Saddle Shoes and Pointy Bras

That is me in the despised saddle shoes.  I was too young to hate them, yet.

The first, longest lasting, and most redundant misery my was frizzy, old lady perms.  Mother did this so my sister and I would be social outcasts.  Vastly overestimating our sexual attractiveness, from the time we went into puberty until we got old enough to fight her off, she maliciously inflicted home perms on us.

She bought our underwear at the Dollar Store or the cheapest thrift store or fire sale around, should Grandma lag in keeping us rigged out in home-made torture underwear.  Long after pointy bras were unavailable in normal circulation, Mother managed to ferret out pointy padded bras in the cheapest stores known to mankind, never mind the fact that the stiff cups caved in if they were bumped.  I’d have loved some not-too badly-worn cast-offs from the lucky, poor kids down the street, but they laughed when they caught me going through their trash. I tried to hide when changing in gym to keep anyone from seeing my Grandma’s home-made drawers.  They were made without benefit of elastic in the waist and tended to lengthen your legs by several inches as the day went on.  Grandma didn’t worry a lot about soft, cotton fabric.  Coarse, woven prints were good for the soul.


I was stuck in saddle-shoes for years because they were durable and Mother had loved them in high school.  Never-mind the fact that no other kid would have been caught dead in saddle shoes.  Best of all, I was a total slob, not the kind of kid who would ever voluntarily polish a shoe.  Most of the time, I didn’t even remember I had shoes till the school bus driver was honking the horn outside our door and I was simultaneously looking for my books, trying to get a note signed (bad news) and looking for lost shoes.  My shoes were inevitably, wet, filthy, and most likely stinking from ripping through the barnyard.  Not a good look for black and white shoes.  A more forward-thinking mother would have dressed me every day in a slicker and rain boots, so she could have hosed me off.

I

5 Ways to Make Sure Your Child and His Puppy Have a Satisfying Morning (reposted)

  1. Let your kid eat in front of the TV.
  2.  Forget to put Vaseline on the doorknob so kid can open door.
  3.  Make sure your kid has a puppy.
  4.  Make sure your kid’s stomach and puppy’s digestive tract are both full.
  5.  Go to bathroom for a little quality time.
                                             John and Buster on a Better Day
John and Blackie

We’ve all seen articles by organized people enumerating methods to keep out lives well-organized, tidy, and rational.  Well, this is not one of those.  I’d be far more successful at writing “How to Mess Up Everything You Touch.”  My kids were always right ahead of me, making sure nothing was missed.  When John was three, I settled him on the floor on a big towel in front of the television with his breakfast on a tray to watch “Sesame Street.  Never a slacker in the appetite department, he always wanted milk, eggs, bacon, toast, and grits.  I always watched with him, ready to pick up his tray and cuddle him in his blanket after he finished eating. This worked well for months.

One sad day, I had to excuse myself for just a minute.  Naturally, I told John to sit tight till I got back.  Everything would have been fine, except the Buster the Dog wanted in.  No three-year-old could have resisted.  Buster surely thought he’d gone to Doggy Heaven when he found breakfast waiting for him, set right at puppy level.  Making quick work of my tidy layout, he spilled the milk, gobbled the eggs and bacon, and smeared the grits as far as they’d go.  In fact, it was so altogether satisfying and filling, he pooped his gratitude out on the carpet.  Sickened by the smell, John vomited on top of the whole mess. By the time I’d finished my business and got back to the living room, John was bawling at the top of his lungs and Buster was happily burrowed into the sofa, licking the jam off the toast.

I scraped up the worst of the mess and fixed John another breakfast, not because I thought he deserved it, but because it was the only way to assuage his loud and continuous grief.  Buster went back to the yard and I spent the next couple of hours catching up on some unplanned cleaning.

As a footnote, I noticed fruit flies buzzing around John’s toy box later that morning.  Digging deep, I found a rotten banana right at the bottom, but that’s a story for another day.  Just so you know, later that week I pulled a peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of the VCR.

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!

Poor Hungry Kool-Aid Kids

Kool

Mary was the child-bride (victim) of an old-goat in his seventies.  God only knows what kind of situation he’d rescued her from, since she clearly adored him.  When I first met them on a ramble with Daddy when I was about ten years old, they lived with their two babies on a creek bank an old school bus that had been converted into a trailer for hunters.  Two full bunks ran across one end.  Twin army cots were stacked along both sides.  A stove, powered by propane sat near the front door.  The family’s few belongings were stored in boxes under the beds.  Though I was only a kid, I could see that Mary was just a teenager.  Mother later told me she was only eighteen.  She was hugely pregnant.  I was enchanted with their trailer, thinking how nice it would be if our family lived such an adventure.

Not long afterward, the neighborhood learned of the family’s dilemma, helping them into a small rental house not far from us.  My youngest sister Marilyn was an infant at the time with rampant milk allergies.  In consultation with her doctors, Mother had tried many formulas.  Finally, in desperation, she and the doctor settled on a frequent feeding regimen, supplemented by feeding her warm Jell-O in her bottle, so she would still have the experience of sucking.  Finally, she thrived.  Young Mary, struggling with two babies under two and newborn twins and a husband averse to working, was struggling find milk for her babies.  All four of her children cried all the time.  The neighbors brought food in, but the newborns just looked pitiful.  She was visiting one morning and told Mother she had put her babies on Kool-Aid, like Mother had, thinking it would help, but it looked like the babies were starving.  Mother was shocked and explained that she was giving her baby Jell-O, not Kool-Aid, and supplementing with frequent feedings.

The church provided many cases of canned milk, as well as other food.  All the children did much better.  Social Services was notified. Mary got some help, though she did have four more children over the years before we lost touch with them.

We did eventually end up with that classy camper, but that’s a story for another day.

Uncle Albutt Part 5

Quite often, our family and friends would gather for a late evening meal.  While the kids ran wild in the dusk and on into the darkness, the women prepared a filling meal of beef stew or chili and cornbread.  It would be near bedtime by the time they called us in, hysterical  with chasing each other in and out of the darkness.  Of course we’d been warned against running in the dark, but staying in range of the lights was for sissies.  I’d be in a delicious frenzy of terror till I stepped back into the light, where all horrors vanished.   They would be so many kids we’d be settled on the floor with our supper in a pie or cake pan.  This was before budgets stretched to include paper plates.  It was an honor to sit on the floor with the big kids.  Babies and toddlers sat at the tables where their mamas could keep a grip on them.  Two or three dinners were always dumped on the floor and there was squalling a’plenty as mamas cleaned up the mess and resettled the messy kids.  The kids finished in short order and tore back outdoors while the adults took their turn at the

After the meal, it wasn’t unusual for the men to load up their guns, flashlights, thermoses of coffee, and the dogs for a night of hunting, leaving the women and children to visit.  Mamas gave their kids a cursory wipedown with a washcloth before bed, since it wouldn’t have been possible to bathe that many children and settled them on pallets on the floor, sometimes as many as six to the bed.  Mamas rocked the knee babies and lap babies to sleep before putting them on a bed flanked by pillows once the settling down started, the women started their stories.  I loved these nights, especially if Mawmaw was there.  She believed in ghosts and could make our blood run cold.  Mother worried about nightmares, but lacked the courage to shush her mother-in-law, for which I was grateful.  I NEEDED those stories. Mawmaw thrilled us with tales of babies buried alive, girls who died of broken hearts when their dead sweethearts appeared to them, and big black ghost dog, and ball lightning rolling through the house. The kids didn’t dare move off the pallet, they were so terrified. Fatigued by their play, finally they drifted off to sleep, one by one.

As the women talked, they thought they heard an intruder trying to get in the front door. Someone else scurried to check the back door, unsure if it was locked.  .  Had there been an intruder, he’d have had a horrible shock breaking in on half a dozen  terrified women and a gaggle of children.  Meanwhile Mother hurried to the door.  Thinking she’d scare him away with a bluff, she called out.  “I’ve got a gun.  I’m gonna shoot through the door!”

Aunt Jewel stood right behind her.  Obviously terrified, she shouted out.  “Well, don’t just stand there!  Go git your gun.  You ain’t got no gun!”  Fortunately, there was no intruder, or he thought he’d better not break in, since nothing happened.

 

A Hog a Day Part 11


One of Daddy’s coworkers also indulged in the hunt. I loved hearing the stories they told.
Slim was a God-gifted liar, so well-known for his lying, that anyone who repeated one of his tales had to buy coffee for the group. One day, Slim came rushing by several of the fellows standing around at work and one of them called out, “Slim, stop and tell us a lie.”
“I ain’t got time.” He called over his shoulder. “Martin Bishop just fell in Smokestack 19 and I’m on the way to call an ambulance.” He rushed on as the other men took off in the opposite direction to check out the accident at Smokestack 19. They were breathless upon getting there and found Martin hard at work, totally unaware that he’d just been tragically killed. I guess they all had to buy their own coffee.
Slim and his wife, Ida Ruth, had a large family. Like many men of the time, his work was done once he left the job. One blazing August afternoon he came home to find a workman, a man of his acquaintance, digging a ditch that ran along the right of way in front of his place. The man was stripped down to his undershirt in the sweltering heat with sweat pouring off him. Slim stopped to talk and sent one of the kids for a glass of ice water. “Man, it’s too hot for you to be shoveling in this heat. Git on out of that ditch and let Ida Ruth finish it!” I don’t guess Ida Ruth heard about it, because there was no murder.
Mike Parsons had been raised in Arkansas and considered himself an authority on all things Arkansas. No one could mention Arkansas without getting an earful of his knowledge, experience, or connections. He must have had a hundred sisters, since he had a brother-in-law in every town. It was getting a little tiresome and Ray Marshall decided to set him up. “I’m going to come in to work tomorrow telling a wild tale about a town in Arkansas I made up. Y’all follow along and see what ol’ Mike has to say.”
The next morning at work when they stopped for coffee, Ray started his story, “Any of y’all ever heard of a little town up in the Arkansas called Catscratch? I was driving through there one time and………”
Mike Parsons jumped in. “Sure, I been there several times. My sister married an old boy from there. He raises them big pink tomaters just outside Catscratch. They got a real nice little place.”

A Hog a Day Part 5

“Hurry up and get your shoes on.  We’re going to Mr. Grady’s house.  You can play with his grandkids.”  Daddy called behind him as he headed for the truck. “I ain’t waiting for you!”

I was near frantic as I tore through the house looking for the shoes I’d kicked off the last time I’d been made to wear them.  Shoes were for school and going places.  I’d never have worn them voluntarily.  “I gotta find my shoes so I can go with Daddy.  He ain’t waiting!”

Mother didn’t show proper concern.  “You’re supposed to put them under your bed.  Did you look there?”

I don’t know why she said stuff like that.  I never put things away!  This time, I was saved.  They were tucked neatly under my bed where Mother had put them when she swept. “I found ‘em.  Bye!”

”Don’t kick ‘em off and leave them somewhere.  That’s your only pair.  Are you listening?”

”I won’t!  Bye!”  Daddy was waiting in the truck with the engine running with Billy next to him.  “I thought maybe I was gonna have to leave you.”

Mr. Grady and two identical-looking boys greeted us at the gate.  “This here is my grandboys, Big Boy and Little Boy.  Now, all you younguns go play while  we go git a cup of coffee.  Boys, I’ll skin you alive if I catch you chasing the calf again.”  The four of us took off.  I liked these kids, already.

“You want to see the armadillos?”  one of them inquired.

”Okay.”  I’d seen plenty of armadillos, mostly flat on the roadside, but never had the opportunity to get to know one personally.  We trooped to a fenced in area back of the house where a herd of armadillos of all sizes rushed us.

”They think we  gonna feed ‘em, “ one of the boys explained. “Pap’s always got a mess of armadillos shut up back here.  We gonna fool ‘em today, though.  We gonna eat one for dinner today.  Want to help us catch one.”

The race was on.  We chased those fast little rascals all over that pen but never caught one.  Eventually, we gave it up for wheelbarrow rides.  Two kids pushed the barrow while the rider claimed the privilege of riding till dumped over.  I could have done that all day. Eventually, Daddy concluded his visit and we headed home.  I was very disappointed to miss the armadillo dinner, but Daddy said we had to be moving on.  Though I spent hours with them, I never did learn which was Big Boy or Little Boy.

When we got home, the first words out of Mother’s mouth were, “Where are your shoes?  You’ve got to go to Bible School tomorrow.”

I wore sixty-nine cent flip flops for the rest of the summer.

 

 

 

 

Maggotty Mayhem

 



My sister’s new, new camper came with all the niceties: great queen-size bed, comfortable furnishings, plush carpeting, lots of storage, and nice appliances. After her last trip out, she unpacked her clothes, and after ensuring the camper was hooked to power, left her freezer stocked for the next trip. She’d need all those things next time for sure.

imageAs she packed for this trip and opened the freezer to put in some more goodies, she discovered the tragic aftermath of a power outage leaving her with the putrid remains of her previously frozen food mounded up with writhing maggots. The frisky, fat maggots seized the opportunity to leap for freedom all down the front of her shirt, leaving her awash in foul juices and previous generations of incarcerated maggots.  When her son called in the middle of the fiasco, he was appalled to learn such valuable fishing bait had been Continue reading

A Hog a Day

Photo from Library of Congress. Notice images of mother and child, fashionable young woman and Santa Claus, and other papers papers on wall.

“I had to kill a hog a day to feed them boys of mine.”  I was impressed.  Mr. Rose’s boys were grown and  gone, but I couldn’t get that image out of my mine as I looked around at the house the old man  shared with Miss Bessie.  Kids have the luxury of not having the responsibility of conversation, so I could enjoy the whole experience of listening, hospitality, and looking at everything as much as I liked, as long as I didn’t touch anything.  Believe me, I was not tempted to touch with both my parents vigilantly looking on.  The room was fascinating, but I did wish I could see those boys who could eat a hog a day.

No rug covered the white pine floor. Old newspapers and magazine pages were tacked  on the exterior walls of the room with no regard for their orientation served as wallpaper.  The loveliest was a beautiful young woman with blonde curls piled high on her head.  She wore a blue gingham dress with ruffled sleeves and carried an equally beautiful ham on a large platter.  That gorgeous ham was crisscrossed with slashes and garnished with pineapple slices, maraschino cherries, and cloves.  I practically salivated at its loveliness.  Its charm was enhanced by the fact that the image had been tacked upside down.  Somehow, seeing it upside down made it more memorable.  Though I have tried many times, I have never prepared a ham so lovely.

A large fireplace made of red iron ore rock centered one end of the sitting room.  The brick hearth extended out a few feet into the the  room.  Miss Bessie invited me and my brother to sit on the hearth and warm up.  I sat flat at a safe distance from the glowing embers.  Its waxy-looking orange and yellow coals looked alive.  I couldn’t look away from the story they seemed to be whispering to me.  Though the conversation was fascinating, both me and my brother eventually nodded stretched out on the heat-soaked hearth before the glowing fire in the way only a small child could.  I know now, Mother had to have had her eye on me to keep me safe from the fire.

Before dozing off, I heard Mr. Rose tell of the night the house almost caught fire.  He must have thought I was asleep or he’d never have told of being naked, a thrilling tidbit..  “It was way over in January, the coldest night of the year.  I banked the fire real good like I always do.  We was in bed soon as Bessie got the kitchen cleaned up, right after dark.  Seems like the cold went right through me.  I just couldn’t wait to git under them quilts.  I always slept naked, I don’t know why.  I just got the habit early and never changed it.  Anyway, I was dead asleep and Bessie woke me up.

‘Grady, git up!  I smell smoke.  The house is on fire!’

“I jumped out of that bed!  Sure enough, I smelled pine burning.  I seen where a spark had done dropped down where some mortar had fell down n the back of the firebox between a hole in the bricks.  I clumb  under the house and found where it had set the pine sleeper that run under the floor on fire.  They warn’t no flames yet, but it was getting ready to bust out.  I called Bessie to bring me a bucket of water.  She come flying up and instead of passing it to me, she doused me with that bucket of water.  I mean to tell you I put that fire out!”