NAILS


NAILS

By Sharon Stevens

You’ll never guess what I was doing on Good Friday this year.

For starters, I dropped by Stevens Flowers to pick up a special gift to celebrate a family birthday, a wedding, and a new birth, all in the same family. Stepping out the door I noticed a feather on the sidewalk and knew I was on the right path. Next I stopped by Haley’s Printing, then to Johnston’s Hardware for nails, and then I continued on my journey on past the Palace Coffee House. Another stop was a purchase of the 100-year issue of the Canyon News. Before entering I read the Historical marker about the Warwick family, such a legacy for our town. Round and round I went traveling the entire courthouse square taking pictures of every business and each memory. My final stop was at the statue of the World War I Doughboy to pay my respects, and to read the names on the plaque for remembrance. This is the very least I can do.  Even with the shadowing trees gone that shaded the warrior from the sun, he still stands ever at the ready for whatever battle calls him to arms.

After returning to my place of origin, and before stepping back into my car, I stopped once again at Stevens Flowers and photographed the feather still resting in front of the store on the sidewalk, my heart coming full circle once again.

And the nails…at the beginning of my journey I walked in to Johnston’s Hardware and was greeted by Curt Johnston as always. Even though my husband had been by several times this was the first time I had been in the store since it was remodeled. This was beautiful! Bringing back the tin ceilings showcased all those items found at any local hardware store, but the silver reflecting from above brightened even the dreariest tool.

But my mission was all about the nails.

Curt asked me which kind I needed and what size or for what project. How could I explain to him that I had no clue?

As a writer I wanted the nails to represent so many memories to segue into a story. Since it was Good Friday of course this would connect to the Crucifixion of Christ, but this wasn’t my main focus. I had a thought in my mind that reminded me of a sweet memory shared with me about nails at the family Grove Hill Methodist Church in Leonard Texas. There was another story in my mind about an American Flag I found nailed to the wall in an abandoned house, the sole purpose of this beautiful symbol used only to hide illegal activity. On another vein I also wanted to honor my husband, patiently waiting on me at our own hometown business, the Buffalo Bookstore. He deserved a precious story about his life as a craftsman, and all the things he had built with his own hands over the years. And I could never forget Joseph as a carpenter, and his Son, Jesus, learning the trade of his Father.

There was no way I could give a description or reasoning OR explanation for this piece of hardware so Curt could direct me further. “For want of a nail…” Any piece of steel would do as long as the word, “nail” was listed on the box. I needed something so tangible and physical that it would inspire every sentence, every thought. I knew how Nandy Ekle felt with her Wordsmithsix blog, “The Grail” about her Stephen King cup. If I just had the perfect nail I knew I could create any masterpiece of my choosing. Pain or joy would be at my fingertips, straight through to my soul, exuding my thoughts from pen to paper.

Quickly I chose from the display loaded with every length and penny. Under Curt’s guiding but watchful eye I didn’t want to close my eyes and pick. He probably thought, no, he knew I was already looney, just kind enough not to say so. I chose quickly and took my purchase up to the front, and paid the price worth every cent. I asked after Curt’s family and told him to tell them hello. Precious people in a hometown business, you can’t get any better than this. When I left the store I continued around the circle back to my car and found the feather again.

How could I ever explain to anyone of the significance of the nail?

This coming Monday is Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah). In researching this blog I read so many quotes and memories. Some I found even related to nails. One was a negative connotation referring to being crooked, another was explaining the beauty of nails, (fingernails) with the lighting of the Sabbath candles. Still another describes the reasoning behind Jewish law only allowing natural materials like plain wood for a coffin so the body can return naturally to earth. Nails could be an item that would impede the process of decomposition.

But I think what hit the nail on the head was the note I came across with the founding of this holiday on April 12, 1951 that signified “Devastation and Heroism Day”.

Since Yom Hashaoh is a relatively new holiday there are no set rules or rituals. What kind of rituals could represent the Holocaust?

COMPATRIOTS


COMPATRIOTS

By Sharon Stevens

 

We had such fun at critique group last week. Everyone brought a strong story and shared. As usual we each had a take on what our characters were trying to say with what voice. I had found an article in the Amarillo Globe News by Chip Chandler about WTAMU’s “Anatomy of Gray”, the play at the Sybil B. Harrington Theatre.  Caleb Brink who played the healer, Galen Gray, had kept a diary in Gray’s voice to try to better understand his character.

I had everyone at critique to write a diary entry of their characters. We didn’t go into depth, but just used one liner’s to describe an entry as if they had written into their own journal with their characters voice. Boy did we get some zingers! Fun had by all, lifting the spirits from the serious side of deep characters from all across the spectrum.

I have my grandfather’s diary from World War I in France at the signing of the Armistice, and on February 23, 1919 he wrote that he was …

“Disturbed, Disappointed, Discouraged, Disheartened, & Disgusted. I don’t know how many more “dis” I could use but I feel like using all of them.”

Now what could have made such a young man be so discouraged? He was homesick and so many ships had already headed west. He had LaGrippe (Spanish Flu) and I’m sure he didn’t feel well. His commanding officer had bawled the company out and that may have got him down. Who knows what was bothering him on this particular day.

I think as writers that every once in awhile we need to write an entry into the diaries of our characters. We need to give them a “voice” so we can share in their thoughts and feelings. So many times we, especially me, just skim the surface, keeping everything hunky-dory with sunshine and rainbows. Our stories can become more real if we give them a moment to pause or tinge them with a little sorrow, or at least simply a heart.

Writing a diary is also a timeline of the day’s events and everything about the weather. To think about it, after I took my first creative writing class and was working on my novel I took a daily planner and jotted down the sights and smells and sensations that surrounded me each day. I can still go back and read those entries and it whisks me right back to that time period.

This Sunday represents the anniversary of the letter Colonel William B. Travis wrote to cry for help for his fellow Texans. This letter will be coming home to the Alamo for the first time since it left the mission in 1836. In all essence this correspondence is a diary entry. I wonder how many times Travis wrote the message in his head. Did he share it with Bowie, or Crockett, or any of the other men there with him? Did he really think anyone would come or was he resigned to his fate and those around him, and just wrote the words to keep up appearances, convinced that help was coming?

During World War II Dorothy Gill wrote in her book, “Memories of World War II” that her husband and his fellow National Guard Texas “T-Patchers” carried a copy of Travis’ letter in the Standard of the American Flag as they stormed the beach at Salerno Italy. I wonder how many diary entries were written before and after the battle where they shared stories of home and loved ones, or even just the weather. Who knows what they wrote in their heart and soul.

Tonight the weathermen predict snow, sleet and treacherous roads. We plan on having another critique group meeting tomorrow evening if the weather holds.

I wonder what we will write in the diaries of our characters as if they were facing the same events. I don’t think sunshine and rainbows quite fills the bill.

Commandancy of the Alamo

Bexar, Feb. 24th, 1836

To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World—

Fellow Citizens and Compatriots

I am besieged with a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours and have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison is to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our Flag still waves proudly over the wall. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, of everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid with all dispatch.

The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily and will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due his honor and that of his country…

VICTORY OR DEATH

William Barret Travis

Lt. Col. Comd’t

P.S. The Lord is on our side—when the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn—We have since found in deserted houses 80-90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of beeves.