Maria, Heavenly Stove, & Red Stuff

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Maria, Heavenly Stove, & Red Stuff

Frank, Scotty, and I were enjoying being in La Pryor, Texas.  Finally, we had running water and had begun to settle into our new life.

The farmers in La Pryor grew acres after acres of vegetables. Our home happened to be surrounded by onion fields. These fields had onions planted in them that were in all stages of growth so that that they would produce at different times.

The Mexican border was only thirty miles from La Pryor, and the farmers would go there to pick up day workers from Mexico then bring them back to work the fields, and the ranchers did the same thing, only using them to do fencing or work the stock. Of course, these workers were not always legal citizens. The majority of the farmers and ranchers paid these workers, but some of them worked them then called Border Patrol to pick them up without bothering to pay them.

Sometimes these workers who were running from the Border Control would come up to our home thirsty and hungry trying to ask for food in the only way they could through hand signs. Frank spoke Spanish so he could understand what they said.  We would give them water and food then they would continue on their way trying to get back to Mexico.  If Frank was at the school working, I was not afraid to give them food and water because they meant us no harm.  They were just scared, thirsty, and hungry.

We had a dirt-floored garage, and we were reasonably sure that sometimes they hid inside it at night resting, sleeping, and hiding out from the Border Patrol.  Frank and I did not mind this and were not afraid of them being there at all because we were in total agreement that what was happening to them was wrong.  They were just scared, thirsty, and hungry.

“Maria”

One night as Frank, Scotty, and I slept, we were suddenly awakened by loud banging and beating on our front door.  Since it was in the middle of the night, Frank jumped out of our bed, then quickly dressed.  Next came the sounds of loud laughing on our porch, which sounded like a couple of drunk people.  The laughing stopped then we heard, “Maria let us in! Maria let us in!”

Frank grabbed his shotgun out of our closet, reached for a box on the top shelf of the closet, opened it, took out ammunition for the gun, loaded the shotgun then told me to stay put in the bedroom.  By the time he did all of that, I got dressed and ready to help.  When Frank walked into the living room, “Shotgun Lou” was right behind him.  Frank walked to the door, then yelled, “Go away!”

Suddenly, the banging and laughing began again with more yells of, “Maria let us in!  Maria let us in!  Maria let us in!”

Frank readied his shotgun and told me quietly to flip the porch light on as he opened the door then he put his hand on the doorknob, nodded at me then quickly opened the door as I flipped on the porch light.

As Frank and I looked outside on the porch, there stood to of my brothers, Grady Blakley, and Mark Blakley. They were loudly laughing until they saw the shotgun in Frank’s hands then suddenly they jumped back.

How they found our home out in the country in the middle of the night, I do not know, but Frank did explain to them that he nearly shot them. It seems that they had decided to drive to see us, and they had no idea about the workers we fed when they were running from the Border Patrol.

My brothers stayed with us for a few days, and we enjoyed their visit.  They went to the Fieldhouse with Frank and played with Scotty. I showed them how proficient I was at using my two skillets for cooking breakfast, and a full dinner meal of fried deer meat, mashed potatoes, green beans, biscuits, and gravy.  My brothers told me that the extension cord might be getting overheated when I cooked, but that did not scare me.

The hunters around us used our dirt-floored garage as a place to hang the deer once they had killed them then they would provide us with half of the deer meat once they had skinned and quartered it.   They taught us how to section and cut up all of the deer meat, making it as tender as the backstrap. I was told to pound the meat with a meat tenderizer, soak it in milk, flour it, and fry it in butter. Preparing the deer meat this way, made the deer meat taste like the best chicken fried steak ever.  Since deer meat was all Frank and I had in our freezer, every meal we had cooked deer meat.  Let’s say, “We ate a lot of deer meat for a year.”

If memory serves me right, I think my brothers also went to a football game to watch Frank coach.  It seemed like my brother’s visit went by way too fast, and before we knew it, we had to say goodbye to them.

“Heavenly Stove”

Frank and I were working on saving money for a kitchen stove.  The stove could not be electric or natural gas because all we had was butane.  That’s right we had a large butane tank that set in our yard which was for space heaters in the house and the kitchen stove.  Propane stove and space heaters were something new for us, but we knew we could handle it when the time came.

Meanwhile, we would make do with the dance between the skillets, hot extension cords, and throwing breakers.  It was a timing thangy.  One good thing was that we had a box fan and I had my handheld mixer back, but nowhere to plug it into a wall outlet, so I had to mix or mash different foods actually by hand.

A couple of weeks after my brothers went home, Scotty and I had gone to town to do a little grocery shopping.  Once we returned to the house, I put Scotty down for a nap then went to the closed in back porch to start a load of clothes in the washer.  After the clothes were washing, I opened the back door that led to a small porch with two steps then the back yard.   I was surprised to see a large cardboard box sitting on the back porch.  The box did not have any markings on the outside of it telling what it was or who had it sent.  Since Frank was due to be home shortly from football practice, I decided to wait for him to open the box because of not knowing if it was really for us.

I hung out the clothes on the clothesline then went back into the house. While stepping around the large box, I stopped to inspect it one more time for a label of some sorts but found nothing.  When Scotty woke up from his nap we had a snack then he went out in the back yard to play while I took the dry clothes off of the clothesline.  While we were in the backyard, Frank arrived home.

When Frank came out the back door of the house, he stopped at the box to look at it then he asked me, “Lou, do you know what this is?”

While walking towards him from the clothesline, I answered, “Frank, I have no idea.  I have been waiting for you to get home to see if we should open it.”

Well, Frank wasted no time in taking out his pocket knife then cutting the box open.  As he opened the lid to the box, both of our mouths fell wide open.  Inside the box was a stove!  Not just a stove but a propane stove!  How had it gotten on our back porch, and who was the sender?

Finally, I broke the silence asking Frank, “Did God drop us a stove from Heaven?”

Frank slowly shook his head, then answered, “Nancy, that’s what it looks like to me.  There’s not one label on this box or anything saying anything.  Let’s get this dude in the house and hook it up.”

Smiling ear to ear, Frank and I carried that stove into the house followed closely by our third Musketeer, Scotty.  After we got it all set up, Frank went outside to make sure there was propane in the tank.  When he returned, we turned the valve on at the wall, lit the pilot lights, and we started cooking.  We both thanked God that night for the stove, and Scotty also told God “thank you” when he said his prayers.

A couple of days later, we found out that my brothers had informed my parents of how unsafe my cooking was.  My Dad had ordered a stove for us then had it delivered without any markings on the box.  My Dad was like that, and he gave to so many people without taking credit for it.  Dad knew that we would never ask for help but would save up money for what we needed.  Frank and I had never asked for help, and my Dad knew that we took pride in being that way.  I have to say that the “Maria Brothers” and Dad did a great job and we thanked them over and over.

Now we had a stove, and I could cook anything.  The plug in the kitchen was freed up for other appliances.  Wow, it was like having a whole new kitchen.  The next morning, Frank made a call to the Propane Company to come out and check the tank outside to make sure it was all okay.  Frank and I were concerned that propane tank had not been used for at least ten years, so checking it out and having it refilled was a safety thing to do.
Once the propane tank was serviced and filled, I cooked all kinds of goodies. Frank and Scotty were thrilled.

Since football season was going strong, Frank was spending lots of time at the Fieldhouse. One of the teachers asked me to help her with the Drill Team, and of course, I said yes. She would come to our home, and we would count the music beats then make up a drill routine for the Drill Team. Scotty would laugh as she and I high kicked and bounced around dancing to the music. Once we had the dance routine down, she and I would go to the gym then teach the routine to the Drill Team, which was so much fun. Scotty was either with me in the gym or with Frank on the Football field. The Drill Team girls and the Football players loved Scotty. They all treated him like he was their little brother.  Scotty and I were allowed to ride on the bus to out of town Football games, and I always made cookies and brownies for the Football players and the Drill Team.  Of course, those two coaches ate a lot of them too.

During Football season on Saturdays, Frank and Tommy would meet early at the Fieldhouse to sort then wash uniforms, clean the showers, and go over the next week’s practice schedule.  La Pryor played Eight-Man football, which was different and seemed a lot rougher.   Frank had never played Eight-Man football, but Tommy had, so he taught Frank the rules and regulations. While Frank was at the Fieldhouse, I did our laundry.  Scotty would either go with Frank to town or stay home with me.

“Red Stuff”

When Frank and Scotty returned to our house one Saturday morning, I was at the washing machine on the back porch, putting the washed clothes into our clothes basket.  I heard them come in the front door then walk through the house to where I was.  When looking towards them, I noticed that Frank was carrying a big clear gallon jug full of “Red Stuff” that I had no idea of what it was.  Frank had a big dimpled smile on his face as he looked at me, so I knew he was up to something.  The conversation that followed went something like this.

Frank (smiling with his dimples):  “Look what I brought you, Lou.”

Me (wondering what he is up to):  “Frank, what is that “Red Stuff” in your hand?”

Frank (still smiling and feeling his cheerios):  “It is to get fungus and junk out of clothes.”

Me (trying not to laugh):  “Frank, we do not have fungus and junk in our clothes.”

Frank ( loudly laughing as he replied):  “Oh, it’s not for our clothes, Lou.  It’s for the clothes in the car.”

Me (staring into his eyes):  “What clothes are in our car, Frank?”

Frank (back to smiling with the dimples):  “Our washing machine is not working at the Fieldhouse, so I told Tommy that I was sure you would want to help us out by washing the uniforms and stuff.  Just a minute, I will run get the baskets out of the car.”

As I stood there in amazement at Frank’s last words to me, he was busy running back and forth to the car carrying in baskets of clothes which he placed in a circle around me trying to be “Funny Man” as he smiled from ear to ear.  Finally, he brought in the last basket of clothes then we spoke again.

Frank (still smiling): “Nancy, I will help you, and we can get this laundry washed then hung out on the clothesline in no time.”

Me (looking at the baskets):  “Frank, what is in the basket in front of my feet?”

Frank (laughing loudly):  “Well now, Lou, those would be jockey straps.”

Me (trying not to laugh):  “Read my lips Dimples, I am not touching those thangs!”

Frank (still laughing):  “Absolutely not, I would never have you touch those thangs.  I will definitely do all the handling of those dudes.”

Of course, I got busy loading the washing machine.  We would wash a load then after removing that load, loaded another into the washer while we hung out the clothes from the previous load.  Frank was true to his word on the jockey thangies, and I did not have to touch any of them, but he did chase me around the yard trying to kiss me with a clean, dry one on his head.  How could I not love this Dimpled Faced Guy?  Nothing’s gonna stop us now!

 

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