Remembering the days of the gypsies

Published 3:00 am Saturday, November 8, 2014

Somebody asked but I don’t remember.

In my mature years, there are a lot of things I don’t remember. Among them are the details of the time a gypsy caravan was coming through Pike County and the Gypsy Queen died. The whole band of them set up camp in Troy and the townsfolk locked their windows and bolted their doors until the queen was fixed for burial and the gypsies finally left town.

I would have loved to have been a part of that but I had to just enjoy the telling of the story by my granddaddy and Robert McGhee who owned the funeral home and fixed up the gypsy queen for burial – however that was.

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I missed out on that story but, when I was a little girl, every once in an exciting while, the gypsies would come through town and word would spread like wildfire. “The gypsies are coming! The gypsies are coming!”

Our mamas would snatch us up from play and drag us inside and folks all over town would bolt their doors and lock their windows for fear the gypsies would steal them blind and carry their children off, kicking and screaming to never be seen again.

Sometimes the gypsies came on wagons with pretty white horses pulling them. Other times they came on ol’ beat-up cars with plastic flowers stuffed in the back windows.

Once the gypsies had a breakdown right in front of our house.

I pressed my nose against the window and watched as they piled out of the cars and clustered around the hood of the steaming old clunker. Mama was pacing the food and wringing her hands, thinking any minute the gypsies would knock down the door, rob us blind and carry me and Bubba off.

I didn’t know what they would carry us off on because they couldn’t get going themselves.

Mama must have called Daddy on the telephone because he showed up before dinnertime.

Daddy went right out there where the gypsies were and I ran out the door behind him with Mama hollering for me to “Get back in here!” But I couldn’t hear her.

I had never seen a gypsy up close.

The women had long, colorful skirts, beads, gold bracelets, long dangling earbobs and silk scarves around the their heads. The men had on fluffy shirts and strange-looking hats. To me, they looked more like circus people than robbers and thieves. Mama was scared of circus people, too.

The little children stayed in the cars with their head hanging out.

I was so taken in by the gypsies that I didn’t hear what Daddy was saying to them. But they nodded their heads and got back in their cars.

Daddy started to the house and left me standing there right where the gypsies could grab me if they wanted me. They didn’t.

Before Daddy got to the house, Mama came out the door with a switch and waved it where she thought I could see it. I pretended I didn’t see her. I knew she was afraid of the gypsies and she wasn’t about to come out there where they were. She would rather them haul me off than her.

I stood looking at the gypsy children and they looked back at me.

Daddy came back out and talked some more. In a few minutes, a truck came from the Gulf filling station. The man hooked a chain to the car and pulled the gypsies away.

That was the last time I ever saw a gypsy caravan but I’m glad of the memory of them.

Thanks for asking.