Uncle Albutt’s Tail

From my earliest memory, I thought Uncle Albert and Aunt Jewel were dull as mud.   All Uncle Albert ever said was “Don’t mess with that!” or “That’ll fall on you.” Normally, Aunt Jewell only coughed and told us to go play outside, but some reason I once spent an endless afternoon with her when she made a point to converse with me. I was impressed when she’d told me an acronym for spelling the word contents. “Coons ought not to eat nuts too soon.” Then she laughed, saying coons didn’t eat nuts, squirrels did. The joke was wasted on me, but I was surprised she had the wit to think anything was funny. I’d never heard her laugh before. Her incessant smoking made her rattly laugh sound like nails scratching on tin. She also told me that if you hit the bottom when you were falling in a dream, you’d die, as well, no matter how long a dream seemed to last, it only took one second to dream it.  I believed her for years, so I guess she wasn’t the dumbest one around.

That pretty much wrapped up my relationship with Aunt Jewel, except the time she fell out the back door. Uncle Albert offered her a cigarette. She cried saying, ” I want a smoke so bad but I’m too sore to cough.” That was the first time I’d seen an adult cry. I got a little older, I found out Uncle Albert and Aunt Jewel weren’t dull; they were just worn out.

Besides that, Uncle Albert had a fascinating physical attribute Daddy slipped up and mentioned one day, to his later regret. Uncle Albert had a tail! From that moment forward, my brother and I stalked him, probably the first nasty little, voyeuristic kids in the world to stalk a pitiful, worn-out old man. We kept hoping his butt-sprung old khakis would slide off his bony behind, giving us a glimpse of that tail. Eventually Daddy realized why we were pestering him and threatened us enough to put a stop to our tagging.  Why in the world did Daddy ever tell us Uncle Albert had a tail if we couldn’t ask questions or ask to see it? The next few times I saw him, I followed him around, hoping his pants would fall down. He was emaciated as only an eighty-five year-old life-long smoker can be. It seemed like a real possibility. For a while, every time I was saw him, I’d be following so closely, I’d run over him. Eventually, Daddy ran me off. I had to resort to peeking around corners. I never did get to see that tail, but suspected my brother had. Boys have all the fun.  We took to calling him Uncle Albutt when we were sure we wouldn’t be caught.

At any rate, once I got sly enough to ferret out family gossip, I found out Aunt Jewel had once been a very pretty, if not too virtuous, young girl. Apparently, Uncle Albert brought her to his house to visit one evening when his wife, Mary, was out. Mary, came home early and found them together in her bedroom. Not surprisingly, Mary was unhappy. When she tried to get in the bedroom with them, Uncle Albert slammed the door on her arm, breaking it. He and Aunt Jewel became a couple after that.

It’s not surprising he preferred her to the unreasonable Mary. She was a very understanding woman. She told Albert’s sister, my grandma, “Albert has to have a woman! Fortunately, her three sisters and mother were all friendly women, of questionable virtue, willing to accommodate Albert’s needs when she wasn’t well. Uncle Albert and Aunt Jewel lived together over thirty years, becoming very devoted members of their local church the last ten years or so. They gave very good advice once they got too old to set a bad example.  For the remaining years I knew her, I studied this dumpy, gray-haired, old lady who coughed every breath, wondering how he could have possibly have chosen her over anybody else. She whined, stared off in the distance, and never had anything interesting to say. Her only vaguely entertaining attribute was that she’d strung Crackerjack prizes together on a leather strip which she twice allowed me to play with as long as I sat on the floor in front of her, though she was oblivious to all my hints that I really needed that string of prizes.

Uncle Albert kept all his stuff organized and in perfect repair. Daddy’s barn was a disorganized mess. He tossed things wherever he got through with them. Uncle Albert walked around, examining items and commenting. “This is a good old singletree. It just needs a new chain.” “This is a good rasp. It just needs to be cleaned up.” “This is a good axe-head. It just needs to be sharpened and have a new handle put in.” Before too long, Daddy came striding up, delighted to see his uncle. He was smiling broadly and thrust out his hand.
Uncle Albert looked at straight at him and pronounced, “Bill, you need to get the junk man out here and get all this #^%$ hauled off.”

Though Uncle Albert was dull, his farm wasn’t.  Miles off a paved road, their log cabin had no power or running water.  It was heated with a huge fireplace, whose brick hearth extended far out into the sitting room.  The brick stayed warm for hours after the fire was banked.  My brother and I used to lie on it and nod off while the grown folks visited way into the night.  The couple’s bed sat in a corner of the front room. No one would have dared to sit on it.  A small table with a coal oil lamp and a couple of straight chairs filled one corner.  A couple of wooden rockers completed the furnishings. Because the cabin was unsealed, newspapers and magazine pages were tacked up to seal the room and served as wallpaper.  I loved studying the pictures, exhibited at all angles.

They got their water from a well and used an outdoor toilet.  Uncle Albert’s farm was immaculate, fence rows clean and outbuildings neatly maintained.  He incorporated all kinds of found items into his pens and fencing, such as large metal signs and saplings he just gleaned.  His vast barn was far nicer than his house, divided into many rooms and stalls.  We were free to play as long as we left his equipment alone, didn’t tear up his hay, and closed gates behind us.  It was more fun than Disneyland. I loved it when he hitched up his gentle old mules to plow or pull a load of wood or hay.  They seemed huge, but allowed us to pet them, as long as we didn’t mess with Charley Mule’s mustache.  That irritated him and he’d bite.  The cows rushed out to meet us when they saw the wagon-load of hay coming.

Despite the fact that I considered them inadequate company, I always enjoyed visiting their farm.


Peanut Butter Cruelty

I finally remembered to buy Blackburn’s Syrup.  Bud’s favorite was Johnny Fair, but I haven’t seen that in a long time.  That evening, I smelled toast and heard Bud rummaging around in the kitchen and digging in the pantry.  I didn’t offer to help, since he can usually manage a snack on his own.

In just a minute, he came bursting in to accuse me.  “You ate all the peanut butter!  You bought syrup when you ate all the peanut butter!  That’s cruel!  Just cruel!  You know I love peanut butter and syrup on toast and you finally bought syrup and there’s no peanut butter.  That’s just cruel!”

He abandoned his toast syrup and slumped forlorn in his chair as I tried not to laugh.  I bought peanut butter today.

Old Man Hillen

“Are you gonna pay for that gum?”

Phyllis and I turned to see Billy’s cheek bulging. His eyes got big and a stream of purple drool ran out of the corner of his mouth. The three of us stood horrified before Old Man Hillen, the proprietor of the Variety Store. It was obvious the sour old geezer took no prisoners where pilfering children were concerned.

“Spit it out.” Phyllis demanded, her face as hard as the old man’s. She hurriedly paid for our purchases as Billy and I beat her out the door. We knew there would be Hell to pay. Phyllis aligned herself with our parents and could be depended upon to report any infraction. This one was huge.

The situation was made more ominous since our business in the first place was the purchase of Mother’s birthday gift. The three of us had walked to the Variety Store after school. Mother was to pick us up. The wait seemed endless, knowing the catastrophe that was brewing.

“Billy Ray stole a piece of gum!” she exploded before she even got the car door shut. “Mr. Hillen made me pay for it!”

Mother was appalled. “Oh no. I hope you’re ashamed of yourself. I’m gonna have to tell your daddy about this.” A pall hung over us, dreading what was to come.

Justice was swift and sure. Daddy was enraged as he railed at Billy, before strapping him with his belt, then pausing before giving him a few more. Worse yet was the pronouncement that they’d be going back tomorrow for Billy to apologize and make it right. It was a terrible night at our house. No one escaped Daddy’s black mood.

Daddy was waiting for Billy when the bus ran, always dependable when punishment was due. He led the small boy into the Variety Store and announced to Mr. Hillen, “My son has something to say to you.”

Humiliated, Billy managed to stammer an apology.

Rather than accepting Billy’s apology, the hateful old man launched into a tirade against thieving kids and the way sorry parents were raising them. Daddy was infuriated and told him they’d made it right and he wasn’t listening to anymore of his mouth. They left. We never went back in that store.

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – Mixed Nuts Part 1 by Linda Bethea

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

I am so pleased that Linda Bethea is going to share some of her heartwarming and entertaining posts from her archives over the coming weeks. Linda’s family stories always has me in fits of laughter or shedding a tear. I hope you will also head over and buy the books that Linda has published.

Mixed Nuts Part 1 by Linda Bethea


When you are dealing with family, it clarifies things to have a scale. You don’t have to waste time analyzing people when you have a ready reference. This one works pretty well for my family.

1. Has a monogrammed straight jacket and standing reservation on mental ward.

2.Family is likely to move away without leaving forwarding address. Has jail time in the past or the future

3.People say, “Oh, crap. Here comes Johnny.”

4.Person can go either way. Gets by on a good day. Never has been arrested. Can…

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Our first photo together.  I am the chubby baby in the front row.  Bud is behind me to my left.

Bud and I celebrate our forty-eighth anniversary today.  We met days after my birth when his mother came to help out after my birth.  Two and a half years old and more experienced, he wisely waited for me to grow up a little before showing interest in me.  I was pre-occupied with the business of being a baby and had no time for him, possibly leading him to think I was playing hard to get.  From time to time, we’d be thrown together over the years, at holidays, school events, community, church, and family visits.  He was pleasant to me.  I liked him, but had no idea he held a special interest in me.  The summer I was seventeen, he’d gotten a car and starting calling regularly.  My sister Phyllis thought he liked her, so I made a point of getting out of their way when he came to visit.  All socializing was done in the living room in the midst of a large boisterous family with the TV at full blast, so there was no question of privacy.  We could take a guest to the snack bar in the dining room if we wanted, but we were still in the middle of things.  Coincidentally, my fourteen-year-old brother, Bill, really admired and enjoyed Bud, too, so he thought he was there to see him.

Bud was had broken his foot and bashed his thumb in separate accidents in his summer mechanic job, so he was a comical site hobbling on crutches with casts on his foot and hand.  He was good-matured about all the teasing, so I knew he had to be a good guy.

After a week or so of nightly visits to Phyllis and Bill, I was surprised to get a call from Bud, asking me out.  I probably stammered a bit, since I thought he was interested in Phyllis.  I accepted, and that was it.  We were married two years later.  Forty-eight years and two children later, August 22, 2018, we celebrate our  anniversary together.  We’ve had the best life anyone could ever have.

Crows in the Corn


We tangled with the crows last summer and came way out on the losing end. They patiently watched us plow, measure, make rows, and plant, showing special interest in the seeds we’d chosen. From their keen attention, we could see they were partial to sweet corn. They practically drooled when it came out of the bag.

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Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Update – Music, Cookery, Travel, Health and Books

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Welcome to the weekly round up and a catch up on the week’s events here on the blog.

Most of you will know that as of August 1st – our Facebook profiles are not longer linked automatically. In itself it is not a problem because it offers an opportunity to personalise the post when sharing to FB. However, many of my posts, including the columns that are written by William Price King, Carol Taylor, D.G. Kaye and Jessica Norrie, are scheduled to go out at just after midnight. Around 65% of my readers are from North America and they are usually checking the WordPress reader, and also their email notifications during those overnight hours. With the loss of the link to Facebook where I have a substantial amount of followers, this meant that the post would not be seen until the following night, and would most likely be long…

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Joke of the Day


A small balding man storms into a local bar and demands, “Gimme a double of the strongest whiskey you got. I’m so mad, I can’t even see straight.” The bartender, noticing that the little man is a bit the worse for wear, pours him a double of Southern Comfort. The man swills down the drink and says, “Gimme another one.” The bartender pours the drink, but says, “Now, before I give you this, why don’t you let off a little steam and tell me why you’re so upset?” So, the man begins his tale. “Well, I was sitting in the bar next door, when this gorgeous blonde slinks in and actually sits beside me at the bar. I thought, “Wow, this has never happened before.” You know, it was kind of a fantasy come true. Well, a couple of minutes later, the blonde leans over and asks if I’d like…

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Joe told  his doctor that he wasn’t able to get as much done around the house as he used to. When the examination was complete, he said: “Now, Doc, I can take it. Tell me in plain English what is wrong with me.”

“Well, in plain English,” the doctor replied, “you’re just lazy.”

“Okay,” said the man. “Now give me the medical term so I can tell the wife.”



What do you call a woman who works as hard as a man?





Why don’t men do laundry?

Cause the washer and dryer don’t run with a remote.