Thursday, June 15, 2023

"The Follower" chapter three. "You first"

"You first" 

 A lazy summer afternoon somewhere in the late 1970s. We had finished milking cows. Ralph Lee Harris (RL) and I had ten dollars between us, and as was the ordinary afternoon growing up in Appomattox, VA, near the James River, we were off to fish. In our day, wade fishing with purple worms on a Texas rig was all you needed to harvest smallmouths of good size. The river where we fished was about a 20-minute drive through our community's farm roads and countryside west of Stonewall off Rt. 623. A local farmer, whom we helped bail hay, allowed us to fish on his farm. Stopping at the country store along the way, we pop in for a cold beer at two dollars an eight-pack. Standing in the middle of the river, our eight packs resting comfortably on the closest rock, we would knock back those Old Milwaukee ponies, fishing.

Wading the river is for something other than barefoot. We wore shorts, tees, and old tennis shoes. One had to carefully make his way into the river and up to the rapids, where casting your line above the rapids and allowing that 6-inch wiggle worm to float into the pools below was our standard fishing technique—a little secret to the big ones. Along the shore of the James, you will find creek-like waterways that are a part of the river but separated from the river by small patches of sand bar covered with trees and other vegetation. Not more than 4-6 feet wide, but deep was ideal. Here the big ones lurk in the lazy noncurrent push of the river waiting for dinner to arrive. I was always happy to oblige them with my offering. One had to be careful; the river could be 1 foot deep or 20 feet deep with every step. Although above the Richmond fall line, I remember a rise and fall to the river. Not sure if the paper plant was to blame at the time; we knew no better, but most of the time, the tall tell sign of an approaching storm. 

On this day, as we carefully approach the rapids in front of us, we are approaching from downriver, looking upriver. We get out of the river, working the banks to the top side of the rapids, and back in we go. You are better off in the river walking than on the shoreline as mother nature's poisonous creature's sunbath and nature's perfectly made ich scratching plants thrived. RL and I noticed the river's rise, black clouds in the distance, and always from the north towards the south by southeast or down the river; the storms would always come. The old farmers knew the summer thunderstorms would follow the river for miles. RL and I are in the middle of the river, looking at each nonchalantly, casting our lines, catching fish, yet the storm is getting closer. We smile; the game is on. The game is called "you first." Now, before any of you reading this want to comment on how silly a game we played, nonetheless. The game was, who is getting out of the middle of the river first with a thunderstorm barreling down the river? 

Like most afternoons, we could see the storm coming from miles away; about 20 minutes later, we could hear the thunder; about 5 minutes later, we could see the lightning. The wind is blowing briskly like the fan on a farm porch blowing the playing cards off the table on a Sunday morning. Living in the rural parts of Appomattox, the routine was all too common, and on Sundays, we visited RL's cousin, father, and Grandfather. After milking, we played "set back," a card game on Sunday mornings.

Rain is starting to pelt us like a farmer's saltpeter blast of a shotgun against our backsides running with sweet corn; I look at RL; he looks at me, still fishing, smiling; who will blink first? Bellowing thunder is now on top of us. I look again and can barely make out RL's silhouette in the driving rain. The fish is on; I have put my mind to catching fish with every throw of my lure, reeling in another one. Lightning strikes the river about 300 yards down the river before the bend, another fish on, can't go now, got to catch fish. 

When fishing the rapids, we throw into the current or what we call up the river, and then we turn with our lure to the down river, and a gentle pull of the bait indicates fish on. Now for smallmouth, you must be patient. You let the fish take the worm; you can follow the line in the water as the fish races out of the current to the nearest still water hole behind a rock where he intends to munch his lunch. It is then that you set the hook—a big one. I break my line on a sharp rock, and here I stand in the middle of the river, rain beating down, thunder and lightning all around now, wind hallowing without a lure on my line. I pull my farmer's hat off my head, unhooking a floating creek chub, and tie it on. I turn, and RL is nowhere in sight. Did he leave? Did he move downriver; did he take shelter? Did he get hit? No, I thought he was ok just worked his way down to the island in the middle of the river. We had fished together for so long that we knew each other's fishing patterns. 

 The first cast of the floating creek chub, right to the tip of the upriver portion of the island, produces a fish jumping high into the air. I will never forget in all my life that one fish in the late 1970s, the tender age of 19, and today at 62, one fish on the line is etched into my mind forever. Suddenly as I was reeling this 3-pound smallmouth, lightning hits not 30 feet away from me; I looked at the spot where the lightning struck, knowing the light I saw was after the bolt had hit the water; the crack of the lightning was as loud as an F16 breaking the sound barrier, the light blinding, I can't see, the thunder comes on top of me in seconds, rain as thick as heavy fog. I looked at my line, and I looked back for RL; I looked forward. I don't remember being afraid for some reason; fish on, I thought, so fish on… I am fishing in the rain through a mighty horrific thunderstorm, lightning everywhere, standing in the middle of the river without care. I will be damn if RL beats me today. 

The thunderstorm came and went in about thirty minutes; looking behind me, watching the storm roll up the river, I smiled at God's wondrous beauty. In these thirty minutes, with the barometric pressure falling rapidly, I had reeled in 15 smallmouth bass; I mean to say every cast was a fish in those thirty minutes. I had challenged God to keep me safe. I had stuck my middle finger in mother nature's eye, failing to yield to her power. The sun comes out behind the clouds now as if nothing had happened. I would be dry from the waist up again in about forty-five minutes. Helios is starting to sink and giving way to Selene's visit in the sky. I am looking around; RL comes out from under the trees of the main shoreline, walking out of an old, abandoned barn next to the river. RL wades into the river, he smiles, and I smile back; "you last," he says, throwing his purple six-inch wiggly Texas rigged lure up against the island's bank. 

 Reed Johnson Author: A horse named Ray Ray

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Slavery as told through Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity.

Williamsburg Gazette, June 3rd, 2023. A last-word writer, for whatever reason, decided to take the stance that the Irish should not be counted as in need of reparations since they were never slaves but indentured servants. I thought it was time to research and write about Irish servitude and slavery. America needs to tell this story better. 

Slavery as told through Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity

Irish Indentured Servants and Slaves, a story not told well. A conversation around Indentured servants has found its way into the Williamsburg Gazette. In the last word, this historical past is attacked by people who should understand. Ignorance is all I can call it; as Joesph Filco wrote, in an opinion, "Education wars continue." "People who tend to take extreme views bring out the worse in themselves."  Yet extreme views are still a part of our society, and who is to judge what is extreme? After all, George Washington was an extremist. The Sons of Liberty was an extremist group, and Abraham Lincoln was an extremist, each killing and murdering thousands for change. Extreme is limited groupthink, as people are, by nature, tribal. In other words, we tend to group ourselves based on like-kind thought and employ our will. 

If we promote diversity, defined as a range of things, which is the definition, we exclude an excellent idea of seeking truth. When we exclude the extreme according to our dictates, we fail to achieve diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI). While DEI is meant to include, DEI is accomplishing exclusion; we see exclusion daily in our society through cancel culture and when mainstream media ignores prominent newsworthy events. In doing so, DEI is never really obtained; thus, the child's education must still be completed. The adult teachers' ideals are limited to groupthink for fear of exclusion. We see this in colleges, high schools, and grade schools; groupthink controls what our children learn.   

Americans have not been dedicated to learning about world slavery. If they have, they don't seem to care to understand that slavery in the thirteen colonies was a tiny portion of slavery in the world during the 1600s. Historian James Horn, a past director of the Jamestown Settlement, wrote in his book 1619 that there is considerable debate as to whether the first Africans arriving in Virginia were indentured servants or enslaved people. We don't know the truth, according to Horn. We know many Africans were able to obtain their freedom, with some moving to the eastern shore. The truth is not enough was written down historically concerning the 20 and something. Here, diversity of thought is censored by historians, the mainstream media, internet search engines, or groups of people who want to push a narrative in our schools. This is the educational war Joseph Filco describes. 

Irish indentured servants were a significant portion of the population throughout the period when white servants were used for plantation labor in Barbados, and a "steady stream" of Irish servants entered Barbados throughout the seventeenth century. Irish servants in Barbados were often treated poorly, and Barbadian planters gained a reputation for cruelty. The decreased appeal of an indentured servant in Barbados, combined with the enormous demand for labor caused by sugar cultivation, led to involuntary transportation to Barbados as a punishment for crimes, political prisoners, and the kidnapping of laborers who were sent to Barbados involuntarily. 

Author Robert West, in "England's Irish Slaves," writes, "The earliest written reference to the Irish is the establishment of an Irish colony on the Amazon river in 1612. Long before Africans arrived in America in 1619, another writer (Smith) reports in "Colonist in Bondage," "a proclamation of the year 1625 urged the banishing overseas of Irish political prisoners and the kidnapping of the Irish was common." 

West goes on to write; If there is one thing historians can agree on, as to the 17th-century American colonies, most historians agree that the treatment of white servants or white enslaved people in English colonies was cruel to the extreme, worse than that of enslaved Black people; that inhuman treatment was the norm, that torture (and branding of fugitive traitors, upon the forehead was the punishment for attempted escape. West cites another historical writer (Dunn): "Servants were punished by being strung up by the hands and matched lighted between their fingers, beaten over the head until blood ran,"--all this for the slightest provocation." Another writer of the time period Ligon reports as an eyewitness in Barbados from 1647-1650; he said, "Truly, I have seen cruelty there be these servants as I did not think one Christian could have done to another. 

Unfortunately, this story is not told well. Diversity of thought is squashed in our schools, social search engines, historians, and the mainstream media contribute to history masking. Even today, we see history being erased with the removal of Confederate historical art. We see slave history being retold, yet not all truthful. The history of the enslaved Irish person and servant has been changed to serve another outcome. Books being banned by both sides of the debate bring out the worse in humanity. Of course, one only has to dig deep into the dungeons of your free library. Where books by time period authors concerning the diversity of thought of the enslaved Irish person and servant exists, Joseph Fillco is correct; the education wars continue, the whitewashing of our world's history manipulated by the unforeseen Wizard of OZ who dwells behind the curtain, locked doors, and tall walls; they hide from most of us, but not me; I may not know who you are, but I know you exist. Interestingly, DEI is the same as DIE. 


The war on poverty and how to climb out of this hole created.

  Ms. Tingley, a retired school superintendent and college professor, wrote a rebuttal to the war on poverty in the Williamsburg Gazette on ...