Salt Pork Bacon

Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

You may have noticed that things are a little interesting at the moment. Jobs, schools, vacations, careers, and the like are all upended. We are not used to that on such a wide and all-encompassing scale. We all to varying degrees have become used to getting what we want when we want it and doing what we want when we want to do it. All that got upended, however temporarily, in a hurry just a few weeks ago. Were you ever told that it only takes one person to change the world? That turned out to be true. All it took was one guy licking the wrong bat and here we are…

…so I was in the middle of working on something when a new album crossed my desk by a vocal group calling themselves “The Legendary Ingramettes.” My first thought was “Wow. Not too humble.” My second thought, which I had about thirty seconds into the first song, was “It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.” I have been playing the album over and over since then.  The song that I want to share with you today, particularly if you feel as if all of what is going on is never going to end, is “Beulah Land/I Wanna Go There”, or at least the first three minutes and thirty seconds of it. That introduction is a narrative spoken over a piano/bass accompaniment, with the narrator’s voice threatening to take right off to the stratosphere on every tenth syllable or so. She is telling a story that everyone needs to hear right now. It’s better and more vivid than anything you will see or hear on Netflix. Consider it as an example of oral tradition. 

Some of our younger visitors may not be familiar with the term “oral tradition.” I would ask that they think of it as an ancestor of the podcast. Before we had our television, computers, and phones people sat and with family and friends and told stories. Some had been passed down to the storyteller from older relatives while others were cases of first impression, but the best of them were told and retold. Some folks, particularly those in the American South, became really good at it, which is why some of our greatest authors come from that region. 

What you hear described in the first few minutes of “Beulah Land” is about growing up without and finding joy in it. The story told is not an exaggeration. I have heard similar stories from people of the same age and background as the Ingramettes. One wonderful lady of my acquaintance had four sisters and grew up in the rural South in a very small home that had one bathroom. She told me that she never saw her dad use the facilities because, when nature’s call came upon him, he took a walk (sometimes a run) into the woods to answer it, so as to not tie up the facilities should his wife or daughters need them. The common theme that runs through my friend’s story and the story in “Beulah Land” is generally, “Yeah, I guess we were poor, but we never knew it. It wasn’t that bad.” I listen to “Beulah Land,” and I remember my friend’s story, and when I come out the other end my conclusion is that I am the most fortunate person who has ever walked on earth, comparatively. Particularly now. Next time I get impatient waiting in line or get cut off by somebody passing across two lanes I’m going to try to remember the story about salt pork bacon and getting ready for Sunday morning on Saturday night. I’m going to particularly attempt to remember it in a few weeks or months when things are more or less back to normal. 

Please enjoy and be comforted.


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About Joe Hartlaub

Joe Hartlaub is an attorney, author, actor and book and music reviewer. Joe is a Fox News contributor on book publishing industry and publishing law and has participated on several panels dealing with book, film, and music business law. He lives with his family in Westerville, Ohio.

37 thoughts on “Salt Pork Bacon

  1. Although we were never “Poor”, money was tight when we were growing up. I remember being surprised to hear my parents say how they managed their budget so my brother and I were never aware they had to scrimp.
    My paternal grandfather was the family storyteller. And they were always funny stories.
    I’ll have to come back later and try the link again. Right now, when I hit ‘play’ it just spins.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Terry. In my family it was one of my paternal uncles, who was a bit colorful. He would get me and my brother laughing so hard that we would almost hyperventilate. I can’t think of a single story of his that I could properly repeat here, but just thinking of them I am laughing so hard that I can hardly type! Be well.

  2. My son posted photos of his wife and children, ages 11, 9, 7, and 4, enjoying a backyard cookout. In them, his oldest helps the youngest toast marshmallows and the middle ones are biting into S’mores with chocolate smeared fingers and big grins. His wife is relaxing, firelight revealing a sweet smile as she watches her family. My son wrote, “No place I’d rather be.”

    It made me cry. Their normal life is crammed with dance and scouts and music and sports and part-time jobs and full-time jobs and school and night college courses, eating most meals in fast food restaurants or in their separate vehicles on the way somewhere, always in a hurry, usually tired and grumpy, never all relaxing and enjoying each other at the same time.

    Being forced to spend our days with our loved ones is an unexpected, no-guilt gift. We can reconnect. We can laugh together. My father insisted that his wife and six children be together for the evening meal, and that’s when we became best friends. We talked about our days. We heard stories about our parents and their families. We learned proper table manners and had our grammar gently corrected. Mostly, we grew up knowing that no matter where we went in the future, this was there, this solid wall of love and support to back us up in life’s battles, to pick us up when we fell.

    If nothing else comes from this, I hope every family can find this place of contentment with simple things. Whether you’re home alone with your cat, or two sisters taking care your dad, or a huge family crammed into a suddenly too-small space, if you stop resisting and start appreciating, maybe your life will come out better on the other side and you will look back at this as one of the best times in your life.

  3. Thank you, Becky. Don’t tell anyone, but your story and heartfelt wishes brought tears to my eyes this morning. Be well.

  4. Sir – Greetings from semi-seclusion (my day job is considered a necessity, so I’m able to get out-n-about on a limited basis).

    Current events being what they are, this is really tough on my bride’s side of our far-flung-fam. Her dad is one of seven – six brothers and a last-minute sister – who grew up around where we live now well before Atlanta’s airport had more than one runway. Needless to say, when we (used to – and will again), get together, the tales they tell of beat-up old cars (with 5-gal bucket seats), working their uncle’s fields (NOT gardens), of following work to southwest GA and then up to nearly North Carolina – etc. – are both hilarious and bittersweet – and the number of times each has said in their own way, “Sure, we were poor as dirt but didn’t know it, or even care. We just knew Mamma and Daddy loved us even if they did tan our hides a lot” only makes them that much better…

    I am glad to be included in their telling… as well as having my boys grow up amidst them as well… and thankful for having found TKZ (which allows me share in y’all’s tales and concerns as well)…

    From the ATL – stay safe…

    • Thank you, George. Your comment about “following work” reminded me…Jerry Lee Lewis grew up under similar circumstances. But…when he was 14, his father mortgaged the family farm to buy Jerry Lee his first piano. I don’t think I have the words to describe the emotions that story creates in me. Be well.

  5. A great post, Joe. My mother used to tell me about her childhood on farms where here father was a foreman. He was an alcoholic and they moved a lot. I also heard a good bit of oral history from my dad. It was much better than TV. I’m trying to write down as much of it as I can remember for my children. 🙂 — Suzanne

  6. Ancestor of the podcast! LOL! Love it.

    BTW, I would add that for anybody who may be interested in collecting oral histories, more and more I’m seeing historical societies offering classes on that. So if it’s something you want to do but you’re not sure how to get started, your local historical society can probably help.

    • Thanks, BK. Re: contacting the Historical Society…that’s Number One on the list of things to do when things get back to normal. Be well.

  7. Amazing, Joe! I have goosebumps everywhere. Music is the great healer. Thank you for sharing “Beulah Land.” Loved every word. xo

    I’ve been listening to Bill Withers, God rest his soul. His music hits home today as much as yesteryear.

    • Thanks Sue. Bill Withers was such a fabulous talent. I remember the first time I heard “Ain’t No Sunshine,” with that “IknowIknow…” He made it look so easy. Everybody who met him loved the guy. He just couldn’t put up with the music industry, which demonstrates what a great guy he truly was. Enjoy! Be well.

  8. I didn’t, and I don’t, understand Kiowa. So I didn’t understand what my Grandma was singing about when she sat on her bed, reading from her King James Bible, and singing Kiowa and English hymns.

    But now that I’m about the age she was, I know she was thinking about how she missed being in Sunday morning and Sunday evening service with my Grandpa, a deacon in the little Saddle Mountain Baptist Church, and her seven children who had survived. She was thinking about how she missed my Grandpa, and now one day they would be reunited in the Heavenlies, and she would see their six children who did not survive, and all the others who went there before she would.

    She was thinking about the cold spring water from Odle-Pah’s spring, and the joy of eating meat. The Kiowas were meat eaters, and no threats from cholesterol-warning doctors were going to stop her from enjoying beef sides and ribs and roasts, and hardtack from my uncle’s Army C-Rations, if hardtack was too expensive at the store.

    And now I think how foolish I was, a hard-charging, baseball-playing boy who only saw her during Summer vacations, not to sit with her on her bed and listen to the stories and songs I’m now sure she wanted to tell me, to sing to me.

    And I think that now that, one day, I will join her and the rest of both my families in the Heavenlies.

    My Grandma was a consultant, doing a complicated thing. Every Summer for several years, she would join the annual sessions held by the linguists and administrators of the Wycliffe Bible Translators, on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, helping the linguists figure out aboriginal speech patterns and linguistic complications as they learned how to translate the Gospel into the languages of the Amazon and India and Africa and the Orient. Her legacy as a consultant still goes on even though the Wycliffe organization can no longer find records of those seminars. But records and the results of her contributions are kept in the Heavenlies so her work will be forever recorded there.

    My Grandma–the only Grandparent I ever knew–was a gentle soul who was a bridge back and a bridge forward.

    And I’m pretty sure I’ll see her again.

    • Thanks for sharing, Jim. “…a bridge forward and a bridge back.” I love that.

      It’s not for me to say but I’m also pretty sure you will see your grandmother again. Be well.

  9. Joe, what a treat that was! Thank you for sharing it with us. Sometimes we think, particularly these days, that we’re in a tunnel with no end. But if we would lift our eyes just a fraction, we’d see the light at the end. I also grew up without a lot of “stuff and nonsense”, but I’d have been surprised if anyone’d called my family poor.

    Along these same lines of gratitude for what we do have and discounting what we don’t have, I had an experience in 2007 I wouldn’t trade for all the gold in California. (Is there any still there?)

    I took a trip to Vietnam, the rural region around Hanoi and further north. I was with about 100 other people on a medical mission trip. There are many images still burned in my memory from that trip, but one rises to the top most often.

    Traveling on a broken down bus, crammed onto hard wooden seats, the heat unbearable, we traveled to our clinic location for that day. Sorry to say, nothing but complaining going on in my head.

    That is, until I saw an elderly couple alongside the road, bent almost double from working in the rice paddies. They carried between them a full-grown man whose legs were gone. They struggled along as the bus crept around them on the narrow dirt road, bouncing in potholes every few feet. The woman looked up at me through the window as we passed. Her smile blinded me. It was almost like looking at the sun. I asked the young Vietnamese student next to me where they might be going with their burden.

    “I’m sure they’re on their way to our clinic to get help for their son. That’d be my guess.”

    “How close are we?”

    “About seven more miles. I wish we could pick them up, but we can’t.”

    I try to remember that scene when I’m annoyed at some minor infraction perpetrated on my affluent life.

    • Deb, you’re welcome, but my humble effort is far eclipsed by your own story, which leaves me humbled and yes, ashamed that I ever gripe about anything. I am tempted to delete my own post and insert yours in its place. Thanks for sharing. Be well.

      • Nah, my friend, yours is good. But I do maintain that a trip to a place like that does give one perspective.

        (Wouldn’t like to see spiders bigger than my hand on my wall, though.)

        • Deb, don’t get me started on spiders. Yesterday I did my seasonal home perimeter treatment with Suspend, the coronavirus for spiders. If I ever confronted a spider as big as my hand I would permanently be reduced to a gibbering wreck.

  10. I feel as though I’m living in a parallel universe where things are the same, yet not the same. We’re still at work (I work at a hospital). I don’t usually go anywhere on the weekend (there’s nowhere I’d rather be than home). But it feels different.

    I’m a Southerner, so I grew up around great storytellers. We don’t need tv when we’re together. Just good home cooking and each other’s stories.

    The only time I ever felt as though we might be poor was right after my father died. I was twelve and we had just moved into a brand new custom home a couple of months before. When Mom told me we had to move because we could no longer afford what was supposed to be our forever house, I wasn’t happy but I took it in stride. My dad was an executive and we moved all the time. Then I saw the house she bought. Sweet Jesus forgive me, but that thing was ugly. It was purple and green like Mardi Gras gone wrong. The azalea bushes in front were bigger than the house,. The house itself was about the size of my bedroom in my favorite house. Plus, the thing looked like it would fall slap down if someone blew out the candles on a birthday cake. I burrst into tears and said “I’m not living there.” In sheer desperation my mother, who was not a pet lover, promised me a dog if I’d just go in and stop embarrassing her. The family joke wto this day is Mom bought that house for x amount of dollars and a dog.

    • Thank you so much for sharing, Cynthia. That’s a story we can all appreciate for one reason or another. It sounds like you had a great mom who was able to put aside her own sorrow and relate to what was happening with you. Be well.

      What did cats do before keyboards?

  11. Reading all these stories of folks’ past makes me think that, materially at least, most of us today are pretty well off. Even poor folks today tend to have cell phones and cable TV.
    I grew up in a lower-middle class household. We were never poor enough to be hungry but my dad’s car, a blue Chevy Rambler, was as much repair-putty as it was steel. It’s odd to me what I remember most of our “hard times” when my dad got laid off for a few months in the 70’s. Government-issue cheese.
    My paternal grandfather was our storyteller. Mostly jokes, but he talked a lot about his time in India during WWII. Later this confused me because I learned that the US Army never went to India during that war. Yet I remember the photos he had of himself with groups of British Gurkha soldiers… It’s a mystery I will never unravel.

  12. Carl, thanks for sharing your own story and that of your grandfather. That’s an interesting puzzle regarding your grandfather’s service. I am wondering if perhaps he might have been part of the war effort in the China-Burma-India theatre with the British and wound up spending some time in India even if he wasn’t officially stationed there. I hope you find the answer someday. Be well.

  13. Thank you, Joe, for this much needed perspective!

    Many of us, myself included, have been very fortunate in our circumstances before this present crisis. My father was one of six sons born to a laborer and his wife, growing up on farms in Kansas and then Missouri back in the 1930s and 40s, with little money.

    One of my great grandmothers on my mom’s side of the family was 28 during the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918-19, and told me stories when I was growing up about that experience. (She lived to be 93). Compared to what that generation had to endure, I have it easy.

  14. Dale, you’re welcome, but I thank you, for your comment “Compared to what that generation had to endure, I have it easy.” Me too. And many, many thanks for that wonderful message from John Rhys-Davies, which I hope everyone will listen to. Be well!

  15. Wonderful post, Joe. Great stories.

    The song the Ingramettes sang is their rendition of a gospel great, Sweet Beulah Land, by Squire Parson. Below is a link to Squire performing that song along with a roomful of legends in the gospel music industry (from a generation ago).

    I had the honor of hearing Squire sing his song at a concert in the der Dutchman at Plain City, Ohio. I’ll never forget.

    And the message: No matter how bad things are, we have something better to look forward to. This world is not our home.

    Thanks for the reminder, Joe, especially during these challenging times.

    • Thanks for sharing that link to that uplifting performance, Steve. That must have been a special moment for you to see “Beulah Land” performed live at an intimate venue. I had no idea that Der Dutchman had concerts. Be well!

  16. Joe, I grew up on salt-pork bacon that we called fatback and have cooked it. 🙂 I wish I’d listened when my great-aunt told her stories…and Uncle John before he died. And I could listen to John Rhys-Davies all day! Thanks for a wonderful post.

    • You’re welcome, Patricia, and thank you for sharing. I didn’t know that salt pork bacon was the same as fastback. Yum. Be well!

  17. All it took was one guy licking the wrong bat and here we are…
    I’m gonna have nightmares for weeks and there will be a bat in all of them,.

    Thanks for your terrific post.,

  18. You’re welcome, Brian. You mean…you weren’t having nightmares about bats before all of this started? You’re a batt…er, better man than I, my friend. Be well!


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