Don’t Spin Your Greens, Granny!

greens 2

When you live in the South and visit old folks in the country, the first thing you have to do is admire their garden. If you run out of excuses, you’ll come home with a “mess of greens.” I hate dealing with greens. For the unenlightened, greens include turnips, collards, or mustard greens. Boiled down low, with a bit of pork, and garnished with a splash of “pepper sauce,” greens make a delicious meal. A true connoisseur polishes off by sopping up the juice, or pot-liquor with cornbread. If you’re above the Mason-Dixon Line, try a roll. That’s the happy ending.

Now, we get down to the nitty gritty, literally. Greens have to be “looked and washed.” The first step is dispossessing the wildlife who habituate greens. Nobody wants to find half a worm or a cluster of bug eggs in their pot-liquor. You have to give both sides of each rumpled leaf a good look, wash, and then rinse copiously. I’d heard the glorious news that greens could be washed in the washing machine, cutting down tremendously on prep time.

The next time Bud visited an elderly family member, he came back wagging a bag of greens. I didn’t moan like normal, having recently heard the good news that greens could be washed in the washing machine. As usual, the basic information registered, not the total technique. I loaded the washer with dirty greens and detergent and hit the start button. Quite a while later, the alarm sounded, and I went to retrieve my sparkling greens. Alas, no greens remained, just a few tough stems and a few bits of leaves. A follow-up conversation with my friend revealed that I should have only washed them on gentle and not continue on to spend.

Though I hoped he’d forget, Bud came in that night expecting greens. I feigned innocence. “What greens?” It didn’t fly. “The greens I brought in yesterday.” It’s hard to come up with an excuse how precious greens went missing. I gave up and told the truth, though I don’t like worrying Bud stuff with that gets his blood pressure up. I’m considerate that way.

“They went down the drain.”

“How in the Hell did they go down the drain?” I don’t know why he gets all up in my housekeeping and cooking business. “

“They just did. Now don’t keep asking nosy questions!” “

“Exactly what drain and how did that happen?” “

“The washing machine drain.” I

I hoped if I answered matter-of-factly, he’d move on. I didn’t work. “

“You put greens in the washing machine? What in the Hell were you thinking?” I

I hate it when he apes back what I’ve just said. I’ve told him it gets on my nerves. “It takes forever to look and wash greens. Jenny told me she puts hers in the washer and it works great. I didn’t realize I wasn’t supposed to put them through spin.”

“Grouch, grouch, grouch @^%&( , #@$%! Don’t ever put )(^%&# greens in the washer, again!”

“Okay, okay. Don’t go on forever about it. I get tired of your nagging” Since then I’ve been careful not to spin them. It works great.



Bud is fussy about his budget.  He does a computer check on the bank account every morning.  Our big dog, Croc eats a lot.  That goes in the budget.  What goes in must come out, so he poops a lot.  Bud also likes to work that not the budget.  “Croc pooped about a dollar’s worth.”

I’m glad I’m not in charge of accounting!”

Hair of the Dog Sweater

This is the prequal to yesterday’s post about dog sweaters.  I decided it might go nicely today.

My son John lives to torment my mother. Buzzy, our American Eskimo Dog sheds incessantly, making us vacuum every day to stay ahead of him. One day my husband Bud noticed a big paper bag on the mantle stuffed full of Buzzy’s combings, hair pulled from his brush, and hair swept from the floor. Amazed, Bud asked, “What in the world is this bag of dog hair doing up here?”

Mother chimed in, “Oh, that’s Buzzy’s hair I saved up for your sweater.” This was the first Bud had heard of his dog hair sweater. He thought maybe Mother had finally come unhinged. “What dog hair sweater?”

“The one you’re going to get the woman at work to make for you out of Buzzy’s hair.” Mother thought Bud was losing it. “John told me to be careful to gather up all the hair I could find every time I came over so that woman you work with can spin it and make it into a sweater for you. How long do you think it will take to get enough?”

Poor Bud had to break her heart. “John’s been pulling your leg, again. There ain’t gonna be no dog hair sweater.”



My son, John

John as Jason


Like a Man

Honey, can you bring me my tweezers?  They are in the drawer next to the sink in my bathroom next to my manicure kit.”

“Okay.”  This sounds really pained.  He’d like to refuse but he’s headed back that way anyway.  I hear a cabinet door open.  “They’re not in here.”  I could hear in his voice I’d been wasting his time, anyway.  He knew they were’t there, but figured he had to say he’d looked since he’d be  wanting me to bring him something later.  “You must have not put them up last time you used ”them.”

”Oh yes I did.  I know they are there!”

”No, they’re not.  You just look where you were sitting when you used them last time  you probably just gave them a sling!  You know how you do!”  I head the cabinet door banging.

We’ve done this enough, I know he’s done.  I go get the from tweezers from the drawer next to the sink where they were lying next to my manicure kit.  He does act a bit puzzled when I come back with them.

”Where did you find them?”

”Right where I old you they were, in the drawers next to the sink.”

”They weren’t there when I looked.”

”Ah! The old sneaking tweezers trick!  You looked in the cabinet, not the drawer.  The cabinet door was still standing open.  You don’t half-listen.”

”Well, if you didn’t mumble, maybe people could hear you.  Bla, blah, blah.”

I finish my plucking and make a move to put them up.”

”Hey, can I use the tweezers and while you’re up……..?”



Chicken Poop Tea For Two

Why don’t men just say what they mean?  Bud and I have been married forever and I still don’t know how he thinks most of the time.  You need a little history here.  My niece generously gave me a garbage bag full of chicken poop.  I’d been coveting her chicken poop for a while, but hated to come right out and ask for it.  If you’re not a gardener, you probably have no idea what a precious gift chicken poop is.  Ferns love it.  There is nothing better than a delicious dose of chicken poop tea for your flowers and vegetables.  They practically slurp when they get their weekly dose and seem to fairly jump up.  I hurried home with my prize before she could regret it, with the intention of making myself a big batch of chicken poop tea.  I dug around is Bud’s shop and found a nice five gallon bucket.  He agreed I could use it.  It never occurred to me to mention what I wanted it for.

I divided that precious poop between that bucket and one of my own and filled both three-quarters full, covered them and left them to steep, one on the front porch and the other near the back patio.  In a week or so, I had a strong brew.  The lid prevented the smell from permeating the area.  It was potent.  I doused my ferns and other hungry plants weekly.  They loved it, competing to green up and put on new growth.  Adding water each use kept it coming.  The stuff was all I hoped it would be.

Then Bud started badgering.  “When are you gonna pour that stuff out?  It stinks!”  You can’t keep it here in that bucket.”

I wasn’t getting rid of it.  “Hannah, gave me this.  I need it for my plants.  I’ll move it away from the patio, but I’m not getting rid of it!”

”That s—— stinks.!  You need to pour it out.” He had the nerve to actually call it s—-!

”I’m not pouring it out!”  He stomped off.  He better have the good sense not to mess with my chicken poop tea! 

This went on for three years.  Several times a summer, we discussed my tea.  He never quite had the nerve to dump it, though he threatened several times.  That was a wise decision.  Chicken poop doesn’t grow on trees.  By now, this was prime stuff, very valuable to me.

This May, we were having guests.  I was fatigued, having spent several days getting ready.  Bud started up again, seeing my weakness.  “What are you gonna do with this bucket of s—-?”

I lost my resolve.  “I guess I’ll  throw it out!”  I thought he’d be ashamed and stop me.  He didn’t!  I gave my plants a final treat and emptied the buckets on my compost heap.

Yesterday as we dawdled over Sunday coffee in his shop, I spied that same blue five gallon bucket by Bud’s saw, full of lumber scraps.  “Is that THE bucket?  I didn’t think you’d still use it after it stood full of chicken poop for three years.”

”Why sure.  It’s a good bucket.  Why do you think I wanted it back?”

“You mean all that complaining was over the bucket, not the chicken poop?”

”Well, yeah.  It’s a good bucket.  I needed it back.”

”Why in the world didn’t you tell me?  I would have gotten you another bucket and kept my chicken poop? Buckets are cheap!  Chicken poop is priceless!”  Was this the same man who agreed to share all his worldly goods only forty-eight years ago?  I guess that didn’t include “good buckets.”

Chcken s——-!

My patio



Hard Time Marrying Part 25


big-wildflowerThey got home well before dark.  While Joe and Little Joe milked and tended the stock, Anya put Sally in her sling and walked across the meadow down to the creek.  The cow and calf grazed near the willows, the calf didn’t have to be kept up to protect the milk, though all it enjoyed was its mother’s company since she’d gone dry.  Joe hadn’t bothered to scythe down the weeds since he didn’t have to worry about the coming calf.  The stand of Queen Anne’s lace waved its graceful heads, its regal beauty given no hint of its hidden use.  Anya had often gathered wildflowers on her walk, bringing back an apron full of Black-Eyed Susan’s, bright Indian Blanket, and Texas Bluebonnets, loving the way their colors brightened the cabin.  She’d never been especially fond of white, but today, filled her apron with the lacy white flowers and nothing else.

Emma had sent home enough chicken and dumplings for another meal.  With biscuits from breakfast and Emma’s conserve, it made a festive supper.  Little Joe licked his plate and Sally kept squealing and reaching for the conserve, long after she plastered herself with hers.  They laughed as they cleaned the little ones up.  The children were reluctant to settle in bed after their exciting day and the hilarity at supper.  Joe lay on the cot with his little namesake was still while Anya rocked Sally.

He came back to the table and took Anya’s hand.  Looking pointedly at the pot of white flowers, he said, “You want to be careful with those.  You know they made the cow lose her calf.  I don’t want nothin’ happenin’ to you.  A baby is just a baby.”

Anya started crying.  “Joe, I don’t even know if I want this baby.  I was hopin’ things could go on the way they were.  You have already taken in your dead wife’s little ones and now this.  This baby was forced on me.  I don’t know if I can do right by it, let alone love it.  I think it might be better if you let me do what I need to do and after, if you want, we can figure somethin’ out.  We can make a clean start or I can leave once I am back on my feet if you want. We ain’t married and you done took care of me a long time.  You don’t owe me nothin’.  You could always look for a woman to come stay and help out till she’s bigger.  The West is full of women who need somebody to do for an’ a place to stay.”

Joe was a man of few words.  “Anya, I know what it is to be alone.  I never knew my pa, these younguns don’t know their pa.  You done without a ma. The world don’t have to be such a cold place. You’re are a good woman an’ I seen how you love these little fellers.  I want you, and that little feller you’re a’carrying if that’s the way you see it.”  He picked up his hat to go to the barn.

Anya looked from Sally to Joe as a tear dropped on Sally’s blonde head.  She reached out, putting a hand on Joe’s shoulder.  “Stay, Joe.  It’s time Sally started sleepin’ in with Little Joe.”

Tenderly, Joe tucked Sally in on the far side of the cot with Little Joe, then put out the light.

The More Things Change (part 2)

imageAs I hold my tiny granddaughter, I remember melting into Grandma’s pillowy softness, smelling her Cashmere Bouquet Talcum Powder, unaware she’d ever played any role but “Grandma.” Though I’d always heard Mother address her as “Mama” I stung with jealousy when I found out Grandma actually was her mother. Sure, I was her favorite grandchild, I later learned the other kids thought the same things, the mark of a good grandmother.

We only visited Grandma In summers, since she lived a few hours away.  I loved following her to tend the chickens where She made that praise Della, her Dominecker Hen for laying a double-yoked egg yesterday, remarking to the others they might consider doing the same. She told Sally not to start acting “Broody.” She didn’t have enough her eggs to “set” her yet. She counted her chickens and found Susie missing. Grandma got a long stick and poked under bushes till she flushed Susie out from her “stolen” nest. I felt so important crawling way under the bush bringing two warm eggs. Chiding Juanita, an ornery red hen, she threatened to invite her to Sunday Dinner, saying “You’ll make some mighty fine dumplings if you don’t lay a couple of eggs this week!” I wasn’t that invested in Juanita and don’t recall whether we had dumplings or not.  Once I had the thrill of seeing Grandma fearlessly make short work of a black chicken snake lounging in a nest with an egg in his mouth.  Unbelievably, she grabbed him barehanded and slung him to the ground, where she dispatched him to snake heaven with the shovel she always carried outdoors.

Daily, we walked her yard, shovel in hand,checking out the flowers, moving one or two that needed a better home, filling a hole here, rooting out a weed there.  She gathered tomatoes, okra, and squash from the garden, later serving them at lunch, tomatoes still warm from the sun.  Before one, we made the ritual walk to the mailbox with a letter or two.  Grandma often got two or three letters a day since she wrote to numerous friends and relatives.  She’d read these to us as a group, “Oh!  Winnie’s girl Opal’s little girl is a princess in the school play.  She’s your third cousin.  All of Winnie’s kids did good.  They were all smart as whips!” going on to tell us stories of her girlhood with the distant Wiinie.

I envied my unknown cousin, though I’d never wanted to be a princess before or since.  Sometimes, the letters included pictures, which we poured over.

As my granddaughter and I relaxed in a dear friend’s garden, I collected cleome seed to share with her sometime down the road, a reminder of this day.  I do hope my little one recalls sweet stories of our our times together.

I Couldn’t Hear if it went in Park.

A few days ago, a lady who shall remain forever nameless, came to call and pulled her little old lady white car where she could take out Bud’s Jeep and the camping trailer, if she couldn’t make up her mind which was best. I suspect she got a phone call as she pulled up to park, since she dawdled in her car for a a while before getting out. Buzzy went wild, desperate to get out and welcome her, but finally forgot as she took her time. I went back to what I was doing, knowing she’d eventually be at one of the doors. Since Bud was in the shop, I thought she might go out to speak to him first.

After about ten minutes, I heard an impact and a scrunch. “Oh no!” Running out, I saw she’d rolled into the camper, but by now had backed up.

“Oh my gosh, when I pulled in, I thought I’d put the car is n park, but I guess I hadn’t. I know it’s because I am having trouble with my ears and couldn’t hear if it clicked in park!”

As we looked for damage, I didn’t mention I never listened to see if my car went into park.
The only obvious damage, was a tiny dent she didn’t mention.

“If they’re’ any damage, I’ll pay for it. She repeated this twice, just st because she was rattled.”

“I don’t see a thing,” I assured her.

Bud came sprinting up just then. “What happened? Did somebody run into my camper?”

Before Mother (uh oh, I wasn’t going to tell) could launch the into her long explanation and excuses, I jumped in, praying Bud would just look and hush. Mother’s obsessive-compulsive explanation followed by endless apologies and self-recriminations are hard to bear. We seriously downplay problems to save ourselves.

He has suffered through this before. He’s a smart guy. “I don’t see a thing.” He declined coffee and went back to his shop.

While I fixed coffee, Mother cranked up, “Bhah,blah,blah, sure thought it was in park. Blah, blah, blah, now if anything’ wrong, I insist on paying. Blah, blah, blah, natter, natter, natter.” More reassurance given, but not nearly enough to satisfy her.

Finally, I had to redirect her. “Mother, there is no damage and nobody’s mad. Now, we have to change the subject.”

She finally let me off the hook. When Mother messes something up, she is not satisfied till the injured party convinces her the accident was the best thing that ever happened to them.

After she left, Bud and I went out to inspect. The damage was minor. I thanked him for keeping his cool.

“Yeah, well. I was about to get me a piece of cardboard and make a sign so I could wave it at cars going down the street. “Come bust my camper in the ass!”

What a guy!


Musings on My Father, on His Birthday (Part 2)

Five kids

Back left, Linda Swain Bethea, holding Connie Swain Miller’s hands, Middle Back Billy Swain, Back Right Phyllis Swain Barrington holding Marilyn Swain Grisham.  Picture made about 1961

parents wedding pic

Bill Swain and Kathleen Holdaway Swain, June 29, 1945

When I reflect on my father’s life, it is odd to think I am several years older now than he was when he died at fifty-seven.  He had retired, all five of his children were grown and on their own, and his life was no longer a struggle.  He had realized his dream and had large herds of cattle on two farms.  He had mellowed out and life was good.  He died only three weeks after being diagnosed with a brain tumor in December, 1981.

When puzzling out his behavior, I now realize Daddy’s moods were bipolar.  He was extremely quick to anger, irritable, easily offended.  The worst thing his children could do was to embarrass him.  Quick to reach for a belt or switch like so many parents of his era, he considered himself strict, though he would be classed abusive now.  Many times, we wore stripes for days after a whipping.  His goal was to raise children who were law-abiding, respectful, and hard-working.  Though his methods were beyond strict we might have rebelled had we not had our mother’s softening, comforting influence.  She had as little control over her life as we did ours.

The whole family’s life got harder after we moved to the farm.  Land had to be cleared, brush piled and burned, barns and fences built.  It was more work than any one man could do in a lifetime.  Daddy must have been overwhelmed by all the work to be done.  We were all pressed into service.  My brother and I worked right along with Daddy, along with occasional help Daddy could afford to hire.  When the day’s work started, Daddy always said, “Time to the friendship to end and the work to begin.”  He was difficult to work with, not taking time to explain how to do a job, lashing out when we didn’t read his mind.  I learned to hate summer and school holidays, knowing farm work was waiting.  My poor brother, being three years younger than I, caught the brunt of the work, laboring on that farm almost every day he wasn’t in school from the time he was eleven till he left home.  Thankfully, I was fourteen when the heavy work started and only sentenced to four years hard labor.  All that farm work certainly motivated me to get an education.  I had no intention of ever being subservient to anyone again.  From the time I was ten or eleven, I had a miserable relationship with Daddy and avoided him whenever possible, which wasn’t often, since I had to help so much.  Though I was definitely not grateful at the time, I did learn valuable skills that have helped me throughout my life.  I am very strong, have good problem solving skills, and am not intimidated by difficult tasks.  There was also the added benefit of developing a thick skin.  I yet had to work for anyone as critical as Daddy.

With the arrival of grandchildren, he demonstrated the kindness and caring we never enjoyed.  He was everything a grandfather should be.  I admired a lot of things about Daddy and think we would have grown close had he lived longer.