Monthly Archives: May 2017

Saturday Night Shoes

via Daily Prompt: Buff

My parents were very strict about our preparations for Sunday. For Mamma, it meant we must cook all afternoon on Saturday and be sure everyone’s clothes were washed and ironed crisply and neatly. For Daddy, it meant shining shoes and buffing them to a fare thee well.

My shoes in 1946 were not little strappy things nor were they slide-ons or wedged heels. For little girls, as I was then, my shoes were usually brown leather oxfords with shoe laces. I wore them the rest of the week running and skipping up and down the hills of North Georgia, scarring rounded toes on roots and rocks. They became thoroughly scuffed by Saturday so it took a lot of energy to buff them to suit my Dad.

Dad would gather six or eight of us kids around him and provide one flat can of shoe polish to share and one polishing rag. He would supervise to begin with, then drift away to something more worthy of his time.

I can smell the shoe polish right this minute. It wasn’t a bad smell, in fact I really liked it, sort of an expectant smell, getting ready for something special. What I didn’t like was getting shoe wax on my fingers. Invariably, no matter how I tried, I ended up with that dark brown shoe polish under my fingernails. So then, even after an older sister scrubbed my hands raw, I’d still have ugly nails for going to church. I wondered sometimes which was worse, scuffed shoes or ugly nails.

After spreading the wax around the toe of a shoe, then along each side, you tackled the turn around the heel. If Daddy had disappeared by then, I was mighty tempted to skip the heel. Who would be looking at the heels of my shoes? Daddy would. Yes, if I dared to skip a heel, Daddy would certainly notice. He told us very firmly that heels were, in fact, more important than toes. If someone saw your toes shining but your heels looking dull, you would be known at once as a hypocrite.

I wasn’t sure, at the age of four or five, what a hypocrite was. But it certainly sounded very bad so I learned to go ahead and buff my shoes all the way around.

Polishing, or buffing, was the fun part. We competed with each other to see who could raise the most sparkling shine, whisking a soft cloth back and forth over the leather. My older brothers said I shouldn’t have any trouble buffing my shoes because they were so little, so much smaller than theirs. But by the end of winter, my shoes were so badly scarred I needed to polish them twice to get a good reflection in my toes.

Every year in September Mamma ordered our new shoes from either Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Wards. One year when I was about nine I had two horrible sores on my right foot, so bad that I couldn’t wear my new shoes. I loved new shoes so much that I begged to be able to wear just my left shoe. But Mamma said I’d wear one out faster that way, and Daddy said with a twinkle in his eyes that I’d end up with one leg shorter than the other. Anyway, the only thing good about having sores on my foot was that for a couple of weeks I didn’t have to buff my shoes.

When I was eleven Daddy lowered a terrible ultimatum on me. He said I could no longer go barefoot even in hottest summer. My feet, he said, deserved my taking care of them so that when I was a lady they would be pretty. Even now, I love to kick off my shoes and ramble the house barefoot. But no more running over the hills knocking nails off my toes on stones and roots.

I’m thankful my Daddy cared enough about all of us to teach us to take care of our shoes and our feet. I’m glad he taught me to shine my shoes until I could see myself in my toes. But I’m also glad he taught us to take special care of our heels and, philosophically, pointed us to the understanding that character is portrayed by what you do when no one is watching.





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Chasing Fireflies

Every evening after supper (before I was deemed big enough to wash dishes) I chased fireflies with two older brothers and a younger sister. The grass was cool and damp under our bare feet. The bitterish smell of boxwood wafted in the air when we dashed around the corner of the house. The sun might just have set and the dusky last light of day was perfect for spying the little blinking “airplanes” of the night.

I learned how to catch them and how to hold them gently. If you possess a firefly too aggressively it will kill him and, not only will his light be gone, but you will smell a strong offensive odor on your hands even after you wash with Octagon soap.

We were fascinated by the lightning bugs (same as fireflies) and did sometimes collect several in a pint jar to glow in the night. But our parents, especially Mamma, were adamantly opposed to any perceived cruelty to any creature, so we always let them fly away before too long. Our fascination didn’t go so far as to our doing any scientific studies. Catching them and watching them was enough.

When Charles and I moved to our pre-Civil War house on South Broad, Cairo, in the ’70’s, we discovered there were no fireflies there. I wondered why there were no lights blinking as twilight deepened, and I missed them. Our children didn’t have the fun of chasing fireflies at our house. Then, forty-two years later, we moved across town and, as that first summer approached, here came the fireflies. I was absolutely delighted. I don’t know what is different about this yard that they like so much more. Maybe it’s a little more moist or perhaps there’s vegetation that draws them. Anyway, we love to sit on our porch in the early evening and watch the lights come on.

Since we’re a bit older now, maybe even a tiny bit wiser, we’ve become very interested in the “life and times” of the firefly. We’ve found far more information than will fit in this blog. But here are a few facts and observations I jotted down from the “glowing” reports I read!

The firefly has a 2-week mating season annually. Each species has its own flash pattern. Charles has identified a pattern displayed by our fireflies, a certain glow down low, then a dip upwards and up again until he’s even in the leaves of the maple tree. But the gruesome fact about the patterning is that the females of the Photuris species replicate the patterns of another species of males, lure them with their sparkle, then eat them. So much for sweet romance!

The quantity and quality of firefly mating is affected by factors such as moisture, temperature, and the fullness of the moon.

In case you wanted to know something about the firefly’s geneology, I should tell you their cousins are the luminescent glow worms which are also in the Lampyridae family. How’s that for an identifying last name?

Now for the life cycle of a firefly. North American fireflies spend two years underground as larvae. No flashing there, just darkness and gloom and the smell of earth. (Except for some species that actually do glow even in the earth, like their glow worm cousins.) But the wicked truth is that even at this stage some of these little critters are cold blooded killers. Some species have a numbing venom they can inject into unsuspecting snails and slugs before they move into their shells or bodies and eat them from the inside out. Not exactly a neighbor you’d want to be cozy with.

I hasten to say there are more than 2,000 species of the firefly worldwide, and some are not as mean as others.

But back to the life cycle. After the larvae stage the firefly goes into the pupa stage (not to be confused with pupil!). In this stage he emerges from the ground and, in the case of some species, creeps and crawls up the bark of certain trees. There, one fine evening, the pupae become fireflies/lightning bugs. Just for your information, these little flying black and orange insects aren’t flies and neither are they bugs. They are beetles.

So we’re back to the beautiful stage, the stage where we can reach out and let a “beetle” land on our hands. We can watch this little lightly striped creature crawl up a thumb and fly away, or we can capture him in a jar for a longer look. He certainly doesn’t appear to be evil.

A firefly’s entire purpose is to produce more fireflies. (He doesn’t realize God made him to bring cheer to humans.) When the female lays her eggs on the bark of a pine tree she lays about one hundred which will sift and shift to the ground where the cycle begins again.

Usually lightning bugs are not in sync when they light up. We see one here and then one there, one low, then one high. Males light their signal as they fly from a lower position to a higher place while females supposedly give their communicative answering blink from shrubbery where they seductively hide. But there are two areas in the world where fireflies do light simultaneously: the Great Smoky Mountains and Southeast Asia. In the Smokies the show is so predictable and wonderful that campers annually descend on places like Elkmont, Tennessee to observe the fireworks from blankets and folding chairs. In Asia the fireflies, several species of the genus Ptereoptyx, light simultaneously in mangrove trees and nipa palms. Sometimes, according to reports, one can see a whole tree lit up at once.

We’re in awe of the dedicated scientists who have figured out all these facts by spending night after night prone in wet grass, or digging in the earth, studying tediously in their labs, even watching a pupa “caterpillar” eating his prey.

We are in awe, too, of the fascinating life and times of the firefly.

But we’re most in awe of Almighty God Who must have smiled when He first sent a pair of fireflies into the moist air from his thumb or wrist.

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A Visit With Some Hogs


Oak trees met overhead making sunlight flicker on our truck as Charles drove us toward Metcalf, Georgia. A small voice behind me asked, “When will we be there, Grandaddy?” Kaison (4) and I were having a field trip with Grandaddy. He was going to the Stringers’ Farm to test some hogs and then to the sale barn in Thomasville to cast his eye on a hundred or so cows.

I couldn’t help remembering some of the early hog days when things were quite different.

The first time I saw my husband groveling in the mud at the back end of a 500 pound sow I thought, is this his reward for all those nights nailed to the chair in the pantry off our tiny kitchen in Athens? Is this what he prepared for when he was taking all those ologies (Histology, Microbiology, Hematology) and spending forever hours in labs? But even that day as we rode home with the smell of hogs thick in his first practice car, I could tell Charles was happy in an indescribable way. Yes, he’d be quick to clean up when he got home. He wasn’t really fond of the mud or the squeals. But he loved relieving pain and making things better for patient and client. That day he’d delivered one little pig that was holding up the traffic so ten more could not make it out the tunnel to life.

He got hog calls day and night (of course, lots of other kinds of calls too!). He tested hogs for brucellosis and pseudo-rabies (keeping hogs and humans healthy), delivered pigs, came home with mud in his hair, climbed over all kinds of fences, kept a hammer with him for repairing gates, and always kept up a running conversation with the client and a whole peanut gallery of onlookers–that is, if the squeals weren’t at top level. He became convinced that at the full of the moon pigs squealed louder and longer.

On any given Saturday he might be found at Cairo Animal Hospital “cutting” pigs or giving shots in the back of Cleveland Copeland’s trailer. Or while we were lunching at home there might be a rattle and a squeal announcing the arrival of a hog owner seeking help. He also worked the huge farrowing houses where he’d work all day or maybe two or three days a season.

But then hog prices plummeted and finally they all but left Grady County. Now his hog calls are few and far between. But he does still receive them. Sometimes he chuckles when he says he’s going to “do” hogs because it may only be six instead of 306.

That was the case this day when Kaison and I rode with him. Kaison had mainly seen hogs in a book and I wanted him to meet one face to face.

A big old Hampshire boar hog came snorting up to the fence and Kaison, our very trusting one, started to reach out and pet him. I stopped that, explaining that one doesn’t pet big fat hogs. “Why?” “Well, because–he might take a bite of your shirt, Kaison.” Kaison looked at his shirt and seemed to be thinking he could let the hog have a bite of his shirt. Just then the sow Charles and Mr. Stringer were taking blood from and clamping an ear tag on let out a scream that would quite easily have reached Shanghai. Kaison clapped hands over his ears and gave up trying to pet the hog.

Kaison wondered about the big holes in the lot where Mr. Hog lived. When I told him the hog had dug those holes of course the next question was why. He wondered why Lady Hog was hollering so loud. He wondered why the hogs were different from each other. He wondered why Grandaddy had to take the sows’ blood. He wondered why the hogs didn’t want their shots. He wondered why the hogs were running away so fast when they were set free.

A wonderful child full of wonder! I tried to answer all his questions. I hope he’ll remember the day he visited the hogs with Grandaddy and Nana. And his visit to the sale barn too where he and Grandaddy walked together on the long boardwalks overseeing the backs of so many cows, black ones, black and white ones, brown ones, cows with long horns, cows with no horns, lots and lots of cows. He may remember the most eating applesauce (his choice!) at Chick Fil A and playing in their playground.



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