Just P’or Folk

We are promised 3 score and 10 years as a good life time. As I get closer to my allotment, I look back and am amazed, I have made it this far. I think the fulfillment of the first part of that promise is because the Lord protects children; the rest because he looks after fools!

Growing up in rural Saluda County, SC in the late 1940 through early 1950’s was an interesting experience.  Town was 5 miles away; the only transportation we had was a battered old red truck Daddy used to get to work, or the mule and one horse wagon Grandpa Gis used for every other transportation need.

In those days I felt a clear distinction between the “rich town folk” and us “p’or folk”.

My early childhood memories are a chilling example of the conflicting emotions of snobbish contempt for those I believed to be, somehow,  “better than me” and a burning desire  have what “they had”.

Why did I feel this way?   My parents never taught me to diminish my value; but, come to think of it, I was never encouraged reach out, to believe that I could become a part of a world outside the restricting little community I was born into.

As a six to 10 year old child, I observed.

Rather than viewing community improvement as a signal for opportunity,  I viewed them as  a painful reminder;  I was not of  “their world”.  As a young child I remember the feeling  I was the beggar under the rich man’s table searching  for scraps.

A child often misunderstands intents of adults; a resentful child assigns negative motives to simple acts of kindness.

Until I was nine years old I attended Emory  Methodist Church.   The church was about 2 miles from  our home; I walked; my parents did not attend.  Sometimes, one of the Shealy’s would pick me up along the way. (THEY had a car).

At church  Mr. Frank Herlong, a widower neighbor, always sat in the pew with me.   When the collection plate was passed he would always press a few cents into my palm; I guess he wanted me to feel I had something to give.

Sadly, in my childish mind, these simple acts of kindness and caring,  emphasized the  differences in the worlds of the “haves and  have-nots”.

Looking back, it frightens me to realize where this could have led.

The world turned on its head during the decades of the 60’s  and 70’s;  unthinkable events took place; social systems crumbled; a world that was, literally ended.

My generation was forced to examine its convictions and act on them, for better or worse–there  was little choice.

There were many who allowed the poisonous ideas of a world  of  “have and have-nots” fester to a point of  eruption that threatened the existence of  both worlds.

I graduated high school in 1959,  my resentment and discontent was gone.   I knew who I was; what I stood for.

Early in the 1960’s I began using the name “Lane” instead of  “McKarion”.  I had considered a career in radio broadcasting  and was told my name,  McKarion Cockrell, was too long and difficult to pronounce.  The pseudonym  “Lane Cary” was created.  I borrowed from my legal name Ar(lan)der;  Cary alluded to my middle name, Mc(Kari)on.

When the dream of a radio career became a pleasant memory, I chose to continue to be identified as “Lane”; my Mom never forgave me for “denying who I was” and refused to  address me as anything other than, “Kay”, “Karion”, or her odd pronunciation, “MuKaren”.

Dad seemed to understand; all my adult life I was “Lane” to him.  One of the most precious gifts from him was  his telling me shortly before his death  he was proud to be known as “Lane’s Dad”.

I never had the courage to try to explain to Mom that in my mind “McKarion” was a scared, angry, resentful  kid; when I happened  on “Lane” I just let it stick; I would never have switched otherwise.

What brought the change in my thinking?   How was I able to smother the seeds of  bigotry that were taking root when I was so young?

I began to recognize two things when I was about 10 years old.

About this time I began to think very seriously about God.  I remember sitting in the cab of that old red truck studying, feeling a thrill that there is a personal God who cares.    I came to really believe that it does not matter who you are, what you have; He sees, smiles, guides.

It was then that I determined that I would do what I  understood to be God’s will no matter the consequences;  I began to see my limited  possessions, talents and opportunities as godly gifts.   I was only 10, but  I understood.

The Saluda School System  was in its infancy 60 years ago; but what a world those struggling teachers opened to those thirsting for knowledge.   The names  Bradley, Waters, Cromley,  Bullard, Carson, Forrest still shine as examples of ones who cared  in my  early years.

It is not so much the principles of life that I remember from them;  it is the love of knowledge, information–simply coming to know I can do it, that I treasure.

In high school the learning of life values was an osmotic process as I watched those guiding  me through the  educational process.   I learned method, but more importantly, I observed  in their lives morality, trustworthiness, commitment to principal.   They seemed to have something to give; they gave from their hearts.

In the dark ages of my youth (technically, this  is almost literally true) the value of higher education was not recognized as it is today.   High School graduation was the goal of the majority; a few would be privileged to go further.

In many cases finances limited opportunity; but I think there was  a feeling  that higher education was simply a way to avoid getting on with  “real life”.

Personally, I never  pursued a higher education, first for financial reasons; later becoming involved in life’s pursuits gave me an excuse for avoiding the commitment to a scholastic life, in short, I am lazy.

I am so glad that I did absorb the understanding that information is out there–I can find it.

It has been my privilege to  associate with many well educated, intelligent people who have been willing to tolerate my presence — I learn from them.

Materially I am still just “p’or folk” but I feel rich beyond compare; life has been good.


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