Tales of Little Ruthie: My Insect Collection

Front Page, Personal History


            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.

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Tales of Little Ruthie: Mrs. Maddox and the Rubber Tube

Front Page, Personal History


            School had started up again, and I was not happy about that, as usual.  “Locked up again” is how I referred to it. I loved the outdoors, and school really messed that up for me. I had my mind on all the things I would like to be doing instead of school work. I would be so happy when it was time for recess.

            It was just fifteen minutes though, and the whole time I would worry about the bell ringing that would end it.  I tried to do as many things as I could in fifteen minutes, but it went so fast!  I would play on the swings for a few minutes, then the monkey bars a few minutes. I played jump rope if I had time, or hopscotch.

            I loved the merry-go-round the best.  We were not allowed to stand up on the merry-go-round, and that is where I had a problem one day at lunch time. I knew I was not supposed to stand up, but I got carried away and stood up anyway. The teacher on the play ground told me to sit down. I did sit down, but a few minutes later I stood up again. The teacher came over a second time.

            “Ruthie, you need to get off the merry-go-round,” the teacher said.

            “I don’t want to get off yet,” I told her.

            “You cannot stand up. Get off now,” she insisted.

            “No, I’m not. I’ll sit down.”

            “You need to get off right now.”

            I did not move to get off. The other kids were looking at me as if to say, “Boy, are you in trouble.”

            I thought, “If I am already in trouble, I might as well just keep on riding.”

            The teacher then walked over and reached out for one of the bars to stop the merry-go-round. It slowed down. I knew I was in trouble for sure. She walked over to me and grabbed me by the arm.

            “Get off right now.”

            “Okay, I am,”I said.

            “You waited too long. You’re going to the office.”

            “Why am I going to the office?”

            “I hope to get a rubber tubing.”

            “What is that?”

            “You’re going to find out.”

            She still had me by my arm, and it was starting to hurt. But my  main  worry was the rubber tubing she mentioned. What was that all about? She kept walking and pulling me along.

            “Let me go,” I said.

            “No, ma’am. You are going to the office.”

            “You better let me go, or I am gonna tell my daddy on you.”

            “He will probably spank you, too.”

            “He will not. He never spanks me.”

            “You are in serious trouble little girl.”

            “So are you when my daddy comes up here.”

            That teacher was really mad at me. I would have been mad, too, if a child spoke to me like that. But at seven years old I was thinking other thoughts. My daddy was going to be real mad if she spanked me. No one was allowed to spank me but Mother and Jeanie, my big sister.

            Finally we were at the office door. She opened it and pushed me inside. There was another door with a sign that read Principal. “Uh-oh,” I said to myself.  She opened that door, and a big fat lady was sitting at a desk. It was Mrs. Maddox.  I was getting more and more worried that they were going to spank me.

            The teacher sat me down in a chair across from the principal. Then she proceded to tell her what I did. She told her how I was standing up on the merry-go-round and talking back to her. The principal looked at me.

            “Did you do all that, Ruthie?” the Mrs. Maddox asked.

            “I stood up on the merry-go-round. I didn’t talk back,” I said.

            “You did, too,” the teacher said.

            “I just told her that my daddy would be real mad if she spanked me,” I explained.

            “Well, that is talking back,” the teacher said.

            “No, it’s not. It’s telling the truth.”

            The teacher stood up, and the principal told her she could go. She went out and closed the door. Mrs. Maddox opened her desk drawer and took out this thing made out of rubber. It was kind of yellow in color, and it was made like a tube. It was like a plastic fish tank hose, but it was bigger around and made of rubber, not plastic.

            “Stand up, Ruthie, and bend over my desk.”

            “No, I’m not going to.”

            “It will just be worse if you fight me.”

            “Let me call my daddy.”

            “No, you can’t call your daddy.”

            All of a sudden she reached out and grabbed my arm. She raised her arm to hit me on my bottom. She missed and hit my leg. I yelled, and she hit me again on my leg. I couldn’t get away from her. She was holding my arm so tight I could do nothing but yell. She hit me three or four more times with the rubber tube. It really stung my legs.

            I was crying. I tried not to, but it hurt like the dickens. She hit me a few more times. I think she was mad because I wouldn’t be still to let her whip me. My own mother never spanked me that hard. Neither did my sister Jeanie. When she finally let me go, I turned and ran out the door as fast as I could go. She was yelling at me that I better come back.

            I ran all the way home. I was crying so hard I couldn’t see where I was going. I stopped and looked at my legs. They had red welts all over them. I didn’t have welts this bad when Mother spanked me with the ice box belt for blowing up the oven.

            I ran in the back door, and Daddy was in the kitchen.

            “What are you doing home from school, Ruthie?”

            “They tried to beat me to death at school, Daddy.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “Look at my legs, Daddy.”

            He looked at my legs and turned me all around so he could see all the welts on me.

            “Who did this to you?”

            “The principal,” I said.

            “Why did she do it? What did you do?”

            “I stood up on the merry-go-round, and she said I talked back to a teacher.”

            “Well, did you?”

            “I just told her if they spanked me that you would be mad.”

            He got up and took my hand, and we went out the door and started walking to the school. He was real mad. We were walking fast. I had to run to keep up. When we got to the school, I showed him where the principal’s office was. We went in, and he asked a lady in the office to see Mrs. Maddox.

            “She is busy right now, sir.”

            “She is not too busy to see me,” he said.

            “But, you can’t see her now.  She is real busy.”

            Daddy just turned and walked into her office. She was sitting at her desk.

            “Did you do this to my little girl?  Did you beat my daughter like this?”

            “She disobeyed the rules on the playground.”

            “I asked you if you put these welts on my little girl.”

            “Yes, I did. I had to. She also talked back to a teacher.”

            “I am telling you right now, lady; don’t you ever touch her again.  I have never spanked my daughter, and you have no right at all to spank her.”

            “But, Mr. Carter, she has to obey the rules.”

            “If she does something at school that she needs a spanking for, then you call me.”

            “But she needs to be punished for what she did.”

            “Her mother is the only person who spanks her,”  he said. “No one else lays a hand on her. Don’t make me come back up here; and that goes for her sister Margie, too.”

            He took my hand, and we left the school and walked home. When we got home, my mother was there, and Daddy told her what happened. She was mad as a hornet when she saw my legs. Daddy told her that they were not allowed to spank me or Margie at school. He told Mother about the rubber tube that Mrs. Maddox used on me.

            My daddy never went to our school. This was the first and only time. But the reason he went meant everything to me. I knew that there was nothing that he would not do for me and for all of us.

            He protected me when I needed him. I know I should not have stood up on the merry-go-round, and I know I should not have sassed the teacher. That was disrespectful to an adult. But, mine was not the only mistake made that day. Mrs. Maddox made a mistake when she whipped me with that rubber tube. Had it not been for my daddy standing up for me, more kids might have had a taste of the rubber tube. I don’t recall ever hearing anything else about the rubber tube from anyone. So that was a lesson learned day for Mrs. Maddox and for little Ruthie.

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