Mack Williams: Social work memories (no names)

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 9, 2018

Mack Williams

Recently back in Caswell County, where I previously lived and worked, I noticed something blue on US Hwy 86 behind an overgrown set of hedges, as they had evidently not been set to grow together to form a concealing wall, as is sometimes intended.
Slowing almost to a stop (after checking my rear-view mirror, of course), I saw an old, blue, run-down “Jim Walter Home,” its dilapidated look greatly assisted by glassless windows, void of reflection from without and within.
I had visited in the home’s younger days (and mine) when I was a social worker. It wasn’t new then, but in much better shape than now. I had sat down with the family, talking of family situation, health and children’s school progress (much more practical things than even “shoes, and ships, and sealing wax”).
I visited other homes in varying degrees of dilapidation back then, some approaching condemnation (not Biblical).
Old tobacco barns have always reminded me of log cabins, and one enterprising (enterprise from desperation) family made one their “bright-leaf” home.
Another old house had a two-foot hole in the living room floor. It’s a pity that it couldn’t have been relegated to someplace less obvious, like a “junk room” (one in every home); but since a hole is just empty space, I guess it’s hard to move empty space.
While talking with this family, I observed an extremely large ant emerge from the hole, and I wondered if it were just inquisitive, or could be fleeing “something else” down there.
As part of my duties, I talked with teachers and principals about students who were “acting out” (not theater, but still “drama”). And of course I also talked with the students and their parents.
One middle school principal and I met on a fairly regular basis concerning a couple of brothers who were continually getting into fights with other students (as they continually fought, we continually met). The boys’ father instructed his sons: “If anybody starts something, you finish it!”, so I wondered if some students knew how to “pull their strings.”
This same middle school principal had a narrow-stemmed cactus which, over the years, had grown up the wall and partway across the ceiling. During one of our meetings concerning those troublesome boys (whose misbehavior progressed from year to year, even though the number of their grade level sometimes didn’t, I had a horrible “imagining” that upon some future session of our brainstorming, the cactus would have, by then come full circle, having crossed the ceiling, descended the opposite wall to the floor, crossed the floor and arrived back at its home clay pot.
These boys’ father’s vision deteriorated so that the state forbade his driving on the highway. He circumvented this by driving his tractor on the road’s shoulder. Many times, I saw him “plowing” his way up and down Highway 86.
One landlady (reminiscent of a Faulkner character further “gone to seed” than the usual) wanted me to collect her rent money from my clients who lived in her shacks (“shacks” in every sense of the word). I told her that social workers didn’t do that (while thinking to myself that she should actually be ashamed to take their money).
One client, who lacked transportation to come sign for her daughter to take driver’s ed, asked me if I would sign as the girl’s father, since we shared surnames.
I told her it wouldn’t work, as even the barest of detective work would reveal my signing to be a crime (or at least a misdemeanor).
These have been but a few of my social work memories. I’ll have to write of more sometime. Of course, due to confidentiality, no names were revealed, save that which is attached to the picture heading this column.

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