On Sunday mornings I talk to my parents on the phone. It’s usually 45 minutes to an hour, and then they speak with the boys for a few minutes. It’s a ritual that’s been in place for years. I generally call them once during the week, as well, while driving to work. So, we speak at least twice a week. Is that an acceptable number of conversations?
In any case, yesterday I was talking with my dad, semi-listening to his plans for the day. Then I realized what I was hearing, and said, “Hang on a second. You guys buy bacon at a drug store?” Apparently this is common practice within the seasoned citizen community. The best deals on bacon can reportedly be had at Walgreen’s, CVS, and Rite-Aid. Hell, I wasn’t even aware those places have a meat department.
And I told him a couple of stories from the baseball game Toney and I attended on Saturday night. We saw the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders vs. the Rochester Red Wings. It was a good time. I feel like we should go more often. The stadium is really nice, and AAA baseball is pretty damn good. Plus, a couple of funny things happened…
First, a woman sat beside us with a full-sized batting helmet full of nachos. Here’s a picture, but it doesn’t really do it justice. When she first arrived, it was piled up so high it was defying gravity. By the time I got a decent photo, she’d already laid waste to a good percentage of it. Damn! How much would something like that cost? Thirty bucks? Later, we saw people carrying around batting helmets full of popcorn, too. It’s a tad excessive, in my opinion.
Also, while we were walking into the stadium it started to pour down rain, with almost no warning. It was bizarre. Everybody was strolling along, without a care in the world, until we all found ourselves suddenly sprinting through great sheets of ice-cold water. We took refuge under an awning, near the administrative offices. There were six of us under the small overhang, just standing there waiting for the rain to stop. Or at least let up.
As we waited, a guy on an outsize golf cart came ripping up the hill, and parked by the offices. He jumped off with purpose, and looked like one of those rail-thin freaks who live on nothing but cigarettes and endless pots of coffee. He went into the offices, acting like he had something important to report, and almost immediately came back out.
He jumped into the driver’s seat of his big golf cart with three rows of seats, and went back down the hill at a high rate of speed. And, as he turned the corner he cut the wheel too sharply, and hit the curb. The cart tilted radically to the left, and the dude EJECTED from his seat and went rolling across the pavement. He instantly returned to his feet, and tried to catch up with the cart, which was now careening out of control in a big circle. It finally jumped the curb and came to rest in the middle of a lawn area.
The guy got back behind the wheel, and disappeared, as if nothing had happened. And all six of us, mostly strangers, bonded by laughing our asses off for a good long time.
Dad enjoyed that story, as I knew he would, and we somehow bounced around from subject to subject and ended up talking about his grandmother, on his mother’s side.
I met this woman several times, and it was always an adventure. You know how grandmothers are supposed to be loving and warm, always baking pies and spreading the good will? Well, this grandmother was nothing like that. There was not an ounce of warmth in her, and I always felt slightly uneasy around her. Like she might pull a blade out of her boot, and start cutting people. She chewed tobacco like a man, and didn’t even attempt to hide her hatred of children.
She and her husband Lon lived on a farm so far out in the country there were literally no roads. There was also no running water or electricity. I’m not kidding. They had an outhouse, and used oil lanterns after dark, like it was the freaking 1800s.
We used to go visit them, for some unknown reason, and would drive until the road petered out. Then we’d park and start walking. To get to their farm we had to climb at least two fences, and cross a big field where a nasty-ass bull lived. I remember hiding back in the trees, waiting for the bull to wander away, and then all of us running like hell across that big pasture. It was scary. I also remember one of my less-than-petite aunts getting to the other side, and falling off the fence as she attempted to climb over it. Good times.
The picture at the top of this update is not their farm, but it captures the essence of the place. It was like going back in time. There was a potbelly stove sitting in the middle of the living room, and water was pumped by hand from some sort of apparatus in the side yard. My brother stepped in a pile of cow shit so big there, I think it sucked his shoe off.
The old lady, as I mentioned, was a nasty piece of work. “Wicked” is how my dad described her yesterday. She reportedly walked away from her family when my grandmother was 11 years old to “drink and carry on,” leaving my grandmother and her dad (known as Pop) to raise three younger kids. I don’t know why anyone would have anything to do with her, but we visited her several times during my kidhood.
And Lon was memorable, too. He was much nicer than the old woman, but there was something off about him. My dad said he’d never seen the inside of a school building, and couldn’t read or write. And he had some sort of condition that he self-diagnosed as “the mentals.”
When he walked downhill he turned in circles, for some unknown reason, and was supposedly so dumb and unworldly he didn’t know how to climb into a car. I remember hearing stories about him walking upright into the side of a vehicle and repeatedly bouncing off, because he didn’t know you were supposed to crouch. He was baffled and agitated because other people were now inside the car, and he was still outside. Could that possibly be true? God, how I want it to be…
And I remember us all sitting on their porch one afternoon, when Lon suddenly froze and cocked his head like a dog locking in on the sound of a UPS truck in the distance. Then he tore ass out of there, and ran deep into the cornfield across the way. When he returned, about twenty minutes later, he said he thought he’d heard Jesus calling for him.
There was some strange shit going on out there, and whenever we’d visit I was a nervous wreck the whole time.
Yesterday my dad told me his grandmother came off the farm (a rare occurrence), shortly before she died, to attend a funeral near Charleston. She walked into the church carrying one of her oil lamps, apparently unaware there would be electric lights there. Amazing!
And I’m going to call it a day, my friends.
I’ll see you again soon.
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Holy moley. Jeff, that’s fantastic. All I have is pretty weak: my dad telling how excited he and his brothers were when running water was installed at the farm. This would have been 1937-ish, when Dad was 12.
You’ll get no ordinal numbers from me.
I remember when we got running water and and an indoor toilet. I was only 3 or so, but this was in 1955! 6 kids and not much money took a long time to save up, I guess.
Joe T. says
Great story! I think it would be scary as shit to travel back to the post Civil War and see how people lived. I’d bet it was nothing like Little House on the Prairie.
Man… I wanna drink and carry on….
Mike Broadwell says
Well, my grandparents lived in a holler in East Tennessee. Had electricity but no water, so you had to fill a pail of water from a spring 50 feet or so from the house. Speaking of house, with no water you had to use the outdoor shitter. My uncle would tell me you had to watch out for the roster that lived in the shit hole because it would run up and grab your pecker… Don’t know if it was true, but what 10 year old is going to take that chance.
Wow – I’d be worried if I were you. Better check out the rest of your family genes to make sure you have a few normal ones in the bunch. But the fact that you call your parents every week gives you a Gold star in my book. If I hear from my sons more than two times a year, I’d have a heart attack. And I’ve never taken off to drink & carry on.
“The Mentals” – that’s a good one. The not knowing how to enter a car thing sounds like a Monty Python skit.
I remember when we got running water and indoor plumbing. That was in the early 1950s. The old outhouse really did have a Sears-Roebuck catalog instead of t-paper, it was hung on a metal clothes hanger held by a nail on the wall. The old pump was in the kitchen. Mom had to heat water on the old cook stove. And I haven’t quite hit 70 yet.
Same with me. I’m 64, and I remember the outhouse and the kitchen pump. I remember standing in the sink while Mom washed me off at the pump. I was 3 or so when we got indoor plumbing. Good times!
Big fan of batting helmet ballgame snacks.
Dippin’ Dots lead the category in my humble opinion.
Steve in WV says
My paternal grandparents lived in the country and I remember that house like I was there yesterday. It had a “dog run”, which was an open air hallway between two sides of the house. On one side were two bedrooms (two beds in each), on the other side was the living room/bedroom (there was always a bed in every room except the kitchen) and the kitchen. Also, several bedrooms (maybe 3) were built off the kitchen that I’m assuming they needed when the seven kids were all living at home (they were empty at the time we visited). There was no electricity; they used oil lamps. There was no running water or hand pump; there was a well off the end of the front porch with a bucket. You would lower the bucket (on a rope) into the well and draw the water. My grandmother cooked on a wood burning stove and I’ll never forget how hot that kitchen was in the summer months. There was always plenty of great food because they had a big garden and raised chickens and a had few cows for both milk and beef. They had an ice box that you literally bought huge blocks of ice to keep things cool in it. My Grandmother washed clothes on a “rub board” and had one of those huge big iron kettles that sat over a fire to keep the water hot (this was done outside in the yard). Ironing the clothes was done with those cast iron irons that were heated on top of the stove. And it goes without saying they used an “outhouse” with a catalog to wipe with. I can remember having so much fun when we went to visit; it was like an adventure for us kids. We played in the barn and ran from one end of their land to the other. It was a time of joy. How on earth people lived like that, I’ll never know (this was in the late 40’s early 50’s). I couldn’t live without my refrigerator or my washer and dryer!
Jeff, I love the golf cart escapade. I would have laughed so hard I would have pee’d myself. And I would also strongly advise doing some research into exactly what was going on with your “peculiar” relatives. LOL I only had one crazy that I know of and that was my Uncle Grover who had suffered a head injury during the war and had a metal plate in his head. He tended to drink all of the time until he ran out of money (disability check) and then he stayed sober until he got another check. I understand he lived in a lean-to out in the woods somewhere. Classy!
IMO, this is one of your best updates in a long, long time. Made me smile and chuckle to myself for quite a while. Thank you for that!
Great update, Jeff!
My husband’s boss has a golf cart and he uses that thing like an ATV. Got stuck in the mud a few times but I never saw him go ass over tea kettle out of it.
My grandparents lived in apartments. In fact, I never met my maternal grandparents – they were gone before I came along. Which is a shame because they sounded like wonderful people.
Nice ball park!
Miss Q says
Jeff, this update made me laugh harder than I have in a very long time. Thank you for that! You do have a way of spinning a tale. Kudos, sir!!
I agree; I gots tears in me eyes.
Was yakity sax playing for the guy with the golf cart?
Wonderful update! I laughed the entire time I was reading it 🙂 Thank you!
Let’s go Ironpigs!!! :-p
I’ve gone ass over elbows out of a golf cart a few times, always as a passenger and usually alcohol was involved.
Stuart in Oz says
Classic WVSR….well done Jeff!!
The Divine Miss E says
My grandmother grew up on a farm in northern Minnesota, and was the first person in her family to go to high school, but in order to do so she had to move to a larger town nearby that had one. It was 1920, she was 14 years old, and though she boarded only about 14 miles from her family’s farm, she only got to see them maybe once a month. It’s crazy to think about. I remember hearing stories about her father coming to pick her up in a horse-drawn sleigh in the winter. She later went to a teacher’s college and went back to teach in the same one-room schoolhouse she had attended as a child, until she had to quit when she married my grandfather. It makes me a little emotional, really, thinking about how difficult it was for her just to get an education, but she did it. Bless her.
Purse Workout says
More Lon stories please!
Helmets full of snacks? God bless America!
dog locking in on the sound of a UPS truck in the distance is almost twainish,(but not quite)
Root 66 says
My maternal grandmother was a little bit similar: she smoked like a chimney, drank like a fish and swore like a sailor. She was rough as a cob! She, too, “drank and carried on” leaving her five daughters to mostly care for themselves as they grew up. The only difference is that instead of living in some holler, she lived in a trailer park in Dayton, Ahia.
We’ve got the Clippers here in Columbus, and I love our baseball park…not a bad seat in the house. You can even watch the game from the street. I would have paid money to see that cart incident. Your description of it is priceless! About the best entertainment along that line for us is when the hot dog mascots race each other and you get to see if ketchup, mustard or relish wins!
Actually, I could go for a helmet-o-nachos right about now!