Friday, November 06, 2009

Mother's story: watermelon, RFD, close calls

More of my mother's story, in her own words: There will be two more installments, and that'll be the end of it.
One other thing: My daddy raised our watermelon every year, and when the melons were ready to eat, he taught us how to go to the patch and choose a ripe melon. In those days, our shoes were made of genuine leather soles; Dad taught us to thump the sole of our shoe, then thump the melon. When you found a melon that sounded like the sole of your shoe, it was ready to eat. To this day, I can about always pick the right melon from the pile in the store by the sound of the thump.
If you didn't live in the first half of the twentieth century, you've never seen Watkins products, or McNess products, or Rawleigh Products. These were all brought to our door about once a month by a salesman.
The first rural mail carrier I remember drove one horse and a buggy; and when he got to our mailbox, 1/4 mile from our house next to our little Zion country church, our mail carrier ate his lunch and watered his old faithful horse at the well in the church-yard; then he'd be on his way. Letters cost two cents to mail, and cards, one cent. What a change!
My mom wrote letters to all the people she had ever known, and she got lots of letters from folks, too. She was a widow for 28 years, and after we five kids were all married and out on our own, I'm sure it was good for her to do her correspondence and hand-piecing and hand-quilting many beautiful quilts. She also did crocheting, knitting, and tatting. In the teens and early 20's we all had home-knitted hoods and mittens to wear to school and church or outside playing. My mother never wasted any time. In the early days she always sewed and worked by the light of her kerosene lamp while my sister and I did all the dishwashing. How we hated to wash and shine that old lamp chimney every morning... but that was included in our dishwashing. As well as our lamps, we also had what people called the pitcher and catcher in our bedroom. The pitcher and bowl sat on the dresser, and when company came overnight (the preacher or my grandma), the pitcher was filled with water and a shiny new tin cup sat beside it for our guests. The catcher was a little low china pot with a lid sitting under the bed, so no one had to take that path to our outdoor "privy" in the middle of the cold night. The preacher always stayed at our house when he came for a meeting, as we lived real close to the old Zion church building, built in 1903.
It seems I can remember some tragedy about every member of our family, but we all survived. My mother was expecting her last baby in 1929 at the age of 43 and was so very sick during her pregnancy. In July, 1929, when the baby came, we were all overjoyed after so long with no baby in the house... but not for long. Little Betty Louise, our beautiful little sister, died; and we learned how it was to have the family circle broken. That little white casket had an inscription on top, "Our Darling Baby". We were all old enough to feel our loss. Then my daddy came down very ill with pneumonia. In those days it was nearly a fatal disease. We all thought for days our daddy wouldn't live, but our faithful family doctor who still made house calls came every day or two and pulled him through.
My sister's tragedy I remember most was when we got our first old Model T and she was learning to drive: Somehow the car, with her in it, started rolling toward a big bank. We lived on Little Creek and the creek bank was in front of our house. We all saw the car going down across toward Little Creek with Ruby in it, and thought both she and the car were goners; but she got it stopped some way, and we moaned in relief.

My mother's three brothers: Carl, Paul, and Leo
When my oldest brother, Carl, was a young man, he was helping a neighbor cut weeds from his corn. Along came a thunderstorm in black clouds with lots of lightning, so Jess Judd (the farmer), Carl, and Jess' little boy (about five years old) started running to the house. As they were going through a barbed wire fence, a bolt of lightning struck and killed Jess and knocked my brother unconscious. The boy had taken drinking water to the field to the men in an aluminum kettle with a bail; when it started raining, the boy, Neal, had put the kettle over his head. Maybe that's what saved him, since he said afterward his toes tingled; but he ran on to the house.
A neighbor went out and got the farmer and took him in an old pickup to the house. He died after two days. Carl had bloodshot eyes and was very pale, but came out all right. However, for the next year, he and his wife, Bernice, slept in a bed in their storm cellar a lot!

There is this incident with my brother Paul: Does anyone remember when everyone had a road drag folks hitched behind their horses or mules to drag the dirt roads? This was before gravel or blacktop and they dragged the roads to smooth the ruts out. Well, Paul was two or three years old. Mom was pregnant with Leo, and Dad went out to drag our portion of the roads. Carl, Paul, and I loved to ride on the drag while Dad stood on it and drove the horses. Little Paul fell off in front of that drag when it hit a washed-out ditch across the road. In my memory, I can just see that little curly-haired boy rolling under that thing as Dad got the horses stopped. Paul was stiff under the drag, and Dad reached under the end and pulled him out by the leg, threw him over his shoulder, and started to the house. We all thought he was dead, he was bleeding so bad and his face was so mangled. The old doctor, six miles away, was called and came to the house. Paul still has scars at 78 years of age, but we have had lots of years having him as a brother.


Paula said...

Still reading and enjoying. Lots of accidents in that family.

Midlife Mom said...

It seems like there were an awful lot of accidents back then. Amazing that he survived after going under that drag!

Sugar said...

your bringing back several old memories for me. i recall the door to door saleman well. & yes, the water pitcher (full of cold well water) by the bedside & a pot under the bed when we'd go visit my granddad (up till he passed when i was 21).
i still use that old method for picking a good melon, too. LOL!
have a good wkend, my friend.

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

I find myself breathlessly reading each word, hanging on to what is said to see what happens next. I do love your mom's story.

Debbie said...

I'm enjoying your Mom's story so much. I'll sure miss it when it comes to end.

The Guy Who Writes This said...

Donna, this is beautiful stuff. Thank you for sharing.

madcobug said...

I am still enjoying reading her history although some bad times were about. Helen

Lori said...

I can remember ordering things from a Raleigh catalog, and up til the mid or latter 80s there was still a catalog store in Corydon, Indiana. I know of a Watson's catalog, but I don't know if it's the same one. This one sold spices.