The Trouble with Homophones

Old Daddy Turner was not anyone’s father, at least as far as the people in town knew. Maybe he’d had children once upon a time, a hundred years ago, but no one had ever seen any children at his house. Thought, who knew how old Old Daddy Turner’s children would be? It’s possible some of the endless line of old visitors he had were his children, all in their 70s and 80s. But people called him Old Daddy out of respect.

Old Daddy Turner, it was said, could cure any ill by giving you a mixture of milk, tea, and whiskey, which he spoke some words over. Everyone joked about this, because who wouldn’t feel better, with enough whiskey?

It was how he got the milk that made some folks uncomfortable. Every morning, he would take a dishtowel and go out in the back yard, near his cow pasture. He’d shake that towel in the direction of the cow pasture, and then he’d go back in the house. He’d tie a knot in each corner of the towel, and when he wanted some milk, he’d just give a little tug on one of the knots. At least, that’s what people at church said.

“Well, I can do that,” said little Sarah Hanson.

“No you can’t,” Jennie Melvin scowled. “It’s magic and you’re not a witch.”

“Old Daddy Turner’s not a witch, either,” little Sarah Hanson said. “Boys can’t be witches. So, if he can do it, why can’t I?”

So, all the kids from the town, at least it seemed like that many, followed little Sarah Hanson out to Old Daddy Turner’s house. She carried with her, flapping like a flag in the wind as she pedaled on her bike, one of her mother’s dish towels.

When the children got to his property, they left their bikes by the side of the road and sneaked into his back yard. They hid behind his garage.

“Okay,” little Sarah Hanson said, her heart racing. Right when she felt like she might chicken out, she ran across the open lawn, past the clothesline, and up onto the porch. She stood there for a second, catching her breath, trying to calm herself.

And then she held out the towel in front of her, walked toward the cow pasture, and whispered the word she was pretty sure she’d heard Old Daddy Turner say. Then she tied her four corners and pulled on one.

Nothing happened.

She pulled on another and another and the last and nothing.

“Well, shit,” she said to herself, trying to make up for her disappointment in the magic not working with her pleasure in cussing. It didn’t work. She threw the towel down in disgust.

And then she heard a noise, just a little squeak, and she squatted down next to the towel, which was now squirming. She picked it up and found a tiny gray kitten. She screamed.

Old Daddy Turner came running from the kitchen, where it’s very likely he’d been watching this whole thing, to see what might happen. He stopped short at the sight of the cat.

“What’d you say?” he asked her. He didn’t sound mad, but his voice was serious. Little Sarah Hanson wanted to be any place other than in that back yard with that grouchy old man. But here she was, so what could she do but continue to be brave?

“Your word,” she said. “Malkin.” He wrinkled his great grey brows, and then snorted loudly.

“Melken. My word is ‘Melken.’”

“Oh,” she said, scooping up the gray kitten in her arms.

“You’ll have to try that word next,” Old Daddy Turner said, “Because your kitten will need some.” And then, as he turned to walk back toward the house, he said “Young Momma Hanson.”

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Bah, I Hate This Nonsense

I couldn’t disagree more with everything about this:

Country music historian Robert Oermann said Farr is by no means the first artist to sing a song that could be received as depicting domestic violence. But he believes it is touted less frequently in country music than in other genres, notably hip-hop.

“Country radio wants everything to be happy,” he said. “There’s a very strong strain in female country music of resisting oppression.”

Oermann explained that when relationships end violently in country music songs, it’s more often a battered woman standing up to her abusive husband or boyfriend. Examples are the Dixie Chicks’ controversial 2000 hit “Goodbye Earl” and Martina McBride’s “Independence Day,” which turned the singer into an advocate for battered women and children.

I wish Watts and Rau had asked him to name one contemporary hip-hop song that sold 900,000 copies that was about the joys of scaring the shit out of a woman. Hell, I’d like to see Oermann name five hip-hop songs about domestic violence, period.

It’s not worth fighting about the rest, which is just an exercise in ignoring a history of country radio you don’t like so as to highlight the parts you do like. But it’s ugly to use a discussion about country music to finger-wave at hip-hope like country can’t be criticized until rap gets its act together. Especially when we all know that the person being all “look at hip-hop!” is going solely on stereotypes about hip hop.

I Would See This Movie 12 Times in a Row

Hell and Hel

I think one big problem with Christianity’s emphasis on Hell is that they’ve set up a dichotomy where Hell actually has an incredibly good quality–like the old saying about family, Hell is a place where, when you go there, they have to take you in. Everyone who is lost, who falls off the path, who wanders away–all the kinds of folks you worry about and don’t know how to help or where you will meet up with them again–ends up there.

No one is lost forever. They are someplace.

Hell works as something to fear if you feel certain that you are or could be good enough to get out of going there. And it works if you want to believe that you’ll get to gloat in the suffering of your enemies.

But for people whose pain is great or for people who’ve always been outcasts, doesn’t Hell at least hold the promise of there being some place that cannot turn you away?

I heard a story about a nun who lives in a prison, so that she can be there for her flock, so to speak, whenever they need her. This is the other problem with Hell. If Heaven is as truly wonderful as they say and Hell as truly awful, what good people would be in Heaven? You see suffering you think you can alleviate, don’t you try?

I’ve also been thinking about Hel, who a lot of scholars don’t think was always a person. Like, first it was a place and then, later on she became an entity. This is often framed in a way as to discount her “real”ness.

And yet, scholars also think that, way back in the day, the sky god would drift across Europe and get paired with every local land goddess, which is why Tyr and Jupiter have similar qualities, but Hera and Frigg don’t. So, if Frigg can be the personification of land, why can’t Hel? I don’t get it.

Tonight’s story is kind of how I imagine Coble’s childhood would have gone, had she been a witch.