Daddy in the Ditch

Friday nights were often full of uncertainty as my mother wondered if Daddy would come straight home from work. This was especially true on paydays. His buddies at the beer joint were always glad to see him walk in and encouraged him to linger long.

With the money almost gone, Daddy would start for home in his drunken state. Kanis Road with its sharp curves and deep ditches was not easy to navigate in daylight fully sober. Because he was diabetic, the alcohol would often cause him to pass out before he could get all the way home. Not surprisingly, he would sometimes end up in a ditch. My father was well known to the local sheriff and his deputies; and when they would find him passed out and the car in the ditch, they would bring him home. The car would be towed by a friend the next day. As to why my father was never seriously injured in these incidents, only the Lord knows. On the nights he did make it home, he would stir up a huge dust cloud on Gamble Road as he roared into the yard. We children knew to steer clear, and my mother knew what was coming for her.

My grandmother was sure her son knew the Lord. I can remember Daddy going to talk with the preacher and occasionally going to church with us. He even responded to an altar call and committed to staying sober and doing right by his wife and children. I believe my dad truly meant well and was sincere in his desire to change, but the hold alcohol had on him was so strong. As a result, the respites did not last long.

The times were rare and few, but I do remember piling into the back of a pickup truck with my sister and brothers and Daddy taking us to a drive-in movie. There was even money enough for popcorn and an RC Cola!

In our rural neighborhood, my father’s reputation for drinking and abuse was well known. People felt sorry for us and did their best to help. Our clothes were hand-me-downs. The first new dress I ever remember was one bought for my graduation from sixth grade. The tiny pink flowers in the fabric are fast in my memory. I remember feeling pretty when I wore it.

With scant money, my mother was amazing in her ability to stretch. A typical trip to the grocery store would yield a 25-pound sack of flour, a 10-pound bag of corn meal and some lard. My grandmother kept a cow and a few chickens, so we always had milk, butter and eggs. Mother made biscuits and gravy from scratch every morning and cornbread every evening. I learned how to do both as well. In the winter, I cooked cornbread in a cast iron skillet on top of the woodstove in the living room. It was too cold to cook or eat in the drafty kitchen with wind whirling through the cracks, so we huddled in the living room around the stove in the evenings until time for bed. The tar-papered house we lived in was very hot in summer and cold in the winter. We slept in a room with only a sub floor and you could see the ground beneath. My grandmothers handmade quilts were piled on. We would get real warm by the stove and then run jump in bed before we cooled down too much. My sister and I shared the same bed for many years, and my brothers slept sometimes as many as four-to-a-bed. As much as we hated to go to bed, it was worse getting out of those warm beds in the morning to get ready for school.

As for Christmas….

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