As we all know, children can be led astray — some children more so than others.
I will admit I was one of those children at several times in my life. I was also trained by the best. His name was Randy Bramlet, a close cousin of mine. Before I had received my training to be one of those that led others astray, I was a student of Randy’s. That boy got me into things that today I think back on an ask myself: “Why? What could have been in my mind to have followed Randy to do such things?
My only response to myself and my only defense was, I was 5-years-old when it all started. You see, Randy was a bit older and I did look up to him.
Pain was to be part of our relationship, as was the same to all others that were to be led astray by this boy. The first pain that I was to see came at his hands to his little sister, Tammy. His sister was just like the rest of us, young and dumb to almost every aspect of life as a child. I can remember her making “frost ice cream.”
You see, in our little Tennessee valley during that time period, just about all the people were dirt poor. There was just barley enough to eat, there were no extras. So at times you had to improvise, and improvise we did. In the winter, if it snowed, we would make snow cream if we had the milk and sugar and a little bit of vanilla extract for flavor. It just popped into my head if we did have milk it was goats milk. Goat snow cream. Don’t that make you want to lick your lips? I have to say that as a child, I did like goat’s milk. Truly, there was not much of a choice — like it or leave it. We liked it.
Now since it was summer — and of course there was no snow — Tammy got the bright idea of “refrigerator frost.” Most of you that read this story will remember the old refrigerators were not as today, being frost free. Seems to me, as I remember back, most people only defrosted their refrigerators a couple of times a year. I might be wrong, as it has been a long time ago that all of this took place. My point being there was always more than enough frost to go around.
So little Tammy gets out a big kitchen spoon and bowel and the scraping begins. I know now that this was not the first time Tammy had made “frost cream” — she had acquired a taste for it. I don’t know how but she did. When I think back on it, I think the frost did stink. It had to stink from all of the scents that had been in the refrigerator. Once again, it had to be an acquired taste.
As she had filled the bowl up and sat it to the side, something went wrong in this child’s head. For what reason in her mind I know not, she decided to lick the last of the frost off of the bottom of the freezer compartment. Trapped as a mouse on sticky tape this child was. At the time, no one was home — that was the reason she decided to have “frost cream.” You see, her mother — had she been home — would have not allowed her to do so. First reason, the refrigerator door would have been open for way too long. Second reason, the mother did not like the idea of her baby eating God only knows what.
So now the little mouse was trapped. Really there is no telling how long this child stood on the tips of her toes screaming for help. But help did come in the form of her brother Randy. I know some of you have the vision of the boy from “A Christmas Story” in your mind, when this child in all of his wisdom decided to stick his tong to the flag pole. Every time I think of “A Christmas Story,” that scene pops into my head. When Randy ran to help his sister, he was not thinking either. Instead of pouring water on the freezer compartment to free his baby sister, he just jerks her loose. Have you got that vision in your mind?
He got his sister freed from the trap that she was in, but she left a portion of her tongue trapped on the freezer. You would have thought a hog had been gutted on the kitchen floor. Screaming and screaming is all this poor thing could do. Her brother had no idea of what to do. So it was off to Mrs. Johnson’s house they went, the family friend. When Mrs. Johnson saw Tammy all she could do was turn away, it was bad. If it had not been for Mr. Johnson’s quick thinking, who knows what would have happened. He took an ice cube and held it on her tongue to numb it and help with the pain, along with a dozen others, and it was off to the doctor’s office 20 miles away. Long story short and 6 stitches later, little Tammy’s tongue was fixed — and the Hell began for Randy when his dad and mother got home. He got whipped every day for about a week any time his mother got to thinking about Tammy’s tongue. What did Tammy get? Real ice cream for a week. If I had my choice I would have went with the ice cream also. What do you think? Having ice cream or having your butt beat.
But you know, I really can’t blame Randy for the pain he put his sister through, because she was part of the problem along with the “frost cream.” But now on the other hand in my case, I can and will blame Randy for the hell he was to put me through at different times in our relationship. Cousins having nothing to do with the relationship. Foolishness and pain were always part of it with me and Randy, “being led astray” is what I called it. My mama called it “just being a damn little fool” that would do anything on a dare.
And you know what, mama was right about her baby boy then and now. God only knows this child has done some foolish things. I tried to fly when I was five — that just didn’t work well. I found out the hard way a paper sack just ain’t like a parachute. I think it’s got something to do with size, maybe not. It didn’t help that I was jumping off the neighbors house and hit his air conditioner on the way down. When I thought about it, it looked like it would work. We’re talking about a 5-year-old here. I was smart — more like a dumbass is what it looks like now. So mama was right. I don’t have a problem admitting to it.
Randy had taught me a lot in the coming couple of years. He taught me how to climb; I could climb anything. He’s the one that taught me how to climb on to the roof tops of houses — yes, he was involved in the “paper sack parachute.” I know it was not really flying, and the truth was it was not like floating either — I dropped like a rock. That might have been why I broke my left arm. The air conditioner did not help.
Randy even showed me how to climb trees, and I did I think I climbed almost every tree in our yard, and even the neighbors’. That led to the only thing that I had not climbed and that was a telephone pole. I think I was about 7 years old by that time. Just as wild as a buck, and even more foolish. The dare came and I went for it. No problem at all. I would bear hug that pole, just like I did them trees. I would come down that pole the same way I would come down a tree. I would just slide down it.
Have you ever took the time to look at an old pole? Next time you get a chance, do so. For those that know from their own experiences with phone poles as a child, you know where I’m going with this story. I don’t know how in the world I did not get splinters in my hands and legs as I was going up — but coming down, it was Hell to pay. You would have thought I had been playing with “Vlad the Impaler.”
The insides of my bony little thighs were filled with wood splinters from that pole. I could not explain the pain if I had to. You all have had splinters in you body at one time or the other. Now try over 18 at the same time. I truly was screaming like a 2-year-old little girl, I ain’t ashamed to say it. The only way mama got me to come to her was with the bribe of a bag of Sugar Babies. She pulled; I screamed over and over until the last one. The best till the last — it felt like a tree branch was in my thigh. Mama could not get it out or I would not let her. The threat: “Your daddy will be home soon. He’ll get it out.”
And he did. No sympathy was to be shown. Pair of pliers, one quick jerk. A father’s look of “you won’t do that again will you?” The price I paid for “being led astray.” Randy Bramlet’s fault it was.
Robert Lee is a concerned citizen and U.S. Marine veteran who owns and operates Rockingham Guns and Ammo. His column appears here each Saturday.