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.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Southern For Life

It has often been said that people born and raised in the south are doomed to be “backwards“, without the benefit of a decent education or an entrĂ©e to the sophisticated enjoyments that the rest of the world has ready access to. I, personally, have found this to be true….tell someone you are from the south and they immediately assume you are ignorant and illiterate, a product of close inbreeding and likely illegitimate. Which isn’t the case at all. This is simply a case of being judged by a body of people who don’t personally know us and who also presume to act as an authority of appropriate behavior for all humanity. And what gives them the right to judge, by virtue of the location we choose to live our lives, what is acceptable and the norm?

Maybe it is because we in the south take pleasure in the simple things in life, the frolicking of a small, rambunctious puppy, the laughter of happy children or the delight of a family dinner, abundant with love and fellowship. Does it make us less worldly to take contentment in the simple act of walking barefoot through a shallow stream or taking a ride in the car through the mountains for the simple delight of viewing the changing color of the leaves that nature had wrought? Summers days filled with Bible School, Kool-Aid and bologna sandwiches? Does this make us dull and lacking? Picnics under the limbs of an ancient oak, or simply a stroll along a country lane, undemanding pursuits that both are, but rich in what is important, contentment and promise.

Being Southern is much more than where you live. It is being thankful with what God provides and telling him so every day. It is being joyful for the simple fact of being alive and not being constantly on the hunt for the material things that money will buy. If it is that I am uneducated and backwards, then so be it, I am happy.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

A Mule Named Pearl

My sister, Vicki, had a horse, a fine example of horseflesh and equine excellence. I, on the other hand, had Pearl. Pearl was a mule, the offspring of the unlikely mating of a donkey and a horse. Now, Pearl wasn’t much on looks, in fact she was kind of homely and plain. The hair on her body was stubby and coarse instead of sleek and silky, prickly to bare legged riders on hot summer days. While horses have flowing manes, long and shiny strands of hair that blew prettily in the breeze, Pearl looked like she had survived a disastrous experience at the world’s worst hairdressing salon. Her mane was rough and stubbly, sheared off at the skin of her neckline, the usual fashion for mules of both sexes. She had gray hair around her nose and mouth, when every one knows ladies should keep young looking with whatever color of hair dye is currently in vogue. Her tail, though long, was not the stuff any self-respecting horse would be jealous of either. It was stiff and bristly, very difficult to braid and impossible to manage with a comb or brush.

Pearl had protruding ears, large pointy appendages that stood straight up from the top of her head and had a backwards tilt. Kind of like they stood at attention at all times, alert and ready. They did come in handy, though, for holding a bridle in place and using as a guide when we ambled down the side of the highway or along winding gravel roads. I, at one point, thought she was broad as a river, but looking back, it was more likely my legs were so stubby they stuck out, not because of her girth, but due to the length of my much cursed lower extremities. She was kinda tall, although to be honest here, I am not sure how tall a normal mule is supposed to be. But to a five foot shrimp like me, she was massive. The shear logistics of getting my fanny from the ground to her back were mind-boggling.

The first problem was to capture her, usually after a chase of several minutes duration around the briar patch in the barn lot. Not for me was the usual tame horse--- you know the kind I mean, one who ambled up to the fence as soon as you even looked towards the barn looking for a pat on the neck or a snack. This mule was no Lady, snubbing love and affection or a bribe. She was ornery as all heck, and stubborn in her desire for freedom from the rigors of carrying a would-be cowgirl for miles on her back. Once I had her in my clutches, bridling her became an act of will, mine against hers. Being ....ummm…less than tall, shall we say, was a definite handicap when attempting to reach the height needed to slip it over her head and into place behind her ears. And the simple act of putting a saddle on her was an adventure in logistical maneuvers. A saddle , at the best of times, is a heavy piece of equine equipment, awkward and cumbersome to fling onto the backside of an animal. It is even more difficult to achieve on an animal who’s back is almost taller than your head. There is also the fact that she would blow her belly out so the saddle girt can’t be tightened, which meant the saddle would come loose at some later point. And this could cause the rider to hit the ground in an ungainly and not very dignified heap. The cure was simple enough, explained by my older sister. A simple knee placed forcefully in the side of the animal would cause them to let the breath so the saddle could be fastened properly. The problem came from my lack of height, not the force of my kneeing ability. So Vicki, being the taller, would usually do this little maneuver for me. Ah, I would have treasured long legs!

Thunder, Vicki’s trusty horse, had a variety of gaits, or paces consisting of a various types and rates of locomotion. A slow, ambling walk, a gentle lope, or a rollicking gallop were no problem for the Wonder Horse to accomplish. Pearl, on the other hand, had two speeds, stop and trot. And neither were effortless or trouble-free to accomplish. To begin with, after either a boost up, (usually accomplished by Vicki’s cupped hands under my foot, or standing on whatever likely object was handy to step up on for the added inches needed for me to reach the stirrup), the gear Pearl was in was “STOP”. Getting her to move wasn’t an easy accomplishment to achieve for this cowgirl of little experience. But usually after several vigorous kicks aimed at her sides, along with the “Giddy-ups” and “He-Yahhs” got her to move out of her tracks. If those failed to get any response other than a twitch of those radar ears, clicking the tongue and swatting of the palm of the hand on the rear most portion of her anatomy sometimes became necessary. As a last resort, the flick of Vicki’s bridle reins across the top of her backside would launch her into motion, unfortunately, with a severe jolt and jerk which nearly unseated me!

Once moving, she had one speed……”TROT“. Trotting was and has never been a comfortable gait for the rider. It consists mainly of a shuffling pace by the mule/horse and the bouncing of the rider’s fanny against the seat portion of the saddle. Tough on a sensitive portion of a teenaged gal’s body, even with the padding of the saddle and, er, a teenage girls backside. And I have to say, at this point, that a fanny slapping the saddle for several hours leads to aches and pains in portions of your anatomy you didn’t even know existed. Saddles should have been constructed like a recliner, fluffy cushions of foam and fabric!

The next problem arose when the need to stop moving came into play. Pearl was equally as reluctant to halt forward progress as she was to start it. No gentle backward tug of the reins had any effect on this stubborn mule. Even mighty yanks failed to get any response. I can remember resorting to hauling back on the reins till her head was pulled up high and I was practically laying across her back ( my head pointing at her tail) before I had any effective means of stopping moving. It soon became simpler to let Vicki lead the way, no matter where we were riding to. Much easier to let Pearl run into the lead horse, and thereby stop, than to try to stop her on my own. Thank goodness that mule wouldn’t run, or I’d have ridden off the edge of the earth by now!

You know, I was jealous that Vicki had her horse, typical of kids everywhere when one has something the other covets. And to tell the truth, Daddy didn’t buy her for me to ride, but to plow the garden patch. Her being my everyday ride was just a bonus. She was gentle, and calm. Never bucked or kicked or bit, no matter the provocation. She allowed me to roam the countryside with my sister and her friends, gave me a freedom I hadn’t had before. The fact that she survived me learning to ride meant she could survive anything.

Friday, July 16, 2004

"Redneck Southern Belle"

Being a “Southern Belle” is more than your proximity to that portion of America below the Mason-Dixon Line. It is a life style you carry with you no matter where you happen to plant yourself at any point in life. It’s an attitude, a self confidence often displayed in forms that ‘foreigners’ (you know who I mean, those Not from south of abovementioned Line) have a problem with. That “I know who I am and I am damn proud of it” that comes across when we talk to outsiders who dare to look at us like some sort of bug they need to squash. Southern pride is impenetrable and immeasurable, a fortress ingrained around our soul, hiding a tender and caring heart. Southerners have a cockiness, a surety of who we are and where we came from, a deep-rooted and genuine feeling of oneness we all seem to share.
A ’belle’ attitude is ingrained from birth, passed down from Mother to daughter, an unquestionable surety that we are worthy of bearing the name, carrying the title and passing it on to future generations. An in-your-face posture that offends some, but puts up one step ahead of the rest of the world. It’s the ability to make something from less than nothing, to overcome obstacles and smile sweetly as you cross that mountain others said you would never scale. No matter what! It’s visiting your elderly neighbors across the way and offering a helping hand without being asked. And expecting nothing in return other than a thank you kindly and a grin. It’s loving your family, no matter how dysfunctional, even if they do nothing to deserve it.
We are a class, a distinction, a whole entire group of ladies who depend on no one but ourselves and care nothing for what others think. We are bold, brassy and assertive. We say please and Thank You, and expect the same in return from those we come into contact with. Yes Sir and No Ma’am are instilled in us from birth, a gesture of honor bestowed by virtue of age and not the recipient’s worthiness. A southern belle allows, nay, expects, her men folk to open doors and seat them graciously, although they are perfectly able to do it for themselves. We show respect when it is merited, have little time for fools and never expect something for nothing. We are independent and honorable, worthy and faithful, both to ourselves and those we love. Our standards are high for our sisterhood and those around us.
Being a Redneck Southern Belle is, in every sense of the word, a lifetime of forging ahead and making life the way you intended it to be. It’s carrying on traditions, making the choices needed to stay true to your roots and heritage. Women, strong women, from the beginning of time, have kept their families together and this world moving forward. Southern women are those women, liberated, courageous and committed to securing the present and future for our daughters and for the daughters of the South for all time.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Fishing for Cows Ears

Few things stand out in my memory as strongly as the fishing trip I took with my sister, Vicki, when we were young. The results of that fated trip were unexpected and evolved into a definite learning experience for both of us.

Our family took many group angling trips throughout our rural countryside, dropping lines in neighborhood creeks and ponds to while away a few hours on sunny afternoons. We all went on these trips, five girls of varying ages, and our parents. Loaded in the back of Daddy’s truck, it seemed like we were flying, the wind blowing through our hair, as we sailed along gravel roads looking for the perfect spot to wet our hooks. And always was the chance that after the fishing was done, we girls might have the chance to wade and frolic in the cool water.

With age comes the belief that parents are overprotective and that they lose the ability to determine what their children are capable of alone……….at least in a child’s eyes. That being said, Vicki and I were becoming more adventuresome as we got older. Parental restrictions were a thing to be ignored, as was the reasoning behind them. In order to avoid parental supervision and censure, it was easier to neglect to tell them of you plans. Thus, the ill-fated fishing trip came to be.

I should point our here, and being totally honest, the jaunt was entirely her idea. I was the good kid, never back-talked, never in hot water. Where-as she was in your face and far too brave for her own good. That being said, I am POSITIVE that it was her idea. We had a plan, secret of course, to sneak off and go fishing in the cow pond on the back pasture of our farm. Without the requisite parental permission, we were boldly going off on our own, foraging for food in the form of fishes. Likely with the idea of cooking them over an open flame blazing deep in the woods, and most probably lit with pilfered matches. It’s a wonder we didn’t set the world on fire!

Once the plan was set, total secrecy was vital. With three littler sisters around, one couldn’t be too careful. And Mom had a way of ferreting out information, which for our backside’s benefit, was better not known to her. The plan was uncomplicated……. find bait and tackle and disappear for a few hours. Simple, easy to accomplish, no muss - no fuss.

Bait…..the first and easiest requirement. Out near the old barn was rotting hay and feed, left - over bits and pieces from where Daddy fed the cows. Discarded pieces of lumber and bits of tote sacks, likely blown by the wind or scattered by the hooves of cattle and horses, were around the cool and shady perimeter of the barn, the perfect hiding place for fat, juicy earthworms. Excellent enticement for hungry and unsuspecting brim. Catching worms is easy unless you are squeamish about getting dirt under your finger nails. And getting dirty was something we girls excelled at. The means of digging for worms is simple. Some sort of utensil for excavating and elbow grease were all that were required. For a mission of stealth such as ours, the risk of borrowing a hoe or shovel from the garden utensils was far more dangerous than risking a splinter in our hand from a piece of scavenged wood lying around the barn lot. An empty coffee can to keep the worms in, a little moist soil to keep them cool and damp, and we were set. The next undertaking was the procurement of fishing apparatus.

Over the years, Daddy had made or purchased each of us cane poles to use for our fishing endeavors, while he and Mom had rod and reels, those new-fangled pieces of prime angling equipment. Now, being semi-grown as we were, sis and I decided that we were certainly mature and capable enough to handle these contraptions of mechanical technology, and we were entirely too old to be restricted to the cane poles our littler sisters were made destined to be using to entice fish onto their hooks for eternity. We were made of sterner stuff ! Unwisely, we were sure we were equal to the challenges of fishing with the mighty rod and reel, and decided to “borrow” the parents much prized examples of the latest models of elite fishing apparatus. To obtain the objective….equipment…much stealth and furtive movement was required. Slipping as silently and cautiously as we could, we approached the shed where the fishing tackle was kept. The goal was to grab the rods and hurry away before either our sisters or our Mom spotted us. Once we achieved that, we were home free.

Hurrying across the grassy fields, we made sure to stay low and, hopefully, out of sight of the house and windows of home. Usually we skirted the woods across from the garden spot, since the grass and vegetables would offer cover from being seen. Once at the back of the woods, it was a simple matter of crossing a fence and being lost to view. The pond was in the center of a hay field waiting for us in hot, hazy afternoon sun. The cattle were gentle, scarcely looking up as we crossed the pasture. They roamed at will around us as we prepared to capture our feast. The fish were there, waiting for us. All we had to do was taunt them enough, with our trusty bait, to bite the hook. Dinner on a string!

Getting the rods prepared was scary, the line wasn’t wrapped around it, tied on at the tip and running clear to the bottom of the pole! And it wasn’t fastened near the end of the pole with black electrical tape! This fact led to a bit of experimentation as to the workings of the apparatus we had…..ahem………borrowed. Much trial and error was employed in our endeavors to understand how they worked. Once we were assured of our competency at casting, we proceeded to explore the pond for likely fish to capture. Slip a big, fat earthworm onto the hook, threading it through the end and sliding it up over the hook, or one good nibble from a fish would strip the hook clean as a whistle. Once a successful cast was achieved, thereby bait and hook hitting the water instead of at the ground near our feet, we settled in to wait for luck…and fish… to come our way. Now, it has to be said here, that fishing is a lot of waiting and watching, often with few and disappointing results. There is also the mandatory checking to make sure you still have bait and that some obnoxious fishy hasn’t swam by and sucked the hook clean without even a bobble of your cork. It should also be a given that everyone knows that fish do not care for a dead and water-bloated worm, hanging by a thread and white and disgusting looking, hence the need to refresh the bait occasionally. Yuck!

Here we were in supreme pre-teen Heaven, far from the prying eyes of parents and siblings. Luring unsuspecting fish to our hooks, hopefully prepared to die for the cause of our empty bellies and the good of girlhood everywhere. We waited, occasionally doing the required and necessary bait checks, then recasting to a more likely spot of water, sure that sooner of later our luck would change. Then if happened, something that would change my thoughts of following where sis led for the rest of my days. She had reeled in her line and was starting to recast, flinging the reel far back over her shoulder and preparing to release the button to send the line zinging across the water. Somehow, that isn’t what happened. Instead, the line went flying behind her, and hooked into…..unbelievably……right into a cow’s ear. I remember standing there with my mouth wide open, and wondering how we were ever going to explain this to Daddy. If I had known any cuss words, I would surely have been yelling them at that moment. The cow was bellowing, I was hyperventilating and panic was not far away, for me or the cow. Sis, of course, just grabbed the line and jerked, leaving the hook and a lot of the line attached to the poor cow’s ear, dangling like a gaudy earring. There she was, ambling across the pasture, hook attached, the broken line dangling on the ground and the cork bouncing along through the grass and dust. After much lamentation and discussion of how to explain the missing parts of the rod and reel, we decided that we would not mention our little expedition to anyone. That way, maybe no one would notice the damage and we would get off free and clear. A surreptitious trek back to the shed, careful replacement of the “borrowed” tackle, and angelic faces accomplished our goal. We were going to get away with it!

No one ever questioned the damage to the reel. I am not sure why, thought I am sure it was noticed. I assume it was considered to be damaged in some other fashion than being “borrowed” by us. We got lucky that time. Actually, we got lucky a lot over the years. I never knew what became of the infamous cow with one earring, although she likely rubbed it off on a tree or fence somewhere along the way. I am equally sure she didn’t appreciate our addition to her customary dressing habits. If a lesson could have been learned from this little transgression by me, it was that, absolutely, under no circumstances, was I ever going fishing for cow’s ears with my sister again.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

I Have Become My Parents

Why is it when we reach a certain age we think we are grown? You know what I mean, the point where your body starts maturing and boobs sprout and you get as tall as your Mom. Well, not in my case, my boobs got bigger and I never reached the exalted height Mom attained but seemed destined to remain a shrimp at 5 foot. And a half inch! ( not much, but I need all I can get) At some point during our aging process, we always determine that we are at least as intelligent as our parents, more sophisticated and certainly should be in control of our destinies. No over-age being of civilized behavior should or would tell us how to think, feel or act! How dare they, the keepers of our future, think to educate us on how to conduct ourselves when we know perfectly well what are the responsible and appropriate actions required to be the epitome of adulthood and wisdom! Then came the battles, those clashes of will that were both noisy and unrestrained. Our quests for freedom, the right of choice in the direction of our life and the questioning of parental authority that our predecessors have heard from the beginning of time. Opposition came in the form of the reasoning behind the rules they imposed on us, the love they bore us - hence the care so diligently given to protecting us, and finally the authoritative “BECAUSE I SAID SO!!”

We rebelled! Disobedience took many forms for a group of determined young people. From a small white lie, nothing very important in essence, although to our parents any lie was as devious as committing murder, to the ultimate infraction - doing the bad thing anyway, with total disregard of the reasoning why we shouldn’t, blatantly brandishing our bravery in the face of our parents disapproval. Always there were consequences for our misdemeanors, no matter how minor. From a scolding, usually given with the thought to discourage the committing of the action again right on up to grounding, loss of telephone and/or television privileges being the least severe penalty. And being a pre-adult and a girl at that, loss of the telephone, the ultimate source of communication between non-driving adolescents, was devastating. The harshest of all was the revoking of the right to “GO”, the simple act of leaving home, thereby being rendered afloat in the quagmire of a hoard of loved ones who, at the moment, were the last people you wanted to spend time with. I suppose the ultimate punishment was the good old fashioned spanking, although not of the wood shed variety. Mom and Dad, had, in their estimation, rose far above this choice location of chastisement. The fact that we had no woodshed could also have had some bearing on this fact. The vast majority of whippings we ever got came from Mom. And were usually well deserved. At the least. The earliest thrashing I can remember was with a keen switch, hell on little bare legs. More humiliating was the fact that the switch in question was usually destined to be obtained by the wrongdoer, the price we paid for deliberate misbehavior. Mom would send us, the prisoner on trial, demoralized and apprehensive, on that horrendous errand, the purveyor of the means of our own punishment. Too small a limb from whatever semi-thorny bush we could find, and the punishment was doubled (or was threatened to be). Too large, and, well, the thought was terrifying to a kid. Broken Leg? Maimed for life by multiple cross hatches of pus oozing strips of torn flesh, rancid and dangling from our tiny unprotected legs.

Actually, the beatings we received from our parents were few, less numerous than we likely deserved. The elders of our home were somewhat lenient in their actions than harsh, preferring to punish us by means of guilt and common sense talk than abuse. We were lucky kids by any system of measure you choose to use. I can recall few cases where the punishment was equal to the crime we had committed, and generally were less than the consequences should have been. We were raised with love, abundant and freely given by our parents. I have found, to my growing dismay, that I have become my parents. Shocking how the truisms, orders and rules flying from my lips once before graced my ears growing up! My children, now mostly grown, voiced the same objections to policy in my household, voicing the age old cry of adolescents everywhere - “But Why Not?!” And received the same answer -

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Visits With Death

We buried my Father-in-law yesterday. He had been battling cancer for a year. Almost thee weeks to the day we buried my Mother. My family has been decimated by grief. My children have lost 2 of their grandparents within a three week period of time. Each and everyone of us are walking casualties of the worst life can throw at you. The trials of death do not pass when the grave is closed it seems. We are left with an empty spot in our hearts no one can ever fill. A hollow ache in our souls and a silence that will never again echo with the sound of our loved one’s voice. Even tho God’s promise means a happier future and a joyous reunion with our loved ones who have gone before us, to the ones who remain behind, death is a lonely place that seems never-ending.

My Dad is grief stricken still. Never has he been less than a rock where we were concerned. It is actually scary to see him lose that confidence, the will to be leader. How can we, as daughters and still considered children, help him? We try, but we can never replace Mom. And wouldn’t want to. But it seems the harder we try, the more he pulls away. Seeing his tears wretches my soul and visiting the cemetery and viewing the roses he has planted in the ground on his daily visits to Mom, both makes me smile and breaks my heart. My Dad was always the strong one. Mom was the anchor of our family ship, Daddy was the wind in the sail who kept us going no matter what. We persevere and pray that tomorrow will be better. As long as we remember Mom, she is here, guiding us until we meet again.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

My Country Childhood

At the edge of the woods near where we lived growing up was a massive slab of rock. It grew out of the ground, level on one side, where it joined the pasture and the other edge being under the shade of the trees and several feet off the ground. Down a steep hill from our rock was a creek, where the water was ever-running and clear. Though it was near the road where traffic ran, the road was gravel and had little thru traffic. It was quiet and peaceful there on a summer afternoon, the rustling of the woods and the water gamboling over the rocks lining the creek bottom were musical. My family spent many hot, humid afternoons on that rock, cooking hotdogs over a homemade fire ring , the fuel burned down to glowing embers. Toasting marshmallows until they were burnt crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside. We collected small rocks and placed them into a circle to contain the fire. ( And also to keep little girls from stumbling into it). I remember gathering dead fall, small sticks and twigs to make a fire, with dry and decomposing leaves added for kindling. They were piled into a heap in the center of the big flat rock and one of the adults would light it, fanning the flames until all the wood had caught and was blazing. You don’t roast weenies over an open flame, but must wait until the fire had burned down, leaving nothing but glowing embers. After spearing the weenie with a thin stick, or as Daddy made us, metal coat hangers, straightened and saved for reuse each time we roasted out. Sticks, after all, were not always strong enough to support a fat hotdog without drooping too close to the coals, It was a given, ash and mustard did not taste well together.

We seldom used the requisite buns bought from the grocery store. We mainly used a loaf of white bread, slathered in mustard and ketchup and rolled around a length of charred hot dog. I can still see the little faces, slick with condiments, alight with the free and easy laughter of shared good times. There is no telling how many dozens of hotdogs we put away in this fashion. It was one of the highlights of our summer, costing little in the money, but rich in the stuff memories are made of. I still ride by that old home place, even now years later. The house where we lived has been torn down, new ones sprung up where once were nothing but grassy fields. The woods are overgrown and the rock all but covered over with underbrush and vines. But I know it is still there, in hiding, waiting for another generation of children to discover it’s secrets and enjoy the pleasures that last a lifetime.

Monday, July 05, 2004


I got up this morning, well 11ish really, and looked out side. There it was, the remains of a typical redneck summer holiday widely known and respected in the south. And likely feared as well by those who don’t celebrate in the normal southern fashion. Or as normal as we in the boonies ever get.

My entire front and side yard were covered in confetti, the aftermath of hundreds of exploding rockets, bombs and firecrackers. While the brilliant bursts of color are a wonder to behold lighting up the night sky, the morning after is a disaster. Hardly a square inch of space spanning a huge chunk of grass was not filled with cardboard pieces, empty rocket tubes or blown up bits of firecrackers of every hue. There was plastic wrappers from the multitude of packages opened by amateur pyrotechnical wanna-be experts that were strewn about like wrapping paper at Christmas. Sparkler skeletons, the things of wonder to kids too young for explosive devices, were stuck haphazardly in the grass, testament to the enjoyment of the little ones and their penchant for refusing to stay in one place for any length of time. Little white wrappers, once Snap & Pops lay spent, burst open, where tiny hands had thrown them in a frenzy of noise, laughter and littering. Two garbage cans were in sight, overflowing with debris, empty beer and soda cans, lending the thought that at least a few were making an effort to conduct themselves with neatness and dignity. Scattered around the base of those same cans was the evidence that once the can was full, none of them had the time or energy to walk into the house for an empty garbage bag, and instead aimed in the general direction of said cans and hoped it fell somewhere near them.

Walking across the grass was like a treasure hunt, one made even more difficult by the lack of a map for directions or clues. No matter which direction I walked, there was some evidence of a celebration. Half filled glasses of (usually) a suspicious smelling drink sitting in the grass, to a full un-opened can of Natural Lite sitting on my doorstep, the remnants of someone’s alcoholic bliss lingered. And this ole gal never touched a drop. The cooler was still half full of Cokes and Dr, Peppers and Sprite…………and the requisite half gallon of Vodka, nearly empty of course. But all still cold as hell, with ice chunks still floating in the frigid water. I lassoed and rounded up stray chairs, many of whom I have yet to discover belonged to. They are amassed into a herd, waiting patiently to be collected by their respective owners. I even found an open fifth of Seagram’s 7, still wrapped in it’s little brown paper bag, sitting alone in the yard, likely abandoned in the flurry of goodnights. I think it belonged to my oldest son.

The effects of a night of partying do NOT go as well for some as for others. I know of several hangovers, slow movers with headaches who were about today. And the said oldest son of mine spent the early morning hours hugging the goddess of the toilet. But even after 3 hours of steady work de-confetti- ing my yard, from the pasture fence to the middle of the highway, it has to be admitted that a good time was had by all. And Mom, I know you were there, watching over our shoulders, fussing about the drinkers and enjoying the festivities. Next year, we will attempt to do you proud once again. And, like yesterday, I know you will be there. We love you.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Fourth of July Without Mom

I knew the first holiday without Mom being here would be hard for me and my family. I just never truly realized how tough it would be. We had the normal things, hamburgers and hotdogs roasted on a grill, chips, and drinks. Watermelon and a family gathering, complete with sisters, in-laws, nieces and nephews and the greats. Somehow it just wasn’t the same. The Fourth of July was probably the second favorite of Mom’s holiday celebrations. She loved the seeing the colorful fireworks lighting up the night sky, seeing the huge bursts of vivid color blossom above our heads.. She loved the excitement of the little kids, hearing the oohs and ahhs from kids of every age, be they 5 or 50. This year she missed all that, and we missed her. The family that was recently brought together by grief, tonight, was once again brought together by love. Love for her, and hopefully for each other. Tonight was in memory of Mom. We love you. Me miss you. And I hope the view of our fireworks were even brighter in Heaven.