Friday, November 2, 2012
My trip to the leadership conference
This is usually not a tale I would tell this early in the retelling of the B.W. story. However, with the U.S. presidential election coming up this coming week, it is the right time for it. - D.H.
This past week, I attended my first leadership conference. All 67 of the Idealian families have sent their designated heads of household to the sprawling Bowling estate - home of the land's largest family - to share news about our families and improvements as to how to make our lives better.
We began with a welcome speech from Lyman Bowling, lord of the house and the president of Idealia. (As with all other leadership positions in Heaven, he was appointed by Jesus Christ rather than elected.) You think I have it tough keeping track of a house with a total of 13 people living there? Lyman Bowling is the patriarch of a 26-person dwelling, with four different generations under one roof. The plantation is in a beautiful hillside area, remade into a garden spot after years of degradation that was the result of strip-mining for coal. The coal was revived into fertilizer for the growth of crops and wildflowers. (Avatar: Bill Bump, Methodist pastor in Kansas)
The family also has some other colorful characters, including Lyman's niece Ella Mae. She is one of the warmest women I've ever met and I just wish I could take her back to meet Brenda. Their shared sense of humor and love of domestic arts would make them instant friends. As it is, Brenda has a copy of her books Ella Mae's 100 Best Quilt Ideas and Ella Mae's 100 Best Recipes. (Avatar: Mary Beth Hicks, conservative blogger who writes about motherhood)
During our meetings, we agreed that the biggest emphasis should remain balancing the "redneck" and "good ol' boy/belle" sides of our nature. That means that we would continue to emphasize the parts of culture we love, like country music, bass fishing, hunting, and distinctive drawls, while continuing our bans on the least-favorite parts, like alcohol, tobacco, cussing, and bare-breasted women. We also agreed to keep flying the Confederate flag, no matter what.
At the end of the meetings, I earned a special award, Grand Ambassador to the Confederate States of America. The CSA is the larger political organization of which Idealia is a part, and I was one of five award winners for the whole country.
On the last day, the keynote speakers were Lulabettie and La'BooTeasha Plumpkin (popularly known as Lulu and Boo), originally from the "Black Belt" of central Alabama. Besides having two of the prettiest personal names I've ever seen, they are activists who have made it their life's mission to preserve, and indeed improve, rural life among African-Americans. The Plumpkins were maids who immigrated to Chicago, and some of their clients were among the wealthiest citizens of the city. They used the large sums of money they made to buy property back home, on which they had hoped to build a farm. But before that could happen, both were killed in a car crash.
It took their revival at the Glorious Appearing for the Plumpkins to finally get their farm, representing the former slaves who finally got their "40 acres and a mule" as the U.S. government had promised after it beat the Confederate states in the American Civil War. The farm and farmhouse are popular and receive hundreds of visitors a day, and they have even been invited to come to Africa as guests of local tribes who are also seeking to rebuild their traditional lifestyles.
In the keynote speech, the mother and daughter did not hold back. Lulu began by outlining a brief history of African-Americans, from slavery to sharecropping, leading to the "Great Migration" to the cities, and then eventually back to reclaim their old rural lands. "This is our crystal stair," Lulu said, referring to an old black saying. "Our legacy of struggle is complete, and now we can celebrate having our own land and fully enjoying the fruits of our labor." Boo added that "little black boys and black girls and little white boys and white girls," to quote Martin Luther King, Jr., "always had more in common than we thought. Now, no one is there to hold us back or pit us against each other. All of us are free!"
When the speech ended, just about everyone cried, including me. (Avatars: Anna McWillie, social activist, Katie Washington, recent graduate with honors, University of Notre Dame)
My emotions continued to run high as the Spears Family Band took the stage at the end of the last session. Of course, this is the band from which "Bluegrass" Brittany broke out to be a hit performer. However, she is actually part of a larger group of musicians, dancers, and even a storyteller. For the first time, all four generations, led by founder "Grandpa Breck" Breckinridge Spears, were on stage in a public show. I went backstage afterward and confirmed that me, Brenda, and Bryson will visit the Spears homestead for Thanksgiving.
I decided to extend my trip by one day so I could compete against Blake Bowling, one of Lyman and Ella Mae's sons. The competition was in - what else - bowling. "I guess when's your name's Bowling, you've gotta be good at it," Blake said simply. I haven't bowled in over 10 years, so Blake agreed to spot me 50 pins and I got to use bumpers so I didn't have to roll gutter balls. Nonetheless, I still lost - by 22 pins. (Avatar: Cody Dent, member of the University of Florida baseball team. He is the son of Bucky Dent, who hit one of the most famous home runs in New York Yankees history as the margin of victory in the 1978 American League Eastern Division tiebreaker game. The Yanks went on to win the World Series that year.)
The trip ended with one more surprise: Ella Mae gave me two of her legendary quilts to send back to Brenda. That is so generous of her, as she could easily sell these for hundreds of dollars - each. I'm sure Brenda will have a wild-eyed, broad-smiled look when she sees them!
I trust that Brenda kept Bryson safe back home, and maybe Popeye also came by to visit.
For the record, here is the entire Bowling family of Idealia: Great-grandfather Lyman and her wife Mildred; their son Lyman Jr., the younger Lyman's wife Malinda, and children Danielle, Deborah, and Michael; Michael's wife Megan and their children Brett, Brittany, Blake and Ryan; grandfather Charles, his wife Peggy Jo, and their children Ella Mae and Tammy Rae; Tammy Rae's husband Tony Sparks and their twin sons Dylan and Ethan; father Andrew, mother Loretta, their children Adam, Amy, and Abby; Adam's wife Juliette and their son Jackson. The age range is 18 months (Jackson) to 73 years (Lyman). Lyman Jr. and Charles are brothers, as are Michael and Andrew.
A final disclaimer: They are not related to the Bowling Family, which is a real Southern gospel group.