Sunday, April 25, 2010


My Papaw was the youngest son of a family that included five boys and one girl. I've been told by my Mamaw that he had a twinkle in his eye and was considered "fast" and "rough" by her strict Baptist father and mother. When I met him he was considerably older and some tamer but still had a twinkle in his eye.

He worked at the American Acme, which was a furniture factory right behind the house where my grandparents, my mother and father and aunts and uncles all lived. When we were old enough, my cousin Pedro and I would walk up to the factory when it was time for the lunch whistle to blow and walk down to the house with Papaw. The factory smelled of the wood the men and women were cutting and forming into furniture. We would make our way among the machines to Papaw and he would direct us to wait outside for just a few minutes.

Just outside the door we went in was a huge sunken vat of something liquid. Looking back I know it must have been shellac or varnish of some kind. I don't remember which it was now what I do remember was the intoxicating echo you could make if you lay on your belly and stuck your head over the edge and called down into that black pit. Of course spitting into that abyss was also strictly forbidden but the temptation to spit into it was very real. Small bits of gravel slipped over the edge and made the most delightful plop when they hit the bottom. And, I will admit it here but nowhere else, I can't speak for any of my cousins but I spit into that inky void at least once. Of course, there was a lid that was normally firmly in place and we were warned repeatedly to stay away from the edge of the vat...but that plop, so distant but so distinct was like a siren's call.

Of course, peering over the edge had to be done quickly because if we had been caught we would have been in trouble and most likely whipped by our mothers. Even worse, we wouldn't be allowed to walk Papaw down for lunch.

He would come home and eat his noon meal and take a few minutes rest in his big over stuffed blue chair, sometimes dozing a little as he watched "Truth or Consequences".
When his lunch hour was nearly over, he'd stretch and put another dip of Skoal into his cheek and go back to the factory.

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