Green Spot

from: graymare (Mugtoe's mom)

GREEN SPOT I remember Green Spot. It confused me at first, because in the cold clear squat bottle with a lime-colored disk on one side waited a drink as orange as any--what is so orange as an orange itself? My mother, the poet, explained that a green spot is an oasis, a cool drink in the desert. That made sense, because the dust was everywhere. We'd stand in the shade of the two-pump gas station at some crossroads on the two-lane highway, use the privy out back, and cool our throats with icy drinks from the box in the office. Back in the Thirties I could understand desert. No rain. No water. We hadn't heard of La Nina. All we knew was Drought.

Strangers passing through Ma Thorn's place would turn off the road at the mail box and drive down the dusty lane, open the big gate, drive through and carefully close it, lifting and carrying it back to its proper place, to keep the cattle in, or out, then fix the chain I guess a chain can't really remember that except for the sound of loose metal pieces ringing and rasping. That was the gate to heaven for me. The stranger drives from the gate and stops at the windmill close to the big house for a cool drink in the desert. The tin cup is used by everyone passing through, and by us. I guess there was a pump handle in case the wind wasn't blowing. Can't remember. How many chaws were shifted from mouth to cheek before the cool water passed brown lips? That didn't matter. Didn't occur to anyone, at least they didn't remark on it in my hearing. Everyone used the tin cup. It was the one I put in my mother's gentleman-friend's Model A, as mechanics later during the war would put there gum on planes taking off on bombing runs, a way to go along in spirit. I went in spirit with them, or with her. I didn't know him so well yet. My mother (and my adoptive father to be) said they were mighty glad to have that old rusty tin cup when they stopped at Dexter on the way back to Sherman for her, and Austin, for him, because they were thirsty, and the well at Dexter wouldn't have been an oasis without the cup. Not everyone was as hospitable as Ma Thorn, or as accommodating.

I remember how she took me, at the age of two-plus, by the hand and showed me my limits. All around the yard, the fence wonder how big that yard would look now? By the orchard on the south, the field, gate, tenant house on the east, the barn lot and storage sheds on the north a big no-no the west field whose lane led to Uncle Joe's and Aunt Maude's house by the spring branch. Tom and Patsy, and their older brothers Joe Billy and Albert, lived there. I couldn't just take out and go there without a grownup. Those were my horizontal limits, and I tested them only once that I recall.

I followed Tom, age five, through that west gate into the field. Uncle Joe and some other men were piling something on great heaps around the west field and burning whatever it was. I remember the eerie light made by the afternoon sun filtered through smoke. Much later I was told what they were really doing, and I was delighted to learn it, but can't remember now what I was told, and unless it was Patsy who said it, everyone who would have known is gone. I could see the men silhouetted against the late afternoon sky, with a smoky haze giving the scene a rosy, orangey strange feeling. Monet's haystacks put me in mind of that day. I could feel the fine silt of the lane under my bare feet and between my toes as I followed Tom. And then I saw Ma Thorn back in the distance coming through the gate and bending to one side to pick a switch. I was terrified and comforted by the consistency of the rules laid down. I was in for it. Make the best of a bad situation, I had learned from my mother. Pick flowers, miraculously growing behind the nearest unburned stack. Run to meet her. Don't spank me on my leg up here, Ma Thorn. It's sore. Spank me down here, below my knee. I don't remember what happened next. But my mother received a report. I told her, and she repeated it many times, "No, she didn't spank me, but I deserved it." This was evidence to her of my moral growth and cute personality at the time, she thought, and told that story almost till the day she died here in my house with my daughter and me holding her hands.

Well, those were my horizontal limits. The vertical one, to my memory, I never broke. Patsy says I did. I think it must have been Sue who climbed up past the second crossbars on the windmill. She was the daredevil. Someone had to be rescued from the very top amongst the blades. I know I would have been too frightened of the height. Though I did climb to the top of the cellar roof one day.

Those old gray shingles were easy to climb up on. So there I sat on the ridge of that low roof whose eaves nearly touched the ground, like the "shanty in old shanty town." Every little movement of air threatened to topple me to my death. Was it cousin Alden who offered to hold my hand as we both slid down? I was suddenly aware of how dry and splintery those shingles were, could feel them in my bare bottom, could feel the splinters threatening my thin cotton panties. I was a terrified queen for that day, sitting on top of a rickety world with everyone below looking up at me and trying to coax me down. I wouldn't budge till Imogene Dick came up and took me in her lap, folded her protective arms around me and slid down on her own skirt. Perhaps that was the beginning of my acrophobia. But I love mountains and enjoy airplane flights.

The cellar stood beyond the water tank I think, just east of the chicken yard and before the garage where there was a gas pump, just like at filling stations, for farm machinery, I guess, but it was a long way to town and cars needed it, too. Out in front of the garage is where I remember Ma Thorn in her blue checked apron and sun cap, stirring a cauldron of lard on a fall day after the hog killing. She showed me one day the little face soaps she had made with pink food coloring and cologne. I guess she went easy on the lye for those. They lay in a pan, or cookie sheet, all pink and sweet-smelling on a shelf in the little screen porch between the kitchen and the windmill. The kitchen and the bath-laundry next to it had running cold water pumped in from the windmill, and running hot water we ran with it from the stove tank to the bathtub or laundry tub or kitchen sink. In heat of summer a cousin and I were cooling off in the barrel of water by the windmill when we saw the cow coming for a drink there. I think that was the time I broke a record reaching the upper vertical limit of my kingdom.

Then there was the cold day when big icicles formed on the crossbars that held the huge water tank aloft. That was when Ma Thorn made ice cream. Hank Goldwire says he had ice cream once in the summertime when the hail came down so thick his daddy called for the freezer and they gathered enough to fill it. Barney Blankenship described an epiphany he had when he realized that ice cream spooned up from a bowl, as the adults ate theirs, far surpassed the drabbles the kids got to tongue from the dasher, as a reward for cranking the freezer. I guess some stout older cousin cranked the freezer at Ma Thorn's can't remember maybe even Uncle Joe, he was always there. Of course we were already cold. So we sat around the wood stove in the dining-sitting room next to the kitchen and toasted our toes while we spooned the cold stuff.

A treat in the desert. Green Spot came in squat squarish glass bottles with a bright green circle painted or stamped on it, contrasting with the orange drink inside. And it was refreshing my favorite at filling stations on those hot dry drives back to the farm from Austin till I drank five of them one hot day and threw up. Then Delaware Punch became my favorite for a while.

Graymare 2003



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