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

Esther and Artie were sitting out 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 all day long.  Esther enjoyed going down there to wash clothes where it was cool, damp, and a little musty smelling. Silly as it sounded, it almost felt a little mysterious to go underground to do her wash. To her, 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 up above. She could hear the purring of a lawn mower in the distance as Art mowed the lawn and she could also hear when Artie would come inside as he opened the door and walked up the stairs to the kitchen. She could hear the sound of his footsteps as he shuffled around upstairs.

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 an old wringer washer. The tub of the washer faced one direction and the two  rinse tubs which sat on legs stood on the opposite side of the washing machine.  In between and above the tub was the wringer section which consisted of two rubber rollers that were held tightly together and when it was activated, each rolled towards the center. As Esther tucked the edge of a wet piece of laundry between these two rollers, the piece would be squeezed between the rollers as it advanced to the other side, squeezing out the excess water with the water flowing back into the washer.

When Esther washed clothes, she determined when the clothes had agitated long enough to be clean in the washer. She would then 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 swing the wringer toward the 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 she would swing the wringer towards the plain water rinse tub so she could rinse them a second time.  The bleach water piece would be fed through the rollers on its way into the plain rinse water, with the excess bleach water flowing back into its place of origin.

rinse tubs and stick

Once the laundry landed in the plain water, she stirred it around again with a stick, and then would feed it through the wringer one last time, drawing it forward 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 but 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

Her clotheslines consisted of two large vertical 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 clothes, soHolding up the clothes the v shape at the end of the pole would allow you to lift the line up high once you stuck the end into the ground.  Esther would take each piece, one by one, and shake and snap it before pinning it to the line to try eliminate wrinkles. Often the sheets and towels were hung on the outer lines to hide the “unmentionables” (underwear) which hung 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 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 frozen stiff and she would carry them downstairs to hang on the clotheslines Artie had strung from the rafters in the basement.  To some people it didn’t make much 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 would spend the entire day washing and hanging all the laundry for the week. Once they were dry, she took the pieces off the lines and folded the ones that did not need ironing followed by dampening the items that did.  She had a bottle of water which had a sprinkle head corked into its narrow end and this was what she used to dampen her clothes.

laundry sprinkler

Once they were sprinkled, she would roll them in cylinders and put them into a basket to preserve their dampness in the cool basement until morning when she would begin ironing.

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 by inserting the drain hose into a drain in the floor and then proceeded to 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 the Queen of your own castle.  She loved being able to choose her activities from day to day and had arranged her activities as “Wash Day”, “Ironing Day”,  “Baking Day”, “Cleaning Day” and so on.  Each day was hard work but each also brought Esther a sense of accomplishment.  She would not trade her life for a different life even if it was offered.  She had found her calling when she became a Housewife and Mother. 

When it comes down to it, there is no more noble calling on earth than that of creating a home for the people we love. Esther was Queen and Artie was King of their castle and they were content! Actually, they could even say they were happy!  How many people in this world can truly say that?

As she rested in her chair, 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 and as she stood up, she could feel her heart swell.  Praise of this kind was rare so when she opened the bedroom door, she could feel a spring in her step.  Being appreciated felt mighty good.

Jjb/2017

Esther

geraniums on a chairEsther was enjoying the early morning air on her front porch as she indulged herself with her second cup of coffee.  This was a rare occurrence for Esther, to just sit for the enjoyment of it, but Art had gone to town right after breakfast and she just decided to go out and breathe in deeply the fresh spring air!

Esther was blessed with a long and happy marriage to Art 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. She was deep in thought as she rocked slowly back and forth in her old rocker. She watched the occasional car driving by and she always tried to imagine where they might be going.  The front porch on her house faced the road and it was here where she would sit and watch friends and neighbors drive by in their cars. Sometimes she would see kids pass by on their bicycles racing each other down the long hill.

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.  Art and Esther’s home was small and simply built, but the front porch had enough room for two people to sit on either side of the porch door. The porch had two square shaped pillars on either side of the front of the porch, supporting a pitched roof.  The ceiling was high and was painted a shiny soft gray as was the wood plank floor. She and Art would often sit in comfortable silence feeling united in their comfortable love for one another.

Their porch had a half wall extending from the house to meet the pillars in the front. This was nice because it still gave them a view as it protected them from those cold breezes that would often come around in the north country. Esther loved flowers so she planted two long rectangular containers with red trailing geraniums and placed one on each side wall, to “decorate the view”, she said.

Their house was painted white and its roof was shingled in a shade of moss green.  Their window frames were white with an inner frame painted a deep red which looked cheerful against the white exterior. In addition to the bright red geranium flowers on top of each of the half porch rails, on either side of the porch grew a white blooming bridal wreath bush. It was picture postcard perfect.

Esther thought about their very talented youngest son who had a flair for gardening and an eye for detail. It was he who planned and carved out flower beds that were brimming with the deep orange colors of tiger lilies, the rich purples of irises, the bright yellows of daffodils, the light pinks of peonies and the deep reds of the tall Hollyhocks showing their crimson beauty against the backdrop of the white siding. There was a huge lavender flowered lilac bush growing on one side of the house and at its base were pansies populating the ground near the apple trees.

All that color adorning the white of the house and the green of the lush yard created a lovely scene. A friend commented once as they wandered through Artie and Esther’s property that to walk their property was like walking through the pages of a story book.  Esther and Art both took great pride in all that their son had created for them to enjoy! Little wonder that he was their pride and joy! 

Esther was feeling out of sorts this morning.  She was pondering her age and was reflecting on the speed with which the years of her life had passed by.  Her life had been a satisfying one, as lives go.  She married Art when she was very young and they had raised three children, all who were now long gone into the world with lives of their own.  She and Art 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 Art, 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 and married Art, gave birth to her children 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 would travel back and become 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.

This morning, she was also thinking about her two granddaughters and the last time they came to spend the night. They loved wearing her voluminous, high necked, flannel nightgowns so she always had a couple set out for them to wear at bedtime.

As they were getting ready for bed, Elizabeth, the older girl (who was 11) turned to her and asked “What does it feel like to be old, Grandma?”

Kate (who was 8) said with big, blinking eyes, “Yeah, Grandma…..you musta had a lot of birthdays!”

Esther looked over at them and gave them a big smile.  She said, “Well, I suppose if you think of your own age and then my age by comparison, my life must seem like it is a LONG way down the road. But, to me, as I look back, time went by like this” and she snapped her fingers.

Esther was smiling as she revisited that conversation in her mind this morning and contemplated the fact that life does, indeed, fly by! Isn’t it just too bad that we don’t realize the brevity of our life before it is almost over?  She wondered to herself 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 one person who is the pinnacle of youth and beauty not knowing that inside resides an old soul.  Or, one could look at another 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 thought 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.  Art 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 Esther was on to her day.

JJB/2014