Icy Showers and Rotten Sausage

Cousin Kat was tight. We always took plenty of food when we went to visit, knowing how “conservative” she was. She thought three rolls, three scrambled eggs, a little jam and a dab of butter was plenty for any number of guests there might be for breakfast. “I just don’t think there’s any point in folks being hoggish,” was her favorite phrase as she set out a meal. She was a devout believer and had probably heard that story about Jesus feeding the multitudes on five loves and three fishes one too many times.

A few days before our last visit, someone had given Cousin Kat some fresh homemade sausage. She’d eaten a bit and saved some for us. That sounded fine till I opened her tiny 1940 model refrigerator to get some water. The rank smell of bad meat nearly knocked me down. “Ooh, Cousin Kat, I think something’s gone bad in here!”

“Oh, it’s not bad. It’s just that sausage Barney gave me. It’s real spicy!” She answered, totally unconcerned. “I’m gonna cook it up for supper.”

I made up my mind then and there to eat popcorn. I’ve never smelled a spice that mimicked the smell of rotting meat so closely. Mother and Phyllis both found other options. Count Kat cooked that sausage and ate up all by herself, since she was determined not to let it go to waste. It stunk the whole house up with its nauseating odor as it cooked. We all told her it smelled like it might have “gone to the bad.” She disagreed.

We planned a road trip for the four of us to go into Amish Country and packed a nice picnic …no sausage. Phyllis and Cousin Kat decided to take their showers the evening before so The four of us wouldn’t be competing in the morning. Cousin Kat told her how she could run a bit of water in the tub, sit on the edge, wash her face, ears, neck, then her body before washing the best parts and her feet. That way, she could get by with just a little of that expensive hot water. Well, I do believe I heard the shower running while Phyllis was in there, despite her lesson. Cousin Kat perked up her ears, too. When Phyllis came out, Cousin Kat said, “I hope you stopped up the tub and saved your water for me. Just one person don’t mess up bath water none.” Shamefaced, Phyllis had to admit she run it all down the drain. Cousin Kat gave her a look.

We went on to bed. I snore and talk in my sleep, so no one would bunk in with me. I am always early to bed, so I took the small bedroom. Cousin Kat gave Mother an inflatable mattress her son had left there to put on the living floor. Unfortunately, he had taken the pump home with him, so they sent a great deal of time trying to inflate it with a small hand-held hairdryer, the wrong tool for the job. Eventually, it approximated a mattress, though it flattened out the minute Mother reclined on it. They hadn’t bothered to pad the floor with quilts, so Mother was freezing the minute she lay down that frosty October evening. She got up, dragged her covers tote old-fashioned bi-fold sofa and tried to warmup. It was hard, lumpy, and had a couple of exposed springs but it was better than the icy floor.

Meanwhile, things weren’t going much better for Phyllis in the large, unheated upstairs bedroom. She’d chosen it because she liked to sleep in the cold. She’d dawdled and was the last to get to bed. I was quickly asleep though I kept up a listen for retching during the night, expecting Cousin Kat to come down with food poisoning, but the next thing I knew, Phyllis was climbing in the small creepy bed with me. “I thought you were too good to sleep with me.” I reminded her.

“I am, but when I got upstairs and switched on that dim overhead light, and everything looked fine, but when I turned back the quilts, rice scattered all over the place. I couldn’t imagine why rice would be on the bed, like that. I turned on that little flashlight Cousin Kat gave me and saw the bed and floor covered in mouse pellets. Mice were scattering everywhere. I can’t sleep up there with all those mice. She was mad! I was laughing so hard the springs were creeping. We sounded like honeymooners.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t sleep well, I talk in my sleep. In truth, it’s much worse than that. I curse and hurl epithets, language I’d never use during waking hours. Once I drifted off, Phyllis and I rolled up in that ancient mattress like a couple of hotdogs in a bun. She swears I shoved her and screamed at her to “get the f…. Out of here. I don’t remember a thing about it!

In a huff, she got up in search of a place to sleep. Seeing that Mother had abandoned the perfectly good air mattress, she gave it a try. Of course, it put her right on the floor. Not to be defeated, she folded it in half and stretched out. That was a little better. Just as she drifted off, it gave up the ghost and blew out. Hearing all the racket, Mother and I got up to help. I invited her to share my bed, but she was mad and wouldn’t have any part of it. Mother offered to share the bi-fold sofa, but there was no way that would work. She ended up spendinding the rest of the night wrapped in a blanket trying to sleep in a not-so-easy chair.

We got up early to Have breakfast and get ready for our trip. At the kitchen table, We chatted over breakfast and sipped coffee. Mother and Phyllis lied about the extent of their miserable night. Phyllis had to come up with an excuse about abandoning the mousy attic. Cousin Kat polished off the last piece of the rancid sausage with her breakfast.

I got the first shower, keeping it short, since I remembered Cousin Kat’s lesson. It was pleasantly hot, but Mother said Cousin Kat ducked down to the basement to “get something” while I showered. Mother was next in line. When she got in, the water was nice and hot while she soaped up, but in just a minute, an icy blast hit her. Obviously, Cousin Kat’s basement errand was to cut off the water heater. The water came from a spring, so Mother’s hot shower was over. She had to wipe the soap off with a wet washcloth dipped in icy water.

She was furious when she shivered out of her shower, accusing me of using all the hot water.
“Mother, I wasn’t in there but a couple of minutes. I didn’t use that much!”

All the while, Cousin Kat sat humming contentedly, finally offering, “Oh well, that water heater’s old. I guess it just gave out.” Only the day before she’d told us that her son had just put in a new one, over her objections. “I can heat what water I need on the stove and save the heating bill.” She made no mention of turning off the water heater.

Finally, the cold, sleepy bunch was ready to start the trip.

To be continued


Icy Showers and Rotten Sausage part 2

We toodled happily through the hills of Virginia in high spirits for a couple of hours till Cousin Kathleen asked for a rest stop. She wasn’t feeling so well. Uh oh! Still fearing the onset of food poisoning, I wheeled into a service station and she scurried for the Ladies Room. We filled the car, took our break, and waited. She came out looking a little green around the gills. “I ain’t feeling too peart. Something must be going around. I have a feeling I knew what was going around, that rotten sausage rolling around in her gut.

“Do you think we ought to go back home? I don’t want to take you off sick.”

“I’m fine. I just kinda’ had loose bowels.” That phrase always gave me visions of a person walking along with their arms full of slippery guts that periodically escaped and slipped to the ground. “I think I am fine now. My stomach’s rumblin’ a little. Think I’ll have a little bite to settle it.”

The sharp smell of rancid sausage assaulted us as she unwrapped a sausage-biscuit she dug out of her purse. “I’m sorry I ain’t got enough for y’all, but I didn’t want to waste this last piece.”

We couldn’t talk her out of eating it, and she cleaned it up, even licking its wax paper wrapper. Around noon, we stopped at a rest area for our picnic, spreading it out on a table under a shade tree. Several other groups were picnicking close by. Cousin Kat wasn’t hungry, so she headed for the restroom, telling us “Y’all go ahead and eat. I need a few minutes to sponge off a little.” That sounded ominous, but I didn’t offer to go along, assuming she wanted privacy.

By the time she came out, she looked bad. At a nearby picnic pavilion a couple with three little children was putting out their lunch. Dad smoothed the red and white checkered cloth and corralled the kiddies as Mom laid out the matching napkins and dishes. It was obvious tradition meant a lot to these parents since the kid’s clothes matched and Dad pulled out a nice camera and set up a tripod. It was a beautiful day for a picnic and family photos until Cousin Kat walked up, leaned against one of the poles of their pavilion and started projectile vomiting in their direction. She continued retching as they hurriedly packed their things, apparently in no mood for a new tradition.

When she regained her equilibrium, drank a Seven-Up, declaring she was fine now. “Sometimes I just get real sick like that, then it’s all over. Let’s get on down the road!”

She must have had a constitution of iron. We couldn’t talk her into going home, so we headed on. All was well for a couple of hours, then she got nauseated. I pulled over so she could retch to her heart’s content. Reaching in the car behind her, she grabbed Mother’s brand new red fleece jacket to wipe herself up with. Mother is still griping about her ruining that jacket. We whipped into a hotel and got a room, so she could rest and recover. We loaded her with fluids. I tried to get her to go to the Emergency Room but she would have no part of it. You can’t make an apparently competent adult go to the Emergency Room against their will. Believe me, I tried. Every time she opened her eyes, I had her drinking fluids.

After a few hours, she seemed better. At her suggestion, the rest of us walked over to the hotel restaurant for dinner. When we got back in an hour or so, the room smelled like a charnel house after a fresh episode of diarrhea and vomiting. Worst of all, her hemorrhoid had flared up and started bleeding. There was a bloody, poopy mess on the toilet, the walls, and a trail back to the bed where she lay sleeping like a baby. We made sure she was okay, gave her more to drink, and got to work on the mess, calling for extra towels to clean up. We also had to wash her clothes, since she’d already messed up the two outfits she’d brought. Then we headed to the pharmacy for remedies and air fresheners. Just in case you don’t know, they don’t give that stuff away. It was not a good night.

Somehow, we made it through the night. The next morning, she’d won her gastrointestinal battle. Now all she had to deal with was agonizing hemorrhoids. Her generous descriptions of her progress and suffering did not make her a better travel partner. We did some anti-climatic sightseeing in Amish Country, due to her ailments. Naturally, she didn’t feel like getting out, so we just made abbreviated stops. The only place she got out was at a quilt shop, where she was outraged at their prices. She’d thought she might be able pick up a nice quilt for twenty-five dollars.

We headed out early the next morning, determined to drop her off and head home to Louisiana. We had no intention of ever spending another night at her house. I think she was happy to see us leave, especially since we left her pantry well-stocked.

Our Awful Friends Part 5

Little Becky soon grew into her heritage and joined her roving brothers. Of course, being smaller, she tired sooner and was apt to be left somewhere along the way.  Mrs. Awful didn’t need to worry.  Without fail, some mother was sure to dispatch Becky home if she lingered too long.  One unfortunate day, we suffered a sewer malfunction at our house.  Daddy was hard at work digging out the sewer line when he noted Becky behind him, making mud pies in the mess he’d left.  He wasn’t particularly enjoying his work that day and howled for Mother to get Becky out of there.  Mother sprayed Becky with the water hose and walked her home herself, figuring that was the best way to contain the mess and cut down on her own laundry.  She handed her off to Mrs. Awful, who commenced yelling for the boys who were supposed to be watching Becky.  Mother didn’t linger for coffee.

A couple of days later, Mother looked out to see Little Becky sitting in our sand pile, still wearing the same unlaundered clothes she’d been wearing on her last visit.  Again, Mother delivered her home.  After that, whenever Becky lingered too long in our yard, Mother would have Phyllis return her, fearing the unsupervised child would wander into the pasture and be kicked by a horse or fall in the pond. For some reason, she was grudging about taking on the care of another toddler since she had plenty of her own.

I know Mother chose Phyllis to return Becky because she could resist the lure of the Awful’s since Billy and I had made it clear we yearned to join their traveling circus.  We were always denied permission to “go see the Awfuls” or ramble with them. One fine day, I caught Mother napping on the sofa and whispered a request.  “Can I go play with Jamey?”

She snored, “Uhhhhhh” at me and I knew I’d hit pay dirt.  Their house was a wonderland.  A sycamore grew adjacent to the front porch.  We skittered up the tree and climbed in through a mangled attic window.  From there, we crawled through the dusty attic and dropped through the attic access into their grandma’s closet.  Until we dropped in on Grandma, I had no idea she existed.  Deep in a nap, she awoke screaming, to the kid’s delight.  We fled, leaving the house through a hole in the living room floor.  Of course, Mama Awful was unhappy to have her soaps interrupted by a bunch of wild kids.  We had traversed the entire house without using a door.  We made two or three such passes before Phyllis appeared at the door to fetch me home.  She took great pleasure in telling me how much trouble I was in for going to the Awfuls without permission.  Naturally, when I got home, I was able to make Mother remember my request to go. I escaped that time, but she made it clear she had to be awake before giving permission for anything else.  I was also pre-threatened not to awaken her unless a kid was bleeding or something was on fire.  She had a bad attitude.  In the future, when she took her rare naps, all requests had to go through Phyllis, meaning they were met by a resounding “NO!”  It was a rotten deal.


Miz Dalrymple and the Hog

pig in slopThe neighbors gathered after the first frost to slaughter the Jackson’s hogs. Terrified by the commotion and scent of blood, one of the pigs managed to escape and hide up under under the neighbor’s outhouse, a good ways off, where Miz Dalrymple was
enjoying a little time to herself, thinking all the menfolk was off killing hogs. Just as she got relaxed, she heard A deep voice, “I’ll git behind here ‘n poke ‘er with a stick. You hit ‘er in th’ head with th’ ax when she comes a’runnin’ out!”

Thinking madmen had ‘er for shore, pore Miz Dalrymple come a’flyin’ out with her drawers around her ankles. It was amazing how fast an ol’ lady could run like that. It took her two days to walk back!

He Axed for It

Man splitting log in half for fire wood with ax

Man splitting log in half for fire wood with ax

It’s hard to imagine why, but all Billy asked for that Christmas was an ax. Maybe he was remembering the year before with Evil Larry. That’s not a typical item for an eleven-year-old to ask for, but he stuck to his guns. The ax was his only request. Christmas morning he got up to find the tree mounded up with presents, but no ax shaped gifts, though it’s hard to imagine how one might expect to see an ax wrapped. After a few tension filled minutes of searching, he spotted the old broken ax that had been lying out on the wood pile the night before. Whoever was playing Santa tricks hadn’t even bothered to buff the rust off the head or knock the dried cow manure off the cracked handle. It lay carelessly against the brick hearth where it had been tossed at the last minute. Bill was sick. He looked at Daddy’s stern face, “You didn’t really think you’d get something dangerous as an ax, did you?” His Christmas was ruined. Daddy let him suffer a minute of devastation before pulling the age old trick. “Well, if you look behind the tree, you might find…………” Of course, it was the ax of his dreams, complete with a bright red bow, probably the only ax delivered that Christmas morning. He was delighted! He had to hang around long enough to open the rest of his gifts, including the obligatory item he needed, new shoes for school. He endured a safety lecture before bursting outdoors to try his ax.

He had a glorious time for several days, chopping everything in sight. After he seemed like he might have the essentials down, Daddy put a pretty sharp edge on it, thinking he understood the danger now. Big mistake. He just had time to build up a little confidence. He took a whack a log. It rolled. He whacked again. It rolled again. He steadied it with his foot this time. Hitting his foot with a glancing blow, he was horrified to see a cut on the side of his show. Knowing there was no way to hide the damage to his shoe, he headed for the house, ready to face the music, ax still in hand. He came into the living room. “Mother, I cut my new shoe.”

She blanched. “Did you cut your foot? Take off your shoe and let me see!”

“No ma’am! I just cut my shoe, but you can take it to the shoe shop and get it sewn up.”

“Don’t worry about that. . Just take off the shoe and let me see about your foot!” He should have left it on. When the shoe came off, it looked like the side of his foot came with it.  Blood gushed all over the floor. “Oh, My Lord! Somebody get me some towels! We gotta get to the doctor!” My aunt and her boys were there. The women scooped him up, Mother holding pressure, and my aunt driving. In the brief time they were gone, her four-year-old twins were skating around in the huge puddle of blood like they were the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. Thank God, Daddy met them just down the road and he and Mother took Billy on to the doctor to be stitched up. This freed Aunt Esther up to come back and clean up her little hellions and their blood bath. Amazingly, he’d sliced neatly through the ball of his foot, missing bones and tendons. Though he had dozens of stitches, inside and out, it healed beautifully, with no problems.

Later that evening, he lay on the couch, foot elevated on a pillow. He’d had pain medication and finally felt well enought to eat. Mother felt awful for him, so had made oyster stew, his favorite. She brought it to him on a tray table, so he could eat without moving. That would have been wonderful, had she not maneuvered just perfectly and whacked him directly on his bandanged foot, rewaking his screaming pain.

Our budget being what it was, that shoe did go to the shoe shop to be mended. Bill was restricted to crutches, so Mother borrowed a set from a friend. The fly in the ointment, was that one of them lacked a safety tip. Mother really meant to get a replacement, but time got away from her. It probably wouldn’t have mattered except for the ice storm the night before he started back to school. He hobbled out toward the bus, managing pretty well till he hit a patch of ice with that slick crutch tip. He went flying head over rear, landing in icy mud, skidding the rest of the way to the bus. For what it was worth, he got an extra day of vacation.

Recently, I asked Bill why in the world he’d wanted that ax. We had just moved onto a farm of one-hundred twenty acres, all uncleared.  Daddy set to clearing the land, he cut the trees and it fell to me and Billy to pile the brush.  Naturally, Daddy didn’t let us near the power saw.  Billy wanted the ax so he could clear the smaller stuff and avoid some of the brush piling.


True 2
True confessions







Anything regarding sex was dark and unmentionable in mixed company. Children were not to embarrass adults by noticing any veiled reference made in their presence, never asking why any adult was in the hospital, and vacating the room if the words complications, hormones, or nature came up in conversation. Above all, women should never refer to their “period.” Should a woman have to mention a pregnancy, she should discreetly refer to it as “expecting.” It was best if obviously pregnant women stayed home to avoid embarrassing the unsuspecting public.

My repertoire of misinformation was epic by this time. In a moment of proper parenting, my parents said I could ask them anything. Fat chance!! I counted on my friends when I needed a good source of information. One day at school, I heard a girl could get pregnant from sleeping with another girl. I had just spent last Saturday night with my cousin Sue. Was I pregnant? How could my mother have let me spend the night knowing what might happen? This time I was concerned enough to ask Mother. “No, a girl can’t get pregnant from spending the night with another girl. Where had I heard such a thing?” She answered my question, but I could tell she didn’t look forward to any more questions. She didn’t get any.

Everything promised to change when I discovered, “True Confessions Magazine,” a literary gem whose lurid cover hinted a treasure trove of forbidden knowledge. Of course, “True Confessions” was “filth.” Mother would have sooner jumped off the top of the house than allow it to foul her home. Happily, some of my aunts were more generous and left copies lying around giving me the opportunity to read fragments of a few precious paragraphs from time to time before Mother realized what I was up to. I never got to read an entire story, so didn’t know I would have gotten no more than a “good girl gone bad” story or a “bad girl got what she deserved story.” They only alluded to whatever sin was committed. I would have gotten more information from my Sunday School lesson. I was thrilled to hear Mother accept old copies from my aunts only to have my hopes dashed as she righteously rushed home and burned them to get them out of circulation.

Margaret finally let me in the real truth about sex. I was appalled. “Nobody would do that!” Especially not my prissy mother and my stern father. She showed me a book she found under her mother’s mattress to prove it! I was disgusted to think I had started that way. My parents had five kids!!! That proved they had DONE IT at least FIVE TIMES!!!! Maybe even six if they’d had a failure. I decided then and there not to ever get married. I couldn’t imagine how a pregnant woman could show her face in public, much less in church. It ruined “True Confessions” for me. Worse yet was the delivery of the baby. That was the worst of all. Obviously, God was a man to design a plan like that!

Daddy’s family was hormone-ridden and prone to serial marriage. His four sisters and two brothers achieved an incredible twenty-five marriages between them. Two sisters were constantly vying for the championship. One managed nine marriages, but only got credit for seven husbands since she married two of the men twice. The runner-up had a grand total of seven with no reruns. They even married the Blair twins, complicating matters even more. One of Daddy’s brothers was married three times and had three families. His other brother was hampered by a wife who refused to divorce him, so he had to settle for philandering. Daddy completely ignored their habit of marrying. In the interest of survival, so did we. My younger sisters were careful not to get caught when they composed a jump rope jingle, listing all the husband’s names: Essie Mae Lee, Jones, Peterson, White, Key, Blair, McCoy, Blair, Cole and Sneed. They weren’t that coordinated, and usually stumbled somewhere around the second Blair.

While Daddy was able to ignore his family’s interesting behavior, he missed no opportunity to point out our behavioral flaws. “Fix your clothes!” When I was three, this meant put my panties were showing, a terrible lapse in manners. As I got older, it implied either indecency or the horrifying suggestion that I might have soiled the back of my dress, the worst social gaffe imaginable. Had I been fleeing an axe-murderer and he uttered, “Fix your clothes!” checking myself out in the nearest bathroom would have taken priority over escape.

My parents had very strict standards of appropriate courtship behavior. Some were objective: No dating till sixteen. No expensive or personal gifts. No gifts of clothing. Tasteful gifts included inexpensive perfume, flowers, and books. Some were just common sense: These are the ones that gave me trouble, meaning I was in big trouble for even asking: Don’t even ask to go on a picnic for two or swimming. (Raging hormones) Don’t ever accept a ride from a boy without parent’s permission, even if you’ve been in class together since first grade. (Raging hormones) No phone calls after 8:30 pm. (Disrespectful to parents) Don’t ever go anywhere other than place in original permission.(Being picked up by tornado on way home from church might be excused.)

My mother practiced an excellent form of birth control, for us, not herself. She only bought cheap cotton panties because “nobody is supposed to see your underwear anyway.” I don’t know how I would have behaved otherwise, but I wasn’t about to get frisky in those horrible britches. Sometimes Mother was lucky enough to find some so cheap they didn’t have elastic in the legs, just the waist. The fit wasn’t too bad in the morning, but by midmorning, these adventurous undies always managed to crawl up my rear. I had no idea I was ahead of my time in my “thongs” and despised them. By then end of the day, they had achieved amazing altitude and my legs felt two inches longer than when I left that morning.

Connie and Marilyn had it worse than we did, because after Grandma had a stroke, she was no longer able to do the beautiful dressmaking she was known for. She made it her mission in life to make sure they never ran out of homemade cotton panties. She used whatever fabric was at hand, cotton prints or plaids, not soft knits. Her creations had wide front and back as well as side seams and very narrow crotches, but alas, no elastic in the legs. These were not roomy bloomers made of soft cotton flour sacks she made my mother in her youth. These were torture devices. Grandma didn’t see us for months at a time, so she underestimated their waist sizes, making the patched up drawers even worse. The tight elastic waist and scratchy seams ensured even more misery. I was not jealous!

Stealing Furniture

img_1592Bud’s co-worker’s in-laws were spending the summer on a job in Alaska.  They’d arranged for Steve their son-in-law to sell their piano for them in their absence.  Steve recruited Bud and several others to help him load it.  My young son, John, tagged along.  When the troop got to his inlaws, Steve realized he’d forgotten his key, necessitating a climb through the window.

John watched open-mouthed as Steve wiggled through the kitchen window and opened the front door for the rest of the crew.  They made quick work of loading the piano into the truck.  Apparently, Bud hadn’t gotten around to explaining the plan to John.  As they struggled, John tugged on Bud’s coattail.  “Dad, where are the folks who own the house?”

“They are working in Alaska, son.”

“Well, why are we stealing their furniture?”

Aunt Ader’s Place Part 7

Aunt Julie looked like a wild woman, but I adored her.  She cackled like a hen when she laughed with her crinkly black hair standing up like a nest of stinging worms.  I saw her comb it once or twice, but it didn’t make a bit of difference.  Fortunately, she was easy going and didn’t seem bothered by it.  She was a skinny, little woman with a big stomach and pipe-stem legs.  The legs of her pants bloused out and never touched her.  Had I not known her since I was born, I’d have thought she was a witch.  She had a filthy mouth, peppering her language with forbidden words.  I learned early on Mother would warm my britches should I repeat anything coming out of Aunt Julie’s mouth.

One of Aunt Julie’s phrases always hooked me.  She often prefaced statements with, “as the old saying goes.”  I loved old sayings, so I was all ears waiting for what came next.  Sadly more often than not, she finished with something perfectly mundane like, “I  have to make a pan of biscuits.”  I never failed to be disappointed, feeling she had not followed through on her promise.  “Fortunately, from time to time, she finished up with a thrilling phrase like, “If I don’t get to the bathroom soon I’m gonna s___ my drawers.”  Her use of forbidden language always brightened days moderated by Mother’s prudish language.  We weren’t even allowed to say pee pee or doo doo.  It’s rough being a gee gee-er in a world of kids who doo doo or donkey.  I don’t think Mother cared how she marked us.  More on Aunt Julie later.

Good Old Champ


Art by Kathleen Holdaway Swain

I knew Champ, our horse, loved me since he trotted up to the fence every time he saw me. I carefully held my hand flat and let him snuffle up goodies with his velvety muzzle. My big sister said it he’d love anyone who slipped him apples, sugar and carrots, but she was just being mean. I didn’t tell my friends and cousins the trick, so they were scared he’d bite them. Before long, I found he could help himself to treats out of my pocket or off my shoulder.

My grandmother had written that she was coming for Easter and bringing Easter outfits with hats and shoes. I didn’t hear much except the part about outfits with hats and shoes. I was thrilled! I had been dying for a cowboy outfit with red boots, red hat, and shiny pistols in a holster but Mother said I needed other things worse. Good old Grandma knew what really mattered! I was up before daylight waiting for her. Breakfast and lunch dragged by…..…..nothing. I was getting more and more upset. Maybe Grandma wasn’t coming. Maybe she got lost. Just before dark an old black car crept up. We all flew out to the car, trying to get to her first. “What did you bring me? What did you bring me?” Mother tried to shush us, but nobody listened. Grandma was slow getting out of the car and slower getting in the house. No wonder it took her so long to get here. We got busy and helped with her bags and a big brown box from the back seat. There was plenty of room in there for a cowboy suit and lots of other good stuff.

Even though we were dying, Mother made us wait till Grandma went to the bathroom, got a cup of coffee, and caught her breath. She was slow at that, too. Finally, Grandma got the scissors and started cutting the strings on the box. She was so old her fingers shook. It took forever. I could have ripped into that box in a second, but would Mother let me? Noooooo!

Just before I died of old age, Grandma started pulling things out of the box. I knew she always saved the best for last. I got a gumball machine full of gumballs. That was great!! Next she pulled out a baby doll and handed it to me. Grandma couldn’t seem to remember I hated dolls, but I tried to be nice about it. All baby dolls were good for was burying when we played funeral. I tried to be patient till she got to the cowboy outfit. Finally, she hit bottom. She made me and my sister close our eyes and hold out our hands for our outfits.

I peeked just a little and was furious!! This was a horrible joke! We were both holding fancy Easter dresses, big ridiculous straw hats with flowers, and shiny white shoes. I hated them! Where were my cowboy boots and guns? My mother gave me a dirty look before I could tell Grandma what I really thought. I hated dresses, but Mother made us put on our Easter getups and pose next to the fence for a picture. It was hot. The clothes were scratchy. We looked stupid. My prissy big sister kept dancing around like a ballerina while the mean kids from next door laughed at us across the fence. I’d be dealing with them later. Boy was I disgusted.

Mother was as slow as Grandma. While I stood there like a dope waiting for her to take that darn picture, Champ came up behind me expecting a treat. We both got a big surprise. I felt a big scrunchy chomp on my head. The strap on my hat stretched tight, snapped, and that horrible hat with the flowers was gone. I flipped around, and Champ was eating my Easter hat. He still had straw and flowers sticking out of his mouth, but I could see he didn’t think too much of it either. He was the best horse ever. I never had to wear that hat again. He did love me!