Chapter Two

My grandmother and grandfather lived several blocks away in a bleak old house that needed painting.  It wasn't theirs.  It was Big Mama's. Big Mama was my grandfather's mother, and she was half Cherokee Indian.  Although I remember a little about her, the only thing I recall about my great grandfather was a tintype picture of a very stern looking man.  He had a black beard and piercing eyes.  He died before I was born, but his dusty hat and overalls still hung on the back of the door in the bathroom.

I was named after my grandfather.  His name was Roy Horry, but I don't know if he had a middle name or not.  my middle name is Alfred, after my dad's brother.  I don't know if my grandmother had a middle name or not, either, but she probably did.   Her name was Gertrude.  Nobody names a little girl Gertrude any more.  She doesn't look like a Gertrude to me, either.

Big Mama had chickens, a barn, and a huge vegetable garden.  Everybody did.  I recall the day a neighbor brought her a grunting, mean looking pig.   The man had tied a rope around the pig's middle and made it walk along with him.  When the pig didn't want to go, the man pinched its ear with a pair of pliars.  They tied the pig to the back porch and everyone stood around and said what a fine pig it was.  My mom's only brother, the baby of her family, brought a small wagon from the barn and my grandmother and he loaded the wagon with Mason jars from the root cellar under the house.  The jars were filled with fruits and vegetables that Big Mama had "put up" from her garden.  My grandfather and the neighbor talked and drank buttermilk from Mason jars while I watched the sleeping pig.  When the man left, he took the wagon with him but left his pig.  I never saw the fine pig again after that day.

There were chickens in the back yard and a devil of a rooster.  That damned rooster.  He was big, white, and strutted across the backyard like it was his.  Maybe it was, because it certainly wasn't mine.  I went out there only once by myself, and never again. Once was surely enough.  I had my back turned to him and suddenly I was a bloody, screaming little kid. He had silently come upon me and flogged me with his spurs again and again.  I dreamt about that for years.

Many times I saw my grandmother wring the neck of a hapless chicken that was destined to be supper, and I always wished it was that rooster as I watched the headless bird run in circles and flop across the backyard. T'was never to be, however.  I guess that rooster died of old age.

And that was a long time ago, in the summer of 1939.


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