My friend and fellow writer, Harold, asked me if I would put this story on my blog. After giving it some thought, here it is. The thing I ponder most about this true account (the names have been changed so that no charges can be brought), is what were we thinking? In fact, my childhood had numerous moments that I waited late to tell my children about so that they wouldn’t try some of these things themselves. Whatever we had in our adolescent brains, (and it wasn’t much, at times) we totally enjoyed humiliating T.G. back then. He’s a good Christian man now who I am sure would forgive us if he ever found out what we did, but I’m not telling him. I just don’t want to risk it.
Dub Samuels was passionate about three things: horses, a girl who loved horses as much as he did, and pranks. We lived in one of those small communities that did not even call itself a town. We had heard that everyone knows everyone so many times that I think most came to accept it as truth. It would take years of looking back and talking with others who had lived there to realize that none of us knew very much about the other. We learned the truth of our community in bits and pieces laid down in layers like sediment that builds a complex, solid soil.
Dub was born the second son of a family of three boys who had nothing but last names. His older brother was Terrell Garrett Samuels. The boys’ mother called each of her sons by their full first name so this boy was Terrell to her but was T. G. to his father, brothers and friends. Dub’s younger brother was Porter Davidson Samuels; and like his brother, his mother called him Porter, but he was P.D to us. Things were different for the middle son. His name was Bradley Morton Samuels. Of course, his mother called him Bradley, but his father said that if the rest of the folks called him B. M. everyone would know right off that he was a little shit. Mr. Samuels said he thought that people needed to learn that on their own. We called Bradley, “Dub”. We addressed their mother and father as Miss Hallie and Mr. Gordon. They had married in the heat of young passion. Faith had put out the fire.
Miss Hallie’s family had enough money that they could indulge her so that in the early part of the twentieth century she studied dance. She did not take lessons as some children did at a local salon run by someone who had taken the same lessons they were passing on. Miss Hallie had graduated from that type of lesson by the time she was nine and moved on to study in Memphis with a pupil of a former New York City ballet star. She had a talent and would be famous. Everyone said so. What everyone didn’t know was that Miss Hallie had fallen in love with Mr. Gordon. His family owned a lumber mill and a grocery store in our community. The two saw each other whenever Miss Hallie was back home taking a break from becoming a prima ballerina. When she was eighteen, beautiful, lithe of body and wild in her heart, they eloped. The lost hope that their daughter would escape the mundane life of a tradesman’s wife quenched the fires of her parent’s ambitions. They faded into the background of her life never to emerge again. She did not care as she gave birth to three sons and planned for their futures.
When the youngest son was still a lap baby, Mr. Gordon’s mother, a strong willed, upright Baptist woman, took her daughter-in law to a revival. There Miss Hallie met the stern God of her mother-in-law’s church and his equally uptight Son. She devoted herself to her newfound religion with the same ardor she had once reserved for dance and then for her husband. It was a strange form of serial monogamy. Her husband, in an effort to maintain connection, followed her into the church. When he inherited his father’s businesses, Mr. Gordon switched the family’s membership to the large, moneyed congregation of the interdenominational church where most of his best customers were members. His wife threw herself into the life of that church, and her children attended every event available to them. Dub would later say that she saw all those Methodist, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians as apostate; and hoped that, by her example; they would see the error of their ways and abandon their doctrines for hers. She became a youth leader in hopes of catching us young enough not to question our elders. The harshest of those doctrines was that God frowns on dancing, and dancers are likely to wind up in the fires of hell where the devil will pipe a tune that will send them into an exhausting eternal frenzy. From the time she came up out of the baptismal waters, she never danced another step. However, she could demonstrate perfect splits or stand with knees locked, bend over, and place her palms flat on the floor behind her heels. She did the splits only when she wore a very full skirt, as there could be no hint of impropriety.
Miss Hallie also planned that T.G. would become a Baptist preacher. He certainly had the personality for it. He seemed to be as good as any mother could hope her son would be. In fact, we thought he was mighty prissy. He was also smart and driven to please and excel. It’s a handy combination if your parent has big dreams for you. He would not inherit a lumber mill or store. Those were to be divided between the other two sons. While Porter enjoyed going out into the pine forests and cutting trees and was happy at the prospect of doing this for the rest of his life, Dub had other plans that did not include cash registers or stocking canned goods. He knew from an early age the he would study animal husbandry and raise champion horses.
In the mean time, all of the boys worked in the family businesses. All summer long, they would go out early in the morning with the work crew, chop down, and load logs onto wagons or would feed logs through the massive saw at the lumberyard and stack timber by size and grade. The boys preferred the work in the woods as there was more freedom. Their father usually stayed at the yard supervising the lumber production. When the boys went out to cut timber, their mother would pack their lunches and snacks and send along soda from the store. Most of their water came from a big barrel on one of the wagons. Everyone used the same dipper to get a drink. Things were primitive out in the pine forests so when nature called, the men would answer by finding a brushy clump away from the rest of the gang. For some reason, maybe because they were all men, no one thought to bring toilet paper with them. That meant that, if they needed to wipe, they used leaves. That is exactly what T.G. did one nice warm summer day. When he began to complain later in the day that he was uncomfortable and was squirming a bit, the men told him it was probably sweat irritating him. By the time they got home, T.G. was really feeling some pain and told his mother that his butt was itching something fierce.
Since she was his mother and had seen him buck-naked more than once, she insisted on having a look. With great embarrassment, T.G. dropped his drawers. His mother took one look and called old Doc. Rambeau. He lived just down the highway so he was there shortly. It did not take him long to diagnose the problem. T.G. had poison ivy. Doc Rambeau tried to keep a straight face as he told Miss Hallie what had happened and what needed to be done to cure the situation.
T.G. had to lie with his butt exposed so that the air would help dry up the rash. His mother had to paint the whole area with calamine lotion several times a day as well. Doc Rambeau suggested that it would also help if the window remained open so that more air could circulate around the rash. He also suggested that it would probably help if T.G. lay on his stomach with a couple of pillows under his hips to raise and open up the offended area. Even with all of these measures, the doctor thought that T.G. would be out of commission for a couple of weeks or more. His mother swore the whole family to secrecy. She could not have her pious child exposed to the ridicule of children who she already thought of as heathens.
Dub could hardly wait to escape the house and tell us all about T.G.’s predicament. He tried to take pictures, but his mother confiscated the camera. We all wanted to see T.G.’s butt painted pink and sticking up in the air, but we knew Miss Hallie had given strict orders, “No Visitors!” I suggested to Dub that she could throw a sheet over him when we visited and that Dub could cause it to accidently get pulled off. Dub was not about to risk his mother’s wrath with a plan that would seem so obvious.
Then he had a stroke of genius. Since the window was open anyway, we could go up to it and peek in. We would come, one at a time, creeping across the back yard from the side opposite the store where Miss Hallie worked. We had to be very quiet or the jig was up, and we would all be in trouble, as Miss Hallie would tell the other parents. Dub decided that he was taking the biggest risk, as his job was to see that the window was up, the curtain was back and that T.G. was looking away from the window. Therefore, he would be in the room talking to his brother and distracting him from any noise we might make. For the risks he was taking, Dub decided to charge a quarter for each person who wanted a look. We were happy to pay. The view was as funny as Dub had promised. T.G.’s butt was painted all over with calamine yet we could still see the angry blisters and rash. We could tell that someone had to spread his cheeks and pour more of the stuff in his abused behind. It was hard not to laugh out loud at the sight. Some people paid as much as a dollar to go back and see it over again. Dub made close to twenty dollars on this sideshow over the next two weeks, and none of his family ever knew what we had done. The mess he had gotten himself into humiliated T.G, and he was even more humiliated when we started calling him Pinky. Although he could not prove its origin, the most humiliating thing was the riddle someone wrote on a stall in the boy’s bathroom at school the next fall.
“What’s round, pink as a powder puff, and can fart?
The answer, “T.G.’s butt.”