Summers were difficult in our house. Mother and Daddy worked every day. Ola and Jeanie were married with their own kids, so that left the three of us at home.
By the three of us, I mean Junior my brother who I thought was an idiot but later figured out that this wasn’t always true. Sometimes he was smarter than me, if anybody can believe that. I know I found it hard to believe when he would put one over on me. The second of the three was Margie, my big sister. She hardly ever got involved in the battles that went on between Junior and me. All she was interested in was clothes and shoes. She loved ribbons and bows, too. She was a real girly, girl, if you know what I mean. I, on the other hand, was kind of a tomboy type of girl. I liked the outdoors and the creek, and I liked adventure. I wanted to try new things. The problem with that was I usually always wound up in trouble.
My brother, the idiot, was always in charge, of course. He was sixteen that summer. Margie was twelve, and I was ten. I was beginning to think that I would never get to be in charge of anything. Being the youngest in the family is hard. I had to literally fight for my life at times. They were all older and bigger than me, so I always get picked on.
Margie always sided with Junior because she was afraid he would beat her up or tell Mother if she did something she shouldn’t have done. This didn’t happen too often because she actually tried to be good. She and I had fights now and then. I beat her up, and then she left me alone for a while. Sometimes she got the better of me though if Junior helped her.
In the summer months, Mother would call us on her lunch hour to see how we were doing. Of course, we told her we were fine. My sister Ola would come by occasionally to check on us. Sometimes she would take Margie and me with her to her house. Once we got there, we knew why. She wanted us to help her clean her house. She was a terrible housekeeper. At least that’s what my mother said.
“If you girls help me clean my house, I will pay you,” she said.
“How much will you pay us?” I asked.
“Well, how about a quarter?”
I asked, “How about fifty cents each?”
“Yeah, you’re house is really dirty, Ola,” Margie said.
“All right, then. Fifty cents each.”
“But you have to pay us now, before we start,” I said.
“Why is that?” asked Ola.
“’Cause every time we clean your house, you never pay us.”
“That’s not true.”
“Yes, it is, and you know it’s true.”
“Okay, then I will pay you right now. You don’t even trust your own sister.”
She went into the kitchen and handed us each fifty cents, and we put it in our pockets. We worked nearly all day on her house. What a mess! Of course, we watched her kids while we were there, too. She had three kids by then: Larry, Bobby, and Randy. There was only one year’s difference in Bobby and Randy. They were all cute little boys, and I rather liked taking care of them. They were fun to play with.
When we were all finished, she took us back home, but she didn’t stay long. She said she needed a nap, and so did the kids. I don’t know why she needed a nap because she sure didn’t do anything that I knew of. The kids needed a nap though. They all three looked sleepy. Margie and I gave them all hugs and kisses, and off they went. I couldn’t believe Ola actually paid us.
When we got home, Junior was lying down on the couch sleeping. The door slammed when we went in, and it woke him up. That made him mad, and he began to yell at us.
“What are you two doing now?” he screamed.
“We just got home from Ola’s,” I said.
“Well, be quiet,” he said.
“We are being quiet, Junior. Are you crazy?” I said. “Get up. You are so lazy. You never do any work.”
“What I do is none of your business, brat.”
That did it! He called me a bad name. I jumped on top of him and started hitting him and, pulling his hair. He was trying to get my hands loose from his hair, but he couldn’t. I had a good grip on him. He put his hand in my face and was trying to make me let go. I got his finger in my mouth and bit down as hard as I could. Boy, did he let out a yell then. He finally was able to get me loose and threw me on the floor. We were both mad, and what we did when we got this mad you won’t believe.
“This is war,” I said.
“Fine, let’s get the weapons!” he shouted.
The weapons were the silverware. We could use everything except the sharp knives. We went into the kitchen and dumped the silverware on the table. We drew straws to see who picked first. Junior won the draw, so he got first pick. We could not use the meat forks either. Junior picked a fork for his first pick. I picked a fork next, and Margie picked a fork. When everything was off the table, we went back into the living room.
There were two big platform rockers in the living room that we turned over for a fort. One of us would get behind the couch.
“Everyone needs to take cover. The war is about to start!” said Junior.
“No cheating. You can only throw what you have now. No going back to the kitchen,” I said.
“We know the rules, brat.”
I hated it when he called me that!
Margie was behind the couch, and Junior and I were behind the rockers. I know this was a crazy thing to do, but we were kids that were not supervised very well in the summer. We would do just about anything. I don’t think we really knew how bad we could have been hurt. It was something to do, so we made a game of it. We were all under cover, so it was time to begin.
Junior threw first at me, of course, and after that, it was just all of us throwing whatever we could at whomever we could. No one ever got hurt. I can’t imagine why. After we ran out of ammo, the game was over. We would pick up all the silverware and put it back in the drawers. Then we would clean up the living room and set the rockers back up.
For some reason we were all in a better mood after we had a war. I don’t know why. We could actually be nice to each other. Even Junior was better. Sometimes he would ask us if we wanted to play catch in the front yard. It was fun when he was nice to us. I liked him when he was like that. He would laugh and tease us. We could even wrestle in the grass and not be mad.
It had turned out to be a good afternoon in the life of little Ruthie.
Janice Sautter is a great great grandmother who spends her time writing, painting, drawing, and playing video games. She lives with her husband Jim and their two dogs, Daisy and Lilly. She writes under the name of J. R. Carter.