Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer – Farm Life: Gotta Have Guts by Linda Bethea


Farm Life: Gotta Have Guts

Daddy loved home remedies and dosed us and the livestock readily. Mother ran interference on cow chip tea and coal oil and sugar, but did let him load us with sulphur and molasses for summer sores. We never got summer sores, probably because we reeked so badly we were rejected by mosquitoes. I do appreciate Mother for putting her foot down when his more toxic ideas. No telling what kind of chromosome damage she saved the gene pool.

The livestock weren’t so lucky. They got coal oil for pneumonia, distemper, to bring on labor, and as a tonic, should they be so foolish as to look puny. Daddy hung ropes with black oil soaked bags for cows and horses to rub against as protection against insects, which they gladly did. When an unfortunate cow bloated from green hay, he inserted an ice pick in her distended belly to release gas. She ceased her moaning and resumed cow business as usual, grateful for the relief.

Farm kids grow up with a lot of responsibility. In addition to our daily chores, Daddy left us other jobs to do before he got home from work and started on his farm day, expecting us to figure things out without explanation, not always the best plan. When my brother Billy was around eleven, Daddy remarked that the old hound dog nursing eight puppies was off her food. He told Billy to pour some syrup over her feed (country for dog food) so she would eat better. Bill got a jug of syrup and headed out the back door. After a while, he came back in, smeared in dog poop, shirt torn, scratched and bitten from head to foot. “Boy, what in the world happened to you?” Daddy asked, incredulous at the sight.

“Oh, I was putting syrup on that old dog’s feet and she tore me up. She dragged me through the dog yard fence and all over the dog yard, but I did finally get syrup on all four feet.”

As I said, Daddy frequently set us to tasks with inadequate instructions. On one occasion a sick duck foolishly allowed Daddy to spot him. The specific instructions to my brother were, “Go out there and get that green-headed duck staggering around out back, and knock her in the head. No wait, first pour a couple of drops of kerosene down her throat.” Billy picked up the kerosene and was gone a few minutes. When he returned in a few minutes, my dad inquired, “How’s the duck?” He was obviously surprised Daddy would even ask, knowing he’d sent him out to knock it in the head. Daddy didn’t mean to tell us to do anything twice.

Bill replied, “It’s dead.”

Daddy said, “You didn’t give it the kerosene?”

“Sure I did,”said Bill, “and then I knocked it in the head, just like you told me to.” Even Daddy had to admit, clearer instructions would have been better.

We butchered a beef late one Saturday evening after Daddy got home from work, finishing really late. Our place was the last house next door to a huge nature preserve. To Daddy, this meant, “not private property,” a perfect place to dump off guts. He told my brother to load the mess into the ancient farm truck and dump it near Peter Spring Branch, a couple of miles back in the woods. (Yes, Billy was underage for driving, but did drive the farm truck on the farm and in the woods. It was the sixties in the South.) It was way too late to haul it off that night. Then Daddy remembered the truck was broken down (as it often was) and left the nasty mess in a tarpaulin-covered wheelbarrow telling Billy to dump it first thing in the morning, not amending his earlier instructions, assuming Billy would understand he didn’t expect him to push a barrow of guts a couple of miles. Wrong!!

We got up early the next morning. Billy and the wheelbarrow of guts were gone. An hour passed…no Billy. My mother was furious when he was gone past time to get ready to church. She was trying to raise us right. We went on without him, much to my envy. Still not home when we got home after noon, Mother knew something was obviously wrong. He would never have voluntarily missed Sunday dinner. Mother was really worried now.

Finally, after two o’clock he came into view pushing the empty wheelbarrow, circled by flies and trailed by all the hounds in the country covered in congealed blood, guts, mud, and vomit. He had wheeled the guts the entire two miles over muddy roads, through deep ditches, and rough terrain, pestered by flies and dogs to the original site Daddy indicated. The trail was so rough and muddy, his load dumped several times, making a horrible job even worse. He didn’t dare not follow his orders, so he scooped the stinking guts up every time they dumped, fighting dogs and flies for possession of the prize, vomiting as he wrestled them back in the barrow.

He was sick the rest of the day, not even able to eat Sunday dinner. If he did fake misunderstanding as I suspected, just to miss church, he was welcome to all the gut-hauling he wanted.

©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

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 I do feel for dear dedicated Billy –  and as always we appreciate your feedback.

You can catch up with all of Linda’s guests posts in her Directory

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer – Linda Bethea – Grandma and the Coat from Hell


It is time to catch up with Linda Bethea and her extended family…and this week her well-meaning Grandma and her sometimes unwelcome gifts.

Grandma and the Coat from Hell by Linda Bethea.

Since there were five kids in our family, Grandma did her best to help out when she could.

Sometimes I still hate her for it. Once she went to the Goodwill Store and bought me the ugliest coat in the world. I didn’t have a problem with Goodwill. It was ugly that bothered me. It was a knee-length brown hounds-tooth wool dress coat of the style not seen since movies from the 1940’s, trimmed with brown velvet cuffs and collar and huge brown buttons with big rhinestones in the middle. I had hoped for a parka with fake-fur collar like the high society girls in my class. I turned to Mother, hoping for salvation. Mother was ecstatic, probably because she’d wanted that very coat when she was little back in the 1930’s. She made me try it on then and there. Mother’s joy was boundless when she noticed it had plenty of growing room!

Mother wasn’t faking her ecstasy. As soon as we were out of earshot, I whined that I despised that ugly coat and wasn’t going to wear it. She shut me down before I got too far and told me it was a beautiful coat which I’d wear as long as it fit. Truer words were never spoken. I was stuck with it. I slipped out without it whenever possible, and if caught, I took it off as soon as I got out of sight of the house. I sat down and flipped it over the back of my desk and a kid pointed out a large rip in the lining. This coat humiliated me even when I wasn’t wearing it!! I tried to lose it, but Mother was ahead of me. There was no hope for the ungrateful. I drug that abomination around for two years, until the cuffs were far above my wrists.

Finally, finally, it was time for a new coat. I was heartsick when Mother read us Grandma’s letter saying that she’d been back to Goodwill and gotten me a another “beautiful coat.” “I believe it’s prettier that the last one.” were her exact words. It would be hard to be uglier. I managed to put it out of my mind.

We loved getting boxes from Grandma. They were always full of wonderful things: animal shaped erasers, pencils with our names on them, wind-up toys, cars driven by cartoon characters, jumping beans, sticker books. She sewed well and always included something made especially for each of us. Grandma always packed the best at the bottom to build suspense.

This box was no different. Mother unpacked it dramatically, examining each article fully before passing it around to be admired. I knew she had to be at the bottom when she held her breath and said, “Oh, this is just gorgeous!” When she finally pulled it out, it took my breath, too. Grandma had somehow managed to find the exact replica of the nightmare I had abhorred for two years, but if anything, it was worse, in green hound’s tooth, “with plenty of room to grow!” That was when I realized that even though Grandma looked and acted like a sweet little old lady, she was the devil incarnate.

That wasn’t the worst of Grandma’s Goodwill gifts. When I was in the eighth grade and anxious to fit in, she hit the mother lode and stopped by Goodwill just after Shirley Temple cleaned out her closet. Grandma sent me several party dresses. Mother was overjoyed. They were exquisite and probably just what she had wanted twenty years earlier. Mother held up the worst of the worst, and reminded me, just in case I had gone into a coma and forgotten that I had a band concert coming up and needed a new dress.

I had been praying for a miracle, a box-pleated wool skirt with a pullover sweater like the popular girls wore. Hope died. She held up a disaster in sheer lavender with a wide satin cummerbund. Mother made me try it on right then. It was so sheer, my ugly cotton slip (which Grandma had thoughtfully provided earlier (all the other girls had lacy nylon ones) was perfectly showcased. It looked like a horrible joke. Better yet, its low cut back that showed off my pimply back perfectly. However, as sheer as it was, a high back wouldn’t have hidden anything. It fell a good three inches below my knees.. Mother explained it was tea-length, just what I needed in a fancy dress, and cut me off when I suggested hemming it. It would ruin all that beautiful embroidery around the tail of the skirt. I was heartsick. “Mother, I can’t wear this. It’s embarrassing. Nobody wears stuff like this!”

Mother went straight for the big guns…guilt. “Well, I’d wear it if I could. I’ve never had anything this nice. I haven’t even had a new dress since…” She got teary-eyed, suffering the dual pain of an ungrateful brat of a daughter and not having a new dress since the forties. I knew when I was whipped and slunk off to ponder my upcoming humiliation.

I decided the best plan was to be sick. On Thursday before the concert on Friday, the band director shot me down. Anybody missing the concert without a doctor’s excuse would fail band that grading period. Fat chance of getting a doctor’s excuse. We only went to the doctor for resuscitation. I prayed for a miracle. I got a nightmare. I tried to getting out in another dress, but Mother caught me and sent me back to put the lavender nightmare on. “It was so beautiful.” As I turned for her inspection, my ugly cotton slip looked especially stunning under sheer lavender. Every pimple on my back pulsed with excitement at its chance to shine. Mother was enchanted.

“Oh, don’t worry about your slip. Those little bumps aren’t that bad. Let’s just put a band aid on this big one.” I realized she didn’t lack fashion sense. She was just insane.

I don’t know why I didn’t have the good sense to sneak out another dress and change after I left the house.

Ignoring the fact that it was a hot May night, I grabbed a heavy pink sweater, need taking precedence over temperature. When I got to school, I rushed to the bathroom and tied a string around my waist, pulling the long skirt up and bunching it under the cummerbund. It might have looked a little better. My pink sweater hid the sheer bodice, ugly, old cotton slip, and my pimply back. I buttoned the sweater from neck to the waist, so it looked like I had bad taste in skirts as well confusion over the season. It was still an improvement over that lavender humiliation. I sweltered through the concert in embarrassment and moderate anxiety, instead of total the social annihilation I had dreaded.

As we filed out after the concert, I could feel the fabric bunched up under the cummerbund in back slipping free of the string, but I got to the bathroom before the entire skirt attained tea length. Only the back of the skirt trailed unevenly below my knees. All in all, the evening was a success. No one saw my ugly, old slip or pimply back. They only laughed as I walked off. I accustomed to snide remarks from mean kids, so two out of three wasn’t that bad.

Grandma, I hope God forgave you for getting me that awful stuff. I’m still working on it.

©Linda Bethea 2019

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 as always we appreciate your feedback.

You can catch up with all of Linda’s guests posts in her Directory

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer Linda Bethea – The Pink Cupcake, the Hussy and the Promise


The Pink Cupcake, the Hussy and the Promise

The Houston sun baked the wide sidewalk before me as I sat spread-eagled in the shade of second floor balcony. I’d yet to recover from the injustice of being denied access to that wonderland where the gentian-haired old lady and her purple poodle lived in the apartment above Grandma. I liked the lady’s purple hair and poodle and practically salivated over the pink cupcake she offered from her bottom step. Grandma refused it on my behalf, declaring, “She don’t need to ruin her dinner.”

I wanted nothing more than to follow her up stairs and devote the rest of the day to ruining my dinner and breakfast the next morning, if possible, but no. Grandma busted that up, dragging me by the hand into her back door. “That hussy needs to tend to her own rat-killing,” Grandma told Mother. “I don’t like the looks of her company. No telling what you catch from her.”

“But I’m hungry!” I wailed. “I want a cupcake.”

“Here, eat this bacon-biscuit left from breakfast.” Grandma snapped. “Supper’s in ‘bout an hour. Go back and play on the steps.”

Grudgingly, I took my lousy biscuit and returned to my toys on the front walk. I quickly tired of them and left to wander a bit. I figured I had a minute before Grandma missed me. Out of the blue, I was soaked with water from above just as Grandma rounded the corner. I rather enjoyed the refreshing bath, but Grandma, who’d taken it all in , was infuriated. Apparently, Miss Purple Hair, the upstairs tenant had chosen just that moment to dash her mop water off the balcony as I strolled below. I was delighted at the cool surprise. Miss Purple hair was horrifically embarrassed, and Grandma was enraged!

“You heifer! You threw that on her on purpose! That nasty mop water’s got Clorox in it! You might’ve blinded her!” Grandma was hot! Fortunately for the hussy, Grandma’s concern outweighed her need for vengeance, and she rushed me in for a bath. The hussy soon came down to apologize. Mother beat Grandma to the door, so the whole thing blew over,. I never did get my pink cupcake.

I wasn’t surprised at all when the murder Grandma had been promising finally materialized.

My only experience of death, up to that point, was of people being shot on television. It happened regularly on “Gunsmoke.” No big deal. The next day, a huge crowd gathered at a stately building directly across the street. Despite Mother’s best efforts to prevent it, I was able to eavesdrop and overhear the gory details of a suicide murder in the neighborhood.

Mother was devastated and feared I’d be too upset to ever sleep again. She could have saved her worry. Of course there was a murder! It held no more interest for me than a television drama and was exactly what Grandma had been promising ever since we got to Houston.

©Linda Bethea 2019

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 as always we appreciate your feedback.

You can catch up with all of Linda’s guests posts in her Directory

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Christmas Guest Post – Flease Don’t Come Home for Christmas, Willie Tharpe by Linda Bethea


Flease 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 inarticulately, 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 Christmas…..

©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

Another wondeful story from Linda Bethea and we would both love your feedback.. thanks Sally.