Thursday, May 03, 2007

Down on the Farm 3

Deb is not only an inveterate talker, but an avid newspaper reader. She loves them. This I suppose comes from her years as a reporter in Virginia and Carolina. 

She reads all newspapers but prefers to peruse those of the small towns we pass through that she might catch some of the flavor. We both realize that even in remote hamlets many folks get their spin from FOX and MSNBC and most are very aware of events around the globe. Reading the small town papers, however, gives one a glimpse into what's really on the minds of rural America. "Vandalism at City Landfill," reports one indignant Kansas editor. "City Pool Will Close Due to Heat," warns a Wyoming colleague. "Hearing Scheduled For The Deaf," announces a Nebraska paper. "Caterpiller Reports Growth". . . and so on.

Deb and her sister, Denise, were also owners and editors of their own regional newspaper back in the Blue Ridge. The operation went belly up-–"We were too young to be scared and too stupid to be successful"--but they had a ball while it lasted.

My Grandma Goldie was also a reporter, of sorts. She sent in a weekly dispatch to the Liberal (Missouri) News of events happening in her tiny farming community of Hannon. As a child, I remember Grandma calling around in her goose-like voice to the various neighbors to see what they had been up to. A few years ago Deb found some scrap books kept by Grandma. Among the sundry assortment of clippings which included car crashes, weddings and graduations, were several samples of her journalistic skills.

Mr. and Mrs. F. E. Fellows visited Tuesday night with Mr. and Mrs. Robert Weaver.

Mr. and Mrs. Wanda Budd and children shopped in Lamar Saturday.

Mr. and Mrs. Woody Workman visited with Mr. and Mrs. Glen Peters and children Friday night.

Mr. and Mrs. F. E. Fellows were dinner guests Sunday with Mr. and Mrs. Robert Weaver.

Mr. and Mrs. Charley Hoover and sons enjoyed a watermelon feast with Mr. and Mrs. Don Smith and children Sunday night.

And so on, until she had filled the ten or twelve inches that comprised her column. Why Grandma was so formal, stilted and dull in writing these things I haven't a clue for she was anything but formal, stilted and dull. Married and divorced before she was 17 (one husband down, four or five to go), a traveler far and wide (one of her jobs was as a fortune teller in a carnival; another was as a taxicab driver in Seattle), Grandma had the power and imagination to write well (she once sold a story to a major magazine). I suppose the Liberal newspaper wanted just the conservative facts and Grandma took them literally. Instead of writing that "Mr. and Mrs. F. E. Fellows visited Mr. and Mrs. Robert Weaver," she might have written that "Blanche and Shorty came over to our place twice last week and while we old hens cleaned and clucked, the roosters were outside tanking up on Busch and bourbon until they could hardly stand." Everyone in the area would have understood that (it should be noted that although Grandma's husband, my step-Grandpa, Bob Weaver, really went on some benders, he reformed later in life and never touched a drop after that; only death reformed Shorty Fellows).

Also, Grandma apparently could not resist the temptation to respond to the various "advice" columns:

Her Dad Liked To Gamble

I feel so sorry for Miserable because she is going thru the same experiences my poor mother went thru with my father for 24 years. Mom was only 16 when she married my dad, and he was 21.

Dad was a coal miner and made good money. He was a good worker. But mom was never allowed a cent of money for her own. Dad bought the groceries and what few clothes we had at the company store, and we ate and wore whatever Dad brought home and nothing more. We had very few clothes. And Dad thought all a person needed to eat was beans, potatoes, bread, coffee and a little meat now and then. Never any sweets.

My dad was what was called a card shark, and he spent all the time he wasn't in the mines out gambling somewhere. In 17 years Mother had eight children and buried five of them. Not once did she ever have a doctor with any of her babies and Dad wasn't even home with Mom when three of the babies were born. As for doctors and medicine, I know in my heart one of my brothers and one of my sisters would have lived if Dad had been willing to get a doctor in time. He did finally get a doctor, but both children were near death with whooping cough by then and neither could be saved.

Yes, my mother had a hard life and worked herself to death for a man who thought only of himself and his own pleasures. I may sound bitter and hard, but I know everything I've said is true and a lot more because I was the oldest child and I could not help knowing what went on.

My dad remarried a few years ago, and married a young woman just my age. At first I felt sorry for her, marrying a man so much older and with his ways. But we have all been surprised, and now it is Dad I feel sorry for. He is getting old and has two small children to care for. He doesn't gamble any more and hasn't for years now. His present wife is lazy, dirty and drinks all she can get or beg from others. Yes, I feel sorry for Dad tho I know he is only getting paid back for the way he treated Mother. The Bible says if we sow bad seeds we'll reap them.

Miserable, if I were you I'd have a good long talk heart-to-heart with my husband. Tell him how desperate you are. Then if he didn't change, instead of cutting your throat, I'd take my children and leave Mr. Tightwad to think things over. I believe he'll wake up if he thinks you mean business. He'd have to loosen up and give you money for yourself and the children, anyway.

You certainly have my sympathy, Miserable. Like others, I'll be anxious to hear if your home life changes for the better. MISSOURI.


Also in Grandma's scrapbook, looking bizarre amid the funeral notices and photos of couples celebrating their golden wedding anniversaries, were clippings from the Lamar newspaper describing the crime sprees of her nine-year-old half brother. This child was the issue of Grandma's senile father (see above) and the "lazy, dirty" half-wit half his age (also see above). Although the boy was about my age, I only recall seeing him once, and this when he was shyly sneaking around a corner of his house during one of Grandma's infrequent stops. Apparently, Grandpa Bob didn't want this crew hanging around for not once did they visit the farm while I was there. I suppose headlines like the following from the Lamar newspaper, dated April 9, 1956, had something to do with it:


Crimes Of Liberal Boy—Almost Unbelievable—As detailed In Court Monday—Arson, Thievery, Assault—And General Cussedness—A Poser For The Court


(continued tomorrow)