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
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
“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
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
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.