Thursday, September 25, 2008

Changing Seasons...

“The leaves are changing colors,
the green grass is growing dim.
The Summer's heat is fading,
Autumn's chill is drawing near...”

That’s the beginning stanza of a poem I wrote. The Autumnal equinox seems to always begin a period of reflection for me. The summers are always so fast-paced with the gardens, beach-outings, cook-outs, vacations, family visits, etc. consuming much time, creating good times and memories. This year was no different, yet even more in one way.

We spent many weeks preparing for Craig and Brooke’s wedding. For those of you who may not know--Craig is the youngest of the three sons and the first to marry. Craig’s bride, Brooke, is a toot of a girl (toot derived from her former name, Tootle). I actually found a tongue twister recently that I wish I had found before the wedding, nonetheless ‘tis still apropos and I did send it on to Brooke--my favorite daughter-in-law. Here it is...

“A tutor who tooted the flute
Tried to tutor two tooters to toot
Said the two to the tutor
"Is it tougher to toot
Or to tutor two tooters to toot?" “

The weeks leading up to the wedding were filled with not only preparations for the wedding but those about the house and garden for the onslaught of expected guests and events while also pushing production forward in the studio preparatory for a two week shutdown. In the midst of all this preparation our beloved Hobbs came to the end of his days. Some of you knew Hobbs and some didn’t...clicking on Hobbs image to the right will enlighten a bit...

Whew! Nonetheless, we had a wonderful time filled with two weeks of visiting family and friends--to include my mother who celebrated here 81st birthday here with us--, there were numerous events, the ‘just hangin’ out and havin’ fun’ and the ultimate wedding celebration.

The newlyweds, back from their short jaunt across country, have settled in for their last year of school, the extended family and friends have returned to their prospective homes and lives and I’m here in the studio again, back up to full speed preparing for the fall shows, reflecting on what has gone before while contemplating what lies ahead.

With the approach and now advent of the Autumnal equinox, being a farm-raised girl and knowing what is waning, I’ve been scouring the local farmers markets for those last of harvest treasures. Last week: zucchini and yellow/summer squash prepared with onions and diced green tomatoes in a fry pan; petite okra pods boiled with a bit of butter and dash of salt; eggplant, diced, breaded and deep fried; pintos dressed out cuban style with various fresh peppers, onions, garlic, citrus fruits and spices, all served up with a cuban style pork entree, buttermilk cornbread and topped off with a fresh baked blackberry pie--a la mode. This week, more okra, squash and eggplant, the last of the peas and gorgeous red tomatoes.

I’m thinking about my next post for “Who I was” and “Who I hope to be” while posting and living “Who I am”. The seasons roll and our lives change. It all evolutionary. Stay tuned, I’ll be posting again soon. (Oh, that rhymes!)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

AEA Week and Ramblings

Up until about ten years ago there was a week in March known as AEA week to Alabamians. To anyone else it might simply be considered Spring Break. We were out of school for the week and the teachers had the opportunity to attend the annual Alabama Education Association conference.

On the farm, AEA week was for planting. To this day, the smell of fresh turned soil takes me back to AEA week, walking barefoot in the soft tilled earth--a welcoming of early Spring which led to Summer. [A reminder that school was almost out.] Just the same, the smell of fresh cut grass reminds me of summer days on the farm, taking turns pushing that lawn mover, sweat dripping off skin laden with minute slivers of grass cuttings and drinking water straight from the water hose. When we mowed Mamaw and Papaw’s yard we would each get silver coins and were allowed to walk down to the Log Cabin Grocery where we would get a RC or Nehi Cola in a returnable bottle, maybe some peanuts or a MoonPie and penny bubble-gum! Ah, another smell-of-remembrance--wind-blow, sun-dried linens. There’s little more comforting and relaxing than to lie down on linens dried by Mother Nature.

For many years, we didn’t even own a clothes dryer. I remember helping mother take clothes off the line that were frozen stiff. When they weren’t frozen I almost always buried my face in the sheets and towels before tossing them into the basket.

Those clothes lines and poles were multi-functional. Sometimes during the summer months, Mom & Dad would allow us to have a party. Farm raised meats, fresh from the butcher, were on the grill served with fresh veggies from the garden and fruits from the trees. We had watermelon eating contests, ran about in the sprinkler hoses, played Red-Rover, Hide-and-Seek, Witch in the Well--for those who may not remember that, the “Dad” started the game by saying: “I’m Going to Town to Smoke My Pipe and Won’t Be Back Till Saturday Night”--and apple bobbings. The apples stems were tied to a string and hung from the clothes line. Your hands had to go behind your back as you attempted to grasp the apple between your teeth--which was tied just high enough you had to be on your tippy-toes to do it. I eventually learn to go for the smaller apples! [My first kiss was had at one of those summer parties--out behind the old barn.] Those T-shaped clothes line poles called out to you, ‘run towards me, leap, grab on, swing’--we did--till Mother yelled at us. We’d wait awhile before going back again, but not too long.

Mother ironed everything! All of us girls learned how to iron at a fairly early age--starting with wash cloths and dish towels -- yep, even those. I still sport a scar on my hand from attempting to straighten a corner of a dishtowel while watching and learning how to iron from Felita. Mother had a white plastic bottle (much like the quart milk bottles in the markets today) that had an aluminum top which mother had punched holes in. It was the starch bottle. You had to sprinkle whatever you were ironing with starch first. The bows on the the back of our dresses stood UP. The school teachers often commented on those stiffly starched dresses.

I was well into the second year of school when I wore pants to school for the first time. The kids in my class were shocked. Girls could only wear “pant suits” and the top of the suit had to come down to the fingertips. Mother made a lot of our play clothes and pajamas when we were young. Brightly coloured flour and feed sacks were her main source of fabric. I felt special to wear something mother had made from salvaged goods. I think memories such as these--along with all of the farm life--may have something to do with my tendency towards and my foundation in living green.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Young Uncle and Other Cousins

Uncle John was Daddy’s youngest brother, born 21 years after my Daddy. I was born 20 years after Uncle John and Uncle John’s first child was born 2 days before my sister, Felita. [Okay, now that you’re completely confused and I have it set in my mind...]

My first memory of Uncle John was when he arrived at the farm after a military tour in Germany. His eyes sparkled [he often bragged about having 20/10 vision], there was a pleasant look about his face, he smiled and laughed a lot. I remember thinking he looked really young to be my Daddy’s brother and--Uncle John in uniform--well, I thought he was really something special. This was also my first memory of someone in military uniform.

The first wife and that child that was born two days before Felita were no longer in the picture. Uncle John brought a new aunt and a bushel basket of new playmates to the farm. There were five in the bushel--two boys, the eldest and the youngest, and three girls; they were from Texas. All the girls had long straight hair and the youngest one--well, she did this peculiar thing, she would twist a stand of hair around the base of her thumb, stick that thumb in her mouth and suck on it. I never understood. I asked her about it once, but couldn’t understand what she was saying--with that thumb stuck in her mouth. The youngest son was named Billy--always made me think of that old folk song “Oh, where have you been Billy Boy, Billy Boy...”. I’m sure we even sang it to him at times.

Johnnie, the eldest of the bushel was considered “big enough” to handle the tractors. Uncle Frank and crew would come in from NC and Johnnie and Dink always got to go out on the tractors with the Uncles. I wasn’t allowed. However, I had a secret.

One day I was standing in the cow pasture with my doll, Tickle, pressed up against the fence watching cousin Tommy on a tractor in the cotton field. [Cousin Tommy was eight years older than Uncle John, so he seemed more like an Uncle.] Tommy waved, made a couple passes and then stopped that tractor, came over, lifted me and Tickle across the fence and took us for a ride up and down the rows of cotton. It was our secret. I wasn’t to tell. I didn’t tell secrets like that until I was grown. Then I ‘fessed up to lots of stuff to my parents and my siblings. That was kind of fun, too.

Cousin Tommy was a bit of a wayward soul. He would be around for awhile and then gone again until next time. During my fifth grade year I wanted to sing the opening song for a festival we were having at school. Mother didn’t know the entire song and I needed to learn it. Cousin Tommy happened to be there at that time. The next day when I came home from school he presented me with the sheet music for the song I needed to learn. That made me feel extremely special. I kept tabs on Tommy through the years, and went to visit a few times when he finally settled down in Memphis. One of my sons even had the fortune of spending time with him while in Memphis for a high school basketball camp. I miss Tommy.

Uncle John, Aunt Jo and the whole bushel basket stayed in Mamaw and Papaw’s house while a house for them was being built on the other side of Papaw’s barn in the far east pasture. Very soon thereafter Danny arrived--another son added to the bushel. Uncle John and his Texas family only lived there for about five years before things changed again. Somehow, somewhere along his sojourn Uncle John met my future Aunt Ann. Aunt Jo and the bushel basket went on a trip to Texas and never came back. Tippy Smith, who years earlier had bought the Log Cabin Grocery story from Papaw, also bought that little house.

Soon Uncle John brought Ann to our house for a visit. They held hands all the time and Ann held onto Uncle John’s arm as we walked around the farm. Uncle John took out his pocket knife and carved a heart in the bark of the aged beech-nut tree. [That was a great tree for carving.] Inside the heart he carved..John + Ann. And so it was, though not carved in stone, they soon married, had a son and moved away the following year after Mamaw died. My Uncle John died about eight years later at the young age of 41. I miss him, too.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Photos on the Blog

To save space and create some continuity, the photos I place within the blog are small images. Clicking on the image will open a new browser window where a larger version, and sometimes a more enhanced version of the photo can be viewed. This does not take you away from the blog, yet allows a closer view of the image in a separate window. On the lower right corner of an Internet Explorer window [I’m not well versed in other browsers.] there is a magnifying glass. Clicking upon the magnifying glass will enlarge the image even more. Just a tip for those of you who want a better view of the images.

Till next post....”May your house be safe from tigers.”

Discovering Lost Islands

On more than one occasion, I heard Daddy tell the story of a lost island in the middle of the Tennessee River. This island, called Knight’s Island, was--of course--the place of his birth. Daddy found a bit of humor in the fact that we thought it quite a tall-tale.

A recounting...Papaw was the foreman for some project on the island. Late in the day on June 2, 1920 a storm was moving in over the island. Papaw worked late into the evening securing the work site. The storm moved in full force before he made it to their little island home. It was then he learned Mamaw was in labor and would give birth during the night. The storm was so severe they could not risk taking the boat out, thus could not make it back to the mainland. Daddy was born in the wee hours of the morning, June 3rd.

Several years ago I sent for a copy of my father’s birth certificate. It could not be found. I was told by other extended family members that my grandfather was a boilermaker during this time and did indeed work on an island near Decatur for a while.

I began my search for the lost “Knight’s Island” to no avail. However, I did discover Browns Island, a very large island--over 1,000 acres--in the Tennessee River. It was located west of Decatur in Lawrence County very near the Morgan County line. This island was inundated in the 1930s when the TVA flooded the shoals during the Wheeler Dam Project. According to old TVA maps there were several homes located there and the island was owned by -- who? -- Jenny W. Knight. Ah-ha!

Yesterday would have been my Dad’s 88th birthday. In memory of Daddy...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hand-Me-Downs and Declarations of War

All five of us girls were born within six years. There was no lack for playmates and no lack of sibling rivalry. Felita always seemed older than she was, even her dolls were older. She was also the boss. I can’t remember Felita really fighting with any of us other than Mary. Mary came after her in the birth order--13 months and 1 day--and they shared a bedroom. I came after Mary--13 months and 16 days. When other fights broke out Felita would come to pick up the pieces if she wasn’t already there standing by and taking in the show. She didn’t usually intercede unless indicators of major harm were on the horizon.

My sister Mary was notorious for trying to pick a fight with me, hitting me, shoving me or just being plain ol’ mean. I didn't want to fight with her and usually walked away or ran away--to Felita for protection or metamorphosed into a tattletale as I ran to Mother. Sometimes I was just stunned--like when I got whacked over the top of the head with the Prell bottle [they were still glass then, heavy glass!] and when she snatched the telephone receiver out of my hand and whacked me over the top of the head. Those too, were the heavy receivers, those on the old rotary style desk phones. So, I just didn’t want to mess with her. It was like ‘go away and leave me alone.’

Hand-me-downs were common place in our household. The passing down ceremony was nothing more than a mere mention as Mother gave us a stack of folded laundry to put in our drawers. One day when Mother had gone to town, Felita and I fired up that old console stereo. We plugged the Tommy Roe and Tommy James tape into the 8-Track tape player, were dancing around the dining room and just a-singin’. [Cousin Dink really liked that tape and eventually talked Daddy into a trade. Daddy took about four other 8-Tracks that were bunk and Dink took our Tommy Roe and Tommy James to North Carolina.] Felita and I were singing Dizzy “I’m so dizzy my head is spinning, Like a whirlpool it never ends, And it’s You girl makin’ it spin, You’re making me dizzy” ...Mary came in--I know she was envious of the fun we were having--and began demanding that I take her shirt off. With some dizzy-amusement, I informed her it was not her shirt that Mother had given it to me. Uh-oh...she gave me a hefty shove and I was spread-eagle on the dining room floor--carpet over a cement slab. Legs out-stretched in front of me, I propped up, hands on the floor behind me and calmly but confidently looked her in the eyes, and said, “I’ve never fought you before but I’m gonna fight you now."

I didn't have any training. I fought like a dizzy-girl! But twelve years of taking it on the chin and drinking fresh hard-core cow's milk made for an ambitious attitude and some mighty strong fingernails. Felita stopped that fight when she grabbed the back of that shirt to keep me from landing on the concrete floor three steps down into Daddy's office/hobby room.

Mother had barely managed to open the door of that old blue station wagon before Mary was there, Mercurochrome amply slathered all over those scratches, crying and showing Mother where I had shredded her skin. Mother, rising from the driver's seat, looked at her and simply said "Well, I guess you'll leave her alone now." [Oh, happy day..] She didn't leave me alone, but from that point forward, I could walk away knowing full well I could win the battle if I decided to fight.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day! And email subscriptions...

I've added an email subscription widget in the sidebar. If you would like to be notified by email when I update the blog this is the place to subscribe. Type your email address in the yellow field and click the button labeled “Get email updates”. You will then be presented with options of where to receive your updates, via email, Instant Messenger Services, Skype, etc. Make your selection, confirm you're a real person by completing the CAPTCHA and then click the button labeled “Subscribe me!” You will receive an email to complete the subscription and activate your account. Your email addess is not shared and you may unsubscribe at any time.

My superfluous knowledge lesson for the day:
The term "CAPTCHA" was coined in 2000 by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, Nicholas J. Hopper (all of Carnegie Mellon University), and John Langford (then of IBM). It is a contrived acronym for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart", trademarked by Carnegie Mellon University.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cottonwood Ammunition and a Kool-Aid Parachute

My sister Pauline--now called Paula--came after me and before Beverly in the birth order. The three of us shared a bedroom. Beverly and I slept in a double bed and Paula slept in the day bed. Unlike the rest of us, Paula was a petite little thing. Papaw nicknamed her PeeWee.

Papaw had nicknames for all of us, Felita was Long-legs, Mary was Lazy, Beverly was Moo-moo and I was Dumplings. Most of those need no explanation--I was Dumplings because he thought I just might love Mother's chicken-and-dumplings more than he did. [To this day it's my favorite Momma-dish.] Beverly was called Moo-moo because she used to stand by the fence row mocking the cows.

That little whip of a Paula had a set of lungs on her, knew it and used 'em. When she decided to cry out, that screech could be heard by anyone remotely nearby. She was also fast as lightning. You couldn't out run her, you had to figure a way to dodge her. For some reason, Beverly and I aggravated her a lot.

Paula had saved enough of those Kool-Aid Man squares from the Kool-Aid packets to send in for a prize. The prize finally arrived--an orange plastic pup-tent, complete with a blue Kool-Aid Man on the side, plastic tent pegs and nylon twine. She staked out her territory just back of the house, beyond the old cottonwood tree and proceeded to set up camp. Beverly and I wanted to help; we wanted to play in the tent too. Paula wouldn't have it. That tent was hers and hers alone.

Daddy had been working on the roof that day, needed something for the job, so he and Mother had gone to town. Beverly and I climbed that extension ladder and sat on the roof while watching Paula and planning our attack. Once she was inside the tent, down the ladder we went, sneaked round the corner, pulled a couple of green seed bunches from that cottonwood tree and began unloading on Kool-Aid Man. Paula commenced a screeching and we took off, ran round the house and unloaded another bunch. Before we could get around a second time Felita came out of the house and stopped us in our tracks.

Shortly, Beverly and I sneaked back around and found the tent empty. Paula was no where in sight. We had the tent down in a flash, grabbed a 32 oz. glass Coke bottle and scurried back up the ladder. We tied the twine around the mouth of the coke bottle. Beverly had the bottle suspended just clear of the roof’s edge as I was arranging the tent-turned-parachute to catch air upon release. All of a sudden we heard Paula scream, she came round the corner and headed straight for the ladder. I told Beverly to let go--release! She did. Our parachute didn't open, that bottle went straight down, Paula started screeching and blood started flowing.

Felita ran out and grabbed Paula up while blessing Beverly and me in a not-so-blessed way. I don't remember what happened when Mother and Daddy got home--maybe I blocked it all out. Beverly and I never talked about engineering parachutes again.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Cousins from North Carolina

Uncle Frank and his family came from North Carolina to visit for a couple of weeks every summer. There were five cousins--four girls and one boy, Dink. That wasn't his real name, but that's what we all called him. I always thought it a funny name. I still don't know how he came to be called Dink.

For a little girl confined to Uncle Frank, Aunt Peggy, Judy, Bonnie, Marilyn, Dink and Susie.  Click for larger image.
life on the farm, these cousins were kind of like celebrities. They were all older and got to do lots of cool stuff. Dink, well he was the only boy. I always thought of him as our protector. The girls had their hair cut at a salon rather than by Aunt Peggy and they sported new bikinis every year complete with tan lines and attitudes.

One fourth of July other cousins from central and south Alabama came in, too. After the potato harvest we packed the trunks of the cars with lawn chairs, blankets, towels, coolers of food & beverage, floats, water skis and other stuffs and headed to the river for the day.

All us younger kids were splashing around close to the banks where the grown-ups were grilling and preparing the picnic feast. The older cousins, Uncle Frank and other grown-ups were way, way out in the river, underneath the big bridge.

Getting out of the river to get some lemonade--which Mamaw was serving with a ladle from a huge plastic garbage can--I noticed one of my sisters way down the river bank, wading through the water towards the big bridge. She later came to me saying she had been out where Uncle Frank was and he wanted to see me. I was flattered that Uncle Frank wanted to see little ole me. I was all but five years old.

I turned and started walking right out into that river towards Uncle Frank. A few steps out and down I went--a drop-off. I don't remember much, feeling suspended in the water, I saw the sun's ray streaming in from above and little brown floaty-things in that sunlit path. I woke in Daddy's arms in one of those lawn chairs on the shore. We weren't allowed to go to the river much after that.

Those cousins loved the water and wanted to go swimming everyday. If we couldn't go to the river we would wind up at the pond in the cow pasture across the east cotton field. My sisters and I didn't know how to swim and no matter how many times he had been told before, Dink would once again get the Papaw/Daddy-lecture about being responsible for the girls.

Dink stayed in the water a lot, below the surface a lot. He'd jump in, disappear and pop up on the other end of the pond. Sometimes I got scared, thinking he wasn't going to come back up. I think sometimes he stayed under longer just to scare us. There was a hole in the middle of that pond that went all the way to China! Dink even said the best of swimmers would get sucked through to China if they went too deep. I never did go all the way to the middle of that pond.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mamaw, Papaw and Harvesting Potatoes

Mamaw and Papaw were the initial purveyors of the farm. They lived on the north side of the farm, across the cow pastures and cotton fields on the main East/West highway. Mamaw was already 61 years old Papaw and Mamaw.  Click for larger image.when I was born and Papaw was twelve years her senior. I don't know for sure how old I was when my memory met them. They were just kind of always there. Mamaw didn't drive anymore, actually I don't know if she ever did. Thus, "Papaw's car" was a four door white sedan with a red interior, Ford, I believe. It was the only car I ever knew them to have. I always liked that car, I think because it was Papaw's car. I don't know what happened to it--another question to ask my mother.

Every year we had a large vegetable garden behind the house. Mamaw and Papaw had one too but it was smaller. They grew some good stuffs that we didn't grow in our garden, like cantaloupes and watermelons--actually they were usually planted on the edge of one of the cotton fields bordering the west side of their yard. They also had the chickens and chicken house. I always liked tossing the dried corn kernels to the chickens but not as much as gathering the eggs.

There were certain times each year that Daddy did have something to do with the garden and the farm. He would hire the man with the tractor and harrow to come in and till up the earth each year before planting and again when the potatoes were ready to harvest. Daddy was the supervisor, overseeing the hired hand, giving instruction and pointing out potatoes missed along our path.

The potatoes were always harvested early in the morning on the 4th of July, before the sun rose and before breakfast. I always wanted to do my part and more in the garden, even when sisters were complaining, I was hoofing it, always trying to do more than I truly could. First, was the task of picking up the potatoes along the eight long rows that were planted in our garden. Daddy had built a "potato house" just on the edge of the garden. The walls on each side were floor to ceiling shelves. When a shelf was sufficiently layered with potatoes, a layer of hay was laid atop them preparatory for the next layer of potatoes. We had potatoes from the garden just about all year round. Once all the potatoes from our garden were in the potato house, we would venture across the pastures to harvest the ones planted in Mamaw and Papaw's garden. That was a small feat compared to what had already been accomplished. There was also greater incentive when we crossed the pasture, for as soon as the potatoes were off the ground and properly stored, Mamaw would then treat us to a bowl of corn flakes, wetted with fresh cow's milk and topped with banana slices.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Beverly Walks

The next conscious memory that I can place in chronological order occurs during the fall of the following year--that would be '66.. I know all of my sisters were there, but in my mind's eye I only see Felita and Beverly. Beverly was the one that was in Mother's belly while she was washing me in the Mississippi basin--that's not to imply the Mississippi River Basin. Yes, now there are five girls!

Back to the memory...We were in the cow pasture just east of the front yard, beneath the low hanging limbs of the aged trees in the pecan orchard--probably gathering the nuts for the upcoming holiday baking. Beverly, just more than a year old at this point in time, had soft curly locks surrounding a cute cherub-like face. She was wearing a stiffly starched, light blue, A-line jumper adorned with a colourful appliqu├ęd choo-choo train just above the hem. I stood there watching, holding my breath, afraid she would fall as Felita released her hand allowing her to walk all on her own. There, beneath the pecan trees that day, I saw the first steps of a lifetime and gained a cherished memory that always brings a smile and sometimes a tear upon revisit. That was probably the last of the significant early memories.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Beginning the Blog

It was an absolutely gorgeous day today, spent with my 12 year old basset, in and out of the garden, the home and at the writing table recalling memories past while designing and starting my blog. I’m not quite sure how all of this will unfold. I suppose the same way with life--each step is a step towards an unknown even if you know where you’re steppin’.

We’re all about evolution...from where we came, who we were, where we are, who we are and where we hope to go and who we hope to be. That’s life in a simplistic definition and that pretty much sums up my blog. OMG sounding a bit too much like a Dickens’ character! I think it might be time to sign off for my first day on the blog.

Earliest Memories, Mississippi and Uncle Sam

During the summer of '65 my Father packed up the family's belongings, rented our house on the farm to strangers and moved the family to Jackson, Mississippi. For several years I thought the memories surrounding our Mississippi days were my earliest conscious memories. However, I realized one day while talking with my mother, that another memory pre-dated these.

I remember seeing Ann, the daughter of an old black man [that's not racism, it's a recalling of adjectives used during the time/place--apologies extended to anyone who may be offended!] named Sam who worked for my Papaw--we knew him as Uncle Sam--, standing in the kitchen, just inside the back door where the sunlight streamed through the window panes making half of her licorice dark body appear chocolate. [That's a delicious lingering!] Mother told me that Ann used to babysit for us, the four girls -- yes, another had been Felita, Mary, Belinda, Pauline.  Click for larger image. born before we moved to Mississippi.

Back to Uncle Sam for a moment, one of my sisters told me a few years later that he really wasn't our Uncle. I did not believe her and the wild story upset me so that I ran crying to my mother to tell her of the horrible thing she was saying. This was when I learned that skin colour did have something to do with somethings. It was a sad day.

As for conscious memories, while in Mississippi I met my two older sisters, Felita and Mary, my eldest half-brother, George (my father's son) and my mother. I don't know if the sequence of events is actual yet, they all occur within a three month period (our total time in Mississippi).

I remember watching Felita walk towards the house in her stiffly starched blue plaid dress, returning from a little boy's birthday party. I recall thinking how pretty she looked and how lucky she was to have attended a birthday party.

I remember being behind the house on a concrete slab which was in front of some other storage-type building on the property. Mary was there also and had just been stung by a bee -- a bumble bee I believe. I watched with tears streaming down my face as George pulled out of the driveway in his old green, bulbous looking car, taking Mary to McDonalds -- because she was stung by the bee. I recall thinking he could have taken me also. I didn't think you had to be stung by a bee to go to McDonalds.

And lastly, I remember standing in the middle of a basin, water running, my mother's hand holding onto one of my arms, her pregnant stomach, the cold cloth and the blood flowing from my face, over my lips, off the chin and further down my naked body. I was crying. Yes, it was fright but at the same time I felt safe -- my mother was taking care of me. I also remember thinking she was pretty. (Wonder why that sticks in my memory -- with she and Felita.) Mother tells me I had fallen down on that concrete slab and busted my nose quite severely. I don't remember the fall. However, I had some pretty healthy reoccurring nose bleeds into my teen years.

On our return from Mississippi (due to complications in Mother's pregnancy), my memory meets Daddy. He was in the driver's seat, driving up the driveway to our house--the one on the farm, the one he had rented to strangers. There were kids playing in our sandbox! I remember thinking they shouldn't have been there in our sandbox. But of course, they were living there. Not for long.

The Beginning and Daddy

I was born in a small town--referred to quite often by yours truly as "Podunk, Alabama"--mid-day Monday prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. My Mother tells of returning home from the hospital and preparing her usual Thanksgiving feast for our family and the paternal grandparents. The family, which consisted of the parents and two older sisters, had moved from the Nashville, TN area during the year before my birth.

At the time of my birth, my father was "officially" an electrician and unofficially every thing else. He definitely had an entrepreneurial mindset, became a jack-of-all-trades and mastered a couple of them. He worked for a residential building contractor (Jim Walter Homes) just long enough to get the discount on his "shell-of-a-house" -- which he would complete. He then set his sites to greener pastures (this was shortly after my birth). Actually, he wanted nothing to do with the lush green pastures that surrounded our home or any other aspect of the 240 acre farm, other than providing a safe haven for his family while he went out into the big bad world to make a living.

Daddy became an insurance salesman and a darn good one at that. The family photo album is riddled with those glossy black and white photographs of my Dad, sporting that cheshire grin, shaking hands while accepting yet, another one of those silver plated goblet awards from some other cheshire grinning, monkey suited individual. He loved it and eventually put that entrepreneurial mind to work. He went to several insurance companies, waving those record breaking sales records before them, seeking to establish himself as a "freelance" agent with several different companies. And, eventually, he managed to pull it off. By the time his plan was complete he was a freelance agent selling for six different companies, covering a district across North Alabama and middle Tennessee, working his own hours and training new salesmen for the companies. One of those he trained was Jack [not Spratt].

Even though it was usually late evening when Jack and Daddy would arrive at the house, Jack would often stay for a bit before heading home. Our bedtime was always 8:00 pm, school day or not, even if Daddy had just arrived. When I was just a small one, I would sneak out of bed, into the hallway, squat down close to the doorway, just out of sight and listen to the grownups talk about life away from the farm. One night Jack was telling about some of Dad's techniques or better yet--antics. As Jack told--in other words--...They were going into an elderly couple's home attempting to sell hospitalization insurance. Daddy told Jack that he was to be the yes-man, was to listen and learn and hand him papers from the briefcase when asked. Secondly, after handing him the first set of papers--rummage through the briefcase and discreetly, yet quickly, open then securely close that little bottle of ether stashed within.