Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Ghost Story

Once there was a young man whose mother died while giving him life. He was a beautiful boy, but the family (for some unknown reason, even to this day) despised the boy's father. He was invited to leave as soon as the funeral was over. And he was to leave without his son. Like a Bedouin tribesman , he folded his tent and silently went away.

The boy was reared by his Maternal grandmother and that extended family. Everyone loved the boy and claimed him as their own. He worked hard for both his Uncles on their farms, and was pleased to do so. His cousins were like sisters and brothers to him, he wanted not for familial care, although he had no living mother. He grew to look like his lost mother, his eyes that clear sky blue, his hair a light brown, that had been blond at birth. Just as he had been a happy child, he was a happy young man.

There was a war going on. World War 2 raged and the draft was in full swing. Although he was one of his Uncle's sole help on the family farm, his number came up and there was no denying it, he was destined to go.

On a cold New Year's day in 1944 the family saw their "son" for the last time. They saw his last smile, heard his last laugh, heard his last words...his young cousin Margaret told him that she would write to him everyday. He smiled and told her, "I'll be watching for them." Though forced, it is that smile that she remembers today. Very soon after leaving he was sent to France. He died in the Battle of Urschenheim where he was buried in foreign soil for several years before being shipped home. No one could believe he was dead because he had been gone such a very short time. Their hearts were broken. The Grandmother, upon hearing the news, sat in the middle of the kitchen floor and pulled her apron over her head and began to cry. She felt a failure because first she had lost her daughter and now she had failed to protect that daughter's son. Misery was in the center of her soul for the rest of her life.

Martus's bible, which he had carried in his jacket pocket, had been found by a Russian Soldier who had shared his foxhole and he carried the bullet riddled, blood soaked book of solace for a couple of years, before giving it to his wife to return to Martus's family. It arrived with a letter written in French explaining the events of the battle and their kinsman's death. It would be two years before they found anyone to translate it.

The body of Martus Douglas, according to legend, was returned in the company of an Honor Guard. It was felt that the Honor Guard was there more to keep the families from opening the coffins , that families suspected was filled with stones, more than to honor the soldier they accompanied. That could be partially true.

Martus's Aunt Nancy was out in the back garden area while her nephew's body lay reposing in the front room. She had gone to the smoke house to get meat for dinner and the garden for greens. She looked up from her chore, as I was told, and saw a young soldier enter the kitchen through the screened porch. Thinking that one of the Honor Guard needed something, she hurried to the house and went in to ask. The two young soldiers both assured her that they were fine and that they had not left the front room or the body they had sworn to protect.

Nancy went into the kitchen where her daughter Patricia was reading a funny book, as they were called in the day. "Did you see a soldier come in here?" she asked. Pat, putting her comic on her knees, told her mother that she had seen one of the honor guard soldiers go up the narrow stairs to the rooms above. He had not returned. Nancy, who had reared her sister's son as her own, was breathless. She had seen him enter the house, Patricia had seen him go up the stairs where his room was located, and the Soldiers in the front room were both at their post. Patricia swore that the soldier had not returned. Nancy gathered her courage, looking from the front room to the stairway hall, she moved slowly to the alcove where the stairs lay. She climbed the stairs and searched all three bedrooms. No one was there. But she felt a lightness of spirit that she had not felt in a long time. In her heart she knew that Martus had returned, no matter a coffin with a body or a coffin filled with stones. Her boy was home.

Many thanks for Post of the Day, David! for Post of the Day or just click on the Post of the Day mailbox in my sidebar...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Halloween from me and Maxine

I've been sending out my Halloween greetings this morning and in one I included a short note. I said that I was wishing everyone a Happy Halloween, even those that don't celebrate this frankly American thrill of fun and love. Of course there is always someone ready to throw cold water on anyone attempting to enjoy life, so if you are here, please go away. No wet blankets needed here. I awaken each morning with a smile on my heart if not my face, and a joy of life only known by those who have stared death in the face and spat in his eye. This morning I want you to remember that in our celebration of Halloween, we are actually celebrating the Saints who have gone before us, it is after all All Hallowed Eve...or Halloween...(you know how we Americans are, we have to shortcut everything. Look on your desktop. Know what all those little icons are? They're shortcuts.) In these Saints I include my Mother, my Parent's in Law, my grandparents, all those who have gone on before. The Church (of which I am a member) hasn't declared them Saints, but never mind. I do. So this October 31st, please have the most fun you can have, enjoy the evening and celebrate the children. And tomorrow thank God for the Saints who have gone before us. I had a piece of news from Brenda at Country Romance from the Heart that she's set up a new etsey shop just in time for Halloween and winter with lots of things to offer us. It's a Country Gourmet Shop and you can reach her here so go on over and see her!
And now, no Halloween is complete without Maxine. She's the driving force behind the monsters, so let's let her have her say...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tagged by a Catherder...go figure!

Yes, the tagging is still going on and Catherder over at Gato Grove (I have a cat farm, she has a cat we see something odd here? Not me.) But as I was saying, Mz Catherder has tagged me and before I give you the rules, you've got to go read hers...I mean really! Just for a tease, one of the things that I found quite surprising is that she is a member of a Nude Beach...okay okay, much more to do, moving on now...but here's the High Cat Herder's link, before I forget... And now, here are the rules:

1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog - some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blog.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Okay then, ready set...

1. I am a closet complainer. I can complain about something in such a comedic way that no one realizes I was really p.o.'ed till three days after I left. It hits them all of a sudden, like they're in the shoe department and suddenly look up with this strange look upon their face and their brain is saying "uhoh, all's not well at Sandiland..."
2. I have a temper. When I retired, my temper did not diminish one bit. I'm just more cautious what I lose my temper over. I learned to count to ten at an early age...I somehow never make it past eight. Mea Culpa
3. I love boxing. No, I mean really love boxing. When I was younger I always rooted for the pretty boy, but now I root for the older guy fighting a cocky young the fight from a couple of weekends ago, Hopkins destroyed Pavlik and he started out the process in round one. Hopkins is 43 and Pavlik is 26...I'm pretty sure on those ages, and as in polls it's a + - of 2.

4. I love to grow my own plants and plants for friends. I've managed to pass along Angel Trumpets (see picture) till I think about 1/2 the county is pretty well covered. This year I'm rooting six of them (3 white and 3 yellow) for Evil Sister. I promised to do this on the promise from her that she would not come under cover of darkness and dig up mine! They come in white, pink and yellow.

5. I have over 300 cook books. I am addicted to them. I can read them like others read a novel. It's inherited...Mama collected them, too. And btw I'm a pretty good cook. Also inherited. But not from my father who once made bacon eggs and toast for Mama (breakfast in bed) in the same pan. At the same time. There were no buffet breakfasts then, I think she had Kelloggs Cornflakes, instead.

6. Mama swears this part is true. She was on a bus going back home to NewPort News, Virginia and sat next to a lady who had a young child about a year old. The little girl's eyes were amber with a blue ring around the iris. My mother, from a blue eyed gene pool (a deep blue pool that extends from my sons to my granddaughter) told the lady that she was expecting a baby (me) and she hoped her baby would have those unusual eyes. And so I do. No one else in the family has my eye color. My mother always called them Cat's eyes. Hmmm...wonder if that's why the cats love me?
So, seven things and I can't believe there is anything else you don't know about me. Let's see...I am drawn to old houses...old abandoned houses with swagging porches and lopsided windows with hanging shutters...I like to imagine the stories they could tell...about the families that once lived in them. Even an old chimney with nothing of the house left around it, fireplace gutted and nothing but a roosting place for wildlife can set me off. And now I am done. And who do I need to know about? It's time to pick seven of you and the seven I'd like to choose...well I'd like to choose you all but if I do, no one will feel especially invited, so I am going to stick to the rules. Okay, here goes....
I want to invite these 7 to the party...
1. I just have to know more about Tee at The Diva's Random Thoughts because she's a dangerous influence on me...and a lot of fun, too.

2. Johnny Depp enthusiast at because she makes me laugh and I want to know if there is a clown in her background.

3. My dear friend Lee (and fellow Scrabble can't get us off POGO at . I'm sure there are 7 things about her I don't know.

4. Cath at who is quite a photographer, she has a blog just about photos' at Cath's Cradle.

5. Sandy at because she is so much fun...her pictures of animals in all modes of life will warm the cockles of your heart...really. Not sure where the cockles are, but they'll be warmed!

6. Seamus at Damp Dog You'll fall in love with the story of the Buffledog, Taylor...I love Taylor almost as much as I love my Digby, the Old English...I can't say loved for just because they've gone on ahead doesn't mean the love is no longer there.

7. I'd like to know more about new bloggers I've just met (mainly through David at Authorblog (see my sidebar) and so please Nita, at join in with us.

Okay, that's seven and this has been a good one. Thanks to Catherder for thinking of me. At least I've assumed that I was the Sandi she meant. Of course we all know what assume means and it won't be the first time I've made an ass of myself.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Forty Years of Wedded....bliss and blast

On October 15th Mac and I celebrated our Ruby Anniversary. For those of you who don't keep up with this sort of thing, that's forty years. In a world where people try on spouses like they try on shoes, I'd say we're in that comfy part of the shoe where the leather has gotten soft and warm and the support is still there if you make the walks a little shorter. The late Sheriff Kenny Welch always asked Mac, "so Mac, what is this now, twenty five years with this firecracker? When you getting your medal?" I told Mac I had dreamed that Kenny came over and had this great big Olympic type medal and was trying his best to hang it around his neck, but Mac kept pushing it away, telling him, " I don't get the medal yet...she says it's not time." He's right. It's not time. When we married in 1968 he was in Minelant and their slogan was "Iron Men on Wooden Ships". I always tease him telling him I fell in love with the slogan, then the man. Of course I did no such thing. On our first date I knew that he was the one. My breath caught in my throat as he approached me that night, dressed in Winter Dress Blues, that white cap pulled down and to the left over his eyebrow...and he swaggered. Now when we get dressed to go out, my breath still catches in my throat, because in my eyes, he hasn't changed. He's still the same man who warned me that he couldn't dance, then proceeded to dance the night away, never stepping on my feet one time.

So, forty years...and if I'd known then that he snored like a sailor, would never wash a dish (though he'd help clear the table), that changing diapers was not in his resume, and he hated to fly, but loved to drive (and let me drive rarely), that he wouldn't admit to being sick till his temperature hovered around 103, and that he would throw John Wayne at me whenever I criticised his inability to admit defeat (would John Wayne throw in the towel?"), what would I have done? I'd have married him anyway. He's a keeper. And still my one and only. We'll see about that medal on the 50th that time I think I'll have earned mine, too.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Portrait of Words...Father Time

This is October's Portrait of Words as hosted by Jeff B. (see link) . Go to his site and read the rules and join us in an exercise in creativity. The pictures and rules will be posted there each month by Jeff B. (A Word In Edgewise ) plus picture credits. I hope you will enjoy my offering for this months "A Portrait of Words". In honor of my Uncle Martus Douglas I offer "Father Time".

He hated airports. He couldn't tell you why, but it was always so. He'd heard his father say time and again that airports were nothing but the scenes of sad goodbyes. He hated airports nearly as much as he hated telegrams. He remembered the telegram that had been delivered to his mother's hands so many years ago, that devastating piece of paper from the war department that had destroyed a family. And now, here he sat in this airport, waiting. His eyes kept moving to the clock that hung on the wall, the hands dragging by . It was as if the world had tipped on its axis, and time had slowed to a crawl. He had been in such a hurry to get to this place, he had left the camera bag in the delivery truck, along with his son's possessions, the ones that had been returned to them. When they had first gotten word of the terrible blast that had brought their world to a standstill, he hadn't known what to do, where to turn, who to lean on. His wife leaned on him, his daughters leaned on her and like the tower of Pisa, the fall was coming. He just didn't know when.

His son. His boy was so proud to be a part of his Country's defense. When the word had come that he was to go overseas he may have been nervous, but you wouldn't have known it. He showed nothing but pride and even a bit of excitement that he was finally given a chance to put his training to good use. He knew that he had a calling, he had answered that call as soon as he had graduated from the Seminary. He was sure that he would be of better use on the front lines than at home. He knew that he could bring comfort to the men and women who were in the fight every minute of every day, those who needed the support of a strong shoulder and an understanding heart. He had taken pictures of the foreign land that was his temporary home, of the children caught in the middle of hell, sometimes smiling but more often souls showing the strain of war. One picture, of his son carrying a small bundle of blankets (with a little face just visible above the top fold), tears running down his son's face, was framed and hanging in their home Church. Money had been collected to help send the child to a hospital in Germany to have an awful wound repaired. They hoped she would be able to remain there and out of harms way. He wished sincerely that they could bring her to their home to rear as their own.

He hated airports. The hands on the clock read 2:45. There was a restaurant across the way and he decided to go over and get a cup of coffee. Maybe a sandwich. Anything to take his mind off how the time dragged by. He walked into the dimness of the place, ordered a coffee and danish and sat down. In the back of the room was a beautiful billiards table, the balls racked and ready for the break. He remembered teaching his son the rules of the game, how he had laughed as the boy began to talk about being a pro and making enough money to build his mother a dream house. He was ten at the time. Did all sons want to build their mothers a home they had provided, taking them out of their husbands purview? It was a rivalry for attention from the day they entered the world, he decided. He took a sip of the coffee, hot and smooth. Colombian beans, he decided. No bitterness, these people knew how to brew a good cup of coffee. He bit into the danish, the taste of it filling his senses with a guilty pleasure. He looked at the clock. 2:55. He covered his face with his hands and noticed that they shook. He needed to be in control, he was meeting his son today, taking him home. He held the paperwork someone (he couldn't remember who) had pushed into his hands just yesterday. The papers that his son would need for some unknown purpose. He wondered who else would be here, who else was welcoming a son or daughter home. He moved to another seat so that he could look out into the lobby, perhaps see someone who looked as befuddled as he felt. Someone with shaking hands, clutching useless papers and watching a slow moving clock.

Was there some secret code that they now would share, one that someone had forgotten to give him. He remembered his secret decoder ring that was such a prized possession when he himself had been his own father's little boy. Captain Midnight. Would he need his secret decoder ring? He saw a gray faced woman standing at an Airline reservation desk, her hands shaking, clutching a sheaf of papers. He noticed her eyes. They were hollows of pain. Where was her husband, he wondered. She shouldn't be here doing this. Not alone. He looked again at the clock. The time seemed to have picked up a little speed. It was now after 3 pm and he heard the flight arrival being called. Leaving the coffee shop he headed to the gate leading to the tarmac and waited. The woman from the counter was suddenly standing by him, her breath coming in short sharp gasps, the paperwork held close to her chest, as she had once held her child. He reached out and took her hand. If there was any objection, she didn't show it. The plane landed, and the belly of the beast opened. He waited for someone to come to them, lead them to the tarmac. He saw the line of men and women, saluting as the fallen soldiers slowly came off the plane. He dropped the hand of the woman beside him and slowly now, he approached his son. He spoke softly to him. "Your mother wanted to be here, Son. But I haven't been able to get her to leave her bed since we got the news. But she will. And you'll see, she'll be fine." He placed his hand in the vicinity of his child's chest and wept.

Now he watched as the woman from the counter was led out to where he stood, the tears falling now out of once empty eyes. She staggered, the Chaplain caught her and he quickly moved to her other side to take her arm. She looked at him with gratitude and misery. They stood at attention themselves as their sons' comrades in arms began to move the flag draped coffins to waiting hearses. He took a deep breath. And wondered if he'd ever recover.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Great Egg Caper

Long before the medical factions started warning us about things like eating too much meat, eating too little fish, using good old fat back grease for frying and cooking, and eating eggs with cracked shells, we were doing it all. By we, I mean our entire county. We're Southern. It goes without saying. My Grandfather, who was Scottish, believed that a penny saved would keep him solvent. I'm not saying he was tight, but for heaven's sake, he was Scottish. He believed in land ownership, because, he said, they're not making anymore of it. At his death he owned nearly 1000 acres which he left to my Grandmother, till her death, at which time it would be divided between the three daughters. My grandmother, who taught school, was a very kind woman who believed in helping her fellow man, even if that meant giving that penny saved, to the down trodden. She had generosity of heart. She and my Grandfather got along the way most married people do, they had their ups and downs and could carry on an argument for days and then suddenly, it was over. And like everyone else, the arguments usually were over money.

Mammy (my grandmother) went grocery shopping on Saturdays. During the week (after retiring from teaching school) she farmed along side Daddy Dwight (my Grandfather). The days from Monday through Friday were long hard days, especially Friday night. Friday nights were the nights when Mammy made out the checks to the farm hands, caught up the ledger and prepared for another week beginning Mondays. Daddy Dwight , after inspecting the fields, made up the schedule for what needed doing to the tobacco fields...poisoning (for worms), watering, topping (taking the flower tops off the plants so that the growth would go to the leaves and not the flowers), decide when it was time to "put in tobacco" and hire the extra hands, get the fuel for the tobacco barns , check the barns and flues, just get ready for production, in general. It was not an easy job, for either of them.

It was early one morning, a Saturday, and Mammy was getting ready to go grocery shopping at the Red and White. They always got their eggs at the Purina place, and bought them 8 dozen or so at a go, the cracked cheaper eggs. Daddy Dwight was in charge of that. He took the pickup to town, and Mammy took the car. So, Saturday afternoon, I was sitting at the table, knees up and feet on the seat of the bench, reading a book. I even remember the book. It was Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune. Having spent the night with head under the covers and flashlight focused on the page, I only had about two chapters to go. The argument between my grandparents was like a buzzing mosquito in my ear...I wasn't really listening, but the voices were rising. Mammy had the patience of Job and really didn't lose her temper till she had taken as much as she could take and then boy howdy, everyone better stand back, cause as in the words of the miners, "she's gonna blow!" Funny, but all her female progeny are just like that in every respect. So I hear Daddy Dwight fussing about Mammy throwing out some of the eggs. She tried to tell him that some were cracked a bit too much and she couldn't cook with them. He kept insisting that there was nothing wrong with them and how wasteful she was being. I saw her eyes narrow and lips thin to a straight line. I closed my book with a snap and just as I was getting up to leave the room, the house, maybe the yard, it happened. Mammy picked up one of the eggs that was severely cracked and said, "here Dwight, let me show you why I can't use this egg," and smooshed it on the top of his head. Then she rubbed it in.
And the fight was on.

The egg fight, which started in the kitchen, eased onto the screen porch and then on out into the yard. They were throwing eggs at each other like a pair of six years old. Neither of them were laughing, they were intent on coating each other with as much egg as they could. I had run down to my Aunt Margaret's and ratted them out and she and my Aunt Pat went up to the house to break up the war. Both were slightly out of breath, but we never knew what would have broken up the fight first, their anger dying out or running out of eggs. And remember, they had at the very least eight dozen of them.

I don't remember how long it took them to start speaking to each other again...three days or three weeks. But I know it took the Aunts three days to cleanup the slippery, gooey mess of eggs dripping from the cabinets, the table, and the walls onto the kitchen floor. My cousin Crystal (Aunt Margaret's daughter) and I were talking about this "comedrama" this morning. We were laughing so hard we couldn't catch our breaths. I told Crystal that I thought I would blog about the the great egg caper, that enough time had passed where it was funny. But Mammy and Daddy Dwight never laughed about it. It was not allowed to be brought up in their presence. So, if I get a visit from the other side tonight, I'm thinking I'll know why. I just hope they aren't carrying a box of eggs.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What's in a Name?

When we first bought this place we call our home, it was so overgrown that we had to hire a young man with a bush hog attachment on his tractor to come out and cut the field. The house sat at the head of four+acres of grass weeds and forest. The drive and postage stamp size front and back yards were all that was cleared. There were young scrub oaks and sweet gum trees mixed throughout the grassy/weedy sections that would have destroyed a mower. The young man came out with his tractor and his rat terrier. He told us the dog was a working dog and invited us to stand back and watch him do his thing. The fact that only one mouse was captured and dispatched to his maker should have been a clue that there was a large cat population. After he was finished it looked better. Not good. Just better. What we needed was a hay rake, While the contractor was renovating the house, we spent our days raking by hand. We had never had the need for a riding mower before and we had purchased a small used Sears tractor to begin doing some actual lawn cutting. I was excited to be able to ride the mower and cut the grass (I'll drive's a passion). So, we had finished the raking and I climbed on the mower and started to work. That ride was so rough I accused someone of throwing rocks in the yard. My back ached from the torturous yard trip I'd made. Now, we had also purchased a brand spanking new 48 inch cut Husqvarna tractor that Mac wasn't quite ready to use yet. I remember when it was delivered how he petted and polished it, read the book about it's operation and studied the manual as though it was a latest best seller.

The next time it came time for mowing, Mac grabbed his hat and went out to the shed. He got on the tractor and turned over the engine...smooth sound said he. Loud sound said I. But it did a great job. After finishing up the yard, he got a damp rag and went over the tractor and cleaned all the dust from her orange paint job. He cleaned the headlights and rinsed off the mower deck. I clucked in disgust and went back inside. The next day he wanted to go to Lowe's. It seemed his new tractor needed a trailer attachment to help him gather up grass and limbs in the garden. So he got his trailer. We took it off the truck and hooked it up to the tractor so he could admire it. He promised that I would be able to drive this one soon. As soon as he was through driving it, I assumed.

This week Mac began to worry about his precious baby...his tractor. He said the engine was surging and he didn't like the sound of it. Now, he has tuned up that tractor, changed blades, spark plugs and just taken wonderful care of her since she first became a member of his Motor pool...the one thing he had not been able to do was learn to pronounce its name.
"Hasputin", he would ask?
"No, Husqvarna, " I replied.
"Husqvarna!" I repeated. He thought it over, looked at the name as it was written on the front of the hood.
"Husvention!" he said proudly.
I took a deep breath and wrote down on a piece of paper...husk-VAR-na...He looked at what I had written and repeated "husqvarna...why didn't you say so?"
So, I called the tractor repair place in Hartsville and told them we had a problem with the mower and needed to bring it in. I explained that the trailer was large enough to fit the tractor, but that it wouldn't fit with the mower deck attached.
"Oh, that's easy enough. It's just held on with five clips. Look at the top of the deck and you'll see them. Most people drop the deck to change their mower blades." He swore it was a simple task.
I repeated his instructions to Mac, who nodded and agreed that it sounded a simple thing.

The first day he walked around the tractor and after having found the clips, told me that two of them had been put in upside down and it was going to be a job getting them out. He checked that the mower had gas in the tank and cleaned it again, and thought about those upside down clips.
The second day we went out and I had a container (that I hope to be able to locate when needed) for the pins he was going to remove. It was nine a.m. He got the first three clips off with no problem. Those upside down ones proved to be a bit more complicated. When he finally got them off, we tried to disengage the deck. No way. No how. Mac went and got the manual and discovered that in addition there were two pins that had to be removed. He located them and began that little chore. After a bit and a search for penetrating oil was completed, the pins were removed and the deck dropped down easily. Mac put the tail gate to the trailer down and drove it onto it. It was now 12 noon. "So, that mechanic told you that it was an easy job?" he asked. I nodded yes..."I want to see him when we get there, " he said, his voice a bit sullen. "Why?" I asked. Shaking his head and putting his hat on he said, "because I want to punch him right in the mouth!"