Old Man Hillen

“Are you gonna pay for that gum?”

Phyllis and I turned to see Billy’s cheek bulging. His eyes got big and a stream of purple drool ran out of the corner of his mouth. The three of us stood horrified before Old Man Hillen, the proprietor of the Variety Store. It was obvious the sour old geezer took no prisoners where pilfering children were concerned.

“Spit it out.” Phyllis demanded, her face as hard as the old man’s. She hurriedly paid for our purchases as Billy and I beat her out the door. We knew there would be Hell to pay. Phyllis aligned herself with our parents and could be depended upon to report any infraction. This one was huge.

The situation was made more ominous since our business in the first place was the purchase of Mother’s birthday gift. The three of us had walked to the Variety Store after school. Mother was to pick us up. The wait seemed endless, knowing the catastrophe that was brewing.

“Billy Ray stole a piece of gum!” she exploded before she even got the car door shut. “Mr. Hillen made me pay for it!”

Mother was appalled. “Oh no. I hope you’re ashamed of yourself. I’m gonna have to tell your daddy about this.” A pall hung over us, dreading what was to come.

Justice was swift and sure. Daddy was enraged as he railed at Billy, before strapping him with his belt, then pausing before giving him a few more. Worse yet was the pronouncement that they’d be going back tomorrow for Billy to apologize and make it right. It was a terrible night at our house. No one escaped Daddy’s black mood.

Daddy was waiting for Billy when the bus ran, always dependable when punishment was due. He led the small boy into the Variety Store and announced to Mr. Hillen, “My son has something to say to you.”

Humiliated, Billy managed to stammer an apology.

Rather than accepting Billy’s apology, the hateful old man launched into a tirade against thieving kids and the way sorry parents were raising them. Daddy was infuriated and told him they’d made it right and he wasn’t listening to anymore of his mouth. They left. We never went back in that store.

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Smarty Kitty

Don’t ever watch infomercials when you’re bored and your wallet is handy.  Had a cold a few weeks ago, was flipping channels, and happened on a commercial for Smarty-Kitty, a product that will train a cat of any age to use the toilet.  I didn’t need Smarty-Kitty.  Squeaky, my ragdoll cat is five years old and up until I interfered with his life at that point, had never had an accident.  Well, naturally, I got busy and ordered Smarty-Kitty and the amazing “But wait” cat products that came along with it, postage and handling separate.  As soon as Smarty-Kitty arrived, I set it up as directed on a stool, in the bathroom near toilet, and Squeaky accommodated my craziness by using it, just like the commercial said he would.  We progressed in baby steps, as directed, moving it closer, finally, putting cat toilet directly on toilet seat.  Squeaky was okay with all this until I reached the point that I started cutting out circles when he would have been pooping directly into the toilet.  This was too much for him and he revolted and started pooping in bathtub.  I repented and put catbox back immediately, but he refuses to forgive me.  Since that time, any time I leave my bathroom door open, he poops in the bathtub, on a towel if he can find one, or on my bathroom rug.  He even got my sewing kit once. I have repented of buying Smarty-Kitty many times, but have yet to obtain Squeaky’s forgiveness.  I will never mess with a cat’s bathroom habits again.

It Couldn’t Be Helped Part 2

Daddy should have been a polygamist the way he laid out work for Mother.  His list might start, “Take the power saw by the shop in Springhill (22 miles away) on your way to the tractor place in Magnolia (24 miles beyond Springhill) pick up a magneto.  It ought to look like this.  (He’d dangle two broken pieces)  Mother wouldn’t have known a magneto from a mosquito.  On your way home, stop at Rusty’s and get some  catfish to fry tonight.  Eric is coming over after work to help me and I told him you’d fry him up some catfish.  Oh yeah, don’t forget to stop at the feed store in Cotton Valley and get a hundred pounds of grain.  That red cow is looking poor and I want to fatten her up.”

The entire round of errands was more than one hundred miles. Mother would do what she had to at the house, grab her two preschoolers and start her day.  Of course, she still had to “fry fish for Eric” at the end of this little jaunt.  Mother was a “good wife” and would never told Daddy to take care of his own business.  He was completely demanding and thought she was lucky to be married to him.  Add Mother’s regular routine to this and it was a mess.

Well, on the proud occasion of my brother Bill’s high school graduation, he was miraculously gifted with a suit. The whole family was thrilled.  My parents had been worried for months how they would come up with the necessary graduation suit.  A regular suit would have really stretched their budget, but Bill was tall, more than six feet-four inches.  West Brothers wasn’t going to be much help.  About two weeks before graduation, a box came in the mail, a beautiful blue suit.  It came with long, long unhemmed pants.  All the pants needed was hemming to make them perfect-the answer to a prayer.  Immediately, Daddy pronounced, “Kathleen, you’ve got to get busy right now and get those pants hemmed.”

“I’ll get it done, but not right now. I’m cooking supper.”  Daddy liked his food.  He couldn’t argue with that.

The next night at exactly the same time, “Kathleen, did you get those pants hemmed today?”

“No. Connie was sick and I had to take her to the doctor.  She threw up the rest of the day.  I didn’t get anything done.”

Now he was clearly not pleased. “Well, you better get it done tomorrow.  Graduation is only a week and a half off.”

Mother was mad now. “I know that as well as you do.  And I know he has to have a suit.  I would have done it today if Connie hadn’t gotten sick!”

Disaster fell that night. Granny Long died.  Mother had to help at the house and cook food for the funeral.  Mother and Daddy had to “sit” a shift with the body at the home that night, when they were asked if Billy could be a pall bearer.  “Of course,” said Daddy.  “It would be an honor.”

”Oh no! He’ll have to have a suit and I didn’t get it hemmed!”  thought Mother. It was after 2:00 A.M. when they got home.  The funeral was at 10:00 A.M. It never even occurred to Daddy the suit was not hemmed and pressed just like he’d delegated days ago.

“Come Hell or High Water” breakfast was the first order of the day.  Mother wasn’t about to mention the suit before she had to.   By the time Daddy was out of the way, Bill learned he’d been pressed into service as a pall-bearer. With a yet-to-be hemmed suit, tensions were high.  Every minute counted.  Mother told him to try the pants on so she could measure them for a hem.  Furious as only a hormone-ridden seventeen-year-old pantsless pall-bearer can be, he held them in front of himself and snarled, “Just cut them here.”

Sick of the attitude, Mother didn’t notice he was bending as he pointed. She cut.  He ran for the shower while she hemmed and pressed faster than I’d ever seen her move, glad to have dodged a bullet.

Minutes later, he strode down to hall where we all were waiting, Daddy included. Complete with jacket, tie, cufflinks, and beautifully shined dress shoes he made an entrance.  His new suit pants ended four inches below his knees, revealing six inches of hairy, white leg above his black socks.  He looked like Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence.  His expression was unreadable.  There would be no saving his beautiful suit.  I was sure somebody would have to die!  Mother looked from him to Daddy and pronounced, “Well, it couldn’t be helped!”  We all exploded and laughed so long and hard a tragedy was averted.  Billy went back and put on his old black dress pants to do his pall bearer duty.  I don’t remember what happened to the graduation suit.  I guess it didn’t matter that much after all.

Aunt Ader’s Place Part 5

Maw, Eddie, and Kids                       Mettie and Eddie Swain and three of their seven children.

was abandoned by her mother as an infant, leaving her with her own mother.  Though divorce was almost unheard of at that time, she was twice-divorced. Her father went on to remarry and took no responsibility for her.  He only visited her once, when she was the widowed mother of seven. Late one night, Mawmaw told this tale of her early years, the only time I ever heard this.

“I jist turned nine years old, ‘bout the age you are now. Me and Ma had picked some beans in the cool a’the mornin’ an’ I was a’helpin’ ‘er git ‘em ready fer canning. Ma set down in her rocker to rest jist a minute an’ I was a’playin’ with my kitten. I was glad she was a’sleepin’ a while since I didn’ want’a mess with them beans no how. After a spell, I saw Ma’s head was kinda hung to one side an’ spit was a’runnin’ out’a her mouth kinda foamy. She wouldn’ wake up. I got up to run over to git Miz Jone’s an’ seen there was a fire between our place an’ hearn. There warn’t nothin’ to do but run through it the best I could. Them flames was a’lickin’ at my feet an’ I was jist a’cryin’. I got Miz Jones, but it ain’t made no difference. When they got over to see ‘bout Ma, she was dead. They sent for Uncle Jeb to git’er buried.

I had to go to Uncle Jeb’s, then. He was awful good to me, but Aunt Lottie was jist hard down. She whooped on me ever chancet she got, an’ they was plenty. She made shore I ain’t done no sittin’ aroun’. I married soon’s I could, jist to git outta her way.

I never really had no home after Ma died.  I knowed Aunt Lottie didn’t want me around ‘lessen they was work to be done.  She’d put me out to help a woman that was having a baby, help with the canning, or help with the sick.  I never seen no pay, just worked for my keep.  Sometimes my mama would get settled and send for me, but I had to stay of her husband, so back I’d go to Uncle Jep and Aunt Lettie, till she could put me off on somebody else.  It was hard times for sure.

 

 

More Travels with Mother

hotmama.https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/the-low-down-on-lunch-with-mother/
Travels With Mother (Part 2)

The Most Fun You’ll Never Have, Kathleen’s Amazing Bathroom Tour!

It’s Not What You Tank!

 

God was with us.  We got to our destination, Hot Springs, Arkansas without a lot more drama.  We checked into our room, a nice suite with two king-sized beds and an extra bed for the fifth in our party.  For some reason, though it was 104 degrees, we freshened up a bit before going out to see the town, allowing us to start out with a less vintage sweat.  Within minutes, we were rank.  Not to be deterred by a little thing like heat exhaustion, we explored every shop on Main Street, till Mother found a little shop selling belly-dancing costumes. She wouldn’t be budged.  Now, as I’ve said before, Mother is tight.  She had no intention of making such a frivolous purchase, but had to admire herself in one. Every inch of the stifling shop was crammed with exotic outfits with no space devoted to dressing rooms. The proprietor obviously didn’t expect belly-dancers to be overly modest. Not to be denied, Mother just slipped her favorite on over her clothes, despite the heavy customer traffic. She is a little old church lady, after all.  I would never have expected so much business in a store selling belly-dancing costumes. 

Mother had us hold her things while she tottered and struggled into her racy choice, bumping customers at every turn.  They had to have thought her mind was gone and we should have looked out for her better, or that we were in geriatric sex-trade, pimping her out to some perverted creature with a fetish for demented, antique belly-dancers.  Neither choice made us look good.  Eventually, she pranced a bit and had us take a picture or two for her Sunday School Class, before being convinced to leave.  The store clerk was not amused by any of this, but I figured if she thought she was big enough to straighten Mother out, she could go for it.  I know when I am whipped. 

Bigsmilemotorcyclemama

An amused motorcycle guy and his girlfriend were taking all this in and invited Mother to meet their friends waiting on their bikes just outside. I think the burly guys exact words were, “She reminds me so much of my mama!” With him as Mother’s escort, we escaped the wrath of the store owner who was obviously thought it was past time we left.

Mother charmed his friends.  Her new friend invited her for a ride, which she refused, but she did climb behind him on his bike to get her picture made.  Regretfully, he helped her off, after telling her, “Ma’am, you don’t have to go home with these girls if you don’t want to.  We coaxed her away after she exchanged phone numbers and addresses with them, insisting they all come visit.  
Later that evening, we made it back to our hotel, only to find the air-conditioning and bathroom both out of order in our room.  Mother took charge, went to see the manager, and got us transferred to the only room they had left, the Presidential Suite, complete with a hot-spring bath.  I suspect the manager thought, “She reminds me of my mama.”  For once, a bathroom drama with Mother worked in our favor.

We enjoyed the rest of our visit.  On the way home, my sister Connie hung her purse strap on a toilet handle and broke the toilet in a station.  She takes after Mother.

 

Best of the Afternoon Weird Relative Funnies

 

weird relatives weird 2 weird 3 Weird4 weird5When you are dealing with family, it clarifies things to have a scale.  You don’t have to waste time analyzing people when you have a ready reference.  This one works pretty well for us.

  1. Has a monogrammed straight jacket and standing reservation on mental ward.
  2. Family is likely to move away without leaving forwarding address. Has jail time in the past or the future
  3. People say, “Oh, crap. Here comes Johnny.”
  4. Can go either way.  Gets by on a good day.  Never has been arrested.  Can be  lots of fun or a real mess. Relatives usually will invite in for coffee.  Likely to have hormone-induced behavior.
  5. Regular guy. Holds down a job.  Mostly takes care of business.  Probably not a serial marry-er.  Attends  church when he has to.
  6. Good fellow. Almost everybody likes him or her. Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity.  Manages money well enough to retire early.
  7. High achiever.  Business is in order.  Serves on city council.
  8. Looks too good to be true. What’s really going on?
  9. Over-achiever. Affairs are in order.  Solid citizen.  Dull, dull, dull.  Could end up as a 1

Instead of saying, “Uncle Henry’s a pretty good guy, but sometimes he goes off the deep end, you could say, ‘He’s a usually about a 6 but he was a little 4-ish after Aunt Lou took his new truck and ran off with his brother’.” Or…

“Why in the world did Betty marry him?  He was a jerk to her when she was married to his daddy.”

“Well, you know she’s a 5.”

“Oh, yeah.  I forgot about that.”  Or…

“You set the house on fire trying to dry your underwear in the oven??  What in the hell were you thinking??    And you call yourself a 6?”

“Look, you know darn well I’m a 6.  It just seemed like a good idea.  Appliances should be multifunctional.  I’ve seen you pull a  2 lot of times and never threw it up to you.  It could happen to anyone.”  Or…

“You forgot and put the turnip greens through the spin cycle and now the washing machine drain is stopped up!   I’m not even going to ask you what turnip greens were doing in the washing machine!   You’re a 2 if I ever saw one.  Your mama and sisters are 2’s, too!!  Did you put the beans in the dishwasher, too, while you were at it?”

“No, I’m not an idiot.  You cook beans on the stove.  I put my rolls in the dishwasher to rise.”

Family reunions are an eclectic mix of mostly 5’s who vacation in 4 and 6 on occasion, some fairly regular folks, seasoned with a picante’ dash of street-corner preachers, nude airport racers, and folks who are just interesting in general.  We have a couple of 7’s thrown in, reminders of what we could do if we tried.  A person’s situation on the social ladder is likely to be greatly influenced by his company or partner.  For instance, if a submissive #5 marries a dominant #7, it is likely he or she will benefit.  If the lower number is more influential, not so much.

I was comfortable growing up in this milieu of the 1950’s. While I gave lip service to my parents’ goal of strict respectability, I enjoyed a ringside seat to periodic lunacy.  It also justified my lapses. It ran it the family! And no matter how disappointed my parents might be when I messed up, at least I hadn’t been caught naked in traffic yet.

When considering their upcoming parenthood, most people entertain hormone-tinged delusions, imagining their children as cute, well-behaved, athletic, and smart.  We gaze fondly at our partners imagining a baby with his blue eyes, her sweet smile…we should have looked a little closer at Grandpa’s buck teeth or Grandma’s frizzy hair.  Even better, this baby is just as likely to inherit genes from a great-great grandpa, the horse thief, as from Grandpa John, the Pulitzer Prize Winner.  The baby may look a lot more like Aunt Fanny, the lady wrestler, than its pretty mama.  A better plan would probably be to put all babies in a lottery at birth, so parents could credit their lumps to bad luck and the joys to good parenting for the next twenty-one years.  The kids would definitely appreciate it.

My family is as much a mixed bag of nuts as any.   As a kid, I was most fascinated by the ones on the fringes.  My favorite was Uncle Chester, not because he was friendly, funny, or even seemed to notice me, but because he was the first solid #3  of my acquaintance. (Family likely to move away without leaving forwarding address.  Has jail time in past or future.)  As a young man in the depression, he started out as a moonshiner and petty criminal, lounging a bit in local jails.  He never really hit the big time and made the Federal Penitentiary till he got caught counterfeiting quarters.  His technique was sloppy and his product unpolished.  He was fortunate in getting caught red-handed passing his ugly quarters. In 1941 he was sent up to Fort Leavenworth for some higher education. and made good use of his time apprenticing himself to a cellmate who was doing time for making twenty-dollar bills.

Aunt Jenny #5 (Can go either way. Gets by on a good day.  Never been arrested.  Can be lots of fun or a real mess. Relatives usually will invite in for coffee.  Likely to have hormone-induced behavior.) was short-sighted about Uncle Chester’s situation and ditched him while he was imprisoned, but realized she still loved him when he came home with his enhanced earning capacity. They let bygones be bygones, got back together, and had three lovely children.    Their eldest son Lynn and daughter Sue were solid #7s from the start. (Good fellows.  Almost everybody likes him or her.  Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity.  Manages money well enough to retire early.)  Uncle Chester was perfectly willing to give Lynn a good start in business, but Lynn was ungrateful, distanced himself from his father’s dealings, joined the military, and avoided the family business altogether, even seeming to resent his father. One Sunday dinner, when Uncle Chester was dropping names of the interesting people he had been in jail with at various times, Lynn rudely interrupted, “Daddy, you’ve been in jail with everybody at one time or another.”  Uncle Chester did step up and keep Cousin Lynn from making a mistake.  Lynn came home on leave from the military and met a girl he wanted to marry; love at first sight.  She was a pretty as a spotted puppy and even she noticed how much she looked like Ross.  Uncle Chester got her off to the side and asked a few questions about her mama and daddy and where she was raised.  He was waiting up for Lynn to get home.  “Son, I sure hope things ain’t gone too far. I hate it, but you can’t marry that li’l old gal.  She looks just like her Mama did when we was running around together.  There’s a real good reason she looks just like yore brother Ross – a real good reason.”

By the fifties, Uncle Chester had branched out a little.  He did a little research and decided lawsuits paid well and weren’t too much work.  He captured some bees, applied them to his leg.  When his leg was good and swollen, he got his buddy to drop him off downtown at a trolley stop.  As the trolley approached, Uncle Chester carefully stumbled into the path of the trolley, suffering a knee injury in front of numerous witnesses.  He collapsed to the ground, moaning and groaning. Suffering terribly, he was transported and treated at the hospital. Now  Uncle Chester was set with a fifty-thousand dollar settlement, a tidy sum for that time.

Their daughter Susie turned out real well, became a teacher, and married a Baptist Preacher, lending Uncle Chester a much appreciated touch of respectability. Uncle  Chester and Aunt Jenny  were very generous toward her church, and the legitimacy of their donations was never questioned.  Sadly, many years later Susie’s daughter a bona fide #3, embarrassed them all by stealing from her employer.

Ross, Uncle Chester’s youngest son, a gifted #3 (Family likely to move away without leaving forwarding address. Has jail time in past or future) followed in Uncle Chester’s footsteps. He dabbled in moonshine, petty crime, and scams but just never rose to Uncle Chester’s level. He initiated a few crooked lawsuits but lacked the brain power and organization to pull bigger things off.  All went well till he got too big for his britches and tried setting up business in Texas. When he got caught moon shining in someone else’s territory, he called the old man for help and Uncle Chester had to admit, “I’m sorry son, but I can’t do a thing for you.  I don’t have any influence with the law out there.”  Uncle Chester felt bad about one of his boys getting in trouble till the day he died,” but sometimes you just have to let kids make their own mistakes.”

Aunt Jenny was stingy.  You would think she got her money in the usual way.  Or maybe she just got tired of hearing Uncle Chester complain how hard it was to make money, but she would even make her own mother pay for a ride to the grocery store.  When Maw Maw won some groceries in a weekly contest she had to share with Aunt Jenny since she rode with Aunt Jenny to the grocery store every week.  Aunt Jenny sold eggs and tomatoes and charged Maw Maw the same as everyone else.

When Aunt Jenny got older, she got dentures.  She liked them so well she saved them for special occasions.  She wore them when she had ladies over for coffee, church, and Sunday dinner.  Being toothless didn’t hold her back a bit.  She could take a bite off an apple as well as anyone and could have won a fried chicken eating contest hands down.

We had plenty of other interesting relatives, too.  Dogs were off limits inside our house.  All we had were hunting dogs, dogs with a purpose.  People with house dogs were considered silly and weak-minded.  Cookie and Uncle Riley (#4 People say, “Oh, crap.  Here comes Johnny.”)never came to visit without bringing a couple of fat, shiny, little house dogs.  You can guess what category this put them in.  Daddy grudgingly tolerated their dogs as long as the dogs didn’t bark or mess up the house.  They chattered endlessly about their dogs.  Uncle Riley frequently assured us his dog, Jackie, was, “just like a person.”  Daddy agreed the dog was as smart as Uncle Riley.

Unfortunately, Jackie got some kind of skin infection.  Cookie and Uncle Riley showed up for a visit with poor Jackie, bald as an egg, the skin on his entire body irritated and red.  Uncle Riley had been too cheap to take him to a veterinarian and concocted his own home remedy. He would dip Jackie in a Lysol and pine-oil mixture, reasoning it would kill any bacteria.  The best we could tell, Jackie was bacteria and hair-free, but itching miserably with blistered skin.  Uncle Riley felt badly about his medicine gone bad, and lovingly coated Jackie with Calamine Lotion several times a day.  While Uncle Riley told us of Jackie’s troubles, he was unaware of Jackie sitting at his feet, licking his wounds.  Not surprisingly, the harsh home remedy inflicted the most damage on Jackie’s sensitive nether portions.  As he licked his little doggy privates tenderly, Uncle Willie reminded us Jackie was “just like a person.” Three-year-old John was watching Jackie’s ablutions intently and remarked, “I never saw a person do that!”

Uncle Charlie , another #3, was a compulsive liar.  It didn’t concern him that no one believed him.  He just lied because he was so darn good at it.  Uncle Charlie would climb up on the roof to tell a lie instead of stand on the ground and tell the truth.  If Uncle Charlie told you it was raining, don’t bother with your umbrella. He worked at the paper mill with Daddy, and had such a reputation for lying, that anyone repeating one of Charlie’s stories had to buy coffee for the group.  One afternoon on coffee break, Charlie came rushing by the fellows in a big hurry.  “Charlie, stop and tell us a lie!” one of them called after him.

Charlie never looked back, “I can’t!” he called over his shoulder as he rushed on.  “Ray Pierson fell in Smokestack #2 and I’m going to call an ambulance!”  They all rushed to see about their buddy and found Ray Pierson in perfect health at his usual work station, Smokestack #2.

Cousin Vonia #5 and her husband Joe #4 (Oh, Crap!  Here comes Johnny) came to visit a lot, bringing their three little kids. Joe was “disabled” and didn’t have to get up early, so he just wouldn’t go home.  Mother sent us on to bed, but Joe wanted to sit till midnight, even on a school night.  Their little kids would have been drooped over asleep for hours.   Finally Daddy started telling Mother, “We’d better to go to bed so these good folks can go home.”

Joe would look disappointed, then get up and shuffle toward the door, saying, “Well, I guess I better get my sorry self on home.” Vonia would trail behind him, carrying two sleeping kids and guiding the other staggering kid to the car.  Joe couldn’t carry kids.  He had a “bad back.”

Joe had a few other quirks.  He had been fortunate enough to hurt his back at work and land a nice settlement and a monthly disability check so invested in a few cows and took care of them from then on.  For those who know nothing of cattle farming, it is extremely hard work.  Joe and his disabled back spent many hours building fences, making hay, stacking hay in the barn, unstacking that same hay later and loading it on a trailer, then taking it off and feeding it to the cattle, herding cows, wrestling soon-to-be steers to the ground and helping them become steers.  He spent hours on end driving a tractor.  Hard, hard, hard work.

Joe had a strange quality for a farmer, eschewing all healthy foods and existing on a diet of peanut patties, banana pudding, and milk.  He also smoked like a smokestack.  This careful attention to diet paid off for him.  He didn’t have a tooth in his head by the time he was thirty five.  He refused to get dentures.  He just dropped peanut patties from his diet.  He said he didn’t need dentures for just milk and banana pudding.  The smoking finally killed him when he was seventy-eight.  He dropped a cigarette down the bib of his overalls and pulled out in front of a train.

Even though Great Uncle Albert was only a 4.5 – 5, he had given Daddy a place to stay and let him work for his keep during the terrible times of the 1930’s when Maw Maw was struggling to feed seven children alone.  Daddy appreciated this and was loyal to Uncle Albert all his life.  Old, grumpy, and hormone-depleted by the time I knew him in the mid 1950’s, it was hard for me to imagine him in his younger, randy days.  He was dull, and full of good advice, a habit he’d developed since he’d gotten too old to set a bad example.  Aunt Jewel wasn’t his first wife, and frankly, was on pretty shaky ground as a #2, but as far back as they lived in the sticks, there weren’t any airports, so she was hanging on.   I heard whispers she had broken up his first marriage to Mary.  Even more shocking, Uncle Albert was entertaining her when Mary tried to force her way in to the marital bedroom.  Uncle Albert slammed the door, breaking his poor wife’s arm.  Mary got the hint, took the baby, and left.  Smart girl.

I had trouble envisioning this.  I had never met Mary, but she had to look better than the Aunt Jewell I knew.  I had heard Aunt Jewell used be really pretty, but she had gotten over it.  By the time I knew her, she had smoked over forty years, had nicotine-stained fingers and teeth, wrinkles around her mouth from drawing on a cigarette, and her mouth pulled a little to one side.  She had a thick middle, thin hair in a frizzy old-lady perm, and bird legs.  She wore stockings rolled to her knees and cotton house dresses. She wheezed constantly and never spoke except to whine, “Albert, I’m ready to go now.” Or “Albert, give me a puff off your cigarette.”  Oh yes.  One time they came to visit after she’d fallen and broken a rib and she started crying and said, “Albert, I want a puff off your cigarette, but I’m too sore to cough. “ That was kind of interesting, but I couldn’t imagine a man choosing her over anyone else.

It was interesting to see my father treated as a kid.  Uncle Albert felt free to give his opinion about whatever Daddy was up to.  He arrived for a visit one day before Daddy got home from work and was inspecting the place.  Daddy  aspired to 8 or 9 (8. High achiever.  Business in order.

  1. Looks too good to be true.) despite struggling to maintain a 6 (Regular guy. Holds down job.  Mostly takes care of business.  Probably not serial marry-er.  Attends church when he has to.)

Uncle Albert kept all his stuff organized and in perfect repair. Daddy’s barn was a disorganized mess.  He tossed things wherever he got through with them.   Uncle Albert walked around, examining items and commenting.  “This is a good old singletree.  It just needs a new chain.”  “This is a good rasp.  It just needs to be cleaned up.” “This is a good axe-head.  It just needs to be sharpened and have a new handle put in.”  Before too long, Daddy came striding up, delighted to see his uncle.  He was smiling broadly and thrust out his hand.

Uncle Albert looked at straight at him and pronounced, “Bill, you need to get the junk man out here and get all this #^%$ hauled off.”

I’m pretty sure I can pass for a 5 most days.

Throwback Thursday

Grandma young adult0007Mary Ann GraybealMy Great-great Grandmother, Mary Graybeal Jones and my great-great grandfather John Jones.  He was her third husband and a captain in the Confederate Army

 

This is my grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Perkins Holdaway as a young woman at her home in Volney, Virginia.  Her father was a prosperous store owner.

Mary Elizabeth Perkins and Roscoe Gordon Holdaway Wedding Pictu

My grandparents Mary Elizabeth Perkins and Roscoe Gordon Holdaway at their wedding in 1907

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My grandparents in their mid-sixties.(Above)

parents wedding pic

My parents Bill Swain and Kathleen Marie Swain at their wedding June 29, 1945

First Grade School Picture

Linda Swain Bethea First Grade School Picture 1956

sun hat

Auntie Linda

linda-photo-adjusted

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Swain Bethea 2015

Awesome Life Down on the Farm: You Gotta Have Guts

Farm BoyDaddy loved home remedies and dosed his kids and livestock readily.   Mother did run interference for us on cow chip tea and coal oil and sugar, but did let him load us with sulphur and molasses for summer sores. We never got summer sores, probably because we reeked so much we didn’t tempt mosquitoes. I do appreciate Mother for putting her foot down when his ideas got too toxic. No telling what kind of chromosome damage she saved us. Continue reading

Move Over, Medusa, We Got Ya’ Beat!

First Grade School Picture

First Grade School Picture

Repost of an old post few people saw

To curly-haired people Mother might have seemed mild-mannered enough, but beneath her calm exterior she nursed a sadistic streak, committing home permanents with malice aforethought, ignoring her helpless daughters’ protests that “I like my hair this way.” and “nobody but old ladies has THAT kind of hair.” squashing arguments Continue reading