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Death, an indentured servant, Ruby Lee, Bonnie and me . . .

From Wikipedia:

Indentured servant: A worker, typically a laborer or tradesman, under contract to an employer for a fixed period of time, typically three to seven years, in exchange for their transportation, food, clothing, lodging and other necessities.

In my sixteenth year I was subjected to the duties of an indentured servant. I lived and worked on an Alabama farm owned by a man that was married to my first cousin. My home was broken, just as it had been periodically for the previous nine years, ever since my mother took a second husband. I had just returned to Mississippi after a circuitous journey that took me from Mississippi to Midland, Texas and on to El Paso, Texas and from there to jail in Valley Park, Missouri then to New York City for several weeks and then back to Mississippi, all in a period of less than one year. Click here for a comprehensive rendition of that Jason-like search for the Golden Fleece!

I did not voluntarily enter into indentured service—I had no choice. My mother had once again severed ties with my stepfather and Ruby Lee, my first cousin, was the only relative that was willing to shoulder the burden of looking after me. I would be remiss if I did not reveal that one of my sisters agreed to take me in, but became incensed when my mother offered the princely sum of $5 to assist in buying school clothes for the coming semester. The offer offended my sister and she scolded my mother, saying that my place was with my mother, and she should not pass that responsibility on to others. I hasten to add that my mother’s request for my sister to accept the somewhat difficult task of taking me in, her offer of $5 to assist the process, and my sister’s refusal to accept either the offer of money or the request to take me in aroused no animosity in me—the request to take me in, the offer of money and the ultimate refusal of both did not matter to me then and are of no consequence to me now. Not only have I survived—I have actually thrived in spite of all the hurdles placed in my path. I soared over all of them and landed safely.

Ruby Lee and her husband, Bonnie, agreed to take me in and provide a home for me and continue my schooling, and in return I would assist her and her husband in working a small farm, doing all the things that any farmer does—mind you, this was in the days of two-mule farms—we’re not talking about diesel tractors and milking barns and mile-long rows of crops and a cadre of hired hands. We’re talking about a hard-scrabble existence with two mules, one wagon, one cow, some chickens, a few pigs, a house cat and a yard dog and virtually no future, aside from decades of living from hand to mouth dependent on fair weather and good crops. With my addition to the family, the farm now had a cadre of one hired hand. Yes, that’s me in the image above, trying to dig my way to China just to get away from the farm! No, I’m kidding—that’s a photo I found online and I used it just for fun—at my age I’ve learned that one cannot dig all the way to China!

I left the farm after several short months. Click here to see the relationship between parched peanuts and crawling skin, and how my dog and I became farmers. That posting will also detail the reasons why I left the farm.

Now to the crux of this posting—it’s about Ruby and her life in later years, and most of what I know about her is hearsay, information gleaned from various relatives during infrequent visits, several that were generated by deaths and the requisite attendance at funerals. I never saw or heard anything about her husband Bonnie or her two young sons after I left the farm, and in all the intervening years I saw Ruby only once—we were together at a brother-in-law’s funeral in Mississippi.

I was there with my wife, and Ruby was there with her domestic partner. That relationship was all the buzz among her relatives attending the funeral—not that the buzzing took place within her hearing, of course. Ruby seemed very happy and secure in her relationship and showed no indication of what her future held. Several years later, I learned from one of my sisters that Ruby had taken her own life, although nobody was certain of the method she used. The consensus was that she had died from a gunshot wound. There was lots of speculation about her suicide among relatives and friends, but nothing concrete was ever known.

An interesting point about conversation at the funeral between Ruby and her erstwhile indentured servant—neither of us touched, even lightly, about our time together on the farm. I was filled with curiosity but I refused to broach the subject. She volunteered nothing concerning her husband killing my dog in my absence, nothing about their failure to enroll me in school per their agreement with my mother, nothing about her husband’s whereabouts and life since their divorce, and nothing about her two sons that went with her husband when they divorced. The absence of her speaking of those details is telling—I firmly believe that she had buried the details of those events deeply in the recesses of her mind, either inadvertently or deliberately.

No matter—whatever her thoughts may have been of the details of those events, whether negative or positive, she took them to her grave, at least as far as I am concerned. She may have discussed them with others over the years but if so, the discussions never reached me.

Many years have passed since my employment as an indentured servant, and many of my memories of that time are pleasant. I feel no rancor, none for Ruby nor for her husband. They are fixed in my memory, and when my thoughts turn to those days I tend to remember the good times and push the bad times away. I discuss them now only in order to provide the information to my children, and of course to any others that may find the facts interesting, for whatever reason or reasons. Quite aside from the fact that I enjoy writing about various facets of my life, these postings to Word Press are in nature autobiographical, thoughts that I can leave for posterity—ooooh, I just had shivers run up and down my spine!

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

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Posted by on August 13, 2010 in death, education, Family, farming, Humor, pets


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Speaking English not good for you . . .

One of my three princesses, the one that was privileged to come into the world ahead of her two sisters, the one I love more than the other two but don’t tell them—yep, that one—sent me an e-mail with the following series of questions and answers concerning the importance of diet and exercise on health.

I felt obligated to spread this doctor’s take on diet and exercise as far and wide as possible. It’s an anonymous piece of writing, so I’m not too worried by the fact that I took the liberty of making numerous changes to the original. And I must say, with the usual humility that my viewers normally expect from me, that those changes improved the document significantly—nay, they improved it immeasurably!

What follows is a series of questions, asked by a patient and answered by Doctor Sum Ting Wong, the patient’s doctor during the two years the patient spent in China:

Q: Doctor, is it true that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life?

A: You heart only good for so many beats and that it. No waste beats on exercise. Everything wear out eventually. Speeding up heart not make you live longer. It like saying you extend life of car by driving faster. Want to live longer? Take nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat, and eat more fruits and vegetables?

A: You must grasp theory of logistical efficiency. What do cow eat? Hay and corn. And what that? Vegetables. Steak nothing more than efficient mechanism to deliver vegetable to system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef good source of field grass, and field grass green leafy vegetable. And pork chop give you 100% of recommended daily allowance of protein.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?

A:  No, not at all. Wine made from fruit. Brandy distilled wine.That mean they take water out of fruit so you get more. Beer and whiskey also made of grain. Bottom up!

Q: How can I calculate my body fat ratio?

A: If you have body and you have fat, you ratio one to one. If you have two body, you ratio two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?

A: Sorry, can’t think of single one. Philosophy is, no pain—good!

Q:  Are fried foods bad for us?

A:  You not listening! Food fried these day in vegetable oil. It permeated by vegetable oil. How much more vegetable bad for you?

Q:  Will sit—ups prevent me from getting soft around the middle?

A: Definitely not! When you exercise muscle it get bigger. Only do sit—up if want bigger stomach.

Q:  Is chocolate bad for me?

A:   Helloooo! Bean of cocoa plant is vegetable! Chocolate best feel-good food can find!

Q:  Is swimming good for my figure?

A:  If swimming good for figure, explain whale to me.

Q:  Is getting in shape important for my lifestyle?

A:  Hey—round is shape!

This should help clear up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets, and remember this:

Life should not be a journey from the cradle to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, a tall glass of Chardonnay in one hand and dark chocolate in the other, with body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “Woo-hoo, what a ride that was!”

And for those that watch what they eat, here’s the final word on nutrition and health—it’s a great relief to know the truth after all these conflicting nutritional studies:

Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Mexicans eat lots of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Chinese drink little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Italians drink lots of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Germans drink lots of beer and eat lots of sausages and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Conclusion: Eat and drink whatever you like. It’s obvious that speaking English is what kills you.

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Posted by on February 23, 2010 in death, food, grammar, Humor


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