“So It Goes”

Imagine for a moment that a rumor about you, your son, and a friend circulates through your neighborhood. Like most rumors, it contains some truth but is embellished to such a degree that you feel, like some people would, that you need to speak out and explain what really happened. Fortunately your friend had made a video of the incident showing that no Confederate flag flew from your truck bed, the suspected thief was not shot in the back, and your son fired his shotgun in self-defense. An attorney agrees to help you, and he shares the video with a local radio station to air it so that the truth will be known.

Two years later a member of the House of Representatives gives a speech across the country to some constituents. In her speech she makes a derogatory comment by name and religion about another sitting member of Congress. The crowd laughs, and the House member beams.

Many families, if not all, have an uncle or cousin or other member who is known to tell off-colored jokes, make racially insensitive comments, or in some similar way embarrass or even anger other family members. Perhaps children are warned not to listen to the family members political rants, and to walk away if the telling of a joke is offered. But, because the offender is family, any correction is often missing or if one is given, it is weakly offered. No one, it seems, wants to “upset the apple cart.” As difficult as this imagined family scene is, it does happen and is difficult to maneuver. As my mother was heard to say after many family gatherings,  “… and not a mean word was said.”

So, we have a father, son, and friend in Georgia who are involved in a shooting of a Black man who is jogging through their neighborhood and a member of the United States House of Representatives who disparages a fellow House member because of her religion. It is easy to see that these folks have shown us that they are racist, and America admits that there are individual racist present, but we proclaim that, as a nation, are not racist. Racism, we are proud to say, is not systemic here.

Two events separated by geography and years bring into question the existence of systemic racism in America because many people watched the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder before it became public and thought it supported the lie around his death. After all, in their eyes, it must prove that a Black jogger who grabs the shotgun of a White man chasing him has to be guilty. Of something. If the deputies who responded to the shooting are not guilty of racism, they certainly showed a callous indifference to the young, Black man moaning as he died in the Georgia street. The three men were not arrested for weeks because a local DA saw that no crime had been committed, and during the trial a defense attorney for one of the men suggested that the victim’s toenails were a contributing factor for his being shot. (Her comment reminds me of the Broward Circuit Court (FL) jury in 1989 that acquitted a man charged with rape, saying its members thought the 22-year-old Coconut Creek woman who wore a tank top and a short, white lace skirt without panties was “asking for it.”)  Dirty toenails! No panties! It all is so easy to see.

Miles away and years after the Georgia events, a member of the United States House of Representatives gets laughs when she exhibits her racism by telling a “joke” about another House member who is Muslim. The Colorado crowd showed its racism by laughing at the Islamophobic joke and no member of the offender’s political party has criticized Rep. Lauren Boebert for her racist rant.

There is much discussion around our schools and their curriculums. In some places books have been removed that tell the story of slavery too accurately. In others, laws have been passed by state legislatures restricting what may and may not be taught in schools. All of these efforts and more are meant to teach that America is not nor ever has been a racist country. However, based on current events, no teaching of our racism need be taught. We are living it.  To quote the fatalist Billy Pilgrim from Slaughter-House Five, “So it goes.”

Indeed!

        A Mess of Beans

The other day my wife Mary Ann and I were planning our Thanksgiving meal. She asked me some questions concerning what I wanted and also made statements about the meal-such as this year she would purchase the cranberry sauce instead of making it from scratch. It is our yearly discussion in which I mostly listen, but this year, for some reasons,  it stirred a memory.

Life on the mill hill in a 1950’s North Carolina textile town was sparse. My mother worked on the second shift hemming washcloths in Plant 1, and in this way she provided for her six children. Our life, while not harsh, did not have extras. We had a clean, safe home that had enough furniture but not too much, and we had access to the small, independent store just a short walk through our back yard. It was there that we charged to our mother’s account a package of honey buns for breakfast along with a half-gallon of milk. Or some bologna and loaf bread for supper sandwiches. (I liked to fry my bologna and curl its edge.)

Working on the second shift meant that our mother was not at home from 3-11 PM. We lived close to Plant 1, so she could walk to her work, but she was not  present when we came home from school and not there to prepare an evening’s meal, which we called supper. So, each of us individually “made do” with what was in the rather bare Frigidaire. If nothing suitable was found, one of us would make a quick run to the small store behind our house. Loaf bread, milk, peanut butter, jelly, and other staples went a long way for us. However, sometimes our mother managed somehow to leave us a treat before she trod to the sewing machine in Plant 1.

Language of the mid-South textile towns was always interesting. Ours was a mixture of many cultures and we used terms and words that I now recognize as archaic and sometimes just wrong. Yes, we called the water hose a  “hose pipe” and the wool hats worn over the entire head in winter “toboggans”, and a tow truck was referred to as a “wrecker.”  But our language also carried a rhythm and lyrical history from our ancestors. For instance, a passel (late 14th century) of land meant a small piece but a passel of folks meant a large crowd such as “We had a passel of folks at the reunion.” If someone was “tickled” that usually meant the speaker was pleased. So when our mother managed with her meager resources to prepare “a mess of beans” for our school-day supper it was a treat because “a mess of beans”, straight from Middle English,  meant an abundance of good food.

While we were at school on such a day, Mother would have washed, soaked, then placed on the electric stove to cook our “mess of beans”, which were usually pinto ones. She had a well-worn pot that in a past life had been a pressure cooker, but was now just a dull-colored, silver container with a wooden handle. By supper time, the beans in it were tender, warm, and nutritious for our hungry bodies. A bowl of them (I smothered mine with chopped, white onion) with a wedge of the cornbread from the oven and a jelly glass of cold milk was a special gift that our mother had prepared and left for us.

All of this happened over sixty years ago, but our Mother’s gift of pinto beans, cornbread, and milk is more than a memory. Like the poor widow and her two mites in Mark 12, our Mother gave us, her six children, all that she had. Unlike Mary Ann and me and our approaching Thanksgiving meal, our mother had little, but she gave us all she had.

And that is a blessing for which to give thanks.

Judging Books

The adage, Don’t judge a book by its cover, might well be re-stated into Don’t judge a book by the Internet.

According to news reports that I have read, a mother and father at the November 8th  meeting of the Spotsylvania County (VA) School Board meeting, complained about two novels: Call Me by Your Name and 33 Swordfish. The former is an acclaimed novel that centers on a gay relationship, and 33 Swordfish, is a story about three homeless teens that was named a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association in 2004. The mother described 33 Swordfish  as “disgusting” for its discussion of sexual abuse, and she added that she had searched the school system’s online library catalogue and found 172 hits for the word “gay,” as well as 84 hits for the word “lesbian.”

The report that I read did not say if the parents had read either book, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt that since they disapproved of them, they had read them. However, I wonder what the mother wants to do with her internet search results of the school system’s online library catalogue that revealed the presence of gay 172 times and lesbian showed 84 presences.  That statement by her causes me great concern.

I believe that any literature worth its ink will upset the reader because good literature causes its reader to react. If the reader just reads and does not have any reaction to the words, then the words do not matter and there is no justification for the reading. Even the fairy tale, “Jack and the Beanstalk” causes emotional reactions such as pity for the family’s plight, anger at Jack for not obeying his mother, fear of the giant, relief with the giant’s death, and contentment with the happy ending. But the story also raises the question of honesty because Jack did steal something that was not his-or did he? This ancient tale is more complex that is often recognized, and a simple internet search would not serve it well. Indeed, this fairy tale so often told to young children is a good example of good literature causing a reader reaction. But it also offers another example.

The teacher of “Jack and the Beanstalk” is responsible for how it is presented and thus viewed. For example, does the teacher (often a parent) stress the resourcefulness of Jack? Or does the teacher stress the disobedience issue? Does the teacher dwell on the horrors of the unnamed giant, or just celebrate the happy ending? I wonder if any teacher raises the issue of Jack’s honesty, or is it an issue? After all, the magic beans that grew into the high reaching stalk belonged to Jack and his mother because he (foolishly?) traded the family cow for them. But who did the gold belong to, and why did Jack steal from the giant owner three times?

If an Internet search for such words as honesty, integrity, resourcefulness, murder, and fear was performed by the unnamed mother in Spotsylvania County would the fairy tale of Jack be mentioned? What literature would come up on her screen for those words? None of this matters, honestly, because “Jack and the Beanstalk” is just one more example of what any literature worth its ink must do—cause the reader to react. And how the literature is presented by the teacher has a great deal, but not entirely with,  how the reader/listener will react.

Some of the best questions ever asked of literature in my classes over forty years of teaching were those asked by students. While I never taught Jack or young children, I did teach grades 6 through college. The students I encountered raised probing questions of readings such as Macbeth and Beowulf and The Gift of the Magi because any literature that is worth its ink will raise questions about a myriad of issues, and those questions-often from young readers-may lead us to answers.

            Morning Rides

On most mornings I ride my stationary handcycle for thirty minutes. The bike is placed in a corner of our driveway and close to our residential road. The scene of the neighborhood is great, and I can see all the houses that friends have turned into homes. The view of golden poplars,  unmurdered crepe myrtles, and  maple trees full in their multiple shades of red is one that I have learned to expect and appreciate. All of this as a precursor of the looming cold front blew softly through the tall pines, telling of the change to come. Yet, for me, this lovely scene is not the most interesting or important part of my morning rides.

In 1883 Life on the Mississippi was published and available by subscription. The book is part fiction but mostly memoir by Mark Twain. It is, to a degree, a biography of that great river and the people who live on it or near it. I have come to see our little road as a river. Not one like the mighty Mississippi, but a river that each morning offers new experiences and exposures: To people moving up and down our little road much like the steamboats of Mark Twain. And like a person on the Mississippi River in the mid-19th century, I have come to enjoy the approach of each steamboat, but in my case it is not a large paddle-wheeler, but a cyclist, walker, jogger, or neighbor driving to work or on an early morning errand. The drivers pass swiftly with a mere wave or horn honk from their shell. The cyclist pass as well, but some can be heard as they shout “Morning!” But it’s the walkers or joggers who offer the  most because they move slower and are more prone to be enticed to slow or even stop for a chat. Over the years of riding near the road, I have enjoyed these opportunities to talk with travelers on our residential road. Some of them are well-known neighbors who often stop to share news of their lives; some are vacationers who talk of their pleasant visit to Lake Norman; and some are the regulars who I often see and who sometimes stop and visit for a while. No matter: Each is an opportunity to connect with another human being; Each is an opportunity to hear of events in a life separate from mine; Each is an opportunity to learn; Each is an opportunity.

I am reading Revelations on the River (Healing a Nation, Healing Ourselves) by Matthew Dowd. In his chapter titled Fears and Trauma he writes, “The greatest impediment to true, full love-…are our fears and trauma that we have accumulated throughout our life. It is these fears and trauma, whether profoundly real or perceived, that create scars and, as a consequence, walls within us that can prevent our hearts, minds, and souls from unifying in such a way that allows us to go outward from a place of love.”

Now, I do not profess to being a great healer or writer or Matthew Dowd. Yet, I do think that by merely acknowledging a person passing along on our little road, I make a type of connection and by that validate their humanity. Besides, I enjoy getting to know them, the name of their dog, their family plans for Thanksgiving, all of it matters and if we all do enough of “hailing the steamboat” to come ashore then we just may remove some of the walls that divide us.

     Callie, the First and the Last

The back garden thrives with life this colorful, fall morning: Doves bob across the ground beneath birdfeeders eating fallen seeds, some bluebirds and brown-headed nuthatches take deep drinks from a birdbath, and the cold-tolerant pansies turn to face day’s first sunburst, but the gate to the garden no longer needs to be fully closed, the “poopy bags” are no longer needed, and the screen door to the porch no longer will be scratched by an impatient paw, the abelia bush will no longer shake as it is used as a backscratcher, no longer will a set of inquiring eyes ask when the next treat will be given, the wicker chair in the library no longer will need to be kept empty in case a nap becomes necessary, no longer will the broom or vacuum be barked at as it is cleaning a floor or rug, and Mary Ann’s “brown dog coat” will no longer be needed on cold, winter nights, no longer will a beagle stand on my footrest for me to scratch her ears, and no longer will the click-click of toenails announce her walking to the kitchen to investigate what’s for supper. Callie, our 15-year-old beagle, died in Mary Ann’s lap this morning after Dr. Shivers administered the shots. Her grand heart finally failed her, and one lung filled with fluid; so like many loved animals, she was gently “put to sleep.”

Callie was Mary Ann’s first dog. She was rescued with her two brothers when they, mere puppies, were found in the middle of a busy street.  She was given to Mary Ann, but eventually, Nolan the abandoned hound and Mickey, one of Callie’s brothers, came to us. That’s quite a pack for a woman who never had had a dog before Callie– who came first and left last. But over the 15 years of life with Callie and her mates, Mary Ann discovered the joy of life with dogs. Especially hounds.

Fifteen years shared with a beagle carries many memories. As a young dog she sat under one of the hackberry trees of our Shenandoah Valley farm peering into its branches for the squirrel she had chased, and neither rain, darkness, pleads from her owners could convince her to end her vigil. Always playful, and Mary Ann and I still laugh at the memory of her pulling a ear of Nolan with her teeth in an attempt to get him to run and play. She loved company and two weeks ago she ran circles in our garden when Judy and Mike came for dinner-we like to think that was her way of being polite and welcoming. An open car door could only mean one thing and unlike other dogs, she looked out the windshield in anticipation of an adventure or things to see, no head of hers would hang out a side window seeing what was past. During her last ride to the vets, she perked up for that memory moment when she realized where she was, but her sweet head too soon drooped back onto Mary Ann’s lap. When we moved to Lake Norman four- and one-half years ago, the hounds rode with me. Of course, she sat in the passenger seat, the alert surveyor of all that was coming. While Nolan and Mickey always obeyed her commands, she never found the courage to remove any cat from her chair or bed. This past summer when we extended our garden fence, she enjoyed walking on the sidewalk to the end, sometimes looking back over her shoulder as if to clarify that her walk was permissible.

All of this and more. But physical failure demanded that our sweet Callie go. As sad as that is, we are a better couple for having shared fifteen years of life with her. Now, two days after her death, the back garden holds its abundance of life, but there is no little beagle who will walk along the sidewalk to survey the newly expanded space while glancing over her shoulder.  And the gate need not be tightly closed.

                                                Teacher, Coach, Friend

Although I went to Saint Stephen’s School for Boys in 1976 to teach English and coach wrestling,  I also became a student of several veteran educators in the school, but especially Jim Osuna.

A teacher, the dean of discipline, and coach of cross country and track, Jim Osuna taught young men by demanding that each of them arrive on time, be fully prepared, and perform at their best. He coached in an all-boys’ school where other sports were revered, but he developed IAC champions in cross country and track and field. He modernized the old asphalt track and founded the Draper Invitational Track Meet that had as its stellar race the steeplechase, an unusual event for high schools.  In those days if you came to a track practice you may have seen him driving his red Karma Gia down the track straightaway with a runner frantically holding onto the T-bar that he had fashioned to its rear bumper. In this way he trained the runner to “stretch his legs”  and realize that he could take three steps between those imposing high hurdles.

Jim built confidence in his runners. At an IAC track and field championship held at Bullis School in the late 1970’s I was shocked to see our star two-mile runner, Greg Bernard, to immediately break away from his main competitors from Georgetown Prep in the championship race. Rushing to Jim, I told him our runner needed to be slowed, but he just said, “It’s okay, we know what we are doing.” Unknown to me, Jim had convinced Greg that he was so well-trained and disciplined that he could sprint out early and break contact with the two runners from Prep. He did and before anyone could react, he was too far ahead to be caught. That two-mile championship was an early example for me of  Jim’s skill at training a boy’s body and mind.

When I asked Jim why the classrooms in the upper school had slate blackboards on three of their  walls, he told me how he and other teachers used them for a week’s lesson. His three boards were covered with information for a week. Those boards, with their different colored chalk lessons, were the precursor of copy machines, and every student of his quickly learned the discipline demanded for the classes’ required notebook. In his demanding exactness for the history notebook, Jim taught his students the discipline needed for scholarship by showing them that they could succeed.

Walking around Jim’s classroom, you would have seen many objects concerned with his world history class. In his youth he had travelled the Nile River Valley on a red Harley Davidson motorcycle and had many examples of ancient civilizations displayed. One object was a stone with Sanskrit carved into it. That is fitting because not only was it a history lesson for his students, but it was also a language that may give us our word mentor. While the Ancient Greek in the Odyssey gives us the trusted adviser of young Telemachus, Mentor, the Sanskrit gives us “man-tar” which means “one who thinks.”

For various reasons,  many of us went to Saint Stephens School for Boys. I went as a teacher and coach, but because of my encounter with Jim Osuna, I gained a mentor, “one who thinks”, and an educator to whom I am indebted to and grateful for.

A Modern Ox-Bow Incident

Citizens in the novel The Ox-Bow Incident, set in Nevada in 1885, are upset by rustling taking place in their area, and a suspected murder.  Published in 1940 and written by Walter van Tilburg Clark, the novel is a psychological study of mob rule.  Major Tetley easily manipulates the resentment and fear of the townspeople and uses that to lead them into lawlessness. The result is that three innocent men are falsely accused of murder and theft. The mob hangs them and as Wallace Stegner observers, civilization was trampled by the mob.

In August 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse was 17 when he travelled to Kenosha, Wisconsin to patrol its streets following the civil unrest after a white policeman shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back. Blake is Black and rioting and looting had taken place in protest. During his night of “patrol” Rittenhouse fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and injured Gaige Grosskreutz with his AR-15 styled rifle. A friend had illegally purchased the rifle for Rittenhouse, and despite not being old enough to openly carry a gun in Kenosha, Rittenhouse took it upon himself to patrol the southeast Wisconsin town.

The jury selection for his trial begins tomorrow, and the presiding judge, Bruce Schroeder, has ruled in pre-trial deliberations that the prosecutor may not refer to the three men shot by Rittenhouse as “victims”, but the defense may, if it presents supporting evidence, present that the three were “rioters, looters, and arsonists.” 

Much has been written and discussed about that ruling by Judge Schroeder and how he states that “victim” or even “intended victim” are loaded and may perjure  the jury, but that, in his mind,  “rioters, looters, and arsonists” are not. Thus, the field for this trial is made uneven in the pre-trial stage.

However, as far as I have been able to determine, Judge Schroeder has not ruled against the district attorney using “vigilante” to describe Rittenhouse. I suggest that he use that word because it is  a perfect description of Rittenhouse and his actions. Just as the individual mob members in Clark’s 1885 Nevada novel, Rittenhouse self-appointed himself as the agent for  “law and order” and travelled from his hometown of Antioch, Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin, about fifteen miles away.  The 17-year-old killed two men and severely wounded another while declaring that he, the one with the AR-15 rifle, was acting in self-defense.

 The Ox-Bow Incident examines what happens to a civilization when mob rule becomes the norm. With his actions, young Rittenhouse in Kenosha not only killed and maimed fellow citizens,  but he also took something from us all. He altered our civilization by his choice to be the self-proclaimed law in what he saw as a  lawless night, but he also altered his own life forever. Seventeen is a terribly young age to have committed such an act, an act that will have consequences no matter the verdict beyond the dishonest courtroom of Judge Schroeder.

Judge Schroeder correctly, I think, understands the power of words. But he should allow the word “victims” to be used during the trial because that is what all of us are.

   Pitching Horseshoes

Standing on my work bench is a short section of a limb cut from a cherry tree. Since the horseshoes were last hung on it by Big PaPa, the limb has grown over the horseshoes, capturing them in a time capsule of a time gone by.

At one time, not  too long ago, parents would take their children to a grandparent’s house for a “get together.” Grown siblings and adults talked with each other, sharing news and gossip while cousins played in the yard and house. Heaps of food were placed on the kitchen table and in less time than it took to prepare the food, the empty pots, pans, and plates needed washing. In some families the adults then scattered about the house for a nap, or if the weather was good they went out to sit under a canopy of deep shade. Children ran about, adults talked still, or napped.

But some grandparents, like Craig’s Big PaPa, had built a horseshoe pit, and after the meal and until the shadows of day’s end, the matches between family members was on. The pitching was competitive, but fun. While winners and losers were tallied, it was the doing that counted most.  After the pitching ended and each family gathered itself to return home, Big PaPa gathered the iron horseshoes and hung them on the cherry limb until the  next pitching. Yet Big PaPa, like King David, went the “way of all the earth” and eventually died. In due time his family members chose from his estate, and some wanted furniture, some gun(s), or other items. Craig chose nothing but went out and sawed the horseshoe limb from the tree and took it home. That was Big PaPa’s gift to him.

Craig told me about it a few weeks ago, and I persuaded him to trust me with it. I stripped the bark, cut one end to square it, and wire brushed the rusty horseshoes, After hand sanding the wood of the limb I applied two coats of lacquer and it is ready for two more and then will be mounted on a natural cedar board. (The red cedar resembles a clay pit). Next week Craig will come to get his Big PaPa’s memory gift.

Families have scattered across the land and even if some live close together few travel on a weekend afternoon to share time. Soccer games, football contest, dance recitals, and other overly scheduled youth activities fill the time that was once reserved for large gatherings of families where plentiful homecooked food, naps, cousin play, and horseshoes with Big PaPa was shared. Nothing learned in a youth  activity can rival what a grandchild learned pitching “shoes” with Big PaPa.

Pulling the Crippled Card

On September 30, around 12:30 p.m. in Dayton, Ohio, Mr. Clifford Owensby pulled the crippled card.  In the 1900 Block of West Grand Avenue Dayton police officers initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle driven by Owensby because it was seen leaving a suspected drug house that was under surveillance by the Narcotics Bureau. When asked to exit the vehicle so that a drug sniffing dog could inspect the vehicle, Owensby pulled the crippled card by telling the officers that he could not because he was paraplegic. The officers offered to assist him in leaving the vehicle, but he refused and again told them that he was a paraplegic. They dragged him out and rescued the three-year-old in the back seat who was not in a restrained carrier. All the while, as he was being handcuffed, Owensby kept screaming that he was a paraplegic.

I have watched the Dayton Police body cam videos of the incident and question some of their tactics. However, I  am more interested in Owensby’s being a paraplegic since I am a T 5-6 paraplegic for the past twenty years. For instance, I saw no hand controls on the vehicle that Owensby was driving and if he is a paraplegic, how can he drive without hand controls since his legs are of no use. Also, as a paraplegic, he would need a wheelchair to get around, but none was seen by me in his vehicle. How does he maneuver without one? Any paraplegic who drives a sedan such as Owensby was in has to remove the wheels of a wheelchair and store them behind the driver’s seat and  place the folded main part in the passenger’s seat. It was clearly not there.

As a paraplegic I have grown tired of and frustrated by the people who abuse the handicapped parking spaces. They are sad and pathetic. However, what Owensby did is at a new level of evil self-serving, and I hope the Dayton police stand firm and fight Owensby’s claim. Like too many people, he looks for an easy exit instead of accepting responsibility for his decision not to cooperate with a simple request from police.

DOT Studies

When we moved to Isle of Pines Road in Mooresville four years ago, I was startled that the upper end of our road, a fully residential one, had a posted speed limit of 45mph for its first b 1.5 miles. By my count that section of road has roughly 24 driveways directly connecting with the two lane, double yellow lined road. That count does not include the four residential developments that feed onto the road.  The smallest development in the 45mph zone has at least a dozen houses that connect to IoP Road.

In early August I contacted the Iredell Sheriff’s Department which referred me to Mr. Touger Yang, Assistant Division Traffic Engineer, Division 12,North Carolina Department of Transportation. I requested that the 45 zone be reduced to 35 because the road is a residential one with a double yellow line, and is heavily used by cyclists, runners, walkers, deer, and motorists. I share his response:

“We still do not recommend reducing the speed limit on Isle of Pine Road to 35 mph. The development in the 45 mph section of the road is 22% (23 driveways, 1.49 miles). The development in  the 35 mph section of the road is 57.4 % (16 driveways, 0.40 mile). The 35 mph section of the road was not lowered based off development. The 35 mph section was lowered to help motorist reduce 10 mph into the 25 mph section and not 20 mph if the speed limit was 45. The 25 mph section has steady horizontal alignment changes and the development on the road is 82% (36 driveways, 0.63 mile).

We did not conduct a spot speed study on the road. However, from a previous study in 2017 the average speed in the 45 mph section of the road was 43 mph – 44 mph and the 85th percentile speed on the road was 50 mph – 53 mph. The 85th percentile speed is typically what we use to determined posted speed limits on a road +/- 5 mph. Please contact law enforcement if you have issues with speeding on the road.”

He referred me to his superior, Mr. Byron Engle.

I contacted Mr. Engle and offered some corrections to Mr. Yang’s letter. It is very important that in the 35 speed zone there are only SEVEN driveway directly connected to the road and they all are on the east side of the road and a developer’s berm is on the west side. Here is his response.

I apologize for the delay in responding to your request for a lower speed limit on Isle of Pines Road.  I was waiting on an updated spot speed study since the previous one was done in 2017.   The 2021 study revealed that the average speed was 45 mph which is very close to the 44 mph average from the 2017 study.  Since motorist are traveling at the posted speed, we do not recommend lowering the speed to 35 mph.  This is comparable to other roads in the area such as Stutts Road, McKendree Road, Chuckwood Road as well as the three-lane and two-lane portions of Brawley School Road.  All of these roads have areas of development with appropriate speeds based on the concentration of homes, businesses and other development.

When we look at development, we are looking at homes, businesses, etc. that have a direct connection to the road.  This is different from a subdivision which may have one, or more, entrances onto the road that provide the access for the homeowners living there.  When comparing the number of direct connections it is greater in the 35 and 25 mph sections than in the 45 mph section.  Therefore the speeds on Isle of Pines are appropriate and reasonable.

            In his great book, Too Soon Old, Too Soon Smart, Dr. Gordon Livingston offers thirty true things that he learned through experience, and he thinks we all should know them. His first true thing is, “If the map doesn’t agree with the ground, the map is wrong.” He then shares how when he was a young officer in the 82nd Airborne and in heavy woods at Ft. Bragg , he was studying  his map. His platoon sergeant, a “veteran of many junior officers” asked if anything was wrong. Lt. Livingston pointed to some trees and said that the map indicated that a hill should be there. The masterful sergeant gave Livingston his first true thing.

            Both DOT administrators quote studies, one as old as from 2017, to justify the 45-mph speed limit on Isle of Pines Road. Mr. Engle also refers to other similar roads which have a 45-mph limit. One of those I know—Stutts Road also needs a lowered speed limit.   I live here, drive the road almost every day, and see the traffic. Mr. Engle and Mr. Yang are like Dr. Livingston’s map that quotes rules and regulations while ignoring the reality of the ground. The ground here is not suited to a 45mph zone. I wish they each would come here and drive 44 miles per hour in the 45 zone and see if it is safe.  I asked them both to, in order for the safety of everyone, to reduce the speed.