Your word is your bond

I have been told there was a time when a person was judged upon the words which emanated from his mouth.
A person’s character could be seen in his deeds and by what he would say and sometimes what he would not say.
I have met many people in my life. Some, I would not trust them as far as I could throw them, while others — if they say it, it will be done.
When two people struck a bargain and shook hands there was nothing else to do.
Today, however, we are in a world filled will reams of contracts, agreements and endless disclaimers and visits to a lawyer.
My grandpa Bill was a man of his word. If he said he would help with something, no matter what hardship it placed upon him, he would do it.
In my association with music legend Bill Monroe, I learned quickly that his honor was paramount in his image.
There was never a bargain struck or a promise made between he and I that he did not make come to pass.
I remember visiting with him before his final illness. He walked up to me and with the strength of a 20-year-old he squeezed my hand. He looked at me dead in the eye and said, “I tell you man, there are not that many good men left any more. Men like us need to stick together and help each other out.”
More than his praise of my musical ability or all the things he had done for me in my life, those few words conveyed to me that he thought of me as a man of my word.
Working in the world of television and film, I quickly learned the lesson that many Hollywood movers and shakers tend to be the opposite. Most of these trendsetters simply tell you what you want to hear rather than the truth. This trend relates more to the stars and executives of the last two to three decades.
There are and were what I call “class acts” such as the late stars Gene Autry, John Wayne and Roy Rogers whose word was their bond. I wish there were more people like them today.
I cannot tell you how many times someone has promised me they would use me in a movie project, and then when the project came along that promise was forgotten.
I am afraid I have found the same to be true in the “real” world as well.
Sometimes it just makes you want to lose faith in the entire human race when a person tells you he will do one thing and he does another.
In my own life, I have never broke a promise or not followed through with an agreement. Being a man of your word also carries through to fulfilling the everyday tasks that we all do. Returning phone calls, fulfilling requests, replying to mail are just a few of the little things that some folks might miss.I know that I have probably misstepped by not doing a few things that I have said I would do in my life. For those touched by such an action, I ask for forgiveness.
But I also know when I have told someone I would do something, usually such an assurance has popped up in my memory over and over again until I finish the task. There have been times I have carried one of those little things around in my head for a couple of years until I could do something about it.
But no matter what, I always did it.
Despite trends to the contrary and those who we discover are not honorable by their deeds and words, I believe it is the responsibility of every individual to make every effort to rise above such people to make our community a place of honor. It is what we owe our forefathers who built this land, and what we owe those who fight and die for our continued freedom.

A privy and some plums

The gentle falling of snowflakes takes me back to the days when cold weather would bring a tough decision at the old family homestead.

Being cold in the winter was a common experience, since the only heat came from a fire in the main room. Grandma would always be the one up early to get the fire going before anyone else was out from under their warm down covers.
Sometimes in the middle of the night, the call of nature would come upon me. Unlike our house in town, where the bathroom was only about 15-feet down the hall, I was faced with a decision to make a 20-yard dash to the outhouse or simply utilize the chamber pot.
Most would use the chamber pot. But for some reason as a kid, even when the temperature dipped into the teens, I would push myself to put on my old black leather work boots and my brown quilted coat with the hood and make the trek up to the old white pine outhouse.
It wasn’t a very fancy building, much like those depicted in so many arts and crafts designs. The lumber from which it was made was hewn by hand and weathered by years of use. A simple wood latch kept critters from wandering in there with you. It wasn’t always successful, however.
I remember one time my little cousin, Wilbur, was making use of the facilities. Wilbur wasn’t very tall for his age. With his small frame I wonder how he managed not to fall in, I had trouble myself when I was young. After a few minutes in there, he ran out pulling up his britches, claiming there was a creature attacking him from underneath like the monster from the black lagoon. After investigation, we discovered that it was a two-legged dominicker from the hen house which apparently had decided to peck more than the ground.
In the summer, without air-conditioning, evenings were spent sitting on the front porch to catch a breeze to ease the heat which built in the house throughout the day. A trip to the old privy would find many types of crawly and flying critters, although they seldom bothered me except for an occasional sting. I seem to remember that happening one time. I then spent the rest of the day with a Bruton Snuff poultice attached to whatever part of my body the critter stung.
While I can reminisce fondly about trips to that quaint little building, as someone who was raised in the city, I must say that with the exception of the great solitude of the outhouse amidst God’s great outdoors, I did much prefer modern porcelain versions.
However, when the plums come in, I often wish I could take a trip back to the outhouse. About 20-feet beyond it was a red plum tree that often required my attention. I just loved making a trip out there to eat my fill.
Of course, my mother and grandma would warn me to stay out of the plums. “If you eat too many, you will get sick,” they would say, and they were right.
If I spent an hour up that plum tree, I would spend most of the next day about 20 feet away.
Thankfully, I never got a visit from the dominicker from beneath.

From Randall Franks’s “A Mountain Pearl: Appalachian Reminiscing and Recipes.”