Hope as Smooth as Silk

Steve Woolford & Coleman Smith at Silk Hope

Steve Woolford & Coleman Smith at Silk Hope

Practicing the spirituality of the

“Lilies of the field”

Silk Hope Catholic Worker House, is a permaculture oasis in Chatham County, North Carolina, and a point of light for soldiers seeking counseling about GI Rights and conscientious objection to participating in war. 

Catholic Workers Steve Woolford and Lenore Yager are deeply involved in the everyday work of parenting, maintaining a rural homestead, and practicing the skills of simple and sustainable living, all the while keeping open the door of hospitality for folks in need of safe harbor, and being the knowledgably reassuring voices at the other end of the GI Rights Hotline. They offer the service in collaboration with Quaker House , about 60 miles away in Fayetteville, site of Fort Bragg, the home base of U.S. Army Paratroopers and Special Operations Forces.

We set out for Silk Hope with good directions and a picnic lunch provided by activists John Heuer  and Peggy Misch in Carrboro on a fine Spring morning. We passed through rolling and forested piedmont, along two-lane country roads, and down straight stretches of highway marking old farmland boundaries. Along the way, we noticed that an increasing number of housing developments have encroached upon the rural beauty, interrupting the deep and restful greens of forest and farm.

 Within the rural acre of Silk Hope Catholic Worker farm, on Woody Store Road near Siler City, the vegetable and herb gardens filled the grounds in front of the early 1900s wooden farmhouse where Steve and Lenore live with their beautiful and spirited children, big sister Genevieve and little brother Quinn. The children greeted us from the front porch while Susan, a GI Rights Hotline worker visiting from San Francisco, showed us into the house. Susan was visiting Silk Hope prior to participating in a gathering of GI Rights Hotline volunteers and organizations meeting in Atlanta the following weekend.Clare, Lenore, Steve and Susan at Silk Hope 

As we talked about our interest in facilitating a gathering of trainers, activists and organizers in the S.E., Steve and Lenore, told us of their involvement with the Southern Life Community, a gathering of regional, faith-based activists. The SLC, Clare told them, seems to be a revival of similar gatherings of the same name she attended in Florida and Georgia over a decade ago. Good to know that such vital community building is ongoing.

After a generous two and a half hour visit out of their very busy day, we toured the gardens.  Steve talked of the difficulties in running a farm when many of the volunteers who come are more interested in the peace and justice work than in getting the onions in or the weeds out. Despite the lack of dedicated farmhands, the corn was knee high, the comfrey in bloom and the tendrils of sweet peas winding up the fence. 

On our return to Asheville, we were able to refer a query we received about conscientious objection from a young N.C. National Guard recruit to Steve and Lenore. The soldier had just returned from basic and advanced training and was now questioning the wisdom of his decision to enlist. He had been searching the Internet for links to conscientious objection and CO counseling and ended up at the WRL Asheville site. In addition to referring him to Steve and Lenore, we also steered him to the AFSC offices in Greensboro, to Chuck Fager at the Quaker House in Fayetteville, and our old friend from his Asheville days,  Jason Hurd  now in Savannah organizing S.E. Iraq Veterans Against the War. We met with Jason, later in our travels.

Along the road to our next stop in Fayetteville, the landscape transitioned from piedmont to sand hills to the tidewater, with the heat and humidity rising. We stopped for a break at the J&L Leather Shop, a motorcycle apparel and supply store just outside Fayetteville. In conversations with Laura, the shop owner, she revealed how the locals were complaining about agricultural pesticide runoff and how those chemicals were the likely culprits that killed one of her dogs and made the other deathly ill. When the conversation turned to smoking, vegetarianism, and ecological health Coleman soon found common ground with Laura by talking about how the design and care of the human body is not so unlike the care required for a finely tuned road bike; that striving to eliminate poisons from our food, land, and water is a worthwhile endeavor.

After such good conversation with this southern, Christian (Laura’s card is embossed with the sign of the Fish) motorcycle mama, we marveled at yet another unexpected challenge to preconceived notions of regional inhabitants. By taking time for conversation, we can often discover just how much we may have in common. As we left the shop, though, we were taken aback by the concrete yard sculpture of a brown and barefoot Hispanic man, with moustache and sombrero, all-too reminiscent of the Black lawn jockey ornaments and other stereotyped images once so prevalent in our region. Is this new lawn ornament a tellling indication of the anti immigrant racist focus building in the South? Fayetteville & Columbia 077  

Next post: Plunge with us into the belly of the beast at Fort Bragg. First stop the Airborne & Special  Operations Museum 

 Dedicated to the glory and memory of all Airborne and Special Operations soldiers from 1940 to the present, and into  the future.

 Hello Fayette-stan!






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