My mother wanted to move back home. Tennessee was our home, always had been, always would be. Start all over again. I was excited and terrified.
I knew that I did the right thing in giving my baby a home with two parents. I knew the stress of a new baby in the family would be really hard on my mother. I knew all of this in my logical mind, however in my heart and soul I cried out for him constantly. I ached for him. I dreamed about him every night. I cried myself to sleep.
During the day I read my bible, I walked around smiling and never tried to run away again. If I went to the store and I saw a woman with a baby in her arms, I was sure it was my little Billy Ray.. Yes, I named him Billy Ray. Never occurred to me even for a second to name him after Joe. Hmmm! Imagine that!
We packed up our belongings and moved to Tennessee. My sister and her kids in one car, and me and my mom and dad in another car. We settled in Humboldt, which is the town I was born in. We rented a cute little two bedroom house in Maple Circle. My sister rented a house near by. Then we all set out to get jobs. My mother couldn’t work.
I got a job in a factory called Wayne Knitting mills. I was still 17. I lied and told them I was 18. Couldn’t find my birth certificate, Of course! I loved that job! I got to drive a fork lift, and the machines were as high as the ceiling and divided in half by cat walks.
I felt like I was dancing when I was walking on the narrow cat walks, which reinforced steel running between the machines at different levels. We were all young people working there and we would spin the yarn on the machines and “doff” it when ready. It was art, intricately teasing the spun yarn off onto rolls with plastic knitting needles. The machines ran 24/7. we all worked the swing shift.
When I wasn’t working or sleeping, I was out running around with my friends from the mill. We went to the drive in at night, laying out on top of the car, drinking beer or whiskey bought from boot leggers. We lived in a dry county. No hard liquor sold. No beer to minors. Yeah! Uh Huh! Sure!
during the day we skated at the skating rink. I loved that, it was so much fun. Spent hours there. we also spent time at the bowling alley. I never cared much for bowling, but hey, there wasn’t much to do in small town Humboldt.
One of my favorite activities was to go to Jackson and go to the German restaurant and have dark beer, brattwurst with sauerkraut and amazing thick cut fries that I have never had any where else. they had a band that played German and polish songs and I learned to polka. We sang and danced and got drunk on German beer. Life was good, and fun.
To my everlasting regret I did not spend much time with my mother. I was hurting and sometimes empty inside. I looked at my mother and my heart ached because I knew I couldn’t face losing her too. I’m ashamed to say that I blamed her for most of my troubles, although I realize now, it was my own fault. I pushed it all away and filled my life with stuff to do and friends to do it with.
It was about this time that I became afraid to go to sleep. Anu would lay with me and purr and I wrapped my arms around her and cried, I finally fell asleep when I just couldn’t stay awake any longer. Anu said I was having anxiety attacks. I looked for other things to do.
I slept with every one who would sleep with me. I never felt a thing. I also began to drink heavy. Wayne Knitting mills closed and moved out of state. I looked for another job. I found one at the Brown shoe factory. I truly hated this job. I sat in front of a machine and pushed a dye into the machine that had the shoe leather on it. this made the designs on the top of the shoe. I was paid the huge sum of one penny a piece.
You could work as fast as you could, but if for some insane reason you were able to make $20 for the day, they moved you to another machine. I never got close. I was lucky to make $5. we had a floor lady straight out of hell. Her name was Flora. Her hair was dyed orangy blonde, sprayed and teased to within an inch of it’s life. She wore garish make up. blue shadow, orange “rouge” and red lipstick. A girdle, starched white blouse and black skirt, with black high heels completed her look. Reminded me of a tough drill sergeant.
I can hear her voice now, “Now Patsy, you’ve got to work faster than that girl”. “Patsy, what’s wrong with you today?” “Patsy, are you drunk or stupid?” “You better be stupid, not drunk, girl!” Ad nauseum , in this high pitched slow southern drawl. I would cringe, and more than likely I would still be drunk from last night. It was torture and I know that woman loved to do the torturing. She was a large woman, but she had energy to burn. She seemed to be every where at once. Hearing the click, click of those high heels set my teeth on edge.
One day I pushed the dye into the machine and it hit my finger instead of the shoe leather, the machine came down on my finger. Smashed it flat. To this day, it’s flat. I was sent to the doctor who put a splint on it, wrapped it up and sent me home with some pain medicine. Flora said, “well Patsy, you’re no use to us like this.” So she laid me off with out pay. Yes, I know that being hurt on the job should have entitled me to some time off with pay, but this was the 60’s and I was 17
At the doctor’s office I met my new best friend. Her name was Brenda Lee and she also worked at the shoe factory in a different department. She dropped a large box on her foot and broke her toe. We were both laid off, and both very bored. I went to Brenda’s house with her to wait while she got dressed up so we could go out.
Meeting Brenda’s parents was a trip. I loved them both immediately. Mrs. Criss wore flowered house dresses and unlaced tennis shoes. Mr. Criss, or Lem as he insisted on being called, wore an old denim overall with no shirt and no shoes. he chewed tobacco and spit it in the fireplace.
Mrs. Criss plied us with food, and fussed over both of us. Brenda going out with her foot in a “boot”, and me with my finger in a splint. She said ” you all ought to stay in and take care of them injuries you got today.” Mrs. Criss worked at the shoe factory too, I was never clear on what Lem actually did. Brenda won, and we left.
Brenda was 21, a few years older than I was. She took me to and introduced me to a nightclub, set way out in the country. Had to take an almost invisible road and go miles out in the boonies to find it. We went inside and Johnny Cash was playing on the jute box, and there was a long oak bar the went around and took up a lot of the room. There was still a place for dancing and a few tables set back in the dark corners. The mirror behind the bar was as long as the bar and went up to the ceiling.
The room was dark and filled with cigarette smoke. There were good old boys sitting around the bar in various states of enebriation. Ball caps perched on their heads One tall young man staggered over to me, and said, “Hey sugar babe, dance with me please.” I don’t know if it was the please, the dirty blonde curls peeking out from under the cap or the dimple in his cheeks, but I danced with him.
He was just a little to drunk to dance, but dance we did. he introduced himself as Lloyd Neal Mosier. Said to call him Neal. He had beautiful hazel eyes and farm boy muscles on his arms. he wore blue jeans, a blue work shirt and shit kicker boots. We danced, drank beer, and laughed at every thing. Brenda met a good looking guy called believe it or not, Early Bee Canasta. He was a farm boy too. He wore what seemed to be the farm boy uniform. Jeans, blue work shirt and those boots.
Oh yes, the name of the bar was “Tom Cats” I guess, that because it’s where people came to prowl. You could get anything you wanted to drink, no questions asked. There was plenty of women hanging around too. usually dressed in jeans, boots and sexy tops. The women who hung around all the time were called “Tom cat’s kittens.” It was fun and right up my alley. Oh yeah!
The four of us ran around together all the time. We drank and danced at Tom cat’s until closing and then we drove the dark highways at dangerously high speeds the rest of the night. Early had a convertible and spent lots of time drunk driving and playing chicken,
Chicken was where two cars facing each other at least a mile apart raced towards each other at high speed to see who would turn first. Who was chicken. Only the “men” who drove the cars rode in them. No passengers allowed. More than one lost control of their vehicle and crashed. If they were lucky, they lived. Bunch of bored young people playing with our lives.
Marriage and death.