The climate in Little Rock gets worse by the day. Christian preachers don’t let colored people in their churches, and the few that do make them sit in roped off sections in the back where no one can see them. If God knows everything, then he knows how fed up I am right now. He could have stopped all this hate between whites and coloreds. He didn’t. He could have stopped our soldiers from being killed in the war. He didn’t. So I made a deal with him: if he doesn’t bother me, then I won’t pester him anymore. It’s not right to call myself a Christian when I’m mad at him half the time.
All my life I’ve tried to love Jesus same as Mama did, but I don’t and I’m not proud of myself for it. I feel so let down these days wondering why someone like him isn’t around here now. If God gave people a teacher back then, why can’t he give me one now? But when I say things like that, people look at me with that “shut up” look on their face, then comes ten quotes from the New Testament. Why should I believe them when they can’t give me one good reason for claiming Christian whites are better than Christian negroes. If Jesus wasn’t a racist, why are they? I have serious questions no one can answer outside of the usual stock answer, “Little lady, just read your Bible every day, have faith, and everything will work out.” Well, maybe that answer is enough for some people but not for me.
And another thing, how come every question I ask always ends with them saying I’m sitting in judgment. Is wanting to know the truth same as judging others? I’d like to believe they know what they’re talking about, but when I heard some preacher cheated on his wife at the drive-in last Saturday, and him with his hand in some girl’s blouse, his tongue halfway to Memphis down her throat, and breaking the same ten commandments he preaches on Sundays, I thought to myself, “What’s the Gospel done for him?” I know all Christians aren’t like this but it’s enough to turn me off. I ask the same question over and over: what’s the point in bring- ing someone to Jesus and getting them baptized, when you don’t let coloreds in your church? Another time, I asked the same minister why God bothered to make me in the first place. I asked him where I lived before I was born, where I’ll go when I die, and what kind of God makes war? He just looked at me like I didn’t have my head screwed on tight. I should have asked him what he does on Saturday nights. I’m fed up asking questions no one can answer, like where my grandpa went when he died, like who decides what’s to be born an animal, or a blade of grass, or a human being. Another thing, where do my thoughts go when I die? Where’d my old dog Laddie go when he got hit by a car and died? We buried him out back. I can’t stop wondering about things like this. The Christian Science people are sincere, but they can’t answer my questions either. I only go to church because it makes Aunt Lowee happy.

Excerpt from Tharon Ann

My Oakie Grandparents and them Cherokee Indians from Childhood

“I could jus squeeze the bejesus out of my Oakie grandparents cuz that’s how much I love’um. They live in a big magic house with hidin places to play in. Grandpa got day dreamin room with windows to look out at the mountains, watchin sunsets, playin gin rummy’n keepin a look out for who’s comin to visit. Ever night he explains how things was in Oklahoma back in the good ole days when it was wild’n wooly’n how he moved his family to Ada to build a post office for them Cherokees so they got mail. He says they weren’t nothin for miles on end cept’n a handful’a Oakies round about. Grandpa says they don’t like white people none’n that’s how come he learnt to talk Indian. He gonna teach me too if I make good grades. Grandpa says I make him crazy askin so many questions. He built a log cabin back’a the store. Sometimes I dream bout that little creek behind grandpa’s log cabin’n the water mill Grammy used for grindin corn for the Cherokees. I wish I was there in the evenin with grandpa spinnin yarns bout Ned Christy, the famous Cherokee bandit. I cry when he says white people caught up with Ned’n killed him. What’s wrong with white folks? Grandpa says kids back then made they own fun playin in the woods’n chewin rabbit tobacco growin wild. After sayin that, grandpa looks in my direction’n laughs sayin I oughtn’t to look for it cuz it’s called nicotine. Them Cherokees was always invitin him’n the family to all day stomp-dances’n barbecues. When I asked grandpa how he went from livin on a Cherokee reservation to now, he says he moved west with all them other hell raisin Oakies’n that’s how he landed in East Los Angles. Them Mexicans reminded him of Oklahoma, that’n the property bein so cheap’n all.
Grandpa says he believes in the American dream, that if folks not afraid to put in a hard day’s work, they can be anythin they wanna be. He says his sister, my great Aunt Alice, lives alone in the log cabin her great granddaddy built high up in the Ozark Mountains. Grandpa says Alice never married’n to hear him tell it, it lucky for mankind she didn’t. She grows her own vegetables, hunts for possum, makes her own moonshine, chops kindling for cold winters’n can kill a rat three yards away with one spit a tobacco. Whenever the G-Men Revenuers is brave enough to travel on foot the long ways up the mountain to her log cabin, she pulls out the welcome mat’n plugs they ass fulla buckshot. When Grammy hears me say “ass,” she bout to have a kanipshun fit. Grandpa jumps in real fast, explainin that I only said it on accounta I heard him sayin it. Anyways, he convinced Grammy we meant it in the donkey way. Anyways, when Alice run outta supplies, she rides her ol’ horse bareback down the thick, back woods to the nearest town where she’s well known in these parts. Mountain folks protect they own specially where them Revenuers is concerned. Grandpa reckons Alice been makin shine for the neighbors too. He says she can get a government check cuz’a her old age’n all, but she downright burrs up, refusin anythin smackin’a charity. Aunt Alice don’t believe in state aid’n she is quick to say it. Grandpa says she’s stubborn as a jackass, but it’s not good to get riled up cuz’a her temper’n in all. He paid good money for her a radio but she won’t use it none cuz theys no electric. One day when me’n him are workin the cards playin gin rummy’n him spinnin yarns, he looks up at me’n sayin, “You jus like Alice. Botha y’all made outta piss’n vinegar!” Grammy don’t preciate him usin swears to describe me, but I take it good like a compliment.
Grandpa found his self a way of gettin round usin swears in front of Grammy. He says, “Government’s a bunch of SOBs (that would be sons of bitches) they ought’ a stay out folks GD, (that would be goddamn,) business!” Grandpa says swearins an art form’n damnation to hell fire, he ain’t stoppin for any woman! (til Grammy walks into the room)
When he was young, Grandpa belonged to a literary society but nothin ever came of the short stories he wrote, him explainin he had too many mouths to feed to fiddle round spinnin yarns. I love it when he reads his own poetry but I cry when he reads Mr. Robert Frost out loud cuz I know in my heart, it’s his way’a sayin he’s leavin soon. I caint hardly stand thinkin bout it.
The woods are lovely dark and deep
But I have promises to keep And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep”

An excerpt from Tharon Ann