Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chewing Tobaco or Sliced Onions with those Stings?

I love being outdoors. We didn't have a TV when I was young, not many people did and if they did, not many stations interested me.

I think I told you my Uncle Bill lived next door to my grandmother, with my cousins who were also my best friends, at least best friends until I discovered boys in Junior High. My grandfather was a craftsman of spectacular skill. That day he was in his workshop/cure shed working on some project. Because he was busy there, my grandmother was busy cooking something or cleaning, so to get rid of me, she gave me permission to cut the grass.

This was reserved for boys in the 1950's, so I was excited, so excited, I cut my grandparents yard and my uncle's yard as well. If you have ever used a non powered push mower that has the rotating blades, you know that if even a twig or small limb gets caught, the mower will stop like a break switch was thrown. So I actully ran with the mower so it would snap the twigs and sticks. Papaw kept it very sharp and tended to all his tools so they were in perfect working order.

Not many homes had chilled air in those days either, much like cars, we just kept windows open or used attic fans. For folks who could afford them, most homes used window units that cooled one or two rooms. My Mamaw had a couple and would hang quilts to keep the cool air from going into the rooms without doors, the combo kitchen and hall way.

My Uncle had one that chilled his living room but the back side of it was covered by large hedges. I had trouble cutting between the hedges where grass tended to grow taller, I guess due to the shade. I wasn't going to let something like a stubborn hedge keep me from doing as good a job, if not better, than a boy at cutting grass so I shoved that mower deep into the hedge, rocking the whole bush and smacking the back of Uncle Bill's air conditioner. My Uncle started cussing. He cussed like a sailor. Words I never heard my father utter in my entire life. I wonder if it was because he had been a sailor? But I was determined to get that one spot in the back I could barely see but knew would defeat me if I did not pull back, dig in my feet then get a running start.

That mower hit the bush and it slammed into the air cooler, with a string of curse words, my Uncle got off his couch and came outside to make sure I was hearing him correctly. He stood with long pants but no shirt and yelled, "Get away from the G-D air conditioner!"

I stood and looked at him in shock, his words stung. They had never stung before, we were all used to Uncle Bill's cussing, it was just a part of who he was, no filter no matter the age of the person at his home. His words stung my arms, my legs, my neck, my face, my belly, my back and suddenly I realized, he was running toward me, from standing to a dead run. He scooped me into his arms and kept running, yelling for Papaw and Mamaw. All I could feel was red hot pain and my ears started ringing. My body felt like it was on fire.

I could feel tears on my face and felt some fear, tried to stop them, no one in my family had time or tolerated tears, but I could not stop the flood that followed. Uncle Bill ran right into my Mamaw's house throught the opened back door, Mamaw had a dish towel in on her shoulder as she held the screen door for him. He was shouting but not cussing. My Papaw was running right behind us. His feet seemed to have left the ground as he was in the back yard then suddenly at my side. It was then I realized they were trying to pull my shirt off and my grandmother was using her dishrag to swat my head, shorts and legs. Was I in that much trouble? My grandfather started stomping and had a fly swatter working overtime.

I often played outside without a shirt, it was no big deal when so young so the tugging at my shirt was not a shock, just puzzle, but why was my body still on fire and why was my Uncle saying he was sorry, then he started cussing again. Why was my Papaw stomp dancing while swinging a fly swatter? This time, Uncle Bill was cussing about the G-D wasp nest at his air conditioner, "must be for the water" he cursed again as he kicked the screen door and left, face as red as a tomato and fists clinched.

It was then I realized I was being smacked by the dish rag to get wasps out of my hair, off my pants and my shirt had been loaded with red wasps. Papaw's dance was killing wasps under his feet as he tried to knock them to the floor with the fly swatter.

I took a bewildered look at my arms, legs, chest and belly. Large welts were growing angry red and tiny wells in the center, like volcanos. Unlike honey bees, wasps can sting over and over again. My Mamaw gave me cold wash cloth for my head as my grandfather began to put huge plugs of tobacco in his mouth. Mamaw began to slice fresh onions. Then the argument began. My grandfather told her it was a waste of time to treat stings with onion, never worked, I needed chewing tobacco. Mamaw told him it always worked when she was a girl. Papaw told her it was because no one was smart enough to use chew. They argued on as each applied their cure to my many wounds and we listened to Uncle Bill continue his symphony of curse words outside about the wasps.

I watched my Papaw pull chewing tobacco from his mouth and place small bits it on the left side of my body over the stings. Mamaw had a bowl of thin sliced onions and put them on the right side of my body. I hurt so badly I didn't care what they used. I was used to home remedies but this was new, even to me. They continued their argument about the benefits of their methods and why they worked. I think I began to feel better because of the care and concern each of them expressed for my well being, that was the best medicine. Thank goodness they didn't ask which worked best!

I had to sit indoors and be watched as my Mamaw told me some folks had "spells" from so many stings. My body was covered with damp pieces of rags holding slices of onion and bits of wet chewed tobacco on the stings that covered my body. NOw I know those "spells" my Mamaw talked about was actually anaphylactic shock, but I was a tough little girl. Not too tough that I refused the bowl of ice cream offered in mid day before dinner. Not too tough that I realized my family rallied at the speed of light around me when I was in need.

Although I stunk to high heaven, I still have no idea which remedy worked best, or at all. For me, the best medicine was the love I felt from my family. Even gruff Uncle Bill who scared everyone so much we avoided interaction unless it couldn't be avoided. After that day, I was never afraid of him again, no matter how much he cussed and fussed.

Isn't love the best medicine any person can hope to be administered? I wouldn't hit wasp nest again to get that much love and attention all at once, but once was all that was needed to last a life time. The memory still feels warm. Thank you to my Mamaw, Papaw and Uncle Bill, who have all passed on but the memory of when they worked together like a pit crew in a NASCAR race to take such good care of me that day will live on as long as I live. It is my wish that everyone feels this much love at least once in their life. It will last a lifetime.

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