There were violations of certain rules that were guaranteed to aggravate Ralph Satterfield. Ralph was my daddy and I aggravated him more than a few times.
He was, the people of our mountains say, ‘set in his ways.’ When they don’t use that phrase, they say, “quare.’ I have often laughed about those odd mountain people thinking their neighbors and kinfolk were odd as though they weren’t.
For instance, this child of the mountains, who nearly starved during the Hoover Days of the Depression, always bought two boxes of ‘sody crackers’ at a time, two loaves of bread – one frequently went into the freezer, not something I would recommend to people who enjoy fresh tasting bread – two five-pound bags of flour or anything Mama asked him to “stop by on his way home and pick up.” Once a week, he came in toting a gallon of sweet milk and one of buttermilk.
There was a certain convenience store, one rarely busy, at which he stopped to buy the weekly provision of milk. He struck up a nodding friendship with the middle-aged woman who worked evenings. They would exchange words about life, aches and pains and God’s many blessings. When, a few years into this weekly friendship, the convenience store was robbed one night and acid thrown into the woman’s face, scarring her for life, Daddy grieved deeply. He was a tough man on the outside but tender as a newborn lamb on the inside. He visited her in the hospital to pray with her and offer companionship.
There in a room where she sat with a bandaged face, they talked as usual of God’s blessings. In the midst of her dark times, she still saw the light through gauze-covered eyes.
The other day, I was thinking of how odd Ralph could be when I had to run to the bank, so I jumped in Tink’s farm truck to drive the short distance. Tink’s truck has only three luxuries – heat, air and radio. Other than that, it has manual locks and windows that roll up by hand. When he is working on location, I drive that truck regularly but when he comes home, I seldom touch it. When I crawled up into the cab, the seat was adjusted to fit his six-foot frame. I’m 5’2’’ which surprises a lot of folks who expect me to be tall.
I thought of Daddy and one of his commandments so I put my seatbelt on and scooted forward to touch the pedals. I adjusted only the rearview mirror. At the drive-through, I laughingly told the tellers of Daddy’s rules:
1. “Don’t move my seat.” There were many times on Sunday morning that we would get into the family sedan to head to church, only to have Daddy lose his religion momentarily because the 16-year-old me had moved his seat. I eventually learned better and always put it back in place but I could never get the mirrors right so he fussed about that.
2. “Don’t use my razor to shave your legs.” I violated that repeatedly because Daddy kept such a sharp razor, one that used the old-fashioned two-sided razor blades that were dropped in. If I got caught, I was reprimanded but, usually, I remembered to dry it off and sneakily put it back.
3. “Don’t lay anything on top of my Bible.” Daddy kept his black, Scofield, King James next to his chair where he often reached for it nightly. Once he came in and I had laid, again, a magazine on top of that Bible so his righteousness thunderously filled the air. “You NEVER lay anything on top of the almighty Word of God. I’m gonna learn you, little girl.” Eventually, he did.
Set in his ways, for sure, but Ralph was a truly good man who “learned” me quite a lot. I’m grateful for his quareness.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of Mark My Words: A Memoir Of Mama. Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter. Her column appears Tuesdays.