A tourist in Vienna is going through a graveyard and all of a sudden he hears some music. No one is around, so he starts searching for the source.
He finally locates the origin and finds it is coming from a grave with a headstone that reads: Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770- 1827. Then he realizes that the music is the Ninth Symphony and it is being played backward! Puzzled, he leaves the graveyard and persuades a friend to return with him. By the time they arrive back at the grave, the music has changed. This time it is the Seventh Symphony, but like the previous piece, it is being played backward. Curious, the men agree to consult a music scholar.
When they return with the expert, the Fifth Symphony is playing, again backward. The expert notices that the symphonies are being played in the reverse order in which they were composed, the 9th, then the 7th, then the 5th.
By the next day the word has spread and a throng has gathered around the grave. They are all listening to the Second Symphony being played backward. Just then the graveyard's caretaker ambles up to the group. Someone in the crowd asks him if he has an explanation for the music.
"Don't you get it?" the caretaker said. "He's decomposing!"
Visions of my daddy's hands linger in my mind.
His hands were wrought with hard work and daily struggles;
But were diverse in their ability and use.
They are sorely missed by many, but especially his first born, me.
As a child, his hands...
Caressed his mother's for a loving touch;
Crawled on the wooden floors of home;
Played in the dirt of the North Carolina mountains;
Closely held things that pleased him;
Pushed away things he didn't like;
Attempted to touch things that could hurt;
Wiped away tears that came from fear or pain;
Proudly carried a tin lunch pail to school;
Firmly held a pencil to practice his ABC's and arithmetic;
Wrote with chalk on a well-worn blackboard of slate;
Turned the pages of his textbooks;
Combed his red and curly hair;
Washed his fair and freckled face;
Buttoned up his shirt;
Snapped up his overalls;
Drew up his socks;
Laced, with pride, his newly half-soled shoes;
Pulled a warm quilt up to his chin in Winter;
Hid green bean shells under his plate;
Peeled and pared an apple with his pocket knife;
Delighted in playing in the cold water of a mountain stream;
Eagerly held biscuits laden with butter and honey;
Peeled the skin of his Christmas orange;
Happened to be the eldest male hands of his parents' children;
Were required, after 4th grade, to leave childhood behind;
Assumed tasks of a grown man.
As a man, his hands...
Used many a hammer and many more nails;
Learned, from his father, to measure a tree for it's board feet;
Tossed feed to the farm animals;
Cleaned the stalls of horses and cattle;
Opened and closed many a gate;
Controlled a plow behind a cantankerous mule;
Knew well a hoe, a shovel, a saw and an ax;
Signed up to join the U. S. Navy during WWII;
Held the hands of the one he would marry;
Placed, at age 21, a ring on the finger of his new bride;
Labored long and hard at whatever task was set before him;
Adeptly drove cars and trucks of many makes and models;
Bled, when working in the frigid winter air;
Played silly tricks on friends and family;
Gingerly removed eggs from the chicken's nest;
Found no job too menial or too difficult;
Made gestures when telling a tall tale;
Placed fence posts in smelly liquid tar;
Held the pitchfork that chased away an angry bull;
Carried groceries over a mile in deep snow;
Changed tires on cars and trucks;
Placed many a cashew in his mouth;
"Attempted" to play a fiddle when we were snowed in;
Smelled of sawdust and tobacco;
Pumped gasoline into the tractor;
Loosened his "bothersome" necktie;
Turned potatoes, frying in an iron skillet, over an open campfire;
Carried Christmas trees laden with snow into the basement to thaw;
Repaired many things that were broken;
Applied paint or paper to a needy wall;
Figured, on any paper available, ways to get ahead;
Paid for many tracts of land and homes;
Knew, by touch, whether a steak was medium or medium-well done;
Placed money in the bank for rainy days;
Emanated confidence with those that shook his hand.
As a father, his hands...
Proudly held his first born daughter, me;
Lifted me up to touch the ceiling in the kitchen;
Securely held me while bouncing me on his knee;
Held me gently, as I slept in his lap, as he plowed;
Controlling the Ford tractor all the while;
Spanked really hard when discipline was needed;
Picked me up and carried me everywhere he went;
Lovingly made a swing on the crossbar of the clothesline;
Thoughtfully spoiled me with candy, 5 cent Cokes and ice cream;
Pitched a baseball in the back yard;
Bought a bicycle, a sled, and then my first car;
Paid for tires when I was too proud to ask for help;
Slipped money in my pocket while whispering not to tell;
Eagerly became the hands of a loving grandfather;
Tenderly held his first granddaughter, then, his first grandson;
Never knew the touch of his second grandson,
Flipped open his wallet to show off the pictures of his grandchildren.
At the end of his days, Daddy's hands were...
Held in my hands, in a loving caress;
Frail and weak, mere phantoms of what they once were;
Conveying his great love for me, his first born child;
Needing my touch as much as I needed his;
Lingering with that last precious touch in life;
Waving good-bye for the very last time;
Praying to be reunited again in heaven above.
If you can hear me, "I love you Daddy." This is just for you from me.
by Wanda Harrell Stalnaker
September 23, 1997
In tribute to Billie Harrell, 25 Jan 1926 - 22 Sep 1977
STRANGERS IN THE BOX
Come, look with me inside this drawer,
In this box I've often seen,
At the pictures, black and white,
Faces proud, still, serene.
I wish I knew the people,
These strangers in the box,
Their names and all their memories
Are lost among my socks.
I wonder what their lives were like,
How did they spend their days?
What about their special times?
I'll never know their ways.
If only someone had taken time
To tell who, what, where, or when,
These faces of my heritage
Would come to life again.
Could this become the fate
Of the pictures we take today?
The faces and the memories
Someday to be passed away?
Make time to save your stories,
Seize the opportunity when it knocks,
Or someday you and yours could be
The strangers in the box.
YOU KNOW YOU'RE AN ADDICTED GENEALOGIST
...when you brake for libraries.
...if you get locked in a library overnight and you never even notice.
...when you hyperventilate at the sight of an old cemetery.
...if you'd rather browse in a cemetery than a shopping mall.
...when you think every home should have a microfilm reader.
...if you'd rather read census schedules than a good book.
...when you know every town clerk in your state by name.
...if town clerks lock the doors when they see you coming.
...when you're more interested in what happened in 1697 than 1997.
...if you store your clothes under the bed and your closet is carefully stacked with notebooks and journals.
...if you can pinpoint Harrietsham, Hawkhurst, and Kent on a map of England, but can't locate Topeka, Kansas.
...when all your correspondence begins, "Dear Cousin,"
...if you've traced every one of your ancestral lines back to Adam and Eve, have it all fully documented, and still don't want to quit.