Tuesday, May 3, 2016


On the back of a truck today
I saw a painted rear door which
read  -  the usual John 14:6 line,
'I am the way, the truth, and the
life; no one comes to the Father
except through me', whatever
the quote is, the truck guy had
it ever so slightly incorrect, in that
instead of 'comes' it was written
out as 'come'  -  for whatever
reason it seemed much harsher
in that fashion, more like a real
command than anything of a
gentle statement of Good Tidings.
I realized as I read that, how, in
whichever guise, defensive and
stern the message is, almost
perfectly made for the ancient
realms of thought from whence
it came. As if the newly established
powers, in asserting their new
predominance over things both
holy and profane, were drawing
the line already to assert that there
was no other way for the
common-person useless drone
to get to 'God' but through their
system of layered fidelities. All
of a sudden, once again, the
singular individual could not
(for some reason) reach his or
her internal and spiritualized
God except through the
cooperation and interdiction
of some huge, convoluted
system  -  which system was
'taking over' all things
and thought.
Perfect for Reverend McKnight
and all those Pennsylvania Baptist
people. They seemed not to think
about any other angle on things
except worship. And it was 'direct'
worship, yet somehow they didn't
think of that. They honored and
strove for Jesus, yes, but at the
same time, as I saw it, they
often were streaming directly
to God. Their sort of system
didn't have any of that other
stuff  -  like Catholics, the
sacraments and the flim-flam
of secret languages and the
myopically divided people
and spirits and all those levels
of saints and Heavens. But
they had tiered their own,
direct, system nonetheless.
It never seemed to have any
effect on the energy of their
worship. These ladies were
way into it all. It was the
craziest bunch I'd ever seen.
A really small, rickety, white
clapboard roadside church, a
little road but a road nonetheless,
on its own little knoll. The
church and the little building
next to it seemed almost to
defy sense by still standing.
Right next to it was the house,
I think, that once belonged to
the church, maybe from another
day, when the Minister lived
there. At present, than, it was
instead inhabited by one Verna
Beeman, a lady of about 40 or so,
with some six kids, varied fathers,
each, and no father present. They
used a variety of last names in
the house. She was Beeman. The
one, oldest, boy, whom I'd gotten
to know, sort of like a caretaker
father-figure (he was over a lot),
went as Mike Meehan. He's in
Texas now, where, apparently his
actual father lived. He went out
there, Mike did, and became a
State Trooper. Probably even
retired by now. I don't know.
Verna was nice, and she was
one of the chief 'holy-rollers' in
that little church  -  with the
nearness of the kitchen and
social room there, she was
always running the little
dinners and lunches, bringing
food trays to the sick and the
old and indigent. I realized early
on that because they DIDN'T
have all that dogma and
systemtized religion stuff
going on, it was more like a
social-welfare and group-help
organization than anything else.
Which was good, because in
those hills and hollows there
was always some group or
some family and kids in
trouble; hungry, poor,
without help but in deep
need, where violence was
present, where roofs leaked,
toilets were broken, cars
were gone. There were hilltop
people, huddled in their
decrepit and shabby trailers,
who sometimes had no means
of getting down off their hills
for months. No car. No initiative
either. They'd just wait  -  for
the arrival of help or foodstuffs
or anything of assistance. Driving
the schoolbus, I got to see a lot
of that, because most often the
school was their kids' only
sustenance, or the kids just
never came out to come to
the bus. Sometimes they'd
come out looking bruised and,
you could tell, roughed up
and fearful. I was supposed
to watch for that, and did.
There was no local police
force, only the cops down
in Troy, PA, some ten or so
miles off, and the PA. State
Troopers, which cars did
occasionally patrol the hills.
But any help needed was long
in coming. The church people,
especially in Winter, would
organize snowmobile patrols,
in and through all the known,
wooded spots, with food and
drink, blankets and supplies.
Winters were harsh and it was
known that people needed things.
Not everyone was friendly, you
must realize too. There was a
guy and family named
Jennings. He'd just as soon
shoot at anything coming up
his hilltop than talk. More on
him in a bit. Another guy,
named Claude Joslyn. He had
a family of four, living off
somewhere about a mile into
the woods, in a really horrible
trailer. I mean the pits. His
daughter was about 11 or 12,
named April. Sweetest little
kid, but aware just then of
her situation, as she grew.
Always embarrassed and sad,
never wanting to be seen. There
was no toilet left in the place, and
they'd 'go', I was told, right down
the floor, where Claude had dug
out a hole underneath, and a
hole in the floor. He'd clean
the outside hole into a
wheelbarrow every so often
and cart if off. His wife, the
mother, was a sorry sight : fat,
piggish, and more ignorant then
he was. I knew Claude some
from the schoolbus  route.
Getting his son and daughter
our for school wasn't always
easy, plus they often stunk.
The school department
eventually got him out
for me, as a means of
assistance, to be a helper
with the school-cleaning
stuff and the coal-furnace
maintenance. Like welfare
work, to give them something.
They paid him a few bucks to
'work', as it were, but it wasn't.
He hardly functioned, got
everything wrong, and was
always a problem, but I never
squealed on him. He'd always
say how much he wanted to
make enough money to be
able to take his wife and kids
down to Florida, for Disney
World, or whichever Disney
place is there. Besides that,
he always wished to see the
girls in kibinis.' Yep, that
was him, 'kibinis.'
One time, it was a fearsome,
cold Winter snowstorm, with
temps for days, everything
closed up and impassable. The
area around us, all the people,
were sure they'd (the Joslyn
family) would be found frozen
and dead in their trailer. No one
was really sure even what they
did for heat. A snow-mobile
caravan was headed up by
someone, (I had no part in this,
having neither a snowmobile,
nor, frankly, a real concern),
and when they got there with
food and things, all was fine.
I was never sure what exactly
was going on. If it all was that
bad, why someone just didn't
take them in for the duration,
or even arrange for authorities
to take them away. It all just
kept recurring  -  how do people
people get to live like animals,
like that  -  no food, no toilet, etc.,
and raise kids like that too? It
never was clear to me, unless in
some weird, twisted wish, they
dug the drama, or maybe really
wished these people, and others,
would die. Otherwise, lift your
Christian hands then and do
something. I don't get it.
It certainly wouldn't happen
today, around here anyway.
The whole deal would be
carted away. I don't know
what it's like now out there,
but it's got to be different.
Claude's probably still there, I'd
bet.  My age, he too is now a
sort of strange old man, if he's
there. I'd love to find out, and 
find out what happened to April, 
and her little brother, and her
mother too. It was all so very
curious when I first came upon 
it. I'd never seen or knew situations
like these. Totally foreign  - and
hard for me to figure. I often 
operate with my heart, leaving
value judgments or conclusions
behind, just to embrace the person
and their situation. I know I did
for them, and for others too. I
used to lie for Claude. He didn't
do a damn thing right, except one
day shoot a distempered cat that
was really ailing and sick in the
schoolyard dirt. Lifted it up, 
walked it out back, and blew it
to smithereens with my .22 pistol.
Anything else, he was all goof and
error. Even changing and puttying 
window was beyond his ken. But 
always said he did well, and 
whatever, just to keep them going.
The Jennings guy, Jim or Jack, I 
forget, he was a certified madman; 
crazed and rude. His little kingdom
was a wooded hilltop settlement, 
something maybe that had started 
out as a house trailer, but over
the years expanded, by means of 
plywood and studding, into other 
extensions of sheds and things. He
once drove an overland truck, but 
had gotten hurt and sued for a good
enough settlement; money they 
lived off. A few kids, entering their
teens. There was also a little, teeny
wife, who squinted. He had no
intention of ever letting a schoolbus
atop his hill. The other drivers, in
fear, over the years, for their lives,
would sit way down the bottom 
of the hill the twenty or whatever
minutes it took for the kids to 
come down. If they didn't, they'd
 just drive away. Nobody would 
miss the kids, and no one wished 
them around anyway. I walked up
there one day, just parked down
bottom and hiked up, to him in 
the yard. Not being shot at, I
started talking, fast. 'My name's 
Gary, when school starts this year 
I'll be driving and they tell me 
now I've gotta' come right up 
here, to this turnaround and get
your kids for school, about 7:30
each day, and get 'em back about
3. Ain't no choice here for me, so
I'm gonna' be doing it. Got that?
OK then.' He was as dumbfounded,
I guess, as I was. Laughed at me 
and just said, 'sure, sure.' As it 
worked out, they came over the
next Saturday, just snooping
around, in a big old car of some
sort. My wife made some food,
they stayed, he and his wife was
all, no kids, we ate some, hung 
around, and it all got real pleasant. 
Friends forever, and people said 
I was the only person they'd ever 
known allowed up on that mountain. 
It wasn't a mountain, just a twisty
hill road. He saw an old car on my
property that he wanted. Asked
about it. I agreed; we traded for a
gun and a little blow-torch thing.
He got the car. As it turned out, 
his little wife was the cutest, 'efliest,'
little talkathon, in love with stuff;
and he, well, he was just a big
buffoon, and a know nothing to
boot, but turned out  -  once you 
got past his gruff and opinionated
nastiness, the nicest guy in the 
world. The scene looked bad, but
it never was, and everyone had just
gotten them all wrong. As it all 
ended up, the kids were fine, the 
schoolyear was OK, and I ended 
up, pretty much, wanting in my
own way, to be just like him.

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