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Born May 18, 1953; got saved at Truett Memorial BC in Hayesville, NC 1959. On rigged ballot which I did not rig got Most Intellectual class of 71, Gaffney High School. Furman Grad, Sociology major but it was little tougher than Auburn football players had Had three dates with beautiful women the summer of 1978. Did not marry any of em. Never married anybody cause what was available was undesirable and what was desirable was unaffordable. Unlucky in love as they say and even still it is sometimes heartbreaking. Had a Pakistani Jr. Davis Cupper on the Ropes the summer of 84, City Courts, Rome Georgia I've a baby sitter, watched peoples homes while they were away on Vacation. Freelance writer, local consultant, screenwriter, and the best damn substitute teacher of Floyd County Georgia in mid 80's according to an anonymous kid passed me on main street a few years later when I went back to get a sandwich at Schroeders. Had some good moments in Collinsville as well. Ask Casey Mattox at if he will be honest about it. I try my best to make it to Bridges BBQ in Shelby NC at least four times a year.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Calloustown; "Ma'm We're in South Carolina. Who Knows their Standards".

       My title quote is from a scout for Varina Davis, Jeff's wife in the new grand historic nonfiction Varina by Charles Frazier, his first since Cold Mountain.            

  Like myself George Singleton is a graduate of Furman University, raised Baptist though I held out longer than he did, and medium sized town South Carolina. I'm from Gaffney, he's from Greenwood. We missed each other by a year at Furman but both of us knew Dan Norfleet of Pascagoula Mississippi and some of his many girlfriends.

      I first read Singleton, in fact got ecstatic with the title of his first collection of short stories Half Mammals of Dixie. When I heard the title I was thinkin here is a fellow from Upstate SC who is gonna get my experience in Gaffney, gonna nail it sight unseen.

   And if fact he does. Something of a thinking man's Lewis Grizzard  on the scale between Lewis and Roy Blount edging to Blount. He did go to Furman, like I said.

    In Half Mammals there is a story Duke Power about a fellow over near Dacusville whose's cousins try to sabotage satellite tv and get all their tv for free cause they have already mastered the art of climbing big Duke towers and getting free electricity.

    When you can get free electricity in Pickens County, TV is a piece of cake.

   Singleton perfects all this in one of his latest efforts, Calloustown. Calloustown could be Gaffney, Union, Pomaria, Eastover, you pick it, Low Country or UpCountry in South Carolina.

    He metastasizes all my favorite stories from Gaffney all the boys who beat the poop out of the entire state from 60 --67, even one on a freakish track star homeschooled who gets the attention of the Oregon Ducks. What I'm saying is you could easily sub in Wayne Whiteside, Whiteford Smith, Moto, Waterhead, Big Daddy Lipscomb, you nickname em for any of these stories.

   On my blog I may eventually with George As muse tell some of them but you don't have time nor the Chronicle Space. Faulkner calls it Kill All your Darlings. Look it up.

     But I will tell the story from the Furman pastors school a few years ago by a fellow from Pomaria once married to a Miss Delaware. He said one summer he worked with these fellows Nubby and Olin. Their deal before security cameras  at Kmart was they would pick out a cooler, load it up, put it back on the shelf, go in the next day in a walker and get a stockboy to get the cooler for them and take it through check out for the price of a cooler. They never touched the merchandise on day of purchase.

   They also thought fornication was taking a dump but they had their shopping down pat.

    Point is we know Singleton isn't makin this stuff up even though he's got himself guggenheimed as a fiction writer.

        Then there is Miss South Carolina

      And 2013 Miss South Carolina, Brooke Mosteller  a Furman grad, daughter of an ordained Baptist minister herself,  Rev Mosteller who married the Campsen Beauty from the lowstate says about trailer parks on national TV to get the pageant going, this is how we roll in SC. You can google it up on Utube.  Utube Says Brooke got herself in hot water.

   Her Mother was often on the Phil  Maher show during the 90s to stand up for traditional values the SC Baptist way of life.

   George in Calloustown has a refrain about how he  finds most Christians disconcerting and Baptists in particular. Still he teaches em best he can in abundance these days at the Methodist Wofford in Spartanburg home of Trey Gowdy, where Billy Graham was a member of the local Baptist church till he passed earlier this year.

     Here is how Singleton  fomented himself according to a profile a few years ago in a Proud Furman Magazine.   

iOne of my professors,
Gil Allen, said that I ‘had
the disease.’ And I did.”
Despite all of the manuscripts
that were tossed in
the trash, Singleton says the
efforts were valuable for the
“minor characters I would take
from one story—or one sentence,
or one scene—and start
over and over again until I had
something better.”
Such laborious salvaging has
added up to six collections of
short stories, two novels, and
an instructional book on  on fiction

      Here is an excerpt from his story Unraveling

7th grade history.  I remembered something about slavery and a nuclear bombthat accidentally fell through the bom door hatch of a B-47 above Mars Bluff on March 11, 1958- and although the uranium and plutonium core wasn't attached--it created a mushroom clud deeper than most of the freshwater   lakes in the area. I remembered that Senator Strom Thurmond ran for President as a Dixiecrat and opposed desegregation, thugh he fathered a bi-racial daughter. I remembered that a man named Senator Brooks beat up Senator Charles Sumner with a cane back before the Civil War. There was some kind of mention of a slew of astronomical events
 predating the end of the Pleistocene epoch.hitting right around Calloustown, things called Carolina Bays, that because of the holes in the ground, oddly looked similar to the holes hitting Mars Bluff. The teacher made a big point to say something bi-daily about a man named Ruple went off to embalming college, got a job in one of the more prone to die early cities and left her in Calloustown alone.

    You can google his short story Columbus Day about Spartanburg's Westgate Mall in the Oxford American Magazine. Hibbett's sporting goods will never be the same for you.

  Romans 8:26 on the Holy Spirit and  inutterable Groans  when words fail.. This closing I'm gonna float in the spirit of Flannery OConnor who knew Southern Freaks, and offscouring long time before George and his grit lit buddies. I mentioned his refrain about Christians in general and Baptists in particular.

    See my blog on my question to Billy Bob Thornton in Florence Alabama in 2007. It is in that frame of mind. Singleton is a secular southern writer so I'm not preaching just thinking. When I heard him read some of his story What Could of Been a few months ago at a Writer's conference in NE Bama about five miles from The Rock Church in Section, one of the most famous snake Handlin churches in the network, my first thought was this sounds a  lot like Annie Dillard's Ticket for a Prayer Wheel. It is a profane allegory of sorts to the Book of Revelations on Last Things. For all his mischief and genius, in his inutterable groans about Onanism and UFOs, freak 200 meter dashers and the History of the State of South Carolina I think Singleton has a big heart and the greatest of affection for all of us in the Cracker Carolina version of humanity roughly between 46 and 2014.

     Dum Spiro, Spero !!


Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Lincoln, Jeff Davis Wife and the Many Mansions

      About ten days ago I got a report from a friend in Bama who had attended the inaugural celebration of the lynching museum in Montgomery. It was complete with a firsthand report he had with Civil Rights Saint John Lewis and a mutual celebration of the glorious life of their and Martin Luther King's great friend Will D. Campbell.

    All this on the same day I began reading Charles Frazier of Cold Mtn fame new novel Varina, about the wife of Jeff Davis. And I found and reread a profile in the Furman magazine of Vernon Burton with whom I hope to have lunch later this fall.

   Excerpts from all this to follow. For a few days I was dreaming of Lincoln and walking around in a daze, such a state I wouldn't been surprised if they showed up on the front porch with my Grandfather Jordan, born 1881, maybe with Judge Frank Johnson for a chat.

    It was like the Gospel says as close as it gets for me, in this world but not of it. Righteous Insights.

     Here is page 212 of Varina, Quoting Frazier as Varina:

     They rode back to the camp in silence and V thought about how the landscape would never be the same after war, even if the blasted battlegrounds healed with new growth and burned farms were either rebuilt or allowed to rot into the dirt. The old land had all become overlain with new maps of failures and sins, troop movements, battles and skirmishes, places of victory and defeat, losses and despair. Slave quarters, whipping posts,and slave market platforms. Routes of attack and retreat, Monumental cemeteries of white crosses stretching in rows to the horizon, and also lonesome mountain burials with one name knife cut into a pine board, weathering blank in ten years and rotted into the ground in twenty. The ground itself defaced and haunted with countless places where blood--all red wherever it sprang from--would keep seeping up for generations to come. That place out in the pinecombs would haunt those girls and keep haunting. The last one, the youngest--at a hundred years old, tiny and translucent--might tell the story of the marauding army and the killings and the torchlight burials to a little girl in 1950 who would carry it with her into the 21st century.

     Google the review in the Washington Post. Here is Jimmie Limber on page 293 on the beliefs of Jeff Davis:

       He did as most politicians do except more so; corrupt our language and symbols of freedom, pervert our heroes. Because, like so many of them he held no beloved idea or philosophy as tightly as his money purse. Take a king or a president or anybody. Put a heavy sack of gold in one hand and a feather light declaration about freedom in the other. And then an outlaw sticks a pistol in his face and says give me one of the other. Every time --ten out of then--he'll hug the sack and throw away the ideals. like the foundation under a building. And that's how freedom and chains and a whipping post can live alongside each other comfortably.

    Come back to this in a few days for a quotation from the Furman magazine about Furman's great Vernon Burton and his age of Lincoln.

   May 11, 2018. Yesterday I presented a copy of Edwin C Bridges history of the state of Alabama to Martha Barksdale and the Collinsville History Museum. I wrote on site a sterling presentation note in the book to mark the event. Like Marshall Frady and the 8 folks named on the Furman Standard Marquee signpost at Fluor Field in Greenville, SC, Bridges and myself are Furman grads.

   The James Payton family was part of the crowd source funding that made the book possible for Martha and the museum. On the way out I got a copy of the Fall 2008 Gen of the Valley, the quarterly newsletter of the local Historical Association, Martha Barksdale editor and James Payton, valedictorian of his 1990 Ft Payne HS class, publisher.

    It was a most fascinating edition as it named folks from the Collinsville area who fought in the Civil War, most with the Confederates. Rebecca Clayton who is quite proud of her Brindley heritage lost four great great uncles in the War, about wiped out the family of her Grandfather Vergil Brindley. His son Stanley had two sister Ollie and Mabel who never married. Miss Ollie was a key participant in the documentary Blessing of Liberty by Oscar nominated director Brett Morgen in 92. She was in her late 80s then and their was a grandfather clock in the scene ticking away. Morgen told me it was one of his favorite scenes.

   The 08 issue lists several descendants of the soldiers mentioned by inadvertently leaves out my great grandfather John Sanders Jordan who skirmished on the Union side in 1894 or so up around Stevenson, Alabama near the Tennessee line above Scottsboro with the Alabama Vidette Company. And though it listed Momma's first cousin Luther Reed it failed to mention his Union Grandfather on his Mother's side but did get his Rebel bona fides in.

   Martha and I are gonna have to talk about that.

    I am hoping maybe with the auspices of the Alabama Humanities Foundation to bring local board Member Judge Rains to the Cricket Theatre in Collinsville and maybe Vandy Doc and Furman grad Ainsley Quiros of U North Alabama to have a chat. Donzella Bobo, Rebecca Clayton and many others have a lot to learn from her about the lessons and honest history of the Civil War. Bridges history can help a lot.

   What follows are the concluding paragraphs of a Furman mag 2008  Alum Profile of Vernon Burton a 1969 Furman grad. I am proud to be his facebook friend.

     Burton is a Pulitzer nominee for his book Many Mansions about his home in Edgefield SC. These paragraphs are about his Civil War History Age of Lincoln.

     Unique among Civil War histories the book incorporates religion in the Civil War narrative emphasizing the spiritual ordeal of Americans as they sought to regenerate the national promise. Burton emphasizes what could have been possible.....and provides a clear eyed analysis of those who resisted or sought to reverse such efforts. No region, class party or section escapes his critical gaze,  and he finds his heroes in places both predictable and unpredictable.

    That Burton shows the flaws and foibles of the most significant characters while dignifying and humanizing the more unregenerate souls only adds to the richness of the account. His account of how some found transcendence while others dwelt in bitter vengeance makes the Age of Lincoln truly innovative to Civil War era scholarship

Friday, May 04, 2018

Trump, the Birch Society and the Unraveling of the Southen Baptist Convention

   Yesterday May 3 Theatlantic dot com posted a Jonathan Merritt story on wife abuse and Paige Patterson who with Jesse Helms and the alleged sodomist Paul Pressler were key players in the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention.

     Two blogs below you see the framework of Bush 41 and Lee Atwater's contribution to this miasma, something Jon Meacham whatever the merits of his latest book on the Soul of America, and they are considerable, missed in his recent biography. He had some fine words for Barbara but there are other things to be said about Bush 41 and the fundy leader he nominated to head the office of US Ethics in 1990.

   I was talking to a key person on the topic of the Southern Press this morning. He agrees that the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC; if it had happened, that key ingredient hadn't been left to foment with the complicity of Billy Graham and often the encouragement of the Bush family and the outright perniciousness of Rove and the poison of the likes of the Devil's Bargain of Trump and fundamentalists, well quite likely there wouldn't have been Bush 43 and the Iraq war and now Trump.

    Garry Wills got it right in his review of Joe Scarborough's book on the GOP in NY Rev of Books about five years ago, and then again with similar treatment of EJ Dionne. Tom Edsall has skirted the matter sporadically since in WAPO 1986 Sat page A4 I think it was June 6 or so: "New Right now Controls Huge SBC". Got Harry Dent's syncophant Ed Young in perspective.

   My friend Ellen Rosenberg prophesied it all in 1988 in a letter to me I have published in the History Section of

    Pressler, a son of a VP of Exxon Oil in Houston, long time friend of the Birch Society and White Citizens Council in cahoots with the Jesse Helms Network and later Atwater and Karl Rove, in the Birch infested Harris County Texas took his resentments against Brown V Board and LBJ and later focused on Bill Moyers and Furman Religion proff Jack Flanders who went to Baylor. His personal grievances and his poisonous right wing hatred of the Catholic Jack Kennedy and Martin Luther King fomented into the 79 through 92 fundamentalist takeover of the SBC.

     Bush 41 stood up to the Birchers in 66 in Harris county but by 88 when Barr told him they needed a nutcracker (Lee Atwater--see his notice in Wuthnow's Rough Country) and here we are with Mike Huckabee (also complicitous with Pressler and his Arkansas agent Ronnie Floyd) in the prayer breakfast moment with Trump yesterday.

   Yes Mr. Meacham there is a cancer in the soul of America and the Bush family is much more complicitous than you allowed in what to date passes for the definitive biogragphy.

     Bill Friday, the chancellor of the UNC system in 88 told FBC Asheville NC pastor Cecil Sherman who told me in 93 in Greensboro, the most significant event in North Carolina the decade of the 80s was the fundamentalist takeover of my Dad's seminary Southeastern. Cause Jesse Helms --Paige Patterson was to be President within five years of Randall Lolley's ouster--and his Bircher network with Pressler knew that in the seminary they could produce a generation of fundamentalist preachers who could get in the heads of every hamlet and suburb in North Carolina with tentacles all along the east coast and flip them on the social issues to the Right.

    I hope those days are about over and Dallas in a couple weeks where WA Criswell was the priest to the Birch Society the whole 2nd half of the 20th Century; as Denis Johnson says in the great American novella Train Dreams, Those Days are about gone forever. 

    Jonathan Merritt may be a little overrated, himself the son of a recent fundamentalist president of the SBC from near Dacula Georgia, but he placed a marker on America's evangelical history yesterday in the Atlantic.

   Here is a link to his piece:

   May it be so