Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #28

Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #28

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This is a new picture of mama received from a cousin. I had never seen it before. Mama looks young here, maybe 18-19. Maybe she was married and going to work at the mill in Union Point – but at the moment it’s a mystery as to where it was taken.

March 8, 2016: I told mama that we picked up a bike with training wheels for McKinley for her birthday, and … “My cousin, Red Albert McKinley used to come down to the farm all the time to hang around with my brother Leroy. One day, he rode his bicycle and left it there while they went hunting. I took it, but as I didn’t know how to ride it, I pushed it all the way up the hill and climbed on. I rode it down alright, I rode it right into the ditch and landed in all kind of sticks and brush – my dress was ripped off and I walked the bike back to the farm in my slip. When daddy saw me, he said, “see I told you that would happen.” I was only about 10-12 and I really had wanted to ride that bike – all the kids in town had bikes, but daddy wouldn’t get me one.” 

March 9, 2016: I called mama to remind her to go to the bank tomorrow, as she had lost her checkbook and had to get the bank info straightened out. After telling her how McKinley ate the ends off her sandwich at lunch today and then ate 3 biscuits with butter, mama said…. “The one thing my daddy didn’t allow, was coming to the table and complaining that you didn’t want to eat what was on the table. He would say if you didn’t like it, or wanted it, then you could just get up and leave, but there was no coming back to the kitchen – You went to bed hungry! I sometimes went to bed hungry too, but often I remember mama slipping me food later on.”

“I’m going to buy myself some Sweet William seeds tomorrow. They are one of my favorite flowers in the summer. I used to plant them all around our house in Union Point – I love them! I’ll plant them under where I planted the sunflower seeds by the posts. By those very posts where I got that splinter in my hand the other day when my hand slipped off the digging tool. I still don’t know how I did that; my hand is still a little swollen and hurts. I went out to the Dr. to have them get it out, as I couldn’t – it was red and swollen. It’s not as bad looking as it was, but I have been soaking it in Epson salts.”

March 13, 2016: As we chatted about TV and movies on, mama said… “ As I’m laying in bed looking at the TV, the clothes stacked up next to it caught my eye – they seem to be stacked up in the profile of my daddy, I can definitely see his profile. It’s really strange! I think I’m going to get up and move them so I don’t keep seeing it, it’s spooky.”

“I remember Aunt May (Uncle Villa Askew’s wife) used to sew dresses for me sometimes; she had no daughters, only boys. For some reason back then, when they made you a dress, they always made it too big. I like my dresses to fit me, not swim on me. I bet that after I got it home, I redid it somehow as I was very fussy about clothes, as I still am today. Uncle Villa was my mother’s brother.”

In an Heirloom story planned, I asked mama about granddaddy’s fox horn, and …. “I don’t remember where he got that fox horn he blew, but he had it a long, long time. Sometimes he took it with him on Friday nights when he went fox hunting, but not always. He usually just called the dogs back. It always hung behind the bed on the gun rack with the guns. It was a group of older men in the area that went fox hunting, and he went for as long as I can remember. We always had dogs, he bought Walker hunting dogs at one time, but they were kept fenced up unless he took them hunting. There was always yard dogs around the house, guess that was our security. Some of the names I remember are Brownie, Spot, Fancy, Smoker, Bill, Jack, and even one name Frank. It was Frank who bit me after daddy telling me he wouldn’t bite me. But it was my fault as I put my hand in a biscuit and when he bit it, he bit me, then I yelled to daddy that Frank bit me just to prove my point to him. I don’t remember what Daddy said – probably nothing! We had Brownie because someone in Atlanta who knew daddy asked him to keep him until they could take him back – they never came back to get him. (I vaguely remember mama telling me years that it was given to him from the fox hunting club.”

“Leroy used to pull his pet chicken around the yard in the wagon. One day daddy came in the house and the chicken tried to run and get in when the door opened, but the door slammed on his neck and the chicken died. My father hated that chicken, and Leroy knew that –  and he told him, “I guess you’re happy now” – I was really young, but I remember it happening and seeing Leroy with the chicken. I think he called it necked because it had no feathers. The other chickens had pecked them all off – don’t know why.”

“When we lived in that first cabin, where I was born, I remember when bad clouds came up daddy would stuff paper in the windows to keep them from rattling. I still remember living in that cabin I lived there until I was about ten years old (1940). Leroy and I liked to sneak up the stairs to the attic – there were no rooms up there, but you could step over the boards to an area where it was flat. I liked to go up there and play, it’s a wonder I never fell through. We played a game with mama’s thimble’s up there – There are many of mama’s thimbles that fell down inside those walls. I had books up there I would look go up and read; I liked to read when I was young. There was a lot of things they must have had stored up there too, as I  remember seeing old things piled up in the back.”

Mama asked tonight when did we vote, so I asked her, are you gonna vote? … “No, I only voted once in my life and that was when we lived in Perry.” Who did you vote for? “I don’t remember who I voted for down there, that’s been a long time ago, seems like ages to me.”

“I always liked to fuss with hair, even cutting hair. One time I cut my cousin Martha Ann’s hair when she came to the farm – she sat on the bottom step and I cut it; I don’t remember what the outcome of that was. I guess I was destined to be a beautician as I always liked to cut and fool around with hair. I even tried to give her a permanent in playing one time. Why she would let me do all that to her, I don’t know, but that time I almost set her hair on fire. I took some kind of pot that must have had a hole in the top and put it on her head and tied wires to pieces of her hair and ran them through the top and somehow I started a fire on top – thinking I would heat the wires? Well, the fire would have burnt her if I didn’t get it off in time – what were we thinking??  We didn’t think, we just did. I don’t think our parents ever found out that we did that.”

March 14, 2016: I called mama tonight to ask where the farm bell stood originally, and “The bell was first put up near the smokehouse – you could see it from the kitchen window. Daddy had taken the bell and post from his fathers house. The post had originally been a tree, but the tree limbs had been cut – leaving stubs to use for climbing. I remember seeing daddy climb up it using those stubs; I climbed it too. That was a nice story you wrote on the farm bell, I finally got the envelope yesterday.” (My husband told me that my Granddaddy Bryan told him that he was there on the day the bell went up on the very post that we took it down on. Granddaddy Bryan remembers a big man coming from town and crawled up the ladder with the bell on his shoulders. The first time Granddaddy McKinley put it up was by the smoke house, that was the second time when it was mounted on the cedar tree post by the road. That bell weighs about 70 pounds – it’s not light)

“I wish I had a picture of my granddaddy’s old house when they lived near us in the log cabin. Their house was near Slip Rock, it was on the same road and today it’s called Slip Rock Road. The house they lived in was really big, I can still see it in my mind – I could sketch it out. Maybe I will try sketching it for you. Too bad those old houses aren’t still around, I’d sure love to go inside and look. As a kid I was intrigued with my grandfather’s old house and always wanted to go upstairs, but they didn’t want you to. They never used upstairs and I couldn’t understand why, there were big rooms up there, but no furniture. I did sneak up once or twice, but I’d always get caught, so I never did get to really look around. I just wanted to know why they didn’t go up there, and I thought maybe something was upstairs they didn’t want me to see. After they moved over to White Plains. another family moved in – I  should have stopped by and asked them to let me look upstairs; eventually that house burned down. Maybe it took all the ghosts with it.”

“Another old story I loved hearing from my fathe was how his grandfather (Joseph T. Sharp) talked of stuffing confederate money in his old chair and the cracks in the house. The money had no value after the war, but they didn’t throw it out. Maybe he thought it would be of some worth later on, so he saved it. But back then, they didn’t throw anything out – they reused it for something else. As a young girl, after hearing those stories, I wanted to go over to his old house and see if that chair was still there.”

As we talked about all the things mama has lived through, and … “I remember my grandfather had a buggy with a black top with fringe on top, they called it a surrey with fringe. We only had a regular wagon. Daddy often drove on Sunday to visit family in White Plains, he and mama sat on the front seat and there was a small seat on the back that I sat on. Often I jumped off and played around, running to catch up, because daddy made the horse go a little faster when I jumped off to tease me and make me run to catch up. He liked to play that way – I remember seeing a smirk on his face as I’d jump back on. My grandfather went to town every Saturday – I remember seeing him in that surrey buggy. When he came back, he always brought a sack of candy, but he’d give it to Miriam – another granddaughter.  He always brought it to her, I never understood why. One day I grabbed that bag and ran all the way home with it – and ate it all. I told daddy, but he didn’t say anything; it wasn’t right that he did that, she was his favorite. She was the youngest of the grandchildren and lived right near him, but it still wasn’t right.”

“I liked when Uncle Charlie and Aunt Emma (daddy’s sister) came to visit; they lived in Atlanta near the other sister Lena. Uncle Charlie would ask me, “do you want some chicken feed?” I’d follow him all around as he would give me his pocket change. He only did that after he’d had whiskey up at the barn. Whenever  family came, the men always headed up to the barn to drink. My father always had liquor hid up there, as he sold it also. We lived in a dry county – which means you couldn’t buy it. He would buy it in a wet county and bring it back for selling. Men often stopped by the farm, usually on the weekends, looking to buy. The law came sometimes, trying to find it, but they never did. I never knew where it was hidden, but it had to be up in the barns somewhere. Aunt Emma usually got all twisted when Uncle Charlie came back to the house drunk – I thought it funny and I liked the money he’d give me, so I didn’t care.”

“Daddy’s other sister, Lena, was married to Charlie Van Dusen. He was a cabinet builder and owned a business in Atlanta. When my father came back from the Army, he went up there to live with them and work. He didn’t stay too long, then he came back and married mama. He never said why he didn’t stay there, but maybe he wanted to get married. Aunt Lena was always my favorite and I often went to Atlanta and spent a couple of weeks with her in the summer. Daddy would drive me up and then come back for me. I didn’t like her husband though, he was a funny duck. Whenever he came with her to our house, he had to have a special bed and room to himself and  he’d stay in there most of the time – I never understood him and didn’t like him too much. He was a Yankee, I think he originally was from New York.”

“I don’t really know what my grandfather did for a living – I think he was just a baby maker! He had a lot of kids, mostly all boys. They did all the work on the farm and in the field. Granddaddy was always called Mitchell, although his name was Edgar Lawson McKinley; I never understood why he was called Mitchell. He had a special chair in the parlor at their house and no one could sit in it or he’d get mad and pout if anyone dared. That chair was always referred to as Mitchell’s chair. I can still see him sitting on the front porch in a chair while the boys worked in the field. If he wasn’t sitting in a chair, he was riding in that buggy with the surrey on top – I don’t remember him ever doing any work. He had two families, as my real grandmother did  in 1902.  He remarried and had a second family – another family of mostly sons.”

When I asked about the City Hotel in Union Point….  “I stayed at the hotel a lot on the weekends with Willie Mae – my best friend I met on the first day of first grade. One night Willie and I were in the bathroom taking a bath when we heard her uncles, in an adjoining room talk about the whiskey they had and where they were going to hide it while they went out. After they left, Willie went in and took half of it for us. We got so drunk by drinking it and chasing it with chocolate milk – what were we thinking! We were two drunk chicks in the bathroom and ended up throwing up all night. When they came back, we heard them in their room, almost fighting with each other over the missing liquor. I think Willie went in and told them before they fought. They probably took one look at her and knew where it went!”

“Willie’s parents, Bill and Katie Walker, owned the City Hotel and Café there. It was a large hotel – one upper side was the rooms they rented out, there was about twelve rooms and the other side was where they lived and the cafe on the bottom that they ran. Willie often snuck down to the cafe and got us cigarettes – she’d sneak behind the counter and grab a pack of Kool’s and then fly back upstairs. One day, Miss Katie said, “we sure are selling  a lot of Kool cigarettes lately.” Willie and I just fell over laughing! There was a long stairway in the back where you could leave without going back through the hotel or out the front way, we often slipped out the back steps.”

“If it was raining $100 dollar bills, I’d lose my pitchfork! Another Mama saying!”

“The hallway up there where the rooms were, was long with a huge fan at the end of the hall, it kept it nice and cool. Most of the people who rented there were mill workers – the mill was just across the street. They stayed  during the week to work, then went home on the weekend. We spent our wedding night there when we married – Mr. Bill gave us a free room for our wedding night, then the rest of the week, as he was home from the Navy, we stayed down at his parents house;  they lived just down the street. We should have stayed at the hotel. When Willie Mae married, her kids called Mr. Bill and Miss Katie, Momskins and  Popskins – funny names but it stuck with everyone after that. Before Mr. Bill owned the hotel, he had been the sheriff in Union Point. The hotel eventually burned down.” 

To be continued…

Read more conversations at: Conversations with Mama and more

 

© 2016 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

 

 

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