Just Folks Getting By Part 4


Both these quilts are are made with fabrics from feedsacks.  I was fortunate enough to be given the treasure of these vintage quilt tops.  Note the beautiful hand work on the Sunbonnet Sue quilt.  All the girls are completely different.  No two squares are alike on either quilt.  All I had to do was quilt them.

imageLucille and Jenny were working together on a quilt top Lucille had started when she first found out Jenny was pregnant.  “See this here pink, flowery piece.  When I was a’carryin’ you, I got two feed sacks and managed to swap my neighbor for another to make me a dress.  I fought you’ll ever have times that hard, but I ain’t sorry I know how to manage when times is hard.  Them chickenfeed sacks was real purty. It took three for a woman’s dress, two for a child, and two for a man’s short sleeve shirt. All you had to do was unravel them, wash’ em, soak’ em in salt water to set the color, an’ git to sewin’.  I had had enough left of this piece to make a collar and cuffs for a little dress for you.  I like to think of Lucy sleepin’ under the same stuff I wore when I was in the family way with you then you wore as a baby.  Who’d a’thought all these years later it would still be around.  If it don’t wear too bad, it could be she’ll be wrappin’ a baby in it one day.  I know I wouldn’t have hung onto a store blanket that way.  Once it got wore, I’d a’throwed it out. 

I’ll have to tell you a funny on me and your daddy.  The first time I made him a feedsack shirt, I put the buttons on the left instead of the right, not being used to sewing for a man.  Well, he wore it over to his Uncle Melvin’s to Sunday dinner and the menfolks just carried him high.  Turns out, he knowed it was wrong all along; he just didn’t want to hurt my feelings.  I told him not to wear it off the place after that.  I didn’t want nobody shamin’ him on my account.  You know he had to be a good man to wear that shirt knowing they was gonna laugh at him.  I made real sure to always git his buttons on the right, after that! Darned, if it didn’t take years to wear that shirt out, with them wrong-sided buttons staring me in the face!”

Jenny considered. “He was a good daddy.  I don’t remember him ever fussing at me.  I didn’t even know him when we all moved back home after I got out of the orphanage, but I do remember thinking I didn’t have to mind him till you straightened me out.  Exactly how did I come to be in the orphanage?  I don’t remember much before being there.”

“Well, you daddy got in trouble for moonshining on his Uncle Melvin’s place.  Him and some of Uncle Melvin’s boys was all in it.  Your Uncle Melvin had about four hundred acres him and his boys was working when your daddy got in with them.  The drought and dust storms started about the time we married and Russ never had a real good crop.  Ever’ year, it just got worse.  Finally, Uncle Melvin come to talk to your Daddy.  He’d borrowed from the bank and they was gonna take the place.  Well, that would git our living as well as Uncle Melvin’s and all his boys.  Luther, his oldest boy had got to running moonshine, and it was good money, especially for them hard times.  Somehow, folks can find the money to drink.  Anyway, Luther set up his own still at a crick on the back of Uncle Melvin’s place.  That crick dried up every summer, but would run pretty good over the winter when it rained north of us.  Your daddy run moonshine for Luther awhile and done real good.  Jimmy was already having real bad athsma from the dust storms, so your daddy put us on the bus and sent us back to stay with Aunt Lucy, meaning to come for us when the dust settled.  Jimmy died a few days after we got there.  That’s where we was when I got the letter letting me know he was going to jail.  If it hadn’t been for you, I’d have wished I was dead.  He got five years.”

“Oh no,” Jenny exclaimed. “I never knew how that happened.  “Why didn’t we stay at Aunt Lucy’s till he got out.”

“Well, we did stay a few weeks till Uncle Marshall come to visit.  That was Aunt Lucy’s younger brother.  He died when you was about six.  I doubt you remember him.” Lucille mused.  “Uncle Marsh never married and we was real close.  He was working two jobs in Dallas.  He was a janitor at a hotel and the Bar and Grill next door.  He knew your daddy and felt just awful about him being in the pen.  He said the Bar and Grill needed a dishwater and he might be able to get the job.  Now, I know that don’t sound like much of a job to you, but I was desperate enough to pray I’d get it.  I couldn’t impose on Aunt Lucille forever.  She was old and already had a widowed daughter and grandchildren living with her.  She got her husband’s Civil War Pension, but it didn’t go far enough to stretch for two more.

My sister Velma was having her fourth baby so I went to help out for a few days, hoping to hear from Uncle Marshall.  Velma’s old man was sorry.  He follered me out to the barn one night, wanting to mess with me.  I hit him in the head with the milk bucket and went in and told Velma we was gonna have to leave.  She got to crying, saying she’d feared it might turn out that way.  She sent word to a neighbor who needed help with gittin’ in her garden and canning and she said we could stay with her a couple of weeks till she could get her garden in.  After that, another neighbor needed help with her mama who’d had a stroke.  We moved ever’ few weeks for a while, just takin’ whatever work I could get.  Of course, I never got no pay, just food and a place to stay, but it got our feet out from under Aunt Lucy’s table. 

Sometimes, I’d git so worried I couldn’t sleep when our work was comin’ to a close, fearin’ I wouldn’t be able to get you under a roof.  I never eat no more than I could help, not wanting to impose.  I got down to one-hundred eleven pounds, which ain’t much for a big woman like me.  I just ate enough to make sure I wouldn’t git down sick.  I always made sure you got enough, even if I was afraid to.  I made real sure to stay shy of the men at the house, not wantin’ to have no problems.  Sometimes, I had to set them straight, right off.  It got to where I’d tell the man and woman right off when I got there, I didn’t want nothing to do with no man.

Finally, I got a letter a bus ticket from Uncle Marsh.  I like to cried with relief.