Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Be of Good Cheer

I've been having a bummer of a week. Just when I thought I was going to get a week "off" after the girls' birthdays and before the real Christmas rush for us procrastinators begins, the Baby has been home all week with a bad cold and fever. Blah! So, if I don't write something funny, I may just complain to you all about how unrelentingly exhausting it is to have a sick kid. No one comes here to read that, so I'm going to recount a few of our funniest (I hope) family stories.

The first one comes from Grandaddy Joe Walker (Mom's dad). When I was a kid Mom gave him a tape recorder so that he could record some family stories for her to transcribe. Well, in preparation for recording, he wrote up all the stories so he could read them into the recorder. At that point, Mom skipped doing the transcription as it was a bit redundant. Grandaddy typed up twelve single-spaced pages worth of stories from his Ozark childhood. He wrote in the vernacular, and I'm going to reproduce them pretty much verbatim, except where clarification is needed.

The first story is about Grandaddy's great-uncle Will White:

Uncle Will had a good sized waist line. As the result of a good appetite and marrying Miss Pearl Gish who was a good cook he continued to gain some weight. One day the Sunday School gave a picnic down on Keeland Lake. As the group was finishing their lunch a rain shower came up. At this time Uncle Will and Miss Pearl had two children, John, 3 or 31/2 years old and Ruth who was just a toddler. When the rain started the picnickers ran for shelter under trees, in buggies with tops, or whatever they could find for protection. Uncle Will chose a tree and everyone settled down to wait out the shower. All at once, Uncle Will started an uproar - he was whistling and calling John. 'Where is John. I can't see him! Did anyone see him going towards the lake? Is he in the water?' This was followed by a hilarious roar from the crowd. Everyone else could see John. He was standing under Uncle Will's stomach well out of the rain.
Can't you just picture that? I love Grandaddy's stories because it gives you a picture of life in the late 19th and early 20th century that you just don't get from awkward posed photos. You'd never think that those people in corsets and stiff collared shirts were cracking up and playing jokes on each other, but they were. The next story is a tad off-color and I know Mom is going to shake her head at me revealing our true hillbilly roots, but I think the story is horribly fantastic. Wow! What a build up!

Great-uncle Will White and my two time great-grandmother, Nan White Leigh were brother and sister. They came from a family of fourteen (!) children. According to Grandaddy, "[t]he pranks the White children played on each other sometimes got pretty rough..." I'll say. Read on:

One incident had to do, you might say, with the construction of the house and concerned only the boys. But, it couldn't be kept a secret from the whole family. Someone had to tell and before long everyone knew. One of the boys had managed to kill a hawk and kept one of the talons. If a hawk's talon is taken from the body properly above the knee the two tendons controlling it can be cut higher in such a way that when one is pulled, the claws open or close as they do when the bird attacks its prey. 
The outside walls of the boys' room were single. That is, only one layer of boards and with no insulation. In the winter you can understand that it was not a warm room. The boards were wide and unpainted and had been left rough just as they came from the sawmill. As the lumber cured and dried out a knot or two fell out leaving a hole in the wall. The boys learned that one of these holes was at a convenient height and during cold nights when a boy had to get up he would not go to the cold outside toilet, but would slip over and use the hole in the wall. One night when this was happening the boy who had the hawk's claw grabbed that part of the user's body sticking through the hole in its painful grip. The poor caught boy thought a cat had grabbed him. We were told that his supplications and condemnations, some prayerful and some profane, heaped upon the supposed cat so delighted the listeners in the bedroom and outside the house that they couldn't keep quiet and the victim soon knew that he was the butt of another prank. Through the years we heard snatches of the phraseology used which would have amused the Sphinx. 
I had a class in college called, "The Comic" and we read a collection of Ozark folk stories called, "Pissing in the Snow." The stories were all like this: off-color, raunchy, but fall-out funny. I'd highly recommend it if you aren't easily offended and are willing to check all political correctness at the door.

Bringing it into the 20th century, I'm going to tell a story of the K's that I find very funny. It's all retrospective humor, as at the time I'm sure what happened seemed like a non-event. He grew up in Oxford, Mississippi, home of The University of Mississippi. Population-wise, Mississippi has about as many people as metro Atlanta, so it seems like all Mississippians of any renown know each other. My father-in-law played football and baseball for Ole Miss, went to law school, and later returned to teach law at the University. Somehow, I'm assuming through football, he got to be friends with Archie Manning, who had his Ole Miss football career about a decade after my father-in-law's. As it happened, the Manning's oldest son, Cooper (which they pronounce like "Cupper") was maybe a year younger than the K. Little brother Peyton, was two years younger than Cooper, and baby Eli, was five years younger than Peyton.

One day when the K was about nine, the Mannings were passing through Oxford and they stopped to visit with the K's family. The K, Cooper and Peyton all ran outside to play football while their parents chatted and Eli toddled around doing baby things. As the K tells it, he and Cooper were in charge of deciding who would play which position. Six year-old Peyton begged to play quarterback, but the K and Cooper told him that he was too little and, moreover, not good enough to play that position. Peyton ran back inside the house, crying and a chip firmly implanted on his shoulder. According to the K, this event was pivotal in fostering the competitive spirit that fueled Peyton to four league MVP awards and a Super Bowl win. You never know!

I hope that at least one of these stories struck you, put a smile on your face, or made you forget about something that is stressing you. I know that just writing them made me feel better. Have a great day!

1 comment:

  1. I have always loved your family stories (and the Ks, too!) Thanks for sharing! (I don't remember that book from the comic... maybe they discussed it while I was doing the crossword puzzle from the Targum??)