DONALD TRUMP RACIST? STILL NOT THE PROBLEM

I wrote this piece eight months ago, well before the events of yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia.  I did update the post and believe my words rang true eight months ago and ring true today.

Countless people are pointing a finger, no not that finger…ok, maybe that finger…. Starting over, countless people are pointing out the racism seemingly enabled by President Donald Trump. Over a thousand documented examples of hate crimes have occurred since his election. Some people seem to believe somehow, this one man is responsible for it all. I also heard a similar argument regarding our previous executive, President Obama. “We are more racist now than ever” resounded through my social media accounts. Remember the old quote, “When you point your finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you?” I’m sure you do.

I believe both arguments are misplaced. I don’t know when the concepts of racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry, or any other -ism or -phobia de jure came into being. They may well have been around since a Neanderthal looked at a Cro-Magnon and said, “Hey man you are different.” Yes, Neanderthals had a language and could have said such although I’m sure we would have needed a translator.

I believe our bigotry, anti-Semitism, etc., etc., etc., were just covered up in the same way that a person might add a layer of fresh kitty litter to a soiled cat box. Everything appears well, might even smell well…until your favorite feline steps in and begins to cover up its leavings. The more it tries to cover, the more the unsavory stuff gets uncovered. When Felix gives up, nobody is happy including the cat.

Our racism, bigotry, etc., etc., etc. simply got uncovered. It had been just under the surface waiting to be exposed to the light of day. No amount of legislation or executive action can actually bury it until those three fingers point in some other direction. We must want to change and some of us have tried. The problem is, when the litter box gets uncovered, even those of us who are not overtly racist, anti-Semitic, etc., etc. etc., suddenly feel the need to defend ourselves with statements like “Some of my best friends are (fill in the blank)” or “People just need to let go of (fill in the blank)”

Just because we have a few (fill in the blank) friends doesn’t mean we are not part of the problem, so just quit trying to deflect from the problem and quit pointing fingers at Donald Trump. He is just the enabler.  The Alt-Right was there all along, they have simply embraced President Trump.  The League of the South or people like them have been there all along and they too have embraced him. Fear bred hatred of people not like us, has been there all along, President Trump’s campaign message just allowed it to uncover the litter box.

Our country has been anti-whatever since before we were a country. Until we actually believe, deep in our hearts, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, all men (women and those unsure) are created equal” it really doesn’t matter who is in the White House. We should worry about the cleanliness of our own litter boxes (hearts) before we point out another needs cleaning.

Blog Picture from ABC News, http://abcnews.go.com/US/unite-rally-virginia-sparks-counterprotests-state-emergency/story?id=49176243

More of Don Miller’s misplaced rantings may be accessed at http://goo.gl/lomuQf

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A HEAVENLY HAPPY BIRTHDAY

I wrote this as a postscript to the short story “A Lesson in Physics” from the book WINNING WAS NEVER THE ONLY THING…. I wrote it when I found out Jeff Gully had left us to join former teammates Mike Douty, Heath Benedict and Tim Bright. Today is his birthday and once again I find myself missing the “crazy little @#$%” along with Mike, Heath, and Tim. I know I have shared this excerpt before and my guess is I will probably share it again. Happy Heavenly Birthday JEFF.

I found myself sitting in stunned silence when I learned that Jeff Gully had passed away. For the last few weeks, he has not been far from my thoughts no matter how much I tried to push him out of my mind. In true Jeff Gully fashion, he remains an itch that I can’t quite scratch. I have sat in front of my computer staring into space as I attempted to put my feelings into print. The ability to describe them seems to escape me. In true Gully form, Jeff has once again left me speechless.

I can see the young Jeff Gully so well and it is the Jeff Gully that I choose to see. He is in his baseball uniform playing catch as we warmed up for practice, laughing at his wise-cracking with whomever he is warming up with. Words like spontaneous, free-spirited, impulsive, and devil-may-care come to mind when I try to describe him to myself. I have these very clear mental pictures of him bursting into my classroom, just a little late, with a smile on his face that lit up the dreariest of days. His personality could generate enough energy to power the entire eastern seaboard. As irreverent as he could be on occasion, words like caring, big hearted, bigger than life, and compassionate also come to mind when I think about Jeff. There was no truer friend.

Teammate Carolus “Boo” Bennett posted a picture of himself and Jeff when they were teammates during their Northwood years. It was a great testament to their friendship which lasted through high school. My favorite mental picture is of the four seniors, Jeff, Boo, Brian Bridges and Jason Nasiatka walking arm and arm from the field at Georgetown. I so wish I could have bottled those feelings and sent them to Jeff to be used when he was feeling low.

I attended his memorial and as I suspected, it was an overflow crowd. As I get older I fully expect to be attending more and more of these affairs but not for young men that are half my age. Despite the minister’s assertion that all questions will be answered in time, I am troubled by many questions. If there is a positive to be garnered from his memorial, it is getting to see so many people that meant so much to me over the years. I just wish it had been better circumstances.

I had many conversations with Jeff that began by Jeff asking either “Coach Miller are you pissed at me?” or “Do you still hate me?” Fortunately, most of those conversations ended with “Coach Miller I am sorry!” Many of those conversations also ended in amusement if not total laughter. Jeff, I am sorry too. I was never really pissed at you for any length of time and I never hated you, ever. I wish that I had told you this over the years you have been away from me. The truth be known, I am probably a little envious. While your life was shorter than anyone would have wanted and had its share of demons, it was filled with joy too. It was filled with the joy that you created for your family and friends and the joy that they created for you. I also hope that in Heaven you have found comfort and peace as well as Douty, Bright and Benedict. I am sure you could not wait to yell at them “Hey y’all watch this!”

Like those particles in an electron cloud, Heisenberg tells us that you can’t know both the exact location and the exact velocity of a subatomic particle. Jeff, I am sure you will always be somewhere near, continually bursting into our thoughts at light speed.

Natty Old Tees

How many tee shirts are too many? I dare say I have collected enough to wear a different tee daily for a year without repeating once. Since I have retired, tee shirts and jeans seem to be the attire of choice, unless it’s summer and then it’s tees and shorts…except on Sunday. I do wear dress shirts to church…with dress jeans of course. My father is rolling in his grave.

While I no longer exercise in cotton tees, the new technical fabrics are lighter and wick perspiration better, I do love the feel of freshly laundered cotton against my skin. It reminds me of freshly laundered and blued linens, line dried in the fresh air and sunshine…memories having nothing to do with tee shirts.

I’m attempting to sort through my collection of tee shirts and make some decisions. Good ones to wear out on the town in one pile, not so good ones, frayed or forever soiled with chicken grease or pizza sauce, banished to the work tee shirt pile. Worn out tees exiled or repurposed to be used as cleaning rags or to tie up tomatoes on their stakes. I hesitate to throw them away because of the memories surrounding some of them.

Forty years ago, Champion made the best athletic tees, heavy and meant to last. I know this to be a fact. I still have a now yellowed one with the orange lettering, “I Believe.” Worn to death, it is much too fragile to wear now, it turned forty this past fall. A friend and mentor, now gone almost as long as the tee shirt is old, presented it to me and some fifty other coaches and players before the first game of a memorable season. No, I need to put it back right where I found it, tucked away with all its memories from one sparkling season.

Another specimen is a plain, royal blue with more holes than fabric and needs to be thrown away but I can’t. I wore it during a state championship campaign after giving up my number twenty-three jersey to a younger player so he could dress with the team. I keep hoping the tee has a little bit of good luck left in it. After losing a fight with my chainsaw three decades ago, I wear it whenever I am using rotating equipment in hopes it will keep me from losing a body part. So far it has.

A light blue tee with “North-South All-stars” screen printed on the front is displayed in a fading picture made during the after-game celebration. Tim Bright, Anthony Fairchild and Chris Bates are smiling with me and reminding me of better days, “Brighter” days. The actual tee has been worn little since the picture was made and will be stored away with its bitter-sweet memories.

Off-white by design rather than age, I have a heavy-weight tee with a New Zealand logo. I found it on my desk at the close of school one year, a parting gift from New Zealander and exchange student, “Hobby” Hobson. I never got the chance to thank him and wonder often what he might be up to in one of those “lands down under.” How, in the name of all things holy, did it get a hole in the back? No matter, it will stay in the “memorable” pile and be worn with pride, hole and all.

Soiled and stained there is the technical tee from the first 5K run after my heart attack, another from my first half marathon, and an unused one from the last half I didn’t get to run due to an injury. I couldn’t really repurpose those, could I? Maybe the one I didn’t get to run.

There are so many others. A blue Jocassee Bait Shop tee, a gift from a favorite player. The much too small white one covered in pink flamingoes. A gift from a teaching friend who shares my love for the odd looking, yet beautiful birds. My prized Buffett concert tee featuring colorful parrots drinking from margarita glasses along with mermaids swimming about. What to do, what to do? Nothing I guess…simply wear them and remember their meanings for as long as I can see and feel them.

Visit Don’s author’s page at https://goo.gl/pL9bp or pick up a copy or download his new book, Musings of a Mad Southerner, at https://goo.gl/zxZHWO.

“GODSPEED JOHN GLENN”

I remember sitting in a second or third grade class, I know it was prior to 1958. The reason I know will become evident in a moment. We came into class and noticed something unusual…a television set was sitting in the front of the classroom. Most unusual. It was an unusual day, Mrs. Crenshaw or Mrs. Wilson explained that we were going to watch the United States launch its first rocket. This was during the days when the United States and the world had been caught with its “pants down” after the Soviets had launched Sputnik, the first satellite into outer space. I remember the oohing and aahing. Fire shot out of the rocket as it left the launching pad only to explode and crash in flames. It would be 1958 before the US successfully launched the Explorer satellite on top of a Vanguard rocket. The space race had begun and we were way behind.

In later years, I watched, always on the edge of my seat, as the Mercury astronauts attempted to get us back into the race riding what looked like trashcans launched from the top of Redstone rockets. One of those astronauts was of course John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth in 1962. An American hero to be who many of his superiors thought was too old for the job at forty.

John Glenn was the picture of an American hero, despite his thinning blond hair. Before becoming an astronaut and later the oldest man to fly into outer space as a seventy-seven-year-old payload specialist on the Discovery Space Shuttle, he was a Marine fighter pilot during World War Two, flying fifty-nine combat missions. He would fly jets during the Korean Conflict with future Hall of Fame baseball player, Boston’s Ted Williams, as his wingman. Glenn would record three kills in Korea and many citations including six Distinguished Flying Crosses. Glenn would fly a total of one hundred and twenty-nine combat missions over two wars. As a test pilot, he would become the first man to traverse the United States at supersonic speeds, Los Alamos, New Mexico to New York in a hair over three hours. Sandwiched in between his Mercury and space shuttle days, he had a successful tenure as Senator John Glenn. A true Renaissance Man.

Glenn just looked heroic whether it was in his Marine dress blues or the blue suit of a Senator. More importantly, he acted it. His television persona was of a quiet man who did not seem comfortable with his fame. Soft spoken he had the demeanor of a man who knew he was heroic but who had nothing to prove to anyone other than himself. Honest and straightforward, we need more men like John Glenn. We need more heroes like John Glenn…especially in this day and age.

At some point space exploration became humdrum. I remember watching Neil Armstrong step onto the surface of the moon while I was standing at a crowded bar. It’s not that I thought it unimportant, I was at an age when girls were more important but at least I paused long enough to watch and cheer. After our quest for the moon was realized it seemed our interest waned with every successive trip to the moon. Even the Space Shuttle Program did nothing to renew our interest. It has waned so much we now must hitch rides to the International Space Station. I wonder what John Glenn thought about our hitching rides into space?

Age gets us all and John Glenn wasn’t going to get off our blue ball again alive. At least he got to see it in all its glory as we got to see him. “Godspeed John Glenn.”

For more of Don Miller’s musings, http://goo.gl/lomuQf will take you to his author’s page.

REMEMBERING PEARL HARBOR

I was a decade away from even being a glimmer in my parent’s eyes when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor occurred on December 7, 1941. I really have no true remembrances of the “Day Which Will Live in Infamy”. My remembrances come from listening to my father and his buddies talking, history books and movies.

My father, a single, twenty-six-year-old at the time, did what many patriotic young men did and with several friends headed to the Marine recruitment center to join up…only to find out he was 4F due to a birth defect he didn’t even know he had. Determined, he attempted to enlist in the Navy and Army but was turned down. Two years later, the now married twenty-eight-year old, would receive a postcard that began “Greetings, your friends and neighbors….” Drafting a married, twenty-eight-year old missing an entire row of ribs and vertebrae they attached to should tell you how dire the situation was in late 1943.

I remember sitting as a family in front of our black and white television on a Sunday evening, December 3, 1961. Walter Cronkite was the narrator of the CBS documentary program, The Twentieth Century. On this particular night, the Sunday prior to the fifteenth anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, we sat as a family watching and listening. The episode was “The Man Who Spied on Pearl Harbor” and Cronkite’s distinctive voice narrated the black and white action scenes, some made as the attack occurred, most staged for propaganda use during the war itself, as we remembered Pearl Harbor…and as I remember that night in 1961.

Over the years my thirst for knowledge about Pearl Harbor and my father’s war has caused me to read, watch or listen to most every available program, book, movie or interview about Pearl Harbor and World War Two. Thankfully I had access to the History Channel when it actually aired programs about history rather than programing about Alaskan truck drivers or pawn shops. I continue to remember Pearl Harbor, the men who lived it, died during the attack, the ships that were sunk, some later resurrected…and my father who was thousands of miles away at the time.

I have never outgrown my love for World War Two movies seen repeatedly over again, especially those taking place in the Pacific Theater, the theater my father said he didn’t fight in. “Which wave did you go in on Daddy?” “Son, I was so far away from the fighting the nurses went in before we did.” His admission did not deter my interest…or my pride. My favorite movies were movies involving Pearl Harbor on the periphery. Not quite the center stage like “Tora, Tora, Tora.” Instead it was movies like “From Here to Eternity” or movies starring John Wayne, the John Ford classic “They Were Expendable” and my absolute favorite, Otto Preminger’s “In Harm’s Way.” My favorite line in a movie filled with them was uttered by Henry Fonda, portraying Admiral Chester Nimitz, “On the most exalted throne in the world, we are seated on nothing but our own arse.” Good words to remember. I’ve already checked today’s programing. If I want to watch any of my favorites, I’ll have to download them from something other than my TV.

I hope we continue to “Remember Pearl Harbor” and the generation characterized by Tom Brokaw as the “Greatest Generation”. We need to remember the sacrifices they made in our last righteous war before the concepts of good versus evil became so blurred during the Cold War. I watched a news story night before last on a one hundred and four-year-old Ray Chavez, the oldest known survivor of Pearl Harbor. He has worked for three years with a strength trainer to insure he would be strong enough to fly to Pearl this year. Ray Chavez boarded his plane this past Saturday and I could not help but cry. For him, for the ones we’ve lost and a bit for a father who wasn’t even there.

For more of Don Miller’s unique views of life, humor and Southern stories of a bygone time, try http://goo.gl/lomuQf

RIVER WALK-IN HONOR OF OLIN GRIFFIN WHO PASSED EARLIER THIS WEEK

The un-named river road by my home, one of several river roads in the area which bore no sign, was a twisting affair that eventually ended up on the banks of the Catawba. To a four or five-year-old the road seemed longer than the Great Wall of China; however, in reality, the path was probably no more than three miles, if that. The Catawba was wide, wild and strewn with boulders. Hundreds of ducks crowded a feeder branch and would rest on the banks or float lazily on the water. My guess is today it would look pretty much the same…except maybe not as wild as I thought, rather slow moving. Back then the city of Rock Hill could be seen on the distant bank across the water. Now the city seems to have crept across the water, invading our side and displacing the ducks.

The river road began at my home and meandered through fields and pasture land, gradually rising, until it reached the hill where the old Collin’s house and barn sat. Then it would rapidly fall through a mixed forest down to the banks of the Catawba. There were many other dirt paths off the river road and my four-year-old self was concerned that we might become lost.

At some forgotten moment in the mid-50’s much of this land would become the possession of H. L. Bowers who began his working career as a carpenter’s helper for my Uncle Hugh Wilson. Later Mr. Bowers invented a process that would reclaim cotton from cotton waste. This process made him a millionaire several times over. He would purchase more than seven hundred acres of land from my grands and my uncles, Banks Griffin and Hugh Wilson, along with several other land owners. Despite his wealth, he was still a country man. I remember many times seeing him bouncing along his pastures in his always brand new Cadillac. With that abuse, those Caddies didn’t stay new very long which is why he purchased the latest model every year. I would guess you would need to purchase often if you treated your Coupe Deville like a GMC quarter ton.
The day was bright and glorious like all days when you are four. The river road still split my grandparent’s land and Mr. Bower’s overseer, Roddy McCorkle and his family, had not yet moved into the old Collin’s place that sat on the highest hill overlooking what would later become a twenty-five acre lake. PawPaw’s corn field and cotton patch were still on the south side of the road and the pasture, watermelon and tomato patches were up hill to the north. Many of my days were spent carrying water to those tomato and watermelons using a pail dipped in the small stream that “sometimes” ran through the property. Later in the fall, watermelons would be placed in the stream to cool and provide a sweet snack late in the day. Farther on down the road sitting off in the woods to the north was a sawmill that PawPaw and his brother Banks ran in the winter to supplement the household income.

I have no idea what possessed my Uncle Olin and Cousin Hall to take me along on a hike to the river. I was a little thing, no more than four. For all I know my grandmother may have paid them to take me just to get me out of her hair. Olin, my mother’s brother, was a tall lanky kid with bushy curly hair–tall as in six-foot-forever to a four-year-old. Hall was the son of Aunt Bess, my grandmother’s sister who lived just up the road from us and whose family ran the general store and cotton gin. Hall Junior was much shorter and sturdier-looking than Olin. Hall, known as Junior during this early life, sported a GI crew cut that he wore until he died. Olin would go off to Clemson College taking advantage of the school’s ROTC program in the hopes of becoming a Navy pilot. His dream would be thwarted by color blindness, consequently, he was forced to serve as an officer in the “blue water” Navy. Hall would join the Army and earn paratrooper wings so one of them got to fly…sort of, I guess. Somewhere in my mind is a snapshot of Olin in dress Navy whites along with a very attractive young nurse also in dress whites. They sure were young…and in love. That young nurse, Gayle Miller, in a fit of insanity, agreed to marry him and fifty years or so later they must still be in love as Gayle somehow has tolerated “Big O.”

They were no more than seniors in high school themselves; well, Olin might have been a freshman at Clemson at the time. Anyway, to me they seemed like Greek gods who had come down from Olympus to put me on their shoulders and carry me to the river, at least on the trip back. Mainly I would ride on Hall’s shoulders because Olin’s shoulders were way too far off of the ground for me to be comfortable. I am sure that I wore out poor Hall but no way was I going to climb Mt. Olin and ride him home. Even today I still get a nosebleed standing on a short ladder.

Hall and Olin were a happy pair, full of LOUD AND EAR-PIERCING laughter that accompanied every story they told and they told a lot of stories. I don’t remember much but do remember stories of catfishing, frog gigging and buzzards. No…no one ate a buzzard but someone, whose initials were Olin Griffin, got a nickname for illegally shooting some, I do declare. On a low bluff we paused to rest before making the trip back home. Both guys became a little more serious as they talked about Indian graves and battles that occurred between the Catawbas and the Cherokee. They told stories that included ghosts and long-dead Indian warriors, stories that might have been intended to scare a four-year-old. That bluff was quiet and a bit eerie. Years later when friends and I would go camping and would tell our own ghost stories, the bluff was still kind of creepy. But…I am sure there are no such things as ghosts.

When I was nine, my grandfather died. It was a gray, cool and misty day, both outdoors and inside of my head. I was sick and can remember my father joining me on the couch to tell me the bad news. My grandfather’s memory would haunt me for the next several months. In fact, that next fall, before school began, I slowly peddled my Schwinn Phantom toward the now named “Bower’s place”, past the cornfield of my grandfathers. It seemed to be a lonely field because it had been left unplanted. I felt a bit of despair and started to shed a tear or five until I looked up and saw a figure in the middle of the field waving at me! He looked a lot like my dead grandfather! For some strange reason, at that moment, my mood lightened. Then the figure dimmed and disappeared. Even though he seemed to just vanish into thin air…I am still not sure there are no such things as ghosts.

When I was older I would end up working those same river bottoms for my Uncle James and then later for Mr. Bowers. Whether I was baling hay or hoeing and pulling corn, there was never a time that I didn’t think about that “River Walk” with my uncle and cousin when I found myself on the banks of the Catawba. Sadly, Hall has passed on and left us now. I called Olin and Gayle last week. They are happy as clams and both much stronger than their age. Their kids and grandkids are close by in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I want take a trip to visit soon, to see them in person. Olin still has that loud and piercing laugh which I was so glad to hear again. As I listened to the familiar laugh which took me back in time, I realized that I need to remind Olin of the River Walk. Also, I feel an especially strong urge to tell him the story about his dad. I wonder if Olin believes in ghosts.

MRS. SARA PAYNE

I spent four years with the “legendary” Mrs. Sara Payne and despite thinking of her often, I never saw her once I left Greenville High School almost thirty years ago. I was so sorry to hear of her passing. In a book, “Winning Was Never the Only Thing…”, I wrote a story about a moment in my life when Mrs. Payne proved to me how uplifting one moment of kindness can be. I doubt she knew and am sorry I never took the opportunity to tell her. Here is an excerpt from that story.

“The one person unintimidated by Sam Wiley was Mrs. Sara Payne. It seemed that Mrs. Sara Payne had been at Greenville High forever plus one day. In 1981 she became the South Carolina State Teacher of the Year which helped to fuel my own intimidation of her. I was not in a small group. Even before she garnered her teacher of the year award it seemed her name was already legendary. To me, she was the most intimidating person at Greenville High, even more so than Sam. Maybe the most intimidating person I had ever met. Anytime her name was mentioned it seemed that hushed, reverent tones were used, and I fully expected to hear Gothic organ music playing in the background. A mentoring teacher once told me that the key to successful classroom discipline was never to smile until after Christmas. Mrs. Sara Payne must have had the same mentor and must have listened better than I did. She had the successful classroom discipline associated with Catholic priests during the Inquisition. Well, there was the Great Mouse Invasion.

Mrs. Sara Payne was terrified of mice. After a mouse was seen in her classroom, she exited, moved her classes to the library and refused to return until the little intruder was caught. Someone decided he had a plan that would, by disrupting class, create less time spent in Mrs. Sara Payne’s Senior English Class. This someone began to release lab mice into Mrs. Sara Payne’s classroom. It worked for a while until one was finally caught. It was white, and then another was caught and it was white with brown spots, and then another, well just say a bunch were caught, none of which were the traditional “mousy” color. Resembling pets more than vermin, public outcry put an end to this rodent holocaust. We never found who “someone” was but thankfully he or she caved to the public sympathy for lab rats.

Mrs. Sara Payne and Sam Wiley took to each other like…well they did not take to each other at all. If Mrs. Payne had used the traditional fine southern feminist curse “Bless Your Heart”, she would have used it a lot and Sam just used …well I don’t know because I tried to stay away from him but I am sure it involved the word ‘bitch.’ His “stirring of the pot” caused the tension and the pressure to increase, not only in my little athletic world but all around the school. I believe we all knew what it felt like to be a green bean in a pressure cooker. The pressure would finally get the best of the normally stoic Mrs. Sara Payne when Sam began to remove the ancient flora from Greenville High School.

In the quadrangle that Greenville Senior High was built around were roses. Many had been placed there in honor of alumni who had passed away. They were the first to go. Sam’s reasoning was that it took too much man power to maintain them. I agree that you could designate one custodian to care for the roses and it would have been a full time job, but could you not allow family members to care for them or at the very least come collect them? Could you not request volunteers to care for them? NO, you just had them pulled up and dumped in the trash. The alumni association along with Mrs. Sara Payne was livid but could do nothing about the roses because it was too late. In the spring of 1986, the American Holly “bushes” became a different story.

What is the difference between a holly bush and an American Holly Tree? I never really knew, but it was a question Sam should have asked before he decided to cut down all of the American Holly trees on the campus of Greenville Senior High. It began his slippery slide into…retirement. Holly bushes can be used as hedges, trimmed, shaped or destroyed. American Holly Trees can grow to be over thirty feet high and attain ages in excess of one hundred years old and cannot be cut down if they are on a historic site. Guess which ones were at Greenville Senior High? Greenville Senior High School was built in the 1930s and is a historic site. This meant these trees were over fifty years old and of as much historical significance as was the school. Sam decided that he would have them cut down to create less work for the custodial staff. Instead he stirred up an angry hornet’s nest, led by Mrs. Sara Payne. Mrs. Sara Payne had had enough and called in the alumni association and every tree hugger in Greenville County. Greenville Senior High School is now over eighty years old. So are the trees. They stayed. Sam did not last through the summer of 1986.

After a particularly grueling “dosey doe” with Sam over a miscue by a wrestling coach and another letter to be put in my folder, I trudged into the library to find my driver’s education students. I found them, along with Mrs. Sara Payne and her class. It must have been during the mouse holocaust. As I went to the second floor of the library, I paused at the top of the stairs reflecting on the invisible weight I had just carried to get up there. I felt a hand touch my elbow and turned to find Mrs. Sara Payne staring into my face with something I had never seen before: a smile. Blessedly before I said something unintelligible she said, “Keep the faith, it will be over soon and I am not talking about you.” All I could do was nod. I did not realize that Mrs. Sara Payne even knew I was alive. I began to think of her as simply Mrs. Payne.
Rest well Mrs. Payne.