Aunt Ader’s Place Part 5

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As the fire burned low, the lap babies had been put down and knee babies were sleeping quietly on pallets, the chatter from the older children slowed as they; too, drifted off to sleep at the feet of their mothers, aunts, and grandmother.  Desperate for ghost stories, I hung on the words of my superstitious Maw Maw. She held grandchildren spellbound with all the scary tales she knew.  Should she falter, one of my aunts urged her on…”Mama, remember about the big black dogs running through the house.” Her stories were more terrifying because she believed them with all her being.

“Oh yeah, lots of times, late at night, if the wind was still, and the night was dark, me and Granny could hear them ghost dogs, howling and scratching at the door, trying to get in…but once in a while, if the moon was full, we’d see them big, black devil dogs blowing right into the room where me and Granny was, made of black smoke from the fires of hell with blazing coals for eyes.  We hid under the covers, ‘cause Granny said ‘if you ever looked in them fiery eyes, you was bound for Hell’.”

Opportunities to hear scintillating stories like these were rare, usually limited to visits with Maw Maw, my paternal grandmother. Mother could hardly snatch her spellbound children from the writhing mass of cousins clustered around Maw Maw’s knees. Daddy ruled the roost, and he liked the stories as much as anyone.  Mother held the ridiculous notion that tender minds didn’t need to hear scary stories, more concerned about the nightmares she’d be dealing with in a few short hours than the extreme pleasure they afforded us at the time.

I do wish I could hear and savor those stories again, unmolested by that nagging voice in the background.  “There’s no such thing as ghosts.  Those stories are just pretend, like cartoons. Now, go on to sleep and forget about them.”

Maw Maw by CarMettie Swain Knight, a champion ghost storyteller

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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

Terror Most Delicious

Maw Maw by CarPictured Above, Mettie Martha Knight Swain, my paternal grandmother

Desperate for ghost stories, I hung on the words of my superstitious Maw Maw. While the men were out hunting, the women and children of the family gathered to share the long evenings.  As the evenings stretched on, lap babies were rocked to sleep and knee babies drifted off in their mother’s laps and were put on thick pallets of quilts on the floor to sleep.  Earlier in the evening, the women took turns telling tales of their youth but as it got later and more little ones drifted off, they moved on to scary stories.  At the peak of the evening, when the most impressionable had nodded off and the lights were low, one of the daughters would encourage Maw Maw to tell a story.  She held her grandchildren spellbound with the scary tales.  Should she falter, one of my aunts urged her on…”Mama, remember about the big black dogs running through the house.” Her stories were more terrifying because she believed them with all her being.  Once she started, I was too deliciously terrified to even risk a trip to the bathroom alone.

 “Oh yeah, lots of times, late at night, if the wind was still, and the night was dark, me and Granny could hear them ghost dogs, howling and scratching at the door, trying to get in…but once in a while, if the moon was full, we’d see them big, black devil dogs blowing right into the room where me and Granny was, made of black smoke from the fires of hell with blazing coals for eyes.  We hid under the covers, ‘cause Granny said ‘if you ever looked in them fiery eyes, you was bound for Hell’.”

 Opportunities to hear scintillating stories like these were rare, usually limited to visits to Maw Maw, my paternal grandmother. Mother could hardly snatch her spellbound children from the writhing mass of cousins clustered around Maw Maw’s knees. Daddy ruled the roost, and he liked the stories as much as anyone.  Mother held the ridiculous notion that tender minds didn’t need to hear scary stories, more concerned about the nightmares she’d be dealing with in a few short hours than the extreme pleasure they afforded us at the time.

 I do wish I could hear and savor those stories again, unmolested by that nagging voice in the background.  “There’s no such thing as ghosts.  Those stories are just pretend, like cartoons. Now, go on to sleep and forget about them.”

cousinsTop Left Cousin Ricky Compton, Sister Phyllis Swain Barrington holding Sister Connie Swain Miller, Cousin Allen Lee, Linda Swain Bethea, center, Standing Aunt Ola Bea Shell holding Cousin Trudy Shell

First row, Cousins Sandra Shell, Gary Shell, and Leslie Shell in right front corner.

Terror at the Camp Out (Halloween Story)

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The backyard campout was all Billy and his friends could talk about. My cousin Sue and I furiously watched them build a tent out of old quilts stretched over the clothesline, furious we couldn’t camp out with them. No girls allowed! Continue reading

If You Can Hear Us……..

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Our community, like all small communities, had its well-loved ghost, Sally Macon. Like all kids, my sisters and Bud’s sisters, loved to play seance. We grew up within three miles of each other, so they spent a lot of time together. All the girls had gotten hooked on the Gothic Soap, “Dark Shadows,” featuring ghosts, vampires, and spooky seances. The girls were hidden in Connie’s dark bedroom around a flickering candle, calling to Sallie. “Aunt Sallie, if you hear us, make yourself known.” they chanted in unison. Mother saw the flickering candle light under the door and listened in long enough to realize what was up. She eased outside, scratched on Connie’s window and moaned, “Woooooo!”

Terrified they’d actually raised the dead, the four girls nearly beat each other to death tearing out of the room. In their haste, they ran over Daddy, stretched out napping in his recliner. In his panic, he started yelling, “Get out! Get out! The house in on fire.” By this time, of course Mother was back in, surveying all the excitement. The four girls eventually walked back from wherever they’d run, to find out Aunt Sally hadn’t come calling after all.

good pic of Dad

Terror at the Camp Out (Halloween Story)

Scary0004

The backyard campout was all Billy and his friends could talk about. My cousin Sue and I furiously watched them build a tent out of old quilts stretched over the clothesline, furious we couldn’t camp out with them. No girls allowed! Continue reading

I Needed Ghosts

Desperate for ghost stories, I hung on the words of my superstitious Maw Maw. While the men were out hunting, she held her grandchildren spellbound with all the scary tales she knew.  Should she falter, one of my aunts urged her on…”Mama, remember about the big black dogs running through the house.” Her stories were more terrifying because she believed them with all her being. Continue reading