Tag Archives: school

Venison Stew

14 Jul

Over the last few weeks we’ve been seeing a lot of deer in our backyard. The delicates fawns remind me of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s classic tale– The Yearling. My fourth grade teacher, read it to us one chapter at a time and all but the most jaded fourth graders , anxiously awaited each installment of this cracker coming of age story. Our teacher was from the deep south and the color of Rawlings’s writing completely captivated her. She also read us a rather dubious story about a little “colored boy” named Skip, who is depressed about moving up north but gets to eat at automat and after taking a piece of cherry pie from its plastic cubbyhole, decides that the north is really cool after all.
I don’t remember all of the plot of The Yearling but it went something like: Boy meets deer. Boy loses half-wit friend. Bear almost gets Dad. And boy loses deer.
I remember crying when the boy, Jody Baxter learned that his brain-damaged friend, Fodder-wing, died from the fever. Fodder-wing got his name from jumping off a roof while flapping his fodder-laden arms eventually landing on his noggin.
Fodder-wing came from one of those families that had more hounds living under the front porch than are in most foxhunts We had neighbors just like them so I could easily relate to this part of the story. Our neighbor ran a beauty salon and her children enjoyed throwing aerosol hairspray cans into a blazing trash barrel for the explosive reaction. Hey also played in the piles of discarded hair, much to everyone’s revulsion. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they glued hair to their arms and jumped off the garage.
In The Yearling Jody’s mother, Ora (Ma Baxter), was depressed, traumatized, and irritable, woman, having suffered the loss of several babies. I wondered if our teacher , no beam of sunshine herself, identified with the melancholic Ora. Jody’s long suffering father, Penny, was essentially worthless at home, although he fared better out in the scrub, tracking Ole Slewfoot– the killer bear.
The story’s dramatic conflict centers around an orphaned fawn that follows Jody home one day. He names it Flag, teaches it to fetch, roll over, and bring Penny his corncob pipe and slippers. The crabby Ma Baxter was not impressed. SoonFlag gets too big for his pen and after Penny is injured going a couple rounds with Slewfoot, the household just can’t afford to mess around with exotic pets. Too domesticated to return to the wild, the voracious Flag keeps threating the family’s subsistence garden, driving Ma Baxter to want plug the pest in the porterhouse. It’s a Florida coming of age story, so Jody is suppose to grow up and put a bullet between the trusting deer’s antlers. Jody runs away but eventually returns when the Johnny cakes run out and is reconciled with his family.
We all cried our eyes. The story aptly demonstrated something we were all becoming acutely aware of– growing up pretty much stinks. I always hoped that Jody, at least, didn’t have to eat the stew.
Rawlings, who shared the same editor as Hemingway and Fitzgerald, wrote another Florida best-seller– Cross Creek. In doing so she managed to infuriate most of her neighbors and ignite one of the longest and most vicious libel trials in Florida history. But that’s another story.

Another Steeltown Story: The Emergency Room

7 Sep

My first visit to the hospital emergency room took place when I was in the second grade. At the time I had a very young and very nervous first-year teacher, Miss Dole. And a few weeks into the new school year I was to add to her anxiety. Not being particularly precocious, I was easily influenced when someone suggested we play “slot machine”, using the nickels intended for the purchase of chocolate milk. I was suppose to put several nickels in my mouth, then someone would pull my arm down, I would roll my eyes, and spit out the nickels— Jackpot!

As I said I was not particularly advanced, so after putting the first nickel in my mouth, I immediately swallowed it. I decided that I should probably tell Miss Dole. Knowing how jumpy she was, I spoke in a very quiet voice. I had to repeat myself several times. When she finally comprehended what I was saying, she screamed, grabbed me, and carried me from one end of the hallway to the other several times. Her worse nightmare had come true. No one seemed to know what to do. The school nurse suggested that I eat a piece of Wonder Bread®. I was in no discomfort only curious about what was to happen next. Eventually they called an ambulance and I rode to the emergency room along accompanied by the truant officer. The driver was very nice and let me turn on the siren and flashing lights. At the hospital they said the nickel was lodged (probably in Wonder Bread®) , but didn’t constitute any danger, so after receiving a massive dose of radiation from a fluoroscope, I was whisked back to school.
Curious why I wasn’t very hungry and why I glowed in the dark when I got home, my mother asked me what happened in school. I thought she was going to faint when I told her an ambulance took me to the hospital and I had a note from the school nurse I’d forgotten to give her. Despite my hope for instant celebrity, an ingested nickel turned out to be small potatoes in our family. When that show-off Norman was in the second grade, he managed to swallow a bullet.
My second visit was a few years later. My dad was very frugal and believed that nails should be recycled. So I would pull old nails out of boards and then flatten them to be used again. On this occasion I had a large nail, in the workbench vise that I intended to straighten. I hit the nail with my hammer and a piece of it struck me right in the middle of the throat. Again I felt no pain, but blood was gushing out, as if I had severed my jugular. My mother almost fainted when she saw me, but we slapped a handkerchief over the wound and rush to the emergency room. They x-rayed me and called my pediatrician. Dr. Berman was a large, affable, cigar-chomping doctor from the old school. He breezed into the emergency room, scanned the x-ray and casually asked, “Who shot you Terry?”, as if that were not surprising. On the x-ray, the nail piece resembled a tiny bullet. He probed for it for a while and then decided it was harmless where it was. He explained about shrapnel and just left it there. To this day whenever I go through metal detectors, I worry the nail will set them off.