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.

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Doggonit, Give Me Some Directions that Make Sense

            I’m not good with directions.  In fact, I’d have to improve considerably to even be bad.  Useless terms like left, right, North, South, East, and West annoy me.  If people actually expect me to get somewhere, they need to be more specific.  “Turn off the interstate at exit 5.  Go the opposite direction you’ve been going and go three streets past Brookshire’s.   Drive just a minute or so and you’ll see a restaurant with the big cow in the parking lot.  Don’t turn there.  Drive to the next red light and turn on the street that turns between the WaWa and that hardware store with the inflatable lumberjack.  Watch for the ugly house with the silk flowers in the bucket of that tacky wishing well.  Pass it up, but now you need to start driving pretty slow.  You’ll see a big, old white house with a deep porch and all those ferns, kind of like the one Grandma lived in at Houston, the one where the woman living upstairs tossed her dirty mop water out on my head when I was sitting on the sidewalk playing. Boy, did Grandma have something to say to her!  Remember, it was just across the street from that big, old funeral home.   I just love those old houses, but I’ll bet they are expensive to heat.  About six houses down on the other side, there’s a little, blue house. I believe it used to be gray. If you look hard, you’ll see an old rusted out 1950 GMC like Aunt Ada and Uncle Junior used to drive, up on blocks way off to the side of the shed.  Remember how they used to toodle around with all those mean boys bouncing like popcorn in the back?  Anyway, our house is the yellow one with the big shade trees just across from it.  You can’t miss it. There’s a bottle tree out front.”

            Now I can’t miss with those directions.

It Couldn’t Be Helped

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The picture above captures a frequent expression of Mother’s, usually after she has just opened her mouth and put her foot in it.

I am doing a post on crazy things my mother has said and done.  Mother was always a delightful ditz.  With a demanding husband and five wild kids it’s a wonder any thing ever went right.  After a fiasco, she’d often say, “It couldn’t be helped.”  She’s just turned ninety and is a real dynamo.  She goes to the gym twice a week, has a yard full of flowers, still drives, and is very active in her church, community, and the matriarch of a large family.  We all love telling the stories of her crazy escapades.

1.  She left her lights on, ran her car battery down, and asked a nice young police officer to “jack her off.”  She wasn’t arrested.

2.She doesn’t like it when someone asks how tall she is, so replies either, “How much do you weigh?  or How much money do you have?”  By the way, she is not tall.

3.  She once crashed  a wedding in cut off blue jeans, sitting in the first row on the bride’s side.  The family was not friendly.

4.  She was once locked in a museum and had to be rescued by the fire department, climbing over the fence on their ladder.

5.  She was locked in Windsor Castle. More on that later.

6.  She rolled up a car window up on a camel’s lip.  These things happen.

7.  She made change in the offering plate at church and came out twenty dollars ahead.

8.  She lost her bra at church one Sunday.  She never could explain that!

9,  When two intruders broke in her house, she made one of them help her into her robe before she would talk to them.  She gave them eleven dollars, telling them, “That’s enough!” They thanked her when they left, telling her to “have a nice day.”  She told the police officers later, “They were polite and had been raised right.”  Go figure.

10.  She threatened a rapist in her own living room.

11. She won’t say “Bull.”  That sounds crude.  She substitutes “male cow.”

I still don’t have the nerve to say “damn” in front of her.  God knows she tried to raise me right.

I decided to flesh these delightful stories after first clarifying.  Mother’s mind is not going.  Lots of these stories go back many years.  She’s a delight to be around and keeps family and friends in stitches, most often without meaning to.

#1.  “Officer can you jack me off?”

Mother is prissy to the point of being prudish, exchewing vulgar terms such as “butt” and “pee.”Dern” is as bad as it gets, except for one time I heard her say “Damn”  when she raised up under and open cabinet door. Life presents challenges for a kid growing up with such a restrictive vocabulary.  I have to admit, however, she may have had a closed-head injury when she said it.

Any way, Mother made her way to the local mall for lunch and an afternoon of shopping with her frinnds.  Much later she returned to her car and found a dead battery, courtesy of the lights she’d left on.  I suspect she may have said “Dern!”

Donning her best poor stranded woman look, she flagged down a Police Officer, asking if he could jack her off using her best Minnie Mouse squeak.  Maybe he ihad a grandma, but she didn’t get arrested.  (To be continued)  Note link to youtube channel below to see her.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0HAKC-qt-tJu7qWJLNgSYg

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.

Just Folks Getting By Finale

 

Ben brought Uncle Amos home to supper that night, just like he always did on Thursdays.  Lucille did herself proud with fried chicken.  Jenny made mashed potatoes, English Pea Salad, and sliced fresh garden tomatoes.

“Ladies, I haven’t had a meal this good since I don’t know when.  Lucille, I been thinking about asking you to marry me, and your fried chicken just made up my mind.”  He said.

“Well, I hope it don’t break yore heart, but I already been married plenty.  I like to do things my way.  I don’t want to have to take care of nobody no more.  I don’t mind cooking you up some fried chicken once in a while, though.”  She laughed. 

“Well, that’s a relief.  I really ain’t partial to gittin’ married again either, but I sure admire your fried chicken.”  Everybody got a laugh out of that.

Jenny brought out coffee and pie, then told Ben.  “Mama and I want to talk to you about something.  Mama wants to buy Miss Dolly’s shop.  Miss Dolly needs three thousand dollars.  Mama has fifteen hundred.  I am thinking I’d like to go in with her.  You know I’ve got a little saved from before we got married.  Lucy could go to work with me.  There’s a little bed/sitting room opening right onto the shop where she could nap and play.  That way, I could work and not have to leave her.  What do you think?”

Lucille spoke before Ben had time to respond.  “Now before you worry over this too much, Ben, I want you to know.  I ain’t expecting to live with you.  I can move into the back of the shop. I want my own place.  I don’t want to be dependin’ on nobody for a place to live.  It was good of Shirley and Martin to let me fix up their garage apartment, but I don’t want to feel like I am in their way.  I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Martin’s mama didn’t want to move in there.  The house was hers to start with.  I sure don’t want to cause no family trouble.  I don’t mean for Jenny to go in with me if you’d rather not. Dolly has already suggested I could pay it out by the month if I haf’ to.  She ain’t had no other offers.”

“Let’s just do the figures and see how it works out.  Jenny has her own money to use as she pleases. You know I’m not the kind of fellow to take from my wife. I like the idea of her having Lucy with her.  Jerry wants more hours, anyway.  Uncle Amos is there in the mornings.  All that kind of fits in with something I was thinking about, anyway.  Jenny’s idea of coffee and treats has really caught on.  You know the hardware store and Dolly’s Shop have an adjoining wall.  How would you feel about opening up between and I could give my customers a coupon and they could come over there for a free coffee?  They could buy their own snack.  That would help us both.”  Ben looked thoughtful.  “It might just work.  What do you think, Uncle Amos?  You are a good businessman.  Do you think it’s a good idea?”

“It sure sounds good to me.  I believe folks would always go for free coffee.  I expect they’d turn a good profit.  I believe me and you could open up the space between the two stores and not have to hire nobody to do that work.  I did all the work around my store.  I never wanted to pay for no work I could do myself.”  Amos looked enthusiastic at the thought of getting his hands dirty.

“I can’t see any reason not to do this.  I believe we’d all come out well.”  Ben admitted. “Let’s get cracking.”

“If you don’t mind me makin’ a long distance call, I guess I’d better call Shirley an’ let her know she’s gonna need a baby sitter.  I have an idea it will be a relief to her,” Lucille said.  “I’ll get the operator to call back and let me know what the charge is so I can pay you back.  I don’t usually call long distance, but I want to talk to Dolly before somebody else gits the place.”

“You go right ahead, but you are not paying us back for that call.” Ben told her.

Lucille was gone about ten minutes.  “Well, Shirley took it real good.  She told me she’s about four months along and she ain’t goin’ back to teachin’ this fall.  She’s really looking forward to finally gittin’ to stay home with a baby.  She had to go back when school started in the fall with the other three.  She did ask if I could come stay a couple of weeks when the baby comes, though.  I told her I figured you could handle things.  Turns out, it’s good I come up with somethin’ else anyway.  Old Lady Benson has been houndin’ Marty about wantin’ my apartment.  She thinks she’s still got a claim to it since they bought the house from her.  He told her I’d done put three thousand dollars in it an’ it wasn’t up to him.  She told him she’d give me four thousand if I’d give it up.  I told Marty to tell her, it’d sure hurt me but I guess I’d do it.  If she wants to keep that new stove, icebox, and curtains I put in I told him she could have them for two hundred fifty dollars more.  Sounds like a pretty good deal to git them out of a hard spot.  I don’t envy Shirley none, havin’ that old lady in her back yard, but she says she can handle it.

Six months later:

Lucille walked in Jenny’s Sweet Shop and surprised Jenny at the register.  “Mama, why in the world didn’t you tell us you were coming on the bus today?  Seems like you were gone a year instead of just three weeks.  Uncle Amos was planning to drive over and pick you Sunday!  I can’t fuss, though.  I am so glad to see you. I’d dance a jig if I could, but Lucy and this big old baby under my apron are ‘bout to wear me out. I can’t believe I’ve still got five months to go! Uncle Amos has been having to help me half a day every day.  Come on in and I’ll get us a cup of coffee.  Lucy, come see!  Grandma’s back.  Tell me all about that new baby.”

“Oh, she’s a pretty little red-headed blue-eyed thing with the curliest eyelashes you ever saw, just like you and Jimmy!  I got some real cute pictures of all the kids.  Old Lady Benson was claiming credit for them eyelashes the whole time.  You know, I always talked about the eyelashes on my babies.  Whooee!  I’m glad I don’t have to put up with that woman no more!  She tried to talk me down to a hundred and fifty dollars for that new stove and icebox I put in.  I held out for two-hundred fifty and she gave up and paid it, once she found out I had another seller lined up.  Lord, that woman is hard to please.

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/just-folks-getting-by-part-1/

Link to first post in this serial

Aunt Ader’s Place Part 6

img_1578Aunt Ader’s Place held more thrills than Disneyland.  Much of my large extended family gathered on a beautiful Halloween.  The women packed the hysterical children into a caravan of cars and made the rounds of a dozen houses scattered about the country neighborhood.  The twenty-odd children piling fighting their way out of cars must have looked like Attila and his ferocious Huns as we descended on the locals.  The drivers quickly gave up the battle and headed back as sugar-fired kids battled for Tootsie Rolls in the back seats.

Ensuring the madness continued, just as evening fell, we returned to a roaring bonfire in Aunt Ader’s front yard.  That was all it took to turn us into wild people, rabid in hot pursuit of each other.  Eventually, we wore down and settled in to roast hot dogs and marshmallows  on the open fire.  Many were burned beyond redemption, but some were even eaten.

As the evening cooled and the fire burned low and we sat on logs around the fire the stories started, first the old favorites like Bloody Bones that no one really believed.  As we quieted and the little ones drifted off in their parents arms, the older folks started with “true” scary stories: the time a mad-dog tried to drag Great-Aunt Bessie’s baby  from a pallet in the yard, the time so long ago when a hog devoured some cousin’s neighbor’s kid who fell into the pen.  Cousin Ray told a a man seeking shelter from the night who was turned away from several houses because he seemed suspicious but was eventually was taken in.  The next day the family’s mutilated bodies were found and murderous man never seen again. They later learned, the same thing had happened somewhere else. The beauty of all these terrible stories was that they all happened long ago to perfectly expendable people we’d never met, so we were able to enjoy them guilt-free with no emotional investment except a tingle of horror.

Finally, the delicious tales ended and we piled into cars for a dreamless ride home, to the sound of Mother and Daddy talking low in the front seat.  Of course, Mother assured us those stories were just tall-tales, not to be believed, but that didn’t hender my pleasure at all.

Aunt Ader’s Place Part 3

warhome2Uncle Dunc and Aunt Lucille had a houseful of kids.  Sometimes we were lucky enough that Bert, the eldest would drop in our games, raising our rough play to fever pitch.  Naturally, he tired of us soon, leaving us deflated when he went about the business.  I was always leery of the two big girls, since they seemed smart-aleck.  Ava, the oldest, was pretty with a bouncy, blonde ponytail.  Though I overheard Mother whispering she was trashy for mowing in her swimsuit out by the road, I thought it made perfect sense and worked well for her since she married a guy with a greasy ducktail and had a baby before her seventeenth birthday.  I kept a watch on both girls to see if they sprouted leg hair like Aunt Lucille.

swimsuitI believe Ava saw herself like this.

Prudy, the next girl was skinny with a lot of pimples and wore those pointy bras common to the late fifties and early sixties.  Her swimsuit kind of wrinkled over her skinny behind so she didn’t mow out by the street.  In fact, she worked as a carhop down at the drive-in for a while after dropping out of high school before hooking Toxie, who worked at the filling station and always smelled like oil.  Red rags always hung out of his back pocket.  I never had any contact with Toxie except when he yelled at me from under the hood of an old car suspended from a tree branch in Uncle Dunc’s front yard when I hit a ball into it.  I never really liked him much after that.

Carolyn was just a couple of years ahead of me, but must have been easier to control than her big sisters.  Her long hair, parted down the middle was braided so tightly it pulled her eyes back and hung in tight, thin braids almost to her waist.  The other girls must have rebelled against their mother in their dress and behavior, but at ten or so, mousy little Carolyn suffered under Aunt Lucille’s bossiness, since she only wore dresses and had to attend fundamentalist church services along with her mother and younger twin brothers.  They were wild little boys a couple of years younger than I, still peed their pants a good bit, and didn’t seem worried by Aunt Lucille at all.  Carolyn said she wouldn’t be allowed to have boyfriends, drop out of school, or cut her hair till she was sixteen.  I was only six or seven at the time, but that seemed very unfair to me.

I made a point to stay out of Aunt Lucille’s way since she yelled at kids a lot and was fond of using a switch on Carolyn and the little boys when she could catch them.  I certainly never asked to spend the night like I did at Cousin Sue’s and Cousin Cathy’s house.  We only visited Uncle Dunc for a year or so, until he moved off Aunt Ader’s Place, which incidentally was very near Daddy’s favorite brother.  I heard later he gave up drinking after a car-wreck left him paralyzed and he had no one to depend on but Aunt Lucille.

Aunt Ader’s Place

Aunt Ader’s House was reminiscent of the two pictured here.

dog-trotI had no idea who Aunt Ader was, or that her name should actually have been pronounced Ada, but her old farm house was a wonder.  Uncle C H, my Aunt Jenny’s on-again off-again husband apparently enjoyed some claim to it, because over the course of my childhood, several of my relatives rented it, probably when they’d fallen on hard times.  It stood high on a hill surrounded by several huge oaks.  A rutted red-dirt drive curved its way up toward the house, dusty in summer and rutted deeply in rainy weather.   In the spring and early summer weeds sprigged up between the tire tracks, kept short courtesy of the undercarriage of the vehicles making their way up the hill.  Though Aunt Ader’s forebears had been prosperous landowners a couple of generations back, the land had been subdivided and sold off long before I came to know it.  To the eyes of a small child, it was welcoming with its deep front and back porches and wide dogtrot.  An enormous living room and kitchen opened off one side and three bedrooms on the other.  Fireplaces on either side furnished the only heat.  Bare lightbulbs dangling on cords sufficed to light the big, high-ceilinged rooms, welcoming ghosts to the shadowy corners. Rain on the tin-roof could be pleasant or deafening, depending on the intensity of the storm.   I was never tempted to stray far from the light, though the sunshine from the huge windows flooded those rooms in the daytime.

A water heater stood in the corner of the enormous kitchen next to the galvanized bathtub on the wall.  The old wood stove was still in use, though the only indoor plumbing was water piped in to the sink in the one piece enamel cabinet with a built in sink standing before the window, looking out on a large field with several pear and fig trees.  Several unpainted shelves served as storage, for everything that couldn’t fit into the sink cabinet and pie safe.  A cord exiting the round-topped refrigerator was plugged into an extension cord connected to bare light bulb dangling from the center of the kitchen ceiling.  The light was turned off and on by a long string.  Strips of well-populated fly-paper hung near the windows.   An unpainted toilet stood slightly downhill about three hundred yards off to the left of an old barn.  Kids were always warned away from the hand dug-well, enclosed in a wooden frame with a heavy wooden trap cover stood a few feet from the back porch.  Mother was so adamant we not go near, I was sure it was surrounded by quicksand, just waiting to suck a foolish child in.  A bucket hung from a chain from the roof of the creaky structure.  Pigs were pinned up near the barn, though not far enough away to miss their smell, explaining the fly problem.

To be continuedwarhome2

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.