A trip behind the bus

Published 11:00 pm Friday, November 16, 2012

My granddaddy was a fantastic storyteller but he told the same story over and over and over. But, not one time did any of us say, “Pop, you’ve already told us that story.”

But my children do not afford me that courtesy.

“Mama, you’ve already told that story a dozen times.’”

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At the risk of having told this story before, I’m going to go ahead and tell it.

Standing in Perrie Sylvester McCartha’s syrup shack the other day, my thoughts went back to a real bad, public “whuppin’” I got on account of my thirst for cane juice.

Growing up, we didn’t have but one car. Nobody I knew had more than one car.

So, when Mama decided for us to go visit my aunt and grandmother in Eufaula, either Aunt Eleanor would come and get us on her one car or we would ride the Greyhound bus.

I liked riding the Greyhound bus better because Mr. Jack Knight was the bus driver. Sometimes he would let me sit on his lap and drive the bus all by myself or pull the handle that opened the door to let folks get on or get off the bus.

Back then, the bus stopped at houses all along with way to pick up or put off. And, Mr. Jack Knight always stopped at a store either in Clio or Texasville for us to get off, stretch our legs and get something to eat.

I always got a dill pickle, a hunk of cheese and some soda crackers at the stores and that was so good to me. If we stopped in Texasville where Cud’den Earl ran the store, he would give me wax co-colas that were filled with juice that you sucked out after you bit the “cap” off.

This one day, Mr. Jack Knight announced that we would be stopping at the cane mill and we could all get out and get us some good cane juice to drink. In the summer, he stopped the buss all the time for us to pick plums or blackberries or go in a watermelon patch. But we’d never stopped at a cane mill before. I was so excited that I sat with my face pressed against the window so I would be the first to know when we got there.

The cane mill was out in a field and up a hill a pretty far piece from where the bus stopped. Everybody got our except for two old ladies who couldn’t walk that far.

Mr. Jack Knight said he would bring them some cane juice back in a jar.

Everybody circled around the cane mill and the man running the mill filled the dipper with cane juice and started passing it around so everybody would have “sip.”

Mama made a frown and looked at me and shook her head. Mama was real pa’ticlar and I knew she meant for me not to drink out of the dipper behind all those folks.

I moved over behind a wide lady where Mama couldn’t see me. Mama moved toward me and shook her head again. I moved again and got right up next to Mr. Jack Knight’s leg and the dipper was coming my way.

Mama’s arm turned to rubber. It stretched around behind the wide woman and on across and down by Mr. Jack Knight’s leg and snatched my arm and jerked me right out of the circle. I knew I was about to miss my turn with the dipper so I locked my knees and made my legs as stiff as boards. I was not going anywhere.

But Mama was determined. With strength I didn’t know she had, she yanked me down the hill with my 2×4 legs bounding over the plowed field until she got me around behind the Greyhound bus. She stood me up on my stiff legs, pulled up my skirt tail and blistered my bottom good fashioned.

She put me back on the bus and told me not to move until we got to Eufaula.

Everybody on that bus, except ladies who were too old to get out, knew that I’d gotten a whuppin’ and I was ashamed so I kept my eyes on my feet all the way to Eufaula.

I thought about how sweet and good that cane juice must have tasted and all that stood between me and I missed it all because of a tin dipper and a mama with a rubber arm. I vowed to never let a single drop of cane juice get past my lips again.

So far, so good.