story by Frank Hughes
Folks did ya ever just lay there in your bed and listen? Now I’m one of the all time worst listeners, I’d rather be yakk’n!
But let me tell ya somethin. When I was a little fella, just sprout’n up, and it was too hot ta sleep … well I’d listen! August in Oklahoma! Folks it was so hot today that the tar in the cracks of the road had done melt’d. I know it had, cause I’d been chew’n it like gum for most of the day! Now I wouldn’t recommend chew’n road tar as an everyday activity, but in a pinch it makes a purty good chew. Once ya get over the taste … it ain’t half bad! The road tar today had a funny twang to it. I think I seen Elvoy and his team of mules pass’n by this morn’n … they may have added a little flavor’n to the tar!
Well I’m lay’n here in bed and sweat’n up a puddle. Momma has done wet down the sheets three or four times with her sprinkl’r bottle, try’n ta cool me and my little brother off some! That sprinkl’r bottle would have done the job too if we’d had some kind of breeze. Sprinkl’r bottle … now that’s somethin ya don’t never see no more. For you uneducat’d folks I’d better explain what I’m tell’n ya. A sprinkl’r bottle was just an ol ordinary soda pop bottle fill’d with well water. It had a special cork stuck in the fill’r up hole. That cork had some holes drill’d in it so’s when ya shook the bottle upsey side down some of that there well water would sprinkle out! Ladies used em for a lot of little jobs, but mostly they was used ta sprinkle clothes and dampen em a mite before the iron’n start’d.
Tuesday was iron’n day, Monday was wash day, and the rest of the days was chas’n me around the Ol House with a switch day! Or at least that’s the way it seem’d ta me … ! Now how in the world did I get plum off the subject of listen’n and end up tell’n you all about iron’n … my little pea brain just runs away with itself sometimes! Well like I was tell’n ya, I was just listen’n. Mostly all I was hear’n was, The Ol House! Now I knows what you’re think’n … How in the world do you listen to a house!
Heckfire, that’s the easy part. The Ol House talks ta ya! Just listen in real good and she’ll start ta groan’n and squeak’n. Sounds kind of like Grandpa gett’n up in the morn’n. Ever so often you’ll hear a real fine crack’n noise, and if’n you ain’t on your toes it might startle ya a bit. If ya listen real good the ol house will tell ya most of her secrets. I wouldn’t give ya a plug nickel ta listen to a new house! They don’t tell ya noth’n.
But an ol house will tell ya plenty, even if you ain’t a good listener. If ya walk into the kitchen you might see some funny look’n pencil marks on the wood trim. Heck … that’s where they measur’d the kids, ta make sure you was grow’n up! Momma and Daddy was try’n ta get ya grow’d … so they could get ya out of the Ol House! And look real close at them linoleum floors in the kitchen. They was plum wore out from Momma walk’n around on em. Bak’n and cook’n a million meals … and I’m sure some of them wore out places was put there by Mommas knees. Back then a lot of them Mommas spent considerable time down on their knees. Not only scrubb’n them floors, but pray’n for most everything under the sun.
Heckfire, I can remember Momma pray’n for our dog! Happy had been run over by a truck, he was in bad shape. We never had no money for no dog vet, so Momma just start’d pray’n over the dog … just like he was normal folks. It didn’t look too promis’n for Happy, but the next morn’n he was stand’n on the front porch wagg’n his tail and look’n downright … … well, Happy!
In the winter the Ol House would be talk’n up a storm. It would be cold outside … but we had the gas stoves roar’n. We never had none of that there central heat. We had an open flame gas stove blaz’n in the liv’n room and one in the dine’n room. They work’d real good as long as ya didn’t get no more than three feet away from em! But at night the Ol House would be tell’n ya things. The ol rafters would be settl’n and mov’n real good … tell’n all about the big sing’n the church was plan’n. Church sing’ns was always special. Folks would come from far and near. I’m here ta tell ya, some of them people could sing! And then there was always a few of em who only thought they could sing. I was one of that latter bunch! Now I know’d I couldn’t sing worth a hoot … but I also know’d I could holler with the best of em, so I figger’d I’d just holler real loud and hope for the best!
Now Ol Jess Stacy, that fella was a sing’r. Ol Jess sang bass. I know for a fact that Ol Jess’s voice must have start’d out somewhere around his big toe. He could sing so low that the farmers around town would have ta keep a sharp eye on their heifers or they’d all be head’n for the Grace Church look’n ta find that fine sound’n bull! The Bible says ta make a joyous noise, but I’m here ta tell ya I prob’ly never did spread much joy! My big sister could sing, my little brother was purty good at hold’n a tune. Me … I was just “LOUD”!
Now I ain’t above visit’n a new house. I was in one here awhile back … I knew right off, I was in the wrong place. This house wasn’t gonna do no talk’n! I walk’d up to the front door … Heckfire, it never had no porch! The front yard prob’ly kept Jose and Pedro’s families well fed. There weren’t a weed in sight! Shoot, if it weren’t for weeds … I wouldn’t have a green spot on my place! I walk’d in the front door and was scarit ta death. I just knew I was gonna break somethin! The house was purfect … ! Me and WhoaWhoa could of put up a winters worth of hay in their front room. I didn’t see no wallpaper peel’n, no linoleum, no pencil marks on the wood trim … it just didn’t feel right. My wife said the place was worth about a zillion dollars. I tell ya the house sparkl’d! I want’d ta look out back, but decid’d agin it.
The backyard I know’d would have been pissteen! Our Ol House had a big ol bare spot right in the middle of the yard. That’s where the basketball goal was. We had wore the weeds plum down to the dirt. I think a neighbor said somethin to Dad one time about that bare spot in the backyard. He told my Dad that as long as we were play’n ball back there that he’d never be able to grow any grass. Dad told him, “Junior I ain’t try’n ta grow grass … I’m grow’n kids!” Junior never had no kids. He liv’d with his sister and had a real purty yard, but I kinda think Dad’s way was for the best!
So folks the next time ya pass by an Ol House that looks like it’s seen better days. Maybe the roof is sagg’n a little or the place could use a good paint’n, well just remember what I told ya. I’ve even heard folks say, “If only these walls could talk!” Heckfire, they do talk. I know for a fact they do. All ya have ta do is curl up in bed late at night. Have your Momma come by a few times and sprinkle your sheets, or pull them heavy blankets up around your chin in the winter and listen … ! The Ol House can tell ya more memories than your poor little head can handle. All ya need do is listen … to an Ol House!
originally posted on Frank’s Facebook Notes on Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 4:55pm
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