JSargent Jacques Barenton
Oil on board
57.2 x 45.7 cms | 22 1/2 x 18 ins

I have this realistic fear of being kidnapped, because that’s exactly what happened to me in Statesville, NC, in 1979. My momma, Rhonda Summers, had a great ideas of a fun filled babysitting adventure. My favorite baby pen was the indoor/outdoor skate rink. Remember those flashy, white lace up skates with shocking pink wheels, front rubber brakes, and matching helmet and knee pads that scream, “Look at me, look at me?” Those were the skates I only wished to wear in my dreams of roller derby, jamming to Joan Jett’s, “I Love Rock-n-Roll, put another dime in the jukebox baby.” If my balance and coordination wiring was well insulated, don’t you know I would have a sweet pair today, rolling down the Blueridge Parkway.

Rhonda had yet another fun filled babysitting adventure carelessly planned on this Amber alert weekend. We were living with her Davy Crockett amateur boyfriend, Buddy, in Statesville, NC that year. Buddy loved me and my momma. He took us coon hunting and fishing in our bare feet. He caged chickens and a pet racoon for me to feed, caught two big snapping turtles to swim with in the deep pockets of the creek, and provided me and my first dog a rustic, hand crafted, log cabin home. He took us on frog gigging trips at night, and it was my job to blind the frogs with a flashlight. My memory is a little stunned, but I believe Buddy threw a stick of dynamite into the lake, and blasted me fast out of his aluminum fishing boat and into a private discussion of the sanity question. “This is the most primitive country I have seen, primitive in everything. The remotest hidden parts of Wisconsin are far in advance of the mountain regions of Tennessee and North Carolina. But my host speaks of the ‘old-fashioned unenlightened times,’ like a philosopher in the best light of civilization. ‘I believe in Providence,’” said he (Muir, John. pg 130.)

Buddy and Rhonda had some big plans that day that didn’t include a curious five year old. Rhonda handed me $10 over the front seat of Buddy’s Chevy Bronco, and told me to buy a drink and popcorn, and catch a matinee. The crowds were streaming out of the old downtown theater, but the box office closed up shop. The lights went out. I stood in a nearby phone booth, pretending I was talking to someone on the other line. Cars were circling by, and people were pointing at me. I needed a place to hide from the tigers and an army of men behind enemy lines. I craddled myself behind the single, free standing box office, keeping one eye in view of the road like a sniper.

“Stacy, Stacy,” called a familiar voice. Did I wish this voice into existance? It sounded like my great Aunt Dolly, but she lived in Salisbury, NC. She really was a great aunt. I spent my most cherished summers with her on High Rock Lake. She kept me well fed with watermelon, cantaloup, and cucumber-onion salad. It was here, on Holiday Drive, that I honed my hand-eye coordination, pitching heavy horseshoes and rolling 12lb bowling balls down the lane during our family’s Friday night bowling league.

“Stacy, Stacy,” the voice called again. I ignored the calls. I was not surrendering to anyone. I was holding down my fort, defending my Alamo. “What are you doing here? Where’s Rhonda?” she demanded. “I’m waiting to see a movie.” I answered. “Get in my truck, let’s go.” the fierce, red head said. “No. I don’t want to go with you. My momma’s coming back for me. I don’t want to get in trouble.” I was terrified and distrustful of my own flesh and blood. She was immovably convinced, and tossed me in the back of her red Subaru truck like a sack of third class mail.

I was being held ransom in a bar room at my maternal grandfather’s home in Statesville, NC, drinking Mountain Dew, shooting pool, and playing Patsy Cine’s 7″ vinyl, “Crazy,” on his jukebox. My grandfather’s red brick home was our homeplace. Our family would gather there, eat and drink together, play the piano, and sing together. They taught me a little song I kindly shared with my schoolmates from Wayside Elementary. Children. They tell everything they know. I wound up in the principal’s office, singing for my momma, “One, two, three. Yankee Doodle went to town, riding on a donkey, stuck his finger up his but, and called it finger licking.” If my grandfather could have heard my colorful recital, he would have named me, “Sings like a Bullfrog.”

My grandfather, Robert Summers, entered the bar room to remove his hand gun from the cabinet. I looked out a night window to see my momma and Buddy in the Bronco. My grandfather, half Cherokee Indian, pointed the gun to Buddy’s white skinned, curly fro head, and threatened to shoot him if he laid one stingy finger on his grandaughter. My young, 22 year old momma made some harmful decisions. We have to live with the decisions we make. Sometimes, we die with the decisions we make.

“I believe in Providence,” said he. “Our fathers came into these valleys, got the richest of them, and skimmed off the cream of the soil. The worn-out ground won’t yield no roastin’ ears now. But the Lord foresaw this state of affairs, and prepared something else for us. And what is it? Why, He meant us to bust open these copper mines and gold mines, so that we may have money to buy the corn that we cannot raise.” A most profound observation (Muir, John. pg 130.)

~ §tacy §weeney

Muir, John. 1918. The Eight Wilderness Discovery Books. The Mountaineers, Seattle, WA

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