An Overheard Conversation

9 September, 2008

(((Wife))) and I had some business to take care of this morning.  To the bank (transfer some dough to (((Boy)))’s account to pay for his back ground checks), the bakery (gluten free cinnamon rolls, cookies, and almond biscotti) and the grocery store.  One of the many nice things about living in a city is choices.  We have three different grocery stores which we frequent;  each one has a different specialty.  Today, we stopped at Sunshine.

Sunshine is an independent and is absolutely huge.  It gives them plenty of shelf space to carry odd items (such as Campbell’s Pepper Pot and Scotch Broth soups).  The store also carries the best ham shanks I’ve ever had.  These aren’t the itty-bitty little hamhocks with a thick skin and a morsel of meat.  The hame shanks at this store are about a pound-and-a-half of meat with two relatively small bones.  Anyway, decided to get the ham shanks because it has gotten cold (a front came through and tonight’s low will be in the mid-40s) so a good bean soup will be delicious.

One minor problem at Sunshine is that, no matter how many people work the deli counter, it’s never enough.  I had ticket 946.  The wall display showed 36.  I knew I had a good wait, so (((Wife))) went off to find cheese (for the manioc rolls to go with the soup), celery, and iced tea jugs.

While waiting, I couldn’t help but notice a family waiting for their turn.  Mom, Dad, and four kids.  I’ve been trying to find a way to describe them without insulting West Virginia (I did live in West Virginia for a while) or Oklahoma, but I can’t.  Their clothing had that overwashed look — not dirty, but faded into a gray sameness which bespoke poverty.  All (except the dad) had gold crosses hanging from their neck by a piece of rough twine.  I have to assume the kids are home schooled as today is Tuesday and it was 10:30am. 

I heard a shout (well, not really a shout, but it rose above the normal background rumble).  Dad turned and swatted a magazine out of the hand of the oldest girl (she looked about 10 to 12).  He then told her, “Pick it up.”  She did.  “Give it to me.”  She did.  “Why are you reading this?”

“Sir.  I was bored, sir,” the girl answered.  (Throughout the conversation, I kept flashing back to basic training.)

“Are you supposed to be reading this?” he asked.

“No, sir.” 

“Are you allowed to read this?”

“No, sir.”

“Is this the good book?”

“No, sir.”

“This will be discussed at home.”

“Yes, sir.”

Their number came up.  Mom bought a pound of American Cheese, two pounds of bologna, and a pound of scrapple.

I sidled over to the bench and glanced at the magazine:  Time.  From three months ago.

I have to wonder.  What books are appropriate in that home?  My guess would be the Bible.  Apparently, this is not all that uncommon.  I also have to wonder (and I am assuming that these kids are being home schooled) whether the education they are recieving will equip them to become productive members of society?  My guess would be no.

I realize I am reading quite a bit into one short conversation.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe the kids are getting a good, well-rounded education based on critical thinking and analysis.  Maybe the Bible is NOT the only book in the house.  Maybe the kids will step out of poverty and into middle-class America.  And maybe giant winged porcupines will fly backwards out of my ass. 

Hey. It could happen, right?



  1. I want to know why the store was selling three-month old copies of Time Magazine. If not, where did the kid get it? Was Mom trying to catch up on the news from June?

  2. Ex: They were not selling three month old copies of Time. There happened to be a couple of old magazines on the bench in the deli area. Sort of like a dentist’s office. Except they sell scrapple, tripe, sousse, blood sausage, pudding, and sweetbreads. And don’t deal with cavities.

  3. Your assumptions are probably spot on, and the child will probably discplined with christian discpline. Some homeschooling scares me.

  4. How much fear must someone have in their life, and how shaky must their faith be, that they’re scared of the effect TIME might have on the morals of their precious, indoctrinated little poppet? If their religious outlook is so poorly founded that a magazine inculcates such terror, I reckon the young lady in question should have little trouble breaking from her programming in later life.

  5. Maybe the kids are getting a good, well-rounded education based on critical thinking and analysis…And maybe giant winged porcupines will fly backwards out of my ass.
    Thanks for ending the paragraph that way. After reading the first sentence I was sputtering what Yunshui has already pointed out–that people so afraid of TIME must have a pretty shaky religious outlook.
    My first thought was, if these kids are getting a good, well-rounded education, they should be encouraged to read everything, but read it critically.

  6. I’m actually most upset by the fact that the wait is so long at the deli counter that they provide magazines to read.

    Church sign I read today:
    “Many books can inform you, but only one transforms you”

    Apparently transform you into not needing to be informed anymore. Ignorance is bliss sir, yes sir.

  7. Poodles: I think the biggest drawback of homeschooling is that if Mom and Dad don’t understand it, chances are pretty good the kids won’t either.

    Yunshui: Fear of knowledge is fairly common among Christians. I think it has to do with the idea that, in order to be saved, one must believe exactly the right thing about exactly the right things. Learning new things may upset this delicate piece of self-deception.

    Christopher: I am of the same mind. That is why, though I have been involved in my kid’s education, I have never censored books. If it was beyond their current intellectual capacity, it would bore them enough that they went on to something else.

    Philly: The fact that they were buying bologna, American cheese and scrapple is okay? No matter what time of day I am at that store, the wait is always around 10 minutes. And the only thing I ever get at the deli is the ham shanks.

    Great church sign. Well, not great as in good, but great as in revealing. Is that the good book? Nossir. Should you be reading it? Nossir. Ignorance is bliss?

  8. “And maybe giant winged porcupines will fly backwards out of my ass.”

    I hope you’ll let us know when it happens. I’d rather read it here than in the Times-Leader.

  9. Chaplain, as per your last, we’ll all probably hear an ear splitting high pitched yowl, windows will break, dogs and other otally enhanced fauna will lay shreiking in the street, people will rush about demanding, “What the crud was THAT”??!!

    But, we few, we happy few, will know.

    (((Billy))) needs to eat lots of mashed potatoes to lessen the impact and buffer the spiney-thingees.
    It’s hell if they get caught on a ‘roid.

    Gotta tell you, (((Billy))), my second tour in “Nam I actually CRAVED some fried scrapple. Went on about two weeks, then went away. Must be a military thing, when my sons come home on leave that’s the first thing they want. A plate of scrapple, next day ham pot pie and shoo fly pie. Then they’re back to normal…well, as normal as they usually get.

    I play in the library once a month and they are continually having to put up with “blasphemous books” being defaced or being on the receiving end of an angry tirade. I was actually present when a person fulminated about the porn. the library purveyed. No, he didn’t like erotica or books that showed “filthy pictures” but even worse than that was “Leaving the Fold”. He charactorised it as “mental and spiritual pornography”.

  10. Shouldn’t the bologna and American cheese be pre-sliced and in the case? That’s deli 101, son. Hell. Now the prosciutto, capicola, Genoa, sopressata, and the cotechino, yeah, that can’t be pre sliced (especially since it’s so hard to find people who can slice the prosciutto right so you gotta keep an eye on ’em).

    Those bologna loving numbnuts should at least try mortodella.

    Damn, now I’m hungry for a hoagie

  11. Chappie: Luckily, its even less likely than that girl becoming a free-thinker.

    Sarge: “Otally?” Damn, you’ve got an enhanced vocabulary. In basic, I once heard a DI go off on a kid for about 10 minutes. He questioned his abilities as a soldier, as a recruit, as an American, as a human being, as a mammal, his parents, grandparents, and other relatives, and even his pets. He never repeated any of the insults, nor did he repeat any adjectives. As he wound down, he turned to me and asked, “What are you doing, private?” My answer? “Admiring your abilities with the English language, Sergeant.” “Drop and give me fifty, private.” “Yes, Sergeant. One, Sergeant. Two Sergeant. . . .”

    I grew up on fried scrapple. Not the Pennsylvania Dutch version which comes out the consitency of pudding, but the real Southern Maryland version: dredge it in corn meal and fry it up in butter until the outside is crispy and the inside is mushy. Delicious.

    The comment about the food was to try to get a rise out of Philly Chief.

  12. Okay, showing my nature as the token Brit here… what the blazes is this “scrapple” you guys keep harping on about? Obviously it’s something good, and I feel like I’m missing out!

  13. I shall try the first answer.

    This is an eastern American commestable which has many incarnations. There are many recipes, I’ve seen it mainly in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, though it sometimes appears other places. It is regional, I’m told.

    It’s mainly corn meal, some spices or herbs, pre-cooked pork items, and from there it’s a regional thing. In Virginia, my boss and people I knew would take and mix it with water, boil it, and press it into blocks which are sliceable. There’s a local maker here in central PA who does it the same way. Most people fry it, some people put syrup on it to eat it. That’s around central Pennsylvania, other places it’s different.

    It started out as poor folks food, probably, I’d guess originally German or Scoth/Irish.

    Sort of like ash cake… 😉

  14. Sorry, you cut slicers off the block if you get that style. I remember a Tennesee boy who called it “Po’ folks sausage”.

    (((Billy))), my wife, who is a member of Mensa, tells me that I’m a “sesquepedalian”. That’s a guy who usues words like “sesquepedalian”.

    The young people I deal with are also in awe of a couple of us who speak in such a way. But then, they tend to speak like they text message, and don’t read. Nothing like the military to stimulate your love of reading if you’ve got more than a brain stem!

  15. Yunshui: In high school, I used to help with hog butchering at the Kretzer and Poffenberger farms. After the hog was butchered, all of the unusable parts (which ain’t much) go into a large kettle. Water is added and then the whole mess is simmered for about four hours. Strain it through a rough mesh, throw away the junk that’s caught, and then mix corn meal and spices with the liquid until it achieves a pudding-like consistency. Just like sausage, you are better off not knowing.

    Sarge: Both of my kids have been brought up in a sespuepedalitic environment. Their friends spend a lot of time saying, “huh?”

  16. Sarge: Don’t knock us young’uns. Some of us are completely capable with the English language. I do, in fact, speak the way I text, because I text in complete sentences (as opposed to incomplete sentences).

  17. My Ex and her mullet wearing Hick husband, (whose last name is ironically Hicks), told my son, who was forced to stay with them at the age of 23, that the book I gave him, Sophies World, by Jostein Gaarder, was not allowed in the house. She reasoned that Philosophy was created by the devil to confuse Christians. He isnt a Christian, but that bit of logic fell on deaf ears. None of my kids have much respect for her sinse that. I really don’t blame them either.

  18. Tungtide, I’m not knocking the young at all!

    I am a member of a couple of organisations which deal with young people, and in some ways it is a generational thing.

    They (and of course you) CAN actually text message and I cannot…don’t even have a cell phone. This computer, well… some of my young friends have shown me amazing things that can be done with it. I hate to think of how many times I’ve looked at them, slack jawed, and said, “I didn’t know this thing could be used for that…!”

    I see a lot of very bright, capable, young people who are discouraged from growing, learning, even thinking. I do my best to help them out, and sometimes it works, sometimes not.

    Ten years from now I’ll have been dead for some time. If I can teach young folks how to do things, think, and in some cases survive (I’ve been thanked for that), well it’s something that all adults should be doing. I OWE guys like you that, we all do.

    I see a lot of them that are just like the ones discribed in the original post, discouraged from looking outside their approved boundries in their church culture or even school. I’ve seen curiosity most severely punished, unorthodoxy, stomped and stomped hard. Experienced it myself and do what I can to stop it, help them grow.

  19. Those kids are not getting a well-rounded education. I guarantee they’re home-schooled by their fanatic parents.

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