Continuation of the manuscript intro… My mom didn’t give much thought to the fact that she had a part in the reason my Mah-mah and Pah-pah had that farm in Oklahoma anyhow. They moved back there to be close to us, her and her kids, to begin with. They ended up in northeast Oklahoma to be closer to us when we lived in Arkansas, but not too close so as to smother my mom and her family.
I don’t think my mom gave her mom and dad more than a passing thought when she saw the chance to get the hell out of Arkansas, a place she referred to as the place that God had forsaken. Sure wasn’t my idea to leave… and I was more than just a tad bit excited to go back there, or close to it, and leave the world of troubles that hounded me daily in the small town of Banning, California.
My dad was all for it, me going back to the farm to do a man’s work. I overheard him tell my mom that it was the sorta thing that separates the men from the boys. He was all for my grandpa helping make a man out of me. He knew what was in store. He’d done his time on the farm. He didn’t talk too much about his days as a kid on the farm and in the fields. Most of the stories of how they lived as dead broke cotton-picking-sharecroppers came from my uncles and a couple of aunts. My dad landed in the middle of eight other siblings and was forced to quit school after the sixth grade to help feed and clothe the other kids.
The only times my dad spoke much at all about his miserable childhood came when he was trying to teach a lesson. He’d say a few choice words about my shortcomings and shortsightedness, but he let his thin leather belt do most of the talkin’… and stingin’.
There was one time though, probably more than just that one, but the one time I remember the best, he hauled me into his bedroom – where all the whippin’s were done. He turned and sat down on the bed beside me. My dad talked to me, but he didn’t look at me, not at first. He was looking somewhere else. I figured out since then that he was looking back, back in time, to his childhood that he, for the most part, had tucked away into the cellar of his mind and had snuffed out the lights… or tried to.