I see an old kerosene lantern it brings back lots of memories and
takes me back to a place when folks didn’t know what a flashlight
was or ever heard of one.
were so much different back then that most people wouldn’t even
recognize some of the ways people did to get by. Everybody used a
pine torch or a kerosene lantern. We never had but one lantern that I
recall. Daddy kept it hanging on the wall of the old smokehouse. He
used it back in his Fox Hunting Days. It seemed the pine torch became
more and more popular for lack of kerosene I suppose.
remember many a night walking beside my daddy, mama or grandma by the
light of a pine torch. Daddy always kept plenty of pine in the wood
box to start fires in the cook stove or heater. He’d go upon the
hill with his axe and find a big black pine and come back with a
bucket full. He had a certain wood box he kept the pine in.
grandma was the world’s worst to grab a piece out of the wood box
and light it up when she needed to go somewhere after dark. We called
her little ma cause she was skinny as a rail. We called our other
grandma big ma cause she had more meat on her bones.
little ma lived with us till she died. She was a Christian woman and
really believed in the power of prayer. She could pray some of the
most humbling, heartfelt prayers that I’ve ever heard. I know cause
when something got to bothering her she’d go up on the mountain
above where we built our playhouses to pray and I either followed or
listened in. I remember her lifting up many prayers for her two sons.
daddy and my uncle did worry her quite a bit, especially when they
both decided to take a little nip or maybe several when the mood hit
em. Now don’t get me wrong, they were good, hard working men and
believed in keeping their families fed and looked after but they had
their short comings just like everybody else. But when they both
quit, they quit fast as they started.
dark thirty came and they weren’t home little ma would start
walking the floors and asking mama, “ye reckon where them boys
are.” Mama would say, “don’t fret so they’ll be in after
while.” They both knew why they were out late, but just didn’t
know the where. After a while little ma would grab a stick of pine
from the wood box and tell mama, “let’s go see if we can find em,
they may have drowned in that there creek.”
wasn’t but four of us six young’uns by that time, me being the
oldest. The others hadn’t come along yet. Little ma would walk out
in the yard and light up that pine torch and mama would put the baby
on her hip and here we’d all go out that dark road towards the
was always a little foot log we walked across to get to the other
side of the creek. Little ma always worried that someone would set em
out and they’d get drowned in the creek trying to crawl on all
fours. The creek wasn’t deep at all and flowed down kinda like a
wide branch of water.
night in particular stands out in my memory, more so. We were all
walking out that little road and us young’uns were hanging on to
mama and little ma’s legs like always when we heard something that
gave us quite a scare. Little ma and mama heard it first and told us
to be quiet a minute. We all listened close and heard it again. By
that time we were really hanging to mama and little ma’s legs. Mama
said, “here take this baby ma and I’ll go in front.” Ma still
had the pine torch and she handed it to mama and we followed behind.
The strange noise continued the closer we got to the creek. Us
young’uns were absolutely scared to death but mama assured us it’d
be alright cause she knew what it was. She said, “uns hush
young’uns, it’s just your daddy and uncle.”
we walked down the little hill and closer to the creek there they
were. Daddy was on all fours trying to crawl across the foot log and
our uncle was in the middle of that creek trying to crawl across it.
They both were hollering, “Help us mommy, come get us”.
little ma was Thanking God that her boys were safe, mama spoke up and
said, “here take this pine torch, I’m gonna break em once and for
all.” Mama reached up and broke a big limb off the bank of the
road. She left the leaves on it and didn’t take the time to strip
em off like she did lots of times with us. She walked up to that foot
log and started on daddy first. She whupped him with that limb till
he managed to get up on his feet and she made him walk off of that
foot log and told him he’d better get towards that house or else.
He was hollering, “Oh, Oh, Stop You’re Gonna Kill Me.” Then
when she seen him staggering on towards home she walked straight into
that little creek and done the same to my uncle. She kept whupping
him with that limb till he was crying and hollering, “Stop Her
Mommy She’s Gonna Kill Me.” Little ma started in the water with
the baby on her hip but mama pointed at her and told her to stay
right where she was and to hold that pine torch up a little higher.
my uncle seen his mama wasn’t gonna help him any and he’d had
enough of that bushy limb he straightened up and walked outta that
creek and staggered on towards the house. As mama was takin the baby
outta little ma’s arms, little ma said, “you shouldn’t have
done that, you just about killed em.” Mama said “If I’d wanted
em dead they wouldn’t be up walkin right now and I’m sick and
tired of them two birds worryin ye to death all the time and if this
doesn’t do the trick I’ll give em some more of their medicine
till I break em from this stuff.” Mama knew it couldn’t have hurt
em to bad cause she didn’t strip the leaves off the limb. She just
whupped em good with it.
ma didn’t say anymore and we all walked back to the house by the
light of the pine torch. Daddy and my uncle managed to stagger on in
home without a pine torch cause when we walked in the door there laid
my uncle on the couch and daddy had managed to make it to the bed.
put us all to bed and then I heard her tell little ma, “ I hated to
do what I did in front of ye and all these young’uns but I’m
tired of seein ye worry yourself to death all the time.” Little ma
didn’t say anything back, just went on to bed. The only thing I
noticed different the next morning was a few scratches on their face,
nose and arms and how nice they talked to mama. Sugar wouldn’t melt
in their mouth.
guess, after many nights of an old mother worrying about her boys out
karousin and going to that little creek with a pine torch in her
hand, it all came to an end that one night, when mama decided to
sober em both up really fast. But little ma kept praying for her boys
as long as she lived and anybody else that needed it and those pine
torches continued to come in handy every step we made.
Susie Swanson, 2018