My mama was probably the tallest girl in her family, and even then she was only 5-foot-6. She was every bit the lady and had us walking with books on our heads to improve our posture from about age 8.
She taught us all she could about cooking and cleaning (note: I said could, not knew) and at some point just gave up and let us start learning a few things on our own.
She was an animal lover and we always had cats or dogs (rarely at the same time) around the house. She was a sucker for puppy-dog eyes and while we might hear the cat meow as a militant gesture of world domination, she heard sweetness and light.
Right after we moved to Ruby, world domination began and cats began to show up.
If they were wise, they stayed in the back area near the woods, but some were just wild and without a clue so S.C. Highway 9 became the end of the road for them. Now, the highway is a good 500 feet from the house, so there was never any reason to wander up that long driveway, or for any stranger to wander down it.
All the residents of Ruby knew where the doctor and his wife and children lived, they also knew where he worked.
The only reason anyone would come down the long circular drive would be at invitation or a medical emergency, or else you were a family member (which took in about a third of the populace). Strangers did not venture down the drive because frankly, by the time you saw the entrance, you had already passed it. In your mind would be “was that a driveway?” and the next thought would be “hmm, maybe not.” It’s the trees, you see.
The house actually sits in the midst of woods. Mama had a large area cleared in the back for her garden, flower beds were laid out and the middle of the circle was filled with magnolias, dogwoods and flowering cherry. She had green fingers, you see. Anything would grow for her.
One morning she was out preparing to plant the daffodils throughout the woods when a van pulled in. Now, she had been told earlier that morning by one of the patients that “a vivisectionist” was in town, which was akin to saying that Sherman was marching on Atlanta, to Mama.
She later told me that this large man, whom she had never before laid eyes on, unfolded himself from the driver’s seat and approached her.
She pulled one glove off and walked over to the front courtyard entrance. The man approached her smiling and looking oily, she said. He gave her the shivers. He introduced himself and told her he was new in the area and someone had told him that she had some cats she was looking to be shed of.
Mama glanced around at one or two of the cats who sat quietly on and near the walkway and back at the man standing nearby. She asked him just who had volunteered any such information to him, making a mental note to later call said person and gently ask them not to be telling perfect strangers her business.
I was quite sure she really believed she intended to be gentle, but I knew my mother and I would not want to be on the business end of that conversation.
Mama had a way of “dressing you down” that was unique in that you didn’t realize your legs had been cut off at the knee till you were face-down in your own yard. So, this “liar” starts hemming and hawing, unable to come up with a name, but still insistent that he had received this information from a neighbor or friend.
Excusing herself, Mama went to the side door, and when he attempted to follow, she waved him back and told him she would return shortly.
When she did return, she was carrying a shotgun that was bigger than she was.
“You know, mister, ” she told him, “if there’s anything I hate worse than a liar, it’s a vivisectionist. I smack liars. I shoot vivisectionists.” And she closed the breech.
She said she’d never seen anyone that big move quite as fast as he was beating a trail back to his van. He took off in a hail of gravel and oyster shell and Mama said she wished he hadn’t left in such a hurry.
I asked her why, and she said she really wanted to look in the back of that van and release any cats he might have already picked up.
Fearless, that’s what she was. They say the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree…Mac would say the nut, but we’ll forgive him this time.
I can honestly say I have no love in my heart for vivisectionists. I get it from my mama.
Sandi McBride is a resident of Jefferson who blogs regularly and enjoys her garden and her furry and feathered friends. She is a wife and mother of two sons.