Even as small children my older sister Marsha and my younger brother Butchie were thrill seekers− daring and adventuresome. Marsha was the one who, as a toddler, climbed up onto the kitchen counter with the help of a chair to try to find the candy in the cupboard. That was when she walked across the still hot burners of the kitchen stove and blistered the soles of her feet. She made a good recovery though, and amazingly,to this day is completely immune to foot pain! This can be deduced from the amazing variety of pain- inducing footwear that she is inclined to wear in order to put her best foot forward in the world. By the way Marsha, which foot is that? Or did you already have that bunion surgery? (Readers please forgive this younger sister taking a few shots.)
Butchie had a love of electricity! When he was just a chubby little fellow he would toddle over to Mummy and Daddy’s bed and hoist himself up onto the top of it with the help of the chenille bedspread. Then he would grab the electric alarm clock from the table beside the bed and hold onto it tightly while he turned it over and over, watching the clock hands moving and holding it to his ear to listen. He would make a clumsy attempt at turning the tiny dials at the back and then finally he would stick his chubby baby finger into a little hole on the back-plate. This always ended in a wail-inducing electric shock. Then he would run screaming to Mummy, tears streaming down his face with his arms thrown out wide in a “Pick-me-up!” gesture. Five minutes later he would be back on top of the bed starting the ordeal all over again. It became Marsha’s and my job, or the job of My and me (“My” being Marsha’s nickname) to keep him out of trouble. We were either wholly uncaring or totally incompetent, as it happened repeatedly for weeks on end. A kitchen chair was propped against the door knob to keep him out of the bedroom during the day, but we seemed to be always forgetting to replace it after using it at meal times. When, in our teen years, we would work in the fields together, hoeing rows of tobacco, in our bare feet, Keith would often get a “sand-crack”− a break in the skin underneath the base of the toe− and he would say “Oh! That feels so good!” We honestly still don’t know to this day if he was kidding or not. Maybe he just got addicted to pain!
Somehow, pain seems to be a contributing factor to setting down indelible memories.I remember my first real outdoor duty, outside of the yard, being the delivery of a jug of cold water to my father, who was busy working in the field on a hot summer day during the wheat harvest. Walking barefoot across the wheat stubble in the fields was like walking across an overturned truckload of cheap nylon hair brushes. You wouldn’t do it quickly, but instead you would try to pick your way through carefully, looking for gaps, and thankful that your feet were small enough to fit into the gaps here and there. There were advantages to being six, because my feet were small. The method was slow and still painful but manageably painful. That is, until the bees’ nest!
As I slipped my front foot forward, suddenly dozens of tiny black and yellow flying demons flew at me like stray embers from a forest fire! My siren-like shreaking amped up immediately to the highest volume my voice box was capable of! I naively ran in wide circles attempting to outrun the bees’ even wider vortex of wrath! No more the careful footfall, or the cautious step, but rather a terror- stricken adrenaline fuelled spiralling sprint! Finally, in total exhaustion, I flopped down onto the bed of nails, of shorn wheat , in short shorts and pop- top, hardly aware of any feeling at all, with the exception of the burning welts on my head, my neck, my face.
Suddenly the vengeful hoard moved away and I took the jug which inexplicably lay at my feet (Had I carried it the whole time?) and unscrewed the cap. I lifted it above my head and poured the cool water over myself, down over my strawberry blond hair, over my swollen eyelids, and fiery arms and legs. I sat in my puddle, like Job on his ash heap, totally inconsolable until my father came, and I cast myself upon him, in a muddy embrace.
“Oh you poor thing. You poor little thing. Were you bringing water out to Daddy?”
“ Yes Daddy, I was, but…. I spilled it all when the bees came.”
“You did, did you?”
“Yes Daddy, but I think they’re gone now; I could go and get you some more.
“That’s OK Honey, I’m really not thirsty, but I could sure go for a cookie right about now. How about you and I go on up to the house for some cookies instead?
Mmm! Cookies! Yumm!