Friday, April 27, 2012

Rolling in the Grass meant Chiggers in your A**

Some kids never learned that a few fun things sometimes should not be done again and again. Like when my brother "allowed" me the first jump into the stagnant water of the gravel pits, I finally figured out, I was the test subject to make sure it was deep enough to be safe. It he took me, I would jump first, feeling like a star as his friends watched me fall the 30 feet to the water. Same with playing barefoot in the summer. I don't think I wore shoes execpt when I was in church. I can recall going to school barefoot once, must have been the first day of school and I just forgot. Even in my little town they expected me to wear shoes so I had to walk back home to get a pair before I could get back into class. Rolling down hills in cool grass on hot summer days was a favorite pass time for us kids. It was always a race and always hoping we didn't roll on a honey bee. Afterwards we would sit and hunt for 4 leaf clovers (I never found one, ever!). I would occationally do the very girly thing of tying long stem clovers together to wear as a necklace or crown. I tried to keep the girl stuff to a minimum because I played with boys. The only girl around was my cousin/sister, she didn't like rolling in the grass or having tree climbing contests. The bad part of this was the Ozarks held an abundance of chiggers and ticks. If we stayed in the grass, we typically only had the fire breathing tiny red bugs that loved those tight spots, like the waist band area of shorts and back sides we sat on while resting. THE WORST PLACE to have to scratch when adults were around! As it neared dark, us kids had to head home. Back in the day, we could be gone all day long, walk the few blocks to the center of town where there were acutal water fountains outside the drug store or barber shop. If we got thirsty when playing in a field, we would just walk to the nearest house and turn on the water hose, wait for the scalding water to become more drinker friendly and fill 'er up. It didn't take long for Mamaw or Papaw to see me scratching where the red devils were attacking, welts grew on my arms and legs and I kept digging with my nails. Soon, I would hear a bath being drawn and smell the bleach. My grandparents solution to killing the chiggers making THEM uncomfortable watching me scratch was to put me in a tub of cold water with laundry bleach added. I shiver now as I think about how I could not complain that this never worked, it only made my skin burn more and the smell made it seem like I was in a tub of bleach with water added. My Mamaw would stand over me to make sure I stayed in the tub and my entire body was submurged. I guess I should be grateful she didn't hold my head under but then again, I never scratched my head, my a** was on fire so that's were I focused my own attack. Learning from mistakes has never been a strong suit of mine. I must have smelled like bleach for days afterwards and wondered if any of my friends had to do the same. We never discussed this, as far as I can recall. No matter how horrible the itching and bleach water baths were, they were never bad enough to stop me the next time my friends said, "Let's roll race to the bottom of this hill." I would slam my body flat against the grass and start my trip to the bottom of the hill, watching the sky and grass switch places rapidly. As soon as I could gain footing, I would stagger up the the hill to go on my next run.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Less of a Life?

My Dad's mom never made it to Middle School, she had to work. I have no idea about my Papaw's education, my Dad's dad. Leroy was my mom's dad, left his family a lot. My mom said he killed her mother, who died the year before I was born. She talked about the poverty they had to survive in one room above a store. It was hard to recogize him as family. Leroy was educated but had wanderlust, always treasure chasing, the big score just another adventure away. Leroy would talk to me about hopping trains to travel due to no money. I felt no sympathy. My mom, her siblings and the grandmother I never met were starving and cold as he sought treasures. Then there was my inner conflict. I loved hearing about his adventures. Guilt would consume me as I pictured his travels. He was from the hills of Kentucky, different from Ozarks. I have no idea how they ended up in the Ozarks. My mom talked about riding in a horse drawn wagon with her grandfather to deliver milk. I could not picture my mom in a horse drawn wagon at all, much less working with her grandfather to devlier milk, it's not like it was 100 years ago. The Hills were just a little behind the rest of the world. Mom always wanted to reach higher, attain more, as did my dad. They didn't really talk about it, they just did it; both worked hard at what ever jobs they could get. Dad pumped gas, worked at a city waste water plant and eventually landed a state job that helped him gain more education. Mom always had her nose in a book while trying to raise 4 kids. I watched the little kids as she finished high school, went to college then got her degree, all while working full time. When she had to leave the state for two years to attend college. My older brother joined the Air Force and us younger kids were spread out between family members, as far away as West Texas. At that point, I don't think I had ever traveled more than 25 miles from our house. I was terrified mom wouldn't come back and I felt guilty. I was the only kid that stayed with a parent, my dad. Maybe none of the other family wanted me, I was handful and a half. But was it less of a life? I think it was a different life from other's but not less. I was blessed with riches, just not the kind that can go into a bank. I think my dad died content that he had done his best for all of us and mom. I didn't hear him complain about his life. Lots of other things, yes, but not his life. This is rambling, I know. A family member died this week and I got to thinking I am on the back nine myself. Do I feel I have lived less of a life as an adult? I seem to complain a lot like my dad did but I really have more than I ever thought I could attain. My kids are healthy, they have kids that are healthy. I have never been homeless, always able to find some sort of work and have traveled more than 25 miles from my hometown. As a kid I never saw past the front porch, even when Leroy would talk about adventure, in my mind that adventure was waiting in my back yard or down the street with friends. I was hooked on the books, Boxcar Children, but alwasy pictured their Boxcar home in the woods behind my house. Maybe my "elders" taught me how to appreciate what was on my plate, whether it was poking the tall grass beside a road with my toddler son for enough coke bottles to buy beans for the week or getting up everyday to go to radiation treatment even with radiation sickness. I have been on the edge of poor, living in a condemed house and feeling rich when I had enough cash to give my kids a nice vacation. I have been lucky to live in both near poverty and almost middle class, to hear about the very real poverty my family experienced and going to my friend's homes that had no indoor plumbing and the only heat was a wood stove stove in the middle of the house. I left their homes feeling greatful that our house had doors and an inside toilet. I feel lucky to be able to share what I have seen, learned and lived with others. It's been a different life, not less of one. Ramble ends.

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Cousin was my Sister; All Hillbillies are Related

I gave birth to my first born on this day over 4 decades ago. He was not born in the heart of the Ozarks but we got him there before he was two months old. That offically makes him a true hillbilly. His daddy was more hillbilly than most. To keep the facts straight, yep, I was still a teenager when I had him, that is what is expected of Ozark Hillbilly women, right?

His daddy didn't stay around too long but I didn't make it to where he felt welcomed either. Because it appears I have a huge following on this blog now, I won't use names. We ALL know every Hillbilly is related to every other hillbilly in the world. Until today, I don't think anyone knew I was female. Oh, the secrets we can't keep.

MK was a joy to my life after we moved into the heart of the Ozarks, that kid loved the water. We would go to the lake or White River, he would be tearing at his diaper and running for the water before I could shout, "Wait for me!" He had very long, curly blond hair. In the water, the other swimmers and their kids were......"aww, she is so cute." When he exited and they saw "she" was a "he" I got more lectures from stangers than I ever did from my family. I made sure we swam a LOT! Like I said before, I didn't like to rock the boat but if it was going to be rocked, I was going to make sure it was swampped!

My cousin, LJH, was my best friend, as earlier mentioned, until she reached high school and I was left with a younger crowd. She also lived next door to my grandmother, which made her more like a sister than my cousin because we spent so much time together. This week my son will celebrate his life with his friends and family. I hope he is happy and his life is rich and full. This week Dick Clark died and he was in large part, how I learned to dance, with my cousin, LJH.

Today is a sad rememberence on many levels. Some Hillbillies can be hard on their kids. My life choices made life hard on my son. He will celebrate his adult mid-life without me being a part of it, as happens in some families. My sister cousin, LJH, passed away many years ago, much too young. She taught me to dance, how to dress up, and how to make hot Dr. Pepper with lemon seem like an elegant martini. I miss them both and fair sailing to Dick Clark, who taught America to dance.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Child Labor Laws? Not in the walk, you work!

Reading a post on my brother's Facebook last night, it reminded me why I am anxious or nervous if I am not earning a living. The people I was closest to were my role models in life, my life map for a career was laid out for me the first time my grandmother actually put me to work when I was in grade school. I have always been a watcher, in the background, don't rock the boat, but if it has to be rocked, just turn it over. Don't know if that makes sense to anyone who doesn't know me very well but who can understand a Hillbilly anyway?

My Mamaw worked so many jobs when I was young, heaven only knows how many she worked before my memory began to retain information. I can recall her working at the drug store, she helped with everything from the soda fountain to pharmacy. Since I could walk just about anywhere in our town in a few blocks, I would visit her quite often. It was also on the way to church and school. NO, the drug store was not opened on Sundays, but I went to church when the doors were opened, not just Sundays. Eventually, that soda fountain would be one of my first jobs as a very young teenager but before I actually paid into Social Security, I helped my grandmother at the indoor theater and the drive in.

The Graco, the indoor theater, had a balcony and small snack bar. In my memory as a child, it was the largest, most interesting building I had ever been able to explore. During the intermission of movies, (yep, they stopped the movie half way through so kids could go to the bathroom and snack bar), my grandmother would have me behind the snack bar counter bagging pop corn and grabbing candy bars to hand to her or the customers. She had me stand on a foot stool to reach the pop corn machine so I could empty a scoop of corn into the yellow goop I had to put in the popper first, then I flipped a switch and would wait to hear the pops slow down, flip the switch again, dump the popped corn and start scooping into bags that compared to our modern "tubs" of movie popcorn, made those little bags look like toothpicks next to redwoods.

When she took me to work at the drive in, I got to go into the projection booth and watch how spools of film were loaded and machines switched to keep the movie seamless between spools. I even know the reason why back then, if a film spool slowed or was stuck, it melted! To the grave I will carry this tidbit, or you could google it.

This was all very magical to a youngster but at intermission, I was on my stool scooping popcorn or flipping burgers, no more than nine years old. My best memory was going to the play ground in front of the screen and swinging before I had to go to work. The excitment of working wears off fast when there is a play ground. As my grandmother cleaned right before close, I can recall being in one of those old fashioned, new back in the 50's, metal chairs on the paito in front of the snack bar watching all the actors that became like family during this time of my life. I would scoot back and swing my legs trying to keep from getting eaten alive by the evening vampire insects.

I have always loved to work, may not have loved the job but my grandmother gave me a great gift; she was always smiles and polite to even the most rude people, she didn't complain about her paycheck and she took pride in a job well done, what ever job she set out to accomplish. Working so much must have kept the bacon fat she cooked with from resting in her body. She kept active in her older years, if not working, she would walk. Mamaw Arsula lived into her 90's. I am proud of how much work my family did to care for her, even when it was clear to everyone she needed more care than just family members can give, she passed on her work ethic to her son's as well.

The few times I saw her in the nursing home, she didn't recognize folks. She only recognized me once, but the staff talked about how she would go from room to room making up the beds and with serving food. I was told she thought she worked there. Because of this fact, I am sure she was happy in her last years, since she was always happiest when she worked. If it brought her joy, why not share with a nine year old by having her work side by side?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite

Normally, this is almost like a Grimm's Fariy Tale saying from the "old days". I found I could not say this to any young person in the 21st Centry, they have nightmares and worry themselves sick. My own grandson freaks at the thought of bed bugs, I have only said this to him once. He worried for six months and I had to wash his bed sheets more frequently.

When I was a kid, this was what parents and grandparents said when us kids were going to bed or being tucked in at night. "Good night, don't let the bed bugs bite." I never gave it a second thought as a child.

Yesterday, I was told to go home due to a "possible" bed bug scare that quickly turned into minor hysteria. A young lady came to the office, yes, this old geezer works in an office, who may or may not have bed bugs. Both the staff that interacted with her were sent home for precaution. Take a shower, change our cloths. I could not breath a word of this to my grandson, who I wish never had to worry about such things but after peeking at the World Wide Web, I found that that bedbugs are quite serious and harder to rid once they "bed in" any building or home.

This seems to be due to regulations on pesticides. Long gone are the days when I ran behind the industrial sized insect sprayer loaded on the back of a flat bed truck. My friends and I played hide and seek in the thick white clouds of DDT being sprayed in our neighborhood in an attempt to cut down the mosquitoe population, until we were so loopy we laid on the freshly DDT sprayed lawns to recover.

It's a trade off, as many things are in life. To keep our water free of pesticides, save endangered insects and amphibians the governement has regulated our best interest and that of our grandchildren but creeping up behind to reclaim their place in our homes, offices and yards are the onslaught of infestations we thought were erradicated.

This isn't a cautionary tale, just a ramble or a rant. As you tuck your children into bed tonight and tell them to sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite, it is my hope you don't go onto the world wide web to read how these vampire bugs; who when not feeding are the size of the period at the end of this sentence but within minutes is the size of this 0; are now forever a part of our lives, again. Since apparently, they were never really gone. They were secretly planning their invasions, biding their time quite patiently, just waiting for the regulation of pesticides that kept them at bay.