A Hog a Day Part 7

Mr. Grady Rose traded hogs and raised watermelons, a brilliant plan. During that period, Bossier Parish, Louisiana,  had open range laws.  That meant livestock was free to roam, decreasing the responsibility of the farmer and making driving after dark a challenge.  Motorists were responsible for damages, should they be careless enough to hit one.  Black livestock presented a real challenge at night since they were cloaked in invisibility.  Passengers, as well as the driver, watched for livestock.  The ever present threat of livestock certainly cut down on speeding.  Contrary to what you might expect, accidents were rare.

The point of this story is that Mr. Grady was deeply involved in the hog business, a vocation that required a great deal of work, but little cash outlay.  Since he had captive labor in his four boys, it was an ideal career choice.  The hogs ran wild in the woods, feeding on acorns and other vegetation.   In the spring he baited catch pens in the woods with corn and caught the sows with his mark in their ears when their litter was young.  He cut his mark in the piglets ears, castrated the males, and turned them loose to grow. It was a grave offense to tamper with animals with another man’s mark.  Marks were well-known by other hog farmers in the community, so word was passed on to neighbors what part of the woods a man’s hogs had recently occupied, making it easier to track them.  Of course, one couldn’t expect to harvest all the hogs bearing his mark, but it was a good crop.  No man wanted word to get around that his mark was found on young pigs following a sow with another man’s mark.  Men have been shot for that!

A few months later, the pens were baited again to catch the unneeded sows,  castrated males for slaughter or personal use, or take to market.  Uncastrated adult males, or boars were not good eating, due to their hormone load. Catching the hogs was dangerous business.  Adult males had sharp, curved tusks and fought fiercely, especially when penned up.  They’d also attack in the woods.  Hog hunting was considered fine sport by many.  Once captured, Mr. Rose penned hogs up in pens at his farm to fatten.  That’s where the melons came in.  They were a cheap, abundant crop, easily harvested.  The hungry hogs gorged on the fat melons that burst as they hit the ground.  It looked for all the world like a bloody battle as they squealed, grunted, and gobbled their way aggressively through the heap.  I never got enough of watching.

Mother usually bought melons from peddlers who drove through the neighborhood selling from the back of their truck.  One kid would flag while the others ran around like mad trying to find enough change to purchase a melon which commonly sold for a dollar, but if the peddler came at the end of the day and wanted to unload, we might get two for a dollar.  I never got satisfied on melon and would eat as close into the rind as possible, trying to get every sweet taste.  I was stunned to see Mr. Grady split a fine melon, pass the heart to one of the watching kids, and toss the rest to the hogs. I’d never experienced such luxury.

Miss Laura Mae’s House Part 13

woman on motorcycle

A gigantic red motorcycle claimed a place of prominence front of ol’ lady Duck’s house for a day or two, till it moved over to the long-abandoned shot-gun house next door.  Now I’d had my eye on that shotgun house and its environs since I’d admired many times on the way to Miss Laura Mae’s house.  It had everything to recommend it.  Unpainted, its broken windows, door hanging by one hinge, a huge tree with a ragged tire swing in the front yard, a caved in storm-cellar in the side yard, and several plum trees called to me.  It everything a kid could dream off.  Best of all, there was a ramshackle car up on blocks. 

Mother never let me out of the yard.  Only her eagle eye and short leash had kept me away so far.  Mother constantly warned me of danger.  I could fall out of a tree and break my neck, drown if I played in the creek, burn up if I played in the fire.  So far, I had fallen out of trees many times, played in the creek as often as I could manage, and even been caught playing with matches.  None of these had killed me yet, though playing with matches did result in damage to my bottom when Mother caught me.  My cousins hinted at ghosts and maybe a devil in the ruined storm cellar.  Always concerned about nightmares, Mother had assured me there was no such thing as ghosts, and the devil wasn’t interested in children.  Is it any wonder I was wild to explore, having always yearned to see a ghost or a devil.

The motorcycle in front of the house was a good omen.  Maybe a family with children had moved in.

I chattered about the motorcycle while Miss Laura Mae buttered my biscuit.  I was lucky enough she had already made a batch of mayhaw jelly this morning and she slathered the steaming stuff on my biscuit.  She hadn’t even had time to “jar” it yet.  “I need to tell me if this tastes good.  Don’t burn your tongue.  It’s still hot. ” she told me.  Boy, did it ever.  I closed my eyes as I carefully licked the cooking syrup from the sides of the biscuit.  It was tangy and sweet, almost making my teeth ache.

As happy as I was with my biscuit and jelly, the word motorcycle caught my attention.  “Did you see that motorcycle outside ol’lady Duck’s house?”  Miss Laura Mae asked. 

“I sure did.”  Mother said.  “I figured it must be her boy Rudy’s.”

“Nooooo!  It’s his wife’s.  He got him a mail order bride out o’ one a’them lonely hearts magazines.  She come down from Nebraska with a big ole young’un on back to marry him!”  Miss Laura didn’t bother to whisper.

“Really?”  asked Mother.  “How did you find out?”

“You know Gertha Nelson in my quiltin’ group?  Well, she’s his sister.  She told me.  She said ol’ lady Duck is furious.  She don’t want him marryin’ no motorcycle woman.  But she tol’ her mama, it ain’t like anybody around here is breakin’ down the door to marry Rudy.  Beggars cain’t be choosers.  Anyhow, he moved her an’ her boy into that ol’ shotgun house next door.  He aims to fix it up some.”

“I saw the motorcycle moved over there, and thought I saw some work going on,” Mother said.  “Well, maybe they’ll make a go of it.  Rudy’s always been a loner.”

“Not if his mama’s got anything to do with it.  He’s always lived at home an’ took care of her.  Anyway, listen to this.  That boy’s mama is callin’ that big ol’ boy o’hearn “Little Rudy” after Rudy.  That’s crazy.  You cain’t call a kid “Charley”  all his life, then up an’ change his name to “Little Rudy” after a man you just married.  She thinks it’ll make him and Rudy git along better.” Miss Laura Mae said.

 

About three weeks later, I was lucky enough to get an update.  “Well, the honeymoon’s over down at Rudy’s.  His wife done left in his truck. “ Miss Laura opened the conversation.

“Well, that didn’t last long.”  What happened?”  I was at least as curious as Mother.  Why would anybody take a truck if they had a motorcycle?

“Oh, they done had a big bust up.  Rudy come home one evenin’ with a big load o’watermelons an’ peaches he was gonna peddle the next day.  He had a taste for some ham an’ went out to his smokehouse an’ found one’a his hams whittled almost clean to the bone.  He was mad as hops.  He’d been piecing that ham along, just cuttin’ off a slice fer his breakfast oncet in a while.  When he found it sliced clean down to the bone, he went roaring in the house and lit into ‘em.  Turns out that boy had been workin’ on that ham off an had just about et it up.  Rudy took a whack at the boy with the bone an’ his wife wrestled it away from ‘im and whooped him good.  Her boy jumped in an’ they ‘bout beat Rudy to death.  While Rudy was laying up, her an’ that boy took Rudy’s ol’ truck, peaches, watermelons an’ all.  They even took Rudy’s ol’ huntin’ dog and the last two hams..  Now ain’t that pitiful?”

hambone-dog-bone-individ

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