Sybil Baker

I subscribe to The Writer’s Chronicle and the first article I read this month was written by Sybil Baker and entitled, “Lost Generations: The American Expatriate Writer.” As I have always been a fan of most of the writers she mentions and whose work she analyzes, I found the article extremely interesting. Ms. Baker is somewhat an expatriate writer herself, having traveled extensively and teaching English now in Korea at Yonsei University. She has a great website too. You can take a look here: http://www.sybilbaker.com/home.html. After reading the article, scanning her bio and website, I decided I would definitely place her fiction on my reading list.

Some of the expatriate writers she analyzes are Joyce, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Bowles–all of whom have influenced me greatly. She also discusses the new expatriates and their work. This is the kind of writing I like to discover–thoughtful, well documented, and original.

Adults Who Hurt Kids

Right when I start to feel optimism about the good we can do with our students, some adult comes along and hurts the kids and our work in public education again. I teach gifted English at Bastrop High School in Morehouse Parish in Northeast Louisiana. Well, it seems our football team has to forfeit its State Championship because of ineligible players. Evidently there was an accusation against our school about some of our players (hurricane victims) . I want to say more, but I must have patience and wait for the results of our appeal. As of yet, we don’t know who our accusers are, or even for sure what the charges were specifically. LHSAA (There’s an interesting Acronym. A friend told me it stood for . . .No, I said I would wait before commenting.)

And I will wait. I’m too angry to write objectively on this. All I know for sure is, in the football year after Katrina, our community helped some boys who happened to be good football players, but according to LHSAA, we did it wrong. (I wonder how many hurricane victim kids LHSAA directly helped. No, don’t get me started.) So what do the pompous idiots do? After a savage witch hunt, they punish everyone they can–including the kids. It’s sad, but I’m sure the LHSAA officials feel self-righteous and proud of their achievements.

The students were hurricane victims remember. Yes, our school and community helped them–along with many others who did not play football. Once again I am dissillusioned with the bureacrats who run our state and especially those who have anything to do with public education.

I know the sports success of BHS has created enemies–after all, how can a rural, rather underfunded, black-majority high school defeat all the other teams they faced? (Bastrop was winning before the new players arrived. Also, many other schools received football playing students from the Katrina Diaspora.) It is easy to pass judgment on a school with football rules a year after the hurricane, when everyone has forgotten how bad the situation was, how that storm changed everything for us in Louisiana in those first few months afterwards. All kinds of exceptions to state laws and rules were made. When people need to be helped, only the most anal legalist will obsess about trivial interpretation of legalities. I guess we could have left the kids in the shelter.

One lesson: Never underestimate how mean, petty, and jealous people can be. Here’s another lesson for LHSAA and for the jealous people or school lodging complaints against BHS: People will never forget or forgive you for hurting kids. Even if kids did make a mistake, it’s you, the adult, that should know better. A real man doesn’t have to prove his power by beating up on kids. If adults committed a wrong, punish the adults. If it is misinterpretation of a “rule” or even a mistake, correct the individuals involved, but be civil and treat people with respect instead of acting like they’re your inferiors. If this is “sour grapes” or a vendetta, then someone needs to grow up and stop acting like a whining kid who can’t be on first string.

I can imagine the LHSAA leaders talking about how important this current witch hunt is. They would probably say, “It’s all about the kids.”

Yeah, sure.

Celtic Festival

I am in a Scots-Irish band. We call ourselves Angus Dubhghall. We took the names of two ancient Scottish chieftans, men who were heroes, yet were feared. We’ve been playing locally (that would be Northeast Louisiana) for a while, but this year we will be performing at the Northeast Louisiana Celtic Festival. You can see a photo of our band on this link http://nelacelticfest.org/ (go to performers). I would be the one with the Confederate cap on and playing guitar. Tom McCandlish plays the bodhran and is the lead singer, and his beautiful wife Mary plays the fiddle. We’ve really built quite a song list, and I’ve written a couple of originals. I hope to expand that list of originals. In addition to Scots-Irish music, we can also do a Confederate Civil War music show. Write me if you’d like more information about the band.

We Are the Gifted

Sometimes I think my gifted students need a boost. Like other kids their age, they struggle with image at times. I wrote this nonsense poem as a performance piece to try to cheer them up. It worked! They laughed and had a grand time over it. Yet, as you know, there’s always some truth in humor. Next entry will be on my reading and signing I had at the Ouachita Library last night.

The few, the ignored, the under-funded,
The neglected, the ones administrators know
Will pass the standardized tests,
We are the gifted.
Someday, we nerds will rule the world
We

A Song about Point Lookout Prison

Here are the lyrics to a song I wrote based on a true account of a prisoner in Point Lookout. I sing it in the key of D.
The song is called, “Cry, Little Artillery Man.” I recorded a speech I made about Jane Perkins at the Louisiana State Convention of the Daughters of the Confederacy. This song is recorded on that CD. You can order the CD from me at rickeyp@bayou.com.

“Cry, Little Arterllery Man”

VERSE 1

Lincoln built a prison
He called it Point Lookout
To the barren sands of Maryland,
He sent soldiers of the South.

They fenced us in with water,
And unmarked deadlines,
50,000 came here,
14,000 died.

There’s a thousand ways to break a man,
And the Yankees know them all,
They kept us cold and hungry,
And tried to make us crawl.

They shot us out of meanness,
And starved us out of spite,
We buried our dead in the sand,
And prayed for them at night.

CHORUS

I’m here at Point Lookout
With all these men in gray,
In frostbit feet and ragged clothes,
With the South so far away.

Abandon hope, ye who enter here,
This place that God has cursed,
In this cold hell at Chesapeake Bay
Lincoln’s devils drive the hearse.

VERSE 2
On a hot July morning,
I heard a baby cry,
A crowd of soldiers stood and cheered,
A few men even cried.

We called him Little Artillery Man
Though there were no cannon there,
We named him for his mama,
Like us, imprisoned there.

Her name was Jane Perkins,
A proud Irish girl
She taught school in Virginia
Till Rebel flags unfurled,

When war came in 61,
Her world changed overnight
She cut her hair, dressed like a man
And signed up for the fight.

CHORUS

So cry, Little Artillery Man,
Wake the men in blue,
Let the Yankees hear your voice,
Make them hear the truth,
Cry, Little Artillery Man,
They’ve taken your mama from you,
Here at Point Lookout,
Babies are prisoners too.

VERSE 3

She fought with Lee for three long years,
With the Danville Artillery,
Till the Yankees took her prisoner,
And sent her here with me.

When you were born, they took her away,
And shackled her in chains.
In Washington, tortured, abused,
She learned there’s many kinds of pain.

When the Yankees were through with her,
Your mama was set free,
She walked back to Virginia,
To the Danville Artillery.

They say she died at Petersburg
Before the war was done.
She fought for the South, and she fought for you,
For you, her only son.

CHORUS

So cry, Little Artillery Man,
Wake the men in blue,
Let the Yankees hear your voice,
Make them hear the truth,
Cry, Little Artillery Man,
They’ve taken your mama from you,
Here at Point Lookout,
Babies are prisoners too.

(End slowly)
Lincoln built a prison
He called it Point Lookout