Our daddy bought a piece of land on Lee Road that had, until then, been a watermelon patch, and on weekends he proceeded to build a four-room house. The previous owner was Lee Rhodes, who lived with his wife Carlee, on our right. His son Bill lived on our left with his wife Lorena.
Over the years I got to know Lee as a drunk often lying passed out under the bleached dead hickory tree on the path down to the creek.
I dropped out on Kenny’s horror stories for a while, though I sometimes heard the sinister tones of his voice as I padded by barefoot in the night. A couple of doors down from Kenny’s lived Betty Sue Blake. She was thirteen, a couple months older than me, and her bedroom was right off the front porch. If you happened by at just the right time, you could catch her silhouette on the window shade as she undressed. Only a couple of summers ago, we had played nurse and doctor under her house. Now her shape had changed.
The Blakes also had an indoor toilet and a tub. Sometimes if the Bodner’s dog was tied up on the other side of the neighbors’ house, I would try to sneak a look, but the window was too high, and by the time I was tall enough, I no longer had the nerve.
We ourselves still had a wooden toilet at the back end of our property. You walked twenty five yards to a classic wooden outhouse with a moon cut into the door. Inside were two seats, a tall one for the adults, and a shorter seat for the kids. It was not a quiet place to sit and you tried to get out as quick as possible. The buzz of flies under you was disconcerting, to say the least, but you learned to ignore it. Since the kid’s seat was rather closer to the heap building up, I had long ago taken to straddling the adult’s seat and squatting. Thus I could keep an eye out for spiders, hornets, and leave a way out for flies surprised by the sudden yellow rain.
One of our neighbors had been bitten by a black widow on his thing and nearly died – unless that story was another one of Mother’s insinuating off-color jokes. She tried to inform me about sex from early adolescence by telling dirty stories.
By the time my Sue was six or seven, I think she must have stepped up to the adult’s stool, too, because the little toilet seat was covered by Montgomery Ward and Sears and Roebuck catalogs from then on. I used to leaf through the ladies’ underwear section and imagine Betty stepping out of hers, snapping off her bra. These pages were always the last to go, so I suspect that other members of my family also preferred to use other pages first. The first pages to be used up were the indexes, since the paper there was not glossy. Glossy paper tended to crinkle and form points that raked your skin.
Needless to say, Mom was always complaining about the state of our jockey shorts. Don’t you wipe? She was still boiling water on the gas stove in the kitchen to do the laundry in our Maytag with the wringer, sitting at a slant on our back porch. I carried the water in galvanized buckets from the stand pipe in the Rhodes’ front yard. For our Saturday night bath, it was the same process. Buckets poured into the iron tub balanced on the four points of the enamel cook stove. When steam poured up into the room, we lifted the tub onto the linoleum floor, and one by one we stood or sat there, depending on our size, and washed: Sue first, then Jack, then me. Mom got fresh water, and sometimes Dad as well. That’s a lot of buckets, a lot of gas.
The plastic horse, white, which if looked for in the fridge over the years.
Uncle Brownie with head in bean bowl.
We used to play Tarzan in the jungle, cowboys & Indians, bandits and vigilantes, as all boys do, at least back then.
One day Doug hanged his brother from a willow tree by the creek.
King Theater: Lynch him boys.
Shoot matches, and save fire!
The cat’s pajamas.
This is another excerpt from a collection of files Patrick called Scattered Notes.odt dated from 2014 to 2016 and titled Thoticles. I’ll continue to add other segments as time allows.
Patrick Meadows 1934 – 2017.