Category Archives: Short Story

Traveling Willie

3 days to departure and after much debate, we have finally decided to take Lil Willie along with us on our trip.

This morning while visiting with someone in our church who has become acquainted with Lil Willie by way of our FB posts, it came as a surprise to me that she did not realize that Lil Willie was loosely related to the infamous Willie Nelson. So, I told her the story about how we came to have Lil Willie living with us.

A few years back, our daughter attended a Willie Nelson concert. She knew that we liked and embraced Willie Nelson as a song writer, (we LOVE the song Family Bible which he wrote) a country musician, and an Austin icon. Everyone loves Willie Nelson here in Austin. He is a legend in his own time. Al has even met one of his children, Suzy.

So, the concert our daughter attended was selling promo dolls that looked like Willie. Unbeknownst to us, she fought through a huge crowd to buy what turned out to be the last remaining Willie doll for her Mam and Pap!

Afterwards she came to visit us and presented the doll to us. We were happily surprised but secretly wondered what we were going to do with it. Put it out on display? Decorate a room around it? What?

Then it came to us. We would name it Lil Willie and bring him along with us on our trips. Most of us know that other peoples vacation photos just aren’t all that appealing to anyone, especially if one has to look at someone else’s picture over and over again in front of various sites of interest. However, we thought maybe Lil Willie could be our own personal travel gnome. We would turn our trips into Lil Willie adventures where people could enjoy our trips in the company of this little faux pot smoking rebel. A new Texas icon was born. Lil Willie!

Lil Willie became our mascot and became the route through which we met people. People were inclined to talk to us BECAUSE of Lil Willie sitting with us. Many a conversation began because people were intrigued with his iconic look. A head bandana, braids and jeans definitely screams country, and no one is intimidated by country folk!

So, stay tuned for Willies next adventure due to begin in the next few days.

Stay tuned!

Grandma and the Mailman

mail man and Grandma

mail man and Grandma

Elizabeth and Kate were excited when the mailman pulled up in front of their house. It wasn’t unusual for the mailman to pull up and drop off Grandma AND the mail at the same time.  Grandma had not learned to drive, so she had become clever in figuring out how to get around when Grandpa was at work.   Esther’s daughter lived 7 miles down the narrow country road from her own home, so when she got lonesome for her daughters company, she would go out across the street from her own home and stand by the cluster of mailboxes on the road.  When the mailman came along and saw her there, he would respond with “Sure, Esther, hop in!” when she asked if she could hitch a ride to her daughters home.  Hitch hikers the world over had nothing on Grandma Esther.  She would get in the mail truck and ride along, enjoying watching him deliver mail along the way.  She would even put the mail in the mailboxes for him  which was fun and almost made her feel like his assistant.  Without doubt, only in the very rural countryside in the the 1950’s could this kind of an arrangement be made.

The girls heard the squeaking brakes of the mail truck when the mailman slowed to a stop in front of their house.  Grandma gingerly stuck her leg out and stepped down unto the grass to one side of their mailbox.  She turned to thank the driver as he handed her the mail for her daughters home.   She waved as he drove off,  then turned and made her way up to the house.

Elizabeth and Kate loved their Grandma in a big way.  They could not remember a time when she wasn’t in their life.  She was a soft sell for things they wanted.  No one in the area had all that much in the way of money or material goods in those days, so it wasn’t that they were always asking for things, for they just knew better.  It only when one of them might want a new bathing suit before the old one was completely worn out.  If they appealed to their Mother, she would tell them that it wasn’t time and that it made no sense to buy something new to replace something old that was still good.  But, Grandma was different.  If they appealed to her, she would listen and not offer any promises whatsoever.  However, a week or two later, when they happened to be visiting her, she would tell Grandpa she needed a ride into town to buy some things she needed to restock at the house. The girls would ride along and then, while in town, Grandma would steer them into the local Kresge’s department store and tell them to go ahead and look for a new swimsuit and if they found something they liked to bring it to her and she would pay for it.  “Not the most expensive one, mind you, nor the least expensive one……just use common sense” she’d say.  They respected her command about pricing and each found one that was really cute at a moderate price.  With hearts fluttering, they would bring their prized suit to Grandma and she brought it to the checkout counter and pay for it.  Once they had completed all the errands they came to town to accomplish, Grandma and Grandpa would always stop at the local ice cream shop to buy each of the girls an ice cream cone for the trip back home.  This was the ultimate treat because in those days people didn’t buy treats very often.  Most everything was made at home.

They saw Grandma approaching, and as Grandma stepped on the front stoop, she peered in as she rapped her knuckles on the screen door, asking, “Is anyone home?” all the while knowing that they probably were.  Telephones had not come to the area yet, so there really was no way of knowing for sure that they would be there, but she was willing to take that chance.

Anita called out, “Come on in, Mom”, so she opened the screen door and stepped through. As usual,  her hands were not empty.  When she came to visit, she always carried a shopping bag weighted down with her homemade baked goods, fresh bread, cinnamon rolls, dream bars, cookies……always something delicious.   When she came inside she set the bag on the table and greeted her daughter with a nod of her head.  Anita gave her a bright smile and said “Hello, Mom”.  Anita had seen her arrive through the window over the sink where she had been washing dishes.  Esther said, “are you interested in making  coffee for us,  if I share with you what is in this bag?”  Brita wiped her hands on her apron and said “I’d love to.  I am sure the girls would enjoy some of the goodies in your bag too”.

Mid day treat

Mid day treat

Home made bread

Home made bread

Anita put the coffee on the stove to cook while Grandma Esther pulled out dishes from the cupboard and set the table.  Elizabeth and Kate were already seated at the table,  each of them eagerly anticipating this lovely treat about to be served.  Once the baked goods were placed on a plate on the table and the coffee was poured, Mom and Grandma began visiting and sharing the latest news. The girls mostly listened because they enjoyed hearing their banter about what was happening in their little community.

coffe and creamElizabeth always begged for coffee because she was impatient to be a grown up, and since Kate copied everything Elizabeth did, she wanted some as well.  So, Grandma would pour a splash of coffee in each of their cups, then filled them up to the top with milk and a spoon of sugar.  The girls loved listening to their Grandma and Mother visiting.  It was as if they were all a part of a secret society.  They were always told to not share this conversation with anyone beyond their home and they never did.  They liked that they were trusted with some of the secrets they heard Mom and Grandma sharing.

Time passed quickly, and soon they could hear the crunch of the tires of Grandpa’s car as he came to pick up Grandma Esther.  Grandpa Artie was the best!  He was pretty quiet, but they knew he loved them a great deal.  Often they would plead to ride back to Grandpa and Grandma’s house to spend the night, but when they made the request this time, Mother said “Not today” because Vacation Bible School was still in session and they needed to get up early tomorrow.  Hugs ensued and then Grandpa and Grandma left for home.  The bag of goodies remained and they knew they would find something special in their lunch bag tomorrow.

They knew Grandma Esther felt blessed to have them as Granddaughters, for they were the only ones she had and this made them feel very, very special.  Elizabeth and Kate knew they were blessed to have Grandma Esther too!  Three generations of women having coffee and dessert on an afternoon accompanied by laughter and talk.  Life just couldn’t get any better.

Esther’s Wash Day

wash day

wash day

Esther and Artie were out sitting on their porch as they did most evenings after supper during the mild months of the year.  It was a nice evening, not too hot, not too cool.   It had been a busy day for Esther.  Today was Esther’s wash day and her washer was downstairs in their unfinished basement which meant many steps up and down that staircase.  Es kind of enjoyed going down there where it was cool, damp, and a little musty smelling. Silly as it sounded, it almost felt a little mysterious to go underground. It felt like she entered another world entirely with it’s dimly lit interior and the muffled sounds that she could hear coming from from  above. She could hear the purring of a lawn mower in the distance and could also hear Artie opening and closing the door as ran up the stairs to the kitchen and the sound of his footsteps as he shuffled around the kitchen.

wash day Esther kept her washing machine and two rinse tubs in the basement for the convenience of washing clothes year round.  The washing machine was a wringer washer. The belly of the washer faced one direction and the two  rinse tubs which sat on legs stood on the opposite side of the washing machine bowl.  In between was the wringer which consisted of two rubber rollers that were held in place very close together and each rolled towards the center the minute you turned a little lever.  When Esther put the edge of a piece of laundry between these two rollers, it would be pressed between the rollers and drawn to the other side,  squeezing the excess water as it did, with the water falling back into the washer.

How things worked was when Esther determined that the clothes had been washed long enough, she would take the clothes, piece by piece, and feed them through the wringer sending them on their way to the rinse tubs.  If the clothing was white, she would turn the wringer toward bleach water tub and feed them through so they landed in the bleach water.  She would stir the clothing in the bleach water with a long stick, and then turn the wringer towards the plain rinse tub so she could rinse them a second time.  She would lift the bleach rinsed piece and feed it through the rollers on its way into the plain rinse water, with the excess bleach water being squeezed out.

rinse tubs and stick

rinse tubs and stick

When it landed in the water, once again she stirred it around with a stick, and then would feed it through the wringer which squeezed the water out while drawing  it into the laundry basket waiting below on the floor. When the basket was full, she would take it outside and begin hanging the clothes on the clothesline.  It was quite a process, yet,  Esther was extremely grateful for this wonderful convenience right in her own home under her own roof.  It usually took most of the day to do laundry because there were so many steps involved. She always started with the white laundry, moved to the light colors, then the dark laundry, and finally on to the rugs or things of  that nature.

Fresh air dry

Fresh air dry

Her clotheslines consisted of two large poles cemented into the ground with a shorter pole that ran across the top of each pole, forming a “T”.  From the cross bar hung about 6 lines, evenly spaced from end to end.  Her clotheslines were long, so they required a clothesline pole which was v shaped at one end.  When the clothes were pinned to the lines, the lines would sag from the weight of the wet

Holding up the clothes

Holding up the clothes

clothes, so the v shaped pole would allow you to lift the line up high as you stuck the opposite end into the ground.  Esther would take each piece, one by one and shake and snap it before pinning it to the line.  Often the sheets and towels were hung on the outside lines to hide the “unmentionables” (underwear) on the inside lines.  She loved watching her laundry blowing and flapping in the wind.  She also loved the scent of the laundry when she brought it indoors.  Esther washed clothes year round this way, and the winter months were especially difficult as she trudged through the snow carrying her basket and pinning the clothes to icy lines.  Esther would let them “freeze dry” on the lines and after a certain period of time, she would high step through the snow again and bring them inside.  They would be stiffly frozen and she would carry them downstairs to hang on the clotheslines Artie had strung from the rafters in the basement.  To some this didn’t make sense, to hang them twice, but all the women of Esther’s era and community did them this way, swearing that the freeze dried method was first rate.

Esther had spent the entire day today washing and hanging all the laundry for the week. Once they were dry, she took them off the lines and folded the ones that did not need ironing and then dampened the items that needed ironing.  She had a bottle of water which had a sprinkle head corked into the narrow end of the bottle and this was what she used to dampen her clothes.

laundry sprinkler

laundry sprinkler

Once they were sprinkled, she would roll them to preserve the dampness to prepare them for ironing day tomorrow.  They were in the basket, in the cool basement, ready for ironing in the morning.  Esther was tired tonight.  She managed to make dinner while doing all the laundry and on top of this she had emptied out the washing machine with the hose attached into a drain in the floor and wipe it out.  The same held true for the rinse tubs.  Oh that bed was going to feel sweet tonight, and she was contemplating retiring early.

Despite all the work involved in running a home, she loved her life.  If she could go back and start all over again with her choices, she would choose the same life all over again, even though that old rhyming verse was true.  “A mans work is from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done”.  It was true that a woman’s work was ongoing, but what was also true was the feeling of satisfaction in being Queen of your own castle.  She loved being able to choose her activities from day to day and had arranged her activities from day to day as “Wash Day”, “Ironing Day”,  “Baking Day”, “Cleaning Day” and so on.  Each day was hard work but brought Esther such a sense of accomplishment.  She would not trade her life for a different life even if it was offered.  She had found her calling, and it was that of a Housewife and Mother.  When it comes to nobility, there is no more noble calling on earth than that of creating a home life for people one loved.  She was Queen and Artie was King of their castle and they were not only content….they were happy!  How many people in this world could truly say that?

She looked over to Artie and said “I think I will turn in…It has been a long day”.  Artie smiled at her and said “Thanks, Es, for all you do. You are a hard working woman and I appreciate all you do for both of us”.  Esther smiled back at him as she stood up, and could feel her heart swell.  Praise of this kind was rare and when she opened the door, she could feel a spring in her step.  Being appreciated felt mighty good.

Esther

window with flowersgeraniums on a chair

ESTHER'S FAVORITE CHAIR

ESTHER’S FAVORITE CHAIR

Esther was enjoying the early morning air as she sipped away on her second cup of coffee.  Artie had left for town right after breakfast. Esther was blessed with a long lasting and companionable marriage to Artie and never a day went by that she didn’t look to the heavens and offer up words of gratitude for this good fortune that had become her life..  After Artie drove off,  Es, (Artie’s pet name for Esther) washed and dried the dishes and then poured herself a second cup of coffee before she came out to relax a bit on their front porch.  She was rocking slowly, forth and back in her old well worn rocker, observing the occasional car driving by.  She always tried to imagine where they might be going.  Her house and front porch faced the road where she could sit and watch humanity go by in cars, on bicycles or on foot.  Her house was built in a little hill top community and the road that passed her house was a narrow country road that people traveled to go to various destination points.  Artie and Esther’s home was small and simply built, but the front porch was spacious.  It was deeply set, and ran the full length of the house.  Two square, evenly spaced pillars stood proudly supporting a steeply pitched roof.  The ceiling was very high and painted a shiny soft gray color.  A long time ago, on one end of the porch, Artie had hung a wide wicker swing as an Anniversary present to Es.  In the evenings they would often both sit on this swing, side by side, with Artie’s arm resting lightly around her shoulders.   They would swing in a comfortable silence, feeling the warmth of the others body and even a heartbeat, ever so faint.  Es loved old time church hymns, so once in a while she would invite Artie to sing along with her as she searched her memory for the words of remembered hymns.  People often asked her which ones were her favorite, but to name only one would be similar to saying you loved one of your children more than the others.  Each hymn had its own beautiful sound, qualities and words.  Truth be told, she loved them all.

Artie had built a 4 foot high half wall that surrounded the porch and wrapped to either side of the front steps.  This was nice because it still gave them a view while it protected them from those cold breezes that often came around in the north country. Esther loved flowers so she planted two long rectangular containers with red trailing geraniums and placed them on each side wall, to “decorate the view”, she said.

Her house was painted white and its roof was shingled in a shade of dark green.  Her window frames and flower boxes had been painted the same green to match the roof, and in these she placed more red geraniums with asparagus fern that flowed out as it tumbled down the front of the boxes.   When people drove by, they often slowed down a bit so they could take in the beauty of their property, for not only were the flowers in window boxes and on the half porch walls, there were flowers growing all over their property in deeply carved, well tended gardens.  All that color adorning the white of the house and the green of the lush yard created a lovely scene. One person commented that to wander through Artie and Esther’s property was like turning the pages of a story book.  Es and Artie both took great pride that they had managed to create something that other people could enjoy.

Esther was feeling out of sorts this morning.  She was pondering her age and was reflecting on the speed in which the years of her life had been passing by.  Her life had been a satisfying one, as lives go.  She married Artie when she was only 23.  They raised three children, who were now long gone into the world into lives of their own.  She and Artie had accomplished all they had set out to do.  They were not rich, nor had they ever expected they would be, but they were “comfortable”  as long as they continued to live as they always had.  No forays to Europe for her and Artie, but she really didn’t care about that sort of thing anyway.

She had lived her entire life in this small town.  She was born and raised here, met Artie when she was 21, married him two years later and gave birth to her three children two years apart, and now here she was, rocking away in an old chair knowing she was considered an elderly woman.  She didn’t FEEL like an elderly woman!  Esther’s spirit was actually ageless.  Her spirit was any age on any given day.  Her memory served as a time capsule where in a fraction of a second, she could travel back to the girl she was at aged 6 or 9 or 19 or 30!  It was amazing how the senses created this ability for time travel.  The mind has an uncanny ability to take in and store information about every single second of your life where you can go in and look for a particular memory and relive it all over again.

As an example, just now, a long forgotten memory of the scent of fresh bread coming out of the oven wove throughout her mind.  Earlier this morning she had baked some cinnamon rolls for Artie and the scent was lingering and was discernible even outside on the porch.  The scent evoked memories of her mother and grandmother in the kitchen of her childhood chatting away as they kneaded and rolled dough into loaves of bread and small buns for sandwiches.  Esther remembered how she and her sister would often plead and plead for Grandma and Mom to give them some dough to work, and how they kept on with their pleading until Grandma finally relented.  Grandma would give each of them a lump of dough to make their own individual baked treats and told them that these were for them to make and eat.  No waste was allowed in any home in those days.  Esther and her sister eagerly nodded their heads in agreement with emphatic promises that they would, indeed, eat them!  They would spread butter on the top and then sprinkle cinnamon and sugar before putting them into the oven.  Once baked, they would come out hot from the oven, brown and crisp and sugary.  A tastier treat had yet to be discovered.

This morning, she was also thinking about her Granddaughters.  Not long after Esther’s 65th birthday, her two granddaughters came to spend the night.  They loved her Swedish meatballs and so she spent the day preparing a nice dinner knowing how happy they would be when they ran up the steps to the kitchen taking in the aroma of their favorite meal waiting for them.  They loved Es and the two of them always enjoyed visiting with her because they knew how much she loved them.  They were her only grandchildren.

After their dinner, they all washed and dried the dishes before they went outside to sit on the porch.  Grandpa retired to his big chair to read the paper so all the girls could have their time.  He knew how much his “Es”  prized these times with her Grand girls.  Once  outside, Esther sat rocking in her chair while the girls were swinging in the old porch swing.

Elizabeth, the older girl (who was 11) turned to her and asked “What does it feel like to be 65, Grandma?”

Kate (who was 8) said with big, blinking eyes, “Yeah, Grandma…..that sounds like a lot of birthdays to me!”

Esther looked over at them and gave them a big smile.  She said, “Well, I suppose when you are your age, 65 seems like it is a LONG way down the road, and in some ways it is.  But, to me, looking back,  it went by like this” as she snapped her fingers.

Es was pondering that conversation this morning and contemplating the fact that life does, indeed, fly by and isn’t it too bad that we don’t realize the brevity of it before it is almost over?  She wondered why it was in God’s design to create eternal spirits inside of perishable bodies with an end date written in a heavenly book.  Old?  What is old anyway?  Old just doesn’t describe the spirit that lives inside the body. One could look at a person who is the pinnacle of youth and beauty not knowing that inside resides an old soul.  Or, one could look at an old, bent, wrinkled person not realizing that inside was a very young soul.

Who invented the concept of time anyway?  They say there are no clocks in heaven.  It has been said that time does not exist there.  That sounded pretty good to Esther.  The idea of living large in heaven with no end date was wonderful.  How lovely to see Mom and Grandma again….along with many other family and friends.

Well, Esther’s coffee cup was now empty.  The sun was higher in the sky than it had been when when she first came out to rest a bit.  She had laundry to sort, beds to make, and a whole list of chores waiting for her.  Artie was due back soon, so she better get busy or he would comment yet again on her “day dreaming ways”.  She got up off the rocker and pulled open the screen door to enter the house.  With a snap it closed and Es was on to her day.

JJB/2014