Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Hey Sue,

I had called you this morning and left a message, then two minutes ago, got a call back from Lou. learned from him that you left for TX this morning. Missed you by a hair! Damn!

2 things urgent. Want to send you the herbal hepatitis capsules. A box of them has just arrived and can get them in Saturday's mail.

Then -- got a call from August. He wants his copy of the contract y'all signed for the land. He wants to start tilling, as you suggested, but is afraid to go out there without that piece of paper. A black man in Canaervon kind of thing. Is sure he'd be arrested and jailed.

So, if you could tell your husband where that piece of paper is, and perhaps August could go pick it up? Is that possible? Or will the two of them be some kind of absurd unhappy about making direct contact. Perhaps Lettie can pick it up from your house and bring it to Aug. That would probably be the simplest

So - hoping you get back to me soon. And hoping you're doing OK! Been leaving messages for you, and got around 12 hours too late to calling.

Regards to Timmy and family.

much love,


The above a message sent to Sue about a week ago, after August got to thinking that if he went down to our lot, without a tractor, but just a hand tiller, or just to mess around, that more than likely he'd be arrested and jailed. And as though getting arrested and jailed for wandering around on a plot of empty land was predictable and by some stretch of logic, acceptable, he added that that kind of thing 'stays on your record.' August was more perturbed about his criminal record it seemed than getting arrested and jailed. I was ready to jump in right there and say, "oh come on." Though I wouldn't say 'you're being paranoid,' or that 'we're not in Jim Crow times any more. You have to give people credit for growing out of their old and base ignorant ways of thinking.'

Thankfully, I say instead, 'let me call Sue and see whether she can run you over the contract.' August was one of the signatories on the ten year lease for this luminous acre hard by the Mississippi levee in the village of Canaervon.

But, I learned the next morning Sue had left for Texas. She'd gone, without telling me, her chronicler, her personal memoirist, that she was going anywhere! Felt as though she owed me an explanation! How dare you move around the country without informing your filmmaker? Well, she had -- had left for Texas to be with her son for two weeks and whatever else she wasn't telling me. I had no way of reaching her, Sue's cell has long ago run out of minutes, so tried in vain by e-mail (see above) tho' haven't gotten an e-mail reply from Sue in weeks and this one is no different. Why do I feel so responsible for the success of this garden? for Sue? For August? That's a question for a shrink/guru, neither of which I have at the moment. Maybe only a filmmaker, who's got 100+ hours of footage on her cluttered study floor would understand. Finally made contact with Sue that evening by phone and was told that the contract was buried in a "black suitcase in my closet." She'd get Lou to find it.

Lou, Sue's husband, is not a paper kind of guy. He doesn't make out his own checks, you never see him with a book, newspaper or pencil, unless he's making a mark on a piece of lumber in preparation for cutting it with a power saw. Lou is very handy and his humanity is in his construction and repair projects. There's even a hint of whimsy in some of them. Lou built a floating chair after the storm waters of Katrina had subsided out of a lawn chair, somehow sticking the legs into two oblong pieces of styrofoam. This adorable contraption floated even with the weight of an average size St. Bernardian! Lou and Mama Sue called it their pontoon chair and Lou sat in it and paddled out into this newly existing body of water to retrieve a sunken trailer. The painted, polished and gleaming black trailer (not the kind you live in, but the kind you use to haul stuff) now sits in his driveway, pride written all over it. Lou still refers to black folk sometimes as "coloreds." Sue rolls her eyes.

Asking Lou to find the contract in the black suitcase in the closet in Sue's den and arrange to hand it over to August, who in turn thinks of Lou's kind with utmost wariness had me tied in knots. Should I instead ask Lettie Lee to pick the contract up and bring it over to August's place? But that would have been solidifying some old habits of thinking, wouldn't it? I wouldn't be helping to change a situation that damn well has to change if we're going to start farming a plot of land with a racially integrated team next to a somewhat racially integrated church in a white neighborhood and I wasn't going to be any part of the old way of doing things!

Katrina had some good effects. When I went that Spring of '07, less than two years after Katrina, with Lettie Lee to Easter Mass, I was surprised to see black and white people in dresses and suits heading together for the doorway of the church. When I asked Lettie about this she told me that there just weren't enough churches that had been able to rebuild for the old segregated patterns to continue. In other words Katrina had shoved black and white into the same church.

He was hesitant. 'August, you'll stick your hand out, take the piece of paper from Lou, say thank you and leave.' He laughed and asked for directions. The next day August was at Lou's house at noon, as Lou had asked him to be. When no one came to the door, August called. No answer. August went home. All of this was told me last night by Lou, who hadn't woken up until 4 pm that day, and didn't hear the doorbell.

p.s. Lou did the right thing -- two days later, he brought the contract over to August.

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