I thought I was old!

Posted on May 15, 2006

by Trudy A. Martinez

Taking an aerobic swim class can be fun.

I thought I am too old.  I am sixty-five (or I was when I wrote this).  To top it off, I am on a short leash so-to-speak:  The oxygen tube line only lets me go so far in the water.  That is okay.  But when there is a current (and there always is with everyone stirring up the water to do the exercises), I seem to drift, making the work effort and the struggle to get back into a safe place and keep from dragging the tank into the water with me all the harder. 

Most say the safest place for me is on the side lines. But I disagree.  I never (at least not yet) pull the tank in with me.  Although the tank was christened, I didn’t do it.  Take my word for it, it doesn’t float!  It is heavy. It sinks to the bottom of the pool immediately.

Bubbles come popping up to the surface.  No, I didn’t fart!  The tank did!  There is a leak in the hose the day it joins me in the deep-end of the pool.  It is quite funny. 

The person who pulls it in will never forget, especially since everyone keeps reminding her to keep her eyes open and stay clear of the (invisible) line. Two young men come to the rescue, pulling the tank from the water and setting it back on the edge.  It is a lot harder getting the tank out of the pool then it is getting it in!

Anyways, the instructor is 76 (then).  I have difficulty keeping up with her, but at least I am trying.

She does this for a living.  My daughter who goes swimming with me says she gets a real work out.  She is amazed what this woman does, not just the hour that we are there but also the hours of classes she teaches daily.  She isn’t on the side lines telling those in the water what and how to do it; she is in the pool doing it too.

I wish I still had the shape and stamina I did when I wore this “Yellow poke-a-dot bikini.”

 

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It brings back the memories of those good old days.

Tales of Mom 13

 

Babies Bring Families Together

 

After the birth of his son, George Richard, Terry grows up some. He takes notice of his responsibility. He rents a larger apartment at street level. He surprises Nellie with the news; she is overjoyed. No more stairs to climb up and down with the baby. What a relief. Family members visit them to see the new addition to the family.

 

Peg visits nearly daily either before or after work, helping out when and where she can. Peg is so proud of her nephew, George Richard. (Nellie names him after her Pa, George) “Such a formal name for such a little guy,” Peg tells him. “I think I am going to call you Dickie, she continues. “Your granddad’s name is David; everyone calls him Dick. He’ll be here tomorrow. It will thrill him to know at least his nickname is being carried on. “ (There is an obvious unspoken resentment rising up here because the first born is named after Nellie’s Pa instead of Terry’s Dad) She holds Dickie (George) up so he can see her and says, “I am your Auntie! My name is Aunt Peg,” she hesitates momentarily, “Well,” she continues, “You can call me Aunt or Auntie Peggy, little man. But I am going to call you Dickie.”

Nellie remains quiet. Nellie believes,  “There is no sense in stirring up a hornet’s nest.”

 

“Nellie,” Peg says changing the subject abruptly, “Don and I are thinking of going our separate ways. He wants to settle down. I don’t. He wants kids. I can’t. He says we can adopt, but I don’t want to.” She says. “Don’s got his bags packed. He will be heading back to Texas and if his old girl friend is still single.” She continues, “He is going to hook up with her when our divorce is final. That is okay by me. We will still remain friends forever.”

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(Don is packed and ready to return to Texas)

 

“Nellie, I figure you can have the kids for both of us. I get them on holidays and vacations. You get them the rest of the time. How does that sound?”

 

Nellie remains quiet.

 

“Someone’s at the door, Nellie. I bet it is my dad; he is always early. Don’t bother to get up. I’ll answer it for you,” Peg says.

 

Peg goes to the door. Sure enough, it is her Dad.

 

“I hear I am a Grandfather,” he says as soon as the door opens. “It is about time. I was beginning to wonder if I’d be getting any of those. Good work, Nellie. Where is my grandson?”

 

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(Nellie Mae, Peg, George Richard (Dickie), David (Dick) and Betty)

 

 

Nellie wonders, “What kind of family have I married into?”

Thinking to herself, “Ma and Pa only be married to each other. When they marry, it is till death do them part.” She wonders why it is not the same for everyone else. “When I marry, I say vows. I mean what I say. I expect my husband mean what he say – in sickness, in health, till death do us part.”

Peg now be losing her second husband, willingly. Her Dad and her Ma both go their separate ways. Betty is her Dad’s girlfriend. Peg’s Ma is going to marry again. What am I to think of this? Perhaps, it is not my place to wonder. I can hear my children someday asking: ‘Why do I have so many grandmas and grandpas?’”

“I don’t want to have to answer that question.” She says.

 

“I am home.” Ted announces when he comes in the door. “I’ve got good news,” he says as he tosses his hat over the hat rack; it spins on the hook, but stays.  “Nellie, I got a new job.”

 

“You do?” She asks.

 

“I do.” He answers. “You’ll be proud to know I’ll be driving the line.”

 

“The Line?” She asks.

 

“The streetcar line,” he adds. “It pays better than I am getting laying bricks. And it is much easier on my back.” He stands back a ways so Nellie can get a full view and then asks, “How you like my uniform?”

 

“You’re looking good,” Peg answers.

 

“Not bad at all,” Betty adds.

 

“Be proud, son,” his Dad says.

 

“The uniform looks good on ya. Ya gots ya own change handler too. I likes ya cap ya throws over there,” Nellie says. “You’re a handsome man, Terry,” She adds. “Just don’t let dat comment go to ya head.”

 

This job has promise. It is steady; that is very important, especially if you have children. There are too many layoffs in other jobs. You don’t see so many layoffs in public transportation. People rely on public transportation when they cannot afford to keep up a car and its expenses.

 

Other things are weighing heavy on Nellie’s mind right now. She thinks she is again pregnant. George (Dickie) is going on seven months; having another baby so soon after his birth is not the best thing for Nellie; her body has yet to heal from the first.  As a family, they are just getting their feet on the ground. Terry’s new job will help a lot with the upcoming extra expenses, if her suspicions turn out to be correct. She can’t share her thoughts until she is for sure.

 

Nellie cooks dinner for everyone; they share a meal. And then the company excuse themselves. Granddad and Betty stay at Peg and Don’s for the night; they will be back on the road in the morning. They are heading in the same direction as Don; they decide to caravan their trip to help each other out if need be. They leave to go to Peg and Don’s first . Peg says, “I will follow shortly. First, I have some news I must share with Nellie and Terry.”

 

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Peg says, ”I’ll be breaking up housekeeping for a while. I’ll be bringing over some things I can’t carry with me”. She says, “I’ll be getting down to one or two suitcases. I took a job with Greyhound.” She explains, “I pass the driving test. I’ll be driving their big Greyhound bus across the U.S.A. I am so excited.” 

 

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“When I am on this side of the country, I will be dropping in to visit,” she says. “I’ll bring over what furniture we have. You can use some,” she adds. “I’ll send some pictures of me in my uniform when I am on the road.” She reaches over and gives Nellie a hug and kisses Dickie on the cheek, “See you brother,’’ she says to Terry. “Goodbye.”

 

Peg spends a day moving over her excess for Nellie to use. She makes it down to the two suitcases. She will be taking those with her on the bus. She leaves her car at their house. Peg hands Nellie the keys telling her, “You can use my car at your discretion, but I get it back when I come to visit.”

 

“Okay.” Nellie answers.

 

A few weeks pass. The mailman drops a letter through the letter slot on the front door. It is from Peg. Nellie rushes to open it. She didn’t send a letter, just a few pictures.

 

 

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(Peg on the road with Greyhound)

 

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(Peg on the road with Greyhound)

She is looking good.

 

In the meantime, Terry starts a spending spree. Instead of buying groceries and paying some household expenses with his first new paycheck, he splurges and rewards himself with a complete set of expensive golf clubs, bag, and all the little extra things that look good but you don’t really need.

 

The game itself is expensive to play if you do not earn that much. And the expense of the game takes away from the family expenses which by all rights should take priority. Terry doesn’t think that way. In Terry’s mind, he comes first. Nellies must make do and do her best with what is left. Golfing is his avenue of escape; his only pleasure. After all, he stops drinking. He leaves other women alone. He likes to let Nellie believe he is doing this on his own. But in actuality, he doesn’t want to go to jail as the Judge promises him he will do if he does not straighten up and fly straight (if you know what I mean). He figures if he spends one day a week on golfing that will be okay. Nellie knows how to pinch the pennies. She can make do with what she is given; she always has. Now is no different. That is what Terry tells himself. That is the way Terry thinks.

 

A letter came from Don. He makes it back to Texas okay. He finds his old girlfriend. He sends his love and a picture of him and his girl.

He says to be sure and tells Peg, “As soon as the divorce is final, I am marrying her and we are going to start making us a family. If Peg’s Greyhound bus ever comes up this way and lays over, tell her to be sure and stop and visit, if she can.”

 

 

 

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(Don and his soon to be wife)

Tales of Mom (11): The Good News and the Bad News

By Trudy A. Martinez

Peg meets Don outside when he gets off work. She tells him what is transpiring. And she tells him, “Nellie is pregnant with her first baby.”

Instead of allowing her to finish her ranting, Don butts in. saying, “Terry has a warrant out for his arrest”. Don takes a deep breath and then continues, “He did not spend the night at the camp; he took off.” Again he takes a deep breath, “He didn’t leave alone.” He hesitates momentarily. “He was with a 16 years old girl,” he blurts out quickly. “They left for parts unknown according to camp officials”, he explains.

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“Her daddy has his gun in hand, thinking there is going to be a shotgun wedding. If her daddy catches up with Terry before the sheriff,” Don says rubbing his chin, “You may be planning a funeral.” Don says under his breath, “I pray he does not kill him.”

Don and Peg decide: Don will go out looking for Terry. When he finds him, he will contact Peg. They pay the rent for the month. And they shop for groceries, purchasing plenty of food to stock them for the month. Then, he says, “We can decide what to do next when that time comes.”

Don sets out in Peg’s car the next morning, leaving the convertible for the women, as it is more comfortable.

Weeks go by without word. They work some when work is available. Nellie and Peggy decide to take a walk down to the river. Peggy looks around. They are alone. She decides to live dangerously. She strips down to her underwear. “Come on Nellie; join me in the water, “Peggy says.

“I don’ts want to drown!” Nellie exclaims.

“Come on! You won’t drown,” Peg reassures her.

Nellie shakes her head no and tells her, “No! I don’ts swim.”

Peggy jumps in. “Come on Nellie, it is not deep. Join me.”

“No!” Nellie replies firmly.

Nellie remembers when Pa tries to teach her to swim. It still terrifies her when she thinks of it. Pa picks her up and throws her in the river just as he does with all the others kids. He says, “Kick your feet and paddle your arms. That will keep you afloat.”

Nevertheless Nellie goes under. She panics. She does not kick. She does not paddle. She sinks to the bottom. Nellie allows fear to get the best of her and does not do as she is told.

Pa screams at her, “Kick, paddle!” All the while, Pa is taking off his clothes. Then he jumps in to save her. Since then, Nellie panics at the mere sight of water.

Peggy splashes the water up on the bank where Nellie is sitting. She screams and jumps up. “Don’t”, she cries out. “I am scared of da wat’r!”

In the meantime, Don catches up with Terry in San Diego. He is working at the shipyards. He tries to join the service, but does not pass the physical. They rate him a 4F, meaning he is not fit for duty. The young girl is with him.

Don says to Terry as soon as he can get him alone, “There is a warrant out for your arrest.” He adds,”Don’t you have a lick of sense, man?” Don tells him, “It can be quite serious since you crossed the state line with her.” He adds, “You need to lose her! Now! Put her on a bus heading back to her father,” he tells him. “You’re crazy to keep her with you anymore.”

Terry ignores Don’s pleas.

“You are a married man, Terry. You are not single! You cannot marry her. Besides,” he adds, “Her daddy’s going to kill you. Ditch her. Cut your losses, before you are arrested.”

Terry ignores him.

When the girl comes in the room, she starts hanging all over Terry.

Don stands up to leave, telling him, “I will see you later. Think about what I said, Terry”.

Don finds a phone and calls the property owner back where the girls are staying and leaves a message for Peggy to call him back at the payphone at 7:00 o’clock; he will be waiting for her call.

When Peggy calls back, he tells her where they are and that the girl is still here with Terry and that he will be working on getting the girl on a bus heading back to her father.

“In the meantime, Peggy, you and Nellie pack up and head out here,” he says. “Call me every night at 7:00 o’clock to let me know where you are. I love you and take care with your driving.”

Peggy and Nellie set out in Don’s car.

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(This is a picture of Don’s car. Nellie is sitting in the front. That is Don. The picture is taken before this trip they are on now.)

When they leave, the top is down, allowing the heat from the sun’s rays to warm their bodies. Later however, a chilly breeze comes up, requiring them to halt to keep from freezing. Both Nellie and Peggy try to get the top up, but, the top will not budge. They lack the strength to force it. Anxious as they are to reach their destination, they decide to continue driving all night, if need be, regardless of the weather.

To keep warm, they retrieve Nellie’s quilts from the trunk. Laying one quilt over their lap and wrapping another around their head and shoulders like a cape, they continue on their way.

The highlight of their trip takes place outside of San Diego on a hill or mountain with an elevation of 6,000 ft. It is freezing cold. It is Middle-of-the-night. The automobile brakes go out. Peg (as stubborn as she is) is determined to make it down that hill, brakes or not.

Therefore, she takes the remainder of Nellie’s quilts and throws them over Nellie’s head. Peggy says, “Keep your head down!” Then, Peggy takes off down the mountain without any brakes.

At the bottom of the hill, Peggy pulls into a gas station for brake fluid and directions to the address Don gave her.

The attendant tells her,” it is going to take more than just fluid, Miss. There is a bad leak. The liquid is just going right through.” He wipes his greasy hands on a rag. Then he continues, “I will not be able to get a new hose line until morning after the parts house opens.” He points to the motel, “I recommend you stay at the motel next door until then.”

Peg and Nellie grab their luggage out of the automobile. “See you tomorrow then,” Peg says.

They walk to the motel. They check in. They rent one room, one bed which they will share. They hit the rack, exhausted.

The next morning after a cup of coffee, they check on the repair of the automobile. “Your automobile is ready,” the attendant reports.

“Thank you,” Peg says. “I really appreciate your quick work on my vehicle. We really need to get moving.” They pay for the repairs. And with the directions in hand, they hit the road again. It is not far to their destination.

Don is sitting on the stoop drinking his morning coffee when they drive up. “Have you had breakfast?” He asks.

“No, we have not yet eaten,” Peggy answers.

Nellie shakes her head to the left and right.

“There is a nice café just around the corner,” Don says. “Wait here, I’ll grab my wallet and treat you to a nice hot breakfast.” Don goes inside.

Don tells Terry, “The girls are here.” He grabs his wallet and hat. “Now,” he says, “Take that girl to the bus station as soon as I leave with Peggy and Nellie.”

“Okay!” Terry exclaims. “She’ll be out of here when you get back.”

The girl puts up a fight and insists she is not leaving. Terry gets her bags, picks her up, and takes her to the bus station and leaves. He arrives back at the apartment shortly before the others return from breakfast.

Within an hour after Nellie and Peggy arrive back at the apartment, there is a knock on the door. Don answers the door. “Is Terry here?” A police officer asks.

“Whose there?” Peggy calls out to Don who had gone to answer the door.

“It is the police. They are looking for Terry. They are here to arrest him”, Don says, “The police have a warrant. Peggy, tell your brother to get his rear-end out here.”

“Okay, will do.” Peggy goes to the bedroom where Terry is laying down. “Get your lazy butt up”, she says, “You’ve got visitors that insist on seeing you now”! She exclaims.

When Terry comes out, the police arrest him on the spot, handcuff him and place him in the back seat of the police car.

Terry learns the girl called her father from the bus depot, telling him Terry’s whereabouts. Her father notifies the police of Terry’s location. Charges are filed. Consequently, the San Diego Police Department issues a warrant for Terry’s arrest.

Nellie and Peggy go to Terry’s arraignment. After hearing Terry’s statement and seeing Nellie’s condition, the Judge makes a decision to release Terry into Nellie’s custody.

The Judge says to Nellie, “If this man so much as looks at another woman, Nellie, you are ordered to contact me personally. Do you understand?” He says.

Nellie Nods.

“He will go to jail quicker than you can snap your fingers. This is the condition for his release to you.” The Judge says, “He is to tow the mark. Do you understand?” He again asks Nellie.

Nellie answers, “Yes.”

“Nellie, you are to tie him to your apron strings. He is to do his duty as a husband and father or he will spend the next 5 to 10 years in jail. Do you understand, Terry?” The Judge stares at Terry.

Terry hangs his head down, Lifts it back up and replies, “Yes, Your Honor, I understand and will abide by your ruling.”

The Judge hit his gavel and exclaims, “Next case!”

Tales of Mom (3): The Farm, the Chores, and Ma

By Trudy A. Martinez

When the rooster crows: “Cock-k-doodle-do Cock-k-doodle-do”. It is time to get up; it is time to dress; it is time for work. On the farm, the rooster is the alarm clock; it crows every morning at the crack of dawn just as the sun peeps over the horizon. Nellie normally doesn’t get up at this time, but now she is helping Ma; things are changing.

“Nellie, Nellie, get ya up. We gots’ work to do.” Ma calls out. She reaches over to Nellie lying in bed and shakes her slightly. “Nellie, Nellie, the cows are a waiting for us to milk ‘em.” Holding her finger to her lips Ma, whispers, “Sh-h, be quiet. Don’t want to wake everyone else.”

There is no time to dawdle. There is a lot to do around a farm, especially when there are so many children. Ma plans to teach Nellie to perform her new duties just as she taught her to do the chore of feeding the chickens and gathering their eggs when she was younger. She feels Nellie will learn quickly; her duties will be rewarding and challenging for her. It will be like going to school to be a homemaker. When you like what you do, it doesn’t seem like work, Ma feels learning to care for the farm animals will be fun for her.

“Ok, Ma. I’s comin’.” Nellie quickly rises from her bed, slips on her dress, and follows Ma to the barn.

The barn is behind the house. It isn’t a huge barn. It’s just big enough for one horse, and two cows, and Pa’s workshop. It never had a lick of paint. Its color can only be described as a weathered grey.

The pig’s pen is just to the left of the barn. There are two hogs (one male and one female) plus a dozen little, baby piglets in the pen. To the right of the barn, next to two huge pecan trees, is the chicken pen. Normally, the first thing Nellie does when she gets up is head to the chicken pen to feed the chickens. While they peck at the ground for the feed, she takes her basket and gathers the eggs for the breakfast meal. If there is an abundance of eggs, she puts them in another basket for sale.

This morning the chickens wait; they are no longer first on Nellie’s schedule. The cows come first now. Milking the cows is the reason Ma and Nellie rise early. The cows come first. And they come last.

Ma explains, “it is important Bitsy and Gertie get relieved of their milk first before we do the other chores ‘cause they get irritable if they has to wait.” Ma smiles and says, “Bout the same time every mornin’ and every evenin’ be milkin’ time. There is a special way to milk the cows.” She says as they open the barn door.

Ma walks over and grabs her milking stool and sits down next to Bitsy. She pats Bitsy gently and speaks softly to her, “It’s Okay, girl. It’s Okay”. She repeats calming her, and introducing her to Nellie.

“Come on, Nellie, you touch her. Her hide is soft; the hair part is a little prickly, not so much like humans.“ She tells, Nellie.

Ma talks to that cow just like she is talking to a person. “Okay, Bitsy, here we go. You be nice to Nellie when it’s her turn to try. ” She lays her head forward against the side of Bitsy’s body, reaches down and grabs the teats and milks her.

And the cow answers, “Moo, moo.”

“Pa be makin’ ya a stool just like mine. That way we both can milk at the same time. He be getting another pail too when he be in town, Nellie. Won’t that be nice?”

Nellie replies, “Um.”

It is exciting for Nellie learning to make things; it gives her a sense of accomplishment. Ma let her make butter this morning after milking the cows. She helps mom skim the cream from the top of the bucket. Then they put the skim cream in the churn,  “Just use quick up and down motions with the churning stick; it be thicken into butter in no time.”

A quick lesson on how to operate the hand churn and Nellie is making butter.

The cows give milk twice a day, once at the break of dawn and then again at early evening. Filling the bottles with milk after two pitchers full are set aside for the family for breakfast is Nellie’s job now. She makes ready for delivery to neighbors in need the milk in the bottles. Not everyone has a cow. Nor do they have laying chickens for that matter. Eggs are also put in baskets for delivery.

Immediately after breakfast, Nellie delivers milk, eggs, and butter to the neighbors who are in need. And she retrieves the empties (bottles and baskets) from the customer. She will wash and sterilize the bottles before they are used again.

Nellie ran out while Ma was fixing breakfast and fed the chickens and collected the eggs. She enjoys the labor at the farm. After breakfast will be time to slop the pigs. The pigs get all the meal scraps mixed in with their feed; they eat just about anything. Then it will be time to care for the garden. Ma has the garden set up right next to the water well, making it easier to care for the plants and watering.

There is never a dull day on the farm, especially this one. There is always some project in progress depending on the time of year or another baby on the way.

When Ma has the baby boy, there is no keeping Nellie away from him. She cares for him as if he is her own. After Ma feeds him, she cradles him in her arms, burps him, swaying back and forth, as she hums a lullaby until he falls asleep.

Nellie harvests the Pecans in the fall; the twins are her little helpers by then and Nellie uses them to help pick up the pecans on the ground and she enlists their help in other projects too. In early spring (after the fear of frost), they assist Nellie in planting the new garden. To a child everything is wonderful; they enjoy learning and exploring, and digging.

In late summer, it is planting time again for some cool weather plants. Time passes quickly when you are busy and enjoying what you do.

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Nellie is growing into a good looking little lady. Pa snaps this picture of her before church one Sunday. School doesn’t teach you how to sew and do the things that you do on a family farm. Nellie makes the dress she is wearing all by herself. Ma is proud of her; and it pleases her to see Nellie doing things for herself and it pleases her to see such good results of her sewing adventure.

Yes, sewing can be an adventure. There are so many things you can make at only a fraction of the cost of purchasing an already complete item. If you make a mistake, you have to rip it out and re-sew it. Sounds dull, but that’s not necessarily so. It is less expensive than purchasing an item from the store already finished; usually, you can only afford one finished item a year (if you are fortunate enough to have money for that purpose). If you save enough flour, sugar, or grain sacks, there is no cost, except your time.  On the farm, nothing goes to waste.

And taking care of the twins is rewarding. They grow fast. Nellie makes the twins dresses too. Sometimes it is difficult finding enough flour sacks with the same pattern on them. When she can, the twins get new matching dresses and Nellie sews them. And Nellie gets rewards of kisses and hugs for all her efforts.

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Nellie relinquished the chore of feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs to the twins. They enjoy the adventure each morning. They love playing with the little chickens when they hatch from the fertile eggs. Dog keeps his eyes open and watches them play with the baby chickens. I think he is jealous of the attention they give to the other animals at the farm. Dog thinks he should be the one getting all the attention.

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You may say, “A Nellie needs friends”. But she has the best friends possible because her friends are family too. Nellie’s friends (in addition to her siblings) are her cousins. Besides, the other type of friend comes and goes. Family is forever her own and she can rely on them for help when she needs it.

When Ma has the other two boys, she happily takes over the caring for them too.

As years pass by, both Ma and Pa agree she does her duty by them, and now that the children have aged, it is time for Nellie to seek a life of her own.

 

 

Tales of Mom 8

 

Heartthrob, Red, Pa, and the stranger

 

Meanwhile, the times get hard. To supplement the family income, Pa takes a side job; and he supplies his employer with some items fresh from the farm.

Nellie use to walk the eggs to the market each week for him. Now Pa walks to town every afternoon (except Sunday) to do some clerking for Gidby at the Country store. He supplies him with fresh eggs, fresh churned butter, and milk daily.

Red, Pa’s pet hen (who by the way, is the color red and thinks Pa, is his Ma) follows, stopping occasionally to peck at the ground. If Pa gets too far ahead of her, she makes a racket, as if to order Pa to “Wait up.” Then she dashes as fast as she can to catch up, kicking up the dust as she goes.

Similarly, the horse, who Pa calls Heartthrob, starts following them (Pa and Red) around the farm; he walks close to the fence line as far as he can and then stands watching Pa and Red disappear upon the horizon each afternoon.

Mysteriously, Heartthrob knows when it is time for Pa and Red to return. Making his way back to the same spot, he stands waiting when they come across the hilly crest. One night he seems agitated. As Pa and Red start down the slope, he whinnies, snorts, and kicks up the dust when he sees them.

“What is the matter with you?” Pa calls out.

Red starts clucking.

Heartthrob stands on his hind legs, whinnies, and then runs in circles, shaking his head, snorting, and kicking up the dust.

“Get your hands up,” a rough, unshaven, dirty looking stranger yells.

Pa either does not hear him or pretends not to hear.

The stranger repeats himself. “Get them up I said.”

Before Pa gets a chance to respond, Heartthrob jumps the fence and knocks the gun from the man’s hand just as he is fixing to shoot.

The man falls to the ground, landing right next to Red, startling her. Feathers fly and dust fills the air when the stranger reaches for the gun lying next to her. Red is “Clucking. Clucking and clucking”

Heartthrob stomps on the stranger, attempting to protect his new friend, Red.

“Whoa, boy,” Pa says, trying to calm Heartthrob down  when he sees him attacking the man.

Pa did not fear the man as you might think; instead, he believes like Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

With one exception above all else, Pa says, “Fear the Lord God, the Almighty.”

Thinking the stranger is having ‘hard times.’ Pa is about to ask the man to the farm to comfort and feed. Hoover makes our responsibility as citizens clear during his presidency, saying it is the people’s responsibility to help and feed each other when the need is there; this declaration does not change things at our farm; we always feed and care for strangers willing to work. According to Pa, those who are not willing to work deserve to starve.

After the harvest of the potatoes, Pa digs a huge hole close to the house. He then puts the potato harvest in the hole and covers the hole to keep them cool. As long as we are careful not to disclose where we store our winter supplies, there will be enough to feed us till spring. That means it is important not to be seen removing items from the different storage places of the various crops we harvest.

The farm produces most of what we need. There are two cows in the barn, two hogs, a bunch of piglets in the pigpen, a roaster and three dozen or more chickens are in the henhouse and just as many in the chicken pen. There is corn, pecans, walnuts, tomatoes, herbs, onions, rhubarb, potatoes, apples, figs, and other fruits and vegetables growing for family consumption on the farm. It is a lot of work trying to keep the crops growing and preparing for the winter.

The scarecrows may keep the birds out of the crops, but they do not keep out desperate people. When desperate people are not willing to work it is not our problem. Pa caught a man digging into our hole one night; he is now in jail. If a man asks for food in exchange for work, Pa helps him out by giving him work, food, and shelter for the night. However, the man Pa caught tries to steal it. He never thinks of the consequence of his own action. Or he never thinks how his actions affect us or himself either. This is a different story.

People blame Hoover for the hard times. Pa says this is why he lost the election to Roosevelt. Nevertheless, even after Roosevelt takes office, times get even worse. Why, even Nellie returns home after the Mill closes.

Terry on the other hand, set out for parts unknown, looking for work. Perhaps, he is like this stranger, hungry, and desperate. Pa says the government had a hand in making the ‘hard times’ harder—had something to do with foreign countries.

However, this strange man (who Heartthrob and Red attack) has no knowledge of the political ramifications; to him, it is a matter of survival, his survival.

Consequently, Pa invites the man to the farmhouse to eat and offers to let him sleep in the barn in exchange for helping out a bit on the farm with some work Pa needs help with and needs to complete before the hard winter sets in..

Conversely, the man chooses not to because the next thing he does is take advantage of the opportunity to regain his footing when the occasion presents itself while Pa is calming Heartthrob. Forgetting his gun lying on the ground, the stranger starts running and yelling, “Your horse is nuts, Mister. He nuts”!

Since then,  Heartthrob walks with Pa and Red to and from town, warning them of impending danger.

Tales of Mom 7

 

The Meeting

By Trudy A. Martinez

The next night Terry waits; he arrives early at the set meeting place. Nine O’clock comes and goes, but no Nellie Mae. All the while he is thinking, “She’ll be here any minute.” Occasionally, he pulls out his pocket watch, flips it open to check the time, and tells himself, “In a minute, she’ll be here, in a minute.”

After a while, he gets out of the automobile and walks around, pacing back and forth. He is so certain she will come. In his mind he imagines reasons for her delay, “Her daddy must be up late dealing with a household problem; or he’s preparing for Sunday’s sermon.” When the cock crows and the sun hit the horizon, he knows his wait is over. He is wrong. Nellie isn’t coming. He waited all night, hoping. He hangs his head down in disappointment, his tiredness overwhelms him, and he dozes off to sleep right there in his automobile just below the hilly crest.

A few hours pass. Terry awakes suddenly.

“I ‘m a man of my word,” Terry tells himself. “I’m going to see her daddy.” He declares,” I don’t just want to court her; I want her for my wife”.

Nellie is at the mill working when Terry came a calling on Pa without her knowledge. Pa is not too happy about the matter, especially since he immediately asks, “May I have Nellie Mae’s hand in marriage.”

Terry’s request comes as a complete surprise. There has been no courting. And Pa knowing Terry’s reputation and all doesn’t help matters.

Pa tells Terry, “I’ll need to get back to you, Terry, on this matter. I just won’t give you an answer one way or the other until I speak with everyone this might affect. And frankly, I just don’t believe you are worthy of my daughter’s hand.”

Terry leaves, thanking him for his consideration.

The whole matter just doesn’t sit well with Pa.

Ma, on the other hand, (remembering five or six years back what happens with Nellie’s friend who had all the prospects of becoming a beau and marrying her), feels a notion to defend her worthiness rather than “bad mouthing” her suitor.

“So she don’t talk proper—most of the time not at all”, Ma says, “She do well with everything else; she cooks, she sews; she be thriftier than most. She do well ‘round here. Don’t she Pa?”

Pa says nothing. Every time he looks, as if he is about to open his mouth to speak, Ma adds a little reinforcement to her argument.

“She knows how to care for the youngins,” she says, shaking a finger at him. “She practically raises them three boys on her own.”

Glancing over at Pa, she seeks acknowledgment, “Ain’t that right, Pa?” She asks.

“Of course it is—you know it too”, she answers for him. “She be up every mornin’ before the cock crows milking old bitsy.”

Pa, (thinking she might reconsider her approach if she thinks about how Nellie’s marrying will affect her) asks quickly before Ma has a chance to take a breath and start in again, “What are you going to do without her, Ma?”

“I—be missing Nellie —that for sure.” Leaning over close to Pa’s ear she suggests, “This boy wantin’ her. He’s wantin’ to help Nellie talk too. We cannot let him slip away. We got to be doing right by her, Pa. She be twenty-two in December”.

After pausing for a moment to gather her thoughts, she starts in again, reminding him of past mistakes they make.

“If you ask me that question: “What are you going to do without her?” Before you scare the poor little Griffin boy, Earl, away, Nellie be married now with youngins of her own. We never see him no more, not even on Sundays.”

Neither considers Nellie’s feelings on the subject, but they decide amongst themselves to let Nellie decide for herself.

Ma tells Nellie when she returns home from the Mill, “Terry came by to see Pa, asking permission to courts ya, Nellie. How ya feel about it? Does ya want be courted, Nellie?

Nellie nods.

“Then Pa be telling him it’ll be okay for him be courting ya.”

As soon as Terry gets the news, he is at the door. Nellie no longer walks to the Mill every day (except Sunday). Instead, Terry picks Nellie up and drives her there in his automobile; he returns her home in the evening. On Sunday’s Terry accompanies Nellie to her Pa’s church. It is a regular routine until (after a short engagement) Terry pops the question. Nellie accepts. And they both run off and elope; they marry.

 

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(Nellie Mae and Terry Charles on their wedding day)

 

They set up housekeeping nearby. Nellie continues to work at the mill. Terry encourages and instructs Nellie on her speech. They are a beautiful looking couple. Nellie is truly a beautiful woman.

 

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(Nellie made this outfit. She now dresses to please her husband)

Ma and Pa accept the marriage and pray everything will go well with them. Knowing Nellie received the right spiritual training, they feel she will seek the Lord’s guidance in her life as time goes by.

Tales of Mom 6

 

The Apple

By Trudy A. Martinez

As Nellie reaches the top of the hilly crest, she stops and glances back at Terry’s automobile moving down the road. Her mind wanders, as she cuts through the pasture, until she comes across Pa’s horse, Heartthrob. She remembers standing nearby watching her Pa jaw his tobacco, when a church member came by with a horse. “This horse has an ailing leg,” he said. “I can’t make use of him, neither can I put him out of his misery, just don’t have the heart for it. Would you care to take him?” He asked.

Pa nods in the affirmative, takes a few more chews on his tobacco, lends over to the right slightly, and spits, before he properly thanks the man. “Much oblige,” he says, thanking the man. “Appreciate you’ll thinking of me instead of putting him down.” Pa is known for his ability to work miracles (so they say) on such creatures. Animals take to Pa.

After the man leaves, Pa mixes up a remedy, plasters it on Heartthrob, and wraps it snuggly the horse leg, and sets him out to pasture. Before too long, the horse is doing much better; and the mare who shares the pasture with him is with foal.

Next to the pasture stands an old apple tree; this tree holds special memories and a special secret. When the family first moves from Sherman to the Denison farm, the huge apple tree is dying.  It has only one live limb. The rest of the tree looks desolate, and appears nearly dead. On the last remaining branch, there is one large red apple (not quite ripe) hanging for everyone to see.

Papa tells all us youngins, “Do not touch that apple;” he points to it and reiterates, “That apple is mine!”

There is no arguing with Papa; what he says is law. He is a kind man, but he is also a stern man. When Papa lays down the law, you know he means business and you better stay on the narrow path and do right by him.

The secret of the dying tree embraces and haunts Nellie Mae from time to time. Her mind rehashes the temptations wearing her down.  “I could resist, Lord. I just could resist. Try as I may, I could not resist; it was so red; I was so hungry.”

The echo of Papa’s voice telling her ”do not touch that apple” rings in her ear as she plans and as she climbs the tree anyways.  “I got the apple, Lord.  I sat under the dying tree, Lord.  And I ate that apple, the same one my Papa forbade me to eat.   It was the best.  It was juicy.  Never had I tasted an apple so sweet. Forgive me Lord.”

Papa asks, ‘Who ate my apple?’

He never asks directly. “Nellie did you eat my apple?”

Nellie Mae says as she rehashes the memories of her failing. “Someday I’ll tell Pa, someday, but not today.”

Heartthrob takes the blame by default for the missing apple. He is the right height to reach up and grab it. Nellie buries her shame and her actions deep in her memory telling herself, “Someday, someday, but not today.”