A Hog a Day Part 4

With Billy asleep under the porch, I was bored.  I noticed the toilet sitting down  the trail from the house.  “I need to use the bathroom.”  This needed investigation.  I knew what a toilet was, but had never gotten to investigate one to my satisfaction.  Mother had always rushed me through the process on the few occasions I gotten to use one.

”You’re going to have to wait.  I can’t go with you right now.  I’m in the middle of putting this permanent in,” Mother replied.  That fit in nicely with my plans.

”I can go by myself.  I’m a big girl.  I’ll be careful and not fall in.” I asserted.

”If you do, we’re just going to leave you,” laughed Miss Bessie.  “You’ll be too nasty to save.  She ought to be okay.  My younguns went by themselves all the time.”  I admired her good opinion of me as I sauntered off, though I had to wonder if that was where the lost little girl had gotten off to.

“Okay, but don’t fall in and come right back.” Mother looked a little worried as I left them to their project.

I considered myself a bit of an authority on toilets since we had an abandoned toilet in our chicken yard put there by the previous owners.  Mother had always threatened us away from it, but I had bragged to a couple of Mother’s coffee-drinking friends once, much to her horror.  As long as I could remember, she’d been after Daddy to pull it down, but he never found the time.  Not only that, I’d been lucky enough to visit a couple of toilets when we visited some of Daddy’s backwoodsy friends.

I was completely surprised at the daintiness of Miss Bessie’s toilet.  In contrast to her rustic house, it was a showplace.  The walls were beautifully with remnants of ornate wallpaper.  Though the numerous patterns varied widely, they were all right side up, unlike the magazine pictures and newspapers tacked to the walls of her house.  My favorite print was off little fat men in rainboots and top hats holding umbrellas on the ceiling.  Clearly, Miss Bessie had had control of this operation and was a high-class lady.  Bright floral linoleum graced the floor.  Wonders of wonders, a toilet seat covered the open hole I’d expected to see.  A toilet paper holder held a full roll, instead of the Sears and Roebuck catalog I’d been forward to perusing.  I never felt brave enough to look at women’s underwear unless I was assured of privacy, a rare situation in our busy house.  This expertly decorated toilet far surpassed our poor bathroom at home, a very utilitarian one with the usual drab features.

Naturally, once I’d completed my business, I raised the toilet seat to inspect the quagmire beneath, interested to know whether Miss Bessie had managed any improvements on the usual situation.  She hadn’t. The stench was overwhelming. Fat maggots squirmed in the disgusting mess, just like every other toilet I’d ever seen.  If the little lost girl was in there, the maggots could have her.

“You took long enough,” Mother said when I got back.

“That toilet smells even worse than Miss Bessie’s hair,” I informed the two on the porch.  “I sure am glad I ain’t a maggot!”






Miz Dalrymple and the Hog

pig in slopThe neighbors gathered after the first frost to slaughter the Jackson’s hogs. Terrified by the commotion and scent of blood, one of the pigs managed to escape and hide up under under the neighbor’s outhouse, a good ways off, where Miz Dalrymple was
enjoying a little time to herself, thinking all the menfolk was off killing hogs. Just as she got relaxed, she heard A deep voice, “I’ll git behind here ‘n poke ‘er with a stick. You hit ‘er in th’ head with th’ ax when she comes a’runnin’ out!”

Thinking madmen had ‘er for shore, pore Miz Dalrymple come a’flyin’ out with her drawers around her ankles. It was amazing how fast an ol’ lady could run like that. It took her two days to walk back!

Six of ’em Got Me!

imageDuring World War II, the Army had soldiers doing maneuvers in the woods near Aunt Mary and Uncle Willie’s house in Sibley.  Aunt Mary had been raving about the sex-crazed GIs running wild in the woods thereabouts, probably more to keep her girls in line than anything else.  She wouldn’t even let them go to the toilet or hang clothes on the line by themselves.  They always had to do everything three at a time.  It must have been lovely crowding three girls in a two hole toilet on a hot day.  God knows, one of them couldn’t have stood outside alone and unprotected.

At any rate, due to Aunt Mary’s unrelenting vigilance, her three terrified girls had remained chaste and unmolested by the lusty soldiers.  One hot August afternoon, Aunt Mary broke her own rule and slipped out to the toilet alone for a little personal time.  Just as she settled her generous bottom on the wooden seat, she disturbed some nose-blind red wasps building a home over the stinking quagmire of human refuse below.  The offended wasps couldn’t resist the tempting target she presented and launched a viscious attack on her tender nether portions.

Aunt Mary burst out of the toilet, shrieking in pain and shock, peeing herself while trying to run with her drawers around her ankles.  Bursting through the screen door to the back porch rubbing her wounds, with tears running down her face, she shrieked at her terrified girls, “There were six of ’em.  They got me when I went to the toilet!”

Assuming she’d been accosted by the fearsome soldiers she’d warned against so often, all thee girls ran down the road, screaming for the neighbors to come to their rescue.  Even though poor Aunt Mary was in no condition for company, very soon she had plenty!



Miss Laura Mae’s House. Part 4


Once a month Miss Laura Mae caught a ride to the Piggly Wiggly with Mother so she could cash her check and get more for her money. “That randy ol’goat, Darnell won’t cash my check unless I trade at his store, an’ his ol’weavilly flour is way too high an’ ain’t fitten to eat, no how.” I was tickled when I found out she was going. As Mother and Billy went off to shop, I trailed her through the grocery store where we looked at things Mother never bought. She picked up jars of pickled pig’s feet, sweet pickles, vanilla wafers, tiny, little sausages, and Cheerios, considering them carefully before putting them in her cart. I admired the cute little cans of Del Monte Niblet Corn and Petit Pois Green peas as I turned up my nose at Mother piling her cart high with the ten for a dollar store brand canned goods. I decided then and there I’d only buy the good stuff when I got grown. Miss Laura Mae never failed to slip me and my brother Billy a little paper bag stuffed with B B Bats, Kits, and jawbreakers which we tore into the minute we were settled in the back seat.

Soon Billy was asleep and I was busy with my candy. I think the ladies forgot me as Miss Laura Mae launched into her story.

“That big ol’farmhouse over there reminds me of where we was livin’when Mama died. I was the baby, just turned fifteen. Mama’s diabetes shut her kidneys down an’ she did’n last a week. She just blowed up like a toad frog. Oly was married an’ livin’ way off in Carthage an’ Ory had just married Hugh Pearson. They was a’livin’ with his mama in a shotgun house on the Malley place. Miz Pearson was real hateful to Ory, claimin’ she “trapped” Hugh, even though it was over a year before the baby come. Mia Pearson swore Ory had a miscarriage right after they got married, but I know it was a lie. Ory was a’cryin’ to Mama about starting her monthly the day before she got married, thinkin’ it wouldn’t be decent to hit married like that, but Mama said they was nuthin’ to do but got married since ever’thing was all set. Hugh would just have to wait, so she could’n a been that away when she got married. They ain’t no way Ory could’a took me in.

I went to live with my sister Beulah after Mama died. Beulah was fixin’ to have a baby an’ was havin’ a good bit of female trouble. It seemed like the best thing, at the time. I had been goin’ with Floyd a few months before Mama died. He wanted to got married right off, but I still kind’a had my heart set on Bill Harkins. We’d been goin’ together awhile before, an’ I still thought a lot of him. I was kind’a hopin’ we’d make up. Anyway, about the time Mama died, the doctor put Beulah to bed till the baby come an’she had to have help with them other kids. I thought I caught Beulah’s ol’ man peeking at me through a knothole in the outhouse one day an’ then I was standin’at the stove puttin’on a pot of beans one day
when he sneaked up behind me an’ grabbed a handful of my behind. I popped him with the bean spoon. He claimed he thought I was Beulah, but I knowed it was a lie. Beulah was a’layin’ up in bed a few feet away, big as a house with his youngun. Floyd had been a’wantin’ to hit married anyhow, so I went ahead an’ married. At least I’d have a home.”

To be continued


The Threat of Typhoid Tomatoes

This is a story from my mother’s childhood.
R G Holdaway Family with Johnny Bell early 1930's

Mama kept me close to her side we when were home alone. If she did let me go in the yard on my own, I had to be close enough to come running in an instant when she called. The only exception was a trip to the toilet. Since it wasn’t polite to answer from the toilet, I kept quiet knowing, she’d be watching for me to come out before mounting a search. She always warned me against falling through the hole in the seat, but that was a concern she could have spared herself. I’d have sprouted wings and flown had I felt myself falling into the quagmire beneath that toilet seat!!

A well-worn path led down the hill to the toilet located far enough to cut the odor and avoid contamination of our well. Mama was vigilant about sanitation and shoveled lime into the pit to aid decomposition and screened the open back to foil her chickens who considered the flies and maggots a tempting buffet. Chickens are not known for their discriminating tastes. Any chicken Mama planned to butcher, was penned up and fed a fine diet of grain and table scraps for several days prior to its date with the axe, till Mama was convinced it, “clean.” I now realize my brother didn’t bother with the long walk to the toilet at night, since a healthy crop of tomatoes had volunteered beneath his bedroom window. Mama noted the size and beauty of the crop, but said we couldn’t eat them. “They might not be clean.” They looked as “clean” as the ones from the garden, so John and I slipped off and enjoyed the finest tomatoes of the season, which had apparently benefitted from the trip through his digestive system. When Mama noticed the stripped plants, she whirled around and quizzed me “What happened to those tomatoes? You didn’t eat them did you?” My guilty look gave me away. “You did, didn’t you? Oh, My Lord, you could get typhoid from those nasty tomatoes.”

My heart fell. I knew this had to be serious since Mama said, “Oh, My, Lord!” I had no idea what typhoid was, but I did understand I was about to die.

“John ate most of them. I only ate a couple of little ones but nothing was wrong with them. They tasted real good.”

“Being raised in filth wouldn’t make them taste bad. They could still make you sick.” She went on about her business as I prepared to die.

I worked up my nerve. “Mama, will typhoid kill you?”

“It could, but maybe you won’t get it. I had typhoid when you were a baby and nearly died.” I already had a keen conscience and knew I deserved punishment as I waited anxiously all afternoon for typhoid to strike me down. I attributed everything to typhoid: a ringing in my ears, a rapid heartbeat, feeling hot and thirsty as I played listlessly in the shade that July afternoon. My last day dragged. Mama didn’t say any more about typhoid, but I knew it was only a matter of time. I dreaded going to bed that night since I wouldn’t be waking up tomorrow, but certainly couldn’t confide in Mama, since I’d brought all this on myself. During bedtime prayers, I got cold shivers reciting the line, “and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Knowing tonight would be the night put a whole new light on the situation, especially since I’d disobeyed Mama. It hurt my feelings a little when she tucked me in as matter-of-factly as usual on my last night on earth. I fought sleep, but couldn’t hold it off forever. I bounded out of bed, thrilled to find myself alive and ravenous when I awoke and smelled dry-salt meat frying, biscuits baking, and coffee percolating before daylight the next morning. Typhoid would have to wait for another day!

Monogramed Toilet Seat

My mother often said, “If you have kids, you can’t have anything else.”  Well, she was wrong.  We had a new toilet seat.  After installing it, Daddy looked around, stared us down, and threatened.  “I’d better not see anybody’s initials on this seat!”  Where did that come from?  I’d never heard of anybody putting initials on a toilet seat.

I went about my business, that toilet seat and  initials, foremost on my mind.  I wrote LDS in my “Night Before Christmas” book, LDS in the sand under the big shade tree, scooped up some mud and wrote LDS on the dog house. Still unsatisfied, I heated the ice pick on a stove burner and burned LDS on a green Tupperware tumbler.

Feeling strangely unfulfilled and restless, I couldn’t think of a thing to do.  Billy was off somewhere playing with Froggy.  Mother and the baby were taking a nap, so if I stayed in the house, I had to be quiet.  I slipped in the kitchen to see if there was any Kool Aid miraculously left in the pitcher.  No luck. Dejected, I went to the bathroom.

There it was calling to me, pristine in its unblemished beauty.  The new toilet seat!!!  I sat down, my bare bottom luxuriating in its cool smoothness. I got up, locked the door, and turned the seat up. Making sure no one was looking through the window, I got Mother’s eyebrow pencil out of the medicine cabinet and wrote LDS in tiny letters where no one would ever see it.  Terrified, I erased my crime.  The finish was dull from pencil smears. My heart pounded!  I was caught!  I got tissue and buffed it off.  Thank goodness the shine was back.  Relieved, I sat on the side of the bathtub to catch my breath.  A nail fell out of my pocket and clattered to the bottom of the tub.  Never has the devil so possessed a soul.  Grasping the nail, I scratched BRS, Billy’s initials, on the toilet seat.  Horrified, at the enormity of my crime, I tiptoed past the room where Mother and the baby still slept.  By this time, Billy and Froggy had gotten back.  We were throwing mud balls at each other when I heard a shriek from the house.  “BILLY RAY SWAIN!!  You come here this minute!”  I didn’t need to go in to know what was wrong.  I heard “Spat! Spat! Spat!” and in a few minutes he was out, still snuffling.

“What happened?”

“Mother whooped me for putting my initials on the toilet seat. I told her I didn’t know how to write but she said, ‘Who else would put your initials on the toilet seat?’ “

How long could it be before she found the Tupperware?

Writing on the Toilet Walls (from Kathleen’s Memoirs of the Depression)

When I started first grade at Cuthand School, I took my reader home every night, and with Annie’s help, read several lessons ahead. I’d always longed to read, but by now had another incentive, although a secret one. The inside toilet walls at the school were covered with hundreds of words and sentences, all tantalizing out of my illiterate reach. Continue reading

God, Don’t Let Bessie Die! (1930s Memoir)

Daddy came in to supper, worried to death.  Bessie, our cow had had a calf and had “got down.”  This was a catastrophe. “Getting down” meant certain death for the cow and a disaster for us. “Oh, Lord!  What in the world will we do?  We’ve got to have milk for the kids.  And we’ll lose the calf, too.”  Mama was calm, not panicking, so, I knew this was Continue reading