My grandparents’ yard was about an acre of a 40 acre property. There was a fence around the other 39 and a neighbor kept cows there. (He paid my grandparents for the use of the property with half a beef every year.) There was a pasture to the right of the house and a wet weather creek back in the woods. We played all over about 10 acres of that property. We had to be careful in the pasture because there were thistles and cacti all over the place. And if we got too close to the cows, the bull got tetchy.
I am 5 years older than my first sister, 7 years older than the youngest. After one visit from all of us without my parents, my grandparents refused to try to keep up with all 3 of us at one time again. But, we did go singly or in a pair. They were very loving and the only punishment any of us ever got from them (with one exception and I don’t blame them, I was unintentionally very bad) was their disapproval. That was usually sufficient to keep us in line. There were occasional threats of corporal punishment. But, they were never acted on. The idea of being so bad that they would actually spank us was was too horrible to contemplate.
One summer when Amanda was 3 or 4 and I was 8 or 9, we visited them together leaving Ingrid with our parents. Our grandparents had a habit of having a cocktail while they listened to a baseball game on the radio, enjoying the evening in lounge chairs in the back yard. They only ever had one. I think his was bourbon and water. Hers was bourbon and Coke. On this particular evening, I took a walk across across the pasture while Mandy played around my grandparents in their chairs under the mimosa trees.
When I was halfway to the other side of the field full of thistles, cows and cacti, I heard my little sister screaming “Save me, Kitty! Save me!” I turned around to see my grandfather holding her by the arm and she was trying to pull away from him. He was holding a stick half the thickness of my arm like he was going to brain her with it. I started running back toward them, thinking “What do I think I can do to stop him? And please don’t let me step on a cactus!”
And noticing that my grandmother was sitting in her chair, just holding her drink. And laughing. When I got to the fence, I could see that both my grandparents were laughing so hard they had tears in their eyes.
I don’t remember which one of them asked me what I thought I was going to do when I got there. I do remember saying “I had no idea. I just ran because she was hollering.”
When I asked what was going on, Mama told me me Mandy had sassed my grandfather and he had threatened to take a switch to her. So, she sassed him again. Probably saying something along the line of “You will not either.”
He never would have. That was not his way. And part of what was absurd was the tree branch he had picked up. If he’d hit her with that, he would have broken bones. The idea of it was ludicrous.
(The only spanking any of us ever got was 3 swats on a clothed bottom on the side of a very busy road where I had been taking a parade of cousins for a walk. It hadn’t occurred to me that walking beside the highway that ran in front of their house was different than walking on the sidewalk in my quiet neighborhood at home. We scared the life out of all the grown ups that day.)
“Save me, Kitty. Save me.” was one of my grandmother’s favorite stories to tell on us. She was still laughing about it 30 years later when we were grown and he had been dead for more than 20 years.
This was taken at my parents’ wedding. She was 5 years younger than I am now. He was a year older than her. I was born a year and a half later.