Quite often, our family and friends would gather for a late evening meal. While the kids ran wild in the dusk and on into the darkness, the women prepared a filling meal of beef stew or chili and cornbread. It would be near bedtime by the time they called us in, hysterical with chasing each other in and out of the darkness. Of course we’d been warned against running in the dark, but staying in range of the lights was for sissies. I’d be in a delicious frenzy of terror till I stepped back into the light, where all horrors vanished. They would be so many kids we’d be settled on the floor with our supper in a pie or cake pan. This was before budgets stretched to include paper plates. It was an honor to sit on the floor with the big kids. Babies and toddlers sat at the tables where their mamas could keep a grip on them. Two or three dinners were always dumped on the floor and there was squalling a’plenty as mamas cleaned up the mess and resettled the messy kids. The kids finished in short order and tore back outdoors while the adults took their turn at the
After the meal, it wasn’t unusual for the men to load up their guns, flashlights, thermoses of coffee, and the dogs for a night of hunting, leaving the women and children to visit. Mamas gave their kids a cursory wipedown with a washcloth before bed, since it wouldn’t have been possible to bathe that many children and settled them on pallets on the floor, sometimes as many as six to the bed. Mamas rocked the knee babies and lap babies to sleep before putting them on a bed flanked by pillows once the settling down started, the women started their stories. I loved these nights, especially if Mawmaw was there. She believed in ghosts and could make our blood run cold. Mother worried about nightmares, but lacked the courage to shush her mother-in-law, for which I was grateful. I NEEDED those stories. Mawmaw thrilled us with tales of babies buried alive, girls who died of broken hearts when their dead sweethearts appeared to them, and big black ghost dog, and ball lightning rolling through the house. The kids didn’t dare move off the pallet, they were so terrified. Fatigued by their play, finally they drifted off to sleep, one by one.
As the women talked, they thought they heard an intruder trying to get in the front door. Someone else scurried to check the back door, unsure if it was locked. . Had there been an intruder, he’d have had a horrible shock breaking in on half a dozen terrified women and a gaggle of children. Meanwhile Mother hurried to the door. Thinking she’d scare him away with a bluff, she called out. “I’ve got a gun. I’m gonna shoot through the door!”
Aunt Jewel stood right behind her. Obviously terrified, she shouted out. “Well, don’t just stand there! Go git your gun. You ain’t got no gun!” Fortunately, there was no intruder, or he thought he’d better not break in, since nothing happened.