A Hog a Day Part 20

Image courtesy of Pixabay

I’ve got to end this series, since it is the basis of my next book and I don’t want to give it away but there are so many stories I want to share.  One is about a suicide and a mean Christian.

Mrs Rivers was as old as the hills. I believe she was born that way.   Widowed more than forty years, no one ever spoke of her husband.  It was impossible for me to imagine anyone could have ever wanted to marry her, as unpleasant as she appeared.  Still living in the house where  she raised her children, her son had built a house on her lot. My mother often remarked she’d be a trial as a mother-in-law as we drove  by and saw her dressed in a dark, long-sleeved dress and sun bonnet working her garden with a push plow. I’m sure she refused her son’s offer to plow her garden, because no one would have expected someone that old to plow.

Old Lady Rivers, as she was known, was a practicing Pentecostal, though she attended the Baptist Church just across the road from her house and interfered with its runnings as much as she was able.  While she didn’t have a vote, she did have opinions and battered the faithful with them as often as possible.  She was the first at services, wakes, and funerals, eager to share “how they took it” and why.  Never losing track of when a marriage was made, she was the first to predict should a baby appear to be coming “too soon.”

She was a skilled craftsman of gossip, eager to bear bad news or scandal. In the days before telephones were common in our rural community, it could be a challenge to get messages to people in a timely manner.   One sad day, a poor old gentlemen shot himself in the head out by his mailbox. His panicked wife called her son from next door for help.  The son covered his father with a sheet, but left the body lying awaiting the sheriff. A neighbor hurried to a local store to call the school principal to intercept his daughter, Alice Fay,  a school bus driver, before she left school with a bus load of children.  Sadly, they missed her by about fifteen minutes.  The principal summoned the coach and together, they hurried to catch up, hoping to spare her happening up on the grisly scene at her parent’s home, not realizing a couple of her stops had been eliminated.  He was behind her at every stop.

Old Lady Rivers heard the news before the bus was due.  She waited on the porch and puffed her way out to flag Alice Faye’s bus down.  The principal skidded to a stop behind the bus just as Alice Fay opened the bus door to see what the excited old lady wanted, Mrs. Rivers propped herself on her cane and announced, “Alice Faye, yore daddy done shot hisself in the head! God help him, he’s going to Hell for shore!”

Alice Faye reacted, as you might expect, erupting into hysterical tears as the principal and coach rushed up to comfort her and restore order to the traumatized children, three of whom were Alice Faye’s.  It was a horrendous situation.  The principal drove Alice Faye and her children home, and the coach finished the bus route on that awful day.  It was a shocking announcement of tragedy Alice Faye and her children could have been spared.

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The Joy of Delivering Bad News

witch 2 Old Lady Borden was a saint! We had it on good authority, hers. She had been widowed longer than anybody knew. Hateful as she was, had I been her husband, I would have claimed to be dead, too. Though she was devout in another denomination, she was in attendance at our little country church every time the doors opened. Her own church was twelve miles away and she didn’t want to bother anyone for a ride to services so far afield. It was much more expedient walk a few hundred feet and stir up no end of trouble closer to home, inserting herself fully into all matters related to church business, be it financial, theological, or just some sinner in need of her hateful opinion.
Mother was very particular about our language. We would have never been allowed refer to Ms. Borden by the B word, but she turned a deaf ear when we referred to her as an Old Bat. Old Lady Borden played a vital role pointing out flaws that might have gone unnoticed for a while, a pregnant bride, a baby with a crossed-eye, a child who stuttered, a woman who’d gained weight, or was a bad housekeeper. She begrudged any good fortune coming to a neighbor, such as good crops, or getting a good job. They were “gittin’ uppity.” Should a church member appear too prosperous, they were probably “gittin’ in the c’lection plate.”
Old Lady Borden was the first to the home of the bereaved, making sure to crowd the younger women out at the kitchen sink, then complaining loudly about how “lazy them gals was. “ Any one unfortunate enough to be handed a drying towel would be treated to her acid tongue about what a pitiful job they were doing. Nothing excited her more than a tragedy. Long before the days of cell phones, or even many house phones in our rural community, the school principal got the word that Mr. Barnes, the school bus driver’s father had collapsed and died a few minutes after his daughter Becky left on her bus route. He got in his vehicle, hoping to catch up with her before she home and found a shocking scene. When she stopped to let off Old Lady Borden’s grandson, the old woman rushed out to meet her at the bus stop with the horrible news. “Becky, yore daddy just dropped dead. He’s still a’ laying out in the yard a’waitin’ for the coroner.”
Naturally, Becky and her young children were distraught. There were still a half-dozen other children, some of them relatives, on the bus who’d heard the whole thing. They became overwrought at hearing the news of Mr. Barne’s death. Becky had no idea how to manage till the principal caught up to comfort and relieve her. He had to finish her route with her and the upset children still on the bus, since there was no other way to get them home.
It was a shocking situation, but at least she had the pleasure of delivering the terrible news. She was the meanest Christian I ever met.

Only a Matter of Perspective

cold kids 2We had a tight schedule when our kids were in school. By this, I don’t mean we scurried from one activity to another getting our kids to lessons and sports practices after school and on weekends. Bud and I were juggling just to get them fed, dressed, and to the bus stop in the mornings. We were both taking call at work, so it was a big job making sure one of us was there when they got home, got them started on homework, got dinner, and their baths. Throw in a few loads of laundry, a fever or sick child and it was sure to be exciting. Sometimes I felt overloaded.
“The science fair project is due tomorrow!” could make my blood run cold. A call from the teacher or bus driver, and there was no telling what changes we had to work in. No teacher ever called to say, “I just wanted to let you know your son is a delight to have in my class.” The kids thought it was a great idea to give us a note or let us know, “I need $50 today for the………. It’s the LAST DAY!”
I felt like we were stressed till we met the Ford kids who lived about a quarter of a mile down the street. They showed up at our house one frosty morning in shorts and overcoats. “Can we ride to the bus stop with y’all? We’re freezing!”
My kids were at the table eating pancakes and sausage. The Ford boys stared, open-mouthed.
“Are you boys hungry?”
“Yea!”
“Let me get you a plate. Do you want some milk?”
“Yes ma’am.”
I fixed them up. They licked their plates, literally. The next morning, they opened the front door and climbed right up to the table. We fed those boys for the next two years till we moved. It turns out, they were being raised by a single father who had to get their baby sister to the baby-sitter in time to be at work at seven. He woke the boys as he was going out the door, telling them to get some cereal. Our lives didn’t look quite so demanding.

More Goat Tales

goat-balanced-fence-636192Should goats not choose to lounge about with their bony heads in the fence, they walked through fences like ghosts through walls. Our house was enclosed by a wire fence which was inside the long drive leading up to the house. The pasture presented a third line of fence between the goats and the house. Even the blind goat ran up the diagonal corner brace posts and hopped the fences without even thinking, attaining total access to the whole place. Goats are perpetually in love. None of this fencing got between goats and their aim in life, copulating before as many onlookers as possible: ministers, prissy ladies, and small children, in that order. The tiniest of window ledges presented no problem should the company be saintly enough. Goats crashed my six-year-sister’s birthday party, indulging in a lurid love fest on the lawn, giving the kiddies an eye full till we got it broken up. One morning as the school bus driver impatiently honked for us, a huge Billy Goat chased his lady friend onto the hood of the school bus, consummating their relationship then and there, to the joy of the kids on the bus. Thank goodness, that indiscretion was enough to finally put an end to the goat herd.

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!

Goats in Love

imageGoats are always in love. They are also great fence breakers.  This is a bad combination.  I don’t know why Daddy kept goats. In theory, they’d eat brush and he’d have one to barbecue on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or Labor Day.   The fact is, goats are not stupid.  They are born knowing flowers, grass, garden vegetables, and almost Continue reading