4. Elnora Age Seven

Elnora (Baby Dew)

Summer came and I turned seven. We had a big birthday party. There were so many people in our house; we were always having a birthday party. The whole household attended. Aunt Ruby and Momma cooked a big birthday cake that was prepared just for me. Aunt Mable and Aunt Katherine made cute sandwiches. Daddy and Uncle Paul cooked and churned ice cream. Uncle Jerry and his girlfriend brought nuts and candy. Uncle Bob and Aunt Katherine collected presents from the family. Some of the kids gave me presents they made last year at school in shop or art classes. At any rate, I had a great birthday party. Later that day, all of the children took a swim in the pond about a half mile from our house. Uncle Jerry went with us and we all had a cool time. Back at the house Luther and Mark started a game of dot to dot. Mark was winning and didn’t want to stop. He and Luther did not swim with us at first so they could complete their game.

Carlene finished College and was engaged to a college professor. He came to the pond and took Carlene for a ride in his not so fancy car. Daddy told mother he thought Carlene could do better than a poor college professor. Carlene thought he was the most handsome man in the world.
Once he came to our house for dinner and I went in to scout him over. I looked for the most handsome man in the world. I didn’t see that man. Before they married I called him Professor Hall. I said; “Professor Hall, you don’t look the way I expected you to look.” He asked “How did you expect me to look?” However, before I could tell him, Carlene covered my mouth with her dirty hand. Carlene and Momma were good for covering my mouth. Carlene called Momma and asked her to come and get Baby Dew. Heaven only knows why. It didn’t matter to me if Carlene married Professor Ernest Hall or not. Even today, I don’t think he is the most handsome man in the world.

Our preacher was called to our house to plan the wedding. It was going to be the biggest and best wedding that had ever taken place at Still Waters Baptist Church. Momma and Daddy, Carlene and Ernest were all dressed in their Sunday best for the preacher. Everything appeared to be going well until the part for the bride to enter the sanctuary with her father on her arm. Pastor said of course she would enter with the traditional “Here Comes the Bride”. Carlene said no. She wanted her sister, Brenda, to sing “I Love You Truly” as she walked down the aisle. Pastor said absolutely not! That could not be done in his church. Carlene said: Then we will not have the wedding in your church. At that point, Papa said it was Carlene’s wedding and if her sister could not sing, maybe Pastor should leave. Pastor left and Carlene had her wedding near the pond. All the decorations were beautiful. The grassy knoll made a beautiful back drop. Brenda sang “I love You Truly” as Carlene walked down the aisle or covered grass with the white carpet scroll. The wedding almost went off without a hitch. Little Earl was the ring barrier. He became distracted when all of the people started taking his picture. Earl stopped half way down and went to Aunt Mable. Aunt Mable had to get out of her seat and escort Earl to his place. Peggy and I were flower girls. We did our parts perfectly. Other cousins and friends were bride’s maids and groomsmen. Her maid of honor was Cousin Velma, one of Papa’s sister’s girls. Ernest best man was his brother.

When Carlene was leaving, they threw rice and told all the single girls to catch her bouquet. Peggy and I stood with the single girls because we were single too. I was seven and Peggy was near nine. Peggy almost caught the bouquet, but one of the older girls took it away. Ernest took Carlene away in his not so fancy car with a bunch of ten cans on strings behind.
The next day, while our cousins were still there for the wedding, we played Blue bird, Blue bird, in and Out the Window and Ring around the Roses. Those were the days .
The wedding night I overheard Daddy and Momma discussing “Did you get a chance to have the talk with Carlene?” Momma put two fingers in the air and told daddy not to worry. They had “the talk”. Since he had given one girl away, she said; I hope you will be less nervous the next time.

We received notice in the mail that we had been redistricted to Epic Grove Elementary School. From that point on we would ride the bus to school. Those kids that were in high school already rode a bus to school. Daddy would come through the house to wake those the smell of bread had not awaken already. Daddy would shout: Epic Grove-Count-ceil! (Epic Grove was slowly pronounced then very quickly he would say Count-ceil) The school’s real name was COUNCILL HIGH. The name came from an old Mayor name Robert Councill.
Summer ended and school started. I felt like an old pro. When it would come time for Little Earl, I would be ready. I would be in the fifth grade and by that time I would know everything. Positive-image, no problem, I had it! I had been planted and the proof was in the pudding. Nothing but roses could come out of my past experiences. I lack nothing less than perfection. I was complete. I was whole. I was everything Little Earl wanted or needed. I had confidence in confidence. However, my bubbles were soon burst. This trashy girl jumps me in line to go to lunch. I told her she couldn’t jump me. The teacher made her go to the end of the line. This trashy girl put her fist to her nose and said she was going to get me after school.
When the bell rang at the end of the day, I found Bay Brother, but I didn’t see Peggy. I thought, oh am I ever in trouble. I didn’t know over the summer Bay Brother had learned to fight. When the girl walked up to me, Bay Brother asked her wh., wha, what she wanted. If she wa, wan wa, wanted to fi, fi fight, she wo, woul, would have to fi, fi. Fight he, he, him first. The trashy girl said; “Let’s get it on”. Bay Brother told me to hold his books and then he beat her to a puff. The rest of the year passes by fine. I had no more fighting issues.
Second grade was fun. We built on the things we learned in first grade. My teacher encouraged me to join the Spelling Bee Team for grades one through three. I won. Then I had to compete with grades four through five. I won. We then competed with other schools in the county. Next, we competed on the state level. At that point, I lost. Daddy said the judges cheated. Daddy then places me on his shoulders and carried me through the house with the kids behind him shouting WINNER! WINNER! WINNER!
After school started for at least six weeks or more, the new kids, who lived near us, came to our school. One of our neighbors was in my class. I asked him where he had been. He said they were zone for our school, never-the-less they went to their old school at the beginning of the school year. People were not as judgmental at his old school. When his dad changed jobs, it was a struggle getting there. They needed to ride the school bus with us. Monday morning the Pettaway children that were in elementary school road the school bus with us.
Monday morning as we stood at the bus stop, it started to rain. Most of the Pettaway children were not polite. The Pettaway girl next to the oldest girl pushed us out of the way and jumped on the bus. The only Pettaway that was polite was the boy in my class. He sat beside me and shared all the books ordered for him. At that time, parents purchased books for their children. It would be a couple of days before he got his books. Luckily for his father, he was able to sell his other books before he came to our school.
It was a long day and it kept raining. Mrs. Jolly (my teacher) looked out of the window several times. Most of the children did not notice the worried look on Mrs. Jolly’s face. As the day progressed, the sky grew darker and darker. I noticed Mrs. Jolly was not herself. She lined us up for the rest room and lunch. Lemon Pettaway stood right behind me. I knew something was wrong. Mrs. Jolly gave us a coloring sheet after lunch. Meanwhile, she continued to stare out of the window. The sky grew darker. Eventually it looked like night in the day time. At that time the school’s secretary came around and told our teacher not to send us to Art or P.E. because the buses were coming for us. Mrs. Price (the school secretary) told Mrs. Jolly not to allow us to go the restroom. Frances (the girl who Peggy fought last year) said she had to go. Mrs. Jolly told her she did not have the authority to let her go. France said she was sorry but she couldn’t wait. She had to go. Mrs. Jolly looked out of the window okagain and asked the class to excuse her for a few minutes. After Mrs. Jolly left, Frances went to the rest room, climbed out of the rest room window and headed for home. Frances only lived a half mile from the school. Mrs. Jolly and a couple of other teachers had gone to move their cars to higher ground. Some of the teachers kept going. When Mrs. Jolly came back, wet up to her midriff, we shared our seats with kids from other classes. The Principal came and gave us the bad news. Due to the rain, water at Point Grove, near Frances’ house, had risen so high, Frances had drown. We all cried, even Mrs. Jolly. The buses never came. They could not come for us due to the rain. The Principal told us to prepare to spend the night. While he was speaking Mrs. price called him to the office for a very important call. The Principal returned and went from class to class to inform the teachers the army was sending boats to take us to the armory where our parents could come pick us up. We all cheered! The army came but would not move one boat until the Principal let them know all of children and teachers were accounted for. That’s when we heard a big roar of thunder. While we sat there and waited, a voice very softly started to sing “How Great thou Art”. Mrs. Jolly and I both looked around to see who was singing. It was Trashy Girl. The entire class was surprised. We didn’t know she could sing. Especially, we did not expect she could sing that beautiful. Mrs. Jolly and the entire class joined in singing “How Great Thou Art”.
O Lord my God, when I in awesome won der. Consider all the worlds thy hands have made. I see the stars; I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power thru-out the universe dis-played. Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee; How great Thou art, how great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee: How great Thou Art! How great Thou Art! Mrs. Jolly reminded us even in the mist of our great tragedy, we still should give Him thanks. She told us according to Proverbs 18: 10 the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. She also told us according to Psalms 37:28; For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off. Finally, the boats took us to the armory. Parents and children were reunited. We Chamber Children were one of the last ones to leave. Uncle Paul waited until it stopped raining completely and pile all of us in the back of his truck. No one came for the Pettaway children so they went home with us. Uncle Paul was kind enough to drop them off at their house. It was Friday and their Daddy had to work extra late. Why either one of the women who lived there didn’t work, I did not know.
Sunday came and I invited Lemon to our church. He was glad to go. Lemon had never been to church before. Pastor Tibb opens the doors of the church. Lemon went down and gave him his right hand. Lemon told his parents he was very happy to become a member of a church. When his Daddy heard what Lemon had done he was not allowed to go to church nor play with me anymore. Thereafter, at school, Lemon pretended not to know me.
The next Sunday, I sat next to my brother, Sam. His twin Samuetta was ushering that Sunday. Sam kept annoying me. He asked me more than once to take the gum, my friend Marshall had given me at Sunday School, out of my mouth. I refused to obey his order even when Mrs. Tibb and two Missionary Ladies turned around and looked at me.
It was Momma’s Sunday to cook therefore she did not go to church. Sam ran home and told Momma I would not take the gum out of my mouth at church and I had disturbed everybody sitting around me. Sam told Momma I was smacking something terrible. Of course1, I said;” no, I was not. He is not the boss of me” We debated the issue until Momma started singing.
Boo, boo diddly mia wa ton shu (repeat) and (repeat)
And they swam, and they swam right out to the sea.
Stop! Said the momma fish or you will get lost. But the five little fish didn’t want
To be bossed. So they swam and they swam right out to the sea.
Boo, boo, diddly mia wa ton shu (repeat) and repeat)
And they swam and they swam right out to the sea.
Stop! Said the Momma fish or you will get lost. But the four little fish didn’t want to be bossed. So they swam and they swam right out to the sea.
Boo, boo, diddly mia …… ……………………………………………………………………………..
Stop! Said the Momma fish or you will get lost. But the three little fish didn’t want
To be bossed. So they swam and they swam right out to the sea.
Boo,boo, diddly mia wa ton shu…………………………………………………………………………….
Stop! Said the Momma fish or you will get lost. But the two little fish didn’t want
To be bossed. So they swam and they swam right out to the sea
Boo, boo, diddly mia wa…………………………………………………………………………………….
Stop! Said the Momma fish or you will get lost. But the one little fish didn’t want to be bossed.
So Momma fish swam and she swam all over the damn.
Then my Momma looked at me with an evil eye and said “Boo, boo diddly mia wa ton shu” I said OK Momma, I won’t chew gum in church any more. Momma said: “Good! Baby Dew, your brother loves you. Obey him and things will go well with you. Obedience is better than sacrifice.” Then she added that I should read Job 36:11 and Philippians 4:9.

Pastor and Daddy’s Disagreement
Pastor Tibb came to our house after he had his Sunday dinner and ask for Daddy. Aunt Ruby said it’s a beautiful day today. Have a seat on the porch. Then she whispered Friday before last was just awful. That was so pitiful about that little girl. Pastor Tibb stated it was very sad about that little girl. Is Brother Walter in? As he spoke, Daddy came to the door. Daddy shouted; Pastor Tibb, come in the house and have a seat. I sat on the porch and fed my dog a bone so I could hear. Pastor Tibb told Dad he was out of order today. It was a good thing to offer to help the family of the little girl but it was not done the right way. The Pastor was supposed to call a meeting and him and all of the deacons would make a decision. The lady that read the announcements should not have yield the floor to you. And it is the Pastor’s job to ask for help for needy families. Papa was not in a good mood that day. He said Frances’ father had insurance on himself, but he did not have insurance on his children. The Funeral Home was asking for their money right away. It was a spur of the moment thing.
He asked the Pastor how old he was. Pastor said he was twenty-nine. Dad told him he had under-ware older than that. Dad had been head deacon for thirty years. He had been head deacon longer than Pastor had been alive. Pastor said maybe he had held that position too long. Daddy informed Pastor he was not going to give up his position as head deacon today or not ever. You give up yours as Pastor. Do you need me to help you make up your mine? Daddy continued you would not let my daughter marry in your church because of some stupid ritual. Now you tell me it is wrong to help a needy family. Daddy voiced his opinion about everything he saw going wrong in the church. Daddy revealed his intentions to get more men like himself to become deacons. Pastor Tibb advised Dad to tell all of his new subjects, he would not leave. Dad would keep his position as head deacon over his dead body. Dad uttered ok, You may leave now.
Aunt Ruby, my dog Lucky and I were still on the porch when Pastor Tibb left. Pastor said; Good day ladies. We said; Good day and Lucky said offf.
Momma didn’t like what was going on between Pastor and Daddy. Momma ask Dad wasn’t he tired of having to make so many decisions. Maybe it was time for a younger man to handle the responsibility of head deacon. She was not asking him to give up the deacon board entirely. Maybe he could just give up being chairman of the deacon board. Daddy pouted for a few days then he came up with the perfect solution. Chester was twenty. Pastor could mold him into whatever deacon he wanted Chester to be. His brothers all agreed. Chester was a good choice.
Now Dad had to get Chester to agree that he was the perfect choice. For that enormous task Dad needed Momma. Dad had a colossal chore ahead of him but he was a good man and up to the charge. “First things first” were one of his mottos. He would elicit the help of Momma and she would get Chester to go along with his agenda. Everyone would say what a good man he was. He knew when to step down.
Later when it was Momma’s time to cook breakfast, Daddy walked behind her, hugged Momma and declared her biscuits were the best in the world. After he finished talking to her, he asked if she thought Chester would be a respectable candidate for a worthy deacon. Momma was clay in the potter’s (Daddy’s) hand. She answered; of course Chester was an excellent choice. Chester would make an awesome deacon. Half of his efforts were accomplished. Now on to Chester, his next challenge.
Chester came home that night with interesting news. Daddy told Chester he had something important to tell him. Chester said that’s good but I need to tell you something first. Chester said he was so excited. His professors had chosen him as an exchange student to the University of Italy! Now tell me your good news. Complete silence for a moment. Momma broke the silence with congratulation! I am so proud of you! Then Daddy said; never mind. I don’t have any news.
Again silence, then Uncle Bob said what about Mark. Mark is eighteen. Pastor Tibb has longer to cultivate him. Give him Mark. Daddy pronounced to the family. Their choice would be Mark. The deacons would meet with Pastor Tibb tonight at the church. Someone had to inform the other men of our new choice and why.

Pastor Tibb got promoted

While Daddy was talking, a deacon from the church dropped by to inform the men at our house there would be no meeting. Uncle Paul asks why. Deacon Brooks replied Pastor Tibb received a letter stating he had been promoted to National Office. He would no longer be our pastor. His family would stay with us until he found a place to live, but he had to go and make arrangements right away.

After Pastor Tibb’s new appointment

The following day, Sue Ann (one of our neighbor’s girls) said she didn’t care what her daddy said. She was thinking of joining Pastor Tibb’s Church. Momma told Sue Ann it was not Pastor Tibb’s Church. The church belongs to all of God’s people. Even thou Pastor Tibb was no longer with us, she still could join the church. Sue Ann said she wanted to join because of Pastor Tibb. Momma said: I don’t know what goes on in your house and I don’t want to know. But our church is not like that. I’m not familiar with the kind of relationship your Mom has with Mr. or Mrs. Pettaway, however, that kind of stuff is not tolerated in Still Waters Baptist Church. You are not responsible for your birth. But you must know what the Bible says. According to the Bible we study, Ephesians 5:23-25 states: Therefore, Just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. Verse 23 states, for the husband are head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Honey I don’t know what your Paw was thinking but he is like a two headed man with one body.
The next Sunday, Rev. Hills, an older man brought the message. Most of the people did not enjoy the sermon because they still missed Pastor Tibb. Pastor Tibb was young and good looking. Rev. Hills was old and ugly.

Back to Normal
After things had gotten back to normal, Mom asks Dad was he still going to give Mark a chance. Mark was very excited for the opportunity to serve in that capacity. He had been a junior deacon for four years. He knew the ins and outs of his duties. They should give the young people a chance. Dad thought for a moment and then articulated his concerns. He had been thinking maybe it was time to let fresh blood refresh, renew and restore. He would speak to the brothers and ask one of them to offer Mark’s name for head deacon. Uncle Bob heard Dad talking to Mom and said he thought the offer should come from Dad. He thought the offer would be more palliative coming from him. Uncle Bob said Dad could sell an ice maker to the Eskimos. Dad said: Oak, I’ll do it.
Later that week, I was outside feeding Lucky when Mr. Herman Pettaway’s dog came up to me and begged for some of the dog food I had in my hand. I held my hand the way Daddy had taught me to feed an animal. The little dog started eating, never-the-less, I did not feed him fast enough. The little dog jumped up and bit me. The little dog made my hand bleed like crazy. Uncle Paul rushed me to the emergency room. The bite didn’t hurt that bad but my hand wouldn’t stop bleeding. The doctor asks me what type of animal bit me. I told him it was a little dog. He then asks: Does he have rabies? I said I didn’t know. It was not my dog. The dog belonged to a neighbor. The doctor ask me didn’t I know I was not supposed to feed an unknown animals? Had I not heard that a man had gotten arrested at the zoo for feeding pigeons? I said no, I had not heard that. Why in the world would they put the man in jail for feeding pigeons? The doctor told me: He fed them to the lions. I started to cry when I saw the long needle the doctor held in his hand. His nurse said: See, you made her cry with that awful story you told her. I have one that will make you smile. A mother’s bachelor son invited her over for a meal. He had just gotten three new dogs and wanted his mom to see them. When she sat down at the table, she noticed that the dishes were the dirtiest that she had ever seen in her life. “Have these dishes ever been washed?’ she asked, running her fingers over the grit and grime. “They’re as clean as soap, detergent and water could get them,” he answered. She felt a bit apprehensive but started eating anyway. The food was really delicious, and she said so, despite the dirty dishes. When dinner was over, her son took the dishes, put them on the floor, whistled, and yelled, “Here Soap! Here Detergent! Here Water!
That made me laugh. I still felt a little squeamish about that needle. I asked the doctor when he was going to give me the tetanus shot. He told me he had already given it to me when he tried to tell me the lion joke. Then he gave me a (piece of candy) sucker.
The hospital sent the dog pound to pick up the little dog but Lemon hid him under his bed. Mr. Herman Pettaway found him and brought the dog to us. He said the man from the pound told him to carry the dog to the vet. If he didn’t they would have to cut the dog’s head off to do an autopsy to see if he had rabies. Mr. Pettaway said he could not afford to carry him to the vet. If we didn’t want to see the dog killed, we would have to take him. Daddy asks me if I wanted him. I said yes and I would teach him how to eat from my hand. Daddy told Mr. Pettaway we would keep him and that’s how I ended up with two dogs.
Mom said: Ok, we still haven’t figured out how to pay for the Vet. I told Daddy not to worry. I would pay out of my allowance. Peggy said: You don’t get an allowance. I looked at Dad and said: I guess I’ll have to start getting one now. I need to pay for this dog. Dad said: I guess you will. Peggy asked her parents: Can I get an allowance too? After that day all of the Chamber children who lived at home got an allowance. I ask Mom how long I would have to pay daddy back. She told me for the rest of my life.
We got the puppy ready for the veterinarian but we didn’t know his name or his age. We stopped at the Pettaway’s house. I held the puppy in my arms. Lemon came to the door. Dad asked if Herman was at home. Mr. Pettaway thought we were trying to bring the dog back. He ran in the bathroom and told Lemon to say, he wasn’t at home. Lemon came back looking stupid and said: Daddy said he‘s not at home. Daddy told Lemon to tell his Dad he was not at the door and he did not want to know the dog’s name or how old he was. Lemon ran back to tell his dad all that my dad told him. Being an impatient man, Dad said; “Let’s go!”
We went on to the Veterinarian Hospital. The nurse at the Veterinarian Hospital asked: What was the dog’s name? Daddy told her his name was dog. Ever since that day Lucky and Dog were my dogs.

Aunt Mable loses her dish rag
The next Sunday the Deacons at Still Waters Baptist Church ate at our house to celebrate Mark becoming the Chairman of the Deacon Board. Everybody said Mark was a real man. I looked at Mark. He didn’t look different to me. I just didn’t understand what all the excitement was about.
All of the women in the house cooked that Sunday. They almost cooked as much as they cooked for Thanksgiving. The deacons and their families were coming after church. Old man Rev. Hill and his wife were coming too. At that time, everybody had ice boxes. Most Colored Folk did not have refrigerators. Aunt Mable was in charge of preparing the glasses for ice tea. Aunt Ruby asked if she had taken out the ice pick to chop the ice up for the tea. Aunt Mable said all but one glass. She needed to wash it again because it didn’t look quite clean but she couldn’t find her dish rag. Brenda and Valencia started sniggering. Aunt Mable asked: What’s so funny? Valencia smiled and said: You are just getting old. Aunt Mable then asked: What’s so funny about getting old? The girls just elbow each other and Brenda said: Nothing! Momma told the girls to set the table. Take out our best tablecloths, go to the garden and pick fresh flowers, place them in flower vases and put them in the center of each table. Use our best china and silverware. Place the glasses in their proper place. Valencia asks Mom had she invited the queen of England to dinner. With Mom’s usual beam, she informed the girls, “don’t forget Walter is bringing home company.” With ice pick in hand, Aunt Mable opens the ice box door and finds her dish rag in the ice box. The girls and all the women let out a loud hoot. Aunt Mable swore she thought she left the dish rag in the sink. You thought like Handy, said Aunt Katherine. Valencia asked how did Handy think. Aunt Katherine said: Handy thought cow manure was Candy. Thereafter, the girls chuckled with every chore.
The deacons arrived with Daddy. Rev. and Mrs. Hill came also. Rev. Hill’s wife was a little hard to please. In addition the women invited Pastor Tibb’s wife and child. The food looked great but we children had to wait until all the guess had eaten. Mrs. Hill continually complained about everything. At first she was too hot. She asked Momma if she would turn the air-conditioning up because she was too hot. Then she asked that it be turned down because she was too cold. That continued during the entire dinner. Momma was extremely patient with the old woman. Momma continued walking back and forth and never once getting angry. Finally, Mrs. Tibb whispered: When you have your next dinner, I’m sure the Hills will not be invited. Momma calmly said: “Oh I don’t mind, we don’t even have an air-conditioner.”

The fifth graders were graduating and we went to their graduating ceremony. The graduation was held at the armory because the school’s auditorium was too small to accommodate the entire guess list. At that time, it was customary for the graduating class to leave a Will & Testimony to the fourth graders. Matthew, AKA, (Bay Brother) was willed the ability to talk without stuttering. Peggy was willed the ability to hold her temper with both adults and children. Personally, I thought the fifth graders were a bit out of bounds. I thought Peggy was perfect. The class marched out to God of Our Fathers. Their parents were so proud of them. Momma and Daddy said they were looking forward to the day Little Earl and I finished High School. I thought that meant they were going to be so proud of us. It only meant they would be happy to see us go. That was the end of grade two and good-bye to being seven. I figured being eight surely had to be better.

During the summer
The missionary society was in charge of the Mother’s Day Program. The missionary Ladies decided to have a play about a little bad girl. The President of the missionary board was going to give the part to Peggy until Peggy told her she was not going to learn that part. By default, I got the lead role. I turned out to be quite the little actress. My brother Sam said I was not acting. The role was made for me. He said playing the part of a good, obedient child would have been a stretch for me. He just said that because daddy was always getting on to him about something.
Every age has its positives and negatives. I suppose age seven was a little tossy turvey . I had great hopes for age eight. Parents, brothers and sisters just don’t understand.
To be continued


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