The truth can be a scary thing

On The Way

By Olivia Fowler

Olivia Fowler

Olivia Fowler

The last time I wrote about relations marrying each other, I got into a lot of trouble, as I linked this practice to abnormalities in the offspring of such unions. There were some complaints about this, and some called me insensitive.

After tracing three lines back on my mother’s side, I have discovered that my own family is riddled with marriages between second cousins, so much so that we now know many of what we believed were second cousins are actually also fourth and fifth cousins on different family lines. Now I’m kind of afraid to look too closely into the fourth line on Mama’s side.

Fowler says this explains a lot about my family. And it’s true that there are an awful lot of “forceful” outspoken people in my family. And there are a few Grandmama always referred to as “high-strung,” which of course translates to “crazy.”

For example, “Aunt Sally isn’t able to come to the reunion becomes she’s having a bad time with her nerves.” This means Aunt Sally is at home in a straitjacket or under sedation, or possibly got into the homemade wine.

The ones I know best, my first cousins, are among my favorite people. Yes, they are outspoken, say what they mean without fear or favor, and tend to go into fields where they can speak at length without fear of interruption.

And yes, my relatives are many things. They can be outrageously tactless, bossy and driven. But, in my mind, these qualities are far outweighed by their generosity, loyalty, thoughtfulness, quick wit and sheer entertainment value.

You never know what they’re going to do or say. And so they are many things, but one thing they are not and will never be is dull.

And they are all, to the last man, wonderful storytellers. Now, this is a quality very common in the south. At least that’s what I think.

I clearly remember Grandmama talking about her older sister, Sister Bonner, who as a young girl drove to the train station to pick up Aunt Mary Bellamy, a somewhat snooty aunt from Wilmington, and chose to meet her in the wagon pulled by mules instead of the buggy with the buggy horse, because she thought Aunt Mary could use a humbling experience.

Sister Bonner is also the one who sent us a picture of herself from somewhere in Texas sitting on the back of a Brahma bull. She was 82.

She is also the one who hid white sheets in the cemetery, then slipped out of prayer meeting on a Wednesday night with her brothers and sisters and donned the sheets, then lay low behind the tombstones until the worshipers came out into the dark churchyard to be greeted by ghosts running among the graves moaning and shrieking.

Grandmama said it created an uproar, with various reactions from hysteria to outrage.

And that was just one thing they did.

My Uncle Jack was a farmer, but he could have gone into show business. He saw the funny side of everything. We used to love to ride down to Uncle Jack and Aunt Carolyn’s house after supper.

She’d put on a pot of coffee for the grownups, there would always be cake or cookies for company and we’d listen to the stories of what had happened that week.

Uncle Jack always came back from town with stories, mostly true, about the hilarious things people did on a daily basis. He brought news such as the fish war between Buie Company and Nip Eller’s Fish Market. The stores were directly across the street from each other and both had fish on special. Buie Company sent someone across the street to see what Nip was selling his fish for, then cut his price by a penny a pound. When Nip discovered this, he reduced his fish by a penny. Buie Company then dropped the price another cent, at which time Nip crossed the street, bought all Buie Company’s fish then took them back to his store and sold the fish at his original price.

These dear storytellers have been gone from the earth for many years, but they live on in the tales handed down from generation to generation. So, in my mind, they’ll always be with us. I hope when we are gone our descendants will remember us as fondly and keep the oral tradition alive.