Southern Scribe
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Porch Tale     


Martha Belle talks about herself, September, 1961

By Pamela Bradley



“I had to chop the toes right outta these white oxfords I’z a wearin’, lookin for comfort. Took a butcher knife to ‘um right here on the porch, on account of havin’ my daddy’s hammer toes. Never understood when I was young how anybody could grow up and get old and bent over with things like hammer toes but let me tell you, it happens, whether you want it to or not. 

“At least you can hide your hammer toes but now, my legs, I never wanted to hide them. I still have the legs of a young girl beneath these stockin’s. I don’t have quite the strength I used to in my hands anymore to turn down the tops of the stockin’s over my garters, but I’ve always been proud of my legs! 

“My legs is long too. To this day I can out walk just about anybody comin’ down the road from town. And me old and weighin’ 160 pounds. Weighed the same my whole adult life, 5’6” tall, with a number 8 shoe. 

“If I didn’t have the heartburn so much and that durn autharitis in my hands, I’d swear I was 60 years old again. When I was 60 I could do anything. I was young! 

“Now these old age freckles are all over my hands and face. Every night I take a lemon to ‘um. They say lemon will lighten old age spots. They’z so ugly. 

“But I can still work with those ol’ hands - carryin’ coal, cannin beans, hoein’ the garden. Why, last summer at the age of 80 I made me a half acre garden by myself. Only thing I didn’t do was drive the plow. Now a days, I hire for that. They say that ol’ rough work will keep you strong! “Old age is so unhandy. You half hear and you half see. And just look at my old hair. I keep it twisted up on top of my head, it is so long and thin now. I’ll never forget years ago when girls was all wearin’ pony tails. Garvin said, “Martha Belle, why don’t you wear a pony tail?” I told him, “Garvin, old women don’t wear ponystails!” 

“That tickled me for the longest time - him a wantin’ me to wear a ponytail! Maybe I’ll get Donna Jean down at the beauty parlor to cut my hair off and give me one of them home permanents. 

“And what about that Dr.Minelli over in Oliver Springs sayin’ the screens at the back of my eyes is plum wore out? Can’t do much for wore out eyes. When my last pair of glasses broke I had Barbara Huntly go through a pile of lost glasses at the plant where she works and bring me a few to try on. The ones I picked out to wear’s as good as any I could’a paid a lot a money for at Dr. Minelli’s office. And I like ‘um. They’z called aviator glasses.”

Pamela Bradley, an East Tennessee native, is working to complete the coming of age tales of her 1962-63 school year spent in the hills at the home of her great grandmother. Pam writes about life in a small coal mining town.

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© 2003, Pamela Bradley, All Rights Reserved