house next door to my mom’s parents. So, I guess it was natural for my mother, siblings and me to stay with my mom and Burlington grandparents those times we later visited from Roanoke, Virginia and Jacksonville, Florida.

Graham County Courthouse not far from Melville Street

But my dad was from Graham. Maybe he hated the idea of spending another night on Burlington’s Maple Avenue. So, instead, he always chose Graham’s Melville Street. And I don’t blame him. His mom lived there! And his four siblings and longtime friends lived nearby. After hearing all the stories of my dad and his outcast crew from Graham, I don’t blame him at all for ditching his family in Burlington!

But there’s more to this. My Moon cousins from Graham were mostly all much older than my sister and me. On the other hand, our Mangum cousins were mostly around our age, so there was play time on Maple Avenue!

Look, this is my demented and long-winded way of explaining my youthful neglection of my dad’s family in favor of my mom’s. Over time, that notion of neglect changed. In so many ways.

Aunt Edith

I loved many of the qualities of the woman I married and the mother of our son. But I have to be honest here. One of her greatest qualities paralleled that of a Moon aunt. My bride reminded me of Aunt Edith, my dad’s only sister – the middle Moon in that clan. Both of those women just had and have a knack of making everyone feel special. And in genuine and fun-loving ways.

After our son was born, Aunt Edith held a family “get-together” at her home on a small lake outside of Graham. Everyone called that home and lake “The Hill.” Don’t ask me why. I am guessing it was a typical Graham label of such a place. And because of that, I love that name, too.

At some point toward the end of that gathering, Aunt Edith called us all into the kitchen area. She was standing next to a cupboard, or something, draped in a cloth – a bed sheet or something. That woman loved attention, and she got plenty of it that evening.

Papa Moon and Mama Moon

She told us all about having searched, endlessly, for a piece of furniture her and my dad’s dad, Papa Moon, once built and somehow gave away or lost during the Great Depression.  At that moment, Aunt Edith revealed that she had found it. After years of work. The woman found it.

As she removed the cloth from that piece of furniture, she honored my wife, new born son and me by telling everyone that she felt Papa Moon would want this to go to the youngest and possibly last Moon kid – my young male child.

That entire event honored my dad as well. He was probably cracking jokes during that presentation – to avoid the emotion of the moment. But he got what his sister was saying.

My son

Well, the edict my Moon aunt issued that night was this: that I possess, for the rest of my life, the pie safe Papa Moon built . Then, I was told to pass it along to my only son. Now I kind of feel sorry for my son.

My son’s sons

He has three guys of his own. Who the hell does he leave it to? Aunt Edith never instructed us about future generational males!

In every place I have lived since, Papa Moon’s pie safe has been in my living room. It’s sitting in my living room now. I looked at that heirloom the other day. For the first time, I noticed and understood some things that I had placed on the pie safe. There is no reason that I placed them there except that I like what they are. But take a look.

It’s full of clutter.   That would impress any Moon.

 

      

And the clutter seems to me, to be indicative of just why my siblings and I were as confused as we once were.   But I believe my dad would be most impressed by the important things that now, somehow, bring order to the confusion.

The “New Moon” gang!

Happy birthday, again, Daddy!

CLASSIC LUNAR – “KEEPSAKES FROM JOE” From July 22, 2013

FROM JULY 22, 2013

mama and daddyI’m a dad, you know.   And I’m a granddad.   My son had a couple of granddads.  Both of them are gone now.   They both left way too early to teach my son some of the differing and significant ways for him to truly appreciate the both of them.   But they each left my young son just enough of their different selves.   And what they left is certainly significant.   It is indisputable that the sense of adventure found in the hearts of my son and his mother came from her dad – Herman.  “Herm,” we call him.   Herm took us all to places we could only imagine.   He made real our imaginations.   That man made us parts of memories that will forever hold our hearts in timelessness.

But there’s another granddad of my son.  “Paw-Paw,” my son calls him.   We call him Joe.   I call him Daddy.

Daddy died when my son was almost 8 years old.   Joe lived in Jacksonville, Florida, the city where I grew up.   When he died, I lived with Herm’s daughter and my son in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

This Lunar is about Joe.

Daddy gave to us some things that normal men and guys like Herm just could not.   Herm was a no-nonsense Marine.   Joe was a “fly-boy” during the war.   You get the difference, I am sure.   One of my son’s grandads, the Marine, lived mostly “by the book.”   The other lived mostly by the seat of his pants.   And he tended to use whatever was at his disposal at the time to make differences with folks.   His methods were rarely clear.   But his outcomes were.   Always.

The man could laugh.   The man could cry some, too.   But mostly Joe gave us all laughter.   And he was a jerk, too.   He screwed up plenty.   He knew it.   His wife knew it.   I know it and so do my siblings.   But the man taught me how to just relax, enjoy whatever the hell is going on, and to move forward, showing me that doing anything else at those times is moving in the wrong direction.

I don’t believe Joe’s only grandson yet understands exactly what he got from Joe.   He certainly understands Herm’s influence.   My son was by that man’s side until the very end.   Those two were best friends.   But there is so much more that I see in my son these days.   Of course, I see Herm there. But, my God, I see Joe, too.   We all need a little “fly by the seat of your pants” attitude, don’t you think?   And, for the love of God, we all need humor and laughter and some “at ease time,” too.

I guess it’s all just a balance of things.   And balance is outcome.   Simple.   And clear.

Daddy was born 92 years ago. On July 16.   That anniversary was just a few days ago.

As the years pass so frantically away from the given comfort of the living loved and from the clear and unclear methods of those who taught us things, life seems to last a bit longer and be truer when we witness in the eyes and hearts of those left behind the hearts and souls of those who left us.   I hope that my eyes and my heart give witness to such keepsakes from Joe.

The eyes and heart of my son do.   So do the eyes and hearts of my child’s sons.

Significant.   To be sure.   On Daddy’s birthday.   And every day.

For generations.

Click HERE for “Mater Wars”

CLASSIC LUNAR – “MATER WAR” From July 19, 2010

FROM JULY 19, 2010

German Johnson Pink

 

 

What began as a simple tomato war between brothers decades ago has now come to this.    Harassing emails from the son of one of those brothers who rather subtly accused me of neglect.    Well, I stood up to that son.   “Patience is a virtue,” is what I wrote him back.  I guess I told him!

 

Joseph, or “Big Coon” as they called him, left Graham, North Carolina in 1956.    In 1962, he found his way to Florida, hundreds of miles from the nearest North Carolina homegrown German Johnson tomato.

Eugene, “Little Coon” stayed behind.    The lure of the Carolina German Johnson was just too great, I suppose.

Big Coon relied on Little Coon for a number of years.    Little Coon was Big’s best tomato connection.    “Maters,” they call them in Graham.    You say “mater” around those two, and you knew what was meant:  homegrown German Johnsons.

Little was a good brother to Big.    He used to visit Big in Florida during July.  For several years he did this.    And he always brought maters.    Big was in heaven.    Big was big.    A big man.    The maters Little always brought were big enough to, once sliced, cover an entire Miracle Whip coated slice of white bread.    One good slice, Miracle Whip, salt and pepper was all Big needed to do one of his patented inhale whistles.   An inhale whistle is when one breaths in while whistling.  Not out like normal whistles.     The inhale was Big’s indication of total satisfaction.    He always did  that just before taking the first bite of his “mater sandwich.”

There was another brother, Garland.    They called him “Goosey.”    He was the oldest.    One summer, somehow, Goosey got involved.    I do not recall his exact involvement, but I do believe it ultimately led to the mater war.    Maybe he sent Big an unscheduled shipment.    Maybe the maters he sent were bigger than the ones Little always sent.    I really do not recall.    All I know is, the war began when Little brought his family to Jacksonville Beach, Florida, along with a supply of maters for Big.

When Big visited Little’s beachfront motel room for the first time on that trip, he walked right by his brother, his brother’s wife and their two children.    He went right for the maters.    At least this is how I remember the original recollection of the story.   Big bent down and opened the refrigerator where he saw a huge platter of the largest most beautiful display of Carolina German Johnsons he had ever seen.   The wire rack of the refrigerator shelf was sagging from the weight of that incredible harvest.    The inhale whistle was blowing full steam ahead.    Little quickly reacted to this sort of refrigerator invasion. “No, no, Sonny,” Little barked.  “Those are mine.    Here are the ones Goosey sent you.”    Little gave Big the sack.   The paper sack.    The rather small paper sack.    With three of the smallest non-Roman, non-Cherry tomatoes Big ever saw.    Big stood straight up.    His eyebrows almost reached his hairline.    And his mouth popped open so wide the cigar that lived in the right corner of his lips hit the floor.

“What?” Big asked.    Little just gritted his teeth tightly, trying to hold them inside his amazing and sinister grin and rubbed his hands together fast and furious like he was trying to start a fire.   The others in the room just laughed.    Big laughs.    The war had begun.

It wasn’t a real war, of course.    It was all in fun.    Occasionally Little Coon would mail Big Coon a photograph of a mater the size of Big’s head.    One time Big used Carolina mater seeds in Florida soil, trying to grow his own.    It didn’t work.    But Little always made good on the maters.    Big was never hurting for a good Carolina German Johnson.    Not as long as Little had anything to say about it.

Big Coon died in the fall of 1992.    He was buried back in Graham a couple of months after the last German Johnson was harvested in Alamance County that year.    The following summer and a few summers after that, on July 16 of each of those years, I took a single German Johnson tomato and placed it on Big Coon’s grave.   The sixth year, I took two maters.    Been doing two ever since.    Little Coon died July 4, 1998 and is buried right next to Big.    I just can’t take one for Big and leave nothing for Little.

One year, though, probably in ’99, I left a really large German Johnson for Big.    And I left a scrawny little one for Little.    I hope Big and Little both saw the humor in that.    Like all the other years, those maters were placed there in love and amazing fondness of those two and of the relationship they had.

So, the latest in the mater war?    The email.    From Little Coon’s son.    I got this last Sunday.

“I was hankering for some free German Johnsons, but the tomato fairies have not left any at the cemetery yet.”

My reply?  “Patience is a virtue, Cuz.  Friday is ‘Mater Day!’”

“Mater Day” was last Friday.  July 16.  My Dad’s birthday.

I left three this year.

Peace at last.