The companionable thing about growing up in the fifties and sixties in the rural South was that everyone went to the same school, churches and knew everything about everyone. When the women got the kids off to school, beds made, dishes done, wash on the line, and the beans on to soak for supper, they might have a little time to visit a neighbor for coffee before heading home to get the baby down for a nap, finish their afternoon’s work and get supper on the table. I loved going to Miss Alice’s house. She didn’t have kids, so she always made a fuss over us. Instead of scampering off to play, we usually hung around long enough for her to offer us a snack. Sometimes it was left over biscuits with butter and jelly or best of all, teacakes. If I hadn’t been hanging around hoping for a teacake, I wouldn’t have heard about the scandal of Red Bagwell and his brother Floyd. They weren’t the sharpest guys around but got by okay on the little place where their parents raised them. Though they were in their forties, neither had ever married. I always looked forward to hearing Red talk. His consonants didn’t always work out. The way he explained it, “I can’t sound out my rells.” Daddy stopped by one day when Red and Floyd were working on a shed. Red put on a new door hinge and gestured to Floyd, “ Froyd, git me that rock.” Floyd looked around, found a good-sized rock, obligingly brought it over, and propped the shed door shut. Red gave it a kick and barked, “Not a rock!! A damned rock!” stomped over and picked up the lock where he’d laid it out on the ground. My ears perked up anytime someone mentioned Red and Floyd.
It seems Red had somehow snagged a wife. The three lived in the family home, Miss Ruby fitting in well with the two boys. She kept house, cooked, cleaned, slopped the hogs, and kept a nice garden. The three were getting along fine. She was a fine wife and a healthy-looking woman. Back then, healthy-looking meant she ate like a lumberjack and could wrestle a bear. As time went on, it seems she was fitting in far too well with both the boys. One day Red road in to town with Joe Jones to sell a load of turnips, but Floyd felt like he needed to stay home and work on the new hog pen. When Red and Joe got home, ready for coffee, the doors were locked. Red knew Ruby and Floyd were both home, because the wash was still on the line, the old truck was there and Floyd’s old dog was under the porch. Floyd never went anywhere without Ol’ Blue. Red beat on the front door. No answer. He checked the back door. No answer. He came back and hammered on the front door again. Miss Ruby yelled out. “Git on out of here and quit bangin’ on that door! Floyd’s tryin’ to take a nap.” Bewildered, Red squatted outside the front door, muttering to Joe, “umpin ‘oin on in ‘ere.” Eventually, Floyd finished his “nap,” ambled on out to do chores. The three did not have a cozy night. Something like this might have broken up the relationship between most brothers, but Ruby saved the day. When the feuding brothers got up the next morning, Ruby had eloped with Ol’ Blue and the truck. As the brothers commiserated over the betrayal and bonded over their losses. It worked out.