Saturday, October 30, 2010

Uncle H – A Childhood

I don’t know if I am just a lazy writer or that I enjoy my uncle's own words best. This post are all excerpts from my uncle's writings. This first vignette comes from his early years and seems to me like it could have come right out of the show, ‘The Little Rascals.' You will see in this post Uncle H was a little rascal at times.

"When I was in the first grade I received my first kiss from a girl. I came in from the playground after recess and just as I came into the classroom Constance jumped from behind the door and planted one on my cheek in front of the whole class. I was embarrassed to death. Little did I know the role her family would play in my near future. One day while playing outside during a school recess we were sliding down the slippery slide, running around and crawling to the top as fast as we could and repeating the process. Just as I got to the top and was about ready to slide, I got pushed from behind. Unfortunately, it was to the side and not down the slide. I fell off of the top and landed face down onto a rock knocking all of my front teeth out. The one that had pushed me was Constance’s brother. We all went running to the teacher and she immediately told us to run to the doctor. It just so happened that the doctor was the father of Constance. We all took off running for the doctor across town. As we rounded a corner there was a truck parked in front of the hardware store and just at the last second I noticed a pipe protruding from the back. I ducked just in time to avoid a collision but one of my friends did not. The pipe caught him just under the chin and decked him. Now the doctor had two patients. I will never forget that experience at the doctor’s office. He was a doctor who had served in foreign countries and apparently was used to doing his thing with no pain relief. He swabbed my wounds with something that stung like hell and proceeded to stitch me up with no pain killer at all. That hurt!

“Even though we were quite poor, we always had food to eat. Sometimes it was only bread and milk. We also ate a lot of popcorn. Actually, we had bread and milk quite often. Mom always baked the bread we had at home. By the end of the week, when it was about time to bake again and when the bread was fresh, we would have milk and bread for dinner and that was about the best way to eat it. Mom also made butter and cheese. Her homemade cheese is still some of the best I have ever eaten.

"We always had a garden so Mom canned a lot. Of course we all had to help in weeding and caring for the garden. Nothing seemed to go to waste around our place. During the Second World War many things were rationed. So, Mom acquired some honey bees and we ate honey instead of sugar. She acquired an extractor to remove the honey from the comb. The caps of the comb were cut off and the comb with the honey was placed into the extractor where it was spun to fling the honey out and into a container. My brother Floyd and Mom were the main bee keepers. They would wear face protectors and long clothing to try to avoid the stings. Sometimes they weren’t careful enough and I remember seeing Mom with her lips all swollen and one time her eye was nearly swollen shut. They had a smoker, this was a device that could hold a smoldering fire in which when the back part was squeezed it would force smoke out. The smoke caused the bees to be docile and allowed them to be handled more safely. Floyd was pretty good with bees. He would find swarms of bees catch them and bring them home to place in the extra supers. The honey that was extra Mom would sell to get some money. We all got our share of bee stings.

"Our garden was a large one. There were so many vegetables that Mom couldn’t can everything so she sold the extra to bring in some money. I always liked the vegetables to eat and still do to this day. Shelling the peas was a dull task. To make it faster we would run them through the ringer of our washing machine. When the pod was placed into the ringer, stem side first, the peas would just come popping out into the container. We all got to help put peas into the ringer.

"Since our garden was so large, Mom bought a rototiller. I suppose she figured the tiller should be put to good use and lined up other gardens for us to till. When any of my older brothers weren’t available, I was the one to run the tiller onto the trailer and Mom would haul me to various gardens and I would plow while she waited to haul me to the next one. I still wasn’t old enough to drive a car. We could get our license at 14 years old then.

"I had a bad habit of throwing things when I was a kid. I loved to throw tomatoes at passing cars and at the neighbor’s house. Mom would go get a branch from a tree and blister my butt. I even crawled into a large tree on the corner of the road and would drop green apples onto passing cars. Can’t believe no one caught me for that. I also had fun by tying an old wallet to a fine string and placing it at the side of the road. I would then get back into the garden and lie down between the rows of potatoes and wait while I held onto the end of the string. When someone stopped to pick up the wallet, as they usually did, I would pull it into the garden away from them. Most people laughed and took it for a joke but one time it really made a man mad. He took off after me and I lit out for the barn. I was faster then he was thank goodness. As I rounded the barn I dove into the field of sugar beets we had there and hid between the rows. He looked and looked from but never found me. I think he thought I had gone into the barn. After saying a few choice words he finally left and went back to his car. I was a little more careful after that.

"I was sandwiched in age between two sisters. Above us were four older brothers, all in a row. It seemed like I was never old enough to do what my brothers were doing. It was always, ‘When you get older, you can do this, or when you get older you can participate.’ It seemed like I was never old enough. They would go on hunting trips and I could never go along. I remember one time when they all went pheasant hunting, and of course I couldn’t go. I was determined to have some hunting too. So, while they were gone Ruth and I dug out the 410 shot-gun and we took off along the edge of the corn field that was nearby. Sure enough, a pheasant flew up and I nailed it. I was so proud of myself for getting my first pheasant. I went up and grabbed it by the tail, put my foot on its head and proceeded to pull its head off. The only problem was, I pulled all of his tail feathers out instead. Talk about someone being embarrassed. I had to take my prize home with no tail feathers. It is interesting that Mom allowed us to have guns at home, but I guess it added up to having more food on the table. I do know that we ate lots of rabbits, pheasants and ducks because of the guns. I don’t know how old I was at that time. I was probably ten or eleven and in the fifth or sixth grade. I think we all learned to shoot at an early age and guns were around, but there were never any accidents because of them."

To be continued…


Arkansas Patti said...

Uncle H is priceless and a great story teller.
That wallet trick was pulled by my brother with almost the same results except he hid in the woods. Must be a right of passage for boys. I do hope you have a lot more Uncle H stories. I'll be waiting.

Hilary said...

Your Uncle H was quite the character. I'm enjoying these stories and looking forward to more.

Frank Baron said...

Good stuff GQ. Prompts memories. My paternal grandfather was a cobbler and bee keeper. I was fascinated by his smoker and its magical effect on the bees.

Wanda..... said...

These stories remind me of ones my mother told of her young days with 11 cousins in Virginia, though I never heard of shelling peas that way! :)

Amrita said...

Thi s better than Little Rascals- Uncle H is a scream.

We want more o f his writings.

I can identify with their frugal way of life. We had bees too. And veggies from the garden.

The way to shell peas is an invention!

Anita Jeyan said...

Uncle H is awesome ! Waiting for the continuation.

Unknown said...

.... I've read some very old American textbooks from the library a long time ago, and believe it or not, the illustrations in them do help me to imagine what life must have been back then.

I love hearing about the things that have been, and we might never seen again. It makes me appreciate the history.

Grayquill said...

Arkansas Patti: You are the best blogger buddy ever – are you ever negative? Uncle H is a gem and thanks for the encouragement.

Hilary: Thanks for your continual encouragement and stopping by.

Frank: I saw a smoker at work last year for the first time at my brother’s who had bees. I was surprised how well it worked.

Wanda: I had never heard of shelling peas that way either. I know I did a bit of shelling peas when I was young but I mostly remember eating more than I shelled.:)

Amrita: I am convinced, frugality by necessity I am convinced develops creativity. He and his brothers are ingenious fellows.

Anita: Thanks for stopping by – I will do my best to post again soon.

Shadow: I am sure you have hit the nail on the head. I also love hearing the stories of the past. I most like hearing about people and how they felt, what they did, and….

Holly Kay said...

This is good stuff! It reminds me of stories my aunts, uncles, and grandparents tell me. Tell us more:)Why was he writing these things? As personal memoirs? How I wish I had writings like this from my relatives--I literally take notes when I'm on the phone with my aunts and uncles!

Debra said...

Love hearing your uncle's stories. They remind me somewhat of the stories my Dad used to tell me about his childhood. My Dad was a practical joker too!