Posted tagged ‘farming’

Front Porch With the Uncles

June 9, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                               June 9, 2018

                             

Dewey Helton was my farming grandfather who lived a few miles outside the sprawling metropolis of Paintsville, Kentucky- population 4,000 and a few! Some of my best childhood memories are from my time spent on the Helton farm, jumping from the hayloft of the barn onto bales of hay, drinking the cool well water, exploring in the woods and fields, and making up games to play all by myself or with the cousins who might be around. 

When my aunts and uncles came for a Sunday afternoon meal I’d sit on the front porch with the men, listening to the stories…both made-up and true…and soak up the time with them. It was back in the day of front porch smoking: Uncle Bernie with his pipe and cigars, Uncle Milliard with his chewing tobacco, and Uncle Junior, Uncle George, and my dad with their cigarettes. Chuckles filled the air as much as the smoke. 

There was a hint of oneupmanship present. The next story needed to be as much of a “knee-slapper” as the previous story, or better. The common sense wisdom of my uncles was inserted into stories that featured doofuses and knuckleheads in order to elevate the appearance of Helton intellect. I still remember some of those stories fifty-five years later…like the story of the boy whose father had not been educated. He brought home his report card filled with “D’s” and “F’s” and told his papa that a D was short for “darn good” and an F meant “fantastic!” 

I’d sit there with the uncles soaking in the cultural education. Uncle Junior had a tendency to pinch me on the leg if I sat next to him so I always hoped for a seat a safe distance away. I’d usually try to sit beside Uncle Bernie because I loved his soft chuckle and the smell of his cigar. 

Stories had to be punctuated with statements to emphasize the tale being told. Phrases like “Lorrddd, have mercy!” and “God is my witness!” were uttered often. Inserting God into the story raised the story’s believability! The narrative might come from past military experience, county politics, or something that happened in the course of a typical afternoon.

“Let me tell you boys something!” my Papaw Helton started in. “There was a man stopped hur (here) the other day and he was selling these things called…ahhh…satellite dishes…big ole’ things! Said they get as many as thirty TV channels! Lord have mercy! And then I asked him how much a dish like that cost and he says “Nineteen-ninety-five!” Good Lord, he made it sound like a twenty dollar bill!”

“Boys, let me tell you! I’ve never worked so hard in my whole life!” my Uncle Millard exclaimed, telling about his career change from town barber to owning a Dairy Queen. Think Floyd from Mayberry and you’d get an accurate picture of him. “One night around dinner time I looked out and there was this long line of people and I just yelled out, “Doesn’t anyone eat at home any more?” Lord, have mercy! I’ve never cooked so many hot dogs!” 

Sit and have a smoke. Sit and laugh. Sit and be together. Sit and be educated about the things of life that you couldn’t learn from a textbook. It was the first men’s group I was a part of…at the age of eight! 

Well…

January 5, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    January 5, 2015

                                                          

I often begin a conversational sentence with one word…”Well.” It’s not a word of depth as much as it is a word of delay. It’s the equivalent of a student raising their hand in a second grade classroom to be recognized.

Now…why do I begin sentences with “well?”

Well…let me tell you!

It goes back to my grandfather, my Papaw, Dewey Helton, born and raised in Johnson County, Kentucky where front porch wisdom is in plentiful supply. Papaw Helton would often initiate his sharing of wisdom with a “well” drawn out to cover a considerable time period.

Many times it was the beginning of a grandfatherly statement that was intended to make you see the error of your ways.

“Well…look a’here! If boys start wearing girdles, are you going to wear one too?”

That wisdom was shared after I grew my hair out to the point that it touched my ears. To my Papaw I was starting to look radical. My rationale about it being the new style didn’t carry water for him. That made as much sense as trying to get eggs from a pig.

Papaw’s voice would also quiver a little bit as he uttered the “well.” He had a little country preacher in his blood. For a moment you got the feeling you were in a revival meeting where he was about to call the glory down, but he would just as quickly come back down to earth and rattle off some more common sense.

“Well…’pon my honor!”

     Those words were usually said in a verbal jousting match with one or more of my uncles. Kentucky politics was a topic ripe for debate. There were always half a dozen viewpoints, but none of them even close to the gospel truth besides Papaw’s.

“Well…Lord have mercy!” Lord was the second word spoken for an eternity. In fact, Papaw lengthened it out even longer than “well” because the Lord needed to be “the most!” His voice would rise and fall as if it was heading for the end times.

“Well…Lord have mercy, son! I’ve never heard of such a thing!” 

       “It’s true, Papaw!”

“Well…look a’here, Billy Dean!”

That was the next level of the conversation. When Papaw thought you were slow to come back to common sense he would address you by your first and middle names just in case you were suffering from foolhardiness!

Well…now you know why I begin so many statement of truth with “well.”

Well?