Friday, January 14, 2011
Hay and Double Bubble
An only child on a small horse farm in 1940's East Tennessee left no opportunity for friends. Tunacuna was a magical world for a fertile imagination which probably caused her parents concern. A pasture could become a vast prairie of waving grasses home to herds of buffalo. The corral attached to the barn had surely seen cowboys break wild horses. She would stand on the porch to watch a summer rain storm sweep along the mountain backdrop until it encompassed her world. Barefooted, grabbing an umbrella, she loved the water splashing up her legs with the fall of each foot. There was a trough down the yard where the beckoning rain water congregated. Other times might find her sitting quietly in the barn listening to the pelleting drops dance on the tin roof. That barn was also a refuge from the volcanic atmosphere of the main house. Her pleasures were simple: the sounds of horses munching their grain and hay, chickens pecking in the dirt and her Cocker Spaniel, Count, curled up beside her. Hours had been spent here just listening and watching. From time to time, she'd lead a horse out into the hall, cross tie and brush til their coat glistened. Funny how they were so gentle towering over her. It required a couple of boxes to stand on in order to reach their backs. And sometimes the temptation of slidding onto those broad backs was a deliciously forbidden treat and could not be resisted. There is nothing so grand as the smell of a horse or the feel of one between the knees. They loved her too. Concerned with the countless number of hours spent in the barn, Mother and Daddy rationalized she needs to be around other children. "CAMP" what is a camp and why? What did I do wrong? I can learn to swim in the creek!! PLEASE, don't make me go!! So, sentenced to a Girl Scout Camp for 2 weeks. It was a blur of strangers assigned 6 to each cabin. The art of lanyard plaiting was illusive, lashing tripods was clumsy, but swimming was achieved. Friends .... well, that skill was slow to develop as a painful shyness caused the brain and mouth to shut down. Many tearful nights ended with the concerned administration contacting HOME and, glory be, she was released from the torment. As the car rolled to a stop, she bounded through the door and raced to the barn. Greeted by welcoming nickers and those out in the lower pasture came on a dead run. Count was bouncing up and down impatient for his hugs as well. Joy was written all over her; this was heaven. The next summer was different. Mississippi grandparents were to be visited and as they made the trip several times each year all seemed normal. As the weekend visit came to a close and the car began being packed, grandparent asked, out of no where, would parents allow the "baby" to say for a little while longer. Oh how she would like to stay with them and could be picked up on their next trip down. The small town was an exciting experience. Grandmother rose early each day to shop for the day's fresh vegetables, meats, Double Bubble chewing gum and something really new ... Kool Aid. She was introduced to the merchants, green grocer, baker [and oh, the smell of cinnamon rolls filled the street at that hour]. By the time they returned, Janie had dusted, swept, changed the linens and was ready to move to the swing in the backyard under the giant China Berry tree and shell peas or string the beans for Dinner .... that's a large noontime meal in the South. Time came to drive down to "the shop" for Grandfather and return for a couple of hours. Whatever was left was stored for Supper that evening as it was too hot to cook twice in one day. Life was orderly and planned with the precision of a German General. There was a Social Calendar which included Picnics, Swimming and Watermelon Parties, and Tea Parties ..... that took some getting used to .... oh, and they required wearing dresses resulting in shopping trips to a neighboring, larger, town. Mortification personified .... white frilly socks and white sandals, not to mention the Organza pinafore. The hair, normally a long mass of flyaway chestnut curls was subdued with French Braids ending with satin ribbon bows. You know what .... it was fun and special friendships developed with several. Melissa Ann became her constant companion ..... sisters. They even share birthdays only days apart. From mud pies to lipstick, they were each other's confidant from the very beginning. They ran into and out of each others house without a thought. The really neat thing was Melissa's family always included her in what ever they were involved .... even learning to ride bicycles. That alone was an undertaking. Together that was 5 children; Melissa and her 2 younger sisters and a baby brother. Her parents had the patience of Job and an iron will. Holy cow, a bicycle opened up the whole world. It would begin with just the two of them and as they neared a friend's house she would join in. By the end of pedaling all over town they resembled a small force of laughing happy faces. The day Grandfather brought home the blue Flyer at noon, it was difficult to sit through Dinner. Finally he allowed her to be excused from the table and instructed to stay on the sidewalk. "Do not go into the street." An hour later, the first commandeering took place. However, it became evident life had expanded and "just be careful and watch out for cars" was issued. Bicycles shared the transportation load with cars as they neared 16. And of course, going to the Municipal pool was not solely for swimming. The first time Elvis was heard singing Hound Dog was at a Thursday night Teen Tavern. This was an open pavilion with a concrete floor and record play for dancing. Double dating, just riding around with the sisters for a coke, Sunday afternoon movies followed by a french fries and coke at Harold's Cafe ... life was perfect. Those chosen sisters shared a life so alien to her Tennessee world, she held on to it jealously. For many years, each summer was filled with at least 2 weeks in Mississippi. The farm, though, continued to be magical. And to this day, the aroma of hay and Double Bubble gum causes the mind to swirl with pleasures of horses and the sisters. Good lawrd, that began over 65 years ago.