Monday, April 23, 2012

"I'm Back and Rarin' to Go!" Shinbone

Mr. Deahl and the Bees by E.D. "Shinbone" Smith, Bomar, Oklahoma, formerly Indian Territory or "IT"

J.A. Deahl was my near neighbor for over twenty five years.  He was a stocky feller with a grim face that always surprised you when it broke into a grin; you wouldn't have thought that face had a grin in it, let alone such a grin.  He had been through the worst part of the Pacific conflict during the War, so there was a lot to be grim about.  But, like most of them boys that went off to the War, he came home, married, raised a family, and went to work.  He didn't set around feeling sorry for himself and he seldom talked about his war.  But, it had marked him, for sure.  There was always a brutality about him, whether it came to raising his kids, or getting rid of a passel of cats on his place.  As a neighbor he was fine and dependable, minding his own business, and willing to do anything in the world for you, like most of us in the community.  He was shy about conflict with anybody, especially his neighbors. wouldn't want to mess with him.

When J.A.'s kids was young- there was six of them- a feller from over around Pilot Point, Texas bought the place next to J.A.'s.  Now, this feller was an amateur bee-keeper and he placed his hives on the fence line right up next to the Deahl place.  After a while there wadn't a day went by without one or more of them Deahl kids getting stung by bees.  This went on for a while and finally Mizz Deahl laid down the law:  "If you don't go an' talk to him about them bees, I'm goin' to."  So, reluctantly, J.A. went to visit his bee-keeping neighbor.

He found him out with the bees.  He stood watching for a spell until the man noticed him, standing there.

"Howdy!  What can I do for you?"

Quietly, J.A. said, "Purty day.  Them bees is workin' fine."

"Yessir, they are.  What can I do for you?"

"Lot of blossom this year.  That'll work good for them bees and for you, I reckon."

"Yessir," said the neighbor, "it shorely will." And after a pause, he said, "Look, you can see I'm busy.  Is there something I can do for you?  I ain't got time to stand around and natter."

"Well..." drawled J.A., "actually, I was wondering if you could move them hives?  Them bees have been stinging my children, and the old lady is kinda miffed about it, not to mention the kids.  I thought maybe you could move them hives away from the property line."

Now the neighbor jist stood there for a few seconds, glaring at J.A.

"Jist who the hell do you think you are, I ask you, coming over here on my land and giving orders about my property?"

Quietly, J.A. said, "I don't believe I was giving orders.  I was trying to be polite and neighborly.  I'd jist like my kids to be able to play in their own yard without gettin' bee-stung."

"You can jist go straight to hell.  And, while you're at it, you can git off my property," the neighbor said, with husky anger in his voice.

"Sorry you feel that way," said J.A. "Adios."  And with that he turned and slowly walked back to his place.

When he got home, he went to his shop and looked around for a few minutes, then went to the house to get the keys to his pickup.

"Where're you going?" the Missus asked.

"I'm going to Marietta to see a man about some bees."

Before Mizz Deahl could say, "Do what?" he was out of the door and on his way.

When he got to town, J.A. went into Woodson's Hardware and Feed.

A young clerk asked, "What can I do for you today, J.A.?"

"I need a yard of that zinc hardware cloth, an eight foot extension cord, a roll of solder and a can of flux, and a jar of honey if you've got any."

"You will have to go next door for the honey, J.A., but I'll have these other things ready for you when you get back."

When he returned with his honey, everything was bagged and ready, the hardware cloth rolled into a tidy roll.

"Watch them sharp ends on that wire, J.A., they're boogers," warned the clerk, sucking on his thumb where one of the "boogers" had got him.

"Ain't they though," said J.A.

"What are you up to, making a chick brooder?"

"I'm a going into the bee-keeping business," said J.A., and before the clerk could comment, he had gathered his parcels and left.

When he got home, he took his stuff to the shop.  With the hardware cloth he made a cylinder approximately eighteen inches tall by twelve inches across.  He cut the female end of the extension cord  off, split and stripped the wires and soldered them to the bottom of his cylinder.  He plugged in a longer cord and carried the business end of it out to about twenty feet from the fence line where the neighbor's bee hives were.  Then he rolled a wooden cable spool to the same place.  He went and got his cylinder with its cord and the jar of honey.  Taking off the lid to the honey jar, he placed it on top of the spool and then he placed the cylinder on top of that so that the jar was in the middle of the wire cylinder.  Then, last of all, he plugged the new cord into the longer cord leading back to the shop.  He looked at the whole thing for a minute and then called the kids.

"Y'all git in the house for a while."

"Oh, Papa, do we have to?"

"You do like I told you."

"Yessir!"  And one by one they retreated to the house.

Going to the porch, J.A. told the Mizzus to keep the kids in the house.

"What are you up to?" she asked, but J.A. said nary a word.  He jist set down in a rocker on the porch and stared at his contraption.

After two or three cigarettes, the dead bees in and around the wire cylinder were about six inches deep.
Directly, he heard a shout and watched as the neighbor came and gripped the top wire of the fence, staring in horror at his dead and dying bees.

"Deahl!  D-e-a-h-l!" he wailed, "What in hell are you doing?  You are murdering my bees!"

"Deahl! Deahl!" he kept calling, while muttering to himself, "Oh, damn, oh damn, oh double-damn!"
By the time J.A. sauntered out to the bee killer, the neighbor was in tears.

"What do you mean," he sobbed, "You are murdering my bees!"

Quietly, grimly, but finally with that surprising grin splitting his face, J.A. said,

"Oh, no, this ain't murder.  Them bees is committing suicide!"

By nightfall, the hives had been moved to the other side of the neighbor's place.

I loved old J.A.  He was fine feller.  But, you wouldn't want to mess with him.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

On Writer's (Painter's) Block or On the Normality of Dormant Periods in the Creative Process

My dear friend and patron,

So, you have not yet got the painting.  Neither have I.  Nor can I promise a date.  (I shouldn't have been so optimistic when you called last month.)  I would send you your deposit back, but I don't have the money- either.

The fact is that I am in long period of creative dormancy, commonly called "block," i.e., "writer's block," "painter's block," et cetera, ad nauseum.  I have learned to avoid the term, "block," though; it sounds so much like a complaint of the lower bowel.  It is not a disease, though it causes dis-ease.  It is more like the fallowness that the earth goes through each winter.  It is part of the natural flow of things.  Or the natural unflow of things.  The river is frozen, and while the current still runs deep under the ice, the surface is lifeless and impenetrable. Sorry that you were the one to get caught on the floes.  If it is any comfort, I am here with you, trying not to mutter and cuss, waiting for the rifle-shot cracks that signal the breakup and the coming of spring.

There are plenty of reasons for this winter.  You may remember that your commission was given when I was in the midst of a turbulent career-altering set of circumstances.  These were things that I had no control over.  Believe me,  I was black and blue before I finally gave up and admitted this.  Then there was the move.  ("First, the shove, then the move," I had almost said.)  Eight months later I am still looking for painting supplies that were before so organized that I could have found them in the dark.  Then there was the "settling in"- deceptive phrase.  Who can adequately describe the fears, anxieties, four o'clock in the morning terrors, humiliations, embarassments, intimidations, and countless little daily insults of settling in to a new and strange place.  It's more like "unsettling in." Add to this the work load of my daily job, the new things and people to learn, the sheer exhaustion at the end of the day.  There is little doubt that all of this has knocked my inner-life into a bumper-car experience of disorientation.  And when the inner-life goes, the creative life goes with it.

You may well accuse me of bitching and whining.  I will not argue with you.  Though I think that I am simply trying to explain to you what I have already explained to myself:  that is, how I got to where I am and why you have not yet got your painting.   I can go on and knock something out for you,  but I won't be pleased with it and neither with you.  Be patient with me as I am trying to be with myself.  We are not talking here about laziness, or procrastination, or unethical dilly-dallying.  We are talking about creativity and the tug and tow of its tides.  As Victoria Nelson has written in her book On Writer's Block, "The creative experience can and must be guided, but it cannot be controlled" p. 35.

So, again I plead, be patient with me and try to remember how much you (used to) love me.  The painting will come.  Of that I am sure.  Unless I am hit by a bus or felled by one of the many medical foes of a sixty year old man who loves tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, and barbecue.

Cheers and jeers,

Rabbi Tbone

Saturday, April 7, 2012

In Lent

The way is long.
The climb is hard.

But pain
Pulls down-
Body and spirit
Pull down
On the upwards climb.
The summit is yet ahead.
I cannot see it.
Who have been there
Tell me it is ahead.
They tell me:
"Keep on!"

This I know:
The mists part
From time to time.
I glimpse
The landscape below.
I have inhabited
That landscape
For many years.
I have known its parts.
Parts I know well.
All its parts
I have loved.
Knowing it well
Does not mean
I know it whole.
(We can love completely
Without knowing wholly.)
Even now,
In the glimpses
Through the mists,
I see its wholeness
Without knowing it whole.

The way is hard.
The climb is long.
There is joy in the pain.
There is peace in the downward view.

Holy Saturday, 2012