Tomorrow we are off to Wyoming for a few days.  We will visit dear friends, enjoy cooler air,  harvest any rhubarb that may be left and make a pie, laugh a lot, hike favorite trails, eat great food and generally have a wonderful time.

The friends we are staying with are resourceful people who like to recycle, refurbish, reuse old buildings.  Another friend, who was relieved to get it out of her yard, gave them a playhouse her children had long since outgrown.  The following is what they did with it.


The Hen House

The shell, a cast off playhouse

Too soon outgrown.

Come get it and it’s yours.

Remade, repainted, reroofed,

Capped with a rooster vane

Spinning in the Wyoming wind.

Retrofitted with a single light bulb

To repulse the bitter cold.

Even Tyson rejects pre-frozen chickens.



Moving Day, Part 2

“Patty, Tommy’s here,” I yelled from the doorway.

Patty flew out the front door. I was right behind her.

“Mary, come back here,” Mother called.

“Why? I want to say goodbye too.”

“You just give them a few minutes alone.  Then we can all go out and tell Tommy goodbye.”

This didn’t seem at all fair to me.  I was supposed to be watching for the movers.  How could I do that from the kitchen? And besides, I loved Tommy, too.  I waited until Mother stuck her head back in the refrigerator, and then slipped out the back way.  I carefully closed the screen door on the back porch.   Walking close to the house, I ran my hand along the white stucco.  When I got to the front, I peeked my head around the corner.  No Patty and Tommy in sight. His car was gone so they must have gone for a little ride.  I walked back up to the front steps, sat down and hugged my knees.

I didn’t last long like that.  I got up and ran to the end of the sidewalk.  Perched on the curb I could look far down Wilson Dam Boulevard.  From there I could see almost into the town of Sheffield.  That’s where the movers had gone when they left last night.  There was an orange truck coming.  I was sure it was the one, so I ran across the yard toward the house yelling, “The movers are coming.  The movers are here.”

They pulled up and parked as Daddy came out of the house.

“You can finish up in the bedrooms.  The beds are ready to go in and there are a few boxes with bedding to go.  My wife is almost through in the kitchen.” Daddy issued them their orders too.

“Yes sir, Mr. Stout,” said the man who drove the pickup truck.  “We’ll be finished up in no time.  These boys know how to load a truck.  I’ll say that about them.”

Just then my brother came out of the house with a couple of suitcases.“Will you unlock the trunk so I can put these in?”  He asked Daddy.  “I can’t find Patty’s suitcase.”

Daddy unlocked the trunk of our car then went back in the house yelling for Patty to bring her suitcase out to put in the car.

I sat down on the sidewalk in the shade of the moving van.  I was not in the way, but I could watch the men bring things out of the house and put them in the van

All of a sudden Daddy came running out the front door looking very angry.  I had seen that look before and knew better than to ask him any questions.  He ran across the street to the Crosby’s and banged on their front door.  Mother came along behind him.  I could see she was crying, but I had gotten used to that.  Mother and Patty had been crying a lot lately.  They were both sad to be moving.

Daddy came back out of the neighbor’s house.  I heard him tell my mother that he had called the police and that they were going to try to catch “them”.  With that, my mother really started crying.  I ran over and hugged her.
“Don’t cry, Momma,” I piped.  I was scared now.  “Why did Daddy call the police?  Did someone steal something?”

Daddy glared at me.

“Hush now.  Patty and Tommy have run off to get married.  The police are going to bring them back.”

A deathly silence settled over our house.  The movers kept on bringing furniture and boxes out of the house and placing them carefully in the van.

A long time passed.  It was almost lunch time when I saw Tommy’s car turn onto our street.  It was closely followed by a police car.  They both pulled up behind the moving van.  The policeman got out of his car first.  His light blue uniform was already showing dark areas under his armpits and on this back where the sweat had soaked through.  Tommy and Patty just sat in his car snuggled up next to each other.  Daddy was standing in the shade of the sweet gum tree smoking his Chesterfield’s one after another.

“Well, Mr. Stout.  I caught up with them, but there’s not much I can do.  Your daughter is 18 and she can get married if she wants.”

“Let me talk to them,”  Daddy said.  His jaws were clinched and his face was dark red.

Just then my mother came out of the house, grabbed my hand and took me inside.  I struggled for a moment.

“You get in the house this minute and stay there.”  I knew from her tone I was out of options.  I went in the house and found an open window to watch from.

Daddy was talking to Tommy and Patty through the car window.  I couldn’t hear a word, but after a while Patty kissed Tommy and got out of the car and headed into the house with her suitcase in her hand.  Tommy and Daddy shook hands and then Tommy drove away.

The movers finished up and closed the big double doors on the van.  Two of the  men got in the cab and drove away.  I waved to them and shouted,

“See you in Idaho.”

My family made one last trip through the house, then all got into our blue Buick Roadmaster.  Mother, Daddy and Nancy were in the front seat.  Patty, Junior and I were in back with me perched on the fold down armrest in the middle.

My father started the car, shifted the gears and we pulled away.  No one said a thing about what happened as we waved to the neighbors who had come to see us off.






Moving Day

Note to all my relatives:  This is a work of fiction very loosely based on events which may or may not have happened.



The morning of September 4, 1951 broke, as late summer mornings often do in Northern Alabama, with the sun rising through the ground fog.  Fog filtered sunlight made the transition from night to day a lazy occurrence much in keeping with the pace of life in  the Tennessee River Valley, and the South as a whole. The fog burned off as the sun rose above the trees along Spring Creek near our house..  It promised to be another sultry day. There was little rushing about.  Hookworms and heat set the tempo in the pre air conditioned South at a languid largo.

I was up at first light.  I threw my leg over the top rail of the crib, where I still slept despite having turned four that summer, and lowered myself to the floor.  I shucked off my pajamas and threw them back in the crib, then pulled on blue shorts and a white tee shirt with blue and red stripes. I reached back through the crib bars and pulled out my brown teddy bear, George, tucked him under my arm and headed toward the kitchen.   In my bare feet I padded down the long dark hall that connected the bedrooms to the kitchen, where I heard my parents talking.  Daddy never lowered his voice in consideration of those who might still be sleeping.  Every word he said was distinct; Mother’s voice only a murmur.  Daddy was issuing his orders for the day.

“The movers should be back at 8:00.  You need to have the children up and fed and the breakfast dishes washed and packed by then.  Have Patty and Nancy the strip the beds and pack the bedding.  It won’t be clean, but there’s no time to wash it.  I want to get a couple hundred miles down the road today, maybe even to Cairo, even though we can’t leave until the movers do.”

Without comment Mother got up from the table.  She took their plates and put them in the sink filled with steaming dishwater.  When she turned, she saw me standing in the doorway.

“Good morning, Mary Sunshine.  Get in your chair and have your breakfast while I go wake the others. Put your dish in the sink when you finish.”  She headed down the hall to get my sisters and brother up.

“Can I ride in the moving van, Daddy?  When are the men going to get here?”

While awaiting an answer, I clambered onto one of the gray vinyl dinette chairs at the table and poured some cereal into a bowl.  Daddy poured the milk in for me.  I put two spoons of sugar on when he wasn’t looking.

My father was a tall, slender man who wore his hair in a crew cut.  His hair was all black except for a patch right in front about the size of a quarter that was completely white. When he looked up from the road map he was studying, his blue eyes met mine.

“They’ll be here soon.  You’ll ride with us in the car.  They have to pick up some other loads and won’t get to Idaho until days after we do.  Now eat your breakfast like your mother said.”

My brother, Junior, was still buttoning his shirt as he joined us.  He was skinny and had his dark hair in a crew cut like Daddy’s.

“Dad, why don’t you just put her in one of those big boxes and let them put her in the moving van?”

While I really wanted to ride to Idaho in the moving van, I had been teased enough by my brother to know that if he suggested that I do something, there was a problem with it.  I didn’t understand how far it was to Idaho.  I still periodically insisted that I was going to walk to my grandparent’s house in Florida.

“Leave her alone and eat your breakfast, Son.  I want you to help me take the beds apart.”

“Yes sir, I’ll hurry.”

Daddy folded up his map and put it on top of the refrigerator with the other important papers he wanted to take in the car with us.

“I’m going to start with Mary’s crib. We’ll do your bed next,” Daddy said.

“Can I help?  I can hold the screws when you take them out.”  I jumped down from my chair and ran to the sink with the half eaten bowl of Cheerios.  I wanted make sure nothing bad happened to my crib.   Hearing that it was to be taken it apart was somehow scary.  So far, all the talk of moving out West where the cowboys and Indians lived and everyone rode around on horses was exciting, but kind of like make believe.

“You can help me until your mother needs you for something.”

My father knew better than to send me outside to play. I had a habit of wandering off.  There were many incidents involving me being found far from home by neighbors.  When I was younger, mother often tied me to the clothesline in an effort to keep me at home.   Sometimes the neighbor’s dog, Troubles, would come over and chew the rope through and off we would go.  Everyone in the small government village, where only TVA workers lived, knew each other and knew where I belonged. My oldest sister, Patty, fretted about what would happen to me when we moved to a place peopled only by strangers.  She said when Mother and Daddy bought our new house she would teach me the new address and my phone number.  She told me it would be as easy as learning how to wink.

Patty and Nancy were now up.  Patty had a dark blond pageboy and wore glasses.  As we passed in the dim hallway, she winked at me.  I squinted up one eye in what I thought was an excellent wink.  She laughed and said, “Keep practicing.  You’re getting better.”

“Happy, happy birthday,” I sang out.  “Is Tommy coming over to say goodbye?”

“Yes, he’ll be over on his way to work.”

Patty’s eyes and nose started turning red again as tears formed. Today was Patty’s eighteenth birthday. She was getting what she said was the worst birthday present ever, our move to Pocatello, Idaho.  Tommy was her fiancé.  Like many couples, they got engaged during their senior year at Sheffield High.  This fall, Tommy was headed for Naval Reserve training. Patty had been all set to enter the University Of Alabama School Of Nursing when Daddy told her she was going to Idaho with the family.   I overhear Mother tell Mrs Cosby that it was a wonder she and Tommy hadn’t skipped over the nearby state line to Mississippi where the legal marriage age was 15.

Nancy came out of the bathroom, wrinkled her nose and mimicked me by mouthing “Happy Birthday” to Patty’s receding back.  Our family had lots of birthdays close together.  Nancy had just turned 12 in August.   She still wore her reddish, blond hair in ringlets, or more accurately this morning, in rats’ nests.  She was dressed in green shorts and a cropped top with little flowers on it.

“I’ve got a lot to do today.  You’d better stay out of my way,” she hissed at me as we passed in the hall.

I stuck out my tongue at her and scooted into my parent’s bedroom where Daddy was already disassembling my crib using a screwdriver and crescent wrench.

“Good, here’s my helper.  You hold these when I give them to you,” He dropped several pieces of cool, dark metal into my hand. “Screw the nuts onto the bolts so they don’t get lost.”

I was proud to have such an important job.  Daddy said if I lost one, my crib wouldn’t stay together when we got to Idaho.  I held them tightly until he was finished.  He took them from me then counted them.

“Are they all here?”

“Yes sir. I was very careful.”

He put them in a little bag that he tied to the crib frame with strong jute string.

“When will the men be back to get the rest of our things?”

“In a little bit.  If you promise to stay on the porch and not wander off, you can go sit on the front steps and watch for them.  You come tell me as soon as they get here.”

While waiting for the moving van from my perch on the front steps, I saw Tommy’s car turn the corner and pull up in front of our house.

To be continued…





Maggie and Moseby, Part Two

Part Two

Maggie was perfectly content being an only cat.  She had her choice of the fine perches in the best windows.  She had her own dish and clean water bowl with no other cat to gross out when she stuck her feet in.  There was a spot in the sunshine on the front porch just for her.  The dust bath, hers alone.  Best of all was the warm air vent in the kitchen.  It was her ultimate luxury. When the furnace was on, she would press up against it and writhe in ecstasy.  When I went to bed, there was her solo spot by my feet in warm weather and by my back in cold. Maggie went in and out and in and out on demand.  If she wanted cat company, she could go next door to visit Grace’s indoor cat Phoebe, through the window. Most importantly, she could ignore me completely and not worry about some other cat getting held or petted instead of her.

I didn’t see all this cat contentment.  I saw what I wanted to see.  I thought that since I was gone all day and often in the evening, Maggie must surely be lonely.  I knew just the thing for her, another cat.  I was wrong.

Maggie was not pleased when I found Moseby in the free ads and brought him home. Like Maggie he was already neutered.  He came from a family with a new baby.  A gray tabby weighing in at over 12 pounds, Mose was a big guy.  Compared to Maggie, a giant.  When I brought him home and let him out of the carrier, he bolted for the basement door like he knew where he was going.  He hid out in the basement for three days before putting in an appearance upstairs again.  I didn’t search for him.

From the beginning it was obvious that Mose fancied himself a lap cat. At that 12 pounds in the summer and more in the winter, he was a lap full.  It was hard to read or knit with him draped across my lap.  There was no place for book or yarn.

Cautious, maybe even a little cowardly, Mose didn’t seek confrontation so Maggie worked her will on him from the beginning.  She was a lot smaller than he, so she had to use her wits.  Since she was a lot smarter, the contest evened out, like the time she got even with him for taking her spot in the bathroom. Maggie had the custom of accompanying me to the bathroom every morning and sitting on the edge of the tub.

Like many cats, Maggie was fascinated by water.  She would bat at the stream coming from the faucet as the tub filled.  She also enjoyed standing in the bottom of tub retreating as the water rose and approached her feet.

Not long after Mose moved in, he began joining us in the bathroom.  Much to Maggie’s disgust, he usurped her place on the edge of the tub.  One morning, Mose was late arriving for the morning ablutions.  I was already in the tub.  Maggie was in her old spot on the edge.  Mose came in a jumped up next to Maggie.  There was enough room for two to sit comfortably, but like kids who can’t share the back seat of the car, Maggie left when Mose arrived.  This particular morning, she jumped off in disgust and went over to sit on the scales. As she sat, she stared at Mose.  Then I saw a gleam in her eye.  Before I could react, she launched herself and rammed the unsuspecting Mose right in the side, unseating him and dumping him into the tub.  He and I shot up from the water. I was as frantically trying to protect myself as he was trying to find something dry to land on to get out of the water.  Water flew.  I yelled. Mose yowled. Chaos reigned. Maggie smugly watched, then tail held high, walked sedately out of the room.






Maggie and Moseby


Part One

For the first time in my life, I was living alone. I was 44 years old.  Living alone was lonely and scary but, once I got used to the solitude, I enjoyed it. Even so, there were times I missed having another beating heart around.  I determined that once I owned my own house, I would get a low maintenance presence to talk to.

Finally, I bought a house.  Once I settled in, I decided the time had come to get a cat.  When I checked the “Free” section of the classifieds in the Capital Journal, I found an ad which read, “Free cat to good home. Two year old black and white female, neutered, declawed.”  I called. The family who owned her had two toddlers and they were moving. Two good reasons to get rid of what a harried mother saw as just another mouth to feed, yet another mess to clean up. I took my own kids, who were visiting for the weekend, along to check out the cat. We all approved, so we brought her home and named her Maggie.

In keeping with typical cat coping behavior, Maggie overwhelmed by the new surroundings, disappeared as soon as she was set free in the house.  That evening before I went to bed, I decided to find her to make sure she was okay.  It was then I discovered I was losing my mind.  I looked everywhere a cat could possibly hide.  I moved furniture, peered up the chimney, and rattled the windows and screens to make sure she hadn’t slipped through one.  I opened closed doors, closets and drawers.  I called, “Kitty, kitty, kitty,” the whole time. I found no cat.  I looked, then looked every place again, carefully poking and tipping, sliding and feeling.  I listened for purring and the very soft thud of cat feet.  I heard neither.  She wasn’t there.  She wasn’t anywhere.

Had I really gotten a cat? I thought I had.  My kids had gone, so I couldn’t check with them. She’d vanished.  Where had she found to hide without a trace?  I checked the entire house again.  No cat. Impossible.  I was really, really beginning to wonder if I had rounded the bend and lost it this time.  ­­There was no trace of a cat except for the food, water and litter pan I put out.  I must have imagined her. Living alone was getting to me.  There’s a word for imaginings so real, but I wasn’t going there.  Instead of worrying any longer, I went to bed to sleep on my dilemma.

About 2AM I awakened to a scratching and rustling very close to me. My bed was directly under a large open window.  I froze, barely daring to breathe.  I listened hard.  The noise came from inside the room.  I lay very still.  Rustle, rustle, rustle.  Then the sound of fabric tearing and a thud. A small thud like a small cat would make when landing.

I turned on my bedside lamp.  Out from beneath the bed, where I had looked at least three or four times, strolled Maggie. I jumped up and got down on the floor to peer under the bed, fully expecting to see a secret cat trap door slamming shut.  Instead, I saw a corner of the dust cover on the box springs hanging down.  That must have been the tearing fabric I heard.  Maggie had discovered a small opening and crawled in  to hide until she felt safe enough to come out.

I picked her up and stroked her.  I felt like I held my restored sanity.


To be continued…


The Last Canyon


We were headed home from a week in southern Utah where we had spent many hours hiking and ohing and ahing at many canyons and formations.  We stopped to get gas and to grab a quick lunch at a sub and pizza shop.  As we were starting to eat, an unusual looking man came in and went to the counter to place his order.


Don’t look.

I’ve already seen it and I’m trying not to.


Oh, no. Now what’s he doing?

Jeez, how gross.

Has he finished ordering yet?

Now what?

He’s filling out a contest form?

Oh, ick. Hurry up. Can’t you write faster?

Oh good.  Here comes a cop. Maybe he’ll say something to him.

I can’t believe it.  He hasn’t said a thing to him. If that’s not indecent exposure….

He’s not going to do anything.  Probably doesn’t want to do the paperwork.

Or he doesn’t think anything of it.

Gross. Pull up your pants.


I don’t care if he hears me.  He’s the one who should be embarrassed.

Why do they do that? It can’t be comfortable having your ass hanging out like that. I can’t imagine a woman doing that and not caring.  Ever heard of working woman’s crack?

Yeah, they call it cleavage.

Oh, yeah. And guys break their necks to get a better view.  Can you imagine wanting a better view of that?


Oh, good.  He’s sitting down.


Can you imagine showing off your cleavage if it was covered with pimples and sprouting pubic hairs?

Please.  I’m trying to eat.

If cleavages looked like that, sexual harassment would come to a screeching halt.

No joke.

Well, I can tell you this.  I hope that’s the last canyon like that I see for a good long time.

Me too.

You finished?

Yeah, let’s go.