Uncle Albutt Part 8

Over the years, Aunt Jewel made frequent mention of Eunice and Doxy. On Sunday, April 14th, Uncle Albert and Aunt Jewel surprised us by showing up for Sunday dinner with Eunice, Doxy, and Baby Dewie in tow. Before the days of telephones, it wasn’t unusual for relatives to arrive unannounced. It was a bit of a surprise to have them bring Eunice and Doxy, people we were only vaguely acquainted with. Like the gracious host and niece-in-law she was, Mother put a couple more potatoes in the pot, opened another can of beans, watered down the gravy, and slid another pan of biscuits in the oven. Even though Mother was creative cutting up the chicken, it didn’t go too far. The big pieces didn’t make it past the company, while the kids dined on the neck, back, ribs, and wings. This was in the days before we knew chicken wings were a delicacy, so we weren’t that happy. We had been forewarned not to complain. In all fairness, Mother did reserve the coveted fried scrambles and put them on our plates to spare us the pain of seeing Uncle Albert gobble them all up.
Mother’s dishpan was at the ready as she cleaned up while she cooked. Aunt Jewel chain-smoked at the kitchen table and watched as Mother cooked. Eunice nursed her snotty-nosed baby. After a wet sneeze, the baby blew out an impressive snot bubble. Eunice grabbed Mother’s dishrag from the dishpan and wiped the baby’s nose, then matter-of-factly, tossed it back into the dishpan. This, on top of the smoking and breast-feeding was too much for Mother. She got Eunice a hanky and suggested the women move to the living room where it was more comfortable. The decibel of banging pots and pans increased as she put Phyllis and me to washing dishes and setting the table.
Fortunately for Mother, while she was struggling to stretch the noon meal, she had no idea Daddy had recently boasted that she’d just completed their return, bagging them a nice refund. Uncle Albert was impressed. Eunice and Doxy needed a nice refund. Uncle Albert assured Eunice and Doxy Mother would be glad to prepare their tax return, hence the reason for the impromptu visit, information he shared as he ground out his cigarette in his dinner plate. Though Mother made no overt objection, I didn’t miss her sigh and pursed lips. Daddy did have the grace to look a little worried. After clearing the table and putting us to doing the mountain of dishes. Aware of her mood, we knew better than to fight over our task. Mother told Eunice, they’d better get started. Naturally, Eunice wanted Mother to do the long form and calculate interest on their many debts. This was long before calculators.
As Mother labored over the form and calculations, Aunt Jewel perfumed the air with her cigarettes at the other end of the table, turning the air blue. The skinny baby squalled and snorted as Mother picked information from Eunice. Even though Eunice had never done a tax return, she argued with Mother over how it should be done, arguing that rent, groceries, and gasoline were exemptions. She felt little concern over receipts. “I got that at home somewhere. That doctor bill was about twenty-five dollars. I don’t need no receipt.” Just as Mother thought she had finished, Moxy strolled through and wanted to claim an exemption for the baby, even though it was born months after the cut-off date. He wouldn’t be convinced, so Mother hastily added the baby, knowing it wouldn’t fly. She did however, refuse to sign the form as preparer, having a healthy fear of being jailed by the IRS.
The little family eventually left, exhausted by the taxation process. I never heard if they ended up in jail. Fortunately, Uncle Albert never brought Mother any more tax preparation business. Daddy never got his hanky back.

Uncle Albutt Part 6

Aunt Jewel had several nieces and nephews I saw from time to time.  Her sister Lucille, of the hairy legs, who was married to Daddy’s Uncle Dunc, had three daughters, Alma, Eunice, and Gladys.  I guessed Lucille wanted to keep to her family’s tradition of inflicting horrible names on kids including her boys,  Hambone, Mookie, Teeter, and twins Fats and Snake.  I can’t imagine how she settled on Fats for one of the twins.  They both were skinny as snakes, though neither bit me.

I was most impressed with Alma.  Mother said she was a tramp because she wore her swimsuit and moved the grass when a road crew was working in front of their house.  It made no sense to me.  I thought she looked beautiful with her bright red lipstick, blonde ponytail tied with a scarf, teetering along in high heeled wedge sandals.  The mower gave her a lot of trouble and a couple of the guys came to check on her.  Her sister Eunice came out in her swimsuit, but she was not so popular, probably because she was extremely thin.  Her suit bagged over her hips like a toddler’s training pants.  Alma got a boyfriend that day.  Eunice didn’t.  No matter, Eunice had somehow snagged a boyfriend named Moxy.  I think he followed her home from her carhop job.  Mother also thought carhops were trashy, dashing my career hopes.  I was impressed when Eunice got married at the age of sixteen and had a baby shortly thereafter. Eunice and Moxy were great favorites of Aunt Jewel’s, so I heard of them from time to time over the next few years.

Gladys was nearest me in age.  Apparently still under the influence of her religious, fundamentalist mother, her clothes inspired no envy in me.  Her hair was tightly braided.  She wore a dark, long-sleeved dress and brown leather oxfords I did not envy.  Her mother kept her busy, leaving her little time to play with me.  I helped her wash dishes and mop the kitchen so we could escape outdoors.  That afternoon, we waded in their pond in our clothes.  Gladys said her mama didn’t allow her to wear a swimsuit.  Afterward, I  wore one of her Pentecostal dress and flour sack bloomers while my clothes dried on the barbed wire garden fence.  I wanted to keep the flour sack bloomers, but mother insisted I give them back.  I never wore anything more comfortable.   We each got a quarter of watermelon from their garden that had been cooled in their well. Late in the day, the men fried fish while we chased fireflies in the dusk.

Uncle Dunc, became progressively rowdier as the evening drew on.    Though I didn’t know it at the time, It was my first experience with a drunk.  Uncle Dunc began playing wildly with us, chasing us as we jumped off the high porch fronting their house into the darkness.   I enjoyed the day tremendously, though sadly, never got to visit again.  I lay that deprivation directly at Mother’s feet based on a conversation I heard as we drove home late in the night.  She took a dim view off drunks frying fish and chasing her children into the darkness.  What a pity!  I thought I was having fun.

I later got the impression he was named Dunc because it rhymed with drunk.  Still makes sense to me.

 

Uncle Albutt Part 4

Uncle Albert had an interesting vocabulary.   Even when he didn’t get words right, he forged bravely ahead.  When his energy was low, he didn’t have much image.  When the doctor diagnosed him with emphysema, he referred to his ‘zema. Air conditioners were air positioners. He called my sister Phyllis, Phillips.  I liked that one.  I was Linder.  I didn’t like that quite so much. My mother Kathleen was Kathaleen.  He called Daddy “Willie”, his real name instead of Bill, the name Daddy gave himself once he left home.  Daddy cringed every time he was called Willie.  The only other person who got away with it was his mother.  I wouldn’t have wanted to be Willie, either.  For some reason, Daddy’s brother Parnell named his daughter Willie Carol.  She was a whiny, sullen kid, maybe because of that name.  It makes perfect sense to me.

On occasion, we saw some of Aunt Jewel’s relatives.  Her sister, Lucille, who incidentally had married one of Daddy’s cousins, had the hairiest legs I’ve ever seen, man or woman. The wearing of seamed stockings only made it more obvious.  A good proportion of the wiry hairs worked their way through the stockings, trying to escape, while the rest were imprisoned flat against her legs.  I don’t know which fascinated me more, the swirling mass of flattened ones, or the wild escapees.  I never got to look enough, and certainly wasn’t allowed to comment. Mother warned us off when she knew we’d see Lucille.  Daddy swore her legs had gotten hairier because she shaved them!  That just sounded nuts.  How would hair roots know a razor threatened?  He was death on leg-shaving, ascribing to the old wive’s tale that shaving made hair grow back thicker.  I don’t know what planet he was from that made his daughter’s legs, shaved or unshaven, his business, but Daddy thought he was God and his wishes,  commandments.  More likely, he may have feared he’d be stuck with his girls forever should we sprout hair like that.  Of course, Mother never volunteered the information that she shaved her legs.  I guess she didn’t want Daddy to know what was in his future.  Naturally, I shaved my legs as soon as I could get hold of a razor.  I can’t tell you how happy I was to get away from home.

Daddy’s methods did ensure he never had to deal with adult children boomeranging

home.  Times just didn’t get that hard.

Mixed Nuts Part 3

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When you are dealing with family, it clarifies things to have a scale. You don’t have to waste time analyzing people when you have a ready reference. This one works pretty well for us.

1.Has a monogrammed straight jacket and standing reservation on mental ward.

2.Family is likely to move away without leaving forwarding address. Has jail time in the past or the future

3.People say, “Oh, crap. Here comes Johnny.”

4.Can go either way. Gets by on a good day. Never has been arrested. Can be lots of fun or a real mess. Relatives usually will invite in for coffee. Likely to have hormone-induced behavior.

5.Regular guy. Holds down a job. Mostly takes care of business. Probably not a serial marry-er. Attends church when he has to.

6.Good fellow. Almost everybody likes him or her. Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. Manages money well enough to retire early.

7.High achiever. Business is in order. Serves on city council.

8.Looks too good to be true. What’s really going on?

9.Over-achiever. Affairs are in order. Solid citizen. Dull, dull, dull. Could end up as a 1

We had plenty of other interesting relatives, too. Dogs were off limits inside our house. All we had were hunting dogs, dogs with a purpose. People with house dogs were considered silly and weak-minded. Cookie and Uncle Riley (#4 People say, “Oh, crap. Here comes Johnny.”)never came to visit without bringing a couple of fat, shiny, little house dogs. You can guess what category this put them in. Daddy grudgingly tolerated their dogs as long as the dogs didn’t bark or mess up the house. They chattered endlessly about their dogs. Uncle Riley frequently assured us his dog, Jackie, was, “just like a person.” Daddy agreed the dog was as smart as Uncle Riley.

Unfortunately, Jackie got some kind of skin infection. Cookie and Uncle Riley showed up for a visit with poor Jackie, bald as an egg, the skin on his entire body irritated and red. Uncle Riley had been too cheap to take him to a veterinarian and concocted his own home remedy. He would dip Jackie in a Lysol and pine-oil mixture, reasoning it would kill any bacteria. The best we could tell, Jackie was bacteria and hair-free, but itching miserably with blistered skin. Uncle Riley felt badly about his medicine gone bad, and lovingly coated Jackie with Calamine Lotion several times a day. While Uncle Riley told us of Jackie’s troubles, he was unaware of Jackie sitting at his feet, licking his wounds. Not surprisingly, the harsh home remedy inflicted the most damage on Jackie’s sensitive nether portions. As he licked his little doggy privates tenderly, Uncle Willie reminded us Jackie was “just like a person.” Three-year-old son, John,  watched Jackie’s ablutions intently and remarked, “I never saw a person do that!”

Uncle Charlie , another #3, was a compulsive liar. It didn’t concern him that no one believed him. He just lied because he was so darn good at it. Uncle Charlie would climb up on the roof to tell a lie instead of stand on the ground and tell the truth. If Uncle Charlie told you it was raining, don’t bother with your umbrella. He worked at the paper mill with Daddy, and had such a reputation for lying, that anyone repeating one of Charlie’s stories had to buy coffee for the group. One afternoon on coffee break, Charlie came rushing by the fellows in a big hurry. “Charlie, stop and tell us a lie!” one of them called after him.

Charlie never looked back, “I can’t!” he called over his shoulder as he rushed on. “Ray Pierson fell in Smokestack #2 and I’m going to call an ambulance!” They all rushed to see about their buddy and found Ray Pierson in perfect health at his usual work station, Smokestack #2.

Cousin Vonia #5 and her husband Joe #4 (Oh, Crap! Here comes Johnny) came to visit a lot, bringing their three little kids. Joe was “disabled” and didn’t have to get up early, so he just wouldn’t go home. Mother sent us on to bed, but Joe wanted to sit till midnight, even on a school night. Their little kids would have been drooped over asleep for hours. Finally Daddy started telling Mother, “We’d better to go to bed so these good folks can go home.”

Joe would look disappointed, then get up and shuffle toward the door, saying, “Well, I guess I better get my sorry self on home.” Vonia would trail behind him, carrying two sleeping kids and guiding the other staggering kid to the car. Joe couldn’t carry kids. He had a “bad back.”

Joe had a few other quirks. He had been fortunate enough to hurt his back at work and land a nice settlement and a monthly disability check so invested in a few cows and took care of them from then on. For those who know nothing of cattle farming, it is extremely hard work. Joe and his disabled back spent many hours building fences, making hay, stacking hay in the barn, unstacking that same hay later and loading it on a trailer, then taking it off and feeding it to the cattle, herding cows, wrestling soon-to-be steers to the ground and helping them become steers. He spent hours on end driving a tractor. Hard, hard, hard work.

Joe had a strange quality for a farmer, eschewing all healthy foods and existing on a diet of peanut patties, banana pudding, and milk. He also smoked like a smokestack. This careful attention to diet paid off for him. He didn’t have a tooth in his head by the time he was thirty five. He refused to get dentures. He just dropped peanut patties from his diet. He said he didn’t need dentures for just milk and banana pudding. The smoking finally killed him when he was seventy-eight. He dropped a cigarette down the bib of his overalls and pulled out in front of a train.

Even though Great Uncle Albert was only a #4.5 – 5, he had given Daddy a place to stay and let him work for his keep during the terrible times of the 1930’s when Maw Maw was struggling to feed seven children alone. Daddy appreciated this and was loyal to Uncle Albert all his life. Old, grumpy, and hormone-depleted by the time I knew him in the mid 1950’s, it was hard for me to imagine him in his younger, randy days. He was dull, and full of good advice, a habit he’d developed since he’d gotten too old to set a bad example. Aunt Jewel wasn’t his first wife, and frankly, was on pretty shaky ground as a #2, but as far back as they lived in the sticks, there weren’t any airports, so she was hanging on. I heard whispers she had broken up his first marriage to Mary. Even more shocking, Uncle Albert was entertaining her when Mary tried to force her way in to the marital bedroom. Uncle Albert slammed the door, breaking his poor wife’s arm. Mary got the hint, took the baby, and left. Smart girl.

I had trouble envisioning this. I had never met Mary, but she had to look better than the Aunt Jewell I knew. I had heard Aunt Jewell used be really pretty, but she had gotten over it. By the time I knew her, she had smoked over forty years, had nicotine-stained fingers and teeth, wrinkles around her mouth from drawing on a cigarette, and her mouth pulled a little to one side. She had a thick middle, thin hair in a frizzy old-lady perm, and bird legs. She wore stockings rolled to her knees and cotton house dresses. She wheezed constantly and never spoke except to whine, “Albert, I’m ready to go now.” Or “Albert, give me a puff off your cigarette.” Oh yes. One time they came to visit after she’d fallen and broken a rib and she started crying and said, “Albert, I want a puff off your cigarette, but I’m too sore to cough. “ That was kind of interesting, but I couldn’t imagine a man choosing her over anyone else.

It was interesting to see my father treated as a kid. Uncle Albert felt free to give his opinion about whatever Daddy was up to. He arrived for a visit one day before Daddy got home from work and was inspecting the place. Daddy aspired to #8 or 9 (8. High achiever. Business in order.

9.Looks too good to be true.) despite struggling to maintain a #6 (Regular guy. Holds down job. Mostly takes care of business. Probably not serial marrier. Attends church when he has to.)

Uncle Albert kept all his stuff organized and in perfect repair. Daddy’s barn was a disorganized mess. He tossed things wherever he got through with them. Uncle Albert walked around, examining items and commenting. “This is a good old singletree. It just needs a new chain.” “This is a good rasp. It just needs to be cleaned up.” “This is a good axe-head. It just needs to be sharpened and have a new handle put in.” Before too long, Daddy came striding up, delighted to see his uncle. He was smiling broadly and thrust out his hand.

Uncle Albert looked at straight at him and pronounced, “Bill, you need to get the junk man out

here and get all this #^%$ hauled off.”

I’m pretty sure I can pass for a #5 most days.

Mixed Nuts Part 2

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When you are dealing with family, it clarifies things to have a scale. You don’t have to waste time analyzing people when you have a ready reference. This one works pretty well for us.

1.Has a monogrammed straight jacket and standing reservation on mental ward.

2.Family is likely to move away without leaving forwarding address. Has jail time in the past or the future

3.People say, “Oh, crap. Here comes Johnny.”

4.Can go either way. Gets by on a good day. Never has been arrested. Can be lots of fun or a real mess. Relatives usually will invite in for coffee. Likely to have hormone-induced behavior.

5.Regular guy. Holds down a job. Mostly takes care of business. Probably not a serial marry-er. Attends church when he has to.

6.Good fellow. Almost everybody likes him or her. Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. Manages money well enough to retire early.

7.High achiever. Business is in order. Serves on city council.

8.Looks too good to be true. What’s really going on?

9.Over-achiever. Affairs are in order. Solid citizen. Dull, dull, dull. Could end up as a 1

My family is as much a mixed bag of nuts as any. As a kid, I was most fascinated by the ones on the fringes. My favorite was Uncle Chester, not because he was friendly, funny, or even seemed to notice me, but because he was the first solid #3 of my acquaintance. (Family likely to move away without leaving forwarding address. Has jail time in past or future.) As a young man in the depression, he started out as a moonshiner and petty criminal, lounging a bit in local jails. He never really hit the big time and made the Federal Penitentiary till he got caught counterfeiting quarters. His technique was sloppy and his product unpolished. He was fortunate in getting caught red-handed passing his ugly quarters. In 1941 he was sent up to Fort Leavenworth for some higher education where he made good use of his time by apprenticing himself to a cellmate who was doing time for making twenty-dollar bills.

Aunt Jenny #5 (Can go either way. Gets by on a good day. Never been arrested. Can be lots of fun or a real mess. Relatives usually will invite in for coffee. Likely to have hormone-induced behavior.) was short-sighted about Uncle Chester’s situation and ditched him while he was imprisoned, but realized she still loved him when he came home with his enhanced earning capacity. They let bygones be bygones, got back together, and had three lovely children. Their eldest son Lynn and daughter Sue were solid #7s from the start. (Good fellows. Almost everybody likes him or her. Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. Manages money well enough to retire early.) Uncle Chester was perfectly willing to give Lynn a good start in business, but Lynn was ungrateful, distanced himself from his father’s dealings, joined the military, and avoided the family business altogether, even seeming to resent his father. One Sunday dinner, when Uncle Chester was dropping names of the interesting people he had been in jail with at various times, Lynn rudely interrupted, “Daddy, you’ve been in jail with everybody at one time or another.” Uncle Chester did step up and keep Cousin Lynn from making a mistake. Lynn came home on leave from the military and met a girl he wanted to marry; love at first sight. She was a pretty as a spotted puppy and even she noticed how much she looked like his sister Sue.  Uncle Chester got her off to the side and asked a few questions about her mama and daddy and where she was raised. He was waiting up for Lynn to get home. “Son, I sure hope things ain’t gone too far. I hate it, but you can’t marry that li’l old gal. She looks just like her Mama did when we was running around together. There’s a real good reason she looks just like yore sister Sue, a real good reason.”

By the fifties, Uncle Chester had branched out a little. He did a little research and decided lawsuits paid well and weren’t too much work. He captured some bees, applied them to his leg. When his leg was good and swollen, he got his buddy to drop him off downtown at a trolley stop. As the trolley approached, Uncle Chester carefully stumbled into the path of the trolley, suffering a knee injury in front of numerous witnesses. He collapsed to the ground, moaning and groaning. Suffering terribly, he was transported and treated at the hospital. Now Uncle Chester was set with a fifty-thousand dollar settlement, a tidy sum for that time.

Their daughter Susie turned out real well, became a teacher, and married a Baptist Preacher, lending Uncle Chester a much appreciated touch of respectability. Uncle Chester and Aunt Jenny were very generous toward her church, and the legitimacy of their donations was never questioned. Sadly, many years later Susie’s daughter a bona fide #3, embarrassed them all by stealing from her employer.

Ross, Uncle Chester’s youngest son, was also a gifted #3 (Family likely to move away without leaving forwarding address. Has jail time in past or future) followed in Uncle Chester’s footsteps. He dabbled in moonshine, petty crime, and scams but just never rose to Uncle Chester’s level. He initiated a few crooked lawsuits but lacked the brain power and organization to pull bigger things off. All went well till he got too big for his britches and tried setting up business in Texas. When he got caught moonshining in someone else’s territory, he called the old man for help. Uncle Chester had to admit, “I’m sorry son, but I can’t do a thing for you. I don’t have any influence with the law out there.” Uncle Chester felt bad about one of his boys getting in trouble till the day he died,” but sometimes you just have to let kids make their own mistakes.”

Aunt Jenny was stingy. You would think she got her money in the usual way. Or maybe she just got tired of hearing Uncle Chester complain how hard it was to make money.  She even made her own mother pay for a ride to the grocery store. When Maw Maw won some groceries in a weekly contest,  she had to share with Aunt Jenny since she hitched a ride to the grocery store every week. Aunt Jenny sold eggs and tomatoes and charged Maw Maw the same as everyone else.

When Aunt Jenny got older, she got dentures. She liked them so well she saved them for special occasions. She wore them when she had ladies over for coffee, church, and Sunday dinner. Being toothless didn’t hold her back a bit. She could take a bite off an apple as well as anyone and could have won a fried chicken eating contest hands down.

Corwin and the Hog Dog

image imageAunt Essie, like all of my aunts, was a wonder of fertility, if not child-rearing acumen, raising seven of the meanest boys outside Alcatraz. Thank God, her reproductive equipment gave out before she managed more. I thought Mother 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 but one made it past thirty and one never went to jail.  The meanest of the lot turned out to be pretty boring. He opened a very successful auto body shop and became a deacon.  I hope Mother learned her lesson about being judgmental.

When Aunt Essie’s boys weren’t trying to kill us, they could be entertaining. Uncle July was an avid hog-hunter and was extremely proud of his Catahoula Cur Hog Dog, Catch. Out on the hunt, Catch would le 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 and had Catch cowering in a 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 poor Catch 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 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 dangerous 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?” artfully ignoring 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 him back in.

Corwin spent the rest of his life residing between the ballpark, jail, and homeless shelters, except for brief stints with friends when he was flush with cash from his drug sales job.

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He’s the Man!

chauvinist pigIn her never-ending mission to make Daddy’s life miserable, Mother raised objections when Daddy wanted to move one of his sister, 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 afford rent sent 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 and there was a warrant for his arrest.

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 poo out of him like she should have, she decided to give him the scare of a life-time.  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 for the night, but the camper, 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.  He was very forgiving.ther

Your Money’s No Good Here!

 


It’s good to compare notes with your family.  My brother just told me my dad helped his brother-in-law counterfeit quarters back in the 1930s.  Daddy’s oldest sister, Aunt Jenny, married Uncle Chester, a bona fide reprobate, a rabble-rousing drunk who enlisted Daddy to help with his quarter counterfeiting business.  I don’t know if Daddy would have even qualified for reform school if he’d gotten caught, since he was just a hungry little kid trying to win a place at Aunt Jenny’s table for a few days. Mama and his younger sisters were about to starve since his own father was sick in bed at his mother’s house.  Grandma wanted nothing to do with her daughter-in-law and the grandkids, though she was willing to care for her son.  The boys were pretty much working for room and board anywhere they could.

At any rate, Uncle Chester made pretty good quarters, a time-consuming job requiring a steadier hand than his, since he was rarely sober.  According the Daddy, Uncle Chester made impressions of both side of quarters using Plaster of Paris casts lined with onion-skin paper.  The steady hands were needed to line the molds up and glue them together, leaving a tiny pour-hole at the top, where they could pour in Uncle Chester’s special melted alloy.  Once the ragged quarters set, a little artistry work was required to finish them off.  Voila!  Quarters!

Babbittquarter

Uncle Chester had no trouble passing his bogus quarters at the grocery store, the mercantile, and the hardware store. The problem came at the bar.  Though he was normally stingy and careful, one night he got a snootful and wanted to buy a round for everybody in the house.  Indiscreetly, he brought out a bag of quarters to pay his tab.  They didn’t ring true when he poured them on the counter.  The proprietor objected, Uncle Chester tore into him, and Uncle Chester ended up in Leavenworth.

That really wasn’t so bad.  His cell-mate taught him to make twenty-dollar bills.  Before long, Uncle Chester was out, but wasn’t able to pass his twenties because he couldn’t get the color just right.  After a number of frustrating attempts, he poured up some quarters and headed back to the bar.  When he poured his clinky quarters out on the bar, just as Uncle Chester anticipated, the bar-tender objected.  “Are you telling me my money’s no good?”  A fight and arrest ensued.  Uncle Chester went back to Leavenworth for a refresher, polished his craft, and never had any more counterfeiting troubles.

All’s well that ends well.

Southern Fried Crazy

 

We love our crazy folks down South.  Oh, we may not want them right up in the house with us, not that it doesn’t happen from time to time, but certainly we need them to brighten up our holidays and remind us of how dull life would be without them.

My perennially pregnant Cousin Carol waddled into the family reunion this year with her nine kids and current live-in. He’d look like Willie Nelson if she cleaned him up a little.  Willie Albert Swain as toddlerExcepting her penchant for living in sin, Cousin Carol is fanatically religious, devoting herself to the food kitchens, fellowship nights serving evening meals, and community closets of all the local churches, though not their morning services.  “It’s hard to git nine young’uns dressed that early.” Some nosey relative asked her how many more kids she was going to have and she answered, “As many as God gives me.” I think the boyfriends had more to do giving her those babies than God did!  You can bet your sweet fanny she won’t have any more if she had to pay for them. At the conclusion of the reunion, she loaded up as much food as she could load in her decrepit station wagon, reasoning if she didn’t, y R would go to waste.”

For those of you who haven’t been to a family gathering in the South, this is every cook’s turn to shine.  They bring their most celestial dishes.  If Aunt Sue chases you down with her fresh coconut cake, you’re going to try it or else!  Don’t bother pleading allergies.  Aunt Bonnie makes the best fried chicken.  You have to have some of Uncle Joe’s barbecue, but watch out for Cousin Mattie Mae’s Three-Bean-Salad with the wigglies. You don’t have to take any of that. She has Alzheimer’s and won’t know the difference.  It may very well be the same batch she brought last year.

R G Holdaway Family with Johnny Bell early 1930'sUncle Chester couldn’t make it this year.  He got sent back up for counterfeiting, but he did set the boys up in bootlegging before he got caught.  They’re doing real good.  Aunt Jennie was really bragging on them.  Her girl Joyce is teaching at the high school and just married the Baptist preacher.  Aunt Jennie is so proud all her kids are making a good living and doing well.

I never get tired of bragging about my tightwad Cousin Kat who set up her tombstone in her bedroom because she “didn’t want to spend all that money and then not get any enjoyment out of it.”  There was my cousin Evil Larry, who ran around with his pants unzipped so he “all the better to pee on us” when he could catch us.  I never did learn to like him, though.  I adored my cousin Sue, but she was a compulsive liar from the time she could talk; delightful, non-malicious creations that kept me guessing.  She was great fun, but would have climbed on top of the house to tell a tale when she could have stood on the ground and told the truth.

1st row Kathleen Holdaway, Ellie  Blizzard,Johnny Bell2nd John a0002I don’t think I could pick a favorite.  I love them all, even the ones I hid from.  They gave me wonderful stories, ensuring that my rich, life never has a boring moment.  All I have to do is think back and recall.

(Oh and the Cat’s name was Old Greenie  She was 26 years old and had just given birth to her last litter of kittens.  Not long after this picture was made Old Greenie ate the kittens, starting at the feet.  My Grandpa was horrified and knocked her in the head.  See, my family even had crazy animals.)