Conversations with Mama… and more ~ #13
“In talking to Mama tonight about making a scrapbook for Melissa’s bridal shower she said… “I guess you could say I was the original scrapper years ago. I used to cut pictures into shapes and put them in a book. Then later you were mad that I cut up all the pictures. We do a lot of scrapping at the Senior Center. I like the idea you have for playing The Price is Right – we play that at the Senior Center.”
I flew down to Georgia in October (2009) with Melissa and Frank. This was Frank’s first time in Georgia and first time meeting Angel. I think he was a hit with her and a keeper, she said! While we were in Greene County, we drove by Granddaddy’s farm to show Frank where Angel grew up. Mama began telling Frank. “My Daddy always said that there were Indian burial graves on the farm way back in the woods. One time my brother, Leroy, and stuck sticks in the ground trying to find the graves. When Leroy pulled his out, it had a hair on the head of the stick and it scared me to death. I thought he actually stuck a grave and pulled out an Indian hair. Leroy had stuck a horse hair on the end of his stick before showing it to me.”
Mama began talking about Granddaddy fox hunting as we rode along the road, and… “I remember that one of the men who fox-hunted with Daddy brought home a baby fox one time. I guess they had found it or either their dogs had killed the mother. He raised it and later it even played with his fox dogs and was very friendly.”
We took Frank on the old White Plains road to Siloam, where it’s mostly a red-clay dirt road until it almost comes back to Siloam. Along the way she told Frank. “There’s a stream down there that my Daddy used to ride down into with the wagon to wet the wheels to keep the dust down as we drove along. Somewhere off this road was where a root doctor lived that Mama went to, she bought medicinal roots. She’d boil them and make us drink the liquid when we were sick. I always hated that liquid – it tasted really bad, but I think it worked.”
Heading back to Greensboro, we passed a road called Bowden Pond Road and Mama said. “That’s the road that Daddy took to go out to Bowden’s Mill to grind his wheat. I went with him many times to watch them grind the wheat. The man who owned it was Elliot Cornelius Bowden.” We turned the car around and decided to go and see if the old mill still stood. After going quite a ways, we crossed a small stream running under the road and I looked to the left and said I bet that’s it through those trees. About that time a car approached and Frank asked him if knew of the mill. The man was the local caretaker for the area and said the mill was just through the trees. I asked him if we would be able to walk in to view it and take pictures, but he told us it wasn’t safe there for anyone to walk in, but if we came back when all the leaves were down, he would take us in to see it. Maybe I’ll write a letter to the editor of the Greensboro paper and see if anyone has photos of it or could take a picture to send to me.” (From Lanier Rhodes – we used to drive our cars and park on the flat rocks on the road, fill up buckets with water and wash our cars there. Now the lake is all dried up and consumed with pine trees.)
“There were flat rocks in the middle of the stream running across to the mill. You could walk on them – there was only about an inch of water running over them. If the water was a little lower, sometimes you could just sit on the rocks and stretch your feet down in the water. I used to ride in the wagon with Daddy to Sander’s Mill; his house was up a little ways on the hill. Mr. Sander’s wife was a McKinley and daddy’s cousin. He either took over or bought the mill from Mr. Bowden.
While watching TV one night, Mama said. “I remember when Daddy watched the cowboys on the westerns and he’d say.” “I don’t know how they can keep making movies when they’ve killed off all the cowboys in all the other movies.” “I remember when we watched the old movies on the big screen – it tickled me when I watched the wagons flying across the screen and the wheels would be going backwards.”
One morning while sitting at the breakfast table, Mama told Frank. “I remember my Mother always put an egg shell in the coffee grounds whenever she made coffee. I never asked why; I just assumed it was how you made coffee.”
On the way to Donna’s house in Watkinsville we stopped at a roadside stand and I bought some muscadines. Mama began telling me… “When I was a little girl on the farm I remember climbing up in the tree where the muscadine vines were and sitting there eating them until I had my fill of them. Then I’d hop down and be on my way. No one ever bought them, everyone had muscadines growing somewhere nearby where they ate from. Granddaddy Paul had a big muscadine arbor where you used to eat them from.”
The one place I wanted to take Frank to was my house called Tara. I was happy to find the front door open and Frank seemed eager to walk around inside. Before I knew it, he had walked all over, including upstairs and all the rooms on the second floor. I did walk all the way up the stairs once, but was afraid to walk on the second floor and in the rooms by myself. I’m also afraid someone will come and catch me in there, but I still go inside most times I visit. (It’s really the Nolan house)
As we rode through Bostwick (Oct. 2009) on the way back from Tara looking for a place to stop so Melissa could go out in the cotton field and pull up a cotton plant to bring home, Mama said. “See those tall golden grasses, that’s called Sagebrush. It’s what my mother cut to make brooms with. Daddy cut new brush every fall for her. She bundled them together and wrapped the top tightly with twine to form the handle. I don’t how she managed to keep the cord so tight as she wrapped, but she knew exactly how to do it. I could never make them like she did. You didn’t go to the store to buy a broom years ago – you made your brooms. She swept the yards and the house with the brooms she made. Now it’s considered an art for whomever makes them, and very expensive, but years ago they were made out of necessity.”
Before we left I told Mama that I wasn’t going to call her for about a month after she gets her new top teeth. She said, “yea and I’ll cuss you out too!”
When I called Mama today she told me about Alice, the pig next door, getting loose and walking down the middle of the road, and that led to… “We used to have wild boar on the farm back in the marsh back-forty. Daddy used to get really mad when his fox dogs got off the fox trail and onto the scent of the boar. Those boar were pretty dangerous and could kill your dogs when they were cornered.”
In asking Mama what was she eating for supper tonight, she said… “I remember my mother eating mayonnaise sandwiches – she loved them. Sometimes she’d even put just saltines in between slices of bread and eat a sandwich with them. I remember her eating many strange things.”
“My Mama was a loner – she didn’t join in conversation whenever we went anywhere. When she spoke, which was rare, she meant what she said. I’m more like my father, I never shut up and I’ll argue with the sign post – and I probably would too! Daddy was full of devilment and I am to at times. They get a kick out of my mouth at the Senior Center at the lunch table.”
Mama cut up some apples she’d gotten from her friend Carolyn and put in the freezer to make an apple crisp when we come down this year. Carolyn told her to mix baking soda with water and pour over to keep the apples from turning brown. I never heard of this method before, but it worked. I guess it’s another old family recipe passed down.
As I talked to Mama on Halloween night (Oct. 31, 2009) I asked her what do you remember about that holiday. “We never had “trick or treat” when I was young, but we always had a Halloween party at school. No one came in any type of costume though, they had no money for that and probably didn’t even know what a costume for Halloween was. I never remember dressing up, we just came in regular clothes. It was a party that included your family; I remember my parents attending with me. We bobbed for apples, had haunted houses to walk through and often they even were able to get all the father’s to bob for apples. I even remember seeing my father bob for apples one time. I also remember all the mothers bringing home-made cakes for the cakewalk. My mother never made one though, it was usually just certain mothers who baked them. Mama didn’t socialize with too many people, she was a loner. While the parents stayed inside, the kids played out in the schoolyard until way after dark. Then we hid and jumped out from behind the bushes trying to scare everyone and yelling boo.”
I called to wish Mama a Merry Christmas (Dec. 25, 2009) and she began talking about old family photos she remembered at her great-grandmothers house. “I sure wish I had that box of old pictures we cousins used to look at when we went to Miss Bay’s – she was my step-grandmother. I don’t know why they called her Miss Bay; her real name was Josephine Askew McKinley and she was a second cousin or about of my mother. They always said they were related, but could never tell us kids how, but after you began researching the family history you discovered that they were actual cousins. When all of us young cousins were there, she would give us the box of old photos she had and a stereoscope viewer and we’d sit for hours looking at them. Some of them were even on tin. I don’t remember her ever telling us exactly who all the people were. My mother always said there was Indian blood in our lines and many of the older photos looked like they were of Indian descent, but you never found any Indian blood lines that you know of. I still believe that we have Indian blood in our lines – just look at our old family pictures and their faces. I think my cousin Margaret ended up with that box of pictures from what Charles (McKinley) maybe you can check with her.”
I called Mama tonight and asked her if she had went back to the Dentist on another fitting for her teeth. She laughed and said… “I didn’t tell you what happened! I went back and my dentist began apologizing how I’d have to have another impression because when he sent back her teeth for something, they lost them. I started laughing and told him, that the day I’d walked out of his office, very upset over the shape and size of the new teeth, I asked God to please do something about those ugly teeth – and I guess he listened. My father didn’t even believe in brushing his teeth, and when he died he still had all but two of his teeth left. He rinsed his mouth with kerosene often. One time when he was in the VA Hospital the nurse made him brush his teeth and he got so mad he picked up the small bowl of water, and in meaning to throw it on her, he missed and threw it on me. I was like, Daddy I didn’t do anything to you. He did not like being told what to do and not being able to live his life like he wanted.”
“The young girl next door brought me over supper tonight. It was a squash dish like macaroni and cheese – it was so good- and for dessert she brought blackberry cobbler. Her husband had went picking yesterday. I really enjoyed it. There’s only been one woman who made a pie to equal my mother’s blackberry pie and that was when I went to a McKinley family reunion at Kenneth’s in Siloam. I had spotted the blackberry pie on the table and after eating a piece, I asked who made it. It had been made by an older woman there related somehow to Kenneth’s mother Ulma McKinley. I told her that it was the best pie I had ever eaten other than the ones my mother made. She loved the compliment. I told her that if nobody would think me selfish, I’d take the rest and go out behind the house and eat myself silly – she smiled and said, “go ahead.” But I didn’t. I sure did think about that pie after coming home and wished I’d put the rest in the car for later.
To be continued…
© 2015 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco