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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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Re: Your request for the King Ranch Casserole recipe . . .

In February of this year a special friend died, a lady that I first met back in the mid–1960s after her husband was assigned to my office at Kelley Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. A Great Britain transplant and the mother of five children, her first words to me were—and I kid you not: “So you’re the guy that wants to f-word me.”

Her memorable greeting was prompted by the fact that, although the family’s recently acquired phone number was unlisted, she was receiving frequent obscene phone calls directed specifically to her. Because regulations required that the number be on file at her husband’s duty station and available to all assigned personnel, she believed that someone in his office was making the calls.

She hoped to startle me into an admission of guilt, a plan that she shared with her husband and one to which he had agreed. Believe me, I was really startled, but not enough to cause me to admit to making the calls, especially since I was not the culprit. Had I been guilty I probably would have been startled into a confession. I will reserve a detailed explanation of that situation for a future posting aptly entitled Obscene phone calls. Stay tuned!

Yesterday in a family fit of spring cleaning in the middle of summer, a copy of an e-mail I sent to my friend was rescued from a catch–all box in a closet. The e-mail, dated August 17, 1999 was my response to my friend’s request for my wife’s King Ranch Casserole recipe. That e-mail is reproduced here exactly as transmitted and received. Sadly, it does not include the recipe—a separate and later e-mail served that purpose, and did not survive the passage of time, electronically or otherwise—at least not in my household, but perhaps in hers.

The complete e-mail follows:

Re: Your request for the King Ranch Casserole recipe:

Thank you for your e-mail dated August 16, 1999 subject: Something for Janie to read. We are always pleased to receive praise concerning the gustatory delights of Janie Mae’s culinary combinations, and we also appreciate your request for the King Ranch Casserole recipe. Before we give you a definitive answer to that request, we feel the need to apprise you of the nature of the aforementioned recipe, to wit:

In the entire world there remain only four recipes that have been handed down through generations and remain unknown to the general public. The ingredients of all four recipes are still jealously guarded by the descendants of the originators. Three involve products that are very familiar to everyone—Coca Cola, Colonel Sander’s Kentucky Fried Chicken and Louisiana’s Tabasco Sauce.

The fourth recipe is slightly less well known, but just as jealously guarded by its owner. I refer, of course, to Janie Mae’s King Ranch Casserole. To give you some idea of its importance and its history, I will tell you that the name is derived from a combination of two family names.

The first name, King, refers to one of Janie’s many royal ancestors, namely Edward, Prince of Wales who, as you will remember from your school days, abdicated the throne of England in favor of marrying a widow—which proves that even kings aren’t always first!

The second name, Ranch, was derived from my own ancestral lineage. Ranch was originally spelled Raunchy, but the name was corrupted by several generations of goodie-goodies besmirching our family reputation by insisting on being—well, they insisted on being goodie-goodies! They felt that the name Raunchy evoked visions of emotions and activities they felt were unbecoming to the family name, and for that reason the U and the Y were deleted—the second word of the recipe thus changed from King Raunchy to King Ranch.

The third name, Casserole, is also derived directly from my ancestral lineage and was also spelled differently in the beginning. In the modern version, as you know it, letters have been both added and deleted. To recreate the original word, delete the C, the first E and change the R to an H and the word becomes Asshole. The name of the recipe was thus corrupted—it was changed from King Raunchy Asshole to King Ranch Casserole.

I have striven mightily to restore the proper spelling and title to the recipe, but with very limited success, and I’m at a loss to understand why so many insist on the new spelling rather than retaining the original words—after all, as Shakespeare would say, that which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet. One can readily see why that phrase would apply to the name of a recipe, especially for a recipe such as this one.

Having briefed you on the history of the recipe I will now apprise la cocinera Juanita—Janie, the cook— of your request. You may be assured that she will give the proper orders and provide the supervision necessary for me to be able to convey the recipe to you in the manner in which you requested it be conveyed. Please note that I have adopted the historical name of the recipe, the original name minus the King part, as my official signature.

Yr. Obedient and Loyal Servant,

Raunchy Asshole

Postcript: Being the highly principled blogger that I am, I was somewhat wary of using the a-word. However, I used the Search Word Press.com Blogs feature and got 98, 936 hits—with that in mind,  I am far less wary of using it.

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




 
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Posted by on July 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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