Cartoon copied from Farside.
Aunt Ella, Uncle Johnny, and their brood lived on Aunt Ader’s Place for a while. Aunt Ella was of a volatile temperament, so from time to time, Uncle Johnny moved out and Mawmaw moved in to help Aunt Ella with the difficulties of raising six kids with no money. No doubt, Aunt Ader’s Place was a viable option due to size and economy. It must be hard to rent a house with no indoor plumbing. Within a month or so, Uncle Johnny was always back, so we never really had time to wonder what had happened. Of course, we often came upon the women in conversations that abruptly ended when kids came in the room, but I never heard any good gossipy details.
Daddy never paid much attention to getting little kids home in time for bedtime, so one Saturday evening, my family lingered long past bedtime. My parents went home to tend to things, planning to be back on Sunday afternoon. Billy and I were surprised to wake sleeping on a pallet on the floor with a bunch of cousins. This was no problem for me, since staying over with cousins was always on the top of my list. After a breakfast of sugary-cereal (which we never got at home) Aunt Ella shooed us all out to play.
The horde of cousins availed itself of the opportunity to descend on the pear trees in the orchard behind the house, gorging on green pears. I am sure we ruined most of the crop, climbing into the trees to get at the immature pears, breaking branches and knocking the rest to the ground. Those pears, preserved for the winter, would have been a resource Aunt Ella had been counting on. She was understandably overwrought as she chased us from the orchard with a switch, even connecting with a slow child from time to time.
I remember her shrieking at us as we headed for the woods. “And if y’all get the squirts, I’m gonna beat your asses again.” I thoroughly understood “ass-beating” but had never heard the term “squirts.” In a couple of hours, I needed no explanation. With about half a dozen kids on the run, determined to keep their squirts a secret, there weren’t a lot of trips to the outhouse. The woods had to serve as protection from Aunt Ella’s wrath, as well as nature’s repository. Propitiously for us, Aunt Ella’s fury abated by the time our parents arrived and she didn’t even tell on us. Since then, I have wondered whether she forgot her threat to beat us, or if good sense prevailed and she saw the folly of beating the asses of kids with the squirts. Either way, I won.