Mother was a cruel beast of a woman who rarely allowed us out of our own yard. I felt so deprived when free-range children passed our house in pursuit of adventure. Sometimes we were able to tempt them in with our tire swing, zip line, or huge barn, but invariably greener pastures called and we were left morosely watching them amble off to Donnie’s or Joey’s house. Sadly, we’d pine as the motley crew and their retinue of dogs disappeared down the dusty road. It wasn’t that we didn’t have wondrous opportunities on our own place;t we just hated being left behind.
Once we accepted our sad abandonment, we didn’t waste time whining to Mother that “We don’t have anything to do.” I only made that mistake once and Mother set me to hanging out diapers, dusting, and washing woodwork. In fact, she was mean enough to assign jobs to break up fights. It’s terrible growing up with a mother who turns human nature against innocent children.
At any rate, a family neighboring us raised their fortunate children with a complete lack of supervision. Those kids roamed long after dark, before daylight, dropped in for meals all over the neighborhood, drank out of from the neighbor’s faucets, rode the neighbor’s cows, and generally led a charmed life. Though their name was Offut, I misunderstood it as Awful. In her frequent dealings with these children Mother reached the conclusion Awful was an excellent name. She was particularly offended when we came home from town and found them in the house making Kool-aid. The Awful’s had little understanding of private property and had often had Kool-aid with us, so of course they felt free to help themselves, even if Mother had been careless enough not to leave it in the refrigerator. Her attitude baffled our uninvited guests. I think the syrupy floor and Jerry’s standing on the counter helping himself to a pack of Daddy’s cigarettes off the top shelf also ruffled her feathers, but she was the crabby type, after all. The loss of cigarettes were of particular concern. A carton cost two dollars and eighty cents, a significant portion of her fifteen dollar grocery budget. At any rate, she took an unreasonable stance and forbade them to enter the house again when we were gone. I don’t think they found it particularly disturbing since a couple more packs of cigarettes went missing before Daddy found a better hiding place for his stash.