Thursday, June 18, 2009

Here in Union

HereInUnion.ogg HereInUnion.mp3
Union, South Carolina is my adopted home town, and my wife's legitimate home town. (Here's a map. I've centered it on the future site of our new performing arts center). I've now been living here, off and on, since 1989... 19 years as of this writing. For many years I commuted to and from work in Greensboro, NC... a six-hour round trip by car, which meant I had to drive up during the week and commute home for the weekends. Some of my co-workers wondered why I "put up with that."

The simple fact of the matter is that there are places to stay and places to live. Union is a place to live.

Perhaps this story explains what I mean. When I first moved here, one of the "town characters" was Bill "Oogie" Brown. Oogie was hydrocephalic -- mentally retarded. He couldn't read or write or hold down a normal job. When he was born the doctors didn't believe he would live much past the age of six, and indeed he was perpetually six years old. Nevertheless, Oogie survived and thrived here. He sold "insurance" (really, childish squiggles on a receipt, but when Oogie sold you insurance it wasn't at all like begging). He chose our jurors (a job normally reserved for a child or a blind person under state law). He was seemingly everywhere. Many people knew him best as our radio weatherman. Every morning the forecast was the same: "Sunshine! Sunshine! Sunshine!" It didn't matter if it was pouring rain; Oogie's eyes saw the sun; and we saw the sun, too, through Oogie's eyes.

In any large city in this country, there would be some institution where Oogie and others like him would be placed... for their "safety" and for their "own good." And there they would exist until they passed on. Union is a place where Oogie lived. Every car was his cab. Every house was his home. People cared for him, and they cared for him. And when he died in 2000 at 66 years of age, hundreds of people turned out for his funeral at Westside Baptist Church, and those that could not attend listened on WBCU radio. Because every last one of us lost a family member that day.

There must be other places like Union, but I don't know where they are.

Here In Union
dfl & wmh - Oct 13, 2002

I've been up, I've been down
I've been around
I've seen places in this world that people dream about
I've felt the tropic sun, and the English rain
But my traveling's done, and I've come home again

To a place where the people are glad to see me
No matter how long or far I've roamed
Here in Union, where the weather is always sunshine
Here in Union, where every hearth is home

And you can swim the Broad River
You can cross a city street
Soon you're shaking hands with the next friend you meet
Filled with faith in God above
Feel His grace and feel His love
Hospitality means no traveler's ever alone

And I believe when the angels come to see me
They won't have very far to take me home
'Cause in Union, every day is always sunshine
Here in Union, every hearth is home

'said here in Union, the weather is always sunshine, sunshine, sunshine
Here in Union, every hearth is home.

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