Murdering Bum (from Kathleen’s Memoirs of The Great Depression)

Boy was Mama ever mad when I got home!  Rob Grissom, was sitting kicked back in front room reading when I walked in.  Lord only knows why Daddy tolerated him.  Mama just said he didn’t have the gumption to run him off.  As much as I hate to admit it, she was probably right.  Daddy was a soft touch.  Rob just showed up once in a while and hung around a day or two.  During the depression, there just weren’t jobs, so sometimes men drifted through the country asking to do a little work for a meal. Unlike them, Rob never offered to do anything except put his feet under the table.  Rob was young and perfectly capable of chopping firewood, helping fix a roof, or working in the garden but he was just hard-down sorry.  When we all went off to school or out to work, he chose a prime spot and stretched out his stiff leg, making himself comfortable, reading kicked back in a straight chair in front of the fire or in the shade on the porch.  Should we be stuck in the house on a cold day, he snarled and hissed at us if we  crowded him in his prime spot next to the stove or let in a draft bringing in wood or water.  Annie, John, and I often fantasized about kicking the legs of the chair out from under him.

One cold day, Mama uncharacteristically left the three of us kids alone in the room with Rob kicked back prominently in front of the fire with one our books.  It was infuriating to see him hogging our treasure in the best spot in the room.  I know Mama had to be in and out, since she was extremely protective and would never have exposed us to any harm.  Annie and John held a whispered conference off to the side, summoning me.  I was delighted to be included in any plan.  John chased me around the front room, ostensibly trying to sprinkle me with sand from a matchbox punched full of holes,  filled with a concoction of sand and pepper.  For once, John didn’t try to trick me as I danced around kicking up a ruckus a few inches ahead of him, sprinkling peppered sand well behind me.  Annie was behind us, full of apparent, bossy, big sister self-righteousness, chewing us out good for messing up the floor she’d just swept.  We fled, giggling as she swept a dust and pepper fog onto Rob Grissom, making ever smaller circles around Rob’s chair as she tormented him. Sneezing furiously, he mumbled curses as he knocked his chair over trying to escape the peppery storm.

Rob left straightaway.  We all laughed over his quick departure, Mama included.  That little episode had an interesting sequel.  In his haste to leave, the despised Rob left his musty old jacket hanging on a chair back.  A battered letter could be seen sticking out of the pocket.  In a move totally unlike Mama, she pulled it out and examined it.  Addressed to Robert German, General Delivery, White House, Texas from Muskogee, Oklahoma, it was dated several months back.  Mama was a great respecter of privacy, but must have felt vindicated when she read it and exclaimed, “Oh, my Lord!  He could have killed us all in our sleep!” The letter read.

“Dear Son,

I’m sorry to have to tell you that man in the store died.  You better not be seen anywhere

around here..  Pa ain’t doing too well but you can’t come home.  Your brother is

Putting in our crop.  I hope to see you again before I die.  Maybe you can come home someday when things cool off around here.

Your loving Ma

We never saw Rob Grissom again!

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