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.

 

 

 

 

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Miss Laura Mae’s House. Part 11

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I got my biscuit and settled on the back step, singing the alphabet song.

Mother launched right into her conversation before Miss Laura Mae got the coffee poured.
“Laura Mae, I just got the strangest letter from Mama. You remember I told you my brother in the army got married not long ago and his wife was expecting.”

“Sure do. How’s she doing?”

“Well, Mama got a letter from John saying Wanda, that’s his wife, had gone back home to stay with her mama till the baby came. He didn’t say anything at the time, thinking she’d be back. I don’t know if she’d left him, or what, but he hadn’t let Mama and Daddy know. Her daddy was high up in the military on a base up in Nebraska. Anyway, the first thing anybody knew was that he’d gotten a letter from Wanda’s daddy saying she’d had twins, a girl and a boy, and that she and the babies had been crossing a railroad track and hit by a train. He said her daddy said they’d all been buried and to never contact him again. He said he just let it be.

Mama and Daddy, of course, were all upset, and Daddy caught the first bus to New Orleans to see about John. When he got there, John said he was fine and insisted Daddy go straight back home. He said he didn’t have any leave coming and didn’t even want Daddy to spend the night. Daddy came on home, like he asked. My sister, Annie came in that weekend. When she found out what happened, she told them something strange she had kept quiet about since it didn’t seem right. She’d gotten a letter from Wanda announcing their marriage. She wrote and told her and John she was coming over for the weekend. Well, when she got there, John met her at the bus station and told her she couldn’t stay. Wanda had gone off somewhere with her mama and daddy and he had to work. Annie couldn’t imagine what was going on. She went back home and reread her letter from Wanda, and thought it looked like it might be John’s handwriting. Mama went back and pulled out a letter she’d had from Wanda and thought it was possible John had written it, too. They don’t know if the whole thing was made up or what. I don’t know what to think. It all sounds too crazy to be true, doesn’t it? Have you ever heard such a thing? Please don’t repeat what I told you. I haven’t told another soul, but I just thought I’d pop if I couldn’t talk to somebody. I sure don’t want Bill to find out. He already thinks my family’s crazy. He’d never let me forget it.”

“Now, Honey, I hate to hear all that, but don’t be worryin”bout me tellin’ yore business. That whole story doesn’t sound right, but I didn’t git to be this old without learnin’ when to keep my mouth shut. Besides, since I’m the only one you tol’you’d know where it come from, wouldn’t you? Has your brother ever done anything odd before?”

“No, he’s always been steady as a rock. He went in the CCC when he was fifteen, then on his off time he took any job he could get, and always helped Mam and Daddy as much as he could. He finished high school in the Army since our little country school only went to tenth grade. I don’t know what to think. I’m just worried to death about him.”

“Well, I know you are, but folks deals with trouble in all kinds of ways. You’ll just have to let him be.”

“You’re sure right about that. I’ve got three little kids and I couldn’t go see about him if my life depended on it. I do feel bad for Mam and Daddy worrying about him.”

“I know you do, but they’ll have to make their own way, just like he will. Things have a way of workin’ out.”

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/update-to-miss-laura-maes-house-part-11/

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/miss-laura-maes-house-part-12/

Miss Laura Mae’s House Part 2

https://wordpress.com/post/nutsrok.wordpress.com/9332

Be sure to go back and read part 1

houseMiss Laura Mae’s stories always held my interest, though they certainly weren’t intended for my ears.
“The twins come about a month after Floyd left. To tell the truth, I was kind of glad he wasn’t there to get me “that way” again right off the bat like he done before. They was a few weeks early, so I was up all hours of the day and night a’nursing ‘em. Floyd’s mama, Miz Barker was gittin’ kind of childish, so I brung her to come stay so I didn’t have to try to watch her, too. Turns out, she was purty good help, a’rockin’ one of them babies all the time instead o’ tryin’ to run off all the time. Seems like it kind of settled her. She was a sweet ol’ lady.

The garden was a’comin’ in an’ we had plenty to eat without buyin’ much groceries. Miz Barker, Floyd’s mama told me I could git her pressure cooker to do the cannin’ and that shore helped, not havin’ to worry about my beans and tomaters goin’ bad no more. I had got a check or two, so I was able to get a kerosene stove and git rid of that ol’ wood stove. I got Joe Smith to set it up out in the yard so I could do my cannin’ on it. It shore was better not heatin’ the house up.

I had always took in ironin’ at a nickel a piece to help us over times when Floyd was drinkin’. I was real careful to go straight an’ pay on my grocery bill soon as I got paid so Floyd couldn’ git in my ironin’ money. Sometimes that was all that was comin’ in. I got Betty Lou, Myrt, and Glomie started ironin’ as soon as they was tall enough. I tried to let’em keep a quarter a week of the ironin’ money when I could. I’d let ‘em play about an hour after school, then soon as they was through with their homework, put ‘em to ironin’. We’d all listen to the radio while we was ironing long as the batteries lasted. Purty soon, they was savin’ their part of the ironin’ money for batteries.

Things was good till Jody got burnt. He follered Jimmy out to burn to trash and caught his clothes on fire. He was burned bad all over his back, big ol’ blisters everwhere. Doctor Garnett come out to see him and gave me some salve and pain syrup and told me to keep them burns covered. He couldn’t say if Jimmy’d make it or not. It was right in the heat of the summer. Pore little Jimmy suffered so. I had all I could do takin’ care of him and them babies. I don’t know what I’d a done without Miz Barker a’rockin ‘em like she done. With Jimmy so sick, I couldn’t nurse ‘em all the time like I needed to, so I got ‘em on the bottle some to help out. Mr. Jones down at the store let me run my bill up purty high a time or two when I had to keep Carnation Milk without complainin’ a bit. The girls kept right up with the ironin’, never passin’ a word when I couldn’ give ‘em nothing.

My sisters Oly and Ory helped the boys keep the garden goin’ and when it come in, they done most of the cannin’, leavin’ me to take care of Jimmy and the babies. Bessie an’ Joe Smith took to milkin’ the cow in the mornin’ so I didn’t have to get up before daylight after being up so much at night. I don’t know how I’d a’made it if I hadn’ had all that help. In a month or so, Jody was doin’ purty good. By that time, I had them babies purty much on the bottle, and I was able to pick my work back up. I don’t know what I’d a’done without good neighbors, but I was so glad when I could pick my ironin’ and my garden back up and take care of my own young’uns. I was proud for the help, but ever’body needs to make their own way and not be worryin’ other folks.

To be continued

The Mouth of the Beast

 

child-fist-pumpAunt Essie, like all of my aunts, was a wonder of fertility, if not child-rearing acumen.  She raised seven of the meanest boys outside Alcatraz.  Thank God, her reproductive equipment gave out before she managed more.  I thought Mother was exaggerated when she said they’d all end up in jail or dead before they were thirty.  She was wrong.  Only four of the seven did jail time, and of these, one died in a bar fight after he was released at the age of twenty-eight.  Most of rest passed their time boozing it up at Aunt Essie’s house when they weren’t begetting children or needed in jail.  Contrary to Mother’s unjust prediction, all made it past thirty.   The meanest of the lot turned out to be pretty boring.  He opened a very successful auto body shop and became a deacon.

When Aunt Essie’s boys weren’t trying to kill us, they could be entertaining.  Uncle July was an avid hog-hunter.   He was extremely proud of his Catahoula Cur Hog Dog, Catch.  Catch would go berserk with hog lust and “catch” wild hogs by the ear,  hanging on until commanded to turn loose; not a nice dog.  Uncle July kept him penned up, sternly warning us away from the fence.  Catch might rage through the fence, “catching” us by the ear.

Aunt Essie and Uncle July heard “catch” noises from the dog pen and were horrified to realize one of their angelic three-year-old twins was missing.  They rushed out and found Corwin and the monster dog rolling around in the dog pen.  Expecting to retrieve the bloody corpse of his precious child, Uncle July leapt into to the pen to find Corwin latched down on Catch’s ear, blood pouring from the tattered edges.  When asked why he bit the dog, Kelvin replied, “Dog bite me.”  Corwin was fine except for a few drag marks.

Considering his tender age, it seemed premature to categorize Corwin, but he showed all the hallmarks of a psychopath.  Energized and empowered by his encounter with “Catch”, his strange little mind focused on the unfortunate beast, making his life a living hell.  Despite his concerned parents’ warning, he was soon back in the dog pen with Catch cowering in the barrel half-buried in the dirt that passed for a dog house, howling piteously for rescue.  Realizing he was no threat to Corwin, Aunt Essie and Uncle July abandoned him to his misery, knowing Corwin was off their backs as long as poor Catch was crying.  Catch wet himself and ran under the truck next time Uncle July tried to take him out hog hunting. His spirit was broken.  Uncle July swapped him off to an unsuspecting buddy for a pirogue the first chance he got.

Surviving five horrible older brothers made Corwin and his twin Kelvin tough little devils.  Their parents doted on all the boys, seemingly unconcerned about their reputations as hellions.  When people complained about their bullying, their stock reply was, “What did your Johnny do to them?”  They artfully ignored the obvious fact that the damaged kid was three years younger.  Aunt Essie grieved because the twins would be her last babies, so she let them carry their baby bottles till the school put a stop to it.  It was bizarre to see them coming in from playing football with their brothers, pull their bottles out of their back pockets, and fill them for themselves.  They were fluent in profanity from the time they could talk.

As an adult, between stints in jail, Corwin lived in the dugout of the local ballpark.   He’d worn out his welcome with Aunt Essie and his tippling brothers after attempting to burn her house down over their heads.   He was forcibly extricated by the more sober among them, but did live to the ripe old age of forty-one.  After the immediate threat of roasting in her bed passed, Aunt frequently mentioned letting him move back in, feeling he’d learned his lesson in jail, but her other boys had a longer memory and wouldn’t allow it.

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 new-borns 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.

Aunt Mama Ellen and the Twins

imageMy friend Ellen planned to adopt her sister’s newborn due about the same time as her own.  She was her sister’s coach and put the newborn baby girl to her own breast at its birth, taking it home with her the next day.  Her sister, the birth mother went back to college, missing only one day of class. Seven days later Aunt/Mama Ellen was sitting Continue reading

Dozens of Cousins

Neither Corwin nor Kelvin could be rounded up for this  cousin picture.  They had other fish to fry.cousinsAunt Essie, like all of my aunts, was a wonder of fertility, if not child-rearing acumen.  She had seven of the meanest boys outside Alcatraz.  Thank God, her reproductive equipment gave out before she managed more.  I thought Mother was just exaggerating when she said they’d all end up in jail or dead before they were thirty.  She was wrong.  Only four of Continue reading

Swapping Lunches (from Kathleen’s Memoirs of The Great Depression)

velda n melbaI was fascinated with the twins, Velda and Melba Peterson, from a family of eleven kids on a poor farm way down in the low country. Their daddy “drank.” They often came to school beaten and bruised. They carried their lunch in a silver-colored syrup bucket and ate it under a big oak on the Continue reading

John’s Tragedy (Part 2 from Kathleen’s Memoirs) update to follow

Daddy caught the train for New Orleans to see John as soon as we got the letter with his tragic news, not knowing what in what state he’d find John. John was living back in the barracks, explaining he couldn’t afford to keep a place with Wanda gone. He was strangely calm, resigned to the Continue reading