Through the Fence 11-8-10 |

Through the Fence 11-8-10

In my grandmother’s eyes, we grandkids could do no wrong. During our summer visits, she let us have free rein of the house, the farm and the refrigerator. We stayed up late and got up when we pleased. She’d usually make a pound cake and put it on a card table on the back porch, just for us. She called it The Pinching Cake. After a few days of being pinched on with dirty kid hands, no sane adult would dare touch it.

She lived nearly 20 miles from town deep in the piney woods of East Texas. There was no such thing as cable television or electronic games, so we devised our own fun. We colored in coloring books, read comic books, caught grasshoppers, lightning bugs and lizards, and dressed up the cats in doll clothes. My cousins and I spent hours sitting beside an abandoned well out in the pasture filled with treasures. We’d sift through shards of broken pottery and other miscellany and find old brown snuff jars and glass shoe-polish bottles. Those visits to my grandmother’s house became one of the rich memories that made up the tapestry of my idyllic childhood.

There were actually two crops of grandkids; the older ones being about 8 years older than me. Long before my grandmother was spoiling my sister, my younger cousin and me, she was indulging the other three. They were not the innocent chubby faced cherubs portrayed in the old black and white family photos, though. The two boy cousins were mischievous imps who constantly devised evil schemes to perpetrate on my older girl cousin.

One morning, they whiled away the hours playing with my grandmother’s chickens. After holding and petting them, they decided to see what would happen if they put several together into a burlap feed sack. The chickens squawked and scrambled around inside the bag for a minute or two. Then the kids laid the bag on the ground until the dazed birds staggered out into the sunlight. On about the second or third yard-bird round up, my grandmother stepped out on the back porch and hollered for the children to come in for lunch.

Apparently, the birds were too tired or disoriented to escape the confines of the bag when left without assistance. When the kids came back outside to play later, they were stunned to find three of my grandmother’s Bantam hens still in the bag. They weren’t moving. Even the naughty little boys were astonished and saddened at the sight of the limp and lifeless bodies that slid out of the upended bag.

Then there came the awful dilemma: how to tell my grandmother. There was no reasonable explanation or way to blame each other. There was nothing left but the truth. The three kids trudged up to the house with somber faces to break the news. All the words, the details and the apologies tumbled out at once. My girl cousin’s eyes welled up with tears as they waited for my grandmother’s reaction.

If my mother or her sisters would have pulled such a stunt when they were kids, the punishment would have been swift and harsh. But the years of life experiences, both pleasant and bitter, had mellowed my grandmother. And after the initial shock subsided, her forgiveness was almost immediate. She hugged them all and told them it was all right. However, she did insist that they help her clean and pluck and the chickens.

That night, the boisterous children were strangely calm and still as they sat around the table loaded with a huge pot of chicken and dumplings. My granddaddy kept commenting on how especially delicious the meal was and wondered aloud about the reason to have such a feast. All three pairs of little eyes darted quickly toward my grandmother. They held their breath in fear that she would recount the events of the day to my granddad, who might not have been as understanding as she was. Her light blue eyes twinkled as she winked at them and smiled. “No special occasion,” she said. “Just glad to have my grandchildren here with us this week.”

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