Cutting Jeanie Lou’s Hair

Human Interest, Personal History

     Jeanie Lou lived down the street from us. She and my older sister Margie were about the same age.  We played together when her mother would let her.  I don’t know where her daddy was.  I never did see him at her house, and I never did ask her.  I was afraid to ask because I thought he might be dead, and I didn’t want to make her feel bad if he was dead.

     I asked my mother a couple of times if she knew where he was, but she just told me to mind my own business.  I tried to mind my own business, but that was a hard thing to do. There were lots things going on in the neighborhood, and I wanted to keep up with the latest news.

     “Ruthie, you are a very nosy little girl,” Mother said.

     “No, I’m not nosy.  I just want to know.”

     “That’s the same thing, Ruthie.”

     “Well, sometimes you listen when I am telling stories about the neighborhood.”

     “I do not. Only if it’s about someone I know.”

     “Well, you know everyone on the block, Mother.”

     “Don’t get smart with me, young lady.”

     “Yes, ma’am.  I will try to be nice. But who will tell you if anything good happens?”

     “Oh, my gosh, Ruthie!  You are just impossible sometimes.”

     I could see she was getting put out with me, so I thought maybe I better let it go at that.  I knew she would listen if I found out something good. Daddy would not listen though.

     “Ruthie, if you don’t have something good to say about people, then don’t say anything,” he said to me when I was spreading a little gossip.  Then, he would get up and go outside.  He just wouldn’t listen if it was gossip. I don’t think I ever heard my daddy say bad things about anyone.  He just wouldn’t do it. That was a rule he lived by. He was an honorable man. His word was his bond.

     I decided that morning when I got up that after school I would try to go down to Jeanie Lou’s house to play.  When we were eating our oatmeal, I mentioned it to Mother.

     “Can I go play with Jeanie Lou after school?”

     “Why do you want to go down there?” Mother asked.

     “Just to play,” I said.

     “I guess you can for a little while. And you better be good.”

     “Why do you always tell me that? I’ll be good.”

     “I know you, Ruthie.  That’s why I always tell you that.”

     “Okay, I guess I have to always promise to be good.”

     “Just don’t do anything to get you a spanking.”

     I got ready to go to school and started walking.  Margie was with me. It was a little bit chilly, but not really cold. We saw Jeanie Lou on the way to school, and I told her that I could play after school.

     “Will it be all right with your mother if I come over to play?’

     “Yeah. I already asked her, and she said it was all right.  She said don’t mess the house up though.”

     “We won’t mess the house up.”

     “Can I go, too?”  Margie asked.

     “No, you can’t.  Mother said just me.”

     It was a long day in school, as usual.  I wondered if I would ever like school. I really didn’t think I would. If I hadn’t been locked up there on that day, I could have found a lot better things to do.  I knew that for sure.  They said I had to go to school, and I had to do what they said.  But, someday I would be old enough to tell myself what to do.  That sure did seem like a long way off.

     The day was finally over. The last bell rang, and I tried to see how fast I could get out of that place.  I didn’t run though because I could get in trouble for running in school.  You are not allowed to do anything fun in school. You can only do boring things in school.

     I ran straight home and changed clothes. I was not allowed to play in my school clothes.  As soon as I was dressed, I left to go to Jeanie Lou’s house.  When I got there, I knocked on the door and Jeanie Lou let me in.

     “What do you want to do?” I asked her.

     “Let’s color for a while.”

     “That’s fine. I like to color. What books do you have?”

     “I’ll get them out of my room.”

     She went to her room and got the color books.  I couldn’t believe she had her own room. Boy, that would be nice!  I shared a room with Margie and Junior.  She came back with the books, and we sat down on the floor to color.  We did that for about twenty minutes until we got bored.

     “What do you want to do now?” she asked.

     “I don’t know. We could just talk I guess.”

     “That’s a good idea. What do you want to talk about?”

     “Do you like school?” I asked.

     “It’s all right, I guess.  I’m not crazy about it,” she said.

     “I hate school.  There is nothing fun to do there.”

     “I know. I want to be a beauty operator when I am old enough,” Jeanie Lou said.

     “What exactly do they do?”  I asked.

     “You know; they cut ladies’ hair, and they give permanents.”

     Jeanie Lou had real pretty hair.  It was real long and wavy. It looked like shiny silk. I had wished a lot of times that my hair looked like hers.  She told me one time that she brushed it one hundred times every night. That seemed like a lot of wasted time to me.

     “You want to play beauty shop?” she asked.

     “Sure. That sounds like fun,” I said.

     “Let’s go into my room.”

     “Okay.  Let’s go!”  I really wanted to see her room.

     We went into her room, and it was real pretty.  She had a dresser all her own with a mirror on it.  I have to say I was a little bit jealous. I wished I had a room like hers.

     “I will be first.  You can do my hair, and then I will do yours,” she said.

     “That sounds good to me. How do you want your hair done, ma’am?”  I asked.

     “I’m not sure yet.  I think I would like a haircut and a permanent,” she said.

     “You really want a haircut?”  I asked.

     “I really do.  I would like to try short hair.  You cut mine, and then I will cut yours,” she said matter-of-factly.

     “You really mean it?  You want me to cut your hair?”  I asked again, not believing she meant it.

     She opened the dresser drawer and pulled out a pair of scissors.  I was thinking I could get in real trouble for cutting her hair and for letting her cut mine.  This could lead to a spanking. Then I thought, “Oh, well, if she really wants it cut, then let’s get started!”

     “How do you want it cut?”  I asked.

     She took one long braid in her hand, held her fingers like scissors, and showed me where to cut it.  She wanted it cut about to her shoulders.  So, I just did what she told me to do.  I snipped it right off. She looked at it and began to cry.

     “I don’t like it like this!” she said.

     “I don’t think we can put it back on,” I told her.

     Then all of a sudden, I heard someone say, “What are you doing?”

     It was her mother.  She looked at me like she was really mad at me.

     “I just did what Jeanie Lou told me to do. She wanted her hair cut.”

     “No, I didn’t, Mother.  She just cut it,” Jeanie Lou lied.

     “She told me to.  She showed me how to cut it,” I said.

     “You get out of this house right now.  I will be coming to see your mother.”

     I was scared by then, so I ran out the door and went home.  I knew I was going to be in trouble over that little incident.  I just knew it. Why did Jeanie Lou lie to her mother?  She knew she told me to cut her hair. She didn’t want to get in trouble; that’s why.

     I ran in the front door.  I found Mother and Daddy in the kitchen cooking supper. There was nothing else to do, so I just blurted the whole story out.  I watched my mother’s mouth fall open.  My daddy just smiled like it was not a big deal.

     “Ruthie, I told you to be nice and not get in trouble,” Mother said.

     “She asked me to cut it, Mother.  I promise she did.”

     “Why would she do that?”

     “Because we were playing beauty shop.”

     “What did she say to you?”

     “She showed me on her braid where to cut her hair;  then she gave me the scissors. And I cut it.”

     Daddy just broke out laughing.  Mother shot him a look that he better shut up. So he did, but he put his head down and was smiling.

     “Her mother is coming to our house to talk to you.”

     “That is just what I needed tonight, Ruthie.”

     Just then, someone knocked on the front door.  I knew who it was. Mother went to the door and opened it. Jeanie Lou was with her.

     “I want you to look at what your child did to my daughter’s hair!”

     “Ruthie said she told her to cut her hair.”

     “She is a little liar. She just took the scissors and cut it.”

     “Don’t you dare call my child a liar. When Ruthie does something wrong, she tells the truth. She said Jeanie Lou told her to cut her hair.”

     “I told the truth, Mother. I would have taken the spanking if I did something wrong. But she told me to,” I said.

     “I know you told the truth,” Mother said to me.  Then turning to Jeanie Lou’s mother, she said,  “I think you need to take your daughter home and try to fix her hair.”

     Mother slammed the door in her face and went back to the kitchen.  Daddy was still almost laughing, but he knew better.  I followed her back to the kitchen.  I thought that the time had come for me to get it.  I sat down at the table and waited for Mother to say something.  I just wanted to know if I was going to get a spanking or not.  If I was, then I wanted to get it over with.

    “Am I gonna get a spanking, Mother?”

    “Ruthie, I know you knew better than to cut her hair.”

     “I wasn’t really gonna cut it, but she told me to. I asked her twice before I cut the braid off.  We were just playing, Mother.  I’m not lying.”

     “I know you are not lying. I can tell when you lie. Plus, you came home and told us before she got here. You have always been good about admitting it if you did something bad.”

     “I’ll take the spanking, Mother, but I just did what she told me to do.”

     “You’re not going to get a spanking, but no movie for you this Saturday.’

     “I would rather take the spanking. I’ll miss this week’s episode of the Lone Ranger.”

     “I know all that, and that is why you don’t get to go to the movie this Saturday.”

     Daddy looked at me as if he wanted to help me, but I guess he knew she was right.  I missed the movie on Saturday, but Margie told me what happened.  I don’t think I ever played with Jeanie Lou again. I saw her at school, and her hair was cut short – both sides.  I think they moved not long after that happened. Daddy said I ran them out of town. Then he laughed. I was sorry that I cut her hair, but if you don’t really want me to do something, then you better tell me.  She told me to cut, so I cut.  And that was another fine mess in the life of little Ruthie.

Janice Sautter is a great great grandmother who spends her time writing, painting, drawing, and playing video games. She lives with her husband Jim and their two dogs, Daisy and Lilly. She writes under the name of J. R. Carter.

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Tales of Little Ruthie: Margie and the Crochet Hook

Personal History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

             She said, “Just because I wanted to.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

             She asked, “Do you promise?”

            “Yes, I promise.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

             I said, “It’s stuck.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Janice Sautter is a great great grandmother who spends her time writing, painting, drawing, and playing video games. She lives with her husband Jim and their two dogs, Daisy and Lilly. She writes under the name of J. R. Carter.

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Tales of Little Ruthie: Learning to Drive

Front Page, Personal History

BookCoverImage

            I believe I was about seven years old when my daddy bought a car.  It was a red, Plymouth convertible.  I don’t know what year, probably early 1940’s.  I never quite understood why he bought a car. Neither he nor my Mother knew how to drive, but I sure was glad he bought the car.  That was the most beautiful car in the world!  It was one of the most exciting times of my childhood.

            I wanted to learn how to drive more than anything. I would picture myself driving that car. Of course, the first thing they told me was to stay out of the car.  “Don’t mess with the car.”  “The car is not a toy.”  Boy, were they ever wrong!  It was the best toy I ever had!  I knew I was destined to get into trouble with the car, but I didn’t care.  I would be willing to endure whatever punishment they gave me if I could just get my hands on that steering wheel.

            I started making plans right away. I knew I had to do it when no one was home. That was hard because with all the people living in our house, someone was always there. I knew the keys were hanging in the kitchen cabinet, so that was not a problem.  I would sit on the front porch and just look at it. I would walk out to the driveway and rub my hands on it.  Then, I’d open the door and just look at the seats and the driving pedals on the floor.

            My sister Ola had a car, and I would watch how she operated the pedals.  I would ask her questions like “What is that pedal for?”  I finally knew that the pedal on the right side was the brake to stop the car.  The one on the left was called the clutch. That was to change gears.  Then, to the right of the brake was the gas pedal.  That made the car go.  The handle on the steering wheel was the gear shift. It looked a little complicated, but I was sure I could do it if I set my mind to it.  There was no doubt about it; I was going to drive that car, one way, or another.

            First, I would just sit in the driver’s seat.  I was checking out everything to see what was what and how everything worked.  It was really hard for me to reach the pedals.  The brake was not so bad, but the clutch was hard to push while shifting gears at the same time.  I started to practice with the clutch, trying to find where all the gears were.  I had watched my sister Ola drive when I was in the car with her.  I even started asking her questions about where the gears were, what they were called, and how many gears there were.

            She explained to me that there were four gears. The first one was low gear, then second, then high. Then there was reverse in case the driver wanted to back up.  I would watch her, and I thought I had the order of the gears figured out.  I watched how she shifted to low gear then pushed the clutch in and went to second gear, clutch in and shift to third.

            I had been asking so many questions about driving that my sister said, “Ruthie, don’t you be messing with Daddy’s car now.”

             I said, “I won’t.”

            “Promise me, Ruthie.  I know how you are.”

            Oh, boy, another promise I would have to break.  I sure wished people would stop making me make promises I could not keep.  It was getting ridiculous.  They knew me, and knew how I was, so why did they make me promise when they knew I could not keep some of them?  Some I could keep, but for sure not the car and learning how to drive promise.

            Finally, the day came when only Junior was home, so I sneaked into the kitchen and got the keys.  I went out and opened the driver’s side door. I got into the seat and just sat there for a minute. I put the key in the ignition. I turned the key to start the car, and when I did, the car lunged forward but did not start.  I didn’t know it had to be in neutral or have the clutch in for the car to start.  This was not good. It meant I had to ask more questions. I put the keys away and decided to wait until I saw Ola again.  I saw her the next day because she came by almost every day.

            I asked her, “What gear does the car have to be in to start it?”

            She looked at me funny and said, “Neutral.”

             “Where is that?”  I asked.

            She showed me and again and said, “Ruthie, you better leave Daddy’s car alone.”

             I said, “I am not touching the car.  I just want to know for when I am old enough to drive.”

            She showed me what to do to start the car and how to shift when driving.  She should have known better than to give me all that information about driving.  I think she knew what I was up to, so she told me the right way to do it so that I wouldn’t mess up the car.  Ola was always the sister I could count on. I would lie, and she would swear to it.

            She told me, “You better be careful and not to do anything silly.  Mother will spank your bottom if you mess that car up.”

            I heard her, but I was determined to drive that car.  As the weeks went by, I was doing pretty well.  I could back up in the driveway and then pull forward. It was hard for me to shift because my legs were too short, but I just scooted down in the seat.  Finally, I could do it.  At first, I was grinding the gears, but I figured out how to not do that.  I was thinking I might be good enough to drive to the corner. Thank God we lived on a dirt road with hardly any traffic.

            My daddy was working with his best friend Johnny Trueblood.  He was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian.  My daddy was about one-half Cherokee.  He was very proud of his Indian heritage, and so was I.  They would get drunk on beer, and they would sing Indian chants.  I helped them. My mother would get mad and tell us to stop it.  We would all three sit at the kitchen table and eat sardines, crackers, and cottage cheese and sing Indian chants like they do in the movies.  Hi-ya, hi-ya ,hi-ya.  I loved it, and I loved Johnny Trueblood.  He was always nice to me and brought me presents. He and my daddy would give me money for ice cream.  Now, who could ask for more than that?

            Well, one day I decided it was time for me to drive to the corner.  I got the keys and climbed into the car.  I started her up and pushed the clutch in for reverse. I started to back up slowly. I did like Ola did and turned the wheel a little.  I pulled out in the road and got ready to shift into low gear to go forward.  I was so short that no one could see me too well from outside the car.  I really was not nervous or scared though.  I knew I was going to do drive that car one day, and I had practiced a long time.

            I was just wondering how I would turn around at the corner. Not to worry, I could figure that out.  I put it in low gear and started to move forward.  I shifted into second gear, and I was doing pretty well.  I was about half way down the block when I heard someone yelling.

            “My car is running away!”  It was my daddy’s voice.

            Then, I heard Johnny hollering.  I tried to raise myself up as high as I could to look out the window.  They were chasing me down the road trying to catch the car.  I was going real slow, so they caught me pretty easily.  I stepped on the clutch and the brake and put the car in neutral. I was thinking about how much trouble I was in. I was surely getting a spanking from my mother.  There would probably be no movies on Saturday either.

            “Well, hell!”  I thought.  “I guess I’m caught, and now I have to pay the price.”

            Daddy and Johnny ran up to the window and saw me in there.  They both started laughing, so I started laughing, too.  They had been drinking beer.  That was why they were laughing.

            Johnny told me to turn the key off, so I did.  He got in the car, drove it back to the driveway, and parked it.  My daddy had this big smile on his face.

            He said, “Ruthie, what am I going to do with you?”

            I said, “I don’t know, Daddy.”

            My mother was not there, and my daddy never told her what I did.  I was so glad. He knew she would really spank me hard, and he did not like me to get spankings.  My daddy never ever spanked me.  He did make me promise I would never do that again. I promised, and I did not break that promise because it was made to my daddy.

            Johnny made me promise, too.  He told me that as an Indian I had to keep my word.  I said that I would. Then, they gave me ten cents to go get an ice cream cone at the drug store.  My mother never heard this story until I was grown when I told her. She got mad even after all that time. I just thought it was another day in the life of Little Ruthie.

Janice Sautter is a great great grandmother who spends her time writing, painting, drawing, and playing video games. She lives with her husband Jim and their two dogs, Daisy and Lilly. She writes under the name of J. R. Carter.

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