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Revisit—11th Street South and a rabbit . . .

I recently visited this posting and found it to be a fascinating and exceptional piece of literature, so I decided to re-post it for the benefit of the throngs that have been fortunate enough to have found my blog in the interim. It is my humble and modest opinion, with all seriousness set aside, that any reading or re-reading of this classic tale will enchant and delight everyone that passes this way. It’s a long read, but it’s highly educational, entertaining and well worth your time and effort—honest!

11th Street South and a rabbit . . .

When I left Plato’s realm of spirits—mind you, I was and I remain one of Plato’s ideal philosophical souls—and entered this world, I became part of a family that included my mother, one brother and five sisters, three living sisters and two dead, and no father—well, of course I had a father, but my parents were divorced a few months before I was born, a situation that technically makes me a little bastard. That technicality doesn’t bother me, even though it has been verbally confirmed many times by many people over the course of my life. Those verbal confirmations have decreased significantly since I retired from the workforce and relinquished my responsibilities and duties as a manager and supervisor of federal employees.

The Great Depression was in full swing when I left the world of souls and appeared on this planet. My brother Larry was away from home, gainfully occupied in building roads in Utah and other western states, roads that in his words started nowhere and ended nowhere. Early in the 1930s he joined the CCC—Civilian Conservation Corps—one of the alphabet organizations created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, and helped build highways and tunnels in the western part of the United States, systems that would attract many millions of people in the future to our national parks. Following his stint with the CCC, he joined the U.S. Navy at the start of World War II and remained overseas through most of that conflict and never returned to the family except for short visits.

I have only retained two events over the first six years of my life that included my brother. The first memory is one of us fishing in a creek that meandered along near the house my family lived in at the time, a rental house owned by a local doctor named Box, the doctor that delivered me. Located on the outskirts of Vernon, Alabama, it was referred to as the old Box place—my family moved there from my place of birth, the old home place located some five miles south of town—I was little more than a toddler at the time. If you like, you can click here to read about the monumental event of my birth, Unto you this day a child was born. It’s a well-told tale with tons of family history and well worth your time—trust me!

The other memory involves a washtub in the front yard, filled with ice and beer, and my family enjoying and celebrating my brother’s visit. It also involves a partially filled beer left on a table within reach of a small night-shirted boy, and a set of high steps leading up to the front door of our house. The steps were necessary because the house was built on brick piers in an area prone to flooding. I have a vivid memory of standing on the top step in full view of the family gathered around the tub of ice and beer in the front yard and tossing the contents of my stomach—whatever food I had ingested along with the warm beer I had consumed—all over the steps.

Bummer!

I lived at the old Box place with my mother and three sisters. My mother and the two older sisters worked at a garment factory in Columbus, Mississippi, a city thirty miles west of Vernon, just across the Alabama-Mississippi state line. The women walked a short distance to and from town Monday through Friday and traveled to and from their work site on a county school bus set aside for that purpose. They necessarily left at an early hour and arrived home at a late hour every evening.

I and my youngest sister, a child just 18 months older than I, were left in the care of a lady that lived within walking distance. She came to our house early each morning and waited until the women left for work before escorting my sister and me to her house—she returned us home just before the women were due to arrive from work. With her husband and a passel of kids—my mother’s term—ranging from toddlers to young adults, she lived, loved, maintained her family and helped perform the many tasks involved in farming.

Whether they were the owners or were sharecroppers will never be known, but my guess is that they farmed on shares with the owners. Today the family would be called African-American, but at that time they were called everything except that hyphenated politically correct term—my family referred to them as black folks, or blacks, or that black family—other terms were available and quite popular at the time, but none were used by my family. This was a black family that included two white children five days every week, a boy and a girl, both preschoolers, two children that shared playtime and mealtime and after-dinner naps on the front porch with the family and loved every minute of every day.

My family left Vernon and moved to Columbus, Mississippi when I was five years old. My sister entered the first grade on our arrival there, and I entered the first grade the following year. That year is so filled with memories that I must reserve it for a separate posting, and I will include in this posting a third memory of my brother Larry.

He came home for a Christmas visit from his labors under the auspices of Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps. That winter Columbus, Mississippi had an unusually heavy snowfall, and my brother took me on a rabbit hunt, armed only with a broomstick—just the stick, no broom. The broom part was badly worn and my brother sawed off that part. We walked a short distance from our house to a snow-covered field that served as a dumping ground for discarded items such as broken furniture, mattresses, wire-coil bed springs, old stoves and other such refuse. Yes, we lived on the south side of the city, the part that was known as the wrong side of town, an area subjected to such dumping.

This is how one hunts rabbits after a heavy snowfall—one takes a broomstick and pounds on any pile of junk where a rabbit might choose to hide, and chases the rabbit when it leaves its cover. In a heavy snowfall rabbits can’t run, so they tend to flee by burrowing under the snow rather than jumping in and out of it. Ergo, the mighty hunter simply follows the unseen rabbit as it ripples the surface of the snow by burrowing under it, estimates the location of the rabbit’s head—not a difficult task, not even for a southerner, and strikes with the broomstick a number of times, enough time sufficient to render the animal ready for skinning, cleaning and cooking.

My brother only found one rabbit with all his pounding, and that one did exactly as expected, and brother did exactly as narrated above, but landed just one blow with the stick. The rabbit’s forward motion was stopped, and on examination was found to be very much alive, only stunned by the blow but no more blows were struck. I pleaded with my brother to not kill it, and let me take it home as a pet.

And so it was. I carried a new-found pet rabbit home—I never knew whether it was male or female, but just for discussion I’ll say it was a female—perhaps I hoped for some baby rabbits. I had no way to secure her, neither inside the house nor outside, and one of my older sisters suggested I make a leash and tie her to a bedpost, and using a six-year old boy’s imagination, I did as suggested.

At this point the reader should probably keep a hankie or a box of Kleenex handy.

I fashioned a leash from a discarded pair of nylon stockings, those with the black seams running the length of the stockings, seams that ladies of the day were constantly adjusting to keep them straight on the backs of their legs. I knotted the stockings together, then secured one end of the leash to the cottontail’s neck and the other to a bedpost. My new-found pet could move around no farther than the length of nylon, so whatever deposits he made during the night would be restricted to a small area.

Okay, folks, here’s where you’ll need the hankie or the Kleenex. When I went to sleep my pet was warm and cuddly and full of life, but the next morning she was cold and stiff and dead, choked by the nylon that had tightened during the night with her circling around and around the bedpost.

I know, I know—I know just how you feel, but just blow your nose and wipe away your tears. It happened some 71 years ago, and I will say to you exactly what Lloyd Bridges said in the made-for-television movie Cold Sassy Tree. This is what he said in answer to his children when they learned he intended to marry his long-time office manager although his wife—their mother—had been dead less than a year. What he said was,

Well, she ain’t gonna get any deader!

And that rabbit ain’t gonna get any deader either, so dry your tears. I assure you that never again—not in all those years, not even once—have I strangled another rabbit by leaving it tied to a bedpost with a knotted pair of ladies’ nylons, nor have I ever strangled another rabbit by any other method, nor have I ever advised my children or the children of others to do such—in fact, largely because of that sad event I have strongly stressed that all should respect the value of life, both for humans and for the so-called lower orders of life.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2010 in Childhood, Family, Humor, neighbors, race, Uncategorized

 

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A cute joke promised: Playing catch-up . . .

In June of this year I posted a story about living for a time in an upstairs boarding house on College Street in Columbus, Mississippi and in closing the posting I promised to tell a cute joke told by an invalid widow in my mother’s care. This is my promise, excerpted from the original posting:

Oh, I’ve decided to save the story told by the invalid lady in the apartment house my mother managed, but stay tuned—it’ll show up in a future posting, and it’s really funny! Sadly though, it’s a clean joke—not even the suggestion of a bad word or thought in it, not one entendre in it, single, double or otherwise—bummer! To read the original posting click on the following URL:

https://thekingoftexas.wordpress.com/2010/06/16/college-street-301-12-a-boarding-house/

This is the joke:

The elderly widow that ran the boarding house was very hard of hearing, and she urged a young man, a new guest, to have more helpings of various items on the dinner table.

Widow: Sir, please have some more to eat.

Guest: No, thank you, ma’am, I’ve had sufficient.

Widow: What’s that, sir? You went a-fishing?

Guest: No, ma’am, I said I’ve had plenty.

Widow: You say you caught twenty?

Guest, under his breath: You old fool!

Widow: Oh, in a pool!

The lady that told that joke was bedridden, and it fell to my lot to sit with her, often for hours at a time, listening to her jokes and reading to her from the Bible. It was not an easy task. The room always smelled of medications and urine, and to compensate for the odors she liberally splashed some sort of toilet water all over the room as far as she could throw it—some of it appeared to have been directed at me, but perhaps that was my imagination. Yes, I am aware that toilet water is a misnomer, one that has fallen in use over the years—in this case it was not water from the toilet.

The lady had lots of stories and jokes, but the boarding house joke was one of her favorites. The joke was pretty funny for the first few times she told it, but over time it lost a bit—no, it lost all—of its freshness and its humor.

Speaking of the Bible—the invalid had a frequent visitor, an elderly woman that was said to have memorized the entire Bible and the New Testament, and spoke by rote in response to a request for any specific chapter and verse. I listened to her recitation on some of her visits. She always brought her Bible but it remained in her lap, closed—she never opened it. I can’t speak for the accuracy of her memories, but she never missed a beat with her response—no hesitation, no pauses, speaking in a strong voice, its volume rising and falling appropriately and its timbre changing to fit the meaning of the biblical passage.

The speaker was a black lady, an elderly Negro. Yes, black and Negro were two of the the terms that were used in those days, in the mid–1940s, to identify such persons. I had never heard the term African-American at that time and I seriously doubt that the black lady had ever heard it. And yes, a variety of other terms were used to identify the race of such persons, all derogatory and all demeaning—I wish I could say not by my family, but we tended to go with the flow. Even my mother, a goodhearted and kind lady that professed love for all others, took this stance: I like black people and I have nothing against them—just as long as they stay in their place.

Times have changed, and mostly for the better. I say mostly because most people, other than African-Americans—not all, but most of them—make every effort to avoid using those derogatory terms. However, apparently not all African-Americans are reluctant to use them, claiming such terms are their right to use and have entirely different meanings than when used by racial outsiders.

Go figure!

That’s the joke I promised, and that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!



 
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Posted by on August 24, 2010 in Books, Humor, race, religion, segregation

 

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College Street, #301 & 1/2—a boarding house . . .

For a few weeks during the second World War I lived in a boarding house with my mother, stepfather and an older sister, a young girl that was a complex assortment of tissue, fluids and organs with a brilliant mind and a tendency to manufacture, from whole cloth, tales that were told as true but believed by none. Eighteen months older than I, she was from birth in 1931 to her death in 1992 at the age of sixty-one, a teller of tall tales.

We were together constantly in our early years, but beginning in our early teenage years we grew apart and were together for brief periods only when our paths crossed. She married a military man and moved with him to various assignments, including stateside and oversea locations. I was also in the military, but our paths crossed only once in Germany.

But I digress—this posting deals with our living for several weeks during the summer at an address in uptown Columbus, Mississippi in Mrs. Cooper’s Boarding House, a mini-hotel that occupied the second floor of a building on College Street—several blocks east of the boarding house was the Mississippi State College for Women, thus the name College Street. It was the procedure at that time to give the one-half designation to identify the second floor of a building. I don’t remember what sort of business occupied the lower part of the building, but it must have been something that held no interest for a young boy.

The building’s mailing address was 301 College Street. Mrs Cooper’s Boarding House was 301 1/2 College Street. Had the building sported a third floor I suppose its address would have been 301 3/4 College Street, and it follows that a fourth floor would have been 301 4/4. I know that buildings with multiple side-by-side units—duplexes, triplexes and such—are identified by adding letters, such as 301-A, 301-B, 301-C and so on, normally from left to right when one is facing the building. Perhaps fractions were used rather than letters because letters were already taken to indicate side-by-side units.

As with many of our domiciles were during the years we were with our mother and our stepfather, we lived in one room. Toilet facilities were always down at the end of the hall, or down the hall and left or right to the end of that hall, depending on one’s room number. The rooms did not include cooking or eating—Mrs. Cooper cooked and served three meals daily at a long table in a cavernous room with windows facing the street. Meals were served punctually—breakfast at seven in the morning, dinner at twelve noon and supper at six in the evening.

Yes, dinner was at noon—to my knowledge nobody in the south at that time ate lunch—we didn’t even know the term. If someone got the best of us, we never said Wow, he really ate my lunch! Nope, we said Wow, he really got the best of me!

I have learned since then that the difference between lunch and dinner and between dinner and supper depends on which of the two is the more important meal. If the big meal is served and eaten at noon, it’s dinner and the meal served and eaten in the evening is supper—we dine at noon and we sup in the evening. Conversely, if the big meal is served and eaten in the evening it’s dinner, and the meal at noon becomes lunch. Then of course we have brunch, a meal enjoyed between breakfast and lunch. I suppose a meal enjoyed in mid-afternoon would therefore be a combination of lunch and dinner—linner—or perhaps a combination of dinner and supper—dupper—if one has dinner at noon and supper in the evening.

Enough of that, so back to my original subject, namely Mrs. Cooper’s Boarding House. Meals there were always interesting. We comprised a motley assortment of people representing diverse occupations and all races, all that is except blacks, a group now known as African-Americans—the term was unknown in my childhood. Mrs. Cooper employed such persons in her establishment but none ever lived there and none ever sat at the table, at least not when paying guests were seated there. This was deep in the segregated south sometime during the Second World War, long before Lynden Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights marches and the cattle prods, snarling dogs and snarling policemen in Selma, Alabama.

As an aside, I’ll say that I was stationed at Craig Air Force Base in Selma for some six years, from 1955 to 1961, and I was therefore familiar with Alabama and Dallas County’s system of segregation of the races. Stay tuned, because I plan to discuss Craig AFB, Selma, Alabama, fishing and segregation in future postings.

I have no memories of Mrs. Cooper’s Boarding House that are worthy of sharing with my viewers, but I remember a cute story told to me by a lady in a different town and in a different but similar setting. My mother was an LVN, a licensed vocational nurse and for a year or so she tended a bedridden wheelchair-bound elderly widow in Durant, Mississippi. a small town northeast of Jackson. Her compensation for that task was the income generated by a large house owned by the invalid, a house that had been converted into several apartments. Our family had a furnished apartment at no cost with all utilities paid, and my mother managed the facility, renting and collecting the rents and maintaining the house—anything left over was her salary. Her patient also lived there and my mother furnished around-the-clock nursing care for her. Incidentally, this was during a period of a forced separation from our stepfather, one created by him as were all the other times we were thrown out to continue our lives in whatever way we could.

Click here for that story—it features a violent incident, a threat, a shotgun and two children hiding in the woods—shades of Hansel and Gretel!

That’s about it—I posted this item for no other reason than to discuss the oddity of an address ending in a fraction. I haven’t seen it anywhere else, but of course I have never really tried to find another fractioned address.

Oh, I’ve decided to save the story told by the invalid lady in the apartment house my mother managed, but stay tuned—it’ll show up in a future posting, and it’s really funny! Sadly though, it’s a clean joke—not even the suggestion of a bad word or thought in it, not one double entendre in it, single, double or otherwise—bummer!

Speaking of a double entendre, the image on the right is an 1814 engraving of one such. The balloons above their heads read as follows:

He:My sweet honey, I hope you are to be let with the lodgings!

She: No, sir, I am to be let alone!

The term let, of course, means rent. It refers to lodgings for let, or rooms for rent. The gentleman is hoping that the girl comes with the lodging. I mean, like, hey, those folks in the Victorian era were really raunchy, huh! Just consider the dissolution, dissipation and disintegration of acceptable social mores during that time, the sexual overtones in that conversation, all reflecting a time in history of debauched living, and look—they’re even touching! Ostensibly in an attempt to chuck her under the chin, a move that she is warding off, his hand is perilously near her breast—horrors! It’s sad to think that young children were exposed to such filth during the Victorian period. You’ll never find anything like that in one of my postings—except for this time, of course.


 
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Posted by on June 16, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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11th Street South and a rabbit . . .

When I left Plato’s realm of spirits—mind you, I was and I remain one of Plato’s ideal philosophical souls—and entered this world, I became part of a family that included my mother, one brother and five sisters, three living and two dead, and no father—well, of course I had a father, but my parents were divorced a few months after I was born, a situation that, technically at least, makes me a little b – – – – – d. That technicality doesn’t bother me, even though it has been verbally confirmed many times by many people over the course of my life. Those verbal confirmations have decreased significantly since I retired from the workforce and relinquished my responsibilities and duties as a manager and supervisor of federal employees.

The Great Depression was in full swing when I left the world of souls and appeared on this planet. My brother  Larry was away from home, gainfully occupied in building roads in Utah and other western states, roads that in his words started nowhere and ended nowhere. Early in the 1930s he joined the CCC—Civilian Conservation Corps—one of the alphabet organizations created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, and helped build highways and tunnels in the western part of the United States, systems that would attract many millions of people in the future to our national parks. Following his stint with the CCC, he joined the U.S. Navy at the start of World War II and remained overseas through most of that conflict and never returned to the family except for short visits.

I have only retained two events over the first six years of my life that included my brother. The first memory is one of us fishing in a creek that meandered along near the house my family lived in at the time, a rental house owned by a local doctor named Box, the doctor that delivered me. Located on the outskirts of Vernon, Alabama, it was referred to as the old Box place—my family moved there from my place of birth, the old home place located some five miles south of town—I was little more than a toddler at the time. If you like, you can click here to read about the monumental event of my birth, Unto you this day a child was born. It’s a well-told tale with tons of family history and well worth your time—trust me!

The other memory involves a washtub in the front yard, filled with ice and cans of beer, and my family enjoying and celebrating my brother’s visit and celebrating. It also involves a partially filled beer can left on a table within reach of a small night-shirted boy, and a set of high steps leading up to the front door of our house. The steps were necessary because the house was built on brick piers in an area prone to flooding. I have a vivid memory of standing on the top step in full view of the family gathered around the tub of beer in the front yard and tossing the contents of my stomach—whatever food I had ingested along with the warm beer I had consumed—all over the steps.

Bummer!

I lived at the old Box place with my mother and three sisters. My mother and the two older sisters worked at a garment factory in Columbus, Mississippi, a city thirty miles west of Vernon, just across the Alabama-Mississippi state line. The women walked a short distance to and from town Monday through Friday and traveled to and from their work site on a county school bus set aside for that purpose. They necessarily left at an early hour and arrived home at a late hour every evening.

I and my youngest sister, a child just 18 months older than I, were left in the care of a lady that lived within walking distance. She came to our house early each morning and waited until the women left for work before escorting my sister and me to her house—she returned us home just before the women were due to arrive from work. With her husband and a passel of kids—my mother’s term—ranging from toddlers to young adults, she lived, loved, maintained her family and helped perform the many tasks involved in farming.

Whether they were the owners or were sharecroppers will never be known, but my guess is that they farmed on shares with the owners. Today the family would be called African-American, but at that time they were called everything except that hyphenated politically correct term—my family referred to them as black folks, or blacks, or that black family—other terms were available and quite popular at the time, but none were used by my family. This was a black family that included two white children five days every week, a boy and a girl, both preschoolers, two children that shared playtime and mealtime and after-dinner naps on the front porch with the family and loved every minute of every day there.

My family left Vernon and moved to Columbus when I was five years old. My sister entered the first grade on our arrival there, and I entered the first grade the following year. That year is so filled with memories that I must reserve it for a separate posting, and I will include in this posting a third early memory of my brother Larry.

He came home for a Christmas visit from his labors under the auspices of Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corp. That winter Columbus, Mississippi had an unusually heavy snowfall, and my brother took me on a rabbit hunt, armed only with a broomstick—just the stick, no broom. The broom part was badly worn and my brother sawed off that part. We walked a short distance from our house to a snow-covered field that served as a dumping ground for discarded items such as broken furniture, mattresses, wire-coil bed springs, old stoves and other such refuse. Yes, we lived on the south side of the city, the part that was known as the wrong side of town, an area subjected to such dumping.

This is how one hunts rabbits after a heavy snowfall. One takes a broomstick and pounds on any pile of junk where a rabbit might choose to hide, and chases the rabbit when it leaves its cover. In a heavy snowfall rabbits can’t run, so they tend to flee by burrowing under the snow rather than jumping in and out of it. Ergo, the mighty hunter simply follows the unseen rabbit as it ripples the surface of the snow by burrowing under it, estimates the location of the rabbit’s head—not a difficult task, not even for a southerner, and strikes with the broomstick a number of times, enough time sufficient to render the animal ready for skinning, cleaning and cooking.

My brother only found one rabbit with all his pounding, and that one did exactly as expected, and brother did exactly as narrated above, but landed just one blow with the stick. The rabbit’s forward motion was stopped, and on examination was found to be very much alive, only stunned by the blow but no more blows were struck. I pleaded with my brother to not kill it, and let me take it home as a pet.

And so it was. I carried a full-grown cottontail rabbit home—I never knew whether it was male or female, but just for discussion I’ll say it was a female—perhaps I hoped for some baby rabbits. I had no way to secure her, neither inside the house or outside, and one of my older sisters suggested I make a leash and tie her to a bedpost, and using a six-year old boy’s imagination, I did as suggested.

At this point the reader should probably keep a hankie or a box of Kleenex handy.

I fashioned a leash from discarded pair of nylon stockings, those with the black seams running the length of the stockings, seams that ladies of the day were constantly adjusting to keep them straight on the backs of their legs. I knotted the stocking together, then secured one end of the leash to the cottontail’s neck and the other to a bedpost. My new-found pet could move around no farther than the length of nylon, so whatever deposits he made during the night would be restricted to a small area.

Okay, folks, here’s where you’ll need the hankie or the Kleenex. When I went to sleep my pet was warm and cuddly and full of life, but the next morning she was cold and stiff and dead, choked by the nylon that had tightened during the night with her circling around and around the bedpost.

I know, I know—I know just how you feel, but just blow your nose and wipe away your tears. It happened some 71 years ago, and I will say to you exactly what Lloyd Bridges said in the made-for-television movie Cold Sassy Tree. This is what he said in answer to his children when they learned he intended to marry his long-time office manager although his wife—their mother—had been dead less than a year. What he said was,

Well, she ain’t gonna get any deader!

And that rabbit ain’t gonna get any deader either, so dry your tears. I assure you that never again—not in all those years, not even once—have I strangled another rabbit by leaving it tied to a bedpost with a knotted pair of ladies’ nylons, nor have I ever strangled another rabbit by any other method, nor have I ever advised my children or the children of others to do such—if fact, largely because of that sad event I have strongly stressed that all should respect the value of life, both for humans and for the so-called lower orders of life.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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