Town Crier | Charlene Shepard: The Poet of Coal Creek
The Poet of Coal Creek was back in the hospital recently. Charlene Shepard fell off a bar stool a while back and broke her hip and I suppose she was back for an adjustment.
I was in room 309 waiting for my wife to be fitted with a neck brace following a cervical discectomy when I heard the commotion down the hall.
There’s something about a hospital bed that can trump one’s authority. Maybe it’s the infirmity that put you there or maybe it’s the gown that leaves one vulnerable, but nothing short of an anesthesiologist is going to temper Charlene.
Now I’m not saying she’s not a sweetheart and the kindest mother of six and doting grandmother for dozens, but she’s exceeded eight decades and in that time garnered a reputation. She’s simply a fearless woman who intends to have her way.
Stormont-Vail had two weapons in the battle. Granddaughters Lynsay McElroy and Annie Brevitz are nurses there and while the Poet of Coal Creek complained that she was given no favors I’d have my doubts. There seemed to be less disturbance and blue smoke rolling out of the doorway when they were around.
Charlene grew up near Richland, a town that was purchased by the Corps of Engineers to create Clinton Reservoir. This was Georgia Neese Gray’s town, the first woman treasurer of the United States. Her bank, Richland State Bank, was moved to the capital city and is now Capital City Bank. Charlene banked with her and knows the history of this family. She was disappointed when they spoiled, in her words, the old auditorium to create a performing arts center named in her honor.
I report that she fell off a bar stool to damage that hip, but I am now having some doubts. In trying to run the story down, I can’t find out what bar she was in, what she was drinking, or any of the kind of details that usually follow a good story like that. So now I’m wondering, would she just tell me that because tripping over the cat or falling in the bathroom would be boring and fail to get a writeup?
Charlene and George, her husband of almost 64 years, farmed and milked cows. They still live north of the river and no one ever dies in their neighborhood without getting a poem to accompany their eulogy.
Here’s a sample from among the works of the Poet of Coal Creek that speaks eloquently for those who have ever been tied to the land:
Thru out the long and many years
He’s had this love affair
I married him knowing not
She would be always there.
He worked for her and her alone
I joined him in his task
Always fearful every day
Of what that she might ask.
At times she was so beautiful
I begrudged him not his love
It seemed God reached out and touched her
From his home above.
He took from me and gave to her
Sometimes it was returned
But she never let me have
The things for which I yearned.
She helped me raise our children
And shared with them her joys
She made lovely men and women
Out of little girls and boys.
I let her rule my life
To try and set him free
She took all I had to give
And demanded more of me.
I realize in my twilight years
Her hold I can not sever
Now I am old and weary
And she’ll be young forever.
The battle over, she has won
Because one way or the other
She is his and he is hers
And they deserve each other!
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