Mama came over Tuesday bringing quinine, usually used for malaria. “I am worried about you taking these, but you’re in a hard spot. The druggist told me a pregnant woman of your size ought not to take more than this or it might poison you. You gotta drink plenty of water to flush this quinine out or your kidneys will quit. I sure hate to see you take this, but if you do, I’m stayin’ a few days to take keer a’ you. I thought I was gonna die when I took it, but it did git me out of a bad fix.”
Neeley took the quinine with a big glass of water. In a few minutes, she drank some more. In a couple of hours, the vomiting started. Mama kept her drinking as fast as fast as it came up. Eddie was worried when he came in and found Neeley sick, never having seen her give up to anything. He and Mama kept watch through the night. In the morning, Neeley miscarried. “I was afeared she might be that away, but she never said nothin’. He told Mama. “I hope she ain’t gonna be too hurt over losin’ this baby.”
“She will grieve but a woman knows some babies just ain’t meant to be. Neeley is a strong woman.” Mama tried to comfort Eddie. “I lost a couple, myself.”
Neeley’s urine turned brown and she ran a fever. She was barely conscious and they had to force her to drink water. After about three days, her urine turned yellow and she came back to herself. “I didn’t know what I’d do if I’d a’lost you, Neeley girl.”
“I’m gonna be alright, Eddie. I ain’t gonna leave you and my younguns,” she assured him.
The next few months were a golden period. Eddie’s health was better. The weather was good and the kids were able to get to school more often than not. They got their spring planting done and some new ground cleared. They made enough on their cotton for next year’s rent, seed, paid their grocery bill off, and had a bit to tuck in the mattress. Late in October, Neeley realized she was pregnant again. This baby would be born in late July. She’d have a few weeks to recover before harvest. The boys were old enough to be a good bit of help by now. Neeley wouldn’t be needed so much with Eddie in good health. They looked forward to this baby. Their youngest would be three by the time the little one came. Neeley, especially, looked forward to this little one, still regretting ending her last pregnancy.
Neeley suspected Eddie might not ever hold up to the hard work of farming after his accident. It would be a hard row to hoe for a woman and a sick man to farm, but she was determined they would hang on to their rental farm at all costs. She couldn’t expect her brothers to shoulder responsibility for her family. Albert had recently married and had a baby on the way. His eighty acres was working him hard. Willie had to make good on the place his father-in-law had made for him. It wouldn’t do to take time off from his responsibilities there. She did not intend for either of her brothers to have family trouble because of her problems.
Despite their financial situation, Neeley squeezed back enough money for the children’s candy, oranges, and Brazil nuts at Christmas, reasoning their disappointment would last a lifetime, and the little money saved wouldn’t make a long-term difference. Mama Cassie had them over for Christmas dinner. She’d killed a hen and they feared on chicken and dressing and dumplings. There was sweet potato pie, green beans, roasted potatoes, and cabbage. They all ate till they fairly popped. It brought tears to Neeley’s eyes when Mama produced a peppermint stick for each child. Neeley knew it must have been hard to come up with the money. She still had a girl and twin teen-age boys at home. Her husband, John Miller could be a hard man. Neeley hoped she wouldn’t suffer for her generosity, though today, he was very cordial.
After Christmas dinner, the men headed to the barn and the kids ran off to play. Neeley and Mama sat at the table over coffee and Neeley confided. “Mama, I ain’t told Eddie yet but I’m “that way” again. I cain’t have a baby now. Eddie ain’t doin’ right and we cain’t hardly feed the five we got. I got to be able to help Eddie git the plantin’ and harvestin’ done. This one’s due in late April, the worst time. If it would’a just waited till next fall it would’a been okay. What in the world am I gonna do? Seems like the harder I work the more we fall behind.”
A tear slid down Mama’s face as she took Neeley’s hand. “I ain’t always done right by you, but I hate to see you suffer so. One time I was in a fix like you. I don’t know if you remember when I run off from Willie and Albert’s daddy. You was with me an’ I had to send you back to Ma. Cox had done come in drunk and beat me half to death. He didn’t know I was “thataway,” so I slipped the little fellers off to their Granny Cox and went to stay with my cousin Lurleen. She got me some quinine and it got rid of the baby. I shore hated to do it, but I couldn’t take keer o’the ones I had, much less another one. I reckon I can git you some quinine, if you want, but I tell you this. I better come stay a few days. You gonna be so sick you’ll think you’re gonna die. If you want to do that, I’ll need to come take care of you and the younguns a few days.”
Neeley thought a mnute or two, then said. “Well come on over this next week. I guess I better get it done.”
Image pulled from the internet
Eddie made a good crop that year. Neeley canned and dried all her garden produced. The children cheeks filled out with the good food and all the milk they wanted. Once the crop was put by that fall, Neeley’s brothers Albert and Willie, and Eddie’s cousins came over to help with the well-digging. They’d dug down about twenty feet and were just starting to see water seep in, when Eddie broke his shovel handle and called out for a replacement. As one of the men was lowering it, he lost control and dropped it, hitting Eddie in the head. They dragged Eddie out of the well unconscious and hauled him ten miles to town in the back of a wagon. He was transferred to Charity Hospital forty miles away by ambulance. He awoke after a couple of days later, to their great relief, though he was never quite the same. He suffered from debilitating headaches and frequent seizures that left him confused. Worst of all, he raged and had little impulse control. He would have beaten the children if Neeley hadn’t gotten between him and them. Fortunately, she was larger than Eddie and able to control him.
Despite his problems, he was determined to take care of his family. He’d work till a headache or seizure disabled him, then go to bed and get up and try again the next day. Neeley’s brothers helped him get his crops in the next spring, hoping he’d rally with time. Neeley and the children worked beside him, the baby toddling right along behind. When it came time to pick the cotton, they all picked with the baby either riding along on their cotton sacks or playing between the rows. Despite their best efforts, they barely made enough to pay the rent for the next year. They’d be able to eat what Neeley canned or dried from the garden, but there was only enough money for shoes for the the oldest kids, the ones in school. The others were resoled, reheeled, and passed down. Neeley always bought brown lace-up oxfords, so they could be worn by boys and girls. They had fattened six shoats to put in the smokehouse, but decided they’d best sell three for supplies and next spring’s seed.
It would be a hard winter, but they’d squeak by. Neeley was exhausted from picking up Eddie’s extra load as well as keeping up her own work. She was relieved to anticipate things easing up till she started throwing up in the mornings and realized she hadn’t had a visit from “her friend” in a couple of months.
Is Michael Jackson a hermaphrodite?”
“Oh no. He’s a Jehovah’s Witness!”