25 cents and an imagination

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2016

In all my young life, the only money that I ever had need of was 25 cents for the Saturday picture show. Twenty-five cents would get me the feature picture show that was usually a cowboy and Indian one, the serial, a cartoon, a bag of popcorn and a co-cola in a paper cup.

Now, I had to work for that twenty-five cents and Daddy usually paid me with a case quarter. He said I could keep up with a shiny quarter better than I could with two dimes and a nickel. Anyway, I liked having big money.

Part of the work I did for my quarter was slopping Mama’s hog every night. I had to take the slop bucket and empty it in the trough for Sow. We named every hog Sow. I also had to sweep the front porch and dry the dishes after dinner and supper. That little bit of work was a good deal because it got me in the Brundidge Theater on Saturday afternoons.

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All little people went to the picture show on Saturday and for that twenty-five cents, we also would get the “notion” for what we would play all week long – cowboys and Indians, Superman, Batman and Robin, Tarzan, Jane and Boy, outer space, cavalry … just whatever. We played out the picture shows.”

Our imaginations were whetted by the adventures on the silver screen.

Indians were my greatest fascination. Maybe that was because Daddy was in the Army Air Corps and he was stationed in Montana and that’s where I was born.

Daddy had an album with real pictures of Indians, teepees and buffalo. I had looked at those pictures so many times that I had worn them out, Mama said.

My favorite Indian was Geronimo and I liked Sitting Bull, too.

We played cowboys and Indians almost every day and had hideouts in the pasture behind our house and in the woods around the fishpond. We hunted for arrowheads in the pasture and thought we found Indian bones.

Many times I had walked through the pasture and wondered at the concrete slab that looked for all the world like a lonely grave.

One day, I was walking through the pasture with Daddy to see a newborn calf.

“What’s that?” I asked pointing to the slab.

“An ol’ Injun,” Daddy said.

My blood ran cold.

I knew it! I knew it! A grave … but an Injun? Wow! A real live, dead Injun!

But with all the arrowheads that we had found in the pasture, I should have guessed it. My imagination went on a wild goose chase. Oh, the ways that Injun could have died. Rustlers could have done it or the cavalry when it rode through or maybe the Apaches cause they were mean Injuns. Or maybe a bear.

For whatever reason, I imagined him to be a good Injun because he had a gravestone.

Sometimes I’d put clover or honeysuckle on his grave, like it was Decoration Day.

One night at supper, I asked Daddy about the old Injun and how he died.

“You know that old Injun that’s buried out in the pasture, reckon how he died?” I asked. “You think he was shot with a poison arrow or what?”

“Injun? What Injun?”

“The one you told me about. The one that’s buried under that slab out in the pasture?” I said.

“I didn’t say, ‘Injun’ I said ‘engine,’” Daddy said. “That’s where an old farm engine was mounted.”

The next day, I went out in the pasture and took the Billy goat grass I had stuck on the Injun’s grave for decoration and threw it over in the hog pen for Sow.

“Darn the ol’ Injun,” I said, even thought I knew that Mama would have spanked me for cussin’ like that.