Along the same lines as the I’m Almost Sorry post, this story is a collaboration of memories from my older sister and I. I don’t always trust my memories, especially of early childhood, as they seem to be muddied with fantasy and make believe. So, with that being said, this is mostly true, at least what we can remember of it! For those of you who didn’t grow up in the country life getting your legs nettled by a flimsy limb from a tree as a form of punishment, that’s called a switch! Enjoy!
With Daddy being a preacher, we sometimes held prayer services or bible studies in our home. There were a lot of us crammed in the tiny space that night. The room was hot, the light from the lamp emitted warmth over top of the sweating bodies seated around the room. Legs tangled and twisted as each person tried to make themselves comfortable whether on the floor, in one of the few pieces of furniture and some who were standing to get a bit of cool air. I was sitting on someone’s lap on the long leatherette couch, holding a switch in my hand. A switch that recently been used to nettle my legs because I was a mischievous child.
I can recall at least one family there, squished into this small room. They had three kids, maybe four, but I really only remember their oldest daughter who was in her mid-teens at the time. I don’t know if I can’t remember her name or if I’ve blocked it, but I remember her hair, oh, her hair! This was the late 70’s and much like today’s fashion, anything went. She let her long, black, curly and beautiful hair grow wild and then combed it out into a perfect ball of fluff. Well, that’s how it looked in my little four year old mind. I don’t recall the specifics of daddy’s message that night. I do, however, recall a story that he told to make it memorable.
When he was a young lad (that’s what he called himself, having an Irish background), he and his brothers would go hunting for rabbits. Rather than shoot them, they’d follow them to their burrows and put a stick into the burrow, winding it into their hair (I know, not nice to the rabbits at all…I’m just recollecting memories here) and pull them out. Then, they killed them. And ate them. I digress.
Being the visual person that I am and now understand, I could see this so well. Not the killing, the twirling of a stick into soft rabbit fur or the perfect ball of fluff sitting in the floor in front of me. What daddy didn’t share, that I remember, was how they un-twirled the stick from the fur. That would’ve been nice to have known!
So here I sit, on someone’s lap, having been crying for getting a spanking for acting out and they gave me the switch! What kind of brilliant mind did this? I don’t remember! I do know that they wished they hadn’t! Trust me! I listened to daddy’s story, I visualized that cute little fluffy bunny rabbit and all that cute little fluffy bunny rabbit fur but I saw her cute, fluffy fur in front of me.
Oh, yes. Yes, I went there! Yes, I took the switch and wound it into her beautiful, curly, black, combed out fluffy hair and I wound it and wound it until it was tangled around the switch. My four year old mind hadn’t quite figured out how to get it out, so I yanked. Not once, not twice, not even three times, but over and over! When she yelled, I pulled harder, trying to get my switch out of her hair. She pulled and I pulled. The results were not pretty.
She cried, I cried. Her mother cradled her in her arms and attempted to assess the damage. And there was damage! When she pulled and I pulled, a lot of hair came out on the stick I’d twisted into her hair and left a perfect little round bald spot in the back of her head. Not pretty. Definitely painful! I got spanked. I got my hands smacked and then my bottom. Not with the switch, though. Just Momma’s hand. Momma held the hair covered switch up in front of me and demanded to know what I was thinking. This is what parents do to four year old’s who are the fifth child in the family. They get treated like they’re much older and more mature than they really are. “What were you thinking?” Momma demanded.
I may live to be a hundred and I don’t think I’ll ever forget my answer. “I wanted to catch a rabbit.” I said, demurely, while sniffling back tears that trickled down my face. “I just wanted to catch a rabbit like daddy.”
“Well, that’s not a rabbit!” was her retort.