Category Archives: Taradiddles (Autobiographical Fiction)

A Midwesterner’s Introduction to the South and Southern Food — Part 6

A Midwesterner’s Introduction to the South and Southern Food — Part 6

A Confederate general, named Nathan Bedford Forrest, fascinated me. My interest was held captive by Forest. I found him to be an anomoly in my mind because he professed to be a Christian and yet owned and traded many slaves. I had also read that he was the first grand dragon of the Klu Klux Clan. At that point I had no idea that slavery was endorsed by many Christians that owned plantations or had the money to buy slaves for their businesses or homes. I would never have guessed as a teenager that I would someday walk the high points above the Tennessee River where Forrest had ridden and killed people to protect his freedom to deny black men, women, and children their freedom.


A college friend and I studied his military tactics and recognized his prowess and intelligence in the art of raids. Forrest would appear with his calvary when least expected, strike with overwhelming power, and then disappear into the dense forests not to be seen until his next attack. I became convinced the South would have been much wiser to avoid huge battles with the Union, and instead rely on the strategy of Forrest–the use of small bands of committed Calvary trained in the tactics of surprise and retreat. Fortunately for the unity of the republic, it didn’t and the Confederacy couldn’t compete with the numbers, resources, and leadership forwarded by the Union.

My getaway involved five days in the home of a friend’s family. I was comfortable going to a tobacco and cattle farm because my parents were sharecroppers on a large farm in Iowa. I ogled the house as we came up the driveway. It was so big. It appeared three-times larger than the Iowa tenant house of our four member family. A few towering oaks and maples hid part of the view of the long ranch style house. White columns stood elegantly across the front porch. I guessed many a cup of iced tea had been consumed while relaxing on the inviting porch swing. Despite the fact that Mr. Mark raised tobacco, I would never see a  cigarette or pipe smoked within view of the house. However, I did learn that the Grandma living in the house often snuck away to her bedroom for a dip of snuff—a habit that no one else found tasteful. Few tobacco farmers realized or took seriously that their tobacco plants held a strong potential to lead to mouth, throat, or lung cancer.



A Midwesterner’s Introduction to the South and Southern Food — Part 4

A Midwesterner’s Introduction to the South and Southern Food — Part 4

My first introduction to Southern food came from the hands of primarily black cooks in the college cafeteria. They prepared the food with a limited budget. Making a meal to feed 200 hungry college students led to generic products far from the unique food they prepared for their family. The fact we were eating a meal around a table with peers frustrated with institutional food led to an initial misconception of southern food. The same meals became less appetizing as one semester flowed into the next. And, then, during the spring break of my junior year I was invited to the home of Ms. Helene and Mr. Mark. They lived thirty miles north of Nashville, Tennessee, and a significant part of their income came from tobacco farming. 

The narrow winding rural roads of Robertson County in Middle Tennessee often passed small weathered barns that smoked as if on fire but were never consumed. I would later learn the reason. The next corner might open into a mystical forest with the trees on both sides of the road hidden by the terrible noxious kudzo. Most of the trees had lost their shape and looked more like animals out of Jurassic Park. This weed was first introduced to the United States by the Japanese in 1876 in a Centennial exhibition in Philadelphia. Touted as a way for farmers to control erosion, it gradually migrated from one area to another and choked out entire timbers in the South with its prevailing vines. 


I was on pins and needles since I was traveling to the Wilson Family Farm to visit Ms. Helene and Mr. Mark. I considered myself a bonafide “Yankee” and wondered how I would be received by people with their roots in the Confederacy.  I had been a student of the Civil War since high school through the books of Pultizer Priize winner Bruce Catton. It was apparent that resentment toward the Union still existed among some families, and vice-versa. Much of the war was fought in the cities and on the farms of Tennessee. Only Virginia experienced more battles. Few people still remember that Tennessee was one of the border states that sent large numbers of men to fight on both sides during the War. A sizable part of the male population — 187,000 Confederate and 51,000 Federal soldiers — mustered in from Tennessee. Just as distrust and bias existed between African and Caucasian Americans, resentment and anger also simmered in the hearts of many people that still had bloodlines back to soldiers that fought for the Union or the Confederacy.

A Midwesterner’s Introduction to the South and Southern Food — Part 2

A Midwesterner’s Introduction to the South and Southern Food — Part 2

Segregation was still a powerful force in almost every town and city in the South—People fought passively or aggressively on one of two sides, to maintain a segregated society or tumble it. Bethel College’s demographics in the 60s included an influx of students from the Northeast, many of whom sought educational deferments to avoid the draft and Viet Nam. Most of the students from the South were gradually shedding the racial bias that had dominated the social beliefs of their parents and grandparents. Bethel College enrolled its first black student in 1962, and I arrived the following year. Attitudes about race definitely differed between the college community and the general population; unfortunately, few people who believed in racial equality moved beyond passive involvement. This left a broad arena for the strongest of the racists to continue to control the community policies through threats and intimidation. 

Only whites walked the streets of my hometown in Iowa, while blacks and whites carefully avoided even touching one another on the sidewalks in Tennessee. I didn’t personally know one black person during the first seventeen years of my life. I was so jejune about the fear, bias, untruth and hatred that fired segregation. In fact, the only non-Anglos in my high school were two native-Americans. Certainly, racism existed in the rural Midwest, but it was seldom voiced or manifested in a public arena. Even though my grandmother grew up in Tennessee, she spoke little of her learned prejudice. I say “learned” because prejudice in not innate. I discovered her hidden bias while watching a basketball game and hearing her say, “I don’t understand how those white boys can share the same towel to wipe their sweat with those colored boys! That should never happen.” This caught me by surprise, but I couldn’t bring myself to discuss with Grandma how perspiration or body odor were the same among races. Grandma, although a devout Christian had never appropriated the Biblical truth…”There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28)—into her social view.

A Midwesterner’s Introduction to the South and Southern Food

Intro to the South and Southern Cuisine–Part 1

I chose to attend college in Tennessee and that decision caused me to experience a mild culture shock, primarily because of the racial bias so prevalent in the hearts of many people in the South when I moved in 1963. When I moved into my college dorm and walked the streets outside my new home, I found an unexpected race struggle, heavily and unfairly weighted on the side of Caucasians. I was not used to the blatant discrimination against another person because of the pigmentation of their skin. The successful practice of isolating blacks from any intimate contact with whites left me without any way to justify such practices. Although slavery had been abolished for 100 years, blacks still worked for inferior salaries doing mostly doing work in the service sector. They lived in an unfenced, but confined area of their town or city.  I soon learned blacks didn’t study in white schools. Blacks were expected to always take their place at the back of line and the bottom of all lists concerning benefits available to people. One place you could often find black women was in the kitchen. And, my college was no different except for the fact that the Christian leaders of Bethel College insisted white students treat all maids, cooks, and other workers with respect.


I had read the cold facts of subjugation, slavery, abolition, and racism, but I had not witnessed the black/white antagonisms in restaurants, theaters, churches, schools, and nearly every social arena of the community. Much of West Tennessee, particularly farming communities and small towns, remained stymied by the causes and effects of slavery, the Civil War, abolition, and carpet bagging. Hate and resentment still hid in covert corners, ready to burst forward to protect personal position and perspective. I couldn’t tell whether people were fictitious or hopeful when they boasted, “The South will rise again and slavery is not dead.!” Did most Southerners really believe that blacks were genetically inferior and would some how dumb down the world if races shared the same living space or chose to marry and birth a child of mixed races? Did they think that the hearts of African and Caucasion Americans pumped different colors of blood. Could a sociological conflict that occurred one hundred years previously still dominate a community’s self-concept, racial interaction, understanding of faith, and economy? 

Nearly, 60 years later, I stand amazed that prejudice still influences all societies and over time prejudice against Hispanics and Moslems receive more and more focus. When will it ever end…I am realistic enough to know it will never end but I pray it can at least improve.

Is the Apple Related to the Tree?

Jesus and His Family Tree

Matthew 1:5

“Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse”

The New Testament includes a number of verses that many people would prefer to exclude. The mention of Rahab is one of those. Most people don’t find stories about a harlot that edifying. Our God chooses to include, rather than exclude, the less desirables of the world. God bursts right past the “scarlet letter” on a relative’s door to get to bring his divine son into the world.

Don’t you think it strange that Matthew mentions Rahab, the harlot, in the bloodline of Jesus . (Joshua 2) He couldhave easily omitted her and just stuck with the men in the family tree of Jesus. Jesus certainly fell a distance from that part of his family tree. Rahab was the lady that sheltered two Israeli spies before Joshua led the Israelites on their conquest of Jericho and Palestine. In exchange for the refuge she provided to the Israeli spies, she and her family were the only people to escape the destruction of Jericho.

It is still possible to see the ruins of the city of Jericho while visiting Israel. Extensive archeological studies have been conducted of the city from 1860 until the present, some arguing in favor and some against the validity of the Biblical account. See,

No one doubts, however, that Jericho was destroyed several times during it’s period of existence. And, it seems reasonable to accept the historical validity of Rahab as a significant figure in the history of Judaism. The following aerial photo captures the Tell of es-Sultan or ancient Jericho. Some may not realize that ruins of Jericho is just a few miles from the probable location where Joshua entered the promised land, and one of the two areas believed to be where John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan.


Current Excavations of Jericho

But, I wonder what we can learn from Rahab? Some elevate her from harlot to heroine. Why is that? The fact that her name occurs in the genealogy of Jesus demonstrates that God works around sinful behavior to achieve his purpose. Rahab is also mentioned with a strong recommendation in Hebrews 11:31 because of her faith.

Rahab had another income than living as a prostitute, she also dyed flax. The following painting by Gwen Meharg demonstrates Rahab’s announcement that her home had been promised immunity by the spies she hid from the authorities of Jericho.

Rahab Signals the Red Scarf to Secure Immunity

Rahab Signals the Red Scarf to Secure Immunity


The following poem illustrates the possibility that each of us holds to make the world a better place.

“Isn’t it strange that Princes and Kings

And clowns who caper in stardust rings,

And common people like you and me

Are builders for eternity?


Each is given a set of tools,

A shapeless mass, and a book of rules,

And each must make, ere life has flown,

A stumbling block or a stepping stone.”   Author Unknown

Insight: Even Jesus had a line of sinners in his family tree. We can all overcome our past or our sinfulness when we turn in faith to the good news of deliverance. So quit complaining about your parents, and add some good fruit to your family tree.

More Rocks from Israel

More Rocks from Israel

4.  The Rocks of Megiddo  (Micah 6:8)

Rocks truly speak. History records the desperate effort of human kind trying to please God with burnt offering when God has always been quite clear.  Micah 6:8, “…And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”



Stand with Me Where Paul Stood

Stand with Me Where Paul Stood



Mar’s Hill


You are invited to stand with me on Mar’s Hill (also called the Areapagus) in Athens in July, 2019, and hear Paul’s famous sermon preached at the very same site 2000 years ago. Filled with the Holy Spirit Paul poured out his heart in an effort to convince the Atheneans that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. You can e-mail ( me if you want more information about my 15 day tour of Greece and the Aegean Isles.

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[b] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[c]

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.