Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Christmas Guest Post – Kathleen’s Cuthand Christmas (from Kathleen’s memoirs of the depression) by Linda Swain Bethea


As a special treat, Linda Bethea is sharing another wonderfully entertaining story from her archives, and today we experience a Christmas from the depression that was still filled with homemade gifts, love, laughter and some retribution for past misdemeanours.

Kathleen’s Cuthand Christmas (from Kathleen’s memoirs of the depression) by Linda Bethea

We don’t have the money.” I’d heard that so many times I knew not to ask for candy, bright rubber balls, or coloring books at Miss Lonie’s store. If Daddy had a few cents to spare, he’d fill three small brown paper bags with candy for us…..peppermint sticks, gumballs, bubble gum, lollipops. Kits and BB Bats were five for a penny. A few cents would buy a pretty good belly ache if I’d done like John and gobbled it right up. As soon as John finished his, he’d be eyeing my candy. Demanding at first, then wheedling, he’d eventually try to win me over by being nice, a sure sign something was up. I’d fold and unfold the small bag till it was shredding and soft as cotton long before the last jawbreaker was gone. Annie’s candy could last for days. Sometimes she’d surprise me with a gumball or lollipop a week later.

Times were hard for my folks during the depression, but never having known anything else, I didn’t feel poor. Clothes were homemade, food home-grown and canned for the winter. As the days got shorter, Christmas was on my mind. More than anything else, I wanted a red bicycle with a basket and horn. When Mama said they couldn’t afford it. I reassured her, “That’s okay. I’ll just just ask Santa Claus to bring me one.” Hoping I’d forget about it, Mama said maybe I’d like a pretty rag doll with yellow hair. Knowing what a good girl I’d been, I returned, “Oh, no. Santa’s gonna bring me a red bicycle with a basket and a horn.”

Finally, Mama just had to tell me. “Santa won’t be bringing you a bicycle. He’s having a hard time too, and we don’t have the money to help him.”

“But that’s just not fair. Rich kid’s parents have money to buy things and Santa Claus still brings them bicycles.”

Mama agreed, “It’s not fair, but that’s how it is.”

Normally after supper, we gathered in the front room as Daddy read and smoked hand-rolled cigarettes while he and Mama talked of all that went on that day. Mama usually had mending or did some embroidery or handwork and played on the floor at their feet. When the older kids finished their homework, Mama read a chapter or two from a book Daddy had borrowed or the kids had brought in from school, but as the evenings got longer and colder, Daddy busied himself in the barn and Mama took to keeping her sewing basket covered, telling the kids curiosity killed the cat.

That was okay because Annie and I had our own secrets. We cut up an old sheet to make handkerchiefs for Daddy and John, snipping and pulling threads along each side to make a cutwork pattern and hemming the edges. We made Mama some tea towels and a dresser scarf. Mama helped me make Gingerbread men for Annie and John. Christmas Eve, I was so excited I could hardly sleep, hoping Santa Claus might leave me a bike, despite what Mama had said. For once we hopped straight out of bed when we heard Daddy starting a fire and Mama making coffee, but Daddy made us go back to bed. It seemed like it took hours before Mama said biscuits were in the oven and Daddy said the room was warm enough for them to get up.

We lined up, smallest to biggest, and for once, it was good to be small. I tiptoed into the room to the magic of our Christmas tree illuminated by the warm glow of the fireplace, the room scented by the rare treat of Mama’s sweet, hot, chocolate. Only Christmas held this special joy. our lumpy stockings were so full they were about to pull away from the mantle. Santa had filled mine with bright wooden blocks, an apple, the biggest orange I’d ever seen, chocolate drops, ten new pennies, a bright rubber ball, a giant candy cane, and a Brazil nut at the very toe! More riches than I’d seen all year! Thrilled, I dropped to the floor to play with my blocks and ball when Mama said there might be more. High on the tree hung a beautiful rag doll with yellow yarn hair, brown eyes, pink lips and cheeks. She was dressed in a blue flowered dress and bonnet and flour sack bloomers with the letters Ai Fa printed on the seat and rick-rack edging on the legs. So that’s the surprise Mama had been hiding. It was so beautiful! I’d seen this same pattern on the feed sacks at Miss Lonie’s Store.

While I was still pondering the glory of my doll, Mama and Annie gave me a gift they had worked on together for me: a matching dress, bonnet, and bloomers with Air Fair printed across the seat, and rick-rack edging on the legs, just like my doll’s. No girl had ever had anything so perfect! When I was as big as Annie I’d have the whole label, Airy Fairy Flour on the seat of my bloomers. When I’d had time to play with my doll a few minutes, Daddy brought out what he’d spent his evenings working on: a little doll bed and a table and chairs just the doll’s size. This was the most wonderful Christmas of my entire life!

Ann got a dress and matching scarf, a card of bobby pens, and a bottle of Evening in Paris Perfume, John, a wooden pop gun, a sling shot, a shirt, and harmonica, along with the things Santa put in their stockings. Happiest of all were Mama with her tea towels and dresser scarf and Daddy with his handkerchiefs. You could see they’d never had such wonderful gifts. How lucky they were to have us!

Christmas dinner was a wonder. Mama had killed an old hen the day before and made chicken and dumplings and dressing. To go along with it, the table was heaped with mashed potatoes and gravy, Mama’s wonderful canned green beans, okra and tomatoes, biscuits with homemade butter and sweet potato pie. Grandma and Grandpa and Maude, Mama’s snooty baby sister showed up with ham and Aunt Ellie, Cousin Katie, and Johnny walked over with a berry cobbler and fried squirrel. There was so much, my stomach would be hurting before I could even taste everything.

Johnny came over showing off his new trucks and toy guns. ‘ It just wasn’t right the way Aunt Ellie spoiled that Johnny. She only gave me some peppermint and a handkerchief. He was no more to her than I was, even though Aunt Ellie had raised his mama when Aunt Sally died and left Katie motherless about the same time Aunt Ellie’s only baby died. I was so sick of hearing about how Johnny’s daddy had died of tuberculosis when Johnny was only eight months old, and he and Katie had lived with Aunt Ellie ever since. It did look like Aunt Ellie would get tired of raising people’s left over kids and pay a little more attention to a nice little girl she wasn’t stuck raising. Aunt Ellie brought Johnny something every time she went to the store, and hardly ever even got a lollipop.’

Even though it was unfair as usual, Aunt Ellie’s partiality toward that rotten Johnny had worked out in my favor once. At some time in the past, apparently forgetting Johnny was a boy, Aunt Ellie had bought him a china doll with long, curly blonde hair. This dainty charmer was dressed in pink silk, patent leather shoes, and delicate lingerie. She came with a change of dress, coat hangers, and could be tucked neatly into her own trunk for storage. She was eventually passed on to me after Johnny ignored the doll for a couple of years.

Uncle Dave and Aunt Ethel’s car pulled in, packed tight with and the kids in the back seat. Kathleen and John raced to hide their stuff while Aunt Ethel waddled in with nothing but a bowl of greens. ‘Why in the world would anybody bring greens to Christmas dinner?’ Robert Gordon and Wayne fought their way out of back seat pounding each other for the privilege of being first, though it was hard to imagine why it mattered why unless they needed the toilet.

John, Johnny, and I certainly didn’t want to see them. Whatever Robert Gordon and Wayne couldn’t tear up, they tried to haul home. Between us, John and I didn’t have a shoebox full of toys and had no intention of letting those little demons of Satan make off with them. Thank Goodness, John was big enough to hold them up by the ankles and shake them while I grabbed the stuff that fell out of their pockets. There was nothing too bad for those heathens to do. Last time they were here, they ate a whole quart of crackers and a quart of mustard. They chased the chickens and threw eggs against the barn till Daddy put a stop to that. Most of the time, John and Cousin Johnny teamed up and picked on me but it took all of us to keep Robert Gordon and Wayne from taking the place apart.

Thank Goodness, Mama didn’t believe in making kids eat at the second table. She told the women to fix their kids a plate and let them go play. Grandma, Aunt Ellie, and Aunt Ethel didn’t think it was right, but Mama said she wasn’t going to make her kids to starve while the grown-ups sat around eating, drinking coffee, and talking all afternoon. Mama didn’t insist we eat everything, just try just a bite to see if we liked it. She didn’t make us eat greens at holidays, though. It just didn’t seem right to insist greens at Christmas when they had the rest of the year for that! Mama didn’t have enough plates to go around, so as a special treat on holidays, she let us kids eat on syrup can lids and sit on the floor, just a little something special for company meals.

As soon as we’d had our fill, we headed for the barn, anxious to get Robert Gordon and Wayne as far from their Christmas loot as possible. Though Robert Gordon was a year younger than me, he was bigger and a lifetime meaner. The last time he was here, he’d entertained himself by hiding behind corners and jumping out on my back, knocking me forward to the ground with him on my back. I’d complained to Mama and we’d hatched a plan and was ready for him this time. I sauntered alluringly past the barn door several times, till Robert Gordon leapt out, locking his arms around my neck. Prepared for his attack, I collapsed backward, banging his head against the barn wall, his shoes scooting in manure. He squalled into the house tattling that I’d had hurt his head, but got no sympathy when John, Johnny, and I got to tell our side of the story.

Soon he was fully recovered. Looking for trouble, Robert Gordon and his partner in sin ambled toward the pasture, where the hellions spotted Nanny Goat, grazing peacefully near the barnyard fence, her bag already engorged. Her young kid goats were penned nearby, already bleating hungrily, denied the comfort of Nanny Goat till evening milking was done. Satan possessed the boys as they ran at Nanny, chasing her till she collapsed, exhausted, then stripping her of her milk in a way no Christian ever would. All this in full view of her horrified, hungry kids and any neighbors who cared to watch, an equally deep sin in Mama’s view. Nanny’s terrified screams dragged the diners from the Christmas feast and it was clear that not only were Daddy and Mama furious at the abuse of livestock, but the look on Mama’s face showed she was outraged knowing “what the neighbors would think.” As for poor Nanny; she was so traumatized, she didn’t give milk for the next three days. Thankfully, our horrible cousins soon left to make the long trip back to Clarksville. We settled in front of the cozy fire to enjoy the remains of another wonderful holiday all together.

©Linda Swain Bethea

About Linda Swain Bethea

Linda Swain Bethea grew up in a family with a strong story-telling tradition, and she always knew she had stories that needed to be told. Writing called to her, even while working for thirty years as a Registered Nurse. Now retired from nursing, she enjoys writing books and blogging. Her posts are often accompanied by wonderful illustrations by her mother Kathleen.

51qb8fm4dql-_uy250_About Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad by Linda Swain Bethea (Author) with Kathleen Holdaway Swain (Collaborator & Illustrator)

Born to a struggling farm family in the deepest of The Great Depression, Kathleen enjoys a colorful childhood, enhanced by her imagination, love of life, and the encouragement of her family.

She’s determined to build a better life for herself, getting herself into hilarious situations all along the way. Distinguishing herself in school and the community, she never takes her eyes off her goal.

Just as she’s about to get started, she meets Bill, the man who is going to help her on her way. Everything changes. And then changes again. The true story of a remarkable woman who will inspire you, make you laugh, and see life from a new perspective.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Pat guin 5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Author November 30, 2019

This book brought back so many childhood memories. Just the right amount of I humor, combined with real life stories of country living as I remember it.

Also by Linda Swain Bethea

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US

And on : Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Linda on: Goodreads

Connect to Linda

Blog: https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nutsrok1
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/linda.bethea.50

My thanks to Linda for another wonderful story of family life and as always we appreciate your feedback.

 

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Potluck – Lessons From Michael (2014) by Linda Bethea


Welcome to the  Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

If you would like to know how it works here is the original post: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-newseries-pot-luck-and-do-you-trust-me/

Linda Bethea is a regular contributor here on Smorgasbord, but this time I get to select the posts from her archives to share with you… I am sure you will enjoy her stories as always. This is the third post and I have selected and it was one that Linda posted about a patient of hers, who inspired her as a nurse.

Lessons from Michael by Linda Bethea

A few months into my first nursing job, I met Michael, the patient who put me on the road to true nursing. Still limping down the painful road from enjoying success in nursing school to putting it into practice, I drove home most days thinking, “I can’t go back tomorrow. I can’t go back tomorrow.” I lived in terror of getting caught alone with a patient whose survival depended on all that “nursing magic” that had so far sailed over on my head. Orienting on an acute dialysis unit, my only useful skills were a pretty good nursing vocabulary, understanding of aseptic technique, and the complete understanding that there was no question too stupid for me to ask. I would have never have made it if my supervisor had been one of those who “ate her young.” (terrorized new nurses)

I was assigned to care for Michael. Though I didn’t voice it, I thought Michael’s family ought to think hard before they subjected him to dialysis. He was thirty-six years old with Down’s Syndrome and its many cardiac complications, diabetic, had hepatitis B, and now needed dialysis. I worried about how he would deal with it at his three-year-old functional level.

I could have saved my worry. Michael stole every heart in the dialysis unit. He was smiling when his mother brought him in, did everything he was asked, dealt with his pain, and was the kindest patient I ever had the privilege of caring for. I loved him dearly, and treasured every moment I got to spend with him over the short three years I had the gift of being his nurse. Thanks to Michael, I learned compassion and humility. Everyone has value and something to share.

©Linda Bethea 2014

Here is Linda with a little bit about herself.

Now that I’m done with the bothersome business of workday world, I am free to pursue my passion, capturing the stories I’ve loved all my life. The ones you’ll read on my blog are good old Southern stories, a real pleasure to relay. Here in the South, we are proud of our wacky folks. I’ve preyed shamelessly on my family, living and dead, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, often changing the names to protect the innocent and not so innocent.

My mother illustrates my blog. I come from a rollicking family of nuts, hence the name of the blog Nutsrok Enjoy.

51qb8fm4dql-_uy250_About Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad by Linda Swain Bethea (Author) with Kathleen Holdaway Swain (Collaborator & Illustrator)

Born to a struggling farm family in the deepest of The Great Depression, Kathleen enjoys a colorful childhood, enhanced by her imagination, love of life, and the encouragement of her family.

She’s determined to build a better life for herself, getting herself into hilarious situations all along the way. Distinguishing herself in school and the community, she never takes her eyes off her goal.

Just as she’s about to get started, she meets Bill, the man who is going to help her on her way. Everything changes. And then changes again. The true story of a remarkable woman who will inspire you, make you laugh, and see life from a new perspective.

One of the many excellent reviews for the book.

Entertaining  on November 5, 2018

Linda Bethea is a truly gifted story teller! I genuinely enjoyed reading the stories of her mother, Kathleen, growing up. My grandparents never told me stories of the Great Depression, so these stories provided me with much needed insight. The stories are told in a colorful, humorous tone that was a joy to read.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Everything-Smells-Just-Like-Salad-ebook/dp/B01IVUXROQ

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Everything-Smells-Just-Like-Salad-ebook/dp/B01IVUXROQ/

Also by Linda Bethea

Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Linda-Swain-Bethea/e/B01N5HA5C1

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Linda-Swain-Bethea/e/B01N5HA5C1

Connect to Linda

Blog: https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nutsrok1
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/linda.bethea.50

My thanks to Linda for allowing me access to her fabulous archives to share with you…I hope you will head over and enjoy exploring for yourselves.. Sally

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Christmas Guest Post – The Most Dependable Fight of the Year by Linda Bethea


The Most Dependable Fight of the Year

Daddy took his hunting very seriously. This was a man’s sport, an entitlement. Real men hunted and fished. A man’s outdoor gear was a reflection of his manhood. Daddy would have sooner worn lace panties than not follow the unwritten rules. His hunting gear was a necessity, not an extravagance like a dependable car, bills paid on time, and clothes for the family. Daddy always had money held out of his paycheck weekly for the Christmas Club, but Mother never could remember that deer season came around the same time as the Christmas Club checks were issued. By early December, both had long unwritten lists in their heads. A day or so before the check was to be issued, Daddy would be in an unaccustomed jovial mood, sitting at the table with one of his buddies drinking coffee, and casually mention his plan to purchase a Manchester #1108 Rifle with a scope. Nearby at the stove, steam rose from Mother’s ears. The Manchester #1108 Rifle cost about the same as her Christmas list.

The Annual Christmas Fight was on. Daddy’s manhood was at stake. He couldn’t emasculate himself by backing down on his purchase after bragging in front of his hunting buddies. Mother completely misunderstood a man’s needs and considered him selfish, hurting his feelings. “When I was a kid was I only got an orange for Christmas, and was proud of that. Besides, you should be able to get everything you need for about $12.00. You just need to go through the store, pick out what you wanted, take it up to the register, and haggle with the manager. That’s the only sensible way to shop. That’s what I’d do if I had to handle the shopping! Do I have to manage the house and make the living? And besides, where are the clothes and toys I bought the kids and those three nice dresses I just bought you? You just didn’t take of stuff right or you’d still have them! Blah, blah, blah. You must think I am Santa Claus!”

Mother snidely pointed out, “well, you’re supposed to be. It was over ten years ago you bought that stuff you’re talking about. Besides, how would you know how much things cost now? You haven’t put a toe in a store, paid a bill, been to a bank, or handled any business since we got married. Don’t you think anybody besides YOU might want a nice Christmas!” Suggesting he might be selfish was the final insult! It was on!

Eventually, they would both develop battle fatigue and go about their business. Daddy would go off in a huff and buy his rifle, but tone his pride down a bit, and make do with a cheaper model. Deeply offended at Mother’s demands, he would hand over $30 or $35 dollars left from the Christmas Check. Once she recovered from her rage at his everlasting selfishness, she would shuffle bills, frantically put us all to gluing in trading stamps, put us kids to selling coke bottles, feed us more meals of beans, potatoes, biscuits and gravy, and canned vegetables, less with meat and fruit. She would make some homemade gifts and check Goodwill out. Grandma always sent a huge box of Christmas gifts, her sister Annie would send money, and Mother would manage to pull together a wonderful Christmas.

On Christmas morning we would wake up to find gifts piled all around the Christmas tree. Mother would be relieved to have manufactured a miracle once again. Once it was all laid out on Christmas morning, Daddy enjoyed seeing his children enjoying a bounteous Christmas and was reassured Mother could do well with a little money when she half tried. Maybe next year he could save back enough to get that……….

I think he sincerely believed in Santa Claus.

©Linda Bethea

win_20160620_13_24_45_proHere is Linda with a little bit about herself.

Now that I’m done with the bothersome business of workday world, I am free to pursue my passion, capturing the stories I’ve loved all my life. The ones you’ll read on my blog are good old Southern stories, a real pleasure to relay. Here in the South, we are proud of our wacky folks. I’ve preyed shamelessly on my family, living and dead, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, often changing the names to protect the innocent and not so innocent.

My mother illustrates my blog. I come from a rollicking family of nuts, hence the name of the blog Nutsrok Enjoy.

51qb8fm4dql-_uy250_About Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad by Linda Swain Bethea (Author) with Kathleen Holdaway Swain (Collaborator & Illustrator)

Born to a struggling farm family in the deepest of The Great Depression, Kathleen enjoys a colorful childhood, enhanced by her imagination, love of life, and the encouragement of her family.

She’s determined to build a better life for herself, getting herself into hilarious situations all along the way. Distinguishing herself in school and the community, she never takes her eyes off her goal.

Just as she’s about to get started, she meets Bill, the man who is going to help her on her way. Everything changes. And then changes again. The true story of a remarkable woman who will inspire you, make you laugh, and see life from a new perspective.

One of the many excellent reviews for the book.

Entertaining  on November 5, 2018

Linda Bethea is a truly gifted story teller! I genuinely enjoyed reading the stories of her mother, Kathleen, growing up. My grandparents never told me stories of the Great Depression, so these stories provided me with much needed insight. The stories are told in a colorful, humorous tone that was a joy to read.

Read the reviews and BUY the book: https://www.amazon.com/Everything-Smells-Just-Like-Salad-ebook/dp/B01IVUXROQ

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Everything-Smells-Just-Like-Salad-ebook/dp/B01IVUXROQ/

Also by Linda Bethea

About the book

WOMEN OF STRENGTH, FORTITUDE, AND BRAVERY

In this collection of six serials, Linda Swain Bethea weaves narratives of women through several centuries. The stories span from 1643 to 1957. Beginning in England in 1643, a young couple travels to Jamestown, Virginia, to begin a new life in the American frontier. The rest of the stories travel from West Texas to North Louisiana to the Texas Panhandle to East Texas.

Disease, death, starvation, and prison are faced with stoicism and common sense, and always, with a sense of humor.

The women in each tale stand tall and possess the wisdom and tenacity to hold families together under the worst conditions. Through it all, they persevere, and Linda Swain Bethea’s storytelling is a testament to the legacy they left.

Conversational and homey, you’ll fall in love with the women of Just Women Getting By – Leaving a Legacy of Strength, which celebrates the courage of those women who had no choice but to survive.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Just-Women-Getting-Leaving-Strength-ebook/dp/B072DZ5XTP

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Just-Women-Getting-Leaving-Strength-ebook/dp/B072DZ5XTP

Connect to Linda

Blog: https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nutsrok1
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/linda.bethea.50

My thanks to Linda for another wonderful story of family life… and we would love to hear from you about any memories you have of Christmas as a child.

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – Mixed Nuts Part 2 by Linda Bethea


I am so pleased that Linda Bethea is going to share some of her heartwarming and entertaining posts from her archives over the coming weeks. Linda’s family stories always has me in fits of laughter or shedding a tear. I hope you will also head over and buy the books that Linda has published. Here is the link to part one of her mini-series: Mixed Nuts part 1

image

Mixed Nuts Part 2 by Linda Bethea

When you are dealing with family, it clarifies things to have a scale. You don’t have to waste time analyzing people when you have a ready reference. This one works pretty well for us.

1.Has a monogrammed straight jacket and standing reservation on mental ward.

2.Family is likely to move away without leaving forwarding address. Has jail time in the past or the future

3.People say, “Oh, crap. Here comes Johnny.”

4.Can go either way. Gets by on a good day. Never has been arrested. Can be lots of fun or a real mess. Relatives usually will invite in for coffee. Likely to have hormone-induced behavior.

5.Regular guy. Holds down a job. Mostly takes care of business. Probably not a serial marry-er. Attends church when he has to.

6.Good fellow. Almost everybody likes him or her. Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. Manages money well enough to retire early.

7.High achiever. Business is in order. Serves on city council.

8.Looks too good to be true. What’s really going on?

9.Over-achiever. Affairs are in order. Solid citizen. Dull, dull, dull. Could end up as a 1

My family is as much a mixed bag of nuts as any. As a kid, I was most fascinated by the ones on the fringes. My favorite was Uncle Chester, not because he was friendly, funny, or even seemed to notice me, but because he was the first solid #3 of my acquaintance. (Family likely to move away without leaving forwarding address. Has jail time in past or future.) As a young man in the depression, he started out as a moonshiner and petty criminal, lounging a bit in local jails. He never really hit the big time and made the Federal Penitentiary till he got caught counterfeiting quarters. His technique was sloppy and his product unpolished. He was fortunate in getting caught red-handed passing his ugly quarters. In 1941 he was sent up to Fort Leavenworth for some higher education where he made good use of his time by apprenticing himself to a cellmate who was doing time for making twenty-dollar bills.

Aunt Jenny #5 (Can go either way. Gets by on a good day. Never been arrested. Can be lots of fun or a real mess. Relatives usually will invite in for coffee. Likely to have hormone-induced behavior.) was short-sighted about Uncle Chester’s situation and ditched him while he was imprisoned, but realized she still loved him when he came home with his enhanced earning capacity. They let bygones be bygones, got back together, and had three lovely children. Their eldest son Lynn and daughter Sue were solid #7s from the start. (Good fellows. Almost everybody likes him or her. Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. Manages money well enough to retire early.) Uncle Chester was perfectly willing to give Lynn a good start in business, but Lynn was ungrateful, distanced himself from his father’s dealings, joined the military, and avoided the family business altogether, even seeming to resent his father.

One Sunday dinner, when Uncle Chester was dropping names of the interesting people he had been in jail with at various times, Lynn rudely interrupted, “Daddy, you’ve been in jail with everybody at one time or another.” Uncle Chester did step up and keep Cousin Lynn from making a mistake. Lynn came home on leave from the military and met a girl he wanted to marry; love at first sight. She was a pretty as a spotted puppy and even she noticed how much she looked like his sister Sue. Uncle Chester got her off to the side and asked a few questions about her mama and daddy and where she was raised. He was waiting up for Lynn to get home. “Son, I sure hope things ain’t gone too far. I hate it, but you can’t marry that li’l old gal. She looks just like her Mama did when we was running around together. There’s a real good reason she looks just like yore sister Sue, a real good reason.”

By the fifties, Uncle Chester had branched out a little. He did a little research and decided lawsuits paid well and weren’t too much work. He captured some bees, applied them to his leg. When his leg was good and swollen, he got his buddy to drop him off downtown at a trolley stop. As the trolley approached, Uncle Chester carefully stumbled into the path of the trolley, suffering a knee injury in front of numerous witnesses. He collapsed to the ground, moaning and groaning. Suffering terribly, he was transported and treated at the hospital. Now Uncle Chester was set with a fifty-thousand dollar settlement, a tidy sum for that time.

Their daughter Susie turned out real well, became a teacher, and married a Baptist Preacher, lending Uncle Chester a much appreciated touch of respectability. Uncle Chester and Aunt Jenny were very generous toward her church, and the legitimacy of their donations was never questioned. Sadly, many years later Susie’s daughter a bona fide #3, embarrassed them all by stealing from her employer.

Ross, Uncle Chester’s youngest son, was also a gifted #3 (Family likely to move away without leaving forwarding address. Has jail time in past or future) followed in Uncle Chester’s footsteps. He dabbled in moonshine, petty crime, and scams but just never rose to Uncle Chester’s level. He initiated a few crooked lawsuits but lacked the brain power and organization to pull bigger things off. All went well till he got too big for his britches and tried setting up business in Texas. When he got caught moonshining in someone else’s territory, he called the old man for help. Uncle Chester had to admit, “I’m sorry son, but I can’t do a thing for you. I don’t have any influence with the law out there.” Uncle Chester felt bad about one of his boys getting in trouble till the day he died,” but sometimes you just have to let kids make their own mistakes.”

Aunt Jenny was stingy. You would think she got her money in the usual way. Or maybe she just got tired of hearing Uncle Chester complain how hard it was to make money. She even made her own mother pay for a ride to the grocery store. When Maw Maw won some groceries in a weekly contest, she had to share with Aunt Jenny since she hitched a ride to the grocery store every week. Aunt Jenny sold eggs and tomatoes and charged Maw Maw the same as everyone else.

When Aunt Jenny got older, she got dentures. She liked them so well she saved them for special occasions. She wore them when she had ladies over for coffee, church, and Sunday dinner. Being toothless didn’t hold her back a bit. She could take a bite off an apple as well as anyone and could have won a fried chicken eating contest hands down.

More from Linda next week…. if you have some mixed nuts in your family, please feel free to mention them in the comments…..

About Linda Bethea.

Linda Bethea brings humour to her stories that are usually set in what was a dire time in American history in the great depression. There is no doubt in my mind that Southerners are tough, resilient and have an amazing sense of fun.

win_20160620_13_24_45_proHere is Linda with a little bit about herself.

Now that I’m done with the bothersome business of workday world, I am free to pursue my passion, capturing the stories I’ve loved all my life. The ones you’ll read on my blog are good old Southern stories, a real pleasure to relay. Here in the South, we are proud of our wacky folks. I’ve preyed shamelessly on my family, living and dead, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, often changing the names to protect the innocent and not so innocent.

My mother illustrates my blog. I come from a rollicking family of nuts, hence the name of the blog Nutsrok Enjoy.

Linda has captured the essence of her family history in her book Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad

51qb8fm4dql-_uy250_About Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad by Linda Swain Bethea (Author) with Kathleen Holdaway Swain (Collaborator & Illustrator)

Born to a struggling farm family in the deepest of The Great Depression, Kathleen enjoys a colorful childhood, enhanced by her imagination, love of life, and the encouragement of her family.

She’s determined to build a better life for herself, getting herself into hilarious situations all along the way. Distinguishing herself in school and the community, she never takes her eyes off her goal.

Just as she’s about to get started, she meets Bill, the man who is going to help her on her way. Everything changes. And then changes again. The true story of a remarkable woman who will inspire you, make you laugh, and see life from a new perspective.

One of the many excellent reviews for the book.

………...as you fall in love with Kathleen’s family.

Bethea’s style of writing as she recounts her mother’s memories has made her one of my favorite authors, and I couldn’t put this book down once I started it.

Kathleen (Kitten) takes us through her childhood growing up during the Great Depression by sharing her memories, and we find ourselves cheering for the little girl and her family while we get to know them. Vivid descriptions about unwanted house-guest’s habits are hilarious, while stories of sacrifices made by the family for each other brings tears to the reader’s eyes. We find ourselves cherishing the favorite stories Kitten hears from her Mama and Daddy while she snuggles next to them much as she did at the time of their telling. As Kathleen recounts the difficulties she faced as a young adult, we too want to return home to her parents’ warm home, full pantry, and open arms.

Read the reviews and BUY the book: https://www.amazon.com/Everything-Smells-Just-Like-Salad-ebook/dp/B01IVUXROQ

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Everything-Smells-Just-Like-Salad-ebook/dp/B01IVUXROQ/

Also by Linda Bethea

About the book

WOMEN OF STRENGTH, FORTITUDE, AND BRAVERY

In this collection of six serials, Linda Swain Bethea weaves narratives of women through several centuries. The stories span from 1643 to 1957. Beginning in England in 1643, a young couple travels to Jamestown, Virginia, to begin a new life in the American frontier. The rest of the stories travel from West Texas to North Louisiana to the Texas Panhandle to East Texas.

Disease, death, starvation, and prison are faced with stoicism and common sense, and always, with a sense of humor.

The women in each tale stand tall and possess the wisdom and tenacity to hold families together under the worst conditions. Through it all, they persevere, and Linda Swain Bethea’s storytelling is a testament to the legacy they left.

Conversational and homey, you’ll fall in love with the women of Just Women Getting By – Leaving a Legacy of Strength, which celebrates the courage of those women who had no choice but to survive.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Just-Women-Getting-Leaving-Strength-ebook/dp/B072DZ5XTP

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Just-Women-Getting-Leaving-Strength-ebook/dp/B072DZ5XTP

Connect to Linda via her blog: https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nutsrok1
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/linda.bethea.50

My thanks to Linda for sharing her story and please share and leave your feedback. I will check on comments in a couple of days. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Christmas Party – Guest Author Linda Bethea – Fleas don’t come home for Christmas, Willie Tharpe


christmas partyDelighted to welcome Linda Swain Bethea to the party today with one of her entertaining stories of her childhood and relatives who are without a doubt rich in character.

Her mother Kathleen was brought up during the great depression, and her recollections are part of our precious living history which needs to be preserved. Linda and Kathleen have gone one better and have compiled these stories into a wonderful book that has recently been published

Fleas Don’t Come Home for Christmas, Willie Tharpe

Daddy wasn’t just a magnet for strange characters. He beat the bushes to flush them out. If that hadn’t worked, I believe he’d have up tacked up posters. Mother had no way of anticipating who he might drag in for supper, overnight, or until further notice. I never did understand why she didn’t murder Daddy. He must have slept sometime! Willie Tharpe was a holdover from Daddy’s childhood.

Daddy came in late from work one evening a few days before Christmas about eight-thirty, after one of his rambles, as he so often did. Though he worked shift work, Mother could never anticipate his arrival. As the “Man of the House” his time was his own. Making the living was his only responsibility. It was up to Mother to handle the rest. That evening, Willie Tharpe creaked up behind him in an ancient truck with a shack on the back; not a camper, a shack. About fourteen dogs piled out of the truck windows and shack as he coasted to a stop in a place of honor, right in front of our house. Eventually, Willie emerged, swatting dogs with his hat and cursing inarticutely, in the style favored by the toothless. Mother was appalled, knowing anyone Daddy dragged in this late, especially anyone from such an interesting position on the social scale, was likely to be a houseguest. This was especially concerning a day or two before Christmas, when we’d be having company. In an expansive mood, Daddy ushered in Willie Tharpe and as many of the dogs as could squeeze in before the door slammed on them. The dogs, unused to houses, ran around jumping on us, knocking over end tables, and peeing on the Christmas tree, till Daddy had us shoo them out. Daddy was clearly thrilled to be able to show off his home and family to Willie, an old and valued family friend.

The house had looked pretty good till Willie’s dogs ransacked it, but it was a wreck now. Mother had “waited supper” for Daddy, since Daddy insisted we all eat as a family. We’d been starving for hours. We scurried to the table as Mother served up the reheated beans, potatoes, and gravy, just serving the fried chicken and biscuits cold. Though Willie’s toothless mumbling was impossible to understand, Daddy interpreted for us as Willie loaded his plate time after time, after first reaching for the liver and gizzard with his hand. The liver and gizzard were such favorites that we took turns at getting them, a matter of such import that Mother managed it herself. He ate with his knife, wiped his mouth on his sleeve, and spewed food as he mumbled. We stared in fascination. Mother never even noticed his terrible manners. After supper, he poured his coffee in his saucer, blew on it noisily, and drank from the saucer, smacking loudly after each slurp. It was repulsive. He burped without covering his mouth. When all the chicken was gone, he reached for the platter and scraped all the “scrambles” onto his plate. The “scrambles” were the crunchy bits left on the platter at the end of the meal, the prize Mother divided among us children. My mouth flew open to protest, only to catch Mother’s dirty look to “mind my manners.”

A meal with Willie did more to reinforce the importance of manners than a hundred hours of instruction. Mother should have thanked him. When it came time for bed, Daddy explained Willie would be sleeping in Billy’s room. Billy could bunk in with Phyllis and me. Mother looked fierce, but didn’t say a word. She pursed her lips and left the room. In a minute she was back with Billy’s night clothes. “Where are the dogs going to sleep?” She spat at Daddy. Daddy had always prided himself on never allowing dogs in the house until the mishap earlier that evening. “Oh, the dogs will sleep in Willie’s truck.” He was jovial, obviously not unaware of Mother’s malevolent mood and his longstanding rule on no dogs in the house. Willie looked surprised and pained. It was late December 22 and really cold. Willie muttered the first thing I’d understood that night. “I allus’ sleeps with them dawrgs. Thas’ the onliest thing that keeps an old man like me from freezing. We all pile in together. We sleeps good thataway.”

Daddy was clearly torn between his principles and his old friend. “Willie, I ain’t never had dogs in the house and I can’t start now. The dogs can’t sleep in the house.” He was saved. Willie didn’t argue, just mumbled and went off to the back bedroom. Mother was still furious. While Daddy was at work the next day, Willie hung around by the kitchen heater, smoking his smelly hand-rolled cigarettes. He was in Mother’s way all day, as she sputtered around baking and making her Christmas preparations. He smelled like his dogs, becoming more rancid smelling by the hour. The odor became more nauseating combined with the scent of cinnamon, candied fruit, orange slices, and vanilla. Mother periodically opened the doors and windows to air the kitchen.

Her mood was black by the time Daddy came rolling in at three thirty. Uncharacteristically, he’d come straight home from work, probably concerned for Willie’s safety. He took Willie off gallivanting. For once, we didn’t have to wait supper. Mother’s mood improved with Willie out of the way. We made popcorn and sang Christmas Carols. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve! Santa would be coming! Mother sent us on to bed. The next thing I knew, Daddy was yelling, “Get some water! Get the kids out of the bedroom!” As we flew out of our bedroom, a wet, naked old man made his rickety way into the kitchen, followed by a swirling pack of panicky dogs. Meanwhile, Daddy dragged smoking quilts out to the back yard. As the story unfolded, it seems Willie had been smoking his hand-rolled cigarettes in the comfort of the nest of hounds he’d slipped in after the house was abed and drifted off to sleep. Alerted of the burning covers by one of the dogs, he’d called out for help, getting Daddy in on the action.

Not surprisingly, Willie moved on the next day. Wisely, Daddy didn’t protest. We enjoyed a lovely Christmas. It was a few days before Willie’s Christmas gift to us became apparent. The house was infested with fleas. Deprived of their host, they attacked us with abandon.

Happy New Year!
About Linda Swain Bethea

win_20160620_13_24_45_proNow that I’m done with the bothersome business of workday world, I am free to pursue my passion, capturing the stories I’ve loved all my life. The ones you’ll read on my blog are good old Southern stories, a real pleasure to relay. Here in the South, we are proud of our wacky folks. I’ve preyed shamelessly on my family, living and dead, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, often changing the names to protect the innocent and not so innocent.

My mother illustrates my blog. I come from a rollicking family of nuts, hence the name of the blog Nutsrok Enjoy.

Linda has captured the essence of her family history in her book published earlier this year which has received rave reviews.

Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad by Linda Swain Bethea (Author) with Kathleen Holdaway Swain (Collaborator & Illustrator)

imageMost recent reviews for the book

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I knew the great depression was such a hard time, but it gives you a real perspective of what the normal everyday family went through just to feed their families. It was a sad time. However, I found the book to still be fun and uplifting. They discovered such simple things to make their life more enjoyable. Linda did a great job putting Mrs. Swain’s life on paper. I would definitely recommend this book to others.

I love this charming depression era memoir and the characters who give it life! Linda recorded her mother’s stories with an immediacy that creates the intimacy we crave in a memoir. The stories of the Holdaway family flow effortlessly as she ferries us from Kathleen’s birth to present time. Kathleen has created a true portrait of the life and times of the people that inhabited isolated small towns like Cuthand in the early twentieth century. Written in the comfortable style of “kitchen table storytelling”, it’s a quick read for any age, and will invite you in, and make you want to stay.

If you enjoy the art of storytelling, you will love the tales that jump from the pages of this hilarious book. Characters from the past literally come to life due to the colorful descriptions that the author and her mother use to give the details. I enjoyed reading about Mrs. Kathleen’s life as a young girl and loved the way she shared how things felt from her point of view. It is really wonderful that her daughter took the time to help her share her story. Shirley Martin

Read all the reviews and BUY the book: https://www.amazon.com/Everything-Smells-Just-Like-Salad-ebook/dp/B01IVUXROQ

How to connect with Linda

Bloghttps://nutsrok.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nutsrok1

Thank you for dropping into the party and I hope you enjoyed this wonderful story from Linda Bethea.. Please distribute far and wide.. thanks Sally