A Hog a Day Part 18

Photo shows girls dressed in styles reminiscent of dresses I wore in  the 1950’s

 

children wearing pink ball dress

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Church clothes were special.  Starch was the order of the day: crisp shirts for Daddy and Billy, frilly homemade dresses for the girls, shirtwaists for mother. While still wet from the wash, clothes were dipped in a dishpan of boiled starch and allowed to almost dry before being rolled in a tight ball and stuffed in a pillowcase in the freezer till time to iron. Should she miscalculate drying time, Mother sprinkled them with water from a stopper-topped coke bottle. I magnanimously gave her that sprinkler top for Christmas one year. It cost fifteen cents. Ironing was a huge job, so we had to hang up those fancy dresses the instant we got home. Tossing one in a heap on the bed or floor ensured real trouble. The rough armhole seams felt like razors if Mother forgot to crumple them before ironing. Even though I hated dresses, I have to admit they made an impressive show worn over full petticoats. Those lace and beribboned petticoats were a wonder to behold, way fancier than the dresses that covered them.

When I was little, before school started each year, we got five new dresses, most often homemade or rarely ordered from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. Billy got five shirts and three pair of pants. Besides that, we might get a gift of clothes at Christmas and Easter. I thought clothes made an awful gift. As kids were added to the family, the budget was stretched tighter and of course, we got less. Until I reached sixth grade, we could wear pants to school, a great boon on the playground and on cold days. The cold wind sailed under skirts, making frosty days a misery.

Dresses on the playground cut down on the fun of monkey bars, slides, and swings. I feared hearing boys sing out, “I see London. I see France. I see Linda’s underpants!” One day, I had the horrifying experience of catching my skirt tail at the top of the slide and reaching the bottom in only my slip and bodice, the red skirt left flying like a flag at the top. I was the object of hilarity as girls gathered round me to hide my shame as I skulked in for the teacher’s assistance. I expected her to send me home, but no. She pinned that skirt roughly back on and I had to finish out the day looking like a ragged sack of potatoes. A few times, I’d have a sash ripped off playing chase on the playground. Boy, was I in for it when I got home in a ruined dress! Three-cornered tears were the worst! Unlike rips, they couldn’t be mended.

I was always delighted to see someone else suffer a wardrobe humiliation. One Sunday evening, Brother Robert taught a class of young people before evening worship. Right off the bat, we noticed his open fly. I never paid such close attention to a lesson before, struggling not to look. I kept my eyes on his face, as did the rest of the class. He was a stern man. No one dared tell him. The instant class was over, he marched straight to the podium making ready for his sermon. One of the deacons did him the kindness of tipping him off. With a shocked look, he spun to zip his pants to the amusement of the choir filing in behind him. He had nowhere else to turn. It was lovely.

One Sunday morning a few years later, my sister Connie provided the entertainment for the service. She was sitting proudly near the front of the church with her new fiancé and his little niece, Amy. Connie was lovely in a beautiful yellow, spring dress. As the worshippers stood for a hymn, little Amy slid behind Connie, grasped the tail of Connie’s dress, and raised it as high as her tiny arms would reach, giving most of the congregation something truly inspiring amazing to consider, for which God made them truly grateful.

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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.

Old Wives Tales and Periods

imageI knew there was some kind of big, stupid mystery even before my “sometimes” friend Margaret Green broke the news to me in the fourth grade.  My grandma had started badgering me not to go barefoot and had taken to sneaking peeks at my underwear when she was sorting laundry.

This is some interesting information and dire warnings I was given regarding health care of young ladies after the onset of puberty. My maternal grandmother hissed these warnings at me, though she was hazy on rationale  Girls should never go barefoot or get their feet wet after they go into puberty. (She made no mention of how I was to wash my feet or bathe.). I must never bathe or get my head wet or ride a horse during my period.  She offered as proof the fact that when my grandpa’s sister was only sixteen, she was riding a horse just before she got ready to take a job as a teacher in her first school.  She got caught in a rainstorm while she was having her period and was soaked to the skin.  She got galloping pneumonia and died before daybreak.  I was never sure if all these variables had to be included for the situation to be deadly.  Perhaps if she had been fifteen, walking to her job as a clerk in a store while she was having her period and broke out in chicken pox, she might have escaped with only a few scars on her face.

Also, Grandma warned me young girls shouldn’t ever go swimming.  “Never?”  I was appalled.

For some reason, going barefoot was deadly, especially if there was dew on the ground.  There was something called “dew poisoning.”  Dew poisoning “stopped” periods.  How could that be a bad thing?  I didn’t want periods anyway.  Not only that, dew poisoning caused rampant infections should it enter a tiny wound on the foot, but I don’t remember her ever harassing my brother about going barefoot.  Maybe she wasn’t looking out for him.

Then she told me of a stubborn cousin of hers who went swimming all the time.  “Even when she was expecting!  Everyone of her kids had epileptic fits!”  That didn’t concern me at all since I had no intention of doing anything to cause children, in view of my recent sex education.

Mother had her own ridiculous rules about hygiene.  Hair could only be washed once a week, and never during you period.  That was a disaster for us with our oily hair.  I’d try to slip around and wash it more often, but she watched us.  She insisted on giving us hideous home perms.  They were awful!  I was so glad when Mother had to much on her mind to to to keep up with trying to enforce all her mindless rules.

Three of the Deadlies

Tragically, three pastors and their wives were killed in a crash on the way home from a conference.  They found themselves standing before Saint Peter.  Saint Peter addressed the first pastor as he looked in his book.

“Well, I see here you lived a pretty good life.  You worked hard for your church.  You were faithful, but there’s one thing I need to look into further.  Your love of money got in your way.  In fact, you loved money so much you even married a woman named Penny.  Just have a seat over there while I do a little more checking.”

The second pastor came forward.  Saint Peter addressed him.  “You were a faithful pastor.  You served well except for one flaw.  Your love of alcohol caused you some problems.  You loved alcohol so much, you even married a woman named Sherry.  Have a seat over there while I do some balancing.”

The third pastor turned to his wife.  “Come on Fanny.  There’s no use in us even getting in line.”

Fido Buys the Farm

Joe found his dog lying out behind his car, not moving.  He grabbed Fido up and ran him in to the vet.

Vet:  “”I’m sorry.  Your dog is dead.  That’ll be fifty bucks.”

Joe:  “No, he can’t be!”  He threw Fido in the car and drove a few miles to see Vet #2.  This one put him up on the exam table, checked him over good then brought a Labrador Retriever Into the room.  The Lab sniffed Fido, poked him with his foot, but Fido didn’t respond.  Next the vet brought a cat in and waved him over Fido.

Vet#2:  “Sorry, your dog’s dead, alright.  That’ll be three-hundred and fifty dollars.”

Joe:  “Now hold on.  The other vet only charged me fifty dollars!”

Vet #2:  “Yeah, but I did a Lab test and Cat scan!”

One Toe Over the Line

milking_a_cow2This is a stock photo of woman milking a cow.  I can promise you Mother never smiled like that when milking.

My mother was so rough on my poor daddy, but thank goodness, she was punished for her sins.  She was a hulking five feet tall at best, so she was well able to best for six foot three inch husband any time she wanted.  Not only that, he was so bashful he’d barely speak up for himself.  Big joke!  Daddy wore the pants in his house and made sure everyone KNEW it.  I think he’d seen way too many John Wayne movies and had no intention of being taken for a softy.

I rarely saw Mother even bother to tangle with Daddy.  She understood her life was much easier if she just went along with his demands.  From time to time, she was forced to take a stand, like the time she kicked him.  Before you get all excited and set off to congratulate her for getting some gumption, it was strictly accidental.  She gets no points.  To set the stage, you need to know, Mother did all the milking.  According to Daddy, the Bible forbade men to milk a cow.  “Thou shalt not take what thee cannot give.”  He often invented Bible verses in time of great need, not bothering to quote chapter and verse. The Bible never was a big part of his day unless he needed to make a point anyway. 

As always, Mother put biscuits in the oven before she went out to milk the cow every morning before daylight.  One morning it was sleeting as she trudged toward the barn in Daddy’s boots and barn coat, making the job even worse than usual.  Just as she finished milking, the cow slapped her with its poop-encrusted tail, kicked over the milk bucket and stepped on her booted foot.  Mother hated that damned cow anyhow.  They’d traded insults through their whole association.  Furious at the hated cow and the loss of the much-needed milk, Mother worked her agonized foot way out of the boot still pinned under the cow’s hoof, kicked the cow as hard as she could, falling down in the filth in the process.  The cow showed little interest, just lifted her tail and splattered Mother with her most abundant resource. 

Mother hobbled to the house coated in manure.  She had to strip and clean up the best she could before starting breakfast.  Her two babies, one an infant and the other under two were just waking up demanding attention as she pulled the biscuits out of the oven.  Daddy yelled at her from the bedroom, “Come see about these squalling babies.  I don’t have but a few more minutes before I have to get up and go to work.”  Somehow, he lived, but they didn’t have more children! 

By ten o’clock every night, Mother was whipped.  Like all mothers, she was chronically sleep-deprived.  She always had a cup of coffee to relax her before she went to bed, but had a hard time staying awake long enough to finish it.  When Daddy got ready to go to bed, he got up, went to the bathroom, and hit the bed.  When Mother said she was going to bed, she hung a last load of laundry in front of the fireplace, hoping some of it would be dry by morning, put a load in to wash, made a last run through the kitchen, filled the tea kettle and put coffee in the pot so it wouldn’t take too long in the morning, made sure Daddy’s lunch stuff and clothes were ready for tomorrow, scouted out kids shoes, books, and coats, and a few other little things.  Finally, she’d check on the kids, and head to bed where Daddy was snoring away.

This particular night, she’d just gotten to sleep when Daddy rolled over on her long hair.  He slept like the dead.  She pushed and yelled, but couldn’t make him stir.  In desperation, she kicked him, forgetting she’d already hurt her foot that morning.  The pain was excruciating, but Daddy never woke.  She was finally able to hold get her feet in the flat of his back and shoved him off.  The next morning, he reported a restful night while she hobbled around on a bruised foot, the toe obviously battered.  Till today, she still has to buy shoes a full size larger since her great toe points to Heavenward.

 

Poke

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The Sad Saga of the Beakless, Tailless, Gizzard-bobbing, One-leg Hopping chicken

Repost of an earlier post.

Being a farm kid is not for sissies and cowards. The dark side of the chicken experience is slaughtering, plucking, cleaning, and preparing chickens for the pot.  I watched as Mother transformed into a slobbering beast as she towered over the caged chickens, snagging her victim by the leg with a twisted coat-hanger, ringing its neck and releasing it for its last run.  We crowded by, horribly thrilled by what we knew was coming.  It was scarier than ”The Night of the Living Dead”,  as the chicken, flapping its wings, running with its head hanging crazily to one side, chased us in ever larger circles until it finally greeted Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates.  It looked horribly cruel, but done properly, a quick snap of the wrist breaks the chicken’s neck instantly, giving a quick death. Of course, this is my assessment, not the unfortunate chicken. The chickens always looked extremely disturbed.

Afterward, my mother grabbed the dead chicken, plunged it into a pot of boiling water, plucked the feathers, slit its pimply white belly, removed its entrails, cut off its feet and head, and prepared it for dinner.  I was repulsed  when Mother found  unlaid eggs in the egg cavity and used them in cooking.  That just didn’t seem right.  I was happy to eat the chicken, but future eggs….disgusting.  It kind of seemed like genocide, or chickenocide, to coin a new term.

Mother looked out one day and saw one of her chickens eating corn, oblivious to the fact that her gizzard was hanging out, bobbing up and down merrily as she pecked corn with all her lady friends.  Apparently she had suffered injury from a varmint of some kind.  Clearly, she wouldn’t survive with this injury, so Mother and I set about catching her.  At least she could be salvaged for the table.  Well, she could still run just fine.  We chased her all over the yard with no luck.

Finally, Mother decided to put her out of her misery by shooting her.  She missed.  She fired again and shot the hen’s foot off.  I knew I could do better.  I shot her beak off, then hit her in the tail.  By this time, we both felt horrible and had to get her out of her misery.  Her injuries had slowed the poor beakless, tailless, gizzard-bobbing, one-leg hopping chicken down enough so we could catch her and wring her neck.

All chickens didn’t end life as happily.  The LaFay girls, Cheryl, Terry, and Cammie raised chickens to show at the fair for 4-H, with a plan to fill their freezer with the rest.  Late one Thursday evening while their widowed mother was at work, they realized tomorrow was the day for the big barbecue chicken competition.  Mama wouldn’t be in until way too late to be helping with slaughtering and dressing the chickens.  After all the time and effort they had put in on their project, they had no choice but to press forward without Mama’s help.  They’d helped Mama with the dirty business of putting up chickens lots of times.  They’d just have to do manage on their own.

Cheryl, the eldest, drew the short straw, winning the honor of wringing the chicken’s neck.  She’d seen Mama do it lots of times, but didn’t quite understand the theory of breaking the neck with a quick snap.  She held the chicken by the neck,  swung it around a few times in a wide arc,  giving it a fine ride, and released it to flee drunkenly with a sore neck.   The girls chased and recaptured the chicken a couple of times, giving it another ride or two before the tortured chicken managed to fly up in a tree, saving its life.

Acknowledging her sister’s failure, Terry stepped up to do her duty.  She pulled her chicken from the pen, taking it straight to the chopping block, just like she’d seen Mama do so many times.  Maybe she should have watched a little closer.  Instead of holding the chicken by the head  and chopping just below with the hatchet, Terry held it by the feet.  The panicked chicken raised its head, flopped around on the block, and lost a few feathers.  On the next attempt, Cammie tried to help by holding the chicken’s head, but wisely jumped when Terry chopped, leaving the poor chicken a close shave on its neck.

indian-dress-and-henBy now, all three girls were squalling.  Cheryl tied a string on the poor chicken’s neck, Cammie held its feet and they stretched the chicken across the block.  By now, Terry was crying so hard so really she couldn’t see.  She took aim, and chopped Henny Penny in half, ending her suffering.   Guilt-stricken, they buried the chicken.  Defeated, they finally called their Aunt Millie, who came over and helped them kill and dress their chickens for the competition, which they won.  All’s well that ends well.