THE CHRISTMAS DONKEY AND FLANNERY O’CONNER PART III

The pageant finally got started with everyone doing their carefully scripted part. Most of the time the cast was silent and still in prearranged poses while choirs and individual performers did their bits to the organ and piano accompaniments. When the lights were low enough in the vicinity of the door that the donkey would be entranced in at the final scene, I sneaked Flossie close to the entrance to test her willingness to go through and perform when the time came. She did everything I asked her to do, and she did it quietly and calmly. she never showed a minute of fretting or fear in the more than an hour the rest of the pageant required.

Then came her moment. As the Reverend’s beautiful baritone voice soloed “Oh Holy Night” the young man playing Joseph entered the sanctuary with Mary carrying the baby doll playing Jesus walking closely by the donkey’s other side. We were not going to risk a fall for the young lady doing the Mary part, although she had ridden the donkey comfortably in the hall a dozen times.The crowd made some soft aww and ahh sounds, signaling that this donkey thing was a big hit.

Suddenly Flossie stopped. She showed no sign of fear or alarm. She just would not budge. Sweet whispers and practiced signals did not even register acknowledgement . She would not move to the front, flank or even rear. The Reverend went through every verse twice while the actors got red faced and panicky. I went out to use my practiced charms, but Flossie remained calmly and firmly rooted to the spot, too far inside the sanctuary to not be very visible to everybody, too near the door from which she had come to be mistaken for taking a planned position. A long moment of embarrassed silence filled the room. Her intended route around the altar was obvious, but she was not going to move at all!

Suddenly she did move so quickly that she snatched the lead rope right out of his hands! She charged to the very center of the alter’s semicircle, stopped abruptly and swung her head towards the audience, studied it for a few seconds as though deciding how to respond to the gasps and mutterings with which the startled crowd greeted her unexpected behavior. She raised her head as though in defiance and brayed at a volume that was surely as loud a noise as she was capable of making. This new alarm seemed to be echoed by even louder human gsps and exclamations. Then she lowered her head and walked slowly to and through the door on the altar’s far side. She appeared altogether pleased with her own performance.

I cannot remember much about the immediate aftermath of the fiasco this donkey thing had turned out to be. If a person humiliates you, you are apt to get resentful. If your own behavior humiliates you, you are more apt to feel guilt. But how do you feel when an apparently sweet donkey makes you look like the village idiot? I was completely absorbed in my own mortification.

The other young folks who had been helping with Flossie were eager to leave, so we loaded the donkey into the truck and proceeded to Andalusia. All I could think about on the way there was How do I keep Flannery O’Conner from getting upset about what had happened. But my young associates assured me that she would not know. They had not told anybody where the donkey had come from and no one at the church was going to be telling her. They did not know either. It occurred to me that these guys did not really know who Flannery O’Conner was, and would not have cared if they had known. . To them she was just the lady at that farm who had lent us that donkey. Through the rear window of the truck I could see Flossie was riding easy, although I got out and remounted in the bed of the truck so that I would be seen taking care for her when and if Flannery O’Conner came out of the house before we could get the donkey dismounted. Sure enough she did. We got Flossie down easily and headed for her stall while Mrs. O’Conner stood in the light of her back porch.

“Well Kelley how did it go?” she asked in a pleasant voice that invited a pleasant answer. That is what she got. I stood just outside the porch lit area and summoned the answer I had decided to give her. “She was very nice all the way there and back. I guess you could say she …er… did all right.” i could hear the tenseness in my answer, but….. Flannery O’Conner suddenly straightened and began to grin.

” You come in the light and tell me that won’t you!” She released the laugh she had held back as soon as I took a step or two into the light. She was laughing so hard I was afraid she would fall, and she did sit down quickly on the porch steps.

“You should see your own face young friend !” she exclaimed between fits of laughter, glancing from time to time to look at my face again. She practically shouted the last thing I can remember from that evening.

“I told you she was a Catholic donkey!”

The Christmas Donkey and Flannery O’Conner: PART II

“Hello Kelley. I am about to introduce you to Flossie, our donkey. Bring your men on back to the horse barn if you like.” She spoke in a very friendly way and i started to relax a little. Flannery O’Conner had said she would lend me her donkey to be employed that night in the First Methodist Church’s Christmas pageant. And I had brought two young men and a flatbed truck to Andalusia for the job.

She was neither attractive nor ugly. In my mind she was someone I knew but could not remember when or where I had met her before. The most striking thing about her was her manner. Direct and friendly in a way I never expected from others and rarely got except occasionally from store clerks trying to help me find something to buy. Later he reflected that here was something else about the way she talked, something unique in his dealings with adults other than his own Father. She was as present as my best teacher when she had just asked a difficult question. And yet somehow she was warm and at ease like my own Father whenever he showed up at my Father’s little store.

As well as I can remember the horse barn was a small thing close to the house. Mrs O’Conner signaled to the other guys that they should stay at the entrance. She opened the gate to the donkey’s stalland introduced me to her as formally as she might introduce someone in a reception line to the guest of honor. While I fed the apple I had brought to my new acquaintance Mrs. O’Conner let me know nicely that Flossie was not a donkey, but a hinny. Donkey was as inappropriate for a female donkey as dog was for a bitch. But the atmosphere of the ceremony was a continuation of the warm treatment I had already received.

Together the others helped me to show Flossie up the wide board onto the flat bed truck, down again and after a strollaroung the yard of the house, back up into the flt bed truck. There was nary a hitch. I was to ride in the truck near Flossie as i was advised she had not spent “a lot of time trucking agound, so she would appreciate the company.”

Just before the truck pulled away and after a brief exchange about the schedule of the pageant and the time of return, Mrs. O’Conner informed me bluntly that “You are going to find Flossie a lot more difficult to deal with when you get her to that Methodist church and try to get her to act like a Protestant. She isn’t one and won’t be comfortable being required to act like one. That is a sweet animal, but a very Catholic one.”

On the way to the church I decided that the last warning must have been in the way of a kind of joke. No serious person could possibly imagine that a donkey had a religious loyalty. Besides Flossie was very docile and even nudged my hand a little when I petted her. She was not going to be any trouble. I felt sure of it.

At the church the first question was how to get the donkey inside to the room the other guys had already set up for her comfort until she should be needed for the theatrical trip carrying mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt at the end of the pageant’s nativity drama. There was already fodder and water and the needed huge amount of newspapers to catch any posterior accidents.

Flossie came down the board ramp to the side of the church as though that board ramp was as familiar as her stall. But when we put the same ramp down for her passage into the church she froze. We begged with pleas and strokes, threatened with a belt and fists, bribed with carrots and apples, blindfolded and tugged, pushed and half lifted the beast, but she stood as still and firm as the Statute of Liberty. After better than a half hour of failing to get forward progress, we tried turning her around for another approach, but this also failed.

Exhausted all three of Flossie’s keepers gave up and sat down for a minute to smoke a cigarette. Suddenly Flossie moved and so quickly that she was in the church and half way down the hall to sanctuary before we could get to our feet and chase her. Which we did. Too late. Near the end of the hall she turned sharply into the pastor’s office, where she instantly half squatted to defecate. She did that copiously on both the rug and the floor and the pastor’s desk.

We of course went to work cleaning up behind her and quiding her into the room prepared for her. Another half hour later we conferenced and decided this gliche was not going to ruin her expected performance. Soon the other members of the cast turned up and all showed affection for dear Flossie. i said nothing about her former misdeeds.

Since the dresss rehearsal was to precede the play, we ahd plenty of time to practice observing Flossie make numerous practice walks around the alter to the imagined Egypt on the other side of the alter and back again. Some of them involved the playing of loud organ music, the darkening of the sanctuary,and the presence of an audience standing close to the donkey’s path. Nothing worried her in the least. She performed beautifully. i began to relax. The pageant was rather silly to me, but Mrs O’Conner was going to be made proud of the donkey she had loaned to me. The writer’s health was not good I had been told, and she would definitely not be attending this performance.

LISTENING VERY CAREFULLY TO THE EXPERTS ON COVID19

KELLEY KIDD MARCH 30, 2020 This posting is a response to a friend who told me last night that a true expert, a former director of the CDC, had written an article in USA TODAY that said testing for the virus is a waste of time. My friend went on to argue that the expert showed that critics of the government’s alleged failures on that matter were absurd, that testing does not treat the virus, that people who have the virus just need to stay home until they get well. He added that half the cases of COVID19 in his home town of Augusta, Georgia were concentrated at the state operated medical research and treatment center where he works, and that half of the other people who worked there are Chinese.

I noted that the lack of testing equipment in Augusta made it unsurprising that the cases discovered so far were disproportionately located in that facility. But I also promised to look into the views of the former director of the CDC. I have done that. After viewing an extensive interview with that expert published by USA TODAY, I found my friend had been partially correct. I also found that my friend had completely misunderstood that expert’s views.

The interview took place on March 25 and the expert’s name was Tom Frieden. He said early in he interview that he was personally located in New York City at that time. He expressed concerns that the medical facilities and their staffs IN THAT CITY AT THAT TIME were in danger of becoming overwhelmed by the sick people they had to attend in that specific situation. Dr. Frieden urged people who had only mild symptoms to stay home rather than come to the New York City hospitals for testing. His expressed reason for that request was the need to avoid overwhelming the staffs of those hospitals by forcing those staffs to spend a lot of time in testing people with mild symptoms. He stressed that this kind of testing right now would be done AT THE EXPENSE OF THE TIME NEEDED TO HELP CRITICALLY ILL PATIENTS. On the other hand, the doctor urged people who were having trouble breathing to come to the hospitals (for needed testing and treatment).

Dr. Frieden in the same interview talked about the uneven patterns of people getting sick in various locations, and he expressed support for the use of testing. At one point he even said that “drive through testing may have an important role.” He bragged about the response of the CDC with developing and delivering testing in other previous outbreaks of communicable diseases. He mentioned the gratitude that had come from other nations for the leadership of the United States during previous pandemics. And he indicated support for an inquiry into why the U.S. has not developed testing for COVID19 earlier. He also stated clearly that this particular crisis is of unprecedented scope and seriousness.

Listening to the experts is extremely important in this crisis. But that requires careful listening and remaining open minded. First impressions which come from initial reading or listening may be far from gathering good information.

SAVING THE CORPORATE EXECUTIVE/PUBLIC SERVANT IN THE TIME OF COVID19

March 2020 Some political shenanigans are so smelly that even Covid19 cannot keep them out of the pundit chats and otherwise endless palaver over how brave or scared we should be. Our newest U.S. Senator from Georgia has managed to get herself featured in a more than a few televised snippets regarding an alleged misdeed, one which can only be committed by a person connected in both the high echelons of corporate finance and national government. My Senator Kelly Loeffler is such a person. She left her corporate executive job in a firm she and her CEO husband controlled, but she left him to manage a finance enterprise so vast that being Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange was only one of its percs. Her first opportunity to be a public servant came when the Governor surprised no one by giving her the job of being one of the two people who will represent us ten million or so Georgia boys and girls.

I do realize that Mrs. Loeffler has taken quite a pay cut to become a public servant. Although I have not seen her tax returns, I do realize she just might be like our president, a person whose incomes and assets may be too great to be scrutinized by ordinary mortals like myself. Whatever her paycheck and bond coupons and dividend returns might be, I can be sure the total amount has been far greater than the paltry amount she is currently being compensated as a Senator, less than a quarter of a million. Still she surprised no one by accepting the Governor’s invitation to replace the ailing senior Senator Johnny Isakson

She got to the Senate in time to vote on whether to call witnesses, and became a crucial vote for not doing that. The vote was 51 to 49. If she had voted to hear from John Bolton or some of the other key witnesses, the deadlock created would have been unprecedented. Not all of the Republicans concurred, and newly installed Kelly Loeffler had words for at least one of them. She said the Senator from Utah had voted for calling witnesses “to appease the left”, a motive which has not been in visible supply in statewide Utah politics for many decades.

Then came the virus. As a Senator she was given a closed door briefing about the virus and its likely future in January although the public, including the stock investing portions of that public, did not receive such information until weeks later. As an investor she promptly dumped much stock, thereby saving herself the huge losses that other investors suffered weeks later when the economic threats of the pandemic became apparent. Now it turns out that using corporate insider information to manipulate stock sales can be a crime. But that is not the aspect of this tale of hide and seek that disturbs me. My Senator did not warn me of pending difficulties she knew about precisely because she was representing me and millions like me.

An old adage in the army holds that “Rank has its privileges,” and another that “Rank has its responsibilities.” In this situation I don’t mind her learning about our common peril first. But I do mind her not warning those of us she is supposed to represent. And I mind her impugning the motives of an experienced public servant she scarcely knows and whose political courage deserves respect. I don’t want her to go to jail, but I do want her to stop pretending she represents me.

FLANNERY O’CONNER AND THE CHRISTMAS DONKEY PART ONE

March 19, 2020 Several months ago I made a little talk at the Flannery O’Conner Childhood Home in Savannah Georgia. About 25 people were assembled to hear my talk on a Sunday afternoon of a mild winter day. At aged 77 my one great asset for these people was undoubtedly that I had actually known the great writer. So my presentation was going to be primarily a story or two about her.

I opened my talk by advising my hearers that my Flannery stories would not be just the telling of experiences in which I picked up information about her. Also I warned that I am not a bit an expert on literature or even a very insightful reader of Flannery O’Conner’s fiction. From my view these stories are nevertheless possibly the bearers of worthwhile meaning about dimensions beyond either literary criticism or yarns about a famous eccentric. My stories are about encounters between two people–a very young Kelley Kidd and an older adult. I was a male protestant with fuzzy conceptions of Catholics and the very biased view of Southern white males towards women, especially towards any notion that women can be smarter or more assertive than men. But I was also a seeker after wisdom and insight, a fledgling in the awesome adventure of trying to encounter God. She was Flannery O’Conner, who I suspect is one of the least understood probers of the spiritual struggles within each of us, and she too was consumed by her search for nearness to God. Sometimes those struggles take place in the encounters between people, and so I believe it was when I was given the mission of borrowing Mrs. Flannery O’Conner’s donkey for use in a Methodist Christmas pageant.

We both lived in Milledgeville Georgia, the home for several generations of her Mother’s family and my Father’s. I was a high school student at the local military school which was housed on the grounds of the building that had formerly housed the state legislature for nearly 70 years stretching from the turn of the 18th century until after the Civil War. My home was a block away and across the street from the Catholic church in which Mrs. O’Conner and her widowed Mother attended mass daily. When the capital building was dedicated on a double block lot in 1802 space had also been alloted to the four principle protestant denominations, all of which had subsequently become open only to white congregants. The Catholics were not invited to camp on state property, but the tiny Catholic church had been there for quite a while. The First Methodist church in which I was christened had long ago moved to a location directly facing the principle buildings of the state women’s college, the school where she had attended college more than a decade prior to the late 1950s when this story takes place.

By the time of the story Mrs. O’Conner had become a well known author of a single novel and many short stories. I had read none and shared the opinions I had heard around town. These opinions were unanimously to the effect that the novel was more strange than admirable.

So I was out of school for the Christmas holidays. My stepmother informed me that the christmas pageant at the Methodist Church this year was going to feature a live donkey. And since the only live donkey in the area was at Andalusia, the O’Conner farm, that was the one we would have to borrow. And the strange writer had been emphatic that she would not lend the donkey to an institution like the church. Nor would she entrust the donkey to anyone but me?

My first reaction was Why me? I had been going to the Presbyterian Church on the same grounds as the military school in which I was an eleventh grade student. But my stepmother was clear about the need for me to go with two young adult Methodists to get that donkey. Mrs. Flannery O’Conner had insisted that should would not lend the donkey to the Methodists, but would allow the donkey to be used if I would come and get it and be responsible for it. My stepmother was also a Presbyterian, but being my Father’s wife meant attending and participating in the the Methodist church. She was in no doubt that my duty was to go with the guys with the flat bed truck, get that donkey and take responsibility for seeing to it that the donkey performed and got back to Andalusia afterwards.

Nobody ever gave me any explanation for why Mrs. O’Conner wanted me for the job. My guesses later in life include the following: My English teacher showed her a little essay I wrote on the beauty of the old episcople church or she read another essay I wrote for the military school newspaper or she saw me wandering near the Cline home mooning over a young cousin or hers or she had a fellow feeling for the three year old Kelley who had worn leg braces. Who knows. The fact was that she specifically conditioned the donkey on my coming for the animal and bringing it back. My stepmother said many years later that she was in love with me, an unlikely matter. But I dutifully went motivated as much by curiosity as by duty. The clincher was that I did not want the stepmother mad at me.

On the way to the farm one of the others asked why me. I had to admit I did not know. The best guesses I could come up with had to do with the fact Flannery O’Conner and I had exchanged a few pleasantries a few times as she and her Mother had parked in front of my home on trips to mass. But I really did not know why she would want me to be the custodian of the donkey.

The asker was brawny and in his early 20s, a fraternity man back from college. He volunteered that his Mother was the director of the pageant. He told me about the plan to mount the girl playing Mary on the back of the donkey while as Joseph he led the donkey from the door to the left of the alter around the semicircular alter to the door on the other side. The doll in the virgin’s arms would be wrapped in a long garment his mother believed was similar to the swaddling clothes mentioned in the Bible. From the balcony behind the congregation the director would read about Herod’s threat to all the babies in Bethlehem, Joseph’s warning from the angel and the trip to Egypt. While the Reverend sang a beautiful song–Oh Holy Night I believe–the congregation would be amazed to see a real donkey plodding quietly around the decorated alter. It would be the last and climactic scene of the pageant. I had heard it all before from my stepmother and from the director who had assured her son that Flannery’s Mother vouched for the docility and good behavior of the donkey.

The whole venture seemed silly to me. Aside from the amusement of seeing a live donkey in the church, there was no apparent value to be obtained from such an elaborate effort at theatrics. But there were worse things that could happen. I supposed it would do not harm. Anyway I was rather curious about why the writer expected so much of me. No one had ever entrusted me with an animal, although I doubted that such an entrusting happened very often.

My companion parked the truck twenty feet from the door to a small barn that sat to the rear of the house at he end of the driveway. Mrs. O”Conner came out by crossing a screen porch. She was a slender, rather tall and not especially attractive woman in her 30s. She wore glasses similar to mine with rims that were encased in a little plastic jacket on top. Her clothes were feminine but not memoraly attractive. I met her polite smile with one of my own. The most striking aspect of the writer was her direct manner. She talked and acted with the manner of a man who knew me personally, and who wanted to trust that my judgement would be as good as hers.

THIS STORY WILL CONTINUE SOON

A JOURNAL OF PUBLIC LAW

February 23, 2020. KELLEY KIDD The Name Of The Blog. Several years ago I had a blog by the same name. It perished when my IT expert refused to give me the information needed to renew it; he had put the blog in his own name. then neglected to maintain a stable address or enough income to keep the blog up and running. So here we are again. It seems worth noting that I was a happy member of the staff of a previous institution by the name of Journal of Public Law. That institution also perished when the Emory University Law School replaced it with the perhaps more conventionally entitled Emory Law Journal. My years with that law journal were 1965 through 1967. So my connections with the name of the blog have history and personal experience.

The Scope Of The Blog. It is my intention that this blog will publish absolutely anything that may help the reader to think clearly about any issue of concern to my fellow Americans. We are a people so diverse and varied that our shared concerns are often invisible among the very many concerns of the tribes, factions, divisions and interests of our hundreds of millions of people. We are a huge culture with many subcultures, a politic with many subpolitics, a faith with many very different faiths, an economy with a host of different and often conflicting smaller but important economies, a society in which there are important differences in law that varies form state to state and often even city to surrounding county within the same state. Our so called “private” institutions often have tremendous impact on the legal and social public institutions. So the scope of this blog will be open to any subject which has the potential to affect the actual life we live in this great country.

The Point of View of the Blog. I am a lawyer who has been a teacher, school administrator, fire fighter, office worker, alcoholism and drug counselor, political campaign worker, community organizer and caterer. My status has varied from single to married to divorced. I am a lover of dogs, cats, children and drunks. I have worked variously for one of America’s most illustrious conservatives, Senator Richard Russell, and two of America’s most lovable liberals, Maynard Jackson and Julian Bond. I am a fanatical baseball fan nd passionate reader of the Hebrew Bible. My religious affiliations have varied from Southern Baptist to Reform Jewish. My best friend is a hospice nurse and my employer a Public Defender. I adore this country and grieve sadly on its foibles as well as I rejoice for its amazing strengths. I will be looking for any would-be contributor who can add to the dialogue.