George and Bessie

I helped with IOOF degree work at Junction City last week where I again saw Ed, the black man of whom I am fond. As fifteen of us dressed for the ceremony, Ed looked out from his long robe with its pointed hood and mask and said in his best redneck voice, “Let’s burn ‘em all out!” I was the only one to laugh, the others being too shocked.

There is a very old and feisty woman at the Junction City lodge named Bessie (the only female member) and a slightly younger and soft-spoken man named George. George nursed his invalid wife for years and, after her passing, found himself with little to do. Seeing that Bessie was so palsied she could take no better care of herself than a baby, he began caring for her as tenderly and intimately as he had for his wife. As I watched him gently grasp her wrist and guide her hand toward her mouth so she could eat a doughnut, I wondered if male tenderness exceeds that of women, or if it is simply the more remarkable for being the less expected.