Sunday, September 29, 2013


Mammaw’s story in italics.  The rest is quotes as she remembered them.   Really long story, Rated PG


My Unca Tobin was a right-quiet man.  He ditten say much, and he pondered awhile before he spoke.   Unca Tobin and Unca Franklin had them a little upholstery business, and they had a man to run the lathe and the saws, and two to do the stretchin’ and tuftin’ and stitchin’.   They made a many a parlor set and dinin’ chair, as well as mattresses you could buy, or you could bring them your own material, and they’d make you one. 



Mrs. Dare brought them four of her mama’s stored-away hoop-skirt dresses, because they were made outa such good heavy material, and pretty, too, and they made a kinda crazy-quilt mattress and some nice pillows, as pretty as you please, with some of the cloth that had danced at the governor’s inauguration.   And Dares had probably birthed and died in that bed for a couple hundred years.


But once, when Ole White-Earl Holliman down the hill was out doin’ some a his nonsense, Unca Tobin come across from the fact'ry for supper, all hot and sweatin’ from the lint and all that horsehair and velvet and all, and seen White-Earl a-sneakin’ up around the side a the house, where he had no business bein’, even in the daytime.   And it gettin’ on to dark ‘n’ all,  Unca Tobin got ta suspicionin’ him a idear that White-Earl was up to a baaad kinda mischief.


When he come round the corner of the house, White-Earl was a-standin’ there at Cud’n Verlee’s winder, and her in there dressin’ for a Missionary social, with him hid kindly up in the viburnums, and a-peekin’ in real sly-like through a little ole crack between the curtains. 


Unca Tobin eased up real slow, and picked him up a stick a stove-wood as he went.   Him in his dark overhalls not bein’ too visible in the dark, and White-Earl a-lookin’ in the winder fulla light from the ceilin’-bulb---well, he just eased up close, and when he seen what White-Earl was a-doin’ behind them bushes---it just flew all over Unca Tobin like the time he caught them Freeman boys a-hangin’ over the sty fence, just a chunkin’ big ole hard clods down on all the baby piggies in the pen to make ‘em squeal.  


Real quiet like, he stepped in behind White-Earl, and  fetched him up a right smart CRACK upside his head with that wood.  Like to killed him, and Unca Tobin didn’t care.   Not one bit.


With that commotionin’ out in the bushes, and the limbs a-wavin’ and her Daddy cussin’ fit to bust, Cud’n Verlee just ran right up to that winder and looked out, with her cheek right up against the screen, tryin’ to see what was goin’ on out there.


“You get on away from that winder, Verlee,” said her Daddy.   “Holler up Summer and Zeal and send ‘em on out here.”  


In a little bit, when White-Earl kindly come to hisself, he looked up at them three big ole Pardee men, all standin’ there over him in just the light from the winder, and the women a-gatherin’ and jumpin’ off the porch to see what was goin’ on, and Aint Vera come out the house so quick she’d still got the butcher-knife in her hand---well, it took all the wind outa HIS sails, I can tell you that.


They looked down at him with his britches all a-hangin’ and him with a kinda dazed look in his eyes, and they yanked him up and I think they all musta had a good swing or two at him, cause the tale went around that he was bunged up somethin’ fierce next time anybody saw him.


“Get up here, now!” said Unca Tobin---Cud’n Thelma and Laverne told it the same way every time---“You get up here and answer for yourself!   Whatchoo mean hangin’ round my winders, and lookin’ in at my girls?   I’m of a mind to all of us just take you to TOWN and let everybody see what choo been up to.”


Cud’n Zeal and Cud’n Summer helt on to White-Earl tight while their Daddy was blessin’ him out, and there were some several words in there that made Aint Vera shush him up, even though she’d already come over there and give him a good kick her ownself, and him still on the ground.


“I thought my heart would just plumb STOP,” Cud’n Thelma would always say---“Just plumb STOP, when Mama went rushin’ over there with that butcher knife, and him a-layin’ there with his britches all a-hangin’ loose.   My Mama is a GOOD Christian woman, but you could see the fire in her eye, and I sure wouldn’a wanted to be in HIS shoes.”

“If ever there was a TIME,” Aint Vera would say many times later,  “If ever there was a TIIIIME---well that was it for me.   I thought 
a lot of his Mama and all, and I knew she’d be just SO got away with over this, but there just wadn’t any keepin’ it quiet.   And we didn’t WANT to.   Lord knows what ELSE he’d a got up to if folks weren’t on their guard.” 


“Well, them boys always was ones for larkin’ and gettin’ into stuff,” Laverne would continue the tale,  and I’ll be dog if we didn’t just all get right into the spirit, girls and all, and nothin’ but Mama insistin’ on them lettin’ him fasten up his britches could make them not just parade him around just as he was.”


“Tarnation take you, you wall-eyed scallywag, you! You get you up on this muley-cow, and we goan ride you to town,” Zeal said.   “You can get up by yourself or we’ll hitch up Ole Joss, and he’ll drag you over crick and holler, right there with your butt hanging out nekkid.   You take your pick.”


And so they did, and everybody just walked the half-a-mile into town with Ole White-Earl a-straddle of the muley-cow, and his long legs just about draggin’ the dirt, they said.  The two youngest boys grabbed up a pot and a dishpan, and when they got on down the road where the next house was, they banged out a big racket, and the kids all came-a-runnin’ along with their Mama out gettin’ in the last of the clothes off the line, and their Daddy steppin’ down off the porch with his glass a tea and his toothpick.


And it got to be a kinda parade, kindly like a shivaree, almost, with a coupla lanterns and some more things to make noise, and other folks comin' down off their porches and Ole White-Earl just hangin’ his head down on his chest and a spot  of blood in that big ole bush of primmachur white hair he had, and him bout to fall off that muley cow.

They went clean into town, and right down the street to the Sheriff’s office, where Ole Sherf Little come
out and was waitin’ for all the clammerin and the marchin’ to get to him. 


“It got right quiet,” Cud’n Thelma would always go on, “and we all just stood there, with White-Earl moanin’ a little bit and kindly swayin’ on the back of the muley cow, while Daddy went on up on the porch and inside and had a word with the Sheriff.  He said later that it watten nothin’ that families ought to hear, especially the women-folk, and he’d just as soon not say it out loud.”


“Well, I think probly White-Earl was gladder to see Sherf Little than anybody’d ever been in their life, because he was bleedin’, and he’d already done wet hisself when the boys got a-holt of him, and they’d put such a fear into him---well, he just about jumped off that muley cow and run up the steps to get in that jail.”


“They sent White-Earl off to the County for that stunt, and you’d see him now and then, in the field gang and workin’ the road-grades in his black-and-white stripes, and he stayed some good while.  Verlee was still scared for a while after, and it took her some several months to not do all her dressin’ and undressin’ in the bathroom, with that high winder way up off the ground.”


“And none of us will EVER forget that night, and that parade.   If it hadn’ta been such a bad reason, and poor ole Miz Holliman takin’ on so---well, that would really have been more fun than any shivaree we ever had.”


Mammaw always finished the tale with “Wish I’d been there.   I’d a kicked him myself while they had him down.   Wouldn’ CHOO?”




Friday, September 27, 2013


Southern Living
Remembering people long past and gently missed.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Wishes and prayers for my friend Kim today, for a quick recovery.   Meanwhile, I hope her gathering of book friends will soothe and speed her progress.

Sort of a “guest blog” from her today, from a comment she wrote several years ago, in response to my sharing some of my favorite books:


We share a love of a lot of books, but then we knew that already, huh?

I’m not sure that I could come up with such a good list – maybe authors would be easier for me:

PG Wodehouse (reading them, I had a big crush on Bertie, watching the DVDs I now have a big crush on Jeeves)

Agnes Sligh Turnbull – lovely, gentle stories – for when I need gentle (am I crazy or did YOU introduce me to Agnes?)

Angela Thirkell – lots of upperclass English nonsense

Gladys Taber – I want to go live at Stillmeadow

Alexander McCall Smith – especially the Sunday Philosophy Club series

Dame Agatha, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh – that pantheon of classic women mystery writers

Richard and Frances Lockridge – smart, funny NYC couple drink martinis and solve crimes

CS Lewis – just EVERYTHING – from Narnia to The Screwtape Letters to Surprised by Joy

Florence King – bust a gut laughter from this southern writer

Bill Bryson – travel writer - for being able to mock and love the countries and folks he’s writing about in equal measure – and, no matter what, you still want to visit.

Miss Read – quiet, everyday village stories – another author that I go to when I need some gentleness in my world

Rosamunde Pilcher – England, villages, everyday folks – I have a pattern, don’t I?

Louise Penney – beautiful, beautiful writing and imagery – WAY better than one would expect a mystery to be.

LM Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Maude Hart Lovelace – the writers of the girls I wanted to be and to know when I was a girl.

Rita Mae Brown – the early stuff – Six of One can still make me cry

And my all time favorite – L Frank Baum – the Oz books are the ones that I’ve re-read the most in my life. They provide everything – travel, nostalgia, magic, fantasy and a happy ending!

I hope I haven’t taken up too much room, or hijacked your blog, Rachel. But you knew that BOOKS would get a response from this constant reader!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013



FALL is all rich colors and scents:

A pot of wide-egg-noodle chicken soup, with knuckle-length celery and bits of onion simmered in the rich broth beneath the tiny topaz beads of chicken fat.

Opening the back door at midnight to let FuzzyPup out, and inhaling the wispy home-comfort scent of a neighbor's fireplace. Nostalgia in a noseful.


A far-faraway pumpkin balloon drifting over a fading field.   I'd love to see their view someday.


A vase of golden calla lilies.  I've had them perish to that color, but never saw them fresh.


Caro’s new toe-wiggle rug for the hardwood floor beside her bed---all wool and two yards wide.   It’s handmade, soft as a baby lamb, and both sides are simply works of jewel-toned art, from a walking-distance yard sale.

“My brother-in-law made that moren’t fifty years ago, and we had it down by the fireplace since we moved into this house in ’67.”   I bought it, rolled it, shouldered it, and brought it home like a soft log.


Last year’s wreath, still just as bright. 


Ditto for the burgundish silky one on the mirror over "Mother's couch" upstairs.  
And a bright Hello to my Dear Friend Kim, who has suffered a bad fall, and who will be off her feet for a while.  Wish I could be there to help look after you, BabyGirl.
love and,


Saturday, September 21, 2013



We’re joining Beverly’s Pink/Autumn today.  She’s the hostess of a wonderful party every Saturday, and one of my favorite people.


On this last day of Summer, we’re all feeling, if not the nip of Fall in the air, the stirrings of that ageless drawing-in and storing-up that the turn of the seasons brings.   For me, it’s always been the beginning of a lot of things---anticipation of all the holidays, with the Autumn colors brought inside, and the warmth of tea-time and cocoa and something savory simmering on the stove. 


Thanksgiving is scarce two months away, and the thankfuls abound---family and home and all the friends and the warm feelings of the cozy season.   Last Thanksgiving, I got out my Mother’s Thanksgiving cloth---a great long one I think she hemmed herself, out of one long yardage of heavy muted brocade.   It draped the table for years, and somehow came to me in the buffet or the hutch or some box as we were clearing out the family home.   I’ve even used it wrong-side up, for Spring occasions with pink plates and green napkins, for Easter with all the pastels of the holiday, and now, in its own flipped-right pattern, it just seemed to GO with the pink Fostoria and the deep-burgundy plates.

The setting was familied up by DS #2’s glass of milk already set at his place, and Sweetpea enhanced the whole thing by delving into the toy-box to get the tea-things all into place before-hand (and well-matched they were, indeed).


Who’s to say Pink’s not the new Orange?

And from a comment from our hostess Beverly just now:

Pink and orange. Just perfect together. Just like treasures from your mother, smiles of your loved ones, anticipation of coming holidays, and comforts of home.

Thursday, September 19, 2013



The little where-are-you-from thingie on the sidebar streams (like molasses most days, for folks dropping in are few) names of cities and countries all around the world---bright flags shining of faraway places I’ll never see, and brighting me every day with their fleeting regard.


And over time, names pass by the counter again and again, and I see their towns as old friends, dropping in to say hello, and moving on.  Two in the past few months have been faithful, constant visitors, with a daily glimpse or two as they appear, and it’s just a lovely thing that they and all of you come and look and read and whisper away---that’s a nice compliment, and I SO appreciate it.


So---Mountain View and Beaverton---whoever and wherever you are, I don’t know what you’re reading, but I see you in “June 2009” and “Fairy Doors” and “Pink Salad,” settled somewhere here in my house EVERY DAY with the good back-door familiarity of old friends, and it makes me smile, every time.   And every single one of you dear folks who drop in---please know how sincere and warm the welcome is for all of you.
Why don't we all just sit down for a glass of tea on this lovely green porch.



We’ll take a stroll in the backyard shade:

Stop on the patio for a sunny early-morning breakfast:

Join in the bright, noisy blur of a bunch of the family gathered for a casual supper together, with everybody grabbing a dish from the stove or fridge as the last notes of our dancin’ in the kitchen song fade away:


 We can have a cold something-to-drink whilst Chris throws everything he can find on the grill, and we'll eat our supper on trays as the day winds down and the locusts sing:


We’ll talk of simple things, of our lives and families and the people before us who made us who we are; we’ll share what we’re reading and snippets from past words which have impressed, and how each person and thought has become a part of us.   Each topic will remind us of another, and we’ll just talk the evening away.


The coffee-and-teacups will be filled and re-filled, and we’ll taste the sweet summeriness of Caro’s blueberry cobbler, as the slow tick of the hours rolls into night. 

I wish I could know and talk with each and every one of you, and you cannot know how thankful I am for you---friends yet unmet, and gentle passers-by who drift in and out on occasion, and the several truly dear friends who have shared and written and e-mailed and commented and who have become as dear as family and friends in hug-range.   This feels like a comfortable neighbourhood, where we can all see the children playing safely up and down the blocks, or a wider-spaced country community, kept close by time and proximity, common interests and shared experience. 


I’d love to get to know you all, and my appreciation for your presence is full and real and sure.


Thank you.   Every day.



Tuesday, September 17, 2013



These little whizzits were the THING some decades ago---the answer to the well-groomed, silken-skinned woman’s prayers.  The commercials featured exquisite young ladies who sat smilingly, lovingly rubbing the buzzing white marvels over already-perfect legs, as they chatted on a Princess phone or were lost in Cosmopolitan.   They all looked as if they’d been buffed head-to-toe by Midas at birth, to begin with, and so was the pitch made, caught, and paid for.
They looked like a dainty version of a man’s electric razor, but with a tight little coil of spring at the top, which, when activated, buzzed into action with a constant grab-and-yank maneuver like a cotton-picker through a field.
The first few times felt as if you were rubbing hot coals up and down your calves, but then after a while, you could sorta make it past the gritted-teeth stage into a gentle grimace when you hit a tender spot.  But what I MOST did not enjoy was the fact that you had to give the thing several days’ lead-time, in order for its little springy clutches to have something to grab onto for the tug.  
We were silken, all right, stockingless for church, even, but in time, as with all midnight-ordered stuff from Ron Popeil, the little gizmos fell out of favor, and we all retreated to the familiar comfort of our little Gillettes, and thence to that miracle of modern magic---the Venus.
But before those better days, there came one moment which has earned its rightful place in family lore:
Way in the day before cell phones, and when only luxury cars and important folks had Car Phones, I had to drive some good long way late one evening, to pick up Chris after a meeting.  Caro had to work next day, and so could not accompany me, and she was a bit worried about my journey through dark, unfamiliar territory.
I offered all the “I’ll be FINEs” and the usual “Don’t WORRY!” and finally, I ran off into one of my customary brain sillies and said, “OK.   Here’s what I’ll do:   I’ll take my Epilady along, and if anybody even looks at me funny, I’ll hold it up to my ear and they’ll think I’m talking to the Police on my Car Phone.”
She pondered that for a second, looked at me in the way of all my family when I’ve made ninety-nine of my off-kilter mental jumps ahead in our conversation, and with her patient, dear voice of reason, said,

 “But Mama, if you were scared
enough to  hold that thing up to your ear, you’d probably hit the button.   And BDDDDDDDDDDT!  That thing woulda climbed clean up on top of your head before the robbers got there.”


Thursday, September 12, 2013



I think I had one of the strangest phone calls ever yesterday.   Caro had been out for errands in the morning, before she settled in for her day’s sleep before work, and I stepped up the stairs to say Hello before she went to bed.


She was laughing as I walked into the dim of her room, and she said, “I just had a passenger.   As I opened the back door, there was a locust sitting on the screen, and when I came in here and started to take off my pants, something whirred and flew off into the dark over there.”    I looked around, into her shoes, beneath a chair, over beyond the lamp and dropped books, but didn’t see anything.
"Oh, well," she said.  "I'll hear her when she starts to sing."



After I’d been back downstairs for some time, the phone rang.    “There’s a locust on me,” she said.  "I’m afraid it will fly away again if I reach for it.”
I grabbed bathroom Dixie and a paper towel, and headed up, to find Caro lying in bed beneath the sheet, with a big green-winged beauty sitting blithely  on her hip.  Cup capture, towel-scoot in, and out the door with locust, where I set her down, towel and all.   
She regarded me with those huge luminous eyes for a moment.  Then “BDDDDDDDDTTTT!” she said before she flew up into The Tree.    
“You’re welcome," I said.   Why she’d flown back up in that darkened room to sit upon the same person, I’ll never know, but there you have it.   I got off this train, so I’ll just get back on and see if I can get home.
We’ve always called them “locusts” Down South, these cicadas of the merry music, and they’re called Katy-dids and tree-frogs and other misnomers in lots of places. 
They come in a lot of sizes and colors, from green-winged singing jewelry 


photo by Paul Davidson, cicada charmer extraordinaire

To the big ole Southern Bubba Bugs I’m used to in the south. 

They look at you with such wise regard, and if you ignore  the little red clown cheeks, and just think “face”, it becomes a definite little countenance, with eyes, nose, mouth, ears---like the stoic funeral mask of a warrior buried with the Pharoahs.   


And the import of the unearthing is heralded with as much or more clamor, though not for glimpse of riches or history, but for the glory of the temporary song.


Summer cicadas are just a fact of life in the hot climes we’re from.   They keep up an unending orchestra, day and night, for all the hot days.   Their mating song or praying for rain or just sheer gladness to be up out of the long dark---it’s a joyous thing or a sign of Summer or a confounded nuisance, depending on how you look at it. 




You hear it, or you don’t---a lifetime of the sounds of Summer dulls the senses to it, like a background fan or trains in the night.   It’s just THERE, in the air and the trees and such a constant hum that it’s just in you, like the flow of a river or the flurr of the wind.
These beautiful creatures were the background chorus at our wedding, with the vigor of the late-afternoon singing drowning out some of the vows.   And despite the import of what we were saying, of the music and the prayers and the cheers and applause, that weee-ooo scritch-and-sing was so gravely, timelessly meaningful a white noise---like the ringing of a billion distant bells,  that I would not swap it for heralds.
Just think of it---all that jeweled splendor, and all that music---buried beneath the earth for all those years while our children grew up, our grandchildren were born, the world spun and changed, and changed again.   
 Just awaiting the moment, and their time is now.  


Wednesday, September 4, 2013



STANDIN’ IN THE MIDDLES --- a good shower of rain, soaked in, with lots to spare puddling in between the rows.   Many a pickup-pulled-beside conversation has occurred when farmers are out checking out the land after a rainfall. 


You’ll see an elbow out each window, perhaps a wisp of Marlboro smoke curling out, and you KNOW the phrase has been uttered.


A GRACIOUS PLENTY ---  Enough and to spare, especially when speaking to/of a hostess or a gift-giver.   It's also a charming, kind thing to say when the hospitality has been of meager means, and you're gonna have to get a sandwich when you get home.   Warmly said, it can cause happier feelings than praising the cookin'.


ONCE’T AND TWICE’T  ---  Charming old lingering pronunciations of once and twice.  Twice’t gets a LONG I in the saying. 
“If I’ve told you once’t, I’ve told you a THOUSAND TIMES!”
. . . AND ALL  ---  Sometimes part of a letter’s salutation and closing, but really most often used to finish a less-than-gracious remark:
   She thinks she’s so SMART, and all.  
Him being such a catch, and all.
“I AIN’T STUDYIN’ YOU ---  I am taking no notice of your presence, especially of that request you’ve made a dozen times.  (Inflection can add a silent “now, go on and leave me alone”).
I BEEN STUDYIN’ ON IT  ---  Pondering, reading up, weighing options and making a considered decision, usually toward the YES factor.
COME TO FIND OUT ---  Learn later, usually after the fact (especially if it’s deliberately been kept secret).  “Come to find out, they was MARRRID all the time!” 
TO MY NOTION --- In my opinion

WHOLLA GO   A short time ago

EVVER WHICH-A-WAY   all directions, up, down, North,  South or diagonal.  Think chickens scattering or bed-head.
Kindly --- a bit or lot depending on degree---“That gumbo is kindly spicy.”  “Them jeans is kindly TIGHT, Loretty.”
SOLD OUT ---   took off in a hurry, whether eager, late or scared (imagine a traveling salesman running back down the road with a sample-case in each hand, dust billowing, hat flying off, as the homeowner lets the dogs out).
Sold is possibly past tense of “sail.”
My Mammaw used it quite frequently, and almost always in reference to a flappy-clothes lady so fond of gossip that she'd come by, winkle out a bit of news, and practically fly off the porch.  She could take the doorsteps two at a time, and was known to have got right up from her seat at the Missionary Relief Tea between Egg-and-Olive and Scones, and sold out home to the phone that time O’man Holliman got caught retrieving his hearing aid from the back seat of a married lady’s Oldsmobile.
LIT A SHUCK --- took off in a hurry, as well---possibly derived from a cornstalk torch used to get home at night, especially over fields or through woods.  You could walk a lot faster if you carried a light.

HORN IN ON  ---   to poke yourself into other people’s plans, honors or activities or to take credit belonging to others.
STOVE UP  ---  A little crick in back or legs, usually from lifting or doing a laborious job.  Most times, a little walking or stretching will remedy; others require resorting to Icy-Hot, Tiger Balm, or a good spray of WD-40, which will leave you smelling like a creaky hinge for days.
BROKE IN TWO IN THE MIDDLE  ---  Now, this malady was of a  more serious sort, a result of having put way too much stress on your body, as in hauling buckets of water, plowing with a hand-plow, lifting WAY too much, or carrying a field-dressed six-point half a mile to the truck.  (Though the adrenalin does alleviate some of the pain of that last one).

GREAT DAY IN THE MORNIN’! ---   Utterance of surprise, whether pleasant or shocking.  Also used as remonstrance, chastisement, or popcorn-level swear word:  "Great Day in the Mornin,' Marthena!   What were you THINKING?"
AS BIG AS YOU PLEASE ---  a sentence suffix which conveys degree with which someone does something, especially if they probably don’t deserve to, or look ridiculous doing it.  
She wore that awful hat to her sister's wedding, as big as you please.

They come right in there and sat down at his Mama's table, as big as you please. 
 ILL AS A HORNET  ---  Cranky, especially in babies and toddlers and certain adults who revert occasionally.   Irritable and nothing pleases you.  Childhood version of Cantankerous.


MAD AS A WET HEN  --- Now, that one is quite a distance above Hornetry.  You’re mad, you’re not gonna take it any more, and everybody’s gonna know about it.

 And one of my absolute favorites:
TETCHY---easily irritated, offended, or hurt by a particular subject.  This can be a lifetime condition, or just in reference to a particular subject on any given day.  
The degree of techy is customarily qualified by “a mite.”   When the gear shifts into "plumb" or the
degree ramps up to “mighty,” it would not behoove anybody to use that word for fear of increasing the force to “pawrful.”    In which case, it’s best that all in the vicinity light a shuck.