Just Folks Getting By Part 2

Good baby0002Photo of my great-grandmother, Sarah Jones Perkin’s, still born baby circa 1900

For some reason, Lucille had always loved washing dishes.  After breakfast, she stacked the dishes in the dishpan, added the soap, ran scalding water over them, and brought a glass of milk and a cup of coffee to Jenny where she was nursing the baby on her shady front porch.  Jenny had been married seven years and had almost given up on a baby when Lucy surprised her.

“Thanks for the milk, Mama.  Did you have trouble getting pregnant like I did?” she asked.

“Lord, no!  I had Jimmy only ten months after I married, and me only fifteen.” she laughed.”  After that, I think I miscarried twice before I got that way with you.  Back then, we didn’t run to the doctor for every little thing, so I never was sure if I lost babies or not.  I couldn’t have been too far along, if I was.  We was about to starve, so my curse wasn’t real regular.  You didn’t come along till five years after Jimmy,” Lucille reminded her.

“I never knew you were that young when you got married.  Why, you couldn’t have even finished school.  What was your daddy thinking letting you marry that young?” Jenny was feeling protective of her own sweet baby.

“Honey, my daddy was was the reason I needed to git married.  He was a mean drunk.  My mama died when me and my twin sister Velma was about ten.  Seemed like he never got tired of beatin’ on her.  He’d come in drunk long after we was asleep in bed like a ragin’ bull.  We’d learnt to hide and Mama took the whuppin’.  I really think a beatin’ is what finally kilt her.  He come in and whipped her and kicked her around real bad one Thursday night.  She crept around three or four days till she died with the most awful black blood comin’ from her bowels.  Nobody never said nothin’ to him.  It was a man’s business if he felt like beatin’ his wife.

Daddy started in on me and Velma after Mama died.  We made sure not to get caught off alone with him or he’d a’done us some real dirt.  I met your Daddy when I was fourteen, but I let him think I was a lot older.  Me and Melba was stayin’ with Aunt Lucy by now.  That’s Mama’s sister I was named for.  She was so good to us.  I slipped out one night and went to the pictures with Russ.  I feel bad now about doing Aunt Lucy that way, now, but you know how boy-crazy young girls is.  I sat with him a few times at church, and he got to coming to see me at Aunt Lucy’s.  We wanted to gut married, but Aunt Lucy said I’d have to git Daddy to sign for me.  I wasn’t about to go to Daddy for nothin’.  The next Friday morning I skipped school and run off with Russ to Oklahoma.  His sister was an old friend of my mama’s.  She knowed how bad Daddy done Mama and knew I needed to get away, so she went with us and signed like she was my mama.  I always ‘preciated her doin’ that.  I left Velma a note tellin’ her I’d run off to got married so they wouldn’t think somethin’ awful had happened.  Lordy, I never meant to gab so long.  I got to git back to them dishes.”  She heaved herself to her feet and headed back to the kitchen.

Jenny caught her by the hand. “Mama, I’m real proud you came to stay awhile.”

“Me, too, Honey.  Me, too.”

 

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Hard Time Marrying Part 16

Anya lay awake a long time thinking after Joe went to the barn and the kids slept, the baby snuggled up warm and sweet in the curve of her body.   In his rope bed near the fire, the boy cried out for his mama in his sleep and whimpered without waking.   Anya went to him, smoothed his hair and rubbed his back till he went back to sleep.  His warm little hand sought hers and she felt stirrings of pity for him, even though she tried not to.  She’d already lost the battle of staying detached from the little girl, and was beginning to wonder if she could take the poor motherless thing when she left though she saw the folly in that.  She had no friends, nowhere to go and no way to care for the child. Not only that, she might have killed the peddler.  The law was hard on a woman.  They might be looking to hang her right now. She needed to get far enough away to disappear in a sizable town. The baby would just hold her back. A woman alone would have a hard enough time providing for herself, even if she had nothing to hide. She had to get as far away as possible and seek work as a housekeeper or cook, since that was all she knew.  Having barely been to school, she couldn’t be a schoolmarm.  She’d had enough of men to know she’d never marry.  She needed to get to town where folks had enough money and house to need help. Her prospects were poor, but maybe when she got to Meadow Creek Church she’d meet up with somebody who could help get her on the road to something else.  It would break her heart, but there’s no way she could take the tiny girl.

Out in the barn, Joe was thinking his own gloomy thoughts.  He didn’t want Anya to go.  He started to hope she might stay and they could be a family.  Even though Anya hadn’t warmed to him, he’d gotten a little taste of family watching her doing for the baby and doing about the house.  It had been such a pleasure to come in last night and find supper laid out.  No one had done that for him since Ma died.  When Anya left, he and the boy manage, but who would do for the baby?  She was far too young to go around with him while he worked.

 

Hard Time Marrying Part 15

!fireplace-3She had supper ready when Joe and the boy came in.  She’d cooked beans on in a cast-iron pot hanging over the fire and baked cornbread and some sweet potatoes in the coals, pleasant work she was accustomed to.  Joe’s brows lifted when he saw supper and bowls and cups out on the table.  She crumbled cornbread in a cup and Joe poured buttermilk over it for the baby before lifting her to Anya’s lap.  They all fell to with an appetite. 

“My name is Anya, not Anna.  I’ll stay and earn my keep till I can manage, but I ain’t no whore.  Don’t come sniffing around me.  I don’t want to owe you nothing.  I’m gittin’ better so I can do for the baby and tend the house, but you need to keep the boy with you.”  She looked him fiercely in the eye.

Joe looked her and raised his voice.  “I’ll thank you to call me Joe.  Don’t you think I could’a already done hurt you if I’d wanted? I don’t want nothin’ more from you than you take care of yourself and the baby.”  He dropped his voice, speaking more to himself.  “I been getting along without a woman for a long time, but I ain’t fell so low I got to take up with a stringy, beat-up neck bone like you.”

Poor Joe was unaware her hearing had improved and was surprised to have a hot sweet potato hit him in the jaw.  “I’ll thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head,” she warned him through clinched jaws. 

“Yes, ma’am.”  He muttered.  “Beggin’ pardon, ma’am.  No call for me to be spiteful.  We are both in a pickle and battling ain’t gonna help.”

“You keep to your place and I’ll keep to mine till I can do better.”  The tension eased a bit now they understood each other.

They passed the evening watching the children at their play.  Joe had brought them a kitten from the barn.  The boy teased it with a bit of string, delighting the baby girl.  Joe and Anya caught themselves laughing at it a time or two.

“What’s the boy’s name?”  This was the first time it had occurred to her to ask.

“I don’t know.  I just been calling him boy.  His mama was sick when she got here and never told me nothing.  She died the next day.”  He stared into the fire.

“You mean these ain’t your young’uns?”  She was incredulous.

“No, I don’t know nuthin’ exceptin’ their mama up and died soon’s she got here.  I’d send ‘em back to her folk if I knew who they was.  She come with nuthin’ but my letter, a bundle of clothes, and these young’uns after I wrote off for a wife. I buried her out in the mesquite and tried to take the kids back to Talphus fer the town or the church to do for ‘em and them miserable bastards run me off like a scalded dog.  When I got back after doing chores that night, you was up in the house lookin’ at the baby.  I thought I’d done buried their mama alive.  It warn’t till just now the coyotes dug her body out of the grave till I knew you warn’t the woman I married.  Oh, Lordy.  I don’t know why I ain’t left well enough alone.”

 

Hard Time Marrying Part 13

anya-and-baby

Anya had no idea of the horror behind Joe’s outburst as he tore into the cabin, though she knew plenty about the moods of men, none of it good.  She covered her head and cowered on the far side of the bed, expecting a beating or rape, the way men had most often dealt with her.  His previous kindnesses were forgotten in her shock.

“What’s going on here?  Who the Hell are you and how did you get here? I thought you were my wife! Who are these kids?”  He crossed the room shaking her by the shoulders as she waited for the blows to rain down. “

Despite her confusion, with him shouting directly into her face, there was no mistaking, “I THOUGHT YOU WERE MY WIFE!”

He was insane!  Bracing for what was sure to come next, she covered her head with her good arm.  God help me!  Distraught and overwrought he fled the cabin, slamming the door before the boy could get out behind him.

The boy wailed and tore at the door.  The baby cried and clung to her.  The shock of the man’s outburst cleared her confusion a bit.  She rushed to the door, and slid the wooden bar to lock the man out.  At least that would give her a moment to think.  She’d hoped to have a few more days to rest.  In her clouded mind, the baby girl had become the little sister she’d so loved. She to figure a way to get herself and the girl away.  The man might burn them in their beds tonight, but if they survived, she’d have to figure out a way to get them out of here in the morning.

 

 

Hard Time Marrying Part 9

traveling-medicine-show1No mother had ever loved her.  A woman or two passed through, but none of them stayed long.  Ever since she could remember, she’d trailed Pa at his blacksmith or on the homestead though some days he didn’t speak five words to her.  As she got older, she picked up a little cooking, but neither of them did more than they had to in the house.  She was near thirteen when Bessie and her three boys moved in homestead after marrying Pa, Bessie railed at the filth in the house and set about teaching Anya housekeeping with a ready back-hand.  She wasn’t partial to the girl, backhanding her own boys just as often.  When Bessie’s baby girl was born a few months later, she carelessly handed it off to Anya, taking it only to nurse.  For the first time in her life, Anya knew love, never leaving her new sister in Bessie’s way.

Bessie remarried quickly after Pa was kicked in the head by a horse and liked Anya even less after she caught her new man looking Anya’s way.  Within a month, she’d handed Anya off to a Snake Oil peddler passing through.  He warned her not to try to get away.  “I done paid good money for you.”  Anya endured his drunken assaults and those of men who paid him for her time.  After the most brutal beating and rape she’d yet endured, he passed out from his own “Snake Oil.”  Fueled by adrenaline and the knowledge that it was now or never, despite her useless right arm, Anya dragged herself to the wagon, took his pistol from under the wagon seat, aimed at his head and pulled the trigger.  It kicked her backwards against the wagon.  Desperately, she pulled herself up, took the shovel propped against the wagon wheel, steadied herself as best she could, and bashed in his skull.  Repositioning herself, she took another go at him, knowing if he lived, he’d kill her.

With agonizing effort, she pulled his old horse next to the wagon and slid over from the step.  Fortunately for her, the horse was old and docile or he’d have never tolerated her clumsiness.  Popping the reins, she gave him his head.  From time to time she’d nod off and awaken to find his head drooping, as he rested along with her.  Urging him on, they’d travel a bit more till he sensed she wouldn’t notice his dawdling. In that manner, they traveled on through the night and early morning.  As her fatigue and pain got the better of her, she spent less and less time pushing him.  He ambled along and grazed as he pleased with no interference from her.  She slid from his back as he made his way down a little slope to a stream.  She drank beside him and crawled into the shade of a willow to rest.  Somewhat interested, he watched his fellow traveler, then began grazing further and further along the stream.  It was a good day to be a horse on the loose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boogerman’ll Get You By the Hair of Your Head!

shamMother and I natter on incessantly.  Yesterday we went to visit my aunt a couple of hours away.  As we rode along, I was asking Mother more about the details of her early marriage at eighteen.  She slipped up and confessed a tale she’s felt guilty about ever since.  I couldn’t believe she stumbled and told on herself after sixty-nine years.  She usually bumbles right away.  To set the stage, you have to know she has a ridiculous conscience.  If she suspects there is a rule somewhere, she is obligated to follow it, no matter how senseless.  If she fails, she is required to feel guilty.  That’s the rule.

Mother, married at eighteen.  Within months Daddy moved her into the house with his widowed mother and her two daughters.  They were poor and lived in a decrepit unpainted house miles out in the country, not the newlywed home she’d envisioned.  To put the icing on the ruined cake, Aunt Julie with her two squalling brats had settled in as well.  The house was uncomfortable, Mother felt unwelcome, Daddy was never home except to sleep.

The kids, two and four, whined without ceasing, unless they took a break to throw a fit.  One day, she was alone in the room with them and was totally fed up with the whining.  She told Yvonne, the oldest, “Stop that squalling or the Boogerman will get you!”  To reinforce the lesson, she stepped into the next room, scratched on the door-facing and wailed “Wooooooooo!”  The terrified kids shut up immediately.”  From then on, when the whining started, she’d give them another little dose of Wooooo, if she got the chance when Aunt Julie wasn’t in the room.

“Why didn’t I ever hear this great story before?” I had to know.

“Because I felt guilty, I guess. I didn’t mean to tell it now.  I’m still ashamed,” she confessed.

“Well, you should be.  I am sixty-five years old and I could have been enjoying this story my whole life!”

Rest Your Weary Head: Uplifting Advice for the Heartbroken

victorian angel

Dear Auntie Linda,  I am a first-grade teacher in a small town.  One of the major problems my students face is hunger.  It is not just the children of homeless or jobless people who face hunger on a regular basis.  So many working parents simply do not make enough to provide sufficient food for their families.  If they qualify for free lunch program, at least they get that meal, but come to school hungry and go home in the afternoon to families who can’t consistently provide enough food, not to mention, nutritious food.  If families qualify for food assistance, they will very likely run out before the end of the month.  Churches and food pantries help, but they are facing funding issues as well.  I see hunger in children’s faces every day.  I keep a supply of low cost, nutritious snacks I can slip to a hungry child on the sly, but my budget is limited and I usually run out before my monthly payday.  Friday afternoons toward the end of the month fill me with dread.  It breaks my heart to see little ones going out who will miss their milk and school lunch over the weekend.  I encourage those of your readers who can afford it to contribute packets of nutritious snacks to your school.  It would help little guys so much if teachers could make an opportunity to pass them out to little ones who can’t learn because they are hungry.  Teaching the Hungry

Dear Teaching,  It is a wonderful idea to ask parents or those in the community who can to contribute.  It would be easy enough to have a snack drive or ask parents to add a packet of snacks to their school supply list, if they could afford to do so.  This would also be an excellent community service project.  Maybe the idea will catch on if you ask your school to promote it.  Auntie Linda

Dear Auntie Linda, My only sister has one child, a nine-year-old daughter, who is extremely spoiled.  My husband has always said he’d “love to straighten her out.”  Granted, Megan is a brat.  She whines, is selfish, and has a smart mouth.  Last week Annie called asking to speak to Bill.  She told him she and her husband have a chance to go to Paris and asked if Megan could stay with us for two weeks.  I am not surprised she asked him.  She knows he is domineering and knew it was her best shot, knowing I’d have to talk to him about it anyway.  He’d agreed and it was set up before he hung up.  Bill is not a patient man.  He angers quickly and acts before he thinks.  I know having Megan here will be a disaster.  Our kids tiptoe around him, but Megan will be wide open, since she’s never been disciplined.  She doesn’t even flush the toilet when she’s done.  Bill looks at this like a project.  He is going to straighten her out.  How in the world do I get out of this?  Annie’s Sister

Dear Sister.  Call Annie and tell her your home is not a fit place for Megan.  While you are at it, look hard at your situation.  It doesn’t sound like your home is a safe place for your children either.  Children have a right to grow up free of fear.  They deserve better.  Auntie Linda

Instrument of Torture

I grew up way back in the 1950s and 1960s before the days of “Time Outs.”  I think I would have loved time out.  My parents had five wild kids.  They were partial to the time-   honored switch and belt system.  If Mother wasn’t too serious about the point she was making, she was fairly likely to pull the plastic fly swat off the nail by the stove and give us Continue reading

Maniac in the Wilderness

Bill 2Bill ever survived my mother’s abuse.  When he was only a tiny lad of eighteen, he was six feet four inches tall. I think the fact that she wasn’t even acquainted with five feet gave him a feeling of superiority.  While I won’t say he had a smart mouth, I will allow it was extremely well-educated.  I am sure they only reason my mother hadn’t already killed him was because she hated to go to prison and leave her younger daughters motherless.  It certainly wasn’t because the thought hadn’t crossed her mind at least a thousand times a day since puberty attacked him and her by proxy.

Anyway, on occasion, they had to travel places alone together.  It was a misery to them both.  It didn’t help that the car was a tiny Volkswagon Beetle.  It’s always worth a person’s time to stop and watch a huge guy unfold himself and crawl out of a Beetle, a pleasure Bill dreaded providing mirthful onlookers.  It didn’t improve his mood on arrival, a mood already blackened with inevitable conflict he’d shared with Mother.

At any rate, on this particular day, they started home with Bill driving.  According to Mother, he was driving like a maniac: driving too fast, following too closely, cutting people off.  I have no doubt this was true.  It was his typical manner.  She insisted he slow down.  He crept along at ten miles an hour, hoping that was slow enough to please her.  She’d finally had enough, telling him to pull over.  She’d drive.  He critiqued her driving as soon as she started.  “Speed up!  Don’t ride the clutch! Change Gears!”

Finally, she’d had enough.  She pulled over.  “Get out!”  Delighted, he hopped out, thinking she’d come to her senses and wanted him to drive.  She drove off and left him standing on a country road, thirty miles from home.  She enjoyed the rest of the peaceful drive.  At  home, Daddy wanted to know where Bill was.  “I left him somewhere close to Bossier City.”

Daddy was shocked she’d left the little fellow all alone in the wilderness.  “Well, You’d better go get him!  It’ll be dark soon!”

“You go get him if you want to!  I don’t care if he never gets home!”

Daddy was a lot better at giving orders than taking them, but he jumped in his truck to rescue his precious son and heir.  Billy met him at the end of the driveway, brought home by a Good Samaritan.  He’d somehow survived his abandonment but I think he still drives like a maniac.  I don’t think he and Mother voluntarily ride together till today

See attached picture if you care to put out APB on either