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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Gray Matters: Loraine

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

As I sit looking at a favorite painting on my wall, I am reminded of the artist. I told you about Loraine a long time ago, but she was such a special person I am sure you won't mind my repeating her story. She had grown up in the small community of McGregor, Texas which is just down the road from Crawford where retired Pres. Bush 43 has his ranch.

As a bright and precocious student, Loraine had won a University of Texas scholarship. She didn't accept it, for the additional expenses would have taken all of her family's meager funds and made it impossible for her brother to go on to school.

She always considered her sacrifice well worthwhile for her brother, CJ Scruggs, did continue his education and eventually became the editor of Southern Farmer and founding editor of the even more prestigious Southern Living Magazine.

Soon after graduation my friend married a good-looking ranch hand who apparently had little else than looks to recommend him. Work didn't seem to interest him as much as whiskey. When their two children were old enough for her to manage, Loraine applied for the postmaster job in a nearby village.

The application went through the hands of Texas' then newest representative, Lyndon Baines Johnson. Hers was the first appointment made from his office. She never forgot that and neither did he. Whenever Johnson returned to the district he canvassed his constituents for their opinions and he always came to see his first appointee.

While Loraine was essentially making the living, her no-good spouse was taking advantage of her absence. In time, the hanky-panky surfaced and a divorce ensued. She didn't dwell on this; it just came out bit-by-bit as our friendship grew. The stories she did tell were fascinating.

Her daughter had married an army officer whose overseas service had included both Iran and England. The timing of the Iran stint was fortuitous as they were among the last to leave before the infamous1980 hostage crisis. While they were there Loraine was able to visit them. With her keen mind and adventurous spirit, she took advantage of every opportunity to see and understand the people and their ways, all so different from our world.

While they were in England, she also spent time with them. Once again, she saw so much, absorbed so much of what she saw, and retained it in such a way that I could spend hours listening to her stories. Friends like that are rare!

Loraine's people were originally from Tennessee. In fact, Earl Scruggs, the famed banjo picker, was a not-too-distant cousin. Those Tennessee origins brought a distinct deep-south flavor to her cooking which we really enjoyed.

She explained that they seldom baked yeast breads. It was either sourdough or quick breads--chiefly corn pone or bran or corn muffins, all baked in heavy cast iron. She considered it to be a real travesty pouring batter into little paper-lined tins and calling the results muffins! Her southern-style beans and all manner of greens were wonders, as well.

As I mentioned above, she was a fine artist in addition to being a great cook and story teller. Her artistic prowess had been suppressed until her retirement from the high-level federal job in San Antonio, to which she had risen from her humble postal-clerk beginnings. Thank you for listening once again to the story of my delightful, multi-talented neighbor and friend.