GUNS

For Hansell Baugh 1903-1995(?)

He’s eighty-nine.
My cousin Hansell.
Any one of his tribulations
would fill up the pot of troubles
in an ordinary life,
but he doesn’t complain.
Considers himself lucky
to live in a house full of books.

All day long,
in his bathrobe,
he haunts his store of
precious hieroglyphical joys,
knows where every volume lurks.

Last year,
a robber
sneaked in
the back
door
held by a single
bent hook,
and pointed a knife
at my cousin’s middle.
“Gimme your gun” he demanded.
“I don’t want anything but your gun.”

“But I don’t have
a gun” Cousin Hansell said
“I never had a gun,
I don’t want a gun.“
The robber wiggled his knife.
“You got no gun?
You have to have a gun!
How you live?”

“I don’t know,
by fits and starts,
mostly,” my cousin said
“I’m only sorry
things turned out
so bad for you
you have to live this way.”

“Thank you”,
the robber said,
“You really got no gun?”
He put his arm about
cousin Hansell’s shoulder,
patted him on the bathrobe.
“You in big trouble.
Maybe I be seein’ you, I hope”
He put up his knife.

“Allow me to say
I hope not”
cousin Hansell 
replied.
He watched the robber depart,
waved gently and sighed.
Then he sat down to his “meal on
wheels”
opened a book,
and got back to
the rest
of his life’s work.

© 2022, Andrew Glaze Estate, a previously unpublished poem

Hansell was my father’s cousin, and literary soulmate. Seventeen years older, he became a freelance writer, biographer, book reviewer, and editor. Both had the same whimsical sense of humor and imagination. They even shared PR experience, since Hansells very first job involved traveling to Sumatra and Malay rubber plantations to make a film for U.S. Rubber.

Born in Tennessee, and raised outside Atlanta, Hansell graduated from Emory with an award in Latin, and a passion for books. He loved them so much that he eventually became a librarian, in Philadelphia and in New York.

In early 1957, my mother and grandmother set off to New York with me in tow. We were the flagship, sent ahead of my father to scout out the territory. The goal was to anchor in Manhattan, find an apartment and a mid-year 1st grade school for me, and be settled before he arrived in the summer. Initially we found a place in Chelsea, not far from the mid-town Greyhound bus station where we disembarked on arrival. It was a tiny studio apartment that barely fit 3 twin beds in L formation, on the West side near 21st Street.

It was during this time that Hansell first came to visit and delight me. He eventually brought me three gifts that I have cherished all my life.

 One was a beautiful jewel bedazzled wooden counter brush; the type that looks like a giant toothbrush with a short handle. I was thrilled with the gift, and positive that if ever a princess had owned a cleaning brush it would have looked EXACTLY like this one! I pictured myself in satin and lace, complete with crown, blissfully using my jeweled brush to sweep dust away. For many years I hung it on the walls of my room as a decoration. Only when I was past high school, and had left it in my father’s household did it finally get used for cleaning. A few years later, taking pity on it, as it had already lost one of its main gems, and in honor of Hansell, I pulled the rest of the jewels off and placed them in my jewelry box.

A second time Hansell came to visit, he brought me the book, Harold and the Purple Crayon. Newly published at that time, I fell in love with it, still have the copy he gave me, and introduced it to my own daughter when she was growing up.

A third time Hansell came to visit, he quite innocently unlocked the route to a career path that I followed until I was 28 years old. That was the day he took me to see The New York City Ballet perform “The Nutcracker”. One year later I was a student at the school for the company. Two years later I was performing in the same Nutcracker production that Hansell had taken me to see. Eventually, I transferred to the Royal Ballet School and spent nine years in Europe dancing as a member of opera ballet companies.

I never realized that Hansell was a writer until I typed his name into the internet and came up with articles such as, “How Nietzsche’s love for music influenced his philosophy”. He also put together a book of letters written by the Atlanta writer Frances Newman. And, as his name is listed as editor for multiple books with titles like, An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics, it seems pretty clear that he edited college text books.

Hansell never married, but he did spend many years living together with a fellow librarian friend named Walton Brooks McDaniel II, who died in 1975. The unspoken assumption is that he was either asexual or quietly, and very unassumingly, gay. In any case, he was one of the sweetest and kindest people to come into my life.

In 1992, during a phone call with my father, Hansell discovered I had moved to Philadelphia. Shortly afterwards, I received a card from him with every available surface covered in amusing questions, stories about my childhood, memories of his early years living in Philadelphia, and even a small sketch of a Philadelphia One Way street sign pointing heavenward that had once amused him. Stories I have no personal memory of included see-sawing with me in Riverside Drive Park (after we moved to 102nd street on the West side), taking me to the old Metropolitan Opera House to see something (perhaps an opera?), and eating hamburgers at White Castle.

Interestingly, he also revealed that his sister Margaret spent 13 years as the secretary to Atlanta based, Gone With The Wind author, Margaret Mitchell. After Mitchell was killed by a car at the age of 48, his sister worked for the office managing her literary rights for the next 20 years.

Eventually Hansell moved back to his hometown of Albany, 6 miles from Atlanta. In his final years he was taken care of by his great niece, and she kindly wrote me a note in response to a Christmas card I sent to Hansell.

I honestly don’t know exactly what year Hansell died, but I have fondly kept the card he wrote to me in 1992. All I have to do is look at it and immediately feel love and affection for the cousin who was a child at heart and who knew exactly what I’d enjoy at the age of 6. It’s also clear that I inherited some of the same genetics. I have a mind that remembers trivia for decades, and when I once did a career evaluation test, one of the top compatible suggestions was, “Librarian”. He would have enjoyed that.

—–E. Glaze  

Hansell on the left with my mother, father, and infant brother. 1958
Property of the Andrew Glaze Estate
Hansell’s handwritten comment on the front of his 1992 card to me:
“A Reader Walks — or Walker Reads?”

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