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From country to city, From farm to fireworks…Through marriage & children, Through employment & ownership, Life continues to be an amazing journey…

Saturday, November 15

Old School - I AM a Cracker

I'm not a redneck, I'm a CRACKER!

This post is again in honor of Aunty Belle…a VERY INTELLIGENT and BRILLIANT writer…she just writes in the style of Mark Twain. or perhaps Mark Twain “tried” to write like her. Doan know how she pulls it off, but she is the craftiest person I know in mixing modern day reality with old school literature and old school people. Something dawned on me though…I say old school and my kids think 1960’s or 1970’s, when their mother was raised, or the fact that “we” wear “tightie whities” for underwear instead of the “now fashionable” boxers (little do they know huh?)…or the fact I cannot STAND a bra strap showing, and now “it’s fad”. Old school means 8-track tapes and green shag carpet…all not true! OLD SCHOOL truly means the times when things were right and kosher. Old School refers to times when folks were centered.

I, born in 1962 was raised by Mama Ann and Papa Bill (Born 1913 & 1898 respectively) (along with Mama Rice her mother, Uncle Otho, Aunt Mary, Uncle RJ (was at Normandy +), Mallie Lou my Grandmother, and Paw Paw (also a veteran) in his old radiator shop… (yes my Mother that raised me was my Grandmother’s OLDER sister)…Aunt Margaret that was Papa Bill’s sister, and Aunt Nita…etc. I was raised an only child amongst VERY OLD people. However, I was adopted into my own family…so I kept in touch and was around the “younger” group, my real father…(My Daddy at my second wedding) mid sixties now, my real sibling and half siblings from that generation and so forth from time to time. I love my “real” Daddy more than any daughter can…this story however is about my early childhood and that Daddy that formed my brain and my soul. Brains & souls are living and growing creatures…Daddy’s never go away they just improve on things someone else started :)

In honor (dishonorably probably…I can’t do it the way she does) of Aunty…I’m gonna do my own post in that style…because I believe in it SO MUCH…I was raised in it and without it…we’re gonna lose a lot of America. Yep…folks back then in cities believed like us, but spoke with “distinction and properness”…their message doesn’t get across today the same way though, as if it was said the way it was said in “our country…meaning literal country, wilderness, deep south, wide open space” in OLD SCHOOL.

SO…this post will have spelling errors and grammar errors, but the message will be better than any primer could teach.

Times have changed. The news folks say a lot of stuff that makes no sense to me or you. We even have a new word fer it…called spin. Politics really has nothin’ to do with it… it’s just how we’ve all been accustomed to herin’ it. I grew up in a different era, and I want THAT ERA to come back. In MY era…folks jest said what they had to say…life was wat it was, and NOBODY ever talked much ‘bout politics. Good was as good did and it worked fer all. The Gov’ment was up there to watch over it all, make sure it didn’t get out of hand…keep an eye on the globe, defend us if the bad guys were a comin’, and make a few laws kinda like the 10 commandments to keep us all in check. It was an honor to be chosen as Gov’ment…that meant you’d succeeded in being a good guy and leadin’ the folks. Somehow…they’s all jumped in together and thought Caesar or somethin’ was a good idea? How’d we let that happen?

We had movies then, but we enjoyed the stories them movies had. It were after all a picture show! Nobody ever thought much about the real folks in the picture show…hell my folks watched pichures when they weren’t no sound…we’s jest watchin the story! Yep, we KNEW they’s real folks playin the parts…but we figured that was they’re job and we appreciated them for bringin’ us a good tale. We never cared who’s they dilly dallying with…we just liked the story. Now’s we’s got to hear all ‘bout they mistresses, misters, clothes, hair & cars…iffun we was to ever give a damn ‘bout ‘em. We’d like to knows how they kid’s are a fairen…how’s they Mama, did Missus Claire get over her consumption? That’s what we care about…we don’t care none how they want to carry on and be all fluffy & above the other folks that pays their way by purchasing the movie tickits n all! Movie stars were probably the first politicians on that scale perhaps…we WERE their bosses. Without US buyin the movie tickets…they’s be out of a job! The ingrateful bastards!

I’m not much of a reader…books that is…my bad…but one of the books a good ole’ teacher made me read was Lord Of The Flies. Makes one wonder ‘bout whether folks is born bad, born good, or all born the same…and it’s just that given certain obstacles put in front of ‘em whether some folks makes it out, or caves in and uses others to gain, or one tries to ride the middle and truly make a concerted effort to ride the middle thus doin’ the best they can for all.

Doan know if any of ya ever thinks on such lines…but ridin the middle done correctly is the toughest road to hoe. I’s will emphasize that again…done correctly. Hoein’s a hard thing to do, and if not done correctly…the weeds come creepin back up and crops wither. Hoe too close to the plant and ya loses some desired profit. Git tired of hoein row after row, dawn to dusk…git a little lazy…leave a few…the plant is in jest the same danger. 160 acres ain’t much in landowner world back in cotton farm country…dirt poor actually…but it’s a shitload to hoe if you’re the only daughter, Mama & Daddy. Try to lie…no folk can put an eye on a whole 160 acres…can’t see that fer…so’s one of three says “Yep…I hoed all them weeds”…when ya really didn’t…got tired, bored, felt abused, and left a few… Think it’s all just OK, but then wait for the crops to grow…and it don’t take long for to notice it was yer patch that grew short. Just ask somebody who’s Daddy made ‘em actually hoe some cotton rows & keep a particular patch fer they own. Hoein is a craft sometimes, ‘specially on a bad weather year.

Nother thing is…used to be life wasn’t so much ‘bout every penny…but a lesson learned in earnin’ it. Men these days in some parts is kinda fluffy iffun you ask me… My Daddy could fix anything (both Daddys), could do anything, and for damned sure they KNEW everythang that was goin on ‘bout the place. My Daddy would let my little patch of cotton I’s responsible for hoin’ to wither a bit jest for the sake of teachin me the lesson of right n’ wrong, profit be damned. It’s been a lot of years…but I remember that once my patch withered a bit compared to the work I thought anal retentive and overdone by the folks which produced bountiful crops…I made sure from that point forward…my damn patch of cotton would grow strong…bigger and better… ‘Course that was when hard work competition was fun and a family thang…we no longer compete to see who can work the hardest and appreciate the bounty of ALL the hard work…folks now compete to see who can get the most for less. I tried it once on a cotton farm…didn’t work out so well for me…

Then…’long came welfare (I finally noticed welfare)…was meant to be to help Missus Claire with her age and consumption get a hand up. Then po ole’ Mr. Jones had no family, fell and broke a hip…none of us minded helping him…but then…other folks started thinkin’ that with a little whining and carryin on…they’s too could get a piece of the Gov’ment pie. A penny here & there from all of us to help Missus Claire or Mr. Jones made sense…but then…they’s lazy folks not willin to hoe their own row of cotton started to get part of my Papa Bill’s hard earned lucre! I’d done already learned that “actin’ like yore hoin” ain’t by NO MEANS really hoin! By now…I’m a teen. I remember standin’ by Papa Bill hoin that cotton one day ‘n asking him WHY didn’t he fight the folks in the city? (Our “town” had 5000). He was just old n’ tired I think and tired of fightin’. He’d seen a lot in his years…hell…his family horse drawn buggy still sits in the dusty ole’ museam we have back home. And yep…you guessed it…there’s some ole’ tired senior sits there every day as a volunteer…and nobody comes to see what our town was in the boom back in the railroad days…back in the days of saloons where women weren’t allowed…ceptin for those with not many clothes on even with a corset and a long dress!

He was so old he saw television come up and always swore to me that man didn’t really go to the moon…it was impossible…it was all TV hoax :) I guess born in 1898…from horses & saloons to people in a glass box, to Gov’ment craziness…one might wonder :)

He stood up once when we was a waterin the plum trees and hoin weeds and I was a “talkin my craziness” again ‘bout why he didn’t stand up and make the “city folk” play by the same rules he made me play by on the farm…when I was beggin’ him to fight the wrong ways…he shushushed me and parked his hoe in the ground with force…and told me a strange story for a teenager in 1978 or so still hoin away with the only Daddy she was raised with born in 1898…

I doan no much ‘bout history…(I’m learning in this Obamanation I should have paid more attention…)…but my Daddy stood all dirty and sweat born ‘n told me that Howard Taft came up on his farm one day a campaignin’ He was little…12-14 or so he thunk, and his folks were all for him and it was quite the honor to see the man all dressed up in finery with a twisty mustache ‘n all… and he was sparked. He was all for it all…Taft lost he says…’cause a couple of the same kind of folk tried to war over a chair and then with a nation divided a lesser man won the chair…I don’t even know who that was…I don’t know history. But my Daddy told me we’d be more suited to worry ‘bout these weeds creepin up on the plum trees than we need to be worried ‘bout fancy suit men tryin to come on a man’s farm and tell him how good he’s gonna have it. He said unless Taft or any other was willin’ to pick up a hoe and do some good while he’s a talkin’ he ain’t much of a man…he told me that outside the 160 acres I’s lookin over Taft nor any other city folk would ever know ‘bout hoin. My Daddy loved that land and hoed it and made it beautiful until the day he died. He could never see beyond his and ours and if we weren’t hungry or cold…we were fine. I’m glad I have that instilled in me…I see the day coming again and I will be fine hoin cotton, livin’ in a tent, and cannin’ blue lake beans or black eyed peas.

I graduated high school and left home and them cotton rows 4 days later. I could never understand how my folks jest shook they heads and let the lazy bums that never hoed a row of cotton take they hard earned Sunday Mornin grocery and paper money…didn’t even fight. But now…I see…in 1980 when I graduated high school…and wanted more (not that Route 3 in Colorado City Texas wouldn’t be enough to sustain a gal forever)…I was on a mission. My Daddy had ham radios in his garage…my Daddy created amazing works of art in his woodwork…but it was all just for us. The simpleness of my Papa Bill, his conservative ideas and work ethic made me who I am. However, his thoughts of jest hoe this row of cotton…make THIS PLACE the best place on earth and we’ll have no worries…kept him from realizing truth. Just sitting back and letting it all happen around him is the part of him that made him a Democrat.

RINOS today, folks that know how to hoe a row of cotton, but just sit back and hoe three rows so as not to a’fend the lazy bastard that won’t even hoe ½ row…they’re Democrats too. I used to get beat…granted I’m alive today at 45…don’t suppose the beaten’ was too harsh…but my Daddy or Mama when I done wrong would MAKE me pick a limb off the Sycamore tree for my own beaten’. Guess what?...Better pick a fair sized stick…cause one too small meant Mama or Daddy would pick one more suitable…and pickin’ one TOO LARGE brought arrogance into the scene and you would get one whack with the large one just to show ‘ya! Folks back then understood from livin’ how to ride the middle, didn’t need to put no political party title in front nor behind it all.

The middle is the smoothest spot on the lake. The middle is the sweet spot in the ice cream…not too hard & frozen…not melted either. Hell…if we can’t see past the literature that teaches this…remember the Three Little Bears…where one was too hot, one was too cold, and one was just right. The Three Little Pigs searched for the middle and so did Little Red Riding Hood!

I wanted to be cool when I was a pre-teen gal. I wanted to sport a short skirt and wear tight jeans. My Mama didn’t approve, and clothes cost too much money. She pretty much sewed all the clothes we wore. She chose hideous double knit fabric (the crap on sale at the 5 & Dime store)…and I had to wear it. Fights brewed…I rebelled. Finally, Papa Bill found the middle…he told me…if I didn’t like the clothes my Mama sewed for me I could certainly get a job and buy my own…or I could go naked to school…I had a choice.

I got a job. I thought I was going to get to spend all my money on clothes, fun things, my car, and whimsical desires of a teen. OH HELL NO! Living on a dirt poor cotton farm I don’t suppose Mama Ann sewed my clothes because she LIKED doing it (I see that now), it was a necessity. So…when at 14 I got a full time job AND still attended school…I was then to contribute to the household. Buckin’ the system (my parents were the system) and thinkin’ I knew it all…I still respected my Daddy, and he was right. I had to give my folks ½ of every paycheck I earned until which time I moved out and could sustain myself. My Daddy always TOLD me that if my WHOLE paycheck COULD land me on my own…no need to give ½…move out. Until I made ENOUGH THOUGH to where I didn’t NEED THEM for a home…give up ½.

My Democratic Daddy told me that for ALL THESE YEARS…THEY provided all I needed without asking a dime. Now that I COULD earn…I should give back and support the family household with at least ½ until my whole would leave me independent. He also told me that I should use MY half wisely…save it…spend it on things to make me self supportive.

I didn’t…I spent MY half on “stuff” a kid wants. My Daddy NEVER judged me for my expenditure of my half…but also never wanted to hear me cry when I didn’t have enough money to “do” something I “really” wanted to and couldn’t afford. He just told me…should’ve not needed that stereo, or shouldn’t have needed that fancy outfit…should’ve let Mama sew you one at ¼ the price! My Daddy & Mama fought me conservative to the core and taught me the values…but themselves sat at home and never ventured out to see the rest of the world, nor try to change any of it. They truly rode the middle. I think from 1898-1913 they had just seen it all. I think at that time in their lives they were content finally to become part of the problem rather than the solution for at their age it was easier…I think at some point they had to be fighters…otherwise they wouldn’t have raised me the way they did…and I think they finally gave up. I think Papa Bill & Mama Ann (obviously due to age and stories told) LIVED through the depression of the 30’s and just wanted to make sure I knew how to survive. Survival was the key then, and they did it. I think that survival took the wind out of their sails and beyond the simple peace of surviving that ordeal…they needed nothing more. But BOY…if either of them could be alive today and be mentally competent to see what they actually raised me to believe and accomplish……….I suppose they see it from Heaven.

I don’t know a lot about history from say 100 years or so…but I did live with folks that lived that history. What scares me today is that not only is history repeating itself before our very eyes and ears…I too am now guilty. I lived their history through their example of teaching. I made it pretty good and got complacent in that comfort the way they were complacent in their meager existence. So…all the things I wanted Papa Bill to fight for…I thought by being successful and having a few dollars in my pocket that I won that fight…I didn’t! I just kept hoin weeds. I just kept plowing rows. I just did for me and mine and struggled through many hard times. BUT…I DIDN’T EVER TAKE THE TIME…outside my own children to TEACH others how to see that light.

I sat blindly by while millions of others were being raised by traditional generational parents much younger than the parents I had and never talked to them about what I thought was crazy. I didn’t ever ask others why they didn’t know how to hoe…whatever rows of cotton they had in their lives…I just kept hoeing my own rows bent over and head down (assholes & elbows – elbow grease) I never shared with others the gift of a hard lesson. I tried a couple of times, but the old cliché’ still stands…No matter HOW MANY times you tell a fella “I’ve been there…trust me”…they never do. History goes on and on.

We are in a very strange time. I see things going backwards like the things Papa Bill used to tell me of from his life when we hoed cotton or picked fruit together. My Papa Bill was always so proud to tell me those ole’ Texan yarns (plus yarns of North Carolina, Raliegh) and assure me that I was lucky…for if I worked hard and stuck it all out…at least spent ½ of my money responsibly…I’d NEVER have to see those kind of things happen in my lifetime. He used to tell me (God wish it were true today) that if I just cared for this 160 acres of Texas dirt God blessed us with, I’d be OK.

My Texas dirt is long gone now…but to a family I knew then…and I wished I still had it. Life was simple there. I’ve been fortunate to have dined with stars, met influential people, (having a career in gaming helped)… heck…this political season alone I’ve learned the lessons Papa Bill learned when meeting Howard Taft… I’ve learned that for the most part the political “echelon” I’ve met are like minded, some others weren’t…but they were all just folks…just people like you and I. Some want to make a difference while their hands are tied…some made a difference tied hands be damned, and some you can tell just want a photo op, get a donation, or get to the next level so they don’t have to ever look back at us hoers again. I wish I would have thought just once to ask any of my politicians if they’ve ever hoed a row of cotton or had the opportunity to have learned life’s lessons while feeling the dirt of Texas between their toes as they watched their Papa Bill do it.

OLD SCHOOL…that’s where it’s at. We don’t even need political parties…we just all need to spend a summer in red dirt hoeing a weed or two and knowing what a day’s work really feels like. If you haven’t seen it…PLEASE RENT THIS MOVIE…

THE ULTIMATE GIFT…My Papa Bill gave it to me, his ancestors gave it to him, and thanks to Aunty Belle, I learned that I am NOT a REDNECK that I always joked to be…I AM A CRACKER!