‘I did say it, Mama:
‘Yes, she did, Mother. '
‘I did http://dvdmusicstore.ru not hear it. '
‘Thank you, Eddie. '
‘You're welcome, Aud. '
Then the rest of us sat down.
Thereafter, as each girl entered high school, the senior available boy was conscripted into the ceremony.
On Sundays, dinner was at one because everyone but Father went to Sunday School and everyone including Father went to morning church.
Father stayed out of the kitchen. Mother never entered the clinic and surgery even to clean. That cleaning was done by a hired girl, or by one of my sisters, or (once I was old enough) by me.
By unwritten rules, never broken, my parents lived in peace. I think their friends thought of them as an ideal couple and of their offspring as ‘those nice Johnson children'.
Indeed I think we were a happy family, all nine of us children and our parents. Don't think for a minute that we lived under such strict discipline that we did not Nave fun. We had loads of fun, both at home and away.
But we made our own fun, mostly. I recall a time, many years later, when American children seemed to be unable to amuse themselves without a fortune in electrical and electronic equipment. We had no fancy equipment and did not miss it. By then, i89o more or less, Mr Edison had invented the electric light and Professor Bell had invented the telephone but these modern miracles had not reached Thebes, in Lyle County, Missouri. As for electronic toys the word ‘electron' had yet to be coined. But my brothers had sleds and wagons and we girls had dolls and toy sewing machines and we had many indoor games in joint tenancy-dominoes and draughts and chess and jackstraws and lotto and pigs-in-clover and anagrams. ..
We played outdoor games that required no equipment, or not much. We had a variation of baseball called ‘scrub' which could be played by three to eighteen players plus the volunteer efforts of dogs, cats, and one goat.
We had other livestock: from one to four horses, depending on the year; a Guernsey cow named Clytemnestra; chickens (usually Rhode Island Reds); guinea fowl, ducks (white domestic), rabbits from time to time, and (one season only) a sow named Gumdrop. Father sold Gumdrop when it developed that we were unwilling to eat pigs we had helped raise. Not that we needed to raise pigs; Father was more likely to receive fees in smoked ham or a side of bacon than he was to be paid in money.
We all fished and the boys hunted. As soon as each boy was old enough (ten, as I recall') to handle a rifle, Father taught him to shoot, a. 22 at first. He taught them to hunt, too, but I did not see it; girls were not included. I did not mind that (I refused to have anything to do with skinning and gutting bunny rabbits, that being their usual game) but I did want to learn to shoot. .. and made the mistake of saying so in Mother's hearing. She exploded.
Father told me quietly, ‘We'll discuss it later. '
And we did. About a year later, when it was established that I sometimes drove Father on country calls, unbeknownst to Mother he started taking along in the back of his buggy under gunny sacks a little single-shot. 22. .. and Maureen was taught to shoot. .. and especially how not to get shot, all the rules of firearm safety. Father was a patient teacher who demanded perfection.
Weeks later he said, ‘Maureen, if you will remember what we taught you, it may cause you to live longer. I hope so. We won't tackle pistol this year; your hands aren't yet big enough. '
We young folks owned the whole outdoors as our playground. We picked wild blackberries and went nutting for black walnuts and searched for pawpaws and persimmons. We went on hikes and picnics. Eventually, as each of us grew taller and began to feel new and wonderful yearnings, we used the outdoors for courting - ‘sparking', we called it.
Our family was forever celebrating special days - eleven birthdays, our parents' wedding anniversary, Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, Washington's birthday, Easter, Valentine's Day, the Fourth of July (a double celebration, it being my birthday), and Admission Day on the tenth of August. Best of all was the county fair - ‘best' because Father drove in the harness races (and warned his patients not to get sick that week - or see Dr Chadwick, his exchange). We sat in the stands and cheered ourselves hoarse. .. although Father seldom finished in the money. Then came Halloween and Thanksgiving, which brings us up to Christmas again.
That's a full month of special days, every one of them celebrated with noisy enthusiasm.
And there were non-special days when we sat around the dining table and picked the meats from walnuts as fast as Father and Edward could crack them, while Mother or Audrey read aloud from the Leatherstocking Tales or Ivanhoe or Dickens - or we made popcorn, or popcorn balls (sticky all over everything! ), or fudge, or we gathered around the piano and sang while Mother played, and that was best of all.
There were winters when we had a spell-down every night because Audrey was going for it seriously. She walked around with McGuffey's speller under one arm and Webster's American Spelling Book under the other, her lips moving and her eyes blank. She always won the family drills; we expected that; family competition was usually between Edward and me for second place.
Audrey made it: first place in Thebes Consolidated Grammar and High School when she was in Sixth Grade, then the following year she went all the way to Joplin for the regional - only to lose to a nasty little boy from Rich Hill. But in her freshman year in high school she won the regional and went on to Jefferson City and won the gold medal for top speller in Missouri. Mother and Audrey went together to the state capital for the finals and the presentation - by stage coach to Butler, by railroad train to Kansas City, then again by train to Jefferson City. I could have been jealous - of Audrey's travel, not of her gold medal - had it not been that by then I was about to go to Chicago (but that's another story).
Audrey was welcomed back with a brass band, the one that played at the county fair, specially activated off-season to honour ‘Thebes' Favourite Daughter' (so it said on a big banner), ‘Audrey Adele Johnson', Audrey cried. So did I.
I remember especially one hot July afternoon - ‘Cyclone weather, ' Father decided, and, sure enough, three twisters did touch down that day, one quite close to our house.
We were safe; Father had ordered us into the storm cellar as soon as the sky darkened, and bad helped Mother down the steps most carefully - she was carrying again. .. my little sister Beth it must have been. We sat down there for three hours, by the light of a barn lantern, and drank lemonade and ate Mother's sugar cookies, thick and floury and filling.