Uncle Albutt Part 2

Through a connection with his son, Uncle Albert somehow came up on a ninety-nine year lease on several acres on Dorcheat Bayou in Louisiana.  Ready to retire from farming, he decided a fish camp would provide a modest retirement income.  My father bought his farm and stock, but that’s a story for another day.  Obviously, he was a multi-talented man, able to turn his hand to any task.  His farm boasted two cabins.  He moved into the second cabin, disassembled the log house he was living in loaded it piece by piece on his old truck, and moved  it to his lease, where he went to work reassembling it just as it had originally been, except he added an additional bedroom, occasionally recruiting help from relatives with bigger jobs.  Once the reassembled house was in the dry, he took apart the second cabin, using the timber to cover over the logs and seal the house tighter.  One day, Daddy decided we’d go by and check on Uncle Albert’s progress. My older sister climbed on the unsecured log walls, tumbling them to the ground.  I was so glad she got to them before I did.  Neither Daddy nor Uncle Albert was pleased.  Daddy spent the rest of that evening and Saturday helping Uncle Albert get it back together.  None of us kids were invited along, for some reason.  When Uncle Albert was satisfied with his house, he used the rest of the salvaged lumber for fishing boats, a pier, fences, a bait shop, and outbuildings.  Soon he had a pretty good business going.  By the next spring, he had a large garden underway.

Prior to construction of his house, Uncle Albert took care of necessities,; first, a toilet before summoning all his nephews for the digging of a well, uphill from the toilet, of course.  They came, bringing all their wives and children, a festive day of barbecuing, fishing, children running wild, while the men took turns shoveling the hard red clay from the well site..  Only one man could be in the hole at a time.  The others stayed above ground, pulling the heavy dirt from the hole.  They all took their turns.  By the end of the first day, thanks to the high water table, water was beginning to seep in at a depth of twenty feet.  They dug a few feet more, set the curb so the well wouldn’t silt in, and came back the next day to build a protective well-housing.  Uncle Albert was able to draw a bit of water by the evening of the second day.

Along with all my cousins, I was desperate to be lowered by pulley and bucket as the fortunate diggers were, into the depths of that well.  Sadly, all the mothers and aunts were just as anxious to keep wayward kids out of the well, warning us away every time we came near.  However, were able to indulge in one other life-threatening activity as they focused on that well.  A gravel road ran down the steep hill along one side of Uncle Albert’s property where it intersected with another dirt road fronting his house alongside the steep-banked bayou. The occasional oil-truck, fisherman, or hunter who travelled that way would have had no expectation of kids running wild, since until only recently, it was nothing but woods.    Someone of my cousins had thoughtfully brought along their red wagon to Uncle Albert’s that day.  Naturally, we pulled that wagon to the top of the red-dirt hill, piled in as many cousins as would fit, and prepared for a thrilling coast down the steep graveled road.  There were no engineers among us.  Confident as only a cluster of kids can be, we set off for a bone-rattling ride.  That wagon clattered and bounced, held down only by the weight of kids.  A couple of the smaller ones were pitched out, left squalling in our dusty tracks.  The clattering, crying, and dust cloud caught the attention of the well-diggers and mothers who were laying out the picnic lunch, secure in the knowledge we weren’t falling in the well.  As they looked on at the screaming wagonload of kids hurtling down the hill, an oil truck approached the crossing at the bottom.  It slammed on its brakes, swerving enough to allow us to pass, though our unlikely survival was concealed by the massive dust cloud.  The wagon flew on toward the high bank of the bayou, where we were saved by a brush thicket just short of the water.

In the manner of parents at that time, once the loving parents found their children weren’t dead, they gratefully expressed their joy with beatings for all. I had one fine ride down that hill, but I never got another crack at it.

Hard Time Marrying Part 23

sod-house-2

Anya just drank up Emma’s house as Emma showed her through.  A bright oilcloth covered the kitchen table.  Gingham curtains fluttered in the window.  A cast-iron cook stove filled one corner of the kitchen and a few dish-lined shelves covered the walls over the cook table.  A dishpan hung on one side of the stove and a few pots on the other.  A can of flour and a bread board set on the cook table.   Doors opened off either side of the kitchen and rough stairs climbed to the attic opposite the stove.  An apron hung on a nail, next to an embroidered drying towel.  A water bucket and dipper stood on a shelf next to the back door.  A cracked mirror in a frame hung there also, along with a comb on a string, concession to vanity.

“We got bedrooms opening off both sides of the kitchen.  When Melvin got old enough, he slept in the attic.  He moved downstairs after Marthy married.  He’s courtin’ Jenny Parker, now, so I reckon they could be a weddin’ before too long.  I always hoped we’d have to build more rooms fer a passel of younguns, but I guess the Good Lord thought two was a’plenty.  We ain’t always had it so nice.  Twenty-four years ago we started digging out a sod house when I was first a’carrying Martha.  We ain’t been married long an’ didn’t have nothin’ but a start of seed, Rufus’s old gun, the clothes we stood up in, a few quilts, some old pots and crockery my ma spared me, an ax, shovel, plow and a mule and wagon Joe’s pa set him up with. Our folks was mighty good to help us like that.  They ain’t had much neither.  We slept in the wagon fer a few weeks while we planted and Joe dug sod.  By July, it had dried out enough so we could frame up with poles Joe cut down by the creek.  By the time Rufus had a good-sized hole dug, the sod had dried enough to stack.  We set corner poles and got to stacking them soddy bricks.  After we got high as I could reach on the north side, Rufus stacked the rest of the way up and I started the next wall.  We took the wagon apart to frame up the door and build a tight door.  Joe sodded up a lean-to for the mule off the back wall of our soddy. I sure hated to see that old wagon go, but there weren’t no timber.  We sodded the roof, and it was good enough to get us through a winter or two. 

After our second crop come in, Joe come up with enough lumber to build a two-room cabin.  I was sure proud.  That soddy kept us out of the cold, but when it rained mud was always fallin’ in on us….and the bugs!  We couldn’t keep them bugs out!  A cabin is sure a comfort! He built the other bedroom I was carrying the still-born baby, but we didn’t need more room till Melvin come along.

That old soddy comes in handy as a root cellar now.  Long as we keep plenty of dry straw on the floor and don’t let the taters, sweet taters, turnips, and apples from touchin’ they’ll keep till spring.  I hang my onions and herbs on the rafters so they keep good.  I make leather britches out of my green beans so we can have a taste of fresh all winter.  A few years ago, Rufus brung me in some a’them canning jars an’ I been able to put up conserves when the fruit comes in.  I was so proud, I ‘bout cried when I seen ‘em.  Here, I want you to have this wild plum conserve I put up.  It will go so good with your fine biscuits.”  Emma was justly proud of her home and housekeeping.

Tears came to Anya’s eyes.  “Oh Emma, this is the finest thing I’ve ever been given.  I’ll make sure to git your jar safe back to you.”

“Oh no you won’t.  It’s a weddin’ present.  Every woman should have something fine from a friend.  I am proud to be your first one here.”  Emma hugged Anya to her with the warmth of a mother.  “I’m sure praying you’ll carry this little one and be spared the sorrow I felt.”

“Emma, I am so worried about this baby.” Anya whispered.

 

 

Hard Time Marrying Part 7

spring-beauty-splashHe checked on the woman and children several times always finding them asleep.  The children’s breathing was regular and less shallow.  The pink of their cheeks faded as the fever dropped.  Twice more he fed and diapered them and assisted the woman to the pot.  The next two days were much the same, more feeding, more dosing with Dr. Marvel, more changing, and always, more washing.  The little boy rallied first, trailing Joe.  From time to time, he called for Mama, but overall seemed contented.  Joe looked forward to the woman regaining her strength and assuming her responsibilities.  She was attentive to the baby girl who still lay abed with her.  Thankfully, the baby finally got hungry enough to accept the bottle after a few tries.  It made it easier to get the Dr. Marvel’s in her, anyway.  The woman could barely stay awake long enough to feed the baby but kept it at her side.  On the fourth day, the woman began to eat regular food, though she mashed it first.  One day, she coughed and spit a cracked molar into her palm, increasing Joe’s guilt about burying her alive, though he still didn’t remember hitting her with the shovel.  Joe had hopes when she’d learn some English soon, since he didn’t understand a word she said when she did speak to the baby or cry out in pain upon moving.  She had picked up on coffee, milk, baby, hurt, boy, pot, and a few other words, but there was no conversation yet.  She never called him “Joe.”

Though there was no real talking between, Joe sensed a change.  The woman was able to leave the bed for longer and longer periods, and kept the baby on her hip as she padded around the cabin. Her bruises were fading and she was able to hold the baby with her left arm and feed it with her right. She was turning out to be a beauty, but looked so young to be a mother.  It warmed him to see the tiny girl laugh at her mother, though the boy clearly preferred Joe.  Joe had expected him to show more interest in his mother once she was out of bed, but he didn’t.  Maybe boys just liked men. Joe rigged a rough rope bed in the corner near the fireplace for the boy, thinking he could make a trundle when the girl was older. He was starting to think of her as “Anna” instead of “the woman.”  Anna only referred to the girl as “Baby” and the boy as “Boy.”  One day, he brought her the first Spring Beauty and she called him “Joe.”  Joe was glad of her and the children, glad of the life opening up to him.

That night the coyotes woke him.

Hard Time Marrying Part 3

farm-wagonBy the time Joe pulled his mules to the door to unload his wagon, it was sleeting.  His life had never looked more hopeless as he brushed the icy hay from the tattered quilt covering the children’s burning faces.  Though it was unchristian, he’d half-hoped to find them already dead from the fever, solving the problem of their care.

He struggled to get them into the cold cabin where he heard the scurrying of a rat.  “Damn it all.  I got to bring the barn cat in.”

Laying them gently on his bed and covering them, he was able to rouse each enough to get a bit of water down.  Setting the cup to the side, he moved on to the fireplace to uncover the banked ashes, put a stick or two next to the backlog, rekindling the fire.  At least they wouldn’t die of thirst of cold.  It angered him to feel pity for them. That’s all he could do for them for the moment.

He hurried in with the provisions, the pathetic mercy the town had shown, leaving to get his horses tended, milk the cow and tend the stock.  Finishing his tasks, he miserably returned to the burden of the sick children fate had forced upon him.  Upon entering the cabin, the sight meeting his eyes nearly undid him.  A filthy, battered woman dressed in rags studied the little girl.  God in Heaven!  Would this nightmare never end? Had he buried the woman alive and now she’d scratched out of her grave?

Mutely, the woman clutched the child to her bosom protectively as though she thought he might put the two of them back in the grave.

“Oh my God.  I thought you were dead!”  This did nothing to set her at her ease.  Shamed, he turned his back mumbling.  “Poor wretch.  What she must be thinking?” Shame at having buried her, then trying to get rid of her sick children shamed him, bringing him lower than he’d ever been before.  I don’t know why I didn’t leave it alone when it was good enough.  He fled from the cabin and made his way to the barn, tossed some hay on a saddle blanket settled in to try to get some sleep.  Jack, his dog, and the barn cats settled in next to him, glad of the unexpected company.  He lay awake a long time, thinking of the girl who’d made him want a wife in the first place.

Five Photos, Five Stories Hard Time Marrying Part 2

cabin 3“These young’uns is got scarlet fever. You ain’t leaving ‘em for this town to deal with. Jist take ‘em on back where you come from.”  The sheriff steadfastly refused responsibility for the children. Continue reading

Five Photos, Five Stories – Day Two: Snowcovered Gum Trees

Challenge from  Author S B Mazing
I am taking you up on this. Thanks.

Author S B Mazing

FPFSChal5I took this picture when we first went skiing here in Australia. Up until today it amazes me when I see a gum trees in the snow. For me growing up in the Swiss Mountains The trees lose their leaves or then it is the trees with the needles. But skiing amongst snow covered gum trees was something special…

Skiing in Australia is pretty good, you know. Many Australians and non-Australians asked us how we can deal with the poor skiing down here, coming from Switzerland. And I usually tell them that it is not poor at all. The slopes are great and the way they look after them and groom them is outstanding. Cut yourself some slack, Aussies, your ski resorts are actually pretty good.

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A couple of days ago I received the following invitation:

Hi SB

I’m about to invite you to join in a challenge I…

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