The Story of my Life
Louise Virginia (Weir) Frasier
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ouses even sixty years ago were pretty sorry things. Though there were some nicer than others. In-door plumbing was unknown less than 100 years ago. The rural parts of the country had no electricity until the early forties.
Papa built the house that we older kids were born in. Then he bought a house about a half mile down the road which we called the ‘Garrett house’. It was a nice two story house. It had a big basement that always had water in it. It had a big barn, a tool shed, a wood shed, a smoke house, and, of-course, an out-house. The Garrett house was supposed to be haunted. The story was that Mr. Garrett had been real mean to his daughter and she had died there.
Aunt Eula and Uncle Willie Seay lived with Grandma Weir, so I guess they got the home place. Then when I was about six it was sold and then Grandma lived with them. They had bought another farm.
Uncle George and Aunt Zack lived in a renter house below us. We played with their kids. Then they bought a farm and moved. We didn’t see as much of them after they moved. But I remember that I was at their house once—remembering back, they must have fought a lot. This one time was after supper and I wanted to go home, but it was too far. Among other things that were said, Aunt Zack said, “That old John Haynie was too sorry to live or be killed either.”
Uncle George was quite for a few minutes, then he said in a very calm voice, “Well, when Eliza Jane Garrard dies, she’ll be in the church, everybody will be passing by to see her for the last time, then they’ll say, ‘there lays a bag of truth for it never came out of her.’” After that I really did want to go home and I didn’t go back for a long time.
I remember that Vernon Haynie was a bully. Most bullies are cowards. Comer did not like to fight. Vernon was always beating up on him and Comer would just let him. Mama watched for her chance and one day when we were playing in the barn. Vernon started a fight. Mama came in with a big long hickory stick. She told Comer to “Hit him!” He said, “I don’t want to hurt nobody.”
Mama said, “If you don’t hit him and fight I’m going to hit you.” Comer hit him, and they fought. Vernon started crying and that was the end of the fight. Vernon never picked on anybody again.
H.N. always told Hoyt, Bill, and John, “Don’t pick on anyone, don’t start a fight, but if someone insists on fighting, find a big stick, get in one big lick, and run like hell.” They never started fights or fought. Hoyt and Bill were fighting one time and Hoyt had Bill on the ground. Bill wasn’t fighting, just begging Hoyt to let him up. Daddy told Hoyt to let him up and then he whipped him with a dogwood branch.
Elizabeth, Evelyn, Dora, and Nora were born in the Garrett house. I remember when the twins were born, October 5th. Grandma Weir was there and they sent all of us kids over to Uncle Willie Seay’s to pick peas. Three of Aunt Julie’s kids were there from Memphis. Aunt Eula fixed lunch for all of us, and about three o’clock, she said that we could go home and that we would have a surprise. It was a surprise! None of us kids had known that there would be a new baby, much less two! Dora Mae was born about five minutes before Nora Fae.
|Louise Weir with Rabbits|
We had to work hard on the farm, but we had a lot of fun too. Papa bought twin mules, Mary and Daisy. Mary was Buford’s and Daisy was Comer’s. Papa also bought a big billie goat and a wagon with springs, seat and brakes. Comer, Buford, and their friends talked me into taking the first ride. They said if I would ride, they wouldn’t turn loose of the halter.
As soon as I got in they let go. All the boys were hollering and that goat went wild! Across the field I went with all the boys following and yelling which made the goat go faster. I tried to put on the brakes and got my finger nails torn off. Blood every where! Finally, the goat jumped the ditch and I fell out.
The boys caught the goat, and mama patched up my fingers. But she fussed on me for being a tomboy. Them fool boys emptied their pockets—marbles, strings, toys, and bugs—and said they would give them to me if I would do it again. But, for once, I was afraid of Mama.
The next year we got the regular goats and the Nanny goat had twin babies. Elizabeth was afraid of those goats. One time Mama had to go somewhere for a few minutes and left me and Mary Will to watch Elizabeth. She was sitting in a washtub and crying, so we brought the two baby goats and tied them to the tub. Elizabeth was quiet at first, then she started crying and them goats went wild! Down across the field they went with that tub bouncing and Elizabeth holding on for dear life! She finally fell out and I don’t remember any thing else about it.
Elizabeth, doll, Louise, Marywill
The games we played were ‘kick the can’ (I don’t know what you did after you kicked it), and enny-enny over. One team would get on each side of the house. One team would call, “enny-enny over!” and throw the ball over the house and the other team would catch it. We also climbed trees, had fights— always fighting (never each other, but friends), and we played in the barn loft. We’d climb hand over hand over the barn hall -- twenty feet high, at least.
We would take salt and a book and sit in the apple tree, eating green apples and reading. We would climb trees just to see who could climb the highest. Even Mary Will did this and most of the time she just wanted to stay near Mama and play with her dolls. I guess that’s the reason Bill would tell me he wished Mary Will was his mama instead of me. I’d tell him that I wished she was too. We both knew that neither of us meant it.
Here’s where I tell about what Dora and Nora wanted me to tell. Sometimes if Mama was very tired I would take the twins and George (he was a baby) on a picnic. We’d take corn bread, onions, and sometimes peanut butter and crackers. And sometimes a frog pie. We’d go down in the pasture away from the house and I would tell fairy tales. Some I had read, but some I made up. We’d climb a tree or two—maybe get some sweet gum to chew. We’d be gone about four hours. I had fun too! I’m glad you two never forgot that!
Once, we were going to fly. We got on the ridge of the barn with bundles of fodder under our arms. Of course, some of them wanted me to go first but, for once, Comer and Buford said that the one who thought of it should go first. That was Durius Moon. He broke his leg. That ended our flying days.
Girls played paper dolls, and boys fought yellow jackets and hornets. Yellow jackets live in the ground and the boys would find a nest, get all their friends, and they’d fight the yellow jackets. Once we saw a big black snake and about a dozen babies which looked about like earth worms. I raised the hoe to hit it and she opened her mouth and all those babies ran into her mouth. She raced away and we let her go. That was in Alabama. Later in Tennessee I saw a funny looking snake. I hit it with a hoe and it broke into about a dozen pieces and the head ran away. I looked that one up and it was a glass or jointed snake. It grew more parts later.
“The Garret House and Goats”
Elizabeth, Comer, Buford,
Earnest Watson- A Cousin
We read. Everyone read everything. Once we got a magazine and both me and Buford said it was our time to read it first. Mama said we’d settle it by running a race. She would hold it out about ten feet away and the first one to touch it could read it first. Big deal! It would take each of us only an hour to read every word in it. Anyway, we were both near enough to touch it and I pushed Buford and got it first. But I did cheat, and I couldn’t win like that so I let him read it first.
I’m so glad that my ten children like to read although none of them married people who like to read. Some of the grand-kids read and some don’t. I’ve tried to make a point of liking books to all of them. But why should they read when they can hear and see it on TV? Reading material has changed greatly over the last forty years. But now we don’t need to read a book to know about places, we can get on a plane or in a car and go see.
But I still like the magic of words. I can remember when I was four years old. Papa told Uncle Arthur Bruce (Not a real uncle—just a friend of Papa’s) that I could read. Uncle Arthur didn’t believe him so Papa sat me on his knee and had me read the newspaper.
I remember that we used to go to the movies when we still lived in Boaz. Movies then cost five cents for kids and ten cents for adults. They only showed the movie once a week in Boaz: on Saturdays. You could go in to the show when it opened at ten o’clock in the morning and stay all day if you wanted to. They had a piano player and you could hear it all over town.
The main feature was almost always a Western: Tom Mix, Tim Holt, etc. They’d have the comedy, the cartoon, and a serial where they always left the girl tied on the railroad track or some other place like that until the next week. But, the part that I had almost forgotten was the Vaudeville. There would always be three or four acts. Who knows? We might have seen someone who became famous later! Back then all famous actors and actresses started out in Vaudeville, traveling around the country playing one night stands in small towns.
The circus would come to town once a year. The circus traveled in wagons. Sometimes, if the distance was too far, they put everything on the train—wagons, animals, everything. They always had at least two elephants. The elephants were trained to help raise and lower the tents. They would have the big top where the performances were held, an animal tent, and several smaller tents where the side shows were held.
The circus always got into town in the middle of the night and by daylight they would be setting up. One year Mama let us go and watch them get ready. I think, maybe, Comer and Buford helped some and got free passes. About eleven o’clock in the morning they would have the parade down main street—the animals in their cages, the bareback riders on the beautiful horses, all the trapeze artists with their tights, tinsel everywhere!
The circus generally stayed in town for three days giving six performances in all. The afternoon shows were cheaper than evening shows.
One of our neighbors was the Bruces. They had one girl and three or four boys. One of the boys was Elizabeth’s age. He cussed ‘bad words’ all the time. None of us ever used bad language. I do now, but none of my brothers or sisters do. Anyway, Elizabeth started using the same words that Herb Bruce used. Mama washed her mouth out with soap and spanked her until she stopped using those words. But one day she got mad at me and Mary Will. She said, “You’re just exactly what Herb Bruce says, but Mama won’t let me say it!”
I was a tomboy and Buford and Comer would have me fight their friends. They even let me play marbles with them for I knew how to shoot. They told me about hell. One Sunday we went to Bethsada to Sunday School. We had company for dinner. After dinner Buford and Comer were going swimming in the pasture swimming hole and I followed them. They didn’t want me to go for if I didn’t go they went skinny dipping. If I went, they had to swim in their union suits. They threatened me and tried to bribe me but I said, “No, Mama said I could go and I’m going.”
Finally, they climbed a big black gum tree. Of course I went after them. They were higher up than me but I could hear them whispering. I said, “You can’t whisper, you have to tell me.”
They said, “Oh, no. This is something our Sunday School teacher told us today and you’re too little to know.” I said, “You’d better tell me or I’ll tell Mama.”
They acted like they were not going to tell me. But finally one of them said, “O well, you’re too little but we’ll tell you.” They said the world was coming to an end. The whole world would be burning and burn forever.
I said, “You’re lying.” They said, “No. We told you that you were too little to hear this.”
I jumped down and ran to the house where Mama and the other women were doing dishes and talking. I said, “Mama, is it true?”
She said, “What?” I said, “Is the world going to burn forever?” She said, “Uh-Huh.” She probably didn’t even hear my question, but I didn’t realize that then. I crawled under the stairs and stayed till I was found at dark. To this day when I get up in the morning I look outside to see if the world is burning yet.
Parents never are courteous to their own kids, never listen to what they say. Once, my boys called me Aunt Louise for a month before I finally asked them why. They said if their cousins called me I answered and listened to them, but I never did answer them when they called me Mama. After that, I tried to listen to them.
Why can we never remember the good things we learn from our kids? Only the things we think are bad?