|Me, Lucky, and Tom, under the Mimosa tree.|
The day would begin, of course, with breakfast. Daddy would have already gone to work at the phone company, the green Jadeite cup that he'd had his coffee in would be in the sink. I'd fix myself a bowl of either Captain Crunch or Sugar Smacks, and sit down at the kitchen table in the chair by the open window that my sister and I constantly fought over. It became a ritual, in fact, that before any meal, whichever one of us was the first to sing out, "I get by the win-doooooow," did, in fact, get the chosen seat. After breakfast, I might sit in the living room for a bit, watching a game show on TV. But soon, the call of the outdoors would reach me, and I'd head out on the porch, the sound of the screen door slamming behind me, which would alert Lucky, Skipper, and even Tom the cat that I was outside.
My first stop would be the Mimosa tree in the front yard. Underneath the Mimosa was one of the coolest places around. It was also a perfect tree for climbing, it's two main trunks providing plenty of places to step while you climbed. And, there was a notch just a short ways up that provided an ideal place to sit and relax. It was easy to lose track of time in the Mimosa tree; the shade, the cool breeze, even the pretty little pink blossoms that looked unlike any other flower; all contributed to a very wonderful way to pass the time.
But we had places to go. Mama was needing to go to town, so Janet and I would be going with her. Since we'd be walking, Mama wanted to go before it got too hot, so the three of us headed up the lane. It was a short walk, probably a little over a quarter of a mile, and our first stop was Marsh Dry Goods. When you opened the door to Marsh's, you were met with the most pleasant of aromas, which I can only describe as a mixture of new shoes and denim. We were there to buy me a couple of new pairs of jeans. I was loyal to one brand: Wrangler. Most of the guys preferred Levis, but not me. With Wranglers, you got a great pair of jeans, and in the pocket of every pair was a little half-sized comic book about cowboys. Although I protested, I did have to try them on, since I was growing pretty fast. But Marsh's kept a good selection on hand, so they had the right size. Mrs. Marsh wrapped up my jeans, recorded the tab on our account, and we were off to the next stop. This was going to be good, because Mama needed stationery, and that meant a stop at Parsley's.
When we walked through the front door of Parsley's, I headed straight to the Matchbox Series cars. They were fairly inexpensive, so I was pretty sure Mama would let me have one. Parsley's had a wonderful selection of Matchbox Series vehicles. Every time I visited the store, there seemed to be some new ones. And I saw immediately which one I wanted: a little red pickup truck. And this one had a new feature: as you rolled it along the floor, if you pressed harder on one side, the truck would turn slightly in that direction. Sure enough, Mama ok'd my purchase, and we headed on to the next stop. We were actually almost done, but we needed to stop by the post office. This meant we would leave Parsley's by the back door, since the post office was just behind the store.
We checked our mailbox, Box 213. Daddy had taught me how to remember the combination for the lock. Huge Fat Boy. Two turns right to H, two turns left to F, one turn right to B. Inside, a letter from Mama's brother John in California. She was happy to hear from him.
The trip back home went quickly. I had a chance to play with my new pickup for a while on the living room floor. I enjoyed the cool air from our evaporative fan, or "water cooler" as we called it. Mama had finished reading the letter from John, and wanted me to take it down to my grandmother for her to read. Memaw lived just down the street from us, so I got on my bike and headed down to her house with John's letter. Memaw lived alone and was always glad to have some company, but I liked to explore the branch that ran through her front yard. It was deep enough that it required a little footbridge to cross it, and you could usually see tadpoles or frogs if you looked long enough. So, before heading back up the street, I took a little time to see what I could find in the branch.
When I got back home, Mama had dinner almost ready. It was one of my favorites: tuna croquettes. Mama had the knack for making them; she coated them in cracker crumbs and fried them to perfection. We had mashed potatoes too; when we scooped them on our plate, we always put a slice of cheese under them. Yates' felt that everything was better with cheese. We washed it all down with iced tea from the earthenware pitcher that was kept under the cabinet.
After lunch, Mama set up her ironing board under the ceiling fan in the back bedroom. She kept an empty Griffin's Syrup bottle by her iron, which had holes punched in the lid with an ice pick. She filled the bottle with water and sprinkled the clothes with it while she ironed. I headed back outside; I had a little project to take care of. I noticed Skipper was scratching alot lately, so it must be time for his flea bath. Lucky probably needed one too, but he was too big to fit into the wash tub that we used. But Skipper was smaller, so after I filled up the wash tub with water, I lifted a somewhat uncooperative Skipper into the water and scrubbed him down with a bar of flea soap. Skipper endured the process, but as soon as I got him dried off, he headed straight to the field to roll around in the grass and dirt. Nevertheless, after one of his flea baths, his black coat would shine like coal.
Sometimes, there would be some watermelon rinds out by the garden. These were irresistible to June bugs, who found them to be a source of moisture on hot summer days. I liked to pick up one of the June bugs and tie a piece of sewing thread to one of his legs. Then, the June bug would take off and fly in circles above me while I held his "leash." This was usually good for a few minutes of entertainment before I would slip the thread off the little guy's leg and let him go.
Then, it would be time to spend a little time in the pool. We had a wonderful pool; Daddy had bought it for us at OTASCO. It had a metal rim about 24 inches tall and a vinyl liner. The water was a little cool, but that was no problem. We were one of the few houses that I knew of that had an outside HOT water faucet as well as cold. We even had a little "Y" water hose adaptor, so we could get just the perfect mix of water temperatures for the pool. My sister and I spent countless hours in our little pool; it sure made a hot afternoon a lot more tolerable.
After we got tired of "swimming", we would head out to the field beside the house. If I saw my friend Randy in his yard, I'd get his attention with our customary signal, a modified scream to the effect of "Rhee-A-Rheet." Randy and his sister Swanna might come over, and we'd play a game of Flies and Skinners. That's three people in the outfield, and the batter tosses up the baseball and hits it. A good hitter could control whether he hit a fly ball or a grounder, or "skinner." My sister would drive me crazy when she was at bat, tossing the ball up in the air and then deciding at the last minute that she didn't like the direction of the fall and catching it instead of hitting it. But we all played like we were big-leaguers, and had tons of fun.
Late in the afternoon, the Snow Cone truck would come by, and the four of us would be waiting for it beside the road. We'd listen for the sound of the musical bells from the speaker on top of the truck. We'd have our dimes ready, and when he stopped we ordered our favorite flavor and quickly devoured the icy treat.
As the afternoon faded and evening approached, we might decide that it would be a good night to have a wiener roast. A quick bike trip to Buddy Gray's store would get us the provisions we needed: a package of wieners, some buns, and maybe a bag of chips. We'd get Cokes from the vending machine at the laundry on the way home, and cut sticks from one of the peach trees to use for roasting the dogs over a fire. We'd sit by the fire until dark, and then catch some lightening bugs or maybe look at the night sky and watch for satellites. Whenever we'd finally done all we could do outside, we'd head back in the house.
And sleep, to play again tomorrow.