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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Catalpa Trees, Clothesline, and Muscovy Ducks

Now what do all three of these have in common?  Oh, I know!  There were all an integral part of life at 709 Strong Street.  They are also things we do not see much any more.  For instance, the clothesline.  Back in the day it was used at very least once a week.  The clothes were washed in a washing machine with an agitator.  Whites were first.  The hot soapy water was wrung out through a wringer and the clothes went into rinse water tub number 1.  The second rinse contained a drop or two of "bluing".  Now the bluing was a very important addition as it gave the whites a bare hint of blue which actually made them appear more white!  This was important in case anyone saw your clothes hanging on the line.  If the whites were not white you were going to be discussed around the supper table that night!

The wash water was always one degree below boiling when the wash was started.  After the whites came out, the light clothes were put in and that was followed by towels and such which was followed by darks.  The last load of clothes were dad's overalls.  If there was any water left at that point we could throw in blankets or rugs.

As each load came through and ended up in the basket, it was taken out to the clothesline and hung to dry.  There were more rules to the hanging of the clothes then even I can recall.  Underwear were to be hung by the waistband with the crotch facing any direction except the road as a pervert might see them and loose control!  If the said underwear had a hole, the item must be folded so the neighbors could not see it and know we were poor.  Shirts, blouses and overalls were hung by the bottom.  Dish towels were never hung by clothes.  Baby clothes were washed and hung very first as babies were delicate.

When the washing was all done, the drain hose was called into action and buckets of dirty water were then lugged to the back yard and dumped in an area that was designated as "the water dumping area."  This is when the Muscovy Ducks were in high heaven.  I do not know if you have ever seen a Muscovy Duck, but they are nasty.  They are usually white and black with a green sheen to the black.  The males are huge with a neck as big as my arm and the females are very small.  I seen them breeding one time which was enough for me.  That was nasty and I am not sure my perception of the Muscovy is not influenced by that experience.

Any way, they would get in the muddy water and root around with thier beaks, seeking God only knows what and that made them very dirty and seemed to make them very horny.  As I side note here, they are the only domesticated duck that (to my knowledge) can fly.  They also chatter to each other.  I hated wash day for that very reason.

Our kitchen had a "pitcher pump" and a sink for the washing of dishes and such.  The drain consisted of a pipe out the bottom that made a hard right angle and disappeared through the wall and drained into the back yard.  You guessed it!  Another hang out place for those damned Muscovy Ducks!

Ah, but my solice lay in the front yard.  In the front of the house by the road that ran by stood 2 tall Catalpa trees.  I have noticed in later years it is fashionable to top them short and they then have a ball on top.  Ours were "ala naturale".  They were both the same height and appeared to be twins, but they were vastly different.  The one on the left had lots and lots of little limbs and it was impossible to climb.

But the one on the right was my friend.  It had only smooth branches.  I would get a bucket and stand on it making it possible to reach the first branch.  I would grab it and hoist myself up, throw my right leg over the limb and survey my kingdom below.  From the bottom branch I would grab the next branch on the left side of the tree and work my way up the left side of the tree.  When I reached "my place" I would set on a branch (always the same branch) and be alone in my head.  At this point I was probably 25 - 30 feet off the ground.  I could see down Strong Street and up Strong Street and I could while away the hours dreaming of things and places I would someday see.  I lived a very happy life in my head.  Had I but known where my life would lead me I would have never come down from that tree.

Momma cleaned houses for the ladies in town and most of the time she walked to and from her jobs.  I always looked towards town and when I seen momma coming I would jump down and run to meet her. I do not know what we talked about or even if we did, but I loved my momma and for just a few minutes she was mine alone.  Of course when we reached the house I had to go get the little kids from Ory Ayers's house and momma was no longer mine alone, because those little brats were so needy!

I can close the door on that part of my life, but I can not make it stay shut.  I have heard it said that as we age we revert to our youth.  I do know people with Dementia and Alzheimer's lose short term memory first and I am thinking, maybe that is a good thing.  My childhood will always be my salvation.  It will always be the one place that I feel safe and when I die I hope I go back to Nickerson and Strong Street with my brother, sisters, and momma.

Yep.  That would be heaven!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Do you remember the WCTU? My first encounter was in 1950 ish.

I do not remember the circumstances only that it happened.  Seems like back in the 1940's and 1950's the WCTU was very active.  For those of you who do not recognize the acronym, it stands for Women's Christian Temperance Union.  They campaigned to get rid of alcohol.  Seems like there was a woman named Carrie Nation who went into the bars with an axe and did a lot of damage.  The WCTU was started back in 1874 by a woman named Frances Willard along with another lady named Annie Wittenmyer.  In later years it expanded to include labor laws, prison reform and womens suffrage.  Willard died in 1898.

Having briefly read her history, I am thinking she may have very well been a lesbian way before it was acceptable to be of that persuasion!  That is neither here nor there and has absolutely nothing to do with my journey into the WCTU at the tender age of 9.

What I do recall is that my 5th grade teacher saw potential in my poetry writing at that early age and encouraged me.  Her name was Miss Burgess and she lived with another teacher named Miss Rinehart.  (If memory serves me correctly.)  The WCTU was having a meeting at a church out in the country between Nickerson and Plevna.  I think the area was called Huntsville.  My job was to memorize a poem and recite it for the ladies.

Now back in those days, women were expected to stay home and keep the house and kids and if the husband chose to get roaring drunk and beat the living shit out of them, it was their duty to submit!  That was our mentality then. 

I do not remember the poem, but as I recall it started, "In a castle gray, by a pounding sea, on a cliff where the white gull flew lived a lonely boy and his uncle....."  And it was about a young boy who lived with an alcoholic Uncle as he was an orphan.  I remember it was very sad and troubling and after my recitation (which was perfect) the women were ecstatic and very pleased with my performance.  The poem had been so troubling to  me that I had erased it from my memory and only think about it on occasion.  It seems in the poem the Uncle either threw the boy over the cliff or threw himself over the cliff, thus showing the evils of the demon rum.

I do not recall much about the WCTU, but I do know and probably still have a piece of paper some where that states I am or was an honorary member.  I do recall thinking of that group on occasions when one of my dear sweet husbands was "in his cups" and kicking me around the room leaving me a shattered woman sobbing in a corner.  Those were the good old days!

So why am I thinking of this today?  God only knows.  Most of the time I never recall the bad parts of my life, but it seems that with the climate in our world today and the violence that people exert against each other in the name of race, sexual orientation, poverty, immigration status, and any other reason they can find to hate in  a world that should be filled with peace and love, there is something missing.  Seems like it might be compassion.

But we are all a product of our past, so I have learned to be more compassionate.  I have learned that no matter what I am feeling, I must be tolerant of others because I do not know what demons they are dealing with in their mind.  If we could all just open our eyes and learn, wouldn't the world be a beautiful place?

Some scars stay with us forever and no matter how deep we bury them, they are just a heartbeat away.  Sometimes I just have to retreat and lick my wounds because I know they are there.  Very few of my scars are seen by anyone.  That does not make them any less real.  I thought about volunteering at the battered women's center, but the very thought gives me flashbacks.  How could I look into a face that mirrors my very soul and help?  Isn't that sad?  

Saturday, July 22, 2017

I am not Superwoman.

I woke up this morning at my usual 3:30 and laid in bed reflecting on life as it plays out here on South Road.  I have a dumpster in my back yard and it is about 2/3 full.  I really need to either finish filling it or just call the pickup man and have it taken away.  That is when it dawned on me the reason for my indecision about a lot of things is that I am trying to save everything as well as everybody that I come in contact with in this world. I function best when I make lists and check things off as I go.  So here it is a little after 4:00 AM and this is my black and white list.

1.  I can not save the world.  The world can not save me.
2.  I can not change people.  I can change my perspective of people.

And here my list peters out.  Not doing so good, am I?  #1 is a given.  It is simple and to the point and there is no room for arguement.  I run myself ragged trying to make sure that everyone has a roof over thier head and a belly full of food, but I miss the big picture.  The world exists outside of my little realm. There are more homeless kids then just the few I see at Posada.  There are more immigrants then the few I see at Los Pobres.  And they change.  The ones I saw last year or even last month have moved on and forgotten about me.  New ones have come in their place.  I hope some where something I did or said helped someone, but I have no way of knowing.  So I move on as they have moved on.

Now as to my perspective of people.  I tend to project on people  I deal with the personna I want them to have.  Most of my friends have become my friends and stayed my friends from the first day I met them.  Frank and Clifford have been my friends since I came to this place from Kansas.  I go years without even speaking with them, but they are there and when I need something they are the first to respond.  I like to think I serve some pupose in thier life as well.

My circle of  friends changed from when I first came here and again after I divorced that husband and again after the stint in college and working at Liz's cafe in Bessemer, and another divorce.  I settled into rather a loose routine when I married Kenny.  That was when I began working in the  LGBT  and later in the AIDS venue.  After the loss of Kenny and then Mark the circle of friends morphed into the immigrant and/or the homeless sector.  I did a stint at Hospice and dabbled in the indigenous sector.  Along the way I picked up a (for want of a better word) "boyfriend".

Now what I was thinking on that little trick, I will never know.  I, once again, projected on him what I wanted him to be, which was a fine Christian believer who would not tell a lie and could always be depended on when I needed someone.  As that turned out he seemed to morph into someone I did not even know.  So while that one is dying a slow, painful death, I am re-evaluating and giving serious thought to selling everything in my garage in a yard sale.  I guess, if the people who stored it there, wanted it, they would have it.  Right?

But all that is neither here nor there and has naught to do with my life today.  Since I seem to be the "on call" person for getting donations from point A to point B, I am going to pick up a load of clothes for Sister Nancy and then come home and get out in that tin shed and get to sorting.  One pile is going to be garage sale stuff and the other is going into that dumpster.  Then I am going to start on this house.  I  have 2400 square feet of floor space crammed with stuff  I never used, will never use, and have no idea why in the hell I drug it all in here anyway!  I have 2 floor looms, for godsake!  I have more sewing machines than Singer!  I have boxes of thread for sewing, weaving, knitting, crocheting.  I have boxes and boxes of books for weaving, get the picture?

So there you have my life in a nutshell!  One passing thought.  Years ago I gave a plaque to my first husband.  It read "If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself."
When he died I inherited that plaque.

When next Spring comes, there is going to be a "For Sale" sign up on South Road and there is going to be an empty garage and an empty house here on this little acre.  My little Honda Fit is going to hold everything I need to finish out my days on this big blue ball.  I am trading my purse for a billfold with a debit card.  My dogs are old.  My cat is mean and I keep remembering "He who travels fastest travels light....and alone."

Sunday, July 9, 2017

And the journey began with just one love.

When I was 19 years old, my brother had a friend named Earl Duane Seeger.  I took one look at that man and life was never the same.  As soon as I met him we began dating and 3 months later we were married.
For our first anniversary he gave me a puppy.  I named the puppy Jakie after my brother.  It was a little brown Chihuahua.  At the time we lived in a third floor walk up so potty training was a real challenge.  That dog was a real challenge.  If I left the house without him, he got in the hamper and drug all my dirty clothes out and strung them through the house.  I would take him for walks and he would go wild wanting to get back to the house to pee on the floor. 

He did have redeeming qualities.  He would stand in the middle of the floor and talk to me.  I could never understand what he was saying, but he sure tried!  He even made paw gestures which I never understood either.  But he was a lot of company when Duane was gone.  Not so much company, as work!  Damn dog was into everything.

Duane was a tree trimmer and so we moved around a lot.  The first year of our marriage we lived in 14 different cities in Kansas.  When I learned I was pregnant we were living in a hotel in Toronto, Kansas.  The doctor was located in Yates Center.  When he told me I was pregnant I asked him where the hospital was located and he told me,  "Around these parts folks have their babies at home."  Well, that scared hell out of me and we moved back to Hutchinson where mother lived.  But the best part was there were also hospitals there!

We found an apartment  on Sherman Street.  It was a ground floor apartment with a fenced back yard. There, 2 years into the marriage the inevitable happened and we were blessed with our first little bundle of joy, Debra Louann.  The dog hated her.  He hated that I held her.  Hated that I fed her and we often joked that if we did not watch out he would drag her out the door and bury her in the back yard.  By then we were living on Sherman Street in a ground floor apartment with a fenced back yard.

She was born in February and that spring we decided to "Make the circuit" again.  For some reason we were in Salina, Kansas and it was hot!  I was in the car with Debbie and Jakie.  Duane had gone into the bar to pick up a 6 pack.  When he came out we drove off down the street and did not miss Jake until we had gone a few blocks.  I do not know when he jumped out, just that he was gone.  We drove around and walked around and called him, but we never laid eyes on him again.  I advertised in the lost and found and got nothing.  Jake was gone and that part of our life was over.  I cried for days.

So we were alone with no doggie.  Just Duane, me and Debbie.  It would not stay that way for long.  I set here 55 years later and apparently I survived.  There would be 3 more kids in the next 3 years, a short break and then one more.  There would be lots more pets, but I will always remember Jakie.  There would be lots more husbands, but I will always remember Duane.  He taught me to speak in alpha-alpha.  His name was:   Duansie ka bansie ti alago fainsy; tee legged tie legged bow legged, DUANSIE!  I remember lots of things.  Not sure why, but I do. 

It is funny the things we remember, isn't it?  The good part is that as the years pass, our memories alter just a little bit in our minds.  The gut wrenching memories that threatened to destroy us many years ago become just memories.  Maybe they are factual and maybe they are not, but they are mine.  I have good memories of 75 years of living and some not so good, but they are all mine and they made me who I am today, and for that I thank the God above for every moment it took to make every one of those memories.

See this?  This is the new hydrant I installed early in the spring.  The old one quit working completely .  So we dug down, took out the old one and installed the new one.  Worked perfectly until day before yesterday when the pump went south.  
So now, if I want to water I have to hook a hose onto this spigot on the side of the house.  Not thinking that is going to happen with that spider web down there.  I am scared spitless of spiders so I must decide if I want to spen $500+ to fix the well or touch that web!  Oh, wait a minute.  
What is this just inches from the web?  It is a hornet nest.  Damn the luck.
The choice is becoming very clear.  I am going to call the pump man.  He will come and have me running very quickly and the spider web will be a moot point as will the hornet nest after I spray it in the morning...Live sure does get tedious here on the Mesa on my little acre.  The quiet nights and lazy days are what it is all about after all.

I sometimes think I should sell this place and move into town.  Then I go to town and I hurry home to my little piece of  heaven.  It is secluded and people can not even find the house  when I give them detailed directions.  So here I will stay all by myself until they carry me out feet first. 

Spider webs, hornets, weeds, snakes, centipedes be damned

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Silly me, I thought I was going to have some currants!

Way back on Strong Street we had a row of currant bushes.  As I recall they were green when they set on, then as they grew bigger, the turned red, then maroon and finally black.  When they were black they were "ready" and momma would make them into something.  I really don't remember what, but I do remember the ripening process.  Of course we always had to eat one that was just turning red so we would remember why we didn't eat the red ones.  Then we would eat a maroon one and while it was not sweet it at least did not choke us like the green and red ones did.  As I remember, the bushes had little stickers on them.  I may have forgotten way more than I remember about those damn currants!
See, a couple years back I found currant bushes growing in the wild area behind the house.  I was thrilled beyond words that the birds had planted them their for me, and I anxiously awaited the first black currant.  It did not happen that year.  I got one red one and by the time I quit spitting the birds had eaten the others.
So another year came and more bushes appeared and it became clear that if I wanted a currant I was going to need to sleep on top of the currant bush.  Not wanting to do that, I devised a plan this year that entailed netting, sticks, and and mouth ready for a juicy, black, sweet currant.  Sadly, I missed looking one or two days and when I next checked, it was too late for netting.
Now the plan is that NEXT year, I will be more vigilant.  I will check the bushes every day and I will be rewarded with sweet, black currants.  Wait!  I now recall that I went through this same crap when I remembered the black, juicy Mulberries that also grew on Strong Street!  Every time I got ready to harvest them, they were rotten.  The only thing they were good for was squishing up between my toes and getting me a paddling for tracking them in the house.
Maybe I am learning something about life in Nickerson.  I remember it as a Utopic place.  A place where I was always happy, but perhaps that was not the case.  Maybe the bitter currants and the messy mulberries were just that!  Maybe escaping to Nickerson was my way of escaping the reality of life.  It was all so easy when mom and dad were responsible for me, but now I am old and looking back mother really was on to something when she used to tell me "Hind sight is 20/20."
I guess I will think about that for a while and see where that leads me.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

See that cat? That cat will be the death of me yet!

See how innocently she is looking at me?  That is because I just grabbed this side of that 7 feet tall china cabinet and pulled it out from the wall.  Why did I do that, you ask?  Because she was on the other end trying to see behind it.  Why was she doing that, you ask?  Because she brought a mouse in and turned it loose and it ran behind there.  This is not my first rodeo with the china cabinet and the cat and a mouse.  
The way this works is she gets on this end of the china cabinet and tries to peer behind it.  At this point I usually begin to scream at her and beg her to get the damn thing and she looks at me like I have lost what little sense I had, and walks off.  But today I decided that she was going to catch that damn mouse or I would know the reason why.  It is just a matter of mind over mouse, after all.
So I barricaded this end so the mouse could not come this way.
And then I went to the other end and pulled it out so she could saunter in and catch said mouse.  Looks likely doesn't it?
Well, sadly, while I was pulling this out, said mouse ran between my feet and under the table.  On a quest, I got the broom and scooted him out from under the table, causing him to run behind the dog food dishes.  The cat was a quiet observer, not of the mouse, but of me.  I could see she was confused and could not understand English.  I am sure she knew something was going on and seemed content to watch as I chased Mr. Mouse from one hiding place to another until he was in the open space at which time I used the broom like a golf club and send him soaring out the back door.  This seemed to upset Icarus who ran out the door to catch him and bring him back in.  That did not happen!
I am proud to say that to the best of my knowledge my home is mouse free tonight.  Unfortunately, I do not have enough strength to slide the china cabinet back where it belongs.  Adrenalin or something is lacking.Tomorrow I am going to purchase a small shotgun which really should make my life easier.   I do not know if I will use it to hunt mice or the damn cat, but I guess we will see.  In any case, tonight I sleep except for when I wake up and wonder just when that cat may decide to bring me breakfast in bed!