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?

DISCOVER THE PROMISE


DISCOVER THE PROMISE

by Sharon Stevens

I don’t know what I feel each time I watch the viral video of Karen Klein being bullied on the school bus. There are no words. None! Of course there is disgust and there is anger, and there is dismay, and there is outrage, and there are tears, so many, many tears.

It was so hard to distance myself from the words of horror I had witnessed so I approached it from a different angle. I decided to Google Greece Town New York, the city where the incident occurred. It seemed like such a pleasant place filled with a cross section of humanity. Who knew the town with the motto of “discover the promise” would harbor families that raised such ugliness. Sort of like our own Tulia Texas who faced a tragedy of its own a few years ago.

Still there were no words.

I can only imagine the pain Karen went through listening as they taunted her. What gave her the grace to not lash out at the kids? How many times did she face this in the past? What words did she carry in her heart and soul that brought her peace with each mile she rode?

No one knows, no one can fathom…ever, forever!

And then there is Sandusky!

Everyone needs inspiration! We face unspeakable horrors, pain, and tragedies, but also tremendous joys and celebrations. No matter the media we still need to discover the words that keep us whole and sane and center our soul.

Those of us who love to write try to find words in everything that crosses our path. When I put pen to paper or fingers to computer I want to set down all thoughts and every feeling. It is important for me to make sure each and every person understands what I am trying to say whether they want to or not. I know I need to focus, and tighten. There is no question I have a problem, but I need this. I live for this. I cherish this. In all the terrible destruction in the world with writing I can find a solace in my soul.

And I think this is why attending writing conferences like Frontiers in Writing matter so much to me. As I sit in a room with others I soak up inspiration from not only the speaker, but each person in the room. The questions they ask and even the way they frame their queries gives me a glimmer of hope. At the very least I find a quote phrased in-between the ideas. I can study the characters around me at the same time. Names, plots, settings, emotions, all find their way into my psyche and my notes.

But you don’t always need to share just with written words. Take for example Delbert Trew’s column in the Amarillo Globe News about his family’s mercantile store. When I read the article I knew the words would be perfect for Biffle and Cross Mercantile for the opening of the new Pioneer Town at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. I made copies and carried them over and placed them in the store. On the way back to the Buffalo Bookstore I just had to stop under the shadow of the American and Texas Flag at the entrance to the museum and take pictures of the flowers planted there. Sunflowers are always special as they bring up memories of my daughter. Her words are that you always have to smile whenever you see sunflowers. There are no bad memories associated when you share the beauty of these bright, yellow treasures.

This weekend hosts many different events in our area. The Frontiers in Writing Conference will be held at Amarillo College and sponsored by Panhandle Professional Writers hosted with PPW president Matt Sherley, and chaired by Natalie Bright with guest speakers of Candace Havens, Jodi Thomas, John Erickson, Jeff Campbell, Hilary Sares, Craig and Nancy Keel, Chris Stewart, Mary Lou Cheatham, Joe Trent, and so many others. Jim Gleason at Barnes and Nobles also will give a presentation about publishing.

And the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum will be hosting the grand opening of Pioneer Town-a long awaited celebration. WTAMU will be sharing along with the English Department, The Legacy with selected readings and open mic at the Palace Coffee House on the courthouse square in Canyon Texas.  The musical drama TEXAS continues in Palo Duro Canyon, and Canyon is gearing up for July 4th.

How can anyone choose?

I urge everyone to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities in our community. We have so much facing us in the future and need to take these moments to heart. Don’t miss a single moment to celebrate the rich legacy and heritage that surrounds us. As a writer, Frontiers in Writing meets every need for those who love to write and share.

Just as in the case of Karen Klein, it will help us to find the write words.

Sharon Stevens

Hersheyburger


Hersheyburger

by Sharon Stevens

A few years ago we had a student and his family stop in buying college textbooks. We learned they were from Muleshoe Texas, and we asked if they knew my husband’s aunt, Bertie Purcell and the Dari Delite, her little business, a local eatery and high school hang out in that town.

HERSHEYBURGER! He shouted and then shared the story. Bertie would take a cinnamon roll, slice it in half, and then unwrap a Hershey bar and lay it in the middle. She would put it back together, slather the whole thing with butter, wrap the concoction in foil, and put it on the grill just long enough to heat and melt the chocolate bar. Served with a Twin Coney, French fries and a Coke this was a meal fit for… fit for…the masses.

The man who shared this story at our bookstore that day was in military service to our country and taking online courses. His wife was in school to become a teacher. His daughter was in law school and one of his sons was also in college. Here was a family man spending hundreds of thousands of dollars so everyone could attend college, paying bills to support his family, buying groceries to feed them, and he could still take just a moment to share one of the most wonderful memories of his life.

Aunt Bertie died this past week, and the church was packed at her funeral. She and her family were beloved by so many. All around me I heard murmurings of, “Twin Coneys”, and “Cherry Vanilla Newton”, and “Purple Cows”. When I asked what a “Newton” was the man said he had no clue, this was something Bertie concocted, but it was his favorite.

We had tourists come into our bookstore after having been horseback riding in Palo Duro Canyon all day. They were hot and tired and looking for someplace to cool off and they had promised the wives to do a little shopping. They had come from The Hide Out next door and wanted to know what else Canyon had to offer. I noticed they had spurs on and knew where to send them. First I directed them to our courthouse square and told them about the Rock and Roll Soda Shop, or the Palace Coffee House to find some refreshment. I then told them not to miss Stevens Flowers and Down Home next door (spurs), and shared about all the other shops downtown. They instantly hit on the soda shop because they had great memories of a hang out in their town where burgers, fries, a Cocoa Cola (Coke) and an ice cream cone was all they needed to survive.

They didn’t come back by to explain if they had found what they were looking for. There is no doubt in my heart as God and John Wayne are my witness, that they would connect somewhere along the line.  THEIRS would be the memories they would take back home to share.

So many times in our writings we get so wrapped up in telling our stories we forget the reader may find something totally random to connect with. We push, and push, and push some more to get our point across till we have lost sight of the heart of our stories. We want anyone and everyone to understand our point of view. How can they not when its as plain as day. We forget they may need something light when facing something so dark, or vice versa. Or they could be facing a puzzlement, seeking a solution, needing just the right clue from their past for the answer to click.

You cannot force a reader no matter how hard you try. Celebrate what each finds in your writings. It’s okay. Your story isn’t ruined if they don’t “get it” the way you wrote it. And on another token, follow the direction it may lead you.

After all I envisioned a whole different path when I started writing about the “Hersheyburger”. It wasn’t that I would be telling the story about diabetes or cholesterol. I knew “the masses” would get that. I just thought I would be connecting it with band-aids. Who knew?

Rest in memories, Bertie Purcell.

Sharon Stevens

Hersheyburger


Hersheyburger

by Sharon Stevens

A few years ago we had a student and his family stop in buying college textbooks. We learned they were from Muleshoe Texas, and we asked if they knew my husband’s aunt, Bertie Purcell and the Dari Delite, her little business, a local eatery and high school hang out in that town.

HERSHEYBURGER! He shouted and then shared the story. Bertie would take a cinnamon roll, slice it in half, and then unwrap a Hershey bar and lay it in the middle. She would put it back together, slather the whole thing with butter, wrap the concoction in foil, and put it on the grill just long enough to heat and melt the chocolate bar. Served with a Twin Coney, French fries and a Coke this was a meal fit for… fit for…the masses.

The man who shared this story at our bookstore that day was in military service to our country and taking online courses. His wife was in school to become a teacher. His daughter was in law school and one of his sons was also in college. Here was a family man spending hundreds of thousands of dollars so everyone could attend college, paying bills to support his family, buying groceries to feed them, and he could still take just a moment to share one of the most wonderful memories of his life.

Aunt Bertie died this past week, and the church was packed at her funeral. She and her family were beloved by so many. All around me I heard murmurings of, “Twin Coneys”, and “Cherry Vanilla Newton”, and “Purple Cows”. When I asked what a “Newton” was the man said he had no clue, this was something Bertie concocted, but it was his favorite.

We had tourists come into our bookstore after having been horseback riding in Palo Duro Canyon all day. They were hot and tired and looking for someplace to cool off and they had promised the wives to do a little shopping. They had come from The Hide Out next door and wanted to know what else Canyon had to offer. I noticed they had spurs on and knew where to send them. First I directed them to our courthouse square and told them about the Rock and Roll Soda Shop, or the Palace Coffee House to find some refreshment. I then told them not to miss Stevens Flowers and Down Home next door (spurs), and shared about all the other shops downtown. They instantly hit on the soda shop because they had great memories of a hang out in their town where burgers, fries, a Cocoa Cola (Coke) and an ice cream cone was all they needed to survive.

They didn’t come back by to explain if they had found what they were looking for. There is no doubt in my heart as God and John Wayne are my witness, that they would connect somewhere along the line.  THEIRS would be the memories they would take back home to share.

So many times in our writings we get so wrapped up in telling our stories we forget the reader may find something totally random to connect with. We push, and push, and push some more to get our point across till we have lost sight of the heart of our stories. We want anyone and everyone to understand our point of view. How can they not when its as plain as day. We forget they may need something light when facing something so dark, or vice versa. Or they could be facing a puzzlement, seeking a solution, needing just the right clue from their past for the answer to click.

You cannot force a reader no matter how hard you try. Celebrate what each finds in your writings. It’s okay. Your story isn’t ruined if they don’t “get it” the way you wrote it. And on another token, follow the direction it may lead you.

After all I envisioned a whole different path when I started writing about the “Hersheyburger”. It wasn’t that I would be telling the story about diabetes or cholesterol. I knew “the masses” would get that. I just thought I would be connecting it with band-aids. Who knew?

Rest in memories, Bertie Purcell.

Sharon Stevens

GRAFFITI


GRAFFITI

by Sharon Stevens

I tried to write graffiti today…No, not the kind tagged with gang signs that mar the landscape of public buildings or the bubble letters written on the side of rail cars. I am not even referring to the colors spray painted on the fins of Stanley Marsh’s cars at Cadillac Ranch.

What I attempted to scribble could never be seen, never be shared, never see the glow of my computer screen. I would never let it get that far.

Let me explain. When you think of graffiti you imagine a punk using illegal paint, defacing to their hearts content until they hear the sound of someone approaching. They immediately ditch the evidence and run as fast as their pants dragging legs will carry them. What they leave behind is bits and pieces of what they consider a masterpiece of their soul soon to be destroyed by people employed for just that purpose.

I tried to paint my masterpiece this week, tried to create with simple graphics my homey’s world. (It’s disturbing my computer spell check didn’t highlight homey.) No go. Every thought I attempted would bring the word police and I would run away with fear pounding in my heart. Or even worse, just when I thought my etchings were beautiful, and focused, and strong enough to remain, others would come along and whitewash every thought and every dream, deeming it ugly, stupid, and representative of a culture they wouldn’t tolerate in their fair city.

There were so many joys I wanted to write this week. WTAMU as part of their Distinguished Lecture series hosted former president Bill Clinton as well as Robert Ballard who found the Titanic, The Wounded Warriors would ride with George W. Bush in Palo Duro Canyon and the Palace Coffee House in Canyon would host Shawn Smucker and Jason Boyett on writing and blogging. The list goes on and on.

I even wanted to write about going to the funeral of kinfolk and hearing the memories of the “Hershey burger”, then afterwards visiting the Muleshoe Heritage Center, and being given a personal tour of the John N. Janes Home. To top it all off, at the end of the day I wanted to write about the visitors at the Buffalo Bookstore from England who shared their memories of home, as well as the kindness they had found in the panhandle of Texas. They were the ones who asked me what I thought about graffiti.

Each time I set down at the computer to write that perfect phrase, that glowing intro, I got distracted by another thought, another story, another reminder I couldn’t wait to share, and instantly I would run away and hide.

I think the worst of my fears was that I imagined who would be reading this blog. I wasn’t so afraid that they would critique my writing, as I was petrified they would deem it as a story that shouldn’t be told, thus destroying the essence of my memories and therefore my joys.

And this is my dilemma. Every story I write I feel is a message to future generations. I know that once it is written, and goes into cyberspace it can be retrieved forever. Would the writing police a hundred years from now judge my memories as silly and irrelevant? Would they determine when they read the words of my fellow Wordsmith Six bloggers that mine was the misfit graffiti defacing the beauty of THEIR efforts.

I guess what I am trying to say is that is that I want to write the words and paint the picture that will endure for eternity of all that is good and wonderful in our community. Even though there are others who feel I shouldn’t write such trivia. I envisioned that I was the one who believed, and could see how artistry was on every surface as well as every nook and cranny as far as the heart could see. Joseph A. Hill wrote on coming to the panhandle in, The Panhandle Plains Historical Society and its Museum, “Never before had I seen such cloudless skies, such blue Heavens, nor so many stars. Nor had I witnessed such displays of Heavenly beauty as when, ever and anon, the Master Artist dipped His brush in Nature’s richest colors and gave us a canvas of sun and cloud on the western horizon.”

Graffiti artists will never have a venue without the fear of exposure, and their artwork can never stand. They know it will be destroyed as soon as someone comes along and recognizes it as unacceptable in their minds. This is a given. And no doubt about it, there is nothing glamorous about punks who will deface property that doesn’t belong to them. This is a crime and should be dealt with swiftly and forcefully. The millions of dollars spent each year to wash away gang signs and profanity could be spent in thousands of different ways to help their fellow man.

There is absolutely NO EXCUSE!

But then again, they could go out and paint the cars at Stanley Marsh’s Cadillac Ranch or have a photo shoot like Vogue Magazine. Marsh welcomes that kind of exposure for the world to see and this is why he created his masterpiece in the first place. He would never wash it away!

So maybe this is what I need to do, imagine it is people like Marsh or O’Keefe or Joseph Hill OR the Master Artist that are giving me a canvas that encompasses every avenue in the universe. I can write or paint to my heart’s content and celebrate receiving “postcards from the inner muse.”

And as far as the couple from England asking me what I thought about graffiti…? In their small town she is a secretary at the tiny church and he is the caretaker of the graves. He told us that there are 1,500 inhabitants in the city and 26,000 buried in the churchyard. On the stonework of their church someone had carved a sailing ship as proof they were once there. He shared that it was the Vikings that had left the mark of their “gang” about 800 A.D., still visible to this day. I can only imagine who the “homeys” chose as their artist for this effort. And not only that, how fast did they have to run ahead of the villagers to make it to their ship to sail away to the next destination to find another means of expression.

Next week I promise to not run away after I paint the picture of the “Hershey Burger.” I hope and pray it won’t be graffiti that you want to wash away.

Sharon Stevens