Family Ties – Lynnie Get the Gun
Summer Along Kirby Mountain Road
The 4th of July always reminds me of summers at Granny and Papa’s house. I was one of those lucky kids that grew up on a dirt road in the mountains of North Carolina. As each of my grandparents’ kids got married they were given a piece of land to establish their own home. Our family land stretched about 2 miles along both sides of the winding road with a good piece between us and any unrelated neighbors. Our stretch started with Granny and Papa’s house, then Bonnie’s, JE’s, and finally Judy’s. My best friends were my cousins. We wore that stretch of dirt road out with our bare feet running between each others’ houses.
We felt safe from the world. We knew we were crazy, but we understood our kind of crazy. The only real threat came from the occasional unknown car that trolled our road hoping to find us gone. With the distance and curves between houses, our homes were prime targets for thieves. After the mailman ran in the early afternoon no one came along our patch until after the furniture factory let out at 3 pm. As long as they hightailed it out of there by 3:30 they figured they were in the clear.
What they did not figure on was that we were a family that survived life together. This meant that the men worked 1st shift in the furniture factories, while the women worked 2nd and 3rd shift jobs. This allowed adults to be around all hours of the day to watch the young’uns as we were called. We did not pay for babysitters.
Surviving together also meant that we grew our own crops in the fields between houses. If we did not plant it, we did not eat it unless we made a trade with another family raising something we did not have or we got a really good deal at the Lowes Foods. Some of us went out and worked in the fields while the rest of us piled on Granny and Papa’s front porch shucking corn and breaking beans. Oh man, I can feel the blisters on my fingers now just thinking about it. No wonder I have rheumatoid arthritis at such an early age.
Last night as I put fresh corn on the cob on to boil I thought about my favorite summer days. Those were the days when the watermelon and the corn came in. Watermelon cutting day was the best! Papa loaded the back of his Dotson pickup truck with watermelons and brought them up to the house. Somebody sliced them into wedges and passed them out. We stood in the front yard with all of us bent over our dripping watermelon wedge and went to town. We did not leave a drop. When it was all over, we washed in the creek that ran between the road and their front yard.
The 2nd best day was corn eating day. When the corn came in all we had for supper was plate after plate piled as high as it could be without toppling over. I still remember Granny calling out from the kitchen, “So and so, how many ears of corn can you eat?” She went down the list of names until she had a final count. It was the best corn of the year. When it was all over I was a little sad that I had to wait a whole year before there would be another 1st day of corn.
As I boiled the corn last night I was hoping that by some small chance it would taste as good as that corn did when I was a child. I pondered the possibility that the only way to get anything to taste that good is to put your own sweat and tears into it. AND I do mean tears. There were always some tears involved. At some point in the summer, you could count on me to cry about my fingers and there was no telling what any of us was going to step on that cut our foot open. I thought about all of this as I stood watching the corn boil. Then it hit me. A summer story too good not to share.
Lynnie Get the Gun!
It was a hot summer day. The men were all off at work while Granny, Aunt Judy, and my mom (Lynnie) were busy watching the kids and doing housework. Kids were expected to stay outside all day. This particular day was between planting and harvesting, so there was down time. All of us kids were playing with Hot Wheels in the sand racetrack we built along the bank of the creek by the driveway. Judy was rocking on the front porch watching us play. I am not sure where my mom was, but Granny was cleaning in the back of the house. Air conditioning was not seen as a necessity in the mountains back then, so all the windows were open.
Since we did not have many unexpected cars along our stretch, our ears were trained to perk up like a dog’s when we heard tires kicking up dirt. We could not see beyond the laurels at the far end of the yard, but we always knew who was coming well before they got within sight. With Granny at the back of the house, she heard the car coming first and knew right away it was not one of ours. She perched at the window and waited for the front of the car to peek out around the foliage. As soon as she saw the car, she recognized it as the one that had been trolling us all summer. She quickly realized that everyone was at her house, so they would find good pickings anywhere between Bonnie’s and Judy’s. She yelled out, “It’s those boys. Judy, you better go after them. They’ll be down at your house and you won’t have nothing left.”
Judy went from the epitome of relaxing and rocking on the front porch on a hot summer day in the south to sprinting like an Olympic gold medalist down the driveway. She picked up all 4 feet 11 inches of her tiny frame and took off running after these boys that were about to break into her house. As she went running she yelled, “Lynnie get the gun!” Before I could process what was going on, Mom came barreling out the front door and down the steps with her bare feet and a shotgun. They might have weighed 200 pounds between the 2 of them if they were soaking wet.
In my memory, it was my cousin, Bryan (but it may have been my brother, Chuck) who stood up and said, “Granny, why didn’t they take the car?” Whichever one said it was instructed to get in the car with Granny as she took off after them. They found Judy and Mom at Bonnie’s house. The thieves had gone in and torn the place up before they were scared off by these two little women running down the road yelling at each other. You could get a good echo going between the hills, so the thieves could literally hear them coming from a mile away. Thank God they were on bare feet so they did not get to the house before the thieves got away.
When Papa came home we all tried to tell the story at the same time. He always took these antics in stride. He simply said, “Lynnie, what were ya’ll going to do when you ran in on them and they all had guns too?”
Family Is Worth the Stress
Those were the good old days. Our family is spread across the state and down into Florida now. Nowadays I get stressed when I think about a big family gathering. It has to be somewhat of a production to get us all together in one place. The precious memories remind me of the importance of these events, especially to Granny. That makes the stress worth it. All families go through deaths that loosen some of the family glue, arguments over big stuff and bickering over small stuff. When it comes right down to it, family is worth the stress and the fight. This 4th of July put down your squabbles, make some pasta salad, cut up a watermelon and grill some burgers with the people God gave you whether you like them or not. Blood may not be enough to hold your family together, but watermelon juice is.