Posts Tagged ‘Tucker Days Remembered.com’


Just read a story in the Lincoln Journal about disappearing sites in Georgia, such as smokehouses. According to Tom Poland, not many smokehouses left. Indeed another disappearing Southern tradition, one likely unknown by the youth of today.

I do remember a smokehouse, impossible to forget. If I walked from my house on Morgan Road in Tucker, Georgia, to our mailbox, look across the street about ten yards, between the road and the Leake’s barn, there sat a small building atop rocks. As Mr. Poland described, the building was dark and if by chance close enough, a hint of a sweet smoke lingered in the planks.

That smokehouse (called the meat house by the owner Mrs. Leake) had not be used in years. But when I was about six years old, I made good use of that oversized “doll’s house,” much to my regret.

I was of a runt of a kid with a curious experimental nature whose mind raced from one thing to another.  By today’s standards I would have been labeled ADD simply because I could not sit still. Taking a nap (much more needed by my mother) was low on my list.

One autumn day during nap time, I slipped out of the house (quietly so Mama could not hear) and found my good friend, Ricky Westbrooks, who lived up one house across the street. As it turned out, Ricky had some firecrackers he “found in Jimmy’s room” and I just happened to have a few matches on me. We quickly put our heads together and came up with a plan. We ran around to the back of the Westbrook’s stand-alone garage, the one his older brother, Jimmy, built as a Tucker High shop project. There we set our plan into action.

We knew what to do, but not who was going to do what. I offered to hold the long string of firecrackers and let Ricky strike the match. His freckled face broke out into a sweat while looking at the matches, so I offered to strike the match and he held the firecrackers. When the flame touched the fuse, just ever so slightly, it raced toward Ricky’s hand. He was not prepared. Startled, he threw the flaming firecrackers up against the garage. They bounced off the wooden garage and landed in a pile of dried leaves which took to flames as soon as the loud popping started.

It was time to split.

Where to go?

With all the noise and screaming going on, no one knows at a time like that. As I ran past the William’s house I spotted the smokehouse. I wanted to cross the street and slip back into my house, but it was like a four alarm (actually it was a two alarm) with neighbors pouring out of their houses and that included Mama. I did not want to run into her so I tugged on the smokehouse door as I had seen Jackie Leake do so often. There I stood in the smokehouse. I shut myself in and turned around and around thinking, what to do, what to do?

The smokehouse was empty save a few yard rakes. In the far right corner was a high up cabinet based from the floor. That’d do. I could get up there and pretend to be stuck. I climbed without success numerous times, but when the fire trucks buzzed by with sirens blazing, the adrenaline kicked in and I made it to the top. There I sat for the duration waiting to be found.

I cannot tell you the torture I endured. It seemed forever before Jackie Leake opened the door and yelled, “She’s in here!”

Almost immediately, I was face to face with Mama. She grabbed me and held me tight. Then she sat me down and made me look into her eyes.

“Diane, what are you doing in here? We’ve been looking for you everywhere! Why didn’t you answer when you heard your name? I thought you burned up in that fire!”

Now, I was old enough to know better than to lie to my mother, but this seemed like an exception.

“I heard a bird crying in here and wanted to rescue it, so I forced open the door. I climbed up on the cabinet and then couldn’t get down.”

“Bird crying?”

“Yes, it was crying and …”

“No such thing as a bird crying, Diane!”

About that time, Tom Story showed up. Thank goodness, a gentle soul who looked for the good in his daughters.

“Well, now Helen, she could of heard a bird in distress and came in to …”

“No such thing Tom! Diane,” she focused her attention back to me, “Young lady, I will snatch a knot in your tail if you lie to me! Where is the bird now?”

“When Jackie opened the door, it flew out.”

Tall Jackie Leake shrugged his shoulder. He hadn’t seen a bird.

“How can you hear a bird cry and not the whole neighborhood calling your name?”

“I did answer. I guess you didn’t hear me.”

I tried to change the subject.

“What’s going on out there? I thought I heard a firetruck.”

Mama’s big brown eyes would not let me go.

“You heard two firetrucks! The Westbrook’s garage burnt down to the ground. Do you know anything about it?”

“Well no, I’ve been in here the whole time. I was stuck up there,” pointing to the cabinet, “Jackie got me down.”

“Young lady, do not lie to me …”

“Now Helen, she could be telling the truth. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt until we know what really happened.”

“Tom, look at her face! You know she’s not telling the truth!”

“Now, now Helen, we don’t know. And you know how she loves birds, always drawing them …”

My father was a lovely man who looked upon his three little girls as precious gems born to be admired. But Mama was the realist in the family and the truth and nothing but the truth was all she wanted, especially today.

So here goes.

“Mama, I’m telling you the truth. A bird was crying …”

“What color was that bird, Diane?”

“Uh, well it was a bluish color.”

“Bluish?”

“Yes ma’am bluish, and it was crying so bad, I just had to help it. I know I should’ve gone for help but …”

I could go on and on with this story and tell you all the nonsense I said that day, but the truth caught up to me while standing in the middle of that smokehouse, wishing and a praying for a sign of a bird. I studied the rafters looking for an old nest, a feather – anything.

The truth showed up in the form of Jimmy Westbrooks. Ricky came clean.

Mama was true to her words, that is about snatching a knot. She did her best to cure me of lying, just like they cured hams in that smokehouse; she put the heat to me. It was there, while smelling the lingering scent of hams cured from yesteryear, that I learned the most important lesson of my life: Never lie to Mama.

Note:

To read more about disappearing Southern traditions: Author Tom Poland, journalist for the Lincoln Journal. Latest book, Georgialina A Southland As We Knew It, the University of South Carolina Press.

The Morgan Road smokehouse was built by Mr. Henry, the original property owner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daddy with the three sisters Diane, Patricia and Barbara

“I don’t want to stay here,” I pleaded with my father.

“We’ll see what the doctor says,” he said as he tried to console me.

Even though I was just seven years old, I knew Daddy was placating me as he looked around the over-crowded waiting room. I sat on a bench crunched up as close to Daddy as possible. Mama was in and out of the room. She was busy filling out papers and answering questions. Both seemed upset, but tried hard to appear removed from the grief in their eyes. I tried to be still, but fidgeted as any small child in such an atmosphere. The anxiety rose to a breaking point.

“I want to go home now! Please, Daddy, take me home! I’ve already seen two doctors and I don’t want to see another one!”

“Well, Donnie,” Daddy said, “the doctors may decide to let you go home…”

“If they don’t, you’ll stay with me, won’t you?”

“I would if I could, but I can’t. You know that I have to work.”

“What about Mama? Will she stay with me?”

Daddy took a deep breath and bit back his tears as he answered, “No, Donnie. You know she can’t.” My father rubbed his throat as though it ached, “She has to look after your sisters, at home.”

“I’m not staying here. I promise you, I will not stay here, especially alone,” I warned Daddy as my voice broke. I continued to negotiate with Daddy with questions and threats. I came up with every reason in the world to go home. The doctors and the nurses were too slow, not to mention, they were strangers. What happened to not speaking to strangers? And they couldn’t even get blood out of my arm. The doctor had to be called and he took it out of my leg! The hospital was too big. I could get lost or operated on by accident. And the hospital is in Atlanta for heaven’s sake! Atlanta is a big place! Still, nothing I said moved Daddy. He stared straight ahead not responding. As a slightly bloody gurney rolled by, I asked, “What if the sheets are dirty? Will you make me stay in a big hospital in downtown Atlanta – alone – on dirty sheets? Will you leave me here Daddy?”

“No, Donnie I won’t leave you here if the bed has dirty sheets.”

“You’ll take me home?”

“Yes,” he struggled with the words, “I’ll take you home.”

That’s it. I had it, a plan. I closed my eyes and silently prayed in earnest, “Dear God in Heaven, let this place have dirty sheets, in every room, on every bed. Please God, let there be dirty sheets!” I crossed my fingers, toes and legs for good luck.

Daddy gently touched my shoulder to interrupt my prayer. When I opened my eyes, I saw a nice man kneeling before me. The man waited for our eyes to meet, and then he smiled at me – with a big huge smile. He then reached into a large bag and pulled out a brand new doll wrapped thinly in white tissue paper, so thin I could see the doll’s face. The nice man handed the doll to me.

“Here, she’s yours, all for you.”

I hesitated and looked up at Daddy. He gave me the okay look and I accepted the gift. “What’s your name?” asked the young man.

“Donnie.”

“Donnie? That’s an unusual name for a lovely lady like you.”
“My real name is Diane. Donnie is my nickname,” I explained timidly. We smiled at each other for a moment. He patted my head and shook Daddy’s hand. Daddy did not speak, but nodded thank you to the man. The man then moved on looking about the room for another child. I watched him for a few minutes and then decided to look at my new gift. I held my new treasure close to my chest. I felt a little guilty that my two sisters at home did not get a new doll too. We always got things together. I hesitated about tearing the paper away.

Daddy finally found his voice, although it sounded a little strained, “Go ahead, Donnie, open your gift. See what that nice man gave you. Go ahead, open it,” encouraged my father.

Reluctantly I tore away the tissue paper to expose her face. The doll looked just like me with short dark hair and blue eyes. She seemed to smile at me. Her smile was contagious, and I could not help but smile back at her. For a moment I forgot about the doctors, blood tests and the worrisome thought of spending the night alone in a strange place so far from home. I forgot, that is, until I looked up and saw Mama. As she walked closer, I realized the man pushing a wheelchair was with her.

They put me in the wheelchair, and pushed me to the elevator, and then down a long corridor. I held my new doll tightly, and prayed silently – eyes wide open – all the way, “Please dear God, let the bed have dirty sheets. Please, let me go home. My Daddy won’t leave me here on dirty sheets. He promised to take me home if they’re dirty. He won’t leave me! He won’t! I want to go home, please, let the sheets be dirty. Please Daddy! Take me home!” And then the wheelchair stopped.

Daddy spoke first, “Wait a minute, Helen. I want to take a look at those sheets.” He examined the bedding. Daddy  did not look at me when he approached me. He just bent down and picked me up in his strong arms. He set me on the bed. Mama dressed me in a hospital gown. Daddy walked about the room examining everything.

“You see Donnie? You see how clean everything is?”  Daddy tried to reassure me, all the while, making sure our eyes did not meet.

“Yes sir,” I answered in a faint whisper.

“That’s right, everything is nice and clean here,” Mama agreed, “and the nurses will take good care of you. Get a good night’s sleep, and I’ll be back some time tomorrow – as soon as Pheobe can come over and stay with your sisters.”

“What about Daddy?”

“Daddy has to work tomorrow. He’ll drop me off and then come back. When he picks me up later in the day, and you can visit then. Isn’t that right, Tom?”

Daddy nodded yes. He didn’t speak. Mama took over, “now, say your prayers like a good girl.”
I choked back my tears, bowed my head as I struggled to find my voice, “Loving Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child. Make me gentle as Thou art, come and live within my heart. Amen.”

I wanted to cry out and beg. I wanted to throw a fit and demand, but I knew none of those tactics were of any use. I was defeated. My throat ached as I silently accepted my fate. Mama and Daddy gently covered me up to the chin with a blanket. They kissed me good-night and good-bye. I was a big girl; I did not cry when they left me. As I lied there alone in the dimly lit room, I longed for my home in Tucker. I wanted my sisters, Patricia and Barbara.

The only one to hear my late night sobs was my new doll. She was my best friend that night, and stayed with me throughout my two week stay at the hospital. I returned to the hospital frequently throughout the next four years, and my special doll always accompanied me. I grew up and outgrew my heart condition. Forty-five years later, in 2000, I returned to another childrens hospital in Atlanta – this time as an aunt.

Emilee and Kate Story

Sisters Emilee and Kate Story

My dear sweet two year old niece, Kate, suffered a brain tumor. Kate faced surgery and more than a long year of chemotherapy, radiation, transfusions and morphine. Kate did not like being in the hospital. She longed for her home in Tucker. She wanted her sister, Emilee. Early into her diagnosis, Kate received treatment in the community room of the hospital. There she was entertained by a group of actors. Kate especially loved the dragon-lady, and had her picture made with the lovely green creature.  Kate admires that photo often. No matter how Kate feels, that photo always brings forth a genuine smile. And though Kate returned to the hospital frequently for treatment, she did not cry. As her parents carried her down the long corridors, her only question was, “Ma-Ma, Da-Da, where is the dragon-lady?”

May God bless all hospital volunteers!

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