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.

Aunt Ader’s Place Part 2

dog-trotHouse much like Aunt Ader’s

Not understanding the nature of inebriation, I assumed Uncle Dunc, a great name for a drunk, was just playful when he laughed at all our jokes and fell off the high porch chasing us. No one bothered to explain for years that Dunc was a drunk. He was one of my mawmaw’s youngest siblings, younger than some of her own children.  Her mother, Cynthia, was a scandal, having been twice divorced before she married John Miller.  John only lasted long enough to father a daughter and twin boys in quick succession before dying of lead poisoning.  He was shot in a bar fight, he was saved the heartbreak of his fickle wife’s abandonment.  Presumably, his son Duncan was the bad apple that didn’t fall too far from either parental tree. 

Aunt Lucille demeanor didn’t match Uncle Dunc’s.  She was a dour, strait-laced woman not given to smiling, though it’s not likely she had much to smile about, considering her life with Dunc.  She looked a lot like Smokey the Bear in a dress. I have never seen a woman more hirsute before or since.  Her unibrow and mustache dominated her round face and coarse, black hair, resembling pubic hair covered her legs, though I had no knowledge of such a thing at the time. After a visit there, Daddy always warned against us girls against shaving our legs or we’d end up with legs like Lucille.  I was far too young at the time to be aware of leg-shaving anyway, but I certainly didn’t want Smokey the Bear legs like that.

Most of the time when we visited Uncle Dunc’s place, many other Aunts, Uncles, and cousins were there.  After dark, a propane lantern hanging on the big front porch cast a cone of light and dozens of cousins chased each other hysterically in and out of the shadows while parents visited in the cool of the front porch.  Mamas rocked babies and put them down to sleep on pallets just inside the house where they could be heard if they squeaked.  Sometimes there would be home-made vanilla, peach, or banana ice-cream made in hand-cranked freezers.  The evening usually ended when exhausted kids were called in for ice-cream, but on the best nights, the old folks launched into deliciously terrifying ghost stories, made all the better because the teller believed them.

cousinsA few of my forty first cousins.


To be continued

The Mouth of the Beast


child-fist-pumpAunt Essie, like all of my aunts, was a wonder of fertility, if not child-rearing acumen.  She raised seven of the meanest boys outside Alcatraz.  Thank God, her reproductive equipment gave out before she managed more.  I thought Mother was exaggerated when she said they’d all end up in jail or dead before they were thirty.  She was wrong.  Only four of the seven did jail time, and of these, one died in a bar fight after he was released at the age of twenty-eight.  Most of rest passed their time boozing it up at Aunt Essie’s house when they weren’t begetting children or needed in jail.  Contrary to Mother’s unjust prediction, all made it past thirty.   The meanest of the lot turned out to be pretty boring.  He opened a very successful auto body shop and became a deacon.

When Aunt Essie’s boys weren’t trying to kill us, they could be entertaining.  Uncle July was an avid hog-hunter.   He was extremely proud of his Catahoula Cur Hog Dog, Catch.  Catch would go berserk with hog lust and “catch” wild hogs by the ear,  hanging on until commanded to turn loose; not a nice dog.  Uncle July kept him penned up, sternly warning us away from the fence.  Catch might rage through the fence, “catching” us by the ear.

Aunt Essie and Uncle July heard “catch” noises from the dog pen and were horrified to realize one of their angelic three-year-old twins was missing.  They rushed out and found Corwin and the monster dog rolling around in the dog pen.  Expecting to retrieve the bloody corpse of his precious child, Uncle July leapt into to the pen to find Corwin latched down on Catch’s ear, blood pouring from the tattered edges.  When asked why he bit the dog, Kelvin replied, “Dog bite me.”  Corwin was fine except for a few drag marks.

Considering his tender age, it seemed premature to categorize Corwin, but he showed all the hallmarks of a psychopath.  Energized and empowered by his encounter with “Catch”, his strange little mind focused on the unfortunate beast, making his life a living hell.  Despite his concerned parents’ warning, he was soon back in the dog pen with Catch cowering in the barrel half-buried in the dirt that passed for a dog house, howling piteously for rescue.  Realizing he was no threat to Corwin, Aunt Essie and Uncle July abandoned him to his misery, knowing Corwin was off their backs as long as poor Catch was crying.  Catch wet himself and ran under the truck next time Uncle July tried to take him out hog hunting. His spirit was broken.  Uncle July swapped him off to an unsuspecting buddy for a pirogue the first chance he got.

Surviving five horrible older brothers made Corwin and his twin Kelvin tough little devils.  Their parents doted on all the boys, seemingly unconcerned about their reputations as hellions.  When people complained about their bullying, their stock reply was, “What did your Johnny do to them?”  They artfully ignored the obvious fact that the damaged kid was three years younger.  Aunt Essie grieved because the twins would be her last babies, so she let them carry their baby bottles till the school put a stop to it.  It was bizarre to see them coming in from playing football with their brothers, pull their bottles out of their back pockets, and fill them for themselves.  They were fluent in profanity from the time they could talk.

As an adult, between stints in jail, Corwin lived in the dugout of the local ballpark.   He’d worn out his welcome with Aunt Essie and his tippling brothers after attempting to burn her house down over their heads.   He was forcibly extricated by the more sober among them, but did live to the ripe old age of forty-one.  After the immediate threat of roasting in her bed passed, Aunt frequently mentioned letting him move back in, feeling he’d learned his lesson in jail, but her other boys had a longer memory and wouldn’t allow it.

Corwin and the Goat Pills

goat poopI think I’ve mentioned my cousin Corwin was interesting. He was still hauling his bottle around when he started school. His teacher made him leave it at home, so first thing after getting off the bus, he’d get his bottle out of the cabinet, fill it up, and enjoy it along with his after school snack. A hearty eater, he’d grab up a handful of Gravytrain Chunks out of the dog’s bowl as he headed out to play football with his big brothers. As a crawling baby, Corwin had started shoving the puppy out of his bowl and just kind of got hooked on Gravytrain. It added a interest to the game to see Corwin playing football with his baby bottle sticking out of his back pocket. One of his brothers or cousins invariably snatched his bottle and ran, passing it on to whichever kid was new to the game. The chase was on. Corwin carried a grudge to the bitter end and picked up a stick or rock and bash the bottle thief’s head in long after the game of “Keepaway” concluded. His older brothers felt this bit of info was on a “need to know” basis, so new kids had to find out the hard way.

When he was about five or six, Corwin decided it was funny to pee the space heater. He’d fall all over himself to beat his mama in the front door, drop his pants, and spray the open flame with a stinking deluge that spattered, steamed, and spewed up the whole house. As he sprayed from side to side, kids would be scattering to avoid the stream. Should he have any ammo left, bystanders got it. His mother made a token protest, followed by, “I don’t know what makes that boy act like that.” Daddy told my aunt he’d hooked an electric shock to the heater, so Corwin would be electrocuted. She believed Daddy, so made Corwin give it up. I know it wasn’t true, but it would have been a fine idea.

Corwin was horrible. We all hated him. To make a long story short, Corwin was so darned mean, nobody would have stuck up for him. About that time, Daddy brought in some goats. At any rate, when Corwin saw goat pills littering the yard, he thought, they were chocolate M&Ms and gobbled quite a few before he noticed the taste was off. My brother and I made sure he had all he wanted. Seemed like justice.



That was weird.  I heard tiptoeing and a door quietly locking.  I tiptoed to my parent’s room and found their door locked!  Their door was never even shut except around Christmas.  Mother must have gotten scared and locked it.   Assuming the worst, I pounded and screeched, “Mama!  Mama!  Your door’s locked. Help!  I can’t get in!!!” Continue reading

Messed Up Family

It just occurred to me that Mother may have been raising a tribe of cannibals during the time Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Edward lived with us and I bit my cousin Cathy.  My brother Billy was five months old to Cousin Eddie’s six weeks and much bigger.  Mother and Aunt Bonnie had Snowmanput the two babies on a quilt to play while they did their housework.  Eddie had colic and cried all the time, so Aunt Bonnie wasn’t too surprised at the wailing.  She went in to check on him after a few minutes to find Billy, who was teething, had worked his way over to Eddie. He had a foot in one hand, a thigh in the other, and was gnawing him like a Thanksgiving Turkey.

Biting Cousins

Cathy and Linda0001When I was about three years old, my cousin Cathy’s parents moved their tiny egg-shaped trailer house under a big shade tree in our front yard. It was about as roomy as a nice bathtub. Like any right-thinking parents with two tiny children, they quickly moved into the house with our family, leaving us with four adults, a six-year-old, a three-year-old, an eighteen month old, and two newborns in a three bedroom house.  The women cooked, cleaned and watched the kids together every day.  Mother said it was a great time.

Pictured above are my cousin Cathy and me.  She was much smaller though only a year younger than I.  She also developed a nasty habit of biting.  After I was bitten a few times, Mother told me to “bite her back.”  She didn’t specify how hard.

The next time Cathy bit me, I bit her just below the eye and hung on.  Cathy screamed and Mamas came running.  Still I hung on.  Mother told me to turn loose but I was too wrought up to hear her.  She had to smack me to make me turn loose.  It hurt my feelings.  “You told me to bite her.”

“I didn’t tell you to bite a chunk out of her face.!”

Cathy had a bruise showing all my tooth prints.  It turned from purple to green to yellow.  I’m sorry, Cathy.

Peeing in the Heater and Eating Goat Pills

imageI think I’ve mentioned my cousin Corwin was interesting.  He was still hauling his bottle around when he started school.  His teacher made him leave it at home, so first thing after getting off the bus, he’d get it out of the cabinet, fill it up, and have a little refreshment.  He was a pretty good eater otherwise.  He’d have his after school snack with his brothers and if he wasn’t satisfied, he’d chomp on a handful of Gravytrain Chunks as he went out to play football with his big brothers.  He’d gotten started on that snack when he was just a toddler.  He’d shove the puppy out of his bowl and just kind of got hooked on it.

When he was about five or six, Corwin decided it was funny to pee in the open flame of the space heater.  It was horrible.   It would stink up the house for hours afterward.  We all hated him.  To make a long story short, Corwin was so darned mean, nobody would have stuck up for him.    About that time, Daddy brought in some goats.  At any rate, when Corwin saw goat pills littering the yard, he thought, they were chocolate M&Ms and gobbled quite a few before he noticed the taste was off.  Seemed like justice.

Dozens of Cousins

Neither Corwin nor Kelvin could be rounded up for this  cousin picture.  They had other fish to fry.cousinsAunt Essie, like all of my aunts, was a wonder of fertility, if not child-rearing acumen.  She had seven of the meanest boys outside Alcatraz.  Thank God, her reproductive equipment gave out before she managed more.  I thought Mother was just exaggerating when she said they’d all end up in jail or dead before they were thirty.  She was wrong.  Only four of Continue reading