Wednesday, November 19

Family Stories

My parents,
Aprox late 1930's
Remembering stories told by my father, Arthur Seymour

Growing up my father Arthur (Art for short) used to tell us stories of the adventures in got himself into as a kid growing up in the country.
I remember asking and begging for him to retell the stories to us. I also remember waiting up for my father to come home from work.  He worked a full time job but also was always working in his spare time.  He had a quarter acre garden every year, built the house we lived in and all the outbuildings, hunted and had a firewood selling business on the side. Many nights he would come home late.  One of my fond memories is him chasing us littlest kids around the house, catching us and rubbing his chin whiskers on our face.

My father passed away many years ago, way before my youngest children got to know him which saddens me.  He was not perfect, in truth he had many flaws, but the good times were the best!

There are many many stories he told, but most I have forgotten.  Some come to me when I least expect it, like today.  And so, even though I have told and retold all these stories to my children, I decided to write them down.  Hopefully they will tell them to their children around a campfire, just as I did.

Here are a few of the stories my father told:

Shaky Covered Bridge
My father was born in 1917 and growing up in the 1920’s, my father Art and his brother William had a dog named Bottle-Ass.

It seems from the stories they told that they dearly loved and yet tormented that dog.  I remember my father sitting up late at night after work, a couple stiff drinks in him and saying how much he missed his childhood dog.

One thing Art and William loved to do is call and coax Bottle-Ass onto the covered bridge.  Once in the middle of the bridge the boys would begin to jump up and down causing the bridge to bounce and shake which of course scared Bottle-Ass half to death.  

They would laugh until they could not breathe watching Bottle-Ass belly crawl the rest of the way off the bridge.

Covered bridge I visited outside Bedford, PA

The Ground Hog (Wood Chuck)
Bottle-Ass was a country dog and a born hunter and killer.  My father said he would kill anything if he could catch it.  One hot summer day, with nothing to do, Art took Bottle-Ass in search of a ground hog hole, which are plentiful in any corn field.   After finding and blocking the secondary exit hole ground hogs have and with shovel in hand Art dug while Bottle-Ass dug. 

They spent the entire day digging out the ground hog from his hole.  Once they got far enough and deep enough that they could see the ground hog, Bottle Ass took over.  Bottle Ass fought that ground hog until both were exhausted but the dog was finally able to drag the ground hog out and kill it.

Out House Plunge
Since Bottle-Ass was always on the hunt for a varmint to kill, Art and William, came up with a trick to play on that poor dog. 
The floor boards of the outhouse floor were laid in place but not nailed down to make cleaning a little easier.  

Art positioned the floor boards to teeter and went to get Bottle-Ass.  Him and William yelled “sic him Bottle-Ass, get him” and ran and pointed to the outhouse.  

Poor Bottle-Ass went full throttle barking and growling into the out house, hit the teetering floor boards and went right down into the shit.
My father told us him and William got a good thrashing and both were made to wash Bottle-Ass by hand.

Horse and Buggy Ride
When the boys got a little older, they came up with the idea to hook the horse and buggy up and go for a ride.  My grandmother was busy in the farm house and grand father was not around that day. 

My grandfather could have just been in the field or working, but he was a talented fiddle player known far and wide, so may have been away playing at a barn dance, party or dance hall.
Art and William got the horse hooked up with little trouble and climbed into the buggy.  They had never driven a horse and buggy before so were unsure what to do.  They only succeeded in spooking the horse, which took off at a full gallop.  Running scared the horse drug the buggy into a sharp turn around an apple tree.  The buggy smashed into the apple tree, demolishing it.
When their father (my grandfather) finally came home they got a good whipping to within an inch of their life.

Barn Dance Booze
My grandparents grew up in Chillicothe, Ohio and recently I found the cabin my grandmother Lucy grew up in, the Curtis family cemetery, a hill with our family name of Seymour, and most likely the location this next story took place.
My father told us that our grandparents met at a barn dance, and back then it seems like barn dances were a common event.  Years later and married, my grandparents took their children, six of them to a summer evening barn dance.  

 My father and uncle decided to sneak a few bottles of booze from the party and hide them to retrieve at a later date.  The boys took the bottles undetected and hide them near a pasture fence.  Busy the next few days Art and William were unable to retrieve the booze.  Finally, with a little free time the boys set off, thinking they would taste and sample their loot.  Being really young they did not realize that the hot summer sun beating down on the glass bottles full of booze for days would cause all the bottles to explode! When they reached the spot where they had hidden their stolen treasure, all that was left was broken glass.

The Chicken Thief
My grandparents, Alonzo and Lucy
My grandfather had chickens and in those days the chickens were free to roam as they pleased.  Today we call it free range chickens.  Anyway, my grandfather’s chickens would all roost in the apple tree at night.  
One night the dogs, with old Bottle-Ass included I’m sure, starting barking and raising the intruder alarm.  My grandfather grabbed his shotgun full of buckshot and ran out into the night. 
My grandfather saw someone climbing out of the apple tree carrying some of his chickens.  He opened fire, shooting buckshot everywhere, but the man got away.

Years later my grandfather was headed down the lane with his horse and wagon when he noticed a man walking along the road.  My grandfather pulled on the reins to slow the horse and ask the man if he needed a ride. 
Once the man climbed into the wagon my grandfather noticed that the man had scars from being shot with buck shot.  The man said he had been gone for years and was just returning to visit his mother and sister.  My grandfather told everyone he wass positive that was the man he shot stealing his chickens all those years ago.

The Bridge Ghost
A little scarier story goes like this.  
One cold winter evening a couple, madly in love was to be married at a nearby church just down the road from where my father grew up.  The bride was heading to the wedding in a buggy when the horse hit a patch of ice on the bridge.  Horse, buggy and the soon to be bride all went off the bridge into the river below and perished.
Now it is said that on certain nights travelers on that dark lonely road, see a woman dressed in old fashioned clothing, walking towards the bridge and stop to give her a ride.  Once they get to the bridge the woman disappears.

Fishing in The Creek
This story still freaks me out and gives me nightmares. 
The story goes that a young neighbor boy went fishing by himself in the nearby creek.  Digging for worms was common for county boys when planning on going fishing. To make sure he had enough bait, the young boy dug up what he believed to be worms.
He fished all day and came home with a huge string of fish.  

Surprised by the large quantity of fish, the boy  being so young, his mother asked him how in the world he was able to catch so many.  From his pockets he pulled out “worms” and said “these!  They bit me a little all day but wiggled so much I was able to catch lots of fish.” 
The “worms” turned out to be baby copperhead snakes and the boy later died from multiple snake bites, having been bitten each time he put his hand in his pocket to retrieve a “worm” or while baiting his hook.

A UFO Sighting
My parents came from two completely different backgrounds.  My father was a county boy with lots of family but my mother was a city girl growing up in German Village, a neighborhood of Downtown Columbus, with only her mother, grandmother and brother.
This story takes place either while they were dating or soon after marriage.  
One late summer night while driving outside of Circleville, Ohio along a country road lined with cornfields and woods my parents saw a large bright glowing light hovering over a cornfield.  As they approached their car radio went to nothing but static.  
As they got closer still, the car just shut off, went completely dead and my father could not restart it.  

The bright glowing light suddenly went straight up into the sky and then at a phenomenal speed zoomed off sideways.  Immediately after my parents were able to start their car and the radio was fine.  The sighting left them both shaken and a little scared. My father told us he still doesn't know what he saw that night but was convinced it was a UFO.

Social Class
Leave these two stories out or put them in?  Because these two stories are embedded in my memory, I put them in the post.  It is an indicator of my father's beliefs I think.
These stories represent something else about my father I remember.  Stories he told about social standing and social classes and human behavior.

One Friday my father was in line to cash his paycheck at a local grocery store.  My father was a foreman at North American Rockwell, a factory that built airplane parts, I think.  While standing in line with other working men, a man came up to the line and tried to step in front of many others.  Ditching we used to call it as kids.  Well my father wouldn't take that from any man. (A trait I see in myself)  He told the man to get to the back of the line.  The man (who’s name has been forgotten long ago and doesn't really matter for the story) said “Well, don’t you know who I am?  I’m so and so from the evening news” (or some other local famous personality). My father replied, “I don’t care if you’re the president; get to the back of the line like the rest of us.  And the famous man did.

And another similar story he told us in the late 1960's.  One day when driving on a Sunday, he saw a black family who's car had a flat tire on the side of the road. 
What irritated my father was that it was Sunday and church had recently let out.  My father was not a religious man, never attended church that I remember although he allowed us to attend.  He says that on that day, not one of those church goers would stop to help this family on the side of the road.  My father stopped to offer what help he could. 

I may add to this post, as other memories come to me.   


A photo with five of my sisters and one brother.
 I am in the front on the right with short boxy hair. 

My father, my daughter Alexis and me at the Millersport Corn Festival,
 just a couple years before my father's death (mid 1990's)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What about someone playing the fiddle at holidays and parties at that brick house outside of Circleville. And he used to always tell me the story about how he met Grandma and how beautiful she was. I cannot remember the story though. Just remember sitting next to him on the couch while he ate his over easy/medium eggs with seasoning salt on them and toast. He had his cup of coffee and the sugar was always clumped up in the sugar dish because his spoon was wet and he smoked his cigarette the entire time he ate. The ash tray was those plaid beanbag bottom ones and the newspaper for the entire last week was all over the table while today's was being currently read. The air smelled of breakfast, coffee, sugar, an old sewing box, the coal burning stove and kerosene heaters. Occasionally I would venture into the kitchen to see what grandma was doing and she would either give me a taste or scurry me off by saying. "Here here, I'm busy cooking", in her sweet but serious voice. Grandpa used to give Dawn and I rides in the trailer pulled by his John Deere tractor all over the property and the garden. I would sneak into his wood shop just to play with the dust and see what projects he was working on. The garages had nuts and bolts and so many tools, a couple old cars and gardening stuff. I could spend all day out there. I would sneak over to the dinning room window or the kitchen window to see if I was tall enough to see in or walk the perimeter of the grape vine and just stare in awe of the beautiful bird hotel. Sometimes grandma would let us eat off her berry vines while she was collecting for pies or grandpa would allow us to play in the cornstalk stalks. I really do have many good memories of them and their house. Jami Speakman Leach