The Witch Trail

Although my family moved all over America, and in parts of Mexico and Canada, we often spent time in Georgia. Dad was born and raised in Georgia. His brother Jack, Jack’s wife Inez and their kids lived in Hinesville Georgia. Grandma (who we called Miss Bonnie) also lived in Hinesville.

We’d drive from wherever we were living to Hinesville, lug our suitcases into Miss Bonnie’s house and then Dad would go pick up our cousins. The grown ups would hang out at Uncle Jack’s and Aunt Inez’s house while we kids played at the little wooden shack on the edge of a forest.

One trip, Bob and I schemed a plan to fake out the cousins. We loved playing tricks on people. It was a way to have control in our lives, since we had no control over moving two to six times a year.

“OK, here’s the deal,” Bob whispered, “I’ll ride my bike down to Collin’s Drug Store. I’ll buy some Kool Pops with our money. We’ll stick ‘em in Miss Bonnie’s ice box. Then I’ll run out and hide ‘em in that old tree with the hollow hole.”

“All holes are hollow, Bob,” I whispered back.

“Just shut up a minute. So then we’ll get all the cousins and Kathi to go with us on The Witch Trail! I’ll head up the line and you be at the back. I’ll say stuff like ‘See the Owl’ and you hoot. Get it?”

I was onto the plan. We’d done things like this in every place we’d lived. Hiding fake Jesse James treasure maps in Wyoming and charging kids a nickle to help us dig the maps up. Leading safaris in Tennessee. Building rafts on the Mississippi, charging kids ten cents to watch us sail down towards the Gulf of Mexico. This was the latest in our long line of schemes.

Dad let our five cousins out of his Bonneville. They all rushed up to us. Bob said “Let’s go on a safari.”

“Lordie, it’s too hot!” cried Debbie.

“Ya’ll, let’s get Miss Bonnie’s sweet tea and bisquits,” Rusty was always hungry.

“Let’s play dolls,” Kim said to Kathi. They were the same age. Kim had all the Barbies, Skipper  and Ken. I could not be less interested in dolls.

“Nope,” my brother commanded. “That can wait. This is an Adventure. We’re going on The Witch Trail!”

“Yeah!” I shouted, pumping enthusiasm into the group.

Bob got everyone assembled into a line, then marched onward into the forest. I took the last spot in the group, behind my sister.

“Keep quiet, there could be wild animals. Or witches!”

“Lordie,” prayed Debbie.

“Is that an owl I see in yonder tree?” Bob turned toward the group and pointed high up into the Spanish moss-covered branches. I hooted.

“I don’t see it! Owls claw!!” Debbie was high-strung.

“Shhht” Rusty was into the wild adventure, full force now.

“Will a witch appear? Or will we get Kool Pops?” Bob’s voice rasped.

“Kool Pops?” Rusty was ready for a treat.

I cackled, as witch-like as possible.

“Mama!” cried little Kim.

My sister turned to me, lifting an eyebrow accusingly. She knew my tricks. I held my finger up to my lips & bent down to her ear. “There will be a treat, stay quiet.”

Bob ran over to the old oak tree with a big hole in it. “Is the owl in here?” He screamed as if his his arm were being ripped off. Rusty, Debbie and I ran toward him. “Hellllllllllp” Bob shouted.

“Lordie! Lord! Lord!” Debbie was frantic. Rusty grabbed a stick off the ground and held it like a spear. I huddled with the littler kids, telling them “We’re safe.”

Bob pulled his arm out, his hand holding aloft a box of popsicles.  “Kool Pops! The witch left us a present!”

No one asked why on earth a witch would leave gifts in trees for a bunch of kids. Everyone rushed to get their favorite color.

“I want red!” shouted Kathi.

“Me, too” yelled Kim.

We all marched back to Miss Bonnie’s, happily munching on melting Kool Pops.

Thirty years later, my parents were visiting at Jack and Inez’s. All the kids, now grown up, were there. Debbie told the story of the Witch Trail and how she had absolutely believed there was a witch and an owl in that tree. Dad called me on the phone and blessed me out for scaring the kids. I gave my brother a call and he could not believe they had fallen for his trick.

“Lordie, Lord, Lord” I said and we laughed about our wild antics as children.

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Fly, Birds, Fly!

Somewhere between Michigan and West Virginia, we moved into a small brick house near a huge cornfield. On our first day there, my brother and I went exploring. As we carefully trod (like Indians) along the road’s shoulder, we reached a spot where that cornfield began. A loud cloud of birds flew raucously up into the sky, terrified of human beings.

Witch!” Bob shouted. “Let’s get kids to pay five cents to see the witch.”

You mean I lead the way and—“

Just as we reach this Exact spot,” Bob put his tennis shoe on the place we’d stepped when the quail flew up, “I whisper ‘go witch go’ and you–”

I’ll raise up my arms and say ‘Fly, birds, fly!”

Bob and I were on the same wavelength.

Here, let’s build a cairn so you know when you’ve reached the place.”

Dad had taught us about cairns for marking our way in forests, in case we got lost. A cairn every fifty steps would show the way back to our car or tent.

We gathered little rocks and piled them up as a marker.

The next day, at our new school, my brother, like the reincarnation of P.T. Barnum, hustled up customers during recess. He pocketed a bunch of milk money, promising a Real Witch Show after school let out.

I kept away from the group. The witch had to stay secret until the last minute.

At last, the final bell rang. Children ran out of the building, screaming as if to escape Godzilla.

My brother assembled a curious group near the flag pole. He led them toward our house, a few blocks away, chanting “A witch you will see! Her power is to make wild birds flee!”

I’d run home on fast feet. Waited in the ditch near our house. I smeared dirt on my face and wove weeds into my always-tangled hair. When I heard my brother approaching, his voice low so as not to frighten the quail prematurely, I stood up as tall as I could. I crooked my hands into claws and, eyes wide, teeth bared, hissed:

Who goes there?”

Bob whispered, “Witch, may we pass?”

I crooked a finger and said quietly, “Follow me.”

The kids bunched up together, holding hands, uncertain what might happen.

I crouched into a witchy creep and stepped forward carefully, kids following, Bob at the back, face in a serious scowl. I turned toward the group and hissed,

Fly birds, Fly!” Then stomped a foot right next to the pile of rocks.

Thunderclap of wings and hundreds of quail rushed into the blue sky.

Terrified kids screamed “Mommy!” and ran wildly toward their safe homes.

Bob divied up the money, both of us laughing our heads off.

We were indeed inheritors of our ancestors’ genes, people who’d been gaoled on the Isle of Wight for “thievery, plots against the King and the practicing of witch-craft.”

The Beatles Hit North Carolina!

Beatlemania hit America when I was eleven. “She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)” conquered the airwaves but I was not impressed. I was in the sixth grade and had been playing flute for two years. My parents set up private lessons for me with a flautist in Bryson City, North Carolina. The tutor was our dentist. He could really do some great jazz riffs. My friend Ivan Gibby and I learned a lot from him.

What’s so great about that song? It’s only three notes! Anyone could play that! Why are girls at Beatles concerts screaming like a werewolf was chasing them? Buddy Holley and the Crickets are way cooler!” I expressed my opinion loudly to my Beatle frenzied class-mates.

Six girls in the sixth grade were my pals. Three of them could sing wonderfully. Bryson City’s school had a great symphonic band, and a marching band. I played in both.

For the next rainy day show, let’s be the Beatles.” I suggested, as we girls chatted during lunch one day.

The school held talent shows on rainy days when recess was not an option. I had in mind a parody but didn’t realize my friends were serious about their Beatle Love.

We practiced during recess, my beautiful friends singing in perfect harmony. They got three songs down: “She Loves You,” “PS, I Love You” and “Love Me Do.” I was to be Ringo, so I practiced belting out rhythms on tree stumps with sticks the band teacher loaned me.

I spent hours making Beatle wigs from black yarn, sewn with care onto run-streaked stockings Mom gave me. I made four, one for myself and one for each singer.

We have to wear the wigs or nobody will know we’re being the Beatles!”

The girls, all with perfect bubble hair-dos, refused at first to mess up their sprayed coiffures but my upbeat excitement finally convinced them.

A rainy week came and the mimeographed memo went out, announcing an end of week talent contest. On Friday, students from all twelve grades were ushered into the huge auditorium. The principal asked everyone to be quiet and enjoy the show. Kids from primary grades acted out skits about how it’s healthy to drink milk. Each grade had skits, singers, kids reciting the Gettysburg Address and other acts.

Finally, it was the sixth grade’s turn. Three boys sang a great rendition of “Walk Like a Man.” They were classy in burgundy and gold blazers, our football team’s colors. They snapped their fingers in time to the music.

Backstage, we four girls put our wigs on, helping each other hide our real hair underneath the stocking caps. I put on one of my brother’s dark colored jackets, to look like a well-dressed Ringo Star. My friends wore lovely shirt-waist dresses. The wigs made us giggle.

I walked out first onto the expansive stage, sat down in a chair, grinned widely, and held up my drum sticks, clacking them together.

After the hum of a pitch pipe, my friends began harmonizing with “She Loves You.” They sounded beautiful. I pretended to slam on fake drums, keeping the beat. Kids applauded. Fantastic! My friends segued into the second song. I got worked up and beat out a more frenzied rhythm, closer to Gene Krupa than Ringo.

On the last song, I flanged my head around, making the wig’s fake hair fly as my hands drummed wildly. I made full use of the imaginary drum set, brushing a snare drum snazzily, tapping my foot for the bass and rat-a-tatting on the high hat.

Students and teachers laughed at my antics. My friends, one by one, turned around and saw me crazily drumming. All gave me furious glares but continued singing and finished “Love Me Do.” Then all three girls stalked off the stage, leaving me alone. I was still drumming, caught up in the act. Ringo had invaded my entire body.

Suddenly, I looked up and saw the whole audience standing and applauding. Some teenaged girls grabbed their hair and screamed, pretending to be Beatle maniacs. Even teachers stood and cheered: “Encore!”

Realizing I’d gone too far with the Ringo imitation, I gestured for my friends to come back. They all had removed the Beatle wigs and fixed their hair with copious amounts of Aqua Net. They took their time but did return to the microphone. They main_900sang “Johnny Angel” tragically. I sat in the chair, smiling, hands in my lap. My friends got their own personal applause.

The principal walked out onstage and handed a blue ribbon to each of us. We’d won first prize! The Beatles had landed in North Carolina!

Seeing Through Walls

Winter 1967. The Vietnam war was in the news every night. High school classmates headed to DC to protest during lunch hour. I caught rides once or twice a week, standing at the periphery of a huge swell of bodies. I was determined to follow the Rev. Martin Luther’s King’s non-violent protest teachings. So instead of yelling “Nix on Nixon!” I shouted “Peace! Love!” and handed out flowers to cops and soldiers.

shadow Dionysus's flower power giftI hardly slept at all. Studying for the AP classes, the terror of having friends send to war, and undiagnosed manic-depression tortured me.  

One morning, I walked into school and a friend rushed up to me, “Dixie! This week is a moratorium! No classes! To observe the war. Seminars on a lot of topics. Like peace-making, non-violent protest, the history of protest songs and all sorts of stuff.”

I couldn’t believe the teachers had come up with this idea. But yes, maybe it was in response to so many of us asking during lessons about Moby Dick, “How is this relevant? There’s a war on! We could all die tomorrow!”

A few friends and I had got together the previous month and produced an underground newspaper. It was on mimeograph paper. I’d drawn a cartoon of the statue of liberty, wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt, her arm lifted up with fingers in the familiar peace gesture instead of holding a torch. One classmate had written an article on why the Vietnam war was a losing proposition. Another drew in between the margins, imitating R. Crumb, people trucking along. One guy’s Mom was the secretary of the PTA. She had a mimeograph machine in the basement of their McLean home. We went over after school one day and ran off 100 copies.

We all dashed around the following day, handing out free newspapers. As I passed the teachers’ table in the cafeteria, carrying a sheaf of the underground paper, Mr. Ward called out, “Don’t we get a copy?” I was stunned. A teacher? Wanting to read an anti-establishment newspaper? “Sure!” I responded and handed my last copies to the grinning teachers.

Many years later, I was a student teacher at Langley High. I realized those teachers had been in their late 20s and early 30s when I was a teenager. I sat in the student lounge with them, laughing about the underground paper and our earnest efforts to end the war.

But it was a moratorium! Students handed out black arm bands. My brother came up to me and whispered fiercely “You freaky little hippie! Don’t even say Hi to me in the hallway.”

So when I came upon my brother and his fellow Young Republicans, I merely smiled and gave them the peace sign. They chanted, “Yay, Nixon!”

I entered the classroom that was usually for American Civ’. A visiting lecturer stood at the podium, talking and talking. I stood there for ten or fifteen minutes before realizing I understood not one word he said. I wandered into the girls’ room and splashed cold water on my face. My cheekbones jutted out, I’d lost weight again. No matter how much I ate, sometimes two dinners (one at home, one at my friend’s house), often finishing friends’ lunch room meals, the hyperactivity kept me bone thin. I went back into the crammed-full hallway. Student were meandering from one seminar to another.

My friend Michael sat on the polished floor, strumming his guitar, singing “I Wanna Go Home.”

I joined him and sang along. Then I realized there was no wall behind us. It was a clear window, overlooking a beautiful garden.

Wow, it’s so cool how they built that atrium overnight.” I stared down into the lush forest.

What atrium?” Michael stared at me with his bright blue eyes. He looked where I was staring.

I pointed at the wall. “Right there. Trees, a creek, birds.”

Wow, Dixie. What are you on? I want some!”

You know I don’t do drugs! Dammit!” I stood up, angrily and walked away from my pal.

Of course there was no atrium in the middle of Langley High. The tiled wall was as sturdy as ever. My mind had gone off on its own, sending me into visions of natural beauty.

Starkweather and My Uncle Earl

I was seven. We lived in a chinzy motel south of Reno. Mom sewed curtains like she always did wherever we moved. These ones had suns on a brown background.

There were lots of gunshots out there at night. “Is that bad guys?” I whispered.

“Don’t you worry about it. I’ve got my owns guns right here.” My father had a .22, a Colt .45 and a shotgun of some type. He told us just point that shotgun and pull the trigger if a bad guy tried to break in. 

We lived in a trailer one place where bad guys robbed a gas station and shop. The old owner and his wife always gave me and my brother candy. “Just one piece.” We’d take forever choosing which one. I usually got a Tootsie Roll. Bob liked changing each time. We only lived there two months. Then Dad had to get movin’. The robbers shot both dead. I didn’t ask why. They were no good sunuvabitch bad guys.

We stopped at Grandma’s in Wyoming on the way to somewhere else. I think Montana. We moved so much I can’t remember every single stop.

Uncle Earl came over for dinner. He was lean and tall. Always wore a white cowboy hat. He let me sit on his Appaloose horse, China Boy. Nearly 20 hands high. His mother was cream with white spots. The sire was a Belgium draft horse. Earl said, “That’s your horse now, Dixie.”

He wrote me a letter care of Grandma in Georgia a year later. Had to sell the horse. “Sorry. Got $6,000 from some guy in Kentucky. Saved the ranch.”

I cried under Grandma’s bed for an hour. Then got ahold of myself.

Oh yeah. Back to Wyoming that one time. We were all sitting at the dinner table. It was venison. Some high school buddy of Mom’s got a deer. I wouldn’t eat it. Just mashed potatoes and corn for me. For once, my mother didn’t put meat on my plate.

Red haired Aunt Kate said, “Well, kids. Your Uncle Earl’s a big hero now.”

“What’d he do?” I already thought my uncle was a hero. He was a real cowboy and the Sheriff of that whole county. He rode his horse through town every day from morning ‘til night.

Earl put his lips together hard. “That story don’t need tellin’ over n’ over again.”

“Saw it in the papers all over. Driving from here to there. Earl’s picture with that little girl.” Mom said. “What in the world?”

“What little girl?”

“You don’t need to know about that. Just a damn dumb kid.”

“How many’d he kill?” Dad’s eyes were sharp black.

“Eleven all tolled. Girl’s whole family. It was in the papers.” Said Grandma.

“Your uncle shot that boy right in the ear! And oh my did that killer cry.” Aunt Kate leaned back, reached for her pack of menthols with those red shiny fingertips.

I never knew killers would cry. I heard they had ice water in their veins.

“He was a god-damned yellow coward. That’s all I want to say on the subject.” Earl stood up, slapped his rough, tanned hands on the lace table cover. Went out on the porch and smoked a Marlboro.

I followed him out. Sat on the chaise lounge and swung. Earl sighed hard. Tossed the butt down and crushed it with his steel toed cowboy boot.

A kid from across the street came running over. “Wanta play? There’s lightning bugs!”

“OK. Let me get my brother and sister.”

We got about fifteen but let them go because Dad said they’d die in that jar.

“Your uncle caught a killer.” The neighbor kid had a lot of freckles.

“I know it.”

“Wellp. Gotta go. See ya!”
He didn’t even look both ways before crossing the street. Maybe he’d grow up to be a rule-breakin’ bad guy. You never know.

starkweather31

 

 

Bed Raft

Dixie Bat.jpg

Fingers clutch desperately to the sides of my double bed/life raft. The sea is rough, waves 40 feet tall! Crash, they threaten to thrust me into the deepest part of this ocean. Down to 118 pounds. The slightest tip and my frail body will slip into the sea.

Stare up into the sky, through bedroom ceiling. Pitch dark night a comfort, always. Steady. Focus. “Be a good soldier.”

Find the North Star, Polaris. The one you pledged to follow when UFO aliens demanded “Choose!”

It isn’t there! Constellations whirl like a wild carousel, blurring as they pass my frantic, searching eyes.

Suddenly, I’m far above the bed/raft. Winds use my body as a sail. I hover over a desert land. A man strides ahead of a huge crowd, gesturing as he speaks.

“Kill him!” That evil voice insists, whisper-shouting in my ear.

“Kill him!” Now we’re close enough to see features on dark skinned faces.

“NOOOO!” I scream, wailing through centuries.

Mom comes into my room. She wraps her arms around me so tightly, I cannot breathe.

“I’ve seen, the man, he’ll be killed. Someone will listen to the voice of ancient evil!”

My babbling makes no sense.

“You will always be my firstborn.”

This pronouncement stabs my entire being with terror. Throughout all history, every incarnation, I’ll be this woman’s firstborn child? NO!

My parents’ friends sit in the living room. Ralph says, “That damned LSD.”

A fragment of my broken mind lights up. I run to face him eyes to eyes.

“I have NEVER taken LSD! NEVER!”

It’s true. The thought of a drug to sending me into Alice’s horrific Wonderland made me avoid acid and all other hard drugs. Booze and pot had been comforts but I’d quit smoking pot while living in the crash pad and stopped drinking, too. No, it was evil. Voices had taken over my brain. The virus infected my entire being.

“It got my son.” He muttered.

RUN! Screamed a thousand wide-open mouths.

Bolt out into the darkness, seek its peace. Away from accusing eyes, eyes, eyes.

“Get her! Bob, get her!”

My six foot tall younger brother groaned and dashed out to fetch me.

“Come back here, you crazy hippy.”

Bob grabbed me by the shoulders, turned me around and dragged me away from the beautiful forest. I am a prisoner. Trapped. The brick walls of my parents’ home are a fortress.

Next week is the appointment with another devil, the psychiatrist. He’ll lock me up in the loony bin! No hope. No escape. No Exit.

 

Having read numerous books (including all of Kay Redfield-Jamison’s) and articles (in JAMA and BMJ, etc.) and consulting with psychiatrists, I now know I’d been in the grip of an extreme mania for three months in 1971. The severe insomnia (sleeping less than 3 hours a night) and frenzied mental state, along with a raging strep throat infection, had sent my brain into deep psychosis.

Kith & Kin: Secrets

My Uncle Jack, Dad’s younger brother, told me: “Your Daddy got th’ mean gene. Mama had it, her Mama had it. All th’ Reynolds women had it. Your Uncle Will didn’t get it & I like to think it passed me by. But it hit your Daddy full force.

Dad blamed his fits of temper on the Irish genes. I inherited that flawed allele. He told me stories about his Great-Aunt, who lived in a shack on stilts in a Georgia swamp. She entranced him with tales of their family from long-ago.

She was the family story-teller. Now I am. You’re the eldest Elder, so it’s your job to memorize everything about our lives.”

I nodded, age 7 & gravely serious.

Dad was born in 1920, so those family stories went Way back. According to notations in a giant Bible Dad’s mother kept in her bureau, 3 brothers (William, David & John) left Scotland in 1789 to seek their fortune in America. That’s all the Bible said, other than dates of birth, death, marriage & children.

Dad quoted his swamp Aunt:
“Them Elder brothers
landed on a beach in Virginia. The Eldest Elder, William, deemed it fine t’ go on South. He farmed rich Georgia soil. Bye & Bye, he became a minister, like Edward Mayo. William married a beautiful indentured servant on a plantation where he preached to the slaves & house servants. She had a chile. Name of Asa.”

I’d heard stories Granma Miz’ Bonnie & her sister Tempie told. So I could hear the rolling Georgia accent as my father recounted the tale in his college educated grammar.

The other two brothers, John & David, traveled North. Nobody in Dad’s family knew what happened to them.

The big Bible was inherited by one of Dad’s cousins after Miz’ Bonnie died. I spoke with my second cousin on the telephone once, writing down information she read to me from the onion-skin pages.

Decades after my father told me about those Scottish Elder brothers, my husband Peter & I were wandering around in Northern Scotland. I took out the road map & saw the town of Golspie.

Let’s go Here! Golspie.”

Peter pulled our tiny red rental car over onto a shoulder.

That’s a five hour drive or more.”

PLEASE!” I begged, not sure why–just an urgent need to get to that village.

Ever kind, Peter drove South. We got to Golspie at sundown. Checked into the first B&B we could find. It was a lovely place, stone walls covered in October red ivy. We put away suitcase & backpacks, then walked across the road to Sutherland Castle. I sat down on a wooden bench & something flew over my head.  

An Owl!” Peter stage whispered.

A man whistled & giant Cedar landed on his leather glove. We talked with the bird sanctuary keeper for a good while. Then went to the castle. Parts of it were roped off “Private.” The Sutherland family still dwelt in some of the rooms. The rest of the place was a museum. We paid entrance fees & walked inside, entranced by history.

Peter meandered off to look at armor & weapons from Medieval times. I walked over to a glass case in the first room. Inside were large ledgers, each narrow column headed with dates. Elegant script in tiny letters listed names, acreage & other data. I saw “1789” & ran my eyes down that column.

There they were: my ancestors!
William, David & John Elder to America. Acrage to Rossesthe ornate script said.

Oh my God!” I shouted. A teapot-shaped woman rushed up to me.

Sorry,” I apologized for my outburst.

She was delighted, “Did ye find yer family, love?”

YES!” I cried.
I ran to find Peter. “It’s Dad’s family, he wasn’t
making it up!”

When we got home, I called my father to let him know the news. Dad & Mom had been to Scotland twice. All Dad knew was that his ancestors had come from “east of Loch Ness.” He’d spent days hiking around & in Pubs, asking people if they’d heard of the Elder Clan. Everyone knew the name but nobody could say where they came from or where they’d gone.

Mystery solved!

Years later, using an online roots search, I found census records with my father’s, his parents, grandparent’s & great-grandparents’ names. Beside each name was a letter, indicating race. “C” was for “colored” as people used to call African-Americans or Native-Americans. “N” meant Negro, full African. “W” was for whites.

In the 1920 census, names of my grandfather Edward Mayo Elder, his wife Bonnie Blue Reynolds Elder & great-grandpa Asa were listed. Beside Edward’s & Bonnie’s name were neat “Ws.” Next to Asa’s was no initial. Just the word “Negro.”

Dad & Jake, Asa, Dad bellbottoms

page from photo album: Dad’s grandfather Asa (top left)
Dad (Cullen age 15 in bell bottoms–top right) Bottom: Dad (age 2 with best friend Jake)
All photos taken in the 1920s in Georgia (including Damascus, where my father was born.)

I called Dad. “You’ll never guess what!”

I was excited. Family history was important to my father & me. It was a link, something to talk about. I used it to veer him off rage fits when I was young, asking for stories from his swamp dwelling Auntie.

Asa was a Negro!”  

My father always insisted we use the 1950s respectful term “Negro” from the late 1950s onward. My father was mapping the Deep South for the USGS so we lived in swamps, bayous & small towns all over that region. I lived in fear of being lynched for being a “N**** lover. We were Never to use that pejorative. Our parents taught us kids to respect people of every race, color & creed.

Despite his high ideals, Dad’s response to my discovery was to yell:
The hell he was a Negro! His mother was full-blooded Cherokee.”  

But who was his father? Maybe he was a slave on that plantation where she worked as an indentured servant. You know, after that soldier let her off The Trail of Tears. Before she married the minister.”

I quoted ver batim from tales Dad had repeated to me, those he’d heard from Swamp Lady.

Dad slammed down the phone. He was furious. His 1/3 Scot, 1/3 Irish, 1/3 Cherokee ancestry was in question. Like many Southerners, his family had African blood running through their veins.

As pale white as Dad & I were, there was a percentage of mysterious genetic make-up inside us. I was happy with this information. It explained my love of Soul music & Soul food! Yeah!

My father, William Cullen Elder, Navy ID photo (WWII)

Dad Navy Photo