where the writers are
Stunned from the Past

Some people are down right mean, I don't care if they are your relatives! Then there were my other grandmothers, such as Tiny Grandma, my mother’s grandmother. She was also meaner than a snake, even if she was in a wheelchair! You dare not hand her your baby or she’d pinch

them, just to make them cry!

There was also Big Grandma. She was sweet and kind; my mother’s fathers mother. The kind of grandma you can snuggle up with. I have very old letters written about her side of the family. One in particular depicts how kind and giving she was. Great Aunt Betsy, which also happened to be my Great Grandmothers nickname had the same names, Annie Elizabeth. I can only remember seeing each of them once, so it must have been a family gathering of some sorts or one of the weekends that my mother and father had me and we were visiting my mother’s family.

I can remember four such family gatherings on my mother’s side of the family from my early childhood; when my youngest uncle graduated high school, when he got married, when he returned from Vietnam and when my mother’s father died.

He had worked in a large lumber mill for years and somewhere along the way a huge wooden beam fell and hit him at the base of the back of his skull and neck. Everyone claimed that it caused the heart attack. I have no way of knowing what caused it; all I do

Men standing in lumber yard. Ozark Lumber Co. ...

know is it was rather strange. He had stretched out in front of the fireplace in the front

room, what most people would call a living room. We thought he was sleeping with his hands across his chest. His hands and arms slowly rose slightly above his chest and they stayed that way. After a while of his not moving, someone, I don’t recall which relative, probably one of the boys, went in to check on him and he had died that way. They said it was a heart attack. He also died in the fall of the year.

My brother’s heart was broken. I don’t recall anything about the funeral. I was probably tucked out-of-the-way or left in the care of some relative with some of the other younger children as my brother and I were the oldest of all the grandchildren.

There are some things that I do remember about the old house and Heaven. The hall way down the center of the house was so narrow that we would put our feet and hands up against each side and climb up the walls until we could touch the ceiling. The walls were made of wood, so there was no need to worry about them caving in, but if we got caught, we were really in trouble. There was also a huge cedar tree off the back corner of the house we called “the chicken tree” because this is where all the chickens on the place would roost. A huge old oak tree sat out behind the house that we loved to climb. We would build a fire down in the pit of it and roast potatoes if someone would give us some.

We got our water from an artesian well. The water was always as cold as ice and flowed freely up out of the pipe until somebody capped it and then we could use the pump handle. One of the things we had, that most people probably didn’t, was a two seat out house! No

Keota, CO outhouse

kidding. The Sears and Roebuck catalog or torn up newspaper was always nearby and then we were really uptown when we’d get toilet paper, but two seats; that was something!

Across the road stood the Heaven grocery store and gas; this is where we were sent to get more Prince Albert in the can and cigarette papers, or whatever little something was needed until they could make it to Savannah to go shopping at the Bargain Corner; that was the really big grocery store! Every now and then, someone would give us a few extra pennies so that we could get us some penny candy. Back then it seemed so far across the road and now I realize it was probably no more than a hundred yards at most.

Looking to the left of the old house stood and open field. I don’t recall how it happened, but my brother loved to play with fire and one day he caught the field on fire. Luckily, no one was hurt and it burned itself out, but you just never knew what he was going to do next. No, I didn’t have to tell, there were plenty of other witnesses that day.

During the winter when it got really cold, his grandmother would make an icicle tree. She would leave the water sprinkler on a bush all night and the water would freeze. It was absolutely beautiful the way the branches would bend over the weight and down to the ground. The bush was so tall and we were so small, that it looked like a crystal palace and we could actually walk around through and in and out of it.

It was during one of these times that my brother had received a BB gun as a gift, but the rules were that he had to eat anything he killed. My mother actually would cook the birds and squirrels; we ate a lot of squirrels anyway, so these were nothing unusual. But this time it was just wrong.

There was a beautiful red bird; I believe it was a cardinal, sitting in the icicle tree. It was so pretty. My brother saw it, aimed and killed it. I yelled, “No!” and ran to the bird, picking it up. I was so saddened as my tears fell on to the bird and the ice. It was so beautiful and now it lay limp and dead in my hands. While bending down to pick up the

michel_bb_gun

bird, my brother shot me in the behind with the BB gun. I jumped, dropped the bird and turned around. It hurt! He still had the BB gun pointed at me. He told me to leave his bird alone.

Through tears, I yelled, “You shot me!” “I did not and you know what will happen if you tell,” as he walked over and jerked the bird from my hands. He jerked the head off and started cleaning it in front of me.

My mother cooked it and he ate it. She said she called her limitations on frogs and reptiles. He killed them too; he just never brought them home for our mother to cook.

Years later it would come out about him shooting me in the behind and everyone would think it was funny. They weren’t on the receiving end, nor did they know the rest of the story.