A Hog a Day Part 10

Art by Kathleen Swain

Cousin Carol married a sorry guy.  He wasn’t crazy about working.  In fact, he was pretty much averse to it. He had better things to do, hunting, fishing, sleeping and making babies.  He and Carol had three babies in record time.   It worried Daddy’s brother terribly that Jerry didn’t provide for Carol and the kids.  As a favor to him, Daddy had Jerry meet him at the house one day after work.  “Come with me and we’ll go get you a hog so Carol can have something to cook for the kids.”  Jerry was all for free pork.  They went to the pen, got Jerry a nice-sized pig, and he was on his way.

A few days later, Daddy showed up to check hs traps mid-morning and surprised Jerry at his pen with a 22 rifle in his hands.  He’d just shot a pig and was getting ready to load it in his car.  Daddy was an imposing man, very six foot three.  He slapped Jerry to the ground.

Billy was Daddy’s shadow, making every step he made, whether it was hunting or socializing, which were often one in the same.  One evening, they were sitting with several of the guys on logs around a fire telling tales. Billy had worked hard to keep up with his new orange hunting cap all day, only too aware of how lucky he was to have it. It was late. He was tired. He’d nodded off a time or two, leaned up against a big log next to Daddy when he was startled to see Runt Rider, the crotchety owner of the fish camp wearing his cap. His hand flew to his head, finding it bare. Sure enough, Runt had his hat! The other fellows teased him routinely, but Runt was an old grump, who’d never even spoken to him. There were even stories that he’d stabbed a man!

He’d been set up. The guys were all waiting, watching for his reaction. The more he studied the situation, the more outraged he became. Finally, time for action. He bounded across, grabbed the cap off Runt’s head, and was rewarded by an explosion of laughter from all the guys around the fire. Runt was not happy at being laughed at. His face turned fiery red. He spit, sputtered, cursed, struggling to maintain control, clearly infuriated. Billy calmly put the hat on his head, walked to Daddy’s truck, and got in, feeling vindicated.

Daddy walked over to the truck. “Son, why in the world did you grab Mr. Runt’s hat off his head?”

“He had my hat. I had to get it back.”

“Look on the seat beside you.” Beside him on the seat, undeniably, lay his own hat. “I guess you’d better give Mr. Runt’s cap back. Billy took off the cap, returning it to Mr. Runt, with an apology. Mr. Runt was ungracious, but at least didn’t stab him.

Aunt Ader’s Place Part 6

img_1578Aunt Ader’s Place held more thrills than Disneyland.  Much of my large extended family gathered on a beautiful Halloween.  The women packed the hysterical children into a caravan of cars and made the rounds of a dozen houses scattered about the country neighborhood.  The twenty-odd children piling fighting their way out of cars must have looked like Attila and his ferocious Huns as we descended on the locals.  The drivers quickly gave up the battle and headed back as sugar-fired kids battled for Tootsie Rolls in the back seats.

Ensuring the madness continued, just as evening fell, we returned to a roaring bonfire in Aunt Ader’s front yard.  That was all it took to turn us into wild people, rabid in hot pursuit of each other.  Eventually, we wore down and settled in to roast hot dogs and marshmallows  on the open fire.  Many were burned beyond redemption, but some were even eaten.

As the evening cooled and the fire burned low and we sat on logs around the fire the stories started, first the old favorites like Bloody Bones that no one really believed.  As we quieted and the little ones drifted off in their parents arms, the older folks started with “true” scary stories: the time a mad-dog tried to drag Great-Aunt Bessie’s baby  from a pallet in the yard, the time so long ago when a hog devoured some cousin’s neighbor’s kid who fell into the pen.  Cousin Ray told a a man seeking shelter from the night who was turned away from several houses because he seemed suspicious but was eventually was taken in.  The next day the family’s mutilated bodies were found and murderous man never seen again. They later learned, the same thing had happened somewhere else. The beauty of all these terrible stories was that they all happened long ago to perfectly expendable people we’d never met, so we were able to enjoy them guilt-free with no emotional investment except a tingle of horror.

Finally, the delicious tales ended and we piled into cars for a dreamless ride home, to the sound of Mother and Daddy talking low in the front seat.  Of course, Mother assured us those stories were just tall-tales, not to be believed, but that didn’t hender my pleasure at all.

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