• Ted Stillwell's Portraits of the Past: Trying my grandmother’s patience

  • My dear old grandmother was a hard working, God fearing Christian woman, and she had the patience of Job when it came to dealing with me.

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  • My dear old grandmother was a hard working, God fearing Christian woman, and she had the patience of Job when it came to dealing with me.
    When I was growing up, she had a wood burning cook stove in the kitchen, and behind the stove was a little stack of wood with which to make a fire to fix our meals and to heat the water for washing dishes. Of course, the slop bucket sat between the stove and the kitchen cupboard, which was next to the wash stand. In case you are not familiar with a slop bucket, it was always a mixture of dirty dish water, old grease from the frying pan, scraps from our dinner plates, potato peelings, and any other garbage she wished to add during the day. It was generally a stinking mess. Then, each night my grandfather would haul the bucket down to the barn and slop the hogs and they loved it.
    My grandmother always loved her cats, and always said that they kept the mice out of the barn. The meanest old tom cat was a gray tiger stripe with one big black spot on his forehead, which I simply called “Spot.” He didn’t like nothing or nobody, except for me. He worshiped me until one day when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I had lugged him up to the house and was playing with him in the living room when a lady from church showed up. Poor Miss Willet came in and sat on a hard back chair and started talking a mile a minute. She talked and talked and kept talking, never coming up for air (or so it seemed to me). Grandma patiently sat there listening to her, fidgeting with her hands, and glancing at the clock, wishing she would finish and be on her way. Miss Willet had her legs crossed and one leg was bouncing up and down and back and forth to the rhythm of her conversation.
    Old Spot was crouched down eye balling her bouncing leg with his ears pinned back. About the time I thought, “This didn’t look good,” Spot suddenly pounced on her leg with all fours wrapped around and dug into her nylon hose. Needless to say, the poor woman was mortified, she jumped up and loudly cried out some un-Christian like words and left in a huff. Grandma told me in no uncertain terms to get that cat out of here right this minute.
    I managed to corral Old Spot and get a good grip on him in the kitchen, and for some unknown reason, instead of taking him out the back door; I simply threw him in the slop bucket. Oh my word, all of the howling he did do trying to get out of that nasty bucket. It wasn’t quite full enough and every time he about got to the top, he would slide back down into the greasy mess.
    Page 2 of 2 - Grandma came running in to see what all of the commotion was and quickly grabbed the cat from the bucket and proceeded to attempt to wash him off at the wash basin. Well, you can imagine how that went. I knew I was dead when she emerged from the wash pan with bloody forearms and that glare that she threw my way.
    Instead of a scolding me or a swatting my rear, she calmly told me to go down to the fruit cellar and get a jar of canned peaches for supper. The cat and I both scurried out the door and I went to the cellar with lightning speed. Needless to say, that cat never had a thing to do with me after that.
    Portraits of the Past - Volume Five, a collection of the stories and artwork from this column has arrived and are available at The Examiner office, 410 S. Liberty St., and at the Blue & Grey Book Shoppe, 106 E. Walnut St., two blocks south of the Independence Square.
    To reach Ted W. Stillwell, send an email to teddystillwell@yahoo.com or call him at 816-252-9909.

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