Growing up without brothers and sisters to play and fight with has both advantages and disadvantages. Mind you now, I had some of these type kin but they were much older than I. Frankly, when I was a child down on the farm in Toombs County, I believed that my parents were my grandparents, my older brother and sister were my parents, and my youngest sister, Florine, I thought to be my aunt. Since I was the “baby” in the family, everybody was on my case.
I was not without playmates though. My mother’s brother, Uncle George Hayslip and his family never lived more than a few miles from us during my growing-up years. He and Aunt Della had eight children--a son, Elliot, who was older than I was, and seven daughters who were younger.
Over the year, these seven girl cousins became like sisters to me. We all got along beautifully and spent many hours together as our families visited.
There was, however, occasional discord in my relationship with one of these female cousins. Somehow, Mary and I got off to a bad start when we were kids and we were constantly having our spats. I think it all started one day when I wouldn’t let Mary ride my tricycle and in return for my inhospitality, she peppered me with a handful of clay rocks, which were abundant on our place. From that day the battle lines were drawn.
Mary was a tiger and over the years, she proved a formidable opponent in combat. I was never able to convince her that she was a member of the weaker sex. Each time I thought I had her cowed, she would kick and bite something fierce. Those feet and teeth were deadly weapons.
One day when we were visiting Uncle George’s family at their home about three miles from us, us “younguns” were playing in the big yard and things seemed to be going well until Cousin Mary began her usual argument. Well, it wasn’t long until we were passing some pretty sharp blows. Then suddenly Mary turned and ran behind an old smokehouse in the backyard. This wasn’t like Mary. Normally, she was a pretty good scrapper and didn’t budge an inch in a fight. In fact, most of the time an adult would have to break up our squabbles.
Thinking that I finally had her on the run, I pursued her around the corner of the old smokehouse.
Just as I rounded the corner, Mary waylaid me and caught me squarely between the eyes with a good stout tobacco stick. I saw planets and stars aplenty without the aid of a telescope or space ship. That may well have been the beginning of star trek.
While I was recovering from the ambush, Mary ran into the house to find refuge among the adults. Rubbing my aching head, I followed her to the door of the living room. She had found safety beside her mother who was sitting in a chair. She stuck her tongue out at me and, adding insult to injury, wiggled her finger at me and said in an impish voice, “Goody, goody, I got you this time.”
Nursing my throbbing head, I hung around close to the door for the remainder of the afternoon but Mary never came out of the house. Each time I looked into the living room, she would sit there, grin, and wiggle her finger at me.
I wore a whale of a knot home that night and several days later, it still had not gone away.
I have thought about the incident a lot since then; it had to be a plot. My scheming cousin had planned it well. She learned of our visit beforehand and in anticipation of our usual brawl, she planted the tobacco stick behind the smokehouse. Then, when things were just right, she started the fight and ran knowing I would follow. Then she bushwhacked me. It was a perfect trap and I ran right into it.
Mary and I got along better after that. I don’t know if it was because we became more mature or if it was because I never knew where she might be hiding her tobacco stick.