Not the Boss of Me

In her never-ending mission to make Daddy’s life miserable, Mother raised objections when Daddy wanted to move one of his sisters, her dead-beat husband, and her horrible twins onto their place.  His plan was to buy them a mobile home, set it up, install utilities, under his name, of course, since their only income was Bubba’s disability check.  The good news was, the happy couple could now theoretically afford rent since they’d married and Bubba was getting extra income by acquiring her minor children.  The bad news was, Hubby was running from the law because he hadn’t paid child support for his own children in years.  They needed to get out of town fast since his ex-wife had finally located him.  The warrant for his arrest lay heavy on his mind.

Daddy was THE BOSS!  He would move anybody on his place he wanted to and if Mother didn’t like it, she could leave.  In fact, it was God’s Will that a man help his sister out.  Daddy went to work in a self-righteous swagger.  Righteousness became him.  Well, she would leave, by golly, but there was a small complication.  When Mother got ready to go, she found he’d taken all the vehicle keys with him.  She was waiting up for him when he got in after eleven that night for round two.

Quite satisfied with himself, he hid the keys and went to bed to sleep like the dead.  Rather than wrapping him in the sheet and beating the coon-dog poo out of him like she should have, she decided to give him the scare of a lifetime.  It was one of Louisiana’s rare icy nights.

Enraged, Mother grabbed an afghan off the sofa and made her way out to sleep in the camper, sure he’d be terrified when he found awoke and found her gone.  She tried to settle in the camper for the night, but it was beyond freezing.  With only the afghan, she might as well have been out in the icy night.  Naturally, she had no idea how to turn on the propane heater.  She dug through and found a couple of sheets and blankets in the camper, but they weren’t much help.  Finally, her rage cooled enough she decided she’d seek comfort back in the house and deal with Daddy in the morning.

Unfortunately, she had to deal with him a lot sooner than that.  She had inadvertently locked herself out of the house and had to beat on the doors and windows till she finally woke him up to let her in.  By that time, she was so cold she had to snuggle up to his back to warm up. It’s good he was a forgiving man.

Dining With Mr. Floyd

Daddy had always wanted a place in the country, but was overwhelmed at the magnitude of work facing him on that totally undeveloped acreage.  It had been homesteaded and farmed shortly after the Civil War, but hadn’t been under production for many years, long enough that most of it was covered in mature timber.  A tangle of locust trees was matted  over the old homeplace beneath three huge oaks.  Though we worked hard at clearing  and burning the growth, locust thorns worked up through the ground and pierced our feet for years to come, even through our shoes.

There was more work than one man could do, so Daddy hired Mr. Floyd to help harvest the timber and clear the land for pasture..  All that timber would finance the payments on the place and make improvements.  Mr. Floyd lived on the fringes of society getting by on odd jobs.  Mr. Floyd was unkempt, rarely bathed, and kept to himself, but had a reputation as a hard worker, He lived in a shack in the woods with his brother, who didn’t manage quite so well.  Daddy couldn’t afford to pay Mr. Floyd much, so they worked out a deal on a small wage, meals, and lodging in our fine school bus camper. When Mother got a whiff of Mr. Floyd, she told Daddy the camper was dead to her after that.

So, Daddy set the camper up on the far edge of his place.  Mr. Floyd moved in with instructions  to leave propane off since there might be a leak.  There shouldn’t be a problem anyway, since he’d be taking his meals with us.  Mother put some old bedding in the camper and Mr. Floyd moved in.  The next morning, he showed up for breakfast before daylight.  He didn’t was his hands, just dove in to the biscuits, grits, and eggs.  His manners served as lessons, thereafter.  “You’re eating like Mr. Floyd.”  He didn’t hog the conversation.  He was too busy with biscuits.

The men went to work right after breakfast.  It was early summer, but hot as blazes.  When they came in for lunch, Daddy pointed out the bathroom so Mr. Floyd could wash up.  He wasn’t worried about that.  He took the the chair Mother had offered him for breakfast nearest the window.  Daddy always sat at the opposite end of the table that got the best breeze from the attic fan.  He sat downwind of Mr. Floyd just long enough to get a whiff of seasoned body odor marinated with the piquant aroma of fresh morning sweat the fan pulled over our guest before jumping up.  “Here Floyd.  Sit here.  It’s the coolest spot.”

Mr. Floyd also taught Mother to cut the cornbread before putting it on the table when he reached for the plate and broke off a big piece before passing it. Phyllis and I both declined cornbread and passed it right along.  I didn’t keep up with who else was feeling picky, but there was a lot left after lunch.  None of us kids ever learned to enjoy Mr. Floyd’s company, but he was a necessary evil.

One night, over in the winter, long after work was finished, we heard what sounded like a sonic boom, which was surprising to hear at night.  A few minutes later, Mr. Floyd knocked on the door.  The boom had come from the camper.  Mr. Floyd had run low on wood for the heater and opted to use the propane stove, instead, the very same stove Daddy had warned him not to use because he suspected a leak.  Mr. Floyd had lit up a cigarette before bed and came near burning himself up.  It’s bad he got some burns, but good he didn’t gas himself. He was done with the camper after that, so that’s when Daddy let him work out a deal for a 1953 Chevy Sedan Daddy could spare.

The camper was deemed unfit, not only because Mr. Floyd blew it up, but because his strong smell lingered.  You can’t get rid of a fifty dollar just because of that.  A farm can always use storage.  Daddy pulled the camper up behind the house to use for feed storage and a place for the dogs to sleep. Mother was furious to have it so near her new house.  From that time on, whenever Daddy had no particular place to store something, it went in the camper.  It wasn’t long before the dogs were crowded out of the nice smelly bunks.  Whenever they could, the chickens slipped in and helped themselves to the chicken feed and tried to set up housekeeping.  Rats also liked chicken feed.  Black snakes love eggs, so between the smell, spooked chickens, rats, and snakes it was fairly unappealing.

Home is Where the Heart Is

image                                      Uncle Russ’s camper wasn’t this nice!

Bud’s Uncle Russ was ahead of his time, since he came up with the first camper/Tiny House anyone had seen in our part of the country.  Back in the late1950’s and 1960’s, the family occasionally awoke to find his old Ford truck with its homemade camper parked in their yard.  Enclosed within its two by four frame and galvanized sheet metal covering were a bunk and a bit of storage for his camp stove, personal belongings, and other gear, though his hygiene products didn’t take up a lot of room.

Uncle Russ was not encumbered with a regular job.  He travelled till he ran out of money, then stopped off and found a little job like mowing, helping with a harvest, or pumping gas to get enough ahead to make be on down the road a bit.  He never went naked or hungry, and always had a roof over his head.

When the Bethea boys, Dell and Louis were growing up on a farm in Warren, Arkansas, their Uncle Russell would show up from time to time.  He’d hang around and work with his brother Joseph till they got crosswise and he’d get mad and leave or Joseph would run him off.  Apparently, his grooming was lacking even then, since the boys, “I don’t know how you boys can stand to wash your face and comb your hair before every meal.  I don’t comb my hair but about every six months and it nearly kills me then.”

Early one Saturday morning, Miss Mary noticed his truck in the drive and called out to let Dell, Bud’s Dad know his uncle had come to call.  Uncle Russ knocked when he saw them up and about.  Miss Mary let him in and went to put the kettle on for coffee. Without a doubt, Uncle Russ had just acquired some instant coffee he was curious about, since he asked Miss Mary if she minded if he made his own.  “Not at all.  The water will be hot in just a minute.”

He stirred in four or five heaping teaspoons of granules.  Knowing he had concocted a powerful potion, she and Dell watched with interest as he tried to choke it down.  He made two or three attempts before remarking, “I made that a little stout.  I’m gonna had to pour it and have a little of yours.”

When Bud was about seventeen.  Uncle Russ made a trip down, asking Bud to sign a signature card to be put on a joint checking account, though Bud assured him he wouldn’t have anything to deposit.  “That’s okay.  You just sign this here card and feel free to write a check anytime you need to.”

Bud signed the card and never gave it another thought, knowing how odd Uncle Russ was.  Several months later, he got a letter from Uncle Russ, telling him how disappointed in him he was.  In fact, he was going to take him out of his will. Bud never saw Uncle Russ again.   Uncle Russ retired, an interesting move for a man who never worked more than a day or two at a time.  He sold his old truck and its fixtures, somehow acquired an old mobile home, and moved it to the family farm.  He died a few months later.  Bud never heard who beat him out of his inheritance.

 

 

 

 

Common Sense and the Camper (Part 2)

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/common-sense-and-the-camper/

CamperOne of the great benefits of my parent’s cross-country camping trip was that they had the opportunity to share their cab-over camper for three weeks with two hormone-ridden teenage girls.  For some reason, they’d taken leave of their senses and forced my sixteen-year-old sister Marilyn to accompany them, though she could have stayed with either me or Phyllis, either of whom were as married and dull as Mother and Daddy ever thought of being.  They sweetened the pot by letting her friend Rhonda who became every bit as unpleasant as Marilyn after a few snug hours together.

In the way of teenagers everywhere, the girls snored snugly in their bunks all day as the camper passed the glorious sites of the Americas.  As a result, both were wide-awake and ready to go when they stopped to make camp every evening.  At an RV camp in Las Vegas, two young ladies who looked to have complicated social situations dawdled about the office as they checked in.  Before, I go on with this story, you need to know, my dad was a no-nonsense “I ain’t worried if you like me.  I’m your Daddy” kind of guy.  He didn’t put up with any nonsense.  He pointed out that RV Camp Girls looked trampy.  Though Marilyn and Rhonda didn’t even talk to them, they got a nice lecture just in case they’d ever thought of dressing or acting “like them trashy gals,”  a term he often used make a point and make his girls’ blood boil.

They made camp and cooked supper outdoors.  About ten o’clock as their evening drew to a close Daddy told his disgusted girls it was about time to turn out the lights and settle in for the night.  After a long day of napping, naturally, they dawdled.  After a couple of warnings, just as the lights went out, there was a knock at the camper door.  He opened it to find the two young lovelies they’d seen at the office earlier in the day.  One of them was obviously pregnant below her brief halter-top.

“Can your girls go out for a while?  We’ve got dates for them?” they asked, invitingly.

Behind him, Mother and the big-eyed girls waited for him to explode into a vitriolic diatribe at their request.  Instead, he replied as calmly as if he had been at a tea-party and asked if he wanted “one lump or two.”

“Well, I guess not, but thanks for inviting them.  We have to leave pretty early in the morning.”

Pigs flew and Hell froze over.