Grandma and the Coat from Hell

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

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“It couldn’t be helped!”

Mother has stage-four Terminal ADD. It hasn’t killed her yet, but it came close several times.  Back when I was a kid, it was called being disorganized, procrastination, and not getting things done. Having five kids, a-worse-than-unhelpful-husband, Mother had more work than six women could have accomplished. That put the icing on the cake.  Daddy should have been a Continue reading

Sorry, Your Highness, My Mother’s a Snob

My mother is always taking digs at the Queen. It’s not like she’s ever met her, nor even been slighted by her in any way.  They’ve never moved in the same social circles since Mother has always lived in the United States. Nor has Her Highness ever had the opportunity to snub her, except when Mother made a twenty-one day tour of Great Britain. The Queen failed to invite Mother to tea, even though she was in residence at Windsor Palace at the time.  Mother said if the Queen didn’t have the courtesy to invite her, she wasn’t about to beg for an invitation.  I reminded Mother the Queen may not have even known she was in the country, but the damage was done.  The only positive thing Her Majesty has ever done is be a year older than Mother.  Mother is vain about being younger, prettier, and having a better sense of fashion than the Queen.  She also accuses her of being a snooty, nosy mother-in-law.  Despite the fact that Mother has issues with the Queen, any time the Royal Family is featured in the media, Mother is right there. She is pointing out all the Queen’s flaws, insisting she’s gained weight since the last time.  There.  The truth is out…I hope the Queen doesn’t take it too hard.

 

Addendum:  I am ashamed to report how joyously my mother received the recent news that the DNA of King Richard III, Queen Elizabeth’s forbear, revealed there was some Royal hanky-panky going on, indicating he was not legitimate!

Miss Ruby and the Bagwells

The companionable thing about growing up in the fifties and sixties in the rural South was that everyone went to the same school, churches and knew everything about everyone.  When the women got the kids off to school, beds made, dishes done, wash on the line, and the beans on to soak for supper, they might have a little time to visit a neighbor for coffee before heading home to get the baby down for a nap, finish their Continue reading

Mother Tried to Raise Me Right

Church was hard on me Church clothes were designed by the devil. My mom made fancy dresses with twirly skirts, puffy sleeves, lace, fancy collars, and gigantic sashes that tied in the back in a big bow. Just in case I might get a little comfortable, she starched and ironed them till they were so stiff they could stand alone. Getting ready for church started Saturday night with a bath and hair washing. No problem with that. The trouble started when Mother got out the hair pins and tissue paper. She clamped me between her knees Continue reading

Pass the Chicken Please or Fowl Friends

We went places and saw people that most people would never encounter.  Daddy had heard of somebody who lived back in the woods about four miles off Tobacco Road who had something he might be interested in buying.  He had to check it out, driving forever down muddy roads that looked like they might disappear into nothing.  Finally we got back to Mr. Tucker’s shack.  Mr. Tucker was wearing overalls and nothing else.  Continue reading

Rudy the Rooster (Part 2)

.     Jody’s rooster acted just like him, except maybe for the drinking.  He was in a chronic bad mood, always looking for a fight. We could hear him coming. “ Aruuh, aruuuh, aruuuh.”  He sounded like the screeching of metal rubbing against itself.  He entertained himself by stalking around and finding someone or something to attack.  We all despised Rudy, and ran when we heard, “Aruuh, aruuh, aruuh.”   I was visiting the neighbor kids, Lainy and her mean big sister Nita, when hopped over the Austin’s fence into their Continue reading

The Rooster and the Boozers

 

The Austins lived just across the pasture from us.  Jody Austin “drank.”  In our neck of the woods, “drinking” meant a man was disreputable, deprived and likely beat his wife and children, probably didn’t hold a job, and likely was prone to violence.  It sounded a lot like today’s alcoholic.  Jodie qualified magnificently.  It was rumored that he had shot a man in a bar.  Folks left Jody alone.  Every Saturday night Jody hosted his “drinking” buddies for a binge. The festivities started with a huge bonfire.  As they sat around on barrels, old cars, and broken lawn chairs, they tossed their cans out in the darkness. They got louder, sometimes had a friendly fight, occasionally rolling all around the fire, finishing off with a little singing…a treat for all the neighbors.  Continue reading

Farm Life: Gotta Have Guts

Daddy loved home remedies and dosed us and the livestock readily.   Mother ran interference 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 badly we were rejected by mosquitoes. I do appreciate Mother for putting her foot down when his more toxic ideas. No telling what kind of chromosome damage she saved the gene pool.

The livestock weren’t so lucky. They got coal oil for pneumonia, distemper, to bring on labor, and as a tonic, should they be so foolish as to look puny. Daddy hung ropes with black oil soaked bags for cows and horses to rub against as protection against insects, which they gladly did. When an unfortunate cow bloated from green hay, he inserted an icepick in her distended belly to release gas. She ceased her moaning and resumed cow business as usual, grateful for the relief.

Farm kids grow up with a lot of responsibility. In addition to our daily chores, Daddy left us other jobs to do before he got home from work and started on his farm day, expecting us to figure things out without explanation, not always the best plan. When my brother Billy was around eleven, Daddy remarked that the old hound dog nursing eight puppies was off her food. He told Billy to pour some syrup over her feed(country for dog food) so she would eat better. Bill got a jug of syrup and headed out the back door. After a while, he came back in, smeared in dog poop, shirt torn, scratched and bitten from head to foot. “Boy, what in the world happened to you?” Daddy asked, incredulous at the sight.

“Oh, I was putting syrup on that old dog’s feet and she tore me up. She dragged me through the dog yard fence and all over the dog yard, but I did finally get syrup on all four  feet.”

As I said, Daddy frequently set us to tasks with inadequate instructions. On one occasion a sick duck foolishly allowed Daddy to spot him. The specific instructions to my brother were, “Go out there and get that green-headed duck staggering around out back, and knock her in the head. No wait, first pour a couple of drops of kerosene down her throat.” Billy picked up the kerosene and was gone a few minutes. When he returned in a few minutes, my dad inquired, “How’s the duck?”  He was obviously surprised Daddy would even ask, knowing he’d sent him out to knock it in the head.  Daddy didn’t mean to tell us to do anything twice.

Bill replied, “It’s dead.”

Daddy said, “You didn’t give it the kerosene?”

“Sure I did,”said Bill, “and then I knocked it in the head, just like you told me to.” Even Daddy had to admit, clearer instructions would have been better.

We butchered a beef late one Saturday evening after Daddy got home from work, finishing really late. Our place was the last house next door to a huge nature preserve. To Daddy, this meant, “not private property,” a perfect place to dump off guts.  He told my brother to load the mess into the ancient farm truck and dump it near Peter Spring Branch, a couple of miles back in the woods. (Yes, Billy was underage for driving but did drive the farm truck on the farm and in the woods. It was the sixties in the South.) It was way too late to haul it off that night.  Then Daddy remembered the truck was broken down(as it often was) and left the nasty mess in a tarpaulin-covered wheelbarrow tellng Billy to dump it first thing in the morning, not amending his earlier instructions, assuming Billy would understand he didn’t expect him to push a barrow of guts a couple of miles. Wrong!!

We got up early the next morning. Billy and the wheelbarrow of guts were gone. An hour passed…no Billy. My mother was furious when he was gone past time to get ready to church. She was trying to raise us right. We went on without him, much to my envy.  Still not home when we got home after noon, Mother knew something was obviously wrong.  He would never have voluntarily missed Sunday dinner. Mother was really worried now.

Finally, after two o’clock he came into view pushing the empty wheelbarrow, circled by flies and trailed by all the hounds in the country covered in congealed blood, guts, mud, and vomit. He had wheeled the guts the entire two miles over muddy roads, through deep ditches, and rough terrain, pestered by flies and dogs to the original site Daddy indicated. The trail was so rough and muddy, his load dumped several times, making a horrible job even worse. He didn’t dare not follow his orders, so he scoopd the stinking guts up every time they dumped, fighting dogs and flies for possession of the prize, vomiting as he wrestled them back in the barrow.

He was sick the rest of the day, not even able to eat Sunday dinner. If he did fake misunderstanding as I suspected, just to miss church, he was welcome to all the gut-hauling he wanted.