Columns share an author’s personal perspective.
Forget borrowing a cup of sugar; when “country” neighbors come over, they bring a cup of trouble.
Among the many reasons why I love my corner of rural Small Town America is that we don’t get much social unrest. Change and progress are good things, mind you, but around here most folks pretty much look out for their neighbors and love everyone based on their character and not their color, which is the way it should be.
We like things quiet and calm, and the most excitement we’ve had this decade was when some poor guy’s mail was accidentally delivered to the neighbor lady’s mailbox and he had to explain the subscriptions to both Playboy and Horse & Sheep magazines. In fact, the closest thing we ever had to a protest was when Granny took ill and all the men folk had to eat their own wives’ cooking. The closest thing we ever had to a looter was when an egg-sucking dog managed to break-and-enter into Momma’s hen house.
Speaking of dogs, I guess we have had a few minor disturbances in our neck of the woods. Like the time Pop adopted a stray without conducting a proper background check.
“Willie is a perfectly good dog,” argued Pop, despite the fact that the dog was wearing an ankle monitor and a guilty smile. I had my doubts.
It turns out I was correct. Not only was Willie a chicken eater (sucking eggs is a misdemeanor, but eating hens is a felony) and a common thief who would steal shoes and UPS packages from neighbor’s porches and leave the gnawed-up evidence in Pop’s yard, he was also promiscuous and had religious objections to birth control. Soon, Pop’s phone was ringing off the hook with child support cases and accusations of fowl play.
But puppy troubles aren’t the end of it. Every so often, the phone will ring early in the morning, and it’s a bovine-related complaint.
“Y’all missing some cows?” says the nice neighbor lady, Mama Sue. “Because I got a few extra in my rose bushes.”
Sure enough, there’s the whole herd right in her front yard. The heifers were picking roses and that testy old bull was munching on the gladiolas.
According to my mother, there is only one proper way to round up a bunch of rogue rose-bush-eating cows. The technique involves Momma sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck, dressed only in a flimsy nightgown, her legs unshaven and bristly, hair curlers atop her head, holding a bucket of ground corn and using her special cow-calling technique that not only attracts cows but the laughter and stares of the neighbors. Momma may or may not be wearing a bra; if she is wearing one, it appears to have lost its structural integrity.
I’m driving the Ford because Dad is at work and Momma said she’d whip me if I didn’t. Soon, heads are poking out of doors at every house along the dirt road. I hunker down in the seat, embarrassed.
“Joey, Joey, come on!” (That’s how you call a cow in our ’hood, even if their name isn’t Joey.) More calling, accompanied by rhythmic shaking and beating on the side of the corn bucket, nightgown flapping in the breeze.
Flap, shake, flap, shake. Something bounces out of the nightgown. Now it’s official: Momma is definitely not wearing a bra. I break the rearview mirror trying to turn it far enough away that my eyes will stop burning. One retina may already be permanently damaged.
“Joey, Joey, come on!” Flap, shake, flap. Bounce, bounce. The cows start plodding along behind us, a country caravan of trouble, mooing loudly in tune, and I sink down a little deeper behind the steering wheel so I can’t see Momma and the neighbors can’t see anything but my blood-red, embarrassed forehead, until we can return all of the strays back to our pastures and I can pack my bags to run away from home in shame.
Thankfully, Momma’s cow-wrangling career ended a couple of years ago - about the same time Cousin Wilson stopped bathing during daylight hours. Wilson had just climbed from his shower and realized that all of his clean clothes were hanging on the backyard clothesline. As we often do in the country when we have a reasonable expectation of privacy, he dashed out wearing nothing more than a washcloth to snatch what laundry he needed and scoot back inside.
About that time, Wilson noticed three things: an ugly bull with rose petals on his chin staring at his naked hide; a plume of dust was appearing and drawing closer, coming from a pickup traveling down the dirt road; and he had somehow locked himself out of his mobile home.
Thankfully, I wasn’t there that day. Momma said later that she rounded the corner just in time to see the naked south end of Wilson hanging from a window on the north side of the trailer, legs kicking madly and buttocks shining white in the afternoon sun, and he appeared to be stuck in the window hole like an overfed puppy in a doggie door. Momma whipped the truck around so suddenly that she slung out the spare tire and $450 worth of Dad’s tools and sped off. The National Weather Service later reported a small tornado sighting on Devie Lane, but it was a false alarm.
If there is a moral to this story, it’s that cows will come home when they get good and ready to. And good bras make for good neighbors.
Michael M. DeWitt Jr. is the managing editor of The Hampton County Guardian newspaper in South Carolina. He is an award-winning humorist, journalist and outdoor writer and the author of two books.
DeWitt column: Good bras make for good neighbors
Columns share an author’s personal perspective.