Location: marengo, il, United States

Monday, December 14, 2009

why, that's just awful!

i grew up in southern georgia, a place crawling with alligators, all four of the poisonous snakes native to the united states of america, plus the strangest of people who lived near by.

we were odd folk as well, i must admit. my family lived in a grits mill which sat on a dam that held back a sixty-acre lake where we all fished and boated and swam for fun and pleasure. my father worked in the coastal city of savannah, fifty miles to the east.

at one time the mill house had a working water wheel. for awhile, dad ground corn and sold scores of bagged grits to many of the locals in our area. their common complaint focused on weevils found in the cornmeal packed inside the half-pound paper sacks. dad claimed the bugs were natural protein and good for you, and said that they should be thankful, for the insects came free of charge.

down the road lived the dyce family who farmed a small acreage of mostly tobacco and peanuts and watermelons. louie and etta had three children, and were dirt-poor by local standards. louie like to drink his hard liquor on occasion. once, while on a bender, he threatened to blow his head off with a shotgun while his wife and kids stood by and looked on, all of who encouraged him to go ahead and pull the trigger. the old man never did.

another family lived up the lane and not far away from us. coon sapp was the father of a large family of barefoot kids. his wife soon became pregnant again, and then gave birth to twins boys whom they named larry and jitus. the unusual names were the hot topic of gossip in the area for many weeks afterward.

my parents had lots of acquaintances who they visited often. one couple they knew had two boys who were slightly older than me. one night, while all the adults sat and talked in the front room of the friendly hosts, i was led to a back bedroom by the two brothers, where they tried to get me to join in their secret game of dressing up in woman's clothing. i stood and stared hard at the pair before running out of the room.

fanny rogers was a widow lady who lived nearby. she kept a few cows that she milked, and then sold in bottles to neighbors. we drank the milk mom bought from fanny, which was often tainted with the awful taste of bitter weed, a plant that grew abundantly in her pasture.

a merchant came by our house once a week, driving a converted blue school bus that we named the rolling store. the lumbering vehicle contained as many items for sale as a modern-day seven-eleven, and it's arrival always caused excitement for us country kids. our favorite items were soda pops, which we drank by driving a nail through the cap, using a hammer.

and then we sucked the bottle dry.

there is nothing more pleasurable than growing up in the deep south and living next to a dirt road.


Anonymous joel said...

i remember hearing about coon sapp, and the drunk guy with the shotgun, but you never told me about the rolling store, i dont think. thats pretty cool.

5:19 PM  

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