As I was growing up, I noticed that Ma had one flaw. Her sense of humor was lacking when it came to something funny about her. Pa would sometimes tease her, though gently, just to see her flare with anger. You could tell Ma was angry, or as angry as she ever got, when her lips made a fine line and she was more quiet than usual. I know that much of Ma’s personality made a lasting impression on me and I have made a concerted effort to see humor in situations, even those that are about me.
One funny story that took place before I was born had to do with a lamb that Ma’s son had as a pet. I think the ewe had died and Pa let Uncle Orbie raise him. Alas, he grew up and as the antics of a baby lamb were funny, those antics in a grown sheep were not so funny. Ma tried to get Pa to put Orbie’s pet out to pasture but the sheep was allowed the run of the yard. One day Ma was bending over a big iron kettle in the back yard when the ram came around the corner and spied her. He made a running tackle and knocked Ma over the kettle. Everybody but Ma thought this funny. The gist of this story was that the ram was “put out to pasture”.
One story that Ma told me had her stepmother as the central character. Ma was still unmarried and about twenty-one and living at home. Ma loved to raise fine chickens and had a big flock. She heard the hens making a big racket and she knew a hawk was after her chickens. She ran out the back door just as her stepmother came around the corner from the front door with a shotgun. The stepmother and Ma had a tense relationship at best and the following case didn’t help matters. The family called her Aunt Bell rather than any endearment. Aunt Bell sighted her shotgun at the hawk just as Ma came into view. She fairly peppered Ma with buckshot. According to Ma, Aunt Bell begged forgiveness for the terrible mistake and the local doctor picked out most of the shots. Some few were still in Ma’s back those long years later. Though some family members chuckled at this story, not so Ma.
One of my favorite stories, which Ma loved to tell with a grin, concerned a neighbor lady who came to help Ma with feeding the wheat threshers. This woman was not very clean and Ma tried to keep her from cooking anything but she insisted that she make the biscuits and Ma had to let her or be very rude. Ma showed her where she kept the big bowl used to make biscuits and got busy and forgot about the biscuits. As she was finishing cooking and getting ready to set the food on the table, she noticed the biscuit bowl was clean and she asked the woman what she used to make those biscuits. She replied that she got the wash pan off the back porch that the men used to wash up. Ma said, “We can’t serve those biscuits made in that filthy bowl” and the woman said, ‘Why, Miss Sally, I wiped it out”. What to do? The men were already seated at the table so Ma kept her mouth shut. Pa just raved over the biscuits and finally said, ‘Sally, I wish you would get her to tell you how to make these wonderful biscuits”. That evening, Ma told Pa what the woman had done and told him she would make his biscuits the same way if they were so good.
My father was very fond of Ma and was always available to drive her to the doctor or anywhere she needed to go and he was very gentle with her. She had set him straight about bringing up politics at her house because Pa was a staunch Republican and Daddy was a Democrat. But there were a few times he couldn’t resist teasing her. Once, and I was there at the time, Daddy had brought Mama a bottle of wine and he offered Ma a glass. She told him to just pour a very small bit, which he did. She never drank any kind of alcohol and pronounced the wine very good. She was standing in front of a mirror beside the mantle at the time and for some reason, the small mirror started to fall and Daddy swore that Ma grabbed the mantle thinking she was the one falling. She was very mad at Daddy and whirled and left the room.
Our Pa was fond of telling funny stories and my most precious memories are of sitting on the big front porch with Pa as dusk turned to night and listening to his stories of life with the eight brothers growing up in that same old house and sitting on the same old porch. He had some wonderful funny stories and as he told them, we would listen to night calls of small animals. Those are very wonderful times so long ago.
Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632. I would also like to thank those readers who sent me letters and cards this Christmas. Thank you for your kind words.