EVANS BLOOD

A NARRATIVE HISTORY WITH GENETIC SPECULATIONS
AND
PERSONAL INSIGHTS

 
J. BRUCE EVANS
1993


FOR
JOHN OWEN & CONSTANCE WAYE
WHO GAVE ME MY BLOOD
AND

BARBARA ANNETTE, JANIS MARIE, & JANET CONSTANCE
WHO SHARE IT WITH ME
AND
MELISA ANN, SANDRA JOHNETTE, TELA KAY,
CONSTANCE DAWN & MARK MADISON
WHO HAVE HALF OF MINE TOO
AND OF COURSE,
MYSELF

********

This is a brief narrative history of available facts about seven generations of Evans' in America, followed by observations of similar characteristics among us, plus certain of my own insights which may, more than I realize, reflect my own heritage. The known Evans' males in my direct family are:

John Evans: 17? - 18?
John Martin Evans: 1804 - 1864
John Calhoun Evans: 1833 - 1904
Martin Bunyan Evans: 1872 - 1951
John Owen Evans: 1905 - 1986
Joe Bruce Evans: 1930 -
Mark Madison Evans: 1963 -

INTRODUCTION

Blood, of course, is a metaphor, as used here, for genes. We knew about heredity long before we knew the existence of genes; then, we assumed it occurred through our shared blood. We weren't too far off. Because we remain more familiar with blood than with genes, I choose the older term to represent these speculations about heredity in the Evans family, the blood which has passed from generation to generation, reflecting in certain similarities in us all.

Genetic facts, as now known, are that an equal number of chromosomes, the carriers of genes, are brought to each conception by both the father and the mother. He brings 23 chromosomes; she brings 23 chromosomes. Together they combine to be reproduced as the 46 chromosomes contained in the "command center" of each of the 200,000 billion cells making up a human body.

This means that a half of our genetic heritage comes from our father, half from our mother. For me, it has worked like this: The first known Evans from whom I am descended was, according to family tradition, Scotch Irish. Perhaps the father of that generation was Scotch, the mother, Irish. If so, their children would have been half Scotch, half Irish. In the next generation these 50/50 Scotch/Irish children would each be half Scotch/Irish and half the blood of their other parent. If, say their mother were English, they would be 1/2 Scotch/Irish and 1/2 English (1/4 Scotch, 1/4 Irish, 1/2 English). And so on, from each generation to the next. The original "amount" of Scotch/Irish blood would be reduced by 1/2 in each succeeding generation, joined by 1/2 of that of the new parent introduced to the family.

Since I am a sixth generation Evans (on whom information is available), my blood is 1/6 Scotch/Irish, and 5/6 that of the blood (genes) introduced by the six women my grandfathers married. It might be pictured like this:

The thrust of the study is to survey the available information on each of these Evans', looking for similarities which seem particularly pronounced and therefore might be genetically related. In other words, what, if any of the shared Evans' traits are the result of our Evans blood? Two levels of research are required: First, to look for traits shared by all the Evans' which are different in degree from those of the mythical "average population." Then, how may these general differences be viewed in particular individuals of each generation?

This, of course, is primarily a quest for myself; a search for clues to who-I-am from the roots-I-come-from. In the generalizations I make, certainly I project into the mirror of them and see reflections of me. Perhaps, finally, I write only about myself, the unique characteristics of this particular Evans--Joe Bruce, specifically. But I think not. The traits I note seem to appear with enough consistency in other Evans' to support my speculation that blood, more literally, genes, may be involved in some of these ways-we-are--or at least as I have observed us.

A second hope is that these sketchy facts and generalizations may be useful to my children and descendants in their own usage of genetic information. Although genetic research is still in its infancy, rapidly expanding knowledge will, I speculate, make family blood information increasingly more valuable and utilitarian for those who follow us. If I am correct in my belief that blood is far more significant in who-we-are than is commonly thought today, then attention to genes will be even more relevant in times to come.

The limitations, naturally, begin with the relatively scarce amount of information available on other Evans' whose blood I share. My genealogical studies have covered a period of some 45 years, intensified in the last ten; yet the data discovered is still limited. Also, there is the inevitable fact that some of the most relevant information for such a study is not commonly talked about or reported in family talk, letters, or documents. It, to be seen, must be deducted or speculated about--read between the lines rather than on the written pages or in related stories. I have been free in such speculations, perhaps nudging the edges of facts to support the theory of blood in the noted traits.

Certainly all these seven generations of Evans' are different in many ways, each uniquely himself; still it seems to me that even with the limitations of projection, limited data, and the necessary extrapolation from facts required for the generalizations, we all share enough similarities to warrant likely genetic directions. I conclude, acknowledging these limitations, that these noted shared characteristics are more related to our blood than to our unique selves. We are, it seems to me, far more alike than we are different.

There are, of course, many other factors affecting how we appear--environment rather than heredity; nurture (the way we are individually reared) rather than nature (the stuff in our genes). Also childhood position is certainly an influencing factor for all of us. In this latter regard, position is known for the last 5 Evans'; two were first children, two were last, and one was second. Even with these differing places in our individual family structures, still the noted characteristics appear--supporting my speculations that they are genetically based rather than situational or individually determined.

I, being male, have chosen to focus my attention primarily on my male ancestors, knowing full well that the females they married--and I have ignored, have brought at least half of the genes which shaped my being. Even though some of my available data about them has not been included in the following summaries, I have, however, taken it all into account in my studies of each generation. Also it should be noted that even though I have only included the names of the male children, the observations made are equally relevant to the females of each generation as well. After all, we all, both boys and girls, have gotten an equal share of our genes from the same fathers and mothers.

For the record, the known female children not named herein include those of first generation John Evans: Betsie, Beadie, Casandra, Nancy, Polly, and Sarah; those of the second generation John Martin Evans: Mary, Casandra, Julia, Sarah, Marthena, and Nancy; none of John Calhoun Evans, who only had 2 sons; one of fourth generation, Martin Bunyan Evans: Ruth; three of the fifth generation, John Owen Evans, Barbara Annette, Janet Constance, and Janis Marie; and of my gereration, Melisa Ann, Cassandra Johnette, Tela Kay, and Constance Dawn. Speculations about the blood of the males would, of course, apply equally to these females who share the same heritage and therefore proportions of genetic characteristics. My five children with my blood, represented here by my son, Mark Madison, will each have half of this Evans' blood (my genes) and half of their mother's Hollingsworth blood.

I begin the study with a presentation of some of the historical data available (to me) on the six males in the generations of Evans' blood from which my children are descended. A significant part of the information comes from correspondence to and from these individuals. I have included excerpts from many of their letters. Most of them contain very little punctuation--such as, capital letters, commas, and periods--and are therefore difficult to read. For clarity, I have taken certain grammatical liberties, such as, inserting commas and periods to ease the challenges of reading. I have, however, kept all the original spelling (as best I could discern it). Much of it is phonetic in character and therefore easier to read if one simply looks at how the words might sound if pronounced as written, rather than considering individual letters.

Where these personal letters reflect or reveal information about persons yet alive, I trust my readers will be forgiving. I intend no offense.

Following the historical information, I present speculations on four individual characteristics which seem to be shared in some degree by all us Evans', and may therefore be blood related. Finally, becoming more personal and specific, I include further speculations on how the Evans blood and these specific Evans characteristics may be reflected in me. First I tell some of my "problems" which may, more than I ever realized, be genetically related. Then I give certain of my most difficult insights which have emerged from struggles with becoming myself. Lastly, I include a set of "commandments" to myself--rules-I-try-to-live-by, which have evolved from these struggles and insights.

Older now than when I began "playing with genealogy," and more knowledgeable about my genetic heritage, I imagine that these ways-I-see-things are more related to my Evans blood than I will ever realize. If not, I am certainly grateful to my ancestors, not only for my blood and genes, but also for providing this historical mirror for exploring images of myself.



HISTORICAL DATA

JOHN EVANS


Traditional family information which I received from my mother and she from my grandmother is: Four Evans brothers, Scotch Irish, came to America from Scotland in the early 1700's. One of these, John Evans settled in Barnwell County, South Carolina. It is believed that two of the brothers settled in Georgia, around Augusta, and the other somewhere in Virginia. * (See below)

The 1614-1775 COMPLETE BOOK OF EMIGRANTS IN BONDAGE notes that there were some 50,000 deportees "sentenced by legal process to be transported to America Colonies." Among those listed are 23 John Evans'. Another 1623-1876 PASSENGER AND IMMIGRATION LISTS OF US includes 56 John Evans' in the first volume, plus about 45 more in Supplements (through 1987).

The only John Evans listed in PASSENGER AND IMMIGRATIONS LISTS OF US to South Carolina came in 1728. This volume notes: John Evans convicted 22 July 1728 at Gloucester; Felony 14 years... On board the ship called the Expedition John McKenzie from Bristol to the Province of South Carolina. The only other Evans' listed in 1728 include: Richard Evans to Maryland/or Virginia, and Thomas Evans to Virginia.

THE EVANS FAMILY HISTORY, compiled by the American Genealogical Research Institute, and published by Heritage Press in 1977, lists 24 John Evans' emigrating to America before 1800. The only one listed as coming to South Carolina emigrated from England in March 1760; minister or school teacher.

Family tradition passed on to me further states that: John Evans fought in the Revolutionary War. He married Phebe Kitchens and they had the following children: Gidian, Matthew, John Martin, Jim, Betsie, Beadie, Casandra, Nancy, Polly, and Sarah.

Although traditional family information is that this John Evans is the one who came to America and fought in the Revolutionary War, the dates do not match. If he came in the 1700's and did fight in the Revolutionary War, it is unlikely that he would not have children until the 1800's and would be involved in starting a new church in 1830 (as did the John Evans who is my ancestor). Perhaps this first John Evans of the 1700's was the minister or school teacher (noted above) who came to South Carolina in March, 1760. Certainly he could have fought in the Revolutionary War and had a son in America also named John Evans, from which I am descended.

The first South Carolina census in 1790 lists one John Evans in Orangeburgh District (which became Barnwell County in 1794) with 1 male under 16, 2 females, and 4 slaves. (In all of South Carolina there were 52 Evans' families recorded, including 8 John Evans.')

The 1810 Census of Edgefield District includes John Evans with 1 male under 10; 1 male 20-40; 2 females under 10; 1 female 26-40. The male under 10 may have been John Martin, with 2 sisters in the same age group and an older brother (perhaps Gidian or Matthew). The female in the age 26-40 bracket was perhaps his mother.

Although no information is available on Phoebe Kitchens who married John Evans, the Kitchings family was apparently prominent in Barnwell County. Church records of the Dean Swamp Baptist Church, founded in 1803, list Mathew Kitchings (perhaps Phoebe's father) in the 1807 minutes. The Centennial History of this church written in 1903 notes that although the names of the charter members has been lost, "many of the names found...are the names of our best people of today." This list includes the "Kitchings." The 1821 membership list also includes John Evans. (The son of a former pastor of this church told me in 1992 that Francis Marion, known as the Swamp Fox in the Civil War often hid in the swamp on which this church is located.)

In 1830, thirteen members of the Dean Swamp Church, "6 males and 7 females," broke away and formed the Tabernacle Baptist Church in a community called Kitchin's Mill, 12 miles from Dean Swamp. Charter members included John Evans, Pheby Evans, and Elizabeth Kitchings.

(Church now located on Hwy 12; see pictures made in 1992 in my records.) This is the first recorded information presently available on the John Evans who is my great-great-great-grandfather.

These 13 members "expressing their cordial approval and strict adherence to the principles of faith as contained in the minutes of the Edgefield Association" adapted a strong covenant themselves, declaring, among other things, their purpose "to live together as becometh the Church of Christ, to take the Holy Scriptures as their rule of life, to bear with each other's weaknesses, not to be indulgent of the sins of each other and not to forsake the assembling for worship."

Church records of following years show that blacks were received into the church and dismissed by letter or excommunicated as were whites. Church discipline was faithfully observed and such offenses as drunkenness, profanity, dancing, and non-attendance were severely dealt with. Rules of Conduct included: "to contribute; not to be absent from conference for 2 meetings; to report any brother who does not comply...," also, "that we as a church will suppress drunkenness, profanity, dancing or any other immorality among our members..., that the habitual use of intoxicating liquer as a beverage be forbidden among our members."

The Rules of Decorum stated that "no member shall have the liberty of laughing during the setting nor whispering during the time of public speach."

No information is available on the time of death of either John or Phoeby Evans. Their other children, according to family tradition, included 4 sons and 6 daughters: "Gidian, Matthew, John Martin, James, Betsie, Beadie, Casandra, Nancy, Polly, and Sarah."

Membership records of Tabernacle Baptist Church in 1873 include Gidean, Nancy, and Elizabeth (Betsie?) Evans, along with several Kitchings'.

(The church clerk in 1992 told me that "Della Kitchings was one of the best friends the church ever had." In 1918 she made a gift of the "Della Kitchings" parsonage "splendid and well equipped." He laughed and also told me that Sister Della always liked to dance and once said, "I got the Lord in my heart and the Devil in my feet."

* (A second family version says that the first Evans to settle in Barnwell County, S.C. was named William who "was in the Rev. War and died of wound in leg." Puzzling data in the diary of Nancy Evans, daughter of John Martin Evans, is that in writing about her grandfather she wrote on 2 occasions "William Evans" but then crossed out "William" and wrote "John." Possibly John was the son of William who came "in the early 1700's" and was killed in 1776-7 in the Revolutionary War.)


JOHN MARTIN EVANS


John Martin Evans, perhaps the third son of John Evans and Phoebe Kitchins, was born in the Edgefield District of South Carolina in 1804. No information is available on his childhood. In 1832, at the age of 28, he married Sarah Wheeler, aged 22. Apparently he grew up attending the Tabernacle Baptist Church, of which his parents were charter members.

Sarah was the fifth of nine children of the prominent and relatively wealthy Daniel Wheeler family. The Wheeler family had a large plantation and its own family cemetery (see pictures made in 1992). The Wheeler family was active in Salem Baptist Church, organized in 1795. Church records include many references to various members of the Wheeler family, including Daniel's baptism in 1825, plus that of several of Sarah's brothers and sisters (her own in 1832). Her father was appointed to a committee of Salem Church "to labour with brother McDaniel" who had "drank too much ardent spirits, and cursed and rioted" in 1832. Records of 1840 show that he was present at all church meetings between July and November. In 1841 "Bro Daniel Wheeler brought to the notice of the church that a report was in circulation that some of the brethren had been playing at a frolic contrary to the rule of the church." When Daniel Wheeler died in 1843 he willed "to my beloved wife Mary Wheeler...a Negro girl named Mary (valued at $450 in a later appraisal), a stock of horses, sheep, hogs, cattle..." The Bill of the Estate also included a tract of land valued at $1520.00, another "negro woman" valued at $625, plus other items totaling $2797.84.

The first information on John Martin Evans is from his last daughter, Nancy, born in 1847. She noted in her diary: "Tabernacle Baptist Church, the old family church of my grandfather Evans, was my father's church until one year after he married he brout his letter to Edgefield to Old Salem Church...." Minutes of the Salem Baptist Church (home church of the Wheeler family) confirm that in April, 1833, "Martin Evans and his wife Sarah came forward, and put themselves under the watch care of the church, untill they could obtain letters from their church." Their letters were received from Tabernacle Church in June, 1833.

This move seems especially significant since Salem Church is located some 60-70 miles NW of Tabernacle Church on today's roads. By horse or buggy and roads of the early 1800's, the move would appear to be a real challenge. Why did John Martin move to a church that far from his own home church and apparently near his old home place? The Kitchings Mill community (20 miles East of present Aiken, S.C.), where Tabernacle Church is still located, was the likely area of John Martin's birth. There is still (1992) a road named William Evans Road in that community today. Recalling the question noted above, whether his father's name was John or William, the continuation of a road bearing the family name is indicative of their presence in this community. Is it only coincidental that John Martin went that far from home to a church where the girl he married had grown up?

Since Sarah was baptized in Salem Church in 1832, she must have moved first to Tabernacle Church with her new husband before he moved back to Salem with her in April, 1833. Apparently they were active members, attending regularly. "A true list of the Salem Male Members attendance at their church Meetings" lists Martin Evans present in July, August, September, October, and November, 1840. Also "A correct table of the attendance of the male members of Salem Church during the year 1841 at their Regular monthly conferences" lists Martin Evans present in February, March, May, July, August, and October.

The 1840 U.S. Census of Edgefield District lists "Martin Evans; 1 male, 5-10; 1 male, 30-40; 2 females, 0-5; 2 females 5-10; 1 female, 15-20; no slaves." These would be Martin and his wife Sarah, son, John Calhoun, born in 1833, plus daughters Mary Elizabeth born in 1834, Casandra Amanda, 1835, Julia, 1837, and Sarah, 1840. Who is the fifth female? Marthena was not born until 1843.

The 1843 church minutes note: "11th March Conference...Brother Giles Martin said he saw brother Evans that morning, who stated that he could not be with us for several meetings, and gave as his excuse that his present engagements would prevent." We do not know what his pressing "present engagements" were during this period. However,1850 minutes record: "March Church Meeting. Bro. Martin Evans ordained Deacon of The Church by the Rev. Watkins & A.S. Dozier, By order of the Church in Conference." Also their first daughter, Mary Elizabeth, aged 16 was baptized.

In 1850 the U.S. Census of Edgefield District records Martin Evans as a Farmer with Real Estate Valued as $173. Those in his home included wife Sarah, 31, and 7 children: John C., 17, farmer; Mary E., 15; Amanda, 14; Julia A., 12; Sarah, 10; Matherne, 5; Nancy, 3. The Agriculture Census of South Carolina of that same year lists Martin Evans with 25 acres of improved land, 173 acres of unimproved land; value of farm, $173; farm implements, $12; plus 3 horses, 4 cows, 7 other cattle, 8 sheep, 50 swine; value of livestock, $250; plus 8 bushels of wheat, 200 bushels of Indian Corn, 90 bushels of oats, 2 bales of cotton, 16 bales of wool, 50 bushels of sweet potatoes, 52 pounds of butter; value of home made ? , $20; value of ? , $50.

Thus his 198 acre farm and possessions were valued at $505. This farm was apparently located at Perry's Cross Roads, 2 miles South of the Saluda River and 2 miles Northwest of the Salem Baptist Church (Hwy 70, in 1992).

For some unknown reason the family left this farm and moved the following year (1851) about 10 miles Southwest to a community known as Red Bank (later renamed, Saluda, site of Red Bank Baptist Church and county seat of Saluda County, S.C.). Their youngest daughter, Nancy, then aged 4, later wrote in her diary: "I was borned 1847 in Old Edgefield Co., now Saluda River or neare on a farm neare the Negro Church out a few miles from Saluda Church and my father and mother ware Baptist. Thare membership was at Old Salem Church and he sold out down there and bought neare Red Bank Church."

The site of the Evans Land in Red Bank (now Saluda) is said to be East of town on Hwy 178 across from the Fire Tower, across road from Saluda Baptist Church, just outside city limits, behind Bane's Food Court (see pictures in book). However, this information is contradicted by a deed recorded in 1855 (see below).

Their daughter Amanda was baptized at Salem Church in September, 1854. Apparently the family continued to make the 10 or 12 mile trip to their old family church. The next year, 1855, Martin sold 28 acres of his farm to Thomas Jones for $160 ($5.71/acre). The deed (recorded in Vol III, p 214, Edgefield Courthouse), describes the land as on the waters of Burnett's Creek of Little Saluda River, adjoining Middleton Graham. (Burnetts Creek is about 1 mile North of Red Bank), and "is a part of the tract on which I live."

The 1860 Census of Saluda Regiment, Edgefield District, Richardsonville Post Office (about 4 miles West of Red Bank at that time), "enumerated on August 21" lists "Martin Evans, 56, Farmer, Real Estate value $1300, Personal Estate $815; Sarah, 50; Amanda, 24; Sarah, 18; Matherney, 16; Nancy, 12; all born in S.C." Four of his six daughters, aged 12-24, were still living at home.

The Agriculture Census of that same year lists "Martin Evans; Post Office, Perry's Cross Roads" with 75 improved and 55 unimproved acres; value of farm $1300; Farm equipment, $50; value of livestock, $515; including: 3 horses, 5 milk cows, 5 other cattle, 11 sheep, 20 swine, 24 bushels of wheat, 200 bushels of corn, 75 bushels of oats, 3 bales of cotton, 20 of wool, 5 bushels of peas and beans, 10 bushels of potatoes, 30 bushels of sweet potatoes, 156 pounds of butter; value of home made equipment, $30; of animals slaughtered, $100.

Apparently Martin had been quite successful since his total estate 10 years earlier had been valued at only $505 but was now valued at $2115. It is unclear why the family and agriculture censuses of this year were recorded at different locations--Richardsonville and Perry's Cross Roads. As noted earlier, the family had moved from the Perry's Cross Roads farm nine years earlier. However, this census notes the farm to be 130 acres (75 improved, 55 unimproved) and the previous census listed 198 acres (25 improved, 175 unimproved). Did they keep the same farm and move to Red Bank? The 28 acres sold on Burnett's Creek in 1855 would have left 170 acres, but Burnett's Creek is some 8 miles South of Perry's Cross Roads. Perhaps the Evans land was always on Burnett's Creek and the census of the area was simply listed as Perry's Cross Roads.

John Martin Evans died on July 4, 1864, during the difficult times of the Civil War. He was 60 years of age at the time and apparently not engaged in the war. Family tradition, as reported by Delilah Cloud, wife of John Martin Evans' grandson, says: "All the men were gone to war so the slave Darkies made his coffin, covered it with soot, and drove the wagon to burry him. He was a deacon of Old Salem Baptist Church all his life after he was grown. They were all Baptist on both sides."

No will is recorded but the record of the administration of his estate is located in the Edgefield County Courthouse. Sarah Wheeler Evans, appointed Administratrix of the estate, posted a $10,000 bond on October 8, 1864, signed "X (her mark)." The "Appraisal Bill of the Property of Martin Evens Deceased" (listed in history) totaled $5145, not including the farm which was valued at $1300 four years previously. This would make his total estate at time of death as $6445.

The 1870 census, 6 years later, lists Sarah Evans, 56, at the Richardsonville Post Office, "Keeping House; Real Estate $350; Personal Estate, $250." She is recorded next to "Julia Walton, 33 (her daughter), Farm Laborer; Luther, 10; John, 8, and Benjamin, 3." In 1877 she was listed in the Salem Baptist Church membership roles.

Sarah Wheeler Evans died in 1883, age 73, 19 years after her husband's death. She is possibly buried in old Wheeler Cemetery, but no marker was found in 1992. In a letter of Dec. 6, 1883, her son, John Calhoun, wrote from Louisiana to his youngest sister Nancy in S.C: We receivs your letter on the las day of Nov. Bring the Sad Intelligence of the death of our dear Old Mother. Sad Indeed though not at all unexpected to me. for long have I Expected that and felt the Sadness on opening your letters and of the Suffering of Her. Our great consolation Is trusing that She Is at rest and pain no more. Doctor Pitts tole me when I was thare that She mite live 2 or 3 years yet though after all life is but a span...
 

******

JOHN CALHOUN EVANS


John Calhoun, the first and only son of John Martin and Sarah Evans, oldest brother of six sisters, was born in Edgefield County, South Carolina, on February 22, 1833. The 1840 U.S. Census of the Martin Evans family notes "1 male, 5-10" years old. The 1850 census lists "John C., 17, farmer," along with his parents, aged 45 and 31, plus six sisters. During these years his parents were active members of Salem Baptist Church, his father's attendance noted regularly in church minutes. In 1850, when John Calhoun was 17, his father was first ordained as a deacon in the church where he would remain active until his death at age 60.

Although John Calhoun is not recorded as joining the Salem Church as were his sisters, the first available information on him is dated in 1859 when he was 26 years old. Found in the old M.B. Evans family Bible, dated October, 1859, the document concerns pledges to support "the ministerial labors of Elder S.B. Sawyer, Orangeburg District. We believe that he should be compensated for his labors...and do promise to pay the sums affixed to our names for the year 1860." J.C. Evans signed second (amount not clear).

S.B. Sawyer was at that time the preacher at Willow Swamp Baptist Church, the home church of the Fickling family. Florence Levicy Fickling, 7th of 11 children of a Baptist preacher, had just joined the Willow Swamp Church in August of the previous year (1858) and was baptized (apparently by Rev. Sawyer) on August 25th.

Distance again becomes an interesting fact: Willow Swamp Church was located some 80 or 90 miles from Salem Church and the home place of John Calhoun Evans. There is no record of his joining Willow Swamp, yet he was second on the above noted list of those attempting to support the preacher at that church. Why was he interested in a church that far from home in the first place? Why was he concerned with supporting the preacher? And why was this pledge list the oldest record kept (by his wife?) after his death? As with his father ("like father, like son!"), was he drawn to the church, which in those days was also the center of social life, where the apparently vivacious Fickling' girls attended?

Although Willow Swamp Church was on record opposed to dancing, the Fickling' girls were apparently "tempted" anyway. Florence's younger sister Cornelia was "reported for dancing" (recorded in church minutes). A month later the "case of Sister Cornelia Fickling" was brought up. She "made satisfactory acknowledgement and was forgiven." Others who did not were expelled from the church. Was Florence also "fun loving?" She was 21 at the time of John Calhoun's interest in Willow Swamp Church. We know from receipts still available that she was purchasing "homespun" material, "calico, marino, cambric, and fringe" from Orangeburg that same year, and charging it to her Uncle. On another bill she charged "11 yards of calico, 1 pair of hose, I handkerchief, 1 bonnet, hair pins, 3 yards of black silk, 2 yards of chambric silk, 1 yard of fringe, 1 pair of gauntlets, 1 red dress, and 1 pair of sissors." Also "1 pair of china vases, 1 comb and brush, 1 pair of puff combs, 12 yards of calico, 1 pair of gaiters, 1 collar, and 1 china mug."

On yet another bill she charged a room at the Merchant's Hotel in Charleston, "2 and 3/4 days board, $4.25, passage on car to and from Charleston, $6.25; rideing on omnibus twice, $1.00; Mrs. Gamble for trimin 1 bonnet, $2.50." That same month, May, 1860, she charged from "A.F. Browning, Importer of Rich Dress Goods, Embroidery, & Negro Goods Of Every Description, 243 King St., Charleston S.C.: 1 Jar Hair Greese, 2 pair Lace Mitts, 2 pair White Cotton Hose, 1 handkerchief, 1 box soap, hooks & eyes, needles & pins, cotton cord, spool cotton, 6 yards linin tape, 4 and 1/2 yards of fur bordering, 4 yards black twill, 24 yards of calico, 9 yards Printed Brilliantes, 10 yards stripped gingham, 10 yards plain gingham, 5 yards of checkered gingham, 12 yards muslin, 1 muslin robe, 20 yards of Longcloth, 1 lace print, 1 hoop skirt, 1 spiral bustle, 1 pair cossets, and 7 yards of Coating." Total bill, $41.26, including 94 yards of material in all. Although she charged these goods to her Uncle (her oldest sister's husband) who paid them for her, she later signed a note agreeing to repay him "plus interest for 4 months of $.26."

All this to note that Miss Fickling was extremely interested in clothing and dress, and quite a nervy young lady to be paying "passage on car to and from Charleston (some 100 miles from home)," plus staying in a hotel in Charleston for "2 and 3/4 days." No doubt she must have been quite attractive to this young farm boy whose mother still did not sign her name when his father died 4 years later.

The next information available on John Calhoun is from two years later, March 7, 1862, when he was in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and had already been wounded. From the "4th Div Hospital, Cheraw S.C....Private J.C. Evans, Co J, 2nd Reg. Artellry, S.C. Vols, a prisoner (? or private) of war is hereby discharged from this Hospital with permission to visit his home in Edgefield Dist. So Ca," sighed D.U. Clarke "Surgeon in Charge."

In June of that year (1862) while still in the Confederate Army, he acquired on the 28th a leather bound copy of the New Testament and Psalms (in my possession in 1993). Also in his handwriting on the front cover is this poem: May the rose of happiness/Ever blom in the/garden of thy destiny/May you never now sorrow/but may your life flow/as freely as the lilly/that grows in the/Garden of Eadon/Is the constant/wish of your friend, signed J.C. Evans. In the back is this note: May the roses of happiness/ ever bloom in the garden/of thy destiny, signed, Your Cousin, Mittie Corley.

John Calhoun Evans' continuing interest in Florence Fickling is confirmed in 1864 by a valentine he sent to her on February 14, from Fort Johnson, S.C. Included with the valentine is this handwritten poem: To Miss Florence: It is not that my lot is low/ That bids this silent tear to flow/ It is not grief that bids me moan/ It is that I am all alone. The autumn leaf is dear? and dead/ It floats upon the waters bed/ I would not be a leaf to die/ Without recording Sorrow's Sigh. The woods and winds with sudden wail/ Tell all the same unvaried tale/ I've none to Smile, when I am free/ Or when I sigh, to sigh with me. Yet in my dreams, a form I view/ That thinks on me, and loves me too/ I start - and when the vision's flown/ I weep, that I am all alone. Signed, Respectfully your Devoted Valentine...P.S. Please write soon and oblige your famly.

Another poem undated but kept with the valentine: May your life flow as free as the lilly that grows in the garden of Eadon/ And may you never know sorrow but may sweet joys and pleasant dreams Ever hover over thy brow is the wish of J.C./ Fair the Well/ (I had to borry ink to back my letter. (Note similarities to the earlier poem in his Bible.)

Florence Fickling received this letter dated Sept. 8, 1864, from James Island, Batry Zero: Excerpts: James Island is a dull place but not with standing I prefer it before going to Virginia. I am sorry to see that so many of our brave boys have fallen in those last fights but alas it is nothing more than we can expect at a time of war like the present. What a sad but glorious cause. I think the cause worth the sacrifice....I feel pretty surtan that the war will close in the course of 6 months more....it is getting so very fashionable to be marrying at this time but do not expect I could stand any hand as I have been away so long and got so far behind hand with the Girls and expect soon to hear of you and Miss Lizzie being going to marry, but if so you must be shure and ask me to your weding and will come home if I haf to run the Block....the Yanks continue shell the City of Sumpter and our difenst works but little affect. Sumpter is Steel a living Monument to the world with her Banners flying in defyance to the Vandals although these months. She has had living streams of fire poured up on her walls....Yours as Ever Lovingly, Fair the Well. (Apparently from John Calhoun Evans)

An October 8, 1864, letter to Miss Florence: Excerpts: ...I received yours of the 18.

You can not imagine the pleasure that It afforded me on the reception...On yesterday we last a man. It was Sam Lee. He dide of brain affection dide in Horsepittle on the Island. Also we lost another member last Week. It was John Marchant. he was detached in citty and dide with yellow fever. his wife also di'd a few hours before he did. the fever is verry bad over thare. I heard Col. Fedrick say that 9 out of 10 dies that takes it. ...We are all stopt from going over to citty not Even our Mail Boy not allowd to go. the mail is sent over to us.... We have no news on the Island. It is one of the dullest places I ever saw. I wod of been so glad to been at the Association but could not make the trip without running away and I do not approve of that. you must tell me all about it and if you say my Sweetheart thare and whose the next wedding is going to bee as it is fassionable it looks like all the Girls will marry before the War closes. You must be shure and give me a tickett to your wedding. I think I wold run the Block under such surcumstances...To day we are going to bee reviewed by General Hardee...every fellow is flying around preparing...I am lisning for good news from Generl Hood...he has gone to the ? of Shurman and taken the Rail Road. I think the war will End some time next year and If we are every whipt we will whip our Selves by the men staying out of Survis. I do not know if you can read this my ink is so bad. I must close wright soon, yours truly. I will commit your letters to the flames to rest in ashes ples do the same. J.C. (Obviously, she did not, as these letters were found after her death.)

Also his belongings contained a small religious booklet entitled Religious Forms for The Camp and Hospital, including hymns, prayers, and scriptures (Psalm 52) for "The Soldier Under A Lingering Disease," and Psalm 66, "For the Soldier Returning In Safety." Handwritten on the page is: "given John Evans while in hospital at Charleston." (See in records)

In 1865 John Calhoun Evans returned home from the war wounded and with this booklet, plus the shell removed from his leg. According to his youngest sister Nancy he Came home in the spring of 65 limping from the wound and gave me this Ball. He was my only Brother. He was the oldest child of my parents, a family of 7 children and I the youngest and I am the only one now living this 1924 (Signed Nancy Evans Peterson. This note was with a minnie ball which passed through John C. Evans thigh during the Confederate Ware. The minnie ball and note are now framed and in my possession (1993).

Three years after returning from the war John Calhoun Evans was married to Florence Levicy Fickling on Feb. 14, 1868, at Willow Swamp, S.C. The ceremony, at the home of Mrs. Mary Tyler (her older sister), was officiated by Rev. S.B. Sawyer, still pastor of the Willow Swamp Church which at that time had 80 white and 122 black members. (Salem Church had 56 whites and 4 blacks; Tabernacle had 39 whites and 10 blacks.) This is the same preacher who John Calhoun had attempted to raise salary money for in 1859.

Florence's youngest sister, Cornelia Ackling, then aged 22, married William E. Thomas on December 24 that same year (1868).

Their first child, born later that year, died as an infant. John Byron, their second child, was born in Edgefield, S.C., on May 21, 1869 (15 months after their marriage). Before John Byron was 2 years old, his parents, along with his mother's sister, Cornelia, her husband, William E. Thomas, decided to move to Louisiana. They, along with their son, John Byron and Cornelia's first son, Clarence, and, according to family tradition, an another child, Billy Grimes (not confirmed by available data), sailed from Charleston in late 1870 around the coast of Florida, through the Gulf of Mexico, to New Orleans. Then, up the Mississippi River and into the Red River, they landed at St. Maurice, Louisiana, where Saline Bayou runs into Red River. They came to Natchitoches Parish and visited with Captain Babers at a log house (Near Belton Blewer Place in 1979; I have square nails from this log house in my possession).

Why did these two young couples decide to leave their home in South Carolina and come to Louisiana? John Calhoun and Florence were 37 and 32 years old. William Thomas was 33, his young wife, Cornelia, only 24. Both families had young sons less than two years old. His grandson, J.O. Evans, would write 125 years later: my grandfather left his home in South Carolina...destination Texas, searching for a more suitable place to live and give his family a better life than South Carolina had to offer. As they were passing through Louisiana they found a good camping location in Winn Parish...the place being among tall pine trees, sandy hills and beautiful wild flowers, gave them a feeling of wanting to live in North Louisiana rather than the plains and dry hot weather they had read about in Texas. After camping here several days they decided to settle here.

HISTORY OF SOUTH CAROLINIANS IN NORTH LOUISIANA

Perhaps history from the area in which they settled may give further clues. We know from other records that many others had preceded them from South Carolina. The HISTORY OF BIENVILLE PARISH notes: The first permanent settlement in the parish (called Mount Lebanon) was made in 1836 in the northwestern section of the parish by a group of South Carolinians. Many of the pioneers who followed were from the Edgefield District of that state also. Settlers from other areas began arriving almost daily in the late 1840's and in the 1850's...This tide of emigration reached its peak in the late 1850's. An article carried in the NEW ORLEANS DAILY CRESCENT on March 13, 1851, about Bienville Parish (formed from the lower part of Claiborne Parish in 1848), noted: This Parish is filling up very fast. There have some sixteen or seventeen hundred persons moved into it within the last twelve months, some one thousand or twelve hundred slaves included.

Provisions of the Act of Congress of the 24th of April, 1820, had officially opened lands in what would later become Bienville Parish, for settlement and purchase. Later in September of 1820 another Act of Congress stated that grants would be made to certain officers and soldiers who had engaged in military service for the United States. The U.S. Government built a "Military Highway" in 1827-28 through the wilderness from Fort Jessup, South of Natchitoches, to points in Arkansas and on to Fort Towson in Oklahoma. This road went through Natchitoches (established over 100 years earlier), Grand Encore, Campti and Fairview Alpha. Although this area was inhabited by the Caddo Indians, a treaty was signed by President Jackson with the Caddo Indians in 1836. Thus, by the 1840's, with lands available, an established travel route through Natchitoches and what would later become Bienville Parish, and a treaty with the Indians, potential settlers must have found the area attractive.

By this time land had ceased to be available in South Carolina, except by inheritance or purchase. Data from other families which left South Carolina about this time include this information: They all left South Carolina after an earthquake. In the Carolinas there was no land available unless inherited from parents. With large families, some of the children had to move on to find land.

Specific information is available on several other families coming to Louisiana. John George Readhimer (who later sold land to John Calhoun Evans) came to Louisiana from South Carolina in 1857. The Readhimers had originally come from Switzerland to America in 1805, settling in Edgefield District, South Carolina. John George was born in South Carolina in 1830 (three years before John Calhoun).

The Frey family (father of Lang Frey) also came to Louisiana in December, 1857. Reinhard Godfried Frey came from Basel, Switzerland to South Carolina. He married a lady born in S.C. Their son? Isaac Sebastean Frey, born in May, 1828, came to Louisiana along with the Readhimers, Blewers, and Bishops. Included in the group in this trip which came overland rather than by boat, were John George Readhimer's mother, Harriett Ann Blewer Readhimer, and several of his brothers and sisters. Their father, Peter Readhimer, had died in S.C. in 1849. One of his sisters, Henrietta Victoria, born in 1837 in S.C., later married Isaac S. Frey (Their children were Lela May, Katherine or "Kate," John, and Renard Lillian, "Rennie," named after his grandfather). His mother's brother, John Blewer and her aunt Kate Frey were also along. Was this "Aunt Kate" Katherine Blewer, who had married John Jacob Frey in January, 1815, at St. Phillips Church in Charleston, S.C.? (Kate, daughter of Isaac S. Frey, married W.M. Jones) (There was a double connection of Blewers and Readhimers. Christianna Blewer, who died in 1828, had married John Readhimer and their third son Peter, born in 1800, married Harriet Ann Blewer, a daughter of John George Blewer.) The group was on the road for 73 days in covered wagons.

The story is told that when the group got to Saline Bayou in the Spring of 1858, the creek was overflowing and there was no way to cross. While waiting for the water to go down, the Freys, who were tanners, found the woods full of red oaks, the bark of which made good acid for tanning leather. They decided to settle there in the Friendship Community. The Reidhimers and Bishops later came on to settle what became the Readhimer Community. John George's home place joins the present Briarwood Preserve on the West side. (Dorothy Lee Nichols Hughes, his great grand daughter, has a photograph of the front of this home made around the turn of the century).

The next year, according to church minutes, Sister Harriet Ann Reidhimer and Sis Hennietta Readhimer and Meney Thomas joined Old Saline Baptist Church on August 14, 1858. Six years later, in January, 1864, Harriett Blewer Readhimer married Stephen P.Loe, born 1797 in N.C.

Other early settlers, some from the Charleston District of South Carolina, included James M. Williams, the Babers, James Holman and a cousin Bob, who settled in what came to be called the Carolina Community. James Holman married Martha Babers, a daughter of Billy Babers. George Blewer married her sister. The Holmans are said to have come from the same place as the Ficklings and were related in some way...were also related to the Babers as were the Readhimers. The Waters were related to Ficklings also to the Holmans. They left S. C. after an earthquake.

The Corbitts also came from South Carolina, in 1852. Isaac Corbitt, born in 1806 in Barnwell County, S.C. had married Winnfred Stallings, born 1815 in S.C. They came to Louisiana by boat, landing at Cheneyville on Red River. Their furniture, household goods, cattle, horses, mules, oxen, wagons and tools were brought with them. Here they converted to wagon transportation and headed For Saline Bayou (several miles north of Saline)....Their homestead consisted of a two-story house, (S.C. style), several tenant houses, saw mill, cane mill and grist mill. The family acquired large land holdings in the area. Winnie became a member of Old Saline Baptist Church in 1853, joined by her husband Isaac in 1856. From the church minutes of November, 1860,...Isaac Corbett was appointed to superintend the building of a new church house at the Saline.

Their second son, John Hill Corbitt, born 1839 in S.C., married Harriet Ann Readhimer, born 1854, daughter of James Peter Readhimer, born 1825 (older brother of John George Readhimer), and Annie V.T. Casey, born Aug 30, 1827 in Tipperary, Ireland. The Corbitts settled in the Brown Community (later Ward 7, and the Boylston Place). John and Harriet Corbitt (grandparents of Blanch Walker) had 10 children. One of them, James Isaac, "attended his 1 year of learning" in Line School near Natchitoches and Bienville Parish line. "The school, a one-room log structure, was located just inside Bienville Parish at the junction of the old public road and the L&NW Railroad, one mile south of Saline. He boarded with one of his Readhimer uncles while attending school." He married Ella Rhodes in 1905. (This is the same school which Bunyan Evans attended and in which Delilah Cloud taught while boarding with Cornelia Thomas in 1890.)

Records of the Old Saline Baptist Church confirm many of these families. The church was organized in September, 1844, G.W. Baines (grandfather of Lyndon Baines Johnson) the first pastor. Gravestone information (taken 9/93) shows the following families coming from South Carolina:

Dr. B.S. Sweat, Born Barnwell C.H. S.C.; 11/15/1808-1878

Annie Trotti, wife of Dr. Sweat; 1832 in Barnwell Co; died 1888

Mrs. H.T. Sweat Born Barnwell Dist. S.C.; 8/22/1815; died at Briarwood La. 9/8/89

B. Screvern Sweat Born Barnwell Dist. S.C. 3/3/1851; died Nat. Parish 1883

Fannie E. Sweat 1841-1914

Dr. E.T. Edgerton; 1827-1901

Alice T. Edgerton; 1853

B.S. Edgerton; 1861-1901

Dr. Benjamin Screven Sweat, an inveterate student and reader...most scholarly man, had married Harrietta Theresa Trotti, 17 year old daughter of Laurence and Ann Trotti, when he was 24 (1832). They had gone to live on Briarwood Plantation, on the Edisto River near the station of Midway, halfway between Augusta and Charleston, South Carolina. This was the plantation of his wife's family. Twenty eight years later he sold Briarwood and joined the migration of thousands of others living along the Atlantic seaboard. During the 1840's and '50's war clouds hung of the country.The rising tide of animosity between the Abolitionists of the North and the slave owners of the South caused a great unrest, and the Great Migration westward was at its height...Many of these found a familiar type of soil in the pine-clad hills of North Louisiana, a beautiful virgin land. There were great forests of virgin longleaf pine unbroken, mile upon mile...

Dr. Sweat's son-in-law, Dr. E.T. Edgerton, and Edward Patterson, a cousin of Mrs. Sweat came to Louisiana on a scouting trip first and located plantations a few miles from Old Saline Church. They persuaded Dr. Sweat to buy the Joshua Prothro plantation in the northern edge of Natchitoches Parish late in 1860. He sold the Edisto plantation, Briarwood, and in December of 1860 started west, arriving some time in January. They traveled by train to Mobile, thence to New Orleans by boat, where they boarded a steamer up the Mississippi and Red Rivers, landing at St. Maurice. By carriage and wagons, they traveled across the country to their new home, which they named Briarwood, in memory of the old home left behind.

One of the daughters of Dr. and Mrs. Sweat, Caroline Trotti Sweat, born in Barnwell District, South Carolina, March 12, 1853, was seven years old at the time of the family's move. She later married James Alexander Dormon at her father's plantation home, Briarwood. Caroline Sweat was an inveterate reader, especially leaning to history, biography, and poetry. Her father had a very fine library, so she acquired a broad education...Besides poems and short articles she was the author of a novel, "Under The Magnolias," a story of North Louisiana immediately after the War Between The States. She studied Latin with her children, and at 45 took a correspondence course in French. Her husband was educated at Old Mt. Lebanon University, taking all the courses offered in Latin, Greek, History, and Mathematics in two years. He studied Law and practiced at Sparta and later at Arcadia. Two of their 8 children were Virginia Trotti Dorman, born in 1876 at Sparta ("Miss Virginia"), and Caroline Coroneos, their last daughter and 6th child, born July 19, 1888.

Caroline Dorman graduated from Judson College in 1907, became an artist and writer, an authority on trees and flowers of this region. She is thought to be the first woman forester in the U.S. She also became an authority on Southern Indians, and was appointed by President Roosevelt, in 1935, on the DeSoto Commission to represent Louisiana. She was the only woman on the commission. Caroline carefully preserved the Briarwood Plantation of her father, collecting plants from many areas. She is credited with being a guiding force in the establishment of the Katichi National Forest. Caroline C. Dorman died at Briarwood on November 22, 1971.

Other graves of South Carolina settlers:

Harriet A. Blewer, wife of Stephen Loe; born Charleston S.C. 1808-1893

William Mobley; born Edgefield Dist. S.C. 1801-1884

Sallie A. Row, wife of J.G. Readhimer; 1845-1901

J.G. Readhimer; 1830-1908

W.W. Readhimer; 1840-1920

Jack Readhimer; 1876-1943

L.J. Readhimer; 1845-1910

Martha S. Malone, wife of L.J. Readhimer; 1849-1921

Henry Row; 1816-1885

W.T. Row; 1843-1918 First Sarg., C.S.A.

Graves of the Corbitt family, noted above:

J.H. Corbitt; 1839-1917

Mrs. J.H. Corbitt; 1854-1921

Isaac Corbitt; 1806-1873

Winney, wife of Isaac Corbitt; 1815-1862

The oldest dated marker I found was of Rebecca Boatright, born in 1773.

Rebecca

Wife of William Boatright

Born 1793

Died 1857

Aged 62 years

Next to this grave was:

A.T. Vansant; 9/7/1810-1855

Not much is known of the VanSant family...the family made entries for land in Bienville Parish between 1848 and 1850...in Township 14 Range 6. Their neighbors were Boylestons, Corbitts, and Koonces. The 1850 Parish census listed members of the family as Addison VanSant age 41, born S.C., Jefferson Vansant age 35, born S.C., Rebecca Boatright age 60, born S.C. and Katharine VanSant age 69 born S.C.

The J.C. Evans' Family Graves are in the following order in the Old Saline Cemetary--left of present center, near oldest part of cemetery, beginning on left in first row:

John H. Evans; 8/5/1910-8/27/1930

Sovern R. Evans; 2/20/96-3/21/18; Pvt Co. B. 348 Inf.

Claud Wilber Evans Babe; child of J.B. and Fannie L; 3/9/05-1/7/06

Claude Oswell Evans; son of J.B. and Fannie L; 12/3/02-12/27/05

John Calhoun Evans (data elsewhere) "Thy trials ended/Thy rest is won"

Florence L. Evans (data elsewhere) "71 yrs 5 mos 10 dys; Faithful to her trust/even unto

death"

Next Row of graves away from church (East):

Cornelia A. Thomas; Apr 7, 1846-Aug 20, 1929

W.E. Thomas; Born in S.C. 3/27/1838-4/29/1887

John Byron Evans; May 21, 1869-Aug. 27, 1937; "We will meet again"

Fannie Gardner, wife of J.B. Evans, born 6/18/1866-7/18/1893; aged 27 yrs 1 mo: "Why should we start and fear to die?/What timorous worms we mortals are/Death is the gate of endless joy/And yet we dread to enter there"

Next Row of Graves (East)

Fred H. Evans; 11/2/1912-2/29/1944

Fannie Rogers Evans; 2/12/1875-1/10/1955

From this information we may conclude that many families and scores of individuals had been coming to this section of Louisiana from southern South Carolina for at least 34 years when the group founded Mt. Lebanon in 1836. Many of them were from the Edgefield District where John Calhoun Evans was born. Some had come overland; others had come by boat, as did the Evans' and Thomas' who came in 1870.

Whatever their reasons, they came and apparently acquired a property in Natchitoches Parish in Section 11, T13N, R6W, on a branch of the Eight Mile Creek which is itself a branch of Saline Bayou, and began to build a log house. The property must not have belonged to them at the time (see deed in 1882). This house, with notched log construction, 5 rooms, front porch, and mud chimney was still standing 121 years later in 1992 on a property known as D.E. Williams Place (reached by turning left off the Highway running East from Readhimer School site; see pictures of this house in file).

Imagine what this must have been like for John and Florence Evans! Here are newly weds with a 1 year old son and, perhaps, an adopted child in a strange new land, 1000 miles from home. No house. No job. Given Florence's dress concerns at age 21, is it a surprise that now at 32 she might return to her older interests? The first purchase receipt of the John C. Evans family still available is for dress material from New Orleans. An order dated March 7, 1871, from Wm. C. Tompkins, Wholesale Dry Goods, #2 Magazine Street, Corner Canal, New Orleans: 1 piece Brown?, 1 piece of Blue Cottonade, 3 pieces of Fancy Prints, 2 Coats Spools (thread?) and 1 Lot of Papers and Envelopes. Total: $15.61. Since they had no credit established, the goods were charged to J.P. Readheimer. Apparently they had made friends quickly.

The next order, three days later includes the basics. On March 10, 1871, also charged to the account of J.P. Reedheimer, from I.W. Arthur & Co., Wholesale Grocers and Commission Merchants, 16 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, via the Steamer HODGE, the order included: 1 barrell of Imperial Flour, $8.25, 25 lbs Coffee, $4.50; 25 lbs sugar, $2.63, black pepper, spice, starch, 10 bars of Laundry Soap, 10 lbs Soda 1 keg of 5 gall Whiskey, $8.75, 1/4 Keg Powder, Shot Drops #3, and 1 Keg of Lard. Total: $44.06. The order was delivered to Carl P. Beinstein at Montgomery, La.

Four days later, on March 14, another order was received. Freight charges on the Steamer B.L. HODGE, on the New Orleans and Grand Ecore Weekly Packet to Montgomery, La. were $2.95 on 4 Kegs Powder, 1 Bbl Flour, 1 Box Sund (aries?), 1 Keg Whiskey, 1 Keg Lard, plus "storeage," $1.25. Also an order for 1 pair of boots, $1.75, from F. SELLES, Boot and Shoe Store, 157 Poydras St, New Orleans.

A letter from home (Sister Maggie in John Town, Barnwell District, S.C.) dated December 9, 1871, came later that year. Dear Bros, & Sisters....I hasten to write...thinking you are like we are anxious to hear how we are, as we are so sickly when last heard from. I am happy to say that we have improved very much here lately as we are all takeing bitters and it helps us very much....She goes on to report of trading potatos and 2 dozen eggs at the market there and getting eight lbs nice bacon for the same. I think here beats Lousana a long time (I wonder if they did also by this time!). Maggie continues: William Joe's sow is dead. She was taken sick in a few days after you left and we could do nothing to help her. Three of her pigs are yet alive but I am afrad they will all die. I hope you all arrived safe to Bro Johns. I was very sorry I was so weak when you left me. Jest think I could not even go to the gate to tell goodbye. Mother says Cornelia must write to her. Sends her love to all. Would like to seen you all before you left, says Nelie seems like one of her children. She says you must all be good boys and ghals. I hope you will all have good luck and great prosperity. William's baby is the finest looking ghal about. I know he would like to see her again soon. She can talk and laugh, pretty shapely, and is the worse young one I ever had and don't get any better....Joe joins me in love to all. Miss the children and tell Bill he mus have me some fish when I come. The neighbors are generly well, hope this will reach you all same. I sign myself Your Sister, Maggie.

This, the only letter available until another 3 years later, raises interesting questions. Is Maggie one of John's or Florence's sisters? Or could she be a cousin and simply use Bro and Sister as terms of affection? The reference to arriving safe to Bro Johns implies that they were coming to join others they knew well. Was this Bro John a blood brother? Is Cornelia's husband, (she was married later in the same year as Florence and John) William E. Thomas, the Bill referred to as the one who mus have me some fish when I come? And what about when I come? Was travel such that Maggie intended to visit, or did she too plan to move? The reference to Maggie's mother saying Nelie seems like of her children implies that this must not be Florence's real sister.

On November 8, 1873, Florence L. Evans was received by letter in the Old Saline Baptist Church. Her sister Cornelia Thomas had joined on August 30. John Calhoun did not join at this time.

The next information available on the family comes from a letter written by John Calhoun to his family in South Carolina three years later. (I secured this letter from the records of his youngest sister, Nancy in South Carolina, in 1992.) On October 3, 1874 he WROTE: North Louisiana, Nachatoches Parish; Dear Brother & Sister Excuse me for not writing sooner. Crops in this country generly sorry...one good bale cotton on 4 acres...the times are harde no money. Every thing high, bacon 12-15 cts, cotton about 14, brogan shoes 2.50. Calico 15 to 18. In Orleans from 8-10. I suppose Orleans is as cheap a market as the South has. You can get the Best of Surrip for 40 to 50 a gallon. Labor is coming down. The negroe is verry quiet at this time thoug have had some trouble. Had an Incerection at Coushatta on Red River the county Seat of Red River Parish about 25 miles from me. We soon had 1,000 men Some from Texas captured the party Hung 2 negroes. The white men the leaders Skellawags, 6 in no, all Parish Officers, Sherif Deputy, Sherif Judge Magestrate, an So on, were tride By committy to leave the State they ask for gard of 25 men to gard them to the line of Texas. After going 40 miles at full horse Spead were overhaulde by 70 men taken the Prisners and Shot them all. That has cured the negroe and some of the Radicals. My parish has put all the Radical officers out office and they stay out. The Govenor would appoint more but they were afraid to Report. Since that the Citisons of orleans has made a charge on the Governor and his Metropolotors. kilde 15 men, he retreted to the Custom house under protection of the United States officers. They give 3 cheers to the citisons for that. So we have no Govornor at this time. I suppost Grant is Scattering about 500 troops over North La I think for the purpos of keeping down Insurections. I heard you had had a fight at Ridge Spring. Give me the Straite of it. Also one in Charleston. I think I shall go on to Texas. Bill Stone has gone on back to Texas he is in Lamar Co likes much better than hear...for me to come on to him. Some men from Texas say it is the place, some say not. Say they make 75 bushels corn to the acre...can by a beef to way 800 to 1000 lbs for 10 dollars, good horses 30 to 50 dollars, lands in places high though plenty good as in Texas for 1.00 to 5 per acres. I wish you were all out of that old State of Trouble. I have not had a letter from home in severl months. Although I can make a good living hear I pay no tax yet. My Boys ar verry fat and Smart. Billy can pick 60 lbs cotton. But has a grea deal of T?urner about him and mitey slow on the move. You must write soon. Give me a long letter. Florance joins in love to you all, Yours truly J.C. Evans (Direct thus: Saliene, P.O. Beanvil Pa La).

His next available letter, also to his sister Nancy and Brother-in-law Baz Petterson in South Carolina is dated February 15, 1875: It is with pleasure that I attempt to write you a few lines. We are all in the Enjoyment of good health. There is a greadeal of coalds and A?ssadenick through out the country. Some Hooping Caugh we have iscape So far. Well I receive your letter of November, was truly glad to hear that you were all well. I also got the package of papers which I was so glad to get give me more news from SC than since I lefte there. I will be glad at any time to get a bundle when ever you get a surplus on hand. Well Baz the Political affairs of La are in a critical condition. We beat them fair an Squair by about 15 thousand, then to beat us they threw away some 8 or 9 Parishes just as nothing. We had severl parishes that did not voat a Radical ticket. We have no county officers, no courts, are under Militery despar? have been holding Legislations...Times are hard. Stock lower than I have seen them in 20 years, good Misouria horses for 1.00 dollar...I kill all my meat out the woods....land 3 dollars per acre and your own time to pay it. this land before the wor could not been got for 50 dollars per acre...This country the Negroes have all flock to the river to River planters & to See a boat - they have just about brake them all down...the negroes are wanting to scatter out again a few white men can't stand among them. I think if the laboring white men will go in thare and drive the Negroes out would be just as fine country as ever a man wants...but the times will get better soon. I am going to plant 8 or 10 acres in cotton...This March the 20, you must excuse my negligents I thaught I had sent off this letter. We are all well thoug I believe our Boys are taking Hooping caugh...my cattle are doing well, milch 5 cows...Plenty fine timber and beautiful settlement and good neighbours. My brothren law Workman has got in a difaculty with Wash Lynch a black smith. He went to Lynches on Christmas Eve knight for a settlement...Lynch drew his gun Workman drew a pistal but had to leave Christmas morning Workman went back to Lynch cared his gun and Lynch in Self defence put 5 buckshot in his breast and face. wold ave kild a common man. he is recovering they got worant for Tom W. The officers sent him word they wold let him no where they come for him to keep out way...J.C. Evans.

In March, 1875, Florence and Cornelia received this letter from Sallie Graves at Sandy Point, Brazoria County, Texas, dated the 7th: My dear Friends Florence & Nelie...She apologizes for delay in writing explaining that her mother had died in South Carolina.

A letter dated July 4, 1875 from Florence's oldest brother, H.S. Fickling, then aged 50: My Dear Sister and Famaly, I now imbrace this opportunity of answering your kind letter, which makes me so glad to get from you ..any of you. and to see how seldom..you will any of you will write to me. I received one letter not long since from Olivia. She was not well and very dissatisfied, pore think I wish she was back here it is awful to live, and, dye dissatisfied. There is a Basket Picknick at Holmans Bridge today. I did not go on account of Sara's health. She is very unwell at this time...we had a weeks rain about 2 weeks ago. crops is looking badly from it. I finished plowing today, my crop is tollerable good. Georganna and Allie is still single. George is spending some time with Sarah....Old Tyler is still on his same place I havent herd anything from him in a long time....Sarahs health is not so good (segrest I allude to)...Tell John I cant answer his long kind letter at this time I am in a hurry to get off to Blackville.... give him my best respect and kiss him for me. tell him to kiss you also for me. Oh Florance I want to see you so bad. please send me a lock of your hair in your next letter, write soon, excuse my short letter at this time, tell John to write me a nother long letter soon. I now must close, by saying I remain your true Brother untill death, Good bye sister. H.S. Fickling. P.S. I will be fifty years old the 5th of December. (See file)

Following his wife's move four years earlier, John Calhoun finally joined Old Saline Baptist Church in August, 1877. He was baptised on the 16, indicating that he probably had never joined the Salem or Willow Swamp Churchs in South Carolina where he attended as a young man.

A July 3, 1878 letter from Florence's friend Sally Graves, now in Oyster Creek, Texas: My Dear Friends Florence & Nelie, I looked so long for most welcome missive. I had discided you all had moved away. But at last it came. Glad to hear from you all. hope you wont treat me so again for I so often think of you all and the good old by gone, gone forever we have had together. About this time we used to have such delightful protracted meeting at Old Willow and Two Mile Swamp, when we had the good old time folk to sing with us and enjoy the rich harvest. They have all passed away shore enough. Yes dear Nelie no one knows so well how to think of the past as I do. For since the death of Mother And then the unexpected marriag of my Brother, I feel like my life is a complete blank. Just roaming, Lister and I over the world. Brother is kind to us but his wife we can see does not care to have us much around. She wants the house to herself. I have an offer to live with a strang lady in Houston. I think I will accept....I always think of mother and Old Willow Swamp. She used to seem to enjoy it so much. It was always a feast of great value to her soul to sit with the brethren and sisters and partak of the Lords supper. Wouldnt you all like see every thing once again at home....Kindes regards to your Husbands. Hurry Byron up for me. Kiss all the others. How many has Nelie? Most Affectionately, Sallie Graves.

The 1880 Louisiana Census of Natchitoches Parish lists: Evans, John, age 47, Farmer, born in S.C., both parents born in S.C.; Florence Evans, age 41, House Keeper, born in S.C., both parents born S.C.; Byron Evans, age 11; at school, born in S.C.; Bunyan Evans, age 8, at school, born in La. The Agriculture Census of Natchitoches Parish of that same year lists John Evans as owner of 40 acres of tilled land; value of farm: $300; value of equipment: $50; value of live stock: $400.

Tax receipts from 1880 until 1903 for J.C. Evans property are available. They begin at $5.90 and increase to $17.01 in 1903.

An 1881 letter from Joe Graves at Sandy Point, Brazonales, Texas, dated July 17:...This is the best farming country in the world...The only drawback is a trifle too much rain. I get S.C. papers every week. The state is on a boom. Property has gone up immensely. Some Carolinians who have been in Texas for years have gone back home. They had always held properth there and could not sell it till now. It is so valuable they wont sell. They set no limit now to its increase in value....This state is on a boom....Kind wishes for yours and Thomas' families. I forgot to tell you I have two boys, both fat and healthy. Your friend, Joe Graves.

On February 13 of the next year,1882, John wrote to his sister Nancy and her family: I received your letter of Jany the 1. we were glad to hear that you were well and aspecially that Mother was better off. I had the least idea but to hear of her death. We hare having the Hardes times in La for years. I believe some people will hafto suffer...I have about 100 bushels. I also fatened my meat. we will have more milk than we can milk....Black Lake ridges all under water...I am troubled alittle with Asthma now...Foorence has yoused one bottle of Dr. H.H. Wormers Safe Kidney and Liver Cure, has sent by Readhammer to the citty for more. one bottle strengthend her and give her a fine appetite. I think wold be a good meddison for you Nancy. I think it a good medison for many principally for Liver, kidnes, and bladder affections, for dispessy take 3 buttons nexvomico to the Bottle of good whisky is said to cure. For good lenament take one egg half teacup full of cider apple vinnegar the same of spirits Turpentine. Is an exlent for aches panes or brises....write soon, your brother J.C. Evans

In 1882, on April 19th (See deed in file) John C. Evans purchased from John G. Readhimer for $80.00 a tract of land lying and situated in the Parish of Natchitoches Louisiana, viz. the North half of South East Quarter of Section Eleven Township Thirteen Range Six West to have and to hold to his own proper use and benefit forever... Witnessed by J.A. Dorman and W.W. Readhimer. (Apparently John C. had been living on this property but was now purchasing it.)

On December 10, probably 1882 John wrote home again: ...I am going to the River tomorrow with cotton. Times are hard...We get 9 1/2 to 11 for cotton at the River...I have my hogs ready to kill. I have 9 that will neat me about 1800 lbs of Poark. I am bilding me a new house roof 40 by 44 ft. Last year I taken a Carolinia paper. I think will take it again. It is The Christian Courier, printed at Colombia. I am now taking the Courier Journal...I have been thinking of trying to go to see you all this winter and to see what I could do for mother. It gives me greadeal trouble to hear of her condition and so far away from me and takes so much money for me to make the trip and back. So harde to get my money a head by labor. There is nothing to be made on free Negroes hear. I want you to do the bist you can for her. Cant you sell the olde place for something, let her take her part out and you take her and her part and also my interest in the same. Nancy try to get her to live with you for I no that her days are but few. I only wish I had them all hear. I would make somethin of these children. Love to all. Direct Saliene PO, Beanvile parish. Write soon. J.C. Evans.

John must have gone home to South Carolina to visit in the Spring of '83. An 1883 letter to S.C.: May 31: ...Sorry indee to no that Mother was no better but was astounished to hear that she was still living. I had been long looking for a letter to announce her death....It did not appear to me when I was thare that she could possbly ove stood it so lounge....I am laing bye my corn..I have a little crop 12 acres corn will make 15-20 to the acre if seasons holde 4 acres cotton. I am not much for cotton have one acre of up land Rice and of cane one potatoes. me and Bunyan do the worke. I am sending Byron to School. can only send one at time. We have a good Sunday School...

On July 27,1883, J.C. Evans got a Deed to American Tanning Process which allowed

him Shop Privalege to make and sell Leather at his hand, signed by Miller Bros., V.S. Miller. (See instructions for making leather in file)

In November of that year (See letter in file) John C. Evans was Treasurer of the Saline Grange Cooperative Association. They signed a note for $101.66 and 2/3 cents for value recd. Also W.E. Thomas (Cornelia's husband), J.W. Scott, and C.C. Barnett, Secty.

That same year on December 6: ...We received your letter on the las day of Nov bringing the Sad Intelligence of the death of Our dear Old Mothe.r Sad Indeed though not at all unexpected to me for lon have I expected the and felt the Sadness on opening you letters and of the Suffering of Her. One Greate consolation is trusting that she is at reas and pain no more. Doctor Pitts tole me when I was thare that she mite live 2 or 3 years yet though after all life is but a span...My health is tollable considering I have to get up almost every knite with asthma. I have it much liter than yous to be. I have a hope of a cure yet. Boys had Hooping Caugh this summer. My neighborhood are all Grangers. We have about 30 members. We have started a Coopperative Association that is a Grange Store. A cash System 3 0r 4 of us has put in 250 dollars and Elected a Salesman. I put in 50 dollars to see what it would be. Sent of for a little Bill of goods the 1st of November with 250. He has kept it turning. his sales amount to about 650 dollars. We have some county stores hear that are Just ruing the country. Our little Grange has brought one of them down smartely in prices. Their old custimers are going Right by their dore to go to the and say they are going to be Grangers. I tell you that the speculators may dred the Grangers for they will come to the front. The Grange only deals in first class goods. Standard only and sell at 10 percent above cost. Our merchants sell from 1 to 2 hundred per sent.. I went to Shreevesport last week, a conciderable River an Railrod Citty. I came back home to our little Grange Store and trade 20 dollars as soon as I unlode my wagon. Got better Bargains than could in Shreevesport. The Grangers is the Producer and the Consoomer. We ondly want to get in direct trade with the Manufacory and set a side the Middle man who has always et and wore the articles that never reach the farmer. Our state Grange meets at Alexandra next Tusday. I have some notion of going to it, and then some 40 further to Cous ? Souverign Evans. Not heard from him since I saw you . You and Bazel must set out and come out to the World's Fair at New Orleans next December. TellBazie I will sende him a few grass seed in this letter as I prise it highly. plant in the Garden Rite way. ...I have got me one Swarm of the Italion Bees. I think I will give tham a trial....Nancy if you are still having Cathur try snuffing strong salty water up your nose. I will also send you another remedy. Florence joins in love to you all. Tell Bazel to write soon as ever your brother untill death, J.C. Evans.

In an 1885 letter to S.C.: January the 15...we receive your letter last fall saying you were coming out. I think it now getting time that you were saying somthing about what time or monthe you will be hear...let me no and I will meet you at Camptie Red River. Though if we were to make a misshap to meet you, get conveyance out to Dr. Pittses 7 miles on the way. I do not no that I will go to Fair or not. We had a very dull Christmas.This country is raining a flud today I expect there will be an overflow in Red and Missisipi Rivers. I am rasing plenty hogs can sell 12 or 13 hundred lbs pork selling at 5 cents. Our little Grange Store is still working. Sunday the third Sundies are our preaching days at Saliene Church. The health of the country good...

Florence's sister Cornelia's husband, William E. Thomas, died on April 29, 1887, while ploughing in the field, possibly of a heart attack. Cornelia was left with eight children ranging from age 9 months to 18 years.

Later that year, 1887, Mr. Evans bought from W.M. Poland, General Merchandise and Plantation Supplies, of Sparta, La., items including: 32 yds stripes, $2.56; 2 yds Jeans, .70; 4 yds flannel, 1.40; 10 yds black prints, .60; 10 nut megs, .10; also buttons and 5 spools thread, .25; total: $7.66.

Son, Martin Bunyan, then aged 16, was treated by Dr. E.T. Edgerton on August 9. Then John Calhoun had doctor visits on August 28, 30, 31, September 1 and 3rd, all at $2.50 per visit. The bill was paid in full on November 19th, 1888.

Nancy, John's youngest sister wrote on April 20, 1888. Excerpts: Bazil started to Alabama...perhaps he will come and see your country. he went from Pencicola to Orleans and back for seven dolors and half. he don't no yet what he will do next year...he is running 2 saw mills now and gets more work than he can posable do...Bazil is braking very fast he has Disspekia very bad. he makes a heep of money but you no it takes a grate deal to run his buisny and he owes a good deal...lands you no are cheep hear and ours mostly in woods...Sarahs helth is bad. They live at the? Whites. Julia an Luther is getting along well. Theirin has sold his place that he was at when you and I was thare and bought near uncle Bill Wheelers. Mary lives above Edgefield...Julius an Ida are single. they rent land.Barzilia is no acount in the world. got sory wife...

In 1889, Nancy wrote from S.C.: Dear Brother & family...tolarable well I am suffering with hayfevor again...my eyes gets so week that I can scersley hold them open. I take quinnine and use wash for my head, salt water a little warme. I have nasal douche insert a tube in one nastrel and the water will run out the other. I think it is Catarah and hay fevor that I have and I believe that Catarah is brought on by the use of kerosine, Inhale lamp smoke a little while ant it stiffles me. There is a great deal of sickness, mostly Typhoid fevor...I believe the children wrote to you about Aunt Nancy Evans death. Uncle Wiliam Wheeler is dead a mule run away with him and another man and threw them bouth out the bugey crippled up the yung man somewhat broke uncle Williams skull...Aunt Rosie Aunt Juila & Uncle Sampson is all thats left and all in one house...Nannie joined the church at Red Bank was babtised the 4th Saturday. I have always hoped that Bazil would at some time joined the church but I have almost despaired now I hope you and Sister Flarance will make it a special point to pray for him that he may yet see the error of his way and turn before it is two lat. I can't believe but that he is only living out of his duty. I cant help but think that he is a christian neglecting his duty. it would be sutch a help to Bazzie if his Pa would Join the church...he gives three thousand dollars for the land and machenry. he will move the mill next month Bazie talks of selling the other mill and establishing a lumber yard some whare says he can never send Bazzie to school as long as he works as he dose now. no one els can fill Bazzies place in business. I think he ought to sell that old place of his Fathers and educate the children they had rather have an education than land & it is so often the case that a man will hunt girls that has a home just for that home. Educate children is my matter. if you leave them nothing els then they can take care of them selfs...

In 188? Florence L. Evans attempted to claim property from Henry Fickling taken by Burnett Tyler. (See legal document in file). In 1890 she received this letter from her brother H.L. Fickling from Blackville, S.C., to My Dear Sisters Florance & Cornelia, I reccon before this you have herd of Sister Mary's Death. She dyed on the Sixth of June, and was buried on the eighth, at Willow Swamp church. I was at the Burial. But Sick. Sick. Sick. I was Sick at the stomache about two weeks and a half and vomiting a casionly in the time. I went to a Dr. and got some medison. I took it about 2 weeks time. all the time I was taking it I was sick. when it gave out I got better and felt better a bout a week. if I take a drink of water some time it will meke me vomit. if I eat a few mouthfulls it turnes me sick I am now in bad health. Sarahs health is bad. She had a billious attack some 4 weeks a go. She is up and a bout at times. the rest of our famaly is well that is with us. Lula is looking verry badly and weak. Charles has mooved over on my place this year him self and famaly is in bad health. his baby is having feavor now it has spasoms at this time, you must excuse this short letter as I am going to Blackville now as soon as I can get off to our democrat club tho I am feeling badly. My children is all of age but one that is luther he is sixteen I will now close my letter for this time. you must write soon. tell John to write...Your Brother in love H.S. Fickling.

In a note to son Bunyan, away at school, he wrote: Dear Buyan, Friday Evening. I am not so well. having verry bad coald. Been making syrup 2 days. got nearly 2 barels. I guess Byron has give all the news, Your Pah, J.C. Evans.

On July 14, 1890?, John wrote his sister Nancy. Excerpts: ...My health has been better this year than for a long time. I have dun more work. I have no cropper just me and Bunyan. we have a good crop. our corn is make some 350 bush. our cotton verry good some high as my head will make a bale to acre if no bad luck. I am fearul the worms will eat the cotton this year...Byron was 21 years old the 21 day of May. he is working a crop of his own...a pourful worker stout and able. Bunyan is just as good. they are good boys and the finest workers I ever saw. they work too hard. Florances health pretty good. She is Bothard at times with Rheumatism in her feet. Cornelies's famaly are all well. She is Boarding the School Mistres Delila Cloud (who later married Bunyan). Thare is being some sicknes. Bowel affection mostly...Florances Sister Mary dide the last day of May. She was the widos Tyler. She maried Jacob Frye of Spartenburg the year 82....I see that Hampton opposes the Alliance men. I say put out all the old politicial leaders and starte a new....We have no fruit much. A few apples plenty figs. We are having excitement hear over the State Lottery. the 25 year charter is out. they are asking for 25 more to be voted on. The company has offered as a Lisence to the State one million a year or 25 millions for 25 years more. they are making clear about one million a mounth. they are a monster and will Ruin our State. Ready Ruined in politicks and will soon corupt the howl Government. I must close. write soon. love to all J.C. Evans. (A Louisiana Lottery Ticket was found with this letter; dated June 17, 1890.)

An old ledger book found among the records of J.C. Evans' son, Martin Bunyan, has a page for J.C. Evans dated 1891. Charges include: 10 yds ticking, 10 cts a yard; 11 yrds gingham, $1.00; 1 dress patron, .30; 1 lb. tobaco, .60; 2 flame shirts, $1.00; 1 pr pants, $1.50; 1 pr shoes, .25; total of all, $47.57. A note at the bottom says not settled,' 95. The ledger also has pages for Sammie Thomas, 1892; Davis Patterson; Byron Evans, Feb., 1892; M.B. Evans; Thomas Rogers; Dr. Edgerton; Cornelious Sanders, 1904; Lee Johnson, 1893; and another final page on J.B. Evans, 1903. Whose ledger was this? Did J.C. Evans operate a store? If so, why was his name listed on a page?

Mr. Evans bought from Atkins and Wideman, General Merchants, of Arcadia, La. on Dec. 19, 1891, the following items: 1 bbl apples, 3.50; 30# candy 2.25; 7 1/2 # cheese 1.13; 12 cocoanuts .75; 1 pr boots 2.75; 1 doll .20; 1 box catridges .60; etc. total: 35.90; paid in cash.

In a letter to his sister Nancy Peterson he gave his opinion of Louisiana politics and the state lottery: I think ther is going to be one of the greatest clashes next year fynancialy polittical and every other way. Louisiana is in a wors fix than dewring the radicel rain. we have this lottery to fight. It a monster now worth 500 milions...The lotery has offered to the state a million and quarte dollors for 25 years to come for a new charter. they old on soon be out. they got it dewring Radical Rule.they baught our last Legislator with the amendment which is unconstitional. the Supprem Court Set on the case they Baught it.They will Eventualy Bye Every office in the State and putup a lottery or a gambling Hell in every town. John a Morison the Lotery man is a yanky from New York though says he is a democrat...In love your Brother as ever J.C. Evans

She wrote back on Sept 10, 1891, from Batesburg, S.C.; Excerpts: I am trubled some what with hay fevor. I have ben wating fome time on you to write. I wrote in the spring and sent you one of Nananis picturs and never have heard from you. keep thinking every weak that you would write and I am ancious to no what is the matter. do write soon and long letter. love to all and except a share for your self. your sister, Nancy I.

Apparently John loaned money to S.S. Sanders on the 15th of November,1892. The note for $17.60 and twenty pur ct interest from date in seed cotton or money was due the following November.

On Oct. 25 J.C. Evans signed another deed for the N1/2 of SW1/4 of Sec. 11, T13N, R6W, 80 acres, for $80 from John G. Readhimer. This is the same property which he had previously purchased in 1882. Wonder why the second deed was necessary?

Florence heard from Sister Olivie, April 6, 1893: Dear Sister, I hope you will ans my letter. it is wrote all togather to save. I am now geting old to have to live on the espence of another so you see I have to be spearing. Ben sent me $10.00 last fall but I had got so destitute for clother I had to put it all on my feet & back. Ben has put $17 on me since he left home, five in my mouth. We are all well as usual. I am never well & oh there is such a grate truble. just befor me a little baby & these too bad children to atend to & Ret to wate on. Oh that God will give me strength to go thru with it all. Warner has as smart a wife as eney one but she has such an unruly temper ill & contrary. She is no hand to cutout or sew. I have all of that to do. Sister you don't no how hard it is to help rease your grandchildren & sick all the time. I have slept with the oldest one ever since the other one was bornd & it is nothing but my dutie tells me it is not, it seems that Ben has more feeling for me than Warner. Spring is late hear no corn planeied yet. there is a grate deal of deths & sickness. Sister Saras said they were all punie. poor Adah. I want to help her so bad. Ben ordered tombstones for poor little Floid's grave. Sis Sarah said they had come & George Brunson put them up that cost five dollars. write soon & I will trie to do better next time. pray for us all as I do for you all your true sister Olivie.

John wrote to South Carolina in 1897. His June 13 letter noted:...we are all well & have been in reasonable health for a long time. my general health is good exc ashma bothers me. I am working all the time. I cant plow much...Some two monthes ago Foorance had all thes Teath Tacon out...she dont hardly look ntural her and Bunyan and Cornelier and Steller and Nena Burther all left for Nacatoch this morning with load of chickens. Bunyan is juriman this week...Myself and boys have made a big corn crop...our country has more Tyfoid fever than I have ever known heard of. severl deaths lately. our neighbor Dr. E.T. Edgerton lost his younges daughter some 2 years old, Son 3 weeks ago....Byron and wife & brothern law were this week. down to Saline Lake 25 miles to fish. they got just all they wanted. They staid one nite at the Sale Works 10 miles from hear. have Artezan Mineral Well. lots of people go thare to fish and the Benefit of the Watrer. people geather thare from 2 or 3 parishes. Some fish. Some hunt deer. lots Ladies go to Bath in the minerl water...Bunyan is Hawling up lumber...he will soon have a good start. Is a splendid manager. has a smart and good wife and a smarte little baby 9 or 10 moths old just beginning to walk. Byron a good crop and one of the finest looking boys in the country....I had thought of making another trip to Scouth Car though times are two hard and money hard to get. I must close.Excuse Bad spelling Love to all as ever. J.C. Evans.

Dr. Powell in Montgomery, Louisiana, wrote Mr. Evans on April 24, 1899: I send you prescription to have filled for your asmattic affection to commence after you are through with medicine left you by me. On back, this: For asthma; 1 oz. Tincture poke root; 1 oz of the tincture of Lobelia; 1 oz. tincture Blood Root; 1 oz. tincture Slittingia; 1 oz.coal oil;1 oz Crushed sugar well disolved; mix well shake before using. Dose 1/2 teaspoonful 3 times daily 1/2 hour after meals...Will make final cure if persisted in for awhile. F.M. Powell.

Also John had a Receit to cure Cancers. take scrape of turpentine trees four parts. melt together to make plasters. take olde cloth, make the plaster to cover the cancer. take sulphate zink. sprinkle over the plaster, first two very thin then thicker, two and three plasters a day. when it cracks around, comence greasing around with hogs lard in crack. when it comes out wash with Casteal soap three timea a day and still greas with lard. must drink whiskey while aplying the plasters which takes from ten untell twenty days. Also a Receit to Cure Sore Eyes. take Sulphate zink half teaspoonsull for a four ounce bottle. put in a little in the eye two or three times a day. Sure cure for sore eyes.

In the summer of '99 John apparently decided to apply for a pension for his service in the Confederate War. His old friend, now the Clerk of Court in Orangeburg wrote: I am glad to know that you are still living but regret to hear of your ill health and your trouble on account to the wound you received while in Service of C.S.A....You were with us for 3 or 4 years, Co "I" 2nd S.C. Vol. Artillery. He wrote in his affidavit: I G.L. Salley, Clerk of Circuit Court do hereby certify that I knew Mr. J.C. Evans a former South Carolinian well and knew the circumstances of his service in C.S.A. in the War between the States. He was in the service for 3 or 4 years and was a faithful soldier. Given under my hand and official seal this 10th day of August A.d. 1899.

Also he heard from another old friend, C..R. Jones, from Orangeburg, Aug. 10: Mr. John C. Evans, Saline P.O. La. My Dear Old friend and Comrade...I meet a member of Company I almost every day but we are all getting old now and will soon come to the jumping off place. I will see Dr. Barton give him your letter and get him wo write you which steps are necessary to be taken in order to accomplish your end, or aim.

John wrote to South Carolina on July 28, 1903: Saline La...Dear Brother Sister & Famaly all. This leaves us all well. I am up But not well. I god the meddison that I had orderd. I taken it 4 weeks and kept straight on the Decline. Appetite no Better. I then taken 2 weeks attack of dysentery. I got it Broak up then my appetite improved some thougn not good yet. I have been out to Bunyan's and Stad sevrel days. we got your letter first and July the 20 Bunyan went to Nacatosh and got me some whisky. I am taking your home remedy. I think it is helping me some though my caugh pretty bad yet. I think will try Slocoms Medison nest. a lady out hear at the Camps that she was down a year with what the Doctors could conumtion and Slocoms medison cured her. I have but little faith in yankermans mediane for a case of my condition. I no you would like to have another Fish frye. come over any day. Bunyon went the other day and got good mess ...August 1st. we are still having tight rains...Bunyan has not slde his timber yet. Johnson has offod him $2000...I am going to Dr Tates today for some medison. Write soon your Brother J.C. Evans.

The following year, 1904, John Calhoun Evans died on June 29 and was buried at Old Saline Cemetery. His tombstone notes: Age 71 years, 4 mos, 7 days: Thy trials ended, thy rest is won. After her husband's death Florence moved to a house across the road from present (1992) Woodrow Wafer's Place in Saline. She kept her son Byron's baby, Nena, after her mother died.

In 1907 Florence sold 110 acres of her land in Section 11, T13N, R6W, to W.R. Riggins. The deed was witnessed by her two sons, Byron and Bunyan. Nena was still living with her when she died on April 9, 1909. She is buried in Old Saline Cemetary next to her husband. Her tombstone notes: Age 71 years, 10 mos, 9 days.

(In addition to the letters quoted, the following articles are now in my possession: A small "suitecase" or traveling box belonging to Florence Fickling Evans and brought with her from South Carolina. It was decapoged by Helen Marie Coker in the 1950's. Also a shaving mug belonging to J.C. Evans and his small leather-bound New Testament, dated 1862. I also have square nails from the old Captain Baber's house where they first stayed after arriving in Louisiana in 1871.)

********

MARTIN BUNYAN EVANS


Martin Bunyan, the second son of John Calhoun and Florence Fickling Evans, then aged 39 and 34, was born February 24, 1872, in Winn Parish near the present Belton Blewer Place. His older brother John Byron was almost three years old at the time. The family had probably been in Louisiana for about a year.

The first information available about Martin Bunyan's childhood is in a letter from his father to Nancy in South Carolina, written October 3, 1874, when Martin was 2 and 1/2 years old: My boys ar verry fat and smart. Billy can pick 60 lbs cotton...but is mighty slow on the move... Billy was 5 and a half at that time.

In February of the next year (1875) he wrote that I believe our boys are taking Hooping caugh. The 1880 Louisiana Census of Natchitoches Parish lists Bunyan Evans, age 8, at school, born in La (he was apparently being called by his second name by this time). A photograph of Martin about this time shows him well dressed, wearing a black bow tie and holding a book.

In April of 1882, when Bunyan was 10, his father purchased an 80 acre tract in Natchitoches Parish (N 1/2 of SE 1/4, Section 11,T13N, R6W) from John G. Readhimer for $80. They built a log house on the property (either then or previously) which was still standing in 1992 (See pictures in file). A year later his father, again writing to his sister in South Carolina, notes: ...I am laing bye my corn...I have a little crop, 12 acres corn, will make 15-20 to the acre if seasons holde, 4 acres cotton. I am not much for cootton. have one acre of upland rice and of cane, one potatoes. Me and Bunyan do the worke. I am sending Byron to school. can only send one at time. We have a good Sunday School...That summer, Bunyan had Whooping Caugh.

Bunyan's grandmother (his father's mother) died in South Carolina later this year (1883). So far as is known, he had never met her. Next information is from 4 years later. Bunyon received a letter from his brother, John Byron (called J.B.) who was attending school in Mt Lebant La (Mount Lebanon University, officially). Dated October 23, 1887, J.B. wrote: ...a few lines to let you know that I am wel and hope you the same. I received your leter on the 21. Was glad to hear from you...I was to preaching today but didn't hear any sutch preaching as Mr. Warren. But we have a very good Sabath School. How is your Sabath School geting a long and who is Seckern tery. have you killed any squirels latly or or there many in the Swamp. I wish I could be there Saturday. if a boy isent ready wen breakfast is redy he doesent get any a tall for he isent aloud to go to town and get it...(In this same letter J.B. includes a message to Dear Mah...I cant rite mutch for I havent any goo ness to rite bu sompthing that you wouldent ter believie it if any body had told you so. It is a shame. Some bad boyes per sweaded me to by a Pistol and then told it on me. I was very sory afterward about five minutes but it was to late then and know ask you and Pah to for give me ove it and I will never do so again as long as I live. I acknollegged that I did wrong and went of and twok a big cry and preyed to the Lord for giveness and know I beg you all to for give me. Mr Rease is a gwod man. He for gave me. It is al rite know. You all nead not be uneasy not a bit. It will make a man out ove me. Ples dont let any body sea this. dont let it bother you. You was asking a bowt my close. I nead a cowple calico shirts, a pair geans pant lons, too or three pr socks wool. You ask about the Bwoks. cost 2 1/2. they or seckond handed. I will close of this time. J.B. Evans

Does J.B.'s guilt about bying a Pistol reflect the actual moral strictness of his parents, where Bunyon was growing up? Or was it simply J.B.'s emotional nature? Also note his use of seckond handed books and his father's previous note about only being able to sent one of his sons to school at a time. Also, Bunyon apparently liked to squirrel hunt and go to Sabath School. Was he also running for Secken tery of the school?

Bunyan, aged 15 at this time, was attending the Line School (on line between Bienville and Natchitoches Parishes). One of his teachers was a very popular (evidenced by letters from her boy friends) young woman, Delilah Cloud. Delilah, 18 at the time, had attended Mt. Lebanon College in 1884, and then went to Mansfield, La., where the female part of the school, called Keachi College had been moved. After her graduation she returned home to teach at the Line School. She was apparently talented and artistic. Her handwriting and correspondence indicate her intelligence. (Art from her Sketch Book at Keachi is still available. I currently have two of her sketches framed in my home). Also it seems that the young Bunyan must have been considerably impressed with her.

In August of 1888, Bunyan, aged 16, was treated by Dr. E.T. Edgerton of Montgomery? La. The doctor's bill was $2.50 for his visit (house call?).

The following year (1889), when he was 17, Bunyan enrolled in Mount Lebanon University in Bienville Parish, La., where his brother had attended before him. An Oct the 6. 89. letter from Mt. Lebanon La.: Dear Brother as this is Sunday eavining I will write you a few more lines. This leaves me well. I and a parsel of boys has just taken a walk down to Sulpher Springs...You must bee sure and come upp Friday. You must get Jack Wallice to come too. Also as many as will come, and try to get hear before they dismiss school. whin you come, come right strait over to the colage and you will finde mee. The train passes gibs at dark. We can go upp Friday night and come back Saturday night if we wish to. The train will go and come every day durring the year. you must bee sure and come if you possably can. I hear the train passing now. tell Pah to pleas send mee five $5.00 dollare whin you come. I had to spind a few dollars and it will take sixteen $16 dollars to get the uniform and I will haf to have some shoes and some other things.... you must bring that trick with you. I have learnd that home is the best place. I was very lonsome for a few days. I thought I couldnt stand to stay away from home but I am geting satisfied now. Well Byron I will try and finish my letter to night.... I have just got in from church...I am going look for you all friday eavining, and you must come if nothing prevales. Wall I am geting sleepy. Your Brother. M.B. Evans

Two weeks later (October 19, 1989) Bunyan wrote: Dear Mah and Pah, I will try and write you a few lines this morning as it is Saturday morning. This leavs me well at presint. I had a bad headache yesterday eavining but I feal all rite this morning. A yong lady in School received nuse yesterday eavining that hur brother was dead. She taken it very hard. The school is geting on very well. Hohney Robison started this weak. Dr. Griffin is plinty tite for the worst of bad boys. As long as one will do write he is kinde enough. We are geting on fine with our drilling Professer Rudy. Says we are doing succeedingly good. He is going to sind for our unaforms next weak. I would like to see Clarnce before he leavs. I would like to noe if you have any objecon of me coming home next friday eavining. I can come home friday eaving and go back Sunday and not loose any time from school. I think I can bory a horse from Mr. King if you have no objecton to my coming....I will close as I want to get this in the male to day. You must rite as soon as you get this. M.B. Evans.

His mother wrote the following day, October the 20; My Dear Bunyan, As I am all a lone today I will take this opportunity to write you a few lines thinking you would like to hear from us. We are all well except coles. I have sore throat. did not go to church. Your Pa and Byron went. Clarence staid with us last night. They are going to start of next Wensday for Texes. I feal very sorey to see him go. Lewes Holman was over last Saturday night. Ses he thinkes he will go on the river with Capt Bapers to ? next year. We has a letter from your Aunt Nancy. They sent us Uncle Basels picture. It is a very nice one. They are all well except her self. She hase hay feever. Her Daughter Nanney hase joined the church. Well Bunyan I hope you are getting on well with your studes. you must make good use of your time. Your Pa hase just got home from church with your letter. I dont like to hear of you having head ache. Seams you are going to be sick. you must take those pills and quinine. I fear you are thinking too mutch about home to get along well with your studies. We would be all glad to see you at aney time. I looked for you friday. Was some what disapointed you did not ?..Your Mah.

On the top of the letter his dad adds: I hope this will finde you well. I expect you are a litle home sick. If you can get a way to come home and loose no time I do not care. J.C. Evans. Apparently this letter did not get mailed immediately as the following letter written on the 27th is on the back of the first from his mother: Addressed to M.B. Evans, Mt. Lebanon Col, postmarked at Saline: Dear Bunyan, I wlll write you a few lines this Sunday morning whch leaves us all well except coalds. myself and Maw has been nearly sick though better now. Clarence and Mr. Autery lef for Texas Thursday last. Myself Maw and Aun Nely are thinking of going to Arcadia on next Wedensday. I have had only 2 more Bales gined at Slaughters. Got carried 1500. Each got 500 & 488 each. We have something over a bal to pick yet. finished up the corn yester. got something 200 bushels for 50 cts per bushel. the horses are gitting fat. I havent cut any cane yet. Byron went to Prair Meeting last knite at Morgan Sprawls. not back yet. We would have wrote you sooner bu been so bisy we let the time slip. I have kiled a beef and in the barrel the yillow side steer was 120 to the quarter. I wan to go to the office to day. Mah joines in Love to you. your pah J.C. Evans.

Florence wrote to her son Bunyan who is away at school in 1889: My Darlin Boy. Ill writ a few lines. we are all as well as usual. I was goad to hear you was well and satisfied. Byron and your Pa is going to hall coton to day. we have some to picke yet they are to go to Arcady and by the as next weak if they have good weather don't looke to hard. I would like vearey mutch to see you all on drill. I knoit is a pretey site. I hope you are geting on with your studes Just doo not take up aney bad habets that is smoking and chewing. I havent time to write. they are geting the wagon redey to start. this is a vearey cole morning. I must close write soon. mutch love. I hope the Lord will be with you and bless you in all that is rite. your Mah.

The next remaining letter is from Bunyan, aged 17, dated Nov. 6st 89, Mt Lebanon. Well I will write you all a few lines. this leavs me well, hoping will reach you the same. Eye got back all right last Sunday nigh @ 7 oclock. We have had a very bad weak for school. it has bin so wet and cold that we couldent hardly get to school. Eye dont exspect you all done mutch to worse getting the cane ready to grind. you spok of going to Aracie and comeing by here. You must come as soon as you make the syrp. I dont expect you could sell any more hear for Mr. Kaing says they have bin severl trying to sell him syrp. You spoke of bringing the oxons and did not know how you would bring thim. If eye was you I would put the horses in the wagon and drive it and let Byron ride Sealmon and drive the oxons. you must leave home time to get hear the first night. you must bee sure and put mee a few stalks of cane in the wagon whin you come. as it is 10 oclock eye will stop for to nigh. good by....Then written in pencil rather than pen...Well eye will try to finish my letter as this is friday night. eye reckin eye will help Mr. King work on his house to morrow as eye am very anctious for him to get the house done so we can get in it. I gess our grades was mailed out to day. eye gess we will get our unaforms next weak. Professer Rudy says he got a hearing from thim. I had a lonsom ride Sunday. eye got very tired riding before I got back. This is sutch a lonsom place but eye am mutch better satisfied than eye was before eye made my trip home. have you heard from Clarence and Mr. Autry since theye left. eye will close. you must write whin you get this. Love to all M.B. Evans, Saline.

On the back of this letter: We have not seen any of them. Byron was the Sunday before. Said was verry sick with pneumonia. he had Exposed his self some that bad weather he of pneumonia plurasy and maingetus. I supose John dide ove his old diseas this tuesday. we are working at cain. will not get done this weal. have simon and Lee today. Little Lucky has baught the Linch place. The Clark Show will show at Mr. Reidhimers thursdah 10 oclock...We have Jef Morgan to help us today. this is tuirsday. Byron and Cornelious is going to the show today. We will make surup this eavening. We have 125 gallons made. your Pah is getting so he can work a little again....then on the same page: Friday Evening. We are all well at presant. hoping to may finde you the same. As ever your Father J.C. Evans.

On November 11, J.B. Evans wrote him this letter: Dear Brother. I will write you a few lines. this leaves all well except bad coles. We received your leter on the 9. was glad to hear from you. Aunt Neal got a leter from Clarence Sunday. he is at Lake Charles. thay will stay thear thre months. he says he can get $1 and 1/2 to 2 dollars pr day sawing shingels. we havent done nothing to the cain yet. it is rainning now. I reckon we will makee it up this weake. Capt Babers killed a Negrow on the River last Saturday weake in self defence. he was out untill ten or levan oclock in the nigh. the Negro stopped him and asked him to see him out in a fight. That they wanted to duoble teem on him. Cap tole him all wright and got down and they went to fighting. Cap handed his gun to one to hold. the one under the botom started to cut the other Negro. he sayes Mr. Cap dont let him cut me. Cap Sayes hand me your nife and he handed him his knife and then he sayes take him off. dont let him hirt me and Cap told him to get off and he got off and in this time a big Negrow runes up and makes a lick to cut Cap. and the Negrow that holdes the gun nocked the lick off but he cut Cap on the coat and brakes to run. Cap grabed his gun and shot him. he put 17 buckshot in the Negrow. fifty more started on to him. he told them to stop or he would shoot them and thay stoped. he is not scouting around. he would stand a trial but they swaires so many lies on him. the sherif went to take him. he said he dident hafter be taken. Mr. Joah Henry give him ten dollars and a winchester and said if he wanted any more mony he could get hit. Sam rains give him $20 dollars and told him to leave and I rekon he is gone. Tomb give him some mouney. Bob Halman is very sick they think he has pheuewmonie. I said we hadent done nothing to the cain. We have one patch stript. Cap shot another Negro also before that in self defince. he started to shoot Capt and Cap shot him the same night. the Negrowes have put out a five hundred dollar reward for Capt. I will close. J.B. Evans

His mother, Florence, wrote soon thereafter: Dear Bunyan, I'll try to write you a few lines to night as I am siting up to give your Pah calomel. he hase bin on the sick list near two weakes. taken a seveare cole case a very bad caugh. has night sweats. dont seame to get aney better so he concluded to take calomel to night. I doo hope it will have the good affect to cure him. I was sorey indeed to hear you had bin sick a gaine. you need that over coat we wanted you to take. I have some bad nuse to tell you. John Holman and Bob H are both ded. John died thursday and was bearied friday and Bob died that night at nine oclock and was bearied saturday. Oh dont you know that was grate destrest for Cousen Marlen and Mr. Holman. and oh to thinke they wear not prepearied to meet the Lord in peace. you see now Procrastination was the thieaf of time with them. the scripture ses be rededy. we kno not the hour. that is a warning to all young boyes. Byron and Cornelious is working at the cane. hase this first patch all cut down. The other is strip yet have fiftey three gallons made...

On November 13, 1889, Bunany's cousin, Clarence (W.C. Thomas) wrote him from Lake Charles, La. (beautiful handwriting): Dear Cousin, I seat myself to write you a few lines. when I was at home I wrote you a letter and never got eny answer so I will wirte again to you. I hade a long lonesoom trip of it. we was eleven day on the road. we are at Lake Charles. La. now and will stay here untill spring. I can get one and half dolers a day. There is ornges her and per? to. I can get a dolar and a half a day working at the saw mills or too dolars a day rafting logs. or I can get one $1.00 a cord halling wood. I can hall four cords a day. hauling wood is my work not. you must write as soon as you get this. I will look for a letter from you. I am very lonesome ever Sunday. if ever day was like Sunday I do not know what I would do. you must write and tell me all the nuse. I remain your cousin as ever, W.C. Thomas.

Bunyan's grades for the first quarter, ending Nov. 15, 1889, at Mt. Lebanon, University, Mt. Lebanon, Bienville Parish, La. were: Arithmetic - 97; English Grammar - 60; Geography - 62; Military Tactics - 80; Penmanship - 85; Reading - 91; spelling - 97; Deportment - 100; Attendance - 100; signed: G.W. Griffin, President, Mt. Lebanon University.

Two days later Bunyan wrote: Dear Mah. I seat myself to write you all a few lines as this is Sunday night. this leaves me well. I would like to hear from home. I have wrote too letters since I was home so I would like to get an answer. I received a letter from Clarnce this weak....I got my uniform yesterday. I got a good fit and was very well pleased with it. it makes a nice suit. the suit cost $16.50, a little more than I exspected. tell Pah to bring the syrp as soon as he can for we are needing it. well Mah I am very well satisfied know. we have a good room out to our selves now, but that dont make mutch differnce with mee. I wll bee glad to see Christmas come....then in pencil: well Mah I will finish your letter as this is ? night. I have just received ? letter just got through reading it. I am sorry to hear of Cap. Babers having to ? allso of Bob Holmons ?...I wish you could see us drill som eavening. Roody drilled us all over town this eavining. I havint got my reports yet or I would sind it in this letter....You all must write long letters. I love to read long letters. I would write more but it is 10 oclock, so good by...pleas dont say anything bout my not liking to go to school, M.B. Evans Nov. 18... then at the bottom: if you get this before Pah, bring the syrp. pleas write and let mee know he is coming so I will know whin to look for him. I will bee glad to see Christmas come. M.B. Tuesday morn.

A photograph of M.B. Evans made about this time in his uniform, seated handsomely on a horse, is available in my file.

Ten days later he wrote...I have taken two dosts of pills this weak. they have acted well. I will hafto get some quinine...I was very sick last night. I think I had a chill butt I feal all right this morning. I am taking plenty of quinine. Mr. King said he got 9 1/2 for his cotton...

On December 1, 1889, his dad wrote: ...glad to hear that you...are in your new house. I am gettin awlrite again. me and your Mah are alone today. Byron gone to Mill Creak today...I cant say excactly when I can come. we have so much bad weather. If I can get off the last one tho I may go so thouugh I expetc it wll be tomorrow week before I can get of. I haf to finish as the cane is wanting grinding and that got frostbitt. The show was not much. Byron and Cornlas went. he siad that thare was not people anough to justify him to spread his canvas so they paid 25 cts to see the anamals.

On the back of the same letter Byron wrote: ...we finished up the cain today. made 240 gal. wee will cumb up the first ove next weak....we had a party the knight of the show at Bin Eds....Bob Rewskin jumpt on Frank Stward a gain and nocked him dow with his ax and Frank taken the ax away from him and cut him in the back to the back bone. Bob shot him 3 times. hit him onst in the neck. Frank run and grabed Bobs winchester from his horse to shoot Bob but Dobson taken it away from him. They are both bad wonded. We wont comb untell the last ove the weak. we are threw with the sirup. I will close, J.B. Evans

Bunyan's school work papers still available, dated J. 1889, include pages of writing exercises, each line written 10 or 15 times. Included in the lines written when he was 17 years old are these:

It is not honorable to dispute about trifles.

Discourage is cunning to the ape of time.

The soul is immortal it will not die.

Our bodies are mortal they will soon die.

A treatise is a written composition.

Before no idol bend they nee.

Primeval denotes what was first or original.

A tribunal is a court for deciding causes.

You must be good or you cant be happy.

The path of duty is always the path of safety.

The most necessary part of learning is to learn our errors.

Never postpone until tomorrow what ought to be done today.

Tomorrow may be never.

Kindness wins friends.

Botany is the science of plants.

Paper is made of linen and cotton rage.

Washington was not a selfish man.

He labored more for his country than for himself.

The wicked transgress the laws of God.

Confess your sins and forsake them.

An unjust judge will give a faulse judgement.

Washington is the capitol of the United States.

Otawa is the capitol of British America.

A mercer is one who deals in silk and woolen goods.

A glossary is used to explane obscure words.

An elegy is a funeral song.

It is our duty to exert our talent in doing good.

Meany things are lawful which are not expedient.

Love and friendship concileate favor and esteem.

Each president's term is four years.

Harrison is the president of the United States.

Also included in his remaining papers were these poems: When we get old we will smile/that we had no care in child hood/But it will not be true/I have one care/I care for you.

Remember me whin far away/For with this page love will stay/Around thy hart a begger/Be whispering the words remember me.

Forget the will I ever/Tis vain for mee to try it,/forget thee I will never,/I will love thee till I die/There is nothing but death, my affections can sever/untill lifes latest breath/Love shall bind us forever.

Sweat is the one who reads this line/I wish her sweetness were all mine.

Did thy spirit tell thee ever/of its loneliness without thee/of the happiness it never/can find but in the rays about thee.

I'm bound over California sands to roam/unless dear girl, you share with me my home.

Say, wilt thou bless these eyes of mine/by one sweet smile of love from thine.

I think of thee whillst far away/I think of thee both night and day/I think of thee and always sigh/I think of thee and almost cry.

Last in your album/last in your thought/last to be rememberd/first to be forgot.

These are signed: Compliments of M.B. Evans. Were they written to Delilah Cloud, who apparently kept these papers?

In July of 1890 Bunyan's father wrote to his sister Nancy: ....I have no cropper, just me and Bunyan. we have a good crop. our corn is make some 350 bushels....Byron was 21 years old the 21 day of May. he is working a crop of his own...a pourful worker, stout and able. Bunyan is just as good. they are good boys and t finest workers I ever saw. they work too hard...

During this year, School Mistress Delila Cloud, was boarding with Cornelia Fickling Thomas, sister of Bunyan's mother, Florence Fickling Evans. (There were many letters from various male friends during this time found in her belongings recovered by Constance Evans after her death. Those not from persons known were destroyed at this time.)

Bunyan's father, again to his sister in S.C., wrote about his family in June, 1897:... Florance had all thes Teath tacon out...she dont hardly look ntural. her and Bunyan and Cornelier and Steller and Nene Burther all left for Nacatoch this morning with load of chickens. Bunyan is juriman this week...Myself and boys have made a big corn crop....Bunyan is hawling up lumber. he will have a good start. is a splendid manager. has a smart and good wife and a smarte little baby 9 or 10 moths old. just beginning to walk...

Apparently Bunyan was not in school in April of 1890. He received a letter from J.E. Readhimer at Mt. Lebanon: ....well I dont know what to write that would interest you. there have been a protracted meeting going on up here for three weeks at night. only there have been 12 proffessions. dont know when it will break up. I know that I am getting mighty tired of it....I guess that you and your girl is getting all right. I have the best looking girl in school. I tell you the girls was stuck on you. they said you was the best looking boy in school. you better had staid. you aught to be at the society. we have a fine time every Saturday night. Well I guess that you dont aim to ever come up here again. Well you must come to the commencement sure.

A letter from Anna Lou Waters in Campti, La. on April 26 (1890?) invites trading pictures and tells of having a sociable heare some time next month...I will send you and invitation. She ends with: When pleasure sparkles in thin eyes/And every scene is fair to see/When swift away the moments fly/O then remember me....A.L.W. On May 23 whe wrote again: ...I now reply to your true letter. I was glad to get my fellows photo but dont think that it looks much like him. I will send your girls photo....signed, Your fond friend. A.L.W. Oh then remember me. Another letter from Campti from Your true friend V.E.B includes a pressed rose ant ends: May heaven on you its choicest blessings shower is the sincere wish of your friend. Be kind to all. be itimate with few and may the few be well chosen. Then the rose is pinned with this message: Roses without thorns for you.

In May his friend J.E. Readhimer again wrote: ...Well how are you getting along farming. I guess that you are through planting and nearly through chopping cotton....Well Bunyan do you ever see my girl down there. and is she as pretty as ever. I expect you have cut me out by this time....Well Bunyan we have quit the drill and I have sold my uniform... Later that month he wrote again about how hard school is: ....the examinations commenced yesterday and it will go on all next week. I had as soon be in purgatory hauling pine knots. They are going to give us the devil and dont you forget it. You must be sure and come up ...about Sunday the 8th. the Society concert will be on Tuesday night. You must be here. We are having some lively old debates sure. We are going to discuss the Lottery question tomorrow night. Guess we will have a lively time....

In a July 4th, 1890 letter from Tennessee, Bunyan's cousin, Warner Workman wrote: ...you must write soon again and tell me all about your self and fir. and tell who Byron's going with....and tell me when you are going to marry...

The first preserved letter to Delilah Cloud, later to become Bunyan's wife, was written Sept. 15, 1890. He was 18, she, his former high school teacher, was 21. Addressed to Saline PO, Bienville Pa, La: Dear Friend I take the gratest of pleasure in writing you...if you will accept of it I was in your company yesterday and you did not seam as livey as usual. have you heard any report about me or was you just in trouble about that faulse...that Ginnie Corbit has told. if I were you I would straten that up with hur. you must not think that that report will hurt you for we all no it is not so and that she has no reputation. it will take more than that to make me dislike you. in fact I dont think I could dislike you. I no you dont think half as mutch of me as I do of you. you are the prettiest girl that I ever seen. the love that I have for you no humons tongue can tell. I will write you a line to no if you will accept of my coming to see you and of my corasponding with you when you go home. If you will accept of this pleas drop me a few lines to let me no. I remain as ever your loving friend by by by. M.B. Evans....pleas dont let anyone see this...

Three days later she replies on Sept. 18: Mr. M.B. Evans. Kind friend. With much surprise indeed I recieved a letter from you. You seemed to think I was vexed at something you had done or said. if you have ever done me any harm I am ignorant of it. but I dont believe you have done anything. I was angry with Mrs. Corbit alone. I could not be lively and dont think any one els could have been in my place and been lively. I have taken several useless cries about it. if I thaught crying would do any good I would cry a week. I never had a fauleshood told on me beforeand it shurenough gets away with me. Well Bunyan your letter was such a surprise that I hardly know how to answer, but nevertheless I will consent for you to cometo see me. Also a letter or too from you will be of great consolation after I go home. I have written this in a great hurrah so please excuse. believe me to be Your True friend, Delilah Cloud.

This note dated Oct. 8, 1890: Delilah Cloud returns compliments to Bunyan Evans and accepts his company with pleasure..excuse paper. On October 15, Bunyan wrote: Dear Miss Delilah. My Kindest friend. It is with much pleasure indeed that I now imbrce my pen in hand to write you a few lines for the first since you left the sand hills. I tell you I did miss you so much at church last sunday. I missed you so much that I could not keep from being lonesom. you need not be surprised....I believe he is thinking of getting him a girl but I am afraid he is like my self afraid to ask a girl to have him for fear she would say no and thin wouldint I feal bad...I know I have fell in love with you but I am afraid I am too late. but I hope I am not. I will close for this. write soon. believe me to be your True friend so good by my darling...May the gentle dews of heaven water the wayside flower of hope that chear you, and the golde rays of peace ever gilde your path way, is the wish of your best friend. M.B.E.

A month later he wrote on Nov. 8: Dear Miss Delilah...He tells her of his trip to the State fear in Shreveport and having to stay up all night. ....I remain as ever your true friend...good by my darling...Remimber me is all I ask; Remimber me if it be a task; Remimber me and So will I Remimber you untill I die.

On Nov. 23 Bunyan receives this letter from Frank Gardner in Bunkie:...Bunyan you must tell me how you and your oncontroable gairl is geting along. there are not wild, but the right cine of one is hard to ceatch. when you get your rop on the wright caine of one be suer and draw it tite. if you daunt she will get luse and er way she will go and be caught in some other trap. I have got you a girl picked out fir you. I know you will like her. she has black hair and blue eyes and her knore drages the ground and her yerr flops over her back. O she is a dary. you ought to see her...your best friend, Frank Gardner.

On January 4, 1891, Bunyan, aged 18, first hints at a proposal of marriage to Delilah Cloud, then aged 21: Miss Delilah, ....it do seam like I am disapointed in nearly all of my undertakins. my next undertakin will bee to get some girl to say yes or no. and if she likes me as well as I do her she will bee sure to say yes. it seam as if marying is all the go now and I expect I had better put in a word before it is too late and that is, how would you like to bee my companion through life. you must not get frightened at what I say for you can depind on it. I expect it will bee some time tell I see you again...I will get off to school in course of two weaks. if I knew you would bee at home on the third Sunday I would pay you a visit...I would come after you but I am afraid to undertake it with out knowing for I might bee disapointed again. I will close. believe me to bee your true friend. M.B.E...let not thy friendship bee like the rose to sever, but like the evergreen, may it last forever..

Apparently he got a gentle Dear John. A month later, on Feb. 6, he wrote again. After telling Delilah about being away for a week with Byron and Clarence working at Mr. Slaughters Mill on a half. We cut the timber and hall it for half. We three average $12 dollars a day....Well Miss Delilah I received your new Years present and did apreciate it very much. you can count on my new years gift. I was disapointed in going to school. It seams like they cant do with out me at home that long...Well Miss Delilah I aggree with you in what you said that it wouldunt hurt for a few of us to wait a little while, for that just suits me. I expect you think I am too yong. But I will not be in the near future...I dont expect you can read what I have scribled. pleas look over bad writing and spelling. write soon. I remain as ever your True friend. M.B.E.

On the 10th of February, this letter from Frank Gardner: ...M.B. what do you think. I found me a gairl on my way home. O she is a dandy. I waunt subscribe her to you because you would fall in love with her...

On March 13 M.B. wrote to Delilah ...I have bin following the carpinders trade the last weak and accidently I mashed my finger again. and thin I received such a long letter at the saim time. I tell yo it gets way with me, but I havint had the Doctor yet..I havint started to build my house yet .. I dont expect they will bee any use to. do you....Belive me to bee your true friend as ever. M.B.E....

A month later he wrote again to Delilah at Campti on April 12: ...Esteemed friend. I received your letter and it was red with much pleasure...you spoke like you thought the carpenders trad was a good profesion. but I hardly think so as I cant keep from mashing my finger...so I think whin I get my house bulit I will close the trade. I think I can beet that. you said you believed I am preparing to take care of some ones daughter. of course I am prepearing to give the prettiest girl in the county a home and a plesent home if she will accept of it. but it seams like she don't no whether to accept of it or not. I guess you no who she is. she has light hear and blue eyes and rosy cheeks. She said she got a valentine which had I love you on it. if I don't mind I will tell you who she is.I think it is a sory fellow that will think of such a thing and not prepear for it, dont you....Believe me to be your true friend M.B.E. I will sind you a kiss in this letter. you must not let it out whin you break the letter Yours truly, good by dear.

The following Dear John Letter was found with a rough draft and then this final letter on May 12, 1891, from Delilah: ...No Dear Bunyan I can never marry you. so you had as well prepare to get someone els. Someone that will suit you better than I. Never have I doubted your love. And if my letter sounded that way, am glad to have this chance to correct it. If I could think as much of you as you seem to think of me it would be entirely a different case, but I can love you only as a friend. You will some day find some nice girl that will love you and be more worthy of your love than I am. But let me advise you not to care for a high tempered jealous girl. that will never do. you are too good natured to be led about by the temper of some woman because of her beauty. Should you ever be called upon for your true friends names, please head the list with Delilah Cloud.

Next to the above letter this undated poem was found, signed M.B. Evans: Must I teach my looks to shun thee/When coaldly we have met/Can I forget thee never/Forget -O! forett me more/Until your sun sets forever. Can thy this thought command/and I be forgotten forever more/To bid a kind friend farewell/Doth make emotion in my bosom swell/But duty makes me plainly see/That I mus say fare well to thee.

(The above poem is written in pencil on one side of the page, as though he where just composing it; then, in ink on the other side:

Now Farewell thee well/ I had rather make my bows upon some icy lake/Where thauing sun begins to shine/Than to trust to love as faulse as thine/Can thy this thought command/And I be forgoten forever more/To bid a kind friend farewell/Doth make emotion in my bosom swell/But duty makes me plainly see/That I must say fairwell to thee.

Breaking up, it seems, has always been hard to do!

Bunyan began what was to be his life long profession on October 28, 1891. At the age of 19 he was issued a license by the State of Louisiana, Parish of Natchitoches, Office of the Parish Treasurer to become a merchant: Having paid one Dollar and Twenty-five cents to the Parish of Natchitoches is here by licensed to pursue and follow the occupation of Merchant.

No information is available on any relationship between Bunyan and Delilah Cloud during 1892. However, letters she kept indicate a number of her male friends during this time. (As noted earlier, those from men not known to Constance Evans after Delilah's death were destroyed).

In October of 1892 Bunyan heard from his friend James Brewton at Flat Creek ...kind friend, wishing to have you in school I will write you...we have the cheapest school in south La. Friend do come if you want to edgicate your self cheap. you can obtain board at the low rate of $6 to $8 per month....I could tell you more than I have. we have the best scool in the world. I am your friend...

Sometime during late 1892 Bunyan apparently began what must have been an exciting relationship with Miss Belle Gardner of Bunkie, Louisiana. Belle was the younger sister of Francis Rebecca Gardner who had married Bunyan's brother, John Bryon, on February 2, 1892. Their father, Thomas Gardner, was the son of Eunice Thomas and Thomas Gardner. Eunice Thomas was a sister of William E. Thomas who married Cornelia Fickling and came from South Carolina along with Bunyan's father and mother. (Did Eunice come along with her brother from S.C. in 1870, or did she come later?) Belle was also the sister of Bunyan's good friend, Frank Gardner (see previous letters). Curiously many of their love letters were kept, as were Delilah's, throughout the later marriage of Bunyan and Delilah.

The first of many remaining letters to and from Belle Gardner was written by Bunyan on January 20, 1893. I wonder how he got his letters back after the relationship ended? The first begins: My Dearest...you dont have any idier how lonly I have bin...Well Miss Belle I dont knoe mutch to write as this is the first time to write to you. but I will assure you that I have not forgotten you, nor never will eye just as I said that night. but I am afraid you will brake your promiss for some other ugly fellow down there that you see after. What have you done with E.B. and his ring. I think I can get you a nicer one than that but you know you cant wear two at once...Ohe yes I forgot to tell you my dream. I drimp that I met you and shuck hands with you and you gave me an aple and told me that you thought you loved me...

A letter from Belle to Bunyan, dated February 13, begins: Mr. Bunyon, My Sweetest & Dearest... A March letter affirms: Yes I will kiss those eyes of yours by one sweet kiss of love....I think to mouch of your letters to show them. I would be a fool to show your letters to any boddy. You said I seem to dout your love. I did at first but beg your partner I will never do it again. Mr. Bunyon I love you. I will love love you the longest day I live. if your fool me I will still love you you my dearest ...you was the prettest fellow in that country you are as good looking young man as ever I seen. the reason I say that it is because I love you better than any boddy ever I seen. I will love you as long as life lastes....I will love the for ever and ever. Your Lover, B.G.

In a March 22 letter, E.B. (Ben) Workman from Allapaka, GA. wrote: ...I would of liked very much to of read that letter you spoke of. You had better be careful or that girl will get you cornered... In April Belle wrote: My dearest true love...your letter made me as happy as a dove. Yes my dear I will beleave you to be my truest lover and I hope you will beleave me to be yours...who but lovers can convers like angels, by the eye discourse? Address and compliment by vision, make love and court by intuition. Oh! my dear I love you now and always...you was the first man that I ever loved and you will be the last also. My dear you asked me how would I like to live up there in...another year. My dear I cant tell you in this letter for I think I am to young to marrie that soon. dont you? I think you can wait longer than next year....yours forever. S.B. Gardner

Next letter from Belle: ...I will finish with poutry and I mean every word of it: Oh how can I part with you since I loved thee barely one/I am like and oppressed with grief and only thou can give relief/ I love the dearley and only thee/Say ? wilt thou love me/or shal love binde us in his charge/Let me now thy sweet voice hear. I'll be the object of thy care/And the weary senes at life/Ill be the wife and thou the husband/When I lay my pen to rest/but not my heart withen my brest/ and shall I see the happy times/when I am youres and you are mine...Yours for ever and ever.

This same month Delilah Cloud received a long letter from R.B. Matthews. On page 9: ...Yes I supposed that I was the first to talk love to you. It will be 7 years next June...I agree with you in saying that "one who truly loves will not allow independence to interfere with his love. True love will melt the stoutest heart into the dust of humility." I'm indeed glad to hear you say that my disposition is like others who won your affection...

In the Summer of 1893 Bunyan, then aged 21, went on a trip to Texas, apparently exploring with the possibility of the family's moving there. On June 10 Belle Gardner wrote to M.B.E. at Brazos, Texas: ...My dear you spoke of the Texes girls, how scarse they are and how ugly they are. I bet you will get stuck on them yet...I am not like some girls. they can tell a man yes and never mean it. that is one thing I cant do. I will love you for ever...some men can up and tell girls that they mean every word they say and dont mean it eather, but I dont say you are one of those kind. If I knew you was I would feel like a chicken with its head cut off...I love you more than tongue can tell. Oh! I hope I will see the time when I am yours and you are mine, but I beleave your love will fail before that happens...

An undated letter to Brazos mud hole Tex, Dear Cousin... probably from Clarence Thomas: ...but about your girl. we rec'd a letter from her last night she has give you up. there is an old batchler have beat you now...Bunyan your mother and father have ben here. your Pa said tell you to go to more co. they seem to think that is the plase. he said for you to go to Beeville and see farther. look all around...if you could find old Mr. Autry go to his place and talk to him. your pa said it wouldent cost you a cent after you got to Beeville. the collany will take care of you and he said if you wanted more money send to him. he will send it to you...

On June 11 his dad also wrote to M.B. in Texas: ...There was a disstructive Hail Storm about the time you lef a little east of Arcadia. struck the Hodg Raburn Place. the hail lay in places 2 feet deap. Sam Barbay and Coleman have run a way from Reidhimer and gone to Texes. he has Hansil and old will hunting for them sevel days. Bunyan you nead not let home bother you. Just make your minde easy and take in all you can. keep you a Book of Incidents and Towns & Counties....I think if I was you I would go and look at More Co. if you have the means...you mus write ofton. all join in love, J.C. Evans.

June 18: Letter to M.B. & Samie in Texas from Mother and Dad: ...Tom Waters and Bob Lucks boy went to New Town. past a house the dog grouled at them. he got down and shot it 2 or 3 times. pistal failed fier and axadently wint of Billing Luckys mule. he will haf to pay for mule .... I will close respects to Mr Autry and famaly to keep you boys strat. Tutch no whisky whatever. as ever, J.C. Evans.

That same day, June 18, M.B.'s brother Byron wrote: ...Well Bunyan I would go to More County while you are out thear. I wouldent listen to what any body says a bout any thing. I would go right strait thear and come back and go with Mr. Autry. an then I would go to ? if Mr. Autry dident go. you and Samby want make mutch thear cuting wod. first thing you know you will be sick....did you pay Mr Autry for me...write as soon as you get to More Co. J.B. Evans.

Three days later, June 21, this letter to M.B. from Belle Gardner: ...you said I need not be afraid of you findeing a girl out there. I was just only jokeing you a bout the Tex girls. I am not that jealous hearted by any means...I would not fool you for any thing on earth. I love you to much much to fool you, my dear little sweat Bunyan... On July 1, she wrote again: ...I will now reply to your hieley appreashated letter which I receaved last night which you written in Stephinsonville, Tex and that you was fixin to go back to Brazos...My dear I will love you for ever you said in your letter, the one you written before you left Brazos... I think the next time you take a trip ought to be to Bunkie...the first letter you ever wrote to me you wanted to know what had I done with E.B. and his ring. you said you would give me one but I couldent wear two and be true to both. I told you I gave his ring back and would assept of yours. but you dont think that mouch of me. I beleave you are like some one else that I have bin enformed of by a young lad. I really beleave your love are fales. But, Oh! I hope it is not. I hope your love will never be false while we both live...you said in your letter before you left Brazos that you would love me untile you died if I would onley be true to you. Yes my dear I will be true to you for ever...I would be very foolish to promise you to be your companion through life and then go back on it. that is one thing that I dont promise unless I mean it.

In July Bunyan's father wrote to him in Brazos,Texas: ...I suppose you think you have found the place and are satisfied with what you heve seen and learned and could do no better. I recon you had as well come back and informe us of the facts an see whether I shal go or not. I rather think I could risk my chances on your and Mr Auters judement to back it. I recon it would bee tollarbly hard to get worst. we are getting verry dry had no rain in 2 weeks and very hot...Well Bunyan they have put an end to Bob Rushing. he went to Tex. came back and taken his Little Daughter of & around & in the woods with him. She got chance to ask protection of ther Neighbors. The officers went to arest him. he got in the first shot & mise. ?waited on him till he got another shell about in. Then they puled an kiled him instantly. there is no one sarry. burred him at Saline. well Byron has come I will close. J.C. Evans. Love to Mr Autry & Famely.

Also on July 2, 1893, his cousin Clarence (W.C.) Thomas, wrote:...sorry you are sick..hope you will bee able to come home. your father said for you not stur out two soon and take medison along. take tonic to and when you get able come home. I think there are satisfide with the place you have went to...Bob Rushing was killed the other day. shot by the sherif and three or four guns fired the same time. cant tell who killed him...your father said tell you there was no use of going to Bee Co. and not go to them places you spoke of. he was afraid you would stur out too soon and make your self sick again...

. Bunyan apparently returned from Texas, visited Belle in Bunkie, and came home. Shortly thereafter his brother Byron's wife, Fannie, died giving birth to Nina. On July 18 Belle wrote to My dear darling Bunyan, in Saline. This eaving Ill try to take courage and chearful heart to answer your dear letter which was written on the 11. ...Ah! what sorrow and trouble that letter brought us. Ah! to hear my dear sister was dead, my favorite sister in this troublesome world. When I saw her last which was last January I did not think that would be the last time I would ever see her...I told her good by and she cried so and I thought I would cry my poor self to death...if only I could of seen her and kissed her the last time like you all did. but I beleave she is in a better world beyond. she always was so good to me....I will never get to see her in this world. hope I will meet her in heaven. I beleave that is where she is gone. I never went to the last Ball, something told me not to. the last time I danced was on 23 of May. That will be my last time ever to try to dance if God will onley forgive me for that. I will never do the like again. You must tell me in your next letter what she said about me before she died....My dear I dident think you was glad to leave Bunkie. I did hate to see you go. I had to cry when you got out of the gate, but I am glad you got to see the last of My dear sister Fannie. My favorite sister. she was loved by every boddy every where she went. (On the top of this letter is a note: We have just reseaved a letter from Byron. it was sad sad indead...)

A week later Bunyan heard from his friend Frank Gardner, brother of Belle and Fannie, about his grief...how I remember her lovely lively intelligent and affectionate, ever displaying a thoughtfulness beyond her years...but remember that light sometime will break through and there will be a glad and happy reunion in the great beyond...we will all meet dear sister Fanie in hevan...

Another letter from Belle on August 2...Oh! how I do woush poor Fannie could of lived to of raised poor little Nena....I know your Mother will do all she can for it, but she is not like its mother. Oh! how I woush I could of seen poor sister Fannie and talked with her before she died. I would of bin much happier girl to night. but it is usless for me to fret for I guess she is much better of than I am to night. I hope to meat her in a better world beyond here and beyond her dear grave. I beleave she is in heaven to night...My, just to think, poor Fannie told you that we had made it up to marrie and she had know objections and also told your mother that we had made it up to marry... My dear, you wanted to know if the rest of the family would be wiling or not. I cant tell you to save my life. as for my Mother, she never do give away any of her girls. Paper does all of the givening. Mama always sais if they love a man enough to marrie him and it suit us, it is all wright with her. you will hafter ask them then you will fine out. but it dont make any difference where they are wiling or not. it is all the same with me. Oh, my dear you asked whether I would like to live in Texas or not...you seam to want to put me off untill next December one year. I rather not quite so long if it can be possiable. you seam to think next Dec is to earley for you. if it is, I will say next July. that will be planty long enough. I think far next Dec a year is longer than I want to wait. but I expect you would like to wait untill then and expect longer.... Now if next July dont suit you, please tell me and if it dont. you must set the time your self so you can please your on self about it. for I dont care about saying what time any more. much rather for you to say than me. I guess we wont fall out and fight about it any way. I guess we will do like a young man and a young lady. ever time she would set the time to marry he would say I am not quite ready. and so one time he came to see her she sais I suppose you are not quite ready. he sais no. she sais you never will be eather and she sais I am not redy eather and you can quit coming here. he sais that is what you ought of tole me long ago. so they broke up. he never did care anything for the girl. Miss Mary Scroggs is her naim. Well I will close. hope to hear from you soon. G.B.

His Aunt Nancy Peterson, Batesburg, S.C., wrote to him on August 28: ...I was indeed very sorry to hear of cousin Fannie's death, I do think it is so sad for a young wie to have to die and leave her husband, but I guess she was taken for some good purpose. if you all could only see it that way...

The next day Belle wrote again:...I know I wasent pretty as you say. There isent any one can make me beleave I am good looking. such a thing has never crossed my mind....Your truest girl for ever, Belle.

In another undated letter, perhaps in January, 1894, Belle wrote: My dearest I will tell you in my next letter wheather next Dec. will suit me or not but I guess maby it will...You ask me to give my reasons in full for not wanting to wait untill next Dec. I havent any reasons perticullar. but I dident care much to wait untill Dec. next. But I will wait on you longer than July. I will tell you in my next letter how much longer I will wait on you. If I dident love you I wouldent wait on you but I am willint to wait on you if that will please you and will suit you. yes you can be mine for ever if you want to. Bunyon you siad you dident get any thing for Xmas. that was to bad. I got a nice lamp fruit stand and a pare of silver knives and forks and a presearve dish and one spoon holder and a silk handerchife and an accordian. She also tells of her plans to teach school....I am going to take a school...where they want me to teach now is at New Saline at my old home. but I wouldnent go there among those people for nothing. they are not much people so tryfling any way.

Bunyan's cousin "C" (W.C. Thomas) wrote on September 16 from Butler, La:...there are more fiddlers here than I ever seen. ever thing is an an fiddler. I think I will learn perhaps: I have had a fine time. I taken dinner with Katie a gain wensday. she hasent antid yet. She is a hard case. now I will try her again...how is my Mary geting a long...did you go to the sociable or not. and what kind of a time did you have any way. I had luck in getting money. I got $75 dollars from Walter. We will have whiskey here by next saterday. ordered it yesterday from St Louis. come down. we will have a fine time. I like here very well. I have something to do about one third of my time. nearly all negro trade so far. there are dang sight of negros here...Bunyan will you tell my folks I am well. tell them I would of wrote to them but I haven time now....Bunyan bee not uneasy about what I owe you. I will pay you by or beefore the first day of Jan. Cotton is looking up. I do not want to sell unless I hafter bee fore that time. if you run a way I will get out of paying it...

In her September 25 letter to Dearest Lover Belle wrote:...I am not going to school yet but will soon. but wont fall in love with the teacher. you need not be afraid of that. are you that jealous hearted? I dont like jealous hearted men at all and I and the country girl are quite differnt endeed....Oh, yes. I ask you two questions in my other letter you never answered. you need not think that I forget any thing. I never do. Yes I woush I could of been at the sociable, but I wouldent of enjoyed my self any way. I couldent of played. I have quit all such foolishness as that...your lonely and sweetest girl for ever....

On October 7 Bunyan heard again from cousin C (W.C. Thomas) at Butler, La.:...I got a letter from Mary giveing me hell. twice she said she heard I had gon here to sell whiskey. I would like to know who told her that. I haven sold a drop of whiskey. Safford declined the idear of that. Some fool run to that girl trying to make her mad with me. I want to know who it was....when you come to stay a week I wll show you a letter that will make you love my girl. she sent me a song.. the words is this: There is one thing that will greave me/And torment my mind/Tis leaving my darling sweet Mary behind. it is pretty isint it...Bunyan my girl raised me higher than a kite a bout selling shiskey. Aint that hell. I wish some fool could keep they mouth shut. I believe I will come back in a few weeks on a visit. I will fix all that up a gain...

Oct. 23: Letter from Belle, apparently about marriage:...I don't care who you go with & who you dont, just so you are true to me. that is all I ask of you. I will bee true to you and no one else. Will you beleave me? I am never jelous off you and some other girl. that is pure nonesence of any and I will love you the longest day I live. Bunyan I dident say for you not to say next July and not mean it. You know I dident eather. I know you havent very near decided it would suit you before July. It wouldent suit me at all before July. Now I think you can wait untill next July cant you? I beleave next July would suit me better than any other time now. But I might make up my mind before then. But realy I couldent get reddy before than Bunyan. I expect your Mother would tell you like she did Byron when she found out that he was a gonter marrie poor Fannie. She ask him if he couldent get a younger girl would do as well as Fanney, get some other girl closter by. Well dear Fannie is dead now. that is all about it and I wrote your mother a letter after Fannie died. she never answered. Why dident she Bunyan....you said you wasent jealous off the Proffesor. who are you jealous of than? Yes I recond we could get along togather real well. I know any one could get along with me for I allways try two please any one if so I can. that is my nature exactly...Your True Lovening girl. S.B. Gardner.

On October 28, Delilah Cloud received this letter from C.R. Cook: ...I am no hand to flater any one. I think you are the Best looking girl I ever seen in my life and I loved you the first time I ever saw you. I have never saw a girl that I loved before you. I know you dont believe me but it so and I hope you want get offendid at what I have sed...

On Nov. 11, Belle wrote Bunyan: My dearest loving sweetheart...when in my company you musent be so sad. I will never go back on you. I will be your companion through life as I have told you...will you beleave me? Bunyan I guess you think you have cought me in a lye about the parties. Yes I wrote to you that I had quit going to parties which I have. the sugar mill parties are nothing but young people get two gather and go to the mills to eat all the cain they want and all the syrup. I stand around and look at the mill grinding the cain. there isent any danceing nor playing in it. you talked as if there wasent any depindence left in me. will you take it back? I have you to undestand that I am a different girl to that....men are so sily any way. cant expect any better. I truely hope you will quit thinking that I will go back on you for some one else. My dearest that will never oh never be no-no...Bunyan I dont remember any thing about me writening to you for you not to mean next July. When you come please bring that letter so I can see if I did write such stuff or not I dont believe I did... (see Oct 23 letter--short memory?)

Dec. 10: Letter from Belle: ...you said you saw my old fellow and said you didnt see why I couldent love him. I dident fancy his looks nor his ways....you know some loves one and some loves two, and I love one, and that is you-you. You ask me if I could say what you have said. Yes dear Bunyon. I can and say it from my heart and I do hope you will believe me two. You musent let E.K. fret you. he can never come between I and you... (In this letter Belle refers to Aunt Nealey so they must be related).

C.R. Cook wrote Delilah again on December 26, 1893:...It seems like our corespondence is get cold. Why should it be so. As far as I have writen be fare. You or the onley Girl that I love and why should we not hear from each other often. I would be pleased to hear from you often...

An undated letter from Sammie Thomas:...Bunyan I received a letter from your Girl the other day and she told me what that secret that she had promised to tell me some time ago. and it was that you and she was going to maried. and she gave ma good peice of advice and she said whil I were picking one myself a girl to bee cearful, that some Girles wasen worth suckes. I know it all is true. I find a good meney of them that way...you will find five dolers in close. Your true cousin as ever, Sammie Thomas

1894, Jan. 2: ...I was looking for you all during Christimas and Im looking for you yet...I am afraid you will never get here. Bunyan do you think that you can come to your promise at the time I said, or not? or later on if you cant please tell me so in your next letter I am a girl that never do fool with any one so long. I never did try to wiat on any one as long as I have you. I never did try to. Year and a half is as long as I care to wait on any one. But I guess you think I am silley. but, I am telling you just the pure truth. You know that it is not good two put of a weding. I think you can get reddie by July...you said in some off your other letters that you dident care to wait untill than, but you dident say that from your heart. it was from your lips that was where that little word was from. Now wasent it? Bunyon if I knew that you mean not what you pretend, This would be my last last letter sure. I am a girl that cant beg any and to love me to marrie. no nor eather can I get befor them and cry like a dunce. there is two many men in this wide wide world and there may be a many bright sun shiney day that will pass over me while in my happy youth. know one man dont bother me but very little indeed. You are the first that I ever try to love and I hope and trust to the heavnely Farther above that you may be the last. and an old maids life I believe is sweeter than any...come when you can...and if you cant come stay there. Please excuse this mean hate full letter. dont get mad at it but tell me what I ask you to. B.G.

Jan 16: From Belle: Dearest Bunyon, I guess you have gotten my last letter by this time. I know I ought to make some apologys to you for the way I have treated you and did it for nothing. if you will pardon me for treating you as i have and for nothing I will never do so again... Bunyon what made me so mad and angry was to think that you should say you could find an other girl. Now Bunyon if you think that you can find an other one and as much better than I and would make you a better compannion threw life and would care more for you and love you more than I do, Why just drop me, but I hope you dont think of doing that. Bynyan when I wrote to S. to write what he did I dident think it would make you so mad. you can get S to shoe you the letter that has it in it and see for your self there isent anything of the kind. I wouldnt forsake you for any one in this wide wide world. Yes dear I feel that I have done you wrong. (purple cloth bow pinned here)...if you will pardon me I will never do it again. I will care more for you after this than ever. I will tell you the truth, I never saw any one that I love as well as those sweet eyes of yours. now will you believe me. I can love you for a life time. I will quit treating you mean and will never do any thing to rumple your feelings any more if you will forgive me this time and be the same dear Bunyan...By the way, do you think that you can fulfill your promise. if you cant and dont intend to and aim to draw me entwo a snair and that is all, I woust you would tell me so at once. I would thank you far it every so much, yes indeed I would. Please write soon and a long letter to your dear girl. excuse this writening and miss takes. I am writening by thee light of my Christmas lamp. it was gave to me by a frind for my bearth day presant...

Feb. 6: From Belle: Dearest lover. To night I will reply to your hily and appreciated letter which came safe to hand some time back. Now send reply. Well I suppose you dident understand all of my letter...Yes Mother and some one else was the cause of me writening as I did...Mother want me to stay with her as long as Fannie did, but I tell her I cant stay with her always, and Dear Bunyon If you do mean what you say which I believe you do and I'l go and forsake My dear old Mother for you and you and you a lone and than you go and treat me mean like a great many men do. I dont know what I would do. But I hope you would do like you said in your letter. but there is so many promises just such and than do the other way untill I have gotten kind of apprehension...

Delilah Cloud heard from C.R. Cook in Simsboro, La. on Feburary 18: ....Well Miss Delilah I ...hope you will have a good success in teaching. how long are you going to Teach...there is one that I dont get to see that I think of more than any and it would make me happy if I onely new she thought of me once in a while. I enjoy reading the letters from her more than any one on earth. I would like to see you and talk with you...you are the onely girl that I love...

Mar. 3: From Belle Gardner: ...Well Bunyon, Why did you tell those people up there that I kissed you good by when you left here. this news has come to me so strait untill I cant help but to believe that you did tell it, and you know that I dident want to kiss you at al,l and you know that you promised me youd never tell it. But you have so I persumd. Now I want you to let this be your last if you did tell it. I never did think that of you..I wont say wheather next Dec will suit me or not but maby it will. I will leave that for you to say for I will not say any more. do suit your self about is..Bunyon tell me where you did have any such talk or not in your next letter...

On March 4, Delilah got a letter of response to her's of Feb 23 from J.T. Boone in Mt. Lebanon: ....I think your certificate is good for this Bienville parish. I am not in position to say about the Line School (he tells her who to write). A March 5 letter from E.E. Stewart of Sebastapol, Miss. notes: ...I'm glad you have a nice school and I hope it may go on smoothly and prove prosperous to you.

Mar. 13: Letter from cousin S.F. Thomas in Gilmer, Texas to Bunyan: ...I have found my self a new girl. she is as pretie as she can bee. how is my old girl a geting along. tell her I would like very much to see her...I saw my new girl today and she is as pretie as ever...

Mar. 19: Letter from Belle: Dear Sweetheart...but Ah! Bunyon I cant give your pardon this time for telling what you did and promised me so faithfuly to that you wouldent....I would thank you very much to stop it. But one thing. I never had any business kissing you and next time I want...But of course I know you dident mean any harm by telling it but some one will make harm off it. I will know who to trust next time Bunyon. But if you wouldent of told any boddie else but Clarence that we kissed it might of done you or some one was bound to of told it...

April 4: Letter from Belle: I am very sorry I hurt feelings so much...No Bunyon I havent forsaken you or rather have my love faild. My dear My love will never no never fail. I will love the for ever...I will never breake your hart my dear no never will I...My Dear you mustent think I am going to fleart with you. I will never do that...I will never breake your hart my dear no never will I...

On April 11, Delilah heard from R.B. Matthews in Belmont, La: ...You certainly have no excuse for being an old maid...because you know if you never marry it is because you would not accept the hand of one who truly loved you....

April 24: Letter from Belle: ...I am like a lonly bird that flies from tree to tree and sadly sings, with folded wings. But Ah, how happy I would be if only could see you and you alone. For no angel or fairy this darling of mine, but one quite as human as he is divine, this dear little one so precious to me...

May 15: Letter from Belle: ...Bunyon...if you do love me enough for me to be your compannion through life you had better never ask Mother for me for you would get insulted sure for she is biterly against our corresponding and are biterly against us ever thinking about marring....Bunyon realy it is a grate wonder that I have bin true to you this long and are still true to you and you alone and you are the only one I will ever love. you know I have so many pulling againse me and are trying to persuaid me not to love you, but love you I will, and I will love you more than ever now just to aggravate several persons....

May 16: Letter from S.F. Thomas at Gilmer, Texas: ...you just aughter bee here. It isent like Brazoz this is much faster place than eney place I have even bin in Texas. thare are lotes of girles here and pretie ones...Yes Bunyon I think the sam about some of the girles. some of them just will do to sleep with and hardley that. Bunyon I have found one here that I bleive would let a feler do what he would do if he was going to sleep with her. and she clames me for her felow. she has sent me tou bocayes and told these girles here that I am her felow and the queston was ask in the debate, which was the sugar or candie, and she sayed that I was the seetes. I think I will go home with her some night and get her to let me sleep with her a little while. I think she would go mitie well...you musen show this to my girl for she might get sortie angrie with me...how is little Annie doing now..by by by little darling.SFT. Bunyon I have traied my old pistel off for a fine gold ring and now have no weapon only a pear of brace nokes...

Undated Ballod of Somebodys tall and Handsome to Mr. M.B. Evans. Writen by your cousin Eunice Thomas:...Somebody will come to see me/somebody will come some night/ some body will ask me to be his bride/ Of corse Ile say allrite...Compliments of a friend.

June 11: Letter from Belle: ...you ask me to tell you the reasion mother is opposed. I will tell you but I ought not to tell you. before Byron came down to marrie Fannie he went to Billys and ask him did he think he could live with Fannie. this is what Mother dislikes and some few other little things which I will not tell....and you ask me if I thought we could draw the time any closer. I do not care to marrie before Dec if it can be possible...I rather later than Dec than before Bunyan. you set the time your self and I will try to be pleased with it for I will not set the time. you have got it to do and if you dont it will surly go undone. you aske me to tell you in this letter if I loved you well enough to forsake my mother for you. Why sertinly I do. if I hadent of loved you I never would of told you yes....By the way when you set the time I want you to set it right and less try and not have any more foolishness, for I think we have had enough.... Bunyan I will tell the reasion why Mother do not want me to marrie you. she thinks you are sickly...

June 12: Letter from J.A. Autrey: ...Wall bunyan I am glad that you have decided to come to Tex a gain. any boy that can strike sulivan such blowes as you did can go thrue Tex all rite...

June 29: Letter from Belle: ...Yes Dear Bunyon I would forsake Mother for you and you alone and you said this is all you could ask off me. Well I will tell you one more time never to ask Mother nothing. Bunyon what ever you do never ask mother for me...I will tell you the reasion why. She wants me to marrie a young Jew that has a store here. but I would see him dead and where he had to go to before I would marrie him...I am like a Negro. I dont like his walk and I dont like his talk, and I dont like him know how, and I wouldent marrie him to please Mother or anyone...Your truest, S.B. Gardner.

July 23: Letter from Belle: ...and I hope to win thy heart by and by. I do admire your looks so much. I dont know why but some how other you take my attraction. Bunyon you have stolen my heart and now I cant never love any other but you and you only...Bunyon if you dont come I will get mad this time sure enough you have bin coming ever sence Dec. and havent got here yet.... (plant leaf enclosed).

Aug. 21: Letter from Belle: ...I cant see why you dream so many dreams about me. I never do dream one thing about you. Oh yes, I did dream one time of you but I wont tell you what it was... Sept. 11: : ...you must be sure and come. I have something real nice to tell you. I know it would please you ever so much. so good by I hope to see you soon.

Belle obviously knows about Bunyan's relationship with Delilah Cloud, as reveales in this Oct letter: ...Bunyan if this your ?ito you can send my letters home and I will send yours by the return mail and every thing you ever did give me. I know you think more of D.C. (Delilah Cloud) than you do of me any way after she wouldent have you at first. and now you are reddy to take her if you can get her. that shows what you are exactly old fellow. Now Bunyan you can take your choise between she and I. if you care more for her than I, you can tell me so...but if you can believe what I say and think more of me you needent send my letters...Bunyan I would be a shame to talk so big about Deliah after you loved her once to beet 75 cents and she wouldent have you look at it...Dont you want the ring you put on my finger to put on D.C. finger. if you do you can get it at any time if she is your choise and is your lover and your golden God uppon earth these latly days...Oh, yes I know you got foundered when you sole four bales of cotton at 5 3/4 cents a pound...No I dont woust I could of bin at D.concert...I hope I will hear of your and D. weding soon. I will not send my picture when it dont look like me you can love...

In a November 1 letter from Mt. Calm, Texas, S.F. Thomas wrote to M.B.: Dear cousin...you saied that you were going to get your self a cook in side of twelve months. it might bee a very good idier...O Bunyon you saied you and your Bunkie girl have had a birst up. that is bad isent it...O Bunyon my girl and my self have plaied hell. we had up a case and then rite on top of that we had a birst up. you think Calarence and his girl will come threw this time. I hope he will for I think he have slept longer enough with a stif ?wit. tell him as I am in very good practice riding wild hosses that I will ride her for him the first time for only one half doler. and that is cheep...well Bunyon you mus write as soon as you get this and tell me how you and your girl came out...meat me in ?rePshury Co. and I will show you my Jus malarkey. and then we will travel on some where, wherear ever you want to go. she is a hun. I know when you see her you will bee willing to trace on her cheekes....This 11 page letter ends in a puzzling way: ....anser this as soon as you get it and plese dont let my girl see it this letter (then in large letters:) O Bunyon did I send you my picture in my other letter and if diden I intend to if diden I will next letter and I want your picture your true cousin S.F. Thomas...good by by by by my seet darling honey.

Nov. 5: Letter from Belle: My dear lover...My thoughts have bin many since I received both of your last letters. Though my thoughts is so I cant explain them two you....you say you are true to me and will be the longest day you live. If this is true I never will want my letters back...for I do adore you so much. I will avouch positively from my heart that I do idolize you so much...I admire your looks. yes I will be the same true girl as ever to you...

The file contains a letter written on November 20, 1894, in the handwriting of M.B. Evans, apparently to Belle, but never mailed. It was in an envelope with no address on it: My Dearest Lover...This night I will answer you Dear letter which came safe to hand some days back. I were more than glad to hear from you. but sory you could not explain your thoughts to me. I do hope you can explain thim by the time you read this...Oh I do hope we can bee the truest of lovers from this on, with out so many thoughts and roughf letters...I am sory you taken my letter as an insult for I did not intind such a thing. you must have missunderstood...I never get too tiard to write to my dearest girl. oh I am so anxious to see you and talk with you tho we are a long ways a part...ohe yes you said you came very near joining the church but some one would not let you join... Wonder why this letter was never mailed?

Dec. 10: Letter from Belle: My Dear one, To night I will answer your letter of Nov 29 which were red with great love...You must be sure to come Xmas and bring your Mother and Neaner (Nina)...Yes and I am affraid you will be like most of the men after get mr. you will wish you never had of married. but! I truly! hope you aint that kind of fellow. Yes, I am true to you and you only and always will be with out deceit!...and here I sit and sigh aloud through all the weary day...Yours as ever. S.B. Gardner.

During this period of 1894 Delilah Cloud was receiving letters from a number of men including: E.E. Stewart, Sebastopol, Miss.; R.B. Matthews, Belmont, La.; Clarence Thomas at Saline; D.E. Averett, Gibsland, La. Part of a note from Saline, dated December 4, 1894: ... pleas dont let any one see this for you knoe this is a secret yes. I will do same. and in addressing your letters try and change your han as much as posable and I will do the same. B. I will not put my name for fear it wll be broke and you do the same. As Ever your True Friend. There were letters from other men in her trunk, but Constance Evans said she burned those from persons she did not recognize.

Belle wrote on January 9th, 1895: My dear Sweetheart. I shall answer you dear letter of Dec. the 22 which were long looked for, every word were appreciated. Though I were quite sorry you all couldent get here (for Xmas)....you must tell me who Byron is going to marrie. I guess he is married by this time. Write soon soon.

During this month something significant must have happened. On February 8th this "Dear John" letter came from Belle: Mr. Bunyan Evans, This beautifull evening I have found the opportunity to write you a farewell letter for the last last time in this poor unluckey world for you. Yes! My love has failed at last. Once I did love you and you wasent in the same notion I was. and you know I told you Bunyan you would be sorry by and by. Oh! know you must wait a little while longer untill things has gone to where it is so now Bunyan you will hafter say farewell to me and me alone. Well Bunway I hope you will marry some nice girl by and by. for you needent to never once think about living in hopes for me any more. for hopes will never never never oh! never! get this little chicken any more. I once loved you but now I dont and so therefore I dont see any use in runing this thing any farther but all I wish is for you to marry some pretty girl. for you are a nice boy and I hope you will do well by and by. Now, Bunyan! you musent fault anyone on this earth far all of this but my self. I am the hold cause off all this. I am the one that has broken the golden pledge and now it is broken and caint be mended in this troublesome world for you. Bunyan I dont want my letters but if you want yours you can get them any time. I dont want my letters nor nothing else. you can keep all picture and every thing. I dont want nothing back from you and you musent send nothing eather. and I wish you a happy year. wish you much pleasure. and hope to hear of your marring soon. but never have a long engagement. if you do you will get floped a gin. long engagements isent any thing good and you must remember when ony one is in gagend a long time one or the other gets out the notion before they can marry....I am indipendent to any body but God himself. I will live in Bunkie the longest day I live...I hope you will marry a rich girl two. I dont wish you no bad luck what ever. You can spark D.C. (Delilah Cloud) now and can get her if you want. but she aint rich, nor eather is she pretty by a long jump. (Long complaint about folks wearing her dead sister, Fannie's clothes.)...Yes God is a just God and he will see things rightyfied in the world above. dont you forget my hunneys... so I will close. wish you all much happyness but dont weare Fannies clothes. please if have any heart. Belle Gardner...Farewell Farewell. no more use for you. if we were married and I would die, I'd be done the same dirty trick.

On March 9, 1895, Delilah Cloud received this letter from D.E. Averett, Gibbs, La.:...I received your letter a few days ago which was quite a treat....as you had to keep house, I don't suppose you had a great deal of time to write. I imagine you make an excelent house keeper, for I know you are a good cook and that is the principle part. I would like to have you to keep house for me tho you may say I have no house, well that is true, but I am going to get one some day in the future, then want you keep it for me? I imagine that would be a little heaven for me...I am glad you are getting along so well with your crayan work. I believe I will get you to do some work for me. I know my picture would be nice....

Apparently Bunyon, now aged 22, started writing again to Delilah Cloud, his former teacher. With the reference in Belle's last letter ...now you can spark D.C., she must have known of his continuing interest in Delilah. This letter to Bunyon from Delilah was dated May X 95, from Campte:...Dear Friend, I recieved your letter and was very much surprised tho it was quite a pleasant one. I am not having much enjoyment presently, I stay at home nearly all the time...Dr. Saunders was here last week and engaged my company for to day to cary me to foot washing at Oak Grove, but for some cause he did not come...Malissie Rushing and I will start to Coushatta this afternoon. Wish us a jolly time.Your letter has made me very happy. I too am going to tell the truth. You remember several years since you proposed to me. Well at that time...(rest of letter missing)

On June 7 Delilah hears from best cousin Ruben R. Cloud, Mulberry, La...pardon the liberty that I have taken in addressing you this note and if what I am a bout to say displeases you that youll at least give me the credit of sincerity and on that acount forgive my personanal presumptio.n Dear Delilah, I have long wished to express personally my feelings towards you and I have at last resolved to write to releave my mind to say that from friendship I have grown to feel the most ardent love for you ...

Bunyan must have moved fast with Delilah. After just one month she wrote to Bunyon from Brown, La.: Dear Bunyan.I had just decided to write you sunday and saw you comming so will write today....Mr. Earley came to see me on Monday after you all left. we has a real nice time going to the plumb orchard cherry trees ect, I think he is very nice don't you? You may think I am "carried away" with him but I only ask you to believe what I tell you and you'll not be decieved by me...If I understand your letter you aske me to state a time for us to make the iron clad vow. Of course I cannot under circumstances, but will say by way of encouragement probably this fall. It depends intirely upon you and your circumstances. If we are to live with old folks I can get ready by then, but if we are to keep house I will half to have more time for preparations as I intend to make home just what it should be to bring happiness. Indeed as you said "I'll be the wife if you'll be the husband, that means a great eal, and it takes a noble hearted man to be real true. I believe you are one among the best. I have known you too long to be decieved and I know am not. I also have great confidence in your industry. I know I'll not suffer want. At least while you have power to work, I dont want you to kill your self at work for me and you shant either. I'll work by your side...You know I dont like my present home. All the pleasure I have is right here among home folks. Of course I enjoy visiting but dont like the idea of depending on others to always carry me when I go. I like to be independent dont you? Now if you dont think this fall an appropriate time to "get off" dont be afraid to say so. I'll not think hard of you at all but only think the better of you for being modest. I'd be willing to wait even ten years if you should. Could say much more but this has already confused you and is much more than you write me. Now I am jealous, but that's divine for God hath said "I thy God am a jealous God." With best wishes I close, Your true lover...

On June 24, D.E. Everett wrote to Delilah as Campte, La, from Gibsland, La.:...It doesn't seem to me that I was down there any time, but my stay was very pleasant indeed, especially the day I was with you. You know I always have enjoyed your company...but I feel like I left you thinking hard of me. You looked like you did at least and I can't blame you much, but you know I can't help losing your ring. Now please don't be mad with me. It would be so hard, to think of the pleasant hours I've spent with you, and then to think that you have changed...

Still in June, this letter from Bunyon to Delilah, signed B.E.: Dearest one, this Sunday eaving Ill write you a few lines as I am all alone this eaving, tho I do enjoy beeing alone some time so I can write to my Best girl...Oh yes I think well of Mr. Earley. I seen him the next day after he pade you the visit, tho he did not tell me he had seen you. no he doesnt bother me the least bit. I am not as jealous as some you have heard of. I am some what like a fellow I heard talking...he said he would not have a girl that no other boy would not go to see. Just since you are true to what you say and have said and Ill bee the same to you. Some how I believe you have a little doubt to my being true to you, tho I hope you dont think such. for to flirt with you or any other girl has never crossed my minde. no nor never will as long as the Sun doth Shine. will you believe what I say. Ill assure you youle never be a forsakon lover by me not a forsakon Bride no never...I had to go to Bienville friday and...I bout me a fine Sadle poney for my girl to ride I will pay you a visit on the first Sunday. can hardly stay off today tho I might disgust you if I come two ofton. could there bee such a thing...yours as ever...As ever yours faithful and true, yours for ever if thou will let the..

In July D.E. Averett again wrote Delilah: ...I am glad you are not mad about the ring. I was afraid you would be... He wrote again on August 8: Miss Delilah Cloud...I rec'd your letter just before I left Gibsland...I wanted you to be at home when I come, so I could see you some...I want you to come home so I can come to see you. Can I come...

An August 12 letter from Delilah: My own Bunyan, Your letter of 27 just came creeping in on saturday eve. I assure you it was much prised and all the more so because you had written it while so tird...I did have a very pleasant time on the Lake...De Witt came with me and stayed a week. Can't say for cirtain if can go back with you sunday or not. I may be teaching. you know I told you I thought of taking the assistance at Ramah....(end of letter missing)

An undated page from letter to Bunyan from Delilah: ...I have not even shown the letters to my folks and I'm sure they would come first. neither have I told them anything whatever. I guess I know you and your ways as much as any one need to, and am quite satisfied they will please me. Yet if you have the slightest doubt of my veracity or that you will in any way be as you say "cheated" you have only one thing to go, that is not to write or come any more. Remember I have not forbiden your writing or comming. I only want to be understood. It would be a struggle for me to abandon you even now however a forsaken lover is better than a deserted bride. Trusting you will not think me too frank, I'll close, Faithfully yours, Delilah.

On August 22, Bunyon wrote to Delilah: My Dearest trulove I'll answer your kind missive with out delay as I do appriciate a letter from you more than any one I ever writen to. no I'll assure you that you will never confuse me by writing such chearing letters. no they are never long enough. I could read your letters all day and thin think and dream of you all night..I reached home Sunday night and was not tackled by the Panther. but ohe how sleepy I did get. I got in at half after 1 oclock. Dear Miss Delilah, you knoe you said as for you setting the time it depended intirly upon me and my circumstances. Well I will say this. probably it will suit me better this fall than any other time for I dont see any use in puting it off. for I knoe I am true to you and would bee much happier with you to shear you a home and a good home. for I do put great confidence in what you say, for you have said a greateal more than the most of girls can say. and I do believe you will do just what you say. what you have said are great encouragement to me, you said if we were to live with old folks you could get redy by this fall, well that is with you. if you can put up with thim that will suit me very well, tho for my rathers I would rather we could keep house. tho the old folks say I must stay with thim that they cant do with out me. So we can try it one year...Ohe my Dearest you musent think I will kill my self at work. no I'll never do that for I am too lazy. Ohe yes I know how it is to have to depind on some one els. and If you are true to me you can depind on beeing indipindent in that respect. I knoe you are joking bout thoes ten years. for I know If I had to wait ten years it would kill me just to think ten long years. Why that would bee just throwing ten years of our happiest days away wouldn't it. It seams you have great confidence in me and I hope you will not bee decieved for I always try to do just what I say and I do believe the same of you...I showed Mah your last letter. I dident think you would care. She couldent say any thing a gainst you She says there is no use to put it of any longer than this fall. She thinks a greateal of you, but I think still more of the. It would bee quite a task for me to tell the Love I have...I have never seen the face that I thought half so much of as I do you and always have. will you believe me. do you remimber whin first we met I loved you thin and I love you yet, and will the longest day I live. tho whin first we met I were but quite a lad, but not too yong to love, tho my love were all in vain at that time. tho I guess I were to blaim or we sould of bin a happy two, sooner. So now let us love in our fairest youth, while love can find its fond return...Your Fond Lover.

Five days later Delilah wrote back:...I had much rather keep house, but did not know whether you had a house or not, tho I think can live with ? well satisfied, just know I can ? along with Mrs. Evans. she is one of the best women in the world and I love her very dearly, not only because she is your mother but because she always treated me with great respect... I have often been advised by friends, never to live in the house with no one, but I think it all depends on the disposition...I know by this time Mama has told Pa. you know a wife tells a husband all. I am indeed a happy girl now...Hoping to see you Sunday, I am Yours forever...

In an August 29th letter to Delilah, D.E. Averett seems to sense something: ...Why not come up here and stay a while? Are you just going off because I've come home? I believe it now. I didn't think you would do that. I had been thinking of coming down for you but I am afraid to come now. It seems to me that you might have planned a trip up to the "Sand Hills"...

On August 30 Eugene Thomas wrote Delilah...I no there is no use, but I do love you and dont think it any harm to tell you so and hope you will have the same thought...

On September 10 Delilah wrote to Bunyon: ...Last sunday our company left early and I had a long time for strolling. Hunted all the grapes, muscadines, wild plumes, ect. I could find. You have no idea whose name I engraved on a little Black gum just before I entered the Pasture? I wished for its owner to be there, but cant be with him every sunday. maybe so after the 13th of Nov.I can. I think that a very appropriate time...The next morning after you were here Emma came to me and said, "You all decided on the middle of Nov. last night didn't you?" I didn't know what, to say but finally accused her of eavedropping and knew tho that that was impossible for I would have heard her. She said no she actually dreamed it. Quite interested in our affairs to dream of them, don't you think?She is not altogether willing for me to leave them. I told her I could not stay always. she says but I can. I wont though, if nothing breakes the ties that exist between you and I. I assure you that nothing on my part will sever them. Pa has learned the circumstances...

Oct. 5: Letter from Delilah: ...O if I could only see you and arrange matters. I want my Papas consent before going too far. Of course its like I told you, he cant interfere any way. but I would like to know all circumstances before going to any expense.You know we only have a little over four weeks from now?..Every where I go I can hear I am going to get married. "Not so" is all I can say. Dr. Pitts tells me Mr. Dave Williams told him you annd I were going to get married in Nov. How he became so wise I cant determine...besides we will prove to the world shortly our intent wont we?...I dont remember the first time I met you, but guess it was in the school room. I know there is where I first recollect you and there too is where you won my esteem (also to boss). Had you known it then, we probably would have spent a number of happy days together otherwise spent in solitude. shortly after I learned you one of my fellows prevailed on me to accept his favors, tho I assured him he was not my first choice, yet I wanted a home and would share his if he could take me on these conditions which he frankly agreed to believing he could cultivate my regards for him. You wrote me after this happened and I could but be faithful to my vows.You know what happened? Mr. Bunyan came back to see me and I thought cared no more for me and I again agreed to accept the hand of an other one of my old fellows on the same conditions as before with the same result and I concluded not to marry if could not get the one I wanted. I rejected offer after offer until last spring when one night I was seated to reply to some ones letter (I told you who before now) and accept his propositions. As I sat there thinking how I would write Pa and Mr. Sam Cloud came in wet and Pa handed me a packedge of mail. it it was your first letter. That was a sleepless night, however I was a happy child. The other letter I never answered for over two weeks. since then my happiness increases with every letter or trip from you. and I believe my life will ever be thus if in your power to make it so. I am not going to marry you just merely to have a home or a husband but for pure happiness...Your true lover

In another undated third page of a letter from Delilah: ...I was engaged and, have always tried to be a girl of my word. and though I thought the more of you, I strove to be faithful to him who I had promised my hand. You know what happened? After that I thought you would come back and as you never, I decided you were only trying to flirt. For when one truely loves, it certainly is a struggle to conceal it. Then I knew the relations between you and a certain girl, and knew (in my own mind) that you would be faithful to each other. Tell me all. trust me as you once did. I will be true. Your letter came in time to save each of us (if you would call it saved) for I was in the act of giving myself to an other who is superior to you in the sight of many. still I have not that warm affection for him that I have for you and have had every since you were merely a pupil of mine at the Williams school house. Do you believe what I have said? Could say much more but probably you are already worn out of patience. Don't let any one see this. keep it a profound secret. Your friend, Delilah

Delilah wrote on October 7: ...the second Sunday if you come then, come in the morning and carry me home. Then you may tell my Papa that he will soon have an other son-in-law, so we may make all arrangements necessary...I send a measure of my finger. If you are going to get a ring, you will not object to my saying I'd much rather have one with a set than plain. I have no preference to the quality...Your true lover.

Bunyon wrote back on October 12: ..I guess you looked for me. I got your long looked for letter this morning. I had just decided you had found you a better fellow, as you know that would not bee hard to do. You cant emagine what all I did think...I had a letter to day from a cousin in Tenn. he is very anxious for me to come out there ona visit. says he will thin go with me to S.C. but I dont see hardly how I can go now. as you knoe the thirteenth isint long off, you must tell me whether to go or not, I'll bee there Sunday...wich I could see you to night is bin five long weaks sincw we were to geather. Seams to me like 25. I have a trip planed out and dont knoe whether to make it or not. you must tell me whether to go or not. tis to the fear at Atlanter Ga and from there to Jonesburo Tenn and thin to the old country S.C. dont you think thats two much trip. for I dont expect Ide ever get back to olde La, tho I expect twould bee best for you if I were to go and never come back. for you knoe Im a regular Spanter Cat and the hardest fellow you most ever seen to get along with. you might get a long with me very well but you will have to honey me up much for thats just what it takes to pleas me. I knoe you had a fine time on your visit and especialy with that old widerwer. looks like they are taking the day. Some times wish I were one. Good night...I count the time up till the 13th every 24 secons thats prety fast aint it. Your true lover. Good night.

Oct. 14: Letter from Delilah: My dearest Bunyan, Here I am again writing to my little fellow without seeing him as I expected sunday... I expected to have an exceptionally nice time it being the 13th only one month "you know." I was very very sad all day...I feel just like you think I have abandoned you but not so my dear friend. What I have said was said with firmness and I only look forward to the day when I shall prove it...Sometimes yesterday I'd think "Well I reckon Bunyan dosant think as much of me as he aught else he'd hunt for me." Again would say its been four weeks since he was to see me...Must close as have to cook supper and only five hands besides the family. You know I hate to wash the dishes as some of them are darkeys. Believe me as be 4, your true lover...have just finished washing dishes for these darkeys...If you was just here for about two hours to night how delighted I would be. you are not and I must content myself with the hope of seeing you soon, as ever (Last letter in file before marriage).

On October 29th, 1895, Bunyon purchased 160 acres of land from G.C. Lucky for $146.80. The property was located in Section 10, T13N, R6W, in Natchitoches Parish (N1/2 of SW 1/4, SW 1/4 of SW 1/4 and NW 1/4 of SE 1/4). This deed was later filed on November 16. That same day, November 16, 1895, Martin Bunyon Evans and Delilah Cloud applied for a marriage license in Natchitoches Parish. The Marriage License on file in Clerk's Office, Natchitoches Parish, is also signed by R.B. Cook, Dep. Clerk. They were married 4 days later.

From pages taken from old family Bible by J.O. Evans in 1962: Martin Bunyan Evans and Delethia Delilah Cloud married Nov 20th 1895 at the old Rushing place near Ashland La in Natchitoches Par La. Rev Fields officiated. (About 1 mile off present road where George Morgan--Homer's father--was reared.)

Mrs. Henereta Pogue (died 7/79) told Constance Evans that Bunyan and Delilah Cloud were married at the old Rushing Place between Creston and Ashland. They had a big dinner on the grounds as was customary then, but when wedding time came they discovered that Bunyan had forgotten the wedding license. Everybody waited while he rode on horse back to his home about 10-12 miles distant and returned. Earlier, before he was going with Delilah, his older brother Byron who was going with Fannie Gardner (whom he later married and who was the mother of Nena Montgomery and who died at Nena's birth), had introduced and gotten him to court Fannie's sister Belle Gardner. They planned to be married but then at the wedding Bunyan forgot the wedding license and they called the whole thing off.

(This story was retold to Bruce Evans in 7/79 by Constance Evans, but the part about Belle does not seem to be supported by the letters in the file.)

After their marriage Bunyan and Delilah lived with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Calhoun Evans at their place (later purchased by Dewey Williams). Their first daughter, Effie Esther, was born 10 months later on September 13, 1896, Sunday morning at 4 o'clock (as recorded in Family Bible). Sometimes later they built a house of their own near by "up the lane" from his parents' house.

Receipts from the LUCKY BROTHERS...Cotton Buyers in Bienville Parish, show that in December, 1897, two years after they were married, M.B. Evans was selling cotton. Four bales are recorded @ 4 and 3/4 cents/pound, averaging $23 per bale.

In March of 1898, on Friday the 25th at 11 o'clock, their first son, Noah Otto, named after Delilah's father, was born on the 25th. Four months later Delilah received a certificate from the State of Louisiana, Parish of Natchitoches, authorizing her to teach the 3rd grade: The moral and intellectual qualifications of Mrs. Delila Evens as a Teacher of Yourh, having been established by testimonials and satisfactory examination She is hereby granted a certificate of 3re Grade valid for one year and Licensed to teach in the Public Schools of this Parish. In November of that year M.B. Evans paid property taxes in Natchitoches Parish, Ward 2, of $5.80--$1.80, State Tax; $3.00, Parish Tax; and $1.00, Poll Tax.

In August, 1899, M.B. Evans purchased 120 more acres of land in Section 13, T13N, R6W, (N1/2 of NW 1/4 and SW 1/4 of NW 1/4) from his brother John Byron for $180.00. The following month, on September 29, their daughter, Effie, died at 6 o'clock, age 3 years, 16 days, after only a few hours illness. The newspaper notice ended with this poem: Just as this sweet bloom began to unfold/It's petals, one by one/God took it home/To more beautifully blossom/in heavens sun. There kissed by the Zephyrs/Of God's own sphere/And nurtured by His tender care/What a perfect flower will it be up there. Oh! that the hearts so bleeding now/May feel that God's love is greater still/And in faithful submissions bow/To His unerring will. A Friend.

Just over a month lataer, on Wednesday, November 6, 1900, at 11o'clock, their second son, Hansford Herman Evans, was born. Otto was a year and a half old. Receipts show that the family was ordering from the Sears Roebuck and Company catalogue at this time.

The following year, 1901, M.B. received this letter dated January 16 from from A.G. Samee in Natchitoches: I take pleasure in informing you that the Register & Receiver this morning received notice from the Commissioner of the General Land Office at Washington that their decision in the case of Martin B. Evans vs. Cora E Flynt, involving the latters homestead entry No 7667 for the N 1/2 of SW1/4, Sec 22, T13N, R6W had been reversed and deciding the case in your favor...Apparently this case was clarifying a title on additional land he had purchased in Section 22.

In November of 1901 Delilah heard from her sister at Ruston, La.:...Well, Sis has Bunyan ever got you a buggy yet...How do you like your new home? Guess you made lots of nice syrup. Can Hansford walk or talk any yet....Tell Otto to come over and help me pick up hickory nuts... Ward 2 property taxes for 1901 and 1902 were $5.80.

Ruth Evans, their 2nd daughter and 4th child, was born Tuesday, March 17th, 1903, at 3 P.M. On the 25th of April, M.B. purchased the following land from Fannie Brown and Carrie T. Dorman: E1/2 of SW1/4; SW1/4 of SW1/4 of Sec 3, lying E of RR; N1/2 of NW1/4 in Sec 10; NE/NE E of RR in Sec 9 (Original deed in file, recorded February 8, 1904), for $1,059.00. That same year Tom Friday did a survey of the Evans property showing a total of 176.31 acres in Sections 3 and 10.

In July, 1903, the year before he died, Bunyon's father writing to his sister in S.C. described his bad health and then added: ...I have been out to Bunyan's and stad sevrel days. We got your letter first and July the 20. Bunyan went to Nacatosh and got me some whisky. I am taking your home remedy. I think it is helping me some...Bunyon went (fishing) the other day and got good mess....Bunyan has not slde his timber yet. Johnson has offord him $2000...

In January of 1905 M.B. received a Tax notice for Ward 2 Natchitoches Parish for $19.27 due.

Sidney Bucklew Evans, their fifth child, was born on May 26, Thursday at 1 P.M. On June 10 Mrs. M.B. Evans again heard from her sister in Shreveport: ...must congratulate you on your fine boy...if he is anything like Hansford, he'll do to talk about....How is Mr. Evans now? Poor old fellow, he has suffered so much until, I know, he is almost tired of life. A month after Sidney was born, Bunyon's father, John Calhoun Evans, died on June 29, and was buried in the Old Saline Cemetary.

In December of 1905 M.B. received this letter from La. & Ark. Railway in Hope, Arkansas:...Your letter of Nov. 22, just received. The price of the SE1/4 of NE1/4, Sec 21, T13, R6, is $2.85 per acre, equals to $114.00.The cash payment would amount to $28.50, the balance in three equal annual payments with interest at 6%. The N1/2 of the NE1/4 of the SE1/4 is also for sale at $2.85 per acre...It may be to your interest to secure the whole 60 acres at the present low price... On the 14th of December M.B. received the following handwritten letter from the Sheriff's Office, Parish of natchitoches...your tax for $28.09 for 1905 you are assessed with 416 acres of land. J.C. Evans taxes owe $11.08 for 1905. this is a mans assessment then is a poll to the assessment has 350 acres of land. J.W. Freeman, Sheriff

Sometime prior to this the M.B. Evans family had moved from the log house "up the lane" from his father to another log house about 2 miles Southwest in Section 15 (NW 1/4 of SW 1/4). On December 23, John Owen Evans, their fourth son and sixth child was born Saturday at 11 O'clock in this log cabin. He would later recall at age 76: The home had no conveniences, not even a water well. My mother carried water from a near by spring for home use. She did the washing down at the spring. She gave birth to six children with no help except neighbors and sometimes a country doctor. At the time of my birth my mother said to my father, "This is It." The meaning could have been many things, but with that touch of Indian Blood in her I am sure she meant what she said and I was the last child she gave birth to.

On June 28 of the following year, 1906, Bunyan wrote to Dear Ma & Neaner (his mother and niece, Byron's daughter): ...Every thing's getin on all right. wee are all well as could bee expectes Delilah and my self are both ailding to day. you knoe She has Rheumatism in her arm. She was up last night with the children and fell over the heater sprained her sholder...got my back rinched. cant get about hardly today..Ma you knoe the men you and Mr. Readhimer sold your timber to, they say they are going to put a mill in on your old place...you knoe you have till the last of Oct on your ticket dont rush you have plinty of time... (Apparently they were visiting in S.C.)

In February, 1907, Bunyan's mother, Mrs. F.L. Evans, sold 110 acres of land in Section 11 to W.R. Riggins for $700. The deed was witnessed by M.B. and J.B. Evans, her sons.

Clarence Thomas wrote to M.B. from Pritchete, Texas on June 8, 1907: Dear Cousin...sory to hear of Aunt Florence (M.B.'s mother) being in such bad health... On July 3, M.B. Evans purchased 120 acres of land for $300 from his brother J.B. Evans: E1/2 of NE1/4 and NW/SE, Sec. 14; T13N, R6W (Original deed in file). Also this summer, Byron agreed to a timber sale in Sections 15, 21, and 22, to W.P. Riggins and M.B. Evans for $15 per thousand. W.P. Riggins is to saw lumber for 4 houses free of charge and B. Evans is to build same and turn over to W.P. Riggins free of rent as long as said Riggins operates his Mill on above land, it being understood that when Riggins removes the Mill form said land the houses are to belong to B. Evans...Mill to be in operation by the 20th of October 1907.

Around 1908 Bunyon entered a partnership with Sam Thomas, his cousin and boyhood friend, for the purpose of sawing lumber. Records include a bill for lumber from the Bienville Lumber Company Manufacturers of All Kinds of Yellow Pine Lumber on August 3, 1908 to W.C. Thomas, Saline, totaling $188.93. Apparently this was purchased for a new home M.B. was having built about 2 miles north in Section 10. Youngest son, John Owen later recalled: The first thing I can remember real well was that in about the year of 1909 my father built a house, with the help of Mr. Sam Thomas, with whom he had gone in partnership with in a saw mill.

On April 9, 1909, Bunyon's mother, Florence Ficklin Evans, died. At this time she was living at Saline with her son, Byron, and his daughter, Nena. About this time M.B. also went into partnership with Glen Harper and built a store 1/8 mile north of the new house, on a spur of the L & NW Railroad, called Harper's Spur. Receipts are available from August 6, 1909, for purchases from the Saline Warehouse Co., Ltd.; also for a bank deposit in the Bank of Saline for $685.92. On September 7 they sold 12 bales of cotton to W.P. Lucky & Sons for $703.68 (12 cents per pound). Sometime later Bunyan bought our Mr. Harper's interest.

A 1909 record book is labeled on the first page: M. B. Evans and W.C. Thomas.

Beginning in April, charges are for labor, rent, washing, a coffin ($31.25), and groceries. For Hughes work on house, first weak 2 days, secon weak 4 1/2 days, etc. (total of 11 1/2 days, $11.50 or $1.00 per day.) Other workers included E.B. Harper, Wess Woods, M.B. Evans, all paid at $1/day. On another page is a loan to M.B.'s brother Byron of $88. Another is to Mrs. F.L. Evans, Bunyon's mother, dated May 1908, for $24.

Bunyon's mother's sister, Cornelia Thomas, wrote on December 31, 1909 from Pritchett, Tex. to Bunyan & Delilah: My dear ones...this is a butiful country come & see us...goods are cheeper here than there. Calico 3 to 5 cts. Jenie bought a nice suit of clothes for $4.98 worth 15 dollar...Cotton 151/2 cts....Well chilarin tell me what Santie Claws brought you. he brought me $2.00 some fruit & candy...your loving aunt, Neely.

M.B. Evans purchased, on December 7, 1910, 20 acres of land from W.M. Hughes for $150, in Sec 10, T13N, R6W (Original deed in file). The next information available is three years later when, in March of 1913, M.B. purchased oil and mineral rights in Caddo Parish two lots No.1516,156 for $60. We expect to start drilling in a very few days...and from present indications and the brilliant success made by all those drilling in our immediate vacinity we expect our first well to pay large dividens to its lot owners...The Mutual Oil & Gas Co.

In the following year, 1914, Bunyon borrowed $230 on an Insurance policy on Delilah Evans. Sometime during this period (no records are available) M.B. had tax difficulties and in order to protect his business, transferred title to family lands to the name of Delilah Evans. 1916 post cards from California were received from son, Hansford, who was visiting his Aunt Izora (Delilah's sister). A 1916 license was issued to Bunyan to pursue and follow the occupation of Gen-Mdse, from the Auditor's Office, State of Louisiana, Parish of Natchitoches.

In February, 1919, M.B. Evans paid 1918 property taxes of $120.98 on 555 1/2 acres in Sections 13, 15, 21, and 22, including taxes for state, confederate veteran tax, good roads tax, poll tax, special road tax, and special school tax. The next available data is a 1924 letter from Bank of Saline: We are enclosing you the bank-ruptcy note of Otto's which you took up yesterday with check...During this year Hansford wrote from Chillicothe, MO, where he was attending Chillicothe Business College.

Sometime between 1925-30, M.B. and Delilah went to Hot Springs, Ark. for baths and treatments. Delilah wrote Byron's Aunt Nancy on August 9:...doctor founa a cataract on one of Bunyans eyes...I have nothing bad wrong but will take baths just the same. will stay 21 days. Sidney is paying all xpences. We are very proud of our children. they help us lots. one does not mind taking when you know they are able to afford it. Hot Springs is only 6 hr drive from our place and since we have the Button Contest on in our Sunday School we stoped on the way up here and attended S.S. so as not to miss. It looks like working for the prise more than just to learn more about the Bible...I was never at Hot Springs before but My Grandmother Cloud's parents (the Fulsomes) builded the first house in this place over 100 years ago. They came up here from La guided by an Indian. drove their stock thro and they rode in Ox wagons. when they had made pens to put their cows in the first nght wild buffalow came in the pen. and a little one was borned that night. they kept the little one and tamed it. The place has a history it is mostly made up with people who came here for health and just stayed to keep well...

In another letter to Nancy Peterson in South Carolina, perhaps 1926-7, Delilah wrote: Sure a fine day. some snow yet on ground and a white frost makes the sunshine brighter. Today is our election day. a busy one for us. everyone in the country will be out. several of the canidates have cars already running to bring those who have no cars. But dont we have some of the worst wrecks with cars? So many killed or crippled for life. I say whiskey and carelessness are the principal causes. What do you think? Not either of our Boys drink. neither do they use tobacco in any form not even a smoke. but they drive too fast.. But luckily have never had a bad reck. I call them down to 45 or 50 when I ride. that is fast enough for me. I must go now and keep store while Bunyan goes to the polls. he likes to stand around and talk for a few hours. I do too, so we go seperately...

In March, 1926, M.B. secured a Certificate of Mortgage on 176 acres of land. A Financial Statement dated January 15, 1927, on M.B. Evans, Dealer in General Merchandise, Country Produce A Speciality, Cotton Buyer, Saline, La. (Shipping Point, Harper's Spur) lists Assets of $42,400 and Liabilities of $18,023.56. Assets include: Bank of Saline Balance, $600; Merchandise at cost, $6,950; Accounts Receivable, $6,500; 550 acres of land, $10,000; Improvements on Farm, $4,000; Live Stock, $350; Framing Implements, $1,000; Automobiles, $450;108 bales cotton, Shreveport, La., $5,400; 123 bales cotton, N.O. La., $5,150; 20 bales cotton, Harper's Spur, La. $1,000. Liabilities: Money drawn on cotton, $4,667.56; Accounts payable, $1,850; Notes payable, $11,506. In October of this year his store burned. With the insurance money he built another store building nearer to their home--about 150 yards, which he operated until he died.

In 1929 M.B. bought stock in the Allied Drug Products Company ($28). In August, 1929, Delilah wrote to Nancy Peterson: ...I shall never forget the visit you and Uncle Baz made us...I enjoy the old remembrances, do you?...we lost heavy again this year on cotton, twice in succession have we lost at least 30 thousand. I look at it this way. we came with nothing and carry nothing as we leave so why worry and I dont....Owen had his tonsils removed last week not able to be out yet. I work in his stead. Yes we are grand parents. have 2 grand children...

In December, 1930, M.B wrote to his Aunt Nancy (Note: I copied these letters in South Carolina in possession of Nan Frick, in 1992):....Nothing good to tell you. only hard times and depression and hard luck. we have had the dryest year since 1896. My store burned on the night of Oct 2nd at 1 oclock. we were awakened by a blast. I first thought I had drimp. I lay there studying about my dream. finly I thought of my safe might have bin blown. I jumped up and looked out and the fire you can emagen how I felt. The store was 200 yards from the house....we got there and broke in a side room and got out $50 worth of groceries. we carid $6000 insurence. I consider the loss not over $1000. we collected every dollar. I am building back closets to house....I dont knoe what I would do without my boys. Especialy Sidney and Owen. Sidney quit the Payton Motor Co last spring. He worked there 8 years, Owen and his wife is off to Tex on a visit to Ruth and Jerry at Ft. Worth and then on to her mothers at Catulia....I wish you could see my two gransons (Bobby Gene and myself, then 6 months old!)....

A January, 1931, list of Accounts Receivable by the M.B. Evans Store includes the names of some 150 people owing from $1- $1,200. The M.B. Evans Tax Assesment for 1931-32: 550 acrs Land--90 acrs at $10 = $900; 460 acres at $3 =$1380; 1 horse 30; 2 cows 20; 2 yearlins 10; Merchendise 400; Store Building 300; Total: $2,940.00. In June, '31, Delilah wrote to Nancy, again of how hard the times are:....Bynyan complains with his back lots...merchants are so crippled in here that a cash business is the only way out...we run 2 stores now. the boys in Saline and ours out here. they are as one tho, and all are pulling togather to make a clean get-out-of-debt...

In 1932 Bunyan wrote Nancy: ...times is the hardest here that I have evern experienced...now I'll tell you all a bot my famely and how we are doing. I am on the farm. just rent my land out excep one old negro works my horse on haves and his wife washes and irons. she washes for several familys. Otto and his wife livs in house with us. Otto traficks and trades and helps the other boys some in the store at Saline. Sidney and Owen they work in the store all the time. After they got burnt out they put back a brick store. they cary about $3000 stock. Their sales run from 25-150 a day. my sales down here run from 5-30 per day...we had to quit the credit business, sell for a less profit and get what you make....I've got thousands of dolllars on the book will never get. Hansford runs a servis station in Saline...Ruth and her two boys are with us...I guess you read of or heard our govenor Huey P Long...the uprore they have had trying to impeach him...Huey P Long is the smartest man in La and one of the Smartest in the UNA. he never got a high school edgercation. he got his learning after a set man. you see hees being talked of for President...he is a poor mans friend...our oil industrey will come back. we have lots of good oil holdings. do you ever hear from Byron. I hardly ever hear from him. we havint bin to see them in over a year...your loving nephew, Bunyan

In March, Nena Montgomery also wrote to Nancy: ...Uncle Bunyans family are all doing very well. Dont tell them I told you but their daughter and her husband are seperated. She came home Xmas and brought her 2 babies. her husband was a regular flapper...he would not stay home. It is nothing new to get a divorce now days... Also in March, 1932, Delilah cashed in her insurance policy, paying off a loan of $1723 on the policy, and receiving $48.98.

Nena wrote to Nancy in July, 1933, about the Saline Watermelon Festival:...Last week was our annual Watermelon festival. we have one every year. This place is noted for its large watermelons. some weigh 100 lbs. 13,000 people came to festival. They cut 2 car loads of ice cold melons. We have a parade, watermelon queen and all kinds of floats. Our orchestra broodcasts over radio every year and people come from all surrounding states...It is hard times here too. The town is putting down an oil well 1/2 mile from town. hope they find oil. The Evans boys, my husband and 2 more men own a flowing oil well about 80 miles below here. it has never made expenses yet. oil is worth nothing. about 30 cents a barrel. We hope to get our money back out of it some day.... Delilah also wrote to her in December: ...our boys are puting down what we call a "Poor boy's well" on holdings in the Sabine field. they own lease on 100 acres and wells are producing all around them. they had good offers to sell out but decided to gamble on a well. true if it comes in we will be OK, but if a dry hole we will be that much more in debt...Bunyan is squirel hunting today so Im keeping store. He seldome gets off so today carried lunch and will spend the day in the woods. I sure hope he gets a mess for we seldom have any to eat. Bunyan is getting fat. weighs more than in years....

In January, 1934, Bunyan wrote to Nancy, now aged 86 (he is now 61):...I can realize that I am failing fast. I try to over cum that faeeling as much as I can. This depresion has hirt me phisically as much as financily...I am heavyly in debt but the houses I owe are paying their debts off at 10 to 25 cts in the dollar ...I owd the bank $4000. I have paid that down to $1100...I cant help but like old times and old time people...I have never bin with out a job. I knoe I would worey. you asked me somthing about Byron. I dont think any thing rong with him. he taken diner with us 3 or 4 yeaks ago. he seamed to be very chearful. he belives in this hunting old treasurs but I dont believe in it so he never says much to me on this line. I dont knoe whether he has any thing located or not but dont think anything to it. his family dont believe in it. so you see why he says they say he is crasy. he livs 60 mils from us so I see him once or twice a year. I always think his judgment bad on lots of things..

January, 1936, Delilah wrote to Nancy: ...the church gave a surprise program in my honor as having taught SS the longest number of years. They counted back, and back records said it had been 25 years. also gave me a beautiful boquet of flowers. I had never even thought how long I had taught....We visited Byron in Nov....Byron looks very well but Fannie is thin and has to keep a maid to help work. In February, 1936, M.B.leased mineral rights for $79 on 79 acres. That summer they sent a telegram to J.O. Evans from Mother and Dad...Have just climbed Pikes Peak, somewhat weary but gorgeous view fully worth it.

The following January, 1937, Delilah wrote Nancy after apparently receiving her picture: ...I dont believe you look a bit older than you did 32 years ago when you was in La. My but everything els has changed. this country was then covered with plenty origin timber. Now its practically all cut and another groth nearly ready for the market...I'm now 67 and Bunyan 65. Neither of us expect to see 90 birthdays. however, who can tell? We live moderately, eat pleanty wholesome food, sleep 9-10 hrs each day, and get plenty exercise from work....Xmas was very quiet with us. All of our children came during the day but only two ate dinner. A new Year has begun with new resolutions. A resolution made and broken is a farce so I'm not making any. I might break them. I will just do the best I can with the ability God gives me. His will shall be my will...there are lots of nice girls willing to work cheap. Owens wife keeps one. so does Ottos. They both have babies and need help, altho they each have all modern conveniences and send their laundry out. the more one has in a home the more work there is to do. We have run down financially but make a good living and can keep a car. The children put ligh and watter in for us with the Delco system several years ago...

Bunyan also wrote to her in July:...I have a hundard acrs in cultivation. I have 3 wrinters and one shear croper. I keep one good horse. our corn is in silk and tawsel. Some rosen ears, cotton boles 1/2 grown. My health is some better I think. I tole you I had my teeth removed last fall. havint had any made yet. dont think my gums is right yet...Delilah is holding up good. She is 68 and havint got a gray hear. My head is graying a little. She dont look to be over 50.

Bunyan's older brother Byron died in August, 1937. He wrote Nancy on September 2: ...I feel so lonesom. we had to put my only Brother a way last Sunday. Just two of us and one had to go. but that was gods will and should not grieve. but it seems like I cant help it. one great consolarion was he was a Christian. Byron past out on Friday night Aug. 20...I dident even knoe he was sick, had Brights Dezeas and Leakings of the hart...he leavs a wife and one boy at home, 2 married dauters. one of them stays with thim...I hope you are doing better. we are all well...I am about the soriest one in the bunch but I am still doing my work. I just arnt any good. I have cinus troubel in my head... my place will make 25 or 30 bales this year...Good by your loving nephiew, Bunyan. (Note: Byron was buried in Old Saline. Mrs. J.O. Evans recalled that at the funeral Bunyan wouldn't go in the church but stayed at the cemetary. She thought he was crying and didn't want to be seen in church.)

Delilah wrote Nancy again in December, 1937:...I would not take anything for Bunyan's improvement. he sleeps nights like a baby. I mean he can sleep from 7 to 7. I want say he does that, only he could if Id allow it. Ha ha...I hold up fine I think at my age (68 Nov 15) when I work about 3 hrs, If I can take a little rest, then go again, and so on all day...I crochet and read lots. made one bead spread since summer...

October, 1938: Bunyan wrote to Nancy (she was then 91):...my health had run down so this summer Sidney tole us if we would go up to Hot Springs for three weaks and take the baths he would pay the bill. So you see hes a good boy. but I paid some of it. the trip cost about 200. I was under the docters care all the time. My Dr. bill was $91. and believe me he did me lots of good. you knoe Ive had a kidney trouble for 40 years...they made 5 x rays and found I had only one kidney...said If I let him take it out I would bee a well man...I have gained 15 # since I was up there. I weigh 141# now...

In 1938, November, J.O. took his father, Bunyan to Hot Springs, Ark, for the kidney operation. A letter from Delilah:...I have nothing new to tell. a terible scandle out on Dr. J. and Lelia J. they say she dips snuff and has taken one too many dips...I know Papa it seems like a long time with you, but only hold your trust and be as patient as posible. When you are really well it will all seem like a dream and you will never regret having taken chances. first thing every one does when they enter the store is to ask about you... Lots of love, mother.

That December he wrote Nancy: ...I staid in St Johephine Hospitel Hot Springs 16 days. Stood my opperation fine. the Dr said the old kidney was as large as a foot ball...said it had bin dead at least 10 years. I have sufered with it for 40 years. isint that a big tale to tell...wonderful dont have to get up now at night. Ohe you cant emagine how proud I am that its all over. you knoe it takes nerve to get on the operating tabel while you are on foot...Owen staid up there all the time. he would come up to see me 2 or 3 thims every day. My Boys are all so good to me. They all helped me pay the bill. it all cost $500...Delilas health is good this winter. I wish you could see her. I tell her she looks like a girl yet, holding her own so well...

Two years later, in August, 1940, Bunyan wrote Nancy from Hot Springs:...we have an apartment and do our own houskeeping. Pay $8 per weak. nicly furnished. We are about 5 blocks from the bath houses. Just a nice walk. My wife tells the ladies shes 70 years old but they dont believe her, they want to knoe how she treats her self to bee so supel and look so young. I'm holding up fearly good. I think if every body could come here and take the baths each year they would live much longer....Ohe yes, I havn't tole you about the twins. Coker, Owens wife, has twin girls. fine healthy babys, 7# each, 3 weaks old. Just doing fine.

Martin Bunyan and Delilah Cloud Evans celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in November, 1945. They received the following letter from Overton Brooks, Congressman from the 4th District, in Washington: The years slip by and now I congratulate you upon your Golden Wedding Anniversary. Many years have elapsed since you were bride and groom - but they have been happy years. You have set an outstanding example of good citizenship and exemplary living which should be a pride to your entire community. I congratulate you...

Three years later, on a cold night in January with snow on the ground, Delilah died of a cerebral hemorrhage after returning from church. The article in the paper read: Jan. 26: Mrs. Delilah Cloud Evans died of a cerebral hemorrhage at her home near Saline, Monday morning, Jan. 26 having been stricken Sunday night, after returning from church. Funeral services were held Wednesday afternoon, January 28, at Magnolia Baptist Church, Saline, of which she was an active member. The pastor, Rev. L.R. Joyner, conducted the services and Rev. J.W. Buckner, Jonesboro, preached the sermon...Internment was in Old Saline Cemetery...Mrs. Evans, daughter of Noah Cloud, of Cloud's Crossing, near Creston, was born Nov. 15, 1869. She was married to M.B. Evans November 20, 1895, and has resided in Readhimer Community, near Saline, ever since. Mr. Evans has conducted a mercantile business about forty years, and is a leader in the community...Mrs. Evans was a devout Christian, a good neighbor, a kind friend, a devoted mother, and the whole community mourns her passing. (Her death certificate, signed by L.M. Joyner, lists cause of death as stroak apoplexy.

After Delilah's death Bunyan continued to live in the family home where they had lived for 39 years and to operate the store. He paid $10 for his Occupational License as a Retail Dealer in Natchitoches Parish, State of Louisiana, In January, 1951. In July, 1951, he again returned to Hot Springs for the baths. He wrote to Sidney: ...I think I have gotten all I am going to get here. The doctor said I could take the vitamin shots at home if I could get someone to give them to me. I think I have got all out of the baths I will get and my plans are to come home Sunday. I would rather go home a while anyway. This kind of life is getting old. I have a partner here with me, and he is just as sick of it as I am...

Even so, he returned to Hot Springs in the Fall. After returning home, he died. Mrs. J.O. Evans described his death:...Mr. Evans returned from Hot Springs Sunday. Spent an unusually pleasant day Tues, Oct.16. Had a good supper, hot bath and retired. He called Ruth in about 30 minutes. She called Owen. He knew him and talked some to him. Dr. said he had heart block - died about 8:45 P.M. Mr. and Mrs. Tom Babers were there. He had something like convulsions but suffered only when the attacks came. Told Owen goodbye. Mr. Babers and I were holding his hands. Otto and Dr. Brown got there after he had already passed on. (His death certificate, signed by J.W. Brown, lists cause of death as coronary thrombosis. This patient was dead when I reached him.)

The newspaper article noted: Oct. 16: Martin Bunyan Evans, age 80 years, died after a short illness at his home near Saline. Funeral services were held Wednesday afternoon from the Magnolia Baptist Church at Saline with the Pastor, Rev. Homer Burr officiating ...Burial was in the Old Saline Cemetery...Mr. Evans's parents pioneered here from South Carolina. He was born Feb. 24th, 1872 and lived near Saline all of his life, having been a merchant here for the past 45 years. He was an active member of Magnolia Baptist Church of Saline. He and Delilah Cloud were married November 20th, 1895. They celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary six years ago. She preceded him in death Jan. 26, 1848. Surviving are one daughter, Mrs. Ruth Palmer, Saline, four sons, N.O. Evans, Campti, H.H. Evans, Shreveport, S.B. Evans, Converse, and J.O. Evans, Saline, 12 grand children and three nieces.

Mrs. J.O. Evans recalled the following incidents about Bunyan and Delilah in 1988: At Byron's funeral (his brother) at Old Saline, M.B. stayed at the grave digging and would not come into the church. She speculated that he was too emotional and couldn't stand it. She also remembered Delilah describing Bunyan: He was stingy; he wouldn't have much to do with the kids. I've seen him sit there on the porch, watch them fall off and not do a thing. He would make me so mad. Delilah described further that when she wanted something, he would want the opposite. If I wanted the garden in one place, he would want it in another. When he'd come in when it was time to start the garden I'd think 'He's gonna ask me where do I want it? Wherever I say, he'll put it in the other place, so I just tell him the place I don't want it ("reverse psychology," it would later be called).

She also recalled Delilah telling her about chiding Bunyan for not going to church regularly and helping with the church work. Bunyan reportedly said he was already taking care of the widows by letting them charge in his store, to which Delilah replied: No, you are not helping them; they are just stealing from you.

*******

 
JOHN OWEN EVANS


John Owen Evans, the sixth and last child of Bunyan and Delilah Evans, was born in a log house four miles south of Saline in Natchitoches Parish (in Sec. 15, T13N, R6W) on Saturday, 11 O'clock, Dec. 23, 1905. He weighed 10 lbs. At age 76 he said, word came to me that my mother looked up at my father at the time of my birth and said, Bunyan, this is it. The meaning could have been may things, but with that touch of Indian Blood in her I am sure she meant what she said and I was the last child she gave birth to. J.O. also remembered that the log home had no conveniences, not even a water well. My mother carried water from a near by spring for home use; she did the washing of clothing down at the spring, where they dried from the sun light on a wire tied from one tree to another.

He also recalled: I, being the baby of the family, naturally received the most attention. I remember when we would go to the table to eat I would get first choice, in fact I especially remember that Mama would give me the cream off the milk before pouring the others their part. My father believed only in work and plenty of it; I remember hearing him say he never heard of any one killing themselves by working too much.

When Owen was four years old his father had a new house built at Harper's Spur, 2 miles south of Saline in Section 10. He remembered his father taking them there while they were building the house. When it was finished the family rode there in a wagon. I remember I got to sit in the spring seat between Mama and Papa. When we got there Papa said, 'There it is.' We were all thrilled, jumped from the wagon and began running to the new house. Papa had built a store building about 1/8th mile from the house on the railroad tract and had gone into a business with a partner named Glen Harper.

When he was six Owen began attending first grade at Saline School. We walked from Harper's Spur to Saline, two miles, until about 1919 when Papa bought us a one horse wagon which we made into a covered wagon and rode to school in. We tied the horse in front of the school building. All five of us finished High School in Saline High School. Otto was one of the first graduates of Saline High School. He was the oldest and I was the youngest. Mama packed our lunches in buckets until the last year of my school, when Nena Montgomery, my first cousin, asked me to eat lunch with her, which I did.

His mother kept a purple ribbon pinned to one of his school papers from the 4th grade, where Miss Alma Baker was his teacher. She wrote at the bottom: Owen Evans, age 9 yrs won out in Saline fair, Oct 23, 1915. The paper, which he apparently wrote, was a story: In a field filled with grasshoppers lived a family of ants. All summer they were gathering grain for winters use. When winter came a grasshopper half dead was begging the ants for food. "Why didn't you gather your food during summer." "I spent my time singing." "If you are foolish enough to spend the summer singing you may go to bed hungry in the winter."

His grades from the fourth grade with a Certificate of Promotion passing him to the fifth was signed by J.C. Burson, Principal, and Alma L. Baker, Teacher, on May 26, 1916:

D+ in Reading; B in Writing; B in Spelling; C+ in Arithmetic; C+ in Language; D- in Geography; 15 days absent, 18 days tardy; C in Behavior. Each of the 9 months grades are witnessed by his father, M.B. Evans.

At age 12 Owen was sick with what the family believed to be Malaria. His mother took him to Arkansas for treatment and a change of climate (believed then to be a cause of Malaria). He would later write of this experience: My first experience of a miracle from God was in 1918 when mama carried me to the Arkansas Ozarks to stay with my Aunt Viola for the summer to cure the Malaria which I had and was having chills and fever regularly. We had Aunt Viola have one of her neighbors, about a mile from her, meet us at the train in a one horse buggy to carry us to her house in the mountains on a place she had homesteaded - there were no roads, just rocks and a trail. I fell out of the buggy one time and the wheel ran over me but that didn't hurt much. After staying with her a few days I got sick, my stomach swelled up like a pregnant woman. They sent five miles for a doctor who had to ride over the mountains in a trail on a horse. He stayed around a long time, had lots of medicines - told them there was no chance for me to live - gave me some red medicine that got hard if you did not drink it as soon as it was poured in water. I had no idea I was going to die. Mama sat on side of my old bed and prayed, I prayed too but don't know what I said. I knew for sure then I was not going to die. The doctor did not think there was any use for him to come back. In a few weeks I was able to travel and we got that neighbor...to bring us back to Sunset Arkansas to catch the train and we came home. I must have been re-born for when we had that annual revival that fall of 1918 I joined Magnolia Baptist Church, was baptized in Mill Creek with about 20 others, just below the old RR tracks in the swimming hole. He was baptisted on September 1, 1918.

His Sixth Grade grades, from D+ in Reading to B in Writing and A in spelling, averaged C- to B. In a 6th Grade Language examination, Miss Thornton, teacher, Owen, aged 12 included this story: Once there was a man who had two boys that dident ever go to Sunday School. One day their father decided to send them to school. On their way when they got behind what they called the Big Woods they saw some men firing guns. they did not know what to do. "I'm going back whipping or no whipping," said John, and they went on back home and told their father what they had seen. Their father got his gun and went behind the Big Woods and the men had already gone, and their father whipped them till they were blue. On the same exam he diagrams sentences.

In the Seventh Grade he seems to have improved with averages from 89 in Arithmetic to 96 in Spelling. He received State Spelling Certificates beginning in Fifth Grade in 1917, and also in 1918, 1919, 1920, and 1922. In the Eighth Grade he made 100's in Conduct. In 9th Grade he made all G's. In both of these years he shows only 1 day absence and 12 times tardy.

In a 10th Grade book report on Dec. 12, 1921, on GIRLS AND WOMEN, he wrote...Every girl should have an aim in life and stick to it...Girls should all learn to cook read and sew, although some women like to read too well. Cooking, sewing and housekeeping are essential for any woman, married or unmarried. It is nice for a girl to support herself, but she should not begin this too early. There are many ways for them to support themselves.... The causes of narrow life almost always lie in the character. In conclusion every woman should be truthful and loving, courageous and modest.

In 1922, after his Junior year in high school, Owen was apparently having some type of physical problem which led his mother to again take him to Arkansas for treatment. In a letter of 6/27/22 his father wrote to Dear Mama and Owen and Viola and Alvin...He gives the news from home and then Now Momer you knoe I want you at home but if you think by staying with Owen two weaks longer hee will bee over this spell and think wont have another spell and could bee satisfied to stay till Sept that would bee best on him. but if you think best to bring him home why that will bee best. I feel like whin he gets over this he will bee shed of his Molariel and if he could stay there till Sept maby he would get all right...so you use your best judgment. I knoe you are getting home sick and I expect Owen is two, you knoe this is getting to be a lonsome place...Expect you all had better come home as soon as can. Love from Poppa.

While there Owen wrote to and received letters from a girl...Just the Same old Beadie, from Jerome Thomas, his brother Hansford, and Lucile. His father wrote again in August:... Owen you must hury and get on foot. maby your tonic will straiten you up...Say Momer Don't you worey about your work and intrest at home, for I think we are keeping things going very nicly. Of corse you knoe your presince are needed at home but don't wory. We are just having washing every 2 weaks..

Owen graduated from Saline High School on May 25, 1923. His High School Diploma is signed by G.H. Middleton, Principal.

That Fall he decided to go to the University of Arkansas. He would later recall: ...made all the arrangements, caught the train - was greeted at the railroad station in Fayetteville with a bunch of boys I had made arrangements to room with - this started out lots of fun - being the first night I had ever spent away from home...I became lonesome but soon overcame that... They all wanted me to go to college but I had business on my mind. I didn't want to be a teacher. I didn't like history and remembering all that stuff. I wanted to make some money. I thought I'd take some business courses. But when I got in there they told me you can't have any kind of business course as a freshman. So I said, 'Well, I'm not going here,' and I got up and walked out. I walked back to the house I was rooming at and met my roommate who had found out the same thing. We decided to take one more walk down town before we went home. Then we saw the Fayetteville Business College and went in to see about that. One of the salesmen got us and in about 30 minutes both of us had signed up.

Receipts show $100 paid to Fayetteville Business College for a Life Scholarship in Bookkeeping, Acct'g and Typing, plus $8.00 for books.

During the Fall he received many letters from his mother, father, brothers and sister. His friend Grady Loe wrote him from Normal College in Natchitoches:...I am glad you are liking Ark. alright. I like down here very well now but I had the blues the first week so bad until I did not think I could stay, but I have found me a girl now and you see I'm better satisfied. Boy there is some bunch of women here, "all kinds." Then in another letter Grady wrote later: ...Boy I have the sweetest girl in the world. How are the "women" serving you? You had better watch your step. They are still "keen" down here... Also Hazel and Lucy B. McCarguodale wrote to him from Normal College.

His brother Sidney wrote in November:...That is right boy, step out with the girls and have a good time but don't spent too much money on them, you know what I mean, just go to the shows with them and have a good old time. Listen Otto and myself have been trying to get a little SHINNEY so we could make a tody or a egg nog when you come home Xmas. Yes, we are planning on having a good time Xmas...

On November 17, 1923, Owen wrote to a high school friend, Ottis....I think I made a pretty good deal by coming here. I got to where I had to take medicine all the time down home so I thought I would go where it was healthier.... I like my course fine and it is some healthy here too. I've gained 13 pounds already...It is only four weeks until Christmas, and I'm going home too. Where are you going to be then. I wish I could see you. Boy there's lots of keen women here. I got kindly home sick when I first came here, but have gotten over it all now....Now be a good boy and don't do anything that I wouldn't...Your Friend and Class mate, Owen.

Otto, his oldest brother, wrote him on 12/1:...Mama says we should all write you boys more often. She thinks you are just as big a baby as you were when you wore the safety pin....Have you been broke yet. I don't think you have. You never write a broke mans letter. You must have left with an unbreakable roll. I think Sid sent you a ten the other day...

His high school friend, E.H. McKinney, wrote on December 8: ...I suppose you could beat the H out of me for not answering...How many women do you know? Boy a couple of hot janes were in here last week. I don't mean maybe I vamped them, we had a dance one night and I sure strutted my stuff. I was trying the new dance with one of them....

On December 17 Owen wrote to his brother, Sidney:...We had a lot of fun last night, a couple of boys here got a transformer and some wires and connected them to the light socket and run them into another boys bed and when he got to sleep good they turned the electricity on and believe me he come out of there and came running in our room hollering fire jumping over the foot of his bed and saying that some body hit him. He was white as cotton. They told him that he must have been dreaming and he said he guess he was, but later on in the night they turned it on again but had to tell him about it this time....We are fixing up Mrs. Maulding a long broom handle for a Xmas present as she sleeps right under our room and is always knocking under the ceiling to quiet us down. We thought we would make it a little easier on her. I'll be home this evening or tomorrow. Owen.

After his Christmas vacation home by train, Owen returned to Fayetteville. On January 12 he typed a letter to his mother: ...Have gotten over my blue spell and have gained 4 lbs already...We got to raising a howl about not having hot water and every thing else and so they have arranged for us to get baths at the barber shop...I got one this morning. We have also gotten a new stove in our room...

In early February his mother wrote: ...You asked about entering university. we want all of you to go through university but did not seem to me like any of you were going to want it so I'm glad you do, but it will be sucha short while after you get through Business C until time to enter university. and the very time I do not like you to come back here on account of malaria that if you can get a nice little job for that time best to stay on....Of course we could give you work, but long as Otto is here don't really need you...Sid stayed out tonight. guese he is with the girls. at a perty or into mischief. will write Hans. I most always write both at same time. Love from Mother

Later in February she wrote again:...you spoke of entering the university. Sure if you wish it you may enter. I think it good as you could do. And I think if you do it will be a good idea to put Ruth up there...I want Sid to go more to school and probably he would come up there too. It sure would be nice for us to move there and the whole push go thro university. we could run a store. and I know would make a living. and it is worth it all to be well. I take these ideas lots of times tho Dad only lets it all run through his head and go to the wind...

Also in February he got a leap year letter from L.B. Mc... at Normal College...so send me back without delay/your answer saying "Yea" not "Nay"/With lots of love and kisses/ from one who hopes to be your "Mrs."...

In March his father wrote:...Helo Owen, I will take you on a surprise. Momer says I don't care anything for you all or I would write to you more but that isint so. you kno better than that. you knoe after she wrote and tells you everything I havint any thing to write...Momer and Popper is sitting by the heater. Momer reading and Popper writing...you think you will like to stay up there and take the summer turm at the university. that will bee all right. if you want to stay do you think you could get a job to bear your espinces while you are out of school. if you can that will bee a help for you knoe how our money comes...Sid still holds his job that will help us out a good eal. I have got Otto under some better controle. he don't runabout so much. we are having more work to do that keeps him closte...

In March Sidney wrote that he has gotten Owen some letters of recommendation, apparently needed for entering the university. The first was from W.S. Montgomery, Postmaster: This is to certify that I have known Owen Evans for some ten or twelve years and believe him to be a gentleman in every respect....has no bad habits, and I can heartily recommend him as a boy of unusual natural ability.. Also another Letter of Recommendation from F.L. Mayfield, President of Bank of Saline: J. Owen Evans is now about 18 years old and we desire to inform those who may be interested, that we have known him all of his life...I take pleasure in stating that the bearer hereof has been all of his life, what we term a strict boy, attending church regularly, well thought of by all his play mates, besides he comes from high-toned, honorable worthy parents, and our opinion, will make a useful man and citizen, and in every way believe him worthy of trust and belief...

In March Owen wrote home: ...The room mate left yesterday and I almost cried because Mrs. Mauldin is leaving soon and I got to thinking about it. it will be a long time before I get to leave yet... His mother wrote back:...I believe you were a little homesick..but know it is all over now because you know it is so much better for you to stay on up there through summer than take chances of taking up malaria down here. I believe if we would get right in behind your dady he would move up there. don't you like the place well enough to live in. we could just either buy or build a residence and you boys get jobs...I do want that if it is possible...true I would want to rent for a while until I learned the location. when you finish up at school and before going to work, I'd run over to Sunset. it wont make you homesick much. remember you are a man now...

Sidney wrote him on April 4, 1924:...just received a letter from you and it seems that Mrs. Mauldin is leaving is she, well if her little Niece stays it will be all right want it. Say do you ever have much to do with the women these days, well I cought one Sunday, a girl that come home with Hazel Hood for the week end, she ant so good looking but she do so fine. she is not so good looking but from her neck on down oh boy, but I am not crazy yet. I am not going to put out unless their is some results...Inclose find a check signed so you can fill out to suit yourself....I am good for $200 but keep that under you hat, see I don't want papa to know it... His mother wrote on the 8th:...That little one page letter came last nite. I believe you are homesick. but you will be brave I know and push it off. for to come now you would pick Malaria right up and later in summer you can. if you get a job get someone to relieve you and come while fishing is good....

In a May 8 letter Owen wrote: ...I took another test in typewriting and have gained five words per minute...There is a girl sitting in front of me with a pink dress on. J.O. Evans

Owen did come home after the spring term. During this year of schooling in Arkansas, he saved over 100 letters from his family and friends. He would later recall: I took Banking, Bookkeeping, and Typewriting. I finished with about 65 or 70 words in typing. (Note: the actual certificate is for 36 words per minute.) They had guaranteed us a job, and after we graduated they took me to this insurance company. I remember it was on the 2nd floor of a wooden building in downtown Fayetteville. We worked a day and they hadn't told us what we would make. So the next day I said I want to know how much money we will make. He said $70 a month. I didn't say anything, but that nite I got to figuring. We were paying about $22.50 for meals and laundry and board. I added up how much our clothes and everything would cost and I figured I wouldn't have enough left to go to the picture show. We wanted to go to the silent picture shows every nite. They would play the piano and we'd get down close, and boy, did we enjoy that. And that one thing was the reason I decided to quit.

On June 10, now back at home, he heard from Mittie in Fayetteville. On June 28 he received this letter to Saline from Mary Stephens, Coushatta, La.: Dearest Owen, This is just a note of apology for not telling you goodby in the right way....I suppose no girl should write a boy first but please excuse that. I know you will....Owen I spilled perfume on this letter... (The letter had a 2 cent stamp, plus 10 cent special delivery stamp). On July 3rd, Mary wrote him again from Coushatta: ...There is no news except that I LOVE YOU LOTS...

Constance Coker, not yet a part of Owen's life, graduated from State Normal College on May 31 of this year with a life time certificate in Grammar Education.

In August, 1924, J.O and Jerome Thomas went to a Military Training Camp in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. On July 25, 1924, Dr. W.B. Hailey had sent a certification of Vaccination against Small Pox for attendance at a Military Training Camp. While at the Citizen's Military Training Camp, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Owen heard from his mother: ...I sure have a spell of blues. it seems like all my efforts fail and I just stay here in this house all the time and see no one to talk to. I want to move worse than I ever did...

His dad wrote on August 18:...Say whats to mater with you boys. think you cant stand that 30 days. now boys you all knoe it wouldint look good for you to sherk your duty and you couldnt come home with out the public noing it. If you were there for six mo. or a year we would try to get you out. if you are not satisfied, just make up you mind that its just a few days and I can put up with anything you only have 14 more days from today. While at camp he also got a letter from Marie (the Arkansas girl), apparently responding to his letter to her.

The file contains a MILITARY TRAINING CERTIFICATE...Given at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas this 30th day of August...The above-marked candidate has completed the Basic Course..is recommended to continue in...Infantry Branch: Remarks: Certificate of qualification has been granted... (All above typed, but written in pen is "Not" between has "Not" been granted. Wonder if this was written in by Owen?

He would later recall: Jerome Thomas and I found about that thing and we thought we were getting into a big deal. We talked Mama and them into putting up the $20. But when we got up there, you talk about rough; we weren't used to that. We both got homesick, but they only let you leave if your family requested it. So we got the money and called home and told them to write and say we were needed at home. Then we'd meet the mail man every morning, but they didn't even answer.

That Fall Constance Coker began teaching school at Mt. Lebanon, La., where J.O.'s father had attended the university some 40 years previously. The university had since been moved to Pineville, becoming Louisiana College. The old university bell, however, had been kept by the High School there. Constance would later recall that she rang the bell for school to begin while she taught the 1, 2, and 3 grades in Mt. Lebanon. (The bell was later given to Dodd College in Shreveport and then to La. College in 1992.)

In the meantime, Owen returned from Military Camp in Kansas. I came home to Harper's Spur, worked in the store with Papa some but got talked into going to school at Normal (Normal State College at Natchitoches). My family all wanted one of the family to get a college education and I was the last chance. A Sept. 15 Student Handbook; State Normal College, Natchitoches, lists Owen Evans; Grades: Education C; Lib. Sc., D; Biology, D+; Chem., B... Fall, 1924 grades: Chem., B; Ed., C; Eng., C; Math, C.

On October 11, the Fayetteville Business College sent a transcript of J.O.'s grades to the University of Arkansas, also at Fayetteville, noting that he was presently a student in Normal State College. His grades were all in the 90's. Apparently J.O. was thinking of returning to the University.

About this time he received a letter from Bertha Cauklin in Fayetteville:...I'm not going to ask you to write to me any more but what would you do if I would challenge you to? Do you remember the night we came home from Mettie's and I said I didn't have any faith in you, so you held me, held me till I said I did? Well, I've still got just that kind of faith...Hopeing that I might hear at least just a little speck from you, I am Your Sincere Friend...

Obviously he did not return to Arkansas at this time. For an English class at Normal, January 5, 1925, he wrote this story: My Trip Home...It was the twentieth of December and there was much joy in the hearts of 1200 school students. Our christmas holidays were to begin. About five hundred girls and five boys were waiting at the social room for cars to go home for Xmas vacation. Unfortunately I was one of the five lonely boys that were patiently waiting for a chance to get away from this seemingly underirable place.

When the cars began to arrive the girls ran by the hundreds in a mad rush, the five lonely boys hardly escaping death. Finally the cars ceased to come and the hundred girls that were left showed much sorrow and many tears, but the five boys held their own. When the car that I was to get in arrived I gladly accepted a seat and a position as, "Ice cleaner," keeping the ice cut off of the windshield with a screw-driver. As I rode into the distance I glanced back and saw the four lonely boys still waiting and I suppose they are until now.

On Feb. 14 he heard from Marie Woodruff in Fayetteville:...Love till Statue of Liberty has twins...P.S. That sure was a cute humdinger of a Valentine. I'll treasure that... Another letter from Franklinton, La. on the 27th:...My dearest Owen I am at home and every minute I think of you and I love you more each day and night, Eternally Yours, MER...P.S. I still love you and remember the day.

His report on March 9, 1925: Not present at Mid-term exams; 2 weeks absence.

E.M. wrote: My dear Owen, You don't know how sorry I am not to be able to come to take my second lesson in "Love Making" but its impossible. I have to write lesson plans...What must I do to prove that I'm not as bashful as you think? You must remember that we are still at Normal, but wait until we get away before drawing your final conclusions. This is signed E.M. but the last line continues: Just to tell you I still Love U, signed M.E.

On May 3, 1925, Constance Coker of Bryceland signed a contract for 9 months as an assistant teacher at Saline High School at $65 per month. She signed her acceptance in Cotulla, Texas.

Owen's grades for the Spring Quarter ending 6/1/25 were: English, B; Geography, D; Chemistry, C; Phy. Ed., D; Math, D; Biology, D.

His recall of this 9 months schooling was: I made C's, but under old man Alexander in English I made B tripple plus. He said that was the best grade he ever gave a student, that 'I never gave a boy an A in my life.' I always did have ideas in my head about writing. It was for that story about Grady and I slipping out and going to town at night and meeting those KKK men who had killed a man and robbed a bank that I got the good grade. (Note: the actual grade on this paper is C++, not B+++; on the paper he has added: This is a true story. The other party was Grady Loe. Date was 1925. There are several other original stories in the file of his school papers.)

About this schooling he later recalled: I could think of nothing except business and making some money; the only thing I could see I was learning there was to be a school teacher, the least of my desires in life. Papa and I made a deal that I work with him in the store on half & half deal....

Back home and working for his father, on June 26, Owen hears from Marie Woodruff in Fayetteville: ...Now why should I be surprised to hear from you? Didn't my letter call for an answer?...So you are a business man now making some pennies eh?...Don't work too hard and don't forget those pictures...Oodles of Love...

In August, Owen, Sidney, and their father took a trip to South Carolina. On the 3rd he wrote to his mother: We are at Neeces today, expecting to stay at Orangeburg tonight. We may come back by way of Florida. Anyway expect us back by Xmas. On the 7th he wrote: We left Leesville yesterday. will go as far as Jacksonville in Florida anyway. May go farther. Our speedometer registers 2282, are in Ga. now...S. O. & P.

On August 27, 1925, J.O. wrote to the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO., about attending school there. He had a transcript sent to them from Normal and was notified on October 5 of his provisional acceptance for the Winter Quarter opening on January 4, 1926. This move, however, was not to be.

In September, Constance Coker began teaching at Saline High School. About this Fall, J.O. would later recall: Sidney (his brother) and Homer Morgan were going with a couple of school teachers, Zula Pullin and JoHouck; another girl, Constance Coker from Bryceland, was rooming with them. Sidney talked me into having a date with her. We fell into it the first night, did not miss a night of dating for a week or so. This grew; I would stop at her room at the school house, outside window, when I came to get the mail each day. I was very peculiar about my feelings about girls - I didn't want all of them, just one, but I wanted that one to be mine and not a part for any body else to have. We conquered this with much discussion....

Owen's first letter to Constance is postmarked February 20, 1926: 8 16 1/2 A.M., Hello COKER: I bet you are not up at such early hour of the Anti-Meridian, although you did go to bed at an early date last P.M. I have been bothered every since the early hour that I retired last evening and too this is probably the cause of me getting such early start this day, for (as I presume you know) too much sleep makes one drowsy. Anyway forgetting all of this insignificant data on things of the past lets think of the present, but then I suppose that will be the improper thing to do for it is very improbable that the above named Coker be out of her place of rest and contment (t-ent-m) ((that was just to signify that I did know, but was just mistaken, or probably the fingers too warm)) at the above named place and time, but anyway lets consider the most important things first, therefore the present course shall be continued. I say Coker I had to stop and fill out some financial papers and that dog-gone telephone rang, it being a minor call too for it was just Chestnut calling S.B., the said S.B. having just arrived with the excuse that the unnecessary delay had been caused by technical conditions. As I was going to say COKER, in a previous clause of this composition Are you up yet? (I mean from your place of sleep, but the present time is different from the time now so is an impossibility....Station J.O.E. -P.M.C. signing off at exactly 8 59 3/8 A.M. after the night before.

At about this same time Constance began her first letter to Owen on Feb 20, 1926: Saturday morning, Dearest Owen, Well, true to my promise here goes. There is one thing that I can't stand and that is for one's word not to be carried out when they promise to do or say something. You had better carry out yours too. I got up at eight o'clock. It is now twenty minutes until nine. Bet you are hard at work now. I soon will be. I haven't got lonesome a bit yet but who could be lonesome with you around? You are the ---------- . Honest. Well, I must stop now. I bet your note want be all long as this. Lovingly, Constance.

Many other letters soon followed. In one undated to Owen (at home) Friday...My Sweetheart. Wonder how you are feeling now. Hope you are getting along alright. Just learned that you were sick...wondered why you did not come but I knew you had a good excuse. Sweetheart I wish I could come to see you. but- you know. Hope you are able to be up tomorrow night. I was all set for a long talk tonight but we will soon if you get all right. Saw you pass by at noon and you did not even say "howdye." Now be sweet (in other words natural) and take your medicine so you can get up cause I am anxious to see you....I love you most, Coker....Another letter, hand delivered by Sidney:...Be sure and come up tomorrow at noon...Well, good bye, I love you most, Your Coker....P.S. Please destroy.

At School Wednesday, Dearest Owen, How are you this morning? I feel fine not sleepy a bit are you? Feel kinda blue tho. Kinda feel as if you wont be up tonight. Hope so cause...well just cause.. After we did get to talking last night I wanted to talk to you...Didn't I leave my vanity in your pocket? If so please make Sidney bring it in the morning - if you don't bring it tonight....excuse mistakes but the pupils keep coming up here bothering me...Lots of love.

Another from school: ...I know we are going to be happier than anyone else could be. And, too, I'll have a long vacation. You know what you are going to do? Ha! I kinda like Sidney's suggestion....I had better stop as my pupils are about thru writing. I love you most, Always yours, Coker. Now be sure to tear this up cause you might lose it.

Apparently Coker was in fact tearing up his letters. The next available is dated April 8: My Dearest Coker....I still have that CAT feeling and know from reason that it will be in a much more advanced stage during the next two days and three nights....The above mentioned cat feeling will cause many strange things to take place sometimes though...Again referring to the cat feeling would like to say that I do trust that such does appear on you just a little occasionally as I am in such hopes that it does, although I do not wish you any harm, if that would cause any but since I have same so often I would be so please to know that you are a little bit inclined that way anyway. Coker please don't take any of the above in such way as would bring dissatisfaction to you as I am only saying it because I love you so much, Think of everything that will cause you to be the same, and remember that it is true, Owen.

Then the next day to Miss Constance Coker at St. Joseph, La. in the following form:

Dearest Coker I am writing this with
that same thought in mind
that I had while writing
that of the 8th inst. Trust
that you remember the thing
that I have reference to. Will say
that I am not feeling the way
that I sometimes do. The line
that I refer to this time is
that of sleep. While as to
that other line, the one
that I spoke of so much in
that previous letter, must say
that as to this kind of feeling
that I so often have gives me
that kind of contentment
that is seemingly of a nature
that cannot be endured but
that constantly reminds me
that I cannot do a thing
that would prevent such, but
that it is caused by things
that make me want only
that thing. What do you think about
that? (I slept nine hours last night)

Coker I am writing this hoping that you will get it on Saturday and if you do not don't say anything about it. I wonder if you remember what I said I thought you ought to remember to think of thinking about things that I thought probably I would think about asking you and I thought and still think that you ought to think about these things enough that you could think of them without having to think much when I decide that I want you to express your thoughts together with what you really believe about these things that you had been thinking about....I still love you lots. Owen E.

Constance entered Summer School at Louisiana Tech. On May 29th Owen wrote to her at Ruston, c/o L.P.I.: Somehow (probably a presentment) I do not feel exactly right by writing you at Ruston for something seems to tell me that I am going to see you tomorrow not quite so far away. The part right across from my hands feels and sounds just like an empty water hose sounds when it is being filled with water. Papa has gone to dinner and for one time this morning I am not busy. (Busy as a cat too. I hope that you are not disgusted by now and decided different....Say Coker, now I did write you a letter and not for no cause, (two negatives) either, but something seems to tell me my hands are needed to carry something that is needed somewhere else, so don't forget me and my address. Owen E.

Constance wrote from Tech in Ruston on June 1: ....Jo asked who I was writing to and I told her "The Sweetest Fellow in the World" and I mean every word of it. I've been blue too but I can control my feelings. Jo said that she wished she was like me in that respect...I love you only. P.S. Owen be careful about what you do with my letters. How about burning them? Now please be careful...

Obviously he did not follow her wishes because both kept their letters, written almost every day during this month. On the 16th he wrote: There is just one thing in this world that could keep me from feeling like I am and have been today, that is Coker....I feel so weak and nervous...I bet if I was with somebody sweet and we were in ARKANSAS I would be feeling better (no I don't bet it either for I know it and that would not be fair to bet on something you already knew)...I don't see why I have to feel like this. I would not think life worth living if it had to be like this all of the time, only when I think about the future makes me feel different, and I wouldn't feel different then if I didn't believe what I do....

Constance wrote back: ...If Arkansas will make you feel better then you will go some day with the one that loves you, provided you want too. Precious if thinking of the future will make you feel better - think of it...

On June 25 he wrote: ...I know you haven't been feeling any worse over this misunderstanding than I have, for that would be impossible...give cause for disagreeable feelings so such great extent as the writer has never experienced before and which it would be his pleasure never to experience again...

(The June file contains over 40 letters between them)

Then on July 1: Hello Sweetheart...I wish I could see you. Dog-gone it wont be but a week from tonight until I will if my plans don't fail to work. Coker, why didn't I hear from you? It seem like the more I write the less I hear from you...Lots of love to you only, Owen. Then again on the 2nd:...Coker, Darling...Dog-gone, I enjoyed your sweet little letter today, and too this time proposition, the nearness of the approaching Thursday night (the time I can hardly wait for) makes me feel such way that it is so far ahead of the feeling I used to have when Christmas was getting near that if the comparison between the two were racing automobiles the chauffeur of the latter would readily see the uselessness of continuation.. Probably from past experiences you can imagine the feeling you used to have when Christmas was drawing near. Well that can be no comparison to my feeling in this case. Sweetheart I only wish it was tonight instead of day after the day after the next day after the next day after the day after Sunday, that being only day after tomorrow. Darling I know I will be feeling bad at the beginning of the week after the week-end after this one. Dog-gone I wish it did not have to be that way. Sweetheart, how about us talking about this bird and other business just for a little. It seems that we are living in a hard community here around Harper's Spur. Since that bird got his nose shot off there has been other disturbances in existence. The said disturbances being the arrest of eleven other birds in a radius of a few miles from here, the said birds, either being in possession of a quantity of intoxicating liquor or having the operation of stills for the manufacture of intoxicating liquor, in their possession. In one case a still was found in the back yard being in full operation only a short distance from here. others were found located at various places in the houses and surrounding weeds. One particular case of interest was the finding of fifteen-hundred gallons in process of manufacture only a few miles distance from here....Sweetheart I must stop but you can plan on us being together some place or another on Friday and dog-gone I love you lots---and lots more all the time. Owen. He also wrote again the next day in similar vein...

And then again on Sunday July 3rd: ...My Darling Coker...I am just back from church. No it was not early mass. It was the Magnolia meeting at Saline at nine o'clock. Dog-gone I feel lonesome this morning, but even the thought of day after the day after tomorrow night makes me feel better. Sweetheart please don't feel like you said you did yesterday for it is not that way and I don't want you to be feeling some way that is not. Coker, as we were leaving there yesterday I just began to think and it seemed like our being together yesterday was so short until it seemed like a dream, (but a dog-gone sweet one) but by George I am living for that said coming time. Darling, I hope--you know what I hope--and I hope my hope don't be in vain either....I tried to write you a letter so I could mail it this morning but didn't have time so maybe you will get this one tomorrow. The preacher is going to eat with us today, but I can't help that. Sweetheart I must quit but remember what I said yesterday and I love you today still more, and, always will. Owen.

On July 5th Coker wrote from Louisiana Tech: Doggone- I'm just back from mail call and didn't get a letter from you and I just knew I would hear from you. Don't believe you love me any more. Didn't hear from you yesterday either. O, my but I've had the blues today. I wish I was with someone sweet right not ...Owen why didn't I hear from you? I could cry very easily...Ding - I bet I'm not caught at another summer school like this one....Sweetheart I wish I was going to be with you tomorrow. Remember last Sunday? We will have to stay in tomorrow. This is a heck of a place to see anyone. If you all should come you would get to sit with us during the show and walk back with us. you stand in front of the show and wait until we file in. C? We can't go to the show only on Friday and Saturday nights. I write to you whether I hear from you or not and you don't to me - Why? Darling, please write to me often and love me lots. Coker.

She wrote again on Sunday: My Sweetheart, Wonder where you are now? And if you all had any trouble getting home. I've worked tonight on "our" home and my exhibit...Your two letters were here and darling I love you more cause you are so sweet about writing. I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoyed being with you today. I just know there is not anyone as sweet as you are and I know there is not anyone I could love as much as I do you.

On Thursday the 6th Coker wrote again ....I love you just worlds and would just nearly die if I didn't hear from you. Precious I'll never decide that I don't love you - cause I do - and a doggone lot at that....Hope to be with you two weeks from tonight. If such happens I'll be with the sweetest man in the whole world and one that I love -Oh I couldn't tell you how much...Darling please write often to - Your Coker P.S. Got stuck 30 demerits for cutting chapel but got them taken off.

Then again on Saturday morning:...I dreamed last night that I was in Saline and it was my last day there and I had waited over to be with you and you had a date with another girl. My but you can't imagine just how badly I did feel. Then I woke up still feeling just as badly when I discovered I was at home with probably no prospects of seeing you for about ten weeks. Darling, I surely do love you - more and more.

July 12, 1926: Coker Darling...Dog-gone but I feel bad now and sweetheart you cant imagine how I felt last night when I left you standing on those door-steps and all that 27 miles home by myself. Dog-gone I hated to leave you and I have not yet fully concluded that...Coker if you feel as bad as I do Now I feel sorry for you. Anybody that feels like I do and have not got any prospects of feeling better could not deny the fact that they would be better off elsewhere...Sweetheart I wish you knew how much I love you...I must be sick, I could not work but very little today. Darling I could just keep writing you but I am sick and must stop so please don't forget me and remember that I could never love anybody like I love you. Yours Owen.

Monday morning letter to Constance: My Coker, This is just a 'before church' note and not a letter so understand it accordingly. To the present time indications show not much possibility for tonight- Don't look for me but remember that it is not because I don't want to be with you and don't forget to understand the 'before church' note caused by existing conditions which I also hope you understand. I must go to church Love Owen.

(These letters continue in this same vein almost daily throughout July)

On July 28, Owen went to Raymond, Mississippi, to One of the Most Famous Health Resorts in the World, according to the stationary from Cooper's Well Hotel, where he wrote to Coker at St. Joseph, La.:...This H2O is making me feel fine but can feel OK only when I am with you. Yours with lots of love hoping for about next Sunday to hurry and come...

His bill on 7/31 was $32.35, including 5 1/2 days in the Hotel for $3.50 per day.

On August 9th Constance wrote from Bellevue, St.Joseph, La: Sweetheart...Guess what I dreamed last night - That you and I got married on either June or July 14th. Don't remember the year. Mamma and Papa were married on July 14th. Isn't it queer that I should dream that date when I had not thot of that in ages?

In his next day's letter Owen tells: I have been informed in the near past that a carelessly misplaced ticket from the Cooper's Well Hotel shows only 5 1/2 days board being paid, thereby leaving the several other days absence being unaccounted for. But with little explanation, the fact that a much better vacation had been spent by disposing of said time in such a way was easily understood and the question was discarded.

(Apparently Owen had left Raymond to visit Constance before coming home.)

Constance wrote on August 13: Sweetheart,...Darling have you tho't of me this afternoon. I have of you very much. Wish I was with you. I've been so lonesome. Darling you can't imagine how much I love you....Precious you don't know how much I appreciate your letters....Sweetheart I understand about the trip to the burning well. I want you to have a good time just so you don't forget me. That is the important part to me. I would care if I did not have the utmost of confidence in you, but I couldn't love you if I didn't. Darling don't ever disappoint me. I don't think you will. I'd trust you anywhere or any time and sincerely hope you will me....Darling, I'll always play fair with you..but let me explain the date to you...Darling, you know that I didn't especially care for the date but the man was so nice...Well five weeks from tonight I may be with you. Couldn't anything please me better if it would be tonight...Are you going to get to come over? Hope so cause I'm crazy to see you and talk to you for a long time. Dreamed last night that we got married almost. Had the preacher and all but we decided to wait awhile...Well remember I'll be loving you always, Coker.

In his August 23 letter Owen includes this poem: FLAPPERS by J.O. Evans...The Gum-chewing Girl/And the Cud-chewing Cow/Are somewhat alike--/But different somehow....What difference?/Oh, yes; I see it now,/It's the thoughtful Look/On the Face of the Cow.

J.O. to Constance at Saint Joseph, La. on September 3:...My Dearest Coker, I am feeling lots better now after reading your letter...Had to stop and wait on a Coleman kid, said he was gong to start to school and his teacher was Miss Coker. Guess you'll know him soon enough. I know one thing he's going to have a sweet old school teacher and one that I love a dog gone lot. Wish I could start to school again and be in the first grade. Dog gone wouldn't I be happy. Another good thing about it too would be that first lesson. I would be ahead of everybody else and would have a good start. Then too about that time I would consider my education complete for that would be all I would care to learn and I'd already know that. So it would seem useless. Maybe we can manage to study and practice that old lesson over anyway, even if we do know it. Now that sounds like a like of bull, don't it- well it's not, I love you and I just as well admit it. Do you love me? If you do that sounds like a bargain to me. I couldn't love any body else like I do you....I love you and you know it. Owen...Saturday, I still love you this morning, only a little more (and be dog gone sure and don't glance over it to fast to see the more. Owen.

(The file contains about 40 letters between them during August and the time school started in September, almost all of them containing complaints about not hearing from you.)

A January, 1927, letter to Coker indicates that J.O. is still working at M.B.'s store and missing Coker. The first record of his venturing into the oil business is a lease of 40 acres in Section 12 from Zack Stenvenson on April 7, 1927, for $40.

Puzzlingly, there is a poem/letter in the file from Constance on stationary with this heading: MISS CONSTANCE COKER, State Normal College, Natchitoches, Louisiana, dated only Friday Night: My dearest: Your house is much too large for you, but just the size for two. Suppose you fix it up real cute and I'll keep house for you. You've been alone, too long, my dear. I know you lonesome are. Lets take a wedding trip this year aboard a pullman car. A pretty good fellow I know you are, perhaps you are my fate. I'm sending these lines to you, to see if you'll be my mate. If I should take your hand in mine, altho I'm rather slow, and ask you if you'd marry me, Would you say "yes" or "no?" They say true hearts can beat as one. Can yours keep time with mine? If so, we'll take a wedding trip in a very, very short time. Your girl is loving some other man and lonesome you must be. To make you happy now, you need a girl to love like me. Tis dangerous to go down life's stream alone, this kind of weather. So let me slip my hand in yours and lets go down together - Sincerely, Constance. P.S. By the way, I guess you wonder where I got your address - from a girl from Bryceland. I think that she use to teach there. Perhaps you can remember her. She is a cute little girl.

Was this written to Owen on old stationery? Or was it written two years previously when Constance was a student at Normal? Or was it just a college prank? But why was the poem kept in their letters if not to Owen?

Whatever the answer, on June 12, 1927, John Owen Evans and Constance Waye Coker were married in Ruston, La., by Rev. Borum. When interviewed in 1972, Owen noted that he was flat broke when he married and had to borrow money from his brother to buy a marriage license and to pay for a honeymoon to Niagara Falls, N.Y. In 1982, at age 76, he wrote: We talked to our parents about it but did not give them much choice about the decision. We borrowed Otto's car, some money from Sidney, drove to Ruston, hunted up a preacher whose name was Winston Borum. He lived next to the mayor of Ruston and invited them over for the ceremony to serve as witnesses. We spent the first night in a hotel joining the railroad, the best one in Ruston at that time.

We continued our honeymoon to Little Rock, where we bought a winding record player, a few records, one was 'Lucky Lindy,' a new one. We stopped in the wheat fields of Kansas and on to Niagara Falls. We came back to Cotulla, Texas where Coker's family operated a hotel and cafe. We came home through Alexandria and there bought our first furniture with some money Coker had saved from teaching school at $85 per month, a bed room suite and kitchen table. We lived with Mama and Papa at Harper's Spur for some months and then rented a couple of rooms from Mr. Lee Payton whose house was joining the Saline school building. We used a kerosene portable stove to cook on. After some time Mr. Eugene Rogers built us a house, rented to us for $15 per month.

Reading this later, Constance corrected him with: "Honeymoon in Colorado," where in fact they had gone. J.O. wrote a card to his sister Ruth from Kansas, postmarked June 18, 1927:...Still looking for Pikes Peak. Stayed in Tulsa, Okla Thurs, Winfield, Kansas last night. Write us General Delivery, Colo. Springs. Enjoying everything fine. J.O.E. and Wife.

The next day he wrote his father:...will get to Colorado this evening...are still having a fine time. Everything is working fine...J.O.E. and Mrs. J.O.E. On July 2 he wrote his mother from Raton, New Mexico:...Leaving here for Amarillo. May go by Cotulla. Have not heard from Saline since we left. Car is OK. Haven't as much as had a flat tire yet. Will be back this month. J.O.E. and Family.

While in Colorado Mrs. J.O. Evans did get a letter from her mother. The first page is missing but in the rest of the letter no mention is made of their marriage except this sentence on page 3:...Well do you want me to ship your bed to Saline, and how many weeks will you be away? Am anxious to get a letter from you. had a letter from Aunt Alice. she told of the fib you told her...Irene wrote me immediately after you all left. said she sure missed you. think her eyes must have been running over...H.M. and Dady wrote you the day your card came with an address. mine is some what late. hoping to hear soon, lots of love Mother.

Receipts show that they purchased furniture from Wolf Furniture Co. in Alexandria, La. on June 24, including: 5 pc bedroom sute, $89; 6 pc breakfast set, $42; 1 spring, $11.75; 1 rocker, $4.50; 1 rocker, $11.50; 4 B Oil stove and oven, $42.50; 1 card table ,$2.50; 1 9X 10 rug, $7.50; 1 9X12 Rug, $8.50; 1 6X9 rug, $4.50....Total $211.25, freight $10, $221.25.

That Fall Constance began teaching again at Saline High School and Owen continued working with his father in the family store at Harper's Spur. During this year Owen apparently explored various business ventures. In a January, 1928, letter from J.O. on M.B. Evans stationary Dealer in General Merchandise, Country Produce a Speciality, Cotton buyer; shipping point, Harper's Spur; he is requesting information on Texas Steel Co. stock. He also wrote about Shamrock Oil stock, Louisiana Motor Company stock, and Electric Fan Motors Co. stock.

During the summer of 1928, J.O. and Constance, Sidney, and Helen Marie, Constance's sister, went on a trip to New York and Canada. On June 17 Sidney wrote:...we are having a wonderful time. The car is doing fine. A cop stopped us once while we were driving at night, but we got off easy...

Then from the Hotel McAlpin on 34th Street in N.Y.:..just back from a New York tour. This N.Y. Life is too much for me...expect to reach Toronto about the 23rd...This is a great place and it is all that you have heard it is.

J.O. wrote Otto on the 25th from Toronto....cold enough here for o'coats and blankets, beer and wine...

Sidney wrote his mother:...The beer is good up here. We expect to continue to Detroit in few days...

The trip lasted a month, from 6/8 to 7/8. Records show they drove about 4,800 miles, coming back by Cotulla, Texas, on the way home.

(Note: I was puzzled about the fact that Sidney and Helen Marie were not married; in fact, Helen Marie had not yet finished High School--but this seemed acceptable to all concerned. In discussing the trip with Constance and Helen Marie in 1993, when they were 79 and 86 years old, they both said they "never even thought of that.")

When they returned, J.O. again went to work with his father and Constance to teach at Saline in the Fall. Store records for M.B. Evans store show that about 50 accounts were removed from records as uncollectible during this year. Handwriting is J.O.'s.

In March of 1929 Constance wrote J.O.: My dearest Sugar,...I take this means of informing you that Mr. and Mrs. Louis King are going to play bridge at the home of Mr. and Mrs. J.O. Evans tonight at about 7:15. Please be present and on time. I love you most. Coker. Bring some crackers.

That summer Constance went to Cotulla, Texas to visit her family. On June 9th, J.O. wrote:...I been thinking about you all day...W.S.M. asked me about taking charge of the new cash store that is going in Haileys Drug Store but we going to have a better thing than that next year. Think Sid will have some stock in it and I will probably hire you if you will do good work. They are getting along fine on the house....Don't forget your baby. J.O.

On June 10 he wrote: ...Coker hurry up and make school start cause I got to see you - the reason is business and business is I love you (till the cows come home), Yours, Owen.

On July 7th he wrote:...Just to show you that I came pretty straight home last night I got up early enough this morning to get here at Harpers soon enough to find an old grey haired man of 71 sitting on the steps barefooted without hat, shirt, or underwear on who was in a rush and had only been here waiting an hour and had walked only four miles to get here, so you see he wanted to get here as bad or worse than I did. I slept with Sid last night and of course did not rest well... Sat morn. Stayed in again last night. Ha. Hope you are alright. I am not. Love ...

In July, 1929, at age 23, J.O. had his tonsils removed at Highland Sanitarium in Shreveport. Total bill was $70.

In August, 1929, J.O. was speculating on the New York Stock Exchange, buying cotton and wheat options. On the 27th, for $15 he purchased an option on 5,000 bushels of wheat. At Christmas Constance went back to Cotulla to visit her family. J.O. wrote on the 21st of December:...it just kept snowing...about 12 inches...I bog up nearly to my knees to get to the house from the garage. If you were here it would be perfect. Miss Carrie (Caroline Dorman) came to the house this morning & said if I would come to town and get her some film and let her use our kodak she would give me just anything she had or let me do just anything I wanted to her. I came. waded around all evening with her up to my knees taking pictures. Sure did wish for my baby... (This camera is in my possession in 1993) Sure lonesome to have to go to bed by myself. Sidney is staying with me tonight. We decided to go into the oil business Jan 1, 1930...Sugar you be good...but don't forget to remember your baby loves you and is going to be with you the next Xmassssss!

On the 23rd he wrote to Dear Constance Coker Joe Ann Evans...Hope you are having a good time, I am not. Sugar you stay till you get ready to come back and don't worry about me. Just let me know when you will be back and where to meet you and at what time. I'll be there. Maybe I'll live till that time....Thank you so much for the present. Just what I needed in our oil business I want to tell you about. Did you buy us some more there? Do it and check on J.O. & S.B Evans Petroleum Co....

Also on Christmas eve he wrote, and then Day After Christmas Eve...I had to sleep by myself on Christmas eve night but Santa Claus got to see me just the same and brought me more than anybody I know of. Sugar he brought me some pretty stuff but I haven't let anybody see me with them on yet and will try not to until you get back...Yours for a loving time after December 30th. JOEvans wife's Husband.

Back teaching in January, Constance got this poem from one of her pupils, Irene Singleton: Oh -I've got a teacher/She's good and she's sweet/She's got any preacher/A long way beat/And she knows so much/I never could tell/And I never smelled such/A sweet smelling smell/She looks like a fairy/She talks like books/Shes light and shes airy/And she beats all for looks/But there's just one thing/that I don't like a bit/I cant talk or sing/All I can do is sit/And I get tired of sitting/All the whole day through/I like lots of petting/So I'd rather be with you.

In 1930 J.O. and his brother Sidney went into partnership and bought the old wooden store building and a small stock of groceries from Bill Stinson. We borrowed $600 from Mama to pay part of this. This whole side of the block of Saline burned soon thereafter and we got Mr. McClahan from Houma to contract the building of the brick store building plus the Enloe store joining us for $3500.

Charge accounts must have mounted quickly. On March 22 J.O. and S.B. Evans filed judgments against the following defendants for unpaid accounts (apparently in their store): Richard Tobin; John O. Friday; Eugan Tobin; Emery Smith; O.J. Smith; Levi Patterson; Coy Mathews; Robert Tobin; J.M. Walsh; J.H. Johnson; Allen Patterson, for a total of $2,307.72.

On July 19, their first child, Joe Bruce Evans (ME!), was born at their home; delivered by Dr. Hailey, with J.O. present at the delivery. Constance had wanted to quit teaching school at mid year, being embarrassed about pregnancy, but when she went to the school superintendent to tell him so he said: "No, you can't quit. I'm your superintendent and I'm your doctor, and I'm telling you you can't quit." So I had to keep teaching, Coker later recalled at age 81. But I was determined to look better, so I went to Arcadia to get me some new maternity clothes. I got a piece of black velvet which I had made into a suit for Bruce after he was born (this same suit was later passed to Janet Toms' boys). J.O. recalled: ...Coker kept teaching school and I worked with Papa until Bruce came along and she had to stop teaching --she taught until May 25th and Bruce came July 19, the same year we bought the old wooden store building...

In October and December of that year J.O. continued his oil ventures, buying royalty from D.M. Henry, W.F. Crowley, W.J. Dobbs and others. Some of his purchases were in Commanche County, Oklahoma and in New Mexico. In January, 1931, he sold minerals to J.F. Mayes and Roy G. Barton in Clovis, New Mexico.

Store purchases from Lee Dry Goods in Shreveport, La., in 1931: Mens hose 5 cents; coveralls and shirts 25 cents; Paris Garters 1.95..... Also from S.G. Dreyfus Company, Shreveport: ...8 doz mens shirts @ $5, $40... Groceries were purchased from Sims Wholesale in Arcadia, including 15 100# sacks of sugar @ $4.85. Hats were ordered from Kentucky. The bank balance of Evans Cash Store on July 31 in the Bank Of Saline was $677.63. Among records are these handwritten notes from that first year: Evans C. Store, please let bearor have 50 cts of mds., J.A. Readhimer; Mr. Evans, please let Tolbert Williams have 1 pr shoes, 3 cans snuff, sald & soap and oblige. W.K. Flynt; Evans Store, please let Mr. Bolemans have the following bill and I will settle the account next week, J.A. Readhimer...

This whole side of the block of Saline burned soon thereafter (1931) and we got Mr. McClahan from Houma to contract the building of the brick store building - The contract for building of our store plus the Enloe store joining us was $3500 (The contract reads for $1685...to be paid in cash...to be completed within 30 days, signed on 16th of November, 1931.)

J.O. recalled about the business: We later added the warehouse and sold everything, bought feed, flour, and fertilizer in carload lots and stored in this warehouse. This was all farming country then. Cotton was the Money crop for many years until melon farming came in. One year we bought 1500 bales of cotton through our store, at one time for 5 cents per pound. Most of our customers came to town bout once per week, then in wagons. We opened about daylight, closed about 9 P.M. We had no electricity until 1935 and had the only telephone in town in the store. Had to go to store at night about half of the time to telephone...

Constance took her son, then a year and a half old, to again visit her family in Texas during Christmas, 1931.

In 1932 J.O. was elected and sworn in as Mayor of Saline. On July 19, 1933, he bought a new Chevrolet for $699. That year he participated in drilling the Evans Bros #1 Oil Well in Sabine Parish. In 1934 H.D. Easton informed him about the Sabine Uplift, furthering his oil interests. He was also ordained as a deacon in Magnolia Baptist Church where he had been a member for 15 years.

Their second child, Barbara Annette, was born on April 28, 1934, also at home in Saline. The house had no electricity or indoor bathroom. In 1935, a new home was built 1 block closer to their store, this time with electricity and indoor plumbing. Constance drew the plans.

(Mrs. J.O. Evans ewas still living in this home 58 years later.)

J.O. wrote later:...In 1935 Sidney gave us a lot, a sand bed in an old field, where we built the house we now live in - now 46 years ago - we added to this house as the family grew...

In 1936, J.O. was having physical problems and filled out a case history for a doctor at McCleary Sanitarium in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. Dr. T.G. McCleary, Chief of Staff, wrote a 3 page, single-spaced typed letter back about J.O.'s condition, recommending his clinic. References are to hemorrhoids that have enlarged until they protrude...bleeding with chronic constipation... for an individual only thirty years old, Mr. Evans, you have developed a number of complications which would be surprising were it not for the fact that you have had this rectal disorder as you said "all of my life."...our fees range from fifty to two hundred dollars. You should be able to judge about what your fee would because of your own knowledge of the extent of your condition.

Four days later J.O. was in route to Missouri.

His mother wrote on May 25th:...I was not surprised at the nature of your case, as I was afraid all along that it would require an opperation...I beg God to direct each one that might have the least part of the work to do...It could be possible that this is the worst trouble you have, and you will be so much better when you come home...

His preacher, J.W. Buckner, also wrote...Well how is the Chairman of the Board of Deacons now...

On the 29th of May his Dad wrote:... I kno you are enjoying your self but could bee better satisfied at home...Coker said they wanted you to take another treatment but you hadint started it yet and didint kno wither you would or not as it would take 2 weaks. it mite bee best for you to take it. you use your best judgment...Dad.

In November, 1938, J.O. took his father to Hot Springs for a kidney operation. He wrote Coker:...Just received your letter...I'm not mad at you now...I know you would write me one every day if you knew how much good they did me. You ought not to get lonesome with the kids with you but I haven't got any kids with me....I am feeling lots better physically, think the baths are doing me lots of good. Took the 11th one today. Will take 9 more if we leave here Sunday week...we go to the shows some but Mr. Barron don't care much about them...We have found some pretty good magazines up here, bet you can imagine what kind...am taking medicine for my chronic colitis...Bruce are you and Barbara being good? Are you going to bed and going to sleep at night when Mama tells you to? I'm going to get her to write me if you are...One gum for Bruce and one for Barbara...

Two years later on Bruce's birthday, July 19, 1940, Constance gave birth to twins, Janet Constance, and Janis Marie. The bill from Hodge Clinic reads: July 13 to 15th and 18th to 26th: O.B. Room, $5.00; Anesthetic (Gas) $5.00; Room - 10 das @ $4.00 per Da, $40.00; Drugs $1.50; Total $51.50...

Dr. W.M. McBride's bill, dated July 26: June 7th and 25th - X-rays, $10; July 19th delivery, $25; total $35. J.O. paid the total bill of $86.50 on July 26th.

In September, 1942, J.O. wrote a card from Hot Springs to Coker:...Papa is going to hospital tonight for operation to remove eye tomorrow. Everything is alright. I will come home Wednesday... Haven't had time to have that fun yet. Looks like will have to leave it off. Hello Barbara and Bruce. Went to church last night and to Dr. yesterday morn. Come see me some time, Love Owen.

Mr. and Mrs. Owen Evans were invited to a reception at the Governor's Mansion for Governor-elect Jimmie H. Davis, on May 9th, 1944.

In 1955 J.O. had a stomach ulcer which grew four inches in one month. Dr Marvin Green was sure it was malignant and it was and everybody knew I was going to die but me - I knew I wasn't. Was back in the store working in a few weeks. He had about half of his stomach removed in this surgery.

(In recalling this event in 1985 J.O. told a newspaper reporter about the time. She reported:...he underwent surgery from which he was not expected to recover. After surgery, while still under sedation and not able to speak to his family, but conscious to their reactions, he recalled that he wanted to let them know that he was going to be all right."That's when I knew it was a miracle. I was back in the store in two weeks," he said, to which Mrs. Evans in her sweet disposition said, "Yes, but he didn't do much."

In 1956 J.O. Evans was again nominated, constituted and appointed Mayor of Saline, this time by Governor Earl K. Long.

In 1960 he received another certificate as Mayor signed by Governor Jimmie Davis.

He returned to Excelsior Springs for treatments in February, 1961, writing: Made it here after a couple of Snow storms and 669 miles about dark. Didn't get caught. Fun starts tomorrow. We're used up right now...I

n 1967, J.O. received a certificate for successfully completing the Dale Carnegie Course in Effective Speaking and Human Relations.

During the years between 1930 and 1971, J.O. and Coker continued to operate their store in Saline, to rear their four children, and invest and speculate in oil and gas, rental houses, and timber planting.

On July 1, 1972, J.O. retired after 32 years as Mayor of Saline. The Shreveport Journal newspaper article noted: Officially, the slightly greying, bespectacled mayor, who looks younger than his 66 years, will step down as mayor of Saline on July 1, ending eight terms in office, during which he has divided his time between public affairs, operating a mercantile store and countless other business enterprises. Lines mark his forehead and the mayor shows some signs of weariness from the rigors of a busy life, but he scoffs at the suggestion that he should retire. 'I've had seven operations in my lifetime, the small-framed mayor quipped, 'but I don't know how to quit. When I meet an obstacle I can't quit, I just go back to get reinforcements...' As for his wife, well, Evans beams with pride when he says, 'I'll have to give her credit for about 99 percent of what I have. She was a school teacher and had made more money than I had at the time we married. We've had problems during our 45 years of marriage but have always been able to solve them....

The accompanying picture shows J.O. in his store pointing to a map....Mayor J. Owen Evans points to a map on the wall of his mercantile store showing the newly developed Saline Lake. Evans...believes this project has been the biggest achievement of the present administration.

He was presented with a Diamond Award by the Louisiana Municipal Association for one of the longest tenures as a mayor in the history of the state. At this time he was also vice president of the Bank of Saline, a deacon in the church for 39 years, a member of the Mill Creek Game and Fish Preserve, treasurer of the church, and a Mason.

On November 1, 1981, J.O. sold his mercantile business after 51 years for $100,000. He moved his office home and continued to manage his oil, gas, and timber interests.

In January, 1982, he wrote an 8 page typewritten, single-spaced narrative of his life and philosophy, beginning:...I, John Owen Evans, on this day, being 76 years, 15 days and a few hours of age, do hereby write these few lines without any pre-meditated thinking of what I might say, do type the following few thoughts from a mind open for thoughts to appear as I proceed...

Excerpts have been included previously. Others include:

....things I have learned from personal experiences...which I am persuaded is the only or best way to really learn things of this life...

I believe in Miracles, in fact as far back as I can remember that was my thing. Nothing but miracles could have kept me going and placed me where I am now.

I had dreams, made decisions about business, land and oil holdings, without studying about them - they just came to me - I had no decision to make - it was already made. My decisions were already made before I knew it. No one will ever know but the material things that I now have and have had appear did not come of my own knowledge or thinking or figureing - the miracles in our family, family life and everything else the same....My mind is overloaded and I cant get things in proper line but they are most all there.

I still think one of the good sayings is that every tub sits on its own bottom.

It's a wonderful life if we follow the rules - Hell if we don't & I mean here and now - who knows about tomorrow? Forget yesterday, worry not about tomorrow. Live today by the rules that God made; therein find happiness.

When you stop feeding the birds they fly away to another field to eat and drink and play. God made it that way. Maybe we are trying to change it by trying to handle other people's lives, one way or another....I am now persuaded that maybe that rule about mama and papa bird feeding and taking care of their little ones - teaching them to fly and then saying get gone, should apply to us also.

Sometimes it appears all is vanity, even my theory about the tub and its bottom, I'm persuaded (sometimes) but for a fact some tubs have no bottom, others have rotten ones, not useable...rather sad to awaken one day to realize that what you thought was the right thing to do 40 years ago, now seems all vanity...now I'm persuaded to believe that God gave the birds the talent he was trying to give me, raise them up, feed them, take care of them until that certain time when they become of their own, teach them to fly, then say Bye Bye blackbird - get gone -that's about what they do anyway and here we sit trying trying and worrying...

Later, in April, 1982, he wrote:...We have just experienced a very severe weather depression resulting in much loss of life, millions in property damages, many people homeless, disturbed, etc...I am now experiencing a severe depression of mind, which unless controlled will also cause much dis-ruption...it is hard to not react to it - but I know I must not take the kind of actions my inner impulses tell me to do - one goes through life doing what he thinks is right...only to come to such times as this to feel this too much folley - at this time in life that feeling is that through all of this giving my biggest worries are apparently the results of trying to help others...worries, worries, worries, where did we go wrong? Maybe this philosophy of life - after 55 years did not work...

...that other half of the brain that has been dormant all of these years will some day have to become active - God only knows what changes these things will bring about, but that dormant part of my brain that partially comes to life occasionally is trying to say something - it acts only by faith in God as well as faith in one's self - all these things of the future are stored away in that dormant part of our brains...

All of the above was typed. On the back of the last page, written with pen is this:...God gave us all the ability to avail ourselves of miracles but they come of our own thinking. It is His will that we all be happy...God has control. He is the greatest. Make your choice then sleep on the bed you made - at 76 2/3 I know. J.O. Evans.

On the back of these folded pages, not even shared with Constance at the time, he signed: J.O. Evans...Just Thinking...(Try it sometime)

A year later he added another page, telling about his grandfather, his father, and then himself. He ended it with: On this June 12th, 1983, our 56th Wedding Anniversary, only with help of God, we boast 4 children, 12 Grand-Children and two Great-Grand-children.

In July, 1885, J.O. was chosen to be Grand Marshall of the Saline Watermelon Festival Parade. In an interview for the newspaper he said this about himself: "We came up the hard way, and when we were married, we set goals we wanted to achieve for ourselves--we had determination. I don't accept defeat! I've been said to be the 'bullheadedest' fellow. I wouldn't give up. If I set in to dig a hole in that yard, I'll dig one." Along with his determination and self-motivation, comes his trust in God. "You can't do it by yourself," he said. "And you have to learn not to worry; if you let things worry you, you won't get very far."....Mr. Evans very affectionately gives credit to his wife for most of his success in life.

After a short illness at the end of 1985, during which he was first hospitalized in Shreveport and then moved to Barbara's home, J.O. died on February 16, 1986. His obituary read: EVANS, JOHN OWEN "J.O." Died Sunday, Feb. 16, 1986. He was 80, a lifelong resident of Saline. He was a former mayor of Saline 32 years, and owned and managed a business in Saline more than 50 years before he retired. He was a director of Saline Bank and a trustee for Caroline Dorman Preservation. Religious services were at Magnolia Baptist Church, Saline, Feb. 17, and were conducted by the Rev. Buford Skelton, the Rev. Malcolm Self and the Rev. Gary Palmer. Burial was in Magnolia Cemetery....

The death certificate, signed by George M. McCormick II, listed cause of death as Cardiorespiratory failure due to Acute and chronic renal failure as a consequence of Renal cell carcinoma. Other significant conditions: Adenocarcinoma of the prostate, ASCVD.

The Board of Directors of Fellowship Church, Baton Rouge, reflected the following week: Fellowship church has lost a true friend and long-time supporter. J.O. Evans has quietly but effectively made it possible for us to survive as a church family and to enjoy much of what we experience today...the most obvious contributions are the outward gifts made directly to the church over the years in the form of financial or real property donated for use in our programs. Less obvious are the other ways he has supported us with his sincere interest, his prayerful concern and his hopes for our future.

One church member wrote of J.O.: I felt like I was in the presence of an excited child who loved to trade for marbles, toads, and pieces of string. A person who, with sparkling eyes, loved even more to look at them, reminiscing and dreaming about them with anyone else who was interested. J.O. Evans was a quiet man who loved...his family, his home, his neighbors. He was also a pragmatist--someone who recognized the world pretty much the way it really is but also enough of an optimist to seek the best in the people and situations he touched. We will miss you and your word pictures, J.O.

The newsletter editor reported: Bruce Evans prepared a Sunday sermon about pursuing the good life beyond just "good." At 4:30 a.m. Sunday, his father, J.O. Evans died. Sunday's sermon was to be on putting our insights about the good life into practice. In the midst of death Bruce shared with us the experience of loss and personal pain and love and dying--and doing so fully. Janet shared with us her memories of J.O. and played for us the song he best loved for her to play in his church in Saline, "When They Ring Those Golden Bells." Thank you Bruce and Janet for sharing with us this memorial for your dad and our friend.

The Board of Directors of the Bank of Saline passed this resolution: IN MEMORIA to JOHN OWEN EVANS: WHEREAS, John Owen Evans departed this life on February 16, 1986 at the age of 80 years; and, WHEREAS, John Owen Evans served the Bank of Saline for over 50 years as a capable and dedicated leader in several positions, including Vice-President, Chairman of the Board of Directors, member of the Loan Committee, member of the Audit Committee, and always as one who contributed constantly to the strength, growth, and service of the institution; and: WHEREAS, John Owen Evans was also a major contributor to the general progress, prosperity, and welfare of his community, parish, and general area over a lifetime of service, including Mayor of Saline for 32 years, owner and operator of a local business for 50 years, Deacon of the Magnolia Baptist Church for 53 years, member of the Masonic Lodge, member of the Mill Creek Lake Commission, and Trustee of the Caroline Dorman Nature Preserve; and, WHEREAS, John Owen Evans was known as a kind and loving husband and father, and as a constant friend and helper to his fellow man, who, with a twinkly in his eye and a countenance that reflected inner peace, brought joy and assurance day by day to all that he touched, a true optimist who brought out the best in all of us; and, WHEREAS, we wish to recognize and be in accord with the perfect will of God, we therefore submit to the loss of this friend and official of the Bank of Saline; and, NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of Directors that as evidence of our lasting respect and cherished memory of this good friend and respected official, we hereby extend our deep and abiding sympathy to the family of John Owen Evans; and, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this resolution be spread upon the official minutes and that upon adjournment of this date, March 12, 1986, we adjourn out of respect to the memory of John Owen Evans; and, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that appropriate copies of this resolution be forwarded to the members of the family of John Owen Evans and this Resolution in Memoria was adopted unanimously this 12th day of March, 1986 by the Board of Directors of the BANK OF SALINE.

Found folded in his wallet, this handwritten statement perhaps best reflects the philosophy of J.O.: Happiness sought by many and found by few, therefore is a matter entirely within ourselves. Our environment and the everyday happenings of life have absolutely no affect on our happiness except as we permit mental images of the outside to enter our consciousness. Happiness is wholly independent of position, wealth, or material possessions. It is a state of mind which we ourselves have the power to control - and that control lies within our thinking...

*********


JOE BRUCE EVANS

I was conceived, I calculate, night before last, 64 years ago. If I am correct, that would have been on October 12, 1929. The event had required, my father was to tell me years later, his deception in "forgetting the protection." He, John Owen Evans, and my mother, Constance Waye Coker, had been married for almost two and a half years at the time. The union of the 23 chromosomes from each, into the 46 which would initiate me, brought together very diverse blood lines.

Information on my Evans blood, more specifically the 23 chromosomes brought by my father to this event, begins in Scotland in the early 18th century. Once in America in the 1700's, Evans blood was joined with that of other families named Kitchens, Wheeler, Fickling, and Cloud. The last infusion, which joined the Evans' and Clouds,' introduced Cherokee Indian blood into the line, along with English, French, Irish, Dutch, and possibly German.

No information is known about the Kitchens or Wheeler linage. Fickling blood was 1/2 English, 1/2 Irish. If the Kitchens' and Wheelers' were also of English heritage, then Martin Bunyan Evans, my grandfather, would have been 5/8 English, 2/8 Irish, and 1/8 Scotch.

More information is available on Cloud blood than on any other line. The Clouds have been traced to England in 1528. Two generations later, William Cloud came to America in 1682. Three generations later, another William Cloud, born in Virginia about 1720, returned to France, married a French lady, and came back to America. Their son, John, married Elizabeth Lacy, a Cherokee Indian in Kentucky. John's son, Noah, married a Dutch lady, Delilah Folsom. Hence, the Cloud blood, by the time it fused with Evans blood through Delilah Cloud, was 9/16 English, 4/16 Dutch, 2/16 Indian, and 1/16 French (this assumes that Delilah's mother, Mary Izora Smith, was English; since Mary Izora's mother was a Hinkle, perhaps she was 1/2 German).

With the joining of the Evans and Cloud blood lines, my father, John Owen Evans, was 18/32 English; 4/32 Dutch; 4/32 Irish; 2/32 Scotch; 2/32 Indian; and 1/32 French; or roughly, one half English, a fourth Dutch/Irish, a fourth Scotch/Indian, with a bit of French blood tossed in.

Constance, at the event of my conception, brought an equal number of chromosomes from the Coker blood line. Little information is available on the Coker family prior to their coming to America, or on the ladies the Coker men married. Other family names joining the Coker blood include Davis, Mitchell, Traylor, Duty, and Gray. All of these four generations were born in America.

Assuming that my mother's heritage was all English, my blood lines would be: 50/64 English; 4/64 Dutch; 4/64 Irish; 2/64 Scotch; 2/64 Indian; and 1/64 French; or, roughly 3/4 English mixed with 1/16 Dutch, 1/16 Irish, 1/32 Scotch, 1/32 Indian, flavored slightly with a taste of French and perhaps some German blood as well. Needless to summarize, I am of very mixed blood lines.

At the time of my conception, my father, then 23, was working in his father's store at Harper's Spur, while speculating on stocks and beginning to explore the oil business; my mother was almost 23, beginning her fifth year of teaching at Saline High School. They lived in two rented rooms in the home of Mr. Lee Payton, next to the new school building which had been built after the fire of November, 1927 (Where Jerry Morgan lives in 1993), and had a portable kerosene stove to cook on. J.O. and his brother Sidney were planning to open a store of their own in Saline the following year, and had conceived the J.O. & S.B. Evans Petroleum Co.

After Constance discovered she was pregnant, she wanted to quit teaching at mid year. She when to Dr. Hailey, School Superintendent, to tell him so but, she recalled at age 81, he said: "No, you can't quit. I'm your superintendent and I'm your doctor, and I'm telling you you can't quit." So I had to keep teaching. But I was determined to look better, so I went to Arcadia and got a piece of black velvet for a maternity dress. (This same velvet was later made into a suit for me and then passed to Janet Toms' boys).

During the Christmas holidays, 1929, Constance returned to Cotulla, Texas, to visit her family, while J.O. remained in Saline and worked in his father's store. She mailed him a present which he described in a return letter as just what I needed in our oil business I want to tell you about. The following Spring he and his brother Sidney went into partnership, borrowed $600 from their mother as a down payment, and bought a wooden store building with a small stock of groceries in Saline. He and Constance also moved into a newly completed small house on the main street of Saline, which they at first rented from Mr. Eugene Rogers for $15 per month.

She continued to teach until school was out on May 25. Then, on Saturday, July 19, 1930, at 6:04 1/2 A.M. (so my father would record), under the Zodiac sign of Cancer (the crab) related to the breast of the human body, while the moon was halfed, I was born. Dr. W.B. Hailey delivered me, I am told, in my parents' new home, in the presence of my father and grandmothers, Coker and Evans. Later he would tell me about the delivery: Boy, that'll really make you appreciate a woman.

Other events during 1930, the year of my birth: Admiral Byrd returned from a North Pole Expedition; the Veteran's Administration was established and Boulder Dam begun. Herbert Hoover was U.S. President. Best movie was All's Quiet on the Western Front; best actress was Norma Shearer. Heavyweight boxing champ was Max Schmeling. Popular tunes included Body and Soul, Embraceable You, I Got Rhythm, On the Sunny Side of the Street, and Walkin' My Baby Back Home. U.S. population was 123 million; average income, $1,552. A new Ford cost $550, gas was 20 cents a gallon, and milk cost 56 cents per gallon. Lowell Thomas, called Mr. Radio, began his nightly news broadcast. Greta Garbo starred in her first talking film; Bobby Jones won the golf grand slam; and Ethel Merman debuted on Broadway in CRAZY GIRL. Also born that year were Neil Armstrong, Joanne Woodward, Buzz Aldrin Jr., Bob Mathias, and Sean Connery. The planet Pluto was discovered, flashbulbs were patented, and the first electric train was tested.

Closer to home, I, with blue eyes and dark brown hair, had weighed in at 9 pounds. I was 21 inches tall. Within 15 days, Mr. and Mrs. Sudduth, Joe Lynn and Anne, my Aunt Irene, Uncle Brewer, and 94 others had come to see the new Evans and signed my baby book. My first outing, I am told, was three weeks later, on August 8th, to my Evans' Grandparents two miles away at Harper's Spur; then, on the 24th, to my Coker' Grandparents in Bryceland, and to a B.Y.P.U. Social on the 27th. Nearing one and a half months old, I began a habit that was to be one of my longest standing habits: I went--was taken, that is, to church, beginning at Sunday School on August 31.

Reportedly, my first word was bye, followed by mama on October 28. My first tooth came through at age 6 months when I weighed 20 pounds. During the Christmas holidays, before I was six months old, my parents took me to Cotulla, Texas to visit my mother's family again. After they returned home on Friday, Dec. 19, 1930, J.O. wrote back: Hello Everybody, Here we are back in Louisiana...We spent the first night at Fort Worth and the next one in Dallas. We stopped in Bryceland with Irene and Brewer for a while as we came through...We cannot begin to tell you all how much we enjoyed our stay with you...It will be several days yet before we can say for certain whether or not we will be able to move down there. They have the store completed and are on a deal to buy a business here in town...MERRY CHRISTMAS - Joe Bruce, Constance, and Owen. Coker adds: Joe Bruce sure does keep me trotting trying to entertain him and work too. In February, 1931, when I was 7 months old, J.O. wrote to my grandfather Bill Coker. In the letter he noted: Joe Bruce will soon be as large as you are. He fell off of the davenport tonight but laughed about it...

At 10 months I was vaccinated against diphtheria. First steps alone came when I was 11 months old on July 7, 1931. I am also told that I first slipped off from home alone and went to the Sudduths next door when I was one year and five days old.

Mrs. Sudduth later gave me a book of her recollections: DEDICATED TO MY LITTLE NEIGHBORS WITH LOVE, SUS: On July 19, 1930, Joe Bruce made his timely arrival into this world. I was invited over to see him and of course all of us thought he was the world's greatest baby since Mrs. Evans had been Joe Lynn's and Anne's first teacher...With Bruce next door we all gave him a lot of our time and Anne, 8 years old, was the baby sitter. All of his little stunts were cute to us. Long before he spoke a word, if any of us wore a new dress, shoes, or ear screws, he would point to them and say O-O-O. The day Bruce was 1 year old Mr. and Mrs. Evans had him sitting in a wooden box in the yard while they planted flowers. He climbed out, toddled all the way to our house, bare foot without falling one time. He was wearing a white baby dress and had a mop of curls on his neck. Mr. and Mrs. Evans missed him, ran all around calling while he was watching--laughing. Within a month or so he liked for Joe Lynn and Ann to take him walking after supper, holding his hands. Not talking too much yet, when he wanted to turn in any direction he just hit Joe Lynn on the hand.

At one year I was taken to the first Watermelon Festival held in July in Saline. Then, at 13 months I went to my first Fish Fry at Grand Ecore. I was taken to the State Fair in Shreveport when I was a year and three months old, and entered in a Baby Contest (actually an evaluation by the Child Welfare Department). The record notes that I weighed 22 1/8 lbs, was 30 3/8 inches tall, and had a 19 inch head. My overall score was 97.5, with points taken off under Physical Examination, Genitalia: Adherent prepuce, .5 (inflamation); and under Measurements, diameter of chest, lateral, .5 (notes that the standard measurement is 6, whereas I measured 5 inches). Also, standard measurement, diameter of chest, antero-posterior, 4 7/8 inches and I only measured 4 inches, costing another .5.

At 15 months (as shown in baby pictures) I played with a wooden car which I think had belonged to my father as a boy. A small black-eared dog also appears in pictures with me. That Christmas my mother again took me to Cotulla, Texas, to visit her family. Dady stayed home to keep the store while we were gone. On Friday nite, December 19 he wrote: ...I have the house all cleaned up but can't stay here without you (then written in pencil he adds...and Bruce. On Sunday night the 21st he wrote: Dear Mama and Joe Bruce, I'm back from church and Joe Lynn is over here radioing...I miss you so much when I get in the house alone. Just can't stay here. I sat by Mrs. Sudduth at church - says she missed both of you, especially Joe Bruce talking to her from the porch...Sugar I love you and Joe Bruce so much, you don't know just how I did feel Friday night and every other time I am here by myself. Guess I will live over it so you make out your stay and don't worry about me or things here. I love you most and Bruce lots, Daddy. Bruce be particular and dont get sick.

At Christmas he wrote:...I miss you and Bruce so much until I just can't stay in the house. We worked until after eleven last night...We go down and eat dinner with mama. Merry Christmas and Love...Give Bruce some Castor oil. Owen. Then on Sunday night, December 29: 10:00 P.M. Just finished checking the S.S. change. Was on the BYPU program tonight so did not go. Just didn't want to. Went down and ate with Mama today and again tonight...Can't think of any thing to say except I love you too much. Make out your stay. I will meet you in Shreveport if you can't make connections. Remember my love is all yours. Hello Bruce, Owen.

Then on December 30th he wrote:...Dear Helen Marie, Elmer and Folks: and mama and Bruce too,...Well I just had an egg nog but didn't have but one egg to put in it so can't think what to write very fast. We are moved in our new building but are not straightened out yet...I have not had much fun this Christmas. Have had the blues too much. Surely did miss not being at Cotulla with you all. We have worked all Christmas even most of the 25th...How about some of you all coming back with Constance... If you all wont come, hurry and get through with Bruce and Constance and send them home cause I don't see how I can do without them much longer.

At 18 months I weighed 26 1/2 lbs. My parents had a 1932 black Ford automobile. My first haircut came on March 2, 1932, when I was approaching age 2. By then I had curly blond hair and lighter blue eyes. Two year pictures show me with a cake and 2 candles. On July 28, just turned two, I was taken to the Second Annual Saline Watermelon Festival.

Mrs. Sudduth also wrote that on seeing my first snow in early December, 1932, I looked out the window and said, "Oh, so much sugar." During Christmas my family went to Cotulla to visit my grandparents, Aunt Helen Marie, Uncle Elmer and Uncle William. Here I had my first horse ride at age 2 1/2 and have loved horses ever since.

In March, 1933, my Uncle William, mother's younger brother, who had let me ride his horse with him and given me a picture he drew, was tragically killed in a car accident with my Uncle Elmer. Mrs. Sudduth remembered about me: He was growing up now and with his happiness came some sadness--his Uncle William's death. He came to our home every day and said, "Sus, I must talk to you about Wig-am going to Heaven for it makes my Mamma sad."

It was about this time that he started coming to our house to make my corn bread. He always washed his hands, got on his knees in a chair and mixed the bread. He always said, "Sus, if it wasn't for me you never would have any corn bread, would you?" (I clearly remember these ventures "helping Sus make corn bread." I felt very grown up and helpful.) She added: Bruce came over each day while I cooked to repeat nursery rhymes with me. One time I repeated --"Ding Dong Bell, Kitty is in the well. Who put her in? Little Johnny Green. Who pulled her out? Big Johnny Stout." He said, "Thats not right. Little Johnny Green too little--Big Johnny Stout put kitty in, pulled her out too." He was on the floor busy making a train with tobacco cans.

My other memories during this period of time include Dady trying to cut my hair in front of the fire place in our living room. It was so hot. The clippers pinched and he got hair all over me. I was crying. Mother later told me he decided after paying for my first haircut that he could do that. He ordered clippers from Sears Roebuck and gave it a try. She also said it was the only time he tried.

Mrs. Sudduth wrote: About this time Bruce started going to all of the school parties with Anne --Valentine, Easter, and Christmas. To please Anne, he always wore his beautiful, black velvet suit and he never came home with one soiled spot. One time Anne stood him on her desk and he recited the following poem taught him by his Uncle Sid: "Here I stand, see my pretty figger, But stay away girls, til I get a little bigger." Bruce always said, "De-mind me to de-member" anything he didn't want to forget.

I was, as I recall, in love with Anne at age three. I also remember deciding to "run away from home and go live with her." I remember packing my small octogon-shaped "suitcase" with a bandana handkerchief and leaving home one evening to "go live" with her (next door). Sus recalled the event like this: At this stage of life Bruce decided he was too alone, being an only child, so one night he packed his little toy suitcase and came to move in with us. He packed a new dust cloth, evidently thinking my house needed dusting, his slippers, a pair of suspenders and some underwear. He said his pajamas were hanging too high for him to reach them. We tried to persuade him to go home as his mother was lonely. He said, "No" he had moved in. After Mr. Evans came from the store they came after him, but he was in bed with Anne--asleep. Mr. Evans waked him--but he said, "I don't want to go back. It is home here where I have a Sister." Mr. Evans told him that they would order him a sister--and they did. They ordered her from Kalamozoo, Mich.

When I was three, dady and I went out and found a sycamore seedling and planted it in our back yard. I called it My tree. By the next year the tree was large enough for me to climb. I remember climbing many times in that tree. Even after we moved I would often go back and climb My tree. (The tree is still there, 59 years later, and of course huge.) At the Annual Saline Watermelon Festival, held on June 20, 1933, I got to sit on one of the floats and have my picture taken. I remember us having a big watermelon at home on my third birthday. Also on my birthday that year, Dady bought a new Chevrolet for $695.

When mother was pregnant during my third year, I thought babies came through the mail in shoe boxes. Every day I remember wanting to go to the post office, which was directly across the street from Dady's store, to "see if she had come yet." When Barbara finally arrived on April 28, 1934, I remember thinking "that was the only day I forgot to go to the post office to look for her." I also thought "she came from Kalamazoo." Sus recalled: Bruce didn't miss one day going to the store to open all packages until the day his little sister came. Even then he opened all but one and that was the one she came in -- he said.

One afternoon, April 28, 1934, Bruce came running in out of breath and said, "Sus, stop working, sit down and lets talk about her -- She has come!! My little sister has come from Kalamazoo, Mich. and she is pretty like a doll." I had him eat supper with me. He said, "I guess I want a sandwich spread with may and eggs (mayonnaise.)." I remember being very proud of my baby sister and wanting to tell everyone about her. (Note: later on, as I recall, with more personal experience I soon began to find Barbara less exciting to me!)

When Bruce had the measles he wanted his mother to tell him stories all day long. She gave out and called me in. I exhausted my supply and then he wanted original stories about "Field mice" - of all things!! I told him stories about field mice until I felt I had turned into one. When I started to leave he said, "T-h-a-n-k you, t-h-a-n-k you, Sus. You walk just like Minnie Mouse." He felt that was the nicest compliment he could pay me. At another time, she wrote, Bruce remarked, "Isn't it just awful to hear Anne call Joe Lynn "Buzzard?" (Buzzer was his nickname). Bruce was growing up fast now. He would come and sit with Anne and her dates at night. He would sit on the other side of Anne, asking her date every few minutes, "How much longer are you staying?" He would beat the date to the car, open the door for her and sit by her. He often went to the picture shows with them. Anne said she was trying to raise up a good husband for some girl...

During this year, 1934, when I was 4, I was a member of the Sunbeams, an organization at church. My "girlfriend" that year was Lucy Lane. One event stands out in my memory of my fourth year. I loved to play with the water hose in the front yard. Sometimes my Aunt Hady would put on her swim suit and let me squirt water on her. I was playing with it once when Dady and Sidney came home from the store for lunch. According to mother I squirted it at them and wouldn't let them into the house until she made me stop. I don't remember this. But I do vividly remember how scared I got once when I poked the hose in a hole with the water running, kept washing the hole deeper and deeper until I couldn't get the hose out. I knew I was in bad trouble! As I recall, Dady had to dig a hole to get the hose out. My other "girl friend" at this time were Charlotte Thomas. I remember loving to play with Lucy Lane and Charlotte.

Soon after I turned 4 years old (October, 22, 1934) Dady took Donald Ray, my cousin, and I to the doctor to have our tonsils and adenoids removed. At the same time I had two teeth pulled, and unknown to me before time, was also circumcised. When I woke up from the ether I complained, I am told: I didn't know it was going to hurt down there! I was given a shiny dime and reportedly felt better about it all.

In January, 1935, when Barbara was 9 months old, Dady decided he wanted to go to Arkansas to "see the snow and icicles." Grandmother Coker thought this was foolish to be taking her new granddaughter off on such a trip and decided she better go along to take care of her. We went to Hot Springs, Mt. Gaynor, and Hurricane Cavern in Harrison, Ark.

The first five years of my life were lived in the small house where I was born -- without electricity and with an outdoor toilet. As I recall, I was bathed, at least every Saturday night, in a tub in the kitchen. In 1935, when electricity first came to Saline, we moved a block up the street closer to town to new house they had had built at mother's design. This house also had an indoor bathroom.

In May, 1936, before I was six years old, Dady went to Excelsior Springs, MO, for medical treatment. Mother wrote to him: Dearest Owen, Well, I suppose you are arriving at your destination now. How did you enjoy your trip? Bruce (then aged 5) cried for about 30 or 40 minutes. Wanted us to go back and get his Dady off of that train. Had to take him back and get that gum that you wouldn't get him....Barbara waked up calling for her Dady but she soon got her kitty....Bruce said tell you that he had been good and had two flowers blooming and sister picked them...We surely do miss you but want you to stay and get well. I love you the most. Coker.

On Thursday of that week she wrote:...The school board passed a rule to prohibit all married ladies that married after Jan 1, 1936 from teaching. Doris and Millard were very upset yesterday but are going on with the ceremony. They practised last night. Joe Bruce strutted down like might have been the groom...Barbara calls for her Dady every so often... On Friday she writes: ...Bruce and I went to hear the Range Riders last night. ...Barbara didn't sleep so well last night - ear still bothers her. Bruce is trying to be good so you will bring him something...Lovingly, Coker (includes clipping about the oil news). On Saturday she sent pictures of Bruce, Barbara, Bessie and Howard Morgan, another newspaper clipping about oil business, and wrote:..am glad you let them operate since it was necessary..just hurry and get well.

On Monday Mother wrote again:...How is my sugar this morning...The wedding (Doris and Millard Toms) was real pretty. Bruce missed it - was sick at his stomach. He surely hated to miss it, but was all right Sunday morn... (Grandmother Coker later said that the reason he was sick was that he had picked up a cigarette and smoked it). Then again on Friday Constance wrote: ...Joe Bruce was tickled over his purse. But what about Barbara? We have spats every once in awhile and I tell him I'll just tell Dady the next time I write and he straightens up for awhile. You should hear Barbara (aged 1) trying to say Missoure - you would never guess what it is...stay till you get well, I love you too much, Coker.

In childhood scrawl, my cousin, Bobbie Gene Lewis wrote to Dady:...Dear uncle Owen...My school will close tomorrow. I am hoping to pass...I saw Joe Bruce at sunbeams yestarday. he was good...from your littie boy...

In other letters Mother wrote:...Bruce said tell you he was a good boy but he was joking I think...Owen I just found out that the preacher bought a living room suit and rug, a bedroom suit, a dining room suit, a stove and a rug for the kitchen. I just wanted to tell you I am opposed to you buying him a refrigerator. I think we have done more for them than we are able to now...Now, I've expressed myself on that. I understand he is paying up everyone else... Mother, again later:...Now it is Barbara's time to get something. You don't treat her fair. Am tempted to give her the pin. She says Dady is gone to "Oouri" so sweetly... In another letter written in pencil:...Bruce said tell you he was a good boy. He liked the pencil, let me borrow it...

I started to the first grade in 1936. Miss Delane Smith was my first teacher. The main thing I remember about the first grade was playing with the "markers" made from construction paper and used for following lines while reading. Also, the worst experience I recall was being checked for chewing gum once. We all had to stand up and open our mouths for Miss Smith to "see who was chewing gum." I had gum and didn't know what to do. When she got to C.C. Dison standing next to me, I resolved the issue by just swallowing my gum and then saying I didn't have any when she checked me.

I was, I think, still in love with Anne Sudduth at this time. She gave me a spinning top with this poem which I still have: As many times as this top spins round/My love for you will ever abound/May good fortune smile/on you this year/Bringing you happiness/and good cheer...From Anne, To Joe Bruce. I was also, I well remember, in love with Shirley Temple at this time. I still have a picture of her as a little girl with her name signed.

But Anne was closer at hand, still living 3 doors down the street, though attending L.S.U at the time. I have the fascinating Valentine she gave me that year. She later returned these letters I had written (scrawled!) to her when I was six years old: Feb 26, 1937, Dear Anne, How are you? I am sick. I did not go to school. What did you do at school today. Did you take a tap lesson? How was school today? I had to take an M R (ennema?) and had to go to bed. I am alright today. I missed you lots yesterday. I love you too much. I am coming to see you to day. Do you love me? Write to me soon, Love, Joe Bruce. Also on Friday, June 28, still aged six, I wrote: Dear Anne, How are you? I am all right. Please send me some stamps. What have you been doing?...Sus said she had 21 elephants now...Did it rain at L.S.U. last night? It did here. The velvet beens I planted are coming up good. They are about three and one half feet high. Mother is feeling better. When we were at Grannies I cought 25 fish the first day. The second day I cought 6. The third day I cought 5. If I missspelled a word don't mine it. Answer my questions. Love, Joe Bruce

Mrs. Sudduth recalled about this period of my life: When Anne went to L.S.U. he wrote her many letters and always closed by saying, "Please answer all questions" --whether there were questions or not...Now Bruce was saying his own prayers. One night he prayed "God please make Ga Ga (Mr. Sudduth) a better man." Everyday Bruce asked where Ga Ga was going. Ga Ga always tole him "Sommers." One day he asked his daddy, "Where is sommers." Mr. Evans didn't know. It was some where -- not sommers.

My second grade teacher was "Miss McCain," actually Mrs. Millard Toms by then -- the lady in the wedding I had missed the year before because of "stomach ache." At Christmas that year I wrote my first letter to Santa Claus. Dady saved the scrawled message: Dear Santa, I have been a good little boy. Please bring me a car I can ride in and a new set of colors. I also want a electric train..please bring me candy, nuts, and a ball for my sister. I want a watch that will tick to carry in my pocket and a st? (even I can't read the last word! I guess I never could write legibly) Love from Joe Bruce Evans.

Later when I was writing somewhat better, Dady saved this note from me: Dear Daddy come up here to see me I dont feel good when mamma comes down theire I want you to come up here - with love this is from Joe Bruce Evans. In August, 1937, after I turned 7 years old, Mother, Dady, Aunt Hady and I went on a trip to New Orleans. We visited the home of Huey P. Long. I was very impressed with the cane growing in his yard and dug up a little piece to plant in my back yard. (I did get it home, plant it, and later it became a terrible nuisance to Mother, coming up all over the yard. Now, 56 years later, it is still thriving in her yard.) The most memorable part of that trip, however, was purchasing a small turtle with a painted back. I played with on the floor of the back seat on the way home and lost it. We never did find it until days later when its smell revealed its hiding place.

At aged seven, I was very interested in fishing. Mr. Billy Montgomery took me to Black Lake in April, 1938. We caught a whole mess of white perch. I think the pride I felt shows in the picture Dady made when we got home.

When I was about 8 years old I learned to swim in the Mill Creek. I had been afraid, but finally learned to swim after being thrown off the trestle by Jack Smith, with my permission and for a dime, on the promise that Jack would get me out if I couldn't swim. I remember "slipping off" in the summer, walking down the rail road track to the Mill Creek swimming hole before I could swim, to watch Jack and J.T. Caskey and others who were brave enough to catch a ride on the "Doodle Bug" (the train) and then jump off in Mill Creek when it crossed the trestle. Hartwell Burson was one of my best friends at this time because he "lived in town" like I did, and "didn't get to ride the school bus either."

Later in November, 1938, Dady went to Arkansas to take Grandpa for surgery. He wrote to me: Dear Bruce, Just finished my bath and am going to church...Can't you think of something else I can bring you besides the G Man set. How about some books or something else. Write me what to bring. Hello Barbara. You too Coker, Owen. Another card three days later: I got your card yesterday and was glad to get it. I'll be home in a few days to straighten things out...Tell Mama and Barbara hello and that they had better be sweet... Another card: ...Bruce are you and Barbara being good? No. ...Then again: Hello Bruce, I received your letter yesterday. Write me another...How is Barbara. Tell mama to write me if you all are acting alright or not. I didn't hear from her today and I am mad about it. Bye Bye, Dad. In a letter to Mother he added: Bruce are you and Barbara being good? Are you going to bed and going to sleep at night when Mama tells you to? I'm going to get her to write me if you are...One gum for Bruce and one for Barbara...

From the time I was about a month old, I was regular in church activities every week--Sunday School and "church" on Sunday morning, B.T.U. on Sunday evening, Prayer Meeting on Wednesday nights, Sunbeams during the week when I was 4, and later R.A.s. When I misbehaved in church I was taken out, spanked, and brought back in. Once, when I must have been about 5, I was sitting by Dady when someone came to the back door during church and signaled to him that he needed to use the telephone. We had the only one in Saline at the time, in Dady's store. When anyone needed to use the phone they had to get Dady (The number, I recall, was 2112). As it happened this man's wife was having a baby and he wanted to call the doctor. This I found out later. All I knew at the time was that Dady grabbed my arm and started to pull me out of church. I yelled, "Don't take me out, don't take me out; I promise to be good," interrupting the sermon, I was told.

I also remember with much warmth and satisfaction, getting to sit by my Grandmother Evans at church sometimes. She carried a big Bible with colored pictures which I could look at during services. Also she would occasionally hide a piece of gum in it for me to find. Mostly though, I remember the good feeling of sitting closely beside her. I still have a book mark which she later gave me from that Bible, with the poem: Ah, we'd love each other better, if we only understood...

For Christmas, 1938, Anne gave me a Five Year Diary. On January 1, I began: I went to Grandmas and played in the sand. and we had turkey dinner.. The next day: ...I started back to school and I had a good time. Adele broke her arm... On January 11: ...Hartwell came to see me. and we went to the store. Huey chased us. and when I got home mama liked to whipped me... January 13:...I wore my tennis shoes. I got a coal. And mama made me wear a bibb when I went to bed...Jan. 30:...I went to school. when I came home mama liked to whip me. She told me I could put on my tennis shoes if I would take them off after school...

When I was eight, I again wrote to Anne at L.S.U. in January, 1939: Dear Anne, How are you? I am alright. How is Mike and Joe Lynn? Have you been studying hard? I have. We had a little snow yesterday. the temperature last night was 5 degrees above zero...I have been sliding on the walk while the show was there. Last night we made some icecream out of snow. It had dirt in it but it was good. Yesterday evening daddy came to the house and cought some water. I am glad he cought it because the water went off before I went to bed. this morning Mr. Lee Payton said he thought the pipes were frozen under the ground. Yesterday Mr. Rogers said we would not have school today because it was too cold. The show for Saturday night is The Shadow Strikes. Barbara's wanting me to write for her and there isn't anything much to write so I guess I better quit but please answer questions. Love Joe Bruce. I have the valentine Anne gave me that year, and also one I gave to Mother with this message: To Mama from Joe Bruce 1939, and this printed on the card: No bones about it - I want you! I've done my best to tell you/But you're so very shy/You can't believe I love you!/Now I wonder why!

Now in the third grade, I wrote this poem for school on February 9th: We Are Thankful For Our School -- We love our school so brave and true/We are thankful for the things that we learn to do/We learn to read/We learn to write/We even learn to recite/That is why we love our school...We love our play ground brave and true/We can play what we wont too/We can be happy and we can be gay/And we can play hide and seek when we want to play...By Joe Bruce Evans.

In April, 1939, on Barbara's birthday, I joined the Magnolia Baptist Church and was baptised in Mill Creek in the same place my father had been baptised 21 years previously. Brother Joyner was preaching. His son Larry was one of my best friends at the time.

During the summer of 1939 the family took a trip out West. One powerful memory remains: While playing in the White Sands in New Mexico I apparently feinted in the heat. I remember waking up and finding myself being carried by Dady. That feeling was so moving that even when I "came to" in his arms I pretended to still be "out" so he would keep holding me. I have no other memories from childhood of being held which compare to that. The only other such memories are of sitting in Mae's (our black maid) lap while she read me books. This is a puzzle to me since I must surely have been held often by my parents. Even so, I now have no memories of that kind of physical closeness.

January of '40 brought a wonderful snow storm. I have always loved snow, I suppose. In May I wrote to Anne:.. My usual beginning: Dear Anne, How are you. I am all right. I have been riding my bycle and playing base ball so much that I have not had time to write to you. I am very sorry.. I have two new pairs of socks. I started my stamp book about a week ago....I must quit now because it is 8 o'clock time to go to bed. Joe Bruce. That summer I got to go fishing with Aunt Irene and Uncle Brewer. We caught lots of fish, as shown in the pictures.

On July 10, I wrote to Anne: Again,...How are you? I am all right...Mama expects to have the twins in three or four days. My beans are growing good. Yesterday evening I was riding by a car. My foot hit the bumper and pulled the skin off three of my toes. Dady poured about half of a bottle of Idine on it. It sure did burn...I cant think of any thing else to say so I guess I better quit. Answer my questions? Love, Joe Bruce.. On July 13, I wrote in my diary: Mama left to go the doctor to have the twins this morning...On the 15th: ...Daddy came from Jonesboro this morning. He left again this evening...

Again on July 16, I wrote to Anne:...Dear Anne How are you? I am all right. My toes are getting beter. Dady ordered me some stamps for my birthday yesterday. I got your letter today....ANSWER MY QUESTIONS. Love, Joe Bruce. In my diary on 17th:...I got a present from Granny this morning... 18th:...I got a present from Sus this morning. It was a ball... 19th...Today was my Birthday. I was 10. I had two Baby sisters born this morning at 7:15... 20th:...I went to the show. The name of it was SIX GUN TRAIL... 21st:...We went to Jonesboro this evening to see mama. She was all right...( I notice in re-reading this that I didn't even mention Janis and Janet! I suppose that I either wasn't too much impressed or was immensely jealous!

I wrote Ann again on July 22: ...How are you? I am all right. I got your letter. Thank you lots for the book, the card, and stamps. The card was very cute. Sus, Joe Lynn and Gaga went to see the twins yesterday. We named them Janice and Janette. The names may not be spelled write. Mae spelled them for me...These Bears reading the letter on the front of this (on the stationery) remind me of mama's twins. Answer my questions, Love, Joe Bruce. (I am beginning to remember now that this answer my questions ending to my letters to her had become a type of "in joke" with us.)

On July 26th, 1940, I wrote in my diary: ...Mother came home with the twins this evening. I got my bycle... (Still nothing about my new sisters! Had I learned too well with Barbara? I remember "joking" much later about Barbara, that "she had taken Dady away from me." Was it not a joke?) On July 31: Dady went to Shreveport. I worked all day in the store. I made 84 cents. August 7, 1940, in large letters: Anne came home this evening. The next day: It rained hard today. I went to see Anne today. The last entry in this supposedly Five Year Diary is on August 11 (of its second year):..The name of my Sunday scool lesson was The Song of the Stars...

School papers from the 5th grade, beginning January 29, 1941, are biographies on the lives of presidents. Grades are A and A-. It was during this year, at age 10, that I fell in love with Imogene Phillips. We wrote "notes" to each other during school, folded them to fit in a palm, and got some one else to deliver them to each other "so no one would know." Among those I kept from her: To One I love, Joe Bruce on outside. Then: Dearest Joe Bruce, I love you very much. You may have a date with me. Yours, Imogene (I suppose I must have asked!). In another: My Dearest Darling, I want let anyone else read the letters you write to me. I am sorry I talked to Leon so much. I want talk to him anymore, if you will only keep loving me. I love you very much, With lots of love, Imogene. P.S. I hope you aren't mad. I'll be waiting for a letter.

And another: My Dearest Joe Bruce, I sure am glad that Aubrey likes Charleen, and not me. If he did like me he would be wasting his time trying to get me. For my heart belongs to you...Don't let anyone see this letter, but I don't care for anyone knowing that I like you, With lots of love, Imogene. P.S. That P.S. in the last letter was real good. Yet another:...My Dearest Joe Bruce, Julianne is trying to break us up. She told me Saturday night that if I would quit you and take Leon, I would be her best friend. She said Leon was a much nicer boy than you...I am closing with my love. Yours only, Imogene. P.S. Some love one, some love two. I love one and that is you.

In the Summer of '41 we went on a trip to Galveston, Texas. On December 7, 1941, Dady, Mother, Barbara and I had gone to the woods to look for a cedar Christmas tree. Mother was sitting in the car listening to the radio; when we got back she told us about news. Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. Joe Lynn, Anne's brother and my ideal, soon joined the Air Force. During World War II he sent me many letters and postcards with stamps from wonderful places. A memorable event from about this time: Ted Frey and I got in trouble shooting our BB guns in the back yard at whiskey bottles pined to the clothes line. When we missed, the BB's were hitting Dr. Joyner's office across the street. Dady came home from the store to stop us. I once got a whipping during grade school by the principal, Mr. Rogers, for fighting with Curtis Dison about a place in line going in for class.

My romance with Imogene continued for about two years. We would sit together in church and I would walk her home from prayer meeting on Wednesday nights, giving her little sister a dime to "go ahead of us so we could be alone." I was shorter than Imogene and had to stand on a log to kiss her good night. I also remember sitting on a song book in church so I would be as high as she was. This was very embarrassing to me. In school I wrote her initials in my hand (it was the way we registered our "true feelings" at the time), carved her initials in the bark of my favorite trees, sharpened her pencil at school, and even wrote our initials together in the concrete when the side walk was first made in Saline.

On Saturday nights a "picture show" would be shown in the school auditorium. After the lights were turned off the boys, who would at first sit on the right sideof the auditorium, would go to sit by their girl friends who sat on the left side. Once "Foots" Hennigan, the school janitor who also ran the projector for the picture shows, turned the lights back on after a few seconds, catching us boys who were in the process of going to sit by our girl friends. I remember being terribly embarrassed but determined not to rush back to my seat as most of my friends did. I stayed with Imogene! I kept all of her notes to me, but was often worried that Mama would find them. Once I buried most of them in a fruit jar under a plum tree in our back yard, carefully marking the spot. Unfortunately I lost my directions and when I later tried to retrieve them I could not find the place.

Of those from her which I did not bury: Oct. 5, 1942. Dear Sweetheart...Boy I had a good time both Friday and Saturday nights being with you! Last night your daddy sat a seat from me...He said, "I bet Joe Bruce would like to be up here between us." I wish we could have another party soon....Yours always, Imogene. Another on the same day:...Dearest Sweetheart, I will write you this time and then I will let you do some writing...I love you more and more every day and I can't help it you are so sweet....I wish you would play ball with us every evening. But if you don't want to I wont get mad, but I wish you would. I would write more but I am afraid you would call this a catalogue. Yours always, Imogene...

My "best friends" during this year were Leon Southern, Hartwell Burson, and C.C. Dison. Once I was going to spend the night with Leon, which was thrilling since he "got to ride the school bus" and I "had to walk to school." On the way home on the bus we heard some girls say the word pregnant. When Leon asked his mother what that meant, she whipped him, I recall, and told him not to say that word again. Wow! What a dangerous subject!

At this time I was "raising chickens" and kept a large number of them in a pen along the whole back yard. Dady got me a horse for $35. I named her Suzie. Howard Morgan also had a horse and we loved to ride together as often as we could.

In January of '43, when I was eleven, Imogene wrote: ...I will get to the point quick. Do you like or love Charleen, which ever it is? I have more than one reason to believe that you do. I have been putting 1 and 1 together and I have found it makes 2, if you get what I mean...If you get to loving her so much you will just up and quit me, and I will be left in darkness. I think you'all are trying to make a "you know what" out of me. If you like her I will stop going with you, no matter how much it will hurt me to do so...With love, Imogene. P.S. I love you and I guess I always will... Mother went to Dilley, Texas, in March to visit her family. She wrote me: Hi Bruce, Are you being sweet?...Tell Dady hello for me...

During the summer of 1943 Howard Morgan and I went to stay with Aunt Irene and Uncle Brewer in Minden. Barbara wrote me a letter to Minden, sending a penny and saying...Wish you would come home so I would have some body to fus at...Love Barbara. P.S. If need more money here is some. Hope this is enough. Imogene also wrote: June 11, 1943, Dearest Joe Bruce...I got your card today and was glad to get it. It looks like you could have quit courting your girl long enouth to write a letter...Bruce I know I have done you wrong in many ways in the past and am sorry for it, and I don't think you have treated me perfectly right either...I will be by my little bitty self Saturday night and will I be lonesome ... With love, Imogene. P.S. I wll be waiting to see the sweetest boy in the world, and the one I love most....You may meet with fairer faces, Some may tell you I'm not true, but only trust me little darling, None can love you as I do...

I wrote to Barbara:....If you see Imogene tell her I said "Hello Honey." I haven't got home sick yet. Write me... and also Janet: ...If you will be sweet I will bring you something when I come home....Tell Barbara it is lonesome without someone to fuss at...

In August Imogene wrote again: ...My Dearest...It is so hot here that I am melting because I am so sweet (Ha, Ha)...It sure was lonesome at the show without you...Don't tell Barbara but she told me that she had found some more letters that I had written you....I know you don't believe me because I have failed in the past, but I aim to leave other boys alone until we break up, (if we do). I wish you'd hurry and come home...hoping to see my "Sweet little bunch of bitter weeds" soon, Yours Always, Imogene...

Beginning in the Fall of 1943, and for six years thereafter, I took part in a Bible memory program which involved memorizing 20 assigned verses a week for 15 weeks -- 250 verses each year. I got a weekly book as a prize and attended Bible Memory Camp each summer at Caney Lake. At this time we had two dogs, Spot and Jiggers. I then got interested in Collies, saved $10, and ordered me one from Kansas City. He came in a box by rail and was nearly starved when he arrived. I named him Lad; he soon revived and grew to about 80 pounds.

The first entry in my diary for 1944 is in March (13 years old): Imogene went with Tom Watson last night. Came from Old Saline with him. On April 18 I wrote: ...Today I had girl trouble. Almost lost her. She got a letter from Tom Watson today. Not going to reply though I think. Hope not for both of us. She spent the night with Arlie. Don't know what happened. I found God. The next day I wrote: Imogene wrote me a letter today, sad and good in a way. She did not mean it. Had prayer meeting tonite. Went with Imogene.

During this time I was competing regularly in Parliamentary Law Contests and 4H Achievement Meets, along with going regularly with Imogene. In May, 1944, Dady was invited to attend a reception for the new Governor, Jimmie Davis, at the Mansion in Baton Rouge. We all got to go. In July I attended the F.F.A. Convention in Pollock, La. Then I took my first long trip alone by bus, visiting my Aunt Helen Marie in Dilley, Texas, where they operated a Cafe. Barbara wrote me on June 4th: Dear Joe Bruce, Imogene isn't going to move. I bet you are glad...She said she wasn't going to write to you until you wrote to her. Dady wrote: ...I feed your chickens and Barbara is deeding the ducks and dogs. The old hens dont like me like they do you, only let me have five eggs yesterday. On a trip to Mexico I spent all the money I had saved to buy a silver bracelet with bells for Imogene. When I returned home with my $35 gift (in Mexican money), I found that she had gone out with Allison Moore while I was away. I was heartbroken. I gave her the bracelet anyway (against Aunt Hady's advice), but declared to myself that "I will never be hurt like that again." (What did I know!)

Later that summer I went with Ted Frey to Baton Rouge and stayed a week in the Governor's Mansion (then on North Boulevard) with his uncle, Jimmie Davis, then Govenor. Highlights of the trip were riding in a limousine to Ponchatrain Beach in New Orleans with free passes to all the rides, buying model airplanes, and sliding down the banister from the second floor after Mr. and Mrs. Davis had gone to bed. (Thirty five years later I happened to meet Jimmy Davis getting on a plane in Baton Rouge. He was going to Nashville to get a gold award for You Are My Sunshine, me to speak at a meeting. I recalled our visit and "confessed" my late nite pleasure in sliding down the bannister. He laughed and said: "You know, before I left the mansion I did the same thing."

Later in August I went to Bible Memory Camp at Caney Lake and discovered the wider world of girls outside of Saline. What a revelation! I began corresponding after I returned. Here are samples: From Dixie Latham in Dallas: Thanks a lot for that darling letter....Joe, you surprise me at the line you give. But I guess life is full of surprises. Yes Joe, I didn't know you loved me, but I'm awfully glad... Also letters from Dorothy Hurst in Shreveport, Peggy H. in Dallas, Mary Ruth Henderson in Longview.

I continued to write and hear from them throughout the fall, but back at school I met Jean Moore from Goldonna at a party. She writes a note: I enjoyed the party. Thanks for the invitation. I want you to write me someimes...With all my love... I must have fallen because she wrote again on Nov. 20:...I hope you live up to me and not go with any other girl, that is if you don't want too. I've gone with no other boy but you since I met you. You're a nice boy and Aunt Dallas said not to be afraid to say I go with you...I think of you in my dreams and at day...Don't let anyone read this. I love you Jean...

I was an active member of Boy Scouts by this time. I was a Patrol Leader and we held our meetings in my play house behind our home. Secretly we dug tunnels allowing us to go through a trap door and exit behind Mrs. Weaver's house without being detected by "spying" members of other patrols.

In January, 1945 (I am 14 1/2 now), Jean again writes:...I noticed that you got my ring while I was in the show with you. I don't care. Be sure and not lose it...I really do love you. It may be silly to you but not to me. I hope you love me as I do you...During that Spring I continued to write and hear from Jean, Dorothy Hurst, and my friend Larry Joyner who had moved from Saline. In April I met and started writing to Armor Lee Powell in Baton Rouge. In school I was active in FFA --Future Farmers of America, raising and judging poultry and ducks. I was also learning 20 Bible verses per week and attended Bible Memory Camp in the Summer.

At camp I again met new girls and started writing to Jean Hooton, Shreveport; Dixie Latham, Dallas; Hope Ann Hughes, Shreveport; and Judy Wood, Midway, KY. I continued to write and hear from Dorothy Hurst for several years. During 1945 I started raising rabbits for meat and sale. I had about 15 adult rabbits and up to 150 at the time. I killed, dressed, and sold them for meat. Grandpa and Grandma Evans had their 50th Wedding Anniversary in November. After Christmas I heard from Jean Moore...Linda was with Ted. Boy was she dizzey after that. She talks about him all the time. She said his hands were so soft and smooth. Ah! No better than the hands that held mine the last time I saw you....thanks for the present. Boy was it delicious....Your Sweetheart I hope (Note: Jean was the sister of Allison Moore, the boy Imogene had "gone with" the summer before, leading to our breakup after 3 years. I now wonder about my association with his sister?)

In the summer of 1946 I went to Bible Memory Camp for the last time. I think it was at this camp that I first rebelled against "giving up" all the "sins" like dancing and playing cards. When Dr. Woychuk called for giving up chewing gum, I finally refused to "go down front" and "promise not to sin." I also met several new girls. I corresponded with Merle Oldham from Pittsburg, Texas; Bennie Lou Mathers, from Oklahoma; and Anne Ferndale.

During my senior year in high school (only 11 years of school at that time), I was active in public speaking, parliamentary law, and poultry judging. Our FFA Parliamentary Law Team won District and placed second in North Louisiana. I played basketball (we had no gym), baseball, and graduated as co-valedictorian at age 16 in a class of 13. I had a straight A average. I spoke at graduation on Opportunity That Makes. I received the Americal Legion Award plus a Scholarship Award. I developed an interest in photography during my senior year.

Other memories of my school years: My collie dog Lad remained a favorite pet. He would often follow me to school and let younger children ride on his back. My hobbies had included collecting stamps, match folders, arrowheads, coins, post cards; I built many model airplanes and enjoyed swimming, fishing, hunting, and reading. My favorite books were dog and horse stories--Lassie stories and Walter Farley novels such as The Black Stallion. I played the trombone in the band and sometimes at church. I also took guitar lessons and played the Hawaiian guitar. We had gone on several family vacations, including trips to California and Florida. I was in the Junior and Senior Class plays. After Imogene, I dated Bessie Morgan, Patsy Moore, and Billie Moore.

I received my first letter from Patsy Moore in June while I was attending the Olla Baptist Encampment:...Hello Dimples...I got the disappointment of my life tonight. I wanted to see you so bad I could taste it. I wanted to see you almost as bad as I did Friday night, but I didn't cry tonight...Let's go swimming tomorrow. We haven't been in a long time. It has been almost a whole day and a half... Then again the next day:...Remember six months ago tonight? We really were reluctant in our decisions, but it seems as though they worked out pretty good. Do you remember two months later when you told me, slightly, how much you like me. Boy, that scared me... While at that camp I also heard from Odessa Stanfield in Minden and Marinel Cowgill in Vivian, La.

Back home I continued to hear from Pasty, who had gone to a camp, and Odessa, and Benny Lou Mathers. Then I went to Pelican Boy's State at LSU. Patsy wrote: ...It is hard to realize, but we will have been going together eight months in about two weeks... I must have written to Florene Weaver at Chestnut since she wrote back saying I had. Also had a long letter from Merle Oldham in Pittsburg, Texas.

That Fall, at age 17, I started to Louisiana Tech in Ruston, majoring in Engineering. In my first letter home I wrote:...Boy am I pretty without any hair (upperclassmen shaved our heads)...Just don't believe I'll be home this weekend....send my black fountain pen, my bed lamp and my picture of Patsy. Also how about sending me some candy (home made fudge).

I pledged TKE Fraternity and was very active in B.S.U. I loved the card game, Hearts, snooker, and ping pong. I was very religious, often having prayer meetings in my barracks room. My roommates and friends included Jack Holland, Don Poole, Teddy Burr, James Bachman, Bobby Joe Jackson, Don Garland, and Bobby Stovall. I continued to hear from Patsy. Also from Tela Ruth in Pineville (Was this where I later got Tela's name from?), Merle, and Charlotte Thomas. I hitch hiked back and forth to Saline whenever I went home.

I sent Dady a card with this message in large letters NO MON, NO FUN, YOUR SON. In December Patsy wrote:...It doesn't seem you are going to write...so I will try again. I probably won't get any more response than I have gotten from the last umpteen but there is nothing like trying.... (I guess I was trying to "break up").

Flo Weaver wrote in January:...Do we still have that date on the 22nd... Also, Mary Ruth Henderson, and Patsy (...your song is playing - Golden Earrings - number one on the Hit Parade). Then again in February:...I have never had any thing in my life help me like your letter...You should tell me more often how much you "love" me, if you do... I also began to hear from David Young, a friend who had left Tech, at Florien in February...I'll get over this disappointment providing you'll come down to see me some week-end soon...you are one of the best friends I've ever has, so I'm going to be looking for you...

I started a new diary on Feb 20, 1948, with: Got my Jeep today. How I felt! Got it at Minden for $1,350. I had wanted a Jeep for a long time. At Christmas Dady had fooled my by wrapping up a toy jeep as a present.

In March Patsy wrote:...This weekend was quite a shock to me. I had looked forward to it for three weeks, and then you spit on me - as the saying goes - and then rubbed in in. You certainly made a fool out of me, which I have said no one would do, and it hurts worse to think it had to be you, the only person I really care anything about...I hope you see what I am trying to say in this letter, if not I will tell you in the most simple way I know how - I love you with all my heart and hope someday you will feel the same toward me. All my love, Patsy.

My sister Janet, then 8, wrote in April:...Patsy is not mad at you. Sisy is just telling a story, but she said when are you coming home...Love from Sweet angel Janet. P.S. I wrote to you now you write to me. Send me some mony. I have not got a penny. Love your sweet angel Janet. On Mother's Day my card was signed: To the best mother in the whole world, Your son... David Young closed a May letter with:...A guy who thinks the world and all of you and would definitely "choose" to make you his very closest, best buddy. Always, David.

After school was out for the summer I started corresponding with Earline Bates of Bienville, Polly Mann in Stark, Florida, and JoAnn in Alexandria. In June I borrowed my parents car and took several friends to Ridgecrest in North Carolina. In July I lifeguarded at girls G.A. Camp. Wrote in diary: Taught Carolyn Calhoun to dive. Young, but sure cute. At end of camp I wrote: Beware of G.A. Camps! That summer Mother and I had been fishing in the Pond at Saline. While cleaning our fish, me gutting and she scaling, she reached over the side of the boat to rinse a fish and a water moccasin bit into her hand. She jerked back and flung the snake over the boat. I took my scout knife, lanced the bite, sucked out blood, and rushed her to Dr. Joyner who said I had done all necessary.

Later in August David Young and I left on a three week trip to California in my Jeep. We camped out all the way there and back and had a great time. In September, back at Tech, I started hearing from Gwen Oglesby in Stamps, Ark. Polly Mann wrote...Thank you for you letter. I do enjoy them so much. Your ideas about the sins of omission have made me realize again how far short we all fall...I held prayer meetings in Freshman barracks. Talked on "Acknowledge Him," 22 there. Well pleased with response. David Mason came to Saline to spend the weekend with me and my family. Afterwards he wrote:...I did enjoy it all...the only bad thing about all of it was saying goodbye. Why is that so hard? And you might also tell me why you're the hardest person I've ever tried to say goodbye to. It just "does things" deep inside, somehow...Well, buddy-buddy, I hate to say this, but there comes a time in every man's life when it must be said. Goodnite, J.B. goodnite. Your buddy always. D.M. (This closing was a repeat of something I had often said).

I gave devotionals in several places, was in charge of Noon Day Chapel at times, and dated Dot Trichell, Carolyn Tait, Jo Ann Buckner, Betty Colvin,and Ann Buatte. Wrote on November 2: Election day - Truman now ahead. Kinda disgusted now....3rd: Up 6:15 - Looks like Truman for Pres. Began to get out of depressed mood...Received admission from O.U.

In December: Duck hunting, 2 1/2 hours in gym. Hearts till supper. Football game, show: "Forever Amber" with Linda Darnell. On the 6th: Had will power and didn't play Hearts after Frat meeting. Studied accounting...8th: Romeo and Juliet with Ann Buatt. Very swell girl....December 24: Worked in store all day. Went to Pond and killed 4 wood ducks. 25th: Old Santa did come. Brought me a projector for my pictures....

January, 1949, diary: 8th ...Played basketball in afternoon, Hearts at nite. No show. No fun staying in on Sat nites. Bed 12... 9th: Date with Betty Bennett. Pretty in blue Satin....12th: Date with Bettye Colvin. Went to show and supper. Pretty girl but cold.. Don M. came over about 10 and talked till 1. Maybe I helped him a little (Was I getting into counseling now?)

Diary continuing: Jan. 16: Date with Betty Colvin. Kinda like her . Wish I had more time here...18th: Cold and raining. Met P.E. for last time. Made A. Had History review at 2. Went to sleep in class. Studying & 1 game hearts & rook. Just one more week till O.U. Bed 11:30...19th...to Dallas Symphony with Betty Colvin...22nd:...Sent trunk to Norman. Date with Jo Ann Buckner; 23rd: Made talk at First Church on Prov. 16:25, "The Way that Seemeth Right," home, back for BTU and date with Betty Colvin. Got to liking her. Hate to leave....Mon, Jan 24: Nothing to do all day. Worked out in gym, played Pitch - Pool. Went to show with Betty C. Disappointed me by saying no nite date. Needed to study. Anyway I told myself...After his bragging went up town and beat Stovall 3 pool games.

In January of 1948 I transferred to Oklahoma University in order to major in Petroleum Engineering. I made the trip there in the dead of Winter, with show on the ground in my red Jeep. When I arrived the temperature was ten below 0, the coldest I had ever seen it. Diary: Jan 26: Headed North. roads icy...trouble keeping ice off windshield...Hardly see road...Snowing to Norman. Finally found Brks 51. Still snowing. Started registering. No progress. Went to show. Kinda lonesome not knowing anyone---....28th...Still hunting friends. Valve job done on Jeep, $25...30th:...new roommate from Iowa...Still haven't met any girls...Feb 1: People here from all over, NY, Mexico, etc...am learning from these folks. Picked up some of Simmer's philosophy...Feb 2: Snow melting now. Haven't heard from folks. Played basketball and ran a little...

While there I began corresponding with Bettye Colvin from Tech. Also in April I got my first letters from Bessie Morgan; also my Tech roommates, Merle Oldham in Texas, and David Young.

Diary, March 4: To Morning Watch...Class all evening & then Betty Bryant came by for me in convertible and carried me to Spegitto Supper...She sure is a pretty girl...March 9: Got 90 on first Solid Geom. Test. Highest in class. Swimming at 3. To show with Donna Russell. Sure cute. Saw "Snake Pit."...10th: Date with Betty Bryant; Sat.12th, Got up and put out my washing...date with Donna Russell for ballgame. Sweet girl. Little trouble with cop about driving too fast. No Okie license, etc., Sirened me down. No charges. Learned a lesson in situation handling: Keep calm, speak what you know & talk like heck...March 17...Sure lost in Physics. Don't know nothing....20th: Lost keys to Jeep and had to walk to church...Date with Donn R. (Oh boy) in New Pontiac. Spent nite. Delores Culp and I. Everybody says OK with folks...

Diary: March 25: Missed breakfast. Running so I drove to side of armory and low and behold I got another ticket. May mean trouble. Got 35 on Physics test and darn proud...First date with Shirley Crisman. May be OK...Sat, 26th:...to city this morning. Shirley C. rode up with me. Got pink shirt and cuff links. Date this evening with Donna R.....April 1: Date with Shirley Crisman. Smart girl. Maybe getting involved too quick! But what the heck?...April 6: Kinda in bad mood. Counting days till Easter. Stuie Martin doesn't believe in God. I've got to help him!...7th...That Donna R. is cute. Be glad when tomorrow nite gets here. Wrote Bessie. Bed 12...Fri. 8th: My big day. Much fun till six - and after - Date with Donna R. Saw "Duel in Sun"...That Donna is one cute girl. Hoping for progress...9th: Show with Shirley Crisman. I could get involved with her...

After Easter vacation home: April 20: Drove back today. Drove 590 miles Stopped and went to show in Paris, Texas....21st: Couldn't persuade myself to arise very early. Got back a 33 in Physics and was darn proud of it. Worked off my demerits for missing class. Played 3 games of Pinochle. Talked to Stuie Marcus about God. Bed 12...22nd...Date with Shirley Crisman - Boy!...29th... Date with Shirley Crisman - OK But, Yes!...May 7th...Date with Donna. Kinda disappointed with her tonite - So awfully - well - I'll show her yet!!...May 12:...played tennis all afternoon...13th...Spring banquet with Donna R. Good banqauet but I can't seem to do anything with her. Pretty - figure delux but like an ice berg. Beats me!...14th:...to ball game and out to river with Shirley C. To show. Like Shirley better all the time!...

At age 18, on May 20, 1949: I saw my first television set tonite up town. About 4 X 6 inches. Looks good - ought to go places! (Talking about a prophet!). Then on 21st...Youth Rally. It was swell. I realized how I have stayed away - not by doing - but by not doing - I've got to get busy for God...May 25th. Date with Donna. Saw "Streets of Laredo" again. Rained and thundered. Donna really scared - wanted to go to cellar. Still no good done!

Sunday, May 29: What I learned today is - always be jovial when it is at all possible - by all means make talks witty. Last Sun. here. I kinda hate to leave...Monday: Pulled a stupid stunt this morning. Got up at 3 A.M. and played hearts and pinochle with Windham and Post...That day is gettin nearer and nearer - and the sooner the better!...Tues 31st. What a stupe - Instead of hitting physics final...ended up in Snooker hall. Did find out that I made 87 on last test - highest in class of 80. Windham and I got our hair cut off - fools. (Last diary entry for year). My grades for the Spring Semester were 1 A, 2 B's, and 2 C's, 15 hours in Geology, Geometry, Physics, and Materials.

I visited Aunt Hady in Beeville in June and met Velma. While I was life-guarding and teaching swimming and diving at a girl's (G.A.) camp later in June she wrote...There are several little girls at the church who ask about you every time they see me. Just like I knew anything...What is it that you do to all of them, some secret power no doubt! After that week I went to work at an Audubon Nature Camp at Kerrville, Texas, with Dr. Fred Cagle of Tulane University. I helped him catch water snakes, soft-shelled turtles, rattle snakes, and lizards for his biological research. Once, catching water snakes in a pond by wading and putting them in sacks for later sorting, I caught a water moccasin, which is poison, by mistake and didn't find out till we were emptying our sacks. I was lucky!

After this venture I corresponded with Emily Powell who had worked at the camp and later wrote that she had been selected Miss Mohair Queen of 1950 by the Texas Goat Raisers Association....missing you. Our few hours together were just perfect...Why didn't I see and meet you sooner...I enjoyed our day together so much. I hope you did. Then that night was very nice...Please write and come soon... Then later in August:...Please come see me soon...I believe I'd love to have you come, Bye Goodlooking, Love you, Emily.

I went back to Oklahoma in the Fall. Correspondence continued with Bessie, and began with Mildred Posey from Beeville. In November I was notified by Selective Service that my induction would be postponed until the end of the academic year. My record of expenses shows that I was playing a lot of snooker, bowling, and going to the show for entertainment. Started a new diary in January, 1949. Excerpts: ...Jan 9...date with Betty Bennett, Monroe..Pretty in blue satin. Bessie wrote: I miss you so terribly much. I wish I didn't, but I do. It seems silly since I just saw you yesterday and am hoping you'll be by tomorrow afternoon. You really shouldn't have made me love you so much when I can't be with you...

While at OU people often asked me about Mardi Gras. Although from Louisiana I had never been to Mardi Gras. I couldn't schedule a class I needed at OU for the Spring semester and just decided to transfer to LSU, go to Mardi Gras, and come back in the Fall. Diary: Feb 1, 1950. Pulled into LSU. Room 125 in brand new men's dormitory, Hodges Hall. Really swell. Moved in and then visited Anne Sudduth...3rd: Roommates Sonny Ellis and Charlie Crowson, both P.E.'s Great life. Maid service, even telephones. People lots friendlier than at OU. Even girls speak! But still not enough of them!...Feb 6:...Go in Calculus class and sit down and there's Ann Hollingsworth - Miss Louisiana for '49, by me. Got to do something with that!

Well, how true that turned out to be. April 15: BMOC Barbeque with Annie Gray...Show tonight and...April 22: Took Annie Gray home with me this week end. Got to know more - you know! Now I know why I came to LSU...23rd...darn sure like this girl...Swell trip "all in all." She makes a fellow wish he wasn't single! Oh well!...May 1: Oh this Calculus with Annie. Hard to concentrate. May 8, 1950: Had the priviledge of being the first to hold Chapel in the new $200,000 Baptist Student Center. Lord help us make something of it...

The rest, as they say, is history. I fell in love and never returned to O.U. (I did, however, go to Mardi Gras that year!) I was elected Chapel Director of the B.S.U. and pledged Theta Xi Fraternity. That summer I got a job as a roustabout in the oil fields, with Sklar Oil Company. I lived in the YMCA in Shreveport and worked on old oil wells around that area. In August my roommate from O.U., Forest Windham, and I went to New York on a vacation in my Jeep. We camped out along the way. Once in Philadelphia the police picked us up for not having a registration (not required in La.). They took us to the jail and I asked if we could spend the night there. At first they agreed, but then said "no" after it begin to fill up with weekend drunks. We ended up staying in a cemetery that night.

Back to LSU in the Fall; active in BSU and joined Pershing Rifles. I was elected President of BSU at LSU in Spring, and also Vice President of State BSU. Went to Geology Camp in Colorado in June of 1951. Back to LSU in Fall, busy with BSU activities, and had a job as janitor of University Baptist Chapel.

On December 26, I married Annie Gray Hollingsworth in Mansfield, La. Rev. Udell Smith officiated.

I dropped out of R.O.T.C. before I would receive a commission and graduated from LSU with a B.S. in Petroleum Engineering in May, 1952. In June we went on a "delayed honeymoon" to Califorina, Canada, and back by Chicago--9,000 miles in all. Then I went to work for Gulf Oil Company in Kilgore, Texas. Aware of my impending draft into Army for Korean War, I decided to join first to improve my options. In August I was first assigned to Fort Sill, Oklahoma --Private Joe. B. Evans.

Fort Riley, Kansas, was my next assignment for basic training beginning in September. Then, after 8 weeks of "basic," I was transferred to Ft. Lee, Virginia for further training. Then, in January, 1953, to Ft. Wadsworth, New York, for training in Petroleum Analysis at a Quartermaster School. Near the end of January, Ann came to live with me. We found an apartment at 110 Garrison, Jersey City, N.J. In June I was sent back to Ft. Lee, Virginia for further training. Back to N.J. in July, we moved to 77 Lake St., Jersey City.

In August, 1953, our first daughter, Melisa Ann, was born on Staten Island, N.Y. After my parents returned home from visiting us and seeing their first grandchild, I wrote on Sept. 4: Lisa is just getting cuter and cuter...I'm beginning to get my routine down a little better. I can now steralize, mix, wash and mix a feeding inbetween in a little less than 4 hours... While in New Jersey, we attended the Calvary Baptist Church in Manhattan, plus many Broadway plays. I met David Hoy and became active in youth work at the church. I was promoted to Corporal and taught Petroleum Analysis at Caven Point, New Jersey until my discharge in July, 1954.

In August I preached at Magnolia Baptist Church in Saline before I enrolled in New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in September. I intended then to become a church Youth Director or a BSU Director. Immediately I got a job as Sales Engineer with Gulf York Air Conditioning Co. doing drafting and estimating bids, and secured support under the G.I.Bill. We joined Franklin Avenue Baptist Church and I became active in BSU work as well as speaking at various churches. Our second daughter, Cassandra Johnette, was born December 23, 1954, at Baptist Hospital.

Dady had stomach surgery in Feb., 1955. I went home to run the store for awhile till he recovered. In March I made my first big air conditioning sale for Gulf York -- the Catholic Sister's Home of Charity Hospital -- $6161. I also went to the hospital for a nose operation, having cartilage removed to improve my breathing space. I continued with schooling, preaching often, speaking at BSU banquets, etc., and sold several other A.C. systems, including Bolton Chevrolet for $5000. In July we purchased a new blue Nash automobile. I was making plans to attend the Baptist World Alliance in London and go to the Holy Land assisting my archeology professor, Dr. Roy Beaman, in conducting a tour and doing research. This five week tour of Europe and the Middle East was an invaluable experience in shaping my awareness.

Our income for 1955 was about $4,000: $400 from part time BSU Work with medical students, including LSU and Tulane Med Schools and Charity Hospital Nursing Students; $122 for Professor's Aid to Dr. John Durst; $1320 from Gulf York; $775 Ann's income; G.I.Bill, $1280; preaching, $75.

In February, 1956, I was appointed Youth Director of First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. I was to receive my Master's Degree in Religious Education in May. I had job offers including becoming New Orleans City Wide BSU Director at $6,000, highest in state at the time. Also to BSU Director job in Dallas, Texas, and Educational Director in Mississippi, plus inquiries about pastoring. However, I felt called to the Youth Director's job in Baton Rouge, salary $4,800. I preached at First Baptist Church in April, graduated on May 11, and we moved to Baton Rouge in June to a house we had built at 1024 Highland Park Drive.

Tela Kay, our third daughter, was born July 11, 1956, at 1:53 A.M at Baptist Hospital in New Orleans, weighing in at 8 lbs and 11 ounces. During the Fall I continued my work as Youth Director and enrolled in the doctorate program at seminary. I spoke at meetings of all types, organized programs, and was raised to $6,000 in June, 1957. My title and responsibilities were changed to Activities Director. I continued to hold revival meetings and speak at banquets, etc. along with my graduate studies and regular work. I gave the Baccalaureate Address at my home High School at Saline in May, 1958, when Janis and Janet graduated.

In October, 1958, I was ordained to the Full Gospel Ministry by the First Baptist Church. The newsletter noted: After serving thus far as a layman, Mr. Evans has now felt called to enter the larger field of the ministry...He came to us as Youth Director in the early part of 1956 and a year later was promoted to his present position. During this year I was completing my research for my dissertation on personality factors among those in church related vocations. I also began doing regular weekly individual counseling along with my graduate studies in psychology and counseling.

My duties were changed in February, 1959. As Minister of Education the bulletin noted: he will be responsible for the educational program of the church along with other duties previously assigned him. I conducted a revival meeting in my home church, Magnolia Baptist in Saline in April. My first published article, The Manhole and Love, appeared in the Baptist Student Magazine in June. In July I was invited to preach at University Baptist Church. My first wedding as an officiate was in August.

In September I was called as Pastor of University Baptist Church, where I had once been janitor during my student days. My first sermon was preached there on September 22, 1959. I wrote my parents: Well it's finished - 3 1/2 years at FBC. I left tonight with many mixed feelings. I have learned much, probably more than I could have at any other place that I know about...I begin my work tomorrow with a great anticipation. I am not so naive as to be unaware of the great responsibilities which shall be mine, nor of the continual pressures on one in such a position. Nevertheless, I have no fear. I do not mind hard work and I have learned how to fail. I shall do the best I can with whatever ability I have and try to learn from the process... (Boy, did I!).

My available time for individual counseling appointments was rapidly filled beginning in October. Soon I was selected to be Pastor's Advisor for the LSU and Louisiana State BSU's. In December I went home again to conduct the funeral of "Ga Ga," my next door neighbor at birth (H.E. Sudduth). In January, 1960 I received my Doctor of Religious Education Degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. (The title of the degree was later changed in 1968 to ED.D. - Doctor of Education, with major in Psychology and Counseling.) I also had another article published in Church Administration Magazine in January.

That April I joined a group of 45 men on a preaching mission to Jamaica. In May we completed the building and moved into the new University Baptist Church on Leeward Drive. On Friday, June 3, 1960, our fourth daughter, Tela Kay, was born, weighing 8 pounds, 2 ounces.

Another article was published in the Baptist Program in June. By Fall my counseling schedule averaged about 15 appointments per week. In April, 1961, I began writing a weekly article in the Baptist Message, a state paper, a commentary on the Sunday School lesson for that week. These articles were well received and I continued writing them weekly (about 80 in all) until December of the following year.

The racial situation in Baton Rouge was getting extremely tense at this time. In March I preached a sermon on The Christian Attitude in the Segregation Issue, an explosive topic at the time. The Governor was apparently trying to close Louisiana's public schools to avoid integration. Several ministers met to see if we could give any guidance to the community. We wrote an Affirmation of Religious Principles, calling for preservation of the public school system and stating that discrimination by race or religion is a violation of the divine law of love; 53 of us signed it and had it published in the newspaper. None of us foresaw the consequences. Conservative forces united and all of us begin to feel the pressures. Backlash came through personal threats, investigations by the State Soverntity Commission, tapped phones, crosses burned in yards, phone calls with warnings about danger to our children, threats to "get rid of us all," etc.

In an attempt to clear up some of the extreme misunderstandings I preached a sermon, Am I An Integrationist?, in September. Much of it was reported in the newspaper the next day and my wife was later fired from her teaching job at Baton Rouge High School, over her husband's racial views, the paper reported. That night I wrote home:...About that hole --Well, evidently I stepped in it, but it's going to cost you too. Ann had accepted a job teaching at BR High and we were going to get the car notes all paid off (to you) but in executive session last nite the school board refused to OK her appointment. Hence no work, delayed payments! So, like I said, the guy who tells may still have to help suffer the consequences!

The newspaper reported the next week: Minister Calls School Board Group 'Ruthless' -"When a state political machine can take a ruthless, backhanded slap at an innocent woman, and a community passively submits, then I say that freedom is a word just for the history books," a Baton Rouge minister said here yesterday. Rev. Bruce Evans, pastor of University Baptist Church, yesterday preached a sermon aimed directly at the portion of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, which...forced the withdrawal...of Mrs. Ann Evans for a mathematics teaching post, following an executive session sought by appointed board member Charles Davis, who said he believed some teachers "advocating integration have infiltrated our schools." (Note: In 1993 I am the only one of the 53 signers still preaching in Baton Rouge)

I had received a call to become the minister at the First Baptist Church of Ruston, prior to this. Predictably this event called for clarification. After long meetings with the deacons and church in Ruston, the call was re-extended. Considering their reactions, however, I decided not to accept and stayed at University Baptist.

I continued my preaching, counseling, and writing work during 1962. In most outward ways the church flourished; membership had climbed to 500; attendance, budgets, and programs were expanded. My popularity, evidenced in speaking requests and general response, seemed favorable. I was a member of the Downtown Kiwanis Club and an officer in the Baptist Pastor's Conference. Gradually, however, I came to see that my vision of church as an accepting community was persistently frustrated in the structures of the prevailing institution. Racial tensions continued while churches staunchly refused to face the hypocracy of segregation in a "Christian" fellowship. Finally, I concluded that the pursuit of my vision could best be followed outside the traditional structures. In April, 1963, after 3 1/2 years, I resigned as minister of University Baptist Church.

At 31, I was starting all over.

Fellowship Church, an experiment, an attempt to form an ecumenical church focused on fullness of life in the here and now, was organized in May, 1963. The history of Fellowship is recorded elsewhere. Here I only note the personal events not noted there.

Mark Madison, our 5th child and 1st son, was born on September 10, 1963, weighing in at 9 pounds.

In the summer of 1965 I did advanced study at Union Theological Seminary in New York, under Dr. Paul Tillich. To supplement my income, which was never adequate from the church alone, I organized a private Human Resources Development firm in 1968, offering programs for business and industry aimed at developing human resources. I studied psychological testing under Dr. Dreger, LSU Psychology Department, and expanded my consulting business, offices at 4860 North Boulevard, to include Testing and Evaluations. Briefly I went into partnership with Thomas Brown in a business called Management Services. This did not work out and I re-opened my own business.

During these years at Fellowship I continued to write articles and publish books. I served as first Chairman of the Baton Rouge Council on Human Relations, Chairman of the Baton Rouge Association of Religion and Psychiatry, and on the Board of Directors of East Baton Rouge Parish Mental Health Association for six years. I was instrumental in the organization of the American Baptist Churches of the South and served as Chairman of the Personnel, Finance, and Executive Committees. I was elected Vice President for 2 years and then served as President for 2 more years.

In 1983 I divorced Ann and married Anita Louise Lowe, becoming a step-father of Mary Lois and Ellen Lowe. I was licensed as a Professional Counselor in the State of Louisiana in 1989. In 1993, at the age of 63, I began the process of retiring from many of my public activities. Now, in November, 1993, I continue to lead services at Fellowship Church on Sundays and do limited counseling and group work. My focus is shifting to further clarification of insights gained during 37 years in professional ministry, and to the continuing discovery of who I am.

MEDICAL HISTORY

I have been quite healthy during most of my life, more so, it seems to me than most. I rarely experience physical discomfort, even head or stomach aches. Although not particularly active in athletics as a child, I have, since leaving home, been continually engaged in active sports like tennis. I began jogging regularly, before it became a fad, in my early 30's, and have continued, at least weekly ever since. I joined a health club in my late 50's and exercise regularly now, usually three times a week. I play tennis and do active folk dancing, each at least once a week. Periodically, at least monthly, I get a shiatsu massage.

My first memory of sickness was when as a child (probably around 6 or 7) I was taken by my father on an overnight fishing trip to a camp on Black Lake. I seemed to have had an allergic reaction, called then an "asthma attack," reflecting in difficulty in breathing. I remember this vaguely. Dady was quite scared, I am told, and rushed me home and called Dr. Hailey. This is the only breathing (or "asthma") problem I recall until I was a sophomore in college. During my first semester at LSU a lung collapsed while returning to my dormitory one afternoon. I was taken to the infirmary, put to bed, and it soon returned to normal.

I did have nose surgery during this time to correct a cartilage problem which restricted my breathing. Forty years later, in the 1980's, I again had further nose surgery after it was discovered that one side of my nostrils was severely constricted, making it difficult for me to breath through that side.

I was never allergic to anything that I know of, although mother is exceptionally sensitive to many substances, until in my 50's I had a strong allergic reaction to bananas. This occurred months after I had gotten juice from a banana plant into my eyes, causing temporary burning. I suspect that the two events are unrelated, however, since I later discovered that both of my twin sisters are also allergic to bananas.

Like my father, I have had bowel problems since early childhood. I was often given "syringes" (enemas) by my mother to insure "regularity." When I was a child "regular bowel movements" were deemed to be very important. I do not know how much of my bowel trouble was related to this erroneous (as now understood) medical information and the traumatic experience of "syringes," the association of constipation and punishment (mother gave castor oil for disciplinary purposes as well as constipation), and how much may possibly be due to genetics. After leaving home I was rarely troubled with constipation. I did have hemorrhoids in childhood and periodically through adult life until I had a hemorrhoid surgery in my 50's. Since then I have no further bowel trouble.

The only other surgery I have had was the removal of cartilage under my left knee cap in my 40's, following an accident in which I twisted my knee in a fall and then had to stop jogging for a period of time. During this time the pain continued in my left leg, resulting in the decision to have surgery. I recuperated completely and have had no knee problems since. I did twist my back in my late 50's and have periodically had lower back problems since that time.

The following data from my resume summarizes much of my life until 1993:

Licensed Professional Counselor, State of Louisiana; Private practice: Individual, Couple, Group Counseling (thirty five years).

Ordained Minister, Fellowship Church: An ecumenical community focusing on fullness of life in the here and now (thirty years).

Author:

13 books on human relations, theology, poetry, and prayer: THE MAN/WOMAN BOOK: HOW WE ARE; BEING CLOSE: A LOOK AT INTIMACY; MILESTONES: GUIDELINES FOR THE WAY; THE HUMAN ODYSSEY; HOW IT IS, FOR ME; I LOVE THE SUN; WHO AM I?; ERRORS IN POPULAR CHRISTIANITY; I LOVE THE SEA; GRANT FATHER: A BOOK OF PRAYERS; JESUS, MAN FOR ALL TIME; IT'S NOT FAIR (AND OTHER WAYS I GOT FOOLED); EXPERIMENTS IN CHURCH. Over 300 articles, poems, and sermons have been published in national, state, and local publications, poetry anthologies, and newspapers, including: Pulpit Digest, Student Magazine, Church Administration, Baptist Program, Royal Service Magazine, Woman's Coordinator Magazine, Louisiana Woman, and Louisiana Journal For Counseling And Development. (In addition, 58 unpublished book manuscripts plus hundreds of articles and poems)

Personal Data:

Born, Saline, LA, July 19, 1930; married 30 years, five children; married 10 years, 2 step-children; wife: Anita C. Evans, Social Worker; 8 grandchildren; hobbies: photography, antique book collecting, jewelry making, stone work.

Psychological Experience:

Doctorate in Psychology and Counseling (dissertation included design, administration and evaluation of a forced-choice type personality inventory); Post-doctoral study, Psychology of Adolescents; Advanced training in Abnormal Psychology; Advanced training in Psychological Testing; Seven years personal analysis (private and group), Twenty five years personal therapy; Thirty five years in private practice, counseling individuals and couples, (over 600 clients, from 1 to 1,000 individual sessions, some for up to 24 continuous years); over 20,000 hours with individual clients; Thirty three years (over 6,000 hours) conducting group therapy; Industrial testing and evaluation of applicants and employees for business and industry (16 years, over 1,000 psychological evaluations); Designed employment appraisal programs, conducted management seminars and employee training workshops for corporations in Washington, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, North Carolina, and Louisiana; Designed the Camelot Grid, a model for understanding self and relationships, including self-scoring inventories for personal evaluations; Numerous lectures, including to Louisiana Association of Counseling and Development. Articles, THE CAMELOT GRID, SPIRIT IN THERAPY, in Louisiana Journal For Counseling And Development, 1990.

Religious Experience:

Master's Degree in Religious Education; Advanced Study in theology of Paul Tillich; Student Director of Medical Students (Louisiana State University, Tulane Medical School, Charity Hospital Nursing School; Youth Director and Director of Education for 5000 member First Baptist Church, Baton Rouge; Pastor of University Baptist Church, Baton Rouge (three years); Pastor's Advisor, Baptist Student Union, Louisiana State University; Pastor's Advisor, Louisiana Baptist Student Union; organized Fellowship Church and served as minister from 1963 till present; First Chairman of Baton Rouge Council of Human Relations; Helped organize American Baptist Churches of the South (Fellowship Church was first American Baptist Church in Louisiana); Served as Vice-president and President of American Baptist Churches of the South; Lectured and preached in colleges and churches in Rhode Island, New York, Iowa, North Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, and Texas; Wrote weekly Sunday School Commentary for state paper (2 years); Sermons and articles published in these religious publications: Pulpit Digest, Student Magazine, Church Administration, Baptist Program, Royal Service Magazine, and American Baptist: THE CHURCH; Delivered over 4,000 sermons and public speeches; Baptized, married, buried hundreds.

Education:

Graduated, Saline High School, Saline, La. 1947; Bachelor of Science, Petroleum Engineering, Louisiana State University, 1952; Master of Religious Education, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 1956; Doctor of Education, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 1960; Advanced Study, Union Theological Seminary, New York, 1966; Advanced Study, Abnormal Psychology, East Louisiana State Hospital, 1969; Supervised Training, Psychological Testing, 1970-73.

Employment:

Engineer, Gulf Oil Corporation, 1952; U.S. Army, Quartermaster Corp, 1952-54; Sales Engineer, Gulf York Air Conditioning Co., New Orleans, La., 1955; Baptist Student Director, 1955; Youth Director, First Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, La. 1956-57; Director of Education, First Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, La. 1958-59; Pastor, University Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, La. 1959-63; Minister, Fellowship Church, Baton Rouge, La., 1963-; Director, Personnel Services, Baton Rouge, La., 1968-85; Director, The Growth Center, Baton Rouge, La. 1985-89; Consulting, training, and testing for numerous agencies and corporations including: Volt Informational Services, Inc., Washington, D.C.; Lear Siegler Service Corp., Oklahoma City, OK; Multi-Purpose Training Center, University of Oklahoma; Louisiana Department of Employment Security; Blue Cross of Louisiana; Community Action Agencies of Baton Rouge, Little Rock, Shreveport, Austin; Volt Technical Corp.; East Baton Rouge Parish School Board; Bebe Cosmetics; Triad Chemical Co.; Louisiana Family Planning, Inc., New Orleans, LA; Grant Chemical Co.

Activities and Honors: Valedictorian, Saline High School; President, Louisiana State University Baptist Student Union; Served in U.S. Army; Ordained Baptist Minister; Pastor's Advisor, Louisiana State University and Louisiana Baptist Student Union; Officer, Baptist Pastor's Conference, Baton Rouge, LA; Member, Downtown Kiwanis Club, Baton Rouge, LA; First Chairman, Baton Rouge Council on Human Relations; Chairman, Baton Rouge Association of Religion and Psychiatry; President, Baton Rouge Area Psychiatric Foundation, Inc.; Honorary Member, Louisiana State Future Homemakers of America; Member, Louisiana Family Relations Council; Board of Directors, East Baton Rouge Parish Family Counseling Agency (6 years); President, American Baptist Churches, USA, Region of the South (2 years); Board of Directors, Mental Health Association of Greater Baton Rouge (6 years); Member, American Academy of Psychotherapists; Member, American Personnel and Guidance Association; Member, Louisiana Association for Counseling and Development; Member, Louisiana Mental Health Counselors Association; Member American Mental Health Counselors Association; Licensed Professional Counselor, State of Louisiana (#439); Received Distinguished Service Award from Mental Health Association, Baton Rouge, LA; Received Committed Service Award from American Baptist Churches of the South; Nominated for Templeton Foundation Award.

********

 

EVANS CHARACTERISTICS

In certain predictable ways all the Evans' in our line are different. If we imagine an average person, and then take an average of the Evans', then the Evans' average varies significantly--or so it seems to me--from that of the general population. Does our blood make us so? What follows are my speculations on some of our specific differences which are perhaps genetically related.

Possibly these differences are purely coincidental, or related to how we were reared--nurture rather than nature. Or, as noted in my INTRODUCTION, I may only imagine them to be shared, projecting my sense of myself on to my family. But I think not. The traits which I will amplify do seem to be present often enough in our history to warrant the speculation that they are blood related.

To complicate the study, traits--human characteristics, must always be evaluated in context--that is, where and when they occur. What, for example, is daring in one place and time, may only be average in another. Indeed, even what is unique in one age may be common in another. What I have tried to do here is evaluate each noted trait in its particular context--place and time--and then summarize them beyond a particular family and time period.

From the wealth of observable human characteristics I note four which seem to consistently appear among us Evans', so often that I imagine them to be blood related. Even among the Evans' there are, of course, variations. Not all of us are like all of these traits. We too have our exceptions; yet they are common enough, I think, in our family to reasonably guess a genetic basis. Data for my speculations comes from studying (45 years of off-and-on genealogical research), the historical records, including those given above, knowing many of the individual family members, talking about the family with many others outside the family, and, of course, my own projections. First I will describe the four traits comprising our possible differences, and then note some of the historical data which seems to support my observations. The four are not truly separable in the final analysis, but may be viewed in distinguishable ways.

ADVENTUROUS

 

The Evans' are generally adventurous. More than most, we seem to be risk-takers, innovators, and explorers. We have been willing to try new things, look for new ways, seek new places, and risk new ideas. Perhaps we are more courageous; or is it simply more independent and less comfortable about fitting-in with others? Are we more "nervy," or simply less adaptable to current structures? In either case, we may be seen as pioneers or gamblers, as independent or as "loners." Are we more daring or simply more stubborn? Courageous or hard-headed? Whichever, we have been inclined to gamble, to chose our own ways, and not to simply accept things-as-they-are or what-we-are-told. We have generally been able to risk public rejection in favor of following our own sense of reality.

Our known genealogy begins with what must have been an extremely adventurous person, perhaps moving from Scotland to England, and then sailing to America. Depending on which John Evans was our ancestor--whether the preacher or school teacher, or the one convicted of felony-- each, within or without the law, must have been very nervy individuals.

Once in America, the adventurous spirit continued. After but one generation in South Carolina, John Calhoun Evans took his young family, sailed around the coast of Florida and came to a new land, Louisiana, which he had never seen before. The remainder of the Evans' have stayed in Louisiana, but continued to travel, on vacations, to distant parts of the United States, Canada, and back to England and Europe. Before automobiles were common and roads well established, my parents borrowed a car and went to Colorado on their honeymoon in the '20s, then to New York and Canada the following year.

This adventurous spirit is also evidenced in the many novel business and religious ventures which the various Evans' have explored. In communities where farming was the established way to make a living, the Evans' have gone into the mercantile business, buying and selling various products. They have gambled on the stock market as well as on timber, oil, and other risky ventures.

In religion it seems that we have all been like pioneers within our particular contexts. Each Evans has either moved from his family church or been instrumental in starting and establishing a new church. In South Carolina, John Evans was a founding member of a new church. John Martin and his son, John Calhoun, both went considerable distances to attend another church. How would 70 miles by horse or buggy compare to auto travel today? That is how far both John Martin and John Calhoun had to travel to attend other churches.

Once in Louisiana, Martin Bunyan also moved from his father's church. My father remained in his parent's church but was a guiding influence in its growth and development I went a step beyond lay activity in the church, to become an ordained minister, perhaps a turn of the circle to the profession of the first Evans (minister, teacher, or felon?) to come to America. Going yet further, I left the established denominational structures altogether and started a new type of church.

FAR SIGHTED

Closely related is another trait: far-sightedness. In many ways we Evans' have apparently been "ahead of our times." We seem to consistently have been able to take a long-range view of things, to "look down the road," to "see the forest" as well as "the trees." We are apparently able to rise above immediate reality in our "mind's eye," to "look-down-on-things," and "get the big picture," to see things-in-perspective. In fact, we may be better at global perspectives (forest looking) than at seeing and dealing with immediate issues (the trees). We seem able to see-better-worlds, to dream of how-things-might-be, rather than simply taking things-as-they-are. We are seldom satisfied with status-quo. Viewed positively this trait may be called idealism; negatively, we are often dreamers. Either we are reformers or schemers, depending on one's perspective.

Far-sightedness may also be viewed as in-sightful. From the perspective of space, this characteristic is literally about see-ability rather than the direction of the focus. This same capacity for seeing "a long way out there" may be turned within as well as without. Evans' seem to have greater-than-average abilities for "looking into things" as well as "seeing down the road," for being in-sight-full, for example, into themselves and "how people work," as well as being far-sighted in "looking down the road" of how things work in the physical world beyond people.

In terms of brain hemispheres, I suspect that the Evans' are more "right-brained"--intuitive, creative, or "psychic"--but at the same time, capable of holding large amounts of data in consciousness, which seems to be a "left-brain" capacity. We appear to be a combination of "right-brained" dreaming and "left-brain" planning, more so than average; that is, both to intuit the "big picture" and yet be analytical, verbal, and rational about pursuing our dreams in immediate circumstances. We can see new trends and participate or invest in them more rationally than those who are dreamers only. Consequently we tend to more "lucky" than "unlucky," more often "winners" than "losers," at least in the long run.

Persons who are more "right-brained" only often dream but fail in their schemes. It seems that we Evans' have been "dreamers" but with a larger percentage of success in our "schemes"--that is, following our own visions. We seem better able to hold-much-data in mind and extrapolate, draw conclusions which summarize data logically, or predict "what may happen." We can "make educated guesses" or prophesy with better-than-average chances of being correct.

As intuitive or in-sightful we have a greater than average degree of "prophetic ability" about what is likely to happen "out there" and also about the inner workings of "what makes people tick." Made personal, this latter part of the same trait reflects in an unusual degree of curiosity about ourselves, "understanding ourselves," trying to figure out what makes us like we are. We try to "make sense" not only of others, but also of who-we-are.

The trait of far-sightedness (or in-sightfulness), difficult to separate from adventurous, is probably reflected in the various nervy endeavors noted above. Because far-sightedness is a mental activity, entirely private from public inspection, we must most often deduct its presence as reflected in such "doings" as are visible. More than likely it precedes many of the activities which can be classified as adventurous. Even so, where letters--which reflect thinking, plus conversational information and other writings, have been available, the far-sightedness of the Evans' is evident.

Beginning with the letters of John Calhoun before he was married and continuing to my own writings, the capacity to observe the "big picture" (the proverbial "forest"), the possibilities beyond the present situation (the "trees"), and to speculate or predict, is abundantly evident. Not that we are always right; but that we have been consistent "philosophers," albeit homespun. My own published books, and certainly the many more articles and manuscripts unprinted, are almost exclusively far-sighted in their focus. Fellowship Church is certainly one example of this trait. While engaged in the practice of organized religion, both personally and professionally, I clearly dreamed of "how church might be" and set about to explore the substance of my dream. Thirty years later, I am still about it. I suspect that my own far-sightedness is in large measure just one more reflection of Evans' genes in practice.

GENDER EXPANSIVE
 

Evans men have not been typical "macho males," nor have Evans women been passive "Cinderella's." If we imagine gender to be on a scale or continuum varying from male on one end to female on the other, most persons seem to be closer to the ends of the scale--that is, more distinctively masculine or feminine, males "to be men" and females "to be women." We Evans', however, seem to be closer to the center of the scale, more gender-expansive than exclusively like traditional "men" or "women." We appear to have a larger degree of overall genderedness than has the average person.

Specifically, this means that Evans men seem to have more capacity for femininity than does the average male; Evans women seem to have "owned" more of their masculinity than have many others. Instead of "the men being men and the women being women," both are more like "persons" than "just men" or "just women." I call this trait gender-expansiveness.

Lived-out, the trait reflects in men who can be "softer" or "more emotional" and women able to be "stronger" or "more reasonable." The Evans males are "less macho"; the females, "less helpless." Evans men can "cry easier" and Evans women can "be tougher" than average. Predictably then, for balance or wholeness, Evans men have been attracted to "stronger women," while Evans women have been drawn to "more compliant" men--thereby achieving complementary bonds, better working relationships.

Evans males, with more femininity embraced, have tended to be "good men" in the sense of "nicer to women" than the average male. We have tended to be romantics, either writing poetry or being "sentimental" with females. Evans females, in contrast, with more of their maleness accepted, have often been less subservient than average. Drawn to "gentle men," they have tended to be more independent and less nurturing than typical females. Softer Evans men have been drawn to stable women, thereby doubling the likelihood of the trait in the next generation. Sturdy Evans women have, in contrast, been attracted to "more understanding" males so their own maleness (strength and reason-ability) can be more easily activated.

These traits have reflected in less traditional marriages for both Evans men and women. Evans men have tended to marry "stronger" women; Evans women, "compliant" men. Though positive at first, and often reflecting in long bonds, they have predictably been problematic also. The attracting traits, the psychological "chemistry" of these initial bonds, has sometimes proven too confining in time. The "weakness" of the men has sometimes been resented by the women; the "strength" of the women, likewise, seen as threatening to their husbands.

Unfortunately, the sentimentality found in Evans males, is more socially acceptable and affirmed than the strength evidenced in Evans females. Also the outward independence of the Evans' has often cloaked our inward and less accepted dependence. Adventurous Evans men, for instance, have sometimes been "softies" underneath; outwardly independent, we have often been inward "pussy cats," deferring, catering to, and secretly seeking the blessing of women. We have tended to project our own unembraced powers on to women, whom we have thereafter tried to please in order to get our own strength back.

Available information indicates that Evans men have tended to "marry up"--that is, to be attracted to strong women, those with expanded gender capacities already embraced. John Evans, either Scotch born or first generation American, no doubt of poor origins, married into the Kitchens family which was already sufficiently established in South Carolina to own a mill and have a community (Kitchin's Mill) named after them. His son, John Martin, second generation American, married into the Wheeler family, already socially established in America and apparently prominent and relatively wealthy. The Wheelers' owned their own plantation, had a family cemetery, and were established members of the Salem Baptist Church.

We may even speculate that the moves of both John and his son John Martin to new churches were influenced, the first by his prospective bride, the second by his new wife. The first John was a founding member of a new church in the community of his bride's family. Did Miss Kitchens influence his move? John Martin also moved to his bride's family's church and remained active there until he died. Did he move because she wanted to remain in her home church?

His son, John Calhoun, also rode a long way on horseback to attend the family church of his prospective bride. Even though he was not a member there, he worked to get the preacher's salary raised. Was he that dissatisfied with Salem or that impressed with the Dean Swamp preacher? Or was he trying to meet and impress his girl friend and her family? This same preacher did later marry them.

Their son, Martin Bunyan, first generation Louisianan, in a relatively poor family too new here to be socially established, fell in love with his high school teacher who was older than him, better educated, and from the socially prominent Cloud family. The Cloud family had been in Louisiana for 3 generations and already had a community (Cloud's Crossing) named after them. His son, my father, also fell in love with a well educated school teacher who, like his mother, was a strong woman. I, again within the context of a family tradition, have fallen in love with and married two emotionally strong women.

Romanticism certainly is evident as an Evans' male trait. From the first written data available (letters of John Calhoun), down to myself, we have either written poetry or very sentimental "love letters." We have evidently "wooed" or courted our females with diligence and persistence, trying hard to impress and please them. For instance, John Calhoun sent valentines and poems to Florence in the 1860's. He later married this girl who was both independent (She had traveled to Charleston and stayed 3 days in a hotel as a single women in the early 1860's) and very interested in clothing and dress (She made many purchases of cloth and dress materials before she was married. Receipts are still available). After John brought her to the new and undeveloped land of North Louisiana, the first purchase he made (whose receipt is still available) included an order of clothing materials from New Orleans, apparently for her. Only in the next order did he purchase flour, coffee, and a keg of whiskey!

Although the women they married had to be skillful, each of these Evans men have apparently, in comparison with the typical male, been "good to," that is, acquiescent and inclined-to-please the strong women they married. There is no evidence of male domination or female abuse in our family. The Evans men have also been "more emotional" than is usual. For instance, my grandfather didn't even go in the church for his older brother's funeral, long after he was grown, preferring to stay with the grave diggers where, according to my mother who was there, he could cry.

Certainly my father was a very emotional man. Early letters show that he could hardly remain in the house at night when my mother was visiting her family. Until I was grown he would often go to the back of the house when I or my sisters left, because he had such a hard time emotionally, seeing us go. "Emotional activities," including all family discipline, were left up to my mother, who, to my mind, was strongly effective! My father's attachment to his own mother remained until her death. He, and therefore our whole family, continued to go to his mother's home for Sunday dinner from the time of my birth until she died. Only after his death did I discover how difficult this attachment had been for my mother.

Nor have I strayed far from this family tradition. Is it in our blood? A review of my childhood shows my lengthy correspondence and dating of many girls who, I recognize in retrospect, were mostly strong and independent females. Surely I have courted and gone to great lengths to please, first my mother, then Imogene (my first "real" girlfriend), and each one I have cared for since then. I have written hundreds of "love poems" and tried very hard both to please and be pleasing to those I have loved. This is not to say I have always succeeded; only that I have consistently tried. As best I can tell, I, like my father, am much more "emotional" than the average male appears to be. My youngest step-daughter still laughs about not going to an emotional movie with me because I will cry and embarrass her!

I can now see that I have, ever since my mother was the goddess in my life, been most attracted to females whom I perceived as strong and powerful, and, with the gift of hindsight, recognize that I have tended to adore and strive diligently to please, perhaps with the secret hope that they would smile on me, returning the projected gift of much of myself.

Less information is available on Evans women with the exception of John Calhoun's younger sister, my father's sister, and my own daughters. Although social gender structures in which females have wisely taken subordinate roles (outwardly) make comparisons difficult, it seems to me that in their own ways each of these Evans women has been bolder, stronger, and more managerial than average. Certainly John Calhoun's sister Nancy, who lived well into her 90's was a strong and powerful woman. In their marriages it also seems that each has either continued in a relationship which allowed them to exercise their strengths and directive abilities, or has left the relationship. Most of their husbands have either been "good men" who treated them well and accepted their directing capacities, or who were divorced.

RELIGIOUS LIBERALS

The Evans' in our line have all been "church-going people," and Baptist at that. We have tended to be religious yet non-traditional--perhaps "to the left," or more liberal than most. While involved in church structures, we have seldom been conventional; we have either engaged in attempting to reform the traditional church, staying inside, or in rebelling against traditions by getting out--in either case revealing a dissatisfaction with the-way-things-are.

Literally, I suspect that we have been more spiritually oriented, reflecting a predominance of "right-brain" activation (noted above), but less religiously concerned in any traditional sense. Since there is little place in current society for this deeply spiritual kind of "right-brainedness," our options have been limited to "staying in" church, but trying to change (or endure) it, to move into "New Age" types of religious activity, or simply "get out" and maintain our own particular type of spirituality on a private basis.

The first John Evans known in our line may have been a preacher in Scotland or England. Perhaps it was his son John, born in America and known to us, who broke away from the Dean Swamp Baptist Church to help organize the Tabernacle Baptist Church in South Carolina. His son, John Martin, left the Tabernacle Church to join another church, Salem Baptist, some 60 or 70 miles from his father's church, where he served as a deacon for the remainder of his life.

His son, John Calhoun, who later came to Louisiana, left his family church to travel about 80 or 90 miles to attend the Willow Swamp Baptist Church. Though he never joined that church, he tried to raise money to support the preacher there. Records of these churches, still available, indicate that membership was no casual matter as it often is today. They were all "deadly serious" about their churches which demanded strict Christian living, regular involvement, and took disciplinary action when members did not comply. John Martin, for example, as recorded in the Salem Church minutes of 1843, stated that he could not be with us for several meetings and gave as his excuse that his present engagements would prevent. John Calhoun's sister-in-law, in 1857, was reported for dancing and not allowed to return to church until she made satisfactory acknowledgement and was forgiven.

Later, in Louisiana, John and Florence (Florence 3 years before him!) joined the Old Saline Baptist Church. Their son in turn, moved to the Magnolia Baptist Church in Saline with his wife, my grandmother. My father, Martin Bunyan's son, was also an active deacon in this church until his death. He was, however, always "progressive" or more liberal than most, and established and maintained contacts with less traditional groups, including Fellowship Church which I started.

Maintaining the family tradition, I now see in retrospect, I too left the traditional religious structures, always with, or so I consciously thought, "good reason." Then, perhaps more liberal than my ancestors, I proceeded to try to organize a completely new type of church, one beyond denominational boundaries, and have continued in the experiment for over 30 years now. My children have in many ways been more liberal than I, either leaving traditional religious structures and privately practicing their own kinds of spirituality, or participating in churches in ways which seem to be much more creative than I was ever able to do.

Other traits apparent among the Evans' in our branch of the family tree also in some measure set us apart. These four, however: adventurous, far-sighted, gender-expansive, and religious, seem to be the most distinctive I observe. Are they an outgrowth of our blood?

********

MEDICAL INFORMATION

Here is a brief summary of available information on physical facts about these Evans males. Chronological ages at time of death are, of course, understandable; "diseases" are more difficult to compare because of changing terminology, new discoveries, and medical terminology itself. Here I give the names for diseases as they were recorded by the families at the time, or by the doctors who noted them. I suspect, however, that current understandings often obscured or, while "honest" at the time, missed the actual nature of the dis-eases themselves. For example, John Owen was treated for "Malaria" by travel to Arkansas. Did he actually have this disease?

First, Chronological age at time of death:

Age at death:

John Evans: 17? - 18? ?

John Martin Evans: 1804 - 1864 60

John Calhoun Evans: 1833 - 1904 71

Martin Bunyan Evans: 1872 - 1951 80

John Owen Evans: 1905 - 1986 80

Joe Bruce Evans: 1930 -

Mark Madison Evans: 1963 -

Disease information includes:

John Evans: 17? - 18? : None available.

John Martin Evans: 1804 - 1864: None available.

John Calhoun Evans: 1833 - 1904: Wounded in Civil War at age 29 (gunshot in leg); at 42 reports "enjoyment of good health;" at 49, "troubled with asthma;" 50, "...have to get up every nite with asthma." Four doctor visits paid for at age 55. At 64, "my general health is good except asthma bothers me. I am working all the time but can't plow much..." At 66, got perscription from Dr. Powell for "asmattic affection." At 70 he wrote: "...got me some whisky...am taking your home remedy. I think it is halping me some; ...on the decline..attack of dysentery...caugh pretty bad...little faith in yankermans medicine..." He died the following year at age 70.

Martin Bunyan Evans: 1872 - 1951: Whooping Caugh at age 10; to Dr. Edgerton at age 16 (reason unknown); at college, age 17, "...bad headache..., I think I had a chill...I am taking plenty of quinine.... At 47: "cataract on one eye." Age 61: "...I can realize that I am failing fast. I try to over cum that feeling as much as I can..." At 64, had all teeth pulled. When he was 65 his wife wrote: "We live moderately, eat pleanty wholesome food, sleep 9-10 hrs each day, and get plenty exercise from work..." He wrote at 65: "My hair is graying a little." Also: "I just arnt any good. I have cinus troubel in my head." But Delilah also wrote about "Bunyan's improvement. He sleeps nights like a baby. I mean he can sleep from 7 to 7." At 66 he wrote: "I have had kidney trouble for 40 years...they found out I only have one kidney." He had bad kidney removed and wrote, "it had bin dead at least 10 years and was as large as a foot ball." He continued to return to Hot Springs for the baths, and died at age 80 shortly after such a trip. The doctor said he died of "heart block." Death Certificate notes: "coronary thrombosis."

John Owen Evans: 1905 - 1986: At age 12 had "Malaria;" was taken to Arkansas for treatment; had "chills and fever regularly." He later reported that "they all thought I was going to die." At 16 he was still having same trouble and again was taken by his mother to Arkansas for treatment for about 2 months. After he went back to Arkansas to college, at almost 17, he gained 13 pounds in 2 months. He apparently got sick again while home at Christmas but wrote back on January 12 from Arkansas: "...have gotten over my blue spell and have gained 4 lbs...." At age 20 he went spent a week at a "Health Resort" at Raymond, Mississippi, taking hot mineral baths. At age 30 he filled out a medical history for Dr. McCleary of Excelsior Springs, Missouri, reporting "hemorrhoids that have enlarged until they protrude...bleeding with chronic constipation;" also, "rectal disorders all of my life." He then had hemorrhoid surgery. At 49 he had a malignant cancer of the stomach and had "about half of my stomach removed." He recovered quickly. At age 50 he returned to Excelsior Springs "for treatments." Like his father, his hair remained almost completely black, with only signs of gray, until he died (also like his father) at age 80. He died after a short hospitalization. Death Certificate noted cause of death as "cardio respiratory failure due to Acute and chronic renal failure as a consequence of Renal cell carcinoma..." Other significant conditions: "Adenocarcinoma of the prostate."

Joe Bruce Evans: 1930 - : Vaccinated against diphtheria at 6 months; at age 15 months evaluation by Child Welfare Department scored 97.5 overall, counted off for: "genitalia; adherent prepuce" (-.5), "diameter of chest, lateral," 5 inches rather than standard 6 (-.5), and "diameter of chest, anteroposteria," 4 inches vs. 4 7/8 (-.5). Was given "enemas" or "syringes" for constipation at early ages. At age 4, had tonsils and adenoids removed and was circumcised. At about age 6 or 8, on an overnight fishing trip to Black Lake, had an "allergy attack," or severe breathing problem. Was rushed home, but soon okay. At age 9, I feinted while playing in White Sands in N.M. I was shortest boy in my high school class, and did not have to shave until I went to college at about age 17. At age 20, my left lung "collapsed" while walking across campus at LSU. I was taken to infirmary but it soon healed and I have had no similar lung trouble since. While there I also had a protruding hemorrhoid removed. At LSU I also had nose surgery to remove cartilage for improved breathing. I started wearing glasses in my 30's, I think, and had knee surgery, removing cartilage from under left knee cap, at about age 40. I had nose surgery again at about age 55. I had continued with hemorrhoid problems until about this time and then had a hemorrhoidectomy. I have been relatively healthy all my life, rarely even having headaches or stomach aches. Now, at 63, I consider myself to be far healthier and to experience fewer discomforts than most of those my age.

*********

JOE BRUCE EVANS TRAITS

 

How is Evans' blood reflected in me? How is the general line of Evans' genes revealed in me, Joe Bruce, a particular Evans? What is my version of the Evans' characteristics? What specific shapes have the genes comprising the Evans' blood taken in this sixth generation Evans called Bruce?

In this third section I speculate on these questions. Assuming that the four noted general Evans' characteristics have also appeared in me, I will here note some of the ways in which I may have personified them. My format is threefold: First I will amplify some of the mistakes I have made in regard to these traits. Then I note the major insights I have had which are a possible outgrowth of my blood. Finally, I translate these insights into advice to myself.

MY MISTAKES

First, my problems. I believe in retrospect that some of my major mistakes have been related to these Evans' differences. Primarily they seem to have arisen out of the differences themselves; not the specific traits, but the fact that we Evans' have in some ways been unique. Mostly, of course, we are like everybody else. Just as all human chromosomes are about 98% shared with chimpanzees, giving us Homo Sapiens only about a 2% difference, so we Evans' are in large measure just like all other humans. Our differences, noted in the four traits, are small in an overall sense; yet at the perhaps 2% level we do seem to have varied from average.

My first problems have appeared in relation to these overall differences, at least my particular version of "being different." Before amplifying how I imagine the specific traits to have effected my life, I reflect on how I have responded to the fact of my uniqueness (whether rooted in Evans' blood or in my particular 50/50 combination of Evans' and Coker' blood). In this area I suspect that I am not unlike many other persons.

Fitting in counts. First, because we humans are in fact connected, a-part-of the human race rather than a-lone-ones (to be amplified later). We can not truly be ourselves without, in some significant measure, fitting in. But more particularly because our general well-being depends, in a large degree, on how well we are accepted in the groups in which we find ourselves, on how we fit in. First, of course, our group is limited to family; in particular, mother and then father. When they don't accept us we are in bad trouble! Yet as our groups increase, the issue of fitting in remains relevant.

Differences are critical when it comes to fitting in. We tend to "like" and therefore accept those who are "like us," and to distrust and hence reject those who are different. Innately we all seem to know the paramount importance of fitting in. In order to fit in most easily, we want to be like others, which means, of course, to not-be-different. All of which is well and good with the 98% in which we are all alike. In these regards we can simply "be natural." But what about our real differences? The unique 2%; the way, for instance, that the Evans blood influences my human blood? Everyone, for example, sees, but what about the ways I see things differently? Everyone feels, but what am I to do when I feel different?

In other words, how shall I relate not only to my 98% commonality, but also to my unique differences? In answering this question, I now see that I have often made a crucial mistake. In order to fit in, a worthy and essential agenda in itself, I ran into trouble when I realized that I didn't--that is, when I bumped up against my differences. Properly recognizing the importance of fitting in, I have most often coped with my actual differences by: a) trying to ignore them and simply be like everybody else, or, that failing, b) to hide them, acting like those in the groups to which I deemed fitting in to be important, or, most dangerously of all, c) to squelch, deny, or kill off those parts of myself, my differences, which seemed to threaten my acceptance with significant others. I tried to not be real parts of me, in order to fit in.

In summary, I treated my differences, whenever they succeeded in entering my awareness, as a curse. To be different, I most often concluded, was bad. I dealt with the actual danger by judging the ways in which I did not seem to fit in as though they were a curse. The very word itself, different, as in, "Oh, I'm different; I'm not like them," became a "put down" to me, one which I regularly used on myself. The potential blessing of my uniqueness was lost in my all-too-familiar judgment of my differences.

A positive spin-off has been the rigorous self-analysis in which I have long engaged, mostly for the wrong reasons. Sensing my differences, whenever I dared confront them, as a curse, the work of the Devil or some foreign agent in "me," I have commonly chosen analysis, the attempt to "understand myself," to figure out who-I-am, as my way of coping with the problematic parts of myself. Most notably these have fallen in the categories of my differences, either real or assumed.

While privately trying "to understand" myself as a way of coping with the challenges of fitting in without a total loss of integrity--that is, without also negating my differences, I have publically remained in a fairly continual dilemma: on the one hand, "trying to impress" others, to "stand out" in order to be recognized, while on the other hand, trying desperately to "not be different" in order to fit in. I have tried to be recognized enough to be accepted as a useful individual but not different enough to be rejected. I have often been trapped between the horns of this dilemma of trying to be seen but not to be seen as different. What an immense and relatively impossible challenge!

Certainly I am not yet beyond this problem; but at least I do now see the error of the way I have most often chosen to resolve it. Though the dilemma noted above seems to be inherent in reality (doesn't everyone face it?), my way of coping is not. Differences are not necessarily a curse; they are, potentially, at the heart of our greatest blessings. These apparent demons are possibly angels in disguise. Though my differences have indeed been problematic, they are also, when I dare embrace them, the source of my greatest pleasures. The challenge, in contrast with the dilemma noted above, is to be wisely unique, where in fact I am, without every falling into the judgment of being different, as though it were a curse. Then, of course, to act appropriately with others without sacrifice of my unique self.

That is, to be both 98% like everybody else and 2% different, without attempting to negate either. Instead of splitting myself, trying to be "just like others," and not be my unique 2% also (or rebelling into an even more dangerous false state of truly being 100% different, with nothing in common), the legitimate challenge is both/and. More about this later, but when I am wiser, avoiding the major mistake I have most often made in regard to my differences, I give my energies to both/and--that is, to the fullest activation of both my common humanity and my own uniqueness, in the larger context of fitting in appropriately with others. I try to be both an Evans and a human being at the same time.

For now, I simply introduce what has perhaps been my most pervasive problem and the source of my grandest mistakes--trying, even with good reasons, not to be different.

The specific shapes of my problems with differences have, I see in retrospect, revolved around the four traits which I suspect to be blood related. Have my ancestors shared similar difficulties? Here I will note some of the specific problems I have had as I see them related to Evans traits previously deducted.

PROBLEMS WITH ADVENTURESOMENESS

Not recognizing, or accepting when I did, my own adventurous nature, has led to many problems both in relating to others and in charting my own courses. First let me affirm the trait in myself which I have previously noted in my ancestors. Whether by blood or quirk I am a naturally adventurous person. I am extremely curious about whatever I encounter. I have seldom been content to leave an unknown unexplored. If I recognize "it" I generally want to examine it, to "see what makes it tick." This is true with both physical and mental "sights." First I love "seeing things;" then I want to "get into them," both "out there" and "in here."

I have loved, perhaps since I first "ran away from home" at aged one year (as reported to me), and then at age three (in my memory), to leave a familiar place in search of the less familiar. Travel has always excited me. New vistas, new territories, what is "around the next bend," has always seemed to call to me, to tempt me to follow, to explore and "see what's out there." As has been true with physical spaces, places in time and space, so with mental "spaces," territories of the mind. Incongruencies in accepted thought, blank spaces in popular notions, dark and unexplored territories of the mind--these too have always fascinated me. If I see either what does not make sense to me in common beliefs, or unseen, named mental realms, I am consistently drawn to explore them. I like exploring places and trying to "make sense of things."

Not only am I tempted to explore, I also enjoy such ventures, whether physical or mental, immensely. I have fun being adventurous. Rarely do I recall fearing "the dark" of anything, either caves in the ground, rooms in the night, or mysteries of the mind. To me, "the unknown" is a source of delight and pleasure, not fear.

Unfortunately, I have seldom recognized the degree to which I apparently differ from an "average" person. I have not seen what others might think to be the "nerve" or courage required to enter the darkness. To me it has simply been fun. Misjudging or not even recognizing this difference in love of adventure, I have assumed that what is true for me is also true for everyone else. I have unwisely acted as though everyone else were just like me, that we all share this same trait equally. As best I can now tell, we do not. We Evans', or certainly this Evans, now seem to me to be unusually adventurous. Problems have continually been encountered when I have naively tried to include everyone else in my ventures, mistakenly assuming that everyone shares my "love of flying." When they have properly resisted joining me, respecting their own degrees of groundedness of "fear of the unknown," I have failed to understand.

When they have begun to go with or follow me, but soon slowed their pace, or dropped out, I have generally resisted seeing myself more clearly, choosing instead the easier psychological "outs" of "getting mad at them" for not "going with me," feeling "abandoned" (as though what they did to take care of themselves were "to me"), feeling "rejected," or worst of all, assumed some degree of self-righteousness about myself or my explorations--as though I am "good" for my explorations, more "courageous" or in some spiritual way "better" than those who do not enjoy exploring as I do, whatever their reasons may be.

At the points of recognition of our differences here, I have repeatedly erred in these specific ways: trying to "make them" go with me, to coerce (through seduction or shame) others to accompany or follow me on adventures which were essentially my own. When they would not or resisted, I have often shamed them (usually without my awareness, I excuse), unwittingly "putting down" on those not like me in this regard. Even when I outwardly accepted what I judged to be "cowardness," letting others go "gracefully," I have often judged them in private, self-righteously assuming myself "better" then they. God forgive me.

FAR-SIGHTEDNESS

If I have been blind to my unusual love for adventure "out there," I have been doubly so to my love for mental adventures "in here"--the far-sightedness which I suspect always lies at the heart of all freely chosen explorations. Not recognizing my own capacity for "seeing objectively," I have erroneously assumed that everyone can, "if only they would," see what I see.

I now believe, though it more often seems a curse than a blessing, that I do have a gift for far-sightedness--that is, for "rising above things" in my mind's eye, and "seeing the forest" as well as "the trees." Recognizing the reality of subjectiveness (to be amplified later) and the literal impossibility of "objectivity," I think that I have an unusual degree of mental ability to "get the big picture," or to look more deeply into the ambiguities of human subjectivity. It seems that I can hold more diverse and contradictory data in mind without jumping to an immediate conclusion than can many others. Even though I do not yet enjoy confusion or chaos, I do appear to be more tolerant of it than are some others, especially males. This allows me to wander into confusion (dark places of the mind) with less personal threat. By holding bits of information which are immediately in conflict with other accepted "knowledge," and yet keep "looking" (seeking hidden connections), I seem to have an unusual capacity for "making sense" of seemingly contradictory "facts."

I need not "jump to conclusions" or else evade the mental territory, so readily as most others seem required to do. Being able to "hold" more data with less personal threat, I have had less need to judge that which is new or different. From a social perspective I have always been "less prejudiced" than the average person. As with people, so with subjects and ideas; unexplored mental vistas have attracted me as much as have foreign places. New or "different" ideas, ways-of-seeing-things, have evoked my curiosity much more than my judgments, as is ordinarily the case.

But I note these traits more tolerably in hindsight. During most of my life this characteristic has been extremely problematic. I have made massive mistakes while not recognizing this Evans' trait within myself. Blind to my own capacity, assuming that everyone else "saw" just as I did, and wanting very much to be accepted by all, I have systematically submitted what I see for the acceptance and approval of others--often, of course, with misunderstanding, disapproval, and outright rejection, as the result.

Wanting so much to be accepted by others, I have consistently (even till now) submitted my insights to the affirmation of others, especially "significant others," before I dared acknowledge them to myself. Since their approval has often mattered more to me than has my own seeing, I have, with regularity, unwittingly sacrificed my own vision on the alter of public acceptance.

Not trusting my own sight in the face of any possible rejection I have continually asked in one way or another: To do you see what I see? And the question has been far more than a simple request for information. Hidden within the asking has been my secret search for the affirmation of others for my own insights. Lacking the faith for self-affirmation, I have consistently sought others to affirm my own for me.

The most common form of this quest has been my extended "hang up" on being understood. "To do you understand?," a question so prevalent in my encounters, has been my veiled (I have hoped) search for shared-seeing--that is, for the affirmation by others of what I myself see.

I have written hundreds of poems, numerous articles and one book, preached many sermons, and engaged in countless "discussions" on the subject of understanding. My journals are full of references to my continuous struggle with being understood--more literally, not being understood.

I suspect that at least a part of my motivation for preaching has been the public projection of this same private struggle. In preaching I project my vision--how-I-see-things--before others, always with the hope that they will understand me. Surely I have assumed that what I see, and found to be "good" for me, will also be helpful to them. In hindsight, however, I cannot distinguish between my conscious desire to "be helpful" and my deeper desire to "be understood." How much of my assumption of "good for them" has been the projection of what I hoped would be "good for me," namely, their coming to "see what I see," to "understand me," and hence, at the bottom line, affirm my own vision for me.

I have often been accused of being mentally dictatorial, of demanding agreement with my own opinions. I can easily see how I may appear to require agreement; for me, however, this has always missed the point. What I have worked so hard to achieve is understanding, not agreement. My question has always been, "To do you see what I see?," a veiled request for affirmation of my "seeing," not a demand for sharing my perspective. I do not ever recall being bothered by an honest difference of opinion, even a contrary way-of-seeing the same subject. But what has always threatened me is a "not-seeing" (acknowledgment) of what-I-see, along with a disagreement. Both in private (in conversation) and in public (in my preaching) I have labored long and diligently at finding new and different ways to "explain what I mean," that is, to gain understanding.

Unwittingly, I recognize in hindsight, I have mistakenly tried to "make them see" what I see--that is, to force understanding when it does not readily appear. My sincere efforts to "help them understand" have cloaked--to me--the mental power I have wielded, the rational manipulations I have exercised, in my private quest to gain their understanding--that is, their affirmation of my seeing for me.

Thus blinded, I have failed to recognize their proper resistance to my mental force. My own far-sightedness has allowed me to hold much data in mind for use in such attempts to force understanding. I have an unfair advantage in such mental encounters, given my ability to marshal much diverse data in support of whatever point I am attempting to make. Unwittingly, I all to easily engage in attempted mental rape, cloaked, at least to me, with the "good intentions" of "trying to help them understand" or the benign motivation of "just trying to explain myself." Even so, rape is rape, whatever the motives of a rapist may be. And, in so far as spirit is concerned, mental rape may be even more consequential and devastating than physical rape.

Blinded, however, to these matters, I have most often limped away from such self-protective moves by others, feeling immensely misunderstood myself. And all-to-often I have only temporarily retreated, determined to redouble my efforts to find an even better way to make them "understand what I mean," followed by a return to the scene of the previous crime with a second "attack" even more vicious (armed with better "reasons") than the first.

Then, most dangerously to myself, whenever they have had the good sense to protect their own mental integrity by refusing to "discuss it further" or to "hear me" in a second round, or, especially when they have chosen to sever our relationship, I have often succumbed to self-righteousness rather than facing my own responsibility in the attempted mental rape cloaked in "good intentions." I have used the very trait I did not yet see, namely, far-sightedness, to "look down on them" and "feel sorry for myself," thus creating more self-isolation which further fed my psychological feeling of being misunderstood.

I shall return to this subject of seeing in the next section on what-I-have-seen; for now, I simply note that in these and many other ways, my own capacity for far-sightedness has been the source of countless mistakes with others and much suffering for myself. The potential blessing of this measure of uniqueness has most often proven to be a curse, up until now.

GENDER-EXPANSIVE

If I have found my adventurous nature and far-sightedness to be difficult (and I have!), I have discovered my gender-expansiveness to be even more so. "Problems (and delights) with women (females)" have occupied a major place in my entire life. Huge quantities of my psychic as well as physical energy have been expended in my relationships with them. Although I have devoted more of myself to female relationships than to any other endeavor apart from my profession (to be noted next), I have perhaps been blinder here than in dealing with the first two Evans traits. Here, more than elsewhere I have "flown by the seat of my pants," acted "without knowing what I was doing," tossed caution to the wind and been inclined to, as Kipling described, "risk it all on a single turn of pitch and toss."

Some of the facts have been previously recorded under Historical Data; what I have learned so far will be expanded next. Here I note my major mistakes as I now recognize them, the problems which have predictably occurred in the absence of awareness, or attempt to ignore my own gender-expansiveness.

First and foremost I have unwittingly (I never knew at the times when I did) looked to women for far more than any woman has, in reality, to give. I think that I learned "too well" in infancy, when mother truly was the god of my life, holding the powers to all that my genes, both Evans and human and animal, required and desired. Although I properly recognized the existentially crucial place, the critically important powers she held at the time, and the elemental wisdom of my learning to commandeer them to my own necessities and wants, I have been extremely slow to unlearn this truth when it ceased to be so. Instead I have erroneously, and often with great cost, kept the memory alive and simply projected the same early "knowledge" onto many other female representatives past mother, but not unlike her in my projected fantasies.

Even though they did not "have what I needed," namely the missing elements of myself both found and sacrificed at the altar of motherhood, still I have persisted in relating to them as though they did. "Knowing better" has done little to short-circuit my diligent efforts to obtain from them what I truly need, but what no woman or other human can ever give to me--the gift, that is, of my larger self. In other words, one of my many problems is that I have used women to "keep from growing up." All this of course (I excuse myself somewhat), without realizing what I was doing at the time (or am doing when I yet do).

Nevertheless, a projection is a projection, recognized or not. And so is a split in oneself. Knowing what I knew as an infant, but failing to keep learning from my actual experience, I have continued in my adoration of femininity "out there." Along with the benefits of "worshipping women" as though they are goddesses as was my mother to me, there are profound negative consequences. Those I now see include: the continued projection of my own emerging femininity onto other females, only seeing my unrecognized feminine self mirrored in them. Properly honoring them as bearers of my own unfaced image, I have unwittingly "put down" of my actually embraced nurturing capacities, being unwilling to see this part of myself.

Worst still, and more personally devastating, I have tried to negate, or at least hide, major components of my own masculinity which have seemed unacceptable to the females I was (and am) yet caught in adoring. In the understandable effort to please them, I have denied the real elements in myself which seem to be displeasing to them. I have played "Pleased or displeased? What will it take to please you?" far beyond the childhood times when it was yet appropriate. I have lived-out Step on a crack, break your mother's back (that is, avoiding the lines drawn by women) long after I found her to be far more durable than I first thought, and certainly after I discovered the limitations of my own Savior abilities.

I can see now that I temporarily resolved the early conflicts inherent in provoking mother's frown by splitting myself in quest of the favors she was able to bestow when I instead, by "being a good boy," evoked her smile. At first, probably, I was only acting "good;" in time, however, I fell for my own act, coming to believe that it was I, and that all those parts of myself which were displeasing to her were not me. I achieved an illusion of salvation through partial self-negation, substituting "behaving" for being myself (which, so far as I know, is all any of us have to be)

These errors I think I share with most sons. My particular versions of them, however, were amplified by my own gender-expansiveness, unrecognized at the times. Specifically, being more feminine than many boys, I found myself in a social structure which strongly rejected any "softness" in a male. To be "sissy" was very "bad." At the same time, it called for strong measures of masculinity; the as yet unnamed "macho male" was the true ideal when I was learning about "who to be." "Real men" didn't even wash dishes, let alone "eat quiche." But finding myself nearer the center of the gender continuum, I was neither as testosterone-dictated nor as estrogen-absented as the more typical boy in my circles. I cared less about fighting and more about intimacy than the average boy.

But how could I remain true to my self-as-experienced--that is, gender-expansive--and still fit in with my peer groups? Easy answer at the time (costly in time): split. Suppress gender-expansiveness; then project my feminine component while repressing the deeper masculine elements of myself. In other words, "try to be like everybody else (at least, as they appeared to be." "Be good," that is, fit in by acting "good," and because any femininity (being "sissy") was strongly condemned socially, my own greater than average degree of femininity was doubly threatening. To fit in, I understandably learned to deny what was inside and predictably projected "it" out there. This situation was compounded by my own a-typical family, where the female was more masculine and the male more feminine--that is, where my mother was more "directing" and my father more "compliant" than in typical families.

My role models for masculinity and femininity were good for teaching me how to fit in to a family like our own, but limiting for outside adaptation. Both my parents strongly affirmed "being good," which primarily meant affirming female traits (nice, gentle, kind, mannerly, nurturing, etc.), but not my masculine attributes, especially the more primal ones (competing, winning, "making the kill," and, most denied of all, being sexy). Result: I was highly supported in the activation of my femininity, trained in putting it into practice (which I have done both personally and professionally), but always in conflict with acknowledging to myself what I was in fact doing. In other words, I had good affirmation for being feminine, but little for "letting on" (to myself) what I was doing ("Sissy" was "bad").

At the same time my primal masculinity, even though less distinct and forceful than average, suffered the most. Not only was its appearance unacceptable in my family, any modeling was also absent. There were no "macho males" in my family. Almost everything about primal masculinity fell outside the realms of "good"--as revealed to me, both by training and example. And perhaps more than all else, I learned the importance of "being good," of "behaving myself." Joe Bruce, I am told by those who knew me back then, "was always a good boy."

What a compliment. And price.

In summary, my mistakes in the arena of gender-expansiveness have centered around the conscious denial of my own bi-sexuality, especially my feminine elements. This has resulted in an unrealistic degree of feminine projection--that is, denial of my female capacity and hence power, while exaggerating or over-empowering the femininity in others. The pragmatic effect has been belittling of this part of myself and then trying to re-connect of find it "out there," in women. I have persisted in the quest for getting my own heart from others. I am still getting over the primal belief that mother was god, reflected in the erroneous assumption that she, and those like her, could save me, if only they would.

Concurrently, I have made two major errors in regard to the masculine side of my gender-expansiveness: Wanting to fit in to the social groups where I found myself, I have tried to act more "macho" than I in fact am; for instance, to act tougher, to hide emotions, and to exaggerate my actual degree of interests, for example, in sports and fighting. I have expended a great amount of energy in pretending, most dangerously, to myself.

But even more self-destructively, I have, in my quest for "being good," consistently repressed (or tried to) the most primal and essential elements of my own real masculinity. I have made the extreme mistake of trying to be a "good person" without first being a good male. I have tried to ignore or negate the Y chromosome which exists in every single cell in my body--that is, all those real physical and mental attributes initiated by aeons of genetic history. How dumb can one get? That's how dumb I have been! I have tried to be a "gentleman" without being a man who has embraced his capacity for gentleness also, in effect a man without balls. The result, whenever I have made this mistake, is more like a nice wimp than a real gentle-man.

RELIGIOUS LIBERAL
 

Mistakes I have made in the arena of this fourth Evans trait are, on the surface, less socially problematic (most everyone tolerates some degree of religious liberalism), but on a deeper level, my errors here have been most difficult of all, even more so than those related to gender. Because religion, theoretically, goes to the heart of reality, even to Being Itself--which it dares to name God--the subject is more primal than even gender and sex. Religion is about existence, that which both precedes and supersedes reproduction and other activities of life.

This I see now; but not back then. Hence my mistakes here. I group them in three categories: naive errors, learning errors, and professional errors. First, my naive mistakes: simply stated, I believed what they said. Specifically, that God is here, God is love, we can know God, we can be saved in the here and now. Very early in life I felt called into these truths I had heard told and sung since I was one month old. I "gave my heart to Jesus" and joined the church at age 9. Continually thereafter I was deadly serious about my religion as I understood it, more so than about other matters which were also important--such as, pleasing my parents, keeping my friends, and getting an education. My religion came first. When worldly desires interfered, I put them aside in my dedication to what I believed. I truly believed what the religious authorities told me. In my quest for God, I took them literally. What they said do and don't do, I did and didn't.

My mistake lay not in my dedication and believing, or even in the primary truths I learned, but in my naiveté in accepting their interpretations of these truths. The resulting errors were many; primary among them was the belief that body and soul are separable entities, with soul being good and body, especially "it's" desires, being evil. I almost completely lost myself in my sincere attempts to put this belief, with its many spin-offs, into practice. Erroneously I tried to substitute behaving for being.

Being good, as I understood at the time, meant striving to be godly--like God or His son Jesus, as much as possible. The guiding question in each situation should be, "What would Jesus do?" Second guessing Jesus was understandably difficult, so the church generally supplied the data about "what he wanted us to do." In summary, I have only come to see in retrospect, this boiled down to "not human." To be godly was to be other-than-human, not human at its best, but, in the final analysis, inhuman. Humanity was "fleshly," and flesh was a synonym for evil. The implied message, at least as I understood it, was: to be good or God-like is to "deny the flesh,"--which is to say, "don't be human." Be something other than embodied human.

To accomplish such an ideal I learned early to judge "flesh"--and all the "fleshly desires" as evil; instead, I tried to "be like Jesus and love everybody." In hindsight, I see now that this goal could only be approached through splitting myself, trying not to be what I, as human, was, and striving to be what I was not. Unwittingly I made a virtue of judgment, especially of myself, and a sin out of caring, again, especially of my embodied self.

In plain language, trying to be "a good boy" meant, as I grasped the goal, to "not be myself," to act nice and never be nasty. Consequently, far-sighted one, idealist that I was, I set out on a course of "playing god" (not playfully, but in deadly seriousness), and striving diligently to "deny myself,"--all in the name of virtue. Much later now, I see this ideal as an extremely dangerous vice--an ideal of martyrdom cloaked in language of eternal life.

My second group of mistakes began as I came to recognize hypocrisy in the church, in "Christians," and even in the "authorities" (the preachers), but not yet in myself. To my credit I maintained a degree of personal integrity; but unwittingly, in the pursuit of its maintenance, I fell mightily into the opposite error of self-righteousness. Seeing them as wrong, I would be right. What a snobby little false God I blindly became!

I think the Evans trait of far-sightedness kicked in about this time, adding to my religious problems. Seeing, I thought, the "errors of organized religion," I envisioned how "it ought to be." Had I been willing to simply accept my imagination as such, as most persons seem to do, I might not have erred so much at this point. But no. I not only came and saw, I assumed I had to conquer! I suppose the other Evans trait, adventurous, was activated along with my far-sighted vision of the "right way." Whether I merely blame my blood or not, I know not. In either case, the stage was set for a new prince on the liberal religious stage.

Here the third category of my religious errors, my professional mistakes, commences. At this point I, as knight, began to mount my professional white horse. I felt called to set out and correct the "errors" of the established church, to right the wrongs I had seen. Talk about omnipotent. Talk about omniscient. Even acting immortal! A knight on a white horse is a self-righteous thing to behold! Except, while riding, seeing oneself is exceedingly difficult. Such blindness was at the heart of my errors as I, perhaps the sixth generation turn of the Evans religious wheel, became a religious professional. The first John Evans who came to America, perhaps a preacher, had been followed by 5 generations of laymen and deacons; now I picked up the professional mantle again. I got ordained.

Now--35 years, 3 churches, hundreds of baptisms, marriages, and burials, not to mention 1000's of sermons, later--I can see the grandiosity of my own self-righteousness, the error of assuming one's own godhood as a means of coping with that of others. Not that what I have done on this extended quest for the holy grail--experimenting in church, rewriting theology, etc.--was wrong; indeed, I think not. But that I often was, whenever I took myself so seriously, missing the cosmic joke, not to mention the omnipresence of God in this Eden, here and now.

My major mistake during these years, which was also the source of my best insights (to be noted next) lay in my idealism gone awry--not in the vision itself, but in my blindness during its pursuit. In broadest terms, I often ignored (more literally, failed to see) the paradoxical fact that under cover of the quest for the wonders of knowing God first hand, the primary function of organized religion is to assist us in evading the perilous challenges inherent in meeting the ultimate--that is, in being present honestly in the here and now. Historically the church's role has been to maintain structured insulation between mankind and the awesome nature of reality, an aid in evading what is real, not, as I idealistically supposed, a guide in becoming real. Religions, in practice, exist to help us "get out of this world," as best we can, rather than to "get in this world," to experience the holiness of all this ground.

As in the naiveté of my childhood, I persisted in trying to remake the church into what it inherently was not. I wanted religion to help us "get with it," not "get out of it." In my defense, I think I always respected anyone's attempt to evade reality, even to use religion in that impossible effort. I believe that I have always had at least a vague awareness of the awesome dangers inherent in "showing up" honestly. But, while on my white horse, I was seldom willing to identify myself with this accepted function of religion.

If other minister's wanted to be keepers of the illusion, well, so be it; but not I. I chose not to participate in even the present of what Freud imagined to be the future of an illusion. Self-righteously and inhumanly I placed myself above the appropriate use of religion as a comfort, a "balm in Gilead." Gallantly, I think, I tried to re-form the church; erroneously, however, I failed to recognize my own potential place in caring for myself and others, present tense. Caught up in trying to be a healer, even a savior, I failed in becoming a lover.

*********

 

PIECES OF MY MIND

WHAT I'VE LEARNED

From the wonder of my common humanity flavored with the noted differences, in the context of the wealth of my mistakes, what have I learned? I turn now to summarize that I have come to see so far. Following are some of the insights, or more literally, percepts, which have emerged from my experiences till this time. These are the things I have struggled the hardest to recognize, my perceptions which have been the most difficult to transform into conceptions.

The difficulty of these "hard (for me) insights" is not in their hiddenness, though they have often been cloaked in places I have been. They are not that "hard to see," I now think; but in my social arenas, they have proven difficult to grasp because they are not commonly shared or share-able with others. They are concepts I have had to grasp mostly alone, things I have "had to see by myself," rather than in consort with others. Generally, I have felt that I was risking rejection when trying to acknowledge what I was coming to see. And, as noted, I have wanted, deeply, to be accepted and affirmed by others. I have always feared my unique perspectives. At least at first.

For brevity and, I hope, clarity, I will present these opinions of mine as though they were the truth, the way-it-is. Literally, of course, they are but my own ideas, conceptions I hold just now, the way-I-see-things so far, not assumed to be the-way-it-is. They represent my insights up until this moment; maybe, hopefully, I will see more tomorrow--or even today! The preface, "In my opinion," attached to each of the following sentences would be burdensome; yet the writer knows it is there, unstated; I trust the reader will also recall its invisible presence.

Certainly these ideas are not assumed to be shared by any other Evans.' I include them as my own personal perspectives, out of Evans blood, of course, but probably not the same as those of any other members in my family. I am, I know, both Evans and Joe Bruce. I am trying to be honest with myself, not to say or imply what any other persons do or "ought to" think.

These presented seem to me to be the most important things I've learned so far, those in sharpest contrast to the public information which I acquired. This is, in effect, a declaration of myself as presently known to me. This is the best of what I now see. Well, I declare...

IT IS I

Perhaps the most difficult of all the things I have learned so far is the universality of projection. A friend tells me that once I said, "All is projection." I do not recall knowing this back then, but maybe it was a "poetic slip of the tongue," voicing my insight before I was able to see it myself. In hindsight I see that I have often done this. By projection I mean much more than the familiar psychological defense mechanism; I refer to the fact that all we humans are capable of experiencing-in-awareness is that portion of reality which falls within the limited range of our human perceptions.

Taking sight, one of our roughly 5 or 6 senses, as analogous of them all, this means that we can only see that which falls within the relatively small range of light rays which our eyes have evolved capable of perceiving. Bees, for comparison, see ultraviolet light--which we human do not. Dogs, as we all know, smell (another sense we share) more than we do. The point is, we can only "grasp" (perceive) those stimuli which "hit" or fall within the range of our senses.

All the its, the "things we see" are but language representations of that which appears within our range of vision. "It" seems to be "out there" (and maybe it is), but I, as human, am limited to knowing (making concepts from perceptions) that which my senses "pick up." What I perceive as "it" is literally but a report on my particular perception.

Objectivity, literally speaking, is not a human option; subjectivity is our only possibility. We naturally "think" that what we see is "out there"--an object, and that we are objective in what we see. But "looks are deceiving," as we all know; and even seeing itself, like beauty, is literally in the eye of the beholder. We may wisely, at times, "try to be objective"--that is, not be totally dictated by our most "subjective" desires. But in the final analysis of perception, even our "objectivity" is still limited to subjective experience.

This does not mean that there are no objective "things-out-there." Perhaps so; still, we humans are limited to what we subjectively perceive to be "out there." Maybe "it" is; maybe it isn't. And probably there is much more "out there" than we ever perceive. The point is, however, that all our "its" are finally but projections--perceptions transformed into conceptions through the human gift of consciousness--that is, our subjective experiences named as though they were objective "facts," niscience (human knowing) stated like it is omniscience (godly truth).

Stated as succinctly as I have yet been able to state: It is I. All my "its"--both physical and mental--are but the cloaks of my projected self, essential for stating, and possibly even for conscious thinking, but in the final analysis "just my personal opinions," my own perceptions named and shaped as though they were "objective reality."

All the "its" I perceive, I now think, are but the reflections of "I"--which is also but a figment of my own fertile imagination.


THIS IS IT

Perhaps there is "another world" and an "afterlife" as I have often heard; for a long time I believed it so, then continued to hope for same long after I quit believing in the here after. Now I think "this is it"--that is, this world as revealed to my senses and this embodied life I know first hand "is it," at least all I count on. If there is another world somewhere "beyond the sunset," and another reincarnation or life "beyond the grave," that will, to me be a bonus. I no longer stake my life on such a gamble or spend much time wondering about is.

So far as I can tell, or find any credible-to-me information to support the idea, there is no "other place," no place to go beyond the places this embodied self I call "me" can go. The heaven I know about is earthly--physical, tangible, here--not "spiritual," intangible, and elsewhere. If there is another heaven "in the sky" or beyond the grave, that will be a wonderful serendipity, icing on the cake of the one potentially here whenever I dare to enter it. The Eden, Garden of Pleasure, the Heavenly Place to which I love to go, is in Baton Rouge (just now); the Holy Ground on which I love to walk, is made out of dirt. My "streets of gold" are mostly paved with concrete or asphalt.

Conversely, the hell which I know even more about is not under the earth or reserved to some nether world to which "I" or my "soul" may go later. It too is here. In other words, if I get punished after death, that will be but added; I believe I have already suffered (and often still do) immensely for my personal sins. This (both heaven and hell and all states in between) is it, so far as I know or care much about finding out about.

Moving from space to time, the only chronology I anticipate can be measured between my conception in 1929 and my death whenever. Just as this is the place, so, for me, this is the time. Eternal life, as I know it, is about the quality of this present clock-able time, not about chronology-extended-infinitely. If I "come back," I will be surprised. When I die, I suspect that "that will be it" for me. Should anyone want to see me, I trust they will do so now, rather than looking for me in some possible "sweet bye and bye." At least those I want to see, I look for, when I dare, now.

This is it, therefore means to me, in the words of the Apostle Paul, "Behold now is the accepted time; behold today is the day for salvation." The resurrection I seek is into each here and now, not some possible there and later. If there is more time and another place, so be it; for me, though, now and here is usually more than I can swallow.

When I am lucky, or literally, graced, this time and place is it, that is, more than enough for me.


SALVATION IS BEING PRESENT

Salvation is found in being fully present in each here and now. Heaven, a religious synonym for happiness, like hell, a name for its extreme absence, is potentially here and now--in each place and moment. Properly I have, when lost, sought salvation; mistakenly, however, I have looked for "it" out there or merely hoped for happiness later.

I now see that I can be saved (happy) whenever I have the nerve (called faith in religion) to "show up" as myself. Moving from space and time to self, this is to say that the happiness I have long sought beyond myself (out there in time and space), or through the negation of myself ("trying not to be selfish"), is, I discover, available whenever I dare to be myself, where ever I am and for as long as I have the faith to remain present.

Being present is the same as being myself. Trying to be "unselfish," to love others but not myself, was, I now see, a considerable error. Behaving is an essential part of fitting in (to be noted later), but being and behaving are not the same. Often they are immense contradictions. Both count; but goodly being, in contrast to my earlier efforts, is far more relevant insofar as happiness is concerned, than being good. Trying to behave myself, to act like a "good boy" (as "they" understood "good" to be) was smart when most of my resources were dependent on their good graces. But not wise as related to my own well-being. My major error, noted earlier, was in devoting most all of my attention to being a "good son" and very little to being a good male human being, certainly to being present as one.

Being myself, in its broadest perspectives, means first of all, being embodied rather than disembodied, a real physical being rather than a "ghost in this machine." My being is material, not ethereal. I, as I understand myself, am inherent in this physicalness which is visible to you, whenever you look at "me." I am not some disembodied soul, self, or even I (as "personality" or spook of any other variety) which either temporarily or permanently resides in this body you may see. It like all else, to me is I. I neither have or own or merely live in it. I am it.

Embodied, I am, as I perceive myself, a product (not the apex) of aeons of evolution. I am engened; in fact, to be embodied means, literally, to be engened--that is, a highly evolved physical creature, primarily created and directed by "my" genes, a potentially conscious animal; perhaps more intelligent than other animals, but still an animal, sharing 98% of my chromosomes with the other "great" apes. I am more in potentiality than the so-called "lower" life forms, but not more "worthy" in any essential sense. I am perhaps more blessed, but not inherently better than any other "thing" or animal or person.

Embodied or engened, I am a human animal, a member of Homo Sapiens species, the latest culmination of genetic reproducibility capable of conscious thinking (as far as I know), but still human and not godly. My calling, in becoming myself, is not as I previously supposed, to be godly (like Jesus), but instead to become increasingly more human, abandoning the false godliness I assumed (all with the best of intentions). Specifically, this means to strive to be niscient (knowledgeable) but not omniscient, potent but not omnipotent, and mortal rather than immortal. This big three--omniscience, omnipotence, and immortality--remain, as best I can tell, the business of the gods, not of us humans.

As niscient or know-able, I can know (perceive and hence conceive) some things, but not all things; nor can I "know everything" about anything--that is, all my knowledge, as noted first above, is limited. I, as human, never "have the luxury" (we assume it would be so!) of certainty about anything. To be niscient is never to be omniscient. As an embodied human being, I am also gifted with degrees of power. I, engened self, can both know and do many things. But just as I can't "know everything," neither can I "do everything"--certainly not all that I am capable of thinking about doing (As a nasty wag said, "You can think about more than you can get.").

To be human is to be potent, bounded on each side by impotence and omnipotence, but never defined as either. Even when all else fails, I can still do death, and when all works, I can never create hope, not to mention love and other worthy realities. As myself I am always potent, but never im or omni-potent. Both of these human illusions are escapes from the reality of ourselves.

Niscient and potent, I am, as stated first, mortal--that is, inevitably and interminably embodied. Immortality remains, as far as I know with my niscience, the exclusive possession of the gods. The immortal realms, if they be at all, are not my beat. Mortality, with all its pains and pleasures, sorrows and joys, beginning and end, are the boundaries of myself--as best I can tell.

As a humanized animal, embodied can also be summarized as selfish--specifically, survivalistic, sexual, emotional, and capable of thinking reasonably. Body includes heart and head, both as facts and metaphors. I am engened to stay alive, to reproduce, to feel, and to think--each as an aspect of my embodied self.

As such an engened creature, I am also enfamilied. In long human evolution, I share most of what I am in common with other life forms and all other humans; but I am also in a particular branch of the "family of mankind"--the Evans family. Our genes, though mostly the same as those of all other humans as well the youngest apes, are also unique in certain ways (as best I can tell, those ways noted above). I am composed of both human genes in general and Evans' genes in particular. I am some of the genes of all the Evans', including those of the Kitchings, Wheelers, Ficklings, and Clouds, with whom the Evans men mated, plus all those others unknown to me.

So I, as myself, am animal, human, and Evans, plus more. When Coker genes were united with Evans genes at the instant of my conception a unique-in-all-the-world-and-for-all-time combination of chromosomes was formed. As half Evans and half Coker, I, though alike yet different from all others before me deserved a unique name--which I got: Joe Bruce. Accordingly, I am embodied (as all animals), enfamilied (as an Evans), and, I might say, em-Joe-Bruced (as a particular Evans-animal.

With all other humanoid creatures I share body--heart and mind; but I also have my own particular degree of selfishness (will to live), quality of sexuality (urge to reproduce), type of emotions, and ability to think. In the first regards I am like all other humans; in these latter ones I am distinctly unique.

Furthermore, the nature of Joe Bruce, this particular Evans, is shaped by my unique-in-all-the-world personal experiences since conception. My childhood position as first son, the events to which I alone was privy, plus my personal perceptions of these events, the ways my parents and surroundings were to me--not only were in fact or to them, but also to me--all these plus much more became the milieu of my shaping and development out of my newly combined chromosomes.

From this combination of perhaps 98% commonality (shared with apes and all other humans), and 2% individuality (drawn from Evans blood and Joe Bruce history), I find the substance and materials for my unique self. What-I-know, emerging from this vast reservoir, is distinctly mine. As a Negro spiritual voices this fact: "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen..." Literally, this is true. Nor does anyone know the delights I've known. What-I-know (using know as a metaphor for am) is truly different. My "light" (as voiced in the song, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine"), my "talents" (referring to my inherent "gifts"), my different self, exists as a combination of what I share with all other creatures and persons, plus what I hold in distinction from them all. Mostly I'm like everyone else; partially I am truly different.

What I have summarized so far is myself as a-lone-one, separate and apart from all others since my umbilical cord was severed, "cut off," we might say, ever since I got a "belly button." As such, "I" can be defined by the borders of my skin, as that-which-I-am "inside my body"--for example, by my sensations, feeling, thoughts, and desires.

But cord-cutting and skin are deceptive. I am "cut off" from all other persons, a-lone-one in the world, alike and yet different; but I am also in context. Paradoxically, I am both a-lone-one and also a-part-of. Though my skin boundaries are obvious and my connections are less visible to the eyes of the head, I am not absolutely severed. Just as I was born in Saline, in the Evans family, in 1930, so I always remain in a particular place and time, in some sort of social context, be it far or near. Even when I attempt to completely withdraw, to exist totally alone, this is never possible; always I am in some context--a place and a time and a group--even when I try to hold myself apart and pretend that my connections do not exist. Only in my mind can this be so; in fact, I, though conceiving myself as completely cut off, never am.

Said another way: self is always in relationship, in addition, paradoxically, to always being alone. This doesn't "make sense" logically; yet it seems to me to be true. I may try to "be independent" to avoid the threats of "being dependent," yet the fact remains that I am always, no matter how hard I try not to be, inter-dependent--both "independent" and "dependent" at the same time. So much for logic!

I may, for analogy, hold my breath briefly, cutting my en-skined self off from the oxygen in the air "out there." For a moment (for me about 30 seconds) I can imagine being "independent" of "it." Air, who needs it! But only briefly. Soon the fact that I exist only in context, inter-dependent with oxygen, reappears as I gasp for breath. Just so, I may imagine myself alone, cut off from the world and other people in it; yet I always exist, even while "feeling all alone," a-part- of the universe in which I appear, and a-part-of the groups which I may try to ignore.

I, and I assume all others, are both a-lone and a-part-of. We are separate and yet connected. No matter how hard I may try to be either one or the other, either entirely apart or completely connected, always I fail. I am both/and, not either/or. I may try, for example, to not sound like I am from Saline, or even the South; yet I am. I may try to be Joe Bruce (my uniqueness) but not an Evans. Perhaps I will fool you, or even myself for a time. Eventually however, my Evans-ness is apt to appear. Always it is here. Or I may even attempt to be cut off from my humanity, trying to act godly--as though I am omniscient, omnipotent, and immortal. Soon, though, my act is likely to fail. You will "see through me" (my act) even when I don't.

The point is: self cannot be adequately understood from either one or the other perspectives. I may begin by looking at my apartness, my skin-boundaries and other obvious and unique distinctions. I may even try to limit myself to this separate aspect of who-I-am. Still, however, I remain in context, apart-of the world of nature and society--more visibly a-part but often more significantly, connected, apart-of. Or, in contrast, I may try to erase my separateness, to only be-connected, an Evans but not a Joe Bruce, married but not still single, a human being but without "ideas of my own"--that is, to only be apart-of and eliminate the inherent possibility of loneliness (a-lone-ness gone awry).

Of course this fact about myself, being both alone and apart-of, inevitably leads to innumerable conflicts. Often, in fact most always, my alone self is somewhat at odds with my apart-of self. Being me (my-self-apart) is in conflict with behaving myself (my-self-connected). To live well respecting both aspects of who-I-am is a continual challenge, requiring skill always, and evoking artistry when I am lucky.

As my fuller-self, both apart and connected, I must continually exist ("be myself") in context (in the world with others). A natural and inevitable tension, born of my uniqueness, always exists between me (cut off) and nature (of which I remain apart of), between me (born) and mother (whose son I remain because her blood and life are in me), between me (Joe Bruce) and the rest of my family (all other Evans'), between me and all the groups to which I inevitably remain a member (even when I don't "join" consciously). Even barring all other humans, the essential tension exists between me as separate from the universe, and me as connected to all-that-is.

I cannot live well (be saved or happy), or so I have learned, when I am not being myself--that is, both of these aspects of myself. I always lose, eventually, when I try to be one or the other. Truly, I finally admit, I am both/and. The artistry of life, past the activation of the private and unique aspects of who-I-am, lies in revealing/concealing in such a manner as to maximize both my apart-from-ness (my uniqueness) and my apart-of-ness (my connectedness)--that is, in revealing myself when both are enhanced, and deceiving others when pragmatic. I may "show and tell" when I can do so and maintain my essential connections; otherwise I try to act when pretense is feasible. The crucial issue remains, however, that I always remain honest, never leaving myself, especially when I am acting.

Dishonesty requires splitting, not-being-some-part-of-who-I-truly-am. Whenever I cease being myself, for whatever reason, I lose my own salvation. Salvation, as noted above, only lies--as best I can tell so far--is being present, and I can only be present as myself, "warts and all," that is, both as a-lone-one (with all my unique differences) and as a-part-of this wonder-filled world in which I am graced to find myself (a member).

REALITY IS RANDOM
 or
THINGS ARE MEANINGLESS

God, as best I can tell, like us created in His image, flies by the seat of His (or Her) pants--that is, creates as He/She goes along. The script, in contrast to what I once thought, does not seem to be written ahead of time. There is no Grand Plan or Great Scheme of Things which I have been able to discern. The "best moves" are not available before any "play;" only the evolving "rules of the game" are given. Even they seem impossible to determine before any given "move" is made.

This means that the immense human concern with the "meaning of things," "What's it all about, Alfie?," the "purpose of life," the why of "Why did this have to happen?," etc., is not inherently existent. Meaning is not inherent either in existence or in some pre-existant "plan for existence," for instance, in any individual's life or any happening in one's life. All meaning in things is, as best I can tell, a human invention. Meaning exists only to the extent that I or another human being bring it to an event.

Stated negatively, things (objects or events) "don't mean anything" within themselves. "No-thing," literally speaking, "means anything," except when you or I bring meaning to it. To look for "the meaning of life" or the meaning of any happening in life "out there" is to engage in an ultimately futile endeavor. "It" (any particular "thing") doesn't mean anything within itself. Hence, there is no real point in asking, "Why did such and such have to happen?" It didn't. It "just did."

This does not mean that meaning is not appropriately a matter of immense human concern. Existence without meaning, when "things are hopeless," when there is "just no point in going on," is an awesome and terrible way to find oneself--or to observe others in such a despairing state. Meaning really does matter; the point here is only that the quest to find meaning beyond ourselves, either in reality itself, or in some imagined mind of an anthropomorphic god (reflected in such beliefs as: "I don't know what's going to happen, but I know God who does;" "He's got the whole world in his hand. He has a plan for everyone's life; all we have to do is find His will for us;" "I don't understand this tragedy (or whatever else) now, but I know God has a purpose in letting it happen. We'll 'understand it better bye and bye.'"), is destined, if we persist very far, to end in oblivion.

All such assumptions, in the face of waning hope or losing a sense of meaning in life, are understandable, given the terror in a meaningless existence. Who hasn't either believed, or wished they could, in some such Sky Father (or Mother) who remains "in charge" and directing, even if passively, when "things get out of hand" and life is "losing its meaning"? Certainly I have.

But respecting such "wishful thinking," as I now believe it is, my experience is that it remains just that--"wishful thinking." "That's," as they say, "the bad news." But the good news I have found is that we humans do indeed have the personal capacity to posit and hence "find" meaning in things, indeed, in any thing--when, of course, we have the nerve to bring ourselves fully to "it." Meaning, I discover, though not inherent either in the universe or any particular event, is potentially present in any human experience whenever I dare bring myself to it.

Salvation, noted previously, is found in being present as myself; when I am saved thusly I do bring meaning to all things. Everything "means something" whenever I am saved.

IF IT IS, IT SHOULD BE

As stated in the poem, Desiderata: ...whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Well, never mind such poetry: I, and everyone else I have known, seems, most of the time, to doubt it exceedingly. Quite in contrast to such poetical idealisms, I was sure, for most of my life not only that "the world needs changing," but also that I "am supposed" to be "trying to make it for the better."

Although I wouldn't dare think this next thought for most of my life, I lived as though I believed God had goofed in making the world, that He didn't know what He was doing, that it is not unfolding as it should, and furthermore that I could do a better job of directing things. "If I had made it...," etc. How omnipotent can one get? Well, I see now, that's how godly I got! At least in my own mind's eye.

I tried to voice this insight long ago, before I realized what I was saying, in this poem:

HARD TRUTH

If it is
it should be

If it isn't
but could be
its not ready

But maybe
the time
is ripe

If you or I
are

Two related issues were being confronted here: a schedule for reality and the nature of good and evil. The first is about what is happening, implied in If it is...; the second, in ...it should be. The happenings in the world, the unfolding of the universe, raise the question of an Ultimate Plan or Grand Scheme of Things operative in the events of our lives. Should or ought ("What should happen?," or, "What ought I to do?") are about right and wrong. Each implies that virtue or evil lie within a particular act, thing, or event.

The opinion being stated here is that whatever is happening, no matter how tragic or wonderful it seems to me, is, in fact, appropriate at the time--"as it should be" just now. This means that should is always circumstantial and can never be determined apart from circumstances of time and place. Right or wrong are always relative, never inherent in any specific act, happening, or thing--that is, in any particular form of reality. What is right at one time or place may be wrong at any other; and vice versa. Furthermore, what is good for one person may be bad for another; and virtue continually changes for every person in time. The right thing-to-do, for instance, for me at one moment, may be wrong in the next. Or so I now see things.

To understand this paradox requires seeing the previous insight, namely, the random nature of reality--that there is, in fact, no pre-written plan, no "correct" schedule of either what should be happening, or what will occur. The future literally is open. No grand destiny or certain outcome, either an apocalypse or mundane winding down to nothingness, is pre-determined. It can go either way (more about this next).

This insight calls for a caring acceptance of reality, just as we find it in each situation, as though it is as it should be, even when we wish it were different. The prevalent compulsion to "try to change the world" or at least the specific parts of reality related to me--which was for so long a part of my prevailing pathology, is just that, a pathological symptom, not inherent in the nature of reality as it is. In other words, it was "my problem," not a problem of the universe. This does not mean that I have to like whatever is happening, or to experience painful realities as pleasant; only that I, if I remain realistic, will accept them as appropriate at the time.

Perhaps a colloquialism can clarify this distinction. Many aspects of reality, events which truly occur, are, to me "too bad." But none, according to this insight, are inherently bad. For, example, to me it is "too bad" that my friends sometimes die. But death itself is not bad; nor is the death of my friends inherently bad--even when I consider it "untimely." Their deaths, mirroring the primal awareness of my own, are "too bad" (colloquially speaking) to me, but yet not bad insofar as virtue is concerned.. As the Apostle Paul noted, the sting of death is to be found in our own sin, not in death itself whenever or to whom it occurs.

Or to look in the opposite direction: birth is not good, any more than death is bad. It is not good to be born, but bad to die. Both these events, and all others which fall between them, simply and profoundly are. Neither these nor any others are inherently right or wrong. Perhaps they will seem "good to me" or "too bad" from my perspective; but this is only my view, not about reality itself.

Distinguishing between bad (or good) and real events themselves does not mean that "nothing is good or bad"--that is, that there is no such thing as good and evil. It is only to note that, contrary to what I once thought, neither is inherent in reality itself, including any events which occur.

Nor does accepting reality as beyond inherent good or evil mean that "we might as well give up and never try to change anything." This implies no "Ka sara, sara, whatever will be will be" attitude. Indeed attempting to manipulate reality to better fit our own designs in immensely pragmatic. "Feathering our nests," working to enhance pleasures and reduce pains, serving public interests such as, removing poverty, establishing justice, and maintaining human rights--all these and countless other activities which are in sharp contrast to "just accepting things as they are," "not caring what will happen," are highly appropriate human endeavors.

This is only to note that they are not inherently good. Both good and evil are much more complex than things we can simply do or not do.

The second part of the poem speaks to the issues of "doing something about it." ...If it isn't/ but could be...maybe the time is ripe/If you or I are is meant to imply that whereas the universe is unfolding as it should ("things are moving as fast as they ought to") changes may be properly pursued within the limits of reality and human capacities. We may reasonably try to influence the course of evolution, to shape the shapeable parts of our own destinies, not because such changes would be inherently good but because we choose to try to make them.

...If it isn't/but could be refers to possible conditions or changes which are not yet made. ...maybe the time is ripe means that perhaps (we never know ahead of time) the universe has unfolded to such an extent that the changes we can view now fall within the realm of possibility, even though they may never have been before (and we may be wrong about their present possibility).

...If you or I are places the monkey on our human backs. Any desired changes are our responsibility, whenever we are ready to attempt them. Since the "script is not written," the future is open, and "it can go either way" (meaning that evolving reality follows no predictable course), any human redirection of the willy nilly wandering of genetic pilgrimages is entirely up to those of us willing to "try to make a difference."

My point in this insight is not about the possibilities of "improving things" to suit us better, but only to note that God, the religious name for Being Itself, the Ultimate in Reality seen in the process of evolution, is doing just fine without us. Thank you. Things are not "bad;" neither the world nor the young people are "going to the dogs." The compulsion to "change the world," even "for the better," which was so prevalent in most of my life, is, I now see, just that--a compulsion, an evidence of emotional disturbance or my own false godhood. Certainly not appropriately called for either by reality or God.

One further clarification: I could have left the first part of the poem in a benign form such as, If it is/that's Okay, or If it is/we must accept it. Each would be true in my perspective, yet each would miss the wider emphasis intended with it should be. ...should be means more than merely Okay or all right.

What is happening, the unfolding of the universe, is not merely acceptable or to be tolerated; it is, even when I don't like it, highly appropriate. In the Genesis account of creation God is reported to have said after he finished establishing our world of reality: Behold, it is very good. My interpretation is: The world works in a very good fashion. Evolution, just as it takes place in its seemingly senseless fashion, going first this way then that, perhaps "progressing" but then "regressing," in either case unpredictable, is a fine system. What is happening (including death and taxes) is, whenever it is happening, a "good thing" to be taking place at the time.

In other words, it is not enough that I simply move from a godly "I can do it better and therefore must be about changing the world" kind of self-righteousness to a more fatalistic Eastern Religion type acceptance of things as they are; In order to re-enter this potential Garden of Eden which is everywhere, I must move on from hate-the-world, through the Eastern mode of tolerate-the-world, to love-the-world--that is, to recognize again what every child once knew, namely, this world is a good place to be. Having to go to bed at night is "too bad," and waking up every morning (to this wonderful world) is wonderful (wonder-filled). It is more than bad or even Okay; it's fine. Who, in their right mind, would want to be anywhere else?

If it is/It should be...and that, even when I don't understand or dislike it, is good. This doesn't mean that working to change the world, to suit us better, is not appropriate; only that judgment of the present world, things-as-they-are, is extremely inappropriate; in fact, it is wrong.

JUDGMENT IS SIN

Evil is a complex issue, only slightly less so than virtue; this, however, I have come to see clearly: judgment is always near to the heart of evil. Even though wrong cannot be identified (by me) with any particular deed or happening, since each may, in another circumstance, take its opposite appearance, I can recognize the presence of judgment whenever I smell the reality of evil. Therefore I have concluded, judgment is sin, or at least so close to it that the identification is reasonable.

By judgment I mean absolute knowledge about good and bad, the quantum spiritual leap from discrimination, which lies at the heart of all that is truly human, to that godly place of certainty, which requires abandoning this essence of humanity. Discrimination, recognizing the difference between this and that, is knowing; judgment, in sharp contrast, is knowing-for-sure. Between the two lies a world of difference, as great as between heaven and hell. At the heart of my theology is this recognition: it's heavenly to know all that we know, but it's hell to be caught up in any certain knowledge. Envy those who discriminate sharply and know exactly what they do know; but pity those who think they know anything for sure. And to survive as yourself, be wary in the presence of the latter.

Withdrawing the projected sermon in the last two sentences (which I do more fully in the final section which follows this) to myself (where it truly belongs), I need to be extremely careful after I am able to draw any distinction lest I make the tempting god-like leap from discrimination to judgment, from knowing to knowing-for-sure. Humans, when we are truly being ourselves, can certainly "know a lot;" we can "know a little bit about a lot of things" (even if we "never know enough about you!"), but we can't, without ceasing to be human, know anything "for sure." Our limited range of perceptions doesn't allow that. We cannot, without becoming godly, "know everything about anything."

This means more than mere information-acquiring alone. We may, if extremely diligent, acquire vast amounts of information on a particular subject; perhaps even know "all there is to know" about it. But judgment is not inherent in much information; In fact, most true scholars are quite humble because "the more you know about anything, the more you also know that you don't know." Those who know the most are most likely to recognize both the wonders and the limitations of all human knowledge. Judgment, however, is not a mere mental move; it is a spiritual leap from real humanity to false godhood, from knowing-what-we-can-know to assuming that we know-what-we-really-don't. Judgment is the jump from wide-niscience to omni-science--a considerable and expensive leap. One which, I have come to believe, costs us eternal life.

Judgment, as I said, is sin.

I wish I had thought of this myself (a clue to my continuing desire to be god); but I think it is the slightly cloaked truth long ago revealed in the Biblical parable of the apple in Eden, that fatal bite which lies at the heart of our common sin. The "apple," we are told, was the "fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." Not, as some who wish to belittle the educational process have preached, of knowledge itself (the human capacity to discriminate between this and that), but the "knowledge of good and evil" (my italics to note the distinction). In other words, we sin not simply by "getting smart" (learning a lot about something, even getting an advanced degree on the subject), but rather when we make that further move from knowledge to knowledge of good and evil.

Certainly I don't know for sure (I'm trying to cover my bets!), but I think this parable has long revealed what it has taken me so long to catch on to--namely, that while knowing is potentially good, knowing-for-sure is inherently a disaster. It got Adam and Eve kicked out of Eden, and I think it still works that way. The good and evil which lie at the heart of this proverbial apple are, in colloquial language, right and wrong (as I interpret the parable). Adam had already discriminated between all the animals, etc, and named them separately (thereby acquiring human knowledge). The deadly "tree," however, was different. Discerning and naming--the essence of human knowledge--was not only Okay; it was encouraged. God, in the story, brought Adam to the creatures of the earth "to see what he would call them." We might conclude that God invited human knowledge, and also the pleasure of eating the fruit of every other tree in the garden, every tree except this one, the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

What made this one tree so special? Many who identify the tree with knowledge itself, making education appear sinful, ignore the remainder of the name, and teach that sin lies in disobedience. It wasn't in what Adam ate, they say, but that he became a "bad boy" by disobeying the "heavenly Father." This interpretation certainly fits well with authoritative figures (preachers and parents, for examples) trying to make their followers obey without thinking. Knowledge is indeed dangerous to self-appointed gods who rule most easily with blind allegiance. What parent doesn't prefer, especially at stressful times, a child who quickly obeys without thinking, just because I said so? Or preacher, or teacher, or any other authority figure?

This line of interpretation, however, as they say in hermeneutics, "does violence to the text." The quoted name of the tree doesn't end with knowledge ("thinking for yourself"); it hints at a further distinction beyond mere disobedience (becoming bad by disobeying). I take it, as I have found it to be, that this critical difference is the jump to judgment, to "be as the gods," that is, "knowing good and evil."

All religious and theological language aside, the grand human error (called sin in religion) which I am now able to recognize as the worst thing we can do is to judge anything. Wisely we are diligent about knowledge--that is, continuing to expand the sharpness of our discriminations; but dumbly (always with disastrous consequences) do we make the leap to concluding that any of our knowledge is right--that is, certain or "for sure." All human knowledge is, as I noted above, limited to human perceptions, and hence circumscribed--not subject to absoluteness. Everything I know is relative; all my truth is relative to what I have learned so far. Even when I dare refer to my knowledge as truth I do well to remember that even my best truth, that knowledge of which I am most confident, is still but my opinion.

Which will, in all likelihood, if I am lucky, change in time (more about this next).

I return to religious language to conclude here because to me it still speaks this insight most clearly. To simply say that judging is "really a bad thing to do," or that "a wise person will be wary of making absolute statements" ("Never," for example, "say 'never'"), seems too weak or benign to convey the truly malignant nature of this all-too-familiar human jump from limited-knowledge to absolute-knowledge. For myself to be properly reminded of what I know, I prefer the simple but profoundly relevant sentence: Judgment is sin. In the Biblical parable, God warned Adam: ...in the day thy eatest thererof, thy shalt surely die. Although Adam kept on breathing, etc., etc., he must have, I have discovered for myself, in the most significant of all ways died.

It turns out that God was right and we are wrong whenever we risk judgment.

The wages of sin, the Bible notes elsewhere, is death. And this, I have found, is what judging always does for me. I may appear, or so I try when I sin, to be very smart. Actually, I am then self-righteous whenever I "think I am right." I may even fool you into seeing me as a god "who has the right answers." Or worst still, I fool myself. Then, having swallowed the deadly fruit, I may act alive and do keep-on-breathing, which some are content to identify with being-alive; but I have become heartless, which, I have found, is the living-death which is even worst then death itself.

As best I can tell, judgment is truly the deadly sin.

KWIK OR SICK

In time, knowing what I know matters more than knowing what they know; but early on, only what they know seems to matter at all.

KWIK ("Quick") stands for Knowing What I Know, for acknowledging my perceptions, being conscious of my own experience. When I Know What I Know, I "let on" to myself what I have honestly seen or felt. The process of KNOWING can be broken down into three phases: CEIVING, PERCEIVING, AND CONCEIVING. First we CEIVE (Latin for grasp with our senses), for instance, a sound strikes our ear drum. Next PER (meaning thoroughly in Latin) is added to primal CEIVING; to PER-CEIVE means to thoroughly-grasp, to "register" the sound which we heard. Next comes CON (with, in Latin) CEIVING. In this last phase "thinking" or left-brain activity is added to basic sensing. We form a CONCEPTION out of the PERCEPTION, a name or a "thought." "Oh," we may "think" (forming a CONCEPTION), "that was a horn blowing."

From simple sounds or sights (CEIVING light rays, PERCEIVING shapes and colors, and CONCEIVING, for instance a "horse"), to complex experiences such as, bumping into a tree or meeting a person, the same process occurs: First we CEIVE, then PERCEIVE, and, if the process continues naturally, we form a CONCEPTION. When all three occur, we say we KNOW. "I saw a horse," or "I met Suzy" (I KNOW I did).

Whenever I KWIK (Know What I Know), normal sense experiences (seeing, hearing, etc.) are transformed and translated into ideas or mental notions. These may then "be stored" in what we call "memory," or mixed and correlated with other "remembered" conceptions through a process we call "reason," "thinking about it," or "making sense of what happened." This is the normal process of KNOWING which apparently begins in earliest childhood and continues throughout life.

The point of this analysis is set the stage for observing how significant breaks may occur in the normal process. To say that I can Know What I Know (KWIK) is to imply its opposite, namely, that I can also NOT KNOW WHAT I KNOW. Human potential (the size of our brains) allows us to interrupt the natural process of moving regularly from CEPTIONS to PERCEPTIONS to CONCEPTIONS by stopping, usually between phase two and phase three. Even though we PERCEIVE something, we may stop short of forming our experience into a CONCEPTION. For example, a child may hear his parents fighting, but finding the PERCEPTION threatening, he may stop before CONCEIVING what he PERCEIVED. He may "not hear" what in fact his ears did receive. He can "deny to himself" what he "does not want to hear."

And so can we all, which is the point being noted here. The amazing human capacity to break the natural process which results in KNOWING or "having knowledge" becomes the source of a primary problem in human existence. Which brings me to the second half of this insight. I noted KWIK (this is the normal process) OR SICK; the SICK refers to what happens after repeated negations of the natural process of KNOWING. I mean SICK as commonly understood in "He is sick," especially in an emotional or mental sense (like "disturbed," "crazy," or "out of his mind."

This difficult for me insight is that SICK is the inevitable and therefore predictable alternative to KWIK. My only options are one or the other. I can be KWIK or I will be SICK. Either I will Know What I Know, staying "in my mind," or I become SICK, going, in some measure, "out of my mind." This colloquial expression for "mental illness"--"He is out of his mind," is apt and, I think literal. When we do not remain "em-minded," staying "in our heads," that is, KNOWING WHAT WE KNOW, we must go "out of our minds." We get SICK.

The challenge of remaining "in our heads," KNOWING WHAT WE KNOW, is heightened by the fact that this same denial capacity, to NOT KNOW WHAT, in fact, WE DO KNOW is also the source of an extremely effective psychological defense mechanism, an unusually workable survival mechanism. And all we children need all of those we can get to survive well in "dysfunctional" families! To simply not see, hear, know, or have done that which gets us in trouble with our parents becomes an easily acquired survival technique. So far so good.

The problem, however, emerges in how easy it is to fall for what at first was our own act of denial. Probably all such denials are at first acts, literally; we, in the beginning, merely pretend that we "did not do it." We try to deceive our parents in order to remain in their good graces, an understandable deception, given the often dire consequences of falling into disfavor with the gods who control our destiny at the time. Such pretending (to be considered next) or acting as though we don't know what we actually do, is a complex mental phenomenon, essential in remaining human in society.

The difficulty, though, is twofold: first, it is always easier to pretend when we don't know we are doing so. Sincerity, being more natural, is simpler (requires less complex mental activity) than acting. The temptation to ignore our own denials, thereby increasing out acting skills, must be enormous! Perhaps this is what leads to the second problem, which we may properly call the fall. We may begin by wisely deceiving our parents (in order to enhance our own well being); but in time, if not immensely alert, we all too easily fall for our own acting skills. We come "to believe" our own deceptions, to "sincerely think," for instance, that we actually "didn't do it," or, even if we did, we "didn't mean to."

Whereas deception seems to be a critically important skill in self-survival, self-deception is unfortunately disastrous; and the step from one to the other is temptingly short! What begins as an innocent act ("I would never do that") all too easily turns into a deceptively simple-appearing tragedy. So called "self-deception" may more clearly be seen as self-splitting. When we deceive ourselves by NOT KNOWING WHAT WE KNOW, we actually split who-we-are. Being is divided. By the terribly tempting act of "being untrue to ourselves" we literally lose our integrity (wholeness); actually we split. Whereas we were ONE before, now we are TWO--that is, "divided in two."

We may have temporarily achieved the critically important good graces of, for instance, our parents, friends, or spouse, but we will pay, usually without recognition, the long range price of "losing ourselves;" in Biblical terms, we "lose our souls." We die, to some degree, to ourselves. The consequences of such a tragic split are multiplied whenever we then identify ourselves with the "good" part (the half of ourself which would "never do anything like that"), and condemn the "bad" part, thereby widening the split. After such self judgments, we are not only split but the offensive part of ourselves is also consigned to punishment.

I have had an extremely difficult time catching on to this tragic error I have so frequently made. At least I do now see it, sometimes. What they think remains critically relevant in my social communions; but I now realize that KNOWING WHAT I KNOW matters even more in regard to my own salvation. The only alternative to KWIK is SICK; to whatever degree I deny or fail to affirm WHAT I KNOW, I unwittingly choose the inevitable emotional, if not physical (usually both), SICKNESS which follows. I do love being accepted, but I am learning even more to love being healed--whole-ed, that is, through KNOWING WHAT I KNOW.

VIRTUE OF DECEPTION

I can see now both why I learned that "honesty" (as in, "the best policy") is good and that deception is bad. It was easier for "them" (parents, teachers, society) if I "always told the truth" and "never tried to fool anybody" (especially by "lying"). "It's a sin," the Ink Spots and everyone else sang and said, "to tell a lie." And given the innate cleverness of children, society does need all the advantages it can get in the often vain attempt "to civilize" us. Small wonder that "telling your mother (and all other authorities) the truth," so she and they won't always "have to read your mind," became such a social virtue. Deception, conversely, on the part of children if not parents, makes their required task of civilizing us immensely more difficult.

I put honesty in quotes in the above paragraph to imply the deceptive nature of the type of "honesty" which society needs. By "honest" they mean "telling the facts," not literally being honest. Personal wholeness or integrity, implied in "being true to yourself," is relatively irrelevant in society; only the true facts are what they need. As Jack Webb (detective in old Dragnet TV series), and other social servants sometimes say and usually mean, "I just want the facts, M'am." Personal wholeness is not a social value; fact-telling on demand is.

As noted above, however, I have discovered that "being true to myself"--KWIK or Knowing What I Know, is essential in maintaining personal wholeness. Otherwise, SICK is the alternative. At the same time, fitting in or being accepted in society (especially when it is limited to parents and siblings), is also crucially important. The problem is, how do we do both at the same time? Especially when they are contradictory, as so often they are?

If, on such occasions, we are outwardly "true to ourselves" that is, reveal the unacceptable truth, we may be punished or worse, rejected. On the other hand, if we are outwardly acceptable to them ("telling the truth"), we may be sorely tempted to be "untrue to ourselves," that is, to succumb to self-deception rather than risk being deceiving ("untruthful") with them.

At this common but critical juncture in everyone's experience, the VIRTUE OF DECEPTION becomes the only workable solution. Since both alternatives--untrue to self and rejection by them, are dangerous, the logical resolution is to remain both true to self and acceptable to them. Only DECEPTION makes this possible.

By DECEPTION I mean concealing one's true self in order to avoid rejection by others, acting as though what is true is not true. Honest acting, it might be called. In such DECEPTION one remains honest with one's self, continuing to Know What I Know, but to appear as though I do not. The temptation, however, to slip into self-deception in order to avoid the challenges of artful acting remains immense--even though predictably disastrous in time.

Such chosen DECEPTION, the VIRTUE I now see, is to be carefully distinguished from dishonest acting in which the actor no longer knows of his or her own act. After the split, which is required for NOT KNOWING WHAT I KNOW, I may act, yet I no longer realize that I am acting. I can be deadly serious about my acting, which may be obvious to others but hidden to myself. This type of acting-without-knowing is dishonest acting, in sharp contrast to the VIRTUE I note here.

The critical distinguishing factor between the two types of acting is honesty. VIRTUOUS DECEPTION is acting honestly. The actor or actress is well-aware that their deception is an act, a performance chosen in service of remaining truthful yet accepted. In the second type, based on a personal split required in denying what one actually knows, performers no longer know that he or she is acting. They believe themselves to "be sincere."

This latter type of acting, which is immensely common in most social settings, is, though socially sanctioned when the actor is acting-out accepted values or opinions, of the essence of evil. For all its pragmatic values for society and potential protection for one who unconsciously acts in accepted roles, it remains, as best I can call spiritually devastating, certainly not a virtue in my understanding. The more effective one becomes in such dishonest acting, the wider the personal split within themselves. In time, the state becomes a literal "living hell."

Honest DECEPTION, however, is an artful act, a personal VIRTUE which seems to me to be essential in remaining true to oneself, Knowing What One Knows, and still functioning as a productive member of the various segments of society of which one is actually a-part-of.

GENES ARE BOSS

I have long heard that "blood's thicker than water," hinting at the powers of heredity (family) over those of social ties, such as, marriage and in-laws. But for most of my life I have thought, or deeply wanted to, that "knowledge or reason is more powerful than ignorance and darkness." Alas, wrong again! GENES--that is, the unreasoning forces of DNA written into each of the 200 trillion cells comprising all our bodies, ARE BOSS--immensely more powerful than all the forces of consciousness and reason combined.

Which is not to belittle the importance of "thinking," "trying to be reasonable," to "make sense of things" and to "be reasonable" whenever we can. More than all else the human capacity to remember, to store information from prior experiences for comparison with current data (called reason), gives us a possible edge over our older ape cousins. Still, when all sense-making is done, when we command our best logic, use our soundest judgment, the DNA which we share with the latest apes (about 98%, I am told), remains the most dictatorial.

I, with good reason (pun intended!) have always "tried to be reasonable." I have been diligent in  acquiring knowledge, "getting a good education," and attempting to act out of "good judgment." And am glad, even proud of my efforts at sense-making. Yet, I now note, my efforts to make SENSE the BOSS, to overlook the reality of my genetic heritage, have generally ended in failure, certainly in time. GENES get the last laugh after all. "I," as I conceived myself, tried for a long time to "get the best of them," even to separate "myself" entirely from their awesome powers, to be "Captain of my fate, master of my soul."

So much for good intentions. More acceptingly now, I concede. I do not relinquish the wonderful human capacity to sometimes "be logical;" but I do now acknowledge that reason (conscious control) is but a fragile, johnny-come-lately (in the long history of evolution), human power. I still like to think that "I" am deciding to do what I do; but I'm no longer so proud of my "reasoning power." I see now that most all my imagined-to-be "independent" and personal decisions are actually made for me; at least, pre-determined by the awesome powers of desire, genetically dictated long before reasoning powers of consciousness ever appeared in the evolutionary chain of events.

Reason-power, for all its assumed (surely by me) glory ("making up my own mind about what I will be and do"), is a tiny flashlight in a vast universe of darkness. Like a lighted match in a dark night, it appears large; but like a straw in a wind-storm, it wields little real control. Consciousness, and associated powers or "sense" are to be cultivated and focused on the darkness of genes; yet gently, not self-righteously. Whenever I think that "I'm making up my own mind about such and such...," I do well to remain humble; maybe I will, but maybe I can't. Perhaps the innumerable strands of DNA which always hover beyond the tiny lighted space of my "mind" will "decide for me," especially when I get cocky about "what I'm going to do."

The script in most all our so-called "personal decisions" is about 95-98% already written--I now conclude. My best guess is that GENES, specifically DNA strands, pre-determine about 80% of all I do, with 15-18% of my remaining "decisions" dictated by learned patterns of response set in motion in early years (birth to three) and honed as habits now unconscious. This leaves about 2-5% of my many options up to "me" (as consciously conceived). Even when I am most convinced that "I" am deciding what I will do in a specific circumstance ("no matter what I feel"), in hindsight I commonly discover that my reasoning was mostly rationalization--that is, contrived to justify deeper unseen-at-the-time desires.

Alas; poor fragile reason! How long I have worshipped at the light of your throne, only to discover that my own assumed omniscience provided most of the candlepower. Now, when my nerve is operative, I do my best to "be reasonable" whenever I can, remaining cognizant all the while that in largest measure, GENES ARE still BOSS.

REALITY IS CHANGING

On first reading, this statement is so obvious as to be redundant ever before it is stated; of course, "things keep changing." Everyone knows this. It is like making as a mighty pronouncement: THE SUN RISES. But even this second statement may be deceptively simple; although the sun appears to rise, we now know, we think, that it doesn't. Something our ancient ancestors didn't know.

Whatever is or is not true about the sun, it has taken me a long time to recognize what I imply in this insight that REALITY IS CHANGING. Perhaps restating it in religious language may convey some of its intended import to me: GOD IS CHANGING. In sharp contrast to my older view that God is unchanging, that He is "the rock of ages," the "Oh, Thou, who changeth not" whom I wish would "abide with me," the God I now know is, in essence, changing.

It is not simply that "things change," but that God who is the Ultimate in Reality is changing. The notion that an unchanging God created a reality that changes also misses my point. What I mean is that changing lies at the heart of all that is real. Reality, literally is changing. Changing is not simply something that permanent reality occasionally does; it is the essential nature of God, or reality itself.

Permanence, which I once identified with reality, with obvious changing (like the sun rising) as an illusion, was, I now see, a considerable error. Closer to the truth is this: changing is what is real; permanence is the grand illusion. Nothing real is permanent; especially God. More than all else, the Ultimate in Reality is continually changing.

Perhaps the import of this awesome-to-me insight may be caught in the familiar notion of GOD AS CREATOR. I grew up thinking that "God created the world and all that is in it." I thought of Him as a noun, the One who did the acts of creation; yet He himself, or so I thought back then, remained unchanging. He "did it," I thought, but He "was permanent--that is, unchanging."

As much as I liked the comfort of this idea, and as hard a time as I have had in letting go of it, what I now see is different. More literally than GOD IS CREATOR (with GOD seen as a static noun who did the acts of creation), I now understand GOD IS CREATING. The difference is noted in the grammatical change from Creator to Creating, from a noun to a predicate nominative. God, I now think, is more than a static entity-who-acts, even one who did the almighty act of creating the world; God, literally is creating. Not simply One-who-creates, but who may be recognized and identified with Creating Itself.

To change the sentence from GOD IS CREATOR to GOD IS CREATING (the or to ing) removes the heavy implication of permanence and brings the delightful sense of continual-change (which is inherent in creating). Furthermore, in the first sentence CREATOR is but another noun further describing the subject noun. An article, such as A or THE could be added: GOD IS THE CREATOR, without destroying the sense of the sentence.

But when we go the second step, changing the noun CREATOR to the verbal form CREATING, seeing it as a predicate nominative (which identifies instead of merely describes the subject), we have made a grand leap in understanding. For illustration, the sentence, I AM WHITE, is, grammatically speaking, like GOD IS CREATOR. Both WHITE and CREATOR tell more about the noun entities which are the subject of each sentence. Yet, and this is the critical difference, they do not define the subject; they only describe it. They cannot properly, in the understanding of the sentence, be reversed. You can't turn the sentences around without losing their meaning, for instance by saying WHITE IS I. Even though I AM WHITE, WHITE is not the same as I. WHITE describes, but it does not identify; many other persons and things are WHITE but are not I.

But when a word is recognized as a predicate nominative, as in CREATING (predicate nominatives are often recognized by the added ing), the whole meaning is expanded. As such, the second sentence can properly be reversed: GOD IS CREATING, understood in this sense, can also be turned around: CREATING IS GOD. Since God literally is creating, rather than simply does sometimes create (or did in the beginning of creation), we can, in this perspective, recognize GOD as CREATING. In other words, since GOD IS CREATING and CREATING IS GOD, whenever we see creating, we see God. Literally, God and creating are the same.

To clarify further, the adjective CREATIVE (as in "GOD IS CREATIVE") also misses the point. God is not simply an entity which can be described as creative; what I mean here is beyond the realm of adjectives and into reality itself. CREATING, I now believe is what God is.

And creating, as everyone knows, is synonymous with changing--which is why I have taken this circuitous grammatical and theological route to return to the subject of the insight. To say that GOD IS CREATING is also to say that GOD IS CHANGING, rather than permanent. Or, as I stated it first: REALITY IS CHANGING.

Practical ramifications of this insight include the challenge of identifying oneself as continually changing rather than seeing oneself as a permanent entity (such as a "soul," "self," or "I"). The answer to Who am I? can only be truthfully given in any particular instant. The only proper such question can be: Who am I just now? Tomorrow, if I "get real" and remain so, I will be different because I am continually changing. To remain human is to remain without the seeming luxury of being a permanent I. To be myself is to always be changing, never a thing.

And this, of course, requires much faith (my next opinion). The event of becoming myself can, in broad categories, be summarized as moving from the illusion of existing as a permanent and definable entity to the faith-full challenge of participating in the ever-changing, continually creating, process, deceptively simply stated as: just being me.

God, it turns out, at least as revealed to me, is more like a Shifting Sea than a Rock of Ages (and hence more like a She than a He!) So much for a first son's dreams of omnipotence!

NERVE IS NECESSARY

Knowledge is important; correct information can be valuable. But nerve is truly essential in good living. I have, for as long as I can remember, vastly over-valued the significance of knowledge as well as reason, its mode of operation. Early in life, back when "good grades" counted, I learned to use the power of my brain to achieve my goals in the world. I learned that I could achieve much by "out-thinking" those who got in my way. I could also impress the powers-that-be, I found out, by "being smart," as reflected in making A's in school and otherwise reciting information I had acquired.

Hence, understanding--mentally-knowing-how-things-work, became a prime instrument in my arsenal of worldly weapons. I can hardly overstate the importance I have previously attached to "being smart" and acting "reasonably." Knowledge and reason, I used to think, were the "main things."

Painfully, though, I have learned better. They do still count, and are among the most useful of our human capacities; but now I know that nerve is far more relevant in reentering heaven than is "sense." Being smart helps; but being nervy is necessary.

Nervy is a colloquialism for courageous. In older times faith was an even clearer name for this human capacity which I find so necessary in knowing God. But that was before organized religion reduced this etymologically powerful word to a bland name for ignorance-as-a-virtue, before faith became a synonym for blind-unthinking-obedience, as in, "I just take it on faith." When I first began to catch on, I tried to resurrect the older meaning of the word. I have mostly given up now, abandoning it to churches who seek to negate even the meager power of "thinking" in favor of "undoubting" adherents.

Call it what you will; some call it courage, others nerve, or even guts. I still like the older name faith. The point is, I have come to see that this rare human capacity is absolutely necessary in being oneself, present in any here and now--which, I have previously noted, is the only way I know to return to Eden on earth. It is, I now believe, the single most important element in well-being.

I do not belittle the importance of knowledge, nor of "being reasonable"--whenever I have the nerve to dare it. However, I have discovered that about 90% of what is called reason is but a cloak for the hidden psychological trick of rationalization (using quasi-reason to justify other darker motivations). I do commend education and learning all we can about any subject which interests us. Learning, acquiring knowledge, is inherently fun, because it activates one of our latest-to-evolve human capacities. Besides, it is also, at times, useful.

How-to-do-it recipe manuals about more than you would ever want to know--from sex to salvation, flood the markets and account for a large portion of book sales at this time. What-to-do therapists, (about everything from raising kids to kicking addictions, from managing husbands to confronting abusers, from exorcising anger to healing a broken heart) are the current rage. By-the-numbers painting, as well as religion (how to be saved in 3 easy steps), are now in vogue. The right answers--that is, verbally packaged knowledge, is no doubt in great demand today.

Fine, and so be it! Learn all you can about everything you ever wanted to know, sex included; still, or so I have reluctantly found, one can go straight to hell loaded with full information on any subject, and being "totally reasonable" at the time. For all its possible utility, knowledge, however, remains extremely limited.

If I will live well, courage is what counts the most; faith, old style, is the true essential; or, as I said at first: NERVE IS NECESSARY.

FEAR OF FUN

Fun is almost universally affirmed--consciously. Even parents who obviously elevate good behavior to virtue status are apt to tell their children, for instance when they leave home, "Have fun." And personally it seems that we all agree with what Freud called the Pleasure Principle--that is, a common human preference for pleasure rather than pain. We all want to "have a good time." Almost nobody "wants to hurt." We work so we can go on vacation and "have fun." We save so we can retire and "do all the things we always wanted to."

Or so it seems. To broaden the issue, what we "really want," we say, is not simply to "have fun," but to "be happy." We, by common consent, "don't like feeling bad;" we don't want to be depressed; we want to "feel good." We want to have as much fun as we possible can. A little fun is good; more is better. Joy would be wonderful. We want to succeed; nobody wants to be a failure. We aspire to ecstasy, to "being beside ourselves" with pleasure. We even want to go to heaven, a place, we are told, of everlasting bliss. Even here on the ground, we have been advised to "follow our bliss."

Or so we say. Certainly I have said so, and have been consciously diligent in quest of all types of fun--from small time pleasures like eating ice cream, to big time ecstasies like going to heaven. I have never consciously sought pain in even minor degrees. I literally hate shots, not to mention "feeling bad." Even when my religion seemed to frown on certain types of "worldly pleasures," and I went along through abstinence, still I was careful to separate the "wrong kinds of fun" from fun itself. Often I preached on the virtues of pleasure. Lest I be misleading, I have never seriously used the familiar phrase, "This is so much fun, it must be sinful." I did not want to participate in the error of identifying fun with sin, even in jest.

Would that these conscious efforts were all that I have seen--or done! Alas, though, I now think that most of this massive elevation of pleasure--both the secular search for fun and the religious quest for bliss--the diligent search for happiness, wanting "to have a good time," plus the desire to "go to heaven" where happiness is supposedly forever, is but a cover-up for a dark, pervasive FEAR OF FUN.

We do, I think, both say and sincerely believe that we truly want to be happy, to "feel good," to "have fun," to succeed, and even to "go to heaven (sometime later!)"--if we are religiously oriented. Underneath, however, I have come to see a slightly veiled yet powerful suspicion of any pleasure past mild fun, and a deep fear of the explosive nature of all profound ecstasy in everyone I have known, including myself, who has let me know them well.

These suspicions and fears seem to be generally denied to awareness. I seldom recognize them in myself, wishing to think that my consciousness is all of me. In retrospect, however, I can see how I systematically avoid any more then minor degrees of fun, even while pretending to myself to be looking for it. Certainly I "want to succeed," but how regularly I have sabotaged my own efforts, usually blaming my failures on others.

I do not know what it means, but I am convinced that this FEAR OF FUN is far more prevalent than we usually admit. I suspect that its roots may lie in the suppression of sexuality which has seemed so necessary for structuring stable societies. Two powerful forces meet when instinctive sexuality is confronted with social requirements. Both are immensely relevant; yet we have seldom melded them without one or the other suffering greatly. At this present time the powers of society are shakily yet persistently dominating the older reproductive forces of nature. For all our sexual "enlightenment" of this age, the powerful and pervasive forces of human sexuality remain severely suppressed at best; most often, and often most disastrously, they are also deeply repressed--that is, totally denied access into consciousness.

The relevance of this observation here lies in the inherent pleasure which evolution has managed to ingrain in all that is essential to its continuation. The genius of genes (to be considered next) is that they have somehow succeeded in adding fun to everything that works to their own best interests. Whatever is good for survival has also been coded to "feel good." All the way from sights to sounds and tastes, from eating to resting, that which keeps us alive also tends to look, sound, taste, and feel good. And that which is most essential in genetic perpetuation has naturally evolved to be the most pleasurable also. A good sight, such as colorful Fall leaves, is nice; a good sound, is "music to our ears;" good water tastes good. A good meal is a delight, and a night's rest "is most relaxing." But when we attempt to measure pleasure, orgasm tops the charts.

But the problem emerges when powerful pleasures, in all their diverse and graded forms, must be integrated into society--which requires only a relatively minor degree of reproduction to maintain itself quite well, and which seems to get along best when sex is mostly kept under wraps. To cut a long story short, society--through parents, religions, education, and its other institutions, has found suppression to be most functional way to curtail the forces of individual sexuality where they threaten social stability.

And we, as members of just such a society, all seem to have learned quite well how to deny the powerful forces of our own sexuality. The problem is: even so, sex still "feels good." Our genes do not unlearn as well as our minds. This easy, ever-present source of pleasure remains continually at hand. Which leads me back to the issue of the FEAR OF FUN. I suspect that our common, reasonable, suppression of sexuality is at the heart of the generalized fear of pleasure of all sorts. By curtailing fun of all sorts, we succeed in keeping the sleeping giant of sexuality at least partially it its cave.

Whatever its source, I think that this commonly denied FEAR OF FUN, cloaked in obsessive efforts to find pleasure "out there," even in heaven after death, is far more real than I ever thought. The great American assumption of the "right to happiness" and its perpetual pursuit is but one more cover for our deep resistance against pleasure itself, here called the FEAR OF FUN.


EXTENT OF SPLITNESS

Even after 35 years spent largely in counseling--countless hours given to seeing and listening to the private pathology of others, I am still reticent to accept how crazy I think we all are. Even the most functional and healthy of us still "fall short of the glory of God"--that is, miss, by a very long shot, the mark of becoming who we are created capable of being. We are, as best I can tell, as a society, including each of us its individual members, profoundly schizo-phrenic--divided within ourselves.

In comparison to our potential whole-ness, our given capacity for personal integrity, we are, I observe, agonizingly, to a person, split. The EXTENT OF our common SPLITNESS, especially my own, is yet hard to admit. The diagnosed mental illness in our land, that under treatment by therapy and/or drugs, is relatively small in comparison to what I see as present--that is, when I dare to look. What passes for "sanity" in America--the accepted and therefore undiagnosed quantities of "emotional disturbance," is far and away apart from true well-being. Even the most so-called sane among us are, I believe, still caught up in profound degrees of craziness which yet allude the diagnostic categories of professional psychologists and psychiatrists. Our increasingly bold attempts to categorize "them" as crazy (with sophisticated labels) are often but one more attempt to avoid seeing how much we healers are wounded ourselves.

My observation: with few exceptions, we all act and commonly believe that we are not as "bad off" as we truly are. We waste precious energies in "protesting too much"--that is, in denying both to others and ourselves the extent of our own splitness (reflected in general "unhappiness" and lack of pleasure in life-as-it-is). We commonly "try too hard" to pretend that "everything is all right" when in fact it is not. I use "bad off" in quotes to imply the colloquial meaning; not that we are truly bad, but rather "bad off" in our denied or unrecognized inner divisions.

Were sin not so commonly misunderstood as merely "being bad" (through misbehavior of various sorts), I could this theological word. "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (as potentially revealed in us)," as the Bible words the fact, is what I have come to see. But the sin of which I speak is not about mere "acting bad;" it refers to the essence of evil which is inherent in SPLITNESS, our lack of inner wholeness. The fact I note is not so simple as observing that we "do bad things" (or "don't do enough good things"); or even jumping to the indulgent judgment of "being bad" (as, "I'm just a bad person"). Each of these, though problematic, falls far short of facing the challenge of becoming responsible for our own splitting.

The wish to keep evil "out there," in a Devil or some other person (such as a "bad mother" or a "dysfunctional family"), or even in our own misbehavior ("bad things done; good things left undone"), but cloaks our continued attempt to escape personal responsibility for our own sin. We cannot honestly pray, as did David after his various adulteries and murders: "Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned..."--that is, get past deeds only, or injustices done to others, and acknowledge personal responsibility for our own splitness.

Our problem is not that we have offended God by not measuring up to some artificial standard of perfection in behavior (a slightly veiled extension of what we all experience with our parents), but that we try to please God (as we did our parents) by measuring up in the first place (or to achieve selfhood by rebelling and displeasing, which is but the flip side of the same coin). God, as ultimate in reality, is not merely a cosmic parent-figure. What was true with parents, namely, that we succeed through good behavior, is not true (as best I can tell) with God. This a radical difference.

We smartly catch on that parents are impressed by measuring up to their standards, but we erroneously project this same experience onto Ultimate Reality, imaging a Cosmic Parent to replace the first human ones. In doing so we allow ourselves to keep on with the pattern we have already learned so well with our earthly ones--that is, to continue as split in playing the same game, making a virtue of it at the same time. I have further erred in recreating female goddesses which are easier to cloak to myself, in hopes of securing their blessing through my pleasing behavior--an even more difficult version of the same type of attempt to escape the responsibility for being split.

Even though this fact of massive and widespread American schizo-phrenia, cloaked especially to us who are so split within ourselves, remains generally unrecognized, I also think that our salvation (healing) becomes most likely when we first face how split we have become. Continued attempts to find happiness (wholeness) through "improved" behavior remain, as they were in  childhood where they began, notably short lived and disappointing in the long run.

So what else is new? Hasn't salvation always begun, as the Bible states, with honest confession? I think sin language has lost its power; sin understood as split, rather than bad, may invite a better beginning on the path toward wholeness. I hope so.

DANGER OF "LOVE"; WONDER OF "AGAPE"

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn," opines a once popular song, "is just to love, and be loved in return," reflecting the older Biblical message that "...the greatest of these is love." These ancient and ever new praises of the magical nature of "love" are so much a part of our common psyche that they no longer need saying, let alone preaching. Everyone already knows that "love is the finest thing around"--if you can find it. And that we all "ought to be loving."

I concur with all these familiar observations, yet have come to see that the vast variety of human experiences which have adapted or been assigned the name love allow for cloaking "a multitude of sins." All that bears the name love, as I have come to see it, is certainly not loving. In fact, many of the popular and near universally accepted notions of love are inherently dangerous--insofar as human well-being is concerned.

Four of the most vicious wolves, which I have seen, in the sheep's clothing of love are: romance, mothering, martyrdom, and marital "love." Each of these identifications are so commonly accepted as to escape any real public scrutiny. Privately, most of us have had to examine, at one time or another, the illusions cloaked in these accepted "realities." Still, their inherent dangers are difficult for me to ferret out whenever I am engaged in either of them.

Here, however, is what I have sometimes seen, either when pain forced me, or nerve allowed me, to look more closely: First, romance. Perhaps more insidious than the other three, "romantic love" cloaks extreme dangers. Under the name of love disastrous illusions of personal wholeness through "capturing one's missing half,"--that is, "falling in love" with one's own shadow projected onto another person, who, once successfully captured must thereafter be possessed, all in the name of "love." Most everyone who has dared such a "fall" knows on some level about the brevity of "honeymoons" and the powers of such illusions. Few, however, seem to go beyond the pains of disillusionment which predictably come in time, and move on to exorcise this socially sanctioned form of intense craziness from its banner name of love. Exciting it may be and generally is; love it ain't--at least not of a variety I wish to affirm.

Nor is a mothering type of omnipotent benevolence, which sometimes seems like the childhood fantasy of "unqualified love" in practice, an acceptable example for love as I now see it. Mothering is intended here as a name for helping, taking-care-of, or otherwise attempting to bear the burden of existence for another person. This biological role in genetic reproduction, entirely appropriate in its biological place, becomes exceedingly dangerous when taken as a model for "true love." No degradation of motherhood, which has become one of the more popular scapegoats of our day, is intended here; only the observation that identifying mothering, as we commonly know it, with the essence of love is a risky simplicity.

Martyrdom, though not under this dramatic name, is another popular misnomer for the love I wish to honor. This kind of so-called love is personified in self-sacrifice, "putting others first," denying oneself for the supposed "good" of another (closely akin to one of the elements of motherly "love"), and many other forms of self-negation, all popularly viewed as "loving others."

Self-sacrifice, at least the willingness to do so, is indeed a social virtue. Societies thrive on martyrs. Putting self second or even last is an invaluable commodity in social currency; my point here is only to distinguish martyrdom in all its various guises (including the currently popular "victim" phenomenon) from the type of love I wish to affirm. In love we may often appear to be "putting others (or another) first;" we may even "lay down our lives" when we love. The distinction I note, however, is the identification of any form of self-negation, here called martyrdom, with a virtuous love.

Marital "love," that functional type of benign tolerance which spouses sometimes succeed in developing for one another, is another name-sharer of love which I have come to distinguish. By marital "love" I mean that kind of pragmatic physical and emotional dependency which those who share years of life together sometimes move to, after romantic "love" gets dashed on the rocks of reality. This is the "glue" which, along with children and community property, which may hold spouses together after "the honeymoon is over."

My purpose in briefly noting these four familiar kinds of "love" is simply to draw a line between each and all of them and the love which is, I believe, the apex of human potential. Just for distinction, since the name "love" is primarily taken in popular thinking by one or more of these types of human interactions, I often use the Greek word, agape, for the kind of love which I think is truly wonder-filled. No belittlement is untended of either romance, mothering, martyring, or marital "love" for those who "fall in" or otherwise choose to participate in either of these familiar types of human relationships. Each can be practical at times, and each has an established place in current social structures. Now do I care to quibble about the name love itself. My concern surpasses language and goes on to try to confront the stuff of which eternal life is made.

Agape, as I understand it, is a human possibility which exists in sharp distinction with these four noted "loves." Not that one who "agapes" (loves in this latter way) may not also at times participate in any of them; but that neither of them can be identified with agape. Agape is not the same as romantic "love," motherly "love," self-sacrificial "love," or marital "love." Rather it is a capacity which is only activated when we dare move beyond the above noted split within ourselves and are healed or wholed as, perhaps, we once were in the beginnings of individual existence. This wonderful human possibility is, as I now understand, not so much a "virtue" which we should "try hard" to achieve, but rather the natural, as it were, by-product of our becoming ourselves.

As we are being healed again, re-uniting various parts of ourselves which have been split-off in the process of surviving in society, agape wondrously appears. Whenever we, as Jesus said, become as little children, the kind of love which counts ultimately comes to exist at the same time. Not that we get it or do it; but in the process of becoming ourselves we are graced with its awesome presence.

Paradoxically, in daring to "show up," to be present-as-ourselves, honestly and whole-ly being-who-we-are-created-capable-of-being, this grand apex of human capacity, this love which I distinguish as agape, appears also. God, we might say, this Oneness which is love, turns out to be omnipresent, when and wherever we dare the same.

This is indeed the grandest insight I have ever had. Some wonder-filled times, when I am especially graced, I even know first hand what I have here "been talking about." Agape, I conclude, is truly the greatest!


COMMANDMENTS TO MYSELF

From these and other insights, "things I have learned," here are the "rules" I now try to live by. They are the most important things I know which I am also most inclined to forget. For my own best guidance as continual reminders, I form them as COMMANDMENTS TO MYSELF. They are listed in what I now think to be their order of greatest importance. My goal, of course, is to experience agape, that kind of love which is synonymous with God, and is tantamount to being in heaven in the here and now--happiness, joy, or peace-of-mind, this state may be secularly called. Paradoxically, I place it last, since I find most success in this quest when I place greater emphasis on those which at first glance seem to be its opposite. For clarity I present them as though they were objective directives rather than subjective reminders--advice to you rather than instructions to me. No offense intended.

1. Thou shalt be thyself.

2. Thou shalt be present.

3. Thou shalt be timely.

4. Thou shalt be knowing.

5. Thou shalt be discerning.

6. Thou shalt be careful.

7. Thou shalt be flexible.

8. Thou shalt be connected.

9. Thou shalt be loving.

Here are brief explanations:

1. Be yourself.

This most difficult and yet relevant of them all focuses on my life-long attempt to "be good" or "behave myself." Beginning with trying to be a "good boy," the focus has continually shifted to whatever other roles I found myself in--student, friend, leader, soldier, teacher, preacher, counselor, spouse, father--you name it; whatever my activity or role, I have, as long as I can remember, been most concerned with "being good."

There is, of course, nothing wrong with trying to "be good," except that I have used it to avoid the most basic element in human being--namely, being a self which is, since birth, essentially "cut-off-from." To "be myself" means first of all to be apart-from, separate or cut off from the rest of reality, including other persons, to a significant degree. Not entirely, as my eighth COMMANDMENT is intended to remind me; but first, and most essentially for following the other nine, I must be constantly reminded to place being myself, a separate, different one-who-is-apart from all else.

Because I so easily blur the critical line between being and behaving, identifying being-a-good-boy with being myself, I need this COMMANDMENT. Behaving or "being good" is not the same as goodly being. The correlation, regrettably, turns out to be very poor; the "gooder" I have gotten, the less myself I have become. I am trying now to break this habit.

Both goodly being and being good matter; each is important. But in that order. Unfortunately for me I so strongly emphasized the second that I tried to negate the first in quest of the second. In order to "be good," I tried to "not be myself"--I see in retrospect. Unwittingly I made a virtue of self sacrifice, "putting myself last," trying to suppress, even negate some of the most primal parts of who-I-am. How "good" (godly) can one get!

Specifically, when I am abiding by this my first COMMANDMENT, I am trying to be animal, human, Evans, and Joe Bruce--all at the same time. That is, I am being engened--98% animal, but also 2% human. I am being embodied rather than trying to be a self, soul, or I who incidentally happens to be temporarily taking residence in this trashy body which "I" own. This also means I am being human rather than godly--mortal rather than immortal, niscient rather than omni-scient, and potent rather than omni-potent. Furthermore, penised rather than vaginaed, I am being male with a female shadow, rather than a "nice" non-sexual person.

As animal and human, I am, whenever I dare, being a survivor ("selfish"), sexual (concerned with genetic reproduction), emotional (a "feeling" creature), plus thoughtful (capable of consciousness and therefore "being reasonable" to some small degree). But my creaturely blood is also Evans strained. I am not only a human being, I am an Evans; I am both engened and enfamilied. This means that also, when I am being myself, I activate those characteristics which are predominant in my Evans blood.

Finally, and often hardest of all, I am Joe Bruce--that is, my own unique-in-all-the-world combination of animal, human, Evans plus Coker genes. I am different. Not only am I, like all other persons and life forms, "cut-off," apart-from all else; I am also unique in my separation. To be myself, to keep my first COMMANDMENT, I activate my commonality with all else that lives, and also my differences, which often seems weird (to me), at least at first.

I break this COMMANDMENT whenever I cease being my separate self and escape into the futile attempt to be "a good person," that is, what I perceive "them (whoever they may be) to want me to be."

2. Show up.

This is about being PRESENT in each here and now, rather than absent as my unique self--that is, about "sending in the clown (the 'good person' charade, or its opposite which is but more of the same)" rather than "showing up" myself. I break this COMMANDMENT whenever I "appear to be present," for instance, listening to you, but am actually "out to lunch," "on Cloud Nine," or, "in some other world"--in either case, not PRESENT as a separate person who is hearing you in the here and now.

To BE PRESENT is to exist in your presence (or absence) while following my first COMMANDMENT--that is, both being myself and with you at the same time. BEING PRESENT is activating the essence of who-I-am in each particular place and ever instant of time. It is BEING MYSELF, not merely in isolation as a separate entity, but grounded in time and space, in particular, in the PRESENT now and here.

Space and time are our two most familiar "measuring devices." I use them to amplify what I mean by SHOWING UP. First, space: to activate BEING MYSELF (first COMMANDMENT), I do so in each space, place-on-earth, where I am, embodied--wherever, for instance, you may see me. When I keep this second COMMANDMENT I am PRESENT wherever I happen to be. If I am in my house, I (who-I-am), am PRESENT as myself, rather than merely appearing as, for example, a "good husband" or a "good father," pretending to be there while actually "still at the office" or elsewhere.

Whatever I am doing in any place I find myself, I am doing it. I am not merely "going through the motions" or performing "by rote." I, literally, am PRESENT as MYSELF whenever I keep this second COMMANDMENT. "What you see is what you get," meaning: I am authentically PRESENT in whatever I happen to be doing. Stated negatively, to BE PRESENT is "not to be phony," or "insincere." Comedian Joan Rivers often says: "Get real..." I imagine she refers to what I mean by BEING PRESENT, that is, "Stop being phony and dishonest; show up as you truly are."

From the dimension of time--past, present, and future, BEING PRESENT means in the now, rather than "living in the past," or pretending to be in the future. Whenever I am BEING PRESENT, I am present now. "Beloved," wrote the Apostle Paul, "now is the accepted time; behold today is the day of salvation." In other words, salvation ("happiness") is not merely some anticipated future state. To be saved is to BE PRESENT in each and every now, every day, one following the other.

BEING PRESENT means, in terms of time, to let go of the past, to glance at the future, and to honor each; yet to keep major focus and attention on now. Specifically, never to use the relative ease of bitching about the past or dreaming about the future to escape the awesomeness of the ever-present holy ground on which we always stand whenever we are BEING PRESENT as ourselves.

3. Be timely.

"Being good," as measured by time, means to "be on time," to keep the schedule of others, to fit in with the time as expected from "out there." "Being bad," its opposite, which is but more of the same dressed differently, is to "be late." "It's good to be on time and bad to be late." BEING TIMELY is an event entirely beyond both these familiar measuring sticks. There is no inherent connection between "being on time" or "being late" and BEING TIMELY.

This latter topic, the subject of my third COMMANDMENT, falls in a dimension not subject to measurement by clock or calendar; BEING TIMELY, involves, to use a metaphor, the schedule of the universe, or God's time, which, as the Bible notes, is not man's time. The point of such metaphors is to point to something more than mere clock-measured "time." If the bus comes at 2:00 O'clock, I must be "on time" or I miss the bus. BEING TIMELY, however, has little to do with "getting to the bus 'on time.'" TIMELINESS may, for instance, involve "being late," or even missing the bus entirely.

The metaphor, schedule of the universe, implies much more than a merely larger time-table than that of the bus or other clock-measured schedules. Like all good metaphors, its aim is entirely beyond what it speaks of, in this case clock-time of scheduling itself. To say that God's time is not man's time, does not simply refer to a grander schedule of clock-time, a bigger or more accurate time-table; rather it points to a quality of human experience which is literally not subject to measurement by any schedule at all. It is, paradoxically, though always in time--while clocks are ticking and, according to the second law of thermodynamics, "the universe is winding down," never related to measurable time.

Earlier I quoted from Desiderata, ....no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. The implication is of a divine or somehow separate schedule from our own--such as, God's hidden-to-us schedule (for instance, of when the world will end, or when one "should" die). As a metaphor for pointing us beyond our own schedules the poem "works." But if we simply assume the universe or God to be on another time-table, we miss the larger point implied in my third COMMANDMENT to myself. Earlier I noted my observation that reality is not scheduled at all, that in fact it is constantly changing. Although there are schedules for buses, classes, and most other social events and activities, there are none for the universe--that is, for life itself.

Creation is willy nilly, unscheduled. Therefore, whenever anything happens in life (outside of getting to class "on time," etc.) it is, in effect TIMELY, even though not literally on any clock or calendar schedule. To accept that the universe is unfolding as it should, or that whatever happens in life beyond socially structured events is TIMELY is to acknowledge the limitations of human control over the universe, specifically our capacity for directing most aspects of life.

For example, kissing and making love are two primal events in life. When is the "right time" to kiss a girl? 8:00 O'clock? 10:30? When are you "supposed to" make love? On Friday night? Sunday morning? Once a week? Twice? We can never kiss or make love "on time" because there is no such schedule in the universe of any relationship. Yet there is the extremely relevant issue of TIMELINESS, as every school boy knows. "Too early" and you get rejected. "To late" and you get rejected. But TIMELY and you get kissed. Ah, the arts of discerning TIMELINESS!

Translating this awareness into practice may be seen in the two extreme errors of hurrying and dallying, going "too fast" or "too slow." TIMELINESS always falls somewhere between the two. Stated negatively this COMMANDMENT to myself is: THOU SHALT NOT HURRY and THOU SHALT NOT DALLY. In a cliche, when I keep this COMMANDMENT, I never "get in a hurry," because to do so is to evade the reality of the TIMELY unfolding of the universe.

Speaking literally, one cannot be "in a hurry" because being, since it is unscheduled, is never hurried. If whatever happens in the course of evolution is TIMELY at the time (since it is unscheduled), then "hurrying" is always an evasion of reality-as-it-is. Hence, wherever I begin "hurrying" I begin leaving myself at the same instant. To remain myself is never to start "to hurry." When I follow this COMMANDMENT, as soon I "catch myself" beginning to "try to hurry," I immediately slow down, realizing that in reality there is no hurry (so, if I "get in" one, I must "get out" of reality).

Conversely, when I dally or delay, I evade reality on the slow rather than the fast side. Either error takes me out of reality. I can neither hurry or dally without missing reality in its ever-changing process. Whenever I do either, I am literally "out of it." So the challenge of this COMMANDMENT is to never hurry and never dally; instead, to always BE TIMELY--or at least try to.

Hurrying and dallying are to be sharply distinguished from going fast or going slow. The first two are spiritual issues which have nothing to do with actual speed. It is entirely appropriate to move fast or slow, depending on one's goals at them time. But moving at a fast rate of speed is not the same event as "getting in a hurry." For example, one can be in a race (moving speedily) without "getting in a hurry;" conversely, one can be moving slowly and yet be "in a hurry."

When I keep this COMMANDMENT I may move quickly or slowly, depending on circumstances; yet I never fall out of reality by "trying to hurry" or "dilly dallying around." When so fortunate, I kiss, make love, and do all else in a TIMELY fashion.

4. Be knowing.

This COMMANDMENT is about all that I previously described as KWIK or Knowing What I Know. In summary, KNOWING means to continually acknowledge my perceptions of reality, to always follow the normal process which moves from CEIVING (sensing) to PERCEIVING (thoroughly sensing or "grasping" what is sensed) to CONCEIVING (forming mental images or ideas, "making sense," out of what is sensed. When I am KNOWING, I do not interrupt this natural flow of stimuli within myself, for instance, by denying a PERCEPTION into consciousness, or refusing to acknowledge how I CONCEIVE the PERCEPTION, the "way it seems to me."

Following this COMMANDMENT, when I have the nerve to do so, I honor the wealth of my perceptions which I share with all other humans, plus, if I am correct about our blood, those unusual perceptions arising from Evans far-sightedness or insightfulness. It is not enough that I simply "see" what others "see;" to remain true to myself, I must also acknowledge my own insights which others may or may not "see." The "way I see things," especially when my perceptions are different from those of others, is a critical element in BEING MYSELF (my first COMMANDMENT). But merely "seeing"--the first step in CONCEIVING, is not enough; to keep this fourth COMMANDMENT, I must also acknowledge (to myself) what I have "seen." This is the sense of the first word in Know What I Know. To complete the process which begins with Knowing as sensing, I must dare to go to the conclusion of "making sense" our of my sensing, of acknowledging consciously that which I have "seen (sensed)."

It is "nice" and affirming if others "see" what I do, or "see things my way;" but not critical in keeping this COMMANDMENT. Hopefully they will, or that I may at least get those who are significant to me "to understand" (acknowledge my perceptions with me); but their "seeing what I see" is merely icing on the cake, should it occur. The main issue for me is that I acknowledge and clarify what I "see," not that "they" do.

This entire book, especially this latter section, is a part of my process of keeping this COMMANDMENT to myself. You may or may not "see things as I do," as presented here; yet it is important for me that I acknowledge to myself what I "see" as honestly and clearly as I can. If you have read this far, I am pleased; if you also "see what I see," sharing my "sense," my pleasure is doubled. But even so, whether you agree of disagree, this affirmation of my own insights up until this moment is important for me.

Honoring my PERCEPTIONS, with or without your confirmation, I continually transform them into CONCEPTIONS which "make sense" to me, to be remembered, enjoyed, and sometimes used in coping more effectively with the random universe, enhancing my pleasures and minimizing my pains.

I do not know-for-sure about others (though it seems to be the same) but mustering the courage to "see what I see (KWIK)," with or without confirmation and approval by others, remains a continual challenge for me. In order to "be accepted" I am constantly tempted to either deny what I "see," especially when my insights are "different," or to cloak or color what I "see" so that it seems to be the same as their vision (so they will understand me). With hindsight, however, I recognize that I always "lose" in the long run when I dilute the clarity of my "seeing" in order to get confirmation from others. Approval, I finally figured out, is simply not worth the price of self-negation. (More about this dilemma in my sixth COMMANDMENT)


5. Be discerning.

All KNOWING is rooted in DISCERNMENT or discrimination--sensing a difference between this and that (We KNOW light, for example, by distinguishing it from dark; hot is KNOWN in comparison to cold, etc.). This COMMANDMENT is about sharpening such "dull" or crude discernment, moving from generalized distinctions such as light or dark, hot or cold, to finer degrees of discrimination. How hot? How cold?, for examples.

The thrust of this COMMANDMENT is an affirmation of the powerful human capacity to make extremely sharp discriminations, to DISCERN very fine lines between all thises and thats (all we can sense). All life forms can KNOW to a certain extent; cows, for example, can KNOW sunrise and sunset. But we humans can also KNOW 9:31 AM and 3:17 PM--a level of time discrimination which is, so far as we KNOW, not possible for cows. All creatures seem to recognize the difference between males and females; but we humans can draw lines which are far more discriminating, for example, we can also KNOW about handsome and wimpy males, and pretty and ugly females--much more so, it seems to me, than can cows and bulls.

We can crudely distinguish between white and black, for instance, Europeans and Africans. But as humans we have DISCERNMENT powers which go far beyond such gross distinctions. We can, if we keep this COMMANDMENT, discriminate further between affluent and poor, dominant and submissive, emotional and thoughtful--and almost endlessly on...

The point of this COMMANDMENT is to remind me to be regularly about the business of making discriminations as sharply as I can; to BE MYSELF requires that I embrace this capacity also--to whatever degree it exists for humans in general and Evans' in particular (and Joe Bruce specifically). All KNOWING begins with crude DISCERNMENT, such as white or black, but to become fully human we must go much further in increasing the level of our discriminations.

Two major alternatives face me; first I can evade DISCERNING by simply "not seeing" or not daring to draw the lines which I am actually capable of drawing. I can remain as other less-evolved creatures who merely KNOW gross distinctions such as, light and dark, or I can pervert my human capacity for more-sharply-KNOWING into its opposite, namely, denying-what-I-could-KNOW if I dared to.

The second option, even more dangerous than the first, is to evade human DISCERNING by slipping into godly JUDGING--that is, to make a simple discrimination, such as, white or black, and then jump to the godly JUDGMENT, for instance, that white is good or black is bad, or vice versa. As noted previously, human capacity allows for vast degrees of DISCERNMENT, but whenever we, as in the Genesis allegory, "become as gods" by "eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil," we escape humanity and are consequently exited from this Eden (Garden of Pleasure).

I choose the word JUDGMENT to represent this ever-present human temptation to assume godly Knowledge of Good and Evil ("right and wrong"), rather than remaining faithfully with our human ability to simply but profoundly make extremely sharp DISCERNMENT. With this understanding, this COMMANDMENT becomes: ALWAYS DISCERN (as sharply as I can), but NEVER JUDGE (to even the slightest degree). To remain human and hence BE PRESENT in this potential Garden of Eden (heaven on earth) which is everywhere, I must continually resist the temptation to play god by slipping from DISCERNMENT into JUDGMENT.

Whenever I do, I, like Adam, am always exited from my first hand KNOWLEDGE of this heavenly earth; not, as far as I know, because "God gets mad at my disobedience and punishes me (like Mother used to do)," but because JUDGMENT is simply not a human option. I, whenever I move from DISCERNING to JUDGING by assuming that I "know what is right and wrong," exit myself from the real human condition. "I," so to speak, "kick myself out of Eden" when I fall for my own act of godly JUDGMENT. To DISCERN is human; to JUDGE is godly.

To remain human, to BE MYSELF, is, in regard to KNOWING, to always BE DISCERNING as sharply as I can, but to never presume to KNOW-FOR-SURE--that is, to JUDGE my discriminations as Good or Evil, Right or Wrong. To do so is to escape into godliness with its predictable consequences--as we have all been warned.

I intend this COMMANDMENT to remind me to recognize every distinction which I can make with my wonderful-but-limited perceptions, both physical and mental (by "sensing" and "thinking"), and to carefully avoid both alternatives--refusing to "see" or JUDGING what I do "see." I want to continually enjoy the fun of discriminating as sharply as I can, but to never leave the awareness that my discernments are my perceptions-made-into-conceptions only, inherently wonder-filled for me, but perhaps unmatched or shared by any other human beings, certainly not worthy of justifying the sin of self-rightness, of pretending to myself to know-for-sure that how-I-see-it is how-it-is.

6. Be careful.

Literally I mean: BE FULL OF CARE--CARE-FULL, in all circumstances, reduced to the familiar word careful. This COMMANDMENT is about "street knowledge," "acting smart," "using your head," "making sense," or taking into account what I have learned in the "School Of Hard Knocks."

The physical world, as most recognize, if full of dangers. Anyone who climbs mountains knows to BE CAREFUL lest they fall and injure themselves. Often, however, I fail to remember that human relationships are equally dangerous in a spiritual sense. If I am not "street wise" in relating to others, I am apt to either give myself away, be spiritually abused, get "taken advantage of," or otherwise "put down"--so that I end up less myself or even killed-in-spirit.

This COMMANDMENT is a reminder to me to be as CAREFUL with other people, especially loved ones, as I would be were I climbing a rocky mountain for the first time. I include loved ones, because I naturally tend to BE CAREFUL around strangers, but have a dangerous habit of forgetting about dangers which exist in the presence of those to whom I am most vulnerable.

My play on the word careful, CARE-FULL, is an attempt to distinguish what I mean from merely being guarded, cautious, or continually defensive. FULL-OF-CARE means very caring, CARE-FULLY-ALERT to what is happening, as contrasted with blindly bumbling around inattentive to the immense spiritual dangers inherent in all human relationships. I do not mean "up tight," "ready to attack," or "always on the defensive." I do mean CARE-FULL as one would naturally be while climbing mountains--alert and ready-to-move-quickly, which is often the opposite of "guarded." In such a stance one is apt to be even more open and responsive than otherwise.

Specifically, BEING CAREFUL takes shape in the acts of revealing and concealing oneself to others. From the wealth of knowledge available through KWIK (COMMANDMENT 4), sharpened by discernment (COMMANDMENT 5), and carefully protected from the sin of JUDGMENT (evading # 5), one following this 6th COMMANDMENT reveals or conceals him or herself in a judicious manner, always CARE-FULL, sharing or keeping secrets wisely.

The arts of creative deception are as essential to keeping this COMMANDMENT as are the skills for appropriate revelation. One must learn to "fool others" CARE-FULLY, without ever "fooling oneself." All such acts of deception are undertaken out of one's acquired knowledge about appropriate revelation of oneself. For example, I must, in keeping this "rule," speak or remain silent, or speak deceptively, in accord with the hear-ability of others and my own goals at the time. Sometimes I will "press the edge of the envelope" of another's hearing on occasions of choice; but I will never be pushed to reveal or forced to conceal except out of my CARING, at least when I keep this COMMANDMENT.

The artful deceptions which are such a critical part of all CARING are to be carefully distinguished from more familiar hidings we are all inclined to do out of learned fears of being known. The deceptions I refer to here are always born of CARE-FULL-NESS, never of the fear of being revealed, or any compulsive habits of secrecy. In keeping this COMMANDMENT I am CAREFUL in the sense of concealing my truthfulness which I DISCERN to be injurious or intolerable to another at the time, or counter-productive to my own goals. I could reveal, for instance, what I think or feel, if I chose to; I am not hiding out of fear of being known. But I am CARE-FULLY attentive to the effects of my revelations, choosing to be responsible for all that I say. Or don't.

For instance, if I feel angry with or attracted to a person, especially a loved one, I will never, when I keep this COMMANDMENT, automatically reveal or conceal either. Always I will be CARE-FULL about the hear-ability of the other person at that particular moment as well as my own stability in responsibly owning my feelings as my own. If they seem "able to hear" without being injured, and if I feel able to reveal myself and yet remain "on my Green Spot" ("in my own skin") at the time, then I may say what I am feeling; otherwise I do my best to artfully conceal myself just then.

BEING CAREFUL, whenever I am able, I realize that "total honesty" or "letting it all hang out" or "just saying whatever I think or feel" are human possibilities which are largely limited to counseling situations or being alone. The notion of "unqualified acceptance," so popular at this time, is, I think but an illusion or dream which is never feasible in a normal human relationship. Always, if I am to remain myself, human "in the real world," rather than escaping to some Cloud Nine where the normal laws of Cause and Effect have been suspended, I must remember this COMMANDMENT.

When on mountains or wherever, especially when with people: BE CAREFUL.


7. Be flexible.

I need this COMMANDMENT; yet it remains difficult to follow. All my life I have tried to be constant, to "always be the same," to be "dependable," unchanging, someone "you can count on," to "keep my word," to "do what I said I would," to be stable, unbending (especially on matters of principle), to "endure to the end," to "never give up," to "go down with the ship"--in other words, permanent, like, I then thought, God is. With an ideal of The Rock of Ages, "Thou who changest not...," I tried to at least be like a pebble which "stood firm" and changed as little as possible.

Such stability of word, deed, and self is, of course, a grand virtue in society. All systems and groups need "members they can count on" to "show up on time" and "do what they say they will"--that is, who will function in a relatively permanent manner, with minimal direction and supervision from others. My groups were no different from any others in this regard; they all wanted "dependable" participants who "came to all the meetings," did "what they were told to do (whether they "felt like it" or not)," paid their dues "on time" with no questions asked, and were otherwise "stable."

So, with both my religion and my society holding up the ideal of permanent rather than changeable, and me always striving to be a "good boy," small wonder that I learned well and did my best to never be "fickle," or "undependable," or "whimsical," or to "change my mind," or "be untrue to my word," or "let anybody down." This little "pebble" tried hard to be as nearly like the Rock of Gibraltar as possible.

But in time I began to "see through" the social ideal of good as permanent and recognize the rather limited view I had of God as Rock versus Wave. Most of the world, as well as the people within it, were, I noted changing. In spite of their best efforts, for example, no one "stayed 29." Etc. Etc. To reduce the length of this introduction, I have come to experience God as Creating and therefore Changing, rather than inflexible and permanent as I once thought. Now, for me, the Sea is a better metaphor for God than a Stone. Reality, I now note, and hence Ultimate Reality, is continually changing. All apparent permanence is, as best I can tell, but a temporary anomaly. Even rocks erode and change in time. The only thing that is permanent, to play with words, is change itself.

So finally I am learning--hence my need for this COMMANDMENT--that the greater virtue is to BE FLEXIBLE, to try harder to emulate the willow rather than the oak tree, to be like the ever-changing sea rather than a never-changing (or so it appears) stone. To be able to "bend with the wind," I now think, is a far more valid ideal than to "go down trying not to change."

By FLEXIBLE I mean both rooted and bendable, not simply shapeless or "moved by every wind that blows." This COMMANDMENT is not idealizing "spinelessness" or being "a leaf on the stream of life," without form; rather it recognizes that while form is always necessary, no form is permanent. All the virtues I learned early, such as, "dependability" and "sticking to my word," etc., I still hold--yet FLEXIBLY. Now I hold them "playfully," with tongue in cheek. I act serious about them; while recognizing the value of "stability" for societies (groups of people) and all other forms-for-life, I also see the larger picture in which all forms are in a constant state of evolution, continually changing, even when the rate is too slow for my eyes to catch.

I strive to stand-firm, temporarily, keeping my peripheral vision on the larger course of creation. Like leaves in the Spring and Summer, I try with all my might to cling to the branches where I am attached; but when I discover that Fall is here, I try with equal diligence to let go in a TIMELY fashion. Leaves, I have found--like stones, laws, youth, styles, societies, and people, including myself, both come and go. We are, even when we do so slowly, changing.

This COMMANDMENT is my reminder to myself to look beyond my earlier learning about "trying to be constant," to the larger reality which could also be summarized as BE CHANGING. To BE FLEXIBLE means more than simply "bendable;" it means to BE CHANGING. I place BE in italics to emphasize the existential sense in which I understand this reminder--that is, to identify myself with CHANGING itself, as contrasted with "always-the-same." I try to literally be one-who-is-changing (even while appearing to be constant), to see and understand myself as existent in the process of "my" changes, rather than one-who-is-permanent and is "loving myself" when I experience my changing consciously--for example, in "getting older," the process of physical aging.

BEING CHANGING, rather than trying to be a static entity ("person") who must regretfully "admit" changes which are "happening-to-me" (implying that I am an it--a permanent thing-- to which change "happens," I try, whenever I am able to keep this COMMANDMENT, to realize that I myself am changing; it isn't "happening-to-me. I am (I literally exist) in the process of these obvious changes which either you or I may see (whenever we dare!).

Identified (seeing myself) with CHANGING (rather than with PERMANENCE), the experience of "letting go" becomes as critically important as "hanging on." Unlike I once thought, "hanging-in-there" (being constant or "dependably-the-same") is not inherently good, anymore than "letting go" is always bad--for example, as in the notion that long marriage is good, and divorce ("letting go") is bad. The virtue attached to either can be recognized only in regard to the TIMELINESS of its occurrence. In other words, it is as good to "let go" and move on at the appropriate time (for instance, of an old shoe or friendship), as it is good to remain attached longer than either is "good for me." Or, conversely, it is as bad to not "let go," (which CHANGING continually requires), or to "hang-on" too long, as it is to bad to avoid "attachments" which seem to be PERMANENT.

The more important issue, I now see, is TIMELINESS in either attachment (appearing permanent) or in detachment--that is, "hanging-in" or "turning loose." Both are critical elements of good CHANGING. Summarized: BEING FLEXIBLE and CHANGING unite to form the nature of CREATING. To BE MYSELF ( # 1) is, in regard to permanence-in-time, to be continually CREATING, even as God is.

In such a continually creative milieu of which I am also a part, I do well, I now see, to detach myself from my old ideal of "never changing" and latch on, when I can, to the "ever changing," rarely-the-same, nature of reality.

To help myself keep reminded, I have made up this 7th COMMANDMENT: BE FLEXIBLE.


8. Be apart-of.

I am a first child and was an only child for four years. I got a lot of practice and set many habits before my first sister came along to interrupt my solitary kingdom and relative isolation. I had already learned much about "playing alone." But I was delighted then that she "came" (from Kalamazoo!), even though second thoughts arose soon thereafter. Many years later, I am even more grateful for her and her part in introducing me to the larger world of humankind beyond the boundaries of my aloneness.

This COMMANDMENT is the second half of Number One. First, I, blind-one that I often am, need reminding that I have been born--cut off, possessor of belly button and skin, sign and fact signifying and confirming that I am separate, apart-from all else. But as "cut-off," I also tend to forget that the sever is never complete. Both navel and skin and loneliness are deceptive. It does look and seem and often feel that I am all alone and hence inherently "lonely" in my separation from my mother, my world, and my friends (who have a way of turning fickle, moving away, and even dying on me).

But all this when I am only half-looking, settling for the "appearance of things" rather than acknowledging the remainder of my actual experience. Belly buttons do, in fact, seem to be permanent; no one stays attached or gets re-connected to mother (at least physically). But skin, taken both as fact and metaphor, is permeable. It looks solid, like an "iron curtain," yet is constantly emitting ("sweat," for instance) and receiving (heat, air, etc.). Skin, we now know, like "us," breathes. And when it gets too brittle to "breathe," it dies and flakes off.

The point is: we are not as "cut-off" as we appear to be and often, self-pityingly, like to think of ourselves as being. Paradoxically, frustrating our best logic, we are both separate--a-lone-ones, and connected--apart-of-ones. We are, whether we like it or not, both individuals and members of social groups. Even when we rebel and declare ourselves to be independent, still we remain in context, apart-of some group whether we acknowledge same or not. We all come from a family, and even though we "run away from home" and imagine "you can't go home again," we never lose our family blood. The cord may be cut, but their blood yet unites us. My father is dead; still I regularly, when I am honest, discover him "showing up in me." Even my own hands "look like his."

Skin-as-metaphor is indicative of our actual inter-dependence, even when we appear to be independent or do our best to evade the challenges of separation by trying to be dependent. Either of these latter efforts, though massive and continuing (to be "independent" or be "dependent") seem destined for failure in time because they disregard the "facts of life," namely, that we are both alone and with.

I put my first COMMANDMENT first because it seems most critical for me as a basis for the latter ones; but now, nearing the end of my list, I include the other side of the paradox. It too is crucially important in my overall well-being. I do well to accept and acknowledge my own aloneness, my separate, and in some small measure, unique self. But I am also well advised to never forget that I am both far more alike than different (more animal/human than Joe Bruce) and also more connected than cut-off. I do live, pay taxes, and die "on my own," but I am, as John Donne noted long ago, also "a piece of the continent, a part of the main...and every man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind" (italics mine).

Another reason for placing this reminder near the end of my list is that I, and I think most others, have already learned so deeply the importance of "being accepted"--that is, fitting in to our various groups, "trying to be liked" (to act in ways which keep us tolerated if not cared for), that we stand in less need of conscious reminders. We have all acquired, long before language and "thinking" became relevant, to sensitively "intuit" whether or not another person or group "is accepting" us. Our "ingrained learning," even when it is bothersome, at least keeps us reminded of the importance of fitting in, even at the sacrifice of significant elements of ourselves.

Both, as noted, matter greatly; but I have more need of being reminded not to forget to "keep my integrity" as a separate self, than to be attentive to the possible rejections of others.

In practice this COMMANDMENT calls me to be as diligent in my efforts to FIT IN positively as I have been in my continual struggle to embrace the awesome fact of my own separation and unique attributes. To BE APART-OF means to accept the challenges of not only being separate (like an only child), but also of being connected (like a sibling and a family member). When I am most myself, I am both/and, not either/or. Without negating or denying my separate-and-different self, I also affirm and nourish my connected-and-communal self.

I suffer, in time, whenever I forget either--when I fiercely fight to maintain "my independence" ignoring my connections, or when I passively "give in" to maintain "my dependence" pretending to "just be one of the group." Better, I have found after wasting much energy in each direction, to acknowledge inter-dependence and get on about FITTING IN, positively.

Adding positively implies that FITTING IN requires respect and diligent attention to each side of the paradox--both my independence and my dependence. Recognizing both, I strive to shape, effect, influence, and otherwise change-to-my-liking all the relationships and groups of which I am APART-OF. But, when wiser, I also try not to play god, as though I own or am literally "in charge" of any of my connections. I try to "have my way" whenever I can; I try not to forget my first COMMANDMENT and simply "roll over and play dead." But at the same time, I need reminding (hence this COMMANDMENT), to always keep one eye on the larger group, the source and context of my equally real connections.

Putting the two together (Number One and Number Eight), I strive both to BE MYSELF and to FIT IN, to be a-lone-one and apart-of, at the same time. I try to BE CAREFUL (Number Six) to appropriately reveal/conceal myself (be deceptive or open)--that is, to FIT IN without "losing myself," honoring, as best I can, the sacredness of each half of the whole, which is I.


9. Be loving.

I place this COMMANDMENT last for two reasons: because it is the culminating apex of them all, the most important to me. So why then, did I not place it first? If it is the most significant, shouldn't it be Number One? Because, paradoxically, while the most relevant of all, it is impossible to keep without following the first eight first. The order, I now see, quite in contrast to what I thought earlier, is crucial. Theoretically, the main things should come first (Try to love before all else); but in practice, I have had a hard time realizing, the opposite is true in this case.

The harder I tried to skip to Number Nine, to BE LOVING before everything else, the "behinder I got." No one is actually so unloving, I finally recognized, as those who self-sacrificially devote themselves to "trying to be loving," including myself. Beware of the "Christians," I reluctantly came to realize. The Inquisition is seldom far behind the Crusade, and never disconnected. The "benevolent" gifts come first; but the hidden demand for "shaping up" is shortly predictable. "Christian" love, it turns out, also has its qualifications.

But enough for my regrets; what I now realize is that love, though the ideal, is more like a by-product than a goal-to-be-sought. Like fun, the harder I try to "have it" the "less I have," and the more I ignore it, focusing on Numbers 1 - 8, the more often "it" shows up--by grace. The very act of including BE LOVING as a COMMANDMENT is inherently dangerous, easily tempting me to return to my former error.

Yet it bears attention. The love I wish to affirm and seek to experience is, as noted before, agape rather then the popular name-sharers--romance, the kind of "love" we may "fall in" or "make;" motherly "love" ("helping others"), martyrdom (putting yourself last, or, better, not at all), and marital "bliss" (benevolent, passionless, tolerance). Agape, in sharp contrast to most of the elements in the "big four," has no inevitable, definable, or even predictable characteristics. Like God--which, as John noted, is Love, agape cannot be "pinned down" in any final sense.

These, however, are the most familiar shapes which I have found agape to take: more often than not, it seems to accept, affirm, and free--both oneself as lover and the other as loved. Agape, when it makes one of its rare appearances (it is regrettably "rarer than hen's teeth" or confirmed UFO sightings, I note), seems to begin with acceptance. It says, in effect, "Welcome; come on in. The water is fine. Kick off your shoes; let your hair down. It is okay to BE YOURSELF. You don't have to measure-up for me."

Increasing its rarity and leaving its name-sakes even further behind, agape goes on to add: "You're not only acceptable, Okay with me; you're also fine, just the way you are. Do your own thing; I'll bet I like it! Show yourself, so I can shake your hand and award you for being human." At this point, all look-alikes, usurpers of the holy name, fade further into the background. Even when they seem at first to accept, rarely do they dare to affirm.

But Agape, when I risk leaving the security of my self-rejections and dare to hang in with its deceptively threatening affirmations, seldom stops there. Seductively it often invites: "Why not try your wings? Out of the darkness and into the light, walking upright, ever consider flying?" Recklessly, as though throwing all caution to the winds, She sometimes points toward the freedom of which I once dreamed as a child, before the boundaries of social reality came crashing in around me, sending me to my room, and taunts: "Why not be free?" "Truth," She reminds me, "can make you so."

And, I am happy to "confess" (as though it were a crime!), I have, on all-too-rare an occasion, chanced to be seduced, briefly, into vast, boundless, realms beyond myself. Paradox of all paradoxes, under the sway of Agape, accepted and affirmed as-I-am, I have also been freed to explore who-I-may-become. Immersed, accepted and affirmed, in my immanent self (deceptively called "just being myself"), I have, whenever my faith was sufficient in the arms of Agape, experienced transcendence, the ultimate in freedom.

Talk about fun! Heaven-on earth is a better name. "She," trickster that She is, pretending to be Agape, turns out to be LOVE. And, wonder of all wonders, before I realize that the secular ground has disappeared beneath me and I can rush to hiding once more, God moons me! Now ain't that a kick!

So, lest I forget (as though I ever could), I add COMMANDMENT NUMBER NINE for my own recognizance. "Try not to think about it," still split, I sometimes say to my self; "be diligent in keeping the first eight, and perhaps, graced again, LOVE will appear once more--God, that is.

BE LOVING. What else could matter more?

**********

It all boils down to this: show up, take care, and love will appear. God is already here.

(Yeah, I know; there're supposed to be Ten. But then, I'm not really god! So what else is new...)

So much for EVANS BLOOD....

**********

BACK TO HOME PAGE