The Red Eyed Demonic Rooster
This is a story about two families. Allow me to call them, "The Waters' Family" and "The Patterson Family." They are of different color. The Waters' family was white and the Patterson family was black. I grew up in a segregated South. Both blacks and whites were the victims of prejudiced and fearful legislators who passed discriminate state laws. A sad time in American history. However, there were many white and black families that did not allow the "Demon of Bitterness and Hatred" enter into their hearts. I'm white. My parent's did not permit their children to be cruel to those of different color. We were not taught hate. We were taught to speak decently to persons of white, black or any color.
My Dad had recently moved his family into a five room, clapboard, tin roof house. Before long, Mom had transformed it into a comfortable home. We became "Country Folks."
Dad had enrolled at a near by college. He was taking courses in biblical studies. We were told that he had taken a sabbatical from his full time insurance job. He worked part-time selling life insurance and part-time as a candy salesman. We three boys were happy and excited over his candy salesman job. Dad seemed to know when some of his candy was being sampled. "How did he know this?" Dad's seem to have a way of knowing these things. We three boys were usually involved and confessed when confronted with dad's stern countenance. He read from the Bible on the sin of stealing. Now, dear reader, What he had us do was difficult and laden with despair. We each had to cut our own switch for discipline. I was the stubborn one; therefore, several times I returned to the despicable bush for another switch until he was satisfied. Now what really made me feel the post sting of discipline was when I ran and slid under my bed. He knew exactly where to find me. He would get down and reach for me. I would slide to the other side of the bed. He would go around and reach for me again. I would slide to the opposite side. If I moved to the front of the bed, he would reach for me at the front. When I slid to the rear, he would try there. He was shouting at me and getting really angry. We could tell when he was really mad. His face would turn fire engine red. When he had finished reaching for me, the bed would be in the middle of the room. "Okay Robert," He would always call me Robert when he was really angry. "You have to come out sometime." I did. When disciplining me this time, he put the "peddle to the metal." By this time, my bed was in the middle of the room. I was real small, but I had to move that heavy metal bed back where it belonged.
Dad reasoned that the open spaces and fresh air (excluding the neighbor's pig pen when down wind) would be healthy for us all. Must be something to that. Mother mentioned that we were rarely ill. Excluding of course, scrapes, bruises, and bleeding toes. If we became sick Mom would bring out the castor oil. "Oh dear reader, that is the most vile tasting concoction on God's earth." It was awful. We tried real hard not to get sick. Mom never did run out of that stuff. She always seemed to have plenty. In late spring, summer, and early fall, we went without shoes. One of my Uncle's would say that the bottom of our feet was so tough, that if we stepped on a nail, It would bend.
Having a tin roof was blissful. My brothers and I would lie in bed listening to the rain or sleet pinging against the roof. "Nature's Lullaby." Sooooooo soothing. I can remember falling asleep peacefully listening to the rhythm of the falling rain. Should I awake, it was comforting to know that I wasn't alone. The rain was my companion.
Our little country home was comfortable. Mother's enemy was germs. She was always scrubbing something. We had the cleanest dirt yard around. Out in the country during the early fifties, very seldom did one see a green manicured lawn. Mom would get her broom and go to work. If there was anything on top that crawled or was sharp, it soon disappeard in a cloud of dust from Mom's swift broom.
We had a large vegetable garden. The favorite vegetables were corn, tomatoes, lima beans, green beans, spring onions, okra, squash, and hot peppers. Mom canned our vegetables in preparation for the winter
months. We had delicious vegetables year round. "Just the other day, I had the taste for a tomato sandwich. I purchased one medium sized tomato. Seventy one cents for one tomato! That's not counting the tax. Mom canned dozens of tasty tomatoes."
My brother's and I still chuckle over Dad's closed in battle with two "red boned" hound dogs. We were all visiting Mom's brother in Gaffney, S.C. Uncle had two hound dogs. These dogs were becoming a nuisance to him. They were continually escaping from their enclosures. He lived in town, So; It was important that something be done about the dogs. He asked my Dad if he would take the dogs to live with us in the country. Dad agreed. He figured they would be protection for my Mom when she was home alone. Dad loaded Toby and Red in the back seat of his car. He was driving slowly toward home. The huge "red boned" hounds suddenly began a fierce and savage fight in the back seat of Dad's car. They were snarling, snapping their teeth, and biting. Dad made a feeble effort to dislodge them. But, to no avail. He jumped out of the car, slammed the door, sat beside the road, and let the gladiators go at it. The ferocious fight was over. Each warrior returned to his corner in the back seat. They still growled and glared at each other. Thankfully, Dad and the dogs made it home safely. Toby and Red loved Mom. It may have had something to do with the gravy and biscuits Mom fed them. If Mom was home alone, they sensed it and stayed close. If a stranger came, they would position themselves between Mom and the stranger. They did not display aggression, but I would not want to be on the receiving end of their attack if some person or persons displayed a threat to Mom. She always felt safe when Toby and Red were around. They were bred to hunt and run. So naturally, they would chase animals. They began traveling farther and farther from home. Neighbors began complaining how they were destroying their crops. If a rabbit jumped and ran, they were quickly after it. They had to go. Dad returned them to Uncle Forrest. We missed them. Especially Mom, She loved those dogs.
Our home was on a ridge. On the next ridge lived the Patterson family. They had three sons, Odel, the oldest, Floyd, and then the youngest, "Little Joe." Joe was short. He got the name honestly. We three Waters' boys were close to the ages of the Patterson boys. Joe and I were about five years younger than our middle brothers; Needless to say, when they played or worked, we usually got left out. Little Joe and I would create our own fun games. We had acres of woods to roam about in. We walked softly on our barefeet. We had a game we called "The Squirrel's Game." Squirrels were very alert. If they heard you, they would scamper around to the other side of a tree. We wanted the squirrel facing both of us. We had a white sock which our Mom's were constantly washing. We put 2/3 bad apples in the sock, tied it securely at the top. We would throw the sock around the tree to where the squirrel was. He caught a glimpse of the white sock zipping by. In no time, he scooted around and was facing us. By using this trick, many a squirrel graced a farmer's table.
The Patteron boys were welcome at our home. Mom would fix a pan of hot biscuits and bring out a jar of black strap molasses. She would shoo us out into the yard. She didn't want sticky molasses on her table, floor, and porch. The kindness was reciprocated by Mrs. Patterson. She would bake a hot cake of cornbread in a large black iron skillet. We crunched our cornbread into bowls. Mrs. Patterson would pour spring chilled milk over this delicious treat. "Oh My, I can close my eyes and still smell and taste this scrumptious delicacy."
Two hundred yards above the Patterson farm was the huge farm of Mr. Tate. He had horses, pigs, chickens, mules, and probably other animals that I can't remember. He tended a large vegetable garden. There was corn, green beans, okra cantaloupe, watermelons and turnips. Turnips is a fall crop. It is not unusual to see frost on the tops of turnips. There were apples, plums, and pear trees. Those turnips got me and Little Joe in big trouble. We pulled Mr Tate's turnips without permission and ate them. Our elder brothers told on us. I knew what was in store for me. I was really worried. Dad was waiting on me and led me into his bedroom. He sat me down and gazed on me with sad, disappointing eyes. After what seemed like an eternity, he asked me. "Did you and Little Joe steal Mr. Tate's turnips?" The word steal and the way he said it sent shivers down my spine. He looked at me intently, waiting for an answer. I dropped my head sadly, and replied, "Yes." "You know Robert" - He always used Robert when he meant business. "I have to discipline you." Tears were cascading down my cheeks. I replied humbly, "Yes sir." He opened his Bible and began teaching me. He taught me how terrible was the sin of stealing. "Bobby, He was now calling me Bobby. "There are pit falls to those who practice stealing. Their life will be encumbered. I didn't know what encumbered meant, but it sure didn't sound good. I was guilty. He applied the discipline directly to the seat of my thin overalls. OUUCCHH!
Mr. Tate answerd the knock to his door. Mr Patterson introduced himself. Of course, Mr. Tate knew who he was. "Sir, Joe here has something he wants to confess." Little Joe lowered his head. Big tears were streaming down his face. Between sobs, he weeped the words, "Mr. Tate, I'm sorry I stole your turnips." Mr. Tate looked down and smiled. "Mr. Tate, Bobby has an apology to make." Mr. Tate looked down with a smile. "I'm sorry I stole your turnips Mr. Tate." "Boys, I have a big garden. If you want something, just ask."
My brothers still find delight in teasing me about the Patterson's "Red Eyed Demonic Rooster." Little Joe and I routinely visited each other. We were buddies. When I visited my little buddy, I was always on the look out for the "Red Eyed Demonic Rooster." I was afraid of the evil fowl. I was just a little boy. The crazy rooster knew I was afraid of him. Most of the time, I managed to avoid this red eyed beast. Not this time! He caught me unawares. His neck would stretch out. His cape of feathers bristled. His long strong wings began beating fiercely. His sharp spurs were on display as he danced backward and forward. He attacked! I ran screaming and hollering. The demented fowl was close behind and closing. "Help! Help!" I screamed. I was terrified! My skinny legs in my cut off overalls was churning up the dust. "Help! Help!" I screamed again and again. On the second trip around the Patterson home, Little Joe snatched up a hoe handle. We three were all running around the house. I'm in front screaming, the psycho rooster in the middle flapping his wings, and Little Joe gaining on the demonic rooster. This idiot rooster would not back off. He was running and jumping forward with those dagger spurs. Little Joe was in the back swinging the hoe handle. On our third trip around the house, Joe connected with the hoe handle. The crazed bird hit the ground and skidded to a stop. "Oh no! We had killed the Patterson's rooster!" Slowly, he regained his feet and wobbled away. All the fight was knocked out of him by Joe's hoe handle.
I cannot remember the psycho rooster ever attacking me again. I'm sure he didn't want to feel the sting of Little Joe's hoe handle.
* This adventure happened when I was about six years old.