Many times, during my childhood, my ears were boxed and oftentimes my mouth was mashed only because I wished to express myself in any given situation. I only wanted to be a part of the family of ten children!
“Children should be seen, but not heard” was the credo of mountain folks where I grew up in Buchanan County, Virginia. My dad was a coal miner, a man of few words. He mostly only had time, in the early years of my life, to dig deeper into the bowels of the earth for the next ton of coal. This is how we got money for food and clothing. I remember dad sitting around evenings with a sour disposition spitting up coal dust from a dry gasping throat! He grew much calmer as he grew older!
Raising ten children, losing two others by miscarriage, was not easy on my Mother. She slapped first and asked questions later if one of her brood said anything she did not like! When she told one of us to do some chore, she did not mean it to be done five minutes later. It must be done right now or face the inevitable slap on the face. This went on even into high school as I had to stay home many Mondays in order to keep mom’s washtubs filled with water from whatever source I could acquire it! I remember one cold winter morning trying to break the ice on one of her new washtubs that sat under the drain of a shed. I was using one of dad’s coal picks to break the ice and as I came down on the ice the pick careened off to one side and punctured the new washtub. Having to break the news to mom was like pulling my wisdom teeth without Novocain. After I made my report mom began slapping my face. She slapped me until she was completely exhausted and I guess I egged her on by saying, “Go ahead and slap me, go ahead and slap me!” She never slapped me after this!
Truthfully, I never won much of anything in my life in the way of contests! I lost all my money the first time I went to Tahoe to gamble while a lowly airman at Mather AFB in Sacramento, Ca. This broke me from gambling! I spent the rest of the month borrowing money from one of the senior airmen in order to have money for cigarettes and other things I thought I needed.
Uncle Sam was my great hope to be able to speak my mind freely! Entering basic training in San Antonio, Texas I soon found out that the Drill Sergeants disagreed with my wish to express myself. Any outburst from a trainee was met by oppression and hard-eyed looks! Any recalcitrant airman could easily end up having a blanket party induced by the D.I., or maybe a shower in one’s footlocker performed by zealous ones who didn’t wish to have a black mark on their particular squad of men, called ‘flights’ at the time I served. A “blanket party” consisted of a squad of men stalking the barracks after lights out, finding the one they wanted to punish! After pulling him out of his bunk, and throwing a blanket over him, they would pummel him with their fists until he grew limp or until someone turned the lights on. Thank God, I never had to endure either one of those like a couple of men in our barracks! I actually felt sorry for the ones they chose to demonstrate on!
For the past several years I have been writing for several publications. These include three newspapers, several magazines, an online magazine called the Spectator, three college journals, and wherever else I choose to send articles, stories, or poems. I find fulfillment in expressing myself to others. Now I am allowed to submit my inner being to multitudes throughout the world! So far I have received no boxed ears, no sore mouths, and amazingly, not too much negative criticism! In this I can truthfully say that I am at last a winner!
Frank has won freedom at last to relate
All that has been placed on his plate!
Without too much fear of retribution,
He thinks he has finally found the solution!