Two Roads Part 14

img_1697Over the next few years, their brood grew to include seven.  The boys were tall and strong, a lot of help to Eddie, so he didn’t need Neeley’s help so much.  A stern taskmaster, he was apt to take his belt to the boys should they dally.  When Will, their third son was about eight, he was given the task of planting corn as his older brothers made up the rows on either side of him.  The rows seemed to stretch on forever and his back ached with bending and planting four kernels per hills ten to twelve inches apart. He fell further and further behind.  Desperate to catch up, he buried a big pile of seed in one hill and caught up to his brothers.  It rid him of so much of the accursed seed, he repeated the process up and down the rows, finishing up in time with the rest.  He thought no more about it, glad to be done with the onerous task of planting.  Several evenings later, Eddie went out one bright moonlit night to check to see if his corn had sprouted late that afternoon.  Indeed it had, but not all in rows like he expected.  Big clumps of corn sprouts stood in patches up and down the rows.  Infuriated, he knew immediately what Will had done.  He strode toward the house, determined to set the boy straight.  In their exhaustion, the three boys had gone to bed immediately after supper.  Eddie stomped into the room snatching the covers back from the sleeping boys and started beating them with his belt. Though Will got the worst of it, the other boys suffered welts, too.  Neeley heard the screams from the kitchen and burst in to stop Eddie.  In his fury, he didn’t seem to notice her.  Neeley ..  got the fireplace poker and got between him and the boys, beating him about the shoulders. Finally, she stood him off.  Threatening to crack him over the head, she assured him she’d kill him if she had to. In the face of her ferocity, he backed down, putting himself on one side of a wall and herself and the kids on another.  This was repeated several times over the next few years, made worse as the boys’ hormones kicked in and Eddie aged. Neeley wondered if his meanness was due to his head jury or his nature.  It could have been a combination since Eddie had learned violence at he hands of his own father, many years earlier.

Eddie didn’t deal a lot better with the girls.  As they entered  puberty, he suspected them of all manner of misbehavior.  Always on the lookout for trashiness, they couldn’t smile at a boy without inciting his anger.  In view of Eddie’s violent tendencies, Neeley  always lined up on the side of her children, creating anger on both sides.  As Neeley became more defensive, the boys became more undisciplined.  Neeley had the girls firmly under control, determined they not be led astray as she had been.  Though Eddie never voiced it, Neeley feared he’d make reference to her dalliance before their marriage. Like any mother, she wanted her children to hold her in high regard. It was an uncomfortable situation.  Not only that, fearing more pregnancies, Neeley refused to have sex except immediately before or after her “curse,” increasing the tension between them.

 

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Hard Times With Mettie Knight Swain

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Five of Maw Maw’s seven children.  My father, Bill Swain is the little boy with wet pants holding the cap.  One more child was born after this picture was made.  It is likely someone just happened by with a camera and snapped this shot. Continue reading

Bill and the Bed Slat

      Biil and his mean mama

Biil and his mean mama

My mother was hard on my brother, Bill. Totally unconcerned about his tender psyche and self-esteem, she spanked him when he was a tender child. She was a tiny, “not tall” woman with a squeaky voice to match, sounding a lot like Minnie Mouse. It was ridiculous seeing her flap away at one of us with a plastic fly swat, but she gave it her best shot from time to time, anyway. Not wanting to be part of such a ridiculous show and avoid further embarrassment was the most likely inducement to better behavior.

Bill maintains he got more than his share of spankings, but most of us feel she neglected him. One day when he was about six, he confronted her, “Mama, you wupped me five times today!” Stricken by this accusation, she answered him, “I know son. I should have wupped you more, but I can’t give you all my time. I have four other children who need wupping.”

The last time she brutally beat him, he was eighteen years old, over six feet four inches tall, and had ragged her one day till she wanted to murder him. After a final smart remark as he went out the back door, he bent over and waggled his behind at her. Overcome with fury, she grabbed up a bed slat conveniently standing beside the back door and threatened him.

“Bend over and grab your knees, boy!” He thought it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. He bent over, grabbed his knees just as she demanded, and waggled his behind at her again for good measure, just in case she hadn’t seen enough the first time. She drew back and smacked him across the rear as hard as she could manage. POW! The percussion verberated across the woods like a rifle shot!

Bill fell to the ground, proclaiming, “You broke my back! You broke my back!

Terrified, she imagined herself going to jail for child abuse, even though he was past eighteen and towered more than a foot above her, leaving two little girls without the comfort of a mother. Mustering bravado, she threatened. “Get up from there or I’ll get you again, boy!”

He hopped up and strode around the corner of the house, laughing to my dad who’d enjoyed the whole episode. “That smarts! I didn’t think she could hit that hard!”

Happy Birthday Bill. Watch out for Mother!