The story below is an excerpt from our May/June 2014 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, view our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app!
Club members kept the scrapbook a secret from Helen McKinney – barely. From left: Judy Kitchen, Aldina Nash-Hampe and Emily Cena.
You know the story of the blind men and the elephant. How each of the blind men, positioned around the elephant, feels with his hands the portion of the beast that is immediately in front of him. When asked to describe the elephant, each man, unable to see the whole, describes the portion with which he has, through his hands, become acquainted. One describes a foot, one the trunk, one an ear, and so on. When called upon to describe an elephant, each mistakes the portion he has experienced for the whole. As I recall, they get into a fight about it.
That last part, about the fight about the true nature of an elephant, doesn’t pertain to my story. But the first part helps me explain to myself why I have spent the last six weeks – and may spend the next six years – doing what I’ve been doing. Before I talk about that, though, I need to tell another story – about the summer I spent, between my junior and senior years in college, in a tiny community tucked into the hills of West Virginia. I went there as a volunteer, to teach any children who would come spend time with me, in a little one-room schoolhouse. I stayed that summer in a big old two-story farmhouse that belonged to an elderly couple. The house had no running water. At the end of the front porch was a well equipped with a winch and a bucket on the end of a chain that we lowered to get the water to wash ourselves and the dishes. Between the house and the garden was an odiferous two-seater. I had no car, which didn’t make much difference, since the roads were near-impassable. To get to the county seat, eight miles away, took an hour, on a bone-rattling road alongside a creek – or occasionally, down the creek itself. The schoolhouse, a small church and a swinging bridge were all that marked the center of the community.