NaBloPoMo: Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Too

I guess I was a lucky little girl.  My mom taught me I could do anything I set my mind to.  Plus, Dad expected me to take care of things when he was gone.

Mom could fix just about anything by taking it apart and putting it back together again.  She did that with the vacuüm cleaner, the toaster, my roller skates, and even the car.  She probably learned how to learn how to fix cars because of Dad always buying her a “really good car, that had only been driven to church and back by an old widow, or an old spinster, or an old school teacher,” or some other old woman, who “never drove over 40 miles per hour,” and that’s why even if the car was so old it was the only one left on the road, it was a steal for only $75.00.  Mom learned how to “burn the carbon” out of the engine that built up all those years because those old ladies never passed another car.  I learned that if you really want your car to keep running like a top, sometimes you had to rev the engine and drive it faster than fast down a long stretch of flat road.

‘Course Mom could do more than “burn off the carbon.”  She could hold down the butterfly, get the carburetor going, use the jumper cables, and pound on Continue reading

Chicken Wars and Rooster Tales


Chickens (Photo credit: Allie’s.Dad)

One year the Easter Bunny left chicks at my cousins Debbie and Jimmie.  Those chicks were cute as could be, all yellow and fluffy, peep-peeping in a box under a warm lamp.   I bet you can guess, they were not so much fun wandering around the house; even around my big yard, I sometimes had to be careful where I stepped, I sure wouldn’t want a chicken wandering around inside my house, like they were at  Debbie’s and Jimmie’s.

One of those chicks turned out to be a rooster, who drove town-folks nuts with all his crowing, ’cause a rooster isn’t content with one crow in the morning, he keeps at it until he’s  sure everyone is up-and-at-’em, heading out the shoot, and scratching in just the right corner of the yard.   Pretty soon, my cousins’  grown-up chicks moved out to our farm. Continue reading

I Smell Spring

When I was a little girl I loved the smell of dirt.  I still do.  Mom said when I was a toddler, I liked to eat dirt, too; she couldn’t keep me out of it.  Sometimes in the early spring, when the farmers are plowing the fields, I still think the earth smells like it would taste good, maybe it’s the minerals in the soil.  I love the different textures and smells the earth has to offer.

In the springtime, it was time to open up the pastures and let the cows out to graze.  All winter they were kept in a small fenced lot, or cooped up in the barn.  I thought Belle and Lightfoot and the yearlings looked forward to getting out in the fields as much as I did.  But, like almost everything else, there was work to be done first.

Dad hitched a little trailer to the back of the Ford tractor and loaded up  with wire, insulators, wire-stretchers, and all kinds of other tool, including a boxed meter that slung around his neck that could tell Dad whether there was a “ground” in the fence.  Then we drove around all the sections of the pastures and fixed the fence, opening each section to the cows as we got it all fixed up.   As soon as I was big enough to put the clutch in by myself, without standing up, I got to drive.

I loved the way the pasture smelled like black dirt and clover, just starting out fresh, bright green and close to the ground.  Before long it would be tall and in bloom; purple blossoms would dot the pasture.  I liked to pick the flowers apart and suck the nectar out, just like a bee.  So sweet.

In the spring, Belle’s and Lightfoot’s milk would taste sweeter and richer, not bland like it did in the winter when the cows were nearly dried-up and they ate mostly hay.  One time the cows got out of the fence and into a field full of wild onion.  Ooo-whee, that milk tasted like it came  straight out of the cow all curdled and sour, nobody wanted to drink it.  It the spring, the new calves were born and there would be enough milk for them and for us kids, with lots of thick yellow cream floating on top.

I drove the tractor from post to post, put-her in neutral, put the brake on,  and hopped off the back to help Dad, never off the front, that’s too dangerous.  Lots of times Dad gave the cousins a ride on the tractor, just for fun; he let them stand right up next to him on the little ledge over the axle.  But my cousin Gary had less common sense than me:  Dad was always asking me how I could be so smart at school and have no common sense at all.  Gary almost got himself killed, ’cause for some lamed-brained reason, he decided to jump up over the fender of the moving wheel and ride on it.  He said he thought it would be fun, like a Ferris wheel.  Dad came running up from the field, dragging Gary by the hand behind him, both of them looking like they were ready to throw-up.  Everyone knew something was wrong, ’cause Dad hardly ever ran; Mom said she never saw him move fast, even though she said he was a track star in high school.  I tried to imagine Dad even in high-school; nope, I couldn’t do it.  I think town kids had a hard time understanding the country, just like that story of the city mouse and the country mouse.

Dad showed me how to test the fence to see if there was a ground, if so, we traced back over the fence to find out where.  Sometimes there was a connector touching the post or  a crack in an insulator.  Sometimes it was an easy fix, and sometimes we had to replace a whole section of wire.  That’s where the wire stretchers came in: a bundle of pulleys, hooks, and rope, Dad fastened one end to the pole and threaded the wire through the other end, then  pulled the wire tighter than anyone could do just on her own.

It took a few weeks to check every part of the pasture; as each section got checked, the cows got a little further to roam, still, they always knew just when to come to the barn for milking, and if they forgot, we just yelled “Ka-Boss, Ka-Boss,” and Belle headed home, with everyone else in a straight line behind.  I never knew how they figured out Belle was the Boss-cow, but she knew and so did the rest of the herd.

At the top of a sandy hill in the second pasture, we had an apple tree.  Mom could see it from the porch, and every spring she looked out at that tree and said, “Someday, I’m going to have a house up there, and it will be tight and warm, with no drafts.  Wouldn’t that be the berries?”  I could almost see that house up there, still, we planted potatoes on the hill and the only things that had a home there was a family of  kildeer, the mother skittering along pretending like she had a broken wing, so we would stay away from the nest.  Dad said it was a good idea to let the kildeer think it fooled us, and just stay away from her nest.   Dad said sand is good soil to plant potatoes, then they can grow big and round, otherwise, they get all crooked and looking like an old man’s face, then they’re hard to clean and peel.  I saw some like that in the grocery store.

In the springtime everything was just a promise, that I trusted would be kept. I still do.   My daffodils and crocuses pushing their heads up through the black earth, still give me that same hopeful feeling; with a little work, just about anything is possible.  The smell of the damp earth makes me just want to take a big bite and savor all the goodness life has to offer.

Book Worm from the Word Go

When I was a little girl, I liked to read.  I read everything I could get my hands on, much of which I was ill-equipped to fully understand.  I read Huckleberry Finn in the second grade.  Now that’s a good story for a second-grader, but so much more when I read it when I got older.

When I first learned to read, I did not know my letters.  Sometimes, Mom asked me to spell the word I was trying to figure out;  she was always busy with something, like brushing Deanna’s hair or fixing supper or changing a diaper, so she couldn’t just come over and look at my book every time I got stuck.   I just recognized the words when I saw them, I didn’t know how to spell them to her.  Then Mom would click her tongue in the back of her throat and let out a big breath of air through her nose, like a quiet “humph”, I’m pretty sure she thought it was too quiet for me to hear.  She let go of whatever it was she was working on and looked at my page:  from then on I remembered the word.

When I read to myself, I could skip the correct pronunciation, but at school, Teacher corrected me.  One word I really struggled over was “determined.” When I had to read out-loud to Mrs. Weichts, I said, “detter-mined.”  Teacher tried to break it down into syllables on the blackboard, but I had it in my mind one way, and it just stuck there.  I was fine when I read it myself, ’cause I knew from what I was reading that “determined” meant the same thing as “pig-headed”; that’s what Mom sometimes said I was when I wanted to do something and she said “no” and I kept begging my case.

“Stop being so pig-headed,” she said to me.

Sometimes I wanted to say, “You’re pig-headed too, you won’t stop either.”  I just kept my mouth shut and only thought it, ’cause there would be big trouble if I said something like that to Mom.  For sure she would say she was going to beat me to a pulp, and she was good at sticking to what she said.  I never saw her beat anyone to a pulp, but I’m pretty sure she could have.  Once my friend, Diann asked me how I could keep from laughing when my Mom said stuff like that.  I told Diann it wasn’t all that funny when it’s actually happening, it was only funny when I told it to her.

Once I was reading an article in the Sunday Parade paper about unwed, teenage mothers.  The only person like that I knew about was the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Unless a girl was married, the only way she could get  a baby was if an angel asked her if she wanted one.  If she said yes, rays would stream down from heaven because a miracle was happening right there and then,  and the next thing you know,  she’d be expecting.  The Parade article said that there were more black girls having babies with no husbands, than white girls; I wondered what was so special about black girls that they got more miracles than white girls.

At school I read in the Weekly Reader about Sputnik,  and putting dogs and chimps and men into outer-space.  Because of the space program, we got to have Tang for breakfast.  Dad loved Tang; especially hot, like coffee.   I read about computers in the Weekly Reader, too:  my family would never get a computer, ’cause they were really expensive and they took up a whole room; we didn’t have any money or any room to spare.

Once a week during the school year, Teacher took me to the Book Mobile.  Mom took me during the summer.  I got to get 2 books − anything I wanted.  Mostly I read stories about animals like:  Black Beauty and Bambi, not the Walt Disney stories, the real stories, the ones that told how mean people can be to animals, mostly ’cause they’re just not thinking, not because they want to be mean.  I hoped more people read those books, then their eyes would be opened.  I read a whole bunch of stories about dogs;  dogs can see right through how a person seems on the outside and get right to the gentle part of almost anyone.  Sometimes that made me cry, ’cause almost always some grumpy person would get nice because of a good dog.  Bonita said she always got happier around our dog, Nikki, and Nikki sure loved Bonita more than anyone else in the family.

In the summer, Mom signed me up for the Weekly Reader Book Club.  Two books came every month.  One was a story about some person from the Olden Days, like Edison;  I found out some interesting stuff, like Edison got his ears pulled when he was trying to jump on a train, and after that he was deaf.  The other book was a “You Were There….”, like You Were There at the California Gold Rush; these were all about the Olden Days too, only about some real adventure with a made-up kid along, probably Weekly Reader thought that would make kids like the books.   I liked almost anything I read, anyway, and Mom didn’t care too much what I read, but one time I was reading a book from the Book Mobile, and she said I could read it, but I shouldn’t believe everything in it, ’cause it was just one man’s opinion, and a very scared man, at that, named Joe McCarthy.

I still like to read just about anything and I’m still learning a lot about people and the world by reading. I don’t always like what I read, but I try to hang in there until I finish, giving the author the benefit of the doubt and hearing him or her through to the last word.  I learn a lot from listening to what other people got out of the book, too; much of the time, my eyes get opened to a whole new appreciation of  book.