"I ran away twice; once at about 13, & once at 17. There is not much satisfaction in it, even as a recollection. It was a couple of disappointments, particularly the first one. The heroics squish out of such things so promptly."
- Mark Twain
- Mark Twain
And suddenly all my running was over with and there I sat as safe and as sound as I could make me with more time on my hands than I’d ever had to myself before. Boy did it feel strange.
When you are growing up someone is always telling you what to do, how to do it, and when. Momma and Daddy loved me and weren’t the bossy kinds of parents some kids have but neither one of them seemed to know what sitting still meant unless they had something useful in their hands they were doing. They expected the same of their kids and as the oldest I definitely got my share of the chores and looking after my younger sibs; the twins were two years younger than me but the two girls were stair step younger than them. Momma had had enough after the pills failed the second time resulting in little Lurlene and in her words “shut the factory down permanently.”
After I came to live with Uncle Jerry I discovered, for all the chores I had before, Momma still carried the brunt of the load of housework. Sometimes I think the real reason that Uncle Jerry took me in was because he was tired of picking up after him and the boys. He got lucky that I already knew how to cook and for a little while the boys actually liked me for that alone … that and having clean drawers and clothes to wear so they didn’t get laughed at at school. But that didn’t last after they saw the way Uncle Jerry acted towards me and a sad kind of habit fell into place for all of us.
But that’s neither here nor there and to be honest I’m happiest as a person when I’ve got something useful to occupy my time, I’d just never been free up to that point to choose for the most part what that useful thing would be. But now I did and looking around I knew the first thing I would need to do was turn my bolt hole into something besides a rat’s nest. I decided my changing room would be where I would keep all the clothes and other linens and I would build cedar shelves and hang rods to hold what wouldn’t fit on shelves.
But first things first, I was starving. As I turned on the old apartment-sized propane stove that came out of the back of a foreclosed on storage locker to heat up some of my home canned chicken soup I began to tackle what would become my dining room and kitchen. I put the legs back on the old Formica table that I’d grown up eating on but left the extension leaves in what I called the storage annex. That was a side chamber on the cave where I had stuffed just about everything I could to give me elbow room in what would become the living area of the cave. I had the layout drawn out already and even had a little alcove for the necessary. There was an old outhouse my dad built when he was a boy but it needed a new sitter so you wouldn’t fall through when you sat down. It also needed a door but that would have to come later.
After I had eaten I could have thumped myself for forgetting to catch rain water and start it perking through the big sand filter I had built to make my drinking water from. But rather than waste time fussing at myself I went ahead and did that very thing. Suddenly I realized I was tired, very tired.
Now some might think this a silly thing since I had a whole cave over me but I wanted a bedroom. Unfortunately the alcove that I had originally decided on as a bedroom was full of stuff from the storage locker. And I just wasn’t comfortable stringing up a curtain and sleeping behind it. So I decided that I’d put that big ol’ tent that Mr. Harkins had given me to get rid of – wink, wink – and set it up in the back corner of the central cavern. It wasn’t fun to put that big ol’ thing up by myself but I did manage to finally. I swept out the inside and gave it a wipe down and then decided in for a penny, in for a pound.
I pulled a nice fold up bed out of the storage annex and set it up in there. The mattress for it wasn’t new but it was bed bug free of that I was sure as I’d done my own treatment on everything I put in storage before it came to the cave. And it was more comfortable than anything I’d slept on in a long while. That broken down nasty thing that I was forced to sleep on or sleep on the floor at Uncle Jerry’s wouldn’t have even made a good dog bed. Next came a brand new sheet set, a brand new pillow, and a fairly new comforter. It was amazing what people put in storage and then decided to just let go.
At the last second I took the comforter off and put one of my mother’s quilts on the bed and then put the comforter back over it. I also added a couple of needlepointed pillows that Mamaw had started and Momma had finished.
With the bed all prettied up I went in search of a telephone table I had managed to save from being auctioned off … it had been handmade by my great great grandfather though no one seemed to care but me … and I used that as a night stand. I sat a wind up lamp on top of it but it didn’t look all that nice next to everything else so I decided I would decorate the shade when I had a little more time on my hands … probably once it got too cold to be outside too much.
Next came a camp chair and to make it more homey I drapped a crocheted afghan over it and put a little poof of a footstool in front of it. A rag rug that I had made myself went at the “door” of my bedroom and last but not least I put my Bible in my “nightstand” drawer – right where a telephone book would have gone – and hung a picture of my family on one tent wall and on the other the picture of Jesus in the Garden that had been on my wall when I was little.
All nice and cozy. I debated about a dresser and there was one that would do the trick, but it was late and I was beat and I’d had about all the winding of the lamp I was in the mood for. So before I had to do it again I left my bedroom/tent and went down to the cave opening. Sure enough it was still raining. My mind wandered, wondering what the boys, Uncle Jerry, and the rest of the flock were doing as the flood waters were surely rising high and fast where they were at. Then I shook my head and realized that since none of them would listen to me there was nothing I could do for them except have faith that God would do with them what He would. I slid the sheet of plywood in front of the opening and then turned to roll the two buckets of cement on either end to keep the plywood from falling over.
The buckets held concreted in metal pipes that I think someone used to hold up a volleyball net or something like that. Mr. Harkins thought I was a little silly for keeping them but I figured they would come in handy for something; if not a door holder then I’d be able to use them to string a clothes line on or any number of other things.I’d never stayed the night in the cave by myself. It felt the same as when my family had stayed there when I was growing up yet it also felt different. Haunts and spooks don’t scare me none. Neither do spiders, snakes, storms, or being alone. That first night I wasn’t precisely what you’d call scared but I’d be lying if the enormity of what I was undertaking didn’t have me a little anxious. I went to my bed, read a little from the Good Book, and then feeling safe I finally went to sleep.