Country Mouse goes to the City

picMa is hanging the clothes on the line when I run up to her to tell her the news.  A summer resident has invited me to return with them for a week to their home in Massachusetts!!! I am so excited. Can I go, Ma? She carefully removes a clothespin she is holding in her mouth as she struggles with a towel she is trying to pin. I can see a little worry in her eyes and she says, are you sure you want to go? Oh, was I sure?? It sounds like an adventure to me and I am ready to go! I help her pin on the rest of the clothes and she asks, what are you going to do for clothes? You don’t have too many good clothes, you know. Yes, I know, Ma. She hmms through her teeth and says, well, if you really want to go, I think I will ask Winnie if maybe her niece will let you borrow some clothes.

Well, that was a couple weeks ago, and here I am with a borrowed suitcase, borrowed clothes and ready to see the big city. It is near Boston in a place called Watertown. I can’t imagine what it will be like. This is the day and Mr. and Mrs. J and I get into their beautiful car for the four hour drive. Wow! This has to be the best car in the world. I sink into the seats and am ready for the adventure.

I have never seen so many cars in my life. There are four lanes of cars. Mr. J is driving at top speed and actually I am a bit afraid as the cars look like they are coming right at me. I can take four long steps at home and cross the road and maybe we have five cars go by in an hour!  Well I shall hang on and know that Mr. J knows what he is doing.

We pull up in front of a huge house that looks like a mansion. Maybe Ma had a right to have a bit of worry in her face when I asked if I could come. I step on to the rug and I sink way in. Sink way in, I tell you. I have never been in a house like this in my entire life. I stay very quiet because I am not sure what I should say or do. Mrs. J takes me up a long stairway and shows me my room. MY room, mind you. I have never had a room of my own in my life and can you imagine? I have my own bathroom right next to my own bedroom. Well, this is like out of a movie!

Mrs. J leaves me to unpack and I look around. There is a glass by the sink in the bathroom and a beautiful bath tub. I wonder if I can figure out the hot and cold water in the bath tub. I don’t want to ask because then they will know I have never used one. I will figure it out some how and I guess the glass is for me to use . Yup, I guess Ma was right to have a bit of worry in her face.

I will be glad when Ann comes..she’s their granddaughter and she is flying in for the week too, so that will be fun. Mr. J has to fly to Philadelphia on business so Mrs. J and I will be alone for a couple of days.

The night has passed and I was so tired I fell asleep right away! When I came down stairs, Mr. J had already left and Mrs. J and I had breakfast. There was half a grapefruit on a little plate and a tiny spoon with a jagged edge sitting next to it. Well, I guess there is a reason for it. I have never eaten grapefruit, so I will remember to tell Curt about this and all the other new things. After we clean up from eating, Mrs. J tells me we are going to have a day in downtown Boston. Secretly, I am wishing that Mrs. J likes the Red Sox and I can go to Fenway Park, but first we go to a salon and I come out of there with curls  you wouldn’t believe. Then off to Jordan Marsh for a little shopping and finally into Filene’s Basement where Mrs. J buys a bathing suit for me.

There is a method to all this I find the next day. Mrs. J has arranged for me to go to the ocean with some kids from next door. We go, we stay all day, I have no sun tan lotion and come home looking like a red lobster. Mrs. J is not pleased. The kids were not happy to be saddled with a country mouse but I cannot tell her this. I am just glad that Ann is coming tomorrow!

Ann arrives and Mrs. J has plans. I like Ann and first thing I take a picture of them in front of the big white mansion. I think Mrs. J wants to instill a little culture in us, well, probably me, because we go to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  I trail along, looking at all the art work but I fall in love with Gainsborough’s Blue Boy. I want something to show Curt, so ask Mrs. J if I can buy a postcard of it. She says I certainly can and shows me where. I tuck it in my purse and then she whisks us away to the Boston Gardens, or something like that and takes a picture of me sitting by a little pond.bostonWell, I figure I have about enough culture for one day. Ann looks a little tired, but we are having fun and I figure Ma will really like hearing about these adventures. Off to the Isabelle Stuart Gardens we go for a mid-afternoon string concert. I don’t mind telling you that I am a little bored. It lasts just about long enough..just when I am wishing I was listening to my brother Tink play his guitar, the strings quit and we go home.

Tonight Mr. J comes home from Philadelphia and tomorrow we drive to Maine. I think I will be glad to see the little road with no white lines that I can jump across in four big steps. It is fun, but it is scary too. I don’t think I will ever like living in a big city. But oh, the adventures I can tell Ma and Curt. I bet Ma will never believe me when I tell her about soaking in that big tub and learning how to use everything. Country mice aren’t dumb, you know!

*Footnote for my New York friends. Mr. and Mrs. J were the parents of Tom Jacobs, who passed this past April and just been recognized with a beautiful plaque in Glens Falls for his contributions to the community and the Ski World  in general. Tom skied in the 1952 Olympics and his parents sent me a Christmas card with his picture on it. Unfortunately, during my seven moves, I lost the card.  I met Tom when I first moved here by accident. My husband and I were shopping for a bike for me and went into the Inside Edge. I saw a man who looked so much like Mr. J that I told my husband the resemblance was uncanny. My husband went over and told the man and yes, it was Tom, Mr. J’s son. He was elated to know that I was one of the “Martin” kids who lived across the road from his parents’ cottage. My oldest brother and Tom were friends every summer he came to Maine. I hope they both are talking over old times now.


Remembering My Ma

maShe never was very tall. I remember, at 12, towering over my mother, but remembering that , in spite of her lack of height, she was the one with the last word..always.

I remember asking Ma a couple times about her childhood. She never said much except explaining that her father left school when he was in the third grade to help support his family by working in the woods.

One reads it takes a village to raise a child. Well, through the years I learned it took the hamlet of Rowe Hill to make sure my mother was warm and well looked after as she walked from her home up the mountain to the little school located above what was to become in later years, the Sumner homestead. Maggie Bryant and Stella Ring (known to me as Grammy) had daughters of their own, Winnie and Norma and they made sure my mother had mittens, hats and a coat during the cold winter seasons. She stopped in one house or the other to get warm on those below zero mornings. In the early fall and late spring, she walked barefoot to school, but they made sure her feet were well protected come the winter.

My grandfather did the best he could by his family, caring for my grandmother, who was never well. Because he could not read nor write, the task fell to my mother to care for her brothers and sisters and run the household the best she could. I only knew of her sister, Addie and her two brothers, Bill and Pete. It was very late in life that I learned of many siblings who died as infants or at a very young age. My mother kept all of this to herself.

She was determined to graduate high school and did so in 1933 from Woodstock High School. She worked as a maid for summer folk for $1 a week to earn the money for her class ring. That was her prized possession and one time while visiting her in Greenwood, she gave it to me because she said “she wanted me to have it.” It is now one of my prized possessions.

Ma was a strong woman. She made do with so little, which as a child, I thought, was a normal way to live. She was the morning fire builder, the one who went off to work in a mill with her husband and came home to more work . There was no indoor plumbing, no electricity, no telephone.  Even so, Ma did not complain about the lack of conveniences if all of us pulled together.

Ma loved to dance. She lived for the Saturday nights she could take a friend and go to Benny’s or Abner’s and sometimes the Top Hat to hear Lord’s Orchestra. She taught me how to dance the Polka around our kitchen floor. Remember to move those feet fast in two beats and shift to the other foot, she’d say, and away we’d go.

She probably was the best seamstress I have ever known. We wore coats she fashioned out of old adult coats given her. The treadle machine stood in the corner of the kitchen and without a pattern, she eye-balled my brother and me and away the machine would whirr. Later on, she made all her blouses to wear to pattern, just the old eyeball.

Ma became a widow when she was 50. There were a few weak moments shortly after my Dad’s death, but I never saw her cry..never in my entire life. She kept working at the mill and went dancing when the mood hit her.

One time we decided to go camping in Rangeley. The tent was up and we were ready for a meal when Ma discovered half the rocks in our fire place were missing. Well, under the cloak of darkness, she rounded the camp ground and the next morning we had a fire place that spoke of splendor. Don’t even ask, she said,as I raised my eyebrows.

Ma loved performing and did skits with her sister-in-law, Norma at the mill picnics. She teamed up with Willie Hathaway and was a howling success at many shows in the local town hall. My mother’s sense of humor was coming through for the whole world to see. She loved every minute of it.

Growing up, we had our rough patches as many mothers and daughters do, but as I grew older with children of my own, I understood how much my mother gave of herself in order to raise the four children she brought into this world.

She took me in when I needed her; she rejoiced when I finally found happiness. In the last conversation I had with Ma, I reminded her of one great adventure we had and in spite of her illness, she laughed and laughed. We went to a garage sale and I bought a vacuum cleaner..not just any vacuum cleaner, but one that powered itself. We brought it home, dragged it up the stairs to my new home and plug it in. The cleaner took off on its own, actually chasing me . I jumped on the sofa and yelled, while she tried to chase the cleaner down to shut it off. We both laughed so hard  we were breathless. Finally I heard her say above the roar of the machine, “oh, for heaven sakes” and she reached over and pulled the plug out of the wall. For years after, she would ask if I had bought any more good vacuum cleaners.

If I had one wish, it would be that my mother could have had an easier life when we were all young and clamoring at her feet. She gave us the fifty cents we needed to take to high school for the Reader’s Digest subscription; she drove me to my basketball games and cheered and this after working all day.

The picture I hold in my mind is Ma standing at the kitchen cupboard with four brown bags in a row. To her left is a loaf of bread, to her right, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly. She is making our lunch to take to school the next day. Another rip-p-p-p and the wax paper is binding another sandwich together.

That is my favorite picture of her. We had Ma for almost 92 years. Ma would be celebrating her 99th birthday on Christmas Eve. If she could read this, her only words would be “oh, for heaven sakes…”

Amateur Hour

IMG_0322There is no mistaking that music is a big part in our house.  I hear Ma singing “Go to sleep, my little Buckaroo” every night when she puts Curt to bed.  She hums when she is washing dishes or when she stands at the cupboard with the flour flying as she rolls out her biscuits. When I ask her who her favorite singer is, she always says, “Gene Autry”. Then she starts singing “Back in the Saddle Again”. I really don’t care for that song, but since it is her favorite, I say nothing.

I remember what Ma did to me when I was only four years old. I remember it like it was yesterday. She has friends down in the lower end of town and was going to a school play at the Tubbs District school. I guess one of her friends had a child in the play. I don’t know; all I can remember is that the teacher asked Ma if I could sing and she said yes. Before I knew it, I was standing up there  singing “I’m a little Teapot, short and stout” and of course, doing all the hand motions for the spout and all.  I cannot believe Ma said I could sing and had I been older, I probably would have hidden somewhere. That was my first time singing!

When Rex and I were in the “little room” with Mrs. McAllister in Locke Mills, we always were in the little play that was put on at Christmas time.  I remember when the second grade got up and we were to sing “Up on the house top, reindeer paws”. I looked out and there was Ma, sitting in one of the little seats!  I was so excited that she took time from her job at the mill across the road and came to hear us sing! She was smiling all the time we were singing and I was so proud!

It seems to me that music sounds prettier at Christmas. When Curt and I went to the Sunday School Christmas Party and we kids all sang “Silent Night” it just sounded so pretty, you knew it was going way down in the valley to Indian Pond and I bet even the birds stopped and listened. Well, maybe the birds couldn’t hear some of the notes that were a little off the mark, but it was still pretty.

Now that I am twelve and in the eighth grade,  we have Christmas music at our Friday morning assembly. The lady pounds the old chipped keys of the school piano and we sing carols. I don’t like a couple of them but I don’t know why. “O, Come All Ye Faithful” seems to drag on forever and the boys sometimes say Face Full instead of Faithful. I like the quiet carols like “Away in a Manger” or “Silent Night”because I like pretty melodies, I guess.

Our school tree stands in the corner decorated just enough to make it look like Christmas. Each year we give our teacher some little present. I have no idea what we will give Mr. Meserve. He seems so stern. Maybe another handkerchief he can fold and put into his jacket pocket…he has it just so…shaped like a sharp point on top…and if it gets jostled during the day, you can bet your last dime he will finger it and get it uprighted. I try to behave because I know soon all of us in the eighth grade will go in different directions to high schools. Some will go to Gould Academy;others to Woodstock High School. Ma graduated from Woodstock in 1933 so I know she would like Rex and me to go there. These are things I think about when my work is done and I am sitting there just looking at the tree in the corner. I wonder if Mr. Meserve rips it out and tosses it the minute we leave on the last day before vacation.

Ma says one of her proudest moments was when our school put on a show at the Town Hall and I sang with Kay Dorey. We sang “Mockingbird Hill”. The key was too high for me, but we managed to get through it without any casualties. Then we sang “It is no Secret” which is a slow pretty song.

So even though Ma works hard in the mill and keeps the house going with all her cooking and cleaning and washing the clothes, I know underneath she loves her music.  She doesn’t play any instruments but I bet she could if she had one and had the time to practice. I could not believe that she does not like Frank Sinatra because I read that everyone likes him. She says that he is just a young kid and Bing Crosby has a much better voice.

So see? Ma is really into music, but sometimes you have to really dig it out of her when she is covered with flour and rolling out biscuits.

Winter Woes

006Ma is at the kitchen counter and flour is flying all over the place, but she is forming her biscuits and they are the best. I think she does her best thinking when she is busy, because she doesn’t say much but once in awhile I hear a “harrump” come out of her throat and know she is not pleased about something. It probably has to do with gossip because she does not like gossip and thinks there is something good in everyone. 

It is pretty warm because Ma has stoked the wood stove to bake off her biscuits. Thank goodness, because the snow is piled high against the house and it is a cold day.

Dad has gone with a bunch of other men to help clear a storm up around South Pond. Up by the old Joe Cummings’ place the wind whips across the pond and drifts the snow so hard the town plow can’t get through. The town asks for men to take their shovels and just dig through enough so the plow can finish the job and clear the road to Locke Mills.

Ma mutters she wishes he would clear a path to the outhouse at the edge of the woods and a path to the road before he went off to work for the town. Maybe that is why the “harumph” came out of her throat.

Well, it isn’t easy getting to the outhouse without a path and when Rex and Roland are working, we usually do not have one. Dad owns one shovel and sometimes it seems he is not keen on finding the end of it, at least that is what Ma said once, after she had to wade out there. Ma doesn’t rile too easily, but I think that was a bit too much.

We usually have a path to the road because Dad hauls bags of blocks home from the mill to help start the fire in the morning and a narrow path makes it easier to pull the sled. By the way, he uses our Speed Away sled, made in South Paris, Maine, for that job. At least it keeps the rust off the runners so when we want to run and do a belly flop at the top of Gram Martin’s hill , the old sled really takes off in a hurry. Dad leaves the car in a spot by the road. He shovels the spot just the width and length of the car, while Uncle Louis is shoveling the hill next door for Gram Martin. He slices the snow so that it looks like he is cutting into a wedding cake. Every piece is almost exactly the same and when he is finished, there is not a crumb of snow left in the driveway. But then, Uncle Louis is like that. He stacks the firewood so it looks like it is picture perfect. Maybe he does things so perfectly, that he got all the talent for that and Dad just decides to do what is necessary and not a stitch more. I bet that is it.

Dad is not fond of winter anyway. When he was younger, they say, he was snowshoeing across Twitchell Pond and got as far as Elmer’s bog and fell through the ice. He managed somehow to pull himself out but I never did get the details. I don’t think it was one of his tall tales because I have heard other people talk about it.

Dad is a story teller…one time not long ago he was at work. Now the mill sits near a railroad line and a train was coming through. I don’t know what the conversation was but he was talking to a friend of his and the man finally figured out that Dad was giving him a tall tale and got so frustrated, he bit a piece of Dad’s ear off. Not a big piece, but he has a sizable scar there…and a passenger train was going by at the time. Now I wonder what those people thought to see a grown man dancing up and down holding on to his ear.

The wind whips the snow across Twitchell Pond and it piles up in good shape in our front yard. The worst part of winter is coming home from school and having to cut wood to fill the wood box. Rex goes out back to the sawhorse and starts cutting with the bucksaw while I peel the potatoes and the fire is built so they will cook. Then I go out back to hold on to the long pieces of trees so the buck saw blade doesn’t buckle and break. Dad would have a fit because almost every week, he balances it in front of the kitchen window and files it sharp. We are both scared we might break his saw blade, so we are careful, but it is also cold!! Then we each take an armful and carry it in the house until the box is filled. By that time, the snow has gone down our coat sleeves and melted, so our arms are red and cold and our hands are frozen. We sling our mittens on the stove to dry and that smell is awful, but necessary and then we hang to the stove to get our arms warm. I throw in some blocks to get the fire going pretty hot, even though they are supposed to be used only for starting the fire. Cold hands call for drastic measures I say.

Just let me say I will be glad when the snow melts by the edge of the brook and I can see grass again..and I don’t care if it is brown. At least I won’t be wading.

*picture of lower Twitchell Pond taken by Debra Dunham

Do You See What I See?

s2Another Yuletide season is coming and I guess we are almost ready.  Yesterday Dad put on his snowshoes, grabbed his axe and headed off into the forest. He seldom gets out of sight of the house before he finds something green and growing upright. If he were hunting a deer, Ma says, he would be gone forever, but she gives him ten minutes to find our Christmas tree and haul it home.

As soon as he gets it in the yard, he takes off his snowshoes, sticks them in the snowbank and grabs his buck saw. Sticks his head in the door, cases the corner for height and width and goes back out to saw at least a quarter of the tree off so it can come in the front door, make a sharp left turn and be deposited in the same corner it has been since I can remember. Then off to the outdoors again and ten minutes later, in he comes with two boards nailed in the shape of an X and hammer in hand, the tree is somehow anchored and upright. Ma grabs the piece of clothes line and winds it around the nail in the top of the window sill , around the top of the tree and on to the other window sill. There, Dad has done his Christmas duties and he is through with the holiday.

I don’t get very excited any more except I look forward to the orange in the bottom of our stockings. Gram Martin will have knitted us a new hat and pair of mittens and what a treat that is to wear something new and warm to school.

Our friend, Winnie Hanscom, sent over a box of her home made candy which tastes like Needhams but is home made starting with mashed potatoes and coconut she says. The top is covered with melted chocolate and it is ever so good!

There is the usual humbugging from Dad every time he goes by the tree and an icicle clings to his flannel shirt.  I can never remember his getting very enthused about any  holiday, but he does go to see Lester Cole at Thanksgiving and Christmas to get us a chicken for our holiday dinner.

Dad does not shop or at least not that I know about. Ma does what little shopping is done and spends Christmas eve wrapping the gifts on the kitchen table. We know as we can hear all the rustling of the paper and sometimes I try to imagine that I am getting something very expensive I liked in the Sears Christmas catalog. I know that isn’t going to happen, but it’s fun to pretend.

For about two weeks before Christmas, Curt sits at the kitchen table and writes a little note to Santa each night by the light of the Aladdin lamp. I help him spell the words and when he’s done, I fold it up and put it on the sill of the window which is thick with heavy white frost. I asked Curt once what he wrote and he told me it was a secret and only Santa would know and why didn’t I write my own note. After that, I just helped him do his own and never asked a question!!

Grampa Libby will come on Christmas Day with his grain sack over his shoulder with gifts for us kids. He had to quit school when he was in the third grade to work in the woods to help his family, Ma says, so he can’t read or write much. Ma always takes the bag and goes into the bedroom and wraps and puts tags on the things he brings. I love Grampa very much and his smile crinkles up around his eyes and the snow melts off his beard as he stands by the wood stove to warm his hands. He has a heavy long black coat but still it is a long walk from his house on the other side of Rowe Hill to our house just to bring presents and eat dinner with us. Usually Dad takes him home if we have a car that has good tires and the weather is not too bad.

There are two gifts I remember Dad buying and neither were for me. I think it is because they were so unusual and unexpected. We got up Christmas morning and Dad disappeared outside after breakfast and came in with something hidden under his coat. I thought I heard a noise and he said, this is for you, Curt and out came the cutest little puppy ever!! Well, that was a surprise not only for us kids, but Ma as well. I am sure she was wondering if there was room for a puppy who would grow into a dog in this little house. Well, that dog was Keno, which Dad had already named. 

The other gift was for Ma and she said, I just cannot imagine what this can be as she unwrapped it. We kids stood around her as she took off the wrapping and she was so surprised she was speechless. I think we all were and Dad was grinning from ear to ear. He bought Ma a pair of cowgirl boots or maybe cowboy boots. I don’t know. I never saw them after that morning. Ma kept smiling and gave her thanks, but I don’t think she had any visions of riding a horse or moving to the wild west right away. 

That is why when the choir at the church sings “Do  you see what I see?”..I keep thinking that was the way we all felt the day Ma unwrapped her cowboy boots.  Christmas is sure an unpredictable time in the Martin house.

Full of Questions

IMG_1117Ma has just dumped the last pail of wash water out at the edge of the woods. It takes a long time to empty the big tub and her fingers are red from the scrubbing on the wash board. I can’t help her with the scrubbing, but I do help carry the water from the well out back in the brook . When the wash is ready to hang, I hand her the clothes pins and grab the poles for her to steady the line so it won’t all go down to the ground and we have to start all over. So Ma heaves a big sigh as she watches the last sudsy water trickle into the ground. There that job is done, she says. I figure now is as good a time to ask as any, though Ma does look pretty tired. I take a deep breath and ask, how come we have to have a baby sitter some times? I swear I see Ma’s eyes roll way back in her head and she says, you are just full of questions, young lady, aren’t you.

Well, it seems today is Saturday and for once Dad has agreed to go to Abner’s dance hall in Albany. Ma loves to dance and usually she has to go with one of her lady friends if she gets to go at all. I think her going to a dance is a reward for sitting at a machine all week at the mill, but it doesn’t matter. She just loves to dance. How come Dad is going tonight, I ask as she bangs the pail down in the corner. Because he promised me. Who is going to be our baby sitter? Tink is old enough to stay with us. Tink is going to be out, she replies.

Oh, great, I think . Ma looks at me and says Helen is coming. Helen, oh, great, again. Last time, Curt sat at the kitchen table coloring all evening and I played with my paper dolls and Rex was reading while Helen, the babysitter, was out in the front yard in her boyfriend’s car. We didn’t say anything as it was more fun with her outside  anyway. I guess I should be happy that Ma is happy Dad is going with her.

Baby sitters have not had a great record at our house anyway. There was this one who really was a wretch. She came while Dad and Ma were working and we were pretty little. She went up in the attic, on my side, mind you, and got prowling around and fell through the attic floor. Broke her leg. Yup, she broke her leg. She kind of hobbled til Dad and Ma came home and then Dad took her somewhere to have the leg tended to and we never saw her again. I was sorry she broke her leg but as Ma said, what on earth was she way over there in the attic for anyway.

We like it when Winnie Hanscom comes and sleeps over so Dad and Ma can go out. Winnie sleeps with me on my side of the attic, and one night she decided to get a drink of water. I rolled over and she climbed out of bed and I heard a clunking noise and heard Winnie say a word I’d never heard HER say before. Well, come to find out, Winnie stubbed her toe on the side of the chimney and broke her big toe. Made her forget about her thirst, I guess, but we all felt bad because she was our favorite person to come and stay with us. That attic is cursed for babysitters.

Sunday morning and we have had our night with Helen again. We had a fine time entertaining ourselves and we went to bed when we felt like it and I guess Helen must have come back in the house before Ma and Dad got home.  Ma doesn’t seem too pleased this morning.

 Did you have a good time last night, Ma, I ask. Yes and no, she replies. Yes, because I like to dance and your father did do a couple polkas with me, though he practically threw me through the wall on the corners. He doesn’t take corners well at all. I couldn’t comment on that because I have never seen Dad do any dancing except a clog in the middle of the kitchen floor. So what about the no, Ma? You’re full of questions this morning, aren’t you, she says and pours herself another cup of coffee. Well, your father was hungry, so he bought a hot dog and at intermission we went to the car to eat it.  All he did was complain, complain, complain. Said the hot dog was awful and that it was so dry he could hardly swallow it. Well, I turned on the dome light and your father had eaten the hotdog but he ate most of the napkin with it. No wonder he thought it was dry and I told him so. Then he says if I am going to get picky, he isn’t going to go dancing again.

Well, I want to laugh but figure I had better not even crack a grin. I imagine Dad had a bottle of Old Narragansett and even that did not wash down the napkin. Ma takes a sip of coffee and says, by the way, how was Helen last night? She was about the same as always, Ma, I answer.

No point in making her Sunday any worse than it is already…

Are We Poor, Ma?

usLately I’ve been noticing all the things some other kids have, especially listening to them talk about it at school. How they go places and do things and their mothers and fathers bought them this and that.

This morning Ma was trying to bake and she took out her big tin of flour, opened it and there was a mouse in it. She tore out of the kitchen into the front yard and was yelling like crazy. When she came back in the house, flour was everywhere and probably it was not the best time to ask her, but then sometimes my mind thinks of things and right out my mouth they come. I said, are we poor, Ma? Well, there she stood, covered in flour, and she stopped , looked at me and said, only if you think you are.

Well, all my life I figure we have as much as everyone else in Greenwood Center. Well, there are those people who have bigger houses and better cars, but still we get along.

We don’t have to go places to have fun. Rex and I play ball in our front  yard. We use the big rock by the driveway as second base and third base is a little rock by a tiny flower garden off to one side. Home plate and first base is whatever we get our hands on. I remember one day when we were playing ball and Rex decided it was his turn to bat. See, we made up our own rules as there was just the two of us playing. I decided he had batted many more times than he had a right and I declared it was my turn to bat. Well, he said he was not going to play if I had to bat all the time. He went into the house and I showed him. I took the bat , put it over Dad’s saw horse, took his buck saw and sawed it in two pieces. That took care of that problem.  Ma says I have a very short fuse which I think means it does not take much for me to get stomping mad and I guess that proves it.

Rex said he didn’t care if he ever played ball with me again anyway. We found something to use for a bat and in a few days we were playing ball again.

Sometimes we have to wear mittens that don’t match in the winter but at least our hands are warm, no matter what the colors are and Gram Martin always knits us our Christmas hat so our ears are warm. Sometimes I am a little embarrassed if I have to wear the boys’ flannel shirts to school, but no one says anything to me. Maybe they know about my short fuse?  Not to mention the loose buckles on our rubber overshoes clanging as we walk into school!

Some of the Cole boys have bikes, but I think they are rich anyway because they have a big farm, with a big truck and animals and all. We always get our Thanksgiving chicken from them, though Dad calls it a roadrunner. Sometimes Wilmer Bryant sends us over a gallon of milk by our mailman, Johnny Howe. That is surely appreciated as Dad uses it with crackers and milk , he says, for his ulcers.

We always have food on the table, so we don’t go hungry like most poor folks. Dad is always on the go for hunting and fishing and he makes sure there is game for us to eat. I don’t mind rabbit stew, but one time he brought home a bear and that bear meat was plain awful. It isn’t like we don’t have meat from the store, because Ma brings home fish sticks, hot dogs and hamburg. As long as a person isn’t fussy and eats what is on the table, Ma says no one will ever go hungry. We always tease Ma if we have a frosted cake because we tell her we know she burned it and that is why we have frosting on it. She laughs because that old oven is terrible and propped up with a stick so she never knows what her baking will turn out to be.

We have music in our house. Ever since I can remember, Dad has played the guitar, but I can’t remember his playing it like other folks because the accident at the saw mill crippled the fingers on his left hand, so he lays it on his lap and plays it with either a round green bar or a flat silver one. He has taught me how to play Iwo Jima Isle and a couple other songs on it. Tink has his Gene Autry guitar hanging from a nail on the stairway. Rex can play some, too and we all can sing. So guess we don’t have to go anywhere for entertainment.

We don’t have electricity yet like some folks. Ma puts a lot of value on the kerosene lamps. Once Rex and I were fighting in the little room off the kitchen. I had a broom and tried to hit him with it and instead, broke the chimney of a lamp sitting there. Ma was sure mad that time! She sent me packing off to all the neighbors to see if I could borrow a lamp chimney til she could get to town. I tried to explain that it was Rex’s fault to begin with, but she would not hear a word of it. I did hear something about my short fuse when I went out the door.

I guess, when it all boils down, you’re only poor if you think you’re poor. The way I see it, we have just about everything that anyone else has, but maybe not quite as grand.