by Toni Pacini
At the end of this article Toni shares one of her stories about her youth in Alabama.
Sanger Open-Mic Group meets at Sanger Library the second Tuesday of each month at 6:00pm. This eclectic group of diverse people share thoughts, feelings, prose, stories and history. Writers read their original work, Readers read any author or poet, Storytellers tell tall tales, and Historians share about places and time past.
At their December meeting the members and friends of Sanger Open-Mic celebrated their third year as a group. Through laughter, tears, great food and tokens of appreciation the members embraced their unique group that allows people from all walks of life to join as one.
Co-founded by Toni Pacini and Marjorie Galloway in February 2008, Sanger Open-Mic Group members enjoy companionship and intimate sharing of words, feelings, and an occasional song.
There are many success stories among the members of the group. Marjorie Galloway’s poem “Gentle Echos” published by Nobel House in New York can be found in a book of collective works titled,Centres of Expression. Marjorie’s poem “Rainbow”, which can be found on the International Library of Poetry, received “Editors Choice” recognition. These are only a few of Marjorie’s published poems. Much of her writing is inspired by her childhood in Orosi and the 30-years she worked as a Supervisor of Packing and Grading for Ballentines Packing House in Sanger.
Toni Pacini has completed her memoir, Alabama Blue and several short stories from Alabama Blue have been published. Most notably “Pepperell Lake” (you can find this short story at the end of this article) which was published in a an anthology compiled by the South Bay Branch of the California Writers Club titled Who are our Friends?
Member John Vautier, who recently served as President of the Sanger chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, wrote and printed a brief memoir last year in order to pass on memories of his childhood to his children. John was raised in Bend Oregon and his book playfully titled Growing up Bendt really takes you on the adventures of his wonderful childhood. John also writes from his experience in the Navy on a carrier flight deck crew and his thirty-one year career as a supervisor with the Phone Company.
Other writers are numerous and many only write in order to preserve their family history. Peter Stephens is one of these and he delights the group with his tales from the heart. There are listeners/readers and occasional writers like Doris Knowlton, who just finished a term as President of the Sanger Woman’s Club. Doris has introduced a lot of great writers, readers and listeners to the group.
Sanger Open-Mic Group has writers and members from a wide variety of life’s paths. For example, Walt Bacharowski is a design engineer who moved to Sanger four years ago from Silicon Valley. Walt has been published many times in several different technical magazines and periodicals and his articles are published in several languages and countries.
Each reader is allowed 10-minutes to read or share. If time permits you may share again. All Writers, Readers, Storytellers and Historians of all ages and walks of life are welcome and of course, we all love the listeners. Without the listener, a reader or storyteller is like a Picasso that has never been viewed.
The greatest gift we can give each other is attention. At Sanger Open-Mic, whether one member agrees with the others views or beliefs, we allow them to freely express them as we give our undivided attention, grateful for the opportunity to consider a thought or feeling through another’s words.
Please join us.
For information, Toni Pacini at 559-283-3154 – Toni.firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Toni Pacini
Alabama summers brought sun and more sun, accompanied by suffocating degrees of humidity. You would think those of us born and raised there would become accustomed to the heat, but no one ever seemed to. When my grandparents, and later my momma, had to go into the cotton mill during those scorcher days it was not uncommon for people to faint away, right there on the work floor.
We lived in Pepperell Mill Village, and Pepperell Lake was about a mile up the road. That mile seemed like ten on an especially vicious summer day. Sometimes on one of those hot, airless days, momma would walk with my sister and me to the lake so we could take a swim. My sister and I would start the walk jabbering about this and that, but the farther we walked with that endless sun beating on our heads, the quieter we would become. The asphalt along the highway would be steaming, buckling under the relentless summer heat. We felt like we were wilting and in danger of melting into the shimmering asphalt, oozing liquid into the earth.
Once we turned off the highway onto the dirt road that led to the lake, each step would create a red dust cloud, encouraging us to hurry along to the cool water. The lake was a wonderful escape from the heat, and we would laugh and play with wild abandon, energized by the cool relief. Although we were free and raucous, we respected the lake and her rules. We never swam out past the rope. Every child from the village and surrounding areas had been taught since his or her first dip in Pepperell Lake to stay on the beach side of the rope that divided the lake into two parts.
One-half of the lake, the swimming section, was divided into three smaller parts. The larger section of the three made up the main swimming area, with an easy sloping embankment and a dirt bottom. I loved the way the wet earth squished between my toes. The remainder of the swimming area held two square concrete pools. The larger pool for less experienced swimmers, and a wading pool for the toddlers. Momma never learned to swim, but she would sit on the edge of the wading pool with the other mothers, smoking cigarettes and drinking sweet tea while she dangled her slender legs in the water.
The other half of the lake, the section beyond the rope and considered off limits, was left untended and was home to several kinds of fish, birds, and snakes. The caretaker of the property frequently dragged the section used for swimming. He made sure no debris drifted into the recreational area where a snake might linger, camouflaged by a limb or log. Snakes were a part of life in the South. Near the water, you were always on the lookout for water moccasins, and rattlesnakes might show up pretty much anywhere.
One day while I was frolicking in the lake, an unimaginable thing occurred. I will never forget that boy’s screams. He was playing in the water with his friends, and they were out precariously near the rope. Looking back, I wonder if they were out so far to escape the disapproving stares of the others at the lake that day.
The boy was swimming fast under the water, attempting to stay ahead of a friend who was playfully giving chase, and when the child resurfaced, he did so directly under a water moccasin. Water moccasins are not social critters. Their babies are born alive and immediately take off to fend for themselves. Moccasins are natural loners and will not go out of their way to attack. They will avoid humans whenever possible. But when that little boy accidentally crashed right into that moccasin, she did what came natural; she bit the intruder over and over again until he was still, quiet, and no longer a threat.
The real sadness that day and the source of my sour memory, was not that a child had died. The real horror was what I heard the grownups say only minutes after the boy’s tiny, golden brown body, glistening with beads of water catching the day’s sunlight, was removed from the lake and it was determined that he was beyond help. There was laughter, some genuine, some nervous and uncertain, but there was laughter. One man said, “No big loss; one less nigger to put up with.”
In response, a big, red-faced man with bad teeth laughed with a crude snort, and said, “Hell, I didn’t even know snakes liked dark meat.”
I learned that day that not all snakes are belly crawlers. The two-legged ones can sometimes be meaner than the ones who slither and hiss.