Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Sunday
Jun262011

The Mountain Whippoorwill

(Or, How Hill-Billy Jim Won the Great Fiddlers' Prize)

By Stephen Vincent Benet


Up in the mountains, it's lonesome all the time,

(Sof' win' slewin' thu' the sweet-potato vine.)

Up in the mountains, it's lonesome for a child,

(Whippoorwills a-callin' when the sap runs wild.)

Up in the mountains, mountains in the fog,

Everythin's as lazy as an old houn' dog.

Born in the mountains, never raised a pet,

Don't want nuthin' an' never got it yet.

Born in the mountains, lonesome-born,

Raised runnin' ragged thu' the cockleburrs and corn.

Never knew my pappy, mebbe never should.

Think he was a fiddle made of mountain laurel-wood.

Never had a mammy to teach me pretty-please.

Think she was a whippoorwill, a-skittin' thu' the trees.

Never had a brother ner a whole pair of pants,

But when I start to fiddle, why, yuh got to start to dance!

 

Listen to my fiddle -- Kingdom Come -- Kingdom Come!

Hear the frogs a-chunkin' "Jug o' rum, Jug o' rum!"

Hear that mountain whippoorwill be lonesome in the air,

An' I'll tell yuh how I travelled to the Essex County Fair.


Essex County has a mighty pretty fair,

All the smarty fiddlers from the South come there.

Elbows flyin' as they rosin up the bow

For the First Prize Contest in the Georgia Fiddlers' Show.

Old Dan Wheeling, with his whiskers in his ears,

King-pin fiddler for nearly twenty years.

Big Tom Sergeant, with his blue wall-eye,

An' Little Jimmy Weezer that can make a fiddle cry.

 

All sittin' roun', spittin' high an' struttin' proud,

(Listen, little whippoorwill, yuh better bug yore eyes!)

Tun-a-tun-a-tunin' while the jedges told the crowd

Them that got the mostest claps'd win the bestest prize.


Everybody waitin' for the first tweedle-dee,

When in comes a-stumblin' -- hill-billy me!

Bowed right pretty to the jedges an' the rest,

Took a silver dollar from a hole inside my vest,

Plunked it on the table an' said, "There's my callin' card!

An' anyone that licks me -- well, he's got to fiddle hard!"

Old Dan Wheeling, he was laughin' fit to holler,

Little Jimmy Weezer said, "There's one dead dollar!"

Big Tom Sergeant had a yaller-toothy grin,

But I tucked my little whippoorwill spang underneath my chin,

An' petted it an' tuned it till the jedges said, "Begin!"

 

Big Tom Sargent was the first in line;

He could fiddle all the bugs off a sweet-potato vine.

He could fiddle down a possum from a mile-high tree,

He could fiddle up a whale from the bottom of the sea.

Yuh could hear hands spankin' till they spanked each other raw,

When he finished variations on "Turkey in the Straw."

 

Little Jimmy Weezer was the next to play;

He could fiddle all night, he could fiddle all day.

He could fiddle chills, he could fiddle fever,

He could make a fiddle rustle like a lowland river.

He could make a fiddle croon like a lovin' woman.

An' they clapped like thunder when he'd finished strummin'.

 

Then came the ruck of the bob-tailed fiddlers,

The let's-go-easies, the fair-to-middlers.

They got their claps an' they lost their bicker,

An' they all settled back for some more corn-licker.

An' the crowd was tired of their no-count squealing,

When out in the center steps Old Dan Wheeling.

 

He fiddled high and he fiddled low,

(Listen, little whippoorwill, yuh got to spread yore wings!)

He fiddled and fiddled with a cherrywood bow,

(Old Dan Wheeling's got bee-honey in his strings).


He fiddled a wind by the lonesome moon,

He fiddled a most almighty tune.

He started fiddling like a ghost.

He ended fiddling like a host.

He fiddled north an' he fiddled south,

He fiddled the heart right out of yore mouth.

He fiddled here an' he fiddled there.

He fiddled salvation everywhere.

 

When he was finished, the crowd cut loose,

(Whippoorwill, they's rain on yore breast.)

An' I sat there wonderin' "What's the use?"

(Whippoorwill, fly home to yore nest.)


But I stood up pert an' I took my bow,

An' my fiddle went to my shoulder, so.

An' -- they wasn't no crowd to get me fazed --

But I was alone where I was raised.

Up in the mountains, so still it makes yuh skeered.

Where God lies sleepin' in his big white beard.

An' I heard the sound of the squirrel in the pine,

An' I heard the earth a-breathin' thu' the long night-time.

They've fiddled the rose, and they've fiddled the thorn,

But they haven't fiddled the mountain-corn.

They've fiddled sinful an' fiddled moral,

But they haven't fiddled the breshwood-laurel.

They've fiddled loud, and they've fiddled still,

But they haven't fiddled the whippoorwill.

 

I started off with a dump-diddle-dump,

(Oh, hell's broke loose in Georgia!)

Skunk-cabbage growin' by the bee-gum stump.

(Whippoorwill, yo're singin' now!)

My mother was a whippoorwill pert,

My father, he was lazy,

But I'm hell broke loose in a new store shirt

To fiddle all Georgia crazy.

Swing yore partners -- up an' down the middle!

Sashay now -- oh, listen to that fiddle!

Flapjacks flippin' on a red-hot griddle,

An' hell's broke loose,

Hell's broke loose,

Fire on the mountains -- snakes in the grass.

Satan's here a-bilin' -- oh, Lordy, let him pass!

Go down Moses, set my people free;

Pop goes the weasel thu' the old Red Sea!

Jonah sittin' on a hickory-bough,

Up jumps a whale -- an' where's yore prophet now?

Rabbit in the pea-patch, possum in the pot,

Try an' stop my fiddle, now my fiddle's gettin' hot!

Whippoorwill, singin' thu' the mountain hush,

Whippoorwill, shoutin' from the burnin' bush,

Whippoorwill, cryin' in the stable-door,

Sing tonight as yuh never sang before!

Hell's broke loose like a stompin' mountain-shoat,

Sing till yuh bust the gold in yore throat!

Hell's broke loose for forty miles aroun'

Bound to stop yore music if yuh don't sing it down.

Sing on the mountains, little whippoorwill,

Sing to the valleys, an' slap 'em with a hill,

For I'm struttin' high as an eagle's quill,

An' hell's broke loose,

Hell's broke loose,

Hell's broke loose in Georgia!

 

They wasn't a sound when I stopped bowin',

(Whippoorwill, yuh can sing no more.)

But, somewhere or other, the dawn was growin',

(Oh, mountain whippoorwill!)

An' I thought, "I've fiddled all night an' lost,

Yo're a good hill-billy, but yuh've been bossed."

So I went to congratulate old man Dan,

-- But he put his fiddle into my han' --

An' then the noise of the crowd began!

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As I commented elsewhere, reading light verse aloud is a great way to entertain (and slyly educate) children.  As a boy, my favorite was "The Wonderful One-Hoss Shay".  And my Dad used to recite "The Road-Song of the Bander-Log" as he carried me upstairs to bed.  At the age of seven, I found "The Mountain Whippoorwill" deliciously wicked with its refrain of "Hell's broke loose.  Hell's broke loose.  Hell's broke loose in Georgia."  The Mountain Whippoorwill also amazed me -- in this poem, the words make you hear the fiddles.  And one rainy afternoon I entertained two ten-year-old boys in Harlem's General Grant Housing Project by reading them T. S. Eliot's "McCavity -- The Mystery Cat."

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Purpose of this blog is to compile a book for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2011 by Jack Towe

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