Friday, May 11, 2012

Swamp A** in the Ozarks

I don't know if this is a term that is used anywhere else in the country, maybe you can enlighten me. My brother, the older one, used to tell me he had Swam A** when we would be outside in the summer, doing anything that required moving around. Even if we just ran through the yard sprinklers to cool off or took a walk to the square, which was more of a circle, where many of the town stores were located. I had no idea what he was talking about and just thought it was my brother's typical gross talk.

Kids now days are indoors a lot. When we were kids, we weren't allowed indoors. Slam that screen door just once, no matter which house were staying for the day, we ended up locked out until dark, only getting a sandwich passed to us attached to a disembodied hand that promptly slammed and locked the door again. If we had to go to the bathroom, it was a choice to find a place in the field and risk chiggers or ticks, or walk to a store.

Jimbo and I didn't hang together much when I was very young, only when I was a teen did we begin to see each other more as humans and less as objects to taunt and resent. He was a football player, a linebacker, so he was a big guy. Eventally, I lost my own identity to become Riggs's little sister. Even teachers in Jr. High and High School called me Riggs, like they did my brother, not by my first name. For most of my adolescene, I was only a shadow of my brother, which may have been why I was so shy, or maybe it suited my being shy, chicken/egg?

The other football players would gather at our house for various reasons. They would come to cook outs or hang out to workout on the weights. I heard them all talk about Swamp A** at one time or another and by that time, just thought they were talking about sinky butts, since my brother's room always had an odd odor, which I finally decided as I was forever closing his bedroom door, was due to he never washed his sheets and wore the same socks over and over again. How I knew this, that's a Rant for another day.

As to my own experience with Swamp A**...? It only started to happen when I added some weight and gravity began to work her magic, when gravity moves body parts from the proper and correct locations to unthinkable locations. The lightbulb went off as the pain began on a hot summer day, I finally understood Swamp A**.

The first time was during a brisk walk around a lake trail in near 100 degree heat. By the trails end, my "end" was on fire!! No amount of baby powder was soothing enough. As my years kept climbing, my parts kept giving in to gravity and what was formally known as my "rocking body" became, expanding gerth. I switched to a bicycle to try and preserve my knees and save my red "cheeks". There was no excape. Swamp A** followed me on the bike as well, reminding me with it's red prickly burn that it was here to stay as long as I insisted on sweating.

Out of the blue, as most good things seem to happen, I was in the bike shop looking for a padded saddle for my bike to help my burning behind and there it was, sitting on a shelf above bike gloves and water bottles. A little round yellow plastic carton with a pitcure of an adorable little furry Dora the Explorer type creature with it's huge smile and bright red monkey butt pointing at me. You know I had to read about this and I bought it. God bless America and Anti-Monkey Butt powder! It found me when I wasn't even looking. Take THAT SWAMP A**!!! If you have never heard of it, google Anti-Monkey Butt powder. If you like the outdoors but like me, end up with sweat dripping from your neck to your back side, if you end up with some pain and redness where it doesn't belong, you too suffer from Swamp A** syndrom and you will be doing the bowlegged Swamp A** walk for until it heals.

Moral of this Ramble, if you torture your sister, she may never tell you about Anti-Monkey Butt powder and if you don't want Swamp A**, find some Monkey Butt!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Cup of Butter and a Pot of Pork Fat

This morning, as I was getting my things ready for work, my grandson saw me slapping heaps of butter into one of those cup size Glad containers. He asked me with some concern and disgust, "Is that my school snack"?

I use the same container to put his fruit in for mid-day school snacks. I let out a loud laugh, he cracks me up sometimes. I reassured him, he had blueberries and stawberries in his cup size container. The butter was for cooked sweet potatoes at work. He walked away rubbing the sleep out of his eyes mumbling, that I was so gross, under his breath.

Of course, having lived my grandmother a lot and asking her questions that must have been equally funny to her, he had to suffer a childhood story of mine on the way to school. A car makes for a captive listener! Today it was about my grandmother keeping what looked like a smaller version of an old fashioned coffee percolator, much like today's cowboy coffee makers for camping, next to her stovetop for "drippings" as she called them.

Mamaw usually cooked with lard. When she wanted to punch up the flavor, as in "Bam" she used that small coffee pot full of discarded fat, usually from bacon.

Those cans had filters, much like modern coffee makers catch the grounds from coffee beans, her fat catching kettle caught bits of burnt flesh from what ever she cooked and yep, it was used a lot!

Until my first visit to a cardiologist, I really didn't give it much thought. Then the family history of heart attacks took me to my past, all the way to that pot of grease.

Is it any wonder most folks of my generation have to have their arteries roto rooted like plumbing in an old house? I have had friends and co-workers suffer a heart attack or stroke in their 40's and 50's. Some may be genetic but I can't help but picture that pot on Mamaw's stovetop with skull and crossbones or one of those red circles with a red slash inside at a 45 degree angle.

How did our grandparents keep that fat from spoiling? There was no expiration date on the can, I never saw her wash it, it was used then refilled each week.

Looking back, eating healthy homegrown green beans from Papaw's garden sprinkled with sevin dust, then Mamaw drizzled with bacon fat was everyday good eats for us,

I never passed on those flavorful greens. Now I know it was probably worse than my sending a cup of butter with my grandson for snack.

Maybe next week I will pack him a cup of butter and tell him to be grateful it isn't poison laced pork fat!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Dodge Darts and Brotherly Love

In the days when few of us had televisions, we had to make our own fun. If enough kids were around, we could get a ball game going or ride bikes to the railroad tracks to expore. When other kids were busy with chores or errands, siblings usually played with each other. If our chores were done and we were bored, we found our own entertainment.

My brother typically didn't want to play with me, treated me like I was a knat most of the time, so when he did ask me to play. I was thrilled and quickly agreed. Our house had a wooden fence that my dad kept in good repair and was tall enough that I could not see over the top. I may have been about 9 years old during these games that will never find their way to the Olympics.

It's hard to picture getting suckered over and over again into something my brother would think was too funny for words, like getting me to taste the neighbor's metal gate after a big snow. "It tastes just like ice cream, I promise," he would say as he pretended to taste the gate himself. After my tongue was firmly attached and screams of panic tore from my throat, I recall thinking he clearly didn't taste the section I did and it tasted nothing like ice cream. Althought I was in pain, my tongue so swolen it filled my mouth, I was still confused by the trap I fell into, still wondering how his tongue didn't get captured by the evil metal. My face felt burned from the cold exposure and my tears felt hot as they rolled without a sound, my heart breaking as my mom wore herself out whipping him with a belt and cussing like a sailor.

As for dodge darts, it was more of a summer game. I loved the attention from my brother who mostly ignored me and acted like I was invisible. At times I would run to the bathroom and check in the mirror, reassuring myself I was not invisible. Like a little sucker of a sister, I willingly became his partner in this game. Jimbo got a dart board one year, for a birthday or Christmas. He wasn't allowed to play in the house so it was set up outside. When he explained the rules of dodge dart to me, I wasn't hesitant in the least. Excited that this time, I would win. Yes, I thought that every time we played. I was warned to never tell mom or we couldn't play together. If I wasn't invisible, I was happy. If we played, I wasn't invisible.

To begin the game, he would mark my "dogde" area. He placed large rocks at four corners and used tree branches to fashion a small square in the lawn on one side of the fence. That was my side of the fence. To win the game, I had to dodge the darts he tossed over the fence from the other side without going over the "foul lines" he set for me. Now, how many times in these games do you think I was able to dodge all the darts when he only gave me about 3 feet side to side and front to back to work with?

I realized after seeing the first dart fly straight up like a rocket, curve almost in slow motion then gather speed as it made it's way for a direct hit at my face, this was going to hurt. I don't know how but I was mostly able to dodge the darts but some found their way to my arms, mostly because I had them wraped over my head as I ran in tight circles like a chicken with her head cut off. I would be in tears at the end of the game, not knowing he realized if he played any longer, Mom would find out. He would come to my side of the fence to count the number of times I was hit, which was easy since each place had little red dots of blood. I will never know what factors he used to tell me "great game" or instead, call me a cry baby. That would stop my crying, it was the absolute worst thing to be know as, a cry baby! It wasn't that I was dumber than dirt that kept me involved with his games, it was simply that my big brother asked me to play with him and that was a rare treat. I can't remember ever being the least bit suspicious as I always jumped at the chance to spend time with him, even when almost every game he suggested ended with me injured or trapped and usually in tears. My feeling of joy at being asked to spend time with him won me over every time.

He must have "LOVED" playing with me because he was willing to face my mother's rage and what seemed like an endless belt lashing if he was caught.

For all you brothers out there, us sisters forgive you for games like dodge darts because we loved you then and we love you now, unconditionally...... mostly.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Papaw Made me 10 Feet Tall

Todays toys come with a price. Whether that price is the cost to the pocket book or loss of social skills for kids as they strike the iPod pose, neck and head down, eyes unblinking and the screen of their little game inches from their noses. Back in the day, we had toys, they were just different. They required balance, skill and some risk taking. My Papaw was a railroad man but he was also a gifted carpenter. He would surprise us kids at times by going to the shed then dragging out a sled he threw together. If I were a bettin' person, I would bet it was because he wanted us out of the house, it worked every time. I loved the things he would make but one of my favorite was when he made stilts. Now I have looked at those metal ones in stores and shiver at the thought that I didn't inherit his gift for looking at scraps of wood and junk that had piled in the corner of his yard only to see it was actually a sled, a pair of stilts or a wagon. I have some scars from this, as from other adventures as a kid, but this was an art form itself! Papaw wasn't going to tell us how to get up on the little blocks for our feet, nor did he tell us to put on our shoes to prevent more injury. Papaw was big believer in, learn from mistakes and the learning sticks. He also gave us the extra challenge of a 2nd pair of blocks if we dared to try to go higher. Tony, my cousin, tried to get on the stilts from above, standing on the porch and putting first one foot on a block, then the other. I am sure I got way too much pleasure from watching him fall forward, sideways and even backwards onto the concrete porch as I watched and evaluated what would work best for me when it was my turn. Being of the personality that never learns from her own mistakes, I certainly didn't learn from others mistakes. I fell forward, sideways, backwards and had blood dripping down one leg from a missed foot hold. Eventually, I just took those skinny boards, more like sticks, to the middle of the yard, planted one in the dirt and held the other loose and close. I went on the lowest block and hopped. To my shock and the amazement of the other kids, I was up on the stilts. Now what? I realized quickly, as I was falling to earth once again, if I wanted to move, the foot hold had to stay in contact with my shoes. My next jump up onto the foot blocks resulted in wrapping my arms around the top of the stilts like my life depended on it and pulling hard while keeping my foot planted on the block. I made it a few jerky steps then down I went again. Egged on by the other kids making fun of me, even though not one of them had the success I finally had. I set my jaw, planted that left stilt into the ground and up I went again. It was just me and trees. I blocked everything else out. Lift and forward right, lift and forward left, repeat. Before I knew it I was at the edge of the yard. I turned around and ignored the kids yelling for me to fall, much like a pick up game of baseball when they yell "Batter, batter, batter, swing". I hopped up on first set of blocks then, mostly because I was mad, I went up to the second set of blocks to walk back. I kept my eyes on the sky and in my mind, was as tall as the house, as tall as the tops of the trees, and I was much higher than the bruised egos of my playmates! I finally realized it was okay to fall forward, that's how I had to exit the stilts. Let them start the fall forward then I jumpped, both feet planted on the earth at the same time. Without a word, I hopped down and tossed those stilts on the ground, a gesture of "dare you" to the next kid. I heard a quiet tap tap tap in the backgound of arguments about how I always seemed to have beginners luck. I looked at the window in the front of house and saw my Papaw's crooked smile, he gave a quick wink and dropped the curtin back in place. It was like he knew I would be the first one to defeat gravity that kept slamming us into the ground with each try. Don't get me wrong, today I like my electronics. If I tried stilts I would break a hip. Electronic have kept me in touch with family and friends in all parts of the country. Even my older brother is learning to use a computer although he is refusing to buy one yet. He goes to the public library where I am sure they still use DSL. But I miss that childhood feeling, knowing that from a few scrapes of junk, my Papaw could take an hour out of his day to make me feel ten feet tall.