An invitation to respond to this column appears most times in some fashion or other. I’ve heard from some of you from time-to-time about things that you think.
Some of you have expressed agreement and appreciation; a few others have expressed disagreement and some measure of aggravation with things I’ve said in this column.
I respect both opinions and would like to remind all readers that I’m still growing and my thoughts, I hope, improving because of your thoughtful and mostly gracious responses to what I’ve said in these columns.
One response that I would like to share comes from Milton Watts, who lives at Island View Landing on the Lake of the Pines out of Jefferson. Milton has responded several times to my column in the past.
He was a close friend of Dr. John Vaughn, another retired East Texas Baptist University professor. John, as Milton, was a poet and often expressed himself in different settings literarily.
Milton has shared a number of interesting and insightful things in his letters and poems about life.
I have his permission to share some of those insights into life in East Texas and the rural South. His poetry is based in real life and reflective of his times.
I would like to share just a part of one poem he shared with me. He wrote this in response to something that John Vaughn said and as apart of a conversation with one of his friends and fellow workers.
An Old Timer’s Time
These work worn old timers
throughout the rural south;
Had gleaned memory treasures from their personal
experiences and by word of mouth.
The tales they told me through
many the long winter night,
Their subjects being the trials and triumphs of
southern families, both black and white.
How their ancestors left old Virginia, Georgia, the
Carolinas, “Goin’ on crost tha mighty Mississippi.
After the war twixt the states, lotsa folks
took tha trip.”
“Figgurin’ the diggins would be
better futher west.
So, they turned to it, an done their best,
fur’s we know they stood the test.
Old women, in the shade, shelling black-eyed peas.
A black gum twig snuff stick, like an arrow, in their cheek.
A dip of head, spit,
“Yes, hit’s shore hot ‘n dry. Sun’s mighty wom. But,
yestiddy evenin’, I heers an ol rain crow—
So, hit’s boun’ to rain,
Their knotted joints, stooped shoulders,
and work crooked backs —
Attested to the tons they had dragged, through
sun drenched fields, in cotton sacks.
These old ones are gone now,
they’ve shed their yokes.
God’s heavenly treasures
reward these folks.
I remember them
from my youth.
They believed in God;
they told the truth.
They developed their philosophy
and their wit,
From decisions made and
Surviving, then, by an innate
That with the easier living now
has become, perhaps extinct.
There was more to Milton’s poem titled “An Old Timer’s Time” that was produced from conversations with Dr. Vaughn and his friend and fellow worker on the lake.
This seasoned and reasoned thinker and literary artist has much from which we can profit. His simple and sincere expression in this opening part of his poem based in real conversations and lively recollections is an example of one person’s practical and profound understanding of life in the rural South.
Milton Watts’ book is titled Poet o’ the Pines: The Accumulated Works of Milton Watts and has many good poems, stories and other narrative materials that will interest you.
He sent me a copy of his book in which he wrote, “My time in time, to you, in Rhyme and Reason, yours, Milton Watts.” He closed his personal word to me with these words in parenthesis “part owner of Texas.”
He insisted that he was sending the book to make sure that I could understand his thinking as one of my readers, saying, “thinking the background it will provide about me, as one of your readers, will make my philosophical thoughts easier for you to understand and easier for me to relate. As a would be writer, I like to know something of my readers. To know more about each other makes understanding easier for the writer and the reader, I’m inclined to think — do you?”
As I have written, Milton then went on to give me permission to use whatever I might desire from his letters or book, writing, “I’m pleased that you are considering using ‘an other word about my “poetry” in future columns. If you get to it, feel free to use what you think appropriate out of Poet o’ the Pines.”
Milton wrote of Dr. John Vaughn, saying, “I miss him. I called him my ‘egg head’ (his head) buddy in need of a “red-neck” (myself) to hold his head on his shoulders for him.”
Dr. Vaughn was a widely read and very important literary figure in Texas, especially in the leadership of the Texas Poetry Society of which he was one of the influential leaders, editors and writers.
The Watts often hosted Dr. Vaughn, a single, unmarried man, for holidays and dinners where the two writers/poets entertained one another and whoever else shared in the feasting and fellowship.
I would be happy to hear what you think of an old timer’s poetry and book. It is certainly good summer reading and should inspire all of us to think more and write more, live better and listen more.
It is my firm conviction that we need to learn from the past, understand those who have lived and learned from real life. This poem certainly should encourage us to think about these things and to benefit from what has been experienced, expressed and encouraged by all races and generations.
Let me hear from you on what you think about poetry, Dr. John Vaughn and Milton Watts’ poetic expression. What do you think? Share your thoughts with me at email@example.com. You may also reach me by “snail” mail at Dr. Jerry Hopkins, P.O. Box 1363, Marshall, Texas 75671.