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The Madera Tribune

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Opinion: Past the rain and into the past

June 1, 2019

The rainstorms have abated and the temperature has returned to the high 80s and low 90s May and June are supposed to be. Weather is one of those topics it safe to discuss in polite company. Religion and politics can lead to discussions that turn family members against one another. A simple Sunday meal at Momma’s can turn into a huge brouhaha. In most cases, I can’t help but think there is a personal underlying grudge that is being avoided.

 

I heard a few people complain about the rain.

 

“Enough already, too much of a good thing and we are drowning here…” they say.

Paying attention to the Big Picture, we need five or six years of this kind of rainfall to have any hopes of recharging the aquifer.

 

• • •

 

Family dinners with my Mom’s kinfolk were usually calm and friendly. While alcohol was on the premises, it was strictly “Bring Your Own Beer.”

 

The year we lived in Nashville and had, parties and family holidays with my father’s family were quite the eye-opener. The hosts laid in a huge supply of top-drawer spirits and beer by the keg. Each one tried to out-do the other in refreshments, cuisine and the furnishings of their homes.

 

These poor damaged people grew up with a father who went for a pack of cigarettes during the depression and never came back. Then these eight children had a stepfather whose crimes against his stepchildren are too horrific to tell no matter how drunk the aunt or uncle, they refused to share the stories.

 

My Mom’s family were blue-collar, hard-working men and women. My dad and two uncles worked at Quality Dairy for Mom and Pop Ferguson and after they retired their son, Clark Junior. Now there’s a job that has disappeared. Residential milk delivery may exist yet in some small communities but in Madera, it died out in the early 1970s.

 

My Dad’s people aspired to be more white-collar. Along with that came the large consumption of spirits and loud argument about stupid things. I heard my Dad’s baby brother Joe have a screaming match with his older sister Frances over a $20 camera from 20 years before.

 

Apparently, Claud Conley Hill Sr. was a really cold and distant man. On one of my trips to Nashville, I had a cousin take me to the cemeteries where he and my grandmother are buried so I could put flowers on their graves.

 

Following Daddy’s discharge from the Navy in World War II, he didn’t go back to Tennessee for more than 20 years. He never saw his mother again. I can’t help but wonder if he didn’t blame her for a miserable childhood.

 

He and his siblings spent their school years in a combination boarding school and orphanage. Poor families could send their children there for education if their grades were good and they were hard workers. Reading the history of TIS (Tennessee Industrial School) it cost about $50 a month to feed, clothe and house the students. The State of Tennessee paid $25 and the other half the students earned farming and performing other chores as requested.

 

When we lived in Murfreesboro my father threatened to send me to TIS because my mother was in the hospital; he worked long hours and I was a horrible 13-year-old with bad grades and a smart mouth.

 

His brothers’ wives overheard him threatening me and they came down on him like a ton of bricks. You see, they were alumni of TIS too. The horrible things the girls endured from the male students and the predominately men staff members were very ugly. They threatened to take him to court if need be if personally giving him a beat-down wasn’t enough. Luckily that was the last we heard of that. Inside of six months, we were back in Madera.

 

Long days and pleasant nights, have a great weekend.

 

• • •

 

Readers may contact Tami Jo Nix by emailing tamijonix@gmail.com or following @TamiJoNix on Twitter.

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