Tales of Little Ruthie: Butch

Front Page, Personal History

            As a child, I only had one dog; his name was Butch.  My brother-in-law, Cecil, gave him to us.  He was a German police dog, or that was what I was told.  I think I loved that dog more than I loved my sister Margie.  I don’t know why Cecil gave him to us, but I was as happy as a clam when Butch came to live with us.

            Cecil had been in the Army during the war.  He was married to my oldest sister, Jean.  I always liked him very much, but after he gave me the dog, I really liked him.  We had a cat, too, a solid black cat.  His name was Tom, of course.  Well, he was a tomcat, after all.  The cat was of no interest to me, but my sister liked him.  But, when we got Butch, I knew what love was.

            One summer day, Margie and I decided to go to Lincoln Park to the zoo.  We made bologna and mustard sandwiches and filled a thermos with water, and off we went.  My brother was supposed to be watching us, but that dummy never knew what we were doing.  We just left, and he had no idea that we were gone.  I put Butch in the house so he could not follow us.

            We walked out to Lincoln Park in about thirty minutes.  We were hungry, so we sat down at one of the picnic tables and ate our sandwiches.  When we were finished, we pestered the golfers on the golf course a while.  They would hit their balls, and we would see where the went and get them.  They would be looking all over for them.  We would hide in a shallow creek that ran through the course where they could not see us.  For some reason, we really got a laugh out of them getting so mad because they could not find their balls.

            We soon grew tired of that and walked around the zoo.  It was not a very big zoo, so we could walk around it in about an hour or so, depending on what grabbed our interest.  When we were worn out from walking, we decided we better get home.  We had been gone for about three hours, and we figured that Junior had missed us by then and would tell Mother where we went.  We really weren’t allowed to walk all the way to the zoo, but we did it anyhow.

            Margie said, “I bet we are in trouble again, Ruthie, and it is all your fault.”

            “My fault?” I said.  “Why is it my fault?”

            “Well, this was your idea, so it is your fault.”

            “Well, you didn’t have to come, you know.  You could have stayed home with the big dummy!”

            “Well, I am going to tell Mother that it was your idea.  She knows how you are.”

            “Margie, I just hate you sometimes!”

            It was hot summer in Oklahoma, and when I got mad, I got even hotter.  We finally reached the path that cut across the field to our house.  When I could see our house, I said, “Let’s run so we will get home faster.”

            “No,” Margie said.  “It’s too hot run.”

            I started to run anyhow and left her behind.  I could see something lying in the path ahead.  I kept trying to figure out what it was.  The closer I got, the more it looked like a dog.  I looked like Butch.

            I ran faster so I could see better.  It was Butch.  I thought he was just lying there and waiting for me and Margie.  When I got to where he was, I got down on the ground and put my hand on him.

            “Come on, Butch.  Get up.  Let’s go home.”

            I tried to pick him up, but he wouldn’t move.  That’s when I realized that Butch was dead.  By then, Margie had caught up with me.

            “What’s wrong with him, Ruthie?”  Margie asked.

            “He’s dead, Margie!  He’s dead!”  By then I was crying, and so was Margie.

            “Go get, Junior, to help us carry him to the house,” I said to Margie.

            Butch must have weighed forty or fifty pounds, but I picked him up and was carrying him home.  I was crying my eyes out.

            “He just can’t be dead,” I kept saying to myself.  “He is my best friend.  Why did I go to the park?  I should have stayed home and taken care of him.”

            I could see Junior coming.  He ran up to me and said, “Let me carry him, Ruthie.”

            He took him out of my arms, and I ran to the house as fast as I could to call my mother.  I dialed her number at work.  When she got on the phone, I was crying so hard that she didn’t know what I was saying.

            “Put your brother on the phone,” she said.

            Junior got on the phone and told her what was wrong.  She told him she couldn’t come home right then.

            “Where’d you put Butch?” I asked Junior.

            “I laid him in the shade beside the house, Ruthie.”

            I went outside and sat down beside him.  I just could not believe Butch was dead.  What happened to him?  I was on the side of the house where my mother had morning glory vines covering the fence.  I heard someone talking on the other side of the fence.  It was Leroy and Lyndale.

            “I guess we took care of that dog.  He won’t be barking at us when we go by anymore,” Leroy said.  “That poison Dad had in the shed worked good on that meat.  He ate it before he tasted it.”

            I ran around the fence and started screaming at them.  Junior came out of the house and asked, “What’s going on out here?”

            “They did it, Junior!  They poisoned Butch!  I heard them talking about it!”

            Leroy said, “She’s crazy!  We didn’t do nothin’ to her dog!”

            “Yes, the did, Junior!  I heard them talking!  They didn’t know I was behind the fence!”

            Junior said, “Go on in the house, Ruthie.  Dad will take care of this when he gets home.”

            I didn’t want to leave my dog, but there was nothing I could do.  So, I just looked at Leroy and flew into him like I did my brother.  I started hitting him and pulling his hair.  I kicked him in the shins, too.

            Junior grabbed me and said, “Ruthie, stop that now and go in the house!”

            I thought my daddy would never get home.  I wanted him to get those two boys and give them a good whipping  for what they did.  He finally got home, and so did my mother.  I had cried all afternoon, and I was cried out.  At that point, I was just mad.

            Daddy set me down and said, “Ruthie, what did you hear Leroy and Lyndale say?”

            “I was sitting with Butch beside the house, Daddy, and I heard them talking and saying that they took care of that dog with poison their daddy had in the shed.  I went to the other side of the fence, and there they were.  Daddy, they didn’t know I was there, but I heard them say that they killed Butch.”

            Daddy looked at me and said, “Ruthie, you stay here now.  I am going to talk to their daddy about this.”  He looked at me.  “I mean it, Ruthie.  You stay here.  I better not see you ’til I get back home.”

            “I promise.  I’ll stay here.”

            He was gone quite a while.  When he got back, he said, “Their daddy gave them both a good whipping.  Now, he said, let’s go bury Butch.”

            We dug a deep hole on the shady side of the house, and we gave him a funeral.  All of us attended, Mother and Daddy, my brother Junior, my sister Margie, and me.  We all cried because we loved Butch.  He was a good dog.

            A few days later, I heard Leroy and Lyndale walking down the path beside the house.  They couldn’t see me because of the morning glory vines on the fence.  The trash barrel was next to the fence, and I picked up a tin can that still had the lid on it.  The lid was sharp on the edges.  I just threw it over the fence, and I got lucky and hit Leroy in the head.  He was bleeding from his head, and that night his mother came over and told my mother what I did.

            Mother looked at me and asked, “Did you do that, Ruthie?”

            I said, “No, ma’am, I did not.  I sure did not, Mother.  I don’t know who did it.”

            Tom, our black cat and Butch were good friends.  The always ate and slept together.  Tom left after Butch died and was gone for about a year.  He came back one day to see if the dog was there; I guess. When he saw he wasn’t, he left again that night, and we never saw him again.  So, there you have it, another day in the life of little Ruthie.

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Tales of Little Ruthie: Lincoln Park Adventures

Front Page, Personal History

       Lincoln Park was the best place in Oklahoma City.  Talk about a playground for kids!  It was the greatest!  What was even better is that it was about a mile from where we lived. There was a zoo and big lake where anybody could fish.  There was a golf course. I didn’t play golf, but I sure had a lot of fun stealing the golfers’ golf balls and hiding them.

       Families could have picnics and wiener roasts.  It was truly a heaven on earth for kids, especially since my parents worked all day, and I could kind of roam around wherever I wanted.  The zoo was free, so we spent a lot of time there.

       Right across the street there was an amusement park called Spring Lake Park.  I think it was a quarter to get in, and most of the rides were a quarter, too.  There was a swimming pool where a lot of kids went in the summer. We didn’t always have the money for that, but Lincoln Park was free, so we spent a lot of time there.

       It was summer, and I was begging my brother to let us go to the zoo.

       “Please, let us go,” I said.

       “No, you can’t go by yourselves,” he said.

       “Well, you could go with us,” I said.

       Margie said, “Yeah you could go, too.”

       “I’m not going to that stupid zoo. There is nothing to do out there.”

       “Yes, there is; we could go fishing in the lake,” I said.

       “I said no, and that is that.”

       “I hate you, Junior,” I shot back.

       As soon as I said that, I took off running.  He was right behind me.  He caught me by my braid and yanked me back.

       “You better be good today, Ruthie, or you’re gonna get it.”

       “You better let me go, or I’m gonna tell on you,” I said.

       “Why do you always have to give me trouble? Why can’t you be like Margie?”

       “‘Cause I don’t want to be like Margie.  She never has any fun.”

       “I think I will just give you a spanking.”

       “You better not. You’re not allowed to spank us.”

       “Well, you’re not going to the zoo, you little brat!”

       He pushed me away from him, and I ran out the front door. Margie came right behind me. I went over to the shady side of the house where I kept my insects in jars and sat down to look at them.

       Margie asked, “What are we gonna do now?”

       “I don’t know; he is so mean.”

       I sat for a minute staring at my bugs then said, “Let’s go to the zoo.”

       “But Junior said no!”  Margie whined.

       “Well, he is not the boss of us; Mother is the boss,” I said.

       “But she is at work, and she told us not to call her all the time,” Margie reminded me.

       “There is no reason we have to tell anyone.  We can just go, and when we get back, we will tell Junior that we were at Jeanie Lou’s house playing.”

       “I don’t know, Ruthie,” Margie said.

       “I’m going; you can do what you want.”

       “I’m going; you can’t go by yourself,” she said.

       “Let’s get the drop lines so we can fish, too,” I suggested.

       We sneaked into the back porch and found the drop lines. We had no bait, but we could dig for worms.  We were on our way. We went down a path across from the house and walked down Rhode Island Street to 36th  Street then to Eastern Street.  Once on Eastern, we didn’t have far to go.  There was quite a bit of traffic on Eastern, so we had to be careful.  There was no sidewalk, just a grass pathway.

       We finally got to the golf course entrance, so we crossed Eastern and went that way because it was real shady from all the big trees.  It was pretty hot that day.  We stopped and sat down in the grass to rest for a while.  I was kind of thirsty. We didn’t have any water, so I planned to get a drink when we got inside the zoo.  There was a water fountain by the monkey cage. We decided to cut across the golf course to the front gate of the zoo because it was a shorter walk.

       We didn’t see any golfers for a while, but when we did, they started yelling, “Hey, you kids, get off this golf course!”

       “Just mind your own business,” I said.

       “You kids are gonna get in trouble.”

       “You don’t own the golf course,” I hollered back.

       We started running then. I picked up one of their golf balls and threw it at them. Boy, that made them mad!  They were real picky about those little golf balls.  I knew they couldn’t catch us. They were older men. We just laughed and kept on running.

       We got to the front gate of the zoo and went in. We stopped at the water fountain to get a drink. I was really thirsty. Margie was, too, so we took turns drinking.  We walked over to look at the monkey cage.  It was not really a cage; it was a deep concrete pit with a big boat for the monkeys to play on. They had chains to swing on and other things to play with. All of them were rhesus monkeys. Some had babies they were holding. The babies were real cute. We stood there and watched them for a long time. I liked the monkeys, and so did Margie.

       We left there and started down the pathway that led to Judy the elephant.  The kids that went to the zoo gave money to buy her.  They had a wooden box on an empty cage and asked everyone to give money to buy an elephant.  It took a long time to get enough to buy her, but finally she came.  All of us kids loved her.

       Margie said, “I’m getting tired and hungry.”

       “Well, we sure don’t have anything to eat; we can sit down though.”  I was worried Margie was going to end our zoo trip too soon.

       “I wanna go home now; this is no fun,” she complained.

       “Not yet, we just got here.  We’re gonna walk around the lake soon.”

       “I don’t want to walk around the lake,” Margie said.

       “You’re just a big baby.  You cry all the time.  Come on, let’s go see the bears.”

       We went to the bear cages. There were black bears, brown bears, and a big polar bear.  There were five seals that were so much fun to watch. We went past a giant cage full of all kinds of birds. There was a crow that could say hello.  That was pretty neat. They also had a train, but we had no money to ride it, and Margie started to complain again.

       Finally I said, “Let’s go; you gripe too much.”

       We went out the back way and walked to the lake. It was a big lake with lots of big catfish in it. I saw a man catch one. We saw a nice shady spot, and I dug around with a rock in the mud to find some worms. We baited the drop lines and threw them in the water. Then we just waited for a big fish to come along. After a while, we pulled the line in, but we had no fish – no bait either.

       There was a black man fishing near us.  He was short and kind of fat.  He had on overalls like my daddy wore sometimes.  He also wore a big straw hat. He looked like a nice man.

       “You need liver to catch catfish,” he said.

       “What’s liver?”  I asked.

       “I’ll let you have some of mine.  Here you go.”

       He pulled out this bloody, ugly piece of meat.  It almost scared me, and I sure didn’t want to touch it.  But, he was nice enough to offer, so I put my hand out to take it.  It felt soft and squishy. I thanked him and went back to bait the drop lines.

       He said, “You need a stick tied on to those drop lines.”

       “We don’t have sticks,” I said.

       He pulled his knife out of his fishing box, and he cut two limbs off the tree.  He trimmed them up a little bit and picked up my drop line.  He tied the line to the stick he cut. He handed it to Margie, and he fixed the other one the same way.  Then he showed us how to put the liver on the hooks and how to use the stick to toss the line out.

       “Thank you,” I said.

       “You’re welcome, little lady.”

       We sat down and fished a while but caught no fish.

       The man got up, walked over to us, and asked, “Did you get any bites?”

       “No, no bites at all.”

       “Are you girl’s hungry?”

       “No, we are all right,” I said.

       “Well, my wife makes good cookies.”

       “Thank you, but we are all right”

       He opened a paper bag and pulled out two cookies that looked real good.  He held them out to us, and Margie grabbed them like she was starving.  She handed me one, too.

       Margie said, “Thank you, so much.  I was really getting hungry.”

       “Yeah, me too.  We have been out here a long time, and we didn’t bring anything to eat.”

       “Well, you better get to eating then,” he said with a grin.

       We ate the cookies, and we fished a little while longer. We didn’t catch any fish though. I was thinking that we better go home. Junior was probably wondering where we were. We got up and picked up our fishing sticks and went to tell our new friend good-bye.

       “We have to go, Mister.  Thank you for all your help and for the cookies,” I said.

       “Yes, thank you very much,”  Margie added.

       “You’re welcome.  I enjoyed fishing with you girls.”

       “Well, we better go. Hope you catch some fish.”

       We started walking. It seemed like a long way home. It was hot, and we were tired. Margie was really in a snit. She got real grouchy when she got tired. I wasn’t in the best of moods either. We usually had so much fun out there, but we usually had other kids to play with.  It was just me and grouchy Margie today. Well, we had to make the best of it.  We were getting close to the place where we hid the golf balls from the golfers.

       I said, “Let’s go wade in the creek where the golfers are.”

       “Okay,” said Margie.  “Let’s go.”

       “That will cool us off a little bit for the walk home,” I told her.

       “And, we might find some golf balls to play jacks with,” Margie said.

       We got to the little creek.  There were lots of trees on each side. There were short bushes we could hide behind so the golfers could not see us. It was fun to watch them looking all over for their ball. Some of them would get red in the face and start cussing.  We just stayed in the creek behind the bushes and watched. Sometimes they would start walking towards the creek to look. We would take off running when they did. Then they would start yelling at us.

       “You kids better get off this golf course!  You’re going to be in big trouble!”

       On that day, there were not many golfers playing.  “Must be too hot,” I thought.

       We found a couple of balls in the creek, so we took them and started home.  We were cooled off a little for the walk home. It was so hot that in no time we were sweating again.  Plus, we had to worry about what to tell Junior when we got home.  We had been gone for about four or five hours.

       “Let’s just tell him we were playing at Jeanie Lou’s house,” Margie said, “like you said before.”

       “What if he calls her house to make sure we were there?” I asked.

       “He won’t,” she said.  “He doesn’t care that much where we were.”

       “You’re sure right about that, as long as he doesn’t get in trouble is all he cares about.  I can’t stand him. Mother treats him like he is the king.”

       “He is her favorite ‘cause he is the only boy,” she said.

       “Well, who cares?”

       “I guess Mother cares.”

       We were in the field across the road from our house, and we were looking for Junior.  We didn’t see him so we ran as fast as we could to the side of the house.

       “Maybe he is sleeping,” I thought.  He slept all the time, just like all teenagers.  I didn’t want to be one if that’s all they did.  We decided to go in the back door, but it was locked.

       Margie said, “Now what?”

       “Go to the front; I guess.”

       We tried to be quiet as we went back around the house to the front door.  I turned the doorknob.  It was locked, too.  I was starting to get mad because it was hot, and we were thirsty.

       “Junior, let us in!”  I yelled as loud as I could.

       I knew he was in there.  I started kicking the door and yelled louder.  Margie was yelling, too. We were making a lot of noise.

       “I’m gonna go next door and call Mother if you don’t let us in!”  I yelled.

       “You better not, you little brat.  You are in trouble now!”  Junior hollered.

       “No, we’re not, you big liar!  Open this door, or I’ll kick it down!”

       I was really kicking the door because he got me real mad.  There was glass in the top of the door. I don’t know why it didn’t break. He got me so worked up that when he opened the door, I jumped on him and started pulling his hair and hitting him with my fists.  Margie was helping me, too.  She was kicking him in his shins. He was yelling for us to stop. He was so much bigger than us that he just picked us up and tossed us on the couch.

       “I hate you, Junior!  I just hate you!”  I screamed.

       “I hate you, too!”  Margie added.

       “You are both in trouble.  I know you went to the zoo today.”

       “We did not. We were playing at Jeanie Lou’s house,” I lied.

       “You’re lying.  I went there looking for you.”

       “You liar. You sleep all day. You never go out until dark,” I yelled.

       “So what?  It’s none of your business, brat.”

       He had me so mad I was sweating and crying.  I was still thirsty. Margie was crying, too. I got up off the couch to go to the kitchen to get a drink of water. Margie started to get up, and he pushed her back down on the couch.  When he did that, I jumped on his back and started scratching and punching him.  I got mad at my sister, but I never stood by and let him hurt her.  She was sickly. We all knew that. My mother told us all the time to be nice to Margie because she was sickly.

       About that time, my mother walked in from work.  We had forgotten what time it was. Oh boy, we were all in trouble for fighting.  I was on Junior’s back when she came in. I just kind of slid down to the floor and stepped away from him. Margie got up and ran to Mother. She started telling her that Junior locked us out and hit us.  Mother always believed Margie. She just knew that Margie did not lie to her.

       “They went to the zoo today after I told them not to,” Junior said.

       “Did you two go to the zoo by yourselves today?”  Mother asked.

       My mind was going a hundred miles an hour.  Should I lie? Boy, I wanted to, but I knew in my heart we were caught.  Why lie when I knew that?  I decided to fess up and take the spanking.

       “Yes, ma’am, we did go to the zoo,” I confessed.

       “Haven’t you been told over and over not to do that?” she asked.

       “Yes, ma’am, we sure have.  But we took the drop lines and went fishing, too. We were gonna catch some catfish for supper,” I said.

       “Yeah,” Margie said.  “We almost did, too.  We got some bites.”

       “Well, you’re going to get some bites on your bottoms now,” Mother said.

       We got the spankings, of course.  She took us in the bedroom one at a time and really gave it to us. She used my daddy’s belt on us. Margie screamed and cried to high heaven. I bet you could hear her all the way to 23rd Street. I don’t think it really hurt that bad, but Margie wanted Mother to think it did so she would stop.

       When it was my turn, I went in the bedroom, and she told me to bend over the bed.  I did, and she whacked me one time.  I stood up; I was not going to cry.  I was gritting my teeth trying not to cry. Junior said if I didn’t cry, she would stop.  I don’t know why I believed that big liar, but I did, and she seemed determined to make me cry.  I didn’t cry though.

       “Don’t you ever go out there by yourselves again,” she said.  “Don’t you know that is dangerous for two little girls to be walking way out there?’

       “How come it’s dangerous?”  I asked.

       “Anyone could grab you and run off with you, and we would never find you.”

       “Why would anyone want us?”

       “Ruthie, no more questions. Just do as I say. You are to stay around the house when I am at work.”

       “Yes, ma’am, we will. But, can we just go play with Jeanie Lou or Annie?”

       “Yes, you can, but stay in the neighborhood.  You understand?”

       “Yes, we understand.”

       We never told her about the nice man we met when we were fishing.  We were afraid to because of what she said to us. That man wouldn’t hurt a fly. He was one of the nicest men I ever met. He taught me a lot about fishing, and the cookies his wife made were really good.  We were allowed to go to the zoo when Junior took us, but that was not too often. He took us fishing a few times, but we didn’t see that nice man ever again.

       That was quite a trip that my sister Margie and I took. She was a cry baby, but I loved her a lot. I never stopped wanting to go with her wherever she went. She was my big sister, and she was closer to my age than all the rest of them. We went everywhere together when we were growing up. We had our fights, but we loved each other. So there it is, a very long day in the life of little Ruthie.

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Tales of Little Ruthie: Margie and the Crochet Hook

Personal History

           We were out of school for the summer.  I think I was about nine, and Margie was eleven.  Ola and Jeanie no longer lived with us. My mother and daddy were at work all day, and my brother Junior was supposed to take care of Margie and me.  That was a joke. He actually thought he was going to boss me around. I still hated him just as much as ever. I think it was because Mother thought he was perfect and could do no wrong.  Margie had always been her favorite, too, so there I was stuck between two brats, and I hated them both.  I guess they hated me, too, but I didn’t care.

            When Ola and Jeanie lived with us, it was better.  They would make Margie and Junior leave me alone.  Ola could beat Junior up, and she did when he made her mad.  She had a temper. Jeanie had taken care of us so much she was like a mama to us.  They never messed with her; they were afraid to.  When Jeanie’s husband Cecil came home from the war in Germany, they moved to their own house.  I didn’t quite understand why I didn’t go with her.  I asked Mother if I could go with Jeanie, but she said “Of course, not.  You have to stay here with us.”

            I really missed her when she moved.  I cried a lot when I would start to think of her. I really loved her. I guess I loved her more than my mother because she was always so good to me.  She would play games with me and hug me. She got me ready for school and made my lunch. She was the one who was there when I got home from school. When I was real little, she would rock me and sing to me.  And when she would put me to bed, she would kiss me goodnight and say, “Go to sleepy, little Ruthie.”  Yes, I really loved her, and I wished she were still living with us.  But, she wasn’t.  I was stuck with my brother Elmer Junior.

            Ola had been gone for quite some time.  She married Jim, and they lived in their own house.  I loved Ola, and she protected me from Junior, too, but it was different from Jeanie.  I was constantly trying to figure out a way to save my life.  I told my mother on him, but she thought he did no wrong so I was on my own.  I would just take each day as it came and pray to Jesus that he didn’t kill me.  He wasn’t too bad on Margie because she was sick a lot with earaches.  Plus, he knew Mother would believe Margie if she told on him.

            One hot afternoon, he locked us out of the house, and it gets really hot in Oklahoma in the summer.  We were beating on the door and begging to get in even though it was hot in the house, too.  We sure didn’t have air conditioning back then; we didn’t even have a fan!  But, it was a little better in the house than outside in the blazing sun.  I guess we were as poor as church mice. I never realized it so much before, but we must have been real poor if we didn’t have a fan in the summer to cool off.

            One day when we were with Junior, and he was supposed to be watching us, Margie and me got into a big fight about our paper dolls.  We were sitting on the bed playing, and she tore one of my doll dresses right in half.

            I looked at her and said, “Why did you do that?”

             She said, “Just because I wanted to.”

             I could feel myself getting hot and mad.  I knew I was going to punch her.  I tried not to, but what else could I do?  I grabbed a bunch of her paper dolls and  started to rip them up. Then, I grabbed her pigtails, pulled her across the bed, and doubled up my fist.  Then, I really let her have it.  She started to scream and cry. The next thing I knew, Junior was there trying to pull me off her.  I started hitting him, too.

            He told me, “If you don’t stop, I’ll tie you up!”

            He could do it, too, because he was bigger and stronger than I was.  So, I stopped.

            Then Margie picked up a handful of torn up paper dolls and threw them at me.  That was when I felt something hit the back of my head, and it didn’t feel like paper.  I reached back to feel what it was.  Nope, it wasn’t paper.  It was one of my mother’s real small crochet hooks.  I told Margie and Junior it was stuck in my head down close to my neck. Junior looked and tried to get it out, but the little hook would not come out.

            Then, the dummy said, “It’s stuck.”

             I said, “No kidding.  I already told you that.”

             Margie started crying, not because she felt sorry for me but because she thought I would tell Mother, and she would be in trouble.

            So, my brilliant brother told us to walk around the neighborhood to see if someone could get it out.  We went to see Mrs. Frank first.  She was a real nice lady who gave us candy sometimes.  She tried and tried, but it would not come out.  So, we went to see Mrs. Baker who lived next door.  Margie   was still crying and crying.  I was not crying.  I was just hoping that someone could get it out.

            I was holding it up to keep it from flopping up and down when I walked.  I looked at Margie and said, “Please, shut up.  I won’t tell Mother.  Just shut up.”

             She asked, “Do you promise?”

            “Yes, I promise.”

            She knew my promises were not too good, so she made me double promise and told me she would help me with my chores on Saturday.  That sounded good to me, so I agreed.

           Well, Mrs. Baker was not home, but Anita, her daughter tried.  When she couldn’t do it either, she told us to go home and call Mother at work and tell her what happened.  So, we went home, and I dialed the number at the Downtown Cleaners where she worked.

            When her boss answered, I said, “It’s Ruthie; I’m Mrs. Carter’s little girl, and I really need to talk to my mother.”

            She came to the phone, and I told her the problem.  She asked, “How did you do that?”

           I said, “I was taking a nap and rolled over on it.”  Margie had a look of relief on her face.  Mother told us to walk to 23rd Street to the doctor’s office and she would leave and meet us there.  She had to ride the bus there. We went back home to tell Junior what we were to do.

            “I’m not walking all the way to 23rd Street!” he said.  That was our great babysitter!

             I said, “I don’t care what you do!”  What a jackass!  I just hated him.

            So, off we went to the doctor.  I was holding up the hook in my head with my left hand, and Margie was holding my right hand and trying to make sure that I wouldn’t tell Mother.  I never did cry, but she cried enough tears for us both.

            We finally got to the doctor’s office, but Mother was not there yet.  I told the woman in the front what happened and that my mother was coming right away.

            The lady said, “We have to wait for your mother to get her permission.”

             I said, “It is my head.  I give you permission.”  The lady just laughed.

            I looked over to the door, and there was my mother.  I sure was glad. I was getting tired of holding that hook up.  My arm was worn out.

            Mother walked over to us, took one look, and said, “I thought you said it was in your hand!”

             “Nope, it’s in my head, and I sure am tired of holding it up.”

             The nurse came out and took us back to a little room.  Then the doctor came in and started looking at it.  He moved it around trying to get it out.

             I said, “It’s stuck.”

             Then he said, “Yep, I do believe it is stuck.”

             I was thinking, “What a stupid doctor!”  I already told him it was stuck.  I just wanted it out.

             He gave me a little shot where the hook was, and he cut it out, I guess.  It was just under the skin he said. Then, I get a tetanus shot, and we were all done.

            By the way, I never cried when I got shots.  Margie always did. Mother paid the doctor ten dollars.  That was a lot of money for us to spend on a crochet hook. I felt really bad. On the way home, I told my mother I was sorry she had to use money on the doctor for me.  Margie just kept looking at me with pleading eyes.  I never did tell my mother what really happened until we were grown.  I had traveled from Texas to see her, and Margie was there from Las Vegas.  We were talking and laughing about it, and we finally told her what really happened, that Margie and I were fighting and she threw it at me.

            She asked, “Why didn’t you tell me the truth?”

            I said, “Because I promised Margie I wouldn’t tell on her.”

           That was one promise I did keep.  I would have promised anything to shut her up. Seems like she cried all the time. I really did love Margie though. I loved going with her wherever she went. She was my best friend. She just didn’t know  it when we  were kids. I hope you enjoyed just another day with little Ruthie.

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Tales of Little Ruthie: The Milkman and the Chocolate Milk

Front Page, Personal History

     Back when I was a child, the milk came in glass quart bottles and was delivered right to the front door by the milkman.  The bottles had just little paper caps that popped in the top so the milk did not spill.

     I could always hear the milkman coming, the clinking of the glass bottles and the sound of his truck.  We had a nice milkman named Bill.  He drove a truck that had Meadow Gold Milk printed on both sides.

     My Mother would stick a note in the top of the bottle if she wanted something more than the regular two quarts of milk. Sometimes she would get cottage cheese for Daddy. He loved cottage cheese. Or, maybe she needed butter.  He had butter, too.  If we were good, and she had the money, she would get a quart of chocolate milk for us kids once in a while.  The only other time we got chocolate milk was when we made it with cocoa.  That was hard to  do. It never tasted as good as the milkman’s chocolate either. I would mix cocoa and sugar and put it in the milk, but it never would dissolve all the way.  I would stir and stir until I got tired of stirring, then I would just drink it.

     I wished all the time that the milkman would leave only chocolate milk. Margie and I were talking one day about this very thing.

     “Don’t you wish that we could get all chocolate milk every time the milkman comes?” I asked.

     “Yes, I do, but you know Mother won’t do that, Ruthie.”

     “I know, but it would be nice if she would.”

     “You can’t use chocolate milk on oatmeal or cereal, silly.”

     “Why not?”

     “Because it wouldn’t taste good.”

     “How do you know?”

     “I just know; that’s all.”

     “Did you ever taste it with chocolate milk?” I asked her.

     “No, I never did, but Mother will not order all chocolate milk. You know that”

     “Maybe we  could order it.”

     “What do you mean?”

     “Well, we could change the note one day.”

     “Oh, no, Ruthie.  Not me. I am not getting a spanking for chocolate milk.”

     “I could do it. You don’t have to.”

     “You come up with the craziest ideas. How do you think of these things?”

     “I don’t know. They just come into my head, and they won’t go away until I try it.”

     “Why do you always try to make Mother mad?”

     “I don’t. She just gets mad all by herself.”

     “No, she doesn’t.  You do things like this, and it makes her mad, and then you get a spanking.”

     “Getting all chocolate milk would be worth a spanking.”

     “Not to me, Ruthie.  Just leave me out of this stupid idea of yours.”

     “Okay, but you can’t have any chocolate milk either.”

     “I don’t want any chocolate milk.”

     I started working on my plan right then. I had to figure out how I could get the note out of the bottle to change it. The milkman came early, too.  Sometimes he came before she went to work, so those days were out. However, there were days he came after she left for work.  It would have to be one of those days.

     We were out of school for the summer, so all I had to worry about was Junior and Margie. Margie already knew what I was going to do, and Junior was asleep all the time, so he was not a problem.  I just had to wait for the right day.

     I had been practicing what to write on the note. Mother usually just got two quarts of milk.  I figured I could just write two quarts of chocolate milk. That should work. I didn’t see why not. It never occurred to me that the milkman knew my mother’s handwriting.  Well, you have to remember I was only about eight years old.

    I was getting up early every morning before Mother went to work.  I was waiting for the day the milkman came late, and it finally happened.  She left for work and reminded us to get the milk from the porch so it wouldn’t sour.  As soon as she walked out the back door and was down the path a little ways, I ran to the porch, took her note out, and replaced it with one that said “Two Quarts of Chocolate Milk.”

     “This is not going to work, Ruthie,” Margie said.

     “Oh, yes, it is. You just wait and see.”
“What are we going to use for cereal if you get all chocolate?”

     “Well, chocolate, of course.”

     “I told you that won’t work, you dummy.”

     “And I told you it would. And don’t call me a dummy!”

     I heard the milk truck coming, and I was getting a little nervous.  I listened as he got out of the truck.  He was walking to the door. He picked up the bottle and read the note. I could see him out the window, and he looked like he didn’t know what to do.  Then, he knocked on the door.  I opened the door.

     “Hi, Bill.”

     “Ruthie, is this your mother wants today?”

     “What does it say?”  I asked.

     “It says two quarts of chocolate milk.”

     “Well, I guess that is what she wants then. She wrote the note.”

     “Okay,” he said, “if you are sure of that.”

     “Yes, sir, I am sure.  She wrote the note when she left for work.”

     He handed me the two bottles of chocolate milk, and I was so happy. I kept saying to myself, “It worked!  It worked!  He left, and I closed the door.  I looked at Margie, and she had a look of disbelief on her face.

     “I told you it would work. Didn’t I tell you?”

     “It’s not over yet, Ruthie.  What are you gonna tell Mother when she sees we have no white milk?”

     “I don’t know. I will think of something.”

     “You better think of something ‘cause she will have no white milk for cooking tonight.”

     It hit me like a slap in the face.  She needed white milk for cooking supper! She always needed it for something.  And she made us drink milk for supper every night. Oh, my gosh! I really was in trouble this time!  I looked at the chocolate milk in my hands. It sure looked good.

     “Do you want a glass of chocolate milk, Margie?’

     “No, ma’am.  I am not gonna get into your mess.  This was all your idea.”

     “That’s all right.  It’s more for me.”

     I could hear Junior getting up.  He wanted to know why we were making so much noise.  He came into the kitchen and saw me holding the chocolate milk.  Margie didn’t even wait a second to tell him what I did.  He just started laughing and laughing like a big jackass.

     “Boy, are you in trouble now, brat.”
“Don’t call me that, you big dummy.”

     “We will see who the dummy is when Mother gets home.”

     “Fine. You don’t get any chocolate milk either.”

     He just reached over and grabbed a bottle out of my hand.  He took the cap off and drank nearly the whole bottle!

     “Try to stop me, brat.”

     “I hate you so bad, Junior.  You don’t know how bad I hate you.”
“I don’t care if you hate me.”

     I opened the other bottle of chocolate milk and took a big drink out of it. I figured if I was going to get a bad spanking I might as well enjoy the milk.  I drank the whole bottle. Junior drank the other entire bottle.

     I decided I would wash both bottles out and try to make Mother think the milkman didn’t come today. Deep down I knew this was not going to work.  Even if it did work, I knew Junior or Margie would tell on me. The day went by so fast. I was hoping Daddy would get home early from work so he could help me. He wouldn’t let Mother beat me to death. He always made her stop if she gave me too many licks.

     I could see her walking down the path to the house. I was getting real scared. I didn’t know what to do. What I usually did was just tell her the truth if I knew I was caught and take the punishment. Daddy told me a long time ago to do that, and she might not spank me as hard.  So, I guessed that was what I would do.  I would fess up and take my spanking like a big girl.

     Mother came in the back door, and she looked tired.  I didn’t know where to begin. Then, I looked up, and there was Daddy.  He said hello to her and gave her a hug.

     “Mother, I have to tell you what I did today.”
“What did you do, Ruthie?”

     “Something bad. And I’m so sorry.”

     “Oh, no. Not again. Am I going to have to spank you?”

     “Let her tell us what she did, Mother,” Daddy said.

     “Okay.  Give us the bad news, Ruthie.”

     “I ordered all chocolate milk from the milkman today.”

     “You did what?”
“All chocolate milk from the milkman.”

     “What do I use to cook supper tonight, young lady?”

     “I don’t know. I’m sorry, Mother.”

     “Sorry does no good, Ruthie.  You always say that.”
“Ruthie, you knew that was wrong,” Daddy said.

     “I did. But I wanted that chocolate milk really bad, Daddy.”

     “Let’s go to the bedroom. You’re getting a spanking,” Mother said.

     “Yes, ma’am,  I know it.”

     She held her hand out for Daddy’s belt. He took it off real slow. I know he felt bad for me. I deserved it though, and I knew it.  I wished I could learn to make better decisions.  I don’t know why I always thought things were such a good idea.  Then, I wound up in trouble.  She made me bend over the bed and gave me a hard whack with the belt.  I stood up as usual, and she had to hold me up to finish spanking me.  I would just go limp like a dish rag.

     The door opened, and it was Daddy.  He took the belt from her.

     “That’s enough, Mother.  She doesn’t need any more.”

     “You told the truth, or you would get worse.  Don’t you ever do that again!”

     “I promise I won’t, Mother.  No matter how bad I want chocolate milk, I won’t do it.”
“What am I gonna do with you, Ruthie?”  Daddy said.

     “I don’t know, Daddy. I will try to be good.”

     He picked me up and hugged me and called me his baby Ruthie.

     I never did that again; I can promise you.  Margie and Junior were in the living room laughing at me.  I didn’t care. I hated them both anyhow. They had no imagination at all. I had to think up all the good stuff.  I know for sure I am the smartest now.  I was just another day and another spanking for little Ruthie.

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Tales of Little Ruthie: The Dress Ruffle

Personal History

            When I was growing up, my mother was a very good seamstress, and she made a lot of our clothes, at least for me and Margie.  She dressed us alike most of the time, so she made two of each garment.

            Sometimes she had the money to buy the fabric at C. R. Anthony.  That was a retail store on Twenty-Third Street.  She would buy pretty lace to use for trim and buttons to match the fabric.  If she couldn’t find buttons to match, then she would buy the ones that she covered herself.

            There were times when she used the feed sacks that the chicken feed came in. It was very pretty fabric though, and my mother could make anything look good when it came to clothing.

            Many of our dresses looked the same.  They had short puffy sleeves and a sash to tie in the back for a pretty bow.  The bottom parts of the dresses were full, and she would usually put a wide ruffle around the bottom.  She loved ruffles.  Even her own clothes had ruffles down the front of her dresses or blouses.  She just liked the look of ruffles I guess.

            I used to untie my sash and chew on the end of it.  That really upset her.

            “Ruthie, why do you always chew on your sash?’ she asked.

            “I don’t know.”

            “Well, then who does know?”

            “I don’t know.”

            “Stop saying, ‘I don’t know.’”

            “Okay.”
“I am getting tired of fixing the sash on your dresses.”

            “I won’t do it anymore.’

            “You will, too.  I know you.”

            “I will try not to do it anymore, Mother.?

            “Well, see that you do.  Next time you will get a spanking.”

            “Yes, ma’am.”

            She would tell me the same thing every time about me chewing on my sash.  She never did spank me though.  I really tried not to, but when I would get nervous, that is what I did.  She always saved a small piece of fabric to fix my sash because she knew I would chew on it.

            She never used a pattern to make clothes.  She would just cut things out and sew them together. She had a great talent for designing clothes.  She probably could have been a designer and made a fortune, but she did not have the education for that.

            She did all of her sewing on an old treadle Singer sewing machine.  When I was real little, I would crawl under it and sit on the treadle and rock back and forth.  I don’t know how I can remember that because I was about three years old.  But, as I write this story I can see myself rocking on that treadle.

            When she would finish sewing two dresses for Margie and me, she would get the iron out and press them with a damp piece of cloth.  This, she said, would make all the seams lie down flat and would make the dress look much better.  It took her a long time to do two dresses because she did every single seam on the garment.

            When she was finished, she would let us try them on.  I loved the trying on part.  We had to put on a slip first.  Then she would put the dresses on us.  They always fit perfectly.  She would always send us to show Daddy our new dresses.  He would tell us how pretty they were and how good they looked on us.  He would tell Mother what a good job she did sewing them, too.  I think she liked to show off what she did.  I think it made her feel good about herself.

            She had just finished making us a new dress, and she said we could wear it to school the next day.  I could hardly wait.  Margie was excited, too.  We didn’t get new dresses that often, and we wanted to show off a little bit I guess.

            We had breakfast next morning.  It was oatmeal and toast, of course.  Then, she combed our hair and braided it.  We put on the new dresses, and I thought they looked so pretty.  Margie and I were both dancing around and laughing.

            “Now, girls, I want you to be careful in your new dresses today,” she said.

            “We will,” Margie said.

            “Yes, we will,” I chimed in.

            “And, Ruthie, don’t chew on your sash.”

            “No, ma’am, I won’t.”

            We left for school, and we waved at Mother as we walked down the path.  I was in third grade.  I had a real nice teacher named Mrs. Logan.  She had a boyfriend in the army.  She used to read some of his letters to us girls.  I really liked her, and she was real pretty, too.

            I sat near the back of the room near a big Victrola. I got up to sharpen my pencil and to show off my dress, too, I guess.  When I got up, I got the ruffle of my dress caught on the handle of the Victrola, and it ripped it almost all the way off. I didn’t know what to do!  I grabbed the ruffle and was trying to hold it up.

            “Are you all right, Ruthie?” the teacher asked.

            “No,” I said, and I began to cry.

            “Let me help you.”

            She came to where I was and looked at my dress, Then she said we needed to go to the office.  I thought I must be in trouble if we were going to the office.  She put a girl in charge to watch the class, and we went to the office.  I could hear all the kids laughing at me. What a bad day!

            Mrs. Maddox was the principal.  The teacher left me there with her, and she looked at me as  I sat down.

            “What happened, Ruthie?’ she asked.

            “I tore the ruffle on my new dress.”

            “Well, let me look at it.”

            “My mother is gonna be mad at me.”

            “It was just an accident.”

            “But, she told me to be careful.”

            “Well, we could just pull it the rest of the way off.”

            “No, we can’t!  It will be too short then!  You can see my legs!”

            I was crying.  I didn’t want my legs to show that much.

            “Please, don’t do that,” I begged.

            “We could use the stapler and staple it back on.”

            “That’s a good idea,” I said.

            “Then, that is what we will do, Ruthie.”

            “Thank you, Mrs. Maddox.”

            That is what she did.  It took her a while because she tried to keep it even, but when she was finished, it looked pretty good.  I thanked her again, and all of a sudden I reached  out and hugged her.  I made it through the rest of the day.  I was glad when the bell rang to go home.

            I didn’t know what Mother would do.  Margie said she would probably spank me, so I started preparing for it.  I was used to that.  I took the dress off when I got home and put on my old clothes.  I was just waiting for her to come home.  I knew I had to tell her, or I would be in worse trouble.

            She walked in the back door from work, and she had a smile on her face.

            “That was good,” I thought.  “Maybe she had a good day.”

             I went into the bedroom closet, got the dress, and walked into the kitchen with it.

            “What is wrong, Ruthie?” she asked.

            “I tore the ruffle off my new dress today.”

            “Let me see.”

            I handed her the dress, and she was looking at the staples.

            “Mrs. Maddox fixed it for me.”

            “Well, it’s not too bad.  I can fix this pretty easy.”

            “Am I in trouble?”  I asked.

            “No, you’re not in trouble.”

            “You didn’t do it on purpose did you?”

            “No ma’am.  It was an accident.”

            “I will fix it for you.  Don’t worry.”

            I was so surprised I didn’t know what to say, so I just shut my mouth.  My mother was really hard to figure out.  I never knew what to expect from her.  She fixed the dress and never said another word about it.  I think Margie was mad because she wanted me to get a spanking.  That was a very trying day in the life of little Ruthie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Root Beer Stand-My First Job

Front Page, Personal History

     It was Saturday, and I loved Saturdays because we usually always got to go to the movies. By we, I mean me and my sister Margie. She was two years older than I was, but she always thought she was my boss. I had news for her; she was only my boss when I wanted her to be. That meant when she had something I wanted or when I wanted to go somewhere with her, I let her think she was the boss of me.

     I must have been about eight years old when all this happened. Margie was about ten. We had chores we had to do in the morning before we could go to the movies. We had to help Mother clean the house, wash the dishes, and do whatever else she needed. Sometimes I would have to iron a bushel basket of clothes. I did most of the ironing because my mother said I was the best ironer she ever saw for my age. It was not easy either. There was no such thing as permanent press then.

     She washed all the laundry on a rub board in galvanized tubs in the back yard.  A rub board is a wooden frame with a metal rippled rub board attached to it. My mother had to scrub the clothes on this to get them clean. Her knuckles were always bleeding from scrubbing so hard. I have to say that my mother had the cleanest and whitest clothes in the whole neighborhood, maybe the cleanest in the world.

     Some things, like my daddy’s khakis, she would starch, and it was really hard to iron those. They were real hard to iron, but he always told me how good I ironed his clothes, so I took extra time on his things. Back then we ironed everything, the sheets, the pillow cases, handkerchiefs, tablecloths. You name it, and we ironed it, including all the doilies my mother crocheted. Our house was old, and we had only cold water in the house, but we had the cleanest house in the neighborhood. My mother was German and French, and she was the cleanest person I have ever known in my life, bar none.

     We also had an outhouse. It was cold in the winter and hot in the summer. I hated that outhouse, but just like everything else, my mother kept it clean. She made my daddy put linoleum on the floor so she could mop and wax the floor. Daddy bought big sacks of lime to help keep it clean, and once a month he would move it to another spot and fill the old hole up with dirt. My mother was obsessed with cleanliness. She and Mammy, my granny who lived in Healdton, Oklahoma, were both like that until the day they died.

     Anyhow, on that Saturday, we were finally done with our chores, and she fixed us a sandwich for lunch. The movie started at one o’clock, so we had to hurry. We ate, and she washed our faces and our hands. She rubbed really hard when she washed our faces. She wanted us clean, too. When we were ready to go, she would always give us a dollar each. That was a lot back then, but she said we were kids and we needed to have some fun once in a while. Sometimes I felt bad for using that dollar on the movies because I knew we might need it for something important like bread or milk before the week was over.

     Off we went to see the show. It was about a mile to The Bison Theater. It was owned by Chris Caporal, a really nice man. When we got there, we got in line and waited for the ticket box to open.

    There was always a double feature, a cartoon, a newsreel, and previews of coming attractions. There was always what they called a continued serial. It would end with someone in big trouble. That was so everyone who went to the movies would go back the next week again to see what happened. I figured that out right away. I was only eight years old, but I was not a sucker. Sometimes it seemed like I was never really a kid. In fact, I was born knowing how to read. Some people might not believe that, but it is the truth.

       I knew right away when someone tried to put the Okie Doke on me. That means when they try to fool you in Oklahoma language. I was very proud to be from Oklahoma. I was always proud of my Indian heritage. Oklahoma means, land of the red man. When we used to watch westerns, I always rooted for the Indians. And, when we played cowboys and Indians, I wanted to be the Indian. Sometimes I was Roy Rogers, but he never killed not even one Indian. Roy was the King of the Cowboys. Everyone knew that. If anyone back then didn’t know that then they were pretty dumb. He liked Indians.

        When the movies were over, we left. Sometimes we would stay and watch it two times but not that Saturday. We were going for sodas. The Bison was on 23rd Street. It was a pretty busy street. There were a couple of beer joints on the way home, and we would always stop and poke our heads in the front door to see the people who were drunk. I always hoped my daddy was not in there. That day he wasn’t. We went into the drug store, climbed on a tall stool that spins at the soda bar, and ordered two chocolate sodas.

         I liked the spinning stools. It gave me something to do while I waited for my soda. The lady brought us our sodas, and we drank them real slow so they would last longer.

           Margie asked, “Which way do you want to walk home?”

           I said, “We always go down Fonshill Street. Let’s go down Jordan today.”

           She agreed. We finished our sodas and left. It was a good thing we decided to do that, or we would not have gotten our first job.

          We were almost to Jordan Street where we turned to go home when I saw this sign in the root beer stand window. It read: Help Wanted Immediately. Start Today. I said I was born knowing how to read.

            I told Margie, “Let’s see if they will hire us.”

            She said, “No, we will get in trouble with Mother.”

          I start telling her how much money we could make and that would help Mother out, so she finally agreed. Margie was a sucker if I talked fast enough to her.

            It was a curb-service root beer stand, so we went up to the window. I said to the lady, “We would sure like to have this job.”

            She asked, “How old are you?”

            I said, “I am ten, and my sister is twelve.” I just fibbed a little bit.

            She said, “No, you are not old enough.”

          Margie said, “We really want this job. We are good workers, and we need this job to help out at home.”  That really was the truth. It seems like we never had enough money. I really needed new shoes. The sole on my right foot was flopping. Daddy had glued it back on several times, but it just came off again. Maybe if we got this job, we could buy some new shoes. That would be great.

            The lady looked at us like she felt sorry for us. Then she said, “Well, you’re really young, but I will give you a try.”

            We were so happy! I ask her if I could use the phone to call Mother to tell her about the job and tell her that we would be home a little bit late. She said I could, so I dialed the number.  I was really scared of what she would say.

            The phone rang.  “Hello,” she said.

           Then I start talking as fast as I could, “Mother, we got a job at the root beer stand. We will be home in a little while.” Then before she could say another word, I hung up.

            Margie asked, “What did she say?”

            I said, “She said it would be okay.”

          So we started our new job. Margie would go to the cars and get their order. I worked inside. I filled the glasses with root beer. Then Margie would carry the tray out to the car and hook it on the side door. They would pay her, and sometimes they would give her a nickel or dime tip. I asked Margie to let me try her job so I could maybe get some tips, too.

           My first order was four root beers. I picked it up at the window and started to the car. I put the tray on the car door; the man paid me and gave me a nickel tip. I got really excited, and I was thinking, “Boy, are we gonna make some money! This is a great job!”

        Next thing I heard was a big crash! I hadn’t put the tray on the door right, and it fell off on the cement. Oh, my gosh, I was so embarrassed.  I was ready to cry when a taxi cab pulled up, and my mother got out of it. She looked at me and Margie both and said, “Get in this taxi cab right this minute.”

            She went to talk to the lady. I don’t know what she said, but I knew we were in big trouble. At that moment I was asking myself, “Why do I do these things? What is wrong with me?”

            I really told some whoppers that time, not just to Mother but to the lady who hired us. I had lied about how old we were. Mother never said a word all the way home. There was just stone dead silence in the car. I was thinking, “She is really going to kill me this time. I have pushed her over the line.”

            We got home, and she paid the taxi driver fifty cents. We ran for the house. Daddy was sitting at the kitchen table.  She came in and sat down at the table.

            “Whose idea was this?

            Margie said, “It was Ruthie’s idea, Mother.”

            I knew I could not tell any more lies. One thing about me, when I got caught, I would fess up. I never tried to blame anyone else. It was not Margie’s idea. I was ready to take my spanking because I knew I had it coming. I was wishing that I had not been born knowing how to read, then I could not have read that sign that help wanted sign.

            I look at her and I said, “It’s my fault, Mother. I will take the spanking. Margie just did what I said.”

            My mother told me to go in the bedroom and bend over the bed. I did, and she came in with Daddy’s belt. She gave me about five good whacks, but I could tell she was holding back. I think I scared her more than I made her mad. She was scared because she thought we were in danger working in a drive in root beer stand.

            When she finished, she said, “Get to bed and go to sleep.”

            She went out of the room, and Margie came in.  “I’m glad you got a spanking. You deserved it. This was all your fault.”

            I made a fist, and I grabbed her by her braids. I pulled her back on the bed, and I gave her a hard smack on her arm. Sometimes I just hated her. She was such a big sissy. I thought I might never go anywhere with her again. It would serve her right. It was just another day in the life of little Ruthie.

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Tales of Little Ruthie: The Train Ride at Granny’s

Front Page, Personal History

         It was summer again, and Margie and I were at Granny’s house in Healdton.  We were going to stay a couple of weeks.  I was about seven or eight years old, and Margie was nine or ten.  Things never seemed to change there.  Granny, the town, and the house stayed the same year after year.

            We helped Granny in the garden and the orchard.  She was canning grape jelly.  She had grape vines growing on the fence with big, juicy, Concord grapes.  They hung down in big clusters.  Sometimes we crawled under them between the fence and the vines, and we lay under there and ate grapes.

            It was real shady and cool under there.  The chicken pen was right there, so we could watch them.  There was one hen whose name was Old Crip.  Granny called her that because she had one leg that got caught in the fence, and it crippled her.

            All of the chickens were white.  Granny said they were white Leghorns.  They were for laying eggs but weren’t too good for cooking unless you killed them at a young age.  She only had one rooster.  He didn’t have a name.  She just called him “that old rooster.”

            We heard her calling us to come to the house, so we took off running to see what she wanted.  We ran in the back door; she was standing over a hot stove.

            She said, “I need you to help me now with this jelly.”

            “What do we do, Granny?”  I asked.

            The grapes were on the stove cooking.  They were boiling hot.  She had another big pot sitting on a table near the stove.  She had a big piece of cheesecloth that she was draping across the top of the empty pot.

            “Margie, I want you to hold this cheesecloth in place on this pot,” she said.  “I will dip the grapes out of the pot on the stove into the cheesecloth, just a few at a time.  Then, I will gather up the ends of the cheesecloth and twist it until all the juice is out.”

            “But, I don’t want to get burned, Granny,” Margie said.  What a big sissy, I thought.

            “Not if we are careful,” Granny said.

            “I can do it, Granny,” I said.  “’I’m not scared to do it.”

            “I guess you can try, Ruthie, but you have to be real careful.”

            “I will, Granny.  I promise.”

            I got my arms and hands around the top of the big pot.  I was holding the cheesecloth as tight as I could.  Granny dipped into the pot on the stove with a small pan then poured it into the cheesecloth.  She set the pot down on the table and started gathering the cheesecloth.  It was really hot.  I could feel the heat on my arms and hands.

            As soon as she had the cheesecloth, all gathered in her hands, she started to twist it tighter and tighter.  The grape juice started to drain into the pot.  When it was all squeezed out, she untwisted the cheesecloth and threw away the grape skins.  Then we did it again and again until the pot on the stove was empty.

            It took a long time, and it was not easy.  I could tell it was burning Granny’s hands when she was twisting the cloth, but she never complained, not one time.  It was kind of burning me a little, too, but I was not going to complain either.  I wanted to do a good job for her.

            We were finally finished, and she put the juice back on the stove in a smaller pot.

            “You can go outside for a while.  I will finish up,” she said.

            “I can still help, Granny.  I’m not tired yet.”

            “I know, and you did a good job, Ruthie, but this part I have to do.”

            So, Margie and I went back outside to play for a while.  I was sitting on the bench under a big tree.  I could hear the train coming in the distance.  The engineer was blowing the whistle.  I would have given anything to ride on that train.  Three trains came by every day.  We would stand at the fence and wave to the engineer.  He would always wave back to us.

            I would holler real loud, “Can I ride your train?”

            “They can’t hear you, silly,” Margie would say.

            “Well, maybe they can.”

            “Even if they could, they won’t let you ride on that train.”

            “You never know.  Some day they might.”

            We had been at Granny’s about a week, and I was at the fence every day waving at the engineer. Margie said I was crazy.

            “They don’t even see you,” she said.

            “Yes, they do!  They wave back at me all the time.”

            “You are so dumb,” she said.

            But that didn’t stop me.  I just kept right on waving.  I would be out there for every train that went by.  I would pray to God to let me ride that train.  Margie didn’t know anything.  I had known that for a long time.

            The day finally came, and I was at the fence as usual.  I could hear the train whistle blowing.  It got closer and closer.  Then I could see the front of the train.  As soon as they were close enough to see me, I began to yell and wave at them.

            “Please, let me ride your train!”  I yelled.  “Please, just one ride.”

            I knew they couldn’t hear me, but I had to try.

            The next thing I knew, the train was slowing down.  The engineer was waving for me to come to the train.  I was so surprised I could not move.  I was frozen to that fence.

            Then I realized that he was telling me I could ride the train.  I took off out the gate and was running as fast as I could.

            When I got close, I could hear him yelling, “You wanna ride little girl?”

            Boy, did I ever want a ride!  I had been waiting for a long time for this, and it was happening.  I could not believe it!

            “Yes, please, please, let me ride your train!”

            “Give me your hand,” he said.

            I reached up as far as I could on my tip toes, and he bent over, got my hand, and pulled me up.  I was inside the engine of his train!  I was so excited I could not talk!

            “You can ride to town with us, but you will have to walk back home.”

            “That’s all right.  I can walk home.”

            “I see you out by the fence every day waving and wanting to ride the train.”

            “I know, and I can’t believe you finally stopped.”

            “Well, it looked like you wanted this pretty bad.”

            “Thank you, thank you, so much.  I will never forget this.”

            “You’re welcome, little girl.”

            “My name is Ruthie.”

            “You wanna blow the whistle, Ruthie?”

            “I sure do, Mister Engineer,” I said.

            He picked me up so I could reach the rope to blow the whistle.  I just knew I was dreaming.  I pulled the rope three times, and the whistle let everyone in town know the train was coming.

            “That’s good,” he said.

            I let go of the rope, and he put me down.  I was looking out the train window and waving to everyone I saw.  I wanted whole town to see me on the train, especially the kids.

            When we got to town, the train stopped.  I wasn’t ready to get off.  I wanted to ride some more, but I knew it was over.  That was okay though.  I was the happiest kid in town.  I finally got to ride on the train.

            “Thank you, I will never forget this day,” I said.

            “And neither will I, Ruthie.”

            Then he reached in his pocket and gave me a whole quarter.

            “Go get yourself some ice cream.”

            “Oh, no, I can’t take that!  My granny wouldn’t like it.”

            “Yes, you can.  I am the engineer, and I said you could.”

            “Well, I guess I can then, and thank you.”

            He helped me get down off the train and told me that he would be watching for me at the fence.

            “Me, too, I will be watching every day ‘til I go home.”

            I waved good -bye and started walking up the street to the drug store to get some ice cream.  I was just walking on air.  I was so happy I could hardly stand it.  I thought that must be the best day of my life for sure.

            In the drugstore, I order a chocolate cone.  It cost one nickel.  I still had twenty cents.  I decided to save it so I could show off to Margie.  I could hardly wait to get home to show her and Granny.

            Oh, my gosh!  Granny!  I didn’t tell her I was leaving or where I was going!  That was not allowed.  We were always supposed to tell her where and when we left the yard.  Oh, my gosh!  I was in real trouble!  Why did this always happen to me?

            I ran out of the drugstore as fast as I could.  I was on Main Street running towards the train tracks.  I got to the tracks and still had a couple of blocks to go.  I was going as fast as I could down the tracks.  I tripped and fell on a board going across the tracks.  Both of my knees were scratched up and bleeding a little bit.  My left palm was cut, too.  I didn’t stop though.  I knew I was going to get it.

            Maybe she hadn’t missed me yet.  I was hoping, but I knew that Margie told her for sure.  She liked it when I got into trouble.  She would stand behind whoever happened to be spanking me and smile at me.  Now, what kind of a sister would be that mean?  Margie, that’s who.

            I got to the front gate and ran inside.  Granny was sitting at the kitchen table with Margie.  I stopped and just stood there looking at her.  I tried to read her face to see if she was really, really mad or just a little bit mad.  I decided she was really, really mad.  Darn it.

            “Where have you been, young lady?”

            “I’m sorry, Granny, but the train stopped and gave me a ride uptown.”

            “Did I say you could take a train ride with perfect strangers?”

            “No, ma’am.  You did not.”

            “Then, why did you do it?”

            “It was my only chance to ride that train, Granny.  I had to.  I have been trying to get them to stop every day, and they finally did.”

            “But you didn’t have time to ask me if it was okay?”

            “No, ma’am, I didn’t.  I had to hurry to get on before they left me behind.”

            “You’re going to get a spanking, Ruthie.’

            “But, Granny, I had to.  That was my only chance to ride the train.”

            “The spanking is not for getting on the train, Ruthie.  It is because you got on that train with someone you don’t know.  He could have carried you off to who knows where, and we would never have found you.”

            “But I did know him.  He is the engineer of the train.”

            “What is his name?” she asked me.

            “His name is Mister Engineer, I guess.”

            “You see what I am saying, Ruthie.  Your folks would never forgive me if something happened to you.”

            “Yes, I understand, but I got to ride the train.”

            “Are you deaf, Ruthie?  Did you hear what I said?”

            “No, ma’am.  I am not deaf.  I’ll go get the switch.”

            I did understand what she was saying.  I had done just what she said and never thought twice about it.  I got so excited about the train that it never crossed my mind that I didn’t know this person.  She was right.  I had done a foolish thing, and I deserved a spanking.

            Even though the engineer was a nice man, I didn’t know that when I ran out to ride the train.

And, to make matters worse I never even told Granny where I was going.  She knew because Margie saw me leave and get on the train.  She was right.  I had a spanking coming, and I knew it.

            I went out to the tree, got the switch, and walked slowly going back.  I gave her the switch, and she gave me a pretty hard spanking.  I jumped around and cried because it hurt.  Margie was not smiling this time.  She was worried about me, too.  She loved me, I knew, but she hardly ever showed me that she did.  She always thought I was a pain in the butt, and I guess I was, too.  That was my one and only train ride, and I will never forget it.

            Granny did not tell Mother and Daddy.  I was glad she didn’t.  Mother probably would have spanked me again.  She used to tell us that if Granny had to spank us, we would get a worse one when we came home.

            So there you have it, another day in the life of little Ruthie.  A good lesson was learned from my Granny, and I never forgot it.

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Tales of Little Ruthie: The Little Red Church

Front Page, Personal History

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            My mother was always a member of the Pentecostal church.  She didn’t go to church a lot when we were kids, but she did make me and Margie go, just not to the Pentecostal.  She sent us to a Baptist church.  I don’t know if you have ever been to a Pentecostal church; if not, you have really missed something.

            My mother sent us to a Baptist church because she thought we would be afraid in a Pentecostal church.  The Pentecostal church in our neighborhood was a little, one-room building with the outside walls covered in red roof shingles.  I wanted to go in that church so bad I could hardly stand it!  Every time we went by there, I wondered what they did in there that my mother was sure would scare us.

            Mother would put our best clothes on us every Sunday, and we would take our little Bibles and walk eight blocks to the Baptist church.  We always walked by the little red church, and I could hear them in there having a good time.  But, I did what my mother said and went to the Baptist church.  We went to Sunday school and then to church.  It seemed like we were there forever!  I can tell you that I heard an awful lot of fire and brimstone sermons.  The subjects of some of those sermons made me sure I was going to hell to burn forever and ever.  These were what my daddy called hard shell Baptist.

            The preacher would start out very calm and smiling, but before it was over, he would be sweating and yelling at the top of his voice how sinful all of us were.  He said we had better not be out there going to bars, drinking, or dancing  That was all a sin. I was too young to drink or go to bars, but I sure did like to dance.  My sisters, Jeanie and Ola, had records and a Victrola to play them on.  They taught me to dance the jitterbug.  I just loved dancing.  I guess I was a sinner, and maybe I was going to hell, too.

            When we would pray in church, I was hoping God would not hold it against me because I liked dancing.  I never told the preacher I liked to dance.  I just couldn’t figure out why God would not like dancing.  It made everyone laugh and have a good time.  I really thought if God would just try it that He would like it, and then it would not be a sin.  I thought the preacher should try it, too.  He needed to laugh a little more.  At the end of church service, they always played real sad songs and tried to get everyone to give their body and soul to God.

            The preacher would say, “Come forward and confess your sins to the Lord, and you will be forgiven.”

             Sometimes there would be people to go up there, confess, and give their lives to the Lord.

Now this is where I got really confused.  I didn’t know what “giving your life to the Lord” meant.  Would I  just stop doing everything else and live for the Lord?  I couldn’t quite figure that out.  I asked Margie, but she didn’t know either.  She told me not to worry about it.  She said if I would just be quiet and good, then I wouldn’t get in trouble with God – or Mother.  I should have asked somebody else.

            After church was over, we would walk out the door and shake hands with the preacher.  He would always tell us to bring our parents next time.  I knew that would never happen because my mother went to the little red church when she did go to church, and that was seldom.  She always had so much work on weekends she didn’t have time for church.  And my daddy never went to church.  He wanted us to go, but he would never go.  I don’t know why.  I suspect it was because he was a drinker.

            It took me many, many years to know what kind of relationship I had with the Lord.  Nevertheless,   I know now, and I am at peace with Him.  I won’t go into detail about it because it is very personal.  I pray that all of the people on God’s earth will find the same peace I have with Him.  It is a wonderful feeling, and one we can all have.  God is really not complicated at all.  You just relax and love Him.

            We were on our way home, walking down the dirt road.  I was kicking rocks.

            Margie said, “Stop it!  You’re messing up your good shoes!”

            I stopped because I really liked those shoes.  They were white with straps that buckled across my foot.  They looked pretty on my feet.  I only got to wear them for church or for something special.  My mother bought them for me.  Margie had a pair just like them.  We wore the same dresses, too.  Mother dressed us the same all the time, like we were twins, but we were not twins.  Margie was two years older than me.  Mother made all of our clothes.  She could sew real good.  Sometimes she made us dresses out of chicken feed bags.  Long time ago they put chicken feed in real pretty floral bags.  Daddy had chickens, so he bought a lot of chicken feed.  They were pretty dresses, but sometimes a few of the girls would tease us about our chicken feed dresses.

            All of a sudden my attention went from my shoes and my dress to the loud singing and shouting coming from the little red church. It sounded like that little building was going to fall down.

            I said, “Let’s go in there.”

            “No, we can’t,” said Margie.

             “Why not?”

            “Because Mother would spank us for sure.”

            “Next Sunday, I am going to that church.”

            Margie said, “No, you’re not.”

            “I am, too,” I said.  “You can go or not, but I need to find out what they are doing in there.”

          Nothing more was said about it.  She thought I would forget about it, but I had made up my mind.  I was going in there.  There was nothing to be scared of.  It was a church.  God was in there.  He wouldn’t hurt me.

            We got home and changed out of our good clothes and shoes.  Mother asked us how church  was, and we said it was fine.  We almost always went to the movies on Saturday and Sunday, so we started getting ready to go.  Mother always had  Sunday dinner ready right at noon or shortly thereafter. We were having fried chicken that day, and it really looked good.  We had fried chicken on one Sunday and pot roast the next.  My mother was such a good cook.  Everyone loved her cooking.  Ola and Jim always came on Sunday with the kids for dinner.  Jim said no one could cook like Ellen.  Ola was not a very good cook.  Yep, I think it was official that Ellen Carter was the world’s best cook.

            The movie started at one o’clock, so we ate real fast, got our dollar from Daddy, and started walking.  We lived about a mile from the Bison Theater.  All the way there, I was thinking about the little red church and how I was going in there for sure on the next Sunday.

            The week went by so slowly.  We were in school and had plenty to keep us busy, but I couldn’t get the church off my mind.  I don’t know why I am like that.  I set my mind on something I want to do, and I just become obsessed with it.  I am certain that is why I got into trouble a lot when I was a kid.  My mother would get so mad at me.

            She would always ask me, “Ruthie, where do you get these crazy ideas?”

             I never knew what to say.  I would just say, “I don’t know.”

            The truth is that I really didn’t know.  An idea would just come to me out of the blue, and once it was in my head, it would not go away until I did whatever it was that I wanted to do.  At times, it worked out fine.  Then there were the times it worked out really bad, and I always got a spanking for whatever it was that went wrong.

            I think I was getting used to spankings.  Now, my mother would tell me to go outside and get her a switch out of the tree so she could spank me.  I would drag myself out there and get the switch, take it to her, and she would wear me out with it.  Most of the time I didn’t even cry.

            She would ask, “Do you like getting spankings?”

            I would say, “No, ma’am.”

            Then she would say, “Well, I am tired of giving them to you.”

            I didn’t say it, but I was thinking, “Then why don’t you stop?”

            I remember after one spanking, she turned to walk away.  That’s when I stuck my tongue out at her.  She turned around just in time to catch me.  I got another spanking that was harder than the one before.  I think that was the first and only time I got two spankings at one time.

            She said, “Don’t you ever stick your tongue out at me. Do you understand?”

            I was crying and said, “Yes, ma’am.  Yes, ma’am.  I won’t ever do it again.”

            But, of course, I did. I just never got caught again.

            Sunday morning finally came around, and I was pretty excited about going to the little red church.  We ate breakfast and got dressed in our church clothes and shoes, and before long, we were walking to the church.  I guess Margie had forgotten what I told her the week before because I reminded her about going to the red church, and she looked at me as if I had lost my mind.

            She said, “You have been in trouble all week and getting spankings.  We are not doing that.

            I said, “Maybe you’re not, but I am.  You do what you want, but I am going in this church.”

            She started to cry.

            I said, “Don’t cry; you don’t have to go. You can go to the other church and pick me up on the way back.  Mother will never know.”

             Finally, she said, “I am going with you to make sure they don’t kill you.”

            The door was open, and we looked inside.  There were some folding chairs for people to sit in.  In the front, there was a piano on one side and a couple of guitars leaning against the wall.  There were just a few people.

            Then I heard someone say, “Please come in.”

            I said, “Thank you, ma’am.”

            Margie and I just kind of eased in the door.  We sat down in a chair in the back by the door.

            The lady came up to us and started talking to us.  She was real nice.

            “Welcome to our church,” she said.

            I said, “Thank you, ma’am.”

            It seems that all I could say was, “Thank you, ma’am.”

            More people started coming in.  A lady sat down at the piano, and two young men had the guitars in their hands.  I had never been to a church where they played guitars.  I was really feeling good about this.  Then, Margie started to poke me with her elbow.

            I said, “What do you want?”

            “Let’s go,” she said.

            “No.  I am staying for church.”

            About that time, the music started.  The piano and the guitars filled the church with music, but I did not know the song the people were singing.  The music was great!  I have always loved music, but this music was different than what I heard at the Baptist church.  The people were kind of moving up and down and keeping time with the music.  The only way I can describe it is “happy.”  They sounded so happy to be singing.  The guitars really added something to the song.

            I thought, “I am going to like this church.”

            They are waving their hands in the air and saying, “Praise God!” and “Thank you, Lord!”

            We stayed for the whole service.  The preacher was loud like the Baptist preacher.  He told us we were all sinners just like the Baptist.  About the only difference I could see in the two churches was this one sure played better music.  They finally had the last song where they called on folks to give their lives to God.  That is when it changed.  The people were singing and waving their arms, and then two ladies began to shake and talk in a language I had never heard before.  One of them fell down on the floor and was wiggling around, all the time talking in this language.  I looked at Margie, and her eyes were so big they were ready to pop out!  I guess mine were, too.

            The music stopped, and no one went down to be saved.  The preacher said a nice prayer, and suddenly it was over.  I was not ready for it to be over.  I wanted to hear more music.  I got up out of my chair and walked to the front of the church.  Margie was right behind me and holding on to the sash of my dress.  I went over to the piano, and I sat down on the bench.  I wanted to play it so bad.  I just lightly touched the keys.  No sound came out.  Then the lady who played the piano during church came over to us, and she asked if we would like to play the piano.

            I said, “Can we?”

            “Yes, you can.  For a few minutes.”

            “Thank you.  We never played a piano before,” I said.

            “Well, enjoy yourselves for a few minutes.”

            I was so happy!  Margie sat down beside me, and we both got to play the piano.  Margie was happy, too.  I bet she was glad that we went to that little church then.  I know I was.  We played around for about five minutes, and we went over and thanked the lady for letting us play. She was really nice.  She asked us to come back the next Sunday.

            I said, “If we can, we will be here.”

            When we got outside, I looked at Margie and said, “Aren’t you glad we went?”

            “Yes, but if Mother finds out, we will get in trouble.”

            “I don’t care.  It was worth it.”

            “You think it was worth a spanking?”

            “Yes, I do.  I love that piano, and I like that church.  They have fun in there.”

            “We better hurry and get home; we are already late.  I think you’re crazy, Ruthie.”

            We started running to get home so we would not be too late.  When we got home, Mother never said a word about us being late.  She was too busy cooking Sunday dinner.  We changed out of our good clothes, and all the while, I was thinking about the piano.  I couldn’t get it off my mind.  I wanted to go back the next Sunday, but I had to worry about Margie telling on us if she got mad at me for something.  She was like that.  She would say it was all my idea, and I would be the one that got the spanking.  Well, I had a week to think about it.  I can tell you that this was not a typical day in the life of little Ruthie.  I think it was one of the best days I had ever had.

 

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