Chapter Two - Eating Ants
No this is not going to be a recurring title “Eating . . . .”. But it does tie in with the first chapter.
It could not have been too long after I ate the sand that I again lost the fear of putting strange things in my mouth and decided that a bunch of ants looked delicious. They were not.
I must have been sitting on or near the mound and unlike the fire ants that are so common today, these were big black ants that while they would bite, were not quick to do so. At least they were slow enough to allow me to swoop up a handful and put them in my mouth. Not a good idea. Yelling very loudly did not make them stop biting my tongue. Rubbing my tongue with the back of my hand did not make them stop. This time, it was Mother who rescued me.
After those two adventures, I do not remember sampling many items that were not on a plate until I became a biologist many years later and might graze along the countryside in the right environment. Of course, by then I wasn’t randomly sampling to see if it was something was tasty. Well, maybe there was still a little of that, but it was educated grazing.
Most of my other memories of this time are disjointed. There is not a sequence of this happened and then this or one event leading to another. There are just bits and pieces.
For example, I remember staying at Aunt Lizzie’s house overnight one time. Her house was just across the pasture from the farmhouse. Mother was teaching me to count and I remember going into the bedroom alone and while looking out the window I was trying to count to ten. It was dark out and I remember the moon through the trees. I counted and knew I was not right. Then all at once, I went “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven eight, nine, ten.” Wow. I was so proud and ran into the other room to tell Mother and Aunt Lizzie.
They were sitting in rocking chairs with big paper grocery bags on the floor in front of their legs and bowls in their laps as they shelled peas. They stopped when I came running in and I started counting. I remember mother was proud, too, and praised me and I remember her rubbing the back of my head as stood by her chair and counted again. Whew. Some of these memories sting a bit. . .
I can see that I am going to have to dig into the picture box and see what pictures I can find of these old times. I really don’t have many but there are bound to be a few that I can use to breathe a little life into the words.
Another night at Aunt Lizzie’s or maybe the same one, I really don’t know, I had to go to the bathroom. Like the farmhouse, Aunt Lizzie had no running water either so it was off to the outhouse. Her backyard was always full of beautiful flowering plants and bushes and the outhouse was along a path that had a lot bushes alongside. There was a little moonlight and about halfway there, a large black snake ran across the path. I did not need to go to the outhouse anymore. I ran back inside and told everyone about the snake but I am not sure I was believed.
I should add that Aunt Lizzie was my maternal grandfather’s sister, Mother’s favorite aunt. Aunt Lizzie was instrumental in encouraging my mother’s love of books. Mother told me of how Aunt Lizzie shared wonderful books and stories to go with them. It was a love that mother never lost and one that she passed on to me.
The picture is of Aunt Lizze at 98 holding my oldest daughter, Kathy who was a couple of months old.
Aunt Lizzie lived in a small house with no indoor plumbing until she was 96 when she fell and broke her hip. At the time, she still had a huge garden full of vegetables and an almost equally large section of flowering plants.
Since Mother’s house had no electricity, she had no radio. In those days radio was about the only free entertainment around. Mother said she used to run barefoot across the field each evening to listen to radio shows with Aunt Lizzie. She loved shows like “Fibber McGee and Molly”, “Lum and Abner”, “Can You Top This”, and all the variety shows with stars like Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Gracie & Allen, and so many others.
This love she also passed on to me. I still love to listen to recordings of the old radio shows. I have a few thousand hours of them in MP3 format that I listen to on my iPod or on CDs that I have made. I enjoy them, but I doubt that they have the same thrill for me that they did for Mother after she ran barefoot across the field to Aunt Lizzie’s parlor.
(Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Dan Bailey on their wedding day, 1891.)
Mama, mother’s mother, did not always approve of the radio shows, but she usually let Mother go.
Mama had her own idea about many things. She was an unusual woman, tall and standing very straight, she gave a menacing look. I don’t remember ever seeing her smile, let alone laugh aloud.
She was the daughter of a Baptist preacher, but not Baptist as we know them. One time someone asked if I had heard of “hardshell Baptist”. I told them “Yes. My grandmother was a militant hardshell Baptist”.
You wouldn’t believe the things that were sins in her world. We could not wear shorts. Not just girls, but boys couldn’t wear them either. When talking of chicken, we could not ask for a thigh, or leg, and heaven forbid if we asked for a breast. Chicken was white meat or dark meat.
Other words that were forbidden were male, female, pregnant, and any euphemism for a curse word such as darn, dang, shoot, and, of course, gosh darn was absolutely unforgivable.
When I was about five, I remember Mama answering a knock on the door. I ran to the door for visitors were not common. There was a tall skinny man at the door and when Mama opened the screen door, he tried to hand her a tract. Mama reached beside the door and grabbed her broom. He must have seen the look in her eye for he turned and started to run as she raised the broom and starting whacking him as he turned and ran. She was right behind him, whacking him every step as he fled for the sandy road. His hat fell to the ground about halfway across the yard. He did not stop to retrieve it.
She had her own way of handling the persistence of Jehovah Witnesses.
Actually, Mama had her own way of handling most things. She was not the kind of person who just meekly went through life. Her personality was rather strong, opinionated, always clearly black or white and NEVER wrong.
The farm was only about ½ mile from town. Hmmm… let me smile at that one. Newsome had a post office and a small grocery store. There were also concrete foundations on each side of the street that used to house businesses back in the ’20s, but were long gone.
When we needed to go to town, Papa would hook up the old white horse to the wagon. I don’t remember him ever going with us. Mama would sit in the high wooden seat, take the old worn reins in hand and off we would go.
The road was sandy and Mama would point out every snake trail leading across the road and say “There was another grass rattler.” All snakes were “grass rattlers” or deadly “Spreadin’ Adders” or stinging “Hoop Snakes”. “Spreadin’ Adders” had a poisonous breath that was deadly if you breathed it. “Hoop Snakes” had a poisonous stinger in its tail that it would sting you with after it grabbed its tail in its mouth and turned itself into a hoop so it could roll like a wheel after you, stinger at the ready.
Those were just a few of the superstitions that she adamantly believed.
All snakes were poisonous to her. Not just poisonous but deadly.
Ah, but snakes were not the only danger that Mama saw everywhere, she saw danger in so many places, but none were perhaps as loudly expressed as how she saw tornadoes in every grey cloud.
I could easily get distracted with tales of Mama, for I have more than just a few. I don’t want to dip too far into that stream though. For now, we will leave her as a topic but may very well return to her in later adventures.