This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Posts tagged ‘daffodils’

The Old Paths: Walnut Cove’s Communist Training Camp

(First published in 2007 as “Walnut Cove past leads through shady territory” in The Stokes News under the name of “Leslie Bray Evans”)

Me with a small portion of Mrs. Binkley's daffodils which still bloom on the property.

Me with a small portion of Mrs. Binkley’s daffodils which still bloom on the property.

One of the “old paths” in the Cove leads through some pretty shady territory. I never promised you all sunshiny paths, did I?! Did you know there was a Communist training school in Walnut Cove in the 1940’s and ’50’s?

In the late ’30’s, William and Eleanore Hoagland Binkley purchased around 50 acres of land off Pine Hall Road. Mr. Binkley, affectionately known as “Bink” to his wife, was a lawyer from Lewisville who occasionally substituted at Pine Hall School. Mrs. Binkley, a very proper lady educated at Strasbourg University in Russia,* hailed from the Chicago area. It was speculated that this childless couple came to Walnut Cove because its rural location was an excellent hiding place for their agenda–to promote Russian-style Communism in the U.S., in hopes of a complete takeover.

The Binkleys lived for approximately four years in first a tent and later a slab building while improving their property. When J.D. Bray (my grandfather) moved his family next door in ’44, the Binkleys were well-established, living in a cozy log cabin and later in a comfortable modern home. Mrs. Binkley worked at Pellcare Nursing Home in Walkertown and would honk the horn of her vehicle–in later years, a yellow ’57 Chevy–as she neared her property each afternoon. Neighbors whispered that this was a signal to let her husband know it was she and not a stranger.

According to a decades-old article from a Greensboro newspaper, which detailed an FBI investigation of the alleged Communist complex, the Binkleys were conducting Communist training seminars at their farm, with perhaps 10-20 people in attendance at each session. My uncle Sam Bray vows to this day that Mrs. Binkley once introduced him to a young man who later became a much admired leader in the national spotlight. “The Little Red Schoolhouse,” as the training school was called, included singing, as heard by the Bray family as they worked in the fields nearby.

According to Mrs. Binkley’s father, who occasionally visited, the training agenda even included how to kill someone with a simple lead pencil. After he leaked information to neighbors about the the Binkleys’ Communist ties, Mr. Hoagland was never again seen, thus leading to unfounded gossip that he was “conveniently disposed of.” Bink himself was often gone to Tennessee for months at a time; locals speculated that he was a Union organizer, working for the AFL-CIO.

My husband in the bamboo forest planted by the Binkleys.

My husband in the bamboo forest planted by the Binkleys.

People of different races visited the Binkleys, and supposedly Bink held meetings at a Walnut Cove church in a failed attempt to organize area minorities. It was a common Communist practice in the mid-1900’s to reach out to oppressed minorities in an effort to recruit new members.

My daddy, Tom Bray, remembers a book that stood on the Binkley bookshelf–Why Russia Won’t Attack This Year. A picture of the Russian Revolution emblem–the hammer and the sickle–hung nearby. Once Bink was helping dig a grave in the Forest Chapel United Methodist Church graveyard when an area funeral home director drove up and loudly asked, “Where’s that ole Communist who lives around here?” Neighborhood men pointed down into the grave where Bink stood, shoveling dirt.

Grandpa Bray was eventually enlisted by the FBI as an informant, logging license plate numbers of visitors to the Binkley farm. It was usually after dark when FBI agents would quietly arrive at the Bray farm, parking at a nearby tobacco barn. Grandpa Bray would walk up to meet them and sit inside their car to give them information he had collected. A family friend who worked as a secretary for the FBI’s Washington, DC office, confided that she once stumbled across the file of an FBI operative with the name “J.D. Bray” on it!

I would love to know when and why the Binkleys planted bamboo in the mid-1900's.

I would love to know when and why the Binkleys planted bamboo in the mid-1900’s.

The Binkleys were ahead of their time in many ways. They advertised their shrub farm in The Progressive Farmer magazine. The exact name has been forgotten, but it was reminiscent of “Tulip Poplar Farm.” The Binkleys recycled, reusing everything they could–long before “going green” was hip. Mrs. Binkley warned people that white bread was a carcinogen–long before health enthusiasts popularized that claim.

The Binkleys were always kind to the Brays. Mrs. Binkley once cared for my daddy when he had a backset of the measles. When Bink saw Daddy shooting down at the creek one day, he called him “a regular Nimrod.” My cousin Tana and I would play dress-up and walk down to visit Mrs. Binkley, who would welcome us as if we were the grandest of ladies and suggest we all have a tea party!

Whichever family got the mail first from the top of the long driveway would put the other’s mail in a notch in a huge oak tree still standing in the Bray yard. How the Bray beagles would growl when Bink walked up to check for mail! Even after years of seeing him daily, those dogs never befriended Bink, so he carried a stick to fend them off.

This old tree--under which my family still holds cookouts and covered dish dinners--is the very one the Binkleys and Brays used to put their mail in the mid-1900's.

This old tree–under which my family still holds cookouts and covered dish dinners–is the very one the Binkleys and Brays used for their mail delivery in the mid-1900’s. The notch has now closed up and is very high on the tree trunk.

The Binkleys were, however, very fond of animals. They had trick goats, rabbits, red hogs, tame squirrels, geese, etc. Their dozens of cats ate out of the owners’ plates and were free to come and go into the house via cat holes that would slam loudly as the Bray dogs chased them! The Binkleys did not allow hunting on their property but did occasionally kill a goat to eat. The graves of two particular pet goats, Billy and Nancy, are still visible on their property. Neighbors called Bink “The Rabbit Man.” It was rumored that he put secret messages into the ears of his rabbits then shipped them all over the country.

More plantings from the Binkleys in the mid-20th century.

More plantings from the Binkleys in the mid-20th century.

When Duke Power began buying land in the ’60’s, they bought out the Binkleys. Before they moved out of the county, the Binkleys told Daddy to feel free to take whatever they left behind, including papers that detailed their beliefs. Duke Power used the Binkley home to house workers while building their steam station, but in the early ’80’s, the Binkley complex was bulldozed to the ground–destroying all evidence of a Communist training school that once existed down a shadowy old path in the Cove….**

*Strasbourg University is located in France, so perhaps the family’s memories of Mrs. Binkley’s education are faulty. I assume she attended the University in France and perhaps did some traveling in Russia during that time.

DSCN4715

Mrs. Binkley’s periwinkle now covers acres of ground on her old property.

**Editor’s Note: Today the Binkley property still adjoins the Bray farm, which is now owned by my parents. It still belongs to Duke Energy but is leased by my daddy for recreational purposes. The property is especially beautiful in springtime when Mrs. Binkley’s daffodils still bloom–the old-timey ones that give off such a fragrant perfume. Some even have double blooms. The periwinkle she planted perhaps more than 70 years ago has spread to cover the woodland ground with its delicate bluish-purple flowers. My family takes walks down there to see the beauty of the blooms each spring.

My children especially love the bamboo forest. Yes, it’s true–a small forest of bamboo, towering high into the sky, grows there where the Binkleys planted it long, long ago. Magnolia trees still flourish, along with the pampas grass the couple planted in the mid-1900s. The old animal graveyard is invisible to my eyes, but my daddy can still locate it. The beautiful cabins and outbuildings are gone, but both Daddy and Mama can take you to where the steps to them were located.

Who knows what plots to take over the United States were hatched on this very property?

Who knows what plots to take over the United States were hatched on this very property?

I am haunted to this day by the tragic loss of the painstakingly-built structures on the Binkley property. Duke Power made the heartless decision to raze it all to ground level for no reason that I can see, except to clear themselves from any liability. When they first bulldozed it, I assumed they were going to use the land for something. Yet 40 years later, it lies unused by that company–just as uninhabited as it was when the Binkleys took their last look at their little haven deep in the woods–a waste of what was once beautiful.

I long to find someone who can tell me more about this mysterious couple who were tried in a court of law for their Communist sympathies and activity. Google will take you to the documents from the court proceedings. (Type in “Junius Scales,” “Communist” and “Binkley,” and the records should show up.) But not much else exists to verify that William and Eleanore Binkley ever existed. My family and I, however, can assure you that they did.

***Here is an article detailing Mrs. Binkley’s death in Florida in 1991. This makes her sound like a hero. I figure that I would’ve liked her ideals a lot—aside from the Communist stuff.

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1755&dat=19910417&id=TTgeAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Pb8EAAAAIBAJ&pg=6688%2C1474107&hl=en

***Here is a short article about the Communist training camp held on the Binkley farm. It is in the bottom lefthand corner and is about a Mr. Scales.

http://fultonhistory.com/Newspapers%2023/Jamestown%20NY%20Post%20Journal/Jamestown%20NY%20Post%20Journal%201955/Jamestown%20NY%20Post%20Journal%201955%20-%201206.pdf

Daffodils spread for acres on the old Binkley property.

Daffodils spread for acres on the old Binkley property.

Advertisements

Spring done sprung

The poet Joyce Kilmer said in 1913, “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” If he was talking about the lovely dogwoods in my home state of North Carolina, he was right!

Yes, yes, I know my title is grammatically bad, but somehow it just perfectly sums up the feeling I have in my heart right now. Spring done sprung, and I pert near (“almost” in Southern lingo) missed it again.

How does this happen year after year? I spend my winters longing for spring, dreaming of green and gold days, eagerly watching for the crocuses to decorate the winter-brown landscape.

Some people find the overpowering smell of wisteria cloying, but I find it delightful. I feel guilty for loving this beautiful purple vine so much because it is parasitic and will kill trees if left untended, but I find it to be a lovely plant. (Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC)

Then late winter finds me becoming engrossed in more and more activities–the culmination of my kids’ basketball season, NCAA March Madness, sign-ups for Little League, practice and even games for my son’s high school baseball team.

Suddenly I look around and the crocuses are gone. The daffodils and forsythia are already fading, and tulips are about to burst on the scene. Where have I been? I lament the passage of the earliest days of my favorite season.

The flowering crabapple trees in Danbury where I live are spectacular in the spring! And the blossoms feel like a handful of soft pink powderpuffs. (Photo by my friend Monty Stevens of Westfield, NC)

Spring and fall seem to be the most fleeting seasons. Summer’s heat and deep green of the trees appear to linger for months. Similarly, winter’s chill and barren landscape drag on seemingly endlessly.

But the pastel greens of spring and the vivid colored leaves of autumn are so evanescent that you barely blink and they’re gone. So I feel a more desperate need to savor every moment of these two seasons, but especially spring when newness of life in nature brings hope to even the weariest pilgrim taking this earth-walk.

In our lives, we won’t truly enjoy many springs. My theory is that we don’t fully appreciate the first 22 springs of our lives. Children don’t usually feel the poignancy of passing seasons the way time-starved adults do. And teenagers become quickly wrapped up in youthful pursuits and other teenagers. Then comes college and the pressures each spring of trying to cram the rest of the semester into our brains before school ends in early May.

Forsythia and daffodils share the vibrant yellow color that always grabs my eye to cry out, “Spring is here!” (Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC)

Before you know it, you’re out of college and working a job–perhaps even newly married. Pressures of life mount: new babies, new mortgages, new car payments. Life seems to swoosh by you, with spring after spring tumbling unheeded into summer.

Tulips seem regal and stately to me, as opposed to the graceful nonchalance of the daffodil. Ahh, if they only lasted longer! (Photo by my friend Michael Mullins of King, NC)

The next 20 or so years are spent raising the kids, playing chauffeur to their every activity, building a life with your mate, taking care of aging parents. You turn around and you’re middle aged. Perhaps that’s the time you truly appreciate spring. Your own springtime of life is over, and you yearn to experience once more what you know you never can.

Many-hued azaleas lend vibrant color to the spring landscape and are adored by not only me, but also by the butterflies! (Photo by my friend Melinda Campbell Ring of Danbury, NC)

As old age creeps upon you, often there is failing health, less access to the great outdoors. And so spring may pass by you again nearly unnoticed.

Daffodils, buttercups, jonquils–by any name, the sunny yellow-gold harbingers of spring seem to nod in agreement to the new warmth of the season. (Photo by my daughter Chelsea Evans of Tobaccoville, NC)

Let’s savor every spring that we are blessed with. If you start with the first daffodil exploding into blossom and count the days to the final blooms of the dogwood, you get about 30 days. The calendar may say it’s spring for two more months after that, but by late April to early May here in the South, everything already looks pretty much like summer.

The brilliant palette of spring seems so vivid to our color-starved eyes that have grown accustomed to the drab grays and browns of winter. (Photo by my friend Kathy Flanary Nelson of Winston-Salem, NC)

So you really only get about 30 days each year of the true wonder of spring. Multiply that by 70 years and you get 2100 days. Sounds like a bunch, but in the grand scheme of the days of your life, it’s not.

How can we doubt the resurrection of Christ when spring cries “Resurrection!” on every hand?! (Photo by my friend Denise Coe of Walnut Cove, NC)

And remember that you don’t even recall the first few springs you lived through, so those 150 days or so are gone. By the time you factor in the oh-so-bustling years of early and mid-adulthood and then the later years of life when the quality of life often diminishes, you lose another several days of spring that you never appreciated.

Suffice it to say that the final tally of true spring days that you get to enjoy is very small. Let’s make the most of every spring the Father gives us to enjoy!

God always keeps His promises. Seedtime and harvest will not fail, so spring will continually return until this earth is done. (Photo by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge, NC)

“My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.

 For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;

 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

 The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” (Song of Solomon 2:10-13)

Also check out another of my blogs with gorgeous spring photos by local photographers at:

https://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/springs-pleasing-palette/

Daffodils make good prayer partners

My outdoor sanctuary just up the road

It is late at night. The kids are all in bed at last. My tired body notifies me of the strain of the day that demanded of me more than I could do. The feeling of being behind is almost stifling to me now. I vegetate on the couch, staring at a blank TV.

But this picture is where I want to be–sitting on the wooden benches in my outdoor sanctuary up the street where daffodils wave in the late afternoon sunlight, beckoning me to join them in worshiping the Son.

Daffodils make good prayer partners.

They don’t say a word but simply worship their Creator with beauty and elegance–cheerful faces absorbing the rays. They bloom vibrantly for a short while and then are gone.

Sort of like us here on Earth.

How could I know that this week would be so full of things I MUST do? The celebration of Purim (but I love teaching Bible classes at the local library on how the Jewish holidays are still symbolically important for Christians!) just happened to coincide this year with our regular second Thursday 4-H meeting (but I’m the volunteer leader who loves 4-H and my family volunteered for the March program because we Irish dance and love Ireland!) which just happened to be sandwiched in between two days of my son’s high school baseball games (but I adore baseball and am the team’s scorekeeper and blogger for the website!) which just happened to be scheduled right when our 104-year-old local historian/genealogist would pass away (but who knew that would happen at this time?) which would mean I would be asked to write the feature story for the local newspaper in his memory (but he was my mentor and friend and I am honored to write the story about him because I am following in his footsteps and will miss him!) on top of my duties of running a nonprofit Christian ministry in town (but I live for this and love to study God’s Word for our church service in a few days!) which reminds me that I have to finish the paperwork for our 501(c)3 status (but I HAVE to do that soon so that we can move into our building which won’t be given to us until we are certified!) and I also have to go to the Social Security office and wait hours to have my name changed (but our church needs a bank account and they won’t open the account until we have an EIN which we can’t get until my name matches my Social Security number!) which reminds me that I didn’t order my son’s bat online tonight (but the boy needs a bat of his own so he can quit borrowing other boys’ bats!) which jogs my memory to fill out the paperwork for Little League for all three kids (but we breathe baseball and are ready to play!) and all of this is stressing me out to the point that I have already forgotten the many other things on my LONG to-do list and the many people whose emails and Facebook messages I haven’t answered because my brain slots are filled up and the gray fog of denial has settled in between my ears.

But daffodils make good prayer partners.

My daughter Chelsea took this picture in the park near her home in Tobaccoville.

And they don’t demand anything of me as I sit on the wooden bench and gaze at the beauty of the burgeoning spring all around me. And the gales of March whip my hair around and somehow help clear out the fog in my brain. And the birds serenade me with trills and songs of serenity that make my to-do list seem rather unimportant at the moment. And the lack of computer, TV or cell phone gives me a freedom to breathe deeply again and take stock of what’s really important.

Yep, that’s where I want to be. But it’s midnight, and I’m here on the couch as the silence of the all-are-abed house is punctuated by the never-ending ticking duel between the living room clock and the kitchen clock.

If Robert Frost were here, I would ask him if this is how he felt when he penned, “But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.”

The lateness of the hour arouses guilt in me; I can hear my hubster saying when he walks in from his third shift job tomorrow morning, “You didn’t stay up past midnight again, did you?” As of right now exactly (the clock just struck 12), I must mournfully answer, “Yes.”

Sometimes staying up late is the only way a busy mother can find quiet time to think, meditate, pray, sort out the promises she still has to keep, and dream. . .dream of the the outdoor sanctuary just up the road where the wooden benches sit peacefully and where nodding daffodils make good prayer partners.

Tag Cloud