We were sitting around in a Jekyll Island hot tub with close friends — don’t hate — it was therapeutic. I’ve been sick. Talk turned to “back in the day.” It often does with me. At times the conversation sounded, as it often does, like we were trying to “out-pitiful” one another.
One of our friends was raised in Cherokee County. I’m thinking Hickory Flat was right rural in the 1950s and ’60s. Her daddy raised chickens, and she and her sister had to gather eggs every morning. Just a fact of life.
Not me. We had a few chickens in the yard from time to time, but they were not layers and my daddy was always in charge of catching one on Saturday night and snapping its neck. My mama would scald it and pick off the feathers. All I had to do was eat it for Sunday dinner after she had fried it up in lard. I remember two things about having fried chicken for Sunday dinner. One — I was always disappointed when the preacher accepted my mama’s invitation to come eat with us after church because mama never cooked an extra bird on such occasions and, two — I was a grown man with children of my own before I realized that the back probably wasn’t my mama’s favorite piece of chicken, although she claimed it was all my life.
Floor coverings also came up as a topic of conversation. My friend’s mama wanted carpet over the hardwood floors that were predominant in her farm house, and she finally got them. As soon as she sold the house and moved away, the new buyers tore out the sculptured carpet and refinished the original floors. I hated that she told that story because it gave my lovely wife, Lisa, ideas. I don’t want to spend money ripping up perfectly good carpet and finishing the floors under it, and I don’t want to walk on cold hardwood floors, either.
Been there. Done that. Got the scars from the splinters to prove it.
Our friend, Mark, was obviously raised rich because his house had a floor furnace and his mama had a washing machine and a dryer his whole life. The rest of us commiserated with one another over the inhumanity of having to hang out clothes, especially in the winter. None of our group believed my pitiful story about having to drag a small step-ladder around to reach the clothesline. I told them to call my former next-door neighbor Sally Ann Jarrett for confirmation. Although I think she just goes by Sally, now.
Naturally talk turned to heating a cold house in winter and space heaters and coal burning fireplaces and chamber pots and outhouses and the versatility of the Sears-Roebuck catalogue.
And then we got around to words and the colorful and descriptive ways we used to talk.
I was in the minority on one expression. It seems that I am the only person in the world — or at least in my little group of friends — who remembers hearing old folks speak of having to go to the “tooth dentist.” Honesty compels me to admit that I don’t know what other kind of dentist there might be, but I distinctly remember folks talking about the tooth dentist in normal conversation. My friends did not. Was that just a Porterdale thing? Let me know.
We also talked about the validity of some of our most important customs. For instance, everyone knew not to talk on the telephone during a thunderstorm, but we weren’t sure if that still applies now that we all use cell phones instead of landlines. Naturally, you didn’t get in the bathtub or shower during a storm, either. There was no need to just dare God to smite you with a lightning bolt.
And manners. My mama would have slapped me baldheaded and then jerked a knot in my tail if I had walked through the door without taking off my cap, and heaven help me if I had actually come to the dinner table with my head covered. Nowadays you see grown, otherwise respectable men, sitting at the table, sporting a hat or cap, eating away, just like they have good sense. Tommie Huckaby would be rolling over in her grave if I ever did something like that.
And do you know how few children are taught to put a “ma’am” and “sir” at the end of a yes or no these days. It ain’t fittin’. It just ain’t fittin’.
I’ve said many times before that we are presiding over the decline of civilization. I blame most of it on air conditioning and the rest on television and the interstate highway system.
There’s more, but Lisa just called and said that it was time for me to hang the clothes out on the line. At least I no longer need a ladder to reach.