Saddle Shoes and Pointy Bras

That is me in the despised saddle shoes.  I was too young to hate them, yet.

The first, longest lasting, and most redundant misery my was frizzy, old lady perms.  Mother did this so my sister and I would be social outcasts.  Vastly overestimating our sexual attractiveness, from the time we went into puberty until we got old enough to fight her off, she maliciously inflicted home perms on us.

She bought our underwear at the Dollar Store or the cheapest thrift store or fire sale around, should Grandma lag in keeping us rigged out in home-made torture underwear.  Long after pointy bras were unavailable in normal circulation, Mother managed to ferret out pointy padded bras in the cheapest stores known to mankind, never mind the fact that the stiff cups caved in if they were bumped.  I’d have loved some not-too badly-worn cast-offs from the lucky, poor kids down the street, but they laughed when they caught me going through their trash. I tried to hide when changing in gym to keep anyone from seeing my Grandma’s home-made drawers.  They were made without benefit of elastic in the waist and tended to lengthen your legs by several inches as the day went on.  Grandma didn’t worry a lot about soft, cotton fabric.  Coarse, woven prints were good for the soul.


I was stuck in saddle-shoes for years because they were durable and Mother had loved them in high school.  Never-mind the fact that no other kid would have been caught dead in saddle shoes.  Best of all, I was a total slob, not the kind of kid who would ever voluntarily polish a shoe.  Most of the time, I didn’t even remember I had shoes till the school bus driver was honking the horn outside our door and I was simultaneously looking for my books, trying to get a note signed (bad news) and looking for lost shoes.  My shoes were inevitably, wet, filthy, and most likely stinking from ripping through the barnyard.  Not a good look for black and white shoes.  A more forward-thinking mother would have dressed me every day in a slicker and rain boots, so she could have hosed me off.

I

Were You Born in a Barn?

I grew up in the fifties  and didn’t expect much.  I didn’t feel deprived, just understood the situation.  All the family toys fit in a medium-sized box and were shared. We had mean cousins who regularly tore them up, so storage wasn’t a problem.   If we realized they were coming and had time, we locked them in my parent’s  bedroom, but nothing was foolproof.  Those hellions could ferret out a steel marble locked in a safe and tear it up. No kid I knew laid no claim to a television, radio, or record player.  We were free to watch or listen along with our parents.

Most of mine and my brother’s time was spent outdoors.  We had the run of our property, including a large two-story barn, so we never had to stay indoors, even in rain or rare icy weather.  “Get your jacket and shoes and socks on before you go to the barn.”  I was more concerned about getting out than I was about bad weather, so I’d gladly have gone barefoot and jacketless, given the chance.  Mother, a pessimist, foolishly believed in hookworms, stray nails, and broken glass.  I knew better, but she stayed on me.  It was a real downer.  If I got wet, I certainly didn’t come in to dry off and change shoes..  Most likely, I was wearing my only shoes.  Should Mother notice wet feet or muddy clothes, we might be stuck indoors for the day or till our jackets and shoes dried  I learned early that if you stay out in your wet things, pretty soon they lose that discolored, wet look.  Besides if you play hard enough, you generate some heat.

Our barn was two stories with a gigantic open door centering the second where Daddy backed up his truck up to load or unload hay.  It was a thrill to get a running start and fly to the ground eight or ten feet below.  Dry weather provided the softest landings since thick, shredded hay and powdery manure make a decent cushion.   Even the most determined jumper soon learned the folly of jumping on a rainy day.  It was too easy to slide into something horrible.  Regular wet clothes aren’t too bad, but malodorous puddles and cow pies should be avoided at all costs.  No one ever broke an arm or neck.

Playing on the square hay bales without damaging them is an art worth learning.  Tearing up baled hay quickly got us expelled from the barn as well as plenty of trouble.  It didn’t take long to discover which friend could be trusted to do right.  Billy and I policed them  and put a stop to tearing up bales.  Daddy had a stacking method we knew not to mess up. The cats loved the barn, busying themselves with the rats who also made themselves at home.  Knowing rats hid in our playhouse made them no less scream-worthy, though we weren’t afraid of them, often hurling corncobs at them.  I don’t think I was ever fast enough to do any damage.  Sometimes we were a little mor effective with slingshots or a BB gun.

A covered area below the loft was intended for equipment storage.  Interestingly, only the broken equipment was under the shed.  Presumably, repairs were started and abandoned there.  The good stuff sat out in the open.  Very little Space was taken up feed.   Mostly, it served as a repository for junk items. One of the most interesting  was a rough wooden box with filled with letters and personal items both parents brought to the marriage.  We were forbidden to open that box on pain of death, so were sneaky as we prowled through it, enjoying  the pictures and letters from old sweethearts, navy  memorabilia including a gigantic pin used to close Daddy’s navy gear bag, six two-inch chalkware dolls in their original box, and  two enormous carved ebony spoons featuring a naked man and a woman with pendulous bosoms.   I can only assume Mother was too much of a coward to hang those shocking spoons on her kitchen wall.  Her sister, Anne, in the WACS had brought them home as a gift to Mother, a woman who wouldn’t  say butt or titty, euphemizing with “your sitting down place “or “chest” if absolutely necessary. What a waste.  If fondling ebony wood breasts makes a pervert, I signed on early. The man was not anatomically correct or the guilt would have undone me..  The pity of it was, I couldn’t ask questions about any of those treasures since  the  boxes were strictly off limits.  Sadly, the rats devoured the letters long before I learned to read, though Phyllis bragged she got to read some.  I prefer to think she was lying.

Lean-to sheds with stalls flanked the left side and back of the barn.  We frequently snitched oats and  one lured the horse near the rail partitions dividing the stalls while the other slid on for a brief ride, then switch around for the other to ride.  We badgered Daddy Incessantly to saddle the horse for us, until one fine day when I was about ten, he told us we could ride any time we wanted if we could saddle the horse ourselves.  We’ never expected that.  Billy and I did the old oat trick and had the horse saddled in minutes.  We rode any time we wanted after that.  I know the horse hated what was coming, but could never resist the oats.

 

 

5 Ways to Make Sure Your Child and His Puppy Have a Satisfying Morning (reposted)

  1. Let your kid eat in front of the TV.
  2.  Forget to put Vaseline on the doorknob so kid can open door.
  3.  Make sure your kid has a puppy.
  4.  Make sure your kid’s stomach and puppy’s digestive tract are both full.
  5.  Go to bathroom for a little quality time.
                                             John and Buster on a Better Day
John and Blackie

We’ve all seen articles by organized people enumerating methods to keep out lives well-organized, tidy, and rational.  Well, this is not one of those.  I’d be far more successful at writing “How to Mess Up Everything You Touch.”  My kids were always right ahead of me, making sure nothing was missed.  When John was three, I settled him on the floor on a big towel in front of the television with his breakfast on a tray to watch “Sesame Street.  Never a slacker in the appetite department, he always wanted milk, eggs, bacon, toast, and grits.  I always watched with him, ready to pick up his tray and cuddle him in his blanket after he finished eating. This worked well for months.

One sad day, I had to excuse myself for just a minute.  Naturally, I told John to sit tight till I got back.  Everything would have been fine, except the Buster the Dog wanted in.  No three-year-old could have resisted.  Buster surely thought he’d gone to Doggy Heaven when he found breakfast waiting for him, set right at puppy level.  Making quick work of my tidy layout, he spilled the milk, gobbled the eggs and bacon, and smeared the grits as far as they’d go.  In fact, it was so altogether satisfying and filling, he pooped his gratitude out on the carpet.  Sickened by the smell, John vomited on top of the whole mess. By the time I’d finished my business and got back to the living room, John was bawling at the top of his lungs and Buster was happily burrowed into the sofa, licking the jam off the toast.

I scraped up the worst of the mess and fixed John another breakfast, not because I thought he deserved it, but because it was the only way to assuage his loud and continuous grief.  Buster went back to the yard and I spent the next couple of hours catching up on some unplanned cleaning.

As a footnote, I noticed fruit flies buzzing around John’s toy box later that morning.  Digging deep, I found a rotten banana right at the bottom, but that’s a story for another day.  Just so you know, later that week I pulled a peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of the VCR.

Not the Boss of Me

In her never-ending mission to make Daddy’s life miserable, Mother raised objections when Daddy wanted to move one of his sisters, her dead-beat husband, and her horrible twins onto their place.  His plan was to buy them a mobile home, set it up, install utilities, under his name, of course, since their only income was Bubba’s disability check.  The good news was, the happy couple could now theoretically afford rent since they’d married and Bubba was getting extra income by acquiring her minor children.  The bad news was, Hubby was running from the law because he hadn’t paid child support for his own children in years.  They needed to get out of town fast since his ex-wife had finally located him.  The warrant for his arrest lay heavy on his mind.

Daddy was THE BOSS!  He would move anybody on his place he wanted to and if Mother didn’t like it, she could leave.  In fact, it was God’s Will that a man help his sister out.  Daddy went to work in a self-righteous swagger.  Righteousness became him.  Well, she would leave, by golly, but there was a small complication.  When Mother got ready to go, she found he’d taken all the vehicle keys with him.  She was waiting up for him when he got in after eleven that night for round two.

Quite satisfied with himself, he hid the keys and went to bed to sleep like the dead.  Rather than wrapping him in the sheet and beating the coon-dog poo out of him like she should have, she decided to give him the scare of a lifetime.  It was one of Louisiana’s rare icy nights.

Enraged, Mother grabbed an afghan off the sofa and made her way out to sleep in the camper, sure he’d be terrified when he found awoke and found her gone.  She tried to settle in the camper for the night, but it was beyond freezing.  With only the afghan, she might as well have been out in the icy night.  Naturally, she had no idea how to turn on the propane heater.  She dug through and found a couple of sheets and blankets in the camper, but they weren’t much help.  Finally, her rage cooled enough she decided she’d seek comfort back in the house and deal with Daddy in the morning.

Unfortunately, she had to deal with him a lot sooner than that.  She had inadvertently locked herself out of the house and had to beat on the doors and windows till she finally woke him up to let her in.  By that time, she was so cold she had to snuggle up to his back to warm up. It’s good he was a forgiving man.

Dining With Mr. Floyd

Daddy had always wanted a place in the country, but was overwhelmed at the magnitude of work facing him on that totally undeveloped acreage.  It had been homesteaded and farmed shortly after the Civil War, but hadn’t been under production for many years, long enough that most of it was covered in mature timber.  A tangle of locust trees was matted  over the old homeplace beneath three huge oaks.  Though we worked hard at clearing  and burning the growth, locust thorns worked up through the ground and pierced our feet for years to come, even through our shoes.

There was more work than one man could do, so Daddy hired Mr. Floyd to help harvest the timber and clear the land for pasture..  All that timber would finance the payments on the place and make improvements.  Mr. Floyd lived on the fringes of society getting by on odd jobs.  Mr. Floyd was unkempt, rarely bathed, and kept to himself, but had a reputation as a hard worker, He lived in a shack in the woods with his brother, who didn’t manage quite so well.  Daddy couldn’t afford to pay Mr. Floyd much, so they worked out a deal on a small wage, meals, and lodging in our fine school bus camper. When Mother got a whiff of Mr. Floyd, she told Daddy the camper was dead to her after that.

So, Daddy set the camper up on the far edge of his place.  Mr. Floyd moved in with instructions  to leave propane off since there might be a leak.  There shouldn’t be a problem anyway, since he’d be taking his meals with us.  Mother put some old bedding in the camper and Mr. Floyd moved in.  The next morning, he showed up for breakfast before daylight.  He didn’t was his hands, just dove in to the biscuits, grits, and eggs.  His manners served as lessons, thereafter.  “You’re eating like Mr. Floyd.”  He didn’t hog the conversation.  He was too busy with biscuits.

The men went to work right after breakfast.  It was early summer, but hot as blazes.  When they came in for lunch, Daddy pointed out the bathroom so Mr. Floyd could wash up.  He wasn’t worried about that.  He took the the chair Mother had offered him for breakfast nearest the window.  Daddy always sat at the opposite end of the table that got the best breeze from the attic fan.  He sat downwind of Mr. Floyd just long enough to get a whiff of seasoned body odor marinated with the piquant aroma of fresh morning sweat the fan pulled over our guest before jumping up.  “Here Floyd.  Sit here.  It’s the coolest spot.”

Mr. Floyd also taught Mother to cut the cornbread before putting it on the table when he reached for the plate and broke off a big piece before passing it. Phyllis and I both declined cornbread and passed it right along.  I didn’t keep up with who else was feeling picky, but there was a lot left after lunch.  None of us kids ever learned to enjoy Mr. Floyd’s company, but he was a necessary evil.

One night, over in the winter, long after work was finished, we heard what sounded like a sonic boom, which was surprising to hear at night.  A few minutes later, Mr. Floyd knocked on the door.  The boom had come from the camper.  Mr. Floyd had run low on wood for the heater and opted to use the propane stove, instead, the very same stove Daddy had warned him not to use because he suspected a leak.  Mr. Floyd had lit up a cigarette before bed and came near burning himself up.  It’s bad he got some burns, but good he didn’t gas himself. He was done with the camper after that, so that’s when Daddy let him work out a deal for a 1953 Chevy Sedan Daddy could spare.

The camper was deemed unfit, not only because Mr. Floyd blew it up, but because his strong smell lingered.  You can’t get rid of a fifty dollar just because of that.  A farm can always use storage.  Daddy pulled the camper up behind the house to use for feed storage and a place for the dogs to sleep. Mother was furious to have it so near her new house.  From that time on, whenever Daddy had no particular place to store something, it went in the camper.  It wasn’t long before the dogs were crowded out of the nice smelly bunks.  Whenever they could, the chickens slipped in and helped themselves to the chicken feed and tried to set up housekeeping.  Rats also liked chicken feed.  Black snakes love eggs, so between the smell, spooked chickens, rats, and snakes it was fairly unappealing.

Fifty Dollars Worth of Camper

th3EKZ50VW bus 2See this great old school bus.  It is so much nicer than the one Daddy acquired for the unbelievable sum of fifty dollars. He purchased it from his brother-in-law, who’d gotten stuck with it as payment body work.  Daddy was ahead of his time In acquiring this Tiny House.  Mother was furious.  Fifty dollars would have bought more than two week’s supply of groceries.  Though he gave Mother no end of grief about her extravagant spending at the grocery store, he wasn’t short-sighted and saw the great potential in this bus-camper.  It would be a wonderful shelter when he and his buddies went deer hunting, and oh yes, the family could use it for camping, too!  Now our camper wasn’t nearly so nice as the one pictured above.  It had been partially hand-painted bright silver and lacked a motor. The good news was, we could finish it up any color we liked and motors take up a lot of unnecessary space better used for storage.  In that special storage area, items were stored in boxes on one deep shelf or in  boxes on the floor beneath the shelf.  While the rest of us were out fishing, swimming, or just running wild in general, Mother drug boxes out and dug through them for dishes, pots and pans, and food, all this with two babies in diapers.  She complained about her back constantly.  What a whiner!

.nice inside

See how comfortable and well-appointed the camper pictured above is.  Ours was nothing like this.  There was no refrigerator, lighting, water, bathroom, hard-wood floors, or Benjamin Franklin wood burning stove.  There was, however, an ancient gas range Daddy hooked to a propane bottle.  It had two functioning burners and a defunct oven.  That was okay, since Mother insisted it had a propane leak and she was scared to use it longer than it took to heat a can of beans or cook eggs.  She cooked with all the windows open and made Daddy cut the fuel off every time she got through.  In fact, it did have a propane leak in the line, but that’s a story for another day.

Two full-size bunk beds filled the rear of the camper.  Two sets of old army bunks were stacked along either side.  Of course, we fought over the top bunks.  The lower bunks served as seating.  A lantern and flash lights served when light was needed.

It was perfect.  I remember one wonderful camping trip when Daddy pulled it to a creek bank.  We swam, fished, swatted mosquitoes, cooked outdoors, only going in to sleep, so exhausted we hardly moved till morning.  Mother got up several times every night to spray to camper with bug killer and spray the covers and any exposed skin with mosquito repellent.  We scratched bug bites and poison ivy for days after we got home.

That was our only family camping trip.  Daddy used it a time or two for hunting, then gave it up as too much trouble.  It had a couple of other incarnations as a home for a farm laborer who confirmed the stove fuel line leak before it descended so far down the social scale it ended life as a junk shed on Daddy’s farm.

To me, that camper was worth every cent!

Poor Hungry Kool-Aid Kids

Kool

Mary was the child-bride (victim) of an old-goat in his seventies.  God only knows what kind of situation he’d rescued her from, since she clearly adored him.  When I first met them on a ramble with Daddy when I was about ten years old, they lived with their two babies on a creek bank an old school bus that had been converted into a trailer for hunters.  Two full bunks ran across one end.  Twin army cots were stacked along both sides.  A stove, powered by propane sat near the front door.  The family’s few belongings were stored in boxes under the beds.  Though I was only a kid, I could see that Mary was just a teenager.  Mother later told me she was only eighteen.  She was hugely pregnant.  I was enchanted with their trailer, thinking how nice it would be if our family lived such an adventure.

Not long afterward, the neighborhood learned of the family’s dilemma, helping them into a small rental house not far from us.  My youngest sister Marilyn was an infant at the time with rampant milk allergies.  In consultation with her doctors, Mother had tried many formulas.  Finally, in desperation, she and the doctor settled on a frequent feeding regimen, supplemented by feeding her warm Jell-O in her bottle, so she would still have the experience of sucking.  Finally, she thrived.  Young Mary, struggling with two babies under two and newborn twins and a husband averse to working, was struggling find milk for her babies.  All four of her children cried all the time.  The neighbors brought food in, but the newborns just looked pitiful.  She was visiting one morning and told Mother she had put her babies on Kool-Aid, like Mother had, thinking it would help, but it looked like the babies were starving.  Mother was shocked and explained that she was giving her baby Jell-O, not Kool-Aid, and supplementing with frequent feedings.

The church provided many cases of canned milk, as well as other food.  All the children did much better.  Social Services was notified. Mary got some help, though she did have four more children over the years before we lost touch with them.

We did eventually end up with that classy camper, but that’s a story for another day.

Dog Discipline

What could these two pictures possibly have in common?  Buzzy is adorable, but he does have a little flaw.   He feels compelled to scratch soft fabrics.  My new bathroom rug is quickly balding.  I have to groom it every time he gets in there.  He gives carefull attention to several other rugs, but this one must be substandard.  I do tell him,”No!”  He is pretty forgiving, just gives me a hurt look and walks away.  I’ve thought of flapping him with a hand towel, but that seems a little extreme for a ten-year-old gentleman who’s never endured a flap.  I guess I need to buy a better rug or keep the door closed.

World’s Worst Grandma

I had the pleasure of taking a two-year-old grocery shopping one cold, dreary day.  The only bright spot was the lone automobile/shopping cart we found on the parking lot.  I wiped it dry and loaded her up.  As we progressed through the store, she found many strange and wonderful things thoughtfully displayed within her reach.  Sadly, I had to deny her hearts-delight: steak knives, fireplace matches, cat toys, and a twenty-seven dollar toy trumpet.It was a disaster when we stumbled into the toy aisle.  She scooped several toys into the cart.  To avoid tears,  I shamelessly deposited the culled items in an empty grocery cart as I steered her toward something that met three important criteria.  It would hold her interest till we got through the check-out line.  It wouldn’t get me in trouble with her parents.  Last of all, it wouldn’t bankrupt me.

Finally, we were done.  Over her protests, I got her zipped in her hooded jacket and wheeled her toward the parking lot, clasping her toy.  I would have enjoyed waiting for icy rain to stop, but I wanted to get her out of the store.  I struggled to steer the cumbersome buggy across the bumpy parking lot.  I breathed a sigh of relief as I opened the car door and buckled her in the car seat.  She was happily unwrapping her lollipop as a woman with a small boy parked next to us. Remembering how anxious my little one was to find the fancy cart, I asked the  woman.  “Ma’am, do you want this car buggy for your little boy?”

I might as well have stabbed my little guy in the heart.  She wailed tragically as the boy’s mother loaded him in “her” buggy.  I’ve had better days.