A Hog a Day Part 18

Photo shows girls dressed in styles reminiscent of dresses I wore in  the 1950’s


children wearing pink ball dress

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Church clothes were special.  Starch was the order of the day: crisp shirts for Daddy and Billy, frilly homemade dresses for the girls, shirtwaists for mother. While still wet from the wash, clothes were dipped in a dishpan of boiled starch and allowed to almost dry before being rolled in a tight ball and stuffed in a pillowcase in the freezer till time to iron. Should she miscalculate drying time, Mother sprinkled them with water from a stopper-topped coke bottle. I magnanimously gave her that sprinkler top for Christmas one year. It cost fifteen cents. Ironing was a huge job, so we had to hang up those fancy dresses the instant we got home. Tossing one in a heap on the bed or floor ensured real trouble. The rough armhole seams felt like razors if Mother forgot to crumple them before ironing. Even though I hated dresses, I have to admit they made an impressive show worn over full petticoats. Those lace and beribboned petticoats were a wonder to behold, way fancier than the dresses that covered them.

When I was little, before school started each year, we got five new dresses, most often homemade or rarely ordered from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. Billy got five shirts and three pair of pants. Besides that, we might get a gift of clothes at Christmas and Easter. I thought clothes made an awful gift. As kids were added to the family, the budget was stretched tighter and of course, we got less. Until I reached sixth grade, we could wear pants to school, a great boon on the playground and on cold days. The cold wind sailed under skirts, making frosty days a misery.

Dresses on the playground cut down on the fun of monkey bars, slides, and swings. I feared hearing boys sing out, “I see London. I see France. I see Linda’s underpants!” One day, I had the horrifying experience of catching my skirt tail at the top of the slide and reaching the bottom in only my slip and bodice, the red skirt left flying like a flag at the top. I was the object of hilarity as girls gathered round me to hide my shame as I skulked in for the teacher’s assistance. I expected her to send me home, but no. She pinned that skirt roughly back on and I had to finish out the day looking like a ragged sack of potatoes. A few times, I’d have a sash ripped off playing chase on the playground. Boy, was I in for it when I got home in a ruined dress! Three-cornered tears were the worst! Unlike rips, they couldn’t be mended.

I was always delighted to see someone else suffer a wardrobe humiliation. One Sunday evening, Brother Robert taught a class of young people before evening worship. Right off the bat, we noticed his open fly. I never paid such close attention to a lesson before, struggling not to look. I kept my eyes on his face, as did the rest of the class. He was a stern man. No one dared tell him. The instant class was over, he marched straight to the podium making ready for his sermon. One of the deacons did him the kindness of tipping him off. With a shocked look, he spun to zip his pants to the amusement of the choir filing in behind him. He had nowhere else to turn. It was lovely.

One Sunday morning a few years later, my sister Connie provided the entertainment for the service. She was sitting proudly near the front of the church with her new fiancé and his little niece, Amy. Connie was lovely in a beautiful yellow, spring dress. As the worshippers stood for a hymn, little Amy slid behind Connie, grasped the tail of Connie’s dress, and raised it as high as her tiny arms would reach, giving most of the congregation something truly inspiring amazing to consider, for which God made them truly grateful.


The Sad Saga of the Beakless, Tailless, Gizzard-bobbing, One-leg Hopping chicken

Repost of an earlier post.

Being a farm kid is not for sissies and cowards. The dark side of the chicken experience is slaughtering, plucking, cleaning, and preparing chickens for the pot.  I watched as Mother transformed into a slobbering beast as she towered over the caged chickens, snagging her victim by the leg with a twisted coat-hanger, ringing its neck and releasing it for its last run.  We crowded by, horribly thrilled by what we knew was coming.  It was scarier than ”The Night of the Living Dead”,  as the chicken, flapping its wings, running with its head hanging crazily to one side, chased us in ever larger circles until it finally greeted Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates.  It looked horribly cruel, but done properly, a quick snap of the wrist breaks the chicken’s neck instantly, giving a quick death. Of course, this is my assessment, not the unfortunate chicken. The chickens always looked extremely disturbed.

Afterward, my mother grabbed the dead chicken, plunged it into a pot of boiling water, plucked the feathers, slit its pimply white belly, removed its entrails, cut off its feet and head, and prepared it for dinner.  I was repulsed  when Mother found  unlaid eggs in the egg cavity and used them in cooking.  That just didn’t seem right.  I was happy to eat the chicken, but future eggs….disgusting.  It kind of seemed like genocide, or chickenocide, to coin a new term.

Mother looked out one day and saw one of her chickens eating corn, oblivious to the fact that her gizzard was hanging out, bobbing up and down merrily as she pecked corn with all her lady friends.  Apparently she had suffered injury from a varmint of some kind.  Clearly, she wouldn’t survive with this injury, so Mother and I set about catching her.  At least she could be salvaged for the table.  Well, she could still run just fine.  We chased her all over the yard with no luck.

Finally, Mother decided to put her out of her misery by shooting her.  She missed.  She fired again and shot the hen’s foot off.  I knew I could do better.  I shot her beak off, then hit her in the tail.  By this time, we both felt horrible and had to get her out of her misery.  Her injuries had slowed the poor beakless, tailless, gizzard-bobbing, one-leg hopping chicken down enough so we could catch her and wring her neck.

All chickens didn’t end life as happily.  The LaFay girls, Cheryl, Terry, and Cammie raised chickens to show at the fair for 4-H, with a plan to fill their freezer with the rest.  Late one Thursday evening while their widowed mother was at work, they realized tomorrow was the day for the big barbecue chicken competition.  Mama wouldn’t be in until way too late to be helping with slaughtering and dressing the chickens.  After all the time and effort they had put in on their project, they had no choice but to press forward without Mama’s help.  They’d helped Mama with the dirty business of putting up chickens lots of times.  They’d just have to do manage on their own.

Cheryl, the eldest, drew the short straw, winning the honor of wringing the chicken’s neck.  She’d seen Mama do it lots of times, but didn’t quite understand the theory of breaking the neck with a quick snap.  She held the chicken by the neck,  swung it around a few times in a wide arc,  giving it a fine ride, and released it to flee drunkenly with a sore neck.   The girls chased and recaptured the chicken a couple of times, giving it another ride or two before the tortured chicken managed to fly up in a tree, saving its life.

Acknowledging her sister’s failure, Terry stepped up to do her duty.  She pulled her chicken from the pen, taking it straight to the chopping block, just like she’d seen Mama do so many times.  Maybe she should have watched a little closer.  Instead of holding the chicken by the head  and chopping just below with the hatchet, Terry held it by the feet.  The panicked chicken raised its head, flopped around on the block, and lost a few feathers.  On the next attempt, Cammie tried to help by holding the chicken’s head, but wisely jumped when Terry chopped, leaving the poor chicken a close shave on its neck.

indian-dress-and-henBy now, all three girls were squalling.  Cheryl tied a string on the poor chicken’s neck, Cammie held its feet and they stretched the chicken across the block.  By now, Terry was crying so hard so really she couldn’t see.  She took aim, and chopped Henny Penny in half, ending her suffering.   Guilt-stricken, they buried the chicken.  Defeated, they finally called their Aunt Millie, who came over and helped them kill and dress their chickens for the competition, which they won.  All’s well that ends well.

More Travels with Mother

Travels With Mother (Part 2)

The Most Fun You’ll Never Have, Kathleen’s Amazing Bathroom Tour!

It’s Not What You Tank!


God was with us.  We got to our destination, Hot Springs, Arkansas without a lot more drama.  We checked into our room, a nice suite with two king-sized beds and an extra bed for the fifth in our party.  For some reason, though it was 104 degrees, we freshened up a bit before going out to see the town, allowing us to start out with a less vintage sweat.  Within minutes, we were rank.  Not to be deterred by a little thing like heat exhaustion, we explored every shop on Main Street, till Mother found a little shop selling belly-dancing costumes. She wouldn’t be budged.  Now, as I’ve said before, Mother is tight.  She had no intention of making such a frivolous purchase, but had to admire herself in one. Every inch of the stifling shop was crammed with exotic outfits with no space devoted to dressing rooms. The proprietor obviously didn’t expect belly-dancers to be overly modest. Not to be denied, Mother just slipped her favorite on over her clothes, despite the heavy customer traffic. She is a little old church lady, after all.  I would never have expected so much business in a store selling belly-dancing costumes. 

Mother had us hold her things while she tottered and struggled into her racy choice, bumping customers at every turn.  They had to have thought her mind was gone and we should have looked out for her better, or that we were in geriatric sex-trade, pimping her out to some perverted creature with a fetish for demented, antique belly-dancers.  Neither choice made us look good.  Eventually, she pranced a bit and had us take a picture or two for her Sunday School Class, before being convinced to leave.  The store clerk was not amused by any of this, but I figured if she thought she was big enough to straighten Mother out, she could go for it.  I know when I am whipped. 


An amused motorcycle guy and his girlfriend were taking all this in and invited Mother to meet their friends waiting on their bikes just outside. I think the burly guys exact words were, “She reminds me so much of my mama!” With him as Mother’s escort, we escaped the wrath of the store owner who was obviously thought it was past time we left.

Mother charmed his friends.  Her new friend invited her for a ride, which she refused, but she did climb behind him on his bike to get her picture made.  Regretfully, he helped her off, after telling her, “Ma’am, you don’t have to go home with these girls if you don’t want to.  We coaxed her away after she exchanged phone numbers and addresses with them, insisting they all come visit.  
Later that evening, we made it back to our hotel, only to find the air-conditioning and bathroom both out of order in our room.  Mother took charge, went to see the manager, and got us transferred to the only room they had left, the Presidential Suite, complete with a hot-spring bath.  I suspect the manager thought, “She reminds me of my mama.”  For once, a bathroom drama with Mother worked in our favor.

We enjoyed the rest of our visit.  On the way home, my sister Connie hung her purse strap on a toilet handle and broke the toilet in a station.  She takes after Mother.


You Don’t Have to Have Money to Be Rich

This is a revisit of a story I posted last year.  My mother, Kathleen, was raised during The Great Depression.  She often told this story of a happy Christmas when her family had no money, but didn’t let that stop them from having a joyous Christmas.  In the photo below, Kathleen is the small blonde child.  Back left is her cousin, Johnny Bell, center back  sister Annie, back right, brother John.  They are pictured with her parents, Lizzie age forty and Roscoe aged about 50.  Johnny Bell was the son of Roscoe’s beloved orphaned niece, Katie.  Katie’s mother had died in childbirth, so she was raised by Roscoe’s childless, widowed sister.  They all lived together till Roscoe’s marriage.  She was like a daughter to him, so he probably thought of Johnny as a grandson.   R G Holdaway Family with Johnny Bell early 1930's

We don’t have the money.” I’d heard that so many times I knew not to ask for candy, bright rubber balls, or coloring books at Miss Lonie’s store. If Daddy had a few cents to spare, he’d fill three small brown paper bags with candy for us…..peppermint sticks, gumballs, bubble gum, lollipops. Kits and BB Bats were five for a penny. A few cents would buy a pretty good belly ache if I’d done like John and gobbled it right up. As soon as John finished his, he’d be eyeing my candy. Demanding at first, then wheedling, he’d eventually try to win me over by being nice, a sure sign something was up. I’d fold and unfold the small bag till it was shredding and soft as cotton long before the last jawbreaker was gone. Annie’s candy could last for days. Sometimes she’d surprise me with a gumball or lollipop a week later.

Times were hard for my folks during the depression, but never having known anything else, I didn’t feel poor. Clothes were homemade, food home-grown and canned for the winter. As the days got shorter, Christmas was on my mind. More than anything else, I wanted a red bicycle with a basket and horn. When Mama said they couldn’t afford it. I reassured her, “That’s okay. I’ll just just ask Santa Claus to bring me one.” Hoping I’d forget about it, Mama said maybe I’d like a pretty rag doll with yellow hair. Knowing what a good girl I’d been, I returned, “Oh, no. Santa’s gonna bring me a red bicycle with a basket and a horn.”

Finally, Mama just had to tell me. “Santa won’t be bringing you a bicycle. He’s having a hard time too, and we don’t have the money to help him.”

“But that’s just not fair. Rich kid’s parents have money to buy things and Santa Claus still brings them bicycles.”

Mama agreed, “It’s not fair, but that’s how it is.”

Normally after supper, we gathered in the front room as Daddy read and smoked hand-rolled cigarettes while he and Mama talked of all that went on that day. Mama usually had mending or did some embroidery or handwork and played on the floor at their feet. When the older kids finished their homework, Mama read a chapter or two from a book Daddy had borrowed or the kids had brought in from school, but as the evenings got longer and colder, Daddy busied himself in the barn and Mama took to keeping her sewing basket covered, telling the kids curiosity killed the cat. That was okay because Annie and I had our own secrets. We cut up an old sheet to make handkerchiefs for Daddy and John, snipping and pulling threads along each side to make a cutwork pattern and hemming the edges. We made Mama some tea towels and a dresser scarf. Mama helped me make Gingerbread men for Annie and John. Christmas Eve, I was so excited I could hardly sleep, hoping Santa Claus might leave me a bike, despite what Mama had said. For once we hopped straight out of bed when we heard Daddy starting a fire and Mama making coffee, but Daddy made us go back to bed. It seemed like it took hours before Mama said biscuits were in the oven and Daddy said the room was warm enough for them to get up.

We lined up, smallest to biggest, and for once, it was good to be small. I tiptoed into the room to the magic of our Christmas tree illuminated by the warm glow of the fireplace, the room scented by the rare treat of Mama’s sweet, hot, chocolate. Only Christmas held this special joy. our lumpy stockings were so full they were about to pull away from the mantle. Santa had filled mine with bright wooden blocks, an apple, the biggest orange I’d ever seen, chocolate drops, ten new pennies, a bright rubber ball, a giant candy cane, and a brazil nut at the very toe! More riches than I’d seen all year! Thrilled, I dropped to the floor to play with my blocks and ball when Mama said there might be more. High on the tree hung a beautiful rag doll with yellow yarn hair, brown eyes, pink lips and cheeks. She was dressed in a blue flowered dress and bonnet and flour sack bloomers with the letters Ai Fa printed on the seat and rick-rack edging on the legs. So that’s the surprise Mama had been hiding. It was so beautiful! I’d seen this same pattern on the feed sacks at Miss Lonie’s Store. While I was still pondering the glory of my doll, Mama and Annie gave me a gift they had worked on together for me: a matching dress, bonnet, and bloomers with Air Fair printed across the seat, and rick-rack edging on the legs, just like my doll’s. No girl had ever had anything so perfect! When I was as big as Annie I’d have the whole label, Airy Fairy Flour on the seat of my bloomers. When I’d had time to play with my doll a few minutes, Daddy brought out what he’d spent his evenings working on: a little doll bed and a table and chairs just the doll’s size. This was the most wonderful Christmas of my entire life!

Ann got a dress and matching scarf, a card of bobby pens, and a bottle of Evening in Paris Perfume, John, a wooden pop gun, a sling shot, a shirt, and harmonica, along with the things Santa put in their stockings. Happiest of all were Mama with her tea towels and dresser scarf and Daddy with his handkerchiefs. You could see they’d never had such wonderful gifts. How lucky they were to have us!

Christmas dinner was a wonder. Mama had killed an old hen the day before and made chicken and dumplings and dressing. To go along with it, the table was heaped with mashed potatoes and gravy, Mama’s wonderful canned green beans, okra and tomatoes, biscuits with homemade butter and sweet potato pie. Grandma and Grandpa and Maude, Mama’s snooty baby sister showed up with ham and Aunt Ellie, Cousin Katie, and Johnny walked over with a berry cobbler and fried squirrel. There was so much, my stomach would be hurting before I could even taste everything.

Johnny came over showing off his new trucks and toy guns. ‘ It just wasn’t right the way Aunt Ellie spoiled that Johnny. She only gave me some peppermint and a handkerchief. He was no more to her than I was, even though Aunt Ellie had raised his mama when Aunt Sally died and left Katie motherless about the same time Aunt Ellie’s only baby died. I was so sick of hearing about how Johnny’s daddy had died of tuberculosis when Johnny was only eight months old, and he and Katie had lived with Aunt Ellie ever since. It did look like Aunt Ellie would get tired of raising people’s left over kids and pay a little more attention to a nice little girl she wasn’t stuck raising. Aunt Ellie brought Johnny something every time she went to the store, and hardly ever even got a lollipop.’ Even though it was unfair as usual, Aunt Ellie’s partiality toward that rotten Johnny had worked out in my favor once. At some time in the past, apparently forgetting Johnny was a boy, Aunt Ellie had bought him a china doll with long, curly blonde hair. This dainty charmer was dressed in pink silk, patent leather shoes, and delicate lingerie. She came with a change of dress, coat hangers, and could be tucked neatly into her own trunk for storage. She was eventually passed on to me after Johnny ignored the doll for a couple of years.

Uncle Dave and Aunt Ethel’s car pulled in, packed tight with and the kids in the back seat. Kathleen and John raced to hide their stuff while Aunt Ethel waddled in with nothing but a bowl of greens. ‘Why in the world would anybody bring greens to Christmas dinner?’ Robert Gordon and Wayne fought their way out of back seat pounding each other for the privilege of being first, though it was hard to imagine why it mattered why unless they needed the toilet. John, Johnny, and I certainly didn’t want to see them. Whatever Robert Gordon and Wayne couldn’t tear up, they tried to haul home. Between us, John and I didn’t have a shoebox full of toys and had no intention of letting those little demons of Satan make off with them. Thank Goodness, John was big enough to hold them up by the ankles and shake them while I grabbed the stuff that fell out of their pockets. There was nothing too bad for those heathens to do. Last time they were here, they ate a whole quart of crackers and a quart of mustard. They chased the chickens and threw eggs against the barn till Daddy put a stop to that. Most of the time, John and Cousin Johnny teamed up and picked on me but it took all of us to keep Robert Gordon and Wayne from taking the place apart.

Thank Goodness, Mama didn’t believe in making kids eat at the second table. She told the women to fix their kids a plate and let them go play. Grandma, Aunt Ellie, and Aunt Ethel didn’t think it was right, but Mama said she wasn’t going to make her kids to starve while the grown-ups sat around eating, drinking coffee, and talking all afternoon. Mama didn’t insist we eat everything, just try just a bite to see if we liked it. She didn’t make us eat greens at holidays, though. It just didn’t seem right to insist greens at Christmas when they had the rest of the year for that! Mama didn’t have enough plates to go around, so as a special treat on holidays, she let us kids eat on syrup can lids and sit on the floor, just a little something special for company meals. As soon as we’d had our fill, we headed for the barn, anxious to get Robert Gordon and Wayne as far from their Christmas loot as possible. Though Robert Gordon was a year younger than me, he was bigger and a lifetime meaner. The last time he was here, he’d entertained himself by hiding behind corners and jumping out on my back, knocking me forward to the ground with him on my back. I’d complained to Mama and we’d hatched a plan and was ready for him this time. I sauntered alluringly past the barn door several times, till Robert Gordon leapt out, locking his arms around my neck. Prepared for his attack, I collapsed backward, banging his head against the barn wall, his shoes scooting in manure. He squalled into the house tattling that I’d had hurt his head, but got no sympathy when John, Johnny, and I got to tell our side of the story.

Soon he was fully recovered. Looking for trouble, Robert Gordon and his partner in sin ambled toward the pasture, where the hellions spotted Nanny Goat, grazing peacefully near the barnyard fence, her bag already engorged. Her young kid goats were penned nearby, already bleating hungrily, denied the comfort of Nanny Goat till evening milking was done. Satan possessed the boys as they ran at Nanny, chasing her till she collapsed, exhausted, then stripping her of her milk in a way no Christian ever would. All this in full view of her horrified, hungry kids and any neighbors who cared to watch, a equally deep sin in Mama’s view. Nanny’s terrified screams dragged the diners from the Christmas feast and it was clear that not only were Daddy and Mama furious at the abuse of livestock, but the look on Mama’s face showed she was outraged knowing “what the neighbors would think.” As for poor Nanny; she was so traumatized, she didn’t give milk for the next three days. Thankfully, our horrible cousins soon left to make the long trip back to Clarksville. We settled in front of the cozy fire to enjoy the remains of another wonderful holiday all together.

Awesome Life Down on the Farm: You Gotta Have Guts

Farm BoyDaddy loved home remedies and dosed his kids and livestock readily.   Mother did run interference for us on cow chip tea and coal oil and sugar, but did let him load us with sulphur and molasses for summer sores. We never got summer sores, probably because we reeked so much we didn’t tempt mosquitoes. I do appreciate Mother for putting her foot down when his ideas got too toxic. No telling what kind of chromosome damage she saved us. Continue reading


5 Things to Make Me Feel at Home

imageI am most at home in my kitchen surrounded by few of  my most-loved  and well-used things.  As soon as I expect company, the tea-kettle and coffee-maker, both gifts from my daughter, are notified.  As water boils in my ancient copper tea-kettle, I grind coffee beans in the battered coffee-mill.   Soon tea steeps in the butterfly teapot a sister gave me while I fill my polka-dot chicken creamer and sugar bowl.  A plate of cookies, snacks or hot biscuits and a few flowers from my yard brighten the home-crafted drop leaf table my husband built.  The  tiny table-topper cloth came to me from another sister. Although in the past, I prided myself on newer things, these old favorites warm my heart today and say “Welcome,  Friend” like nothing else.

“Come on in and sit awhile.”

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Home Turf.”

That was Good



In 1950, the US population was less than 150 million, yet you knew more people
then, and knew them better…
And that was good.

The average annual salary was under $3,000, yet our parents could put some
of it away for a rainy day and still live a decent life…
And that was good.

A loaf of bread cost about 15 cents and it was safe for a five year old to
skate to the store and buy one…And that was good.
1950s 1

Prime-Time meant I Love Lucy, Ozzie and Harriett, and Lassie. So nobody’d
ever heard of ratings or filters…And that was good.
We didn’t have air-conditioning, so the windows stayed up and half a dozen
mothers ran outside when you fell off your bike…
And that was good.

1950s 4

Your teacher was either Miss Matthews or Mr. Adkins, not  Ms. Becky or Mr. Dan.

The only hazardous material you knew about was a patch of grassburrs
around the light pole at the corner…
And that was good.

Most families needed only one job, meaning Mom was home when school
let out…
And that was good.


You loved to climb into a fresh bed because sheets were dried on the
And that was good.

People generally lived in the same hometown with their relatives, so “child
care” meant grandparents or aunts and uncles…
And that was good.

Maw Maw by Car

TV was in black-and-white, but all outdoors was in glorious color…
And that was certainly good.

Your Dad knew how to adjust everybody’s carburetor, and the Dad next door
knew how to adjust all the TV knobs…
And that was very good.

Your grandma grew snap beans in the back yard and chickens behind the
And that was definitely good.

First Grade School Picture


And just when you were about to do something really bad, chances were
you’d run into your Dad’s high school coach, or the nosy old lady from up
the street, or your little sister’s piano teacher, or somebody from church.
ALL of whom knew your parents’ phone number and YOUR first name…And that was good.
Featured Image -- 4165


family6I miss my Grandma.  She was perfect, mostly because she acted like she thought I was, not noticing any bad behavior, knowing my mom would act on it.  I was sure she loved me best of all her grandchildren, unaware she made us all feel that way.  She made the best teacakes, told the best stories, and always smelled of Johnson’s Baby Powder.  Patiently, she’d let me brush her waist-length gray hair, and attempt to twist into a heavy bun, never complaining that I pulled, before finally turning it into a perfect bun and securing it with only one heavy bone pin herself with a quick flip of her wrist, once I gave it up for hopeless.

Continue reading

Farm Life: Gotta Have Guts


Daddy loved home remedies and dosed his kids and livestock readily.   Mother did run interference for us on cow chip tea and coal oil and sugar, but did let him load us with sulphur and molasses for summer sores. We never got summer sores, probably because we reeked so much we didn’t tempt mosquitoes. I do appreciate Mother for putting her foot down when his ideas got too toxic. No telling what kind of chromosome damage she saved us. Continue reading