Run You Little Devil, Run! I’ll Git You Next Time!

 

My grandfather, Pacaw, was a walking rack of bones,stooped-shoulders diminishing the six foot frame of his youth. A chain-smoker, he was never without a hand-rolled cigarette.  Taking a small cotton drawstring bag from a red flip-top can of Prince Albert Tobacco, he centered loose tobacco onto a cigarette paper,licked the length of one side of the paper, then rolled it.  Once complete, he put the cigarette in his mouth, cupped his hand around it, and lit it with a match while he inhaled.  Though I was fascinated with the process, I always feared he’d suck the fire down his throat. I yearned for those little cloth tobacco bags and tobacco cans but wisely, Mother denied me that prize.  Mother had told me so many stories of him, I watched him intently, always hoping he’d do something fantastic or say something interesting.  Unfortunately, he’d smoked his whole life leaving only the shell of a body and a few embers of personality that sputtered and died before bursting into full flame.

Pacaw ate a few bites of bacon and eggs, then lit up a smoke and visited while the rest of us finished breakfast.  He joined us at the table for other meals, but hardly touched food, smoking as we ate. A few times, he launched into a tale of his youth, the stories I was rabid for.  Unlikely to say much the rest of the day, he spent summer afternoons on the front porch, reading paperback Westerns. Despite the suffocating Texas, heat he was never without his coat and gray felt hat. I was mystified to see him sitting in his straight chair, legs twisted corkscrew style, both feet resting on the floor.

I thought him quite grumpy, since he wasn’t partial to slamming screen doors, or kids racing by him while he tried to read in peace. Mother must have wanted us to know the man she knew, because one hot afternoon, she pulled up a chair and called us to sit with them.

“Daddy, do you feel like telling the kids the story about you and Everitt and the ducks?”  He seemed pleased and set his book face down on the porch.

“I reckon I can.  I was over at my friend Everitt’s house one day. For some reason, his mama didn’t like me much, so I pretty much tried to steer clear a’her. Well, we’d been to the barn to get Everitt’s cane pole and was headed for the creek, when we noticed that Miz Maxey, Everitt’s ma, had let her flock of ducks out. She was real proud a’them ducks. They was a mama duck with ’bout a dozen ducklings just ahead of us. They was just tiny little things, probably was gonna be their first time in the water. Mama Duck went right on in with her brood a’follerin’ her. They swam just like they’d been doing it for years. Just as they was about to get to the other side, one of us (I think it must’ve been Everitt) chunked a piece of wood in the crick. Them and their mama ducked under and come up on the other side. I was on that other side and chunked it back across. They ducked under and come up on the other side again. It was so funny, I guess we’d done it more than we realized ‘fore we noticed not too many ducks was a’coming up. We never thought about we was wearing them little ducks out.  We was standing there worryin’ over what we’d done and didn’t notice Miz Maxey headed our way, mad as hops. She’d seen what we was up to and I took off. Last I knew, she was a’whalin’ Everitt, and yellin’ after me, “Run, you little devil, run! I’ll git you next time!” I felt just awful about them little ducks, but I sure kept my distance from Everitt’s ma for a good long time!”

He was a person with thoughts and feelings just like me after that day.

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Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette

      Daddy smoked Camel Cigarettes when I was a kid.  Men smoked and Real Men smoked Camels, not one of those sissified menthol filtered brands.  Only trashy women smoked.  Mother did have one lady friend who smoked, but Miss Frannie also wore shorts and didn’t go to church.  I thought there had to be some relationship between those three big sins, but loved going to Miss Frannie’s house, so I hoped Mother continued to overlook her failings.  Miss Frannie’s husband hunted with Daddy, so the families’ friendship held fast.

    It was manly to smoke, but like drinking coffee, it was a pleasure delayed till adulthood.  I hated it when Daddy smoked, especially in the car.  We’d all be packed in tight in the backseat and as soon as he backed out, Daddy lit that cigarette.  The smoke burned my eyes and made my throat sore.  It wasn’t so bad in summer with the windows down, but in winter, we were trapped.  Daddy opened his side window vent, so in theory, the smoke didn’t stay in.  The actuality was that we all breathed second-hand smoke the whole trip.

            My smoking experience lasted two puffs.  Daddy told me to toss his cigarette in the toilet, and I took two brief puffs as I walked toward the bathroom. I did enjoy the sizzle as the cigarette hit the water, though. My cousin said he smelled smoke on me and I never tried it again.  Something about putting fire in my mouth never appealed to me.  It held about as much appeal as poking a stick in my eye.

            Daddy started smoking at fourteen or fifteen and often said he wished he’d never started, but never tried to quit.  My brother Billy and a cousin swiped some of Daddy’s cigarettes and gave smoking a whirl.  They hid in a ditch and were smoking away when a neighbor kid came by and ratted them out.  Daddy gave them a lesson in smoking, something that would get him jailed now.  He invited them come sit and smoke with him.  They were in high spirits and joined him happily.  He insisted they inhale so they’d get the full effect.  They were sick long before they’d gotten through that first cigarette, wanting to quit.

He reminded them they’d wanted to smoke and insisted they continue.  In just minutes they were drooling and starting to vomit.  Making them take a few more puffs, they had to endure a lecture on smoking, with a reminder to check back with him next time they wanted a cigarette, he’d be glad to smoke with them.  They both held off for a while, but eventually found their way back to smoking.  Thankfully, my brother quit before long.  My cousin died of tobacco-related disease in his late forties.  Daddy put his cigarettes when he was in his forties.  My mother never smoked a cigarette in her life, but due to living her first thirty-six years with heavy smokers, has a moderate degree of lung disease today.

I hesitated to write this story, but it illustrates well how things were handled in the past.  I’m sure in later life, Daddy would have never done this, but in his thirties, he still had a lot to learn about life, as we all do.

 

A Penny Saved……

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My lovely, kind-hearted niece, pictured above, brought her little rescue dog, Penny,over to meet me.  Penny had been tossed out near a creek by some evil person, apparently in hopes she’d be picked up.  Hannah left her food and water, since Penny was too fearful to be approached, baited a trap with wieners, and caught her.  She was underweight, starving, and sick when Hannah got her to a vet, but is now recovering.  In fact, she is recovering so well, she chased my dog Buzzy out of his food, drank his water, and bossed him around.  I think it was good for him to see how a hungry dog eats.  After Hannah had Penny home a couple of days, she’s dug out under fences, dominated their bigger dogs, and generally taken over.  I think she may have run the place at some old grannie’s house.  She shows all the signs of being the spoiled darling the kids pitched out when Granny died.  I expect to see her drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, listening to gospel music, and playing video poker next time I go to visit Hannah.  Seriously, I don’t know how people who abandon animal can sleep at night.  I guess they don’t know about Karma.

Uncle Albert and Aunt Jewel

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Uncle Albert and Aunt Jewel were dull as mud.  All Uncle Albert ever said was “Don’t mess with that!” or “That’ll fall on you.”  Normally, Aunt Jewell only coughed and told us to go play outside, but some reason I once spent an endless afternoon with her when she made a point to converse with me. I was impressed when she’d told me an acronym for spelling the word contents.  “Coons ought not to eat nuts so soon.”  Then she laughed, saying coons didn’t eat nuts, squirrels did.  The joke was wasted on me, but I was surprised she had the wit to think something was funny.  I’d never heard her laugh before.  Her incessant smoking made her rattly laugh sound like nails scratching on tin,  She also told me that if you hit the bottom when you were falling in a dream, you’d die, as well no matter how long a dream seemed to last, it only took one second to dream it.

I knew Aunt Jewel had split Uncle Albert and his first wife up.  I studied this dumpy, gray -haired, old lady who coughed every breath wondering how he could have possibly have chosen her over anybody else.  She whined, stared off in the distance, and never had anything interesting to say.  Her only vaguely entertaining attribute was that she’d strung Crackerjack prizes together on a leather strip which she sometimes allowed me to play with as long as I sat on the floor in front of her, though she was oblivious to all my hints that I really needed them.

That pretty much wrapped up my relationship with Aunt Jewel, except the time she fell out the back door.  Uncle Albert offered her a cigarette.  She cried saying, ” I want a smoke so bad but I’m too sore to cough.”  That was the first time I’d seen an adult cry.