When I was just a small boy, my mother and I moved in with her parents. They were elderly and granddad had what was called ‘hardening of the arteries.’ It affected his thinking. He got mad and came after my gram with a butcher knife. They needed help.
Now his other daughter lived next door with her family. But they couldn’t be there all the time, my mom had divorced my finagaling dad and so it was a way good for all of us. Momma allus had a hard life from a girl. She just kept a smile on and kept going.
Iowa winters can be some cold, now. And we were right poor. Although, as a young boy of 6 or 7, it didn’t seem that way. Our house was old and right primitive by today’s standards.
We had electricity all right, but our running water was me running over to my aunts house with a bucket! She had a spigot on the side of the house for us. Their water came from a cistern. I’d run the water back home and pour it into an old butter crock. We drank from a dipper on the side.
Our bathroom was a stand in the kitchen, where the crock and basin sat. My fold down rollaway bed would be on the other side of the room as I got older. But as a child, I slept on the fold out davenport with my momma in the front room. The one bedroom was for my grandparents.
We had an old outhouse out back. But on cold nights, we had a metal five gallon bucket in the kitchen/bathroom. Pine Sol was added and a rug put on top until morning, when it was emptied. That kept the smell down some.
At Halloween, often the bigger boys would tip our outhouse over, making it pretty beat up. My uncle had finally had enough. One Halloween day he moved it ahead about three feet. That night there was a squalling and cussing going on when they tried to tip it over! Yep, their night ended right soon.
I remember the old windows in the kitchen was right loose. Momma would push newspaper in the cracks around the window and them trim it off with scissors. We also used a lot of rope caulk. The other windows had glass screens and the ones what didn’t, we put plastic on them, with cardboard strips tacked around them. It worked fairly well. We had a big oil tank that ran our one heater in the front room.
Funny, ain’t it? You don’t know you was poor until you get old. We got ADC (aid for dependent children) for me, my granddads railroad pension and social security. Even as a kid, I remembered that if his pension went up a dollar, the Social security would take a dollar away. They just wouldn’t let you get ahead no way.
A whole mess of years has gone by. I’m gonna be 69 in a tidy bit. It was good to be poor. I taught me to be grateful. To be appreciative. And to tote my own tote. Lessons that don’t be always taught except by living through some things.
I live in the south now, NE M’sippi. It’s a little ‘Mayberry’ kinda town. It suits my shoes right fine. I got four country acres and even running water and a flush toilet! How ‘bout that? I truly am a blessed man.