A Hog a Day Part 16

I was always grateful when the preacher enlivened the service with a joke or was able to  come up with an interesting story.   I was blessed one memorable Sunday when a well-known evangelist preached to a packed house.  Brother Paine was hailed far and wide for his moving sermons. He was eloquent and erudite, a born speaker whose knowledge of scripture was legend, as he quoted long passages flawlessly, without opening his beloved Bible.  This was all wasted on me, a kid who zoned in and out and listened with less than half an ear.  I usually managed to notice the change in rhythm when a joke, a good story, or an interesting bit of Bible lore might be forthcoming.  Otherwise, I just tried to maintain consciousness enough to stay out of trouble with my parents.  I did find Brother Paine’s sermon a bit more interesting than the usual fare, especially when he got to the story of Baalam. He spun a tale of Baalam’s evil deeds stoking God’s anger. As Baalam’s faithful ass carried him down the road, only the ass saw the sword-wielding angel of God in their path, prepared to strike Baalam down for his wickedness. Three times the ass turned away, saving Baalam from the death-angel’s sword. Three times Baalam cruelly beat her for disobedience. Intending to make the point that God miraculously gave the ass the power of speech to rebuke Balaam for his cruelty, Brother Raymond paused dramatically, pounded on the podium and boomed out. “God spoke through Baalam’s ass!!!!”  He had our complete attention! Silence reigned as he realized his error.  Some of the teenagers and younger kids snickered first, then a few of the less pious joined in. The song-leader faked a few coughs trying to regain his composure, then snorted two giant snot bubbles.  We all burst into full-fledged, knee-slapping, undeniable laughter. Brother Raymond gave it up and church was done for the day. The final prayer was short and sweet.

If I’d had a quarter, I’d have put it in the love offering.

 

A Hog a Day Part 15

 

Against his better judgment, when Billy was about eleven or twelve, Daddy relented and gave him permission to sit with his friend Kenny in church one Sunday.  He’d always had an iron-clad rule that we had to sit together as a family way up in front on the third pew, but was somehow, Billy convinced him he could handle the challenge that day.  Neither had reckoned with the devil super ball hiding in Billy’s pocket as he ecstatically took a seat next to his friend about five rows back.  All was well till that devil ball started sending psychic prompts a few minutes into the sermon.  Billy took it out, inspiring awe in Kenny.  They passed it silently between them a few times keeping their eyes straight ahead.  No one was the wiser.  Temptation got the better of Billy and he bounced the ball between his feet, catching it on the return.  There was a small plunk, but no great disturbance.  He was emboldened by success and had to try it again.  The slight plunk on the hardwood was noticeable, but since the boys kept their composure and stared straight ahead, the sermon continued.  It was going so well, Billy bounced it another time or two.  Of course, luck finally ran out and the hard rubber ball bounced and rolled down the slightly inclined pine floor, bumping a few supports and bouncing joyously along the way.  Daddy knew immediately who the culprit was, turned, and shot Billy the “look of death.”  Kenny, who enjoyed much more casual parenting struggled to stifle his hysteria.

That ball rolled and bounced, bounced and rolled.  The sound seemed deafening, though Brother Robert, the preacher, never faltered in his sermon.  As the ball neared the dais, he stepped down, and scooped up the ball mid-bounce.  I had to admire the smooth move.  I could see he had some natural athletic ability.  Without hesitation, he continued the sermon, walking in front of the dais and bouncing the ball.  Brother Robert held my attention as never before. Never missing a catch, he pocketed the little ball and went straight to altar call.  I truly prayed for Billy’s life.  I couldn’t imagine what his fate might be.  We finished church as always, filing out to greet the preacher at the door.

Surprisingly, Daddy didn’t kill Billy as I expected.  Maybe it tickled his funny bone, though he never let on.  The next Sunday, Billy was in his usual seat on the third row, right next to Daddy.  He never got his superball back.

 

A Hog a Day Part 14

Communion charmed me.  It pained me to see the perfect little glasses and morsels of wafer in the gleaming trays pass me by.  I suspect Mother’s thoughts weren’t sacred as she warned me off with dark looks and head shake.  It seemed wrong to waste communion on adults when those cups were obviously child-sized.  Glenda Parker boldly reached in and took two tiny cups right under her mother’s eye.  She slurped the juice from one cup, then poured the juice from the other back and forth a few times before spilling it.  Her mother sweetly wiped up the pew with a dainty hanky, never shooting her “the look.”  With my head bowed during prayer, I saw Glenda stack and restack those cups and slip them in and out of the little slots on the back of the pew in front of her while her mother piously bowed her head in prayer.  Why couldn’t God have given me to a good mother like that?

Baptism was even more interesting.  The first baptism I witnessed took place in a pond.  The congregation gathered around as the preacher led the candidates in one by one and dipped them backwards into murky water.  I yearned to get in that line, but had been warned not to move from Mother’s side.  The next baptism took place in our church’s new sanctuary.  The curtains behind the choir loft opened to reveal a glass-fronted tank before a lovely mural of the Jordan River.  The preacher stepped  in and spoke a few words before assisting Miss Flora Mae down the steps into the tank.  Miss Flora Mae’s full-skirted white skirt ballooned on the surface of the water as she descended, revealing chubby legs and white panties, an unexpected thrill for me and other less-holy onlookers.  A few even snickered as Miss Flora Mae struggled to recover her dignity.

By the next baptism, the baptistry’s glass front had been painted.

 

 

 

A Hog a Day Part 10

Art by Kathleen Swain

Cousin Carol married a sorry guy.  He wasn’t crazy about working.  In fact, he was pretty much averse to it. He had better things to do, hunting, fishing, sleeping and making babies.  He and Carol had three babies in record time.   It worried Daddy’s brother terribly that Jerry didn’t provide for Carol and the kids.  As a favor to him, Daddy had Jerry meet him at the house one day after work.  “Come with me and we’ll go get you a hog so Carol can have something to cook for the kids.”  Jerry was all for free pork.  They went to the pen, got Jerry a nice-sized pig, and he was on his way.

A few days later, Daddy showed up to check hs traps mid-morning and surprised Jerry at his pen with a 22 rifle in his hands.  He’d just shot a pig and was getting ready to load it in his car.  Daddy was an imposing man, very six foot three.  He slapped Jerry to the ground.

Billy was Daddy’s shadow, making every step he made, whether it was hunting or socializing, which were often one in the same.  One evening, they were sitting with several of the guys on logs around a fire telling tales. Billy had worked hard to keep up with his new orange hunting cap all day, only too aware of how lucky he was to have it. It was late. He was tired. He’d nodded off a time or two, leaned up against a big log next to Daddy when he was startled to see Runt Rider, the crotchety owner of the fish camp wearing his cap. His hand flew to his head, finding it bare. Sure enough, Runt had his hat! The other fellows teased him routinely, but Runt was an old grump, who’d never even spoken to him. There were even stories that he’d stabbed a man!

He’d been set up. The guys were all waiting, watching for his reaction. The more he studied the situation, the more outraged he became. Finally, time for action. He bounded across, grabbed the cap off Runt’s head, and was rewarded by an explosion of laughter from all the guys around the fire. Runt was not happy at being laughed at. His face turned fiery red. He spit, sputtered, cursed, struggling to maintain control, clearly infuriated. Billy calmly put the hat on his head, walked to Daddy’s truck, and got in, feeling vindicated.

Daddy walked over to the truck. “Son, why in the world did you grab Mr. Runt’s hat off his head?”

“He had my hat. I had to get it back.”

“Look on the seat beside you.” Beside him on the seat, undeniably, lay his own hat. “I guess you’d better give Mr. Runt’s cap back. Billy took off the cap, returning it to Mr. Runt, with an apology. Mr. Runt was ungracious, but at least didn’t stab him.

A Hog a Day Part 9

Daddy took pride in being strict.  “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”  He was certainly never accused of spoiling the child.  Many times I heard him say there wasn’t a kid or an animal he couldn’t conquer.  During his hog-hunting days he acquired a hog-dog he was incredibly proud of.  Sutter was a black lab/Catahoula Cur mix.  When sicced on a herd of hogs, Sutter plunged in and fearlessly latched onto the hog’s ear not to be dislodged until the hunter dispatched the hog.  The poor hog couldn’t slash Sutter as long as he hung on to the ear.  The dog was in the greatest danger of being bitten as he rushed the hog.   Hog-hunting was dangerous for men and dogs.  I’ve seen Daddy stitch his cut dogs a few times.  He  required stitches a time or two, but splurged on a doctor for himself.

Sutter worked cows with Daddy. One day, he chased a calf and pinned it to the ground where he held it by a mangled ear.  Expecting a kill, he wouldn’t release it.  Daddy pulled him off the calf, tied him off to a small sapling, and pulled off his belt to strap to him.  He got a couple of licks in before Sutter changed his belief system.  The enlarged dog ran Daddy up the sapling where he clung just out of the dog’s reach.   At six-foot three and two hundred forty pounds, Daddy was imposing on the tree.  It dipped from one side to the other as Daddy bounced side-to-side just beyond the snarling dog’s jaws.  I wondered if somebody would have to shoot Daddy if Sutter latched onto his ear. After a few minutes, Sutter’s temper cooled and he wagged his tail when Daddy spoke to him.  Daddy climbed down when Sutter seemed to have forgiven him.

Sitter was a very valuable dog.  Instead of shooting him as I expected, Daddy took the reasonable attitude that he’d handled things badly.  He and Sutter worked it out and the dog concentrated on hogs from that time forward.

Maybe I should have run Daddy up a tree.

A Hog a Day Part 8

Taking his cue from Mr. Grady Rose, Daddy decided he needed to go into the hog business. In theory, all he had to do was harvest wild hogs and watch the money roll in. Mother reluctantly agreed.  In fact, he did accrue a few expenses to get a few starter sows and a boar or two, timber to build trap pens, and corn to bait the traps.  Of course, he had to have a gun and knife for protection, and mud tires to negotiate the deep woods and oh yes, a hog dog for the hunt, expenditures that severely stressed an already overburdened budget.  Daddy brought home about a hundred dollars a week.  Groceries took twelve dollars of that.

Daddy took to hog hunting enthusiastically.  It became  a sport rather than a money-making venture.  I don’t recall eating a lot of pork or having to help count the extra money it brought in. The boars were very aggressive to men and dogs.  Daddy stitching his dogs up after they were slashed by hogs.

Daddy’s hunting buddy, Jimmy, was amazing.  He’d lost a leg as an infant, but had compensated so well, he seemed not to miss it at all.  When an angry boar charged a group of hunters aggressively, the other men scattered into nearby trees while Jimmy agiley jumped on top of his crutch and balanced as the hog ran beneath him.  He used his crutch to vault over fences rather than hunting for a gate. When my brother Billy was little, Mother had learned to dread what he might say to people.  Early one morning as she stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes, she saw Jimmy headed for the front door.  She rushed to get to the open front door greet him before Billy got a chance open his big mouth and ask about the missing leg. She was too slow.  As she rushed in, Billy announced, “Mama, a skeeter bit his leg off!”

Daddy made an interesting acquisition from one of his hunting buddies.  For a nominal amount, he became the proud owner of the Hog Wagon.  It was a school bus on a cut down frame with a cage on back for transporting hogs and sometimes children.  This amalgamation was unlicensed, of course, since it had no windshield or doors.  A battered bench seat covered with burlap bags replaced the bus seat.  The V8 flathead engine made it very powerful when run in first gear, an invaluable feature for a vehicle used in swampy areas.  We hung on for dear life when we were fortunate enough to get a ride on this beauty.  Daddy also employed this powerful machine to pull up stumps when clearing pasture.

We were seriously the envy of neighborhood kids.

 

 

 

A Hog a Day Part 6

We were sitting around the fire one Saturday night in Mr. Grady Rose’s sitting room.  The only light came from the fire.  All the little kids lounged on the floor in front of the fire, pleasantly tired from an afternoon of play with full bellies. Mr. Grady looked like a gray-haired bear in overalls, not so tall, as burly and powerful. I loved hearing him talk about raising his boys. “I had to kill a hog a day to feed them boys. I told ‘em lot’s of times, ‘Them that don’t work, don’t eat.’ I always go to bed real early and am up by four. That’s the way I was raised. I can’t sleep past four, even in the dead of winter even if I ain’t got a bunch of cows to milk. I used to be out milking while Bessie cooked breakfast. Now I just sit and watch her. Anyhow, one morning up in January, them boys decided they wadn’t getting up. Bessie called ‘em once and they didn’t make a peep. I give ‘em just a little bit and hollered for ‘em to get up. Then I headed out to milk, ‘spectin’ to be right behind me when I noticed, they ain” got up yet.

I hollered up the stairs for ’em. One of ‘em got smart and hollered back ‘We ain’t getting up yet.  Ain’t no use in gittin’up at four just to sit around waitin’ for daylight.’

That got me hot.  I ain’t raising no slackers.  I went straight out to the barn and come back with the plow lines.  I brung ’em back in there and gave one or two licks over them boy’s quilts and they come flying out of that bed just a hollerin’.  All four of ’em was fightin’ and pullin’ each other back trying to git outta my way.   I didn’t have no way of knowing then on account of all the racket, but the deputy sheriff had just raised his hand to knock on the door.  Them four boys busted that front door down and gave him a good stompin’, trying to git away.

He grabbed up his hat, took off runnin’ the other way, jumped in the car and took off.  Turns out he was comin’ out to give me a summons for jury duty.  He went back to town and told the sheriff he wadn’t goin’ back.  Them folks was crazy out there.”

 

 

A Hog a Day Part 5

“Hurry up and get your shoes on.  We’re going to Mr. Grady’s house.  You can play with his grandkids.”  Daddy called behind him as he headed for the truck. “I ain’t waiting for you!”

I was near frantic as I tore through the house looking for the shoes I’d kicked off the last time I’d been made to wear them.  Shoes were for school and going places.  I’d never have worn them voluntarily.  “I gotta find my shoes so I can go with Daddy.  He ain’t waiting!”

Mother didn’t show proper concern.  “You’re supposed to put them under your bed.  Did you look there?”

I don’t know why she said stuff like that.  I never put things away!  This time, I was saved.  They were tucked neatly under my bed where Mother had put them when she swept. “I found ‘em.  Bye!”

”Don’t kick ‘em off and leave them somewhere.  That’s your only pair.  Are you listening?”

”I won’t!  Bye!”  Daddy was waiting in the truck with the engine running with Billy next to him.  “I thought maybe I was gonna have to leave you.”

Mr. Grady and two identical-looking boys greeted us at the gate.  “This here is my grandboys, Big Boy and Little Boy.  Now, all you younguns go play while  we go git a cup of coffee.  Boys, I’ll skin you alive if I catch you chasing the calf again.”  The four of us took off.  I liked these kids, already.

“You want to see the armadillos?”  one of them inquired.

”Okay.”  I’d seen plenty of armadillos, mostly flat on the roadside, but never had the opportunity to get to know one personally.  We trooped to a fenced in area back of the house where a herd of armadillos of all sizes rushed us.

”They think we  gonna feed ‘em, “ one of the boys explained. “Pap’s always got a mess of armadillos shut up back here.  We gonna fool ‘em today, though.  We gonna eat one for dinner today.  Want to help us catch one.”

The race was on.  We chased those fast little rascals all over that pen but never caught one.  Eventually, we gave it up for wheelbarrow rides.  Two kids pushed the barrow while the rider claimed the privilege of riding till dumped over.  I could have done that all day. Eventually, Daddy concluded his visit and we headed home.  I was very disappointed to miss the armadillo dinner, but Daddy said we had to be moving on.  Though I spent hours with them, I never did learn which was Big Boy or Little Boy.

When we got home, the first words out of Mother’s mouth were, “Where are your shoes?  You’ve got to go to Bible School tomorrow.”

I wore sixty-nine cent flip flops for the rest of the summer.

 

 

 

 

Right in the Mouth

I never expected to be the kind of mother who’d hit her sweet child in the mouth but I was, totally unintentionally! I was a registered nurse on call for emergency acute hemodialysis.  One Sunday night, I got a call just about the time the kids were headed to bed.  I told Bud what was up and headed for the car.  Unbeknownst to me, my young son, John, had also heard the call and thought it would be fun to scare me.  Just as I settled in my car for the drive, somebody screamed and grabbed me from behind.  By reflex, I slammed a backhand connecting with teeth.

John yelled for sure that time, as shocked as I was.  He hadn’t taken the fight or flight response into consideration, never expecting his mother to attack.  We both felt awful but I didn’t even have to discuss not pulling that stunt again.