A Grave Encounter: The Four-legged Ghoul

Grave

It was like nothing we had ever seen before.

I still remember how large he was.

His tongue was flickering in and out of his mouth.

When my grandmother saw him, she raised her garden hoe in his direction.

Unfazed, he slowly turned away and crawled behind one of the graves disappearing into the woods.

My grandmother said later she believed he was a haint.

-Daddy recalls an event that occurred around 1955 in Eufaula, Alabama.

Daddy tells the whole story

When I was little, my grandmother would often grab us kids to go with her to the cemetery to help her and her sisters clean up our family’s graves.

Usually, this would take place early on Saturday mornings.

On those days, we’d all gather our tools and walk down the railroad track to the cemetery where most of my mother’s side of the family was buried.

We’d typically be out there working all morning.

One day, when I was about ten years old, it happened!

Me, my grandmother, and aunt were clearing away some brush when we spotted the scariest looking thing we had ever seen standing on top of an adult-sized grave.

It was grayish black, and spanned, from his nose to the tip of his tail, the entire length of the slab.

The monster, who weighed more than I did then, was facing us from about two plots away–toward a branch that ran through the middle of the cemetery.

It was like nothing we had ever seen before.

I still remember how large he was.

His tongue was flickering in and out of his mouth.

When my grandmother saw him, she raised her garden hoe in his direction.

Unfazed, he slowly turned away and crawled behind one of the graves disappearing into the woods.

My grandmother said later she believed he was a haint.

*********************************************************************************

LadyG remembers that story

I remember my Dad telling me this story over the years and I often wondered about the creature that he and his grandmother, Ma Allie, had seen that day.

Daddy said that it looked kinda like a Komodo dragon…

But not exactly.

He also said that this four-legged ghoul was probably feeding off corpses that were not “housed” in a vault.

A grave-robber of sorts.

Just so you know, vaults were not always used back in those days; especially in African-American cemeteries.

Anyway, it is important to note that Komodo dragons are not native to Alabama, or anywhere nearby, so we figured that whatever it was must have gotten loose from someone who had owned him as a pet.

At any rate, Daddy was never fully content with the fact that he could not positively identify that reptilian gargoyle of yore.

So for 64 years, the whole thing remained unsolved…

Until…

Last week, when I sent an article to my Dad about this reptile called a “Tegus” that had been spotted in South Georgia.

The article included a picture of a reptile that fit the description that Daddy gave based on his childhood memories.

After receiving and reading the article, Daddy immediately called me back and said, “That’s it! That’s EXACTLY what I saw!”

He seemed excited that the mystery had been solved.

Apparently, the Tegus has been around the South for much longer than the wildlife folks think!

But, secretly, I prefer Ma Allie’s belief that it was a haint!

LOL!

Lady G loves you!

 

 

 

The Flowering Vine: Harder Than Times in ’29

TRAVELING SALESMAN

During the years that my Mom, Uncle Jim, Aunt Joyce, Aunt Dot, and Uncle Leroy grew up—as the young folks say these days— “The struggle was real!” Not that the struggle wasn’t real before the 1940’s and 50’s; oh no! I don’t think anyone would disagree with me if I said that, the 30’s, 20’s and all decades prior, were as hard as hard can get. However, I am privileged to first-hand accounts of the afore-mentioned decades from Mom and her siblings.

One aspect of those times that I love hearing about, is the tales of the traveling salesmen. I can remember a man coming to our home selling Hoover vacuum cleaners. He put on one heck of a demonstration. I was amazed by the wondrous machine that this man introduced to us that day. I guess Gramp was as amazed as I was because, if my memory serves me, she purchased that silver torpedo with the elephantine trunk that day.

That vacuum served a twofold purpose, in those days. The first being the obvious one of sucking up the dirt that I and my siblings had tracked into Gramp’s house. Its secondary purpose was as various space tools and weapons, during my imaginary journeys through the galaxy, and yes, beyond!

Also, I can remember the insurance salesman coming by Gramp’s house, or as he was commonly known, the “Insurance Man”. He came bearing a large black leather book with handles.  It reminded me of a Bible in shape, color and texture, but there was nothing else Biblical about it.  It was very messy and disorganized. Bits and pieces of what I assumed, were the lives of his clients, peeked out like little shy elves, trying to get a glimpse of me, while I did the same to him.  Then he’d sit, carry on idle conversation, with the big book opened on his lap. He’d shuffle the papers until he found the one with the lives of my Grandparents on it, then some more pleasantries and a small transfer of money from Gramps hands to his and he was gone.

THAT WAS THE 60’S AND 70’S 

During Mom and them’s formative years, things were different, but the same.

My cousin Gwin’s and my parents, lived and survived on practically little or nothing. As I stated before, times were hard!

The things they did have were bought from traveling salesmen. There weren’t any Wal-Marts, with row after row and shelf after shelf of Wranglers and what-not. There were no Footlocker’s for young feet full of fire. There was just that old traveling salesman.

According to the accounts of my Mom and others, there were several different types of door-to-door salesmen. For instance, there was the Watkins Products salesmen. His inventory of wondrous wares included, but was not limited to; liniments, hair products, and the pièce de résistance, Watkins Petro-Carbo Salve; used to heal cuts and draw out splinters.

Granddaddy Leroy and Mother bought, among other things, school clothes for their children from these salesmen. This clothing salesman hawked his habiliment from the trunk of his old DeSoto automobile. Granddaddy Leroy and Mother paid Mr. Macon (the salesman’s name) $2 per week. The salesman kept a “running tab” of what was owed him.

In relating these events, my mother expressed how excited she and her siblings would be to see and choose from crisp school dresses, and long-sleeved, striped, shirts & jeans. Mom’s favorite dress of all, from the trunk of Mr. Macon’s DeSoto, was a red, plaid one, with white lace pockets and white lace on the sleeves.

With a nostalgic tone and a wistful look flirting across her countenance, Mom told me how she was so excited and felt so pretty on the first day of school. At that time, she was in the third or fourth grade and I can tell you with a surety, founded in pictures that I’ve seen from those  years, that she was an especially beautiful child. It is easy for me to imagine how beautiful she must have been in that dress, smiling a smile, a mile wide!

Besides the salesmen like Mr. Macon who ventured in vestments, there were others who sold, sundry stock like: books; Bibles, almanacs, and encyclopedias. As a matter of fact, my own father—who taught school most of the year—sold encyclopedias during the summer. He even sold himself a set of Childcraft encyclopedias, when I was about 4 or 5 years old. In my opinion, that particular purchase was the best purchase he ever made. Before I could read, I spent hours just looking at the pictures. When my father would read the captions under the pictures to me, I would remember them, and quote them back, word-for-word.

When I learned to read, nothing could come between me and the knowledge those books contained. -Ron Brown

           

The Flowering Vine: Only The Strong Survive

picture

ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE

Oh, you’ve got to be a man, you’ve got to take a stand

Only the strong survive, only the strong survive

Well, you’ve got to be strong, you’d better hold on

Only the strong survive

Only the strong survive, only the strong survive

Well, you’ve got to be a man (yeah), you’ve got to take a stand (yeah)

Only the strong survive, only the strong survive

Only the strong survive, only the strong survive

Only the strong survive, only the strong survive

(JERRY BUTLER, the ICEMAN)

Summers were the worse!

Those hot, sweltering, sweating days, increased the demand for ice ten-fold! When the demand for ice increased ten-fold, Granddaddy Leroy’s workload increased ten-fold

In the 1940’s and 50’s, Granddaddy managed the “ice plant” in Eufaula, Alabama. In those days, folks stored their ice in “iceboxes”; not refrigerators–those new-fangled contraptions were only available to the rich, but the average middle-class family could probably afford the less expensive “icebox”.

As for the poor, well they generally dug a hole out in the yard; then lined the hole with sawdust; then placed the block of ice in the hole; then insulated it with more sawdust; then covered the hole until they were ready for some ice. Then, when they were ready for ice, they’d simply go out to the “ice hole”, armed with an ice pick, hatchet, or an ax, and “chip a piece off the old block”.

When that sizzling, searing, summer heat hit, people craved the cool, cold, comfort of ice. They wanted whatever storage mechanism they had on hand, to be chocked full of ICE! Hence, the “ICEMAN”.

Curiously, no “White” men worked in the ice plant. Granddaddy was the closest thing to a White man there, so I guess that qualified him to be the manager. But being “manager” did not mean his workload was any less than anyone else’s; as a matter of fact, he may have been the “hardest working man” in the ice plant. Granddaddy worked, and worked, his fingers to the bone—all 8 of them—trying to keep those ice-making machines humming.

That truck? Wow man, that truck was something to behold! I think I might have a picture of one here somewhere. Kids would see that truck coming and stop whatever they were doing to chase that truck. No, it didn’t have a cute jingle ringing out; playing a “Pied Piper-ish” tune to entice them to follow. Ha! No colorful markings to E.N.T.I.C.E, but it had chips of I.C.E.I.N.I.T. There was no ICE CREAM MAN, but there was an ICEMAN, and that was good enough on those hot, hot, summer days.

The “Truck” went around every morning. Part of Granddaddy’s job, as manager, was to hire and pay men to drive the truck around the city to sell 5, 10 and 25 cent blocks of ice. The men would carry the ice into the homes with a set of ice tongs which would hook onto each side of the ice, making it easier for the “Icemen” to handle. Leroy Jr., also known as Uncle Leroy, even worked with Granddaddy from time-to-time.

Folks would put an “ice card” in a front window of the house which would indicate what size block of ice was needed. The card had four large numbers, usually “15”, “25” and “35”, with “50” on the reverse side. By taking note of these cards, the “Iceman” could tell, at a glance, how much ice was needed to fill the ice box chamber.  If a housewife wanted 25 pounds she would place the card in the window with the 25-pound number up, and the 35-pound number upside down.

For the younger siblings, having a Dad who was the manager of the ice plant had its perks. The plant was located by the railroad, alongside which they walked each day, to and from school. They would stop by the plant after school on hot days, and gather up ice chips in their hands and eat them on the way home. Who needed ice cream?

The ICEMEN who made the ice deliveries, wore capes. They were made of rubber, to protect them from the cold and wet, as they hoisted the ice blocks to their backs with the tongs and carried them into customers’ kitchens. The cape gave them the look of cape-wearing SUPERHEROES. But, Granddaddy’s children and grandchildren didn’t need to see him in a cape to know that he was a SUPERHERO; watching him fight the oppression that all Blacks faced in those days just to provide for his family, was good enough.

But alas, like all SUPERHEROS, he had his hamartia. For Superman, it was Kryptonite. For Granddaddy, it was the ammonia that was used in the ice-making process; that and the constant cold conditions, which together, caused irreversible damage to his lungs. However, despite the effects of his KRYPTONITE, he survived to a ripe old age. He SURVIVED because he was STRONG, and ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE.

“You can’t be too careful about work. It’s the most dangerous habit known to medical science.”

Eugene O’Neill, The Iceman Cometh

Love ya Granddaddy Leroy