A Fingernail File

A fingernail file – a simple, instrument for filing one’s fingernails.  They come in various lengths, shapes and sizes.  Just a simple fingernail file.

As you know, the Holiday Season is once again behind us.  But while the Holiday season brings out the good in most of us, it also brings out the bad in some.

For example, a friend of mine, an older lady, was walking through the parking lot of one of the big box stores at Christmas headed into the store.  Just as she got to the sidewalk in front of the store, she saw movement out of the corner of her eye.  A young man ran by, grabbed her purse, shoving her down in the process.  After spending months in the hospital, she was left with her husband doing everything for her.  He bathes her, dresses her, helps her walk, does the cooking, cleaning and everything else she used to do.  The young man was never caught and I’m sure never thinks of the heartache he caused this family.

Could that incident have been prevented?  Maybe – maybe not.

A fingernail file – an innocent-looking instrument with which to file one’s nails.  Is that all it is or is it more?

Could this simple little fingernail file save a person’s life?  Yes, it can.  And the question that just popped into your mind is “How?”  How can something that small and simple save someone’s life.  I know – because it saved mine on Nov. 9, 1983.

Let me tell you about that day.  I was headed to work on that particular morning and when I went to get into my car, the tire was flat.  Next, I thought I’d swing into my local fast food drive-up and grab a quick cup of coffee to go.  It wasn’t quick and before I managed to pull out of the parking lot, I’d spilled the entire cup.  No, I wasn’t the lady who put the cup between her legs.  Finally, I got to my parking lot, got out of my car and started walking towards the building where I work.  But, before I managed to get out of the lot, the local flasher chose me as his audience – he wasn’t cute and I was not having a good day.

I did manage to make it through the rest of the day and at 5 o’clock picked up my purse to head home breaking a fingernail in the process.  At that precise moment, I didn’t know it but my luck had changed.  I took out my fingernail file – a rather long one about eight inches in length – and as I walked back towards my car, I began to repair my nail.

My route was through the skywalk to a city garage, where I would take the stairs down to the street level, out the door and on to my car.

This particular evening, as I started through the door, a well-dressed gentleman was coming through from the other side.  He smiled, nodded hello and stepped back, holding the door to allow me passage through.  I said, “Thank you” and walked through.

I guess you could say fate has a way of taking care of the stupid.

I remember an arm grabbing me around my neck, my hand flew backwards out of pure fright and my simple little fingernail file, that innocent-looking little instrument, found home.

I’m sorry guys, I know how this must pain you, but when my little fingernail file found home, it had a conversation with the family jewels and as an added bonus, my hand just automatically twisted before I could turn loose.

No, he was never caught either.  But today, I can still walk by myself, dress myself and do all the things I did on Nov. 9, 1983.

I guess you could say that with all the bad luck I’d had that day, fate smiled down on me and put that fingernail file in my hand so I’d have something to fight back with.

Our own personal safety is up to each of us.  There are many self-defense courses a person can take.  And there are weapons, such as guns, you could use.  The problem with guns is once you aim it at someone you have to follow through and pull the trigger.  The thing most people can’t do is shoot to kill.  That’s required.

Since this incident, I have taken Karate.  When I’m by myself, I carry a can of Bear Repellent and I have a permit to carry a loaded weapon which I do – several.  Would I ever use them?  My answer is yes.  My life is important to me.  It’s important to my mom and dad, my brother, my son, and all the people who know me.

You, however, are free to choose.  You can let yourself be the victim or, if you find you can’t do the self-defense courses or you can’t carry something lethal to protect yourself with, you can take with you a fingernail file – that simple instrument for filing one’s fingernails.  Maybe, just maybe Lady Luck will smile on you, too.

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The Traveling Library

Books have always been part of my life.  Back when I was a child, the library had what we called a “Traveling Library.”  It wasn’t fancy at all.  Just a large box van with shelves filled with books.  It came around every few weeks.  We were allowed to climb the steps into it and wander along its shelves until we found the perfect book to check out and read until the next time it came around.

I always checked out the number of books allowed per customer and usually by the end of the second day, I had read them all.  Didn’t matter to me in the least.  I just started over again.  I loved the books.  I loved the way they smelled.  I loved the way they felt.  I was totally addicted to them.  Still am.

We lived out in the country.  Trips into town were limited to once every two weeks.  My time at the actual library was very limited.  If someone would have thrown some food and water my way, every once in a while, I could have lived quite happily in the library.

I can still remember walking up those stairs.  I was awe struck each time I opened the library door.  That first smell of books as I walked in was wonderful.  I would walk up to the section I wanted a run my fingers across the spines.  It was sheer pleasure.  Then, to actually hold any book I wanted in my hands had to have been something akin to an alcoholic’s first taste of liquor after not having any for a few weeks. 

Writers like Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Agatha Christie, Barbara Cartland, to name just a few, all went home with me at some point.  They still do.  Plus hundreds of others since that time so long ago.

Once I started reading, I seemed to check out of this world and into the book world.  I can remember numerous times when riding the school bus home after school, I would start reading and I would be so engrossed in the story, the bus driver, after going three stops beyond my getting off point, would finally get my attention and tell me he thought maybe I should get off the bus.  Then, I would wind up having to walk the long distance back to my house!

What books did you get lost in as a child?

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Growing Up Poor

By some people’s standards, I guess you could say we were poor when I grew up.  If we were, I never knew it.  We had what we needed and we had a family filled with love.  To some, that may be the definition of poor but to me it never has been nor will it ever be.

I grew up in a slower time.  A time when every house did not have a telephone and the ones that did had party lines.  (For those too young to understand, a party line meant other households were connected to your phone line so when you picked up the receiver to place a call, you had to be sure someone else wasn’t already talking on it.  There were 8-party and 4-party and so on.  Of course, the fewer households sharing the phone line, meant the more you paid for that service.  We had an 8-party line.)  It was a time when not everyone had a vehicle and certainly not everyone within the same family.

During those childhood days, I can remember cutting out the people in the Sears & Roebuck catalog and using them as paper dolls.  On rainy days, my brother would play with me and he would tear a page out of the catalog and fold it into what we called the car.  We would put the people into the car and slide it from room-to-room to “visit the relatives.”  Back then, you had to use your imagination a whole lot.  I’m actually glad I did!  It’s helped me be a writer.

We grew our own food in our garden and we helped my mom “can” what we grew in order to have food during the winter months.  We usually had a variety of meats.  We’d have squirrel, deer, coon, possum, fish, turtle – none of it bought from a store.  We killed and cooked our own.  On occasions, we would have fried chicken on Sundays.

I learned to use my imagination early.  During the summer months, every morning you went outside to play and you didn’t go back in until suppertime.  You used your imagination all day long – hunting lions and tigers, playing cowboys and indians, swinging from the vines that grew on the trees, catching lightning bugs, and a hundred other things.  We played outside in the rain, in the sun and in the cold.  There were very few televisions around in those years so we entertained ourselves.

I’m glad I grew up in that era.  I’m glad I grew up using my imagination.  I’m glad I grew up poor by some people’s standards.  I would not trade my childhood memories for anything because I believe I was rich with love and laughter and those things cannot be bought with money.  They are priceless!  Wouldn’t you agree?

What memories do you have from your own childhood?

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Fried Okra, Cornbread, Collards, Sweet Tea and Other Necessities

I grew uFried Okrap in the south at a time when kids went out the front door in the mornings and came back in at sunset.  We rode bicycles, climbed trees, played hopscotch and “Red Rover, and swam in ponds and creeks.”  Catching lightening bugs in a jar, laying on the grass and watching for shooting stars were things you did when the sun went down.

When we were old enough for school, we got on the school bus in the morning, got off at the school and reversed the process for the afternoon. Moms were at home waiting for us after school while dads worked.

The moment we left home, we knew to be respectful of all others.  We also knew if we weren’t there’d be hell to pay when we got home!  If the school bus driver looked in his rear view mirror at us with a certain look on his face, we knew we were getting to rowdy and we settled ourselves down.  I don’t ever remember our driver stopping the bus to take a student off for discipline.  Once we arrived at school, we knew better than to get oFried Green 'Matersut of line at all.  Teachers were in charge and they stayed in charge.  There would always be one or two boys who, at the beginning of the year, would see just how far out of line they could get but they didn’t get very far.  They would be immediately sent to the principal’s office.  The principal carried a wooden paddle in his back pocket and just the threat of it curtailed any misbehavior.

Times were hard.  We grew our own food, milked our own cows and gathered eggs from our own chickens. Life was good.

My mama knew how to cook.  I grew up on Southern cuisine of catfish, fried okra, collards, black-eyed peas, turnip greens, and a big ol’ glass of sweet tea.

There was the sound of crickets, frogs croaking, wooden screen doors slamming, and rain on a tin roof.

Where did those days go?

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