Miss Laura Mae’s House Part 14

biscuit and jam

I had been waiting all summer for Miss Laura Mae’s dewberries to ripen.  For weeks we had strolled down to check the progress of the berry patch right behind her barn.  She said berries loved manure.  It’s hard to imagine how anything loving something so stinky, but I couldn’t wait till they turned black.  While I was sneaking a couple to sample, her old dog sauntered up and lifted his leg on the bushes, convincing me of the value of soap and water.  I hoped they loved pee, too, ‘cause they’d just gotten a healthy dose.

Finally, one morning, she spread me two hot biscuits with fresh dewberry jam.  “I kept these biscuits hot just for you.  I wanted them to be just right for this jam.”  I don’t know that I’ve ever had anything better than those hot biscuits and that heavenly dewberry jam so sweet and tangy it almost made my jaws ache. 

“Oh, this is so good.”  I licked the jam that spilled to my fingers.

“It’s my favorite.  I’ll give you a jar to take home with you,” she promised.  “Don’t let me forget!”

“I won’t let you forget!  And no one else can have any of my special jam,” I blurted out in my greed.

“Well, maybe I better give you two jars so everybody gits a taste.” I could tell she was trying not to laugh.

 That seemed like a tragic waste of jam, but answered.  “Yes, ma’am.”  In my gluttonous imagination, I’d envisioned myself sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor, eating jam with a spoon straight from the jar.  Mother must have read my mind, because those jars found their way to the top shelf of the cabinet with the honey, coconut flakes, and brown sugar as soon as we got home.  I’d learned from sad experience, stuff on the top shelf was emphatically off-limits.  Not two weeks ago, I’d nearly broken my molars chomping down on white rice straight from the package, thinking I’d found coconut somehow left in reach.  When I was settled safely on the back steps with my messy snack, the conversation began.

“Well, how was your trip to Myrtle’s?” Mother began.  “I sure missed having coffee with you in the mornings.”

“Ooh, I did too!  It was fine, but I sure was glad to get home.  Myrtle’s a good woman, but she’s got kind’a snooty since she married Joe Jackson an’ he’s got a little somethin’.  Well, I guess she always was a touch snooty.  Mama always said her mama had her nose in the air.  I guess Myrtle got it from her.  She sure didn’t get it from me.  Anyhow, me an’ Myrtle didn’ coffee in the kitchen even one time.  Wednesday, while Myrtle was a’gittin’ her hair done, I slipped out an’ helped Thelma, the woman that comes in to help a couple of days a week. I got to know her last time I was there.   I cleaned the refrigerator an’ stove while Thelma was a’ironin’ so we had a fine visit.   Then I made sure the back door was locked and me an’ Thelma sat a few minutes an’ had coffee.  I probably wouldn’a had to lock the door with that yappy little dog o’ Myrtle’s, but I sure didn’ want Thelma to git caught a’settin an’ a’gittin’ in trouble on my account.   I’d brung her a pound cake from home ‘cause I remembered how much she loved the one I’d brought Myrtle the last time.  They are so much richer made with yard eggs and homemade butter.  Yeah, I always thought a lot o’ Thelma.  We had a fine visit.”

 

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/miss-laura-maes-house-part-13/

Miss Laura Mae’s House Part 13

woman on motorcycle

A gigantic red motorcycle claimed a place of prominence front of ol’ lady Duck’s house for a day or two, till it moved over to the long-abandoned shot-gun house next door.  Now I’d had my eye on that shotgun house and its environs since I’d admired many times on the way to Miss Laura Mae’s house.  It had everything to recommend it.  Unpainted, its broken windows, door hanging by one hinge, a huge tree with a ragged tire swing in the front yard, a caved in storm-cellar in the side yard, and several plum trees called to me.  It everything a kid could dream off.  Best of all, there was a ramshackle car up on blocks. 

Mother never let me out of the yard.  Only her eagle eye and short leash had kept me away so far.  Mother constantly warned me of danger.  I could fall out of a tree and break my neck, drown if I played in the creek, burn up if I played in the fire.  So far, I had fallen out of trees many times, played in the creek as often as I could manage, and even been caught playing with matches.  None of these had killed me yet, though playing with matches did result in damage to my bottom when Mother caught me.  My cousins hinted at ghosts and maybe a devil in the ruined storm cellar.  Always concerned about nightmares, Mother had assured me there was no such thing as ghosts, and the devil wasn’t interested in children.  Is it any wonder I was wild to explore, having always yearned to see a ghost or a devil.

The motorcycle in front of the house was a good omen.  Maybe a family with children had moved in.

I chattered about the motorcycle while Miss Laura Mae buttered my biscuit.  I was lucky enough she had already made a batch of mayhaw jelly this morning and she slathered the steaming stuff on my biscuit.  She hadn’t even had time to “jar” it yet.  “I need to tell me if this tastes good.  Don’t burn your tongue.  It’s still hot. ” she told me.  Boy, did it ever.  I closed my eyes as I carefully licked the cooking syrup from the sides of the biscuit.  It was tangy and sweet, almost making my teeth ache.

As happy as I was with my biscuit and jelly, the word motorcycle caught my attention.  “Did you see that motorcycle outside ol’lady Duck’s house?”  Miss Laura Mae asked. 

“I sure did.”  Mother said.  “I figured it must be her boy Rudy’s.”

“Nooooo!  It’s his wife’s.  He got him a mail order bride out o’ one a’them lonely hearts magazines.  She come down from Nebraska with a big ole young’un on back to marry him!”  Miss Laura didn’t bother to whisper.

“Really?”  asked Mother.  “How did you find out?”

“You know Gertha Nelson in my quiltin’ group?  Well, she’s his sister.  She told me.  She said ol’ lady Duck is furious.  She don’t want him marryin’ no motorcycle woman.  But she tol’ her mama, it ain’t like anybody around here is breakin’ down the door to marry Rudy.  Beggars cain’t be choosers.  Anyhow, he moved her an’ her boy into that ol’ shotgun house next door.  He aims to fix it up some.”

“I saw the motorcycle moved over there, and thought I saw some work going on,” Mother said.  “Well, maybe they’ll make a go of it.  Rudy’s always been a loner.”

“Not if his mama’s got anything to do with it.  He’s always lived at home an’ took care of her.  Anyway, listen to this.  That boy’s mama is callin’ that big ol’ boy o’hearn “Little Rudy” after Rudy.  That’s crazy.  You cain’t call a kid “Charley”  all his life, then up an’ change his name to “Little Rudy” after a man you just married.  She thinks it’ll make him and Rudy git along better.” Miss Laura Mae said.

 

About three weeks later, I was lucky enough to get an update.  “Well, the honeymoon’s over down at Rudy’s.  His wife done left in his truck. “ Miss Laura opened the conversation.

“Well, that didn’t last long.”  What happened?”  I was at least as curious as Mother.  Why would anybody take a truck if they had a motorcycle?

“Oh, they done had a big bust up.  Rudy come home one evenin’ with a big load o’watermelons an’ peaches he was gonna peddle the next day.  He had a taste for some ham an’ went out to his smokehouse an’ found one’a his hams whittled almost clean to the bone.  He was mad as hops.  He’d been piecing that ham along, just cuttin’ off a slice fer his breakfast oncet in a while.  When he found it sliced clean down to the bone, he went roaring in the house and lit into ‘em.  Turns out that boy had been workin’ on that ham off an had just about et it up.  Rudy took a whack at the boy with the bone an’ his wife wrestled it away from ‘im and whooped him good.  Her boy jumped in an’ they ‘bout beat Rudy to death.  While Rudy was laying up, her an’ that boy took Rudy’s ol’ truck, peaches, watermelons an’ all.  They even took Rudy’s ol’ huntin’ dog and the last two hams..  Now ain’t that pitiful?”

hambone-dog-bone-individ

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/miss-laura-maes-house-part-12/

Miss Laura Mae’s House Part 12

My grandma was in the hospital, we had a houseful of company, and we didn’t go to Miss Laura Mae’s house for several days. I was happy to be sitting on her top step with a biscuit again.

“Well, I ain’t seen y’all in a month of Sundays,” she said “Where you been?”

“Right there at the house,” answered Mother. “I’m so tired I can hardly wiggle. Bill’s mama thought she was having a heart attack and they kept her in the hospital overnight. It turns out it was just a hernia. She was doing fine but they still kept her overnight for tests. They were supposed to let her out the next morning. You know how Dr. Hawkins is. You can’t go to see him without him wanting to keep you overnight for tests. Anyway, she was sleeping and the nurse came to check on her. She thought she was seeing a ghost and got all upset,
convinced she was dying. She had the nurse call Bill to call all the kids in. You know she has seven.

Anyway, all the kids and in-laws came flocking in to the house along with all their kids. There was no need to all pile in at the house and stay all that time. They all live within ten miles of us. I don’t know what good they thought they were doing, anyway. Next thing, her two brothers and their wives showed up. Somebody called her step-brother from way down in South Louisana and told him it might be his last chance to see her. They couldn’t have been close. They hadn’t seen each other in more than twenty years.

“Lordy, was she really that sick? That sounds like a mess.” Miss Laura Mae offered.

“No, nothing was really wrong. She’s just the superstitious type and was convinced it was a sign she was going to die. Anyway, the whole bunch hung around the rest of the night and visited the next day, like it was their last chance to see each other. They made a bunch of long distance phone calls, which I know they’ll never pay for, ate up my week’s supply of groceries, drank up all my coffee, and even used up all the toilet paper. Even after she got out of the hospital, they kept right on visiting. The kids were running in and out banging the doors and screaming and yelling like a bunch of heathens. I stayed behind them with the broom an mop, but it was hopeless. It was horrible. I thought they never would go home. I am so tired, I could sleep for a week. We are out groceries. I don’t even have any dry beans left. We’ll be eating biscuits till payday.” Mother sighed.

“You know, my mother had a stroke last summer. They didn’t know if she’d make it. She lives out in Texas. I wanted to go, but we talked about it and Bill decided we really didn’t have the money. I didn’t get to go for three months. It’s strange how when it’s the man, it is so different. It makes me mad all over we didn’t go when Mama was sick. I could have missed my last chance then. Why are men so selfish?”

“Honey, that’s why I never married agin after Floyd died. Most men think they own their women, an’ women don’t need to do nuthin’ but tend to them, the younguns, an’ the house an’ garden. I wasn’t much past forty and still had a couple of younguns to raise when Floyd died, but it was a lot easier for me to take in ironin’, sew for the public, babysit, or sit with the elderly or the sick than have to answer to another man. Now, don’t get me wrong. They’s a’plenty o’ good men out there, but they do that one bad thing. They just keep on a’breathing in an’ breathin’ out.”

They both laughed till tears were running down their faces.

Miss Laura Mae’s House Part 9

gossip 1Once again, I was sitting on the back step of Miss Laura Mae’s house with a biscuit. Miss Laura Mae was all flustered. I heard the phrase, “female trouble” and my ears perked up. Anything about “female trouble” got kids shooed outdoors. “Complications” rated even greater secrecy.

I’d just heard both. I hummed a tuneless something just so they’d be fooled into thinking I wasn’t listening. Occasionally, I said something to Miss Laura Mae’s old hound.

“Bessie, Floyd’s oldest sister was wild as they come when she was comin’ up. She slipped off an’ married when she was fifteen, and just stayed long enough to have them two young’uns. She like to drove her mama crazy. You couldn’t believe a word she said. She’d climb up on top of the house to tell a lie when it would’a been easier to stand on the ground and tell the truth. It seemed like she settled down an’ was gonna do good when she married Ben. He was a good feller an’ treated her kids good. He had that nice house his mama left him, worked steady and put his pay in the bank. I never heard him fuss with her. She was even Sunday School Superintendent down at the Mount Lebanon Baptist Church fer a while.

One year right before Christmas, she went to work in her sister’s café, waiting tables to git a little Christmas money. Ben didn’t want her to, said he could git whatever they needed, but she was bound an’ determined to do it. Wasn’t long before she was runnin’ around. She dumped them kids on her mama and run off with a feller named Jett. ‘Course, that didn’ last till the water got hot.

Next thing we knew, Bessie was in the hospital, her kidneys ‘bout shut down an’ she like to had a stroke. She pulled through but wasn’t able to do anything for a long time. Her sister Marthy took her in an’ took care of her an’ them kids for a good while. When she finally got back on her feet, she went back to Ben. The crazy thing was, she told ever’ body she’d been the one takin’ care of Marthy, ‘cause Marthy had been runnin’ around an’ got thataway while her husband Joe was off in the service. She claimed Marthy had took a bunch of quinine an’ got rid of the baby but it like to kilt ‘er. The whole thing was crazy. Ever’body knew what Bessie had been up to and knew about her being so sick in the hospital. I don’t know why she tol’ that crazy story layin’ it off on Marthy after she’d been so good to her. They just wasn’t no need. That was just how she is.

From my perch on the back step, I listened in, making no sense of the story, but knew it was good. I made up my mind to remember when I got a little older and smarter, I could figure out what it was all about.

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/miss-laura-maes-house-part-10/