Tuesday, May 10, 2016


I mentioned that Edie raised sheep.
She lived alone, and had only minimal
things to do with other people  - just a
small, sweet lady who was probably
ten times tougher than it ever appeared.
She raised, paradoxically, the gentlest
animals you'd find. Her and my wife
became friends, and she showed up
at my house a few times. I can't
remember whether or not any of
this came to be because of church
stuff, but I don't think so. I actually
think it had to do with cars, but
I can't be sure. Sometimes  I got
involved with simple things for
people, changing a wheel or tire,
plugs or points, basically the kind
of stuff that is misleading  -
because it's simple and routine,
but the people who don't know
that start to think it's some
magical repair-skill. Most
of the people, guys anyway,
knew their way around cars
and engines, because of
farm work and tractors, if
nothing else. It was like
they'd say about sex too,
funny as it was, like 'you
don't think nothing about it,
and just know how it goes,
seeing farm animals do it
all your life.' I guess.
Her house, on a curve in the
road, was set down, under the
road, as it were, on a downhill.
The Perry guys, thus, were
above her, with their stuff.
Barn shambles of an old
house, cars, bettered pieces of
things and an old ratty fence.
I used to think in, like, the
terms of military or cartoon
stuff and things, how, having
control of the higher ground,
they could hold her hostage,
interdict any supply, and lay
claim to any access or egress
from her place. Whatever; I guess
they kept some sort of civil peace
between themselves. She never
mentioned those guys, nor seemed
affected. But then, for all I ever
knew, she could have been their
aunt or something. Funny how I
do remember reading, in the late
1990's some fugitive shoot-out
up there, right along that roadway
and that general area, of some
wild Biker guy, who'd killed a
Pennsylvania State trooper, holing
up and finally shooting it out and
being taken, or killed, I forget.
Funny stuff, but as the story was
unfolded, I thought of these guys
and their oddball lair. And the
other thing that stays is how no
one around was real keen on
Edie either  - raising sheep like
that, instead of cows.
One thing I do know that has
greatly changed is the ramshackle
nature of everything that once was
there. It's too bad because, in an
older, 1960's-1970's way, it's what
I most liked about the place. It
seemed a means of shunning what
then was America, and harking back
to an old time and place  - a rugged,
individualistic carving of reality
that people just do not have anymore.
It's hard to explain, but when all you
can see are houses of siding and new
windows, nothing of wood anymore,
the same dreary, inoffensive pastel
colors, everything groomed and all
cleaned up. It's just as if no one
really lives a life, just more worries
about keeping one all arranged and
proper. In Pennsylvania, all along
these roads, are remnants (still) of
the old. Things torn apart and left;
broken selvage edges of everything.
Cars that no longer move, they just
never move. There are 30 year old
hulks, old schoolbuses, old trucks,
just sinking into mud and muck. Here
and there a house has a stove, or a
washing machine, or something, out
front, like it was just dropped there,
once they got it out of the house,
and forgotten about. A newcomer
had, maybe 2 or 3 vehicles dead in
his yard; old timers could have ten
or more. Old timers? Speaking of
which I need to point out  -  that
schoolhouse I so diligently took care
for those years, it's now a junkyard.
All and everything around it, the
grass, the lot, the front walks,
everything, is now part of about
at least 500 cars, and that
schoolhouse is in the middle
of it all. I like to think of it all
as a commentary on our systems
of schooling and educating. All a
blind fable, after and past the point
of teaching a kid to read; the basic
preliminaries of reading and thought.
Which can be done by about 3rd grade
at the latest. After that it's just all BS,
smoke and mirrors, ways of getting
into a kid's head and ruining their life.
Junked cars, everywhere, leaking
their muck and oil into the very
good soil of thought. In rural
Pennsylvania, at least, they all
admitted to things. School went on,
yeah, but it was shut down for the
varied seasons of agricultural need  -
planting, plowing, haying, harvesting.
Everyone knew that was where the
kid was really needed, none of that
schoolmarm claptrap for them,
unless times were slack.
I never knew who went to what
grade, or who graduated from what,
but I never did know anyone there
who went on to any further schooling
either. The 'knowledgeable' crowd
was kind of detested, like 'Philadelphia
lawyers' used to be detested years and
years back  -  useless, plum learning
and not a bit of anything real. I do
remember a few of the teachers inside
the school  -  they'd most all come
out of Mansfield State College, which
at the time was a teacher's college in
Mansfield, PA, just a little ways off.
They were sort of locals who made
good, or good enough anyway to
come back and teach grade school
to farm kids. 'All the wrong muscles',
like Jim Watkins used to say about the
farmkid-boys who were just no good
at baseball. 'They have muscles, yeah,
but all the wrong muscles for baseball.'
One teacher in that school, I forget his 
name, used to talk to me all the time.
I was just the dumb-shit janitor in all
practical respects, but most of the 
teachers enjoyed me, talking with me. 
Bringing me in sometimes even on 
teacher stuff  - the kind of teacher-crud 
that gets talked about in the faculty-room
or whatever it's called in a little school.
The office-manager lady there was real
pesky; a tight, fussy lady whose husband
was the Pastor of some big deal Baptist
or Presbyterian church over in Troy, Pa,
where the school district headquarters
were too. His name, believe it or not,
was Chauncey DePew. I can't remember
her first name, except for Mrs. DePew.
She sort of just had it in her head that
she was of a better lot than the rest, and 
that her organizational skills were
unmatched in this world. Everyone 
just let her be, and the fact that she'd
be self-righteous and annoying was just
accepted. This teacher who talked to me,
he taught fifth grade, to everyone, and
was a History major and let you know it.
He always tried to explain to me how he
had a photographic memory, and that, 
because of that, nothing got by him and 
he could have perfect recall of most every
fact and figure needed. Since everyone
was always pestering this Miss Hafer
to give them the time of day (she was
'hot', in the parlance of the day), I used
to tease him, 'I know for a fact that you
can recall Sheri Hafer's figure.' That
was pretty funny stuff. I never could
understand why those two just didn't
get together. I tried to tell him  -  I mean,
why pretend  -  that I did NOT have a
photographic memory, and therefore 
could not quite fully grasp what he 
meant and what it must be like; and
he'd just say I probably did have one
but just wasn't aware and had never
worked it into activation. I guess.
There was another girl, a new teacher,
fresh out of Mansfield. She came in as
Donna Grow, a married last name, and
she hailed from, of all places, New York
City. How she'd ended up in Columbia
Crossroads, at the Springfield School, soon
enough to become a junkyard, on the top
of a hill in the middle of deep nowhere,
I never could figure out. Anyway, one
morning she was gone. Everyone was in
shock. No one knew exactly what to do
or what had happened. As it turned out,
her new, married name, Grow, was only
covering her maiden name, some long
Italian name, and that long Italian name
had just been shot up, busted and put 
away for a litany of Mafioso crimes. Well 
that name and her family were one and 
the same, and I guess  -  once all this 
news hit the papers  -  it was curtains 
for her. She was either called home, 
removed to home forcibly, or just
resigned and fled of her own will.
It was all just too hot.

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