Southern Scribe
    our culture of storytelling


 Porch Tale    


Four to a Bed

By Ulmer Speed

If a cousin scrunched deeper in the bed than he ought’a, the sleeper at the other end got a foot in his face. We learned early on that chomping down hard on one of the toes of the nearest foot moved the cousin back up the bed or started a fight. No, it wasn’t “or started a fight.” There was always a fight and the outcome of the fight decided whether the foot was withdrawn or not.

Overnight visits with kinfolks in Sand Flat, Mis’sippi, wasn’t all that common but sometimes late suppers following long days in the fields or plans for a early start on a next day forced family sleep-overs. Sleeping arrangements pared all the girls in one room and the boys in another. The girls got to sleep two to a bed in one of the rooms that had a fireplace or open windows – depending on the season. Or they could sleep on a pallet spread on the floor. They didn’t cut up as badly as boys did. The boys, on the other hand - the noisy ones, were sent to the single bed in the bed room located furthest from the rest of the house. The room was still attached to the main house but it usually had no windows and always was on the other side of the dog porch. Every house had one. At least every house that I knew of in Sand Flat had one. Most people called it their store room but Doug and I guessed that if the truth were known these back rooms were built to imprison boys during sleepovers. Doug said that our family would have put us in the barn to sleep but they figured we’d have too much fun.

Putting the tall cousins at opposite ends on the same side of the bed and short cousins on the other side, top and bottom, seemingly would be a perfect four-to-a-bed arrangement. It never worked that way. Two tall cousins on the same side of the bed would ensure that both had feet in their faces and guarantee a fight. A fight between taller cousins (taller usually meant older) would cause a ruckus with one of them getting hurt; all of us would get hurt if the racket brought a parent with a razor strap.

Two tall cousins at top and bottom on the same side of the bed meant that short cousins would escape having feet in their faces. No, that’s not the way it was. One or both of the short cousins would scrunch down in the bed so their feet would be in the other’s face, sparking the fight that had to come.

Then, the best solution was to have the tallest cousins on one end of the bed and the shorter cousins on the other. That is, it was the best solution for the taller cousins who had no feet in their faces. The smaller cousins just had to bit the toes, have the fight, take the whupp’in, and sleep with feet in their faces.

The author is Mr. Ellis Ulmer Speed a retiree living on a fixed income in Nags Head, North Carolina.
His e-mail address is

© 2004, Ulmer Speed, All Rights Reserved