Your Mother's Hands (entry 15)

During this time, Mom and Dad "sold the farm" on contract to Jerome Hunter. It had become difficult for Dad to farm, help was expensive and hard to get. Jerome did a lot of improvements to the house, and updated the hog operation, but with all of that expense, and BIG time living, he fell way short of making his payments to Dad, and it put them in quite a financial crunch.

Mom and Dad no longer had their "egg" money or incoming moneys from the sale of livestock. Being a farmer, and now 65, Dad did not receive much social security either!

Mom was also having more health issues and for the moment the biggest issue is her gall bladder and had it removed.

They kept a nice garden and Mom canned a lot. You loved to stay with them and learned your "gardening skills" at a very early age. You alternated spending days with them and your Grandma and Grandpa Ellis. They had also moved from the BIG farm, but still had some acreage closer to town and kept some livestock, and our HORSES.

We bought a "demonstrator" car from Ward and Hudson. A 1965 deep blue Ford LTD. Oh my, what a beautiful car. It was a long 4 door with all cloth interior. But, we did now have a car payment!

I was working, your Dad had CRAZY swing shift hours, and I kept "spinning the plates" in order for our work schedules, home life and personal time had some sort of order.

I saved RED STAMPS and TOP VALUE STAMPS for redemption for our extra house décor. I sewed and my clothes were homemade. I made Barbie Doll clothes for Betsy and her girl friends and sold some to patients complete with wallpaper lined shoe boxes for "doll clothes closets". I had bought a sewing machine with MY first paycheck! I made good meals and baked, gave home perms, hunted mushrooms, fished farm ponds and we all would go frog gigging!. We loved frog legs.

About this time, my cousin Twala Jean had a really bad wreck on the bridge spanning White river going from Martin County into Haysville. She was driving their 1959 two-tone green BIG Oldsmobile. She and a semi skidded into each other on the ice covered bridge.

Uncle Nelson, came up on the wreck on his way home from his all night truck driving job, helped get Twala Jean out of the wreckage, which was so BAD that he did not recognize his daughter or HIS car. He realized it was Twala by her birthstone ring!!! How ironic and a shocking turn of events. He loved her so and I am sure that it was a poignant and surreal instance. But, in those life altering moments, you often go into a state of automation. You do what you have to do. It's sort of like an out of body experience. You are on the outside, watching your life play out in slow motion with circumstances that you could never fathom. All he could do at that moment was hold his sweet girl and talk to her, hoping she could hear him. There would be time to wipe the blood from his hands later.

She was taken to Jasper Memorial in critical condition. She had been on her way to work in Jasper.

My Mom called me at Dr. Krause's office. I took off and picked you up, and my Mom and Pop came, took you home and we came to get you later.

Twala Jean had broken legs, broken pelvis and lots of cuts and bruises. She was in an oxygen tent when we would go to visit, and I took you with me on Thursdays. Those were the days that I would roll her hair after they washed it for her. Your Dad and I took her hamburgers and strawberry pie from Jerry's drive-in. She got so tired of hospital food. To digress, a few years earlier, Uncle Nelson bought a little farm in Rutherford Township and he called it his "sprout patch". This winter was the first they lived there and Twala Jean did not have a lot of "road experience" driving, but given the road conditions, especially with so much ice on the bridge, it was perhaps unavoidable. Twala was in the hospital for a very long time, and her recovery was painful.

February 1966

February......and Dr. Krause went on his skiing vacation, and I got to take a week off TOO! Joyce and another girl covered the office this time. It was our first "real" vacation, so we drove all day and night to Marathon Key, Gulf Shores Florida. What a big deal this was.

We were so excited. We stopped only to get gas, get a bite to eat (in a truck stop) as there still weren't many fast food joints. I drove some during the day while your Dad rested. We made a "bed" for you in the back seat and large floor board.

Uncle Merlie and Aunt Susie were your Grandpa Ellises Aunt and Uncle, making them your Dad's Greats and your Great-Great Aunt and Uncle! (As in many families throughout time, Jesse spent a great deal of his life living with family other than his parents. His home life was not stable and spent most of his formative years with Merlie and Susie. So, of course they were like parents to him and therefore we treated them, as they did us, with great reverence. What wonderfully kind and interestingly "different" they were. I wish I had known them as an older person, as I am sure the level of questioning and "listening" would have been far more intense. Even as a small 2 1/2 year old, I KNEW they were SPECIAL.

They were so excited to have us come and visit. They always were the ones to make the trip back and forth to Indiana, and they would come in September during Florida's hurricane season.

Uncle Merlie loved to come back to Indiana to "Squirrel Hunt".

Their house was built right on the 'channel", cut directly into their back yard, with a boat slip and a fish cleaning station. Their house was very well built, and re-inforced with rods, wire and poured cement. Stucco on the outside and shutter for high winds. It withstood many hurricanes and storm events.

They had a FLORIDA ROOM overlooking the channel, facing east, with sand blasted heavy plywood protected with a Marine finish. They had terrazzo fllors and lots of windows with heavy duty metal awnings. All chrome and appliances rusted early from the salt in the air. I remember hearing the leaves of the palm trees rustling "all night long" in the constant breeze. It would just "lull you to sleep". They had a parakeet named PETEY, who just loved Uncle Merlie. He would jump and chirp and "talk". He kept YOU entertained!!!

We went to a bait house and bought shrimp to fish with. The shrimp that they used for BAIT was bigger than what we bought in Indiana to EAT. We fished by the tide. Uncle Merlie had a BIG boat, operated by his neighbor, Don, and we went out into the Gulf. This was my first experience at DEEP SEA FISHING! I had never before used such a HUGE rod and reel. Aunt Susie kept you at home, as she was afraid for you to be on the boat for fear of falling in! That was fine with me. I really LOVED to fish and this was a great experience for me, and nice to be the "kid" for a change.

Merlie had just the best time explaining "how to fish" and describing and identifying all the kinds that we caught. We had a "chum" bag to shake to lure the fish in so we could "see" them.. When we caught a fish, we would put it in the "fish box" that we had filled with ice.

Once back at the house, they cleaned the fish and threw all the "mess" right into the channel where the scavenger fish cleaned it all up. There was NO smell. They had a water hose, sink and cleaning board that we washed down every time. This was so handy and well thought out. There was a beautiful white Angel Fish in the channel. I loved feeding it "fish food" and watching it swim.

There was also a big friendly pelican that "hung out". It almost got annoying! The gulls would follow the fishing boats in, knowing there would be scraps when everyone cleaned their daily catch. You loved being on the back "porch" and walk, however, you were afraid when all the gulls would DIVE BOMB for scraps. (And, yes, I had seen Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" from the backseat of the car at the drive-in with Mom and Dad. I'm sure that didn't add anything positive to my fear of the large gulls swooping in on me.)

Aunt Susie was in her "Realm of Glory" frying up "our catch" for us and making tons of hush puppies. I think this was the BEST and MOST fish that I had ever eaten!!! We ate fish MORNING, NOON and NIGHT!!! I absolutely LOVED to fish and almost EVERY time that I threw out a line, I caught a fish! One type of fish was called a GRUNT, and they grunted like little pigs. How unusual was that. I went fishing with the tide. TIDES in and I'd take a pole, bait and a fish bucket and go fishing just off the end of the channel, and catch a bucket of edible fish in no time at all. I'd carry them in and Merlie and Susie would clean them for me.

They even froze them in packages. We bought dry ice and packed them to bring back home with us.

I got one of the worst sunburns of my life while deep sea fishing. I swelled up, blistered and had to go to Fisherman's Hospital ER. It was salt water reflection burn. Oh, how it hurt.

Merlie and Susie delighted in showing us all the way to Key West. We visited Deer Key and saw the miniature deer,, picnicing along the way at roadside concrete tables. At Key West we rode "The Conch Train" and ate conch meat fritters and enjoyed the sights. When we drove across the Seven Mile Bridge...…..YES, seven miles. You stood up and said, "Boooy-----eee, Look at the RI-bb-er"!!!!

At one time, we stopped at a picnic table to change your pants. You had had an "accident" in your foam lined training pants. I'd taken off your little jeans, and money fell out of the pockets, and I said, "David, where did you get this MONEY?" And you said, " Aaaahh, Daddy left it on the tables" each time on our way down to Florida, and your Dad left a tip on the table, YOU picked it up and put it (or some) in YOUR pockets!! How you managed to do that and we did not see you...………...I'm not SURE...!!!

We picked guava on Big Pine Key. That was another experience. One of the churches made Guava preserves and we bought some to take home with us. Susie made Key Lime Pie from limes grown in their own yard. One day we made the trip "back " north all the way to Homestead. Uncle Merlie wanted to show us around and take us to this HUGE cafeteria. He was so proud to have "family" to show off.

Aunt Susie was truly "Susie Homemaker", but one of her best talents was "tatting" lace. I tried it. She bought me my own shuttle, etc. , but I could never quite get the hang of it. She gave me two matching doileys with tatted edging, which I still have to this day. ( A few years later, before moving to Waverly, Mom and a few families in the neighborhood had a large garage sale. Aunt Susie had made and gifted us an 8x12 to fit our large oval table, completely tatted from end to end with a monogrammed "E" in the center. table cloth. It was quite an artistic piece of work and cherished gift. Mom had mistakenly placed it in a pile of "to be sold" linens. Mom was so upset and went to great lengths to find it and get it back. She cried and cried. She talked about that for years and still felt disrespectful and sadness when she did. Items and things like that helped make me realize that the many doileys, quilts, and table runners displayed in people's homes were more than just "old lady" decoration. They were special gifts. They were Cherished items that created a beautiful timeline and memory of those we love. There's always a reason WHY if we just take the time to think, remember and be grateful.)

We drove all over the Keys, almost a dream land to us after a February winter in Indiana!! Of course, I also picked up LOTS of beautiful shells.

On our way back home, we drove through the mountains of Tennesse, and Look Out Mountain. We stopped at Jasper Hospital to visit Twala Jean who was STILL a patient there. I remember wearing my BEST knit slacks outfit. It was an aqua blue BOBBY BROOKS, and the nuns would NOT let me in the hospital "wearing slacks". I did have a LONG royal blue coat, so I went out to the car, took OFF my pants and just put on my long coat. I was in the hospital, in the elevator, up to Twala Jean's room wearing only my top AND PANTY HOSE. So THERE. They just said I couldn't wear slacks. I fixed that!!!!

Your Mother's Hands knew when to pull 'em up, and when to take 'em off...……………….!!!!!