Thursday, September 09, 2004

Mama Will Never Know

Some of life’s most important lessons come from curious circumstances it seems. We grow up expecting our parents to lead us along the way, holding our hands and doling out the typical warnings and adages as we venture throughout the perils of childhood. Those we seem to acknowledge and accept as the gospel truth until we reach an age where we can formulate our own opinions and make the correct choices when differentiating right from wrong. But, once in a long while, a situation comes along that nothing in a child’s experience will cover, no words of parental wisdom or cautionary advice ever voiced could have forewarned of the consequences about to occur to a poor unsuspecting child.

Living as a child in a rural area had many negative aspects in a lot of ways, the distance to town being one of several. ( Another was telephone party lines - but that’s a different tale altogether).Even if families could have afforded a second vehicle, many women of an older generation just never learned how to drive. This being so, during the daylight hours while most husbands worked a public job, these women were tied to home, with no way to go shopping or anything else. In order to survive this obstacle, neighbor women borrowed from another neighbor women, everything from flour and sugar to help get dinner on the table to different types of non-prescription medicines that were needed by their families. My family was no different. My Mom and the old lady across and down the road a bit often utilized borrowing as a way to make it through the day. A fact that I lived to regret…

I was about ten, and the eldest sister at home, Vicki being off some where on an overnight with a cousin (not real sure where…but we only got to stay with relatives in those days). The older lady down the road had sent her tiny grandson with a note bearing a request for my Mama to allow her to borrow………..something. Sure enough, my Mama had the required article - medicine (I know this because she went to the closet in the kitchen and dug behind the curtain where she kept ALL the stuff we weren’t supposed to mess with or even know about!) My downfall began when Mama came to the conclusion that the little boy wasn’t competent or trustworthy enough to deliver the goods to his Grandmother. Unfortunately, being the oldest daughter at home, I was recruited to venture down the dusty gravel road, dragging my next younger sister behind me. I should have just stayed at home.

As I think back, being the lofty age of ten seemed to have given a gal thoughts of her own superiority over those of a lesser age. A feeling of grandeur if you will. As the two ‘youngsters’ sped along several feet in front of me, I recall ambling along at a sedate pace, my bare feet kicking up little puffs of dust with every step, and the sun beaming it’s golden rays on my bare arms and legs. Soon they were several yards in front of me, nearly to the driveway of the other house, but still in view. And, I must admit it here, my curiosity was aroused by the tiny blue and white box clutched tightly in my sweaty palm. What could so small a box contain that was so important that a little boy couldn’t possibly make it just a short walk down the road with it intact? I had to know, so I peeled open that pretty little box and there inside was something wrapped in tin foil. I peeped back over my shoulder to see if Mama was watching - no - I was safe, the barn blocked the view of our house. If I couldn’t see her, she certainly couldn’t see me. The kids had ventured into the driveway of the neighbor’s place, and again, I was blocked from sight, this time by tall weeds growing along the narrow ditch at the edge of the road. Now, I could open that shiny tin foil package and discover what was such a deep, dark secret. Much to my surprise - IT WAS CHOCOLATE!! My Mama was hoarding chocolate!

My Mama was a true southern lady, fairness was her motto - she preached it at us all our lives. How dare she hide this beautiful chocolate from her five darling daughters? As I began to examine my booty, I realized the squares were teeny tiny and a few were missing. There were only four of the blocks of candy left. Someone had been into this luscious dark chocolate candy. And we didn’t get any! I gave Mama the benefit of the doubt when I saw how few remained of this treasure, only four, and with five starving children--- well --- my first thought was that she was being fair-minded when she decided that none of us getting a treat was better than one being left out of the goodies. But wait, that meant that at some point, her or Daddy has snuck a bite when we weren’t looking! That was even worse. How unfair life seems when you are a child….

A golden opportunity was presenting itself to me - a chocoholic from birth - this was most definitely NOT the best time to taunt a candy deprived little girl! We got weekly installments of sweets from the country store a few miles away most every weekend, but Mama was pretty strict about rationing it out to us. So here I was, chocolate malnourished---and with that sweet looking candy sitting right smack in the middle of my perspiring little hand. Only four small squares, not a lot, but in my adolescent mind I reasoned that the borrower didn’t know how much the lender was
sending….so if I ate one or two…who would be the wiser? There would surely be less in the box when it was returned that what there was when mama sent it. Logical…right?

I stopped walking and stood dead still in the middle of that narrow country road, out of sight of both my destination and home. Should I? Who would know? Would I be sent straight to Hell for just one teeny taste of chocolate? I couldn’t resist the temptation of that little box. I had to have a bite! I just had to! I carefully pulled out the flap stuck into the end of the box, being very careful not to make any tears on the edges. As I eased the small foil wrapped package from the box, I was hopeful that no one could tell that it had been tampered with. Peeling the tin foil gently away from the treat, I delicately broke off a small section to taste. Realizing how truly tiny the piece of candy was, I decided that two was more generous, after all it was late afternoon and I was hungry. It also evened the remaining sections out. I popped that wonderful smelling candy into my mouth, expecting the sweet gooey rush of chocolate heaven to flood onto my tongue and fill my mouth with a fantastic sensation. What was this? It was bitter! No heady rush of sensual pleasure! No taste buds tingling with the burst of sugar straight into my system! I had been conned! What kind of chocolate looked like a child’s version of heaven and tasted like dirt?

I was trapped with that nasty fake chocolate melting into a viscous ball of foul tasting gunk inside my mouth. And I couldn’t spit it out! If my little sister saw on the ground on the it on the way home, she would surely tell Mama and I would be busted. I had to make myself swallow it, no matter what! Finally I forced it down my throat, gagging and nearly heaving with every swallow. My teeth felt like they were coated with mud and the top of my tongue was so gritty and disgusting I could hardly bear it. I had to have water and soon! So I did what any red-blooded American kid would do - I meticulously re-wrapped the tin foil around the remaining blocks of chocolate and painstakingly replaced it inside the tiny blue and white box and closed the flap. Then I slapped on my “WHO ME?” innocent face and hurried on my way.

As I got to the neighbor’s driveway, my throat was so dry I could hardly croak. Added to that, the neighbor lady met me on the porch waiting for the ‘medicine’ and talking a mile a minute. I was going to choke to death any second now! Being raised to be polite to my elders was a curse that day--near impossible to carry on a conversation interspersed with “Yes, Ma‘am” and “No Ma‘am” while trying to keep your lips closed (chocolate has a way of clinging to the teeth and I wanted no evidence available to use against me). Finally I asked for a drink of water, anxious to be on my way home. I was saved….. A full glass of frigidly cold, clear and sparkling well water, straight from the dipper resting in the metal bucket in the cool kitchen of her home! Hurrying my sister to the door, we set out for home and safety. I was in the clear for sure. Mama would never know of my misdeed and all was good in my little world.

By the time we walked into the yard at home, Daddy was due in from work. Mama was setting supper on the dining room table as we went into the house and we and the others washed our hands and prepared to eat. As Mama ladled food onto our plates and poured our glass of milk, I sat in my allotted chair and readied myself for a feast. UMMMM! Homemade stew and cornbread, my favorite meal. As I sat there waiting for my bowl to cool, I felt a rumble deep in my belly, an ominous sign to be sure. The steam from the food and the aroma that only seconds before were so appetizing were beginning to make my forehead break out into a sweat and I began to get a salty taste deep in my throat. I was going to be sick!

I dashed from the table out the back door and bolted for the outhouse just seconds short of disgracing myself. As I rounded the corner of the shed at a run I began to pray to every God I had ever heard mention of and a few more besides. I had to make it! Finally I flung open the heavy outhouse door all the while trying to wrench my shorts down below my hips. Can you imagine running with your legs crossed at the thigh, your butt cheeks clenched so tight that your is face screwed into a grotesque grimace of severe pain and all the while trying to prevent the noxious bile that is crawling up the inside of your throat from leaping out of your mouth like a river spewing from a busted dam.I was about to die and I knew it…

Redemption came as my fanny hit the toilet seat, and not a second too soon either, for as soon as I got seated, foul smelling liquid became to erupt in torrents from my backside. The stagnant afternoon air inside that small outhouse was already rancid with the stench of…..the numerous daily deposits made by my family. All I seemed to be doing was stirring that smell to even nastier realms! I sat there for what seemed like hours, disgusted tears pouring down my hot, flushed cheeks and other less mentionable body fluids shooting from a lower portion of my anatomy. When the rumbling finally slowed to a muted growl in my belly, I cleaned myself up, got dressed and wiped my nose. Mama would surely know what I had done. Time to face the music….

Returning to the house and the others still sitting at the supper table was probably the hardest thing I had ever done. Usually my sister Vicki was my culprit in crime and shared half the blame for our frequent scrapes with the wild side of life, but this time, I was on my own. I told Mama I was sick and wasn’t hungry. I was sent to bed with a cool fan blowing on me and a damp cool rag on my forehead. If doing without a meal that I couldn’t have eaten anyway was all the punishment I was going to receive I counted myself a very lucky little girl. I was so sick all night that I had to resort to many more mad sprints to the outhouse. I think I paid heavily for my sins in a lot of ways, even though Mama never discovered what I had done.

I did learn several valuable lessons from this escapade, though. They have stayed with me all my life. Not everything that looks like candy is necessarily candy. Another is that if your parent thinks you are at an age to be responsible and discriminating - then be that! The last one I know as a definite fact, and should be stressed to the fullest - NEVER! I repeat NEVER eat a candy called Ex-Lax!

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Redneck Rodeo - Alabama Style

Life in the country during the summer season had it's drawbacks growing up as we did in rural Alabama, always hot and humid and usually dry when the heat of the warmest months of the year drove us out of doors in search of whatever stray breeze might choose to float across our sweaty skin. With no air conditioning and only a large electric fan and propped-open windows to cool the house, we tended to escape late every afternoon to the shaded yard behind our home. While we were usually engaged in our own homemade version of fun and entertainment, at least half of our time and energy was spent trying to avoid conflict with out parents views of what was appropriate behavior for their five hellion daughters. Daddy was, as usual upon returning home from a long day at work, messing around with some of the various farm animals we kept in the pasture. Mama was in the kitchen, as she was every day, whipping up a delicious dinner and preparing to call us all to the table to eat. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a typical late summer afternoon, with dusk painting an early twilight sunset in muted pastel shades over the western sky and my family enjoying the last of the daylight that God had blessed us with that day.

Our backyard adjoined the barn lot and pasture, with access to either gained through either a walk-in wooden entry or a large wire spanned metal gate
which allowed a vehicle to be driven inside the fence. That day, Daddy and two of the neighborhood's mostly-grown boys were attempting to ride a Pinto (black and white spotted) Shetland Pony named Comanche, much to the pony's alarm and aggravation. This pony was wildly unpredictable and skittish to the touch, he also seemed to have come to the decision that he didn't want to be a beast of burden that hot afternoon. Take one bad-tempered and undomesticated pony and two determined nearly adult males and mix them - and without fail uproarious hilarity is bound to ensue. Unfortunately that isn't all that occurred during the battle between two semi-mature-men and one single minded, obstinate beast.

These two neighbors were men nearly grown, in their late teens, all arms and legs and nearly six feet of pure testosterone and sheer brass and bravado.
They were country boys, swaggering and arrogant, their Southern accent, clean cut good looks and skin-tight Wranglers lead numerous little cowgirl groupies to cast adoring and languishing looks in their direction. And their cowboy hats and boots didn't hurt their image any either. Fortunately for us, we were too young to be intrigued by their manly charms, else we'd have toted a butt whipping from Daddy! Wyman and Clyde were good ole boys, always on the lookout for a challenge and both possessed nerves of steel. Neither would ever allow the word "Failure" to enter their vocabulary. They thought they were real 'Cowboys' and set out to improve their rodeo expertise by making use of a cantankerous and willful old Billy Goat as a practice dummy, hopefully to enhance their masculine techniques. They would hop on the back of that old goat and take evil pleasure in his never-ending effort to dislodge them. Poor old Billy also got used for roping practice, which was unfair since he was pinned up in a small lot with no chance at freedom. Looking back, it is a wonder that goat didn't die from embarrassment. So cocky were these guys, they believed that the animal hadn't been born that could outfox or get the upper hand with either of them. Unfortunately they hadn't met Comanche. That little pony took both for a ride that neither will ever forget. And in the process, gave us girls and Daddy, innocent spectators that we were, their version of an accidental bona fide redneck rodeo.

When a horse, or pony as it was in this case, doesn't want to be ridden, they have obvious ways of letting the prospective rider know. And Comanche was no different in that, he let his disinterest be known up front, for all the good it did him. Catching him was difficult at best, and that day was no different. After much chasing and swearing (the guys, not the horse), he was finally cornered long enough to get a bridle on him. A saddle was too much to expect, getting the animal to hold still long enough to accomplish a flying leap up on his back a near impossibility, bareback was the only way to go. These boys were determined in their decision to ride him, and he was equally as unwavering that they wouldn't. It soon became a battle of wills, man against pony, a case of the winner being the one who was more tenacious and was belligerent enough to hold out the longest. But poor old Comanche
hadn't taken into account the extremely long and accommodating legs of thesetwo cowboys. And their determination to be atop that horse's back and in full command of both horse and the situation before the fall of darkness.

Being raised around all manner of animals, we knew that when one was kicking up a ruckus for whatever reason that our best option was to clear out of it's vicinity. And this was one time Daddy didn't have to tell us twice to back up from the fence and to keep quiet. While one Cowboy held the bridle tightly, the other jumped on, tightened his knees close to the horse's sides and nodded his head to let go.
Comanche was furious at the unwanted rider upon his back. He took off flying across the pasture, kicking his back heels high in the air while trying to unseat the cowboy from astride his back. He ran all over the lot, mane and tail blowing in the breeze created by his actions. And the cowboy, holding on for dear life and attempting to wrap that fat little belly with his long legs, while searching for purchase with his boots in Comanche's coarse hair. As the horse ran in a complete circle of the large lot, those same long and skinny legs that helped the boys stay on would pop loose and flop up and down with the motion of the horses galloping stride. One elbow were stuck out at their side, locked into a bent position to try to maintain their balance atop that uncontrollably unnerved horse. The other was up in the air like a bull rider waiting for the eight second bell. It looked like an octopus was on that horse's back and he was doing everything in his power to dump it onto the ground!What began as a simple session of teaching an old horse new tricks soon became a comedy of errors and an accident looking for a place to happen. And happen it did.

Before long, the horse was tiring and had slowed to a walk. They rode him to where Daddy was waiting with a lead rope, full of laughter at their antics,making wise-crack remarks at their expense. As they pulled Comanche to a stop in front of the wide gate Daddy snapped a long lead rein to his bridle so that they could have keep a bit of control and still have some distance between them and the angry animal. Unfortunately, as my Daddy was standing there amused, right beside him Comanche decided to bolt, back feet furiously flying outwards and yanking with all his might on the rein for freedom. When Daddy stepped back to get out of the range of those flying hoofs, he stepped into the discarded rear tractor tire that had been placed there as a hay ring (when hay is fed to animals from bales, it needs to be contained inside a boundary of some type, otherwise they will strew the hay and walk it into the ground and wasting a goodly portion of it). When Daddy stepped back, his leg went into a large jagged hole in the sidewall, wrenching and breaking
the bones in the bottom of his shin above his ankle. The once comical rodeo was over and pandemonium had set in.

The backward momentum of Daddy's steps carried him all the way to the ground. He fell with a twisting, spiraling action, almost in slow motion, a resounding crack ringing in the air. It was the loudest pop any of us had ever heard, Mama even heard it in the house and thought one of us girls had broken the big stick we had been warned about earlier for waving around and frightening the already nervous pony. When Daddy fell, the rein was dropped and the pony, at last free to escape the clutches of the humans who seemed determined to subjugate him, was released. The last we saw of him was his a blur of black and white, his coarse tail and mane waving like a flag after him as he took off at a fast run for the rear pastures, the leading rein dragging across the stubbly grass behind him. There Daddy lay, a tangle of legs and arms upon the grass, blood soaking through his pants at the juncture of the tire and his shin. His foot was still in the hole in the side of the tire and the usually straight line of his leg was bent at a grotesque angle, in a direction no human bone should ever be forced to maneuver. He looked up at them and quietly told Wyman and Clyde "My leg is broke". And those two dauntless bastions of manly fortitude began to panic, frantic to help and ignorant as to what to do next. How to release his busted leg from the hole it was trapped in without causing more pain or damage? Daddy calmly told them to grab him under his arms and stand him upright. And he told us girls to go to the house and get Mama. As they brought Daddy to his feet, his already pale face drained totally of color and beads of perspiration broke out across his forehead. He looked like he was going to pass out any second as he told them to maneuver his ankle out of the hole while holding him erect. When his foot was free, they placed it on the ground in line with his other foot. But one foot looked like it was heading south and the other north! His foot was facing the wrong direction! They set him down on the side of the tire, where he sat while Mama hurried to get the truck. While they waited, Daddy lifted his pants leg to see what damage had been done, and there is was.....bone, stark, colorless bone, jagged and pointed, sticking through a horrific puncture torn into what once was normal leg. The white of the bone looked demon-like, monstrous and
grizzly against the deep red blood which oozed from the hole forced into the skin and muscle, soaking into his pants leg and sock and running down his leg. Once the truck was brought as near as possible, they lifted Daddy to his feet and began to help him across the yard to the open truck door. As they held him up, he hopped one footed and the foot began to spin like a gruesome top, limp as a noodle and forced into movement with the motion of his actions.It was probably one of the most dreadful but totally enthralling things I have ever seen in my life! One of those things that is so shockingly appalling you can't bear to watch so you cover your eyes with your hands, but so repulsively fascinating that you keep peeking through your fingers for just one more look....

When they got him to town, the small rural hospital that served our area boasted no Doctor qualified to treat that serious an injury. (One of the major drawbacks to living in rural America, then and now.) He needed an Orthopedic Surgeon and having none on the staff, they called one to come to town to set Daddy's leg. The Doctor flew his small personal plane to the hospital, arriving in the early hours of the morning. Awaking from the anesthesia following a long surgery, the Doctor informed Daddy that he had put his leg back together with five stainless steel bolts and nuts, all purchased from the local hardware store in town. They then constructed a
heavy white cast from his groin area down the entire length of his leg and out to his toes, leaving an opening over the place where the skin was torn by bone to place a drain tube. Complications set in and overnight Daddy developed an infection and began to suffer the effects of a body temperature of 107 degrees. Not being able to bring the fever to a normal level with medication, they had to resort to placing him on a bed of ice and rubbing him down with alcohol. In that moment,
Daddy's beard and sideburns turned from red to gray due to the severity of the high temperature. I can't remember how many days he was in the hospital, but I do remember when Mama brought him home, their bed was placed in the living room so that he could watch the only television in the house. He would wear that cast for at least a year, and until it began to heal, he wouldn't even be allowed crutches to get around with. Thus began the vigil to keep Daddy entertained, for both Mama and us girls.

Being confined to bed was hard for a man who was normally on his feet and going every sunlit hour of the day. And boredom seems to lead to a shortness of temper in grown men for some reason. And our Daddy was no different than most it seemed. One of the few amusements we had access to was the television. And television in those times had only four channels, Alabama Public Broadcasting Channel offering about all that was available during the day for any entertainment value above soap operas and game shows. As a choice, PBS wasn't Daddy's first, but with little else to be had, that is what he watched as he lay there with his leg propped on pillows in the front room. As it continues to offer today, PBS had several 'How-To" programs during Daddy's recovery process. One such program was "How To Macramé". Daddy was intrigued by this demonstration of knot tying skill and he sent us to the barn for pieces of twine that had been torn from the bales and tossed to the side as it was fed to the various animals who resided on our little farm. Joined together with small knots, these lengths of twine became the material which he then tied with Macramé knots. He fashioned many flower pot hangers and bottle hangers, one such hanger was used to hold a gallon vinegar jug filled with Pepper Sauce and gave to my Grandmother Waters, his Mother. It was so colorful with the multi-shaded hues of red and green peppers that Grandmommy hung it on her kitchen wall and refused to use the sauce because it was too pretty. That hanger and jug hung there until she died in 1987. I am not really sure what became of it after that, but I assume it was thrown away. I wish I had thought about asking for it so that I would have it for the memories.

Daddy also tried his hand at drawing a pattern and sewing to combat his boredom. He sat in a straight chair pulled up to Mama's sewing machine, his good leg underneath the cabinet, with that awkward cast stuck out at a strange angle, his heel propped on a pillow on the floor to the side of machine. The main thing I remember him constructing with that machine was my baby sister, Lana, a pair of brown pants. They were probably a foot and a half across, seamed straight up the sides and the straddle was cut and stitched into a deep V shape. No elastic at the waist, no fastener of any sort. No way they would fit her, she was about as scrawny as they come in those days. But it was the thought that counted even then. Now I wonder what Mama ever did with those funny looking britches?

That Christmas, Daddy sat in the floor of the living room and helped wrap presents, an activity he always had left to Mama before. We actually got to see more of Daddy during his convalescence, not because he didn't want to spend time with us prior to his accident, the simple fact was with five growing children, he worked ever hour of every day simply to provide for us. Mama would load us all into the car, Daddy with his busted leg cushioned on the floorboard, and ride the back roads sightseeing just to give him a change of scenery. He also spent several hours each week sitting on a stool down at the neighborhood garage gossiping with the old men who spent time there. Anything to get him out of the house and back to having some semblance of a normal social life. One of his friends even came and picked him to take him coon hunting, where Daddy would sit in the truck and listen to the dogs
howl as they treed an old raccoon. He always did love that

Once the incision had healed, the Doctor cut off the full cast and replaced it with a short walking cast. This enabled him to move around a bit more, and with the added benefit of wearing a pair of pants with the denim leg split only to the knee and not to the crotch. Unfortunately as the weather grew warmer, so did the cast. It itched horribly and smelled so bad Mama took to sprinkling Baby Power down into it as far as she could reach. Daddy, not being the patient sort, demanded a wire clothing hanger which he then fashioned into a scratcher by unwinding the coiled part and straightening it completely. When he began to itch and tingle under the cast, he resorted to running the end down into the cast, thereby providing himself a bit of relief. Ultimately, though, that wasn’t a very smart idea, as the
scratching led to the compacting of the cotton underneath the plaster which resulted in the cording of his leg. When his toes turned purple because of the lack of blood flow, we knew he had gone too far. And another trip to the Doctor was eminent.

As he began to get up and about more with the aid of wooden crutches, thing
got a bit more normal around our house. He began going to work, still hopping along with the aid of his sticks and doing more around the farm. He also took that wild pony to the sale barn and sold him. When the icy blast of winter hit hard, Daddy and Vicki went to the creek to ensure that the frigid water hadn't frozen into a solid sheet of ice because cattle won't lick solid ice and will therefore dehydrate in the coldest winter months. Daddy made it to the creek, but then his crutch hit a patch or ice, Daddy tumbled into the creek, cast and all. Vicki had to help him up
as best she could and get him back to the truck and home before he froze to death. At least his crash busted up the ice that had formed across the top of the water and the cattle could drink. Another adventure into the pasture with Daddy ambling along on crutches complete with him scaling a 30 or 40 foot bluff, handhold to handhold on the far side of the water. I can still remember the sound of his cast banging off the rugged rock face as he migrated slowly across the rock. The ledges in the rock were covered with icy mush, and Daddy, being the type of man he was, was climbing to mend a fence to make sure the neighbor's cows didn't come for an unappreciated and inopportune visit.

It was a year before Daddy walked with just a cane, still with cast intact. And another few months until the cast was finally removed for good. I guess you could say that all the effects of the accident were bad, all things considered, at least for Daddy. He sports five stainless steel bolts and nuts that set the metal detector off every visit to the local Courthouse. Imagine trying to explain that to the Security Guards watching over the {?}He went from being served supper in the dining room, the main meal of our day, to lazing in an easy chair in front of the television. (The only meal after that he ate in the kitchen was breakfast.) Daddy had remote control long before it was ever invented. His consisted of hollering from his seat in front of the television to whichever child was closest to the end of the table for a change of channel or volume during meal times. He also gained
six personal maidens to wait on him hand and foot. A nice accomplishment for those lucky enough to achieve it. My Daddy is almost 76 years of age now and even thought all of us are gone from home with the exception of the youngest, he is still waited on hand and foot. It is his due, he expects it, and will likely always receive it. I guess we girls are carrying on for Mama, who, as long as she was able did her level best to make his feel like a Prince. When she left us this past June, we, as her daughters, took up the vigil of supplying Daddy's every wish, not because it is our job, but because she wanted it that way.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Blog is so Messed Up!

Forgive me, but my blog is so messed up. I had lost all my posts for some reason.I have spent a week trying to mend the flaws and finally last night changed the template. It DID finally get back up. Once again I am in gear and hopefully will get caught up on my posts.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Not Gone - Just Busy

I am not gone folks. Temporarily diverted in the quest to find my long lost cousins. We are getting close and hope to soon accomplish the goal. Be back soon.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Scared Spitless - Calling All Ghosts

Ghosts and spooks have haunted the imagination of children since the beginning of time, I guess. And we were no different because along about the time adolescence set in, we decided to try our hands at dabbling into the supernatural. Having been gifted with the blessing of an avid curiosity, along with a Mother who encouraged us to investigate that which we didn’t understand, we embarked onto a voyage of discovery into the unknown. And who better to appease our fascination than the neighborhood ghost, Annie Dee Wilkerson Moody Dearman, a lady who died in unexplained circumstances just steps down the road from where we lived. And so it began…

Annie Dee Wilkerson was born January 28, 1928. In 1945, she married a Mr. Moody, a relative or a relative (etc.). They parented two children. Family history says she divorced him after he returned from the war. She married a Virgil Dearman and again, gave birth to two children. For some never disclosed reason, at midnight on October 4, 1967, she was standing in her front yard when some “ambushed” her, shooting her five times. She managed to crawl to the front porch steps before she died. No one was ever indicted or ever even charged with her murder. Her husband, Mr. Dearman, had a nervous breakdown shortly after her death, and claimed that she kept appearing to him after her death. He died shortly after her death. Rumor still runs rampant when her name is mentioned as to her character - Annie Dee was a lady who liked and craved men. And had few scruples about satisfying that craving.

She is said to haunt the place where she died, a small house less than several hundred feet from where we live. Local legend in the small rural community where we live states that on any given rainy day, her blood stains can still be seen on the front doorstep, even though the original step has been replaced numerous times. Blood stains are reported to leech up through paint, no matter how many coats are used. I have seen “SOMETHING” on that step myself, whether from an overactive imagination or something actually being there I can’t decide. Who had assassinated this woman in cold blood in her own front yard? We were determined to discover her murderer and the reasoning behind it. Being inquisitive in nature, a group of us decided to try to have a séance to call her back into our midst, never knowing what we were getting in to. Or the chaos it would cause.

A séance requires two things - a medium, or intermediary, and a group of people with a open mind willing to accept that there might actually be spirits of the deceased living among us with the ability and the will to communicate with us. The only other necessary items are total darkness, a candle or other form of light source and an overactive imagination. Our version of a séance were drawn from late night television viewing, such oldies as Saturday Night Shock Theatre, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Dark Shadows. Fingers joined, each person thumb to thumb, with pinkie finger touching the same finger of the next person around the candle, the medium simply “goes into a trance”, closing their eyes and meditating and chanting, hopefully opening communication with the spirit of the deceased. If the chain of hands is broken, the link to the spirit world is severed. They supposedly reply by either using the medium’s voice, noises, movement of something in the room or some other strange way. We were ready to begin, but I don’t think we were prepared for what actually happened.

Being kids, we had the imagination in plenty and were willing to take the chance that we could contact the other side. We felt very brave and daring, having no fear as we delved into the great unknown. It was decided that the séance would be held in our neighbor, Karren’s, bedroom. She was the medium, the one chosen to make contact with those who had already passed from this earth. Her room had no windows, and with both the doors shut tight not a sliver of light could enter her room, leaving it a black pit, the perfect ambience for a séance. It was also a plus that her Mom worked during the day, hence no parental interruptions or censure. Our party of courageous souls included myself, my sister Vicki, Karren, of course, and two boys who lived next door, brothers, Rickey Gene and Kenny. These boys, although they were scared spitless, big macho males and real he-men that they were, were not going back down in front of three lowly girls. And, let’s be honest here, us girls had a way of challenging them that left them no room for retreat. They at ‘least’ had to be as brave as we were or they would never hear the end of it!

We were set - we could handle any ghost that deigned to present itself to us. Let the nether world do it’s worst! Gathering in the bedroom, we fell to our knees around a small table placed in the open space of the floor. The candle was lit and the overhead light was shut off. Ebony darkness surrounded us, the candlelight from the taper sending wavering tapestries of movement to dance along the murky, shadowed walls. A picture of Annie Dee, the lady of our quest, was placed near the candle, an encouragement to entice her to leave her place in the from beyond the veil of darkness and give us a sign of her unearthly presence. There we were, kneeling in the small cramped room, elbow to elbow, pinkies and thumbs touching, eyes closed…… breathlessly waiting….

The air in the room was still, almost stagnant, the silence complete and nearly stifling, as we waited apprehensive and anxious. It began, a low chant, a droning hum, slowly rising in volume, sounding eerily like the calls of a wild animal in it’s death throes. Mumbled words, spoken in a monotone, at first garbled beyond recognition, slowly became a chant….” We are here to reach the Realm of the Spirit World“…..“Are there any spirits willing to connect with us?”………. “If you hear us, please give us a sign that you are there”. Our eyes opened and there was Karren, seemingly deep into a trance, appearing under a spell from some unknown source. We watched apprehensively for what was going to transpire next. As we sat there uneasy and vigilant in the gloomy room, the light from the shifting rise and fall of the candle flame caused specter-like forms to drift over the ceiling, grotesque shadowy ghoul-like forms hovering above our heads. The air was expectant, the possibilities in our minds endless with the mayhem that could be caused from the opening of opening Pandora’s Box.

The temperature in the room, although it was summer, seemed to have dropped several degrees. A breeze, which had no source (remember the room was closed off - no windows - doors closed tight) was floating lazily across the room, raising chill bumps on bare arms and legs. Sweat, clammy and cool, most likely brought on by fear, dripped from our brows and into our eyes. Electricity from some mysterious source made the hair on our arms and back of our necks stand on end. The flame of the candle dipped, sputtering and popping loudly, nearly extinguishing itself and thereby leaving the room in total darkness. A glow began to radiate from the picture of Annie Dee, eerily lighting up the face of the slain woman, giving her the appearance of a fiery wraith about to escape the confines of the picture frame. Was she seeking her murderer, possibly seeking revenge for the person responsible? Would she wreak her vengeance on us? Then all Hell broke loose…

Suddenly, there was a scream, a feral screech, high pitched and earsplitting in the small, closed room. Pandemonium erupted and in the melee, the candle was knocked from it’s base and the two boys, those bastions of manly courageousness, rushed to the bedroom door. In their haste to exit the room, fear and cowardice lending their puny arms strength, the door was ripped from it’s frame left to dangle drunkenly from the remaining hinge. The candle, knocked from it’s base, was left to flounder on the bedroom floor, igniting the covers on the bed. Candle wax spattered the floor, leaving a sticky gooey mess. The glass covering the picture was shattered, although whether from being knocked over in the fracas or from her ghost making an appearance was never known. The two boys, terrified, ran up the hall and out the front door, never stopping their wild dash until they reached the safety of their own home across the highway. Us girls were right behind them, until, smelling smoke, returned to the scene of the crime to extinguish the flames searing the bedspread. All that was left for us to do was to try to hide the evidence of our latest fall from grace from Karren’s Mom. There was a flurry of activity as we flipped the bedspread several directions, hoping to conceal the burnt spot. Melted wax, once a candle, and now a hard solid substance on the carpet, was scraped and scrubbed in the effort to remove every trace. Open windows and doors allowed the smell of smoke and singed material to escape. Glass from the broken glass covering the picture was discarded. We might just survive this escapade if we were lucky.

Annie Dee’s murder was never solved, although people from our community have their suspicions as to her assailant to this day. She was buried in a grave in the small town near us, alone, with neither husband placed beside her. Which in itself, seems a punishment to a lady who enjoyed the company of a number of men, to be left lying alone in a cold, dark tomb. Although we had numerous other séances, all with the intent purpose of solving a murder mystery, no new evidence ever came to light. But, in every ceremony we held, some very strange happenings occurred - everything from a towel being set on fire to uncanny noises and smells permeating the air. To this day, I would speculate that Annie Dee is still there, living beyond the veil of darkness, waiting for her death to be avenged.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Saving the Souls of Puppies

The imagination of a child is an amazing thing, sometimes baffling parents with their ingenuity and terrifying them with their daring. My family was no different, I would guess, that others growing up on a rural farm in the South. Every one of us pulled our share of stunts over the years and suffered the consequences for our actions. Maybe the problem of misbehavior was made worse because there were five of us, all with two years or less between us, for somehow our parents managed to begat five little girls in the short span of six years. ( I just can’t make a crack here, yall - It was my PARENTS!! Nasty!)) We were famous in our county and made the front page in the little weekly newspaper that was and is published there. We were also blessed with overactive imaginations and creative genius enough to keep us in a world of trouble. That very same trait led us into unimaginable difficulties with both our parents, truly outrageous acts that required both a stern talking to and discipline of some sort, much to our dismay.

Boredom or confinement can do lead children to think up unbelievable and imaginative things to find enjoyment in the normalness of everyday life. My three youngest sisters, who will remain nameless (both to protect their egos and my hide if they ever were to read this) had this thing about playacting. Winter or Summer, they would dress up and act out some obscure scene they had concocted jointly in their heads. These flights of fancy always varied and were too numerous to count. One of their favorites were weddings, where one wore a veil (usually made of some piece of material they had purloined from Mom), the second sister was the groom and the third was the preacher. I can vividly recall the three of them standing on the front porch on a lazy and hot summer afternoon, the “minister” being the older sister, with the two younger being the “bride and groom”, and the words of the wedding rite ringing out loudly through the still air……”We are gathered here to join the two in Holy Macaroni…..”.

Another program consisted of the ritual of baptism, you know what I mean, the custom of dunking the repentant sinner’s head and body underneath water to cleanse away the sin that was marring their soul. Unfortunately their choice of baptismal was the ditch running full of water from a heavy rain, and the weather was barely freezing when they began the near-drowning. Then too, their choice of reprobate caused them no end of trouble, especially when Mom found them in the midst of their misdeed, ankle deep in water.

One of daddy’s old dogs had puppies, fat, fluffy balls of fur, that roamed the yard at will. They would roll and tumble head over heels chasing us girls when we were allowed to venture out in the winter sunshine. On that afternoon, the sky was overcast and we bundled up against the wind and trooped outside for a few hours of entertainment, free to run and romp to our heart’s content. While Vicki and I found our own outlet, the others proceeded with the baptism, unknown to us. Here we were, doing our own thing, and the next thing we hear is yelling and screaming from the front yard, both human and canine. We went running to find out what had happened.

There they were, three little angels, deeply engrossed in their endeavors, calmly submersing the screaming and squirming puppies beneath the icy water, intent on saving their souls and in the process, nearly drowning them and thoroughly drenching their own arms and feet in the cold water. When Mom yelled, they jumped to their feet, innocent looks on each face and proceeded to give the explanation that Mom demanded. Those puppies, so full of life moments earlier, now bore a striking resemblance to a drowned rat, fluffy fur now slicked down to their skinny little bodies and looking more dead than alive. Mom was livid, the girls were terrified. The puppies, well, the puppies were frozen.

Upon reaching the house and the warm blaze of the big gas heater that filled the corner of the living room, Mom began to pull the wet coats and shoes and socks from my now trembling little sisters, all the while berating them for their transgressions and listing the possible results of their actions. After a quick change of clothes, all the while a scolding being rung over their bowed heads, the punishment was doled out. For every dripping, wet and bedraggled puppy, there was a sister sitting as close to the heater as possible, with a towel to hold the dogs until they were dry and warm. It took hours before the animals were able to stop shivering and be put back outside on the porch to return to the relative safety of their Mother’s side. The sisters hated their punishment, being confined to one spot tends to take a toll on any kid. The added burden of trying to hold a ball of squirming fur and energy, all the while having to massage and keep it warm makes it even worse. I think they learned a lesson that day. I can guarantee you I did.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Tales of the Outhouse - Drawers Down

Growing up in the rural south, many thought us ‘backwards’ or less sophisticated than others or so I’ve been told. Maybe we were, but the honest truth is that we didn’t realize it at the time. And you seldom miss what you never had. Until I started the first grade, I didn’t realize that an indoor toilet was a prerequisite to a modern life, much less a luxury of which we were being deprived . A select few of my relatives had an indoor toilet, but many, many had the same as we did ------ an outhouse. And never thought twice about it.

A good indication of my age is almost certainly my ability to recall early morning trips to the outhouse, my little bare feet leaving a dark, rambling path through the dew coated grass in the warm summer air. At first light, a quick call to the ‘necessary’ was the single most important mission on the agenda, a job to be handled without delay, as we ambled single file out the back screen door and across the yard. It was called a ‘necessary’ because --- well -- it was necessary. If you pour gallons of liquids into a small pitcher until it is full, you can’t pour any more into it unless it is emptied! Simple logic. Small bladders, full of late night drinks of water, require prompt and frequent draining. And with five young girls in our family, that outhouse was in almost constant use, from early morning rush hour all the way through the more sedate strolls late at night.

Our outhouse was typical, I would say, being built of wide wooden planks, aged and weathered gray in the southern sun. There was a hard dirt floor, packed solid by the passage of feet over a period of who knows how many years. The door was constructed of a tin covered wooden frame, heavy and bulky to open and close. The tin roof, which I have mentioned before, was the place me and my oldest sister chose to spend time “broadening our horizons”, so to speak, with dingy literature and tales of near-lust. It was also an excellent escape from the trials of little sisters. The outhouse was constructed on the side of a big open shed, the back side, of course, to hide it from view of the house. On the other side of the building was a field of weeds, usually as high as our heads, home to numerous critters we didn’t want to identify. On the back was a dog pen, complete with dog, and the accompanying flies and odors they seem to generate without fail. We had the essential toilet seat, stationed over a vast black pit dug deep into the ground. We even had the well known toilet paper, hung by the cylinder at the center of the roll being threaded over a ten penny nail driven solidly into the front inside wall. All together, as I read back over this, not a picture of bucolic bliss. It gets worse…..

The changing of the season brought with it various drawbacks to pastoral country living, each as annoying and troublesome as the other. In the summer, there was the heat and humidity; for no air could stir inside the building, tin door shut tight and there were no windows to ease open, ergo no way of allowing a fresh breeze to enter. The atmosphere was stagnant and stale, abundant with foul odors, indescribably rank and fetid, wafting around you as you attempted to hurry along the call of nature. Of course, there were the obligatory snakes and lizards and creepy crawlies lurking about, ready to pounce on an unsuspecting occupant. The lighting in the building was always dim, the air filled with floating particles of dust and haze. Flies buzzed about your head and all types of bees, riled from the cozy nests they constructed under the eaves or in the corner of the door opening, showed a tendency to dive-bomb you as you sat enthroned, a captive audience so to speak. It was terribly hard to run with your pants down.

When winter reared it’s frigid head in the South, the trip to the privy became entirely more expeditious and required a vastly shorter amount of time than those enjoyed in the lazy days of summer. The mandatory visits were carried out in haste, with little energy spent dawdling along the way, as you hurried from the warmth of a gas fire to take care of business only to arrive running in the back door scant few minutes later with your teeth chattering and shivering from head to foot. Although the odors accompanying the outhouse died down somewhat in the colder months, the blackness of that small enclosed space was absolute with the skies often being overcast and gloomy and little light permeating the cracks in the walls. And those same wooden walls, which blocked the flow of air in the heat of the summer months, were, in the winter, an entirely different story. Icy cold blasts of air, tossed about by the wicked “Goddess of all things Winter“, were flung at bared body parts, sensitive, private parts that seldom saw the light of ANY day, much less were ever exposed to the frosty chill of mid-winter. There can be no worse feeling in the world than a gust of glacially cold wind wrenching the door wide open, allowing the full force to hit you in the face as you say there trapped and unable to move.

I have to be honest here, outhouse usage was not without it’s hazards and dangers though, especially not to my family. We were accident prone, it seemed, no matter our locality or attitude. That tin door, designed to protect your privacy at embarrassing moments, would catch the heel of an unsuspecting little girl on her way out, gouging out a chunk of flesh and leaving a bloody hole in it’s wake. That same door, when caught by the wind on a breezy day, mashed the fingers repeatedly of those same little girls, turning our fingernails numerous shades of blue and purple. The heat of the summer gave rise to all sorts of nasty and disgusting wildlife, floating and writhing in the pit of doom, causing Daddy to attempt to control them by pouring gasoline or kerosene into the hole. And little girls, being adventurous by nature, WOULD experiment with matches……….and cause a flash fire when the arrival of Mama and punishment was eminent ( 3rd sister received 1st & 2nd Degree burns to her upper arms and face for this stunt). There was nothing like target practice at 3 A. M., hovering over an empty Crisco Shortening can in enclosed back porch when, in the dark of the night, nature called at an inopportune time. Little girls, by body type and shape, are handicapped at peeing off a porch ledge. And in the winter, the risk of a broken leg or sprain was always imminent when, in the rush to cover the distance required to heed bodily demands, one sprinted down the back steps, cinder blocks stacked and wobbly and likely coated with ice. We survived, but just barely.

Looking back, I don’t think we were hampered much by the lack of an indoor toilet. We had hot and cold running water in the kitchen, Daddy ensured this by putting in a pump and hot water heater. Baths were accomplished by virtue of a Number 10 washtub placed on the floor in front of the kitchen sink, full of warm water from the taps and complete with all the necessary items to ensure a good and thorough cleaning from head to foot. It wasn’t a problem unless you were low kid on the totem pole, because the fist kid got the clean water and the last, well, it was murky, cooling and less than pristine when it came your turn. We were clean, bathed to within an inch of our very lives, well taken care of and had no knowledge of the amenities and conveniences we were missing. Like I said before, what you never had, you don’t miss. Although I do rather miss the solitude and feeling of daring of those lazy hours spent reading on the roof of the old outhouse. Ah well, we all grow up…

After I finished this story, I asked my sister Vicki to help me come up with an appropriate title while on MSN Messenger. Here is our conversation:
cowcrazy78: I'm done
cowcrazy78: I think
cowcrazy78: I need a name.........
junebuggvw: for the outhouse
cowcrazy78: yeah
junebuggvw: the sweet stink of it
cowcrazy78: lol
junebuggvw: ye old pottie
junebuggvw: flies in the outhouse
junebuggvw: drawers on the ground
cowcrazy78: oh lord
junebuggvw: a bug went where!!
junebuggvw: outdoor duns
junebuggvw: buns
cowcrazy78: what about Are You Privy?
junebuggvw: thatll do
cowcrazy78: The Call of Nature
junebuggvw: hell yeah
cowcrazy78: Naked Buns?
junebuggvw: frozen buns
cowcrazy78: a title, come on sis
junebuggvw: the smell of the past
cowcrazy78: lol
cowcrazy78: oh GOD
cowcrazy78: I love it....
junebuggvw: ty
cowcrazy78: Tales from the Outhouse?
junebuggvw: behind the outhouse door
cowcrazy78: If Toilet Paper Could Talk
junebuggvw: beyond the outhouse door
junebuggvw: shitting in the dark
cowcrazy78: lol
cowcrazy78: daym
cowcrazy78: um
junebuggvw: those were the days
junebuggvw: peeping bugs
junebuggvw: perils of the pottie
cowcrazy78: Life of the Not So Rich and Famous
junebuggvw: perils of the privey
junebuggvw: privey perils
junebuggvw: outdoor what!!!
cowcrazy78: Atmosphere is Everything.....
junebuggvw: drawers down
junebuggvw: bottoms up
junebuggvw: bottoms up
cowcrazy78: It can't smell any better than this
cowcrazy78: dodging the doodie
junebuggvw: whats that smell
cowcrazy78: enuff
junebuggvw: floating turds
junebuggvw: turd turf
junebuggvw: outdoor pissing
junebuggvw: doing it in the rough
junebuggvw: oldtime privey
junebuggvw: hunting for the privey
junebuggvw: private pissing
cowcrazy78: Tales of the Outhouse - Drawers Down
junebuggvw: hell yes
cowcrazy78: ok

Monday, August 02, 2004

Teeth Prints in the Soap - Let's Talk Dirty

(Title courtesy of my sister, Vicki, who, along with myself, likes to occasionally visit the hilarious side of life)

Growing up in the deep south, seldom was a dirty word mentioned in our home by our parents or any other adult who expected to be invited back to visit our humble abode. And even less by us five girls if we knew what was good for us. Ivory soap is mild compared to the some of the stuff my Mama threatened to use to wash our mouths out for a mere utterance of a “DINGY” word, much less something considered “DIRTY“. And most of the words we considered to be passable, were, in Mama’s eyes (or ears), less than desirable for some reason. We walked a fine chalk line from our earliest years until preadolescence, and then the soap hit the fan………..well let’s be honest here, our teeth.

What is it about the years between childhood and young adulthood that make youngsters push the limits set by every parent? Some inborn trait that goads children to challenge authority at any level and damn the consequences. Tell a kid they can’t say a word or phrase, and they will use it in every possible sentence or conversation. They hear a word, new to their limited vocabulary, some deeply profound utterance, likely mumbled under their parents or some other adult’s breath, who is clearly frustrated at the trials life has hurled at them. The next thing you know, there it is….the {BAD} word….screeched out of some unsuspecting youngster’s mouth at another sibling who has royally ticked them off. Now, I ask you, how are these innocent children supposed to realize the word is bad and forbidden to be uttered in any adult’s hearing? Do they have words that are issued with a PG Rating? Words such as those ( you know the ones I mean) should come with a warning label *** Do Not Say Under Penalty of Death if Under 21*** or something similar. How many millions of children have voiced a perfectly normal sounding word, heard out of a well respected adult’s mouth, only to have the punishment of uttering that same word be devastating? My Mama’s Mother’s bad word was Banana Oil, which we didn’t known until years later was her code word, her vulgarity of choice. Life is very unfair when you have no license to make and enforce the rules of vocal etiquette enjoyed by persons of an older generation…

My Mama, to tell you the truth, was a true Southern lady, a gentle and even tempered soul, full of love and understanding for the idiosyncrasies of five girls of varying ages atempting to forgetheir way through life. She didn’t voice many bad words, seldom even raised her tone (unless we were some distance from home and then the horn of the car worked - 3 sharp beeps meant to come home NOW). The occasional “SHOOT FIRE “ or “DADBLAME” or even "DANG" was about the worst she ever allowed past her lips when we were small. Daddy, on the other hard, was less discriminating in his choice of verbal profanities, but even the ones he chose to let fly around us were heard seldom and generally mild. All in all, due probably as much to Daddy working all the time as anything else, Mama was the chief disciplinarian in our home. We got by with a lot around her, (like as not to our being such cute, lovable and adorable kids), we could cajole and plead with the best of them and usually avoid the most severe consequences of the numerous misdeeds we inevitably committed. The one thing she didn’t tolerate was foul language and the resulting punishments were swiftly administered and sometimes harsh.

Being one of the eldest two of the five sisters was both a blessing and a curse in many ways. My oldest sister was both bold as brass and imaginative in her rebellion of the moment (whichever moment it was and she had many - just pick one!), forever butting her head against whatever realm of authority was rearing it’s ugly head in her face at the moment. And unfortunately, her temper matched her stubbornness when it came to asserting her rights of passage into the world of nearly adulthoodism. Living with her was an education for me, I learned very young what could and could not be yelled back at Mama and survive unscathed. In the first place, raising one’s voice in an aggressive manner towards Mama was BAD, much less when the backtalk was peppered with expressive exclamations of dubious fame and even less auspicious origins. It quickly became obvious to me that discretion was the better part of valor in this case, that if I felt the urge to “swear” I’d best do it out of Mama’s range of hearing or pay the price. But why did it seem that Mama had radar ears, able to pick up the vibrations of choice nasty words filtering through my mind, much less to decipher the ones I dared to mumble under my breath? Maybe it was some parental mode of extrasensory perception all adults are issued along with the ordinary certificate of birth.

Over the years, I remember an assortment of punishments for the various profane remarks we were know to spew out of our lily white mouths (OH YEAH!! WE WERE SO GOOD!!!). And as we aged, the words and phrases of choice grew and diversified over the years. We even invented our own, words that were not really true words, but used in the way we used them, were meant to be replacements for the words we dare not articulate in Mama’s presence. But she knew…she always knew, and would chastise us accordingly. I can’t begin to count the times we heard…“Behave, you are a role model for your little sisters! Set a good example.” in our lifetime. So we tried.

Punishments were based on age, somewhat, in our family. The younger ones, who, having heard an older one say a word that was less that proper, after running to inform Mama of our indiscretion, would then go own to make the same mistake, usually with the same aftereffects - ergo - being tattled on. Younger sister received the standard talking to - that “You know better!” or “Don’t let me hear that come out of your mouth again!”, verbal warnings that, with any luck, would keep them on the straight and narrow. Older ones, having passed the point where warnings had must lasting effect, received harsher punishment - a fate worse than death - washing the mouth out with soap. First just threats of this dastardly consequence, and then it was eat soap or lose your teeth!

Sis and I, being older, were more of a size with Mama, although she was slim and we were more … buxom (Yes, even then!). The woman was slender as a reed, strong as an ox when angry and determined to win no matter what. (Maybe that is where I get that trait from…) When threats didn’t work and warnings were ignored, she got down to business. And when I say business, I MEAN business. She would stalk you through the house, bar of soap in hand, her mind set on the chastisement she felt we had forced her to heap upon us. And those were her words, exactly, “If you would have just hushed when I said to……none of this would be necessary. You brought this on yourself”. Locked doors were no hindrance to a determined Mama either, she was the best lock picker in the family, a trait she likely picked up out of necessity when dealing with us. Once we were face to face, it was…”Now open your mouth”. And no self respecting teenager of any renown would dare to comply with that order. What usually ensued was a wrestling match of some duration, arms and legs flying through the air, interested spectators (little sisters) vying for a prime seat to view the spectacle and enjoy the battle of wills. And somehow, and I never did figure out exactly how, Mama always was the victor in these battles. We ate soap. Spitting, sputtering, brushing our teeth until they bled, nothing will remove the taste of soap left in the mouth by a vigilante like our Mama when she was riled.

What was your personal favorite flavor of soap?? Personally I preferred Ivory.

Monday, July 26, 2004

The Missing Doll Pecker

Reading my sister, Vicki’s, blog, it brought to mind the past weekend. I have four grandsons, hoodlums from Hell who I love dearly. They make life interesting for all who come into contact with them. Never a dull moment. Three of these monsters belong to my oldest son, likely because it took him that long to figure out why his family was growing by leaps and bounds. When I was younger, and more agile, I had them for days at a time. I have learned as I got older, and they got rowdier, that is a much simpler thing to borrow them one at a time. Saves my sanity and my body, especially since they are too big to pen up anymore. Alex, the youngest of the three, was staying overnight with his Granddaddy last Saturday night. Not me, Grandmommys seem to be an accessory to Granddaddy these days. Ah, the good old days, when Grandmommy was the “shit”.

Now Alex, being the ripe old age of five, is mature beyond his years. This likely comes from having two older brothers, who having already braved Kindergarten and First Grade, have been bringing home tales of the difference between boys and girls. But evidently they left out a few pertinent parts of the female anatomy that they should have mentioned.

I have a doll, three feet tall, that my Mom bought for me one Christmas. I had and still have all intentions of sewing a beautiful dress for her. Someday. As soon as I get around to it. This doll was sitting in a chair in my living room Saturday night in all her ‘nekked’ glory. Where he clothes were remains a mystery. Legs sprawled out, hinney shining in the glow of the lamp light…….I thought nothing of it. After all, being a 40ish woman, I have certainly seen a few naked dolls in my day. I never considered Alex though. Or his questions.

Being a parent for several, several years, I have heard a lot of questions over time. And never thought I’d be surprised at anything that come from a kid’s mouth. I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong.

Here I lay on the couch in a comfortable pose, resting, waiting until Alex was ready for bed and staring at the idiot box. He was fresh from a soak in the tub with his granddad. When he ambled over to my side and poked my arm, I figured he was wanting a snack, a drink, something NORMAL……..I was shocked at what came out of his mouth. “Grandmommy, that girl ain’t got no pecter.” I said “Do what?”

He repeated his words and I am stumbling and stammering, trying to think of a logical reason to tell him the doll was different without going into a real biology lesson. Finally all I came up with was “ She is a doll, dolls don’t have peckers” He looked at me solemnly and informed me…..” Well me and Granddaddy does”. Ah, the simplicity of a five year old's logic.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Thunder's Christmas Tree

(With grateful appreciation to my sister, Vicki, whose memories in addition to mine made this story special)

Christmas was always a special time at our house, not necessarily in monetary costs, but in family togetherness and love, the stuff memories are made of. Little habits and rituals, followed year after year, lead to family traditions that are passed down throughout the generations. My family has these traditions and here is the beginning of a few of them.

The first week of December, Mom would start cooking for the Christmas holidays. She would spend hours every day in the kitchen, measuring flour, breaking eggs and beating the stuff into fluffy pies and cakes. She guarded these desserts more diligently that a hen sitting on a nest full of eggs. A household full of little greedy fingers meant random swipes across the icing of whatever cake we found access to. She would clean the house from top to bottom, mopping and waxing the old painted board floors until they gleamed like a new penny. Daddy worked many long hours when we were growing up, most days it was long after dark when he came home for supper. With five girls to raise I guess he had to.

The second week of December meant the Christmas tree was brought home, usually after a family trip riding thru the pasture, looking along the edges of the woods for that perfect cedar tree to chop down. Using a live cedar and having gas heat meant a tree couldn’t be brought home too early, as the limbs tended to die and shed off no matter how much water you kept in the can it sat in. Unfortunately, with Daddy working so many hours that winter and Mom having no access to the truck he drove to work, there wasn’t a Christmas tree decorated and sitting in the living room. Asking “When” as politely as we could brought only the promise of “Soon” and that just wasn’t good enough for anxious children for very long.

By the third week of the month, we, Vicki and I had decided we had had enough. Our little sisters were whining and moaning about the lack of a tree and if our parents couldn’t find the time to get a tree, then we would do it ourselves. Without asking permission, we set out to locate and wrestle home a tree to make everyone proud. We knew we could never get a big tree or at least the type we wanted to the house alone, so we recruited Thunder, Vicki’s horse, to do the heavy work. Now the time had come to decide which weapon we would use to murder a tree. Knowing Daddy, he had all sorts of tool we could have borrowed to do the dastardly deed, but for some reason we chose a small hand axe, probably because we thought we were less likely to do bodily damage to our limbs with it than with something larger. We were ready for action.

Here we were, bundled up against the cold, riding a horse off into the woods, axe in hand, looking for the perfect tree to appease our sisters and make our parents forget our crime. We searched hours for the perfect tree, wandering through woods bounded on the top side by the pasture and at the bottom of a steep hill, an icy creek. Selection of the perfect tree is difficult, first is height, it has to be tall enough to allow many, many presents to be piled under it when the base limbs are trimmed. Second, it has to have a single center because two makes it difficult to place a star on the top. Third, almost every tree has a side that isn’t ‘perfect’, but this can be overcome by turning that side to the wall. Finally we found it, the perfect tree, and it was huge. For some reason, a tree looks smaller out in the woods----it’s when you get it home and try to squeeze it indoors that it turns into a giant. And ours was gargantuan.

After several long minutes spent fighting to untangle vines and undergrowth from around the base, we began chopping our prize down. We chopped and chopped, taking turns with the axe, until finally after what seemed like hours, we had it down on the ground. A falling tree is not always the safest thing in the world, I can tell you, because it never goes in the direction you intend for it to. And why did it take us longer than it did Daddy to bring a tree down? Oh well, one thing us girls seemed to inherit was stubbornness, although I am not sure which parent blessed us with that gene. Here we were, two preteen girls, with a ten or twelve foot cedar tree on the ground in front of us, and likely weighing hundreds of pounds. How to get it home? And we WERE taking it home, one way or another…We didn’t do all that work for nothing.

There stood the horse, capable of carrying a load on his back, surely? Somehow we were going to be sure he did. We struggled and tussled with that tree and couldn’t lift it hardly at all. Vicki always carried twine on her saddle, luckily for us. We decided to use the rope and hoist it up onto the horse’s back and let him carry it home for us. After crawling in and through the limbs of that cedar tree and wrapping the twine around it, we looped the other end around the saddle horn for leverage and began to pull. Just as we would raise it high enough to think we were going to be able to maneuver it onto his back, Thunder would shy and skitter sideways out from under the tree. Another try and he was rearing up, and shaking his head, “NO” to let us know he meant business. Vicki tried sweet talking him, cajoling and even bribery, nothing seemed to be working. After several attempts, with the results being less than promising, we were quickly convinced we were going to have to devise another way to get our treasure home.

There was no possible way we two girls could get the gigantic tree home without help. And the horse was all that was available, so Thunder was just going to have to bite the proverbial bullet and do his share of the work. No more horsy hissie fits would be tolerated! And we were going to figure out a way to ensure he did. After a bit of discussion, it was decided if he wouldn’t carry it, he was going to have to pull it home. We used the rope and rigged up a travois, similar to the type once used by Indians to pull heavy items behind their horses. After looping the rope around the cedar securely, we had to ensure the tree was far enough behind him not to hit his heels as he walked towards home. We climbed on top of Thunder’s back, Vicki in the saddle and me behind, allowing the rope pulling the tree to set under our legs and flat against the horse. It took us forever to get to the house and discover what awaited us there. We had been gone for hours and dusk was setting in.

When we arrived, there was Daddy waiting on us, a thunderous look on his face, and “Where have you been?” coming from his mouth. We were in the soup now and we knew it. Luckily the Christmas tree and our little sisters exclamations of delight diverted his attention, and likely thereby probably saved our rear ends. Between the noise our sisters made and trying to ready the tree to bring into the house, somehow our misdeeds seemed to be forgotten. Staring at that tree lying there on the cold ground in front of the house, it appeared massive, much larger than it did when compared to the trees in the woods. Daddy said it was too tall and would have to be cut down to even get it into the door. He went to work, sawing several feet off the bottom of the tree and then drug it into the house and set it up. It was still so tall the top brushed the ceiling. It almost filled the small room, smelling like Christmas, and we could hardly wait to begin decorating it.

Christmas ornaments were scarce in our family, whether from the expense or the availability I can’t begin to wonder. We had store bought lights, big bursts of primary colors the size of an egg, and tinsel, shimmering in the glow of the lights. The rest were homemade, usually by us girls, from simple things we already had or found objects. All the more special to Mom because we had made them ourselves. From plain white paper, we cut and colored bells, angels, snowflakes and balls of every hue. Sweet gum balls and pinecones, when painted with glue and rolled into glitter, became shiny explosions of color when added to the deep green of the tree. Mom cut construction paper into narrow strips, and we glued them into chains to dangle haphazardly around the limbs. Popcorn was strung and added to the tree, us kids eating as much fro the bowl as we strung. We made a huge mess, but we were happy. The tree was beautiful, as always, when the colorful lights were lit on the tree, aglow in the darkened room. We had no chimney, instead we had an old desk where we hung our stockings. Our socks were used and the younger sisters would complain that ours was bigger that theirs, as well they should be since our feet were bigger. There is always some kind of squabble in a house that holds five children. Always.

Christmas traditions began in our house with memories made just like the one described in this story. If we were lucky enough to have snow, Daddy would take us outdoors to show us reindeer tracks in the snow, which now being grown, we know were dog prints from some hound roaming around the yard. It didn’t matter if we suspected even then, we believed. As we got older, there were phone calls to my Grandmother to see if Santa had been on her roof already, hence the gentle reminder we should be in bed and asleep. At some point along the way, we began celebrating on Christmas Eve night, due to Daddy’s impatience for the site of us opening the presents, and we still do this today. I hardly ever remember getting up on Christmas morning to open gifts. Memories are special, no matter the season, but for some reason Christmas time is special. Maybe because it was Mom’s favorite holiday, a time to decorate and celebrate with family. She loved Christmas, it’s sights and sounds. Christmas this year will be the first without her. I dread it while at the same time I can hardly wait. Dread because she won’t be here. And excitement, because we will make this this the best Christmas ever. In her memory. We love you Mom.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Wild Ride

Life in the country was different when we were young, perfectly safe for young girls to roam the gravel back roads for hours riding on horseback. And we did, leaving home for hours on end, with total disregard to the heat and humidity of the day, roaming at random, with never a set destination in mind.

One particular hot summer day comes to mind…it began much the same as all others, doing our chores then we had several free hours to wander, rambling to our heart’s content. As long as we were home by the next time appointed time for chicken house duty, all was good in our world. Now, I, being not an educated horsy person, was relegated to riding double with either Vicki or Karren, her long time friend and our neighbor. This was fine for me, all I had to do was hang on and watch the road for traffic or dogs coming up behind us. Although the road we lived on was paved, the traffic was minimal during the daytime hours and we would soon find a winding gravel road to travel down. We dodged snakes and squirrels and the stray rabbit, hugging the shade along the edges of these roads, trying to keep the horses cool. It should have been a typical summertime ride, but somehow, nothing went normally for us…

The trouble started when we stopped to see a little old lady, Mrs. Early, who lived a mile or so from us down a dead-end rock road. We went often to visit with her, drinking iced tea and nibbling homemade cookies, listening to the tales she wove. I guess she was lonely, living alone as she did, and three semi-teen girls dropping by for a chat likely livened up her day. She had a tiny white house and a yard full of flowering plants, as most old folks did back then. Something else she had that day was kittens. And she was giving them away. Well, you will never guess who wanted one….Vicki, animal lover that she was. Thus began the tale of Thunder, the Wonder Horse and my wild ride.

Thunder, being a horse, had no appreciation for a mewling, spitting ball of fluff and claws on his back. And showed it in no uncertain terms - sidestepping - bucking - snorting - rolling his eyes - typical actions when a horse does not wish to fall in with his riders wishes. It was decided, after some discussion and I might add here, my reluctance, that Vicki would walk home toting the kitten, I would ride Thunder and Karren would follow me. Knowing how headstrong that horse was, I should have walked….

Here I am, astride a horse and in a saddle whose stirrups my legs were too short to reach. It went fine until we made it to the highway, the all heck broke loose. I was walking, slowly, along the side of the highway. Notice I said W-A-L-K-I-N-G! Me and the horse were getting along fine, he was calm, I was calm, the picture of perfect harmony. I could do this, I would make Daddy proud, get Vicki off my back (she liked to call me a coward) and manage to get the horse home in one piece, all at the same time.

When all of a sudden, Karren, behind me, decided I wasn’t going fast enough to suit her. So she takes her rein and hits Thunder on the hind end. And I was off! He jumped forward and took off at a gallop down the side of the highway. I held on for dear life! And was doing fine until we topped the hill and the stupid horse saw the barn in the distance. That was home, and he was going there NOW..

Thunder pulled his head down, jerking the reins (which sis never tied together) from my hands. Here I am on a big horse, a million feet from the ground, and I have no way to drive him. My feet were flopping up and down and likely scaring the horse ever worse than the smack on the butt. (what could I do, short legged as I was?) I was about to fall off, my fanny bouncing what felt like a foot off the seat every time he took a step. So I did what any self respecting girl would do in that situation - I held on for dear life to the saddle horn and screamed for Vicki to stop this fool horse.

I was leaving them in the distance, although it wasn’t exactly by choice. As we neared the driveway, I can remember thinking, ok, ok, I am nearly there. Then I looked up - and directly into a car’s windshield! There was a car coming, the stupid horse was galloping down the middle of the pavement and I had no way to turn him onto the grass at the edge of the road. The horse was getting faster, the car wasn’t slowing down, the driver was laying on his horn for me to get out of the way--I was going to die! I just knew it!

All of a sudden, Thunder bolted to the right, toward the barn and home. My toe, because as usual I was barefooted, nicked the grill on the front of that car. I had left Vicki and Karren behind somewhere and that idiot horse went directly to the gate in front of the barn lot with me on his back. He sides were lathered, he was winded and heaving for air and I was shaking and crying. Here I am on the back of a horse I now hate, afraid to try to get off because I was afraid he would try to run away.. And the saddle was kept in the garage at the house, all the way across the yard. Now I had to get it off and put up or else. After a few minutes of sitting there and getting a bit of self control back, I gingerly got him to walk to the garage. He let me ease off his back and unhook his saddle girth while he just stood there trembling. As soon as I reached to slide it off his back, he took off, straight back to the barn. I dropped the saddle where I stood and ran to open the gate, which he politely just walked into. I left him that way, still wearing the bridle, reins dangling and the saddle blanket, matted and wet, drinking water from the trough……and smiling at me!

Never again did I get on that horse alone, no matter who called me chicken. We had an understanding, Thunder and I, we both liked it better when I wasn’t on his back and trying to drive him. He was a one person horse and that person was Vicki. She raised him from a colt, broke him and babied him. Daddy kept him until after Vicki married and left home. Thunder was a great horse, Vicki could do anything with him. He drank from a water hose, smoked cigars, drank beer and counted. For her, no one else. She used to guide him everywhere with nothing but her knees and was often seen jumping astride his back, galloping bareback across the pasture and without benefit of a bridle or halter. He was hers and hers alone…and he knew it.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Christmas In July

My Grandmommy, on my Daddy’s side, had a small dogwood tree in her yard. The tree was maybe six feet tall, not very large really, but to short kids, it was huge. It was planted within a few feet of the carport at the “new” house (I’ll get to the old house later) in the center of a discarded tractor tire. If I had to guess, she likely went to the woods and dug it up, brought it home and planted it. She did that a lot, taking something growing in the wild and coaxing it to live in her yard. She had a green thumb that way, although I didn’t inherit the gene myself. The tire was filled with dirt, most likely in the hopes of someday planting flowers there surrounding the base of the tree. But little feet and hands kept the dirt packed tight, making it impossible to grow much of anything but dust and mud when it rained. But for some reason, Grandmommy never seemed to mind.

That tree became our Christmas Tree. Even though the season was wrong and the sandy dirt hot against our bare feet, we hunted high and low for bits and pieces to use for ornaments. One of our favorite places to explore while looking for treasure was the old burn pile behind Granddaddys’ shed, where they discarded their trash (before the Garbage Collection people started coming door to door). This pile of rubble was a treasure trove for girls with an active imagination such as we possessed. At the barn we discovered twine, pulled from bales of hay and discarded on the ground in the center hall. There were tote sacks hanging on the rails and bits of cotton from old raggedy saddle blankets. It was difficult to understand how anyone could throw away such useful and amazing things! We could find uses for much of it……and did.

From the garbage we pulled bits of colorful broken bowls and glasses, discarded pot pie containers, shiny metal tops off jars of snuff and the lids off of various sizes of tin cans. They became beautiful ornaments when tied with bits of twine, dangling from the limbs of that dogwood tree. Long lengths of twine became the rope, short arms having to tie it to a rock and toss it as high as we could to get it wrapped haphazardly around the tree. Bits of hay and cotton, tied together with that same rope became decorations also. The tote sacks were wrapped around the base of the tree for a skirt and our tree was done. Now to show Grandmommy…

I can still recall Grandmommy’s face when she came to see our masterpiece, although I am not sure whether it was dismay or laughter brimming in her eyes. To us, our tree was beautiful, as lovely a tree as has ever been decorated. To an adult, I am sure it left much to be desired. The rope was looped messily across the branches, bunched in several places, and others having none at all. The majority of the shiny ornaments and pieces of glass were, without fail, strung from the lower branches, the top ones having none at all. They were lovely spinning and swaying gently in the summer breeze! The tote sacks, dusty and stained as they were from laying around the stables gave the smell of a barnyard to our mid-summer festivities. It was a sight to behold.

The praise we received that day for our efforts I have never forgotten, as well as the laughter in Grandmommy’s voice as she said it. To this day, I still wonder who cleaned up our mess. Likely her. She was a wonderful lady with a heart large enough to hold love for everyone. I love you Grandmommy. Always.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

A City Slicker Goes Frog Gigging

My friend, Rita, lived in the city, if the small town nearest to where we live could be classified as a city. It has, present day, only ten traffic lights, and that is if a dog hasn’t relieved himself on the pole and knocked the power out to that particular light. Anyway, this gal had never gotten her hands or feet dirty, much less enjoyed any of the pastimes that were the norm for a country girl like me. I invited her for an overnight visit, hoping to introduce her to the joys of country life. Unfortunately chaos came with her!

Rita, the epitome of lady hood and gentility, rode the school bus home with me. Once there, I introduced her to farm chores, the like of which were my everyday routine and responsibility. They were enough, to her city bred sensibilities, to make her want to run back to town as fast as her legs could carry her. Working in our family’s layer house, surrounded by thousands of clucking and pecking chickens and roosters, having to gather hundreds of eggs, all fresh from those same chickens, was an fascinating journey for me, watching her master the art of dodging chicken droppings (to keep her city-bred shoes clean, of course). Then came scooping grain for the horses and filling the water troughs, all the while evading the horses who wanted attention and were determined to get it, no matter what. These tasks were as alien to her as dodging the city traffic was to me. Like being stranded on another planet with no way home.

When Daddy came home from work, we set to washing his truck, most probably with the hope of some sort of reward for our industriousness. The truck was a Ford, red and white, with massive bugs splattered all over the windshield and the paint thick with road grime and farm dirt. We got our reward later that evening, just not one she appreciated or expected. Much to her dismay and my family’s entertainment.

Along about dusk, my Daddy invited us to take a ride with him, with orders to wear old clothes and shoes, prepared to get dirty and muddy. We were going frog gigging! Now me, country bumpkin that I was and having been on such a jaunt before, knew what to expect. Rita had no idea what she had let herself in for. But she was soon to find out.

Rita’s face, when we piled into the cab of the truck, was alight with eagerness and excitement. Windows rolled down, the warm summer air of early night blowing in and stirring the air, we were on an adventure. Things went fine until Daddy turned off onto a muddy and rutted farm road, the trail winding across the a grassy meadow and disappearing into the shadowed darkness of the woods on the other side. Night was falling fast, the lengths of the silhouettes ever growing over the field as the sun became a memory. The opening in the trees loomed ahead of the truck, it’s headlights piercing the darkness and gloom of the trees and Rita was beginning to shift nervously in the seat. There it was, our objective, a small pond, filled with shadowed, murky water, still and black as glass in the hot summer night. Once the engine was shut off, the sounds of the woods were all around us, thunderous in the quiet and spooky darkness. As We got out of the truck, Rita nearly knocked me down trying to remain close to me, afraid of this new and terrifying experience.

The art of frog gigging is a curious one, requiring peculiar apparatus and a certain type of person to get pleasure from it, I guess.. To begin, one has to have a flashlight, of course, to scope out the prey. Now, Daddy being a man of enterprise, had a contraption of the type once worn on the head of Doctors, with a twist. Instead of the standard reflecting disc sported by a physician, Daddy’s headgear of choice was a flashlight, small and round, that sat in the center of his forehead, attached to an elastic strap that encircled his head like a headband. This piece of frog gigging sophistication was complete with a power cord that attached it to a battery he carried on his belt and made scoping out the victims of our nighttime trek easier to catch a glimpse of, while at the same time freeing his hands. The only other piece of paraphernalia needed for frog gigging is a gig, an extremely long round handle (much like an over grown hoe handle), equipped with a three prong tool on the end of it. The handle, and it’s length can be explained simply - to reach the frogs that had been spotted by light of the handy-dandy flashlight, it required a tool that allowed the means to span the distance between the hunter and the hunted, before they had the chance to hop into the water (thus escaping capture). And the gig, or three pronged tool, was the business end of the tackle. Once spotted, a frog was simply poked with the gill and ergo, became a meal! Now to find the frogs….

As we walked along the sides of the pond, the loud croaking of numerous bull frogs shattered the peaceful wooded serenity. Rita, being the nervous sort, was tripping over every clump of grass and mound of dirt she encountered along the way, often slipping and sliding as she encountered a spot of mud near the dark, stagnant water. She stumbled along behind us, Daddy and his trusty light leading the way through the gloomy darkness, mumbling under her breath about never leaving the safety of the city again. And carrying the tote sack Daddy had given her with no clue as to it’s use on this idiotic, in her opinion, expedition.

Here we are, silent and ever alert in the darkness, the echoes of bullfrog calls ringing in our ears and occasionally the splash of the water when we ventured too close and startled one into a flying leap into the water. With Daddy admonishing us to be quiet, we struggled to keep up, knowing if we got out of range of the light we were doomed. Suddenly Daddy stopped walking and held up his hand, a signal known everywhere that meant not to move or breathe, his arm darting out suddenly several feet in front of him as he speared the first victim of the night. As he slowly brought his arm back, we edged closer. There, twitching and jerking on the end of the gig was a huge bullfrog. Rita stepped back, much too quickly for balance, and landed flat on her bottom there on the edge of the pond. Daddy told her to get up and bring him the sack, and as she did so, he calmly un-forked the still living frog from the gig and dropped it into the sack. And handed it back to her, with strict orders to carry it and to hold on tight, no matter what! She almost died as we calmly walked off and left her standing there, bag full of frog dangling from her outstretched arm and her mouth hanging open. She quickly followed as she realized we were moving on without her, scared of being left alone there in the pitch blackness of the night.

Daddy gigged nearly a dozen frogs after that, a bag full of squirming and bleeding (ugh!) amphibians. We took turns carrying that bag, heavy with water and the weight of the wounded, then headed back to the safety of the truck. Arriving at the side, my Daddy calmly took the bag of frogs and bashed it against the top railing along the side of the truck. Our just washed truck!! I am not really sure if the purpose was to knock them unconscious or to finish them off, but either way, their fate was sealed. It was a silent ride back to the house, I guess Rita was in shock at the violence she had been witness to that night.

When we got home, the tote sack was brought into the kitchen, dripping water and who know what else onto the floor. Daddy hoisted the sack onto the counter and began to dump the night’s trophies into the sink, trash, algae and what have you following along. He proceeded to clean them, cutting off the legs (the only part of the frog worth eating) and placing them into a bowl of cold water. Rita was watching, aghast at the spectacle before her, most likely alarmed. Thinking back, I have to wonder if she knew what she had gotten into, coming home with me……

Cooking frog legs can be every bit as adventurous as collecting them. For frog legs, once put on the heat of the stove, well ….. move. They twitch and writhe as if they are still alive, and will likely leap out of the pan if the lid covering it is raised too high.
I remember Mom just breaking the seal of the covering over the skillet, letting Rita peep into the depths and her jumping back as if the frog legs were likely to attack. She refused to eat any of this southern delicacy, as did I. Me because I don’t care for them and her, well your guess is as good as mine.

Never again would she go on any excursion with me, at least not without an itinerary up front. A city slicker in every sense of the word. Initiating city friends to country amusements was an entertaining pastime for me and for my family. We never failed to get a laugh at the expressions of dismay on their faces at some of the things we took as everyday life.

Monday, July 19, 2004

The Smutty Side of Life

My Grandmommy Waters liked pornography……..well, actually it was more along the lines of mildly titillating journalism, but to my daddy it was smut. My older sister and I were avid readers even then, and a visit to Grandmommy’s house brought us into contact with the “wilder” side of life. She allowed us to read her True Romance and True Story magazines, much to Daddy’s dismay. I am not exactly sure of Mom’s opinion of our choice of enlightenment, but Daddy said no, and to Mom that was the end of it. We were preteen, nearly ready to burst onto the world with our adolescent fantasies of love and lust. And he was attempting to reign us in, control our wanton urges, through any means he had available. In Grandmommy we had an comrade, a partner in broadening our choice of reading material and exposure to worldly activities.

To be honest here, these magazines were mild, not by any means could they be considered pornographic. There were no naked pictures lounging against tangled sheets, no sexual language or body parts mentioned, it was all implication and suggestion, an allusion to what could possibly be happening and not what actually was. But to my Daddy, they were trash and not fit subjects for our reading pleasure. So we grew sneaky, as all children do at some point or time. After a visit to Grandmommy’s house, it because a clandestine mission to hide our booty from the clutches of both Daddy and the prying (and tattling) band of little sisters we possessed.

A favorite hiding place for our secret cache of loot was an old hollow tree deep in the woods on the back side of our little farm. The magazines were protected no matter what form the weather took in the deep cavernous insides. During the summer, we would slip off for a few hours of reading enjoyment with no one being the wiser. But come winter, and the changing weather, we had to resort to concealing them closer to the house, since our excursions were somewhat curtailed during the colder and more inclement months. At the rear of the house was the outhouse, attached to the shed in our back yard. The outhouse was hidden from the view of the back door and the perfect place to read our treasures of literary perversity in private bliss and solitude. It was a simple matter to store our scandalous reading material under the eaves and between the rafters of the shed. Perfect in fact, for they couldn’t be seen from the inside of the shed by Daddy and were once again protected from the weather. Easy enough to protect our stash and still be within hollering distance if the need should arise for quick divertive action. With no one the wiser.

Unfortunately it was not always a simple thing to climb on top of the outhouse for me, being vertically challenged as I was. My sister had it easier, being somewhat ape legged and armed as she was blessed with height. Usually I went first, more from need than seniority. Climb up on the dog pen attached to the back of the outhouse and use the post as a stepping stool to reach the roof. If that failed, a boost in the seat of my pants by my taller (and therefore luckier) sister usually accomplished the goal. Once perched atop the tin roof ( scaldingly hot on bare naked legs on sunny summer days), we would creep up the roof to the edge of the shed and sit down to enjoy a bit or scholarly pursuit. If we were lucky and had timed it correctly, the sun would have sunk low enough to provide a bit of shade to protect our fannies from the heat generated off the tin. And if it hadn’t…..a extra book, one not being scrutinized at that moment, made an excellent cushion for sitting on. We had all the bases covered, or so we thought…

Although reading should be a relaxing and pleasurable pastime, this wasn’t always the case for us, unfortunately. There was always the chance, with three younger sisters living there, that someone would have to have use of the outhouse at any moment. When that happened, we had to flatten our bodies down on that roof, no matter the temperature of the tin. Absolutely no movement or even deep breathing or we would be discovered. And Discovery was a thing to avoid at all costs, since our littler sister were seriously prone to tattling for any indiscretion on our part.

My last remembered jaunt into the realms of literary oblivion upon the roof of the outhouse ended badly, as one might imagine. There we were, immersed up to our eyeballs in lustful adventure, when suddenly the back screen door slammed, signaling the approach of either Mom or the terrible three, ready to interrupt our solitude and serenity. For some reason, no subversive movement, such as flattening on my belly and holding my breath came to mind ---- I panicked. I jumped off the back of the roof and landed flat on the ground….

The outhouse backed up to a field, overgrown with weeds, some taller than my head. While we played and romped in the tall grass and weeds, evidently we hadn’t scoped it all out, because there, exactly where I landed, was an old board, complete with a protruding and rusty nail. And pointing up, of course. And, as you have probably surmised, I landed on it. The nail was HUGE, so long it went through my entire foot. Well, almost. I hit the ground running, so to speak, because when I landed on that nail, I never slowed down, but kept running, yelling wildly, straight to Mom who had, indeed, just walked out the back door. Vicki was hot on my heels, in shock most likely because she had no idea what had happened, only that I was flying across the grass and screaming as if I had been snake-bitten. To tell the truth, I didn’t know at that moment that I hadn’t. I had no idea what I had landed on when I nose-dived off the roof.

After the requisite Doctor visit for a Tetanus shot and a bandage big enough to make it seem my foot had been decapitated, we came home. Sad to say, Doctor Willard wasn’t even surprised to see Mom bring one of us girls in to see him with some major catastrophe. We tended to be accident prone to say the least. It was a terrible time for me, crawling across the floor when Mom had a cake in the oven (so as not to make it “fall”) and being stuck in the house while my sisters got to roam and play. Even harder to accept was that my foot didn’t heal, the top of my foot, which the nail failed to penetrate completely, became infected and had to be lanced. That was possibly the worst punishment I could have gotten.

While I don’t exactly remember what became of our clandestine reading material, I can positively state that I still love smutty journalism, those trashy romances, where the guy is impossibly handsome and virile and the women are so gorgeous and indescribably sensual the men can’t resist them. And to this day, my Daddy has a problem with my choices in literary fulfillment. I used to share them with Mom, much to his dismay. He would ask, as I walked though with a sack full for Mom‘s enjoyment, is that more trash you are bring in here and I would answer, Daddy----it’s safe sex.