180 Relative   /   List of Ed's writings and art
Ed Bookhardt Pt.5 180-01W
March 2009

Before the miracle of man-made fibers, there was wool and cotton. When you are up to your ass in Georgia cotton...who needs a wool suit?

The metallic ding of the rusty old dinner bell echoed across the arid sun drenched cotton field. The sound, like heavenly chimes came not a moment too soon as my enthusiasm for the task before me was on the wane. Chopping weeds from the clay-like soil ranked right up there with going to the outhouse on a frosty morn. I stopped in my tracks, dropped my hoe and with a mischievous grin, eyeballed Little Brother in the adjacent row...the piney-wood marathon was on!

I got the jump on him and darted across the rows exhibiting far greater energy that I had displayed all morning. My lead was short lived however; as Bro's ankles were smoking, I was eating his dust all the way to the house. Adding to the humiliation of being beaten by my junior, I tripped vaulting the wooden gate at the edge of the yard and skinned my knees. Limping up to the front porch, "Mister Olympia" and the younger siblings were laughing at my clumsy exhibition. Moaning, I flopped out on the rough planked porch. While trying to catch my breath, little Sara pounced on my stomach for her daily horsy-ride. Copying her sister, Daniela straddled Brother. With the heat of the mid-day sun radiating down through the exposed tin roof, the riders were soon bucked-off.

Shouting in unison, "We want ice tea! We want ice tea!" I grabbed for the screen door, pushing Brother aside to get in first. Stepmother shouted from the kitchen, "Stop that! You'll tear that old door off its' hinges...now go draw a fresh bucket of water and wash-up. There will be nothing to eat until you get the dirt off."

Over lunch of biscuits and smoked sausage left from breakfast with sides of green onions and sliced tomatoes, she read aloud a letter from Grandmother. A box was on the way with some things for the family including fall school clothes for we boys, plus new suits for church! We should listen for the mailman, as the box should arrive within the week.

Hot-diggity-dog! Wow-weeee, a new suit! Maybe Jeanne, the prettiest girl in school, would take notice of a slick guy in new threads sent all the way from Florida! Over the next several days we listened for the carrier. He always honked when leaving something to large for the mailbox out on the main road. The signal finally came! With hearts pounding, we charged across the field for the mailbox. There was the big package! We grabbed up the large battered twine wrapped box and rushed to the house...it was Christmas in July!

Brother kept screaming, "Its here, its here, Grandma's box is here!" Our elation was soon squelched, when told we would wait until Father came home from town. The excitement was unbearable! New suits and fancy school duds, I was definitely going to be the slickest kid in Jeff Davis County! "Look out prissy Jeanne, your lover boy is gonna' strut his jeans!" The afternoon passed slowly...

That evening around the kitchen table, expectations were at a fever pitch. The long awaited moment had finally arrived! With the tight strings cut, the manila wrappings fell away and the over-stuffed box popped open exposing the contents within...

The most hideous things ever created by man tumbled out on the kitchen table! Everyone gasped! Even Daddy muttered an expletive under his breath and stepped back, startling the girls. Was this shapeless heap before me the new suits we had waited so anxiously for? The color was that of dried cow paddies. Tiny quill-like hairs protruded like the feelers of some mutated caterpillar from the course woven fabric. There were definite signs of alien life emanating from the repulsive mass before us!

What had my dear sweet Granny done to me? Did she have that Old-timer's disease? I backed away from the table sadly disappointed! Brother was ranting, "I ain't wearin' that stupid looking' thing...no way, no time it looks icky and sticky!"

Father regaining his stoic composure sternly replied, "You will both dress-up for church Sunday and you will look nice. After all, it's your first suits and your grandmother would be so disappointed if you didn't wear them."

I sighed. Mid-summer and wooly suits woven by Satan himself...  life was looking extremely bleak.

Given no slack, we were directed to try on the suits. Brother pouting in the corner, charged out the backdoor vowing he would never put it on and was running away! I, on the other hand, being the eldest and wishing to display an air of maturity, picked up the suit and holding it at arms length cautiously went to the bedroom.

I slipped off my overalls and with trepidation slowly stuck a bony leg into the dark forbidding aperture of the awaiting trouser leg. Screaming, I tried to disengage my appendage from the "thing" that had me! Flopping about the floor like some landed trout, panic set in...what could I do to save myself from the unbearable agony that lay ahead? I had to find a solution before Sunday morning.

The suits were pressed, but still remained shapeless. The ironing only made the stiff white bristles protrude even more menacing! That night, Brother "crossing his heart and hope to die" swore he saw them move in the closet. They had taken on some satanic form before he pulled the sheet over his head! Was he dreaming? It had to be a nightmare...certainly an omen? I was stricken with anxiety...how could we overcome the torture that awaited us?

On that bright summer Sunday morning, there was a large turnout at the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. There was a special Fourth of July "picnic on the grounds" following services. The family having had our Saturday night romp in the old washtub was lined up squeaky clean in our pew near the "amen corner." Mom and the girls sat on one end, Dad, Bro and I on the other. Typical rubes, we boys looked like a pair of Clem Kiddlehoppers in our ill-fitting suits and slicked down hair.

Father oblivious to our discomfort, looked down the pew at his brood with pride and admiration. Then straightening up, casually glanced over his shoulder to insure the congregation was aware that he, a sinner and sometime partaker of the corn, was present for redemption of his wicked ways.

On the church grounds prior to morning service, I had bashfully approached Jeanne who was chatting with her circle of friends. With an aloof air and vague recognition of her lover man, she commented with some sarcasm, "Oh, is that you, Edward...I hardly recognized you."

"Why are you walking so strangely, did you hurt yourself?" She snickered and the girls giggled.

Cut to the core, I turned red and shrank into my scuffed shoes. She coolly followed the remark with, "Isn't it a bit warm for wool or whatever that is you're wearing?"

My heart shattered...God hated me...the girl I loved hated me...I wanted to crawl under a rock! Dejected and embarrassed, I cowered, turned and quickly walked away.

Gazing out over the large congregation, Pastor Roberts was full of himself...not realizing it was the fried chicken, ham and potato-salad that brought the flock to church. He started his sermon in his usual ho-hum manner. Looking down from the pulpit he saw me as I began to perspire. Sensing my apparent guilt, the "fire and brimstone" began to roll. His stare became fixed on me and Brother, or was it the cut of our new suits?

The more he preached, the more he saw us sweat. Could he a simple man-of-the-cloth realize a life long dream...to actually sweat the demons from those who had gone astray? An exorcism! Yes, South Georgia's first documented exorcism...he, Gilbert Titus Roberts would become a famous theologian! These young lads before him were his first miracle! He felt the calling...he felt the power!

Yes, yes, he felt the power of the Almighty! HALLELUJAH! With eyes rolled back, he began to convulse...my fidgeting was now in sync with his singsong oratory. He got his second wind and started on the sins of the flesh, lipstick, dancing and moonshine-whiskey...the latter gave Father a twinge.

Perspiration was pouring off me in torrents. I noticed my suit, now dank and spongy was shrinking! The fabric began emitting a strong nocuous odor as the coat sleeves and trouser legs inched upward! Brother giggling at my predicament went to elbow me and the seam in his coat sleeve ripped!

Father getting a whiff of the pungent smell and seeing his sons literally coming apart at the seams hunkered down and edged toward the far end of the pew. Church members sniffing the air eyed us with suspicious contempt. Smiling I thought, thank you Jesus...Daddy deserves to squirm! Let him experience the pain and embarrassment he had brought down upon me. Ah, to reap some small measure of retribution was definitely a moving and spiritual moment...

Were we wayward youngsters saved from purgatory on that fateful Sabbath morning? Not really, for I had solved the problem of the garments from the Devil's loom! To repel the prickly quills, Brother and I were both wearing our red-flannel winter long johns beneath our Sunday finery! Let's hear another AMEN!

"With Preacher Roberts, Deacon Cletus Mooney and fat old Willie May Harper at the head of the line...someone kindly grab me a drumstick and some of that tater-salad before it's all gone...oh yes, and a big slab of Granny Walker's molasses pecan pie..."

Commander Ed Bookhardt, US Navy, Retired is a former SeaBee with 30+ years active Navy service who worked his way up through the ranks from Seaman Recruit to CDR.            He writes good stories.
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