Just Folks Getting By Part 8

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Shot of a sweater I am crocheting my granddaughter.

“Now that’s some purty crochet.  You’re getting real smooth with them stitches.  Does it feel like your hands is gittin’ the idea?”  Lucille and Jenny were at the kitchen table with Lucy resting in a basket at their feet.  “Just look how sweet she looks with this pink.”  Lucille held a skein of pink baby yarn next to her little granddaughter’s face.  “Don’t tell Shirley, but I was always hopin’ for a girl ever’ time she got that away.  I wonder if it was because I just never got enough of you when I had to put you in the Hope Home. The thing was, I never even cried.  I just had to toughen up to get by.  I was afraid if I started, I’d fall apart.  I had to work and get the three dollars a week to the home or I might lose you.  That’s all I kept thinkin’ when the work got hard and the hours got long.”

“I can’t even imagine how hard that must have been, especially with Daddy in jail.  How did you find out what happened to him?  Weren’t you at Aunt Lucy’s?” Jenny was trying to piece her family’s past together along with learning to crochet.

“Let me show you how to do a double crochet so you can practice while I tell the story.  It’s a long one.  Okay, watch this.” Lucille demonstrated slowly, then picked up speed.  “Keep the tension on and git a rhythm.  There, now you are doing good.  Do a few till it gits easy, then I’ll show you how to turn for the next row.”  Jennie concentrated on her crochet while her mother picked up her own crochet and started her tale.

“You remember your daddy had sent us to Aunt Lucy’s on the bus to git us out of the dust when Jimmy was sick.  Well, Jimmy never did git another good breath.  He coughed up muddy stuff and kept getting worse.  We propped him up to sleep and built him a tent so he could breathe steam from a tea kettle with a few drops of kerosene in it.  We even give him three drops of kerosene in a spoon of sugar to ease the coughin’ and it worked some, but he still died about four days after we got there.  I didn’t have no way to git in touch with your daddy in time, so we had to go ahead and bury him on Aunt Lucille’s place.  We put him right near the creek, where you could hear the water running all the time.  The sound of that running water give me some comfort, at least knowing he wouldn’t be breathing dust no more.  Anyway, I wrote your daddy.  A few days later, I got a letter from Uncle Melvin lettin’ me know your daddy and his boy, Luther, had got caught runnin’  moonshine.  I was never so shocked in my life.  I thought Russ was drivin’ a truck. Uncle Melvin said they both got five years at Huntsville.  That just about kilt me, comin’ right on top of losin’ Jimmy.  He’d sent my letter back and gave me an address where I could write Russ in jail.  He’d been a’hopin’ I’d write ’cause he didn’t have no idear how to reach me.  It like to broke my heart to write your daddy in jail.

I didn’t know what to do.  I went straight to bed a’cryin’ my eyes out.  You followed me to bed, just a’pattin’ my face with your little hands.  I never got up that day.  Your Aunt Lucille left me alone, but the next mornin’ she come in and told me to git up and cook you some eggs.  You was hungry.  Then I had to help her get a wash out.  She was takin’ in washin’ then to make the rent.  I told her I didn’t feel like it, to leave me alone.  She said, “Gal, git your behind outta that bed before I take a broom to you.  You got a baby to raise.  It ain’t her fault her brother died and her daddy’s in jail.  I didn’t take you to raise!”

Lucille laughed,”I believe she’d a done it, too.”  I mean to tell you I jumped outta that bed and got to cookin’.  Soon as I got done with the dishes, she set me to drawin’ water for the wash.  I had to fill two of them big ol’ iron wash pots.  We shaved in homemade lye soap and scrubbed dirty spots on a rub board before puttin’ clothes to boil a while.  Then we dipped ’em out with a stick and put ’em in the rinse water.  We done the whites first, then good clothes, and finally towels and work clothes.  You had to go from cleanest to dirtiest or you’d mess up your whites.  When the wash water got too dirty, we’d put soap in the rinse water and finish the wash with it.  ‘Course I had to fetch clean rinse water.  I hated wringin’ them clothes.  They was so heavy.  The sheets, towels, diapers went straight on the line.  The dresses, aprons, shirts, and overalls had to be starched before dryin’.  Aunt Lucille stirred some corn starch in cold water, mixed it real smooth, and stirred it in the boilin’ rinse water.  When it was smooth, she dunked the clothes and poked ’em around with her stick till they was soaked up good.  We fished them steamin’ clothes out an’ wrung ’em out when they cooled enough.  We had four long lines of clothes flappin’ in the breeze by the time we was finally done.  The diapers and sheets was usually ready to take in by the time we got the last of the wash on the line.

By the time we got through washin’ and foldin’ I was whipped.  We ate cornbread crumbled in  buttermilk and sliced tomatoes for supper.  I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep my eyes open to eat, I was so tired.  The next mornin’ Aunt Lucille had me up at six to start the ironin’ while she picked beans.  That afternoon, we canned  beans.   She had two big pressure cookers so we put up twenty-eight quarts of green beans that afternoon.  If Aunt Lucille came in and caught me wipin’ tears, she’d set me to another task.  Every night, I was so tired, I just drug myself off to bed.  I still grieved, but it was kind of like I put my grief in a drawer and just took it out when I was free to be alone.  Aunt Lu knew what she was doing.  She’d  lost three children in one week.  She still had four to raise that needed more than a broken piece of a mama.

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Just Folks Getting By Part 1

This story is not about my family, but from a time and place when my grandparents struggled to raise their family.  This is a picture of my grandparents Roscoe Gordon Holdaway and Mary Elizabeth Perkins Holdaway when they first married.  Mary Elizabeth Perkins and Roscoe Gordon Holdaway Wedding Pictu“Mama, how come I had to live in that orphanage for a while when I was little?  If you ever told me, I don’t remember.” Jenny sat in a porch rocker nursing her new baby.  Her mother Lucille sat across from her in another, crocheting a blanket for Little Lucy.

Oh, Jenny, I been wondering when you was gonna ask about that.  That like to broke my heart.  I don’t want you to think bad of your daddy.  He was a real good man, but got caught up in some trouble when you was just a baby.  We was a’farming the Henderson Place up in the Panhandle where The Dustbowl was the worst and he got caught moonshining.  You have to understand, back in The Great Depression, things was different.  They’d been a long drought an’ he hadn’t made a good crop in years.  Dust just kept a blowin’ ever’thing away.  It was just awful seein’ them dust clouds roll in, knowin’ we was gonna be a’smotherin’ and lose our crops..  That dust would git down in your lungs and turned to mud.   That’s what happened to your brother Jimmy when you was just a baby.  He died of the dust pneumonia.  Anyway, that’s what got your daddy moonshining.  We was a’starvin’ and then Jimmy got bad sick.  It was real flat out there and he put a still in the storm cellar.  The sheriff seen the smoke and come and broke it up and hauled him off to jail.  I didn’t know what I was gonna do.  Since I’m a’gonna be here a few days, it’d be a good time to tell you.  Now, you got a baby of your own, you ought’a be able to know what a hard thing it is to leave a young’un.  I always worried you’d hold it against me, but if I hadn’t a’put you in that orphanage, you’d a’died like Jimmy.  You almost did anyway.”  Lucille had difficulty speaking through her tears.

“Oh Mama.  I never held anything against you.” Jenny interjected.  “I remember you coming to get me on your days off.  I went there when I was so little, I didn’t know any other life.  I couldn’t wait to see you when Mama Margie and Mama Bertha told me you were coming.  Not many kids ever had anybody to come see them.  I thought I was real lucky, especially when you’d take me out on my birthday and Christmas every year.  Those were really special times.  Most kids never went out except when we all went.  I remember getting to sleep over with you a few times.  Those were the best times, snuggled close to you in your bed in your cute little-bitty room in that kitchen.”

“I’m glad you remember it that way, but that wasn’t a ‘cute little-bitty room.’  It was a cot in the pantry, but it’s a mercy that’s what you thought.  Mr. Jones let me clear out a space big enough for a cot.  Do you remember I had all them canned goods stowed up under the bed?  Till Mr. Jones let me git a cat, I had to set mousetraps all around and they’d be a’snappin’ all night.  I shore was proud of Ol’ Smoky.  She wouldn’t let a mouse stay on the place.  I sure slept a lot better after she come.  She was a good old cat.”  They both got a good chuckle out of that.

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!

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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.

Hard Times and Tough People

Cousin Kathleen had a hard time coming up. She was the oldest of seven children ranging from three to fourteen when her father died in 1934. He farmed a few acres he’d gotten from his father in the Virginia hills. Aunt Winnie had no idea how they’d manage. She and the kids struggled to get the crops in that year with the help of the neighbors, knowing that was the last help she could count on in the hard times of The Great Depression. The thought of the work facing her was overwhelming. A friend gifted her with the crop from one of his bean patches, other neighbors contributed a ham, a few hens, some produce, and what little bit they could spare. Others offered to hire the kids when they needed help from time to time.
After the crops were in, the beans picked and canned, Aunt Winnie made inventory. She owned the farm with its tiny three-room house with beds in every room, including a couple in the attic. She had a good well, a tight barn, a smokehouse, a toilet and a chicken house. Her livestock included a sow and a few fattening shoats, a few chickens, a mule, a cow, a few goats, a dog and a couple of barn cats. Her farm equipment included a wagon, a plow, hand-tools, harness, and the various other things Ed had managed to acquire. She sold the mule to a neighbor with the promise that he’d loan it back to her to plow garden every spring, giving her a bit of cash. Darryl, the oldest boy was twelve and big as a man. Between the kids, and herself, they’d have to get the work done. Aunt Winnie took a days’ work when she was lucky enough to get it, though it was sporadic since there were no real jobs. The neighbors called her to help harvest, can, or help with the sick, but she had to be home at night to care for her own young children.
Cousins Kat and Darryl never lived at home or went to school after that, taking whatever work they could, their board part of their pay. Darryl was home only for heavy work plowing, planting, and getting crops in, though Kat only got to come home on weekends. He did farm work, cleared land, cut wood, helped butcher or did whatever he could get, moving from farm to farm as the job was finished, though he had to be home long enough to plow, plant, and get in the crops on his mother’s place.
Cousin Kat took whatever jobs helping out mothers with new babies, staying with the sick or elderly, helping with farm, housework, or sewing, anything she could get. The word got around the kids were hard-working and reliable, and cheap. Kat said she never got more than two dollars a week, when she was lucky. Sometimes she worked for produce and old clothes for herself and the family. Darryl often had to take his pay in produce to take home. There were many mouths to feed back at Mama’s place.
In this way, the family scraped by. Ed’s parents had moved to Texas where they moved in on Lizzie and Roscoe, my grandparents, in the meantime. Roscoe split his farm equipment, and gave them a wagon and mule to help them get started. Upon learning of her brother, Ed’s death, my grandmother, Lizzie, wrote her sister-in-law Winnie, to sell the farm and come to Texas, where they could be of some help to them. Nobody had much, but they could all manage together. Lizzie and Winnie had been life-long friends, even before Winnie married Ed. They had stayed in touch by letter at least weekly ever since Lizzie left Virginia. She looked forward to being with her again.
Winnie, who had no other family, was looking for a buyer for the farm and planning to move her family to Texas, when she got a nasty letter from her mother-in-law telling her she had no business moving to Texas, burdening herself and her husband with that “bunch of kids.” These were her own grandkids, by the way. Winnie had “made her bed and now she had to sleep in it.” This was really cold, considering this same woman had moved her own family in on her daughter and son-in-law. Maybe she was afraid more family would put an end to their generosity. My grandmother, Lizzie, never found out the reason till she and Winnie reunited on Lizzie’s first visit to Virginia fifty years later.
Insulted, Winnie and her family stayed in Virginia where they struggled by. Things got better when Darryl was able to join the Civilian Conversation Corp and send money home. The third daughter went out to work, bringing in a little money. When World War II started, Darryl enlisted, then the other boys in turn. They lived through some hard times. The younger children got to go to school.
Cousin Kat said it was a great sorrow that she never got to live at home after her father died, missing her family’s’ twilight suppers, never getting to finish school, and getting to sleep with her sisters under her mama’s quilts in the attic. The rest of her life, she never spent a penny she could save, fearing she’d need it soon.
Darryl made the Navy his career and was very proud to have served as boson the Hornet in World War II. All Aunt Winnie’s children did well, contributing till their mother got her “old age pension.” As her health failed, the children cared for her, hiring help to get them through times they couldn’t be there, quite an expense. Despite this, when she died, she left ten-thousand dollars to be divided among her children. She must have been so frugal!
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Lessons of a Hard Life

Daddy was a pragmatist with a dim view of positive reinforcement. Throughout his life, he’d seen many of acquaintances make the expedient rather than the better choice. I don’t know whether he considered his choice of associates might have an effect on their decision-making but he did need a fix of low company from time to time, probably feeling they held a lofty view of him. He held himself apart from drinking and trashy behavior, but did appreciate hearing just enough to reinforce his self-view, also providing an opportunity for edification should these “friends in low places” need his help and guidance. They enjoyed his generosity far more than his immediate family. Taking care of one’s family is a thankless task, whereas news of “bread cast upon the waters” may be touted far and wide. Though not a minister, he frequently preached that a person trying to lift himself out of a “life of sin” is to be praised far above those never wallowed. I am sure, this was personal, since he took every opportunity to use his own early behavior and redemption as an example of all he’d overcome. For some reason, he never encouraged us to sample the delights of sin so we could ascend to sainthood as he had, just made sure we never enjoyed the opportunity to mess up.
It was heart-warming to hear of the improved behavior of Josey Johnson, who only two weeks earlier had abandoned a loving husband or wife and little children for the company of a hard-drinking friend. If Daddy could corner Josey and get in a little preaching and Josey came home, Daddy was ecstatic. Josey could count on all kinds of favors, till he or she took off again. Daddy wasn’t bad about letting us know when Josey backslid, but hastened to update us if Josie returned home for some rest and rehabilitation. It didn’t matter that Josey might have been kicked out of a den of iniquity and was roosting at home till something better came along.
Unfortunately, Daddy never understood that not all people seek the low life. Life is full of people who do the right thing, just because it is right. I still wish he’d learned that not everyone falls, given the opportunity. I know his difficult background shaped his attitude.

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This photo pictures my father and several of his siblings. He is the boy in the middle holding the cap. I feel sure my grandmother seized the opportunity to have their pictures made by someone who happened by with a camera. They were sharecroppers. It is unlikely she was able to make any preparations for this photo. Times got even harder for the family when her husband died at forty-two, leaving her with five children between three and eighteen. The eldest had already married and left home. The oldest boy, at eighteen was working at whatever he could find. The fifteen-year-old boy went into the Civilian Conservation Corps as soon as he could. My father was thirteen and did farm work and odd jobs to help out till he got on as a night watchman at an oil rig at fifteen. The rig wasn’t too far from the house so he often slipped home to get something to eat and warm up, since he was too poorly clothed to keep warm.

Miss Laura Mae’s House Part 10

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One of my favorite eavesdropping episodes was about a friend of Miss Laura Mae’s whose husband was in prison and daughter in the orphanage.

“I got a letter from my friend Alice Marshall today. Her husband has been out of jail a long time now and her daughter Helen just had her fifth. Just look at this picture she sent me of Helen’s family. She is so proud.” she said, passing a picture to Mother.

I wanted to see that picture so badly I forgot I wasn’t supposed to be listening in. “Let me see! Let me see!” A daddy, a mother holding a baby, three little girls, and a small boy stood in front of a car. The woman and little girls had on matching dresses. The man and boy looked neat in dark pants and plaid shirts. “Their dresses are all alike! How did they get dresses alike?” I had to know.

“Helen can sew real good. She makes everything her and the girls wear. Ain’t that something?”

I had to agree. “Mother, can you make dresses alike for me and you and Phyllis?” It seemed like a small thing to me.

“I don’t know,” Mother said. “That would cost a lot of money. I don’t have patterns for matching dresses, and I sure don’t have that much material.”

“Please, Mother. Please……….” The whining did it.

“Stop that whining! Go play in the yard. You’re not supposed to be in here listening to grown people talking, anyway.”

I gave up and sat on the back step, feeling sorry for myself as Miss Laura Mae went on with her story. “I know Alice couldn’t see nothing but hard times when Martin got sent to prison. It was back in The Depression. He stole a hog ‘cause they was hungry an’ got five years in Angola. Alice moved back in with her mama in Baton Rouge, but it wasn’t long before her mama died leavin’ her nowhere to go. She got a job in a hotel restaurant washing dishes and got a meal with her shift. She rented a room in a boardin’ house, but didn’t make enough to feed Helen. She had to put the poor little thing in a church home. Poor child had to stay there four years. Alice went to see her ever’ Sunday, and kept tellin’ her they was all gonna be together agin. I didn’t see how they ever would, but Martin finally got out of jail. He was able to git a job at a sawmill and after a month or so, they got enough together to git a place an’ get Helen home. You never saw anybody so proud as Alice an’ Martin. I was real proud for ‘em. They had a couple of boys after than an’ done real good, but Alice always felt bad for puttin’ Helen in that home, but pore thing, she couldn’t even feed herself. Don’t you know Martin felt awful fer puttin’ ‘em both in that spot. He was a good man and never did git in no more trouble. I don’t believe he ever would’a stole that hog if he had’na been tryin’ to feed his family, anyhow. Them was some hard times, real hard times.”

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/miss-laura-maes-house-part-11/
https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/update-to-miss-laura-maes-house-part-11/

Miss Laura Mae’s House. Part 4

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Once a month Miss Laura Mae caught a ride to the Piggly Wiggly with Mother so she could cash her check and get more for her money. “That randy ol’goat, Darnell won’t cash my check unless I trade at his store, an’ his ol’weavilly flour is way too high an’ ain’t fitten to eat, no how.” I was tickled when I found out she was going. As Mother and Billy went off to shop, I trailed her through the grocery store where we looked at things Mother never bought. She picked up jars of pickled pig’s feet, sweet pickles, vanilla wafers, tiny, little sausages, and Cheerios, considering them carefully before putting them in her cart. I admired the cute little cans of Del Monte Niblet Corn and Petit Pois Green peas as I turned up my nose at Mother piling her cart high with the ten for a dollar store brand canned goods. I decided then and there I’d only buy the good stuff when I got grown. Miss Laura Mae never failed to slip me and my brother Billy a little paper bag stuffed with B B Bats, Kits, and jawbreakers which we tore into the minute we were settled in the back seat.

Soon Billy was asleep and I was busy with my candy. I think the ladies forgot me as Miss Laura Mae launched into her story.

“That big ol’farmhouse over there reminds me of where we was livin’when Mama died. I was the baby, just turned fifteen. Mama’s diabetes shut her kidneys down an’ she did’n last a week. She just blowed up like a toad frog. Oly was married an’ livin’ way off in Carthage an’ Ory had just married Hugh Pearson. They was a’livin’ with his mama in a shotgun house on the Malley place. Miz Pearson was real hateful to Ory, claimin’ she “trapped” Hugh, even though it was over a year before the baby come. Mia Pearson swore Ory had a miscarriage right after they got married, but I know it was a lie. Ory was a’cryin’ to Mama about starting her monthly the day before she got married, thinkin’ it wouldn’t be decent to hit married like that, but Mama said they was nuthin’ to do but got married since ever’thing was all set. Hugh would just have to wait, so she could’n a been that away when she got married. They ain’t no way Ory could’a took me in.

I went to live with my sister Beulah after Mama died. Beulah was fixin’ to have a baby an’ was havin’ a good bit of female trouble. It seemed like the best thing, at the time. I had been goin’ with Floyd a few months before Mama died. He wanted to got married right off, but I still kind’a had my heart set on Bill Harkins. We’d been goin’ together awhile before, an’ I still thought a lot of him. I was kind’a hopin’ we’d make up. Anyway, about the time Mama died, the doctor put Beulah to bed till the baby come an’she had to have help with them other kids. I thought I caught Beulah’s ol’ man peeking at me through a knothole in the outhouse one day an’ then I was standin’at the stove puttin’on a pot of beans one day
when he sneaked up behind me an’ grabbed a handful of my behind. I popped him with the bean spoon. He claimed he thought I was Beulah, but I knowed it was a lie. Beulah was a’layin’ up in bed a few feet away, big as a house with his youngun. Floyd had been a’wantin’ to hit married anyhow, so I went ahead an’ married. At least I’d have a home.”

To be continued

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/miss-laura-maes-house-part-5/

Miss Laura Mae’s House Part 3

Three littI admired the way Miz Laura Mae’s daughter Glomie got her name, though I only learned later it wasn’t spelled the way it was pronounced.
“Betty Lou was the purtiest baby I had, even if I do say so myself. With her fat little legs, blue eyes, and curly hair, I thought for shore somebody would try to steal ‘er. She was my first an’ I held her all day. I didn’ know no better then. It’s a wonder she ever learned to walk. When she was about a year and a half old, Myrtle came along, red-headed and kind of puny. She had colic and squalled non-stop for seven months till my milk dried up. That’s when I found out for shore nursin’ wouldn’t keep me from gittin thataway. I had to put her on the bottle and table food and she took off. Purty soon, she was going ever’where. She wasn’t but about sixteen months old when Glomie come along.

Glomie was born long after midnight. Floyd had been drinkin’ and was purty well-lit by the time me and the baby was cleaned up an’ I was ready to get some rest. My two sisters, Oly was settling us in when Dr. Garnet asked Floyd if we’d picked a name for the baby.

“I done decided to call this one, Glomie, no matter if it was a boy or girl.” He asserted.

“Glomie. I ain’t never heard that name,” said Dr. Garnet. “How do you spell it?” He was filling out the birth certificate.
“Glomie. It’s got the first letter of ever’ state I ever been in,” Floyd answered morosely. “G for Georgia. L for Louisiana. O for Oklahoma. M for Mississippi. A for Arkansas. I don’t reckon with all these youngun’s I’ll ever git to go nowhere else.’

“If you’re sure,” said Dr. Garnet. “I hate to hang that on a kid, but I guess I’ve heard worse.”

By the time I found out the next mornin’, the namin’ was all over an’ that pore baby was stuck with Glomie. I never did let Floyd name another’n.”

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/miss-laura-maes-house/

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/miss-laura-maes-house-part-2/

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2016/04/21/miss-laura-maes-house-part-4/

Miss Laura Mae’s House Part 2

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Be sure to go back and read part 1

houseMiss Laura Mae’s stories always held my interest, though they certainly weren’t intended for my ears.
“The twins come about a month after Floyd left. To tell the truth, I was kind of glad he wasn’t there to get me “that way” again right off the bat like he done before. They was a few weeks early, so I was up all hours of the day and night a’nursing ‘em. Floyd’s mama, Miz Barker was gittin’ kind of childish, so I brung her to come stay so I didn’t have to try to watch her, too. Turns out, she was purty good help, a’rockin’ one of them babies all the time instead o’ tryin’ to run off all the time. Seems like it kind of settled her. She was a sweet ol’ lady.

The garden was a’comin’ in an’ we had plenty to eat without buyin’ much groceries. Miz Barker, Floyd’s mama told me I could git her pressure cooker to do the cannin’ and that shore helped, not havin’ to worry about my beans and tomaters goin’ bad no more. I had got a check or two, so I was able to get a kerosene stove and git rid of that ol’ wood stove. I got Joe Smith to set it up out in the yard so I could do my cannin’ on it. It shore was better not heatin’ the house up.

I had always took in ironin’ at a nickel a piece to help us over times when Floyd was drinkin’. I was real careful to go straight an’ pay on my grocery bill soon as I got paid so Floyd couldn’ git in my ironin’ money. Sometimes that was all that was comin’ in. I got Betty Lou, Myrt, and Glomie started ironin’ as soon as they was tall enough. I tried to let’em keep a quarter a week of the ironin’ money when I could. I’d let ‘em play about an hour after school, then soon as they was through with their homework, put ‘em to ironin’. We’d all listen to the radio while we was ironing long as the batteries lasted. Purty soon, they was savin’ their part of the ironin’ money for batteries.

Things was good till Jody got burnt. He follered Jimmy out to burn to trash and caught his clothes on fire. He was burned bad all over his back, big ol’ blisters everwhere. Doctor Garnett come out to see him and gave me some salve and pain syrup and told me to keep them burns covered. He couldn’t say if Jimmy’d make it or not. It was right in the heat of the summer. Pore little Jimmy suffered so. I had all I could do takin’ care of him and them babies. I don’t know what I’d a done without Miz Barker a’rockin ‘em like she done. With Jimmy so sick, I couldn’t nurse ‘em all the time like I needed to, so I got ‘em on the bottle some to help out. Mr. Jones down at the store let me run my bill up purty high a time or two when I had to keep Carnation Milk without complainin’ a bit. The girls kept right up with the ironin’, never passin’ a word when I couldn’ give ‘em nothing.

My sisters Oly and Ory helped the boys keep the garden goin’ and when it come in, they done most of the cannin’, leavin’ me to take care of Jimmy and the babies. Bessie an’ Joe Smith took to milkin’ the cow in the mornin’ so I didn’t have to get up before daylight after being up so much at night. I don’t know how I’d a’made it if I hadn’ had all that help. In a month or so, Jody was doin’ purty good. By that time, I had them babies purty much on the bottle, and I was able to pick my work back up. I don’t know what I’d a’done without good neighbors, but I was so glad when I could pick my ironin’ and my garden back up and take care of my own young’uns. I was proud for the help, but ever’body needs to make their own way and not be worryin’ other folks.

To be continued