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Memory Monday-Aunt Virgie

Memory Monday-It’s a thing…

I love my rather large, extended family. Besides my mom and grandmother, there is a host of aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins, cousins, and more cousins.

My grandmother was one of nine children and I spent time with most of them. Her sister, Virgie, had a series of strokes that made it difficult for her to walk and paralyzed her left arm. One of Virgie’s sons suffered a brain aneurysm and was in the local Veteran’s Affairs Hospital. Once a month, I would pick her up and take her to see her son, take her out to eat, and anywhere else she wanted to go. While she could get around well with a cane, she also had a wheelchair for outings so she didn’t have to walk as much. The wheelchair fit in the trunk of my car.

Sometimes my mom would go with me when I took Aunt Virgie out. One day, Mom and I picked Virgie up to take her out. I was driving toward the hospital with Aunt Virgie in the front passenger seat and Mom in the back seat. I turned on the radio and tuned it to a country station thinking it would be a nice compromise for all of us. Aunt Virgie sat in the car looking out the window and I wondered if she felt all right. Most of the time she chattered away about anything and everything.

The song on the radio went off, she said, “That was a pretty song.”

“Yeah? Did you like that one?” I don’t remember what the song was at this point.

“Marsha, do you know why people had such large families back when I was born?”

“No. Why?” I asked expecting to hear something like people had large families to help with the farms or something.

“We didn’t have TV and radio back then so all people did was screw.”

I laughed so hard I had to pull the car over and stop until I could regain my composure. Mom and I were both laughing so hard we were crying and all the while, Aunt Virgie sat that looking at us like we were crazy. She saw nothing funny about what she said since to her that statement was a matter of fact.

To this day, that is one of my most favorite memories of her. That was the Aunt Virgie I knew and loved. Go watch TV or listen to the radio now and stop screwing!



Aunt Virgie 1921-2002


Memory Monday–Hunting

Maybe I’m a hound dog after all.

Hunting is a big thing where I live. Growing up, my grandfather, uncles, and the male cousins would go hunting in the fall. Mainly, I remember them hunting squirrel, rabbit, turkey, and deer. They would get up early and pull on their gear and spend hours at night cleaning their guns. It was like a secret club that I wasn’t allowed to be a part of and that did not sit well with me.

I begged Grandpa to take me hunting. He would make up excuses, but I kept begging. Finally, my day arrived and I felt like I had just cracked the secret code to the universe when he agreed to take me hunting. He explained since it was my first time hunting, we’d have to do things a different way and that made sense to me at the time.

The next day, he told me it was time for us to go hunting. He said he would carry the gun until we found something, all I had to do was point it out and he would shoot it. We didn’t put on camouflage or orange vests, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to go hunting with my grandpa without the boys.

We walked through the pasture field and started up the path on the side of the hill. I knew the path well and used it frequently. The path lead up the hill to our family cemetery, but about half-way another path branched off that lead up the hollow to my great-aunt’s house. From late fall through early spring, you could still see my house and the dirt road that ran between the two houses.  The two house were roughly 100 yards apart.

As we walked along the path, Grandpa told me that since we didn’t have a hunting dog, I would have to bark if I saw a squirrel or a rabbit. I’m not sure Grandpa saw them, but I must have seen a squirrel or rabbit every ten steps so I would let out a “bark” to alert him to ready the gun. Each time, he would point the gun in the direction I indicated and say, “Musta got away.”

We finally came to the part of the path that started down the hill at my great-aunt’s house. We went down the hill and passed through the barbed-wire fence to get on the dirt road to go home. Our hunting trip was a bust.

My mom was leaving my great-aunt’s house and joined us for the walk home.

“Mom, Grandpa took me hunting! We almost got a squirrel and a rabbit, but they got away.”

“Who was making all that noise?” she asked.

“Me! I was the best hunting dog ever! Right, Grandpa?”

He couldn’t answer for laughing.

I still “ain’t never caught a rabbit.”

Memory Monday-Broken Arms

Memory Monday-Broken Arms

What’s better than summer vacation when you’re a kid? It was almost three whole months of no-school bliss during the time of year when there is more daylight than dark. Growing up, I played outside a lot. I baked mud pies, played in the hills, and rode my bike for hours. I’d watch a couple hours of TV at night, but otherwise, I was outside.

One day, early in the summer between my Kindergarten and 1st Grade years of school, a friend of my grandfather’s came to visit and had his son and some other kids with him. They were all boys, but I was used to that and being a bit of a tomboy, I didn’t mind. We all set off for a great day of adventuring on the farm.

Around mid-day, we were playing on a small foot bridge that stretched across the branch that ran by my house. From the bridge to the lowest point below was maybe a six foot drop and I was sitting in the middle of the bridge with my legs dangling over the edge of the little bridge.

“Let’s play jump off the bridge.” one of the boys called out.

Before I could stand up to take my turn to jump, the boy shoved me off the bridge. I landed on my hands and knees in the water. My arms hurt and it scared me to the point that I was frozen to my landing spot. My screaming and crying alerted the adults in the side yard. My grandfather scooped me up to help me to the house. The little boy’s dad grabbed him and spanked him every step of the way back to our porch. Other than some scrapes and bruises, I didn’t seem to be seriously hurt.

I still complained about my arms hurting so my mom wrapped both wrists up in ACE bandages. After a day or so, I could feed myself and do most anything I needed or wanted to do with my arms, but I still complained about them hurting. Finally, about two weeks after my fall, my mom took me to the emergency room to have my arms checked out. Turns out, I had broke them at the wrist. Both of them. I needed casts on my wrists and they wrapped around the middle of my hand, around my thumb and up my arm to just an inch or so below my elbow.

A great way to spend a summer vacation.

A great way to spend a summer vacation.

My dad was with us at the hospital, which was sort of rare because he wasn’t around a whole lot, and there was some sort of carnival set up near the hospital. They had a Tilt-a-whirl which was my all time favorite ride at the time (ok, I still love the Tilt-a-whirl) and I played the broken arm card like a champ. Dad must have drawn the short straw, because he dubiously climbed aboard with me while Mom stood watching from the side lines. I remember laughing as we whirled and wobbled around in a circle for a few minutes. Dad turned green and I believe he may have puked shortly after the ride stopped.

My wrists healed nicely and other than some aches and pains from time to time, I haven’t had any problems with my wrists or hands.

Memory Monday-Gorilla

Memory Monday—It’s a thing.

My grandfather was a bit of a prankster. He used to imply or tell me I was some sort of animal (Hound Dog and Groundhog’s Day). I even asked him to get me a monkey if he couldn’t find me a cat. Now, I guess I should tell you about the gorilla that lived upstairs in our house.

Pre-1981, the house was a fairly small log house. There was a living room, a bedroom, and a kitchen on the ground floor and two bedrooms of unequal size upstairs over the living room. My grandfather slept upstairs in the smaller of the two rooms and my grandmother and I slept downstairs.

The house was old and popped and creaked like old houses are want to do. I grew up thinking the pops and creaks belong to some unseen thing that stayed upstairs. My grandfather didn’t want me to go upstairs to his room so one day when I asked about a mysterious thump I heard upstairs, he explained that a gorilla lived upstairs. He cautioned me to never go up there because the gorilla would be mad and eat me.

This may come as a shock to some of you, but did you know that as soon as you tell a kid NOT to do something, that is the very thing the kid does? Yep, true story. After being told not to go upstairs, that was quite simply the only place I wanted to go. I waited for what must have been weeks before I braved opening the stairway door and slipping up the brown steps.

I got to the top of the stairs that opened up into the larger bedroom that once belonged to my cousin before she graduated high school and moved away. I felt very confident and proud of myself for proving there was no gorilla living in my house. I tiptoed across the larger room toward my grandfather’s room. The two were separated by a curtain hanging over the doorway. I pushed it aside and stepped into my grandfather’s room. I looked around the room and there it was, the gorilla.

The gorilla was hunched down in the darkest corner of the room. Black fur glinted in what little sunlight fell through the single window in the room. His eyes were black like bottomless pits, shining directly at me. In that instant I knew I was about to be eaten alive by a gorilla. I did the only thing I could do…I ran.

I didn’t tell my mom or grandmother about my close call with the gorilla for weeks. Finally, my grandmother told me to go upstairs to get something and I fell to pieces. I told her about sneaking up the stairs and coming face to face with the little girl eating monster grandpa kept up there.

She took me by the hand and pulled me up the stairs. I wanted to protest the entire way, but once Granny said do something, you did it. I just knew it was going to be the end of us both. She walked straight into grandpa’s room and over to the dark gorilla corner where she picked up a black faux fur coat with shiny black buttons.

To this day, I still don’t like going upstairs in that house.

Memory Monday-What a Drag

Memory Monday—it’s a thing.

My grandmother’s house was always full or at least it seemed that way as I was growing up. My cousins were my playmates and first friends. We had a huge yard to play in and when that became boring, we had several other places to explore. There were hayfields, dirt roads, hillsides, and a branch that flowed into the creek—all just waiting for us.

One particular day, my cousins and I decided to go fishing. My cousin, Jason, took the lead since he was the oldest. My cousin, Crystal, was with us and our tag-a-long baby cousin, Brett, insisted on going with the “big kids.” We set off with our bucket of dirt and turned over boards, rocks, logs, and anything else we found that could hide a few worms. With all four of us fishing, we would need a lot of worms.

In the pasture near the barn, we found the a very promising worm hideout. Back before my grandfather had modern farm equipment like a tractor, he used horses. The horses would pull the different implements to flatten, till, or plow the garden. Even though he hadn’t used it in years, he still had an old drag, once used to smooth out his fields. It was probably about five feet long and maybe five or six feet wide and made of some extremely heavy wood. It hadn’t been disturbed in years and we just knew we would find all the worms we could ever need under that drag.

Our plan was simple. Jason, Crystal, and I would lift one end of the drag up while Brett crawled underneath to grab up all the worms. Afterall, he was the youngest and the smallest. The three of us grabbed one end of the drag and managed to lift up that end. Just as planned, Brett scurried underneath and to grab the worms. Being a little kid, he was pretty slow gathering the worms and we were straining to continue holding up the end of the drag. Jason started feeling pretty confident that he could hold the drag up by himself and he started telling us to let go. Crystal let go pretty quickly and I argued a little, but in the end, Jason was older and in charge. I let go.

I could tell Jason wasn’t able to hold the drag by himself. I could see the drag start to fall and I was telling Brett to get out from under it. He happened to be close enough to me for me to grab and pull as the drag fell. As I pulled him out, a nail sticking out of the side of the drag caught the back of Brett’s head and left a gash about an inch long.

Brett screamed and cried. I was sure we had just killed our little cousin. The adults on the porch took notice of us and met us halfway between the house and barn. There was a lot of screaming and crying, my aunt yanked Brett away from me, and before we even made it to the house, Brett was in his mother’s car and on the way to the hospital. Hours later, he came home with a concussion and a few stitches. I don’t remember us older kids being punished, but I think the gut-wrenching worry was more than enough punishment.

Today, September 15, 2014, is Brett’s 34th birthday. Happy Birthday, Bubby Brett…I hope it’s a great one. Don’t crawl under any drags…

Memory Monday-Apples and Deer

Memory Monday…It’s a thing.

At one point, the house I grew up in was full.  Divorces and other people essentially abandoning their kid brought family and friends to my Grandmother’s doorstep.  From the doorstep, they came into the living room, we doubled up in bedrooms, and converted a small utility room into a bedroom.  Then they all got remarried or grew up and moved out.  Granny and I were the only two left in the house.  I was in high school and had to ride a school bus about an hour each direction.  I think I had to catch the bus by 630-645a so we could get to the school in time for kids to eat breakfast in the cafeteria so I had to be up by 6a to get ready.

Granny and I were night owls, preferring to sit up and watch TV or read until the late hours of the night.  I would try to go to bed by 11p, but it wasn’t uncommon for her to be up all hours of the night.  Her bed room was at the back of the house and she had a nice view of the apple trees that lined our back yard.  Deer would could out of the hills at night and eat the apples that fell to the ground.  I was never sure if she heard the deer or if she actually watched for them, but she would wake me at 2a or 3a in the morning to watch the deer with her.  I didn’t complain, I just went with it.  We’d watch them eat the apples from her bedroom window.  Sometimes, we were lucky enough to slip out the front door and stand in the side yard watching them.  We didn’t talk.  We didn’t need to talk in those moments.

My grandmother died midway through my senior year of high school.  It’s been over 20 years now and it’s rare that a day goes by that I don’t think about those mornings with her.  Like a kid, I would love to have just one more…one more morning with her.

My advice:  Cherish the small moments with your loved ones.  You never have as much time as you think you do with them.

Memory Monday-Monkey

Memory Monday–it’s a thing…

Yes, I took a little break from Memory Monday.  Not because I ran out of memories, but because I ran out of time to write them.  Plus writing about some of them and thinking about other memories I could share was a lot to deal with emotionally.  Who knew?

Growing up country, you can get a slightly different view of animals, both pets and non-pets.  Today, I find myself using words like “furever” friend and having anxiety attacks because people leave their dogs OUTSIDE!  Years ago, my attitude was much different.

First, I was raised on a farm.  Not a big farm by any means, but a farm none the less and there were animals that were useful and a source of food.  We raised cattle and pigs for the meat.  My parents and grandparents have shared stories about milking cows so at one point they kept them for the milk too, but I always remember my milk coming from the grocery store.  We kept chickens for the eggs and occasionally the meat if we had too many.  We had a garden too so we weren’t always raising animals to kill for food; we killed some corn, potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, and stuff too.

Being in the country, there were plenty of people who hunted, my family included, so it wasn’t uncommon to have chopped up bits of rabbit, squirrel, deer, etc. in the freezer.  There are some pictures of my father and I posing with his dead deer.  There were also animals that posed possible threats to the livestock and the people living out there.  We weren’t far from a state park and things like bears, wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions didn’t seem to notice the boundaries of the state park.  It was generally accepted if you see something like a wolf or a mountain lion near your house, you should shoot it.  The deer also endangered the garden so they were often considered fair game.  Yes, we did employ things like pie pans hanging off a string to scare the critters away from the garden, but it didn’t always work.

Then there were pets.  I had a dog growing up and had him for 14 years.  He lived outside all year round, taking shelter under trees, under buildings, between buildings, and a barn stall.  I honestly don’t think he would have came in the house and stayed even if carried him inside.  He ate table scraps and whatever the cheapest possible dog food was.  He drank water out of the creek, branch, or cow’s watering trough.  I don’t think he ever went to a vet.  He and I would play for hours upon hours outside.  He went on hikes into the hills with me, ran along side my bike, and wouldn’t let me out of the yard without my mom or grandmother around.  I can’t say I’d ever raise another dog the way we raised him, but he seemed genuinely happy.

Cats were another common pet.  They too stayed outside, getting fairly the same treatment as our dog.  The unfortunate issue with the cats was their ability to find the main roadway.  This often lead to cats being ran over by passing cars.  Sadly, we had a pretty long line of cats throughout the years.  One cat in particular stands out in my mind…Susan.  She was a calico cat and she was my favorite.  Then it happened…she got ran over after she went into the road.  The other seemingly cruel part of country life is that things aren’t typically sugar coated, even for the kids.  My grandfather sat me down and explained he had found Susan in the road and had buried her.  I was maybe 5 or 6 years old at that point, so I cried for a while.  I remember the short conversations going something like this:

Grandpa:  Stop crying.  I’ll get you another cat this week.  So stop crying and go play.

Me.  Ok.  But, Grandpa, if you can’t find another cat, just get me a monkey, Ok?

Grandpa (laughing):  Sure, if I can’t find a cat ’round here, I’ll just pick you up a monkey.

I’m not sure what made me think a monkey would be a little easier to find in southwest West Virginia, but apparently I thought they were easier to find than a cat.


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