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Posts Tagged ‘People’

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.

— Henry David Thoreau

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It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

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The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.

— John Ruskin

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I am as bad as the worst, but, thank God, I am as good as the best.

— Walt Whitman

Thoreau HD

Thoreau

Walt Whitman

Whitman

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I’m trying to puzzle out the story of my paternal great-great-grandfather based on a smattering of tantalizing facts. He seems to have led an eventful life in interesting times, and I’d like to know more about him.

The ancestor of whom I speak is John Hubbard Sherrod, M.D. He was born in 1830 in Emanuel County, Georgia, midway between Macon and Savannah.

His connection to the present-day Smiths: Dr. Sherrod’s daughter Martha married a Smith from the next county. Their son was my Savannah grandfather.

This is what I’ve learned about Dr. Sherrod so far…

Family notes say he probably was born in Norristown, Georgia, the son of Mrs. Elizabeth Sherrod, who was born in 1792, maiden name unknown. Nothing so far about his father or any siblings.

In 1851, at age 21, Dr. Sherrod married Elizabeth Moxley of nearby Jefferson County. By the time the Civil War started, John and Elizabeth had three daughters, Martha, Elizabeth, and Susan, born in 1854, 1857, and 1861, respectively.

When and where Sherrod earned a medical degree, I don’t know. Nor do I have information about earlier Sherrods and Moxleys. Considering his profession, I assume the families were fairly prosperous, but were they merchants? Farmers? Owners of vast cotton plantations? All unknown.

When the Civil War began, Sherrod served as a first lieutenant and Adjutant (second in command) of Company C, 38th Georgia Infantry, CSA. According to military records, the unit completed its training in April 1862, at which time Lt. Sherrod tendered his resignation. Whether he joined another unit or simply went home, I haven’t discovered yet.

I do know that he survived the war, and in 1867, he was appointed judge of Emanuel County civil court. He and Elizabeth also had two more children, John and Margaret, born in 1869 and 1871.

During the Reconstruction years, the history of the Sherrod family becomes fuzzier. Elizabeth died of unknown causes, and Dr. Sherrod remarried.

His second wife was Sudie Dunn, also from Emanuel County. The Dunns seem to have been as numerous thereabouts as Sherrods and Smiths.

John and Sudie Sherrod had at least three children: Charlie, Joe, and Jessie. Charlie was born in 1886, when Dr. Sherrod was 56.

Dr. Sherrod continued to practice medicine in Emanuel County, and/or made a living in some other way, for two more decades. Finding out how long he served as a judge is on my to-do list.

John Sherrod died in 1903 at age 73. After some Googling, I located his grave at a small Methodist church cemetery a few miles south of the Emanuel County line in Treutlen County. Last month, I drove down to pay my respects.

Neither wife, I discovered, is buried with him. I haven’t located the graves of either Elizabeth or Sudie, nor have I uncovered more information about them.

However, buried next to Dr. Sherrod are his daughter Elizabeth (by his first wife), his son Charlie (by his second wife), and various other Sherrods and Dunns whose connections are unknown. The head of the family surrounded by his flock, as it were.

Dr. Sherrod’s gravestone is six feet tall and fairly elaborate and imposing, as you might expect for a small-town prominent citizen. A separate granite marker with details about his CSA military service sits in front of the headstone.

I was surprised to find a small Confederate flag, a new one, flying next to his grave. It could have been placed by local Confederate history buffs, or it could have been placed by his descendants in the area. Odds are, quite a few of Dr. Sherrod’s relatives, and my own, live in those parts.

The best parts of Dr. Sherrod’s story, I suspect, are still out there — the War, his life afterward, his medical practice, his family. Maybe I’ll get lucky and ferret out more pieces of the puzzle.

Plenty of mysteries, clues, and threads of evidence are there, waiting to consume my spare time.

Sherrod-1

The grave of John Hubbard Sherrod (left) is surrounded by those of assorted Sherrods and other relatives at Midway UMC Cemetery in northern Treutlen County.

Sherrod-2

Dr. Sherrod’s monument prominently features the Masonic letter G with square and compass. The marble CSA marker at the base was placed sometime after his burial. The crisp, new Confederate flag was unexpected.

Sherrod-3

Martha Roseanna Sherrod Smith (1854-1939), my great-grandmother, was the oldest child of John Hubbard Sherrod. In 1875, she married John Wesley Smith (1845-1918), also a Confederate veteran. Their son was my paternal grandfather, Walter Anthony Smith (1881-1950). To the family, Martha was “Granny Smith.”

 

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Torque

I believe in maintenance. When you maintain things, small problems are less likely to grow into big problems.

For example, I get myself checked regularly by an assortment of medicos. Not just my GP, but the dermatologist, the ophthalmologist, and the periodontist. If something needs fixing, in me or on me, I want to know about it, pronto.

This philosophy also extends to my vehicles. I take them in for regular maintenance to keep them running smoothly and, knock on wood, head off serious issues later.

My mechanic is a life-long local, a soft-spoken family man of about 40. He’s a pro, very conscientious, well regarded hereabouts.

But sometimes, stuff happens.

One morning several years ago, I took my Subaru to his shop for an oil change. It’s a fairly large operation for this little town, with half a dozen mechanics working in the bays. While I waited, one of them would change the oil, inspect things, and rotate the tires.

After about 30 minutes, the deed was done. I exchanged pleasantries with the owner, paid the bill, and drove away.

100 yards from the shop, the car suddenly lurched and pulled to the left. I stopped immediately.

When I got out to investigate, I discovered that the left front wheel was askew on the wheel studs. Three of the lug nuts were loose, two were missing.

For whatever reason, the technician had failed to tighten that wheel. As I drove away — fortunately at low speed — the nuts had unthreaded themselves, and the wheel was on the verge of coming off. Yikes!

I walked back to the shop and gave them the news.

My friend the mild-mannered owner blew his top. He was as angry as I’ve ever seen him — close to breaking things

Finally, he calmed down, collected himself, and dispatched a truck and two employees to retrieve the Subaru.

Fortunately, no damage was done. They made things right and triple-checked the work. The owner offered a heartfelt apology and said I was ready to go again.

“You know,” I told him, “This surely was a freak thing. Your guy probably just got distracted. You can bet he won’t let it happen again. Don’t be too hard on him.”

“No, this is unacceptable,” he said. “He and I are gonna have a come-to-Jesus meeting, and then I’ll decide what to do.”

And there, for me, the episode ended.

Since then, no one at the shop has mentioned that particular unpleasantness. A few times, I was tempted to make a joke about it, but I always stopped myself. Too touchy a subject for levity.

But last month, while I was at the garage for an oil change on my current vehicle, I got curious and decided to ask.

As I was preparing to leave, I said to the owner, “Got a minute? I’d like to ask you something.” I turned and went outside, indicating that I wanted privacy, and he followed.

“Remember that time a few years ago, ” I said, “when I drove away, and the front wheel on my Subaru –”

“You bet I remember,” he said. “It was a nightmare. A low point for this business. ”

“Well, I never knew who did the work that day. You said you planned to read him the riot act. How did things work out?”

How things worked out was a bit surprising.

The come-to-Jesus meeting was brief, animated, and, no doubt, one-sided. But the mechanic had been a steady and reliable worker, and he kept his job.

More importantly, the shop put new procedures in place aimed at preventing similar screw-ups in the future.

First, the shop’s standard work order was changed to include new checkboxes about lug nuts and the proper torquing thereof.

Under the new rules, mechanics are required to look up the manufacturer’s torque specifications, tighten the lugs as recommended (it was 75 ft-lbs in the case of my Subaru), and record it on the work order. Individually for each wheel.

After that, a second mechanic is required to check the work and add his initials to vouch for it. Four wheels, four initials.

Yikes.

The moral: preventing human error is a tough and never-ending job.

It’s pretty much hopeless, but you have to try anyway.

Torque

 

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Blue Lies

You tell people a lie three times, they will believe anything. You tell people what they want to hear, play to their fantasies, and then you close the deal.

— Donald Trump in ‘The Art of the Deal’

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Donald J. Trump, the Orange Vulgarian, was in the national spotlight for decades before he became President.

Over the years, Trump has been on regular display, making his name as a celebrity, a personality, an entertainer. The public had ample time to see him in action and observe how he thinks and operates.

Those years of exposure clearly revealed the man’s many unpleasant traits of personality and character. He was, and still is, coarse, tasteless, narcissistic, amoral, vindictive, and, underneath it all, needy and insecure. I make that diagnosis with full confidence that I’m right.

Trump being Trump makes him totally unfit for any position of public trust. Yet, great numbers of seemingly ordinary Americans voted for him.

Here was one of the most shallow, petty and unqualified persons ever on the national scene, and a huge chunk of the electorate, oblivious to reality, put him in office. To my eternal credit, I wasn’t one of them.

I still struggle to grasp the underlying psychology here. I don’t fully grok the motivation of the trumpophiles. I’ve had no eureka moment that allows me to understand fully why people voted for Trump and continue to support him.

Was he so convincing that he told his lies three times, played to people’s fantasies, and they believed him? Of course not.

Can his win be explained by anger in blue-collar America, hyper-polarization in society, and the Fox New bubble? Yes, to a degree.

The cloud over everything, of course, is the matter of Russian interference and influence — the meddling by Putin, the creepy web of connections/collusion between Russia and Trump’s inner circle. This is unprecedented stuff, with consequences yet unknown.

But, that aside, focusing on what was in the minds of the Trump voters, I’ve found a new piece of the puzzle that, for me, is very illuminating. It has to do with the art and science of telling lies.

Lying, the experts say, begins at about age three. That’s when children discover that adults can’t read their minds, and it’s possible to tell lies — self-serving black lies — to avoid getting into trouble. He hit me first. I didn’t do it.

By age seven or eight, kids learn the concept of white lies — tactful lies told to avoid unpleasantness or hurt feelings. Yes, ma’am, the meatloaf was great. That’s a pretty dress.

People lie, tactically and strategically, all their lives. Psychologists classify the lies we tell in various ways, usually something like this:

Black lies — Told for selfish reasons.

White lies — Told for selfless reasons.

Gray lies — Told partly to benefit yourself, partly to benefit someone else.

Red lies — Angry lies, told for spite or revenge, even at the risk of harming yourself.

And now, add to that list the concept of blue lies — lies told to benefit the group to which the liar pledges allegiance.

Think about how humans operate socially. By nature, we divide ourselves into groups, for protection as well as to share resources. For the most part, we are loyal and generous to others in the group. To our fellows, we are magnanimous and compassionate.

But, while we tend to be pro-social toward members of the group, we tend to be antisocial toward non-members.

Non-members are outsiders. Potential enemies, potential threats. They are easily dehumanized. They can become targets of suspicion, hate, and violence, usually in that order.

In that context, telling a blue lie can be positive and morally justified. It is seen as lying in the interest of the collective good, while simultaneously taking a shot at a perceived enemy.

Blue lies are told wherever people divide into groups — in politics, government, business, everywhere. We applaud our spies, who tell blue lies to defend the homeland. We accept lying as an appropriate weapon against enemy nations.

It follows, then, that lying to our political enemies is also acceptable.

Thus, when Trump tells a lie, the faithful don’t consider it a case of Donald making an outrageous, demonstrably false statement. They see it as a strike against their enemies. Their man is scoring one for the team.

Rational people can wig out all they want when Trump tells another obvious whopper. But the fact that he lied is of no concern to his supporters. Nor is the actual truth of the matter.

Trump’s conservative admirers rally behind a litany of familiar issues. Freeloaders on public assistance. Immigrants as a criminal threat, stealing our jobs. Climate change is a hoax. Government regulations hobble free enterprise. Hillary ran a sex ring out of a pizza parlor.

How much of that they believe, if any of it, is immaterial. More to the point, those issues amount to blue lies being used as weapons against enemy tribes.

The concept of using lies as a social force and a weapon explains a great deal. It helps me better understand the mentality and motivations of the Trump voters.

It also makes me thank God that I have a brain, a heart, and an empathy gene.

Us vs. Them

 

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Living well is the best revenge.

–George Herbert

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No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.

— Abraham Lincoln

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The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.

— Denis Waitley

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Never ruin an apology with an excuse.

— Benjamin Franklin

Herbert G

Herbert

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Franklin

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More poetry that isn’t pretentious and a waste of time…

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Differences of Opinion

By Wendy Cope

Cope W

Wendy Cope (B. 1945)

1. HE TELLS HER

He tells her that the earth is flat —
He knows the facts and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong.
But he has learned to argue well.
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell.
She cannot win. He stands his ground.

The planet goes on being round.

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The Garden

By Ezra Pound

Pound E

Ezra Weston Loomis Pound (1885-1972)

En robe de parade — Samain*

Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall
She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens,
And she is dying piece-meal
Of a sort of emotional anemia.

And round about there is a rabble
Of the filthy, sturdy, unkillable infants of the very poor.
They shall inherit the earth.

In her is the end of breeding.
Her boredom is exquisite and excessive.
She would like some one to speak to her,
And is almost afraid that I
Will commit that indiscretion.

* A quote from French poet Albert Samain. Rough translation: dressing to show off.

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A Quoi Bon Dire**

By Charlotte Mew

Mew C

Charlotte Mary Mew (1869-1928)

Seventeen years ago you said
Something that sounded like Good-bye;
And everybody thinks that you are dead,
But I.
So I, as I grow stiff and cold
To this and that say Good-bye too;
And everybody sees that I am old
But you.
And one fine morning in a sunny lane
Some boy and girl will meet and kiss and swear
That nobody can love their way again
While over there
You will have smiled, I shall have tossed your hair.

** What good is there to say.

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Acquainted with the Night

By Robert Frost

Frost-4

Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963)

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

———-

A Summary of Lord Lyttleton’s ‘Advice to a Lady’

By Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Montagu M

Mary Pierrepont Montagu (1689-1762)

Be plain in Dress and sober in your Diet;
In short my Dearee, kiss me, and be quiet.

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

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— In 2011, pro golfer Kevin Na set a PGA record, but not in a good way. On the 9th hole at the Valero Texas Open, he shot a 16, the most strokes on a par-4 hole in PGA history. He took a full 20 minutes to do it.

— The plastic caps on the ends of your shoelaces are called aglets.

— Of the 32 football teams in the NFL, all have team mascots except the Jets, Giants, Raiders, Redskins, and Packers.

— During World War I, England’s Navy Minister Winston Churchill pushed for the creation of a “land boat” that could break through enemy lines and traverse difficult terrain. The result in 1915 was Little Willie, the world’s first military tank. Little Willie carried a crew of six, but its top speed was only two miles per hour. It overheated easily and couldn’t cross trenches.

In 1916, England unveiled an improved version, the Mark I (Big Willie), which also underwhelmed. However, by 1917, England had improved the design markedly, and 400 Mark IVs were rolled out. By the end of the war, the Mark IVs had captured 8,000 enemy troops and 100 artillery pieces.

mark-iv

— The Catholic religion espouses Seven Heavenly Virtues and Seven Deadly Sins. The virtues are faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, courage, and temperance. The sins are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. Hard to argue with that.

— Wisconsin calls itself “America’s Dairyland,” but California passed it decades ago as the country’s leading producer of dairy products. Wisconsin still makes more cheese, so that’s something.

— In December 1976, the British rock band Pink Floyd arranged for the construction of a 40-foot-long helium-filled balloon in the shape of a pig to use on the cover of its album Animals.

Inclement weather caused the balloon to break free of its moorings, and the pig drifted over Heathrow Airport, resulting in panic and cancelled flights. Eventually, an angry farmer reported that the balloon came down in Kent, frightening his cows.

— The average five-year-old asks about 400 questions per day.

Little girl with few paper euro banknotes

— In Hawaii, you are prohibited by law from carrying coins in your ear.

— Bohemia, a cultural region in central Europe, has been bounced around like a football for centuries. It began in the 800s as part of the Great Moravian Empire; split off as the Duchy of Bohemia; became part of the Holy Roman Empire; part of the Habsburg Monarchy; part of the Austrian Empire; part of Czechoslovakia; part of Nazi Germany; part of the Second Czechoslovak Republic; part of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia; and today, part of the Czech Republic. Stay tuned.

— Both Rogaine and Viagra were first developed as treatments for high blood pressure.

— While he was President, Ulysses Grant was ticketed several times for driving his horse-drawn carriage too fast around Washington. On one occasion, he was stopped for speeding down M Street and taken to court. He paid a $5 fine and was required to walk back to the White House.

grant-us

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