Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Cowardice of "Big Daddy"

Yup, that's me! The smiling coward right in
front of the pack with big black patches on
the knees of my pants!
And no, I've not peeked...But, yes my hubby
said the gum is still in the pocket of his
lunch box. I may open it up for a cell
phone picture...but no I better not!
I can do this...I want to prove to myself that
I can do it, but also I want to find out if the
tale of 21 days to making or breaking a habit
is true. Going without gum & writing every
single day. My huge bottle of Listerine is
almost gone & I've gone through 2 boxes of
dental floss already, but I WILL DO THIS!
I am writing every day...more than I did
before. I'm working through assignments
from several books on how to write. I'm
hoping it helps my writing skills, but mostly I
hope it embeds within me the self-discipline
to settle in & complete a task "ahead of time",
not just finish things "on time".
Today, I look back in time to the days of my
childhood, to times when all the other kids
had those long ropes of gum, called
"Big Daddy".
I remember them so well. The flavors like
green apple, watermelon, cherry & grape.
We never had any as kids & I wanted some
so badly so I could be like the other kids
around the neighborhood & at school.
We didn't get an allowance at home...there
was never enough money for that, besides,
my dad was old school - believing that one
shouldn't get money for nothing. We learned
very young that you had to work very hard
for literally every penny (it didn't kill us by
any means & was a good lesson to learn
early on...Oh, I am already digressing.
Anyway, once a year, on our birthday, we
received  a lovely $20.00 bill from my dad's
sister who lived in Oklahoma & $10 each
from my grandmother in Las Vegas, & her
sister, our Great Aunt Mary in New Jersey.
Great Aunt Mary was deaf & could only lip-
read in Italian, it was unbelievable, but true!
We received $40.00 a year of real money that
was all our own, yet we never got to use it
for our birthday, not in the Pierce household!
Instead, my Mother put our money away
in those little red & green cans with white
lids that chicken & beef bullion cubes came
in. They were labelled on the top & sides of
with a number each...1-5. I was #3...the 3rd
girl in the middle of 5 girls. I had 3 dots on
all my socks, underclothing, & on the white
school uniform blouses for our Catholic
school, Saint Rose Academy. I was #3.
The reason for the numbers was because
all 5 of us got the same kind of white
everything & the only way to tell them
apart in the laundry was to number them.
I was # 3, the one in the middle of 5 girls.
One day, I wanted some gum like the other
kids had so badly, that while my mom had
a friend over to visit...I took 3 nickles out of
my own bullion can (oh...we did make a wee
bit of money in the neighborhood from the
time we were little by taking our red wagon
& selling excess fruits & vegetables from our
garden) which, we weeded daily, along with
the fully landscaped huge yard filled with all
kinds of plants, flowers & even cactus. My
dad was a botanist from Sierra College, he
could take clippings of stuff & make anything
grow & believe it or not we were able to go
to work with him all day long in the summer employer now would ever allow
kids to go to work with their parents & work
alongside them because of the risks involved,
but this w-a-a-a-y was back in the day.
It was hard, hot work, but it was fun to us
& we got a Twinkie or Ding-Dong that our
dad would get us from a snack machine
with an ice cold root beer...we never had
that stuff at home! So I guess back then to
us, it was worth the hard, hot 8 hour summer
day of working with all the other men on
the gardening crew. We'd feel special & get
treats in return.
I remember my dad told us about a hippie
girl that was hired once & paired with him.
She had to ride around to his jobs with him
all day & he complained like no body's
business, he said she smelled so bad!
(I got to see & SMELL her when I went to
work with him one day it was the truth!)
My dad said she didn't believe in shaving
either & I was shocked to see her armpits
that looked all hairy like a man's & definitely
smelled the proof in her unbelief of using
no deodorant because it was unhealthy!!!
Anyway - I digress again! In the summer,
before we could go to Johnson's pool for the
whole afternoon with our baggies of cut up
fresh garden vegetables to snack on (& boy
we'd sure eat them because you feel like
you're starving after swimming & playing in
a pool for 5 hours....we'd all have to weed
our section of the yard & garden by hand
before we could go to the pool at noon...
No weed eaters or gas-powered mowers
back then, it was an old rusty push mower
with those open blades on two wheels...
Does anyone remember them?
OK, back to making extra money...
We even canvassed the neighborhood from
the time we were very little starting around 6
years old for odd jobs that would pay real
coins for washing windows, do any kind of
house & yard work for the neighbors...all
the nickels, dimes & quarters we made
went into our own bullion cans with our
numbers on them in the order we were born.
#1 was Sharon, Sherry was # 2, #3 (that was
me!) Sybil was #4, & Sylla was #5. But, we
never got to spend it....the money we earned
(along with the $40 birthday money) which
was used at the end of every August to buy
our new clothes, shoes, & school supplies for
the new school year every September.
The thing I hated was that I only got to feel
rich for such a short time, since my birthday
was in the middle of August & a week or
so later we were buying those school
clothes with the money from our cans.
Everyone else was able to see their can with
the bills rolled around inside for almost a
year or six months...but alas, I only got to
feel rich for a week! BOOOO!
So....back to my story, I remember sneaking
into my Mom & dad's bedroom, opening my
Mom's middle dresser drawer on the right
side & under the clothes were the 5 bullion
cans with the big black numbers on the top.
I remember often during my "rich" week,
I'd go with my heart thumping just to look at
& feel my bills...a $20 dollar bill & two $10's,
lifting my can out of the drawer, opening
the lid & dumping the contents of my can
on mum's bed. I'd look at the $20 dollar bill in
awe & feel it, tracing the face of President
Andrew Jackson...That $20 bill made me
feel rich...Then there were the two $10 bills
& I'd trace the face of Alexander Hamilton.
I found out later in school that he was the
first U.S Secretary of Treasury & only one
of two people that were not United States
Presidents to ever be put on money. The
other is Benjamin Franklin, I found out he
was on a $100 bill. I'd never seen a $100 bill,
until...but that's a story for another time.

We 5 girls were always creatively trying to
make money that our mom wouldn't know
about, so we could hide it, if possible....but
she always found out because the neighbors
would call her to tell her what we were trying
to sell! Then I remember having to turn the
money over to be put in the cans.

I'll tell just two of our many ways of trying
to make our own money by selling stuff.
One time, I remember, after our Mom had
gotten a load of groceries from the food co-op
we belonged to for bulk buying for our large
family. We loaded a large bag of powdered
milk (this was before she found the dairy
where we got fresh milk & yes we drank that
bluish, gross stuff that is powdered milk
before she found the dairy. Anyway, she
shopped in bulk at a food co-op for most of
our health foods, staples & canned foods
that we couldn't grow at home.
We 5 kids would go with her to help all the
others in the co-op unpack & split the loads
that came by freight truck once a month.
Believe, me it was hard, heavy work & no
fun, but hard work is good for kids & helps
build character - gives them a good work
ethic...yet I digress once again!
Anyway, one time the powdered milk got
wet in transport somehow, & wouldn't melt
down in the water, it was just in a big hard
chunk, so our Mom threw it out on the junk
pile. Being kids, & curious, we took those
chunks into the garage only to find we could
use it to draw on the ground, it was like chalk
but it was FREE! We drew a few hop-
scotches that were all the rage at St. Rose
Academy & a four-square block in the drive-
way & played for a while. Then someone,
either Sharon or Sherry because they were
older, decided that we could break up the big
chunks into smaller ones, take them around
the neighborhood to sell to the other kids
for chalk...& guess worked!
The kids bought our powdered milk chalk! I
don't remember what we charged probably
pennies or a nickle, depending on the size
of the chunk they bought...& there were a
lot of kids around the blocks of our
permissible territory to roam!
Another day, after we helped, but mostly
Sherry & my dad, built a chicken coop, (yes
we kids did all the taking care of them,
mucking out the stinky coop & fenced in
scratching area, feeding them, collecting
eggs) & getting attacked by this huge white 
killer rooster...I was terrified of him,
because he was so mean! 
Sharon & Sherry even helped in the
butchering of them once a year for the
freezer. (It was many, many years after
I moved away from home, before I ever ate
chicken again & if I ever do eat it, it cannot
have skin or bones & it must be white! I'm
almost a vegan, & vegetarian most of the
time, only with occasional fish now & then.
I still can't stand the sight of raw meat of
any kind & rarely eat it...that smell of the
singed feathers & all the guts & cut off
heads & feet. Yuck, yuck, triple yuck!
Sherry would chase me after me & the
others with chicken claws pulling a tendon
sticking out of the legs to make the chicken
claws open & close like it was grabbing at
me like a ghostly, bony hand...Oh, how I
hated those gross feet.  I never understood
how she could touch them, but she always
seemed to me to be the bravest of us 5 girls.
I always wanted to be like her, she never
seemed afraid of anything!
I can still smell that awful smell....that smell
after the headless chickens were dunked in
scalding water to make the plucking easier.
I was made to try it the 1st time &  threw
up my breakfast. After that my mom would
take us 3 younger ones away for the day
when the chickens were being butchered.
YaY! But the smell seemed to linger for days
after the butchering & I still never ate it
when it was cooked for dinner...I'd still gag at
the thought of that horrid smell...It seems I
can smell it even now as I write in the
middle of the night....oh GAG!
Anyway, we had a lot of scrap lumber from
building the chicken coop...I don't remember
which one of us had the bright idea to take
the smaller pieces of wood, saw them down
to about two feet lengths, & color them with
crayons in all different designs. It took us a
few afternoons to finish them all, then we
put them in a box on our trusty old red
wagon to sell to all the neighbors to as,
believe it or not, "Fanny Whackers" for
people to spank their kids with! Some
people laughed & bought them, I think they
felt sorry for us because we were always
trying to sell them stuff. One lady got mad
& called our mom...she said there was no
way she'd use a colored 2"x4" to spank her
 kids...Gee, they weren't all that big!
Those were only for the extra bad kids! The
others were only 1"x1" or 1"x2" cut in 24"
long pieces! We didn't care if they actually
used them to Whack Fannies or not...we
were just trying to make some money!
(Don't get me wrong...our parents didn't use
those on us, it was the old fashioned belt for
my oh man, he could unbuckle
that belt faster than greased lightning, it was
like he just slapped the buckle & it came
undone when he was really mad at us!
Like the time he...chased me around the burn
barrel...gosh, he was so mad because he had
to chase me & I was scared to kingdom come
because he was waving the belt like a lasso
(he used to be a cowboy back in the 1920's
& I KNEW he could hit his mark) so I kept
running as he got more furious by the second...
I got a huge walloping for that stunt & never
ran from him again. My mom preferred what
she called "switches" & every year when my
dad pruned our trees, he'd cut a HUGE bunch
of switches from the long thin branches, wrap
them in a bundle, standing them in the corner
up against the dryer right by the garage door
to stand sentry against our mischievous ways,
so we could see them every time we went in
or, when she'd wear one out, well,
there were more in storage. I think we were
pretty good kids, but there were times we
did deserve to be spanked, usually for good
reason, but some times, well...not so good,
but I won't go there though. There's another
"gum" story there in all of that.
Anyway our Mom put a stop to us selling
the Fanny Whackers. She drove around the
neighborhood in the old Rambler station
wagon till she found us, piled us in with our
wagon of Whackers...& yet we once
again we handed over the coins.

Well, one day, I wanted some  of those
"Big Daddy" gum ropes like the other kids
had so badly, that while my mom had a
friend over to visit, I actually had the courage
to take some change out of my own #3
bullion can...It wasn't was MY
money, right? I put it in the pocket of my
shorts & climbed on the big old blue bike
with the wrap around fenders & a wire
basket on the front & rode to "Stop-N-Save"
market as fast as I could. It was only about 4
country neighborhood blocks from our house
& I was sure I could make it there & back
before being missed, after all, we were sent
outside to play for the duration of my Mom's
visit with her friend any way!
I rode like the wind, ran in the store, grabbed
a grape, a watermelon & a sour apple
3 "Big Daddies" just for me...handed over my
3 coins to the cashier, tearing out of the
store like I'd stolen them & jumped on my
bike. I decided to take the short-cut through
the field on Orlando to be on the safe side.
My heart was pounding faster than a
hummingbird's & my legs were going as
fast as 8 year old legs could pump those old
bicycle pedals....yet I started feeling so
terrified I would get caught that I
ripped those three precious whips of my
very own "Big-Daddy" gum ropes out of
my pocket & threw them as hard as I
could into the field, never stopping a for even
a beat to look back in regret as my very own
"Big-Daddy's" went flying through the air &
away from me forever. I just wanted to get
home without getting caught...(I wish they
sold "Big-Daddy" gum now just so I could
see what it tasted like!)
When I got home, I threw the bike down
by the other one on the side of the house,
shaking like a leaf & feeling like my
heart would thump out of my chest...I was
never good at lying & right away, as
soon as my Mom's friend left, she asked
me what was wrong...I tried to say"nothing"
but she knew I was hiding something, so she
kept after me until I told her what I did,
thinking all the while, that I'd get a whipping
for taking the money, & boy did I ever, but
she said it wasn't for taking the money out of
my can, but for going to the store without
permission. She told me it wasn't stealing
because it was my money, but that it was
so important to save it because it was almost
time for school to start & was needed
very soon for me to buy the clothes,
shoes, & school supplies for the new year.
Then followed a lesson on the importance
of saving money while I sniffled & cried,
more from the loss of my precious gum than
from the pain of the spanking for leaving
without permission. I wonder if any of the
neighbor kids ever found that unopened
gum thinking they'd struck a jack-pot as that
field was criss-crossed with paths from all the
kids that traversed it's golden waves during
their summer play times of yester-year.
My sisters all laughed at me for being such
"Fraidy-Cat", saying I should have at least
kept the gum to pay for my spanking,
because I didn't just lose my gum for being
I so afraid, but I had 15 cents less in my can
for my you see...I've been a
"Fraidy-Cat" since forever, and thus, yet
another reason for me to learn courage
even in my older age some 37 years later.
I wonder if anyone has lasted through this
long & rather jumbled catch-me-if-you-can
tale of :
The Cowardice of "Big Daddy"?
Please leave a comment if you made it to
the end of my rambling...pretty please with
a stick of gum on top?
Gee...I spent too much time editing this from
last night's mistakes, so it looks like I missed
a day of writing but I really have not because
this was drafted yesterday, which is still my
today, because I haven't gone to bed yet!


  1. I made it to the end Susan. What an enjoyable story!

  2. Awe! Thanks so much for leaving a comment! Bless you my friend :)

  3. I made it to the end too! Reminds me of myself..because I LOVE tangents. Good stories!