Near Hurnville, Texas, 1949: My mother’s birthday came in the summertime, and we drove to my Grandparents’ farm, eight miles north of town, for cake and a visit. I was playing on the piano in the parlor, when I heard the sound of cars arriving out front.
Peeking through the window, I saw Uncle Dick and Uncle Eugene unfolding from their cars, and my mother greeting them with a kiss. But then Uncle Eugene called out, “Say! You know that today is Maggie’s birthday?”
Uncle Dick said, “That’s right!” and grabbed my mother.
And then they spanked her!
Jittering from one foot to the other, crying in pain and fear, I ran to the porch, to see her laughing and trying to escape. They saw me and stopped. My mother told me it was just a joke, but I was inconsolable that somebody could spank my mother!
The terrible moment passed, and yet the day was not done. Was it later that day? Perhaps it was another day soon after, for I’d been at Rex and Mike’s that summer, and had my first brush with fashion.
In the summer, no youngster wore shirt and shoes. It was just too hot. In the first few days, the feet were tender from a winter of hiding in socks and shoes, but soon they grew hard and impervious to most stickers. Only the dreaded goathead stickers would penetrate our thick skin, hobbling our running into limping.
From Rex I had learned that it was very fashionable to wear blue jeans, cut off into shorts, and with no belt. I don’t recall hearing the word ‘style’ or ‘fashion’, and the word ‘cool’ hadn’t been invented yet. So how I learned I cannot fathom. But somehow I knew: the way to dress was no shoes, no shirt, in cut-off jeans with no belt.
On this later day, once again I’d come from the parlor. But on this day, for some reason, my grandmother’s yard was filled with children. I didn’t know any of them. Most were older than myself. I remember only that it was summer, I was very proud of my fashionable attire, and that I walked out onto the porch, and was standing above a yard full of others.
That is when my pants fell off.