Monday, August 13, 2007

Ain't No Place to Start Like the Beginnin' - Part 2

So that's how it all began, me and Momma in that little shack there just out of flood range of Rough Creek. It wasn't such a bad start, I reckon, and we made out alright. I'm sure there were other folks around who didn't have it near as good we did, but I never met 'em if there was.

I guess, if the truth be told, I was kind of spoiled growing up there the way I did. I just took all of our creature comforts for granted and never gave it much thought. It was all I ever knew. But looking back on it now, I know how lucky I was and consider myself blessed to have had the good fortune I did.

That old house wasn't much to look at but it was what we had. I remember many times when one of those sudden summer thunderstorms would come up and the rain would be beatin' down on the metal roof of that old place. The rain would be so hard you could see that metal vibrating under the drummin' of it and so loud that you had to yell to be heard. But I never recall gettin' wet, so I reckon it did the job.

The windows were pretty handy in the summer time to let a cool breeze blow through so you could stand it to sleep at night. On the other hand, I also remember the wind would howl on those frozen winter nights and have those old tattersall curtains dancin' around a good bit. We didn't mind that much though, that old Ben Franklin woodstove we used for heat would bring a big sweat out of a little feller if you weren't careful about it.

We even had indoor plumbin', which was a pretty big thing back then around our parts. Papaw had laid some cast iron pipe in the ground so it wouldn't freeze between the well and the house. He had mounted an old hand-pump he got at an auction somewhere to the counter there by the kitchen window and we were living like the Jones then! Momma still had to heat up water on the wood cookstove for doing dishes and takin' baths, but that was fine, too. A step in about any direction was a step up for us.

We didn't have an inside toilet, Papaw said it wasn't civilized to do that kind of stuff in the same place you ate and slept. But we did have a good outhouse. Papaw had built it on a sled frame so it could be drug over a new hole with the mule when the current one got full. We kept the pit limed and put a mixture of coal oil and used motor oil in it to kill the flies and help with the odor as well.

The outhouse could get pretty rowdy in the hottest part of summer, but what were you goin' to do? That's one of those activities a feller just can't get around somehow or another. The dead of winter offered up no treats either. Seems like the colder that seat was the longer it took to get the job done. It just sort of made you draw up when you perched yourself on it.

There was an aweful lot of learnin' and dreamin' that took place with the small confines there. You could almost always find something to catch your interest in the small library of old magazines and catelogs maintained there, unless somebody had already used those pages. A phone book didn't ofter up much reading material but the pages sure were softer. It was usually the first to disappear. I guess everything has it's trade-offs.

We had electricity but there wasn't much to run with it. There was an overhead light in each room and a wall socket in the kitchen and the front room. We had an old tabletop radio on a little endtable in the front room to listen to the news and University of Kentucky basketball games. If Momma was in a spiritual mood, there may be a little preachin' and singin' come out of it on Sunday mornin' and that was about the extent of our entertainment consumption of electricity.

Out back there was a woodshed where we kept kindling and sticks of stovewood cut and dried. On one end of it, Papaw had built a small room for Momma to use as a washroom. He had acquired an old, used wringer washer from somewhere and set it up for her in there. It was electric when it wasn't broke. But Momma never missed a stride, even if it was and fell back on the washboard with a galvanized tub when she couldn't use it. I never remember not having clean clothes to wear.

There's still a few other things to tell about the ol' homestead and we'll get to those directly. As you can see, we had about everything you needed to live high on the hog and that's pretty much what we did. I think most people today would probably be surprised at how little it really takes to live a good life and be happy. I reckon most of 'em would just die if they didn't have a bunch of things buzzin', beepin' and blarin' loud noises at 'em. Personally, all of that makes me as nervous as a long tailed cat in room full of rockin' chairs. But I reckon that's just me.

Uncle Cooter

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ain't No Place to Start Like the Beginnin' - Part 1

You know, you'd think a feller would remember one of the most important days of his life but I don't recall a lick of it. So everything I am about to tell you comes to me second-handed.

Try as I might, I just don't remember bein' born. I reckon that's all well and good, too, 'cause I'm sure I would've seen things that no man needs or wants to see. After all, your Momma is in a real compromise right about then and the mere image of that in my mind causes me to shudder a bit. No, seein' that could mar a man for life.

I was born into this world on October 1st, Nineteen Hundred and Fifty in the little ol' shack of a house you see in the picture up there in the corner. It has since fallen down. I don't really know how in the world it was still standing then, but it was. We have replaced it with a big fine four-room shack where we reside in comfort today. Or at least what passes for comfort to us.

I always thought our mottif was what would be considered "Early American" since we lived about like the pioneers did. Then some government people from town came by one day and I heard them tell Momma that our lifestyle was what was considered "Abject Poverty" by most people in the know. I didn't know what that meant but I liked the sound of it. Sort of had a ring to it, you know. Even as a youngun' I made myself a promise, with a certian pride, that I'd do everything in my power not to let our quality of life slip down none. So far we've remained lucky and not even had a good threat of a downward slide. But I'm gettin' ahead of myself here. Let's back 'er up a bit.

Me bein' borned was a total surprise to everybody, includin' Momma. She was a great ol' big woman so her bein' in "that way," went entirely unnoticed. Especially with her bein' unmarried and all, the thought about it just never came up. Nobody would've ever figgered it out if it hadn't of been for me comin' along. I reckon I kinda spilled the gravy that mornin'! The way I heard it went something like this:
Momma was standing at the counter doing some dishes from breakfast when her belly went to crampin'. She just thought she needed to make a run to the outhouse and hurried up with the dishes a little. Next thing she knew, there was a sharp pain, a thump on the floor between her feet and some squalin'. First thing she thought when she looked down was that she had stepped on one the cats and mashed it bloody. Only it weren't a cat, it was me, layin' there squalin' that way.

Just before she brought her foot down to stomp my head and put me out of my misery, she saw what I was and stopped. I reckon I was about the last thing she expected to see when she got up that mornin'! I'm pretty sure the whole thing was as much of a surprise to me, too. I guess I was just lucky I hit the floor head first and didn't damage any vital organs. Luck has just seemed to follow me my whole life that way, only it ain't always been the good kind.

Well, she got me up and cleaned me off a little, I reckon, and somehow or another, I've managed to hang on ever since. It's a wonder though, with everything I've been through, that I've pulled that off. Not being killed by now sure wasn't from lack of tryin', but we'll get to that in due time.

Uncle Cooter