On The Glory Road

The Glory Road is where I spend most of my time these days, immersed in the book manuscript. Interested parties ask, why aren’t you blogging about that?   Starting with this week’s post, I’ll share some of the process while putting together this multi-media project about the life of my family.

We traveled the Deep South in the 1950’s, carrying songs from then to now.  Today the music Mother and Daddy recorded, much of it written by Mother, Sister Fern Jones, is heard everywhere.  Brother Ray Jones (Daddy) added harmony and rhythm guitar.

I’ll add photos and music from time to time and if you want a reminder about each week’s post, you can sign up on this page where it says “Subscribe to blog via email.”

Here are a couple of paragraphs from The Glory Road book manuscript:

Daddy was the sheriff of Mayberry with a deep Southern drawl and a Bible in his hand. Tall and good looking and enormously likable, he was in possession of both the strength and the patience of a natural leader. Mother was a pretty and provocative teenaged honky-tonk queen turned into a preacher’s wife and gospel singer. 

We were gospel gypsies, short on money, heavy in equipment, stopping to perform at Singings, at churches, under revival tents and at radio stations. We spent much of the 1950’s in our old sedan, traveling the Deep South wherever his calling to preach and her calling to sing took us. The front seat made the decisions while the back seat waited to see where we’d be living for the next few weeks….

Here’s gospel-to-rockabilly in one song, “Keeps Me Busy”  from the album “Fern Jones, The Glory Road.”  Re-mastered by Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering in Boston and released by Numero Group out of Chicago.  The original was recorded in the 1950’s at the Bradley Brothers’ famous Quonset Hut in Nashville. Guitar licks from legendary Hank Garland. While recording this album, all the studio musicians were also working with Elvis over at RCA.

More about projects at http://www.thegloryroad.com/

 

 

 

Bacon has magic in it.

 

Bacon has magic in it.  The aroma.  The sizzle.  The taste.  The grease.  Bacon grease is a staple for Southern-born cooks.  We put it in cornbread and biscuits and a good gravy roux isn’t possible without it. Sometimes it’s butter and bacon grease creamed together, but only one of those is crucial.

Gramma kept a grease can like this near her stove.  It had a strainer inside because some people filter out the chunky bits.

 

 

Here’s my jar.  Layers of delicious bits are in here. I scoop them up and they go right into my cooking.  When the jar runs low, I render bacon just to refill it. Put bacon on to cook and every creature in the house gravitates to the source. Two times lately I’ve been cooking up a couple of pounds of bacon while repair people were here working. The refrigerator service person and the pilot light fixer both left with slices of bacon and paper towels.

I come from a family of gospel gypsies, led through life on the road in the Deep South by a preacher and a singer. Our big sedan was filled with musical instruments and Daddy’s cooking implements. A cast iron skillet went everywhere with us, providing suppers from hot plates in motor court kitchenettes. A jar of bacon grease made every trip.  Sometimes supper was only cream gravy, featuring fresh milk from a nearby dairy, poured over anything – rice, potatoes, or leftover biscuits, and in a pinch, over white bread we picked up at our last stop.

If we stayed at a tent revival site for a couple of weeks, we’d get fresh churned butter nearby, which of course, didn’t go on the road with us when we left, but the bacon grease jar, refreshed, emptied and cleaned, was the constant companion.

A sale on thick-cut bacon is still cause for celebration around here.  There’s always room in the freezer.

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Music this week is “Tea For Two” from our friend, Colin Tribe, in England.

 

 

 

Children at funerals

What is the advantage in taking young children to funerals?  In my humble opinion, their presence exposes them to indelible images that may later prove even harder to deal with.

I was raised in the Deep South during the 1950’s and our culture of dealing with death and the departed included the family’s insistence on an open casket if at all possible.  Coffin lids were closed only in cases of extreme disfigurement.  After the service at the home of family members or in the church social hall where casseroles were consumed, much was made over how the deceased appeared in death.  “Didn’t she look good?  And words meant to be a comfort – “They did such a good job with his hair, didn’t they?  Looked just like he did last week.”

Funerals were loud affairs with sobbing and moans mixed in among the amens and exhortations from the preacher.  Demonstrations of grief were many and varied.  Eulogists offered proclamations about the virtues of the departed while singers invariably waved handkerchiefs around – using them to mop sweat during humid summer events  or to dab tears away when the singer knew the departed, and sometimes a handkerchief was merely one more dramatic device. 

Good music at our funerals was a matter of pride and if a home congregation didn’t boast singers of the right caliber, a call went out to find someone who could offer the best interpretation of the songs the family chose.  A funeral was quite a show and I guess our people considered them a healthy way to get it all out, because folks would respond to a wail with, “That’s right!  Let it go, sister!”

Children attended these services.  I was a child myself when my preacher-father required me to sing at funerals.  Very soon (I started singing at funerals at the age of 9) I learned to avert my eyes because gazing on a coffin, even when I’d never met the departed, was disconcerting.

Some people today believe that taking children to funerals provides “closure” or at least a step toward that desired condition.  I believe nothing can provide closure to a fatherless or motherless child.  Of course many parent-less children grow up to thrive and even devote resources to championing help for other children without parents.

But all of this is to say that I wouldn’t voluntarily open up a discussion with a young child based on the theme, “He’s gone and he’s never coming back.”  Those discussions will come soon enough and will likely last a lifetime.

Ó Anita Garner

Paperwhites – Bloom Where You’re Planted

My southern-preacher daddy often advised his congregation from the pulpit to “Bloom where you’re planted.”  He meant it in terms of doing good works, no matter where life takes you.  Another meaning of the phrase was evident in all his sermons as he exhorted the church to quit complaining and get on with what you’re put here to do.  

As a masterful gardener, daddy had an aversion to forcing blooms.  When pressured by mother, he’d cut flowers for her and bring them inside, one bloom at a time, in a small vase.  But he refused to buy hothouse flowers because of what he considered their unnatural growing conditions.  His theory about blooming where you’re planted was at odds with an industry’s need to “force” plants.

The root (sorry) of his aversion to cutting flowers may have been the fact that his family were farmers by occupation.  Some of them were sharecroppers and at other times they grew vegetable gardens and sold produce for a living.  Daddy gardened with his own daddy in order to survive. There was never time or space for recreational plants.

When we moved from the deep south to southern California, a new world grew outside.  Birds of Paradise.  Avocados.  Camellias.  For the first time, he had a pleasure garden and he delighted in tending plants that nobody had to have.  

At first he was apologetic about the rows of irises he planted around his vegetable patch, but soon delicate pansies lined the driveway out front.  He was fearless.  He’d try anything.  He coaxed to giant size some plants that shouldn’t have been able to thrive in Glendale, and later Palm Springs, California. 

To the end, he resisted indoor plants.

Daddy had been gone for years by the time I began putting narcissus bulbs in a pot on the windowsill during the winter. This year my small granddaughter helped pat the soil around the bulbs and give them a good long drink.  Every day we watch the shoots grow taller. 

I can’t wait to see her face when the first lacy white bloom pokes out.  Who am I kidding?  I plant these for me, for no purpose other than the pure enjoyment of watching them send up green shoots and then those blooms with the intense fragrance. 

If this is a kind of sinful excess, it’s one I intend to commit every year that I’m lucky enough to enjoy the winter light.  If Daddy were here, if he’d had a chance to meet his great-granddaughter, I’m guessing he’d make an exception.  He might find a way to include our windowsill garden in his definition of blooming where you’re planted.

Ó Anita Garner 2008