The Railroad Track and the Drunk

Front Page, Personal History

     It was summer.  My sister Margie, our cousin Rosie, and I were at my granny’s house in Healdton, Oklahoma.  I had promised my mother that I would be good and not give Granny any trouble.  I just hated making that promise because it was really hard to keep.  What if something good came up?  What if it was something I knew I would have to do no matter what or who I had promised?  This could be a very hard promise to keep.

     Granny had promised us that we could go to a late night preview at the theater uptown.  I was amazed that she said we could go because it didn’t start until 10:00 p.m.  We had to get all of our chores done before we could go though.  We were all excited about it, and I just knew that she was going to change her mind.  Margie and Rosie had been saying all day that I was too little, and I should not get to go.  Margie was twelve, and Rosie was eleven.  Big deal!

     I knew they each had a boyfriend.  That was really why they didn’t want me to go because they weren’t allowed to have boyfriends at their ages.  I knew who they were, too, the Gray brothers, Richard and Robert.  Yuck!  They were both tall and very skinny, and they had pimples all over their faces.  It made me sick to look at them.  They knew I would tell Granny if they kissed their boyfriends.  Yep, I sure would do whatever it took to get them in trouble.

     We had finished all our work, and Granny fixed cornbread and buttermilk for supper.  It was really good.  We had this a lot in the summer. Granny said it was too hot to cook anything else, and the buttermilk was good and cold.  I wished we could have had it at home more often. We lived in Oklahoma City, and I never saw anyone eat cornbread and buttermilk except my daddy and me.  Margie and Rosie didn’t like it too much, but then hey didn’t like much of anything.

     After supper, Granny said we had to wash up before we could go anywhere.  We had to heat water on the kitchen stove for baths.  Granny poured boiling water in a big, round tub; then she put cold water in to cool it off a little.  We all bathed in the same water.  It was too much work to boil more water and waste more gas for each person.  And guess what?  We went by age, so prissy pants Margie got to be first.  Rosie went next, and you can guess who had to go last.  That would be me.  Granny used Ivory Soap, and it smelled good.  I wish I was older and got to be first sometime.

     We were finally ready to go.  Granny was going to walk us to town, but we said she didn’t have to.  She walked us to town anyway, all the way up the tracks and right to the front of the theater.  It didn’t matter to me, but Margie and Rosie were pretty upset because their boyfriends saw us.  It was great for me!  A couple of dozen kids were there and waiting in line.  Granny left, and we got in line.

     It was quite a while before we finally got into the theater.  We made it though, and we stopped at the concession stand to get cokes and popcorn.  In those days, there were short cokes and tall cokes.  Short was a nickel and tall was a dime.  Candy bars were a nickel.  Popcorn was a dime.  You could go to the movies with a dollar, pay a dime to get in, and you still had ninety cents to eat and get sick on.

     We found a seat and waited for the movie to start.  Every kid in town was there, probably a hundred kids.  It got loud with all the talking, screaming, and fighting.  It was great!  The movie finally began.  It was a western, and Gene Autry was there, not the real Gene Autry, but a kid who thought he was Gene Autry.  I guess he was what we call mentally challenged these days.  He was really a nice kid unless someone called him by his real name instead of Gene Autry.  Then he would get real mad, and his face would get bright red.  When that happened, it was time to make your exit!

     We are just sitting there watching the movie when I heard this familiar voice.  It was Granny. She was coming down the aisle calling out our names, and the next thing I knew she was at the end of our row of seats.  She was saying it was time to go.  Of course, all the other kids were laughing.  What else could we do?  We got up and followed her out of the theater.

     When we got outside, I asked, “Why do we have to go?  The movie’s not over.”

     She said, “It’s time for you to go.”

     I asked, “But what did we do?”

     She said, “Who ever heard of a movie lasting this long?”

    I said, “But, Granny, they are an hour and a half long, and it was not over.  We missed the end.”         Margie and Rosie were not saying anything.  I guess they didn’t want to get smacked.  I guess I did because she smacked me good on my arm.

     I decided to shut up; she wouldn’t change her mind, and it was too late by then.  Boy, was I mad!  I was so mad I was about to blow up!  Why did she do that?  What was wrong with her?  I promised myself I would never go back to her house in the summer.  But, I did.

     Soon we were on the tracks walking home.  Granny had the flashlight on so we could see.  I saw something on the track ahead of us, but I couldn’t make out what it was.  We got closer, and I could see it was a man.  He was asleep on the tracks.

     I said to Granny, “We better wake him up, or he might get run over by a train.”

     Granny said, “He is drunk.  If he gets run over, he will deserve it.”

     I was stunned to hear her say that.  My own daddy was a drinker, and this could happen to him.  I tried to tell her that we should help him, but she wouldn’t listen.  We just kept walking as she pulled me along by the hand.

     I begged, “Please, Granny, let’s go back and help him.”

     She said nothing.  She just kept walking.  Margie and Rosie didn’t say anything either.  They knew it would do no good.  Granny could be so mean sometimes.

     When we got home, we washed our faces and hands because we weren’t allowed in Granny’s bed with dirty faces and hands.  We had to wash our feet, too, in a little bucket in the kitchen.  We all crawled into Granny’s bed and began whispering about the man on the tracks.

     Granny said, “Be quiet and go to sleep.”

     I waited for a long time until I thought Granny was asleep.  Then, I woke up Margie and Rosie.       “I am going to sneak out the back door and go pull the man off the tracks,” I whispered.

     They said, “No, you will get in real trouble with Granny if you do.”

     I begged them to go with me, and I knew I could not move him alone.  Besides, I was a little bit scared he would wake up.

     They finally agreed, and we got out of bed one at a time, trying to be real quiet so Granny would not hear us.  Once we were out of the front gate, we took off running as fast as we could.  We ran as fast as we could to the end of the road and up the hill to the tracks.  We slowed down as we got close to the man because I think we got scared he would wake up.  He was still asleep and snoring.  We all three got behind him and gave him a big push.  He was not very heavy, so it was easy to push him off the tracks and down the hill to the ditch.  He sort of  rolled down the hill without our help.

     We just stood there looking down at him when Margie said, “We better get home before Granny knows we are gone.”

     We started running back down the tracks and down the hill when we came to the front gate.  Then, we tiptoed around the house and to the back porch, went in the back screen door, and got into bed.  We were so tired we didn’t even talk about it.  We just fell asleep.

     We talked about it the next day, and we ran up there to find the man gone.  I felt good about what we did, and I think Margie and Rosie did, too.  I asked Granny if she thought the man got run over by the train.

     “No, and I wouldn’t worry about him anyway.  He’s just an old drunk.”

     I thought that was a mean thing to say.  We never talked about it again.  So there you have it.  Another day in the life of little Ruthie.

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Tom’s Grocery Store

Front Page, Personal History

            I was about nine years old that summer.  My brother still thought he was the boss of Margie and me.  He always took care of us in the summer while Mother worked.  That was the summer he got us into another fine mess with one if his hair-brained ideas.  Why did I let him talk me into those things?

            Mother had a charge account at this little neighborhood grocery store.  She would make us a list if we needed something for lunch before she went to work.  We were not allowed to add anything to the list.  Most of the time, the list consisted of things like bread, lunchmeat, mayonnaise, and things like that.  Sometimes she would let us get a candy bar for each of us.

            Tom’s Grocery was the name on the front of the store.  Tom was an old man with gray hair.  He was a nice man, and I liked him.  He would always talk to me when I went in the store.

            “Are you having a good summer?” he would ask.

            “I guess so,” I would say.

            “What have you been doing?”

            “Not too much,” I would reply.

            “How are your folks doing?” he always asked.

            “They are fine, I guess.”

            We just talked about nothing really.  We were just being polite.  My daddy said that being polite to your elders is very important, so I tried to be polite.  I loved my daddy more than anyone, so I tried to do what he told me.  I didn’t do this so much with other people, like my brother.  Why would I want to be polite to him?  He was never polite to me, so I figured you get what you give.  So, I tried to give him just what I thought he had coming, which was as much trouble as I could think up.  I wanted him to do his job as the person in charge.  I would not refer to him as a babysitter because I was not a baby. He would tell us sometimes that he was our babysitter just to get me mad.  Margie didn’t care.  She liked being a baby because that was her way of getting what she wanted from Mother.

            One day Margie and I were getting ready to go to Tom’s store to buy what Mother said we could have for that day.  Junior never went; he was too lazy to walk that far.  He said it was too hot.  I guess he thought Margie and I didn’t get hot.  I liked being outside, even when it was hot, so I didn’t care, and I got away from Junior for a while.

            We were all three sitting at the kitchen table and looking at the list.  Then Junior said, “We are going to get some other stuff today.”

            I asked, “What other stuff?”

            “We’re going to get some candy and cokes,” he said.

            “But that is not on the list,” I said.

            “She will never know about it.”

            “Yes, she will, and we will be in big trouble,” I said.

            “No, I can write just like Mother.  I will just add a few things to her list.  She will never know, and old Tom will not figure it out either. I have been practicing to write like her,” he said.

            “Junior, if she finds out, she will beat us half to death.”

            Margie said, “I don’t want to get a spanking.  Let’s not do it, Ruthie.”

            “Were gonna do it,” Junior said.  “I’m in charge, so you two have to do what I say.”

            Margie and I finally gave in, but we were both against it.  It seemed wrong to me to spend money that my parents might not have.  The extra things he added looked just like my mother’s writing.  I couldn’t believe it!  He added three cokes, three candy bars, and three ice cream bars.  That really sounded good, but I still didn’t feel right about it; neither did Margie.  We went along with it because the big boss said so.  I just hoped and prayed we wouldn’t get caught.

            We finally agreed on what we were going to do, and Margie and I left to walk to the store.  Both of us were scared all the way to the store.  Everything inside me was saying not to do this.  It was wrong.  I felt like a thief, like I was stealing from my own family.  I think Margie did, too.  We didn’t talk much all the way to the store.

            Finally, we are in front of Tom’s store.  We looked at each other, opened the door, and went in.  We started looking around the store and getting the things Mother had put on the list.  What we were allowed to get was bread, bologna, and a quart of milk.  We had to get Tom to cut the bologna on the meat slicer.  We were to get one half pound.  He gave us the bologna, and we went to get the three cokes, three candy bars, and three ice cream bars.

            We put everything on the counter so he could ring it up.  To my surprise, he pulled out this little tablet, put a carbon paper between two pages, and he wrote down everything we got in that little tablet.  Then, he added it all up and pushed the book over for us to sign it.

            Mr. Tom said, “Who wants to sign today?”

            We looked at each other not knowing what to say.  Finally, I said, “I guess I can sign today.”

            “Good,” he said.

            I picked up the pencil and wrote Ruthie on the paper.

            Mr. Tom put all the groceries in a paper bag and handed it to us.

            He said, “Thank you, girls.  Have a nice day and be good.”

             I said, “Yes, sir, we will.”

            We had done the my brother’s dirty deed, and I was not feeling good at all.  I looked at the copy he gave us of the items we bought.

            I said, “Margie, look at this.”

            “What’s wrong with it?” she asked.

            I said, “We have to give this to Mother, and she will see what is on it.  That is what’s wrong with it.  We are gonna get caught.  We can thank Junior for this.  Our goose is cooked!  We better get ready for a spanking because we are gonna get it.”

            I hated my dumb brother.  He was so stupid!  Why did I listen to him?  I am stupid to for doing what he said.  I know who is in the big trouble.  It is me because Junior is her little boy, and Margie is always faking an earache.  That leaves me.  Not to mention I signed the grocery ticket.  I am so mad at myself.

            We got home, and the big dummy was waiting for us.

            He asked, “How did it go?”

            I just threw the grocery ticket at him.  “This is how it went.  We have to show this to Mother, and she will know what we did, mister smarty-pants.  This is all your fault.  I knew I shouldn’t have listened to you.  I always get in trouble when I listen to you.”

            He said, “This is no problem; we just tell her we lost it.”

            I said, “You really are stupid.  Mr. Tom has a copy of this ticket, you big dope. When she pays the bill on Friday, she will see it.”

            “Don’t worry,” he said.  “I have everything under control.”

            I said, “You are a big fat liar!  You have nothing under control.  I’m just gonna get ready for the spanking and admit to what we did.”

            It was just Wednesday, so we had until  Friday evening to worry about it. I was trying to get my mind off of it, but I felt so guilty I couldn’t forget about it.  I do believe I was having nightmares about it.  I ate the ice cream and candy that day, and I drank the coke.  I was already in danger of going to hell for liking to dance, and now I was a thief.  What was worse, I stole from my own family.  We spent money that Mother probably didn’t have, and I felt really bad about that. I was feeling bad about eating the candy and ice cream and drinking the coke.

            On Thursday, I told Junior and Margie that I was going to tell Mother what we did.

            “You better not!”  he yelled at me.

            I said, “Yes, I am.  What we did was wrong.”

            Margie started to cry and said, “I don’t want a spanking.”

            “We will get it anyhow on Friday; we might as well get it today when she gets home.”

            Junior said, “You better not tell, or you will be sorry tomorrow when she goes to work.”

           I didn’t say another word.  I knew they would never agree to help me tell her.  I decided to wait until Daddy got home, too.  Maybe he would help me out a little.  I worried all day Thursday.  I practiced what I would say.  I didn’t want Margie to get a hard spanking.  She was frail like Mother said.  I was stronger than she was, and I could take it.  I knew at that moment that I really did love my sister very much.

            When Mother got home Thursday night, I was so scared. Junior left and went to his friend’s house. His name was Kenny Jones.  Margie and I were there by ourselves.  Daddy came in soon after, and I told Margie it was time to tell them.

            Mother was cooking dinner, and Daddy was sitting at the table drinking a beer. They were just talking.

            I said, “Mother, we have something to tell you.”

            She turned and looked at us.  I sat down at the table by Daddy, and Margie sat down in the same chair with me.

            I said, “Mother, we did something this week that was wrong, and we need to tell you and Daddy about it.”

            She said, “Well, let’s hear it.  Surely it is not that bad.”

            I said, “Yes, it is that bad.  Junior was in on it, too, but he left because we were gonna tell what we did.”

            I explained to her that Junior could write like her and explained what he added to the grocery list.  I was starting to cry, and so was Margie, but I went on with the story.  I told her I knew we would get caught because Mr. Tom had it all written down in his little book.  I told her that Junior threw her copy away and said we lost it.  I told them that we were sorry that we stole from them and that we spent money we didn’t have.

            When I finished, I said, “We are ready for the spankings, but Margie doesn’t feel good, so I will take hers.”

            They just sat there and looked at us.  Then they looked at each other.  They both began to laugh.  I thought they had gone crazy!

           Mother looked at us and said, “If you had not told us the truth tonight, you would be getting a spanking tomorrow when I found out what you did.  Mr. Tom called me the day you did this.  I have known about it all this time, but you came to us and told us the truth, so no spankings for you tonight. Ruthie, you were even going to take your sister’s  spanking.  What you did was wrong, but your brother talked you into this.  He is in a lot of trouble when he gets home.”

            I was so happy that we told the truth.  Maybe God would forgive me for stealing, too, and I wouldn’t burn in hell for it.  I still had the problem of liking to dance though.  I learned a lesson that night.  I don’t know if they ever punished Junior or not.  He didn’t come home that night, so they were probably so glad to see him when he did come home that they just forgot about it. This had been a very interesting week in the life of little Ruthie.

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Tales of Little Ruthie: The Silverware Fights

Front Page, Personal History

            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.

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Playing Baseball in the Neighborhood

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          Playing baseball was one of my favorite things to do. There was an empty lot behind our house where at least ten of us kids from the neighborhood would get together to play. We usually played late in the evening when it got cooler.

            Usually Margie and I were there, and Junior played sometimes. Then there was Annie along with Jeanie Lou and the boys cross the street from us, LeRoy and Lindell. Then there was Novelene and Charles who lived on the corner. Most of the time there were about ten of us, but if we didn’t have enough for a game, we would just take turns hitting flies to see who caught the most.

            One day we were playing jacks on the front porch and just talking when I said, “Let’s try to get some kids to play baseball later on.”

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

            “Yeah, let’s do that,” Margie said.

            “I don’t know if I can,” said Jeanie Lou.

            “Why not?

            “You know my mother; she wants me to play girl games.”

            “We will go with you to ask,” I said.

            We did that all the time. If one of us thought any of the mothers would say no, then we would go together to ask permission for that one. I guess we thought we were stronger in numbers. Sometimes it worked, and other times it didn’t.

            About five o’clock all of us girls went to Jeanie Lou’s house to beg her mother to let her play baseball. She had just come home from work. Jeanie Lou had no daddy. I never knew where he was, and she never said.

            I walked over to her and said, “Ma’am, do you think Jeanie Lou could play baseball with us this evening?”

            She said, “I don’t think so. Not tonight. She has other things to do.”

            “Please, ma’am, we really need her to play third base for us,” I said.

            “She is our best third baseman, ma’am,” Annie said.

            “Well, I guess she can, but she has to eat first,” she said.

            “Thank you, Mama, for letting me play,” said Jeanie Lou.

            “It worked!” we all said as we were leaving.

            I told Jeanie Lou to hurry and eat supper, and we went back to our house. All of us had to eat supper before we could play, so we agreed that we would meet in the field at six o’clock.

            While Mother was cooking, I was telling her to hurry because we had a ballgame to play.

            She said, “Don’t you rush my cooking, young lady, or you won’t be playing ball.”

            “Yes, ma’am, I said.

            Finally we were finished with supper, and we helped clear the table.

            “Do we have to wash dishes?” I asked.

            “No, you don’t. I will do them tonight. Your daddy can help me.”

            “Oh, thank you, Mother. Thank you so much,” I said.

            We were ready to go. All three of us ran out the back door. The field was right behind our house, so we were there real quick. Novelene and Charlie were there already. The five of us sat down to wait for the others. It wasn’t long before Jeanie Lou and Annie came. We were waiting for LeRoy and Lindell. I didn’t really like LeRoy and Lindell, but we needed them to play. They were both mean, and I was kind of scared of LeRoy because he hit me in the head once with a garden hoe for no reason. Junior said LeRoy wouldn’t hurt me though, not while he was there. This was another nice moment with my brother. He actually said he would protect me. I loved him for that.

            “Okay, let’s play ball!” Junior yelled.

            Junior was the pitcher. I was the catcher. LeRoy played first base, and Lindell was on second. Jeanie Lou was on third. Novelene and Annie were outfielders. Charlie got to bat first. We didn’t have enough kids to play the right way, but we made do. We still had Margie to bat, too. We just kind of played it by ear as to who got to bat next.

            Charlie got a good hit and ran to first base. Margie was up next.

            I said, “All right now, Marge, let’s get a good hit.”

            She said, “I will.”

            Junior threw the ball; Margie swung and missed. I ran to get the ball and throw it back to the pitcher. Junior wound up to throw again. I guess I must have stepped in too close to the batter’s box because Margie swung the bat and hit me square in the forehead! That stopped the game, and Margie ran to the house to get Mother and Daddy. Margie ran in the house crying and screaming, “Mother, I killed Ruthie with the bat!”

            It scared my parents half to death. They ran to the ball field as fast as they could. I was just starting to wake up when I saw Junior beside me.

            He was crying and saying, “Ruthie, please wake up.”

            Then I saw Mother and Daddy.

            “Daddy said; let’s get her to the house.”

            “I’m okay, Daddy,” I managed to say.

            He carried me to the house, and all the kids were following. I guess they wanted to see if I was dying. Daddy laid me on the bed, and Mother got a wet towel and put it on my forehead.

            Mother said, “She really has a goose egg on her forehead.”

            “I have an egg on my head?” I asked.

            “Not a real egg,” Daddy said and laughed at what I said.

            “Can I go back out to play ball now?” I asked.

            “No, ma’am, you cannot play any more ball tonight,” Mother said.

            Margie asked, “Is she gonna die, Mother?”

            “Of course, not. She will be fine. Just need to keep her awake for a while and keep this cold

            towel on her forehead.”

            I was pretty upset about not being able to play, but my forehead was hurting a little bit, too.

Mother gave me an aspirin for my headache. The game was over for the night. Margie and Junior went out to tell the kids we couldn’t play anymore, and all of them went home. Mother heated the bath water and got me and Margie ready to take a bath. We had a new tub. It was a long one, long enough for me and Margie both.

            When the water was hot, she poured it in the tub; then she put cold water in to cool it off. She picked me up and carried me to the tub then set me down in it. She took her time giving us a bath. I think she was trying to keep me awake. I was feeling sleepy, but she kept me awake.

            Margie said, “I’m sorry, Ruthie. I didn’t mean to hit you.”

            “I know you didn’t. It’s all right.”

            I loved playing baseball, and we spent many hours playing in that field. After that, I was more careful about getting too close to the batter’s box. It seems like I was always getting hurt. I was starting to think I was accident prone. I really hoped it was just another day in the life of little Ruthie.

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Tales of Little Ruthie: The Pig Roundup and a Lot More

Front Page, Personal History

     Uncle Steve lived in a place called Price’s Falls.  It is near Turner Falls in the Arbuckle Mountains just south of Davis, Oklahoma.  Steve is Mother’s brother.  Mother took Margie and me there to visit for a few days one summer.  Daddy’s sister was there with her two kids, Kathryn and David.  We were double cousins with them because Mother’s brother, Joe, was married to my daddy’s sister, Cecil.  This is what made us double cousins.

     I was about nine years old, but it was the first time I had met them.  I just remember that David was really a mean kid.  Kathryn, who was in her teens, was older and nicer.  When I first heard we were double cousins, I didn’t know what it meant.  Did it mean I got two cousins instead of one?  I sure didn’t want two of David.  One was too many for me.  I was already thinking hard about what I could do to get him back for the things I was sure he would do to Margie and me.

     Uncle Steve’s wife, Helen, and my mother fixed our breakfast.  We had eggs and sausage, not oatmeal.  What a treat!  It was Saturday and market day, which meant the pigs my Uncle Steve raised would be sold that day.  There was a whole bunch of them in a big pigpen.  I was looking forward to that.  I had never herded pigs before.  All of us kids put our old clothes on because the pigpen was a mess.  We had to get the job done early so he could get them to the sale barn in Davis.

     Margie, David, and I had to herd the pigs into the truck.  My uncle watched to make sure we did it right.  We went down to the pigpen and climbed over the fence.  The pigs were bigger than I thought.  I was a little bit scared.  We all just stood there looking at the huge pigs.

     Uncle Steve said, “Let’s get going!  Get them pigs on the move!”

     I took one step, and I was in mud up to my knees!

     David whined, “I don’t want to do this.”

     Margie looked terrified, so I said, “Don’t worry.  I’ll help you.”

     I just took off running as fast as I could in that mud, waving my arms at the pigs.  It scared them so they began to run all over the place.  I was yelling at David and Margie to help me, to cut them off so they would have to go through the chute and into the truck.  I could see this job was going to be harder than I thought.  I was not going to quit though.  The three of us were running and yelling, and the pigs were running and squealing.  We got about ten in the truck, but there were still at least twenty more.  Because we had fallen several times during the chase, mud and pig poop covered us!  After a while, we actually started having fun.  We were laughing, running, and falling down, and the pigs were running from us.

     I looked over at my uncle; he had a big grin on his face.  Then I saw my mother and aunt watching us and laughing so hard they were about to cry.  It took a good hour to get the rest of the pigs in the truck, but we did it.  We were really proud of ourselves.  What a mess we were with mud and pig poop all over us!  We went to the house, and my aunt turned the water hose on us.  Mother brought us out some soap and towels, and we washed our hair.

     Before long, we were cleaned up pretty well.  Uncle Steve was in the truck getting ready to leave for the sale barn.  He stopped, got out of the truck, and came over to us.  He gave us two dollars each for helping him.  We thanked him for the money, but the pride we felt for working so hard was better than the money.  We were all scared to death of those pigs when we first got in the pen with them, but somehow we managed to get it done.  Since Uncle Steve paid us for helping, we must have done a good job.  At that point, the day was good.  I just didn’t know what was in store for me later that day from David.

     David was the cousin from hell.  He was always hitting me or pulling my hair or something just to be mean.  He left Margie alone most of the time, but I guess he just didn’t like me.  I can tell you the feeling was mutual.  He was the only boy I knew who was meaner to me than my brother.  We all three went for a hike later.  The whole time we were gone he was smacking me and twisting my arm behind my back.  I finally had enough, and I picked up a rock and threw it at him.  It hit him in the back.  I took off running from him, and  I almost stepped on a big snake that slithered into my path.  Now, I am really scared of snakes, and I screamed!

     I had seen a snake like that one at Granny’s house.  It was a blue racer.  Granny said they would chase a person until they caught him just so they could bite him!  I know now that is not true, but, at that time, I just knew what Granny had told me.  Well, needless to say, I didn’t waste any time getting the heck out of there.  We were not far from the house, and I was running as fast as I could.  All the while, David was right behind me, yelling that the snake was about to catch me.  I was too scared to look back, so I just kept running as fast as my legs would go.

     Then the most terrible thing happened.  I fell down!  I just knew the snake was going to get me and bite me.  Then I heard David laughing and laughing.

     He said, “You big dope, that snake is not chasing you.”

     My sister was even laughing!  David ran up behind me, grabbed my arm, and twisted it up behind my back.  I was so mad!  He fooled me and made me cry.  I was kicking him and trying to get away, but he just held on tight to my arm.  He walked me all the way back to the house like that until we got to the backyard where Mother was hanging up clothes.  He let me go then so he wouldn’t get in trouble.

     We went into the house to have lunch.  My mother and aunt fixed us bologna sandwiches and glasses of cold milk.  It was good.  After I ate, I went into the backyard.  I was sitting on the porch just looking around the yard.  I saw what looked like a storm cellar, so I went to see it.  I didn’t want to go inside.  I was scared of cellars.  I was standing up at the top of the dirt steps looking in trying to see as much as I could when I felt someone push me from behind.  Down those stairs I went!  The next thing I knew, I was on the floor of the cellar.  I looked up the dirt steps, and there was David.  He started to close the door!  I tried to get up to run up the steps, but he was too fast.  I could hear him laughing and saying he was going to lock me in there.  He sounded like the devil himself.

     It was so dark I could not see my hand in front of my face.  I knew what was in there though.  I had been in dirt cellars.  They had spiders, bugs, and worms.  I could just feel them crawling on me!  I was screaming bloody murder for someone to get me out.  It was so dark.  I got up on the steps as close to the door as I could.  There was a little bit of light, and I could see through the door.  I was begging David to let me out. I told him I couldn’t breathe, that I was dying.  Little did I know that he had gone into the house.  I started to push on the door to open it, but it was so heavy I couldn’t budge it.

     I prayed to God to save me.  I cried and cried.  Then I pushed on the door some more, but I had no luck.  It was just too heavy.  I began yelling for my mother.  She didn’t hear me though.  I promised God if He would get me out of there and save my life, I would be good from then on.  It seemed like I had been in there for such a long time.

     I pounded on the wooden door and yelled, “Please, Mother, get me out of here!  I don’t want to die in this dark cellar!”

     Then- thanks to God – the door opened, and there was my mother.  She asked me how I got locked in there.  I was crying so hard I could hardly talk.  I had been so scared.  She put her arms around me, hugged me, and she wiped my tears and the dirt off my face with her apron. She had come  out to get the clothes off the line, and she heard me screaming and crying.

     I looked at her and said, “David locked me in here on purpose, Mother.  He is so mean.”

     She got this angry look on her face and just said, “It will be all right.  I will talk to his mother.”

     We went into the house, and my mother told my Aunt Cecil she needed to talk to her in the bedroom.  David was sitting there, and from the look on his face, I knew he was scared.

     They came out of the bedroom, and my aunt said, “David, I need to talk to you in here.”

     He got up and went into the bedroom.  In just a couple of minutes, I heard a sound that I knew so well myself.  It was a belt, and Aunt Cecil was really giving it to him.  I was so happy to be out of the cellar that I forgot to count how many licks he got.  Darn it!

     David didn’t come out of the bedroom until supper time.  Uncle Steve was back from the sale barn and had sold all his pigs.  We had a real good supper.  We had ham, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, and hot biscuits.  Every time I took a bite of ham, I thought about chasing those pigs that day.

     Before we went home the next morning, Aunt Cecil made David apologize to me for what he did.  I had fun while we were there, but I never wanted to see my double cousin again.  The day at my uncle’s pig farm was more than a typical day in the life of little Ruthie.  I thank God for getting me out of that cellar!

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Tales of Little Ruthie: Breaking Dishes at Annie’s

Personal History

            Annie was one of my neighborhood friends who lived on the street behind us.  We often played jacks and hopscotch together.  Actually, there were five of us girls who played together: Annie, Jeanie Lou, Novelene, Margie, and me.

            Most of the time, we played jacks, hopscotch, or Red Rover Come Over when we had enough kids.  We also played Simon Says.  In the daytime, if it was too hot outside, we would play paper dolls or color in our coloring books.

            We all liked the coloring books that had princesses in them.  Their dresses could be so pretty if we did a good job of coloring and stayed in the lines.  I liked the pretty, pastel colors.  Then, I would use a darker color to go around the edges.  I loved to color, and I was pretty good at it.

            My sisters, Jeanie and Ola, taught me how to color when I was real little.  The hard, fast rule was to always stay in the lines and do not scribble.  Later on in life, I taught my great granddaughter Taylor how to color.  She learned the rule very quickly, to stay in the lines.  She always thought the color white did not work, but she stayed in the lines.

            It was summer, and Annie, Jeanie Lou, Novelene, Margie, and I had been playing together all day.  It was getting close to time for my mother to come home from work, so my brother Junior was still the boss.

            “You kids are gonna have to go home now,” he said.

            “Why do you have to say it so mean?”  I asked.

            “You need to remember who the boss is here, brat.”

            He knew I hated it when he called me brat.

            “Everyone needs to get on out the door.”

            “I’m gonna tell Mother how mean you are to our friends.”

            “Tell her whatever you want, brat.”

            The girls picked up their coloring books and crayons and started for the door.  Margie and I followed them out to say good-bye.  We were standing on the front porch just talking.

            “You think you can come over later to play?”  Annie asked me.

            “I’ll ask Mother when she gets home.”

            “Okay, I guess I will see you later then.”

            “Yeah, I can probably come over.”

            Margie and I went back in the house.  I was really mad at Junior for being so rude to our friends and for calling me a brat two times.  I knew I could not let this pass.  He would do it all the time if I did.  He was sitting in the big rocker, and I attacked him from behind.  I grabbed his hair and would not let go.  He got loose from me and jumped out of the chair.  When he was out of the chair, I ran and jumped on his back.

            He tried to swing me off, but I held on.  I was hitting him with my fists.  He was hitting me, too, and it hurt like the dickens!  He always hit me on the top of my arm and rubbed his knuckles real hard on my head.  I finally broke loose from him.

            “Why do you call me brat?”  I asked.

            “Because you are one.”

            “I can’t stand you, Junior!”

            “Well, I don’t like you either.”

            “I’m gonna tell on you when Daddy gets home!”

            “Go ahead, he won’t do anything.”
I didn’t say anything else.  I knew he was right.  Daddy wouldn’t do anything because Mother wouldn’t let him.  Junior was the number one kid in her eyes.  He always got his way.  They never listened to me because I was the baby of the family.  Sometimes they listened to Margie if she told on him, but he never got punished like we did.  I got the most punishment of all of us.  I guess some of it was my own fault, but I had to stand up for myself.  I was kind of hardheaded I guess.  I didn’t know what else to do when someone was mean to me.  I went into attack mode.  Just as I decided to shut up, the telephone rang.

            “I’ll get it.  It’s for me,” Junior said.

            “It’s not always for you, dopey.”

            He answered it and looked at me.

            “It’s for you, brat.”

            I hated him so bad at that moment I wanted to kill him – or at least hurt him real bad.


            It was Annie.  She asked me to eat supper at her house.

            “Is it all right with your mother?”  I asked.

            “Yes, it is,” she said.

            “I will ask when my mother gets home.”

            I hung up the telephone, looked at my brother, and made an ugly face at him, just to let him know that I got telephone calls, too.  I didn’t tell Junior what she wanted.  I knew he would do anything he could to spoil it for me.  Sometimes I wished that I could go live with my sister Jeanie.  She had always taken care of me.  I thought she was my mother when I was little because she was always the one there for me.  She wanted me to live with her, but Mother wouldn’t have it.

            When Mother got home, I asked her if I could go to Annie’s house for supper.

            “I don’t think so,” she said.

            “Why not?”

            “Because I said so.”

            “But her mother wants me to come.”

            “Ruthie, I said no.”

            “Mother, please let me go.  I really want to.”

            “Are you sure her mother said yes?”

            “Yes, ma’am.  You can call her if you want to.”

            “I believe you.”

            “Can I go then?”

            “You can go, but you better act nice and help with the dishes.”

            “I will.  I promise.”

            “Be home by seven.  Before dark.”

            “I will.  I’ll be home before dark.”

            I washed my face and hands, combed my hair, and got ready to go.  I ran out the door yelling good-bye.  I was at Annie’s house real quick.  I knocked on the door, and Annie let me in.  Supper was not ready yet, so we went to Annie’s room to play.  Their house was old like ours, but ours was a lot cleaner.  My mother kept our house spotless.  Annie’s dirty house didn’t bother me though.

            Annie had an older sister, Delores, and a brother who was my brother’s age.  His name was Kenneth.  She also had a little sister about five years old.  Her name was Sarah.  They were a nice family, and I liked all of them.  Her daddy’s name was Frank, and her mother’s name was Betty.

            It was not long, and her mother was calling us for supper.  We ate in the kitchen.  They had no dining room.  Neither did we, so I was used to that.  We had pinto beans and fried potatoes with corn bread and sliced tomatoes.  It was a good dinner.  I liked everything we had.  We had water to drink.

They were poor, just like we were.  I was happy, though, because Mother let me go.

            No one talked while we were eating.  It was not like our house.  Mother had to tell me to stop talking and eat my dinner.  Then I would sing, and she would tell me, “No singing at the table, Ruthie.”

            She was always telling one of us to stop talking and eat.  I nearly always spilled my milk before supper was over, and she would say, “Ruthie, you spill your milk every night.  How do you do that?”

            She would gripe the whole time she was cleaning it up.

            “I don’t know,”   I said.

            After we finished supper, I told Annie I would help her with the dishes.  Her mother went into the living room to smoke while Annie and I started cleaning the kitchen.  It was just the two of us.  We had to heat water to wash dishes at her house just as we had to at mine.  They had only cold water just like us.

            We had quite a few dishes to wash, so we hurried to get finished.  Before we knew it, we had everything washed, dried, and sitting on the table.  That is when it happened.  I picked up a stack of about eight plates to put them in the cabinet.  I made it to the cabinet all right, and then I don’t know what happened!  The next thing I knew I had dropped every plate in the floor!  And every plate broke! It was a noise so loud that I bet it could be heard all the way to China!

            Everyone came running to the kitchen.  I was so embarrassed. I could feel my face turning red.  I just wanted melt into the floor.

            “I’m sorry,” I said.  “I am so, so sorry.”

            I had broken every plate they had. I felt so bad.  I was crying hard.  Then, Annie’s mother came over to me and knelt down in front of me.  She hugged me and said, “You didn’t mean to.  It was an accident.  Don’t cry.”

            “But I broke them all.”

            “Don’t worry; it will be all right. I can get more plates.”

            She told me I had better go home because it was getting dark outside.  I ran as fast as I could all the way home.  I ran in the back door and started telling Mother what happened.  I was crying so hard she could hardly understand me.  I never felt so bad in my life.

            “I broke every single plate,” I told Mother.  “I know they don’t have money for plates.”

            “Okay.  Stop crying now, and let’s figure this out.”

            “But what can we do?”

            “I think I have some plates in the top cabinet.  How many did you break?’

            “All of them.  About eight or nine plates.”

            “Let me look up here,” she said.

            It was a miracle, I guess.  She reached high into the cabinet and started pulling out plates.  They didn’t all match, but neither did the ones I broke.  Some of them matched though.  They were nice plates,  too.  She counted out nine plates.

            “Can we give those to them, Mother?”

            “Well, you broke their plates, and we have to replace them.  I never use these anyhow.”

            “Can we take them over there now?”

            “Yes.  I think I better go with you.”

            We walked down the path to Annie’s house, and I was feeling much better.  When we got there, she knocked on the door, and Annie’s mother came to the door.

            “Ruthie told me what happened, Betty.”

            “She didn’t mean to, Ellen. It was just an accident.”

            “Well, I have these extra plates I never use; you are welcome to them.”

            “Well, I guess I better take them so we can eat breakfast.”

            “She is sorry.  She felt real bad.”

            “I know she did.”

            We went home then, and all the way, I was so thankful to my mother.  She saved my life.  I was so grateful to her.  I changed my mind about moving to Jeanie’s house that night.  My mother was right there with me in our little house.  That was one of the best days that little Ruthie ever had.

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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: 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.’”

“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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