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Hunker Down with Kes

It Didn’t Take A WHOLE Village

By Kesley Colbert
Posted 3/23/21

Me and Leon would get into an ugly staring contest by crossing our eyes and sticking out our tongues at each other. Mom would invariably say, “You boys stop that. You do it long enough and your eyes will stick that way!”

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Hunker Down with Kes

It Didn’t Take A WHOLE Village

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Me and Leon would get into an ugly staring contest by crossing our eyes and sticking out our tongues at each other. Mom would invariably say, “You boys stop that. You do it long enough and your eyes will stick that way!”

Well, time proved that old adage “mothers are always right” a wee bit of a misnomer...

Now when Mother said, “You keep at it, and I’m going to finish it for you!” she didn’t mean she was going to wiggle her nose, cross her eyes and try to out stare us. Despite the abrupt ending, Leon still “declared” himself the winner the second we got outside—just because he was the oldest! I didn’t look away, I didn’t get tickled, there’s no way I lost... When he said it again, I hit him with a rake handle. He threw me over the woodpile. I came up firing oak logs at him.

We hadn’t even drawn blood when Mom stuck her head out the back door, “Do I need to finish that!”

She didn’t need a whistle to keep order.

Her favorite line was, “Y’all be careful.” She wore that one out! We’d be leaving for school. It was a simple half mile walk up Stonewall Street. There wasn’t nothing that could possibly go wrong, unless Leon was still upset about that rake handle attacking him... Mom would follow along as far as Karen Webb’s house, waving and “be careful-ling” us!

It was “some-more” embarrassing as the years rolled on.

Yogi and Buddy would come over, we’re going out in the backyard to throw a baseball around or play Mumbley Peg. Mom would follow us to the door and remind teenagers, mind you, to, “Be careful.”

Ye gads! I fainted dead away by reason of abject mortification on several occasions!

Can you imagine bringing the girl of your dreams over to the house for the first time! I was in college. Cathy and I stopped by for a lunchmeat sandwich on our way to the golf course. I’m being on my best behavior. I want Cathy to see how mature and grown up—

As I opened the door of the Corvair to seat her as royally and gentlemanly as possible, Mom ran out on the porch and fairly screamed, “Y’all be careful!”

Dad never used that line. His mantra was “be good and do right.” It mostly was about work ethic; and thoughtfulness and respect and proper attitude. And he only said it one time to me in my whole life. He didn’t figure he had to chew his cabbage twice.

He did, however, demand correct results. I learned (sometimes the hard way) over the years exactly what he meant! And he didn’t teach as much as he expected. Today’s TV psychologists refer to it as Observational Learning.

Back then we called it going to the store.

Dad would send us to the grocery up the road for some bread, a pack of Camels and a jar of mayonnaise. You’d better be back in the allotted time extending him the goods in one hand and his change in the other.

He always let you keep the change. If you offered it back. If you didn’t—he didn’t. It only took a couple of trips to grasp the deeper meaning.

Dad said “no” a lot. We’d ask if we could skip cutting okra and go to the baseball field and it was “no.” If we wanted to spend the afternoon at the Melton’s riding horses—“We will mow the yard when we get home”— it was “no.” If we wanted to cruise Frank’s Dairy Bar instead of shelling Purple Hull peas, we got the same answer.

It took a while to figure out there is a proper order in life.

If we wanted a “yes” all we had to do was finish planting the corn, stalk three rows of tomatoes, trim the mimosa tree, pick a hamper of Kentucky Wonders, chop the rest of the cotton, empty the truck and pull up a mess of carrots for supper.

It was easy to get on Dad’s good side. Just do what you should do...

Mom would cook those carrots down and make us take a few bites declaring, “They are good for your eyes!”

I’d manage to get a small portion of the awful tasting things in my mouth for appearance sake. But I couldn’t hardly swallow, silently thinking there is ABSOLUTELY no connection between carrots and vision...but I didn’t say anything for two reasons.

One, it would cross Daddy’s respect line by a country mile.

And you’ve got to give Mom a little slack. It was only the second mistake she ever made in her life!

Respectfully,

Kes

PS: As my eyesight worsens over the years, I’m not so dead certain positive anymore about that last mistake.

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