The experts say children don't remember things that happen when they are less than 3 or 4. I know that is not true. My first memory was before I was 3, I couldn't even talk plain. Mom said I was about 2 at the time. This was in warm weather so I was probably about 2 and a half. I drowned a puppy! Now don't get all excited thinking I have serial killer tendencies! It was an accident.
We had a litter of little puppies that had just got their eyes open. Mom had a big, black, cast iron canner that she had set upon an overturned chair under the leak of the house to catch rain water. We had no indoor plumbing and all our water had to be carried from the spring under the hill or from the coal bank up the mountain so every drop of water we could catch off the roof meant one less trip to pack it. The day before this traumatic event I had watched mom give the new puppies a bath. I was playing out behind the house with the puppies. I decided to bath one of them. Shirley swears it was hers!
I had to stand on my tip toes to see over the rim of the canner. It was about half full of water. I chose the cute little collie puppy and dropped him over in the tub. Well, he swam around and around and around and around, getting slower and slower. I instinctively knew he needed to be got out so I tried and tried to reach him but my little arm wasn't long enough. I knew nothing about death but I knew he was in distress. I can still see him in my mind swimming and then slowly sinking. I ran to get mommy then.
I ran in the house and tugged on her and she said all I could say was “mon, mon” for come on, come on. I took he finger and lead her around the back of the house to the tub but it was to late. The puppy was dead. I never will forget what she said “ well Glenna you've drownded the poor little thing”. I am in my 60's now and I never have forgotten the little puppy. This was my first experience with death. Being a child on a farm I saw animals slaughtered for food, chickens necks rung and hog killings, but these are vague memories. The puppy's demise is vivid and unfading. Perhaps that is because I was the cause, perhaps because it was the first experience with death, perhaps because I could hear the disappointment in moms voice, perhaps because God has given us an instinct that killing is bad and death is permanent. Most likely, because of all these things my memory is stamped forever with those desperate, sad puppy eyes!
There are a few other thing I can remember clearly before I was old enough to start school at age 6. They appear in my mind as a snap shot does, one moment in time, images that glow for a few seconds then fade away until something triggers that memory again. For example sitting here on the porch at the Lake house always reminds me of the old log house on Big Branch and especially porch memories. When the boys all got home from the plowing, planting, hoeing, gathering and dad got in from work, supper being over and not TV or electricity, we all gathered on the front porch as twilight fell over our hollow. Dad always sat in a rocking chair on the left beside where the front steps came up so he could spit his tobacco juice over the side of the handrail. There was about a two or three foot gap between the steps and the logs there. We had an “Indian” blanket that he always wrapped me in and rocked me while he told storied about the past events, usually funny ones, and joked and laughed with my brothers. We lived so far back in the mountains that the whipper-wills would call right in the edge of our yard. It is rare that I ever here them now.
The sound of music and a Christmas gift from Germany was one of my earliest memories to. I heard bluegrass and traditional country music in my cradle but the clearest memory is one time just before Christmas Vance had come home from the army on leave. He had been stationed in Germany. I was about 2 or 3 then. He had bought me a dress. It was mint green and had candy canes embroidered on the front yolk. He was standing with his foot upon a old hickory bottomed chair, his uniform on, playing the guitar and singing. I was holding onto his leg going around and around his leg looking down at my beautiful dress. There used to be a picture of me in that dress but I don't have it now.
This memory triggers another. Bark bottom chairs and shoe laces! Woodrow Combs was a cousin on my mother's side. I always loved Woodrow, he was so kind to me. He was Brack Combs and Offie's boy. Offie was mom's first cousin I think. Woodrow was older than both Marshall and Vernon so he was probably in the lower twenties. He just about stayed at our house. He was there all the time.I never knew him to work except maybe to help how corn, never had a job that I can ever remember. However, he was real good with a carving knife and his hands. I remember a sling shot handle he carved to look like a woman with her arms stretched up being the Y of the sling shot. In the winter he would make chairs. He would bring in hickory bark and boil it in a big pot on the stove until it was pliable. He made the chair post and rounds, carved the the right size, assembled them and then braided on the bark. He explained how that when he tightened the wet bark and after it dried how it would be even tighter. I would watch him for hours. He also was the one who taught me to tie my shoes. Mom and others had been trying to teach me and I still couldn't tie them. Woodrow said, “let me teach her” and he did. Maybe he was more patient or had the most time, anyway, he was the one that taught me how to tie my shoes.