Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #5

Conversations with Mama ~ #5

“I’ll never forget the one night your father drove over to the farm. He had had a little too much to drink and when he pulled into the yard, he went real fast, around and around, the big oak tree in the yard and then flew back out the driveway and up the road. After turning around, he came back into the yard and found Daddy standing in the yard with his shotgun raised. He told Clayton “boy you better not ever do that again, I was ready to shoot the fool that had just come flying around in my yard.” “I had told him he better not do that, but he wouldn’t listen because he had been drinking. He never forgot that and didn’t dare try it again. You didn’t play around like that in those days – people would shoot first and ask questions later, especially my father..”

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Mama in center with cousins

“My girlfriend, Willie Mae, and I often played with each other’s kids. Willie would get down on the floor and play “bugger” with you when you were little. She’d get down and crawl toward you saying, “I’m gonna get you,” and you’d run and hide, then come back for more. I’d take Willie’s daughter, Debbie, and sit and hold her, rubbing the bottom of her feet while rocking her. You didn’t like to be held and patted, you wanted someone to get down on the floor and scare you – then you’d run away and come back for more. Stephen liked that when he was small, guess he got it from you.”

“I never used to forget things like I do today. Clayton always said that I had the memory of an elephant and never forgot a dam thing – and I didn’t! I can still remember things from years ago, but not where I put something today or yesterday – and it makes me so mad! I’ve never forgotten the log cabin I was born in and playing up in the attic there. When I was a beautician in Perry, I could tell joke after joke – and never forgot the punch-line, but now I’m lucky if I can remember that you told me a joke yesterday. I can still remember a couple of jokes from those days, and the one that I don’t think I’ll ever forget, was the one told to me by an elderly woman as I washed her hair. She looked up at me and said, “did you ever see a one-eyed sex maniac.” When I said no, she covered one eye and said, “you have now.” I just fell over on the counter laughing and I hope I never forget that one.”

“I remember many times of playing with my brother Leroy. One time the two of us were sitting on top of the dog house, and he was making flips. I wanted one badly, and when I asked him, he told me no. It made me so mad that I slapped my fist down and it hit the knife laying there – it then flew over and stabbed him on his finger. I don’t know exactly what it did, but he was never able to bend his finger right again.”

“I was quite devilish when I hung around the boys. One time I threw Kendrick Lewis’s books in the water as we walked home from the bus. I don’t know why I did that. I’ve pretty much always did what I wanted and today at age 78 (2008) I still do what I want. And if I don’t want to do something – I don’t! Some people tell me I’m cantankerous – and I like it!

“I can still vividly remember the day that I was almost bit by a mad dog. I was out in the field with Mama and Daddy and wanted a drink of water. After whining awhile, Daddy yelled at me to go to the house and get my drink, but the problem was I didn’t want to go by myself. He eventually chased me away and told me I better go on. I finally began walking back to the house and when I got in the yard, I saw a strange dog standing there – I began yelling “mad dog, “mad dog.” Daddy came running toward the house and yelled for me to jump up on the wood pile – he ran in the front door and came out the back with his shotgun and shot the dog. We were taught about mad dogs roaming around because many dogs did roam back then. After that, he’d walk me to the house if no one was home.”

I’ve been emailing with a woman who grew up in Siloam, that I met on the Greene County genealogy page, and that her brother remembered Leroy, Mama’s brother. After telling Mama that he mentioned how good a baseball player Leroy was and that I didn’t remember her ever telling me that, she said – “Yes, Leroy played baseball and was really good, he played in Siloam and was on the Greensboro high school team. Leroy’s friends often called him “corncob” and me “little corncob”, it would make me so mad. I remember Leroy was also Prom King once in high school.”

“I was only about thirteen when Leroy died, so sometimes it’s hard to have really known what he did when he was older. I remember when he got his high school senior ring. Mama saved and saved by selling eggs, cream and butter to pay for his ring. Then he gave it to some girl to see and she wouldn’t give it back.”

“In school, if anybody’s lunch was stolen, it always seemed to be mine. We never had loaf bread in our house, Daddy always said that it was like eating a wasp nest – too many holes in it. Everybody always wanted my lunch of biscuit and ham or sorghum syrup. I carried my lunch in probably a tin pail or brown paper bag, I didn’t have a real lunch box like the city girls – I was a country girl. I remember Mama making me chocolate milk – she probably put it in a mason jar. We mostly drank milk, my mother hated ice tea and only made it on Sunday or when company came. She said the taste of it reminded her of medicine. But she made the best sweet tea.”

“I remember Leroy taking apart Daddy’s old Model T Ford that sat in the yard after he bought the newer Model A. He’d take it apart and have all the parts laying out on a sheet. It would make Daddy so mad; but Leroy always put it back together. We also pulled out all the brass wire out of some of the parts – we’d string it across the road to catch people walking. Once we caught the preachers horse and buggy in it and we both got a licking. I liked the “ooga horn” on that  car; daddy had courted mama in the buggy and that Model T. It was sad the day Daddy sold it for junk for fifteen dollars. I wish I’d kept that horn.”

“Sometimes Leroy and Daddy would get into heated arguments with each other. One time Leroy took off and I thought he was really going away and not coming back – I ran after him.” 

“I was sent to the principal’s office one morning from an incident on the bus coming to school. The bus driver wouldn’t make the boys roll up the windows and the air was ruining my hair and the other girls on the bus, so I began singing this song, “John Jacob Jingle Hiemer Smith, his name is my name too. Whenever we go out, the people always shout, ‘There Goes John Jacob Jingle Hiemer Smith! As you sing the verses, each verse is suppose to be louder than the last. I sang it all the way to school and drove the bus driver crazy that morning; he sent me directly to Principle C.C. Wills office. I went in and told him I was sent there, and after he asked my name, and I told him I was Leroy McKinley’s sister, he looked at me and gave me ten cents and told me to go get myself a coke and sit down for awhile before going back to class”.

“My father always blamed Mr. Wills for Leroy being drafted and killed as he had gone to the draft board and said he should be drafted because he wasn’t doing anything in school. Daddy even punched Mr. Wills after Leroy died when he saw him on the street after Mr. Wills told him he was sorry to hear of his son’s death. So I’m sure when I showed up in his office, he didn’t want any more confrontations with my father. Later after he stopped being principal, he taught geometry and everyone passed his classes. He let us grade each other’s papers, and we always  put 100 as the grade and he never looked them over. That was the only reason I passed geometry.”

I always ask Mama what’s new at the senior center and she told me today about them making potato candy. “A woman came to the center and taught everyone about making a simple dessert that you wouldn’t have to go to the store and buy a lot of ingredients for. It was interesting as we watched her make it using only 4 ingredients. You take 1 medium potato and bake until it’s really soft – scoop out the potato pulp for 1/2 cup. Add that to a bowl and begin mixing in confectionery sugar and maybe 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until it forms a firm dough that you can roll out. You roll it out on wax paper, spread peanut butter on top and roll it up jelly-roll style and cut into bite size pieces. It was pretty tasty. I never made much candy, but I remember making Divinity once and sending it to your father when he was in the Navy. I didn’t have a recipe, someone had just told me how to make it. It came really good, and that was the only time it ever came out right. When I was a beautician in Perry, one of my customers used to always bring me home-made Divinity at Christmas, and it was the best.”

“My neighbor across the street brought me some black figs from her parents tree today. They taste similar to mine, but bigger. She’s going to bring me some cuttings from their tree and I’ll root some for Steve and Melissa. Her parents also dry  figs in some type of a dryer and then seal them in air tight bags. I tried them and they were pretty good; I saved one bag for you when you come.”

“The other day at the senior center the woman who runs the “Brain Power” session asked us to recall any favorite foods remembered. The meal I most remember was at Aunt Chris’s house. We had stopped there and she said she felt bad that she didn’t have anything to offer us to eat. But she went into the kitchen and began frying sweet potato slices and fatback bacon, which she called side-meat, and made homemade biscuits with a pan of sweet milk gravy and cut up a dish of sliced tomatoes. When I sat down to eat, the food was so good that I ate myself silly. I’ve always remembered that meal as one of the best meals I ever enjoyed.”

On my nightly phone call tonight, Mama began telling me about the Fuller School House that Granddaddy owned. “Daddy owned 10 acres on the road to White Plains where the old Fuller School house sat. My father and Aunt Lena, his sister, had bought it so Uncle Villa and Aunt Mae McKinley could live there. Uncle Villa (McKinley), daddy’s brother, had TB, and they needed a place to live away from everybody. While living there, a tornado came through and picked the house up with Uncle Villa and Aunt Mae inside and sat it down in the woods on top of some tree stumps. This was probably sometime in the 1940’s. They weren’t harmed, but the house was no longer livable. They came to live at our house for a few months, and stayed in the back bedroom, while Daddy and Aunt Lena built them a small house, on Daddy’s land, just up the road from our house.”

“I had been at school when the tornado came through and we sat under our desks during the storm. It was pretty scary and I couldn’t wait to go home. A dog showed up at our house after the tornado that day – a small black and white dog with spots, so I called him Spot. We never heard about anyone looking for him, so he stayed with us. But anytime a cloud came up, Spot would go and hide in the house under my bed. He lived with us on the farm for a long time until he died.”

“Today at the senior center a woman told me I talked too much – and I told her “God gave me a mouth and I’m gonna use it.” I don’t understand why people worry so much down there about what I do and say. One day they’re not going to like what I say back to them. They don’t think I have much trust in things, so I told them that “I don’t trust anybody and I walk particular around the dead.”

To be continued…

© 2015 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco





About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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