by Sam Richmond
There was one house up the holler past ours. That’s where Junie Appleberry lived. We walked out of the holler, crossed the crick at the mill dam and caught the school bus to Bullards High. The kids at Bull**** (nickname) gave us he**.
“When y’all getting’ married?”… “Junie’s got a feller!”… Junie would put her hands where her hips were gonna be someday an’ shout, “Hush up, Pauley Fernwhite!” an’ “Hush up, Tommy Biggers!” I had a different approach. I’d rock ‘em. Somebody spread fresh rocks in the parkin’ lot every year. They’d be just waitin’ fer me first semester. By Thanksgivin’ I’d purty much cleaned the parkin’ lot, an’ the teasin’ had mostly stopped.
Then senior year the teasin’ stopped completely… fer Junie. Seems like durin’ the summer (while I wasn’t lookin’) Junie had found what all us kids had been lookin’ fer. She had a place to set them hands now too! For me the teasin’ got worse. Got to know the principal's office real good. “Fightin’ agin, young man?" Me vs the senior class wasn’t much fight; it was more like that hug you get from Gran’ma at Christmas - you know it’s comin', you know it’s gonna be bad, but you step up an’ take it.
It was tough bein’ associated with the only developin’ female in the whole darn school. All the boys talked about stuff I didn’t even know about (had to pretend I did). Rest of the girls stopped talking to me at all. They kept their distance from Junie too, which put her even closer to me. We didn’t talk much walkin’ up the holler after school any more, an’ I started walkin’ in front a lot, which kept me from fallin’ down so much. Walkin’ behind her had got kinda hypnotic .... stuuuupid..... stuuuuupid, you’re getting very stuuuupid... you are going to fall down... SPLAT!
By Thanksgivin’ it was gettin’ harder for Junie to keep her balance ...ahem... so I had all but quit pushin’ her down the steps at the cafeteria, but for some reason she was always waitin’ to see if I was goin’ to.
Junie asked if I could walk on up to her house to get my shirt, an’ I might of answered her, I dunno, my mind had started goin’ back an’ hangin’ around the mill pond.
When we got to Junie's house, Mr. Appleberry was a loadin’ Junie's Mom, May, up in the Hudson for a trip to the Top Value Stamp store to do a little Christmas shoppin’. Never knowed Mr. Appleberry’s name fer sure. He worked down at the ESSO station an’ ever time he came home his shirt said somethin’ different - Harry, Claude, Benny. This identity thing worried me some; I always kept a watchful eye on Mr. Appleberry. Anyway, they told Junie they’d be back in a couple of hours an’ not to start supper fer a while. (Y’all think you know where this is goin’ don’t you?... mebe... mebe not.)
Junie said come on in, she was goin’ to make a sandwich to hold her ‘til supper. I set down at the kitchen table to wait fer my shirt. Junie made two fine peanut butter an’ jelly sandwiches an’ set ‘em both side by each on the table in front of me. From experience gained by many years of eating, I was able to take a bite of mine.
Junie crossed the kitchen from the icebox with a tall glass of milk in each hand. As she reached over my shoulder to set one down... y'all done forgot about that loose button, didn’t ye? Well, there it went, popped right off in my glass of milk, an’ I was face to face with a bossom - a bare bossom nestled in outing. My outing. I choked so hard peanut butter came out my nose... ahak, ahak, ahak.... ahuk, ahuk, ahuk... no air.... inhale... e. AHAK, ahak, ahak... light headed... inhale... e. Ahak, ahuk.... no air.... gettin’ dark... inhale... e. (You might take notice that them inhale e’s are few an’ far between.) Ahak, ahak, ahak... where’d she go? Inhale.. ee... inhale... eee... fog lifted a little.... ahaka, hunka, hunka... eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Junie was back now, with a dish towel pattin’ the peanut butter drool off my “T” shirt an’ sayin’ somethin about cleaning the kitchen walls later. I could finally see agin’ so I grabbed the glass of milk... dook...dook... dook... button.... AAAAAAAHAAAAAK, AHAAK, AHAKA....e. I tried to stand so’s I could bend over an’ die... I mean cough. Junie grabbed me from behind, picked me plumb off the floor, an’ squeezed. EXHALE...e. (Where’d that come from?) Anyway the button came with it... followed by lunch, breakfast, an’ some of what looked like Thanksgiving's turkey. Kinda cleared my windpipe, though.
We never found the button an’ didn’t speak much about it agin’. Maw sewed one on wash day. It didn’t match.
School took up agin’ after the first o’ the year. I spent the first day back tryin’ to avoid Junie. I was still real uncomfortable around that girl. Last period, just before the bell, a note, all wadded up in a ball, bounced off my head an’ landed on my desk. I spread it out on my knee. It was Junie's writin’... said “Button, button, who’s got the button?
AAAAAAAHAAAAAAAK, AHAK, AHAK!!!
Here's more about Sam Richmond:
I was born at home on a Saturday in 1949. It was raining ... hard. I figured I needed to be near my mother at a time like that. A call was made to Doc Stokes, as so many calls were. Folks depended greatly on him. Doc Stokes was a class act.
I grew up dirt poor in, around and sometimes under the New River as it flows through the small town of Hinton, West Virginia. Early memories are tied to the land, hard work and the good humor of my father. We farmed, cut timber and somehow made it on jobs that Dad could pick up.
Tragically, three siblings were lost at very early ages. I remember only one sister who took care of me and taught me to read even before the first grade. She passed away at age eleven. The great grief has never completely gone away.
I have no education to speak of. By carrying 'bread pokes of muggins' (morel mushrooms) and four pound lard buckets of hickory nuts to the math teacher I managed to squeak out a high school diploma. My English Lit. teacher is probably why you are reading this now. She was and IS an inspiration. Mrs. Hazel Gwinn was a dedicated teacher. Many didn't like her because she was stern. Mrs. Hazel often showed me a softer side, I wonder why.
I graduated in 1967. There were no jobs. Uncle Sam took care of that. He invited me to spend a little time away from home. It was war time, I made hard five in just over eight months. I was fortunate to spend my overseas duty in Korea. I learned a lot there. The average YEARLY income of the Korean was $500.00. Some were very rich, most were very poor.
Home again in 1969, guess what? Still no jobs in Appalachia, where I had grown up. I headed to Detroit. I stuck it out two years, didn't like it and moved back 'home'. I worked many, many jobs. Some till they were finished, some till I was finished with them. One lasted only half a day. Employment sent me to train in a trailer with 20 sewing machines, 19 women and me. Lunch time left 'em one shy.
Aside from the factories of Detroit, I've spent time at a local newspaper, done highway construction, been a lineman, and spent seventeen years in fire and rescue.
I've been married for two wonderful years - the other 30, to the same woman, ain't been that great. I have two sons, both grown. Both live close by and I like that.
I'm currently employed in Emergency Management and 911 (where it really helps to have a sense of humor).
Sometime in 2005 it became necessary to write something. The time was finally right. I know in my heart that Mrs. Hazel would have preferred that I started sooner, but this was not the first time she forgave my tardiness.
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And another here at USADS: Spirits of '76
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