Terrible Tom Turkey

Awfuls chasing tureyRepost of ne of my favorites.  Original art by Kathleen Swain.

When I was a kid, we often went places normal people would never intentionally go. Periodically, Daddy would realize he hadn’t spent any time around social misfits and needed a fix, bad! One day he announced he’d had heard of somebody who lived back in the woods about four miles off Tobacco Road who had a thingamajig he just had to have. Never mind, all five kids needed new shoes and the lights were due to be cut off. He NEEDED that thingamajig!

He HAD to check it out, driving forever down rutted roads that looked like they might disappear into nothing. Finally we got back to Mr. Tucker’s shack. Mr. Tucker was wearing overalls and nothing else. Apparently buttoning overalls wasted valuable time needed forpile junk collecting. While Daddy and Mr. Tucker disappeared into the tangle of weeds and mess of old cars, car tires, trash, broken washing machines and other refuse scattered around the house and into the woods. Mother sweltered in the car with the five of us while Daddy and Mr. Tucker rambled.

It was hot. It got hotter the longer we waited in the punishing July heat. We opened the car doors, hoping to catch a breeze as it got hotter and hotter. The baby and the two-year-old were squalling out their misery as Mother fanned them. Daddy wasn’t known for the consideration he showed his family. He was “the man.”

Mrs. Tucker, a big woman in overalls came out in the front yard and started a fire, never even looking our way. She probably thought our car was just another old clunker in their yard. It got even hotter. We were all begging for a drink of water. Daddy was still gone, admiring Mr. Tucker’s junk collection. Daddy could talk for hours, unconcerned that his family was sweltering in the car. He thought misery was character-building. It didn’t matter that he didn’t know the people he’d just stumbled up on. We spent many an hour waiting in the car while he “talked” usually having stopped off on the way to visit some of his relatives.

Finally, in desperation, Mother got out of the car, introduced herself to Mrs. Tucker, and asked if we could have a drink of water. Mrs, Tucker turned without speaking, went into the house, came back out with some cloudy snuff glasses, called us over to the well, drew a bucket of water, and let us drink till we were satisfied. That was the best water I ever had. Mrs. Tucker pulled a couple of chairs under a shade tree and Mother sat down. We all sat down in the dirt in the cool of the shade and played. Daddy was still prowling around in search of junk, but things looked a lot better after we cooled off and had a drink. Mrs. Tucker was interesting to look at, but didn’t have a lot to say. She had a couple of teeth missing, had greasy red hair that was chopped off straight around, and long scratches down both arms.

Mother tried to talk to her, but Mrs. Tucker wasn’t a great conversationalist. I suspect she didn’t know too many words. I couldn’t take my eyes off the missing teeth and long scratches down her arm. Despite Mother’s attempts to quell my questions, I found out a lot about her. She didn’t have any kids. It didn’t take long to figure out she “wasn’t right.” I was fascinated and wanted to ask about what happened to her teeth, but knew that would get me in trouble, so I asked how she scratched her arms. Mother told me to hush, but fortunately, Mrs. Tucker explained. It seemed she was going to put a rooster in the big pot in the front yard to scald him before plucking him. He’d scratched her and gotten away before she could get the lid on. Apparently she didn’t know she was supposed to kill him first. Just at the point where things were getting interesting, Daddy came back and I didn’t get to hear the rest of the story.

Mrs. Tucker gave us a turkey that day, teaching me a valuable lesson. Don’t ever accept the gift of a turkey. Ol’ Tom was going to be the guest of honor at our Thanksgiving Dinner. Daddy put him in the chicken yard and Tom took over, whipping the roosters, terrorizing the hens, and jumping on any kid sent to feed him and the chickens. We hated him. Mother had to take a stick to threaten him off when she went out to the chicken yard. He even flew over the fence and chased us as we played in the back yard till Daddy clipped his wings.

Before too long, we saw the Nickerson kids, the meanest kids in the neighborhood, headed for the chicken yard. Mother couldn’t wait to see Tom get them. Sure enough, Ol’ Devil Tom jumped out from behind a shed on jumped on the biggest boy, Clarence. Clarence yelped and ran. The other boys were right behind him, swatting at the turkey. Unlike us, they didn’t run out with their tails tucked between their legs. They launched an all-out attack on Tom, beating him with their jackets, sticks, and whatever they could grab. They chased him until they were tired of the game. Tom never chased any of us again, but Mother never got around to thanking the Nickersons.

Advertisements

Corwin and the Hog Dog

image imageAunt Essie, like all of my aunts, was a wonder of fertility, if not child-rearing acumen, raising seven of the meanest boys outside Alcatraz. Thank God, her reproductive equipment gave out before she managed more. I thought Mother exaggerated when she said they’d all end up in jail or dead before they were thirty. She was wrong. Only four of the seven did jail time, and of these, one died in a bar fight after he was released at the age of twenty-eight. Most of rest passed their time boozing it up at Aunt Essie’s house when they weren’t begetting children or needed in jail. Contrary to Mother’s unjust prediction, all but one made it past thirty and one never went to jail.  The meanest of the lot turned out to be pretty boring. He opened a very successful auto body shop and became a deacon.  I hope Mother learned her lesson about being judgmental.

When Aunt Essie’s boys weren’t trying to kill us, they could be entertaining. Uncle July was an avid hog-hunter and was extremely proud of his Catahoula Cur Hog Dog, Catch. Out on the hunt, Catch would le go berserk with hog lust and “catch” wild hogs by the ear, hanging on until commanded to turn loose; not a nice dog. Uncle July kept him penned up, sternly warning us away from the fence. Catch might rage through the fence, “catching” us by the ear.

Aunt Essie and Uncle July heard “catch” noises from the dog pen and were horrified to realize one of their angelic three-year-old twins was missing. They rushed out and found Corwin and the monster dog rolling around in the dog pen. Expecting to retrieve the bloody corpse of his precious child, Uncle July leapt into to the pen to find Corwin latched down on Catch’s ear, blood pouring from the tattered edges. When asked why he bit the dog, Kelvin replied, “Dog bite me.” Corwin was fine except for a few drag marks.

Considering his tender age, it seemed premature to categorize Corwin, but he showed all the hallmarks of a psychopath. Energized and empowered by his encounter with “Catch”, his strange little mind focused on the unfortunate beast, making his life a living hell. Despite his concerned parents’ warning, he was soon back in the dog pen and had Catch cowering in a barrel half-buried in the dirt that passed for a dog house, howling piteously for rescue. Realizing he was no threat to Corwin, Aunt Essie and Uncle July abandoned poor Catch to his misery, knowing Corwin was off their backs as long as poor Catch was crying. Catch wet himself and ran under the truck next time Uncle July tried to take him out hog hunting, his spirit broken. Uncle July swapped him off to an unsuspecting buddy for a pirogue the first chance he got.

Surviving five horrible older brothers made Corwin and his twin Kelvin dangerous little devils. Their parents doted on all the boys, seemingly unconcerned about their reputations as hellions. When people complained about their bullying, their stock reply was, “What did your Johnny do to them?” artfully ignoring the obvious fact that the damaged kid was three years younger. Aunt Essie grieved because the twins would be her last babies, so she let them carry their baby bottles till the school put a stop to it. It was bizarre to see them coming in from playing football with their brothers, pull their bottles out of their back pockets, and fill them for themselves. They were fluent in profanity from the time they could talk.

As an adult, between stints in jail, Corwin lived in the dugout of the local ballpark. He’d worn out his welcome with Aunt Essie and his tippling brothers after attempting to burn her house down over their heads. He was forcibly extricated by the more sober among them, but did live to the ripe old age of forty-one. After the immediate threat of roasting in her bed passed, Aunt frequently mentioned letting him move back in, feeling he’d learned his lesson in jail, but her other boys had a longer memory and wouldn’t allow him back in.

Corwin spent the rest of his life residing between the ballpark, jail, and homeless shelters, except for brief stints with friends when he was flush with cash from his drug sales job.

image                    BUY my book: https://www.amazon.com/Everything-Smells-Just-Like-Salad-ebook/dp/B01IVUXROQ

How to connect with Linda

Blog: https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/

 

Robert Gordon, the Heathen

R G Holdaway Family with Johnny Bell early 1930'sR G Holdaway Family with Johnny Bell early 1930’sL to R Johnny Bell(cousin) Mary Elizabeth Perkins (Lizzie) with Kathleen Annie Lee Holdaway, Roscoe Gordon Holdaway, John Arthur Holdaway about 1930 (note how well-dressed the children are and Roscoes’s mended overalls. I have one of these chairs in my writing room today. Kathleen helped Roscoe replace the bottom in 1932. That story will be in her memoirs, soon to be published.)R G Holdaway Family with Johnny Bell early 1930’s
Bear on chair

Mother is eighty-seven. She swears if she ever meets up with her cousin, Robert Gordon, she intends tell him what a hellion he was, even if he is the Pope and has a beard down to his knees. Well, I am pretty sure our Pope wasn’t previously known as Robert Gordon and doesn’t have a beard down to his knees, but if he was, and does, please tip him off. A whacked-out little eight-seven year old lady down in Louisiana might knock his block off if she gets a chance. From the many stories I’ve heard over the years, I know Robert Gordon had a little brother, Wayne, who was also horrible, but nowhere nearly as mean as Robert Gordon.

Robert Gordon’s initial transgression that put him on Mother’s dirt list was not his fault. He was her Grandma’s favorite. Her grandma paid no attention whatsoever to Mother, or most of her other grandchildren, openly doting on Robert Gordon with warm waves of affection washing over his brother Wayne. No matter that her cousins had lived next door to her grandma from the day of their birth. Mother, hereinafter known as Kathleen, was still steamed to see them with the run of the place, their toys littering Grandma’s yard, and watch them cuddled in Grandma’s lap, when she was never noticed.

Kathleen’s prized possession was a little wagon that her father had acquired second-hand and painstakingly repaired by the broken tongue. The very next tme Robert Gordon visited, he ferreted out her precious wagon, sneaked the hatchet from the kindling pile, and smashed the tongue to smithereens so effectively that the wagon was a total loss. The destructive act wasn’t discovered till after his departure. The family later remembered hearing banging when Robert Gordon had claimed time to go to the toilet. From that day forward, Kathleen hated him.image

Kathleen had but a handful of toys, mostly homemade or hand-me-down, so of course she cherished every one. She had learned, to her great sorrow, that Robert Gordon and Wayne would steal, given the chance. Before they left after a visit, her older brother, who usually only lived to torment her, held the boys upside down by ther and shook them, while she retrieved her toys raining to the ground.

One one visit, Robert Gordon who was younger than she, but bigger, entertained himself by hiding and jumping on Kathleen’s back as she rounded corners, pushing her to the ground and enjoying the ride to the ground as she fell face-first into the dirt and muck of the yard. John helped her plot, so she was ready on his next visit. As she pranced alluringly around the corner, he jumped. She threw herself backwards, the back head bashing satsfyigly into his face and nose. Blood and snot poured from his nose and split lip as he ran bawling for his mama. It was difficult to convince anybody she had started it when he’d jumped on her back, though he tried.

The most memorable, and adult-infuriating trick Robert Gordon and Wayne ever pulled of was The Great Goat-Milk Robbery. Though they were as poor as any farmers during The Great Depression, her parents were excellent providers. They had but one cow, but they kept a goat or two as a secondary source of milk. Cows don’t produce milk just before and immediately after calving. Milk production drops drastically during periods of low feed availability such drought. At any rate all live stock is preciouos and to be treated well. The Evil Robert Gordon and Wayne were beyond the Pale. They slipped away from the visiting adults and robbed poor Nanny Goat of her milk in a way that no Christian ever should. The repulsed neighbors were watching horrified while one boy held the goat and the other nursed, just like he was a kid goat. Kathleen’s daddy and mama and the horrid boy’s parents got there just as Nanny was being rescued and flogged by an outraged neighbor. Robert Gordon and Wayne’s parents left in disgrace and Kathleen’s family had another long, enjoyable talk about how hideos they Devil-ridden were. Poor Nanny didn’t give milk for three days.

This is the same chair from vintage picture above, one of my most treasured belongings.

Robert Gordon, Wayne, Robbing Nanny, and Look Out Pope!

R G Holdaway Family with Johnny Bell early 1930'sL to R Johnny Bell(cousin) Mary Elizabeth Perkins (Lizzie) with Kathleen Annie Lee Holdaway, Roscoe Gordon Holdaway, John Arthur Holdaway about 1930  (note how well-dressed the children are and Roscoes’s mended overalls.  I have one of these chairs in my writing room today.  Kathleen helped Roscoe replace the bottom in 1932.  That story will be in her memoirs, soon to be published.)

Mother is eighty-seven.  She swears if she ever meets up with her cousin, Robert Gordon, she intends tell him what a hellion he was, even if he is the Pope and has a beard down to his knees.  Well, I am pretty sure our Pope wasn’t previously known as Robert Gordon and doesn’t have a beard down to his knees, but if he was, and does, please tip him off.   A whacked-out little eight-seven year old lady down in Louisiana might knock his block off if she gets a chance.  From the many stories I’ve heard over the years, I know Robert Gordon had a little brother, Wayne, who was also horrible, but nowhere nearly as mean as Robert Gordon.

Robert Gordon’s initial transgression that put him on Mother’s dirt list was not his fault.  He was her Grandma’s favorite.  Her grandma paid no attention whatsoever to Mother, or most of her other grandchildren, openly doting on Robert Gordon with warm waves of affection washing over his brother Wayne.  No matter that her cousins had lived next door to her grandma from the day of their birth.  Mother, hereinafter known as Kathleen, was still steamed to see them with the run of the place, their toys littering Grandma’s yard, and watch them cuddled in Grandma’s lap, when she was never noticed.

Kathleen’s prized possession was a little wagon that her father had acquired second-hand and painstakingly repaired by the broken tongue. The very next tme Robert Gordon visited, he ferreted out her precious wagon, sneaked the hatchet from the kindling pile, and smashed the tongue to smithereens so effectively that the wagon was a total loss.  The destructive act wasn’t discovered till after his departure.  The family later remembered hearing banging when Robert Gordon had claimed time to go to the toilet.  From that day forward, Kathleen hated him.image

Kathleen had but a handful of toys, mostly homemade or hand-me-down, so of course she cherished every one.  She had learned, to her great sorrow, that Robert Gordon and Wayne would steal, given the chance.  Before they left after a visit, her older brother, who usually only lived to torment her, held the boys upside down by ther and shook them, while she retrieved her toys raining to the ground.

One one visit, Robert Gordon who was younger than she, but bigger, entertained himself by hiding and jumping on Kathleen’s back as she rounded corners, pushing her to the ground and enjoying the ride to the ground as she fell face-first into the dirt and muck of the yard.  John helped her plot, so she was ready on his next visit.  As she pranced alluringly around the corner, he jumped.  She threw herself backwards,  the back head bashing satsfyigly into his face and nose.  Blood and snot poured from his nose and split lip as he ran bawling for his mama.  It was difficult to convince anybody she had started it when he’d jumped on her back, though he tried.

The most memorable, and adult-infuriating trick Robert Gordon and Wayne ever pulled of was The Great Goat-Milk Robbery.  Though they were as poor as any farmers during The Great Depression, her parents were excellent providers.  They had but one cow, but they kept a goat or two as a secondary source of milk.  Cows don’t produce milk just before and immediately after calving.  Milk production drops drastically during periods of low feed availability such drought.  At any rate all live stock is preciouos and to be treated well.  The Evil Robert Gordon and Wayne were beyond the Pale.  They slipped away from the visiting adults and robbed poor Nanny Goat of her milk in a way that no Christian ever should.  The repulsed neighbors were watching horrified while one boy held the goat and the other nursed, just like he was a kid goat.  Kathleen’s daddy and mama and the horrid boy’s parents got there just as Nanny was being rescued and flogged by an outraged neighbor.  Robert Gordon and Wayne’s parents left in disgrace and Kathleen’s family had another long, enjoyable talk about how hideos they Devil-ridden were. Poor Nanny didn’t give milk for three days.

This is the same chair from vintage picture above, one of my most treasured belongings.

Bear on chair

Peeing in the Heater and Eating Goat Pills

imageI think I’ve mentioned my cousin Corwin was interesting.  He was still hauling his bottle around when he started school.  His teacher made him leave it at home, so first thing after getting off the bus, he’d get it out of the cabinet, fill it up, and have a little refreshment.  He was a pretty good eater otherwise.  He’d have his after school snack with his brothers and if he wasn’t satisfied, he’d chomp on a handful of Gravytrain Chunks as he went out to play football with his big brothers.  He’d gotten started on that snack when he was just a toddler.  He’d shove the puppy out of his bowl and just kind of got hooked on it.

When he was about five or six, Corwin decided it was funny to pee in the open flame of the space heater.  It was horrible.   It would stink up the house for hours afterward.  We all hated him.  To make a long story short, Corwin was so darned mean, nobody would have stuck up for him.    About that time, Daddy brought in some goats.  At any rate, when Corwin saw goat pills littering the yard, he thought, they were chocolate M&Ms and gobbled quite a few before he noticed the taste was off.  Seemed like justice.

Dozens of Cousins

Neither Corwin nor Kelvin could be rounded up for this  cousin picture.  They had other fish to fry.cousinsAunt Essie, like all of my aunts, was a wonder of fertility, if not child-rearing acumen.  She had seven of the meanest boys outside Alcatraz.  Thank God, her reproductive equipment gave out before she managed more.  I thought Mother was just exaggerating when she said they’d all end up in jail or dead before they were thirty.  She was wrong.  Only four of Continue reading

Easter with Mixed Nuts

EggEaster egg hunts with my cousins were a lot more like cage boxing than gentle competitions.  I had more than forty first cousins, mostly wild animals. By the time my aunts and uncles herded them to the scene of the crime, they just opened the car doors and all Hell broke loose.  Exhausted from defending themselves and the babies on the ride over, it was every man for himself.  God help anybody in the way. Continue reading

Desperate and Cold

My flight from Philadelphia was snowed out last winter.  The roads were closed, no cabs or shuttles running.  I had to catch the train to get back to New Jersey, a new and worrisome experience for me.  The trains were on a reduced scheduled,making my wait long and cold.  I had to walk a few blocks between train connections.  The entrance to the train station appeared to be locked.  It late, the snow was deep, and the streets were nearly deserted.  I was approached by a desperate young man.  He was waving at me and near tears.  Calling out , he addressed me, “Please help me.  Please don’t be mean to me.  I need help.  I just got out of jail.  I don’t have train fare to get home and have nowhere to turn.”

I knew just how he felt. “I need help,too.  Get me to an ATM at the train station and I’ll get us both home.”  He was overjoyed to help.  He carried my bag.  We walked together to the ATM in the station.  I found out he didn’t have any food at home, either.  I got twenty dollars. He got us both a ticket. I told him to keep the change and be safe.  We hugged and parted, both grateful for the help, both happy!  We needed each other that night.

Terrible Tom Tucker the Turkey

Evil turkey

Evil turkey

Awfuls chasing turey

Awfuls chasing turey

We went places and saw people that normal people would never encounter, nor care to. Daddy had heard of somebody living back in the woods about four miles off Tobacco Road who had something he might be interested in buying. He had to check it out, driving forever down muddy roads petering out into nothing. Finally we got back to Mr. Tucker’s Continue reading