Black Ball

When as an adult, my sister and/or I would return home for a visit with our parents, there was always a ritual that we enjoyed with Mother.  We would get together in a quiet nook when Daddy was making his daily rounds to chat with his many friends.

There she would bring us up to date on the activities of almost everyone in town.  Some might call this gossip but we just wanted to catch up on the news about our old friends.

Mother’s family moved to Snyder two years after it was settled, as soon as the house could be built.  Granddad had his first real estate and insurance office in a railroad boxcar.  She knew everyone in town as well as many of their parents and grandparents.  For years, she taught the second grade and could almost predict many of the student’s final grade on the first day of school.  She knew their family background and believed the story about the acorn’s not falling far from the tree.

In addition, she said that it is amazing what seven-year old students voluntarily tell their teacher.  People in small towns have their special friends with whom they discuss secrets and gossip.  Such secrets sometimes become common knowledge all over town.

Then, there are those improprieties that could not be uttered to anyone  regardless of how close of a friend they were.  These are things that she could reveal to us without danger of the word getting out in town.

One such story was not earthshaking but it left us dissolutioned about a couple of Mother’s friends in the Eastern Star.  About the only thing I know about the Order of the Eastern Star is that it is a secret organization for people with spiritual values.  In time, a strong fraternal bond develops between the members.

I know that candidates for membership are recommended by one of the members and their acceptance is determined by a vote using small balls that are dropped into a voting box.

Each member takes a ball from a second box containing one black ball and many white ones.  When examined, if the voting box contains the black one, the applicant is not invited to become a member.

At the time of this happening, Sadie Jones’ term as Worthy Matron would be over in about three months.  Sadie and her good friend, Helen, decided to recommend their close friend, Julia, to be a member.  The two ladies made their recommendation plea and the vote was held immediately.  To the amazement of all but one member, the black ball was in the voting box.

At the next meeting, Sadie again recommended Julia to be accepted as a member.  Then she pounced on the ladies like an attack dog and said that no one should be black balled unless she had committed adultery.  Then she added that the only way one could know about the adultery was to be a part of it.  This announcement was shocking to everyone in attendance.

Apparently this ultimatum worked.  When the voting box was opened, it contained only white balls.  Sadie was smiling from ear to ear as she announced that Julia would now join in their monthly meetings.

Three months later new officers were installed and Mother advanced from Associate Matron to Worthy Matron replacing Sadie.  As any good leader would do, Mother immediately audited all of the records and equipment.

As part of the inspection, she opened the voting box and the box of balls.  To her dismay, she could not budge the black ball from the bottom of the box.  Further inspection found that the ball was glued to the floor of the box.

Evidently Sadie and Helen were not going to risk Julia’s being black balled again.  Mother was disgusted and disappointed in the two women.  She was a stickler for obeying rules and laws and believed that the guilty people involved should be exposed.   In this case, she couldn’t tell anyone because it would ruin the ladies’ reputation and they would be laughed out of town.  Also, no one would ever again share any gossip or secrets with her.

We laughed at the old ladies antics and what exposure would have done to them.  I believe that in today’s world, they probably would be politicians and no doubt one of them would be a US senator.


Jim Pershall

July 2012