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  • Archive for July, 2011

    Family commitments

    2011 - 07.25

    Because I’m swamped with family commitments and working on a new book deadline, I’m reduced to posting a chapter from Saturday Night Cocoa Fudge. But then again, it could be worse.

    The Day of the Dead Rabbit

    Papaw was a typical man in the deep south in the 1950s. He worked in a coal mine, watched wrestling on television, went hunting with his dog and a rifle and hung out in beer joints as often as possible, which was however much Mamaw allowed before she sent one of their sons out to find him. Whenever he got home there would be a terribly loud argument. Lord how Mamaw hated it when Papaw drank that beer.
    Because he died when I was young I don’t remember much about my grandfather. I do remember how yellow his fingertips were from smoking all those Pall Malls-unfiltered. I remember how he raked up a bunch of weeds and burned them in the backyard, not realizing he’d gotten poison ivy mixed in with it all. I remember how his eyes swelled shut and his lips were the size of the Goodyear blimp for several days. I remember his wearing suspenders over his plaid flannel shirts. I remember he could curse a blue streak, he could say cruel things to his kids but he was never mean or hateful to me. And I remember the day of the dead rabbit.
    It was a Monday but Papaw was now retired so he didn’t have to worry about climbing down into the mines anymore. But it was summer; he’d already pulled all the weeds and burned them, making sure there were no poisonous plants of any kind mixed in, so he had nothing important to occupy his time. So on a hot summer day when the starch your wife so thoughtfully ironed into your shirt melted under the onslaught of humidity and you had nothing to do…where do you go? That’s right—to the beer joint! All you have to do is lie convincingly to your wife so you can slide out of the house.
    “Mae, I’m goin’ huntin’.”
    “Jeb, you better come up with a better story than that. There ain’t any animal in season anywhere in this country. What you mean is you’re gonna go hunt beer. You don’t need a gun for that, Jeb.”
    “I ain’t gonna go to no beer joint, Mae! Dammit to hell!”
    “Stop that cursing in front of Glora Lynn, Jeb Housley!”
    “Aw, you’d make a preacher cuss, woman! I’m leavin’!”
    “If you leave to go to a beer joint, don’t bother comin’ back ’cause I won’t let you in the door.”
    “You damned well better let me in the door, this is my house.”
    “Who takes care of this house, Jeb Housley? And who made all the payments when you were out of work? If it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t have nowhere to hang that ugly hat of yours and you just best remember that!”
    Without another word Papaw stormed out the front door, letting the screen door slam shut behind him. Mamaw didn’t bother to yell at HIM for doing it, either.
    I forgot all about Papaw being in trouble the rest of the day. Gail and I made mud pies and decorated them with pretty purple clover flowers. She dared me to eat one of the blossoms and I enjoyed the look of revulsion on her face when I obliged her by not only chewing the flower but opening my mouth, sticking out my tongue to illustrate just what ground up clover flowers looked like before I swallowed it. She then dared me to eat a big ol’ fat worm crawling next to my leg. Before I was forced into a 1950s version of Fear Factor and have to prove my superiority by actually biting into that worm I was stopped by the squealing of brakes then the slamming of a car door.
    I stood up to peer over the hedge and saw a yellow car stopped at the top of our steps. I wondered if one of Miz Bennett’s cats had run in front of the car and hoped I wouldn’t have to go tell her, again, that one of her beloved pets had met an untimely death beneath the wheels of yet another car.
    I scampered up the steps just in time to see Papaw slide from the back seat of the taxi. He fell to the street, laughing, right next to the twisted body of a formerly beautiful rabbit. He managed to get to his feet, finally, brush himself off and throw his money in the open window of the cab.
    “Hey buddy, wait a minute! Don’t run over that rabbit again. I’m gonna take it in the house; give it to the ol’ lady. She can make me some rabbit stew.”
    Because he hadn’t noticed me, it was easy to run behind the hedge and hide. Not only did I NOT want to see him pick up that dead bunny rabbit, I didn’t want to watch him drag it in the house. On second thought, maybe it’d be fun to see how Mamaw acted when he handed it to her.
    Gail was less than subtle when getting my attention.
    “Glora, where you going? Get over here right now. I got that worm under a cup so it can’t get away. You’re gonna eat it, ain’t you?”
    “Shhh, I’ll be back in a minute. I gotta go do something.”
    “Hurry it up, then…ewwww, Jeb, what is that you got there? Is that a dead animal?”
    “Yep, it’s a rabbit.”
    “La’, Miz Mae’s gonna be mad at you…”
    There must be something blissful about dead rabbits because Papaw just smiled and kept walking. I was hidden in the back bedroom, closest to the kitchen, when he encountered his wife.
    “Oh dear Lord! Jeb, what is that you have in your hand?”
    “It’s a rabbit, for rabbit stew. Look how big and plump it is. Yessss, there’s some might fine meat on that one, there is. Now ain’t you glad I went huntin’ today?”
    I didn’t have to see her face to know the expression she wore.
    “Huntin’? Do I look as crazy as you are, Jeb Housley? Law, I can smell the beer clear over here, across the room! Where’d you get that rabbit, you ol’ fool?”
    He sputtered, stuttered and cursed but Papaw couldn’t seem to recollect exactly where it was he DID get that rabbit.
    Always the helpful granddaughter, I dashed into the kitchen to help clear up Papaw’s confusion.
    “It was in the road, Mamaw. The cab that Papaw was ridin’ in run it over. It was dead as four o’clock when Papaw fell out of the back seat. It ain’t his fault the rabbit’s dead, Ma’am.”
    Papaw leaned over to make a swipe at me with his hand but lost his balance and fell to the floor with a decisive thud. He just lay there, looking up at his wife. Mamaw stepped over him, paused long enough to give a not so gentle kick at his backside, then went outside to sit on the porch. I heard Papaw’s loud drunken snores before Mamaw eased the screen door closed behind us.
    She shook her head and would’ve been angry if Papaw could’ve seen the slight smile on her face.
    “Glora, c’mere hurry!”
    Mamaw stood quickly to tell Gail to stop shouting.
    “Jeb just got in and he’s asleep. Don’t wake him up, Gail.”
    “Yeah, I saw how drunk he was, Miz Mae. Mommy says she don’t know why you put up with him…”
    “Shut up, Gail Tidwell before I give you a whipping. Glora Lynn, you’ve played enough today. Time to come in and get ready for supper.”
    Gail protested mightily but I merely nodded as if in weary agreement. I was, in fact, thrilled to be told I couldn’t play with Gail anymore today. I’d seen that big ol’ fat worm crawling from beneath that stained coffee cup.

    To buy this book: http://tinyurl.com/3aw86l9
    (Simply go to my homepage, www.gloriateague.com, to see what all I’ve written)

    Honeysuckle & Ramblers

    2011 - 07.14

    Summer is a little more than half way through for school kids. I remember this time of year so well, when I was young. Right around the middle of July I was bored, though I had so much to do with taking care of my little brothers and cleaning house while Mom was at work, I don’t know how I got bored. I also hated to see it come to an end. I knew when those school bells began to ring, the leaves would start turning those awesome colors everyone goes gaga over but to me it only signifies the leaves are dying and that is rapidly followed by a long, cold, dismal and gloomy winter. Yeah I know, I’m a regular ray of sunshine. But there was also a trade-off. When the colder weather settled in, it meant wrapping up in a blanket and a boyfriend’s arm while pretending to watch a high school football game. It meant hearing a good movie was coming on TV and making sure you had hot chocolate ready, pajamas on, a couple of blankets and pillows, and snuggling with those same little brothers for the rest of the night till bedtime. Yeah, they got on my nerves but, boy!, did I (and still do) love them.

    My family was so great that I could almost forget we were so poor. We couldn’t afford to go to a movie; we’d have movie night at home with pop corn and Kool-Aid. We couldn’t go to amusement parks but we could go to Cove Lake State Park just down the road from us, use their playground equipment. Well, my brothers played; I was too old for that silly stuff—unless I thought no other older kids could see me, then I was swinging up to the moon and slipping down the slide to land, hard, on the packed dirt at the bottom. My mom drove a 1959 Rambler with fin tail lights. Oh yeah, it was hot pink! If you were embarrassed by your parents’ cars when you were a kid, think on this car. You would’ve been mortified, but it didn’t stop me from trying to borrow it every day after I got my driver’s license. Man, I loved that push-button transmission!

    Sometimes the car radio wouldn’t work, no matter how many times we smacked it. No problem, we had our own music. Nope, no MP3 player or fancy cell phone (had no idea those would ever be invented) that played all the latest hits. We had each other. I remember many of those rides back from the park. We’d all have red cheeks either from sun or wind burn, Mom would have her hands on the steering wheel at ten and two o’clock and she’d glance at us and ask, “Who’s going to sing lead?” It all depended on which song we sang as to who sang lead. My brothers said, and of course Mom agreed, I was the best lead on the song “Amen” so that’s usually what we started with. As with every song, the longer we sang, the louder we got and the bigger we smiled. We’d start with our favorite gospel songs and end with songs Mom had sung to us when we were little. The one that took us on in home was usually “Once there was a tree-a pretty little tree-prettiest little tree, you ever did see…tree in the hole, hole in the ground, green grass growing all around all around, green grass growing all around.”

    And if you don’t know which song that is, then I pity you. And if you didn’t have to come up with ways to entertain yourself and to do things as a family because you had no money, then I feel bad for you. I think that when life is handed to us on a silver platter, we don’t even notice how it shines and shimmers in the sunlight. And if you never got bored enough to create a chain out of honeysuckle vine, what a sad life you’ve lived. Of course I’m joking but I so hope that you have, at different times in your life, been forced to slow down, notice your blessings and pulled the stem from the honeysuckle to lick the sweet nectar free. If you haven’t, then poor you, you haven’t LIVED

    Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer!

    2011 - 07.09

    The high here today was 102 with a heat index of 105. But really, once it gets to 100 what difference does it make?

    It makes me think about summers in East Tennessee when I was a little girl. Do you remember getting hot in the summers when you were a kid? I know I got hot, I just don’t remember it. Things I do remember are: keep turning the pillow over to the cool side all night, having no air conditioner, just open windows with screens, lying on a “pallet” on the floor when I had to take a nap because the plastic couch made me sweat and putting my face in front of the box fan making “ooohh eeeww yeeee” noises until Mamaw threatened to get a switch.

    Did you have silly games you played in the summer? Since I was an only child until I was seven, I used my imagination a great deal. One of my favorite things was finding a long, nearly straight tree limb on the ground, getting a long piece of strong thread, tie it to the limb, then take a bobby pin, twist it into a “hook”, and go “fishing.” I’d find a large leaf, put it on the bobby pin, then flip the limb backward, as if I were casting, and let the leaf float to the ground in front of me. Then I’d pretend I was tugging, grunting, and dragged that Jaws-sized monster to “shore”. That was a lot of fun until I discovered that the deep drainage ditch behind our house was filled with water one day and I took my “pole” and “fish” and started casting into that water. I couldn’t swim and had been warned once already. When Mamaw looked out the kitchen window and caught me doing it again, I got my butt busted.

    When the girl next door was home we’d sometimes make mud pies and decorate them with flowers and purple clover. She’d dare me to eat the decorations and, well, I never passed up on a dare! I’d chew them up, open my mouth so she could see the shredded flowers, and she’d get grossed out. It was the highlight of my day.

    I remember walking to what we called “the little dam” with my cousins. It seemed a hundred miles away but was probably only about two miles. That fun came to a screaming halt the hot summer day two of my cousins beat all of us into the water only to scatter many snakes of different sizes, mama and babies.

    Come to think of it, I have an entire book of memories like those! It’s titled Saturday Night Cocoa Fudge and you can find it at http://tinyurl.com/3mqqcae

    Stay cool!

    Happy Independence Day!

    2011 - 07.01


    I am a patriotic soul. Even though it’s not a popular notion with some people right now, I love my country. I think I’m one of the luckiest people alive to have been born and raised in this great country of mine. As Lee Greenwood sang, ♪ I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free and (this is very important) I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me

    I’m sure that being raised in the Air Force had something to do with this. But being proud of my heritage was hammered into my head before my mother married the career Air Force man who became the only real father I ever knew. I was born in East Tennessee and I’m just as proud of my state heritage as the country in which she sits.

    Whenever the flag is raised at the high school football game, I tear up and will truly cry out loud if I don’t control myself. Recently I walked around the Oklahoma State building with misty eyes and I spoke with a husky reverence as I took it all in.

    I never take it for granted that blood was shed, lives lost, to give me the freedoms that most take for granted. Sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters will never hold their loved ones again so that the citizens of this country can burn that same flag they died for, so inbred people can protest their funerals, and insult with vitriol the government they served.

    And I might be one of the older Americans, part of the outgoing generation but I strongly proclaim and loudly sing ♪ And I’d gladly stand up, next to you and defend her today. ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,