The Story of my Life
Louise Virginia (Weir) Frasier
|Home||Introduction||Preface||Chapters||Do You Remember?||Stuff||Contact|
knew Grade Veal even before I met Daddy. He had a wife and three kids. They lived in Tennessee near us and he bootlegged even then. He thought he was a woman killer. All of us girls hated him because he tried to date us even though he was married. Then he had moved back to Alabama and was living with his mother.
When we’d been married four or five months, Daddy said, “Let’s walk down to Grade’s. He has a mandolin that I want to trade him out of.” I said, “No way! I hate him!”
But, he kept on and when he said we’d be back in a couple of hours, I said O.K. When we got there, Grade was leaving with a wagon load of corn to go to the grist mill. Daddy said, “Oh well, we’ll go back home.”
Grade said, “No. Come with me. We’ll take the banjo and fiddle and make some music on the way.” So they left and I was mad! It started raining and it was freezing cold. They didn’t come back. I told Jewel, Grade’s wife, that she was crazy for living with him. I told her that I wouldn’t live with him for a million dollars. But she said that she had to stay with him for she had no one else. She had the five kids and at least he kept them a house and food. “But”, she said, “Some day these kids will be grown and I’ll never speak another word to him.”
Jewel had one more kid and they all grew up. The day the last one left home, she left. When Grade was dying of cancer in the hospital, he kept begging to see Jewel. Her kids went to get her, but she wouldn’t go see him. It may have been forty years between the time she said that she would leave until she actually left.
On the second Sunday of May Daddy said, “Let’s go to Grade’s. I’m going to trade him this mandolin for a horse.” I said, “No! No! I won’t go.” He said, “I’m going. I’ll be back in a couple of hours.”
Now, no one of my family had been to see us. But the people who lived around Boaz thought that the people who lived around the Shoal Creek area, about fifteen miles away from where we lived, were savages. You always heard stories about the stills and boot-legging and wild goings on. So Mama worried about me living there.
We had been married six months and Daddy hadn’t drunk anything, even with Vernon’s boot-leg whiskey and Grade living about two miles away. He went with Vernon to dances to play the fiddle or guitar. Sometimes I went, but most often I didn’t. There was plenty of drinking at those dances, but Daddy never drank.
There were no telephones, but Aunt Matt had written me that her and Uncle Joe were going to come to see us. I wrote her and told her how to find where we lived. They lived about twelve miles away and I really never expected to see them, for they still had only the one horse wagon he’d drove when he was courting her.
So, on Mother’s Day, Daddy had been gone to Grade’s “a couple of hours”—in fact, I was already expecting him back— when up drove Uncle Joe and Aunt Matt. Mama had written and asked her to please come and see about me.
We picked new beans, new potatoes, killed a chicken, and picked cherries. Aunt Matt was really a good cook! She kept asking about Thaniel. I kept saying, “He’ll be back soon.”
We got dinner cooked and Aunt Matt said, “Maybe he got off and got drunk.”
I said, “He wouldn’t! We’ve been married six months and he hasn’t drunk a drop.”
We waited until about twelve-thirty and Uncle Joe said that they would have to start back by two o’clock. So we ate. Daddy still hadn’t come. I was so mad that I couldn’t see straight! They hitched the mule to the wagon and were getting in when here Daddy came. So drunk he didn’t know up from down! Mad! I could have choked him to death. Uncle Joe and Aunt Matt left and I knew exactly what Aunt Matt would write Mama the minute she got home.
Daddy was ashamed of himself and he tried to be nice to me. But I said, “Don’t you come near me or you’re a dead man! I’ll never speak to you again!”
From the time Daddy was a young boy, he thought that the chicken and egg business would be a perfect business to be in. Before he went into the Navy, he’d bought a thirty-egg incubator. It had been in the barn for five years. Now he had gotten it out and got nice fertile eggs from Grandma Stone. He put it in our bedroom and every egg had hatched: One of those chickens was the one that Aunt Matt cooked.
Well, he’d had such good luck with the thirty eggs that he had borrowed Arlie Cobb’s 120-egg incubator. It also was in the bedroom. He had gone to the store and bought those eggs because nobody could save up ten dozen eggs for they used their egg money to buy salt, coffee, snuff, and tobacco. The day before Mother’s Day The eggs had been in the incubator for the required twenty-one days. But we hadn’t seen a single egg pippin. Daddy had said, “Well, maybe they needed another night.”
Now, Aunt Matt had gone, and I was mad. Daddy fumbled around a while, then said he was going to see why those eggs hadn’t hatched. He put the wash tub by the edge of the porch, brought out the trays of eggs, sat on the edge of the porch and broke every one of those eggs. Some of the eggs had dead chickens, but most of them were just old rotten eggs. I kept hoping that he’d fall flat on his face in that tub of rotten eggs!
Since I wasn’t speaking to him, he was talking to himself. He said he’d better bury those rotten eggs. He took the shovel and dug a deep hole under the apple tree. Then he came to get the tub of eggs. I was still mad, but I said, “You stupid ass. You’ll spill that.” I took one side of the tub and helped him carry it. It was dark by the time he got the hole covered and the tub cleaned out.
Thomas Nathaniel Frasier
Hoyt N. Frasier
Molly Belle “Veal” Frasier
I didn’t speak to him for a week. Grandma Stone was mad at him too. Even Grandma Frasier was sorry for me and mad at him. She said that she’d tried to keep him from coming home for she said she figured it was better for Aunt Matt to guess that he might be drunk than to actually see him drunk.
That was the only time that Daddy got drunk until John was born. I was in the hospital, but a neighbor woman said that he got drunk. He got drunk another time while he was in the Navy during the war, and once after the war when we lived next to Grandpa Frasier. In fact, he got drunk while he was working on the electricity in Grandpa’s house.
Daddy didn’t get drunk while we lived on Lookout Mountain, but he did finally make some home-brew. It was very pretty and smelled good. He had it in fruit jars in the refrigerator. He didn’t drink any for a couple of weeks, then he decided he would have some home-brew. He drank some. Went back and got more. Went back and got more, then he hit the yard and threw up for an hour!
He said he was going to pour it out, but I said, “Oh no, You don’t! You’ve been talking about making home-brew since even before we were married. Now that you’ve got it, you’re not going to waste it.” The next Sunday Vernon and Janie Mae came to visit and Daddy gave the home-brew to Vernon. Vernon would drink anything!
I guess I can’t remember every time that Daddy got drunk, but I do know it was not more than a dozen times in thirty-eight years. He would go through times when he would have a beer or two before eating supper, but he would go months without having any at all. I do know that the times that he actually got drunk were so few that the kids remember them so strongly that they think he drank a lot. He didn’t.
I do not drink and have never used tobacco in any form, but I am an alcoholic. Now in August of 1991, I am sick of hearing about what the use of tobacco does to your body and to those around you. Almost everyone I’ve ever known has used tobacco. I have not personally known of anyone that it harmed in any way. Oh, maybe if those who lived to be in their eighties or nineties had not begun using tobacco when they were five or six years old, they might have lived a couple of years longer. But who wants to?
But alcohol is another matter. It not only leads to physical decay but to moral decay as well. Personally I know dozens and dozens of people whose lives have been ruined by the use of it. Daddy used to say that “when he drank, I got drunk.” Just recently it has occurred to me that it was not a joke. For I do get drunk with the smell of alcohol.
School text books were very different when I went to school. When I was seven years old in the third grade in 1921, I read that one ounce of alcohol will kill one brain cell. Some people have great tolerance for it and others have none. So I asked the teacher, “What is drunk?” If one person can drink a pint and still appear to be okay and another takes a small sip and loses control of some of their abilities: to talk, to walk, to think. Then just exactly, “What does it mean to be drunk?” She didn’t know. She said that she guessed that it was when someone lost control. Silly, huh! I wish none of my family smoked but if that’s the worst thing that they do, I’ll be very pleased. But, God forbid that they should ever have to smell alcohol or that it ruins any more of their lives.
Anyway, after the eggs didn’t hatch, Grandma Stone felt so sorry for Daddy that she gave him $4.00 and he ordered a hundred sexed day-old chicks from Crossville, Tennessee. He ordered them C.O.D. and didn’t meet the mail the day they came, so the mailman took them back to the post office and brought them the next day. Even then, he raised ninety-two of them.
For some reason, there was one male included in that bunch of chicks. We kept him and named him Oliver. Virginia was born that year and the next year that rooster was a year old: and was he mean! Nobody came up into our yard without Oliver attacking them: but he never bothered Virginia.
We moved around a lot and you can’t move chickens very easily, so Daddy finally put the chicken business on hold for about eight years.