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Throughout my life, I’ve lived in quite a few places. South Jersey was my home for the first eighteen years. In case you don’t know, everyone in New Jersey lives near an Exit, that Exit is off either the NJ Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway. Some folks way up north will quote an exit off I-80 which runs E to W from the George Washington Bridge to the Delaware Water Gap bridge at the Pennsylvania line.
So, after that bit of geography, the better part of my early years was spent close to exits #3 & #5 just off the NJ Tpk. And Exit # 4A off the Garden State Pkwy. Thanks to the United States Marine Corps, while stationed at the Earle Ammunition Depot in Colts Neck, NJ, I also lived a short distance off Exit #8 of NJ Tpk.
After graduation from high school, the Marine Corps moved me about to assignments in South Carolina, North Carolina, Washington, DC, New Jersey, Japan, and California.
I married my wife of 54 years while in the Marine Corps and upon discharge we resided in northern Maryland for a year before moving to Connecticut and ultimately a career with the Ct State Police, retiring in 1988.
Upon retirement, the little woman wanted to relocate to the northern Maine coast. As for me, I was looking to travel south to the Gulf Coast of Florida. We wound up compromising and found the Delmarva Peninsula and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
We were Yankees no longer, we now live below the Mason – Dixon line and are Southerners. There is a lot on conjecture as to the exact placement of those markers. Some folks locally say Mardella Springs has an original marker, others will tell you Delmar is the line of demarcation. In either case, we’re about 20 some miles south of that infamous line.
So, for the past 31 years, we’ve lived as Southerners. During that time, we’ve met some characters along the way. For this story, I’m calling the featured character Charlie.
Charlie lived in on a small wooded plot in a small trailer just off the main road that ran from Allen to Trinity, MD. This was not a terribly long stretch of road, only 3 1/2 miles to the old Trinity Church cemetery near our present home. Every Christmas and Easter someone comes by and places plastic flowers on two or three of the grave markers.
It’s been told that Charlie, back in the day, as they say down here, once was a store owner. Some kind of malady occurred in his life that caused him to give up the store and live a life of solitude., thus the trailer in the woods.
Charlie could often be found in the local country store sitting on an old wooden milk carton under a big fan. Charlie would be talking about the past with the store’s proprietor for the better part of a morning or afternoon, especially in the summer. You would always know when Charlie was there, his dog Brownie would be lying outside awaiting his return. Inside the store, lying about somewhere, was the resident Collie, Chief. He was the companion of the store owner and resident historian, who we shall call Butch.
When we first moved to Allen, since named Eden by the Federal Government and Postal people, there was no trash pickup or mail delivery. The post office was part of that general store and the Post Master or Mistress as in this case just happened to be Butch’s mother and he most often referred to as “Mother.” She went by a slew of names depending on who she was referring to her at the time. I always called her “Yes, Ma’am.”
Often while depositing trash at the “Transfer Station” one might run into Charlie. Growing up in New Jersey, we called them “Dumps” and would always make a “Dump Run” when making a deposit. I guess down here I just made a transfer, stuff to be used by someone else, I guess.
At times Charlie could be found conversing with the manager of the Dump, his name was Slim. Slim was there from opening to closing, watching over the three dumpsters, two for household trash, one for metal. There was no recycling back in those days, just household trash and NO construction materials were allowed. You were in big trouble should you transfer building Materials. Those had to go to the big Dump in Salisbury where you were weighed and had to pay a fee.
Often times, Charlie’s dog Brownie could be found in one of the dumpsters, looking for some munchies he was. You always had to examine before making a drop into the bin. There was a rare occasion when Charlie himself could be found in a dumpster. More than once this writer had to hold up the throw of a bag into the bin for fear of injuring a dog, stray cat or Charlie himself.
I would spend a lot of time chatting with Slim and Charlie from time to time. Slim was always up to date on what was biting on the hook in the local waters. With no Barber Shop in town, the Dump would often be a place to keep up with the local goings on, along with the Post Office and General Store of course. That old store made the best sandwiches I’ve ever tasted.
At one point in the past, old Charlie showed up at the Dump with a second dog. This dog was also brown. I asked Charlie what the dog’s name was, Charlie responded, “Brownie II.” How simple and appropriate I thought.
As time passed, Charlie appeared one day at the Dump, and the elder Brownie was not with him. I asked where the old dog was, and Charlie responded, “dead.” I wondered what happened? I asked Charlie and he replied, “Metalosis.” Not familiar with the term I asked, what is Metalosis? Charlie kinda chuckled and said, “The metal in the bumper of the car that struck him, what done it.
Life, South of the Mason Dixon Line, with the Rooster.
I grew up during those youthful years until, I’m guessing age fourteen, a Methodist. At one point I even sang in the choir, I still look back and chuckle at this.
My biological parents separated when I was two and divorced by the time I was about five. Both my parents lived in the same town and I was shared back and forth for a number of years prior to age eight or nine when my father moved from South Jersey (Exit 3 of the Turnpike area) to Connecticut. Everybody in Jersey lives off an exit of one highway or another. At one time I lived off Exit 4 of the Garden State Parkway. One of the best years of my youth was spent in Wildwood Crest, more stories for an other day. My mother and I would live for a number of years after the separation with my great grandparents in a second floor apartment.
Living next door was the man my mother would ultimately marry when I turned ten years old. That man lived with his mother and father and they were Methodist. Oh were they Methodist. Ultimately my newly wed mother would have two daughters and they were raised Methodist also. One sister sang and directed their choir for a time.
Every Sunday until age fourteen it would be, get on the church bus and go off to Sunday School. Sometimes, especially when I was in the choir, I would do church also and there was always a coffee and, after the service. No playing football on Sunday, no card playing ever and a whole bunch of rules I thought, “Really?” Did I mention no Alcohol or smoking either.
I can remember getting 35 cents for the collection when the dish was passed. I also remember getting off the bus on occasion in my teens, going in one door of the multi purpose room and out the other and playing hooky more than once. My mother has passed away so I’ll not be damned for telling that story. My self and a neighbor friend would go to a local corner store, buy a soda and candy and head to a local vacant lot where the Catholics were always playing a football game. They mostly went to church on Saturday evening. It was difficult explaining the grass stains at times. I’m sure I’ll atone for these transgressions at a later date.
I would rebel around age fourteen or fifteen, start going to a Lutheran church, my paternal side of the family’s house of worship and ultimately become a Catholic when I married my wife over fifty years ago. I went through that educational process while I was in the Marine Corps. I remain a Catholic to this day.
Today in our little village on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the Methodists prevail. Our Methodist Women’s group are always cooking up a storm, feeding this group or that, having Teas and just plain bringing comfort food to the people of the village. God bless those Methodists.
My wife and I recently took a trip to Connecticut to visit our son and his family and my step-sister and her husband. We spent 20 years as next door neighbors to my step-sister. We lived in a tight-knit community on a Cul De Sac and had a great batch of neighbors.
We got to see one of those neighbors while at my sisters. Her name is Judy, a life long Methodist and her husband Stan is a retired Methodist minister. I asked he if she had ever heard Garrison Keillor’s Public Radio piece on Methodist’s. She said no she hadn’t so I located it on the internet and read it to all in attendance.
I feel it is a classic and would like to share it with you now.
We make fun of Methodists for their blandness, their excessive calm, their fear of giving offense, their lack of speed, and also for their secret fondness for macaroni and cheese.
But nobody sings like them. If you were to ask an audience in New York City, a relatively Methodist-less place, to sing along on the chorus of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” they will look daggers at you as if you had asked them to strip to their underwear. But if you do this among Methodists, they’d smile and row that boat ashore and up on the beach! And down the road!
Many Methodists are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony, a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against that person’s rib cage.
It’s natural for Methodists to sing in harmony. We are too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When you’re singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of you, it’s an emotionally fulfilling moment. By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other.
I do believe this: People, these Methodists, who love to sing in four-part harmony are the sort of people you can call up when you’re in deep distress.
*If you’re dying, they will comfort you.
*If you are lonely, they’ll talk to you.
*And if you are hungry, they’ll give you tuna salad.
*Methodists believe in prayer, but would practically die if asked to pray out loud.
*Methodists like to sing, except when confronted with a new hymn or a hymn with more than four stanzas.
*Methodists believe their pastors will visit them in the hospital, even if they don’t notify them that they are there.
*Methodists usually follow the official liturgy and will feel it is their away of suffering for their sins.
*Methodists believe in miracles and even expect miracles, especially during their stewardship visitation programs or when passing the plate.
*Methodists think that the Bible forbids them from crossing the aisle while passing the peace.
*Methodists drink coffee as if it were the Third Sacrament.
*Methodists feel guilty for not staying to clean up after their own wedding reception in the Fellowship Hall.
*Methodists are willing to pay up to one dollar for a meal at the church.
*Methodists still serve Jell-O in the proper liturgical color of the season and think that peas in a tuna casserole adds too much color.
*Methodists believe that it is OK to poke fun at themselves and never take themselves too seriously.
+ You know you are a Methodist when: it’s 100 degrees, with 90% humidity, and you still have coffee after the service.
+ You hear something funny during the sermon and smile as loudly as you can.
+ Donuts are a line item in the church budget, just like coffee.
+ When you watch a Star Wars movie and they say, “May the Force be with you,” and you respond, “and also with you.”
+ And lastly, it takes ten minutes to say good-bye!
Lake Wobegon is a fictional town in the U.S. state of Minnesota, said to have been the boyhood home of Garrison Keillor, who reports the News from Lake Wobegon on the radio show A Prairie Home Companion. Its location is believed to be north of St. Cloud and is claimed to be the town of Holdingford.
Thanks for stopping by.