Tales of swimming holes and rebukin’ sticks

Published 10:55 pm Friday, July 22, 2011

Daddy came flying in the backdoor and tore through the house and came back with his shotgun.

“Where’re you going with that gun?” Mama asked in a high voice.

Daddy said a bunch of the mill hands were swimming in the fishpond and Mamie Lee was right in the middle of them.

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Mamie Lee helped Mama keep my baby brother. I wished that she would take him and keep him for good. All he did was squall and wet his diapers. But everybody said he was “soooo cute” just because Mama wrapped his little bit of hair around her finger and made a curl on top of his head.

“I’ve told them and told them to stay out of the pond,” Daddy said about the mill hands. “This will get them out.”

“Are you goin’ to shoot ’em, Daddy? Are you going to shoot Mamie Lee?”

Daddy was already climbing back in the truck. I ran and jumped on the running board and climbed in headfirst through the open window.

“You can go if you don’t holler out,” Daddy said.

When we were riding out in the country and Daddy would see a rabbit hopping across the road, he would shoot it. I didn’t like that. Sometimes I’d holler out and scared the rabbit so it wouldn’t be a stew. Daddy didn’t like that.

Daddy didn’t drive down close to the fishpond. He stopped back in the hardwood grove and got out. I slid up and sat in the open window so I could see good.

The mill hands were having a good time, splashing in the water and laughing until Daddy shot that gun up in the air and scared the daylights out of them. They screamed and hollered and came splashing out of the fishpond. Then, they scattered like rabbits, running in the woods in all different directions. I didn’t know if we would ever see Mamie Lee again. I didn’t know she could run so fast.

Daddy shot a few more warning shots, he called them, before he got back in the truck.

“Why’d you do that, Daddy? Why did you? How come?’

I was good at asking questions.

Daddy said that the fishpond was full of water moccasins and, if one bit you, you’d die before anybody could get you to the doctor.

I knew the fishpond was full of water moccasins because I went fishing with my grandmother all the time. Those ol’ snakes would come slicing through the water right at us but Mommie would just slap at them with her fishing pole and drive them back.

“Instruments of the devil” was what my other granny called snakes. “Just rebuke them and they’ll go away.”

The next morning Mamie Lee came to keep my baby brother and she said Daddy just about scared all of them to death. They thought somebody was trying to shoot them like ducks on the water.

Mama told Mamie that Daddy didn’t want them to get snake bitten and die.

“I was havin’ the best time I ever had,” Mamie said and she sounded real sad that she wouldn’t be going swimming anymore. At least, not when Daddy was around.

Well, I wasn’t sure that I’d had the best time I’d ever had and I wanted to have it. I wanted to go swimming in the pond and have it. Betty Kay wanted to have her best time, too.

So, off we went dragging a rebuking stick along. We weren’t scared of any ol’ water moccasins. If one came after us, we’d slap the water and rebuke him away.

We were having a real good time splashing around in the fishpond “shallows,” as my granny called them, when, all of a sudden, somebody yelled for us to get ourselves out of that water.

It was Pink, an old man that lived on my granddaddy’s place and looked after the cows.

“Get outta there!” he kept yelling as he came stumbling down the bank. “Get out! Get! Get!”

Pink was hoppin’ mad and I couldn’t get out of that water fast enough.

He said he was taking me home to Mama. Betty Kay took off running from him.

Pink grabbed hold of my ear and held on to it all the way to the house. It hurt.

But not as much as when Mama got through with me with the rebuking switch she kept on the top of the refrigerator all the time.

That was the worst rebukin’ I ever got and I’m waiting still for the best time I ever had.