We went places and saw people that normal people would never encounter, nor care to. Daddy had heard of somebody living back in the woods about four miles off Tobacco Road who had something he might be interested in buying. He had to check it out, driving forever down muddy roads petering out into nothing. Finally we got back to Mr. Tucker’s shack.
Mr. Tucker was wearing overalls and nothing else. While Daddy and Mr. Tucker disappeared into the tangle of weeds and mess of junk cars, tires, trash, old washing machines and other refuse behind their house, we sat miserably in the car, waiting with Mother. It was hot. Daddy was gone forever. It got hotter. Daddy was still gone. We opened the car doors, hoping to catch a breeze as it got hotter and hotter. The baby was squalling. Mrs. Tucker, a big woman in overalls came out in the front yard and started a fire under a big wash pot she was filling with water, never even looking our way, probably thinking our car was just another junk car in the yard. As interesting as she looked and acted, I figured out pretty quickly she was “not right.” (As opposed to the geniuses I was bumbling around Tobacco Road with) It got even hotter. Watching her draw all those buckets of water from the well was torment. We were begging for a drink of water. Daddy was still out adventuring with Mr. Tucker, unconcerned about the fact that his family was suffocating in the hot car.
Finally, in desperation, Mother got out of the car, introduced herself to Mrs. Tucker, and asked if the kids could have a drink of water. Mrs, Tucker turned, went into the house, came back out with some snuff glasses, called us over to the well, drew a bucket of water, and let us drink till we were satisfied. That was the best water I ever had. Mrs. Tucker pulled a couple of chairs under a shade tree for Mother to sit down. The kids all sat down in the dirt in the cool of the shade and starting playing. Daddy was still gone but things looked a lot better after we got cool and had a drink.
Mrs. Tucker was interesting to look at with a couple of teeth missing, greasy red hair chopped off straight around, and long scratches down both arms. Mother tried to talk to her, but Mrs. Tucker didn’t have a lot to say. I couldn’t take my eyes off the missing teeth and long scratches down her arm. I started talking to her. She didn’t have any kids. I wanted to ask about what happened to her teeth, but knew that would get me in trouble, so I asked how she scratched her arms. Mother told me to hush, but fortunately, Mrs. Tucker explained. “I wuz gonna scald a big ol’ rooster in a pot ‘a boiling a’fore plucking ‘im but he kept a’scratching me and a’gittin away a’fore I could get the pot lid on.”
Mother asked, “You didn’t kill him before trying to put him in the pot?”
“Naw, I wuz jist a tryin to slam the lid on a’fore he got out!” Just at the point where things were getting interesting, Daddy came back and I didn’t get to hear the rest of the story.
Mrs. Tucker gave us a turkey that day, teaching me a valuable lesson. Don’t ever accept the gift of a turkey.
Old Tom Tucker Turkey, named for his friends, the Tuckers, was to be the guest of honor at our Thanksgiving Dinner. Daddy put him in the chicken yard and Tom Tucker took over, whipping the roosters, terrorizing the hens, and jumping on any kid sent to feed him and the chickens. Deprived of the companionship of his turkey harem back at the Tuckers, and universally hated by our poultry, his hormones kicked into overdrive. He lusted after our goats, pigs, and even the horse. We hated him. Mother had to take a stick to threaten him off when she went out to the chicken yard. He even flew over the fence to get us in our territory from time to time.
Before too long, we saw the mean Alston kids headed for the chicken yard. They’d heard about old Tom Tucker. Mother couldn’t wait to see Tom Tucker chase them. Sure enough, Old Devil Tom jumped out from behind a shed on jumped on the biggest boy, Jamey. He yelped and ran. The other boys were right behind him, swatting at the turkey. Unlike us, they didn’t run out with their tails tucked between their legs. They launched an all-out attack on Tom Tucker, beating him with their jackets, sticks, and whatever they could grab. They chased him until they tired of the game.
In his evil, lusty condition, Tom Tucker proved to be too much for polite society. He never made it till Thanksgiving. We served him up long before Dog Days were over. I was truly thankful!