(NOT) On The Road Again

Bill Murphy ©2021

The song ‘On The Road Again’ was made famous by Willie Nelson, or perhaps it was the other way around.  It’s definitely NOT a song related to my mother!  My mom was more closely paired to the movie, ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’

Mom was born February 25, 1915 in rural Mississippi, the daughter of a railroad engineer.  Dad was born July 6, 1910, in Carthage, Mississippi, the son of a self-sufficient farmer.  They met and fell in love in Carthage in the early 1930s, where both lived.  Dad was twenty-two when they married, and she was seventeen.  

Through thick and thin, World War Two, the threat of instant atomic annihilation… and me… they were steadfast friends, lovers, and husband and wife for the remainder of their long and very happy lives.

Yet, both were strong-willed, unique individuals.  Only their love for one another was stronger – thank God!

When they married, Dad was working for a small up-start grocery firm.  He began as a lowly stock-boy, and had worked his way up to manager of one of the company’s stores in Jackson, Mississippi by the time they married.  They rented an apartment only yards from the store, so Dad simply walked to work.  Dad’s work-ethic reasoning was: why should his vehicle take up a potential customer’s spot?

Dad taught Mom to drive; however, he asked her NOT to drive the car until she had her license.  I used the words ‘asked Mom’ because ‘told Mom’ sounds too harsh and demanding.  In today’s world, that’s not politically correct.  But this was in the 1930s, where ‘told’ would be both politically acceptable and strongly reasonable.  My law-abiding, plan-ahead, cover-all-the-bases-father reasoned that 1) Driving without a license was against the law, 2) IF she had an accident, she’d probably NOT be covered on the auto’s insurance, and 3) RESPONSIBLE people don’t take UNNECESSARY chances.  No doubt, he used the word ‘told.’

Girls will be girls they say.  And one of Mom’s lady-friends dropped by to invite her to go along with her into town.  They’d take the bus.  Instead, they took the car!  Mom drove.  She was on the road again when she shouldn’t outta be.  Wouldn’t you know it?  This would be the one day that Dad inexplicably came home in the middle of the day.  Oops!

This was a ‘big deal’ to Dad.  To him, it crossed more that one line.  Mom didn’t agree with what she saw as his un-reasonable attitude.  The embers of anger were  quickly fed by the wind of words.  And Mom, in her unique and amazing way, drew a line in the sand.  I don’t know the exact words she used, but she basically stated:  “If that’s the way you feel, OK.  That settles it.  Since you’re so firm that I was oh so wrong, I promise you here and now, that it will NEVER happen again.  And it will never happen again, because it CAN’T happen again… because I’m NEVER, EVER going to drive again!  So there!”

And she didn’t!

I can remember, when I was still riding a tricycle, and my little sister was a baby in arms and trips to the pediatrician were often for both of us… that Dad would beg and plead with Mom to please, please, PLEASE get your drivers license… DRIVE!  He actually promised her that he’d buy her any car she wanted!  But it was to no avail.  Mom’s clandestine shopping trip downtown was the last time she sat behind the wheel of an automobile!  Ever!!!

I’ve always believed that my family was one-of-a-kind.  And if this doesn’t prove it, nothing does.  But what is so amazing is that this not so tiny ‘wound’ in their relationship healed so utterly and completely.  It really left no scars!  By the time I was was learning to drive, it was simply an accepted fact that Mrs. Murphy did not drive.  Didn’t want to.  She just wasn’t going to do it.  Period.  And friends and family alike accepted this fact as ‘gospel truth.’

I just thought of someone else with an anti-driving mentality… Sheldon Cooper!   

Dipper… not the ‘big’ one.

Snuff©  2018   Bill Murphy

The only person in my family that I knew was a smoker was my Uncle Hilton, who lived across the street.  But, my maternal Grandmother, Emma Fairchild, was a dipper – a snuff dipper.

But one day, she made up her mind to quit.

I think I was pre-school at the time, or perhaps only 1st or 2nd grade.  She announced to the family the big news of snuffing out her snuff habit – and then did a very strange thing:  she asked my mother to pick up a new jar of (Garrett’s) snuff for her.

“Why?” asked my mother, “I thought you were quitting.”

Mamaw Fairchild explained that YES, she was definitely quitting the dusty habit.  However, she wanted a fresh bottle ‘just in case.’

Mom bought the bottle… the very bottle in the photo above.

Mamaw Fairchild put that new bottle of Garrett’s on the mantel… where it sat, unopened, until the day she died – many years later.

My mother saved the bottle, emptied the contents, placed a bright artificial flower bud in it, and placed that amber bottle on a shelf in our home.  Mom also removed the Garrett’s label.

This cherished story from childhood illustrates yet another reason why I hold my ancestor’s in such high esteem.  Mamaw Fairchild made up her mind, and stuck to her decision.  This little bottle is a physical reminder of her determination, to make her bad habit bite the dust!

 

 

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My Grandfather Lied!

© 2017 Bill Murphy

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My grandfather lied to me. It was the sweetest thing he ever could have done.

The time was in the mid 1940s. My mother’s older sister lived in Bogalusa, Louisiana. We visited her often. That trip, my grandparents were with us.

Bogalusa was and is a paper mill and railroad town. My uncle worked for the railroad there. And, my grandfather was retired from the Canton & Carthage RR. He’d been an engineer. So, I’d learned to love trains and railroading. Grandpa Fairchild walked for exercise. His favorite walking path was railroad tracks. He often took me with him. (That leads to several other stories!)  The photo of us was taken perhaps a year of this Bogalusa trip.

That day in Bogalusa, as we neared the rail yards, I told him that I wanted to push a boxcar! Instead of scoffing at this insane childish idea, he lead me over to a lone boxcar sitting on a siding.

boxcar-1

He instructed me as how to place my hands on that rusty, grimy, knuckle coupler on the boxcar’s end, place my feet firmly against the wooden cross-tie, lean forward ,and push with all my might. I pushed.

Of course, nothing happened.

Then he stepped off to the side, like a football coach on the sidelines. “PUSH,” he encouraged. “You can do it, PUSH.” I pushed.

A big grin spread across his face, as he patted me on the back. He told me that the boxcar actually moved – not far – only slightly – but that it moved!

Years later I came to realize the foolishness of my great boxcar push. There’s not a man alive who can singlehandedly push a boxcar. But was I upset by my grandfather’s ‘lie?’ Not on your life!

Grandpa Fairchild’s little white lie taught me that when I set my mind to something, it is possible. And discovering the truth about the boxcar didn’t burst that bubble! No sir! His ‘lie’ continues to give me impossible strength. Today, I want to be a writer. And in spirit, Grandpa Fairchild is still standing beside me, telling me to PUSH, telling me to try. This time he’s not fibbing – because you’re reading this – aren’t you!

 

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