During World War II, the Army had soldiers doing maneuvers in the woods near Aunt Mary and Uncle Willie’s house in Sibley. Aunt Mary had been raving about the sex-crazed GIs running wild in the woods thereabouts, probably more to keep her girls in line than anything else. She wouldn’t even let them go to the toilet or hang clothes on the line by themselves. They always had to do everything three at a time. It must have been lovely crowding three girls in a two hole toilet on a hot day. God knows, one of them couldn’t have stood outside alone and unprotected.
At any rate, due to Aunt Mary’s unrelenting vigilance, her three terrified girls had remained chaste and unmolested by the lusty soldiers. One hot August afternoon, Aunt Mary broke her own rule and slipped out to the toilet alone for a little personal time. Just as she settled her generous bottom on the wooden seat, she disturbed some nose-blind red wasps building a home over the stinking quagmire of human refuse below. The offended wasps couldn’t resist the tempting target she presented and launched a viscious attack on her tender nether portions.
Aunt Mary burst out of the toilet, shrieking in pain and shock, peeing herself while trying to run with her drawers around her ankles. Bursting through the screen door to the back porch rubbing her wounds, with tears running down her face, she shrieked at her terrified girls, “There were six of ’em. They got me when I went to the toilet!”
Assuming she’d been accosted by the fearsome soldiers she’d warned against so often, all thee girls ran down the road, screaming for the neighbors to come to their rescue. Even though poor Aunt Mary was in no condition for company, very soon she had plenty!
Vernell Mullins and Jessie Hollins cornered me as I headed out of the schoolhouse after school one terrible day, cutting me off from the troop exiting the building. Backing me against me against the wall, they bent over and got right in my face. “We’re gonna pull your pants down and look at your tile.” (They pronounced it tile, but I know now they had to have meant tail) I was terrorized. They must have been at least sixteen. To have been singled out by them for such a horrific and shameful threat changed my life. It had never occurred to me before that I had any such thing to fear from them or anyone else. We were so modest at our house that we didn’t even refer to our private parts or answer from the outhouse. Thankfully, they had accosted me in a public place. I could hear their vicious laughter as I fled. My shame overwhelmed me. I obsessed over it but would have never told Mama, feeling I had somehow deserved it. I was quiet the rest of the day at home, dreading another such attack tomorrow.
The next day and every day thereafter, I gave them a wide berth, taking care never to get caught alone anywhere. I felt like prey, about to be run down any time. Coming in from school one afternoon, I got a biscuit and glass of milk as always, along with Mama’s usual admonition to change out of my school clothes and hang up my dress before I went out to play. Mama was having coffee with Miz Reagan when I came back through. “Oh did you hear the terrible news?” asked Miz Reagan. “Vernell Mullins died today. Her kidneys just shut down and she died! They thought she just had the flu……a young person like her. Isn’t that just the saddest thing?”
I was ecstatic! After the fear I’d been living with the past couple of weeks, news of Vernell’s death was a blessed relief. Then and there, I started praying for Jessie’s death, watching her hopefully for signs of developing illness over the next few days. Even eighty years later, knowing Vernell’s death was not a judgment from God, in one little six-year-old corner of my heart, I can still remember the macabre joy with which I received the news.
Though I was raised during the depression, with parents who farmed and probably never had more than a few dollars in their possession at one time, I never did without. My mother, Lizzie’s canned goods were stacked up high against the bedrooms walls. She sewed everything our family wore except overalls and pants. My father, Roscoe repaired Continue reading