No matter where life had carried me I always tried to get home for Christmas and New years. If I managed it I always tried to spend some time with Uncle Dub. Uncle Dub was the family story teller. The last year I was with him was Christmas of 65 and I asked him to tell me a story about his memories of Christmas when he was a boy. I came home and wrote it down as well as I could.
“When I was a young’n coming up”, Uncle Dub said, “times was hard. Our old shack sat way on back in the cypress on about a ten acre hammock. We was dirt poor. We was so hard up we had to use a possum for a house-cat. Mama caught Puss when she was a leetle bitty thing about the size a her darning egg. She come in the kitchen holding her and stroking her, saying, “This baby must’ve got raked off her ma’s back and somehow ended up in the pantry. She’s way to leetle to be weened. I wonder if she would drink from a saucer.”
She got a saucer of fresh cow’s milk. We had a old cow that had follered Pa home. Mama sot that milk saucer down in front of that critter and it took to it like a cracker to grits. Right then Ma said, “I’m gonna name her Puss just like the cat in that story and we’ll just use her till a real cat shows up.”
In no time Ma had taught that critter to cat. I mean it would play with a ball a yarn and foller Ma everywhere and even come rub on her legs when she were hanging out clothes. It was the beatin’est thing. She even taught her how to me-ow after a fashion though it come out as sort of a hiss-ow but it was perty good fer a possum. Old Puss was a fair stand-in. She done all the cat things exceptin’ kill rats and I’ve since learned lots of real cats ain’t ratters neither. I’ll tell you she served our family well.
“What ever happened to Puss, Uncle Dub?” I asked.
“Well, son when I was about twelve we moved from the hammock to town because Pa had found out a new lumber mill was coming and he had got on there. We rented our first house with running water and artificial lights. Before then we had to run after the water and light a knot.
Well, after we got electrified Ma seed one a them fancy three tiered stand pipe lamps and just had to have one. Pa got it for her on Christmas Eve Eve. That very night the topmost lamp burned out. Pa unscrewed the bulb to carry into town to make sure he got a exact replacement.
Old puss still had some of her possum ways. She was all time climbing around and hangin’ by her tail. I expect she was one confused critter. She clumb up that pole and sorta wrapped her tail around the top most lamp when the tip went right in the socket and put us all in the dark. When Pa got home and figured out the why of it he put a penny in the fuse box. Once we could see again we realized poor Puss was a goner.
Ever the practical provider Pa skinned her out and swinged her good with hot iron and we baked her up with a mess a sweet taters but Ma was mighty upsot and wouldn’t have none of it. In fact she never et possum agin and it sorta put a rift between the folks. That was the last Christmas they spent together.”
“You mean your parents divorced?” I asked.
“Lord no! Folks back then didn’t get divorced, nor separate much, but Pa started taking me and Jim and Rufus back to the swamp house for a hunting-fishing week at Christmas and Ma started going to spend it with her family. We was better off then and she could afford to travel some plus it served to sort of free them both of Christmas memories of how Puss died and what Pa had done.
That was just a few years till the memory weren’t so fresh and they was fixing to have a big Christmas together the year Pa got killed by the load a logs, but that’s just too terrible to think on and cost Ma so much for that fancy coffin. See most folks back then didn’t spring for fancy but Ma said after that log load flattened Pa she some how couldn’t bring herself to bury him in a wood coffin and have him spend all that time till Gabriel trumps and then wake up to that sheet a wood over him again.”
HAVE A MERRY COUNTRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR
Blue Fish Digest~November/December 2014