Baby Blues

We were a good couple.  Long before we got married, we agreed completely on important things…foreign policy, religion, life plans.  Then we got married.  Life was idyllic.  We were both in college, working student jobs.  Bud had saved over $500 and student loans covered my tuition. Continue reading

Farm Life: Gotta Have Guts

Daddy loved home remedies and dosed us and the livestock readily.   Mother ran interference on cow chip tea and coal oil and sugar, but did let him load us with sulphur and molasses for summer sores. We never got summer sores, probably because we reeked so badly we were rejected by mosquitoes. I do appreciate Mother for putting her foot down when his more toxic ideas. No telling what kind of chromosome damage she saved the gene pool.

The livestock weren’t so lucky. They got coal oil for pneumonia, distemper, to bring on labor, and as a tonic, should they be so foolish as to look puny. Daddy hung ropes with black oil soaked bags for cows and horses to rub against as protection against insects, which they gladly did. When an unfortunate cow bloated from green hay, he inserted an icepick in her distended belly to release gas. She ceased her moaning and resumed cow business as usual, grateful for the relief.

Farm kids grow up with a lot of responsibility. In addition to our daily chores, Daddy left us other jobs to do before he got home from work and started on his farm day, expecting us to figure things out without explanation, not always the best plan. When my brother Billy was around eleven, Daddy remarked that the old hound dog nursing eight puppies was off her food. He told Billy to pour some syrup over her feed(country for dog food) so she would eat better. Bill got a jug of syrup and headed out the back door. After a while, he came back in, smeared in dog poop, shirt torn, scratched and bitten from head to foot. “Boy, what in the world happened to you?” Daddy asked, incredulous at the sight.

“Oh, I was putting syrup on that old dog’s feet and she tore me up. She dragged me through the dog yard fence and all over the dog yard, but I did finally get syrup on all four  feet.”

As I said, Daddy frequently set us to tasks with inadequate instructions. On one occasion a sick duck foolishly allowed Daddy to spot him. The specific instructions to my brother were, “Go out there and get that green-headed duck staggering around out back, and knock her in the head. No wait, first pour a couple of drops of kerosene down her throat.” Billy picked up the kerosene and was gone a few minutes. When he returned in a few minutes, my dad inquired, “How’s the duck?”  He was obviously surprised Daddy would even ask, knowing he’d sent him out to knock it in the head.  Daddy didn’t mean to tell us to do anything twice.

Bill replied, “It’s dead.”

Daddy said, “You didn’t give it the kerosene?”

“Sure I did,”said Bill, “and then I knocked it in the head, just like you told me to.” Even Daddy had to admit, clearer instructions would have been better.

We butchered a beef late one Saturday evening after Daddy got home from work, finishing really late. Our place was the last house next door to a huge nature preserve. To Daddy, this meant, “not private property,” a perfect place to dump off guts.  He told my brother to load the mess into the ancient farm truck and dump it near Peter Spring Branch, a couple of miles back in the woods. (Yes, Billy was underage for driving but did drive the farm truck on the farm and in the woods. It was the sixties in the South.) It was way too late to haul it off that night.  Then Daddy remembered the truck was broken down(as it often was) and left the nasty mess in a tarpaulin-covered wheelbarrow tellng Billy to dump it first thing in the morning, not amending his earlier instructions, assuming Billy would understand he didn’t expect him to push a barrow of guts a couple of miles. Wrong!!

We got up early the next morning. Billy and the wheelbarrow of guts were gone. An hour passed…no Billy. My mother was furious when he was gone past time to get ready to church. She was trying to raise us right. We went on without him, much to my envy.  Still not home when we got home after noon, Mother knew something was obviously wrong.  He would never have voluntarily missed Sunday dinner. Mother was really worried now.

Finally, after two o’clock he came into view pushing the empty wheelbarrow, circled by flies and trailed by all the hounds in the country covered in congealed blood, guts, mud, and vomit. He had wheeled the guts the entire two miles over muddy roads, through deep ditches, and rough terrain, pestered by flies and dogs to the original site Daddy indicated. The trail was so rough and muddy, his load dumped several times, making a horrible job even worse. He didn’t dare not follow his orders, so he scoopd the stinking guts up every time they dumped, fighting dogs and flies for possession of the prize, vomiting as he wrestled them back in the barrow.

He was sick the rest of the day, not even able to eat Sunday dinner. If he did fake misunderstanding as I suspected, just to miss church, he was welcome to all the gut-hauling he wanted.

Good Old Sue

Trouble had its own plan and always lurked in the shadows waiting to jump me.  The simplest thing could go wrong.  There was just no way to anticipate what was down the road.  Billy and Troy were out of pocket when Uncle Parnell was ready to leave.  Daddy sent me and Sue to look for them.  Jamey and Froggy told us they had seen them close to the railroad track.  Daddy had told us many times not to let him catch us on the railroad track.  We played close to it all the time, but out of consideration to him, were very careful not to let him catch us.  Jamey and Froggy went along to help us.  Near the railroad, we found Billy’s sling shot.  I knew he would never have abandoned it.  This was serious!!!!   Froggy slipped under the fence and scrambled up into one of the railcars, pulling Jamey up after him.  We heard them exclaiming, “Golleeeee…would you look at this! Continue reading

“Spontaneous Combustion” or “Because I Love You”

Pop..pop..pop..pop..pop..pop..pop…the percussion of Daddy’s belt flying out of his belt loops would have brought me out of a coma. Of his various approaches to discipline, “Spontaneous Combustion” was my specialty and the one I experienced most, being both clumsy and a smart mouth. Things could be rocking along just fine till someone – usually me – broke a dish, made a smart remark, or embarrassed Daddy.   Though I never set out to be “smart-alecky”, I could always count on my big mouth.  What I thought was funny, didn’t always amuse him. I carefully memorized jokes, even if they were way over my head, to tell at just the right moment. My judgment of the right moment was poor, such as when we had the preacher’s family over to Sunday dinner and I told loudly a joke I’d overheard on the school bus.  Continue reading

Ruth Elaine and the Exploding Baby

The first-grade class prayed for reprieve as Luther Simpson stumbled through a page of Jane and Fluff the Kitten while the second-graders dawdled over their sums across the aisle in our shared classroom.

Little Ruth Elaine Lawson, a girl I’d had always thought dull, dropped her head to her desk and snuffled quietly, before bursting into great, heart-wrenching, snotty sobs. Startled at this display in Continue reading

Things Mothers Do

aI miss all the things my mother used to do for me. Even though she had to get up to a freezing house at five-thirty in winter to do it, she always had a hot breakfast on the table when we got up, usually hot biscuits, eggs, fresh milk, home-made jam or preserves, and either grits or oatmeal.  Like most kids, I didn’t want it, but she insisted.  “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!”  After the whirlwind of getting the older kids on the bus, she’d wash, iron, clean, sew, tend the garden, and when she finished her own pleasant tasks, do whatever extra things Daddy had to help her pass the time, all between taking care of however many of the children might be babies or toddlers. Continue reading

Squeaky crapped my pants! Smarty Kitty update

Squeaky crapped my pants! Really! Just in case you didn’t read my earlier post.  I bought “Smarty Kitty” off an infomercial when I was seduced by the idea of a cat using toilet, instead of the cat box.  Never mind that Squeaky had been happily using his cat box without fail for the entire five years since we adopted him.   Now, he won’t go near it, leaving surprises in the bathtub, on towels, on rugs, in my sewing basket……..I am frustrated by the mess and feel guilty for confusing him.  I’ve considered euthanasia, for me, not him, but that seems unethical since I took him out of a shelter and promised him a good home. Continue reading

Mixed Nuts

 

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 us.

  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. Can go either way.  Gets by on a good day.  Never has been arrested.  Can be  lots of fun or a real mess. Relatives usually will invite in for coffee.  Likely to have hormone-induced behavior.
  5. Regular guy. Holds down a job.  Mostly takes care of business.  Probably not a serial marry-er.  Attends  church when he has to.
  6. Good fellow. Almost everybody likes him or her. Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity.  Manages money well enough to retire early.
  7. High achiever.  Business is in order.  Serves on city council.
  8. Looks too good to be true. What’s really going on?
  9. Over-achiever. Affairs are in order.  Solid citizen.  Dull, dull, dull.  Could end up as a 1

Instead of saying, “Uncle Henry’s a pretty good guy, but sometimes he goes off the deep end, you could say, ‘He’s a usually about a 6 but he was a little 4-ish after Aunt Lou took his new truck and ran off with his brother’.” Or… Continue reading

Clothilde

I was almost named Clothilde. (KLO-TEEL.  Wouldn’t have taken mean kids long to rename Kotex) So were my three sisters. No matter what heinous deed my mother may have committed or may commit in the future, I forgive her because she stuck up for me when it really mattered. Daddy was raised in North Louisiana during the deepest of the Depression, one of seven children always on the brink of starvation. His father either rented a farm or sharecropped when he couldn’t manage rent. Daddy didn’t speak often about his family’s situation, but occasionally slipped up and revealed the difficulties they suffered. They were a troubled family, economically and socially and moved frequently. Continue reading