Step back into the 1950s, when you were lucky if your rabbit ears could pull in three TV channels.
There was a time when rural folks sat on their front porches—after working from “can to can’t”—and entertained themselves without 987 TV channels.
During my boyhood summers, I was lucky enough to step off concrete and into that country-fried world.
I couldn’t wait for the last supper dish to be washed and stowed. That meant my grandmother was going to reign from her front-porch rocker, set back 20 yards from the hard road and two-country-songs-on-Camilla’s-WCLB-AM south of Newton in Baker County on Hwy. 91.
If you don’t know what rabbit-ears antennas are, you probably won’t know what a dirt-road sport is, either, but that was exactly what Nanny was. She could cuss, cackle and “spin (a) yarn” better than an Alabama cotton mill. Some would say that my grandmother was “full of it.” But the more foolishness that she stirred—in between rocking and streaming peach snuff into a Maxwell House instant-coffee jar, stuffed with a pillow of Kleenex—the more I liked it.
She knew I was a gullible city boy. That made me her summertime entertainment.
And vice versa.
I adored her and every moment on her farm, especially those evenings on her front porch.
Nanny had a barnyard cure for everyday ailments. Here’s a sampler:
Simple, go to the coop and let a chicken fly over your head.
Cure for “sore eyes”?
Simple, wash your face in the horse trough.
Got ground itch from wading barefoot in mud puddles?
Simple, let Bessie, the milk cow, pee on your feet.
Once, Nanny saw me licking my cracked lips.
“Honey,” she said, “get some chicken manure [except she didn’t call it that] and rub it on those chapped lips.”
“Nanny, will that cure my lips?”
“No, but it will sure as h-e-double-l stop you from licking them.”
That called for a laser shot of snuff into the Maxwell House coffee jar and a cackle loud enough to be heard across the creek.
One time—I guess I was about 10 years old—Nanny looked at the pitiful crop of blond hair on my skinny legs.
“Honey,” she said. “Boys about your age start growing hair on their legs and arms. I know you are thinking about that. And I can tell you how to grow twice as much, faster.”
“Shave off the hair, and it’ll grow back twice as much. And fast.”
“Yep,” she said, punctuating her claim with a spit of snuff.
Well, I was of the age of hairy-legs wonderment. So, what did I do? With Ivory soap, I lathered my legs and arms and shaved every speck of hair. And I waited for the explosion of new curly growth.
While I was waiting, Nanny’s baby brother, my Great-Uncle Bud, joined us on the porch one night. It was obvious that he was staring at my slick-as-a-baby’s-behind legs and arms.
“Dang, son,” he said, “I believe you might be the most hairless boy I’ve ever seen.”
Rather than be embarrassed, I explained—in my gullible way—Nanny’s shave-it-off-and-it’ll-grow-back-more-and-faster strategy.
A bona fide dirt-road sport, too, Uncle Bud almost spit out his false teeth before he joined his sister cackling.
And even today—when I walk by his grave at Pilgrims Home Free Will Baptist Church, I think that I can hear Uncle Bud’s “heh, heh, heh.”
Sometimes, I wonder whether our eight grandchildren think their grandpa might be a dirt-road sport, too.
Heh, heh, heh.