On March 7th, 2018

Because I (Beer) Can

When I was 6 years old, boys often followed me home from school.  I think I fascinated them because, while I was not a tomboy, I did things that they never saw girls of the 60s do.  Or maybe it was because the beer was always on me.

My dad introduced me at a young age.  I played in the mud; danced in the rain; squatted down in my dress to play marbles.  I filtered pond scum through my hands to catch tadpoles.  I tied bacon to a string and let it down crawdad holes; could pull up an ole crawdaddy almost every time.  I knotted thread around the body of a Junebug and let the insect fly high into the air.  I took these Junebugs for walks.  I would walk along holding the spool of thread, giving the Junebug slack enough to fly about 20 feet above my head; then I could reel him back in if he misbehaved.  I never owned a pair of overalls; I did all of these things in cotton summer dresses.

I walked home from school in 1st grade.  One day I was late coming home so my mom loaded Clayton into the stroller and went to look for me.  We spotted each other when we were about a block apart.  I yelled, “mama, mama” and began running toward her with what she thought was a can of soda.   Seven or eight boys began running after me.  I wasn’t holding a can of soda.  It was a beer can.

I’m sure it must have looked to my mom as though I were on the road to a life of crime.  Wet and muddy as Caddy Compson, barefoot because I had taken off my shoes to avoid getting in trouble for dirtying them, I was headed straight for hell with a beer can in my hand and with boys in hot pursuit.  My side of the story?

On my way home from school I bragged to the boys that I knew how to catch tadpoles and turn them into frogs (as good as kissing a frog and turning it into a prince, to my mind).  They didn’t believe me, so when I saw a cul de sac full of thick, stagnant water I stopped there.  After taking off my shoes and socks, I entered, letting the cold mud ooze between my toes.  The boys stood back and watched.  The plump black dots wiggled around my toes—eureka!  “Get me something to put them in,” I shouted; the boys found an empty beer can and I began scooping until the can I did not recognize as an intoxicating beverage container was full to the brim.  Triumphantly, I continued home to show the boys how to nurture the ebony wigglers into full-fledged frogs that would eventually jump out of a pickle jar of water and hide under our family washing machine where it was likely a little moist.

I often wonder what became of the boys.


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