Carolina Alumni Review’s
by Kathy Norcross Watts ’ 86
Iknow my bed sheet came from a
bag of fertilizer. Oh, Mama
bleached it good and rubbed it
hard on the washboard, but I saw
it. It was full of clumpy blackness
that Daddy dumped on the red
rows. You can’t change what something is
even if you pretend really, really hard. I
know what came on the inside, and I’ll
never forget. It was dirty, and I’ll never
believe it came clean even if it looks white
as a cloud.
Mama makes us wear bonnets. Especially
if she thinks Granny Clara might cross our
path. If my sisters, Marjorie and Gladys,
were working her fields, Granny’d hang a
sheet in a tree to keep the sun from touching their cheeks. That crazy old lady never
spoke a word to me. I got to say I’m glad
after what I heard Mama say to Daddy.
“It don’t matter if you walk back in the
same door and out the other,” she said.
“And you can’t tell me that you stopping
by on the first New Year day will make her
chickens hatch out roosters. I’ll not believe
it, and I’ll not pretend to.”
I agree with Mama that she’s “crazy as a
bed bug.” Don’t know how a bed bug
could be crazy, though. Itchy and a bother.
Bed bugs ain’t crazy, but my Granny sure is.
Mama swishes when she walks she turns so
fast. She wasn’t ever mean, but she stood
back from me. Almost like I’d hurt her.
Don’t she know I’d never hurt no one?
My sisters fight about whose turn it is to
milk our cow. They make me fetch the
eggs. Sometimes spiteful as snakes, they are.
Those hens peck the fire out of the back of
my hand. I’m fast, though. I toss the corn in
one direction, then sneak over to the nests,
grab the eggs as quick as I can. But I’ve had
a mad mother hen chase me. Turned quick
and ran. Dropped an egg one time, and
Daddy saw me.
“Great day, Grace. It ain’t nothin’ but a
But I knew it could peck me to death.
Nothing’s quite as fierce as a mad mother
hen protecting her brood.
Once a rooster chased me, jumped on
my back, snapped my pig tail in his beak
and stuck me with his spurs. Flapping, flapping, flapping. Daddy ran up and killed that
mean old bird. Hit him on the head, beat
him to death. We ate him for supper.
That’s when I first saw Mama’s fear. I
thought it was because of the rooster. She
washed the dirt from the scrapes on my
back. I thought she was going to even hug
me, but when I looked up, she stopped. I
felt the air sizzle. It didn’t feel like hate,
though, I’m pretty sure about that. You