My Payne-ful Childhool Memories

Growing up the older of the two daughters of Max and Faye Payne - these are some of my favorite, or at least my most vividly-recalled, memories of my childhood in the late fifties and early sixties.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Storyteller

"After you hear it, you don't never forget the sound.  Just like a woman screamin'.  That's what it sounds like.  Makes goosebumps pop up all over you, and makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck.  Ain't no other sound like it."

At this, all four of us were hanging onto every word she said.  All piled up in her four-poster bed, we couldn't imagine how frightened she must have been.  What was it like?  How would we have reacted had we been there on that black, summer night, walking through a dimly-lit field with only the tiniest bit of moonlight to illuminate our path?  Did it really sound like a woman's screams... the cry of a panther?

MaMaw never formally studied the art of writing, or of conveying a story using all of the senses... sight, sound, smell and touch.  Some people don't require formal training.  Some people, like MaMaw, were born with the gift of storytelling... a gift that is fast becoming a lost art.  Each of the stories she shared with the four of us grandchildren described the setting so vividly that we were transported to the very place and time of the event.  Her facial expressions conveyed all the emotions.  Her odd repertoire of sound effects and her flurry of hand movements and arm gyrations set the tone of the tale.  She knew just when to pause for effect; just when to lower her voice.   As she would crescendo into a "Waaahaaa" with her arms raised in the air and her hands waving back and forth, we would  dive head-first beneath the covers, squealing like a pack of baby piglets.  And this is how she got us ready for bed... really.

From left to right:  Me, Kenneth Todd, Kim Todd, MaMaw and Linda.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Gone Fishing

Linda at age 3 - Don't let the sweet smile fool you!
I'm pretty sure she talked me into it.  Linda, that is... my younger sister... the daredevil... the one with all the crazy ideas of things to do.  For instance, she's the one who convinced me that it would be really fun to climb up the ladder that some inattentive adult had left propped against the side of our house.  Climb, we did, until we reached the roof just above the kitchen.  And there we sat; a six-year-old and a five-year-old, just sitting on top of the house.

I don't know if it was because we were afraid to climb back down (I doubt if that were the case, because I don't recall anything that Linda was ever afraid of) or if it was simply a matter of, "Well, now that we're here, what do we do?"  Either way, we just sat there like two turtles on a log until we heard the back screen door slam shut and Mother step into the back yard calling our names.  Now what?

We knew we didn't have time to climb down the ladder and make it all the way to the ground before Mother rounded the corner from the back and came down the side of the house where the ladder was... unless she went in the opposite direction, to the other side of the house.  Which way would she go?  Did we risk it?  Should we wait until we could tell what direction she was taking?  We actually considered just quietly sitting there in hopes that she would go back inside.  We discussed this in whispers, because Mother had the hearing of some sort of superhero.  I guess we thought she would get tired of looking and give up, then forget about the fact that she couldn't find us and didn't know where we were.  Children ages six and under have strange thought processes.

"Jaaannet!  Liiindaaaa!" she kept calling.  "Where are you?"  Finally, I could stand it no longer.  "Up here," I replied in a pitifully, faint voice.  I couldn't make eye contact with Linda because I knew with my betrayal she would want to shove me right over the edge of the roof.  What seemed like an eternity passed between my revelation of our location and Mother's arrival at the foot of the ladder.  With every step she took I tried to think of ways out of the predicament; some way to avoid what I knew was coming.  Nothing worthwhile came to mind.  I'll never forget the look on her face, nor the sound of her voice as she asked, "What are you doing up there?"  She really didn't want to know... I could tell.  She really meant, "We're all going inside and I'm getting the flyswatter," which is exactly what happened.

Linda - just over 1 year old
This idea, which once again I'm certain was Linda's, didn't get our backsides blistered like that ladder one did; but I don't think Mother was much happier with it.  We went fishing.  We hadn't planned on going fishing.  We weren't equipped to go fishing.  We weren't old enough to go fishing on our own.  As a matter of fact, I think this may have been the same summer as the adventure on the roof... the summer I was just about to turn seven and Linda was five, and we had just been given permission to go walking through the pasture.

As an adult, when I had the opportunity to rear my small children in the same little white frame house where I spent my early childhood, I can recall looking out behind the house into that pasture and thinking, "Had Mother lost her mind when she let us wander out unattended in that grassy, snaky field?"  But, apparently she had found it harmless enough to let us take off on our own and wander across a five-acre pasture in search of who-knows-what.  I'm sure we didn't even know what our intentions were as we started on our journey... just getting out of the house.  In any case, when I was with Linda, some opportunity for mischief always seemed to present itself.

Chocolate Gravy

Me, Linda and Mother - August, 1960

The St. Francis County Fair was held here in Forrest City a few weeks ago.  A big part of the fair each year is the Kountry Kitchen.  The Kountry Kitchen is open all during fair week, and is famous for its old-fashioned, southern-style, home-cooked meals... especially the lunches.  Lunches at the Kountry Kitchen during the fair include old favorites like Chicken and Dressing, Meatloaf, Chicken and Dumplings, Fried Chicken, Fried Pork Chops, Fried Okra, Squash Casserole, Sweet Potato Casserole, Purple Hull Peas, Fried Corn, Mashed Potatoes, Apple Cobbler and Peach Cobbler.

A few years ago, a change in my job allowed me the opportunity to help with meals at the Kountry Kitchen.  After having eaten lunches in the Kountry Kitchen for so many years, I felt like it was a great opportunity for me to do my part.  Though my new work schedule didn't allow a lot of time to volunteer to help with lunch, it provided plenty of time to help with breakfast.  One of my first real assignments was making gravy.

Most of the morning fare at the Kountry Kitchen consists of the "Big Breakfast Plate"; two eggs, sausage or bacon, two biscuits and milk gravy.  As I fried sausage and bacon, and prepared enormous skillets of milk gravy, it brought back memories of my childhood breakfasts.  Milk gravy, or sausage gravy as we sometimes called it, was sometimes served as part of our family breakfast.  Hot, homemade buttermilk biscuits were split apart, and the sausage-laden, ivory-colored, creamy goodness was ladled over the top.  Who needed extras like eggs when there were biscuits and gravy?

Most of the rest of the world, at least the Southern world, thinks of milk gravy, or sausage gravy, when a "breakfast" gravy is mentioned.  That wasn't the case in my family.  Oh, sure, we occasionally had that "white" gravy with our biscuits at breakfast.  But, when the Paynes talked about biscuits and gravy, it usually meant only one thing... Chocolate Gravy... better known to those in my parents household as "Chocolate and Biscuits."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Forrest City Grandparents

During my childhood years I wasn't able to spend quite as much time with my maternal grandparents as I was with my paternal grandmother.  My childhood home was less than a couple of miles from MaMaw.  But Grandmother and PaPaw lived almost 20 miles away in Forrest City. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Front Porch

From housing a baby deer to providing a setting for many various photo opportunities, the front porch of this little white frame house served a multitude of purposes during the 14 years that I lived there.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Back Yard

My best friend... my worst enemy... the only child I had for a playmate within 3 miles of our house was my younger sister, Linda.

We sit here on the back steps of our house in rural eastern Arkansas.