Editor's note: This is the first three chapters of The Battle For Nashville. New chapters are posted on our Web site late each Friday as part of our Late Edition.
Trigg Moseley stepped from the bus and into the front yard. Today was December 16. He was speaking into a microphone that swooped down in front of his mouth and attached to his head by a yellow, plastic headpiece. A speaker was hooked to his front pants pocket, and it blasted out whatever he said, at great volume and at great distance. His wife had picked up the device for him at Brookstone the week before, on a shopping trip with her girlfriends to Atlanta; it had been designed for aerobics instructors. Knowing how the crowds had grown at the annual tourand fully aware that the event was important to himshe thought it would be the perfect little send-off. That morning, it would have taken Moseley two minutes to locate the "on" button if not for his friend, Jill Smathers, who kept an eye on him as he ripped apart the yards of deep green wrapping paper decorated with horses, bugles and foxes. She had immediately sensed his impatience as he began pulling out cord, speaker, Styrofoam and batteries. But in no time, she had the device up and running, tethered to his body, functional. Wearing it didn't make Moseley feel entirely comfortablehe had the feeling the microphone gave him an overly modern air. Did he look like an astronaut? To achieve a measure of confidence about his appearance, he reflected on the rest of his outfit: He was dressed in an old pair of khakis that were frayed in the cuff, two-toned L.L. Bean hiking boots, a polo shirt open at the collar and a blue blazer. It was a uniform he had worn since he was six. Certainly there was no problem there, was there? As Moseley stood in the front yard of the house on Shy's Hill Road, something was falling from the sky that was more than mist, but less than drizzle, and it was not entirely clear whether it was frozen, whatever it was. In Nashville, what this amounted to was an atmospheric convergence: cold front swooping down from Kentucky, rain surging upward from Alabama, and their dismal union in Nashville. Into the cold air Moseley exhaled, and he watched a cloud of steam exit his body. Ah, his lungs. He loved his lungs. Being outdoors, in the cold, made him feel invigorated and alive.
He saw the others shivering, and he wondered if they noticed that he was just fine with it. Forty-eight years old, Trigg Moseley ran every morning, no matter the weather. He made it a point to golf once a week, no cart. Once duck season opened, he would situate himself in a hunting blind with his Memphis in-laws, before dawn, with shotgun shells and a bad bottle of wine and a couple of his favorite dogs, where he would make sure he could still perfectly lead his targets. Come summer, in the heat, his physical labors would turn to bushhogging the family farmhe loved telling the farm hand to get off the damn tractorjust to remind himself of the motions of crude, physical labor. It was the agrarian in him, the man in touch with the earth, with elemental substances like dirt, sweat, plants, gutted fowl, fish bait, bird shot, the seasons and life itself. The cold was no bother. No biggie. A half-hour of cold in the middle of a subdivision of electrified ranch-style homes wasn't piddle compared to the physical sacrifices that had been paid by tens of thousands of hell-bent Rebel and Yankee soldiers around this Shy's Hill, and on this same day, in 1864. Both sides then had weathered the cold for days. There had been no campfires, little food, no sleep. A third of the Confederate soldiers had gone barefoot. It was just plenty of marching and more encounters with the enemy and more injured, wounded and dead. When Moseley transported himself to this long gone world, which was something he could do quite easily, we found it fitting that it was so cold today. That he was standing exposed to the cold in nothing but a blue blazer was a way for him to engage in a complex system of comparison to what had happened in the war. The soldiers then had suffered. He, too, would have to suffer if he were he to hold himself to their standards. At stake were many important issues having to do with his character in a world that was utterly bereft of it. He was certain others understood this about him.
Breathing deeply in the front yard, he turned to Mudge, not because he necessarily wanted to speak with Mudge, but because what he felt came so strongly out of him that he would just as soon have said it to a tree. The others were still getting off the bus, but Mudge, as he had been for most of the day, was standing close by Moseley's side.
"You know Mudge, the point of all this is that we've become a nation of pussies, basically, a nation fat and happy, content to sit in front of a television in our little climate controlled world, eating chips and dip and worrying about the color of the wallpaper in our second home," he said. "These soldiers didn't have squat. All they had was an ideal and the passion to back it up. I think about these soldiers and I think how soft we have become."
Mudge wasn't listening. "Dangit, Moseley, why didn't you tell me we was gonna be walking in the frigging mud," he said, scraping the soles of his $600 alligator-skinned Italian loafers with a stick. Mudge really didn't care about the particulars of the war at all. This was not the first stop on Moseley's annual bus tour of the Battle of Nashville. The 7 a.m. kick off had begun in Green Hills, a loose conglomeration of upper-middle class homes, sprawling apartment complexes and stores where you could find antique silver and Tuscan bread and tapenade in a jar if that's what you were looking for. Across that same landscape, years ago, with the earth stripped bare by Union forces who had cut down every tree for miles around for fuel, a huge battle had been waged. John Bell Hood was a laudanum-addicted, one-legged Confederate general with a lame arm who had decided that, with the war at a pivotal point, he had no choice but to take a gamble and attack Nashville, which at the time was under Union control. And so he had driven his men to an awful end. The turning moment of the battle had come late in the afternoon on December 16 as Union troops drove the Rebels off Shy's Hill and sent them running into the dusk. They would not stop until they got to Alabama. The Battle of Nashville, while little discussed in the history of the war, was certainly the effective end of the Western theater of the war; in fact, some argued it was really the end to the war itself.
For Moseley, for whom the war was a hobby, maybe even more, this was the sixteenth year he had stood in this yard, preparing to deliver the same speech, at what amounted to the most important stop, Shy's Hill. The people attending the tour this year included a couple of Moseley's Memphis in-laws, who seemed to take the pilgrimage even a bit more seriously than he did, in a kind of serious, Deep South way; young associates at Moseley's venture capital company, who often looked upon the tour as an opportunity to figure out what made the boss tick; Smathers, the principal in Smathers & Associates, a rapidly expanding Nashville public relations firm; and assorted other folks from St. Anthony Episcopal Church (to which he and his family belonged), old classmates from his Forward Nashville leadership training class two years ago, and others whom he did not even know. In its beginning years, the tour had been conducted out of a station wagon with a couple of buddies. Six years ago, in part because the Memphis in-laws had started bringing along a milk jug filled with Bloody Marys, the event had gotten celebratory, larger, more popular.
As the last of the guests were stepping off the bus, Moseley separated himself from Mudge and flicked on his speaker. "Allrighty, ladies and gentlemen," his voice boomed, so loud that it startled a flock of starlings from a nearby tree. "If I might have your attention, what I had told you was that at the outset of the battle, the redoubts occupied by the Confederates in the Abbotsford subdivision and at the Post Green Hills Apartments were overrun, and many of the Rebel troops fled, running for their lives, to this hill where we are now. This had been where Confederate general John Bell Hood had been throughout the battleit was a high enough place for him to view all the fighting beforehand. In fact, some have argued this is where his troops should have been all along. Had they chosen this place as a defensive position, many have speculated this whole thing might have turned out differently."
The more knowledgeable in the group shuffled a bit. Moseley's implicationthat the outcome of the Civil War itself might have been different had Hood dug in at Shy's Hill with his 20,000 men in one last, great stand that could have proved victoriouswas a source of extreme contention among the diehards. It was a pointless argument, but one that often drove the usual cast of amateur Civil War enthusiasts stark, raving mad. Realizing he probably shouldn't have even broached the subject, he paused a moment. The yard in which they were standing was as brown as the moon, the rye grass all dead stubble. The house nearby was all sharp angles and light wood, a split-level circa 1970s number, with several pockmarked boxwoods out front and Christmas lights hanging from the front door. Elsewhere in the neighborhood, all you could see were more homes, electrical lines and similar threadbare shrubs.
"December 16, 1864, had been fairly awful," Moseley continued. "It had started raining the night before, and the ground was so frozen it was nearly impossible for the Rebel forces to dig trenches and build a defensive position. On top of that, they were exhausted. They were hungry. In fact, this being the Army of Tennessee, many of the Rebel soldiers had been born and raised here in Nashville. But they had not come home to greet their spouses or their parents. Instead, they had come here to fight an enemy."
Moseley paused, listening to the sound of his own voice trailing off through the trees in amplified waves. The effect was disconcerting to him, and he thought of junking the entire apparatus. But since his wife Joanie wanted him to wear it, he felt compelled to use it. "And now, I would ask that you follow me up the hill, where you will see where Colonel Shy, the 26-year-old Confederate, who was a Nashville native, attempted to defend his hill against the Union onslaught. The hill is named after him."
Moseley walked toward a trail leading from the side of the yard. Entering into the woods, he glanced behind him just in time to see Jill Smathers gently encourage everyone to fall into line, doing so with a simple wave of her long, white hand. It was such a clean, easy movement. God how he loved her efficiency. Ever so briefly, the two locked eyes, and in her glance he felt an acknowledgement of the support and respect that existed between them. Truth be told, the feeling of teamwork was shooting down to his toes.
Immediately behind him on the trail, meanwhile, was Mudge, which did not please him. Mudge had not even been invited on the tour to begin with. But when the tour bus had opened its doors that morning in the West End Church of Christ parking lot, Mudge had climbed on with a box of Krispy Kremes and a look that said he wouldn't rather be any place else. "Glazed? Chocolate covered?" he announced to the passengers, all sweetness and light. To Moseley, however, the motives behind Mudge's antics were as clear as day.
If Moseley had been surprised to see Mudge that morning, it didn't take long for him to realize it was all about Darby Glen. It had been so transparent of Mudge, so redneck! This alone had cast a pall of low-grade anxiety on today's tour, on top of what was already a throbbing, ever-present panic Moseley was experiencing about the huge venture. But for Mudge to insert himself into his tour, into his hobby, to ingratiate himself into his social circle and into his life to get even more of a foothold in the real estate project, was so disingenuous.
Moseley had never wanted to be involved in Darby Glen, but now it was consuming all of his hours, his days, his life. The first development plans for the 1,400-acre spread, which his family had owned for a half-century, called for a gated community with security guard access, 190 one-acre home sites selling for $295,000 a pop, an 18-hole golf course, a complete renovation of the original 1855 residence to serve as a clubhouse and the addition of a few French style fountains here and there. The project had seemed to run counter to everything Moseley stood forwhy would he want a new development of monstrous bourgeois brick homes constructed atop the green fields of his family's history?
Why indeed? As time wore on, Moseley found his objections slowly disappearing, like a spring rain moving on, or a river bank collapsing, bit by bit, into the muddy current. The reasons in favor of the development were many. The house itself, a huge thing lived in only by his mother, had become costly to maintain. The land itself was not being farmed anymore, save for a 200-acre tract leased to an older neighbor who grew corn. Nearby, a four-lane access road had cut through an adjacent farm. And the owners of that farm had sold out years ago, leading to the undertaking of a mega-development of three-story homes purchased by upper-management transplants who were new to town.
For these reasons the project had started making sense. And then there was the issue of money: $12 million of it alone to Moseley, not to mention what it would bring to his mother and brother. As much as he tried to tell himself it was not about the moneynot about the millions in cool, clean after-tax jack that he could plop down into a low-interest bearing account and chuckle overhe could not avoid the glee that struck him when he thought of it. The money, he knew, would leave him set for the rest of his days.
Faced with what to do with Darby Glen, Moseley ultimately decided that developing it was the thing to do. The developers from Atlanta who had originally pitched the idea to his family three years ago had failed to secure financing, though they had managed to rezone the land from agricultural to residential. At that point, Moseley made the project one for his own venture capital firm. Technically, he did not see this as making him a developer per se, developers being a class of people who normally came from Texas and went broke every seven years. James Franklin "Trigg" Moseley III was simply doing another deal.
But now, among other things, this is what Darby Glen had brought him: He was being stalked by the likes of Joe Mudge, a high school graduate who had started a chain of convenience stores which he had then sold for $240 million, much of which he had used to start his own commercial bank in a strip center in a Nashville suburb. A redneck! A man who was so gauche as to fly a Rebel flag, but didn't really give a hoot about the facts of the Civil War! A man who wore precious little Italian slip-ons to ride on a bus and troop across fields and look at Civil War sites! A man who, unfortunately, could compound interest in his head without consulting a calculator, who knew the exact balance of his 16 biggest customers to the nearest dollar, a man who had sweet-talked more unwitting businessmen from Florida to New York out of more money than anyone in these parts because of excessive quantities of charm and guile. Joe Mudge, Moseley knew, was not a man to be underestimated.
The trail to the top of Shy's Hill wound through clumps of honeysuckle, tall poplars and maples. No more than several hundred yards long, it was steep. The group arrived at the top slowly, spread far apart. As Mudge came walking up, he tripped over a root, muttering "damnit" between deep, lunging grabs for air. With each step he took, his loafers made a squishy-squishy sound, completely soaked as they were. Within seconds, Smathers herself took the hill, her face hungry and taut, her blond hair pulled so sharply behind her head that her ponytail seemed to tug at her ears. She was not smiling; rarely, he noticed, did she ever smile. His stomach warmed as he looked at her.
Once everyone had caught their breaths, Moseley began speaking again.
"There is a right way to build a trench; and there is a wrong way," he said. "Engineers in the Civil War understood correctly that you dug a trench not at the exact top of a hill, but just below its top. That can be explained, actually, geometrically. If you are located at the top of a hill, you cannot see the bottom below you. But if you build your trench further down the hill, actually on the side of the hill, you can see all the way to the bottom. That, you see, is the perfect defensive position. From that point, you can fire on the troops gathering at the bottom of the hill as they prepare to attack you. There are entire classes on this at West Point, I can assure you."
Moseley knew the group was locked into the story, so he paused a moment.
"When the Rebels gathered here on the evening of December 15, it was late. They had just been overrun and had retreated here. In the dark, the engineers did not advise their soldiers well. You see, the Rebels stupidly built their trenches right at the top of this hill rather than on its side. That meant the Yankee troops could climb 90 percent of the hill without even being seen. If you're wondering where those trenches were, here are the remains of one right here."
Next to a wooden bench that had been placed atop the hill, and on which Mudge was now sitting, a slight depression wound its way gently across the hill. That was the trench. It was not as deep as a ditch, but more like the depression that precedes a wave 200 to 300 yards before it hits the beach. Every member of the group walked over to examine it more closely, eagerly, as if they were in a museum.
"Now, I betcha they's been some old folks filling in this trench with some old leaves and such, considering the way it hardly looks like a trench," Mudge said out loud, speaking to no one in particular. "Probly dumped a whole lot of sticks and limbs in there every year when fall came around. Hardly looks like a place where people would have fought a war."
The group looked at Mudge quizzically, appearing to wonder why he was so eager to unveil his ignorance. Moseley himself pretended as if he hadn't heard Mudge at all. In his mind's eye, Moseley was able to see the trench as it had once existed: a finely cut fresh thing, all red dirt and limestone shards, in which soldiers had sought safety from the whizzing bullets. The tour group seemed of a like mind, inclined to imagine that it was more like what it had once been rather than what it was now. Moseley continued. "Ultimately, of course, the moment of the battle came. It was late afternoon and the Rebels faced north in their trenches. The Union troops were gathered at the foot of the hill, awaiting direction from their generals. Knowing they could take the hill, and upset because the day was drawing to a close and victory was slipping from their grasp, the Yankees decided not to wait for an order from their officers. Losing patience, they simply stormed the hill on their own. There was never really any doubt as to Union victorythe Southern soldiers offered some resistance, but with their trenches inadequately built, they soon found Yankee soldiers easily piling into their positions. The young Colonel Shy, however, did not leave. He was shot and killed, imploring his troops to fight as a bullet struck him in the chest, knocking him to the ground and ending his brief life."
The group stood silent, imagining the thought of thousands of Yankees storming up the hill to where they now stood. The bullets had cut through the air, slicing through flesh and bone and anything else in their way. The Union troops had overwhelmed the Confederates so easily in the final moments, the push to the top of the hill taking place in only a matter of minutes to settle what had been four, long years of bloodletting beforehand. The Memphis in-laws mumbled to one another about the young Shy, whose punishment had been little discussed in the Civil War histories. The three church members from St. Anthony's gathered themselves together by a large sycamore and pointed in low murmurings to a large rock by the trench. Had that been a point of protection for the Rebel defenders, they wondered.
As they all imagined the scene unfolding, Moseley himself began walking down the trail. Soon, everyone was following him. Through a thicket of desperate looking bramble, all lifeless in the December air, stood a slight clearing. There the group gathered before what was a perfect view of the city: homes and businesses, a glass-domed mall, church steeples and steel and glass office complexes and cellular phone towers. It was a view of their lives from a place they'd never been.
"After the war, Hood was asked to comment on the failed battle," Moseley said, after the group had a chance to scan the scene below them. At the same time, Moseley pulled from his wallet a worn index card that appeared to have some writing on it. "The battle had been a routthe Rebels had been soundly whipped. Hood himself had been harshly criticized for leading his troops into a disaster. But Hood had something interesting to say when asked about the encounter. He said, and I quote: "In truth, our army was in that condition which rendered it more judicious that the men should face a decisive issue rather than retreatin other words, rather than renounce the honor of their cause without having made a last and manful effort to lift up the sinking fortunes of the Confederacy, I therefore determined to move upon Nashville.' "
Moseley looked up. He adjusted the speaker attached to his pants to make sure everyone could clearly hear what he said next. "My friends, many scholars and historians consider this battle pointless and forgettable. But in many ways, its importance was just as Hood described it. The battle was certainly a failed endeavor, as he stated. But the Battle of Nashville also laid to rest the question of success or failure for the South. It had the saving, graceful element of being the beginning of the end. From this point forward, from this hill, all roads led to Appomattox. In the narrative of history, that was the Battle of Nashville's reason for being."
The group stood awkwardly for a few seconds. After all, it appeared the tour was overno one was exactly certain what to do next. But then, one of the Memphis in-laws yelled out, "Let's give Trigg a great big round of applause." Soon, the sound of clapping had filled the little woods in which they stood. Moseley felt his chest expand a bit. It had not been the greatest speech he'd ever delivered, but it was the conclusion of yet another tour, the end of a ritual of his own making, something he did not for his own sake but so that people might know a bit more about the world in which they lived.
Basking in the crowd's affection nonetheless, he looked for Smathers. Instead, he saw Mudge, there, on the far-away bench, sitting down, smoking a cigarette. He saw the in-laws, now pouring Bloody Marys from a jug. But there, THERE, yes! There was Smathers! Had she gotten it? His wife never much paid attention to his Civil War interests, but what did Smathers herself think of it all? What did she think of this passion of his, this interest, this day?
He watched as she pulled her phone out of her purse, placed it to her ear, her high, efficient cheekbones drawing up so slightly under the tension of the receiver, her eyes then locking with his as her lips moved slightly without sound, her palm then slapping the phone shut, the phone going back in the purse, her look saying...saying...was she saying anything more than he thought she might be saying?
Now next to him, she grabbed him hard by the arm, pulling him down the trail out of earshot of the others. "A nosy, piss-ant reporter is calling around because he's got wind of a lawsuit being filed against you today to halt any activity out at Darby Glen. My guess is Joe Mudge's name is all over it. Meet me in my office in 15 minutes. You've got a godamn disaster on your hands, pal."
The two didn't even say goodbye to the rest of the group. In full retreat, they fled. Damn Darby Glen, Moseley thought.
Joanie Moseley walked into the garage, where a ping-pong table was collapsing under the weight of country hams, sweet rolls, biscuits, her mother-in-law's chocolate chip cookies, airline-sized Jack Daniel's bottles, cheese straws, cheese balls, quail eggs, pork sausage from Dickson County, smoked trout from Bucksnort and other indigenous food products that would soon be arranged in a basket, tied with red and green bows and transformed into a $24.99 product known as "Joanie's Tennessee Treat." Four years ago, when Joanie's youngest son had entered kindergarten, she'd roamed the hallways of her home asking what she was going to do with her life. When her husband announced that he had no idea what to do for client Christmas gifts that year, she became inspired.
"Trigg, I saw the cutest straw baskets the other day at Filmore AntiquesI think they're from India somewhereand they weren't any more than two dollars apiece. Why don't you let me fill them up with ham biscuits and some other goodies and I'll wrap them up nicely and that'll take care of it for you?"
Trigg's clients had never been so pleased. The next year she decided to see if she could do the same for other businesses, and sales had gone through the roof. This Christmas, she was filling 8,000 straw baskets, which had arrived the day before. UPS delivered them from a village outside Kashmir.
"Maria, go get me the glue gun por favor," she said, wiping the palms of her hands on a white apron that covered a sharp, black pantsuit. "And did you call that engineering firm downtown about dropping off their gifts this afternoon?"
"But Meez Sanderz," Maria said, "dey eez no way we will finish! Too many box! Not enough time!"
Joanie cracked a smile, as if to express the vital need she had for Maria to keep her tethered to a schedule and help her manage her time. "OK, fine, just let them know we'll have everything done by tomorrow."
Such a Godsend Maria had been! At the Interfaith Community Center on Church Street, an old, downtown brick storefront designed to serve as an intake center for the city's destitute and homeless, Maria had wandered in one day, just off a Greyhound bus from Nuevo Laredo. With only $25 to her name, she was trying to locate a brother who was working in construction, in a town somewhere in Middle Tennessee. Joanie had been at the desk that day, volunteering as the assigned representative from St. Anthony's Episcopal Church. Volunteers had been given a handout listing all the local, state and federal agencies and nonprofit groups that were supposed to handle every imaginable human problem that walked through the doors. But nowhere did Joanie see a government agency to handle someone like Maria, who simply had no way of finding her brother. Rather than send her off into the confusing maze of social services agencies, Joanie instead took the woman home. It was so Joanie.
When Trigg had come home later that day and caught a glimpse of Maria cleaning his swimming pool, he hadn't asked his wife about this Hispanic woman with Indian features and dirty tennis shoes and hair tucked under a straw hat, who was skimming a net across the top of his chlorinated water to remove the fallen crepe myrtle petals. Frankly, his first thought was about the crepe myrtle petals. He hated stuff floating in his pool; the trees would have to come down. No sooner had he thought of calling the tree service than he wondered why someone new was cleaning his pool. This, despite the fact that he had hired Sun Shined Swim Service to scrub the thing twice a week only a month earlier. As the questions popped in his mind, he stewed. The more he thought about his pool, and the woman cleaning it, the more he began to realize where the situation was headed.
Were he to ask his wife about this person, he knew the answer wouldn't be simple. He knew Joanie. He knew she was drawn to human suffering like a moth to a flame. Her answer, he knew, would involve a narrative beginning long, long ago, coursing through Latin American history and the transmigration of peoples and the tragedy of warring nations and a people horribly wronged. Inevitably, somewhere in this story, he knew there would be the recurring theme of victimhood, with the most recent victim somehow standing somewhere in his house, before him, as the beneficiary of Joanie's outsized benevolence and Christian goodwill. His money, he also knew, would be involved.
He knew the speech so well, he began reciting it in his mind: "Trigg, Hispanics are everywhere in Nashville," she would say. "It's like we're caught up in things that are bigger than we understand, these new patterns of immigration, people coming to us from smoky villages and sprawling shantytowns and sidewalk hovels from nations far away. I know these people are led here by the promise of better jobs and more money, but I worry, Trigg, that we're not doing what we can to help them. Imagine what needs they must have!"
Trigg knew he would not fall for the theme of victimhood and hardship, but he did agree that these people were cheap and worked like hell. It was a New South, and these people were here to help build it. It was not a new development: The promise of economic explosion in Nashvilleand all across Dixie, for that matterhad first been broached in cover stories by Newsweek and Time in the late '60s, when Yankee bankers and developers and brokers had discovered that Southerners were, well, easy. They were cheap. They didn't argue. They didn't care much about the environment, or labor unrest or zoning. Fact was, they were poor, and they didn't want to stay that way.
At about this same time, as demographics experts were having fun with the phrase "Sunbelt Explosion," the East Coast intelligentsia that had beaten the region into submission in the ugly episode of civil rights in the '60s extended an olive branch to the South. If race had once been the bane of the South's existence, economic dynamism would become its salvation. As the East Coast moneymen descended on the region, the South became a full and equal trading partner, a place pulled at last into the embrace of the rest of the United States by virtue of its agreement to sell out.
As everyone knew, this had all pretty much come to pass. And in what was only the most recent chapter, Mexicans were coming. There simply were not enough laboring blacks and whites to go around to push the economy even further toward the stratosphere.
So there was this Mexican woman, cleaning his pool. Deciding there was only one way to get some answers, he walked into the kitchen.
"Dorthula, who the hell's out there sweeping my pool?"
"I dunno Trigg, I just dunno," Dorthula said, staring straight at him. "Joanie just come on in with her like they knowed each other for a lifetime. The girl can't hardly speak a stick of English."
Dorthula sighed, as if relaying this information was difficult. Dorthula had, in her head, more knowledge of the Moseley family than most of the Moseley family members themselves. Years earlier, when he and Joanie had children, Trigg's mother had called Dorthula out of semi-retirement to help in the early weeks of Trigg and Joanie's first born. Though Dorthula was getting up in years, Trigg and Joanie had been so excited to have a veteran like her in their midst that they got weepy whenever she talked about leaving. In those first sleepless weeks, when the newborn would cry all night, Dorthula had patted the baby on its back, sung songs, comforted him, and played a support role that was both beautiful and indispensable.
"Did Joanie say if this woman was gonna stay?" Trigg asked.
"No, I didn hear nuthin 'bout that."
"You know her name?"
"You talk to her at all?"
"Look, you wanna find out 'bout this woman, you just go ask Joanie your own self."
That conversation was nine months ago, and Maria Angeles had been living in the Moseley's pool house ever since. Trigg had eventually gotten the lecture on the Hispanics, the movement of a people, basic international economics, Western cultural imperialism and the need for a Nashville agency to deal with the arrival of these immigrants. It was the lattera community initiative to help the arriving Hispanicsthat had captured Joanie's attention and occupied so much of her time.
Within four months of Maria's arrival, a nonprofit agency had, in fact, been formed. Called "Su Amigo, Nashville," the new organization had secured a $50,000 gift from the United Way to begin outreach. A board of directors including a cross-section of Nashville community leaders had been named. Not surprisingly, many of those asked to serve were delighted to join, having heard so much about all the Hispanics descending on the city. Of course, Joanie had been elected the group's first chairman, and one of her inaugural acts was to convene a daylong retreat at which members pounded out a mission statement. On its new letterhead, the mission read as follows: "To establish dialogue with the new Hispanic residents of this city; to assist in their daily struggles in locating the necessities of life; to ennoble their efforts to live safe and peaceful lives among us."
While it was the United Way grant that had made the organization's existence financially possible, all agreed as the months went by that Su Amigo needed an annual fundraiser. That way, it would have a source of recurring revenue to fund operations. But alsoand perhaps even more importantan annual fundraiser would give the group the visibility and standing among leading individuals in the community. In Nashville, you weren't on the map until you threw a pay party.
The problem with pay parties was that there were so many of them. There was the black-tie Opera Ball and the white-tie Symphony Ball. The Tennessee Theater Company sponsored the Ides of March, and the River Networks Preservation Society threw the "White-Waters/Dark Liquors." There were pay parties thrown by social workers helping heroin addicts get off the streets, environmentalists promoting construction of windmills in rural counties and film buffs throwing a festival dedicated to Southern art films. Joanie had seen only one possible window on the city's crowded social schedule, that being the week before Christmas. And so, someone hatched the idea to throw a Hispanic-themed event, a "Feliz Navidad" gala, with not only plenty of potential big donors in attendance but numerous new Hispanic immigrants too.
The benefit had been in the planning stages for months. Joanie's official title was honorary chairman. Entertainment was to be provided by a new, breakout Music Row artist, Calli Rawn. A "save the date" postcard had gone out three months before the event, simply to announce that it was being held and to encourage people to mark their calendar. The invitations themselves had gone out two months later.
But just now, Maria was waving to Joanie from beyond the ping pong table, one hand holding the phone in the air, the other supporting a tray piled high with 250 sausage balls that had just been pulled out of the oven. "Ees man from Roundup Records," she said. "Dey say ees a problem with singer."
A bad feeling came over Joanie. The benefit was, after all, tonight. Everything seemed to have been arranged. She was scheduled to meet with the florist at 2 o'clock to approve the table arrangements, and the caterer at 3 o'clock. The committee chairs had various other last minute obligations, but other than that, everything that could have been done had been done. What, then, could this man from Roundup Records want with her?
"Hello," Joanie said, tentatively but firmly, having taken the phone from Maria. She really didn't know how to deal with these Music Row people. She once knew a producer from church, but only superficially.
"This is Fred Durham, marketing director at Roundup Records. We have a problem that I need to discuss with you."
"OK," she said.
"Calli Rawn has suddenly had to go to Los Angeles for a mixing session, and I'm afraid she's not going to be able to attend Su Amigo's fundraiser this evening. As you know, Calli was excited about performing tonight, and she is extremely distressed about the fact that she will not be there."
"Uh, I, well, I'm sure Miss Rawn is upset, as we all are, that she will not be able to make it this evening," Joanie stammered. "Mr., um, what is your name again sir?"
"Durham, Fred Durham. I work in marketing here at Roundup," he replied pleasantly. His voice was so smooth and self-assured that Joanie thought for a second she was speaking with a deejay. "I am really extremely sorry about this. Everyone here is. At our morning staff conference, we were trying to hash out something we could do. Frankly, nobody wanted to make this call, because we were feeling so bad about what was going on, but I volunteered because, well, it's my department."
"Oh, goodness," she said. "What, uh, what do I do?"
"Mrs. Moseley, I don't really know," he said. "I'm trying to be as honest with you as I can."
"I mean, good gracious," Joanie interrupted. "This has been in the planning stages for months, and we have only hours until our fundraiser begins."
"Yes, I know, and Calli is terribly sorry about this too."
"Mr. Durham, is there anyone else who might be available to substitute for Miss Rawn? I mean, our fundraiserthis is our first fundraiser, after alland it's for such a worthy cause. As you know, the arrival of thousands of new Hispanics in this city has thrown our city's social services networks such a curve. Everyone is having to learn Spanish now, and the needs placed on such a system are so enormous. We are having to raise significant sums of money to finance operations. If you could give us another entertainer it would be much appreciated."
She exhaled. She was nervousbut she had stood her ground and asked for another act for the evening. She felt a little proud of herself.
"At this time, nobody comes to mind, and in fact this was one of the things we were discussing this morning. But as I say, I'll check some more. I know this seems like a small thing, but both Calli and Roundup Records are shipping a box of 100 complimentary CDs of her latest work that you can hand to your guests as they walk into this evening's benefit."
Joanie wouldn't have thought of doing such a thing, but she didn't tell Fred Durham that.
"Will you please call me if someone becomes available?" she asked. "I absolutely must know something by noon today. Will you call me by then?"
"I certainly will," Durham said. "Thank you so much and, again, I really am sorry."
Joanie was floored. Of all things, a problem with the entertainment. Joanie and the other host committee chairs had, among them, worked on literally dozens of nonprofit pay parties over the years. Working from their address books, these women could line up place cards and valet parkers, printers who would do the invitations for free and hotel managers who would offer their banquet rooms at reduced rates. They were people who knew, innately, what kind of benefit should serve lamb chops, and which should stick with tenderloin. They knew the issue of black tie vs. business attire, where the host's table should be located, and which Nashvillians should not be seated near one another.
All these things Joanie knew. But she did not know the city's music community. Matter of fact, no one was much help here. Nobody talked much to people in that business. To get Calli Rawn, Joanie had made a cold call to Roundup Records, because she had heard that Rawn performed classic country tunes with a salsa interpretation. Thinking that would go over well for Su Amigo, she had been able to get Rawn, a new artist, to perform for free.
As Maria had been watching the phone conversation proceed, she had sensed something terribly wrong was happening. She had set the sausage balls on a card table, and as she did so, several had tumbled off and onto the garage floor. Maria had then walked over to Joanie, placing her hand on Joanie's shoulder just as the conversation was ending.
As Joanie set the phone back in its cradle, she stifled the urge to cry. She then took two brisk steps away from Maria, turning her back on her, wiping her eyes with her apron so that Maria couldn't see her. She would not show weakness. Instead, she would get angry. "It could have been anything!" she suddenly barked out loud, "the flowers, the food, the parkers, the place tags, but it had to be the entertainment! I have no idea how to find another performer! These goddamned music industry people! What will I do?"
Now she looked at Maria, begging for a response. It was rhetorical, of courseshe didn't expect Maria to say anything, but it was helpful to be bouncing her rage against someone, anyone, even if they barely spoke English. Walking toward the ping pong table, she snapped up a box of Triscuits, ripped off the cardboard top, tore through the plastic wrapping and thrust her hand inside. Grabbing three of four crackers, she shoved two in her mouth. Then she began to pace across the room, waving the cracker box in the air like a pistol.
"I am sooooo steamed," she pronounced. As soon as she swallowed a mass of cracker, more went in her mouth. Bits of crumbs shot out of her as she raged. The more she yelled, as a matter of fact, the better she felt. As the seconds went by, she could sense the hot air slowly escaping her even if she still had no idea how to get out of the bind she was in. Maria, who had walked over to pick up the fallen sausage balls, let a couple of moments pass before offering a suggestion.
"Call Meester Moseley," she said, matter-of-factly. "He know people."
"I really don't want to call that sonofabitch right now," she said, momentarily appreciating the opportunity that had presented itself to fire away at her husband, however briefly. "He hates it when I need him. Which I don't, actually. Plus, this is HIS day, with the tour and all."
"No, you must really call him. He know what to do."
It was true. Trigg knew a lot of people in town, and even if he wasn't a person who ran around with the Music Row community, he at least knew people who knew people. Plusand now Joanie was trying to look on the bright side of thingsit was still early. She glanced at her watchit was 11 o'clock in the morning.
Joanie cleared her throat in the interests of trying to sound calm. She dialed Trigg's cell phone, thinking he might still be on the tour. She did not want to interrupt him there, but it was an emergency.
"Hello darling," he fairly exploded. Trigg had seen his home number was the incoming call. He did not want to let on to Joanie that anything was wrong, that his Civil War tour had ended on such an odd note and that he was rushing to discover just what, indeed, had happened to Darby Glen. Joanie had her party tonight, and he didn't want to break his own bad news to her. Better to stress the positive, he thought.
"Before you get going, let me tell you that speaker thing-a-ma-jig, well, it just worked wonders," Trigg continued. "It was the best tour in years. Nobody had to get me to repeat a thing. Even the neighbors I bet." Here he chuckled a bit at himself, hoping to pull her along in his infectiously fun wake. When Joanie did not respond, he sensed his strategy had failed. So he stopped.
"Anyway, you called me, right?" he said.
His cell phone tucked between his ear and shoulder, he steered his car into Smathers' parking lot.
"Trigg, Calli Rawn has cancelled. Some guy from Roundup called and said she has to be in L.A."
"Oh my goodness, sweetheart. Surely they'll send a replacement?" He tried to find a silver lining. Find the lining, and the problem will vanish.
"No, they say they'll look, but they think everyone's busy."
"Well, have you spoken with your entertainment committee? Maybe they have an idea."
"Well, no, because I was the one who wound up getting Calli Shawn. I mean Rawn. Whatever. It's such short notice, Trigg. Look...," she said finally, cutting to the bone and acknowledging what he already knew to be the case. What she really wanted to do was yell at Trigg for reasons even she was not entirely clear about, but instead, at that precise moment, she snapped a cracker in half and shoved it in her mouth. "I am in an extremely bad situation here. I know you're busy, and I know you do not particularly like this about me, that I can sometimes seem frantic when I get in a pinch, but I simply am calling to see if you know anyone I could call." She walked over to the pimento cheese finger sandwiches neatly arranged in a shoebox and played with one before thrusting it in her mouth whole.
Trigg, meanwhile, pulled into a parking space. An austere, bright, white contemporary structure loomed before him. "Smathers & Assoc." was painted in bold, sans-serif, navy-blue lettering on the building's side. As Joanie finished making her request, he thought a bit about people he had known in the music industry, but nothing popped into his mind right away. He really wanted to help his wife find a solution. It was one of the few things he did well. In fact, he really hated to see her so anxious.
"I'll see what I can do, darling. What's your deadline?"
"Trigg, I have got to know something by noon. If you can't find me on my cell, let Maria know any new developments. Tell her it's urgent, and that she's to interrupt me whatever I'm doing."
"Joanie, I don't understand a word that woman says."
"I've told you to take classes. It's a new world out there."
"All right already. I'll call you when I know something."
Trigg hung up. He inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly. He felt his plate filling, filling, filling, the Daytimer now crowded to maximum capacity, the wife now in crisis, his business affairs now in chaos, his options diminishing with each available second. If anything, he was a man who liked keeping his options open. Today, they didn't exist.
Opening his car door, he discovered, standing directly in front of him, two well-formed, denim-clad legs. It was Smathers. God, she was a long woman. From this angle, with him deep down in his car seat, she seemed a lot taller than he remembered. He then thought about the legs themselves, which was only natural, considering they were only inches from his eyes. He wondered if they were muscular and brown. Taut. Strong. Cords of iron. Or were they white and fleshy, milky-looking, goose bumpy? Then a thought struck himquite a good thought, one that came like lightning, which was kind of unfortunate, because he was enjoying the diversions of the legs. The thought was that maybe Smathers, connected and wired as she was, could help his wife.
He wasted no time in asking, because he wanted to get the issue behind him.
"Don't you know some people in the music business?" Moseley asked.
She nodded silently.
"Seems as if my wife's entertainment cancelled for her charity event tonight," he said, sounding downcast. "You know anybody who'd be willing to perform on short notice?"
"I can try my husband."
"Yup. Dave Dubinsky. He's not out on tour right now. Just sitting around at home. I could get him to do it."
"What's he play?"
"He calls it Jew Grass. You kind of have to hear it. He's got a development deal with Sony."
Trigg didn't know what a development deal was. And, in hindsight, it's debatable whether he even heard the phrase "Jew Grass," having thought he heard the more conventional "bluegrass." Whatever the case, and without a moment's thought, he decided he would accept her offer, which would have the unintended consequence of both pleasing Smathers for getting her husband some local visibility, and his wife for pulling her chestnuts out of the fire. When he called his wife to say he had lined up a replacement, she had been ecstatic, just as he had thought she would be. He was glad to feel her mood change. He could check that off his list.
Trigg followed Smathers into her office. Passing the receptionist's desk, they entered a white-walled conference room. There, at a Scandinavian-style blond desk underneath blinding lights that gave the illusion of being discs floating in mid-air, the two faced one another.
"Would you let your husband know he needs to be at the Loews Vanderbilt by 8 o'clock?" Moseley asked. "And lemme add, you don't know how much this helps me, Jill."
"You bet. Dave is a pretty worthless human being, but he can be delightful on stage," Smathers responded, walking over to a crystal pitcher brimming with ice water. Pouring two glasses, she brought one to Moseley. Around the corners of her mouth, a smile was thawing. A perfect row of white teeth slowly emerged before him, like lights guiding him in toward a distant shore. Her blue eyes, wolf-colored and hungry, beamed hard in his direction. Taking the glass of water from her, he was nearly frozen by her brutal efficiency.
"We need to talk about a few things, Trigg," she said, speaking barely above a whisper. He could not tell whether this sudden sotto voce delivery was her way of communicating something very important, perhaps a communication technique she had picked up in a public relations conference somewhere. On the other hand, Trigg also allowed himself to wonder whether in fact she was coming on to him. What was it she had just said about her husband, after all? Were they unhappy? Was there a problem there? The fact that he was confused by so much of the situation only served to make him hungrier for her. Both thingsher apparent business sense and her coming on to himwere good signs. Taken togetherand he was praying they were perhaps going togetherthey were overwhelming. What a glorious two-fer, he thought. "First, we need to talk rates," she told him. "And second, once you take that speaker off your head, I need to know: What have you ever done to Joe Mudge?"
It was not even 11 o'clock, and the traffic at the Gethsemane Baptist Church on Jefferson Street was backed up 100 yards. City cops were directing traffic, orange cones had been placed strategically in the middle of the street, and two ushers stood at the foot of the church's front steps to make sure the worshippers crossed the street safely. But the waves of people filing into the medium-sized red brick church, set amid beauty shops and used car lots and liquor stores and the local headquarters of the NAACP, were overwhelming the best-laid plans. The people came by the dozens, God's people, solid men and women from the neighborhood or from downtown office buildings nearby, people who had decided to spend their early lunch hour this Wednesday by partaking of the ministry of Dr. Floyd T. Winning, pastor.
As the crowds poured over Jefferson Street, they walked through a veil of hickory smoke from a nearby barbecue hut, the sun casting laser-like shots through the haze, the people all smiling brightly as if they had come home to a family reunion after years of being away. Up the steps they climbed, the ushers shaking their hands or hugging them warmly, the people then cascading into the small, front lobby where a long picnic table was stacked high with pamphlets, books, cassette tapes and videos of the life works of Dr. Floyd T. Winning. Once in the lobby, like river water hitting a rock and splitting evenly in two directions, the worshippers flowed right and left, evenly and smoothly, walking into the sound as if they were walking into something as pleasing as heaven itself.
The sound inside came from a system of speakers12 of them, the size of medium-sized refrigeratorsmounted high above the pews on the walls of the church. As the people walked in, the voices, rhythms and vibrations poured over them like rain, dousing then washing over them, and they raised their hands, pointing to the sky, opening their mouths and singing along even as they walked down the aisles to find a seat. Ushers with nametags identifying them as belonging to a particular volunteer organization within the churchthe Gethsemane Women's Club, for instance, or the Gethsemane Parking Committee, the Gethsemane Youth Camp or the Gethsemane Job Corpsdid the best they could to cram everyone in. Worshippers began to flood the space behind the podium at the front of the church, where the choir normally sat, since, today being Wednesday, the choir wasn't performing. The balcony was crammed to capacity, and all of the folding chairs situated in the aisles had been claimed.
At the podium, the choir leader, a 40-ish man dressed in a chocolate brown suit and black loafers, led the crowd gospel-style.
"I raise my hands up unto the Lord," he said, half singing it, half speaking it, the crowd then singing along the next line to the accompaniment of bass guitar, organ and drums. "I raise my hands up unto the Lord," the crowd sang boldly, evenly, in perfect harmony.
"I raise my hands for he is great," the choirmaster then sang into the microphone, his voice rippling up and down in a nimble arpeggio of sound, the crowd then following once again with its chorus of "I raise my hands up unto the Lord." As the singing continued, the choirmaster experimented, his body now and then leaning back, rocking off the side of the podium, his singing changing melody and words here and there, the crowd continuing to provide the chorus, the momentum building, building, building.
Two hymns later, with the church so packed that it felt like the place would split wide open, the choirmaster stopped and began to speak. "Brothers and sisters in Christ, I woke up today, and I said, 'Lord, you gave me another day to live.' " Several in the crowd shouted out, "Amen," or "That's right," or "Uh-Huh."
"And I said, 'That's why I'm gonna give my day to you.' "
More Amens and That's Rights and Uh-Huhs.
"Today we are indeed fortunate to have Gethsemane Pastor Dr. Floyd T. Winning here to preach to us at our lunchtime ministry. As you know, the Super Sunday Sermon videos and cassettes are for sale in the back, all part of the "I Am Winning for God" collection, and I would invite you to look at them. Proceeds from these for the month of December will go to support our voter registration driveso buy one for the little lady for Christmas, huh brothers?"
Ripple of laughter, a high-five in the corner, one woman shrieking, "That's Right!"
The choirmaster then moved back to his chair, one of four, high-backed white chairs with red velvet cushions that were lined up in a row behind the podium. The organ then held a suspenseful chord. The crowd grew incrementally quieter. Then, from the highest of the high-backed chairs, confidently and slowly, Dr. Winning rose to his feet. No longer in his prime, Winning was nonetheless a commanding presencethe flecks of gray in his beard and in his tight, curly Afro lent a sense of charged wisdom to the old lion. As a young pastor in the '60s, Winning was known as a preacher who could breathe the fire. Any different Sunday would find him skipping down the aisles, singing at the top of his lungs, exalting the word of God in a great union of drama and religion. In later years, though, Winning had turned down the volume. He no longer relied upon as much emotion in his sermons as he once did to inspire his flock. That had disappeared somewhere in middle age. Oddly, that was when his power began to climb.
Winning had been raised in the country, but from the moment he had stepped foot onto the inner-city campus of Tennessee State University in 1960, his universe had opened. Winning jumped headlong into The Movement. It was so clear-cut then: He knew, in the morality play of civil rights, that he might never have so easy a time in his life to fight what was wrong. He was also smart enough to know that this magnitude of wrongness simply didn't come along very often. Despite the fact that some local white critics then had labeled him a rabble-rouser, Winning was actually seen by many others, both in Nashville and across the South, as decidedly moderate. Part of this may have had to do with the fact that, compared to the violent struggles in Birmingham and Selma, Oxford and Little Rock, Nashville had integrated nonviolently. Something about the city's easiness, its courtesy, its will to get along had rubbed off on Winning. He was never one to destroy a place to save it.
It was within this moderation that Winning thrived. He learned how to throw his weight against the white establishment, feel it budge, then buckle, then take what he could without causing any real damage. Ever the pragmatist, he became over the years as much a part of the power structure in the city as the bankers, media executives and politicians. Just as they looked out for their interests, so did Winning focus on protecting his constituency: the people on the streets. For his flock, he sought jobs and health insurance, police protection and zero-interest housing loans. If someone needed visitation rights at the prison, he called the assistant warden. If a recent high school graduate wanted to become a lineman at the electrical utility, he called the chairman of the utility board. That was Winning's ministry.
Winning was a founding member of the Interdenominational Clergy and Brotherhood, a gathering of white and black ministers and rabbis who had attempted to bridge the great divide of race and religion. He had held out hope for the group in its early years, but over time, he viewed it as just so much comedy. He loved the frankness of the rabbis, and he appreciated the earnestness of the work-like-a-dog Presbyterians, and he was rather blown away by how seriously the Episcopalians tended to take themselves. But in the end, Winning saw the white clergy as making way too much of their guilt and God's grace. For Winning, here in his later years, it was all just a matter of putting the grease to the system.
It was in the hallways of city government, where the gears shook and council meetings droned on and police units whirred into motion and people swilled weak coffee from Styrofoam cups, that Winning saw the action. He saw the pie getting cut into various pieces, and he made certain that his hungry public got their fair helping. It was, to Winning, a matter of scratching the backs of the politicos and waiting for them to scratch back. The older he got, the circularity of the great body politic at work was so logical and rational a system to him as to nearly create an entirely other doctrine of belief. It had become, simply, his theology of getting something.
And so, over the years, Winning had emerged in the white community as the go-to guy in black North Nashville, the man with whom one could do business, cut deals and turn the temperature of a city down wherever needed. When Floyd T. Winning agreed to have his name listed on the letterhead of a candidate, everyone in the white community interpreted that as meaning black support had gone that candidate's way. In the black community, to be sure, there were always dim murmurings. Some were jealous. Some thought he had sold out. But others loved him because he had looked out for them for so long. And no one disputed his power.
"Open your Bibles please to the second chapter of Luke, verses 6 and 7," Winning said quietly, so quietly that as people began turning their thin pages to the New Testament it sounded as if the speakers had begun spewing static. From the pocket of his dark blue suit, he plucked a pair of reading glasses that he perched on his nose. He turned the pages of his own Bible deliberately, and, upon finding the Book of Luke, took a handkerchief from his pants pocket and clutched it in his hand. A few people were pulling out notebooks to take notes, including Dorthula Rogers, who was seated in the second pew on the right hand side. She had heard nearly every sermon Winning had delivered in his 38-year career here. Rogers had been scheduled to be an usher today, but she had bumped her knee swinging open the dishwasher door at the Moseley household the day before and couldn't walk well. Nonetheless, she wore her badge: "Treasurer, Gethsemane Candidate Barbecue Fund." She was looking forward to the lessonshe loved Winning's December discussions on Jesus' birth.
"While they were there," he read from the Bible, "the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."
It was a honey-rich baritone voice, still soft if nearly 70 years old, and it fell across the pews like candy. "You see, Joseph had no money. All he had was a donkey to get his wife to town, because they were being counted up by the king. They were just a working man and a working woman, and mama was pregnant. You can't stop a baby from coming, can you ladies...." Here, he pointed out to the crowd.
That's Right, Uh-Huh, Amen Brother.
"Of course you know you can't stop the will of God, either, and so, in the midst of being called to Bethlehem, the hand of God set to work. We do not know how he sets everything to work, but it is fair to say that as Joseph and Mary and the donkey traveled to the city, God wanted to send his son, to us, to redeem us, and so to save the world. You all know this storyLord, how it is such a beautiful tale."
His cadence had picked up intangibly, as had the volume.
"So let me repeat the passage: 'She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.' "
That's Right, Uh-Huh, Amen Brother.
"You see," Winning said, his hands clasped together in front of him, his face creasing into a slight smile, his feet shifting from one to the other as if he were getting traction before starting a footrace. "You see Joseph was a ca-a-arpenter. He wasn't a doctor. He wasn't a lawyer. He was a ca-a-arpenter. He was a simple man with a huge dutythe duty of God. And so he did the best he couldhe loaded up his wife on a donkey and drove her to town."
"They weren't, by any stretch of the imagination, aris-to-crats," Winning said forcibly. Here he staggered out the word, crashing down hard on each syllable, doing so in a 3/4 beat that he measured out like a song. "The aris-to-crats were staying in the inn up the street. But there wasn't any room in the inn, which Joseph probably couldn't afford anyway, so Jesus, the Savior, the man who had come to redeem the world, the most important man ever to be born in the world, was wrapped in a scrap of cloth and placed in a manger with the donkeys and the chickens and the cows. Jesus, my friends, was born with the farm animals."
"How many of y'all ever slopped a hog?"
That's Right, Uh-Huh, Amen Brother. The question was rhetorical.
"How many of y'all ever slept in a barn?"
Uh-Huh, That's Right.
"How many of y'all remember that smell? I do. Growing up in the country like I did, I remember that smell. I never told y'all this, but I may as well reveal myself to y'all now: I never did like that smell."
Laughter. Winning shifted his weight again, foot to foot, left to right, right to left, gaining traction.
"Brothers and sisters, I'm hear to tell y'all that Jesus wasn't born in any fancy-pants Ritz Carlton hotel with room service, and Joseph sure didn't head down to the lounge after the baby came, and Ma-a-a-ry sure didn't charge a trip to the day spa after she had that baby, because they were living in what we would consider today to be a shack. A humble shack. A pile of wood and nails, brothers and sisters. The humility of this moment in the history of the world is so astonishing as to cause me to go weak in the knees sometimes. When I look out over this city sometimes, and I see the big cars and the big houses and the big lives everyone is trying to lead, I think then of Jesus Christ the Almighty, Jesus Christ the Savior, Jesus Christ who came into a world in a bed made with straw, and it is then that I see clearly the parallels between Christ's shack of yesterday and the world we're trying to live in today."
His voice was now in a steady crescendo, pealing out like distant thunder, rolling along, confident. The organist, whenever Winning would pause, would drag his finger down from the top of the keyboard to Middle C where he would then maintain another expectant-sounding chord at a low volume. Meanwhile, a dozen people were now standing in their pews, half of them pointing to the sky, the other half folding their arms across their chests.
"Ain't nuthin' wrong what-so-ever, brothers and sisters, 'bout livin' in a shack," he stated now more forcefully, his accent slipping imperceptibly into a country black vernacular. "Ain't nuthin' wrong livin' behind the Big House. Ain't nuthin' to be ashamed of if the aris-to-crats' Big House is bigger than your little-old po' house. Go ahead and let those aris-to-crats think they a bunch of aris-to-cats anyway, let 'em priss and preen, let 'em shake and bake, let 'em talk tall and walk big. 'Cuz Jesus wasn't no aris-to-cat, he was just the son of a mama riding on an ass and a daddy who hammered nails all day for a living."
Another several dozen people in the crowd leaped to their feet. Arms were waving back and forth in the air, and laughter shot through the rafters.
"Now, this is not what I came to tell you here today, brothers and sisters, but I'm gonna let tell of it anyway. I just heard they's sumthin' goin' on in town, goes like this: They got a Big House right outside of town called Darby Glen, out south of here, big plantation house, big field, big deal, and they turnin' it into one of those big residential developments with the golf course and the clubhouse and the swimming pool. It's gonna have all those kinds of toys the aris-to-cats like to play with. They tell me they gonna fix up the Big House real nice. Out back, however, they got some slave shacksthe kind of old shacks your great grandmamas and great granddaddies lived in when they was taking care of the hogs and chickens and donkeys and cows. Brothers and sisters, I can barely tell you what they gonna do with those shacksbut I will anyway."
Pause. Long pause.
"They gonna tear those slave shacks down."
Say It Ain't So, Brother. No Way, Uh-Uh, Don't Do It.
"They gonna tear those slave shacks down."
People stood on their feet now: Say It Ain't So, No Way, Uh-Uh.
"It's okay for the aris-to-cats to get THEIR house, but why they gonna tear down the little man's shack? Have they no shame? Have they no sense of his-to-ry? Would they have torn down the shack in Bethlehem where Jesus Christ was born to make way for a planned unit development with a golf course and a luxury swimming pool and a fancy clubhouse and Roman guards out front making sure only the right people can enter the club?"
Angry people. Everyone rising to their feet. Uh-Uh, Ain't Gonna Happen.
Dorthula Rogers was not standing. Dorthula Rogers was, instead, in a state of disbelief. There was only one Darby Glen, she knew. That Darby Glen was the same house in which she had worked for most of her life. How was this happening? How had such a thing come to pass? Why was her preacher now saying these things? What had the Moseleys done?
"Lemme tell y'all something, brothers and sisters. This is not a black and white thing. This is not a thing about the white man burying the black man's history. The longer I been around this world, the more I know the devil most often operates under the influence of money, and I got a feeling the devil has got his cash register out at that place called Darby Glen right now!"
Amen, brother. Uh-Huh, Praise God, Make It Happen, That's Right.
Dorthula sat in her pew, her crimson dress hidden underneath a navy blue overcoat, her pen dropping from her hand to her notebook, and then from her notebook to the floor. She looked up to see Winning still speaking, and she knew he had moved on to the rest of his talk. She knew he was now discussing more Godly issues, issues completely unrelated to Darby Glen. But even as she could see his lips move, his hands gesture outward, his weight shift from left to right, his hand wipe the sweat from his face with a white pocket handkerchief, she could not make sense of what he was saying. The words would not register. She could not reckon. All she could think of was her world with the Moseleys in stark collision with the world of her church.
It was all such a muddle. The minutes passed. The words continued to pour forth, without understanding. But then, suddenly, she noticed it was over. Dr. Winning had left the podium. And the congregation was now standing and walking to the exits. Collecting herself, she rose without speaking to anyone. She could not decide whether to call Joanie Moseley immediately or keep her story to herself. Instead, she raced to her car. She started the engine, and she drove straight home. She would pray about the matter, she thought. Surely God would have an answer for her.
After Winning had climbed down from the podium, meanwhile, he walked out the back of the church to his private office. Striding ramrod straight past his secretary's desk, he said, "Go ahead and send out those faxes, if you'd be so kind." He then picked up the telephone and called Andy Hobbs, in the County Clerk's office.
"Well, you owe me," Winning said matter-of-factly, as if he were speaking to an old college buddy.
"You are the greatest sonofabitch on the planet," Hobbs replied.
"My interest in historic preservation is well documented," Winning said. "And I am concerned that the normal planning and zoning process has been trampled."
"Oh my, Joe Mudge is gonna be so tickled," Hobbs said.
"Please inform Mr. Mudge of our upcoming barbecue. Details will be forthcoming, but we do expect him to participate. I also anticipate you will be there as well, correct?
"But of course, my man. Just lemme know."
In newsrooms across Nashville and the greater seven-county area, the fax began spilling out on the desks of Nashville television news directors, newspaper city editors and radio deejays.
"For Immediate Release: Coalition Announced to Stop Darby Glen, Dr. Floyd T. Winning Announces"
Internationally renowned minister Floyd T. Winning today announced plans to halt development of Darby Glen farm, a site he described as "rich in African American history" and "an important link to the culture of the black South."
The broad-based coalition, which includes historic preservationists, representatives from the Ladies' Hermitage Society, and Citizens for Smart Growth, will employ a grassroots marketing campaign over the coming months to convince planners of the destructive nature of the project, Winning said.
"I am proud that so many of us, from so many different perspectives, have been able to link arms to fight a common enemy," he said. "The destruction of our common history is not something we should allow to happen without a dialogue."
Winning said his group had not met with the developer, Trigg Moseley, but would arrange one soon.
"How much of our past can we bulldoze?" Winning, an influential player in local and state political circles, asked in today's sermon. "While this is certainly not a black-white issue, do we not understand that saving a slave shack is as important as saving a big plantation house?"
Winning said the group's strategic plan called for public meetings in the Darby Glen area, sessions with public officials, petition drives, and legal appeals through the court system and the appropriate planning and zoning boards. He expressed confidence that the development would ultimately be halted.
"We shall not cease until the casual destruction of our history becomes, in fact, history itself," Winning concluded.
For further interviews, call the church desk at 259-4859. Dr. Winning is available for live interviews from the church's satellite broadcasting center.
Arriving at her tiny North Nashville home, Dorthula Rogers walked through her front door with the sounds of Babel crashing in her ears. In one terrible swift judgment, she had heard the Moseleys called to task. Called to task by Dr. Winning, no less. And called to task on issues of money and materialism and insensitivity to black people. It just would not square. She loved the Moseleys, respected them, would do anything for them. Nothing could be made to fit. Who was right? What was wrong?
Dorthula removed her coat and hung it carefully on a white, plastic hook on the side of her bedroom closet. Then she took off her shoes and laid them neatly on the floor. At the foot of her bed, beneath a framed painting of Jesus Christ nailed to the cross, she fell to her knees, on the hard wood floor. She would pray. She would not quit praying, she vowed, until she had an answer. Give me some direction, she pleaded. Amid the noise, she wondered if she would even be able to hear God's answer if it came.
But in an instant, like a thunderbolt, a divine reply broke through the chaos just as she knew it would. It came quickly and loudly, flying in on the wings of grace, complete and whole and full and asking for nothing in return. Oh how God worked in such glorious and mysterious ways if only she prayed to him for guidance! Oh how she knew everything would now turn out right, if only she relied on Him for advice! Allowing herself a smile, she rose from her knees and picked up the telephone. The number she dialed connected her to the newest law partner in the downtown offices of the most prominent white-shoe law firm in the city. If anyone could figure the mess out, she was certain that this lawyer could.
"Honey, we gots to talk," Dorthula said.
"Sure, Mom, what's on your mind?"
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