A Hog a Day Part 11

One of Daddy’s coworkers also indulged in the hunt. I loved hearing the stories they told.
Slim was a God-gifted liar, so well-known for his lying, that anyone who repeated one of his tales had to buy coffee for the group. One day, Slim came rushing by several of the fellows standing around at work and one of them called out, “Slim, stop and tell us a lie.”
“I ain’t got time.” He called over his shoulder. “Martin Bishop just fell in Smokestack 19 and I’m on the way to call an ambulance.” He rushed on as the other men took off in the opposite direction to check out the accident at Smokestack 19. They were breathless upon getting there and found Martin hard at work, totally unaware that he’d just been tragically killed. I guess they all had to buy their own coffee.
Slim and his wife, Ida Ruth, had a large family. Like many men of the time, his work was done once he left the job. One blazing August afternoon he came home to find a workman, a man of his acquaintance, digging a ditch that ran along the right of way in front of his place. The man was stripped down to his undershirt in the sweltering heat with sweat pouring off him. Slim stopped to talk and sent one of the kids for a glass of ice water. “Man, it’s too hot for you to be shoveling in this heat. Git on out of that ditch and let Ida Ruth finish it!” I don’t guess Ida Ruth heard about it, because there was no murder.
Mike Parsons had been raised in Arkansas and considered himself an authority on all things Arkansas. No one could mention Arkansas without getting an earful of his knowledge, experience, or connections. He must have had a hundred sisters, since he had a brother-in-law in every town. It was getting a little tiresome and Ray Marshall decided to set him up. “I’m going to come in to work tomorrow telling a wild tale about a town in Arkansas I made up. Y’all follow along and see what ol’ Mike has to say.”
The next morning at work when they stopped for coffee, Ray started his story, “Any of y’all ever heard of a little town up in the Arkansas called Catscratch? I was driving through there one time and………”
Mike Parsons jumped in. “Sure, I been there several times. My sister married an old boy from there. He raises them big pink tomaters just outside Catscratch. They got a real nice little place.”

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.





Miss Laura Mae’s House Part 14

biscuit and jam

I had been waiting all summer for Miss Laura Mae’s dewberries to ripen.  For weeks we had strolled down to check the progress of the berry patch right behind her barn.  She said berries loved manure.  It’s hard to imagine how anything loving something so stinky, but I couldn’t wait till they turned black.  While I was sneaking a couple to sample, her old dog sauntered up and lifted his leg on the bushes, convincing me of the value of soap and water.  I hoped they loved pee, too, ‘cause they’d just gotten a healthy dose.

Finally, one morning, she spread me two hot biscuits with fresh dewberry jam.  “I kept these biscuits hot just for you.  I wanted them to be just right for this jam.”  I don’t know that I’ve ever had anything better than those hot biscuits and that heavenly dewberry jam so sweet and tangy it almost made my jaws ache. 

“Oh, this is so good.”  I licked the jam that spilled to my fingers.

“It’s my favorite.  I’ll give you a jar to take home with you,” she promised.  “Don’t let me forget!”

“I won’t let you forget!  And no one else can have any of my special jam,” I blurted out in my greed.

“Well, maybe I better give you two jars so everybody gits a taste.” I could tell she was trying not to laugh.

 That seemed like a tragic waste of jam, but answered.  “Yes, ma’am.”  In my gluttonous imagination, I’d envisioned myself sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor, eating jam with a spoon straight from the jar.  Mother must have read my mind, because those jars found their way to the top shelf of the cabinet with the honey, coconut flakes, and brown sugar as soon as we got home.  I’d learned from sad experience, stuff on the top shelf was emphatically off-limits.  Not two weeks ago, I’d nearly broken my molars chomping down on white rice straight from the package, thinking I’d found coconut somehow left in reach.  When I was settled safely on the back steps with my messy snack, the conversation began.

“Well, how was your trip to Myrtle’s?” Mother began.  “I sure missed having coffee with you in the mornings.”

“Ooh, I did too!  It was fine, but I sure was glad to get home.  Myrtle’s a good woman, but she’s got kind’a snooty since she married Joe Jackson an’ he’s got a little somethin’.  Well, I guess she always was a touch snooty.  Mama always said her mama had her nose in the air.  I guess Myrtle got it from her.  She sure didn’t get it from me.  Anyhow, me an’ Myrtle didn’ coffee in the kitchen even one time.  Wednesday, while Myrtle was a’gittin’ her hair done, I slipped out an’ helped Thelma, the woman that comes in to help a couple of days a week. I got to know her last time I was there.   I cleaned the refrigerator an’ stove while Thelma was a’ironin’ so we had a fine visit.   Then I made sure the back door was locked and me an’ Thelma sat a few minutes an’ had coffee.  I probably wouldn’a had to lock the door with that yappy little dog o’ Myrtle’s, but I sure didn’ want Thelma to git caught a’settin an’ a’gittin’ in trouble on my account.   I’d brung her a pound cake from home ‘cause I remembered how much she loved the one I’d brought Myrtle the last time.  They are so much richer made with yard eggs and homemade butter.  Yeah, I always thought a lot o’ Thelma.  We had a fine visit.”



Miss Laura Mae’s House Part 1

houseMiss Laura Mae’s kids were long gone. I loved tagging along with Mother to visit her since she always took time to talk to me a little before offering me a buttered biscuit and glass of milk. I loved the biscuit, but refused the milk, repulsed by the thick layer of cream atop the fresh cow’s milk in the glass jar in her refrigerator. I thought the thick cream looked like snot as she carefully spooned it into her coffee. Most of Mother’s friends had a houseful of kids and shooed us out before pouring coffee. “The kids are out back.” Sometimes I got a hint of gossip, though Mother always shooed me out as soon as I got my biscuit. “Now, stay on the steps and don’t let that ol’ hound dog git your biscuit!” Miss Laura Mae always reminded me as I closed the screen door behind me. I knew from experience that if I didn’t stand on the top step and hold my biscuit out of his reach, Ol’ Boots would help himself.
jar of milk

From my vantage point, I listened in as Miss Laura Mae launched into her story. “Floyd was pretty good to me, but he never did hold a job long. I don’t know what we’d a done if we hadn’t lived in that old house on his Mama’s place. He always did plow and put a good garden in or we’d a’gone hungry. He’d work a little pretty good for a while, but then he’d go off on a toot and get fired. The only thing he was good at was knocking me up. I had six youngun’s in eight years. Seem’s like I got another one ever’ time he hung his pants on the bed post. Times was just gittin’ harder and harder, and Floyd got mad the last couple of times I told him I was that way. You’d a’thought them babies was all my doing, but Lord knows more babies was the last thing on my mind when I couldn’t hardly feed the ones I already had. We couldn’t even keep ‘em in shoe leather. I had Berry in 1941 just before World War II started and nursed her long as I could, hoping I wouldn’t get pregnant, but sure enough, when she was about eight months old, my milk dried up an’ I felt a baby kicking under my apron. I kept hopin’ it was just gas, but then I started blowin’ up and I knew it was another youngun’ on the way.
I dreaded tellin’ Floyd, knowin’ he was gonna git mad. Sure enough, soon as I told him, he lit out a drinkin’. That was on a Monday night. I waited till then on purpose. He got paid on Fridays and I didn’t want him to go off a’drinkin’ before I got my groceries on Saturday. Sure enough, he got mad, just like l was a’plottin against him and took straight off. I didn’t see him again till Wednesday evenin’ and was feelin’ purty low about the fix I was in, a man that didn’t work steady, six kids and another one on the way, stuck livin’ in a shack on his mama’s place. When he came draggin’ in, he looked kind’a hangdog and I figured he’d got fired again while he was layin’ out drunk.”

“Well, Laura Mae, I got something I got to tell you I know you ain’t gonna like,” he started, looking down at his raggedy boots.

“It don’t take no genius to see you got fired,” I told him.

“No, that ain’t it.” He went on. “I was a’ drinkin’ with some fellers and they was on their way to enlist in the army. I wasn’t thinkin’ straight and I went right along and enlisted with ‘em. I just got time to get my stuff.”

Miss Laura Mae paused a moment, saying more to herself than to Mother, “Turned out that was the best piece of luck I ever had. The army was the first steady pay Floyd ever made. He was put in the paratroopers. Right off I was gittin’ a regular check. Paratrooper was extra pay, and he got extra for the young’uns. The first month, I got shoes for all the kids. The next month, I paid down on a stove. The one in his mama’s house didn’t have but two burners. Inside of a year, I had saved enough to pay down on this house. This is the first place I ever had a’ my own. Floyd didn’t get home for four years. I mean to tell you, it was good not to be pregnant all the time. I must ‘a been going through the change, ‘cause I didn’t have but one more after he got home, and I was ready for another one by then. Things was better with Floyd workin’ more regular after that. Seems like having a home kind’a gave him a lift. You’d a’thought he done it all hisself.”


Getting Skinned at Lunch with Mother


Lunch out with Mother always starts with an understanding.  I understand I will be paying unless she tells me otherwise.  Let me give you a little background.  She is a tightwad.  If we stop at McDonald’s for a cup of coffee, she always holds her little yellow change purse where I can’t see it, pretends she has no change, even though it’s bulging, and asks, “Can you pay for my coffee?  I hate to break a dollar for coffee.”  Technically, this is true.  She never said she didn’t have change.  She just hates to break a dollar for coffee.  If we went to a car dealership, she’d say, “Can you get this.? I hate to write a check for a car.”

Today was no different.  We ordered our lunch, had a nice visit, and Mother disappeared to the bathroom.  The check came while she was gone.  She came back, totally surprised to find me paying check.  “I didn’t know the check would come so soon.  I’ll pay you back later……..if you’re not going to eat that chicken, I’ll put in my takeout box…..and if you don’t want the rest of your salad, and that roll……..”

Today was no different.  We ordered our lunch, had a nice visit, and Mother disappeared to the bathroom.  The check came while she was gone.  She came back, totally surprised to find me paying check.  “I didn’t know the check would come so soon.  I’ll pay you back later……..if you’re not going to eat that chicken, I’ll put in my takeout box…..and if you don’t want the rest of your salad, and that roll……..and pass me four of those Splenda packets.”

Fancy Dan, the Coffee Man


We splurged and bought a Fancy Dan coffee maker in 1987.  It was heavenly staggering into the kitchen to find a carafe of freshly made coffee waiting at five in the morning.  True love!  We enjoyed it precisely one month before we got a recall notice and a gift certificate for a replacement to use while we waited for the fine new Fancy Dan.  It seems the original was setting houses on fire.

We went into mourning and trashed Fancy Dan, picking up his replacement, a very plain model.  About a year later, our new Fancy Dan arrived.  Dan had our steaming coffee waiting when we awoke.  All we had to do was “sasser and blow it.”  It saved our marriage.  Alas, a mere six joyful months later we received word that this model was also likely to be an arsonist.  Out came the plain old replacement model till we made it to the store with our gift certificate for a new pot.

Since1987, that faithful coffee-maker has one back on the shelf six times, only to be called back into service when the fancy new one failed.  Less than a month ago, we were once again seduced by a coffee-maker with lots of great features.  It had a water filter, reuseable basket instead of filters, several cup size settings, and a beeper to let us know when coffee was brewed.  Of course, it would have our coffee ready when we got up, which by now, we had no intention of using, having no wish to roast in our bed.

We hurried home and moved Old Faithful back to the shelf.  We couldn’t wait for the first pot.  As soon as we hit the brew button, water poured all over the counter.  We reseated the pot and tried again.  We were rewarded with a second gusher.

Old Faithful went right back to work.  When I’m gone, my kids can draw straws to see who gets Old Faithful.  The loser gets the family fortune.


5 Things to Make Me Feel at Home

imageI am most at home in my kitchen surrounded by few of  my most-loved  and well-used things.  As soon as I expect company, the tea-kettle and coffee-maker, both gifts from my daughter, are notified.  As water boils in my ancient copper tea-kettle, I grind coffee beans in the battered coffee-mill.   Soon tea steeps in the butterfly teapot a sister gave me while I fill my polka-dot chicken creamer and sugar bowl.  A plate of cookies, snacks or hot biscuits and a few flowers from my yard brighten the home-crafted drop leaf table my husband built.  The  tiny table-topper cloth came to me from another sister. Although in the past, I prided myself on newer things, these old favorites warm my heart today and say “Welcome,  Friend” like nothing else.

“Come on in and sit awhile.”

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Home Turf.”