The Zipperers, for example, had this massive old bell in their front yard -- I mean, it was huge!
Marjorie told us it was there to call workers in from the fields for dinner. (In the South, "dinner" means lunch, the midday meal. The evening meal is called supper.)
If they all had cell phones, Marjorie could've just texted He'll Burn and told him it was time "to get them workers back to the house."
She said the bell was also used in case of an emergency, like a fire or something. You ring that bell a few times and the neighbors would come running, esp. if it wasn't close to dinner time.
So, she said, "Y'all don't ever play with the bell. It ain't a toy. If I hear any of y'all doing it, you gonna get a whippin. You can look at it, but don't ever ring it. You hear me?"
We heard her alright! So we hardly ever played with it, just rang it a few times here and there, and if a grownup came running out of the house, we would blame someone else for doing it or claim it was an accident.
This story has two lessons, or morals I guess we could call them: One, always have a phone so you don't need a massive bell taking up half your front yard and tempting kids to ring it which will cause a ruckus throughout the whole neighborhood (except on a farm, where there are no neighborhoods); two, when you tell kids that there's just one thing they're not allowed to do, they'll always do it.
Y'all can play in this whole entire garden, and y'all can eat all the berries, apples, pears, bananas, peaches, apricots, tangerines, oranges, plums, figs, pecans, olives, avocados, and mangoes you want, but don't climb on that big tree next to the fence, don't touch it, don't even get near it.
Guess what's going to happen next?
Then there was the time Mama Joyce was going to have a baby who would turn out to be Joe. In those days, she wasn't 91, but more like 29.
One day she told me and Martha, "Now this probably won't ever happen but listen carefully just in case. In just a little while, not no more than a week or two, I'm gonna have this baby [pointing at her swollen belly]. Now if I start to have it and your daddy ain't here, you gonna need to get the attention of Granddaddy or Hilburn or anybody you can, to get here as fast as they can and get me to a hospital."
(Granddaddy lived across a field from us, you know, in Grandmother's 'ouse.)
The way to get their attention, she told us, was to yell out as loud as we could, and the sound would probably carry across the field.
|Me during the Zipperer years. I wanted to be a cowboy.|
End of meeting. Mama Joyce goes back inside and her two thoughtful children began to do a very dangerous thing: Think. Problem solving, really.
Where would be the best place to yell so somebody could hear us all the way across the field? And what exactly should we yell?
We pondered a few possibilities and eventually Martha said, "I know! Remember that one pigpen that has a roof on it? We can climb up on that and yell from there!"
"Yeah!" I must've said. "And we can yell out 'Mama's having a baby!'"
Martha decided it might be a good idea to practice our plan when we were the only ones at home. So one day when Mama Joyce was shopping for groceries, we began our first and only rehearsal. It was exciting! With some difficulty, we climbed up on top of the pig pen and, on the count of three, started yelling, "HELP! MAMA IS HAVING A BABY! MAMA IS HAVING A BABY! HELLLPPPP!"
It worked! In just a few minutes, Hilburn, who was just by chance working in a nearby field, came racing across the dirt roads in his green Chevrolet truck, pulled up at our (his, really) house and jumped out of his truck.
Martha was our spokesperson, and carefully explained our strategy to Hilburn and assured him that Mama Joyce was not really having a baby at the moment but was off buying groceries. But she could have one almost any day so it was good Hilburn heard us. It sounded like she was trying to keep Hilburn from feeling like an idiot for hauling butt to our house for nothing.
When Hilburn left, he didn't seem too happy. Maybe he did feel like an idiot.
Later he told Mama Joyce, which I didn't think was necessary. And a little later, an embarrassed and angry Mama Joyce spanked both of us which I also didn't think was necessary.
If we had had cell phones, none of this would've ever happened.