Starry Night (from Kathleen’s Memoir of The Great Depression Part 1)

imageLike most of the people we knew, we didn’t have an car, so we never went anywhere at night we couldn’t walk, except for once.  Mama got the news that there was to be a brush arbor revival in Cuthand, hosting a guest evangelist!  To my everlasting amazement, we were going!  We put quilts in the back of the wagon, since we’d be getting home long after dark.  We hopped up in the wagon dressed in our best, headed for the revival, in a holiday spirit long before dark.  I had no idea what a revival was, but couldn’t have been more excited than a kid headed for the fair!

We pulled up to find dozens of wagons parked next to a brush-arbor in a clearing, a simple roof of branches on a make-do support sheltering rough benches. Though it was summer, a few small fires were smoldering, their smoke intended to discourage mosquitoes.  Before long, the song leader got us fired up with a rousing rendition of “Onward Christian Soldiers.”  The singing was wonderful, but eventually gave way to the Hell-fire and brimstone sermon, something that didn’t thrill me nearly so much.

It was late by the time the preacher concluded the altar call, releasing us.  After visiting a bit with our neighbors, we headed for home, long after the time I was usually in bed.  I lay in the back of the wagon with Annie and John on the quilts, looking at the magical night sky.  Travelling under its full moon and sparkling stars was a gift.  A slight breeze cooled us, keeping the mosquitoes at bay.  As the horse clomped along, Mama and Daddy told stories and talked amiably.  With all those I loved around me, I never wanted this night to end.

to be continued

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Just Desserts

Bean Pie0001Billy was a good eater. He was over six feet tall by the time he was twelve, worked hard every day and was always hungry. Since Daddy had known real hunger growing up during the depression, he encouraged him to “eat well.” Billy liked to drink his milk from a quart jar to cut down on troublesome refills, and he would hurt a kid over a piece of leftover fried Continue reading

Cast No Stones

Rock throwing Mama (1)I loved stories about my Grandma Lizzie and the brothers who flanked her on either side, Clarence and Ed. They grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia in the late 1890s to early 1900s.  Grandma often complained that “Mama didn’t care what we did as long as she didn’t have to put up with us.”  However, in this one tale, told in Lizzie’s words, she appeared to have cared very much. Continue reading

Monogramed Toilet Seat

My mother often said, “If you have kids, you can’t have anything else.”  Well, she was wrong.  We had a new toilet seat.  After installing it, Daddy looked around, stared us down, and threatened.  “I’d better not see anybody’s initials on this seat!”  Where did that come from?  I’d never heard of anybody putting initials on a toilet seat.

I went about my business, that toilet seat and  initials, foremost on my mind.  I wrote LDS in my “Night Before Christmas” book, LDS in the sand under the big shade tree, scooped up some mud and wrote LDS on the dog house. Still unsatisfied, I heated the ice pick on a stove burner and burned LDS on a green Tupperware tumbler.

Feeling strangely unfulfilled and restless, I couldn’t think of a thing to do.  Billy was off somewhere playing with Froggy.  Mother and the baby were taking a nap, so if I stayed in the house, I had to be quiet.  I slipped in the kitchen to see if there was any Kool Aid miraculously left in the pitcher.  No luck. Dejected, I went to the bathroom.

There it was calling to me, pristine in its unblemished beauty.  The new toilet seat!!!  I sat down, my bare bottom luxuriating in its cool smoothness. I got up, locked the door, and turned the seat up. Making sure no one was looking through the window, I got Mother’s eyebrow pencil out of the medicine cabinet and wrote LDS in tiny letters where no one would ever see it.  Terrified, I erased my crime.  The finish was dull from pencil smears. My heart pounded!  I was caught!  I got tissue and buffed it off.  Thank goodness the shine was back.  Relieved, I sat on the side of the bathtub to catch my breath.  A nail fell out of my pocket and clattered to the bottom of the tub.  Never has the devil so possessed a soul.  Grasping the nail, I scratched BRS, Billy’s initials, on the toilet seat.  Horrified, at the enormity of my crime, I tiptoed past the room where Mother and the baby still slept.  By this time, Billy and Froggy had gotten back.  We were throwing mud balls at each other when I heard a shriek from the house.  “BILLY RAY SWAIN!!  You come here this minute!”  I didn’t need to go in to know what was wrong.  I heard “Spat! Spat! Spat!” and in a few minutes he was out, still snuffling.

“What happened?”

“Mother whooped me for putting my initials on the toilet seat. I told her I didn’t know how to write but she said, ‘Who else would put your initials on the toilet seat?’ “

How long could it be before she found the Tupperware?

Kids