Cotton Town


The first thing I remember about Trion, Georgia is the smells of the cotton mill. I was somewhere between two and three years old when Daddy got out of the Navy, and we all moved into a little old house on sixth street, and Mom and Daddy “set up housekeeping”. I’d been living in Blue Ridge with my Mom and Grandparents, and Mom’s little sister who was 11 years old when I was born. Daddy finally got out of the Navy in ‘52, went to Riegel Textile and got a job, rented a house, and moved us in. We were officially Trionites.

But, back to the smell of the mill. I had no complaints as a three year old. I’d been used to smelling the smoke from a wood burning stove, the scents of bacon frying, cornbread baking, biscuits in the oven. I don’t know if I ate any of it, but I was used to olfactory stimulation. The smells of a cotton mill became familiar quickly. There was the slightly musty, but pleasant smell of bales of cotton. They had an earthy odor, accentuated by the pungency of the burlap they were wrapped in. I found out later how huge they were, passing by them sitting out on the open cotton docks like huge marshmallows that had been half way toasted in a fire on the end of a wire coat hanger.

There was that smell which was sort of like the one that occurred when Momma would iron blue jeans with a hot clothes iron. Kind of on the edge of burny, extremely hot cotton having the wrinkles pressed out. Found out later on, it was cloth being sanforized. I never really realized what that process entailed until many years later when I worked in the mill as a supervisor in the denim finishing department where denim was being sanforized. I learned that the cloth was run through this huge machine, wet down first then partially dried, and run under a gigantic rubber belt that was tightly pushed up against a steel roller. This process pre shrunk the denim, which kept it from shrinking once it was made into blue jeans and sold. It ran over a gigantic steam wheel to totally dry it out, and the exhaust fans above it carried that smell that I’d smelled so many years earlier out into the night air.

There was also the briny, and very stinky sulfuric smell of the bright dye runoff coming from the printing department. At the time I was a child, they just dumped that excess dye after they were finished into a little creek that ran under the mill and out into the Chattooga River. I used to stand at the little bridge above where the stream ran when I was little and marvel at how beautiful and colorful that water was. I had no idea it was polluting the river something awful, and killing the fish. Back in the fifties, it wasn’t that big an issue.

So, I played out on the front steps and in the yard on sixth street. In the bright summer sunshine and during the cold of winter with my heavy coat on, making roads in the dirt for my tootsie toy cars, and pretending to drive all over town. All the while smelling the smells of a Southern cotton mill town wafting through the air.

God is there

There are far, far too many children with cancer and other serious diseases in our world. Far too many young adults dying with “old people” diseases:

“There are far, far too many chemicals, poisons, drugs, in our water and food”

There is far, far too much hatred one for the other in our world. Far too much war and atrocities being committed by humans against other humans:

“Hate is not a hereditary quality, but a learned behavior”

There is far, far too much torture of our planet going on. Forests are disappearing, oceans are polluted, the air is filled with noxious smoke, the earth itself is being drilled into incessantly, pumped full of hot water and steam in order to choke out a gallon of black goo…:

“When the Earth dies, all humans will also die. As far as I know there are no outposts on Mars”

There are far, far too few children learning to put a pencil to a piece of paper and write:

“When the plug is pulled, how will knowledge be communicated?”

I used to be able to pull my car in my Grandfather’s yard and do just about anything to it which needed doing to make it run. I changed points and plugs, solenoid switches and alternators, starters, rings and pistons. Now when I open the hood of my car all I see are computer plug ins. The one thing I recognize is the battery.

I used to check books out of the library to read, or go to one of the numerous used book stores to buy a book to read, or to trade for one. Now, I buy a “book” online and they send a few bytes of information on the internet and I read it on an electronic pad. I still own lots and lots of physical books though…including a lot of instruction manuals and textbooks.

There are far, far too many people who think their God lives inside a big brick building:

“If you make room in your heart, God will be there. If God is in your heart, you have made room” You will know, there won’t be any doubt.


Life on the B side

Living Life on the B side.

When I was a kid, we had only record players on which to play our favorite music. For most of my early childhood, I played my records on my dad and Mom’s old Philco combination radio/phonograph. I think that old machine is still sitting in my son’s house. We only owned a few records when I was very little. Dean Martin, Sinatra, an Elvis album. All of them were 33 rpm records, or “albums” as we called them then. I wore the ones we had out playing them. I can still sing any of the songs on the ones we had word for word. The only time the radio was on was when my mother was listening to some radio preacher, or when my dad wanted to listen to a football game. Other than that, there wasn’t much “live” music being played. Maybe the “Grand Ol’ Opry” every now and then…. but not too often. My Mom had always wanted to be a “country singer” but never knew how to pursue it. She had a halfway decent voice but wouldn’t sing for anyone. Her childhood was challenged, to say the least. She had absolutely no self-confidence. None had ever been instilled in her. My Grandpa was not good to his daughters for some reason. My dad loved to sing though and would go around the house singing all the songs he had grown up with. I learned a lot of Al Jolson songs, and other various and sundry songs that a child of the depression would hear as he grew

I got my first personal record player of my very own when I was about 12 years old. I had to be that age, because it was after we had already moved over on 9th street…. which was in the fall of 1962 I believe. I remember having to get out in the yard and move the 12-inch-high brown grass in the cool of that Fall. It was probably my Christmas present that year. It was a two-tone brown boxy little outfit that the top part flipped open to reveal the inner workings. The best thing about it was that it had a 45-rpm converter which fit down over the top of the spindle. This meant I could play 45’s …. if I could get them. Luckily, I had an uncle whose job was filling up juke boxes with new records as they came out. Every time we went to my grandmother’s house, my uncle would have a big box of old 45’s that he had taken out of the juke boxes and replaced with more current songs. I brought home dozens of great records. There was one problem with those records though. All 45’s had an A and a B side, where the A side was the primary release song. It was the “popular” song on the record. Most of the time on those used records, the A side was about worn out, while the B side was rarely played. Therefore, I listened to a lot of “B” side music. One record I can recall more than others was Elvis Presley’s 1962 hit “She’s Not You” That song was totally worn out, but the B side was “Just Tell Her Jim said Hello” which I grew to love as probably my favorite Elvis song. (Well, besides “Hound Dog” which was also the B side to “Don’t be Cruel”)

There were a lot of records where the A side was still very playable. I got to where I loved Billy Joe Royal, Tommy Roe, whose A side songs didn’t get played as much, as well as the B side songs of the Rolling Stones. (Of which a couple I cannot even name here)

I did keep on playing the 33’s also. I began to love show tunes, mainly because Redford’s 5&10 would put them on sale after they’d been sitting around for a while, and where I couldn’t afford the “popular” records of those days, I would pay 50 cents for the soundtrack of “My Fair Lady” “The King and I” and many others of that time period. I can still sing them word for word too, and in many senses, I love that music more than some of the Pop tunes of that era. I kept that little record player until I moved off to college in 1968. It was a little monaural wonder. The first time I head a stereo record player, believe me when I say, I was amazed.

I reckon the influence that music had on me during those days made me be satisfied with living life on the “B” side. I mean, I might have enjoyed being a rich man…. I might have liked being popular and well known for being a singer and a songwriter, but then again, I may not have cared for the consequences of being famous. I probably wouldn’t have. I’m entirely satisfied and happy with the way my life has turned out. Every time I think about it, I ask Alexa to play “Just Tell her Jim said Hello” or even “Hound Dog” like I did today. I also asked her to play “Dream” by the Everly brothers in honor of Phil Everly. Man, I love that song.

Bridge Over Troubled Waters was a B side to “The Boxer” too I believe.

Is it really a blessing?

I have read a lot of New Year’s posts, and even before New Year’s where people are always using the phrase “I am blessed” or “feeling blessed” I wonder.

I think a lot of times we humans don’t give ourselves the credit that we are due in life. Our hard work, kindness, compassion, generosity, our dedication to these things, all of this creates the success (or if you are lacking these things, the failure) of our lives.

If you win the lottery…you are lucky! If you get into a great college, you have worked hard, studied hard and fought hard to get there. If you survive a terrible accident, or a major medical crisis….you have been aided by science and by the education of the medical professionals and staff.

I think we should reassess our use of the term “being blessed” If you consider it carefully, in most cases we as humans are responsible for our blessings. If you get a great job you applied for, is it because of your qualifications and record…or were you blessed? Were the people who applied for that job and didn’t get it cursed?

Do we too often recognize the accomplishments and hard work of other people by saying they are blessed? Is that belittling them as a person to think that they have been given whatever it is that they are getting as a gift from God?

I believe in God. I know not the true nature of God. I don’t think that when I wake up every morning it is because God has blessed me with another day. You may disagree, and if you do…then I will not argue the point with you. I believe that God has given us the ultimate blessing. The gift of life on this Earth. The gift of being able to interact with other people, to love them. The gift of being able to enjoy all the things we have been inserted into with this gift of life. Live life. Enjoy life. Revel in it. This is our one time trip through it and we should not sell our humanity and the gifts of our humaness short. We create our own blessings by our actions and thoughts. Let’s create many of them this year.