(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!   

Billy Trauma – Carthage, MS

Goshen WP

© 2018 Bill Murphy

My father, William Hendrix Murphy, was named after his maternal great-grandfather, William Hendrix.  It seems that everyone in the Carthage area has nicknames, and my Dad’s grandfather was referred to as ‘Uncle Billy Hendrix.’   I’m not sure where the ‘Uncle’ came from.  Dad chose to go by Hendrix, which the family shortened to ‘Hinx.’

Mom and Dad were both from Carthage, Mississippi.  After they married, they moved to the big city of Jackson, MS.  When I came along in 1941, and was given the name William Hendrix Murphy, Jr.,  Mom immediately began calling me Billy.  But everyone in the Carthage area, especially my many aunts, uncles, and cousins (Dad was one of 11 children) immediately applied the resurrected name of ‘Billy Hendrix’ to me.  It was only logical I suppose, as I was Billy, son of Hendrix.  One of my treasured keepsakes is an engraved keychain given as a high school graduation gift – from Carthage – engraved not with WHM, but… BHM.  I suppose that was my first ‘Carthage Trauma.’  I didn’t like the added ‘Hendrix’ to my name.  I thought my name was plain ole Billy.  Oh well.

My first genuine trauma came when I was around 4.  I dearly LOVED going to Carthage.  It was a whole new world.  It was not all asphalt and concrete.  Carthage had gravel roads, hay, horses, cows, chickens ,pigs, fresh-laid eggs, popcorn still on the stalk, and peanuts in the ground!  It was a zoo and a large park all rolled into one.  My grandmother, Momma Murphy, still cooked (by choice) on a wood burning stove!  They even still had an outhouse, with two holes.

We visited my grandparents OFTEN, at least once a month.  One Sunday evening as my parents were getting ready to leave, I begged and pleaded to STAY!  I must have put up a strong argument, because they relented.  I got to stay!  A few hours later, it was dark. And I had a sudden, over whelming attack of extreme home-sickness.  There’s no sickness quite as gut-wrenching as home-sickness, especially to a small child.  Momma Murphy called Dad, asking him to come back and get me.  (That was a long-distance call back then).  His answer, “I can’t come until I get off work TOMORROW!”  That was one traumatic night!

A sister of my Dad lived a few miles north/east of Carthage, very close to the family’s home church, Goshen Methodist.  The photo at top is a watercolor of Goshen Church that I did for Dad for Christmas of 1971.  That particular weekend, while I was still in grammar school, we drove out to visit my aunt’s family.  The problem was, along the narrow, winding, gravel Goshen Road, a small forest fire was slowly burning out.  I suppose Dad had no doubt phoned ahead and learned it was safe to traverse Goshen Road.  I suppose.

Anyway, off we went.  For what seemed like miles, the smoke was as thick as pea soup fog.  But the most frightening thing was – on both sides of the road you could still see FLAMES!  It sure brought to mind that time honored saying I’m sure you’ve heard – We’ll all be killed!  Thankfully, we weren’t even singed.

Trauma three happened at Goshen Church.

It was during the same general time period as my forest fire near death experience.  Goshen was having a festive dinner-on-the-ground after church.  Church was much like school in the late 40s’early 50s, in that most folks attended church close to home – often within walking distance.  Goshen Church was like that, but being ‘in the country,’ most members didn’t live exactly within walking distance.  Bringing hot foods (which would get cold) and cold foods (which would get hot) to the church (which had no kitchen) – presented a problem during muggy Mississippi Summertime.  So immediately after church, many hastily returned home to pick up their food.

We young-ones were gaily playing in the church yard, when a returning family drove up with their food – and with an unexpected surprise.

We suddenly heard screaming and shouting.  A large commotion gathered behind their vehicle. We dashed over to see for ourselves.  My, oh my.  What a terrible sight!

It seems that while most of that family was inside their home, one of the younger children took their pet goat (on a leash) out for a walk.  You guessed it!  The child tied the leash to the back of the car, and forgot about it!

Goshen Road was a rough, dusty, graveled road.  Natural sandpaper.

The poor goat behind the car was only half a goat, a dry and dusty half-goat.  It had only two legs now, both on the same side.  Someone flipped it over.  It was dry, dusty, and hollow inside.  You could see all the ribs, the back side of the ribs.  Yes, it was a traumatic sight to behold, the stuff of nightmares.  The family’s children were going bonkers.  I thought I’d be sick.

I suppose one could say that there was 1.5 Billy’s at that Goshen Gathering – me and the half-billy.

 

 

 

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