Two Roads Part 4

img_1662Image pulled from Internet
In her loneliness, Neeley was an easy mark.  Aunt Lottie kept her close to home.  Awkward about her imposing height and girth, she wasn’t surprised no one had come courting. In her feed-sack dresses and straight, chopped off hair, she’d never expected to be admired. Boys liked dainty little girls with curly hair and nice clothes.  She felt like a work horse in a field of thoroughbreds.  Saturday night, when she was allowed to attend a Holness Tent Revival with her cousins Louise and Bertha, she was embarrassed when a fellow kept staring at her.  Her cheeks burned, and she looked away whenever they made eye contact, fearing he ‘d ridicule her, given the chance.  Though she did nothing to encourage him, he found his way to her after meeting.

“Howdy, pretty girl.  Can I walk you home?”  He asked.

She answered without thinking.  “No, sir.  Aunt Lottie don’t allow me no callers.  She’d tan my hide if I asked.”

“Now, how’s she gonna know?  It’s a long, dark walk home.  Ain’t you an’ these gals together?  My buddies wants company, too.  Who’s gonna know if we walk all of you gals home together?  You shore ain’t gonna tell off on each other, are you?”  Her cousins Bertha and Louise stood giggling at her side.  Obviously, they were delighted by the offer.  “How ’bout it, girls?”

The three girls held a giggling conference, deciding to give the boys a chance.

Neeley fell hard for Joey, agreeing to meet him the next night, and the next, and the next.  He’d come to help with the harvest at his Uncle George’s farm.  To hear him tell it, Uncle George was doing poorly, not likely to make it for long.  He thought so much of Joe, he was gonna leave the place to him.  Joe was gonna be well-set up.  Him and Neeley could have a good life, if he was sure she loved him.  He couldn’t marry no girl without her loving him.  Neeley sure loved him.

Three months later, the curse had passed her by and Neeley needed a husband.  Joe was long gone.  There was no Uncle George, nor farm.  When she told her cousins, they begged Neeley not to tell of their part in her story.  They’d both escaped her fate.    Lottie would have beaten them half to death if she found out what they’d been up to.

When her condition was obvious, Aunt Lottie took after her with a broom, maybe hoping she’d beat the baby out of her.  When Uncle Jep got home and found Neeley brutalized, he threatened Lottie if he laid another hand on her and set off to see his friend and neighbor, Eddie.  Eddie had a small daughter and needed a wife.

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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!