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.

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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

Southern Folks

sun hatFor some reason, people get the impression folks from the South are unintelligent perhaps because of the Southern accent.  I get this a lot since I smile and laugh a lot and am always friendly.  I could talk to a fence post.  It’s always interesting to surprise people with a witty return when they think I’m not too sharp.

“It couldn’t be helped!”

short pants suitDaddy should have been a polygamist the way he laid out work for the whole family.  His list for Mother 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)  On your way home, Continue reading

Farm Life: Gotta Have Guts

Repost

Daddy 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

Grandma and the Coat from Hell

Repost

Since there were five kids in our family, Grandma did her best to help out when she could. Sometimes I still hate her for it. Once she went to the Goodwill Store and bought me the ugliest coat in the world. I didn’t have a problem with Goodwill. It was ugly that bothered me. It was a knee-length brown hounds-tooth wool dress coat of the style not Continue reading

Good Old Sue

Trouble had its own plan and always lurked in the shadows waiting to jump me.  The simplest thing could go wrong.  There was just no way to anticipate what was down the road.  Billy and Troy were out of pocket when Uncle Parnell was ready to leave.  Daddy sent me and Sue to look for them.  Jamey and Froggy told us they had seen Continue reading

What the Heck? Old People Don’t Get Married (Finale)

Wuppin Mama redoMama was waiting for me with the screen door open. “You sassed Miz Wilson! You know better than that. Go cut a switch, and it better be the right or I’ll go get one myself.”

My pathetic explanation, “I wasn’t trying to be smart alek, I really just didn’t care if I wore out the seat of my pants,” was no help.  There was no escaping.  Mama wasn’t cruel, just intended for her children to obey.  Selection of a switch was a weighty matter.  Mama required a switch large enough to make a nice snap and sting when it struck the legs, but small enough not to cut the skin.  I wanted to choose a switch just barely large enough to meet her standards.  If I misjudged and Mama had to fetch her own, it would not be good.  Dawdling would not help, so I chose the best of the worst for my switching.  Mama let me cry a minute before hushing me. “Now you stop that! Dry up right now! Change out of those filthy overalls and go play.” With my child’s logic, I blamed Mama entirely for all my troubles, never thinking to be mad at John for tattling.  I moped around enjoying my misery, maybe five minutes, till Mama noticed and threatened to put me to work if I didn’t go play, ”Right now!” Not being an idiot, I, straightened up long enough to get out of her sight, resuming my pouting hidden in a chimney corner.  Creating some wonderful memories of my times with Johnny out of whole cloth, added to Mama’s endless cruelty, I wept luxuriously, but quietly, making sure Mama didn’t hear.  That worked so well, I tried to dream up some long, lost times with the dear Aunt Ellie I had so recently mourned.  In view of our anemic thin relationship, even my fertile imagination dried up pretty soon leaving me to resort to an ever present resource, self-pity.  Now I was set.  Mama was mean. She wouldn’t even let me cry after she whooped me! The more I thought about it, the madder I got.  When Mama was mean enough to switch me, she’d let me cry just a minute and then say, “Now, that’s enough.  Just dry it up.”  She meant it, too.  If I’d kept on whining, she’d have warmed my bottom up again. I tried to keep up my crying, but had lost my momentum and, frankly, crying was getting boring.

My temper up at the injustice now, I picked up a stick lying in the sand under an oak and whacked the tree several times. It felt good!! I whirled around to build up power and hit the tree again so hard it rattled my teeth. What I’d really like to do, just once, is give Mama a good whooping and let her see how it feels.

Possessed by fury, I drew a huge figure in the deep sand of the front yard, not fifty feet from the front porch.   It never occurred to me that Mama was a perceptive woman, not easily amused by the antics of children, nor that things wouldn’t go well for me had she strolled by just then and found me beating a large stick woman drawn in the dirt. Enraged, I started at the top, beating Mama’s effigy, striping methodically down one side, even creating a carefully measured pattern on the bottom of the feet, before progressing up the other side, changing switches as I wore them out, taking care to replace them with big, strong switches, knowing how Mama favored them.  Enjoying the combination of the rhythmic sound and the wave-like motion of the sand as I smacked, I immersed myself in the sensual experience, noting the fresh, dry scent as the sand mixed with the acrid scent of the broken switches.  My mood changed from black to pure joyous enthusiasm as I was caught up in the experience.  Seldom have I known such satisfaction.  Standing back to admire my work in progress, I was suddenly horrified to see how obvious I had been. Mama could not have failed to understand, had she seen.  I hurriedly grabbed a brushy top from a pine branch lying on the ground to brush away the evidence of my guilt, so I might live to sin another day.  The deep experiences of my first real grief of Johnny’s loss, rage at Mama’s injustice, joy, and relief, one on the heels of the other made for a day of catharsis.  Though it was years before I heard the word, its meaning was  clear in my heart.

The Indian Princess Gets Hen Flogged

Mama made me an Indian outfit. By now, I’d been around the chickens long enough to know a mother hen would jump all over anyone getting near their chicks.  I’d already been flogged trying it  This was different.  In my Indian dress, I was brave and invincible.  I played pretend in the yard shooting several  buffalo with my bow, saving the tribe from Continue reading