Western Kentucky author Lee Cole’s debut novel Groundskeeping details a love-hate relationship with his home state.
I left Kentucky in the fall of 1999. For 32 years, the state and its people were pretty much all I’d known.
Author Lee Cole was also born in Western Kentucky, about 90 miles downriver near Paducah. He knows well the people, the places, the politics that make up a state I still hold dear. His debut novel, Groundskeeping, is a testament to that.
LEE COLE was born and grew up in western Kentucky, graduating from Lone Oak High School.
A recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he now lives in New York.
Earlier this month, I blazed through Groundskeeping, which was released March 1, 2022. It’s fine, smooth writing inhabited by characters you’ll want to share a beer with or leave out in the cold on the back step on a wet winter morning. All necessary elements of a good story.
The protagonist in the story is a 28-year-old aspiring writer named Owen Callahan, who works as a groundskeeper at the fictional Ashby College and lives in the basement of his grandfather’s home. There is a budding relationship with Alma, a Bosnian-Muslim immigrant.
Louisville features prominently in the novel as well as portions of Western Kentucky. The 2016 election serves as a backdrop and Groundskeeping tells well the political division between family members that still remains today.
Maybe you call Groundskeeping a love story from a slightly different point of view. While there is Owen’s pursuit of Alma, really the love story may be all about Owen finding peace with the people and place he calls home.
As Cole told the Louisville Courier-Journal in an interview published in March 2022, there have been many stories told of characters who long to leave Kentucky, experience the “real world” outside and return home later with a renewed appreciation for the state.
“In other words, this theme of longing to go and at the same time feeling drawn homeward has a long history in Kentucky (and Southern) literature,” Cole said.
I think there are plenty of Kentuckian Expats who share that love/hate relationship with the state. While there, we can’t wait to leave. And once away, we’re consumed with homesickness.
Hopefully, the thing that remains is empathy.
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Coletta Shouse was a fighter all the way to the end, even when her final breath passed from her lips on Jan. 7, 2023, in a Henderson hospital room surrounded by her loved ones. She was 81 years old.
(Nov. 26, 1941-Jan. 7, 2023)
Coletta Shouse loved the roses she grew beside the house along the lake.
No matter how dark the winter, the flowers burst confidently each spring in a bouquet of red and white. Coletta could have a bite as sharp as the thorns along the stems, but she was also as resilient and beautiful as the blooms that would come mid-summer and endure till the cold came again. Tough, intelligent and independent she was, as hardy as any rose she grew.
In her early 30s, Coletta found herself divorced and raising four children on her own. She didn’t wither. Instead, Coletta went to school, obtained her real estate license and became one of the top real estate brokers in Union County.
Then there was the death of a teenage son so young, a pain that would stay with her through her remaining years. Yet she endured by surrounding herself with a love that would last nearly 45 years and Coletta continued on, supported by lifelong friends, her children and the grandbabies who called her “my Nan.”
She was a fighter all the way to the end, even when her final breath passed from her lips on Jan. 7, 2023, in a Henderson hospital room surrounded by her loved ones. She was 81 years old.
Coletta Dyer Banks Shouse was born Nov. 26, 1941, in Morganfield, the oldest child of the late James C. “Bud” and Lois Banks. There was a brief move to Louisville, but she spent most of her formative years in Morganfield, attending St. Ann’s School. She and her younger brother, Gene “Corky” Banks, would write fan letters to movie stars at the time and had a folder full of their signed photos.
Coletta Dyer Banks Shouse was born Nov. 26, 1941, in Morganfield, Ky., the oldest child of the late James C. “Bud” and Lois Banks.
“We come up rough. There were no golden spoons in our family. She was just a good sister. She was just like any other teenage girl,” Corky said. “I remember she taught me how to dance. She was a really good dancer.”
Coletta would graduate from St. Vincent Academy in 1959. She and Bernard Thomas married in 1960 and Coletta spent many of the next 12 years raising their four children. Following their divorce, Coletta got her real estate license and became a licensed broker and spent the next 25 years working for Kurtz Auction and Realty in Morganfield.
“She was very much a business-savvy type person and she was proud of that. Even 30 years later, she’d tell you that she was a real estate broker,” said Joanna Bingham, her youngest daughter. “She was a go-getter. She loved auctions and she’d take us with her on Saturdays when she worked auctions. She loved being with the people and being a part of the community that way. She wasn’t a sit-at-home and be-pretty-type person.”
In 1973, Coletta married banker H.T. Shouse and they’d spend the next 42 years together. In addition to her real estate work, where they had several rental properties, the couple also operated the popular Dairy Maid restaurant in Morganfield for a couple of years. It was where she’d worked as a teenager as a waitress.
Coletta and H.T. would eventually retire in 1988 and move to their home on Barkley Lake, where she spent most of the next 30 years fishing, boating, growing roses and hosting her grandkids on summer outings.
Coletta is survived by two daughters and a son, as well as 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by a son and her husband of 42 years.
She enjoyed gardening, sewing, decorating her home and shopping. She liked politics and never shied from a good debate. Coletta embraced social media and stayed up on current events and celebrities. With a big bowl of ice cream before her, Coletta’s TV was constantly tuned to the best British shows.
She’d always loved to travel and there were cross-country trips in a RV, a vacation overseas to Germany and she and H.T. would flock with the snowbirds to Arizona, Texas and Florida. She even went to Vegas for a weekend and watched Celine Dion with her youngest daughter.
Soon after H.T.’s death in 2016, she moved back to Morganfield, remodeled a home and reunited with her former St. Vincent classmates and lifelong friends such as Dodie Babillis, Linda Banks, Janet Robertson, Mary Jo Carr and Florence Alvey. There were trips to Charleston, S.C., Nashville, Tenn., and the Mississippi Delta and a jaunt to Vincennes, Ind., for watermelons. She also relished a weekly bridge group with Helen Jane McElroy, Mary McElroy and Anna Morgan.
Many of Coletta’s later years were spent traveling with friends and family.
“Most people knew her as a very fierce, strong woman,” said her daughter, Joanna Bingham. “Of course, she had to be a very strong lady with all the things she’d been through. She was very independent and very much a fighter and she fought to the end.”
Since 2021, Coletta had battled lung disease. And she continued to fight until the end when a combination of COVID and pneumonia took her life.
“Most people knew her as a very fierce, strong woman,” Joanna said. “Of course, she had to be a very strong lady with all the things she’d been through. She was very independent and very much a fighter and she fought to the end.”
Survivors include a son, Chris Thomas and his wife, Melinda, of Morganfield; two daughters, Terilynn Thomas Sellers and her husband, Tony, of Longview, Texas; and Joanna Thomas Bingham and her husband, Tommy, of Eddyville; a brother, Gene “Corky” Banks, and his wife, Cassandra, of Morganfield; a brother-in-law, Brian Ebelhar, of Sturgis; 14 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.
In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband of 42 years, H.T. Shouse; a son, Mark Thomas; and sister, Analois Ebelhar.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, at Whitsell Funeral Home in Morganfield. Visitation will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the funeral home.
Memorial donations can be made in Coletta’s memory to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Whitsell’s Funeral Home in Morganfield is in charge of the arrangements.
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Everybody talkin’. Preacher man preachin’.
Let’s talk ekphrasis, a written response to a work of art, and my take on Romare Bearden’s “Carolina Shout.”
Words by Michael Banks in response to artist Romare Bearden’s collage titled “Carolina Shout.”
Everybody talkin’. Preacher man preachin’.
Everybody's hands out. Ain’t nobody givin'.
Falling in the water. Red moon a risin’.
Bringing back a dead man. Ain’t that their mission?
Gotta get right. Gotta get salvation.
Ain’t nobody know my sticky situation.
Feet in the mud. Brotherhood of Nation.
Everybody hands up. Meet my creation.
Tuesday mornings, I try to set aside an hour to jumpstart that creative part of my brain. I find it getting harder and harder to do so as the years creep by. But one thing I’ve discovered that helps immensely is Pen to Paper Live.
These weekly one-hour sessions conducted by the founders and staff of the Charlotte Lit organization are held over Zoom. Often more than 20 creators gather and write after receiving a “prompt” by the instructor. Some of my published works have gotten their start at Pen to Paper and I’m always inspired and comforted by the talented writers who gather there weekly.
The words I’ve written above come from the Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, session led by Kathie Collins, one of the founders of Charlotte Lit. The prompt was ekphrasis, which Kathie described as “a written response to a work of art.” I’ve tried a bit of ekphrastic writing before, mainly with Van Gogh’s “Wheatfield of Crows,” and it surprises me the words that come to me from another’s work of art.
On Tuesday, as an example, Kathie pointed to writer Sharan Strange’s poem titled “Train Whistle” that’s taken from artist Romare Bearden’s collage “Mecklenburg County, Daybreak Express.”
Born in Charlotte, NC, in 1911, Romare Bearden, by the time of his death in 1988, had achieved a stature known by few artists during their lifetimes. He is considered America’s greatest collagist and his works are in the permanent collections of most every major American museum.
One of the featured events will be an ekphrastic workshop titled “Writing With Bearden.” The workshop, led by Charlotte Lit co-founders Kathie Collins and Paul Reali, will be held Sunday, Oct. 16 from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Mint Museum Uptown. The event is free, but registration is required.
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Elton John’s songs, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” and “Daniel” hold special meaning for two.
When you work guest relations at a stadium that hosts more than 70,000 people in a setting, you’re going to get the full gamut of personalities: the good, the bad, the ugly.
Sunday night, before Sir Elton John took the stage at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, I met two beautiful people who shared the story of one very special gift.
Steve Hilfiker and Vannessa Blais had come to the concert together and I greeted them as they entered the stadium atop my usual Section 123. They shared with me their mutual bond: that being the heart that beat in Steve’s chest.
Steve, who lives in Fort Myers, Fla., is a transplant survivor and the heart that’s kept him alive these past few years is that of Vannessa’s brother, Daniel, a North Carolina man who passed away in 2020. The matching shirts that they wore to Sunday’s concert read: The Daniel Foundation.
Steve has made it his mission to raise awareness about cardiac sarcoidosis, the disease that very nearly took his life, and promote more effective methods for early detection and treatment of CS. His story is shared in the short documentary, “Stoneheart: An Undying Gift,” screened at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival.
Both Steve and Vannessa said it’s important to tell of the importance of organ donation and share the message of hope.
Steve mentioned the words in Elton John’s hit song, aptly titled “Daniel,” that holds a special meaning to him.
""Do you still feel the pain, of the scars that won't heal? Your eyes have died, but you see more than I. Daniel, you're a star in the face of the sky."
Around Steve’s neck hung a stethoscope. He said that when Sir Elton would sing “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” Vannessa would place the stethoscope to Steve’s chest and listen to the sound of her brother’s heart, still beating, still there, still present.
And later Sunday night, under a dark, starless sky, I listened to Elton’s voice and thought of Vannessa and the stethoscope pressed against Steve’s chest, and I marveled at the good we can do, the generous we can be, and the moments we miss if we just don’t stop and listen.
Someone saved my life tonight.
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John Glenn Creel is a family doctor that runs his own practice, Walterboro Adult & Pediatric Medicine, and is chief of the Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe of SC and pastor of his own church, Little Rock Holiness Church.
“I try to use my time wisely. When I’m sitting, I just can’t sit.”
Chief of SC’s Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe also serves as family doctor and pastor
What’s the best way to address a man whose been pastor at his hometown church for the past 25 years, is a longtime family physician and chief of one of the state’s largest Native American tribes?
“Servant,” says John Glenn Creel, who has always called Colleton County home. He and his wife, Charlene, still live in a house next to his parents, where a midwife delivered him on Halloween as “Andy Griffith” played on the TV.
As a child, he struggled in math and reading and he even repeated the fourth grade. His goal of becoming a doctor seemed unattainable.
“I just thought it wouldn’t be possible being a minority and a minority in a very rural community,” he says. “We had limited income, limited resources. We’re Native Americans, but we’re not federally recognized. That was a big obstacle.”
As chief of the Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe, which numbers 756 members, it’s his goal to achieve that federal recognition, clearing the way to access for federal grants. That money can be used to expand the hours and services provided at the non-profit Four Holes Edisto-Natchez-Kusso Indian Free Clinic he operates, as well as build a new museum and help teach “future generations who we are and to be proud of who we are.”
That’s important, says the father of three.
“I’ve done the best to try and balance things and keep the focus on the family. That’s how it was with my parents. We were always together. Family’s important. So is being in a small community. It’s not the just the family and parents that raise the child, it’s the village or the community. And our communities have always been close-knit.”
Being a self-described “master delegator” helps him manage a full schedule. His mind is in constant motion, even when he gets away for one of his favorite activities — hunting.
“I’m probably the only one that will sit in a deer stand and do continuing medical education questions,” Creel says. “I try to use my time wisely. When I’m sitting, I just can’t sit. I can prepare sermons when I sit in the stand.”
Faith is a constant companion during a life that hasn’t always been easy. The first of their three children, John Charles, was born with spina bifida. Doctors didn’t believe he’d live past the age of 2. “JC” is now 37 and ministers alongside his father. Charlene was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in 2020.
“Part of this life for Christ is to carry that cross,” Creel says. “I don’t mind carrying the cross, because it’s wonderful. Sometimes you’ll begin to feel the weight of that cross. It’s then that I’ll say, ‘Lord, I need your help.’ And then He gives grace. It’s the touch of his hand that makes the difference.”
Getting to know Glenn Creel
John Glenn Creel
Age: 54 (birthdate 10-30-1967)
Hometown: Cottageville, S.C.
Claim to fame: In 2020, he was elected chief of the Edisto Natchez-Kusso Native American Tribe of South Carolina and, for the past 25 years, he’s served as pastor of Little Rock Holiness Church in Cottageville.
Day job: He’s owner of Walterboro Adult and Pediatric Medicine, where he’s a family medicine physician and mentors students as an associate professor of family medicine for his alma mater, the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
Co-Op Affiliation: Creel is a member of the Coastal Electric Co-Op in Walterboro, S.C.
Lin-Manuel Miranda writes like he’s running out of time and I’m staring at a blank page.
There’s a blank page before me and, damn it, if I don’t blame Lin-Manuel Miranda.
“It’s like the drip, drip, drip that’ll never stop.”
“Encanto.” “Hamilton.” Something to take your mind off the writing, she said. I watch and I hear the words of Lin-Manuel and I stew and the next morn comes and the day is still gray.
My mind doesn’t stop now. It’s an endless loop of Lin-Manuel and his rhythm.
Again, Lin-Manuel, get out of my head.
The blank page awaits. I try morning, then noon, then night. But the words still don’t come.
“Oh, no. We don’t talk about Bruno.”
Rhyme after rhyme fills my head. But my words do not come. Not the words that Lin-Manuel Miranda writes. So creative. So talented. So damn good.
Yet, all I have is the blank page and Lin-Manuel in my head.
“I’m willing to wait for it. Wait for it. Wait for it. Wait for it. Wait for it.”
NOTE: The above work came from a writing prompt presented during a recent Pen to Paper Live session hosted by the Charlotte Lit organization. You can register here. In the session, presenter Kathie Collins offered a writing prompt taken from a recent workshop led by poet Jessica Jacobs.We were challenged to try some layered writing in which we’d use some metaphors, physical objects, paintings, etc. to connect an experience we were feeling.
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If one was to kneel down at just the correct height and vantage point, you could soon forget you were standing in an old cotton mill in South Carolina’s Upstate. Instead, you’d hear, then see, the steam locomotive as it emerged from the mountain tunnel, its metal wheels chugging along the tracks, the engine’s massive smokebox looming larger and larger as it hurtled toward you.
That act of space and time travel is one of the main attractions of what’s billed as the best multi-scale interactive train display in the Southeast. With the simple push of a button, electric current, creativity and century’s old toymaking, visitors to the Model Trains Station in Taylors, S.C., are transported to a simpler time.
Scott Doelling, of Greenville, S.C., who is a customer of Laurens Electric Cooperative, first started playing with trains as a 7-year-old. One of his old trains is featured in a layout at the station and he volunteers two to three days a week.
“It’s a hobby that you never really outgrow,” said Doelling, who spent 31 years in the corrugated paper business and specializes in creating scenery, such as the mountains and forests lining the tracks. “Your imagination can go wild. You can do anything.”
There are hidden gems among the many layouts and visitors are encouraged to take part in a scavenger hunt. Look closely and you’ll see a group of Boy Scouts around a campfire. Look closer and you’ll see a bear attack right around the bend.
There are push buttons that control different parts of a layout. Children can not only control some of the trains that run on the tracks, but also give power to a saw mill or take delight when a conductor steps out from his station.
“We try to put us much interaction for the kids as we can,” said Doelling, who is one of about 20 volunteers.
There are plenty of vintage trains, including some from the 1920s, that still run along the tracks. But there are plenty of advancements, including digital programs that now allow you to control the train from your mobile phone. There is a train repair shop where people can bring in a faulty engine and the group also allows visitors to bring a train from home and run on the tracks.
The trains and the nine massive displays spread out over 16,000 square feet of space at the historic Taylors Mill mean different things to different people, said Bob Rayle, chairman of the station’s board of directors. Rayle, who still owns the first train set he got when he was 6 years old, said the station is more than just about model trains.
“It’s the little things and the detail. They make the picture, they tell the story.”
Rayle points to the wooden bench where Erna Liebrandt likes to come and sit and watch the trains run on a 600-square-foot display modeled after the town of Schonweiler in southern Germany near the Austrian border. Erna and her husband, Gunnar, were born in Germany and she donated her husband’s prized display after his death. The volunteers at the station helped to build and triple its size, adding a church, mountain backdrop and tunnel for the trains to pass through.
“She just sits there and looks at that German city,” Rayle said, “and what she sees… is her husband. And she’ll sit there and cry.”
Nearly all of the items at the station, which opened in December 2017, have been donated, Rayle said. He tells of another lady who brings her grandchildren at Christmas and they watch Grandpa’s trains run. For years, the tracks he’d built had sat silent under blankets in his double-car garage. Now, they bring enjoyment to others.
Brittany Kujawa, of Simpsonville, S.C., spent a summer day visiting with her three children, ages 7, 5 and 2, as part of a home school group. She said they were shocked when they walked in and saw so many trains and so many sets.
“My kids love trains,” Kujawa said. “The staff here is so involved with the kids and I like the freedom they let them have. I was nervous coming here, ‘Model trains, you can’t touch them.’ But they’ve done such a great job of making them available for the kids to interact with, as well as giving them a place they can run off energy. One of the staff said, ‘They can go wild here.’ And that’s really appealing to a home school mom. There’s something for everyone.”
The Model Trains Station is located at Taylors Mill, 250 Mill St., Suite BL 1250, in Taylors, S.C.
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday: 1 to 5 p.m.
Admission: Adults: $8; seniors and military: $7; children (age 2 to 12): $5; children under 2: free. Special rates available for groups and birthday parties are welcomed.
He’s the King of Corn Dogs and his dogs are known at festivals throughout the Southeast.
It was the winter of 1975 and Cliff Daley faced a life-changing moment.
He and his wife, Kim, had just married. They’d met while working in a snow cone wagon and playing co-ed soccer. She was a geologist, he an executive at a multinational conglomerate. But in January, his father, Zanelle, died of a heart attack. His mother, Dorothy, was caught in Alzheimer’s, in need of constant care.
The couple considered the bright yellow concession trailer Cliff had helped his father build in 1962 and one where he still worked weekends, serving corn dogs and funnel cakes.
“We said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to commit to it or go on and get out,’” Cliff recalls. “We decided to commit.”
The Daleys left their jobs, landed fair contracts and invested in equipment. And now, Daley’s Concessions is a food services business embarking on a third generation with four trailers seen at festivals throughout the Southeast.
“This concession has held my family together. We’ve been able to grow as a family and work together,” Daley said of Kim and their four children, two of whom plan to continue Daley’s Dogs. “They grew up in these wagons. They learned people skills. They learned to do math and make change. They learned how to serve a good product and take care of customers.”
Cliff’s the Betty Crocker of Corn Dogs, touting the homemade batter and peanut oil that sears the outside, resulting in “great flavor and an ungreasy” corn dog that’s won numerous blue ribbons. Daly’s personal favorite remains the traditional dipped in mustard and there’s another one wrapped with a pickle and the now-popular jalapeno.
“We’ve done it all,” he said, pointing to the Elvis corn dog dipped in a banana-flavored mix and slathered in peanut butter that won the Most Creative award at the North Georgia State Fair.
2020 was the most challenging year for his business as COVID spread and fairs and festivals were cancelled.
“We went through all our savings,” Daley said. “We were very fortunate to stay afloat.”
He credits their religious faith, as well as a small business loan and generous friends.
“One thing about COVID, we tried to find something good in it, and it was people helping people and our faith in the Lord. Every time we prayed at night, there was hope.”
The Gun and Knife Show at the SC State Fairgrounds in March was their first event in almost a year. While costs have doubled for their hot dogs and cooking oil, he remains confident of the future.
“All of our events have started coming back,” he said. “People tend to be a lot nicer to one another now. Their income is flowing and everything is very positive.”
Getting to know Cliff Daley
CLAIM TO FAME: The owner of Daley’s Concessions has been called the King of Corn Dogs as his family has been dipping and serving Daley’s Dogs for nearly 60 years now.
HOMETOWN: Columbia, S.C.
JUST FOR KICKS: Daley received an athletic scholarship and starred on the pitch for the University of Alabama in Huntsville soccer team. He tried out for the U.S. national team before the 1976 Olympics and made it to one of the final rounds before being cut. “If it hadn’t been for that scholarship, I’d have probably joined the service and gone into Vietnam.”
FAVORITE FESTIVAL? For more than 50 years, there’s been a Daley’s Concessions at the SC State Fair. “Most everyone comes and sees us and they see a lot of their old friends from school,” said the graduate of nearby Dreher High School. “It’s like a big family reunion.”
HIS GO-TO MEAL? “It’s hard to beat a good hot dog, especially with homemade chili and onions and a little slaw.”
FAMOUS FANS: The Monday After the Masters golf tourney hosted by Hootie and the Blowfish is a favorite event. Those who’ve praised his dogs? NFL quarterbacks Dan Marino and Brett Favre and rocker Alice Cooper.
He preached his first sermon when he was 9 years old. Now, some 60 years later, he’s still at the pulpit of his home church in West Columbia, SC.
West Columbia’s Jackson wonders why God chose him
It’s fitting one of the Rev. Charles Jackson’s favorite Bible stories has to do with the boy who offers his lunch of a few fishes and slices of bread to Christ, who multiplies the offering and feeds thousands.
Ever since he was just a child some six decades ago, Jackson has been bringing the word of God to thousands of South Carolinians and building his church into one of the Midlands’ largest.
He’s often wondered why God chose him?
“It’s a tremendous mystery. I didn’t choose it. It chose me.”
What makes his story even more special is that all 50 years have come at Brookland Baptist, the church in West Columbia where he grew up.
Jackson got his start presiding over funerals for his neighbors’ dogs and cats. He preached his first sermon when he was just 9 years old. He was licensed to preach a year later and eventually became pastor at Brookland at 18.
“Maybe, like Jeremiah, God called me from my mother’s womb.”
His mother, Ezella Rumph Jackson, died of cancer when he was just 16. Jackson admits her death caused him to question his faith.
“I couldn’t understand why God would take my mother, a devout Christian. That was very painful. God disappointed me greatly.”
Jackson made peace studying the story of Job.
“Even though Job wrestled and struggled with the inexplicable mystery of God, he never gave up. Because he did not give up on God, God did not give up on him.”
Jackson believes God’s kept him in West Columbia to raise the next generation of believers and build bridges between those of different races and beliefs. He recently delivered a message of love to 75 high school seniors and juniors representing the 17 electric cooperatives across South Carolina.
Jackson downplays his story.
“May the service I give speak for me,” he says, repeating a favorite gospel hymn. “That’s all. May I rest in my grave and nothing be said. May the work I’ve done speak for me.”
Getting to know the Rev. Charles Jackson
If not a pastor? After graduating from Benedict College, Jackson was supposed to be a physician, receiving a full scholarship to medical school. “I love the sciences. I worked in biology for two years, caring for rats and mice.” However, the college’s minister steered him to Morehouse School of Religion in Atlanta, where he received his master of divinity degree.
All in the family: Jackson’s son, the Rev. Charles Jackson Jr., is pastor of the New Laurel Street Baptist Church in Columbia. “I’m happier and more excited in pastoral ministry than I’ve ever been. Much of that can be contributed to young pastors. They’ve kept me vibrant and relevant.”
Favorite Old Testament scripture: Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
The rain falls here down near where the South Fork and Catawba meet.
The branches of the tea olive outside my window hang heavy with water, lime green offshoots reach up, seeking sunlight, but instead it’s a cloud-filled sky. Tiny yellow clusters of bloom emit the sweet scent, but my window stays closed and I fear more rain.
I think of my great aunt Catherine, she gone nearly 15 years now, and how she’d tug my ear and say, “Michael B. You’re gonna do great things.”
But this morning, my mind remains muddied of the dream that lingers from the night before – me going from room to room, opening doors, only to find four blank walls and empty spaces. The only sound being that of the click of the latch and slam of the door. A constant opening and closing. Click, slam. Click, slam.
I sip the cold water from the glass and wait for the coolness to make its way down my throat and spread across my chest. I hope it brings energy. A spark to beat back my malaise. The bed, the warm covers, they beckon.
Gloom, gloom, gloom.
The Rolling Stones sing of “Wild Horses” and how “faith has been broken, tears must be cried, let’s do some living, after we die.”
I’ve done some living and never really thought of others. Things I should have said, but didn’t. Thought my silence an easy salve, not realizing the pain left behind.
It is still Tuesday morn here and the rain still falls.
Each day another red X on the calendar and another day closer to when breath will come no more.
Until then, these words will be written and songs will be sung. Her smile and laugh and love as constant as the reappearing sun.
NOTE: The above work came from a writing prompt presented during a recent Pen to Paper Live session hosted by the Charlotte Lit organization. You can register here. In the session, presenter Kathie Collins offered a writing prompt taken from a recent workshop led by poet Ada Limon.