This Place That We Call Home - Part V by Nat Self


Night Noises
Mom could not sleep well with Dad working all night. The least noise disturbed her as she lay listening. This began early in their marriage, so Dad bought a pearl handle .38 special and taught her to use it during target practice. She kept the loaded six-shooter in a lamp table drawer near her bed at night while Dad was away.

One night all of us children were in bed asleep. Sometime during the cold night Mom, who had been awake for no telling how long, thought she heard a noise at the back of our house. With a nightlight on in the back room, she tiptoed to the back door with the pistol in hand. She shouted, “Who’s there, who is it?”

Receiving no response she turned the light out and strained her eyes looking through a window to see if she could see anyone or anything. Seeing and hearing nothing, she turned the light on and shouted again, “Who are you?”
There was no answer. Mom cocked the pistol and cracked opened the door. She neither saw nor heard anything. Pointing the pistol skyward, she squeezed the trigger two or three times. Then she locked the door and went to bed.

Well Water
During a bright spring cloudless day during 1930, Mom removed two empty water buckets from the shelf and instructed us to listen to the phonograph while she went to the well. Placing the buckets on the floor, she raised the top of the phonograph and positioned a large round, flat, black, grooved record on the felt turntable. Then she wound up the turntable spring with an attached crank and lowered the arm, placing the phonograph needle in the first groove on the record. Looking at Judy, she instructed her to turn over the record after the first side had finished playing.

The phonograph began playing “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain When She Comes.” I asked Mom if I could go with her, and she handed me a small bucket. We walked down the porch steps with Bulger at our side. Several older boys, who were eight, ten and twelve years old, were playing baseball on the rough ground in front of our house. One of them shouted, “Chunk it over the plate!” When the batter hit the ball, everyone started running in all directions as I stood there watching. Ed Still, the umpire tried to impress the others with a big word by shouting, “You’re auto-tomatically out!”

All of the boys started fussing, some saying that the runner wasn’t out, while others said that he was. One of them threw his glove to the ground shouting, “I quit. I ain’t a-gonna play eny more!”

I walked with Mom about 250 feet to the community well. She removed the wooden plug from the well pipe that protected the water from foreign matter, and then she lifted the slim three-foot-long well bucket from a large nail in the weathered well housing.

The bucket was secured to one end of a rope that looped up and over a pulley attached to the top of the well structure and then secured to and wound around a solid wooden horizontal barrel that had been fashioned into a windlass. While the weight of the well bucket lowered it down the pipe, rope spun off the humming wooden drum with the free-spinning metal crank becoming a blur. When the well bucket hit water, the windlass stopped, and the bucket filled with water. Mom drew enough water to fill her two buckets and mine, and then she hung the well bucket on the nail and replaced the wooden stopper in the well pipe.
House Play

Before we arrived at our front yard with the filled water buckets, I heard the phonograph playing what sounded like the “Charleston.” We walked into the front room where Judy and Orlane were trying to dance. Mom placed her two water buckets on the floor and put her hands on her hips. In her direct Spartan style she declared, “You girls stop dancing this minute. That’s the work of the ol’ bogeyman!”

“Mom,” Judy explained, “we’re practicing a play that we’re going to put on.”
“I want to play,” I whined.

“Who pulled your chain little brother?” Judy snapped. “This is a play of highfalutin’ movie stars, not games.”

Mom instructed Judy to hold her tongue while she considered whether or not to allow the dancing to continue. “Very well,” she replied. “If you’re working on a play for the family to see, I suppose it’ll be all right.”
Wanting some attention, I pleaded, “I want to hear the “Little Red Rooster.”
Judy placed the “Little Red Rooster” record on the turntable and played it for me. Then, she motioned for Orlane and me to follow her to the front porch. She whispered to us, “We’re going to put on a play and make some money.” Orlane and I sidled up closer to hear more. “I’m going to be the movie star in the play,” Judy explained.
Orlane protested, “I want to be a movie star.”

Judy responded, “No, I’m the oldest one. I’ll be the movie star.” She led us back into the front room and closed all the doors. After applying some of Mom’s makeup, she put on one of Mom’s hats and gave one to Orlane. Then she removed two pairs of Mom’s dress slippers from the chifforobe and gave one pair to Orlane. “I’m going to be behind this chifforobe,” Judy explained as she rolled one side of it away from the wall.

She took Orlane by the arm and led her to where she said was the center of the stage. “Now you stand right here and be sure to talk proper when you introduce me,” Judy instructed Orlane.
“What do I say?” questioned Orlane.

Judy responded. “You say real loud, ‘Here is the most beautiful movie star in the whole wide world, Mrs. Judy Lumbard.’ I’ll come out from behind the chifforobe, turn on the phonograph, and do a dance.”
By now I was getting concerned about my part in the play. “What do I do?” I asked.
Judy had an answer. She took one of Dad’s hats from the chifforobe and plopped it on my head. “There now, you’re the ticket seller,” she said.

“I can’t see,” I complained.
Judy crumpled up a sheet of newspaper, stuffed it in the hat, and placed it back on my head. Tearing two small pieces of paper from the edge of a newspaper she marked ten cents on one and five cents on the other one. She handed the two pieces of paper to me saying, “Here, sell these tickets to Mom. The play is going to start in a few minutes.”
Mom was busy in the kitchen when I walked in with Dad’s hat on the back of my head. She looked at me and asked, “Do I know you young fellow?”

“I’m the ticket seller for the play,” I answered.
Mom questioned, “What time does the play start?”
I gestured toward the front room and responded, “The play is ready to start. Here are two tickets for you and Melton.”
I handed the two tickets to her. She took them and read the price on each one. She washed her hands in the wash pan, gave me fifteen cents for the tickets, and told me to wake up Melton, who was asleep in the other front room.

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