Monday, February 29, 2016

Find Waldo

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a 19th Century essayist and poet who led the transcendental movement in America. Basically, he touted the belief that there was something beyond the ability of our five senses to be perceived. There is a Ralph way up there in the top of our state and, of course, Waldo and Emerson are down here in our general region.
Waldo played a role in my life. I was friends with Bailey Smith, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, way back when he was pastor of Waldo First Baptist. In fact, I was Vacation Bible School superintendent there when I was a senior at Southern State College. That is when I became acquainted with Mrs. Benson and her son Vic. She was a mover and shaker for the whole community and a pillar of the church. Her son was in his 50’s at the time and he attended every assembly of VBS. I thought most assuredly that he was a deacon whose purpose was to keep a check on the young college student superintendent.
Later, when Mrs. Benson invited my wife and me to lunch there in Waldo, I learned that Vic was a stay-at-home son who served the household as cook, gardener, handyman and whatever else was required. He was an interesting fellow, slight of build with a leonine mane and heavy eyebrows that twitched as he conversed.  He stood as waiter at the luncheon with a towel across his arm, seeing to tea glasses and any other needful items he discerned. I noted that he whispered something to my wife about her astrological sign and she responded that she did not put any stock in those things but she was a Leo. When he learned that my sign was Sagittarius, he said in a soft deep bass, “Well, y’all must get along quite well, then.”
During the meal, I disclosed that I had been awarded an NDEA Title IV Fellowship to study for a doctor of philosophy degree at Auburn University. “Wonderful,” Mrs. Benson replied, “I have a son out there and I shall write him and tell him about you.” I did not think any more about that because Vic accosted me on the way out saying, “Mr. Ford, my mother does not know I smoke, so could you secretly bring me a packet of Cherry Blend tobacco.” I took him the stash and was proud of the clandestine way I got it to him before church Sunday.
I write all this to report that in my first graduate seminar at Auburn, a professor with Einstein hair, a deep voice and twitching eyebrows kept calling on me. He would say things like, “Ford, you are a Bible scholar, what did Joseph Conrad mean by such and such.” I was very uncomfortable, wondering what had given him the impression that I was a Bible scholar. Then, about half way through the seminar, he told me privately that his mother knew me.

So, in a state with a Ralph, a Waldo and an Emerson, I am of the firm belief that there are some things beyond the ability of our five senses to discern.

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