Conversations with Mama… and more ~ #3
Mama hates when I tell her it’s raining here as they have had such a terrible drought from last year (2007) and it still continues to be dry. They can even be fined for watering their gardens, but she sneaks out late at night and gives her flowers and vegetables a little drink. She feels that she conserves enough water to share with her flowers and veggies. She then began asking me, “do you remember the time, when we lived on Smoak Avenue in Perry, and how it rained in our yard and not the neighbors’? You and the neighbor kids ran back and forth from our yard to theirs, running in and out of the rain. It was really weird to see it that close, but that’s how the weather can be. I’ve seen that happen many times as I’ve rode along in the car – you ride into a burst of rain from an overhead cloud, and as quickly as you realize it’s raining, you ride out of it.”
“Do you remember the maid, Anne Clampett, that worked for us while I worked at the beauty shop and Moss Oaks Lounge? She cooked and cleaned and looked after you and Granddaddy while I worked. You used to ride with me to take her home.”
When I called tonight she told me that she had made an apple pie – I never remember her ever making an apple pie so I asked where she got the recipe? “Joyce at the senior center brought this apple pie into work today made with apples, oatmeal, sugar, and a little water and butter. It was delicious, so when I came home I picked apples from my tree and made one tonight. Most of them had bad spots but I cut all around them. I put them in a baking dish, mixed some oatmeal up with sugar and a little water and poured it over, then cut some butter to go on the top and baked it. It was pretty good, but something was missing (I told her it was cinnamon). I’ll have to ask Joyce for her actual recipe and make it again.” I told Mama it was called an apple crisp and that when we come down she can make it for us. The only dessert I remember Mama making is her famous lemon pie that Melissa and I love.
I told Mama today about a program I watched about hauntings the other night; she began telling me about her grandfather’s house. “I really do believe that Granddaddy McKinley’s (Edgar Lawson McKinley) house in Siloam was really haunted. He lived about a mile or so away from our log cabin – he was just down the road from Slip Rock on Slip Rock Rd. I was only a little girl, but I remember hearing the tales from everybody and I truly believed them. They all said they saw and heard the ghostly happenings.”
“If you spent much time in the house, they said you’d hear the sounds of a table being turned over, but if you went into the kitchen to see, you’d find the table standing exactly where it should – you’d heard the sounds of pots and pans rattling, but what you’d find was that they were all in place – often you’d hear the stairs creaking to the sounds of someone walking upstairs, but upon investigating, there was no one. One of the things you could witness was the kitchen door opening. It was told that they would be sitting at the table, when all of a sudden, you’d hear the thumb-bolt lock click open, and the door slowly open wide, -all on its on. The other ghostly haunting they witnessed was the sudden jerk on the window shade, and up it went, rolling completely up to the top. No one would even be near the window, it would just go flying up – all by itself.”
“The noises were said to come from the ghosts of the old man and woman who lived in the house previously. Supposedly he beat his wife and that’s where the kitchen noises came from. I never saw or heard anything, as I was small, but I heard the “old folks” telling these stories. I do remember walking from our log cabin to my grandfather’s house and being afraid that a “bugger” would get me as I walked on the dirt road. There was a couple of hills on the road and I used to run from the first hill quickly down the dip to get up on top of the second hill. I was always afraid that something would get me in the dip of the road.”
Stories about the house in Siloam, GA. that Lawson McKinley lived in –
it was located near Slip Rock in Siloam.
From Shirley McKinley Caldwell (daughter of Walter McKinley): “One of the houses that Daddy (Walter) grew up in was said to be haunted and Daddy told us several stories. He and his brothers would be walking down the road at night and see a light on the back porch, but it would disappear when they got there – there wasn’t even a porch light on the back porch. They sometimes heard something fall from the ceiling in the kitchen and upon investigating, found dust on the table, but never found what had fallen. Uncle Earl (McKinley) wrote an article in the Macon, Georgia paper about the house being haunted.”
Article from Macon, GA paper – written by C. Earle McKinley (son of E. Lawson McKinley): The House of Strange Noises: The late afternoon shadows were just beginning to spread across the Greene County field where C. E. McKinley, his parent’s, and four siblings were picking cotton. It was autumn, about 70 years ago. “I don’t know exactly what year it was, but I was in my teens,” said McKinley, 85, a retired contractor, now living in Macon. “We were all out in the field working when we heard this sound coming from the house, like somebody took the kitchen table, with all the dishes and pans on it, lifted it up and slammed it back down on the floor.” But just who was this “somebody?” The entire family was in the cotton field.
McKinley said his father told him to go check the house. “I ran up there, but the doors were shut and everything was in place. I went all over the whole house. I didn’t see a thing.” Except, that is, little flecks of whitewash from the ceiling that covered the floor and some of the furniture – as though loosened when something heavy had fallen. McKinley looked to see if part of the ceiling had caved in, but it hadn’t.
His mother cleaned up the whitewash debris, but McKinley said, “that day was not the last time the family heard the mysterious noise. For years afterward, maybe once every three or four months, the family was startled by a loud crashing sound, followed by a sprinkling of whitewash from the ceiling. “Sometimes it’d wake you up in the middle of the night. You’d hear this ‘boom’ and then your bed would be covered with whitewash peelings. It scared you, waking up at night with that stuff falling in your face.” But was it a ghost?
“Back then, people used to call things like that a ‘haint,” McKinley said. “I’d hear people say that maybe it was the ghost of so-and-so that used to live there. I never thought much of that. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I don’t have any explanation for what caused it.”
When he was about 19, McKinley said his family moved to a new house; another family moved into their old house, and McKinley never heard if the new residents ever heard the noises. A fire destroyed the house a few years later, ensuring that its secrets were forever safe. “I think about it quite often,” McKinley said. “It’s still a mystery to me.”
From Helen (McKinley) Bryan – granddaughter of Lawson McKinley: “I never saw or heard them when I was small, but I was usually spooked when there. I heard about them hearing noises at night coming from the kitchen but never experienced them as I wouldn’t sleep there. They said it sounded like someone was downstairs fighting and throwing things around. It was told that the sounds were the ghosts of the family that lived there previously – the ghostly sounds of the husband beating his wife.”
I told Mama tonight on the phone that I chatted with someone online that had lived near Syrup Mill Crossing – where her father usually carried his sugar cane. The cane was crushed into sorghum syrup by the manpower of the horses – walking round and round. They knew of a Thomas McKinley, who now lives in Lake Oconee. Mama immediately began telling me how he was related. “All the McKinley’s in Siloam were related – somehow. They were my cousins, but I didn’t really know them all because, for some reason, we just didn’t all associate and visit each other. Daddy knew who they all were, but I didn’t know them all individually. I believe Tom, as we called him, was a little older than me, and was the grandson of John McKinley, who was my grandfather’s brother.”
Sometimes one thing we’re talking about rolls into something else, but I love the stories. “Aunt Liza Askew McKinley was one of my favorites – she was my mother’s sister. I can still remember how stern she was. If she saw her boys coming home drunk, she’d lock them out of the house, sometimes even throwing rocks at them – and then they had to sleep in the cornfield. They even took the dog, Bo-weevil, with them when they went out drinking – and the dog got drunk too. Later, when they went to bars to drink, they still took Bo-weevil with them and he came home drunk right alongside them.”
And then she went to talking about the Walker’s! “When I grew up. the McKinley’s and the Walker’s never liked each other much and always fought. If they were all at a dance – at one time – before the end of the night – there was a fist fight over something. And look who my best friend turned out to be – a Walker! I met Willie Mae Walker on the very first day in first grade. We both looked at each other and said, “I don’t think I’m going to like being here.” And we have remained friends from that very first day of school. We even married men who were best friends, and we also both divorced them. I remember asking Grandma Walker one day, “what would you do if Willie and I had a boy and girl who married and had a baby?” She replied, “I wouldn’t let it in my house!”
I asked Mama tonight what TV programs did I watch when I was small. When we lived in Union Point my father was a TV repairman and we had the first TV set in town in our home. “You didn’t watch much TV when you were young, you were always too busy trying to sell something. Your father sold insurance for New York Life and you’d take his free give-a-ways, like combs and rulers, and even his blank insurance policies, and go up and down the street selling them to the neighbors. You always came home with a pocketful of change. One time you took his wallet that held the weeks collection of money from his customer’s insurance premiums and hid it. When we asked you about his wallet, you kept saying you didn’t know, but I knew you must have hidden it as you always hid things. I let you overhear me say, “well I guess the police will have to come and lock up her Daddy since he doesn’t have the money to give to the insurance company.” You quickly ran home and brought the money to me; you had hidden it in one of the shoe pockets that hung on my bedroom closet door. I had looked all over the house, but never looked there – usually I founs what you had hidden. When we moved to Perry, I found coins hidden under everything throughout the house as I packed.”
I asked Mama about the flowers Grandmamma had at the farm, and she said; “Mama never planted flowers in her yard – she didn’t really have time. I planted a few flowers – actually what flowers grew there came from me planting them. I don’t remember where we got the Ola Lilies from, but they were found around all the old farmhouses in Siloam. You can still see them all over Siloam, even today. My mother worked too hard outside in the field and the vegetable garden to have time for flowers. But I do remember her having a ‘thing’ for water – every bucket we had on the back porch had to be kept full – all the time. And if I didn’t, she’d do it. I don’t know how she did all she did throughout her life – she cooked all the meals, worked in the field, took care of the vegetable garden, scrubbed the clothes on a washboard, ironed all our clothes with an iron heated on her wood kitchen stove (I have the irons), canned the vegetables she grew, and made many blackberry and peach pies; her blackberry pie was always my favorite. We really had good eating in our house – Mama was a good cook.”
I quickly discovered that “Conversations with Mama” is a story that has no end – so I decided to compile future conversations with Mama in a separate storybook, which will now continue on in this book; I have copied them all from the beginning. These were all in one story I had kept, but like I said, I soon found that there was no end.
To be continued…
© 2015 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco