Thursday, March 16, 2006

Betrayed by Eggs

Today, as I was helping my mom prepare for her day, I asked her if she was ready for her egg substitutes. She made an ugly face and declared that she did not want any more eggs for now. I have been feeding her eggs for breakfast to help bring her glucose levels down while she is recovering from congestive heart failure. Her emphatic refusal of my meal suggestion reminded me of stories of Preacher J* and his tenant and kept-man S*.

When I was a little kid with rotted-out baby teeth, I first learned of the existence of a man in my hometown. He was an elderly man, a retired minister and gentleman farmer. His kids were much older than I and had already moved away by the time I came along. It is hard to try to paint you a picture of the community where I lived without providing the actual names of the individuals there, because the names seem to play such an important part of the stories that I recall. This man was commonly called Preacher J*, his last name serving to differentiate him from other preachers in the area.

It was my karma to come into contact with him because of my love for candy and the fact that he grew sugar cane and made his own cane syrup. I would get to visit Preacher J*’s farm when syrup was being processed, and could get a taste of the finished product before it was placed into jars. He was also kind enough to give me some of his raw canes, wonderful sugary delights that when chewed would cause sweet drool to run down my dirty little face. I absolutely loved to visit him.

S* was an African-American man along in years who had lived his life in the service of Preacher J*. I suspect he was paid a small amount for his labor and he got a shack to live in as well. He loved his employer’s children and was very protective of them. When there was a surplus of food on the farm, Preacher J* would share the bounty with S*. This relationship was not entirely uncommon in the southeastern part of North Carolina when I was a kid, but S* was far from common. He had a certain peculiarity about him that today might have had him doped up on a series of meds for personality disorders, but back then, he was just one more of the characters in my town. I have spoken with my family in the past about writing about the true, unedited version of our hometown, but how if that were done, no one would ever believe it was possible to live in such a colorful little town.

So, to get back to the point, Preacher J* was known for selling eggs from his prized hens. When the hens overproduced, he would take the surplus down to S* for his meals. After a particularly heavy period of egg surplus, Preacher J* went down to S*’s house one day with a crate of eggs. He said, “S*, I have brought you some more eggs.” At that point, S* spoke up and said, “Oh Lord. I don’t want any more eggs. I have eaten so many of them. I have been betrayed by eggs!”


When Preacher J*’s beautiful daughters grew to the age to attract suiters, the eldest daughter for whom S* held particular feelings of protectiveness, was dating a fellow from the community. It was a hot summer night and they were sitting in the parlor of their house, when the boy heard a deep, moaning voice say “Go Home…..GOOOOO Hooooome.” The daughter turned around to find that S* was standing with his face in the window behind her and had been watching her for quite some time. Her suitor was so freaked out that he left in a rush.


Revival time came one year, and Preacher J*, being a southern preacher, was concerned about the soul of his hired man. He learned that S*’s church was holding their Revival and so decided that it was his mission to encourage S* to join “his people.” He went down to S*’s house that morning and found S* sitting on his porch. He said, “S*, I hear your people are having their Revival at church this week and I thought you might want to go and find the Lord.” Without hesitation, S* looked him in the eye and said, “I’m the Lord, let them come and see me!”

Before I came along, there were many people who didn’t own automobiles and instead would ride into town on mule-drawn wagons. S* was one such person and he often drove his mule up to my dad’s store. Mules, as you may know, are known for being stubborn animals. One day, S* was leaving the store and he mounted his wagon, took the reigns and urged his mule to head back to his home. The mule, to the consternation of S*, took that moment to remain completely in his four foot-prints. No amount of shaking the reigns and smacking the mule on the rear with a switch would get him to move. S* was heard to say “Go on, Mule! Go On!” as he shook and snapped his switch. Eventually, S* became exasperated and said “Go ON, Mule, or I will just drive you down to the hog pen.”

When I first heard this story and the laughter that followed from the elders of the community, I didn’t understand it at all. My dad later explained the gruesome details of the story that made S*’s threat very menacing. In the old days, when a mule had become too old or sick to be useful, the owners would simply lead the animal down to their hog-pen. Once inside with the hogs, they would slit the mule’s throat and leave the carcass in the pen. Most people perhaps do not realize that hogs are omnivores, so this was a very efficient way to dispose of an animal that was no longer deemed useful. Efficient, but disturbing. At least in today's world of animal rights and PETA.

Luckily for S*’s mule, he finally got motivated and moseyed on back north to Preacher J*’s farm and was saved, for a while at least, from his gruesome but certain fate.

So, back to my inspiration for these recollections…Mom felt betrayed by eggs this morning and also by her inhaler and her blood sugar tests and having to take a shower, but she budged on all of it except the eggs. I finally gave in and prepared her a lite English muffin with sugar-free jam. She seemed pleased to have a change in her routine and, honestly, I can't blame her for that.



Blogger Zha K said...

You must be rich in memories if an egg substitute can inspire so many interesting recollections. Thank you for so generously sharing them.

3/19/2006 05:09:00 PM  

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