Growing up, Timmy Ray lived out in the country. It ain’t like that was anything special, it was just that everyone we knew lived out in the country. You get a different look at life living out in the country and along with that sometimes a different approach to education.
Everybody played at everyone’s house. Everybody was part of everyone’s family. This was also the case when it came to meal time, if you happened to be at a friend’s. It was pretty much understood that if you were there you were invited.
Timmy Ray had two brothers and a sister. Timmy Ray was the oldest, next was Bobby Jack. Jackson was his real middle name, named after his Momma’s Daddy, but no one ever called him that. Willie Bob, actually William Robert as his full name was shorted the day he was born. He was the youngest boy and he told everyone his name was “Damit”. His Daddy said that it was because he was always hollering at the boy to do different things.
“Damn it, get that firewood box filled up in yonder in the kitchen. Damn it, get cleaned up for supper.” He would end up being called by that clear on up through his old age. Myrtle Faye was the baby. She was ruient rotten.
“Ya’ll get on in hen’uh now, get cleaned up and get somethin’ to eat.” We didn’t waste any time. Their Momma could cook like nothing else. They had a garden so the table was always set with a lot of different foods, in the springtime. Cornbread and fresh cow’s milk to round it all off. None of us wanted to be the last one in. Everyone had their regular spot and I got down next to Willie Bob. He was on the end of the bench next to Bobby Jack.
Their Daddy was what seemed to be a reasonable man but always came across a little “gruff”. He cussed a lot. One thing he always did was say the “Blessin’” before the first biscuit was bit. Immediately after “Amen”, their Momma passed the plate of hot fried chicken and everyone took a piece and the Daddy asked, “What vegetables ya’ll want?”
Timmy Ray, being the oldest spoke up first. “Can I have some of them damn mashed taters?”
There was not even a pause. The Daddy rared back and with a long sweeping stoke, bounced his massive hand off the top of Timmy Ray’s head. It was not that hard but Timmy Ray’s head jumped forward with enough force that he spit out his first bite of a chicken leg. Nobody said anything or even moved. After what seemed like five minutes the Daddy spoke.
“Bobby Jack, how ‘bout you, whad you want?”
“Well---may I PLEASE ,, have some of them damn potatoes?”
Like lightning, “whack”, a knuckle sandwich bounced off the top of his head. Bobby Jack had already swallowed his first bite of fried chicken. I am looking back and forth at the different choices. It would soon be my turn to ask. Another long silent pause was settling around the table Myrtle Sue was pointing at Bobby Jack with one hand and stifling a giggle with her other hand over her mouth. Maybe I will have green beans.
“Willie Bob?” The Daddy was looking at him with a sideways glance. He didn’t say anything else. You could see look of concentration on Willie Bob’s face. Finally he spoke.
“Well Daddy, I don’t know for sure, but you can pretty much bet your sweet ass I don’t want none of them damn mashed potatoes!”
I became educated, that instant. I grabbed a piece of cornbread and headed for the house.