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: 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.

            “Hello.”

            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.

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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Root Beer Stand-My First Job

Front Page, Personal History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            She asked, “How old are you?”

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

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

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

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

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

            The phone rang.  “Hello,” she said.

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

            Margie asked, “What did she say?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Whose idea was this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: The Train Ride at Granny’s

Front Page, Personal History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Not if we are careful,” Granny said.

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

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

            “I will, Granny.  I promise.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Well, maybe they can.”

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

            “You never know.  Some day they might.”

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

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

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

            “You are so dumb,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Give me your hand,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “You’re welcome, little girl.”

            “My name is Ruthie.”

            “You wanna blow the whistle, Ruthie?”

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

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

            “That’s good,” he said.

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

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

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

            “And neither will I, Ruthie.”

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

            “Go get yourself some ice cream.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Where have you been, young lady?”

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

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

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

            “Then, why did you do it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “What is his name?” she asked me.

            “His name is Mister Engineer, I guess.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: My Insect Collection

Front Page, Personal History

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            When I was about eight years old, I had an insect collection. My daddy built me a couple of little tables on the side of the house. I would catch them and put them in Mason jars, or whatever jar I could find. I punched holes in the lids so they could get some air.

            I would put grass or whatever I thought they liked to eat in the jar. Some were easy to figure out what they ate, but some were not so easy. Say for instance I found a potato bug on the leaves of a potato plant in the garden. Well, any dummy could figure out they must like leaves from the potato plant.

            I would go out every day looking for new bugs or for bugs to replace the ones that died. In Oklahoma there are these big red ants. They were really some mean ants. Once when I was about five years old, I sat down on one of their hills and got stung two or three times on my legs. I never did that again. Experience is a great teacher. I kept a few of those in a jar just for payback.

            Every morning I would eat breakfast and go outside to check to see if one a bug had died or to try to figure out what they liked to eat. Some of them died because I didn’t know what to feed them. I went out that day to see what I could catch. Maybe I would find something new. I really wanted to get a bumble bee, but I did not want to get stung.

            Bumble bees are real pretty, all yellow and black. Margie wanted to go with me. I told her she could, but she had to be still and quiet.

            “What are we going to look for, Ruthie?”

            “We are looking for a bumble bee today.”

            “Won’t we get stung?”

            “I hope not. Remember how I told you to hold the jar and the lid.”

            We got the jars and walked across the road to a big open field. I had seen bumble bees there before. We both had the jars ready. We had quart-sized Mason jars. I gave Margie her instructions again.

            “You have to have the jar in one hand and the lid in the other hand. When you see the bumble bee getting nectar out of a flower, you have to move real fast and line up with the bee, then you slam the lid and the jar together and hope that you get and that you don’t get stung.”

            Margie did what I said and held her jar just right. There were quite a few bees that day. I tried a few times and missed. Margie had missed a couple, too.

            I saw a great big one on a sunflower. I sneaked as quietly as I could towards it. When I was close enough, I slammed the lid on the jar. I looked at the jar.  I could not believe I actually got him!

He was mad, too. I had even caught the flower he was on!

            “I got one, Margie! Look I got a great big one!”

            “How did you do that?”

            “I just slammed the lid on the jar, and when I looked he was in there.”

            “You’re lucky you didn’t get stung.”

            “I know,” I said.

            We had to take him back to the house and get another jar to catch something else. On the way back I was wondering what I could feed him. Then, it just came to me like a bolt of lightning. I should feed him honey. All bees liked honey. They made honey all day, so they must like it.

            When we got back to the house, I went inside to see if we had some honey. I found some in the pantry. I had already punched some holes in the lid so he could get air. I made one hole bigger so I could drip the honey in the jar. I had a little stick, and I dipped it in the honey and let it drop into the jar.

It went right to the bottom of the jar and landed on the sunflower.

            “This was a big catch, Margie. Bumble bees are hard to catch.”

            “What are we gonna catch now?” she asked.

            “I think we will just go out in the garden and look. There are always bugs in the garden.  You can catch these bugs. They’re not mean like bees are.”

            We walked out to the garden and started going row by row looking for bugs. Margie found a little beetle and put it in her jar.

            “You can put more than one of them in a jar,” I said.

            “Won’t they bite each other?” she asked.

            ‘No, but whatever plant you find them on, you have to break off some of the plant leaves and put them in the jar so they have something to eat.”

            I caught a black spider with white on its back. Daddy had told me to be careful catching spiders. He said I had to always show them to him so he could tell me if they were dangerous, but I had caught several of these before so I knew it was all right to keep but not touch it.

            It was starting to get hot, so I told Margie we better quit for the day.

            “But, I’m not hot. Let’s look a while longer.”

            “Are you sure?”

            “Yeah I wanna find something good.”

            “Okay, if that’s what you want to do.”

            I was going down the rows of corn looking for anything when I saw a daddy long legs spider. I wanted Margie to catch a good one, so I hollered at her.  She came running over to where I was.

            “Look in the corn. Sometimes you find good bugs in there.”

            “Look, look Ruthie. A big spider with long legs.”

            “Get your jar ready. That is a daddy long leg. They won’t hurt you.”

            She had the jar ready and slammed the lid on him real fast. She got him. She was really proud of herself. Margie did not usually do things like that. She was a real girly girl. She was scared of bugs and creepy crawlers. I couldn’t believe she was even out there and doing it. It was not like her at all.

            “Look how big he is. What do they eat?”

            “Well, since we found him in the corn, we will give him corn. Then we will ask Daddy tonight.”

            We took her spider to the table by the house, and I found him a spot for him. Sometimes it seemed like I was older than Margie. She was two years older than me, but there were times when she acted younger than me. Today was one of those days. She had never done this before, and she got really excited when she found that spider and caught him. I guess of all my sisters I did more with Margie. We were closer to the same age and had more things in common. We decided to quit for a while and eat lunch. We went in the house and washed our hands. We had bologna and mustard again. That was something we had a lot. To this day I still like bologna and mustard sandwiches.

            “Are we going back out to get more bugs after lunch?” Margie asked.

            “If you want to.”

            Junior walked into the kitchen. He had just got up, and it was noon. I don’t see how anyone could sleep that much.

            “Fix me a sandwich brat,” he said to me.

            “Fix it yourself, dummy,” I answered.

            “You better do what I say, or I’ll tell Mother.”

            “Tell whoever you want. I’m not gonna wait on you.”

            “Fix me a sandwich, Margie.”

            “Margie is not gonna wait on you either, dummy.”

            “I’ll do it, Ruthie. I don’t mind.”

            “No, you’re not. He is so lazy. He can wait on himself.’

            He grabbed me by my arm and pulled me out of the chair. Then he twisted my arm behind my back. I was getting ready to start kicking him when Daddy walked in the back door.

            “What’s going on here? Turn her arm loose, Junior. What the hell are you doing?”

            “He is trying to break my arm because I won’t fix him a sandwich.”

            “What’s wrong with you, Junior? She’s just a little girl.”

            “I just asked her to fix me a sandwich.”

            “He’s been sleeping all day. He can fix his own.”

            “Don’t let me see you put your hands on your sisters ever again.”

            “Yes, sir,” Junior said.

            Daddy was really mad. He didn’t like for Junior to hit us girls. He never even gave any of us girls a spanking. He left that to my mother. I had such a kind daddy. He was never mean to anyone. He tried to help people if he could. He always treated his family good. He was an alcoholic, but he was the nicest and kindest man I ever knew. I would not have traded him for anyone in the world.

            After lunch, Margie and I went outside to hunt for more bugs. Junior fixed his own sandwich, and Daddy went to clean out the chicken house and drink Progress beer. We were in the garden looking for bugs, and I heard Daddy holler for us. We went running to see what he wanted.

            “Come here, girls, and let me show you something.”

            “What is it, Daddy?” Margie asked.

            “It’s a stinging scorpion. It was here in the chicken coop.”

            I looked in the jar he was holding, and I saw the ugliest, meanest looking thing I had ever seen. He had a long tail, and it was sticking up in the air. It looked like he had a sharp point on the end of his tail. That thing looked like something out of a scary movie.

            ‘What are you gonna do with him, Daddy?” I asked.

            “Do you want him for your bug collection?”

            “No. I’m scared of him. Let’s kill him.”

            “Well, we are gonna kill him. I wouldn’t let you have him alive.”

            “How will you kill him?’ Margie said.

            “We will pour some alcohol in this jar, and that will kill him. The alcohol will keep him preserved for you. Then you can show him to your friends.”

            “I think that is a good idea, Daddy. Let’s do it,” I said.

            I ran in the house to get the alcohol. I was back in a hurry. I wanted to see this. I gave Daddy the alcohol, and he poured it through the holes in the jar. I could see right away that the scorpion didn’t like alcohol. It took a while for it to kill him, but it finally did.

            Daddy said, “Don’t open the jar or touch him. When it needs more alcohol, you tell me.”

            He handed me the jar, and we took him to the table beside the house. We watched that ugly thing for a long time. Margie and I had never seen a scorpion before. I just knew one thing for sure; when I went in that chicken coop to gather eggs, I would keep my eyes open just in case there were more. That was just great!  I would have to watch for snakes and scorpions to get eggs. It was getting pretty scary.

            I collected bugs for a couple of summers. They would all die in the winter time, and I would start all over in the spring. I kept the scorpion for a long time. Every winter I would take him in the house and put him on the dresser. Margie and I would look at him all the time. Mother didn’t like it being in the house, but Daddy told her we could. I learned a lot about bugs while I was collecting. The main thing I learned was they sure would die if I didn’t know what to feed them. Then I’d have to go look for replacements. This was a good adventure in the life of little Ruthie – and for Margie, too.

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: The Creek and the Tire Swing

Front Page, Personal History

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       We were lucky when we were kids.  We had a creek nearby where we could go play.  All the kids in the neighborhood played there.  There was a tall sand rock on one side of the water and woods on the other side. Someone had hung a long rope from a tall tree, and it had a tire tied to it.  We used it for a swing.  I’m not sure who was nice enough to do that for us, but we had a lot of fun playing on it.

      We would swing out across the creek and drop into the water.  I liked going there unless Leroy and Lindell were there.  They were the meanest kids in the neighborhood, and they lived right across the street from us.

       On the side where there was sand rock, I could find little king snakes.  They were black with a red ring around their necks.  I liked to scare Margie with them.  She was kind of a sissy.  She didn’t like bugs or snakes or anything like that.  I didn’t like big snakes, but the little king snakes were all right.

        One day when my daddy was at the creek with me, he showed me a crawdad.

        “You know what this is, Ruthie?” he asked.

        “Nope.  What is it?”

        “It’s a crawdad.  Let me show you something.”

         He turned it over, and under the tail was a whole bunch of little babies.  I couldn’t believe it!

         “How did they get there?”

         “That’s where they carry their babies.”

         “There sure is a lot of them.”

         “I’ll show you something else.  They’re good to eat.”

         “I don’t think they look too good, Daddy.”

         He built a little circle of rocks and told me to get some small twigs.  I did what he said, and he put some dry grass under the twigs.  Then he said to lift up some of the big rocks and catch the crawdads that were bigger and that had no babies.  We caught four or five, and Daddy pinched their heads off.  He pulled out a box of matches, lit one, and put it under the dry grass and twigs.  The next thing I knew, the fire started up!  He added some bigger pieces of wood to it.  I couldn’t believe it!  My daddy knew how to build a fire!  He sharpened two sticks, and he punched them into the crawdads.  He handed one to me.

           “Just hold it over the fire and roast it just like a wiener.”

           “Okay,” I said.

           “Not too long now, or you will burn it up.”

           “Tell me when it’s ready, Daddy.”
It just took a couple of minutes, and he showed me how to peel it and where the meat was.  It would be all right if you were real hungry.  There wasn’t much to eat though.  A person could starve if that’s all he had.

           “How did you like it?”

           “It was real good,” I lied.
What really got me excited was that my daddy could build a fire just like they did in the western movies!

           “How did you learn to build a fire like that?”

           “I was raised on a ranch, Ruthie.  You had to know how to build a fire.”

           “Why did we come here?  Why didn’t we stay on the ranch?”

           “It’s real hard work on a ranch.  Your mother and me were tired of working so hard.”

           “What did you do?”

           “Your mother cooked for the ranch hands, and I drove cattle.”

           “I wish we still lived there.”

           “No, you don’t, Ruthie.  You need to go to school so you won’t have to work so hard.”

           “I had to quit school in the fourth grade,” he said.

           “But, I don’t like school, Daddy.”

           He just laughed at me and hugged me.  I learned a lot from my daddy that day.  I guess he knew how to build fires so well because he was Cherokee Indian.  He always told me that he and Johnny Trueblood were real Indians.  That meant I was Indian, too, and I was happy about that.  I learned how to build a fire.  I don’t know if that was good or bad for me, but I never did burn anything up.

            After I learned how to build a fire, I did it all the time at the creek.  I even cooked a few crawdads.  The kids thought that was really something that I could build a fire.

           One day we were playing and swinging on the tire.  Margie, Annie, Jeanie Lou, Novelene, and Charlie were with me that day.  We had been there for about an hour.  Then LeRoy and Lindell showed up.  I was on the swing, and they began to throw rocks at me.  They picked on all of us all the time.

            I jumped off the tire, and all of us took cover in the woods.  We were trying to figure out how to get away from them.

            “Y’all might as well come out ‘cause you ain’t getting’ away!  Were gonna beat you all up!  This is gonna be our place to play!  Y’all ain’t allowed here no more!” hollered Lindell.

            “You just think you’re gonna take this place!  This is our placeI” I hollered back.

            “You’re that Carter brat!  I know who you are!”  (There was that brat word again!)

            “I’m gonna tell my big brother on you!  Then you will be sorry!”

            “He ain’t nobody!  We ain’t scared of him!”  Lindell yelled.
“Well, you better be!  He will kick your butts if you hurt us!”

            I didn’t know what to do.  I was talking all this talk about Junior, and I didn’t even know if he would help us.  Junior was sixteen or seventeen then.  They were about fourteen or fifteen.

            “I am gonna try to run around the back way and get Junior,” I said.

            “What if they catch you?”  Margie asked.

            “They won’t.  I can run faster.”

            I took off the back way out of the woods trying to stay low so they didn’t see me.  I ran as fast as I could to the house.  I was yelling for Junior.  He came out the front door.  I guess he thought I was hurt.

            Kenny, his friend, was with him.  I was talking so fast they didn’t know what I was saying.

            “You gotta come with me.  We’re in trouble.”

           We all took off running to the creek.  They really didn’t know why.  They thought one of us kids was hurt.  When we got there, you could hear Margie and my friends yelling.  Then we heard LeRoy and Lindell  saying what they were going to do to them.  They really meant to beat them up.  I could hear Margie crying.  Junior heard her, too, and he started running.  We could see them now by the creek.

            “Hey, you little creeps!  Is that all you have to do is scare little kids?”

            “You gonna stop us, Junior?”

            “Yeah, I think we will stop you.”

            By now we were down by the creek bank.  Junior was at least six foot tall, much bigger, and older than they were.  Kenny was not as tall, but he didn’t act scared at all.  All of us kids just watched and didn’t say a word.

            Junior grabbed LeRoy by his arm and twisted it behind his back, just like he did to me, but harder.  He kicked him in the butt with the side of his foot.  Kenny tried to get Lindell, but he took off running.  He left his own brother there by himself.

            “You kids can play here any time you want to.  These guys better not bother you either, or they are gonna be real sorry,” Junior said.

            “Thanks, Junior, for helping us,” I said.

            “That’s all right, brat.  You’re my sisters.  I have to help you.  But, try to stay out of trouble.”

            “We will.  I promise.  You and Kenny saved us.”

            Junior started walking and pushing LeRoy in front of him.  Every once in a while he kicked him in the butt again.  I liked that.

            They never did bother us anymore when we saw them at the creek, but they sure looked at us like they were still mad.  I wanted to run every time we saw them, but I didn’t.  I couldn’t let them know I was scared of them.  I had to act tough like my brother did.

            I learned something about my brother that day.  So did my sister, Margie.  No matter what Junior said to us or how many times he called us brats, we were his little sisters, and he loved us. And I knew he would not let anyone hurt us if he was there to stop it.  I stopped hating my brother so much on that day, and I could tell that we all three had different feelings from then on.  We were nicer to each other.  I believe that was the day we all realized that we were siblings, and we loved each other.

            I loved that creek, and I loved playing there.  I had two of the most important things in my life happen to me playing on that creek.  My daddy taught me about building wood fires and about crawdads.  Plus, I learned that the dummy, my brother, loved me.  I never called him dummy again.  He still called me brat, but in a nice way.  So, there you have it, another great 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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Tales of Little Ruthie: The Little Red Church

Front Page, Personal History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

             “Why not?”

            “Because Mother would spank us for sure.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            I would say, “No, ma’am.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            She started to cry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Welcome to our church,” she said.

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

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

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

            I said, “What do you want?”

            “Let’s go,” she said.

            “No.  I am staying for church.”

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

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

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

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

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

            I said, “Can we?”

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

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

            “Well, enjoy yourselves for a few minutes.”

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

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

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

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

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

            “You think it was worth a spanking?”

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

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

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

 

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 Movie Money

Front Page, Personal History

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          As everyone knows by now, Margie was my sister who was two years older than me.  She is the great faker of illnesses, especially earaches.  She is one of my mother’s favorites, along with my brother Junior.

            Now, in Oklahoma, Margie would be called a little con artist.  She was very good at talking people into doing what they really didn’t want to do. I happened to be one of those people. The problem was that I loved Margie so much that I wanted to go with her wherever she went.  Then, she reached an age where she didn’t want me with her all the time.

            For instance, we were allowed to go to the movies every Saturday (if my mother had the money, of course).  We got one dollar apiece to go.  If we wanted to go on Sunday, we could, but we only got fifty cents each.  The movie on Sunday was the same as Saturday, but we didn’t care.  We just watched it again. They also did not show the serial on Sunday.

            Sometimes the serial was about Sky King; he was a pilot.  Then, we had Superman, The Lone Ranger, The Three Stooges, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry.  Every Saturday there was a fifteen-minute episode.  It would always end with someone in big trouble. Then we got to see just a little bit of the next week’s episode that made us want to go back the next Saturday.  We loved it, and we always went the next Saturday.  We had to be sick, or Mother was broke, before we missed the movies.

            It was Saturday morning, movie day, but we had work to do first.  Margie usually helped Mother in the house, and I helped Daddy outside.  Junior never did anything. I don’t know why. He would always be sleeping. My parents never made him do anything.  He went out a lot at night with his friends. He came home late. I heard Daddy tell Mother once that if she didn’t do something about him, she would be sorry later on.  She never would let my daddy punish him or give him a whipping with his belt.

            Several times, he was going to and my mother stopped him.  I wish he had whipped him anyway; he deserved a good whipping.  I only saw Daddy whip him one time, and that was because he stole some money from him.  I never saw my daddy so mad.  He hardly ever got mad.

            Anyway, I was helping Daddy clean the yard and the chicken pen.  We had to put new hay in all the nests, so the hens had a clean place to lay their eggs. If it was summer, we had to water the garden and pull weeds.  Then, we would hoe around some of the plants that needed it.  As I have said before, my daddy had the best-looking garden in town.  I liked helping him.

            Margie had to help Mother clean house, mop the floors, put clean sheets on the beds and wash the dirty ones. My mother always had nice clean beds.  Our house was old, but she kept it clean as a whistle.

            She always said, “I won’t live in a dirty house, and I won’t sleep in a dirty bed.”

            She also said, “Just because you’re poor, don’t mean you have to be dirty.”

            Our house was always clean and neat.  I was proud of my mother because she was so clean.  She kept us kids clean, too.  We got baths every night almost. We were never allowed to get in her beds unless we were clean.  If we didn’t get baths for some reason, she would scrub us with a wash cloth and soap, and we washed our feet in the foot tub. Yep, we were clean. My mother made sure of that.

            Well, back to the movies.  They started at one o’clock so we had to be ready to go by twelve thirty at the latest, or we would miss the previews.  Mother always fixed us a sandwich and a glass of milk for lunch then gave us our dollar each.

            She told me the same thing every Saturday, “Now, Ruthie, you carry your own money; don’t let your sister carry it.”

            “Yes, ma’am,” I would say, “I will carry my own money today.”

            “I mean it now, don’t you come home crying because you let Margie carry your money, and she spent it all.”

            “I promise, Mother; I will take care of my own dollar,” I said.

            I fully intended to do just that, but something always seemed to happen to change that.  I always prided myself on being smarter than Margie, but I was beginning to have doubts about that.

            Mother checked us over one more time.  She looked at our dresses and our hair, and then she would always spit-clean a spot on our faces even if there was nothing there.  After we passed inspection, out the door we went to walk the mile to the theater.

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

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

            She asked me, “Are you sure you have your dollar?”

            “I’m sure,” I said.

            “Where is it?” she asked me.

            “It is in my shoe.”

            “Well, I sure hope you don’t lose it.”

            “I won’ lose it.”

            “If you do, I am not going to share mine with you.”

            That’s when I started to worry.  What if I lost it?  I couldn’t go to the movie then.  I had already forgotten what my Mother told me before we left.  The problem was I had always been bad about losing things, and Margie always reminded me of that.  I started thinking real hard, “Do not lose the dollar.  Do not lose the dollar.”

            “Well, you know how bad you are about losing stuff.”  There was the reminder.

            “Yea, I know but this dollar is in my shoe. I won’t lose it.”

            Then, she came back with, “You want me to carry it so it will be safe?”

            “No. You always spend my money when you carry it.”

            Just then, I saw this dead frog in the road, and I said to Margie, “I have to go spit on this dead frog for good luck.  It’s good luck to spit on a dead frog.  If you don’ know that means you are real dumb.”  I went over and spit on the frog.  I knew for sure my dollar was safe then.

            Margie said, “That isn’t true.  Daddy just told you that as a joke.”

            I said, “No, it’s not.  It’s true. You just don’t know.”

            To make a long story short, I finally gave in and let Margie carry my dollar.  This happened every time we went to the show, and still to this day, I cannot explain it.

            We got to the movie, and she paid our way in.  It cost us ten cents each to get in, so we had lots of money left over for snacks.  I always got a Baby Ruth candy bar which was a nickel, a box of popcorn that cost ten cents, and a tall coke which cost ten cents.

            Now, the way I figured it, I had spent thirty-five cents.  This meant I still had sixty-five cents left. I was no math genius, but that was pretty simple.  We went to find a seat. I always tried to get on the third row from the movie screen in the middle section, and I tried to get the seventh seat from the end.  I don’t know why. That just seemed like a good spot to me.

            We watched the newsreel, the cartoon, the serial of the week, and one feature.  It was always a double feature. Soon, I was out of snacks.

            I said, “Margie, I need some money to get a candy bar and coke.”

            “We are out of money.”

            “How could we be out of money? “ I asked.

            “I don’t know. We just are.”

            “Well, I only spent thirty-five cents.”

            “Ruthie,” she said, “we are out of money.  We have just enough to get a soda on the way home.”

            I said, “Okay,” and left it at that.”

            “I did it again!”  I said to myself.  “I let her con me out of my dollar again.”  Boy, was I dumb.  Even after Mother warned me, I still did the same thing I always did.  I guess it was because Margie was older, and I wanted to go with her all the time.  I thought she would not let me go with her if I didn’t give in to her.

            We left the movies and started walking home.  We were going to the drug store to get a chocolate soda. (I don’t think they make sodas like that anymore).  The girl behind the counter took out two tall soda glasses.  Then she squirted chocolate syrup in the bottom of each glass.  Next, she put in vanilla ice cream and a little more chocolate.  Then she put in the carbonated water that squirted out in a real hard stream and brought lots of bubbles up to the top.  Next, she added the whipped cream and a cherry are on top then stuck in a straw and a spoon.  It was the best thing I ever ate.  I loved them, but they cost twenty-five cents.

            I started thinking about the money again.  Margie had the same amount as I did when we went into the movie, one dollar.  It cost us ten cents each to get in.  That left us with ninety cents each.  Then we each spent twenty-five cents on a soda and snacks, which left us with sixty-five cents each.  Our chocolate sodas were a quarter each, so I was wondering where my other forty cents went.

            “I have it all figured out.  Where is my forty cents?” I asked her.

            She said, “We are all out of money, and that is all there is to it.”

            I said, “That can’t be; I added it all up.”

            Margie said, “I am not talking any more about it.”

            So, I said, “Well, maybe I should just punch you in your nose.”

            “Just try it,” she said.

            So, I tried it, and it felt real good, too.

            She started crying and ran for home to tell Mother that I poked her in the nose.  I didn’t even hit her that hard. I took my time walking home because I knew that I was in trouble again.  Shoot!  Why did this always happen to me?  I got into more trouble than anyone I knew.

            I walked up on the porch and went in the front door. As soon as I went in, my mother was yelling my name.  “Here it comes,” I thought, “another spanking.”

            “Get in here right now, Ruthie.”

            “I’m coming.  I’m coming.”

            As soon as I walked in the kitchen, I saw Margie crying like a big baby. Her nose was a little bit red, but it wasn’t that bad.

            Mother asked, “Why did you hit her in the nose?”

            “Because I let her carry my dollar, and she cheated me out of forty cents.”

            “What did I tell you when you left the house today?”

            “Not to let her carry my dollar.”

            “But you did it anyhow; didn’t you?’

            “Yes, I did.  Because she just kept begging me all the way to the movie, and I finally told her she could hold it.  But she cheated me.”

            “From now on, you need to take care of your own money.  If you don’t, then you are not going to the movies anymore.”

            “That sounds good to me. So, don’t ever ask me again to carry my dollar, Margie.”

            She looked at me real mean and said, “I hate you, Ruthie.”

            My mother got up out of her chair, pulled Margie out of her chair, and gave her three or four good whacks on her rear end.  Margie was screaming and crying, but I know it didn’t hurt that bad.

            Mother said, “Don’t you ever say that to your sister again!  You know you don’t hate her!  Tell her you are sorry, right now!”

            Mother was talking real mean. And when she talked that mean, then everybody better be listening.

            Margie said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it.”

            “That’s all right; I told you I hated you plenty of times, too.”

            So, that was settled.  From then on, I would carry my own money.  I would not give it to Margie ever again.  Or would I? It would be just like little Ruthie to do the same thing all over again. What if she told me that I couldn’t go anywhere with her? Life sure had a lot of problems to figure out. Good grief, would it ever end, or would little Ruthie have more days like that day?

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

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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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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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