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.

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Uncle Albutt Part 3

Uncle Albert was the only person I ever knew who never attended school at all.  He couldn’t write or read a word.  I remember seeing him bring documents for Mothr to read and interpret and pen his replies.  He was the first person I ever saw make an X mark for his signature. Mother wrote his name afterward and witnessed it. I was filled with awe that a person had never attended school.  Mother filled out his income tax returns for him every year.

Uncle Albert was very shrewd in his accounts, despite his lack of education.  He handled his business affairs skillfully, requiring no assistance.  He was a skilled trader.  I remember hearing him tell Daddy how he left the house one morning with a goat to barter and after several trades, came home with a shotgun and box of shells.  I never knew him to hold public employment.    He farmed forty acres more than fifty years, providing a living for him and his wife.  He paid cash, bartered, or did without.  The whole time I knew him, he drove a nineteen forty-eight Ford pickup truck.  He and Aunt Jewel smoked Prince Albert Tobacco and rolled their own cigarettes when money was tight, and bought Raleigh cigarettes when they were flush.  Aunt Jewel saved Raleigh Cigarette coupons for prizes.  From time to time, she’d show off a fancy vase or pair of pillowcases. . I never knew of them being without cigarettes of some sort.

Daddy was always honored when Uncle Albert and Aunt Jewel came to visit.  One evening, Mother cooked our favorite, fried chicken.  We never got enough of her fried chicken, particularly the crisp scrambles of flour that dropped off during the frying.  Knowing this, Mother scraped up every crisp bit and put it on the platter with the chicken.  After the chicken was devoured, she divided those scrambles among the kids.  They were delicious, a highly anticipated treat.  That evening, the chicken platter passed from on end of the table to the other several times.  Uncle Albert liked Mother’s chicken, too.  As he forked  the last piece, the unthinkable happened.  He tipped the platter up and poured all those beautiful scrambled bits onto his plate.  Our eyes were huge with horror.  Surely he hadn’t just scooped up all the best all for himself!  He had!  Mother shushed us with a look as he noisily crunched and chomped through the pile.  A more heartbreaking sound was never heard.   In just a few seconds, he finished off our stolen treat, then burped his appreciation, wiped his mouth, leaned back his chair and remarked, “That’s the best part of the chicken.  I ain’t never got enough.”

we knew just how he felt.

Crazy Charlsie Part 18

Drowsing as Bessie fried chicken and caught Dr. Charles up on farm news, Charley was jarred from sleep as Freddy stumbled up the back steps with a heavily-laden cardboard box in bringing supplies. Though he danced nimbly trying to regain his balance, he lost control.   As it banged to the kitchen floor, the ominous sound of breaking glass competed with the clattering of the screen door.  Bessie jumped and dropped a piece of chicken into the sizzling skillet, the back-splash raising a blister on her arm.

“Lord have mercy, Boy!  Now, you done made me burn myself with this hot grease!  Lawdy! Lawdy!  Sometimes I b’lieve the Devil owed me a debt and paid me off in wild boys!”  She turned to Freddy furiously, holding a towel to her burned arm.  Ain’t I done told about banging that confounded door?”

“Aw, Mama!  I am so sorry!  You know I didn’t go to.  I just lost my step and was tryin’ to save your jars.  Lemme git you some butter for that burn and I’ll clean them jars up!”  He was stricken as only a boy who’s hurt his mother could be.  “You know I wouldn’a never done that a’purpose.”  He was near to wailing as he dug in the icebox for the butter.”

“Here, let me help.  Charley, can you watch the chicken while I take care of Bessie?  Freddy, can you see to the groceries?”  Freddy was long gone when he looked around.  “Sit down here at the table, Bessie, while I get some ice water.  You don’t want to use butter on that burn.  That holds in the heat and makes it burn worse.”  Charles immersed a clean dish towel in ice water and wrapped it loosely around the burned arm.  “Doesn’t that feel better?  Let’s cool it a little, then see how bad it is.”  He carefully unwrapped the arm, revealing a reddened area with a quarter-sized water-filled blister.  “Well, that’s going to hurt some, but it sure could have been worse.  Let’s just keep it clean and cool till you’re ready to go to bed.  We’ll wrap it up then and you can keep it up on a pillow.  I’ll give you something to help with the pain so you can sleep.”

“I sure dread for you to open that blister.  I know it’s gonna hurt.”  Bessie moaned.

“I’m not gonna open it.  That blister will keep infection out.”  The doctor explained.  By now, things had settled down enough for him to check on Charley and the frying chicken.  “Charley, go ahead and clean those groceries up.”  He was careful not to mention the missing Freddy as he turned the chicken and Charley swept up broken glass.

“It’s not so bad.”  Charley remarked.  “Only two jars broke.  At least nobody got cut.”

“That’s a blessing.”  Charles told them.  “One of the saddest things I ever saw was a little boy that fell running home from his grandma’s with a jar of honey.  The broken jar went straight in his heart and he was dead before I got there.  It just about killed his grandma.”

The sad story reminded Bessie of Freddy falling up her kitchen steps with her box of jars.  “Aw, Lawd have mercy!  Where’s Freddy?  He might’a run off all cut up and be a’layin’ somewhere a’bleedin’ right now.  Lawd have mercy!  Is my pore boy cut up an’ me just a’hollerin’ at him?”

“No, Bessie.  I didn’t see any blood.  He probably just ran off to get Robert.  You just sit here and let me and Charley finish cooking.  Robert and the boys will be here any minute.  Here’s you a glass of tea.  Now, don’t that feel fine, watching somebody else cook?”  Charles asked.

“It shore does, but I don’t reckon I better get used to it.  Nobody but me has cooked in this kitchen since Miss Geneva died.  Bless her heart.”

 

Southern Fried Chicken

Chicken pieces of your choice

1 cup flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder(I use about 1 tsp on each)

oil (canola, corn, peanut vegetable)

Combine all dry ingredients in l gallon zip lock freezer bag.  Add washed and dried chicken and shake.  I usually shake about six or eight pieces at a time.  Drop in hot oil 350 degrees.  (if you have the nerve to try it, drop safety match in hot oil.  will ignite at exactly 350 degrees.  My husband always swears I’m going to burn the house down, but I never have, and he loves my fried chicken.) Fry  6 to 7 minutes on each side till golden brown.  Test with meat thermometer.  Internal temp should be 165-170 degrees.  Drain on rack.

 

You Just Can’t be Nice to Some Folks

imageA young fellow came in telling a rough story of his day’s work yesterday working for Grumpa’s Roofing. That must be one of the roughest jobs in the Louisiana August heat.  It would be hard to choose between that and going into an attic to get rid of bees or wasps.  Anyway, Cary is a easy-going, hardworking kid.  He’d have to be to put up with his irascible Grumpa.

Grumpa’s crew was hard at work when Cary went to the truck to get himself and the rest of the crew some more drinks.  Sweat dripped into his eyes as he staggered back under the weight of the heavy ice-chest, finally dumping it as hoisted it, spilling the ice and drinks on the ground.  As he scrambled to rescue ice and drinks, Grumpa lit into him, making the day even go even better.

Cary sorted the mess to the tune of Grumpa’s complaints.  Perhaps he was a good-hearted old guy, or maybe he was just hungry, but on a run for more ice, Grumpa picked up a bunch of gas-station fried chicken to treat his crew to lunch.  The hungry guys chowed down.  Gas-station fried chicken is just never a good idea.  Not long after they got back to work in the killer heat, one guy retched in the rosebushes along the front of the house.  Another staggered just far enough to splatter his lunch on the driveway in full view of the poor old lady peeking out the window.  As Cary climbed the ladder with a bundle of shingles, his eyes crossed and his knees buckled. Dropping the shingles, and clinging to the ladder, he divested himself of his chicken dinner just a few feet from the unhappy homeowner.  Meanwhile, the only functional member of the crew saved the day, whipping out his camera to film the whole thing for posterity.  Thank God for cell-phones!

As his sick crew gathered on the ground to recover, one insisted he be taken home.  They all joined in, feeling urgent need of bathrooms and privacy.  They’d met up and ridden to the job in Grumpa’s work truck.  Grumpa was livid at losing a half-day’s work after he’d been good enough to buy lunch.  “You’re just a bunch of pussies, just a bunch of pussies!  Can’t even work through a little belly-ache!”

The good thing about a rough day is the motivation to get a better job.  From then on you can look back and remember how bad it can be.