Don’t go through life searching for slight. You may find it masking the finest of complements.

My son, Jack Whaley Long, has become friends with my cousin Jeff Long on Facebook. With the many ways Facebook has come under scrutiny it has facilitated a long-distance friendship between my son and my cousin. Few things are all bad.

Jeff Long is a fine friend. I have loved him all of my life and it is a love and admiration I now get to share with Jack. Jack will learn a lot of good things from Jeff Long and people like him.

Long’s are tough, God-fearing, hard-working, “salt of the earth” people. I am the lowest common denominator of the sort. Don’t judge the whole lot by its “bad apple.” 

They have never done anything but love and accept me, just as I come, regardless. Jack is discovering that same love and acceptance. He is enjoying it mighty well.

Jeff has sent Jack some old pictures of the Longs from our ancestral home, Middleburg, Tennessee. I have before described Middleburg in an earlier editorial. It’s location, and in between what it lies, are both described in my editorial, “Dear Julia.”

I won’t rehash it because it isn’t important to today’s story. There is a lesson I hope to impart today but how to find Middleburg isn’t it.

All my life, I called Fred Long, “Daddy Long” when distinguishing him from my own father, and just “Daddy” either to or about him when no distinguishing was necessary. I called my grandmother, “Momma Long” or just “Momma,” same as I did for “Daddy Long.” In this story they will simply be “Fred” and “Charlotte.”

Fred Long, fell in love with my grandmother, Charlotte Boyd, the first time he saw her. As it has been told to me, Fred saw Charlotte on campus in college (both attended what is now the University of Memphis) and told a friend he would marry her one day.  

That’s exactly what he did. Fred was that sort. He did what he said.

The story I hope to tell is one told me by Charlotte. I will tell it as I remember her telling it to me. For the Longs who will read this editorial, I vouch neither for the accuracy of specific details nor the quality of my recollection.

Charlotte told me Fred and she rode the train into Scotts Hill from Memphis on the occasion of their having become engaged to be married. She was coming to meet the Longs for the first time.

Charlotte Boyd had essentially grown up in Memphis, Tennessee, or in Bartlett which is located just outside the city. Her father was a doctor and she was quite the big-city sophisticate by Middleburg standards for the time. She says she stepped off that train and began trekking to the Long family farm not quite knowing what to expect.

The train from Memphis let off at Scotts Hill. Scotts Hill is where the post office for Middleburg both was and still is located. 

That post office was named “Long Post Office.” It wasn’t named “Middleburg Post Office” because there was another Middleburg when it was being named and the name was taken.

WB Long, being the town’s first Postmaster General and one of the thriftiest members of the community, had the station named for him. It is now just called “Scott’s Hill Post Office.”

Scotts Hill is not too far from Middleburg but it is a nice stroll. “It’s no hill for a stepper” as Fred used to say, but probably not something you would want to undertake in high-heels.

Charlotte told me she got off the train in her traveling clothes. Fred insisted she change into her Sunday’s finest, high-heels included, and walk with him to the Long family farm. The path of the promenade was intentionally past all of the relatives and neighbors who had come out on their front porches to “get a look at Fred’s fiancée.” 

Apparently there had been a big rain storm and the walk was muddy. There aren't many paved roads in Middleburg right now, there couldn’t have been any then. 

Charlotte would tell me, “…the mud grabbed at my shoes and almost pulled them off my feet. But your granddaddy insisted I wear heels and dress in the finest I had.”

She continued, “It was a horrible walk. When we got to the farm, my outfit was in full disarray, my feet felt terribly, and I was caked in that red-clay, west Tennessee mud, plumb up past my ankles, half-way up my calves. Probably the meanest thing Fred ever did to me.”

Now, I am not just saying that. She looked to really believe Fred had done this to spite her.

When Charlotte was telling me this story I could tell from her affect she really was angry. I could tell she really thought it terrible Fred wouldn’t just let her wear what was comfortable and walk in flats to the farm.

I saw something completely different. This story really touched me.

My eyes filled with tears as I heard it. This “horrible thing” Fred had done to her was perceived quite differently by the audience of one to whom the story was being told. 

Fred was proud of the beauty he had brought home to introduce to his kinfolk. As you will see in looking at the picture featured with this article, she was a right handsome woman.  

Fred Long had come home to some of the most important people in his world so they could see and take a full measure of the woman he was to marry. He was showing her off to his friends, neighbors, and relatives. That walk to the farm was as close as Fred Long would ever come to bragging. 

It’s true meaning was completely lost on the woman telling me the story so many years later. I could see in her face the memory made her harbor a level of resentment toward her husband, though it was something which should have endeared him to her.  

It didn’t foster in me the reproach she thought it would. Our two perspectives about the same story couldn’t have differed any more mightily. 

There is a comment about being angry from the greek philosopher Aristotle I have often quoted and to which I have tried to subscribe. He once wrote, “Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.” 

You can go through life being angry with people all you want. The key is to direct it appropriately, measure it appropriately, and dole it out legitimately. That’s the hard part.

Don’t go through life searching for slight. You may find it masking the finest of complements. 

Take this for whatever you find it to be worth, but THAT’S THE LONG VERSION!

Note: Mr. Long is an award-winning Kentucky journalist recognized for excellence in both writing and reporting by the Kentucky Press Association.

Help us serve you better!

Your newspaper is brought to you by professionals that live and contribute to this community! Please continue to support reliable, local journalism by subscribing to your newspaper. Click the button below, or call your newspaper office today!

Recommended for you