School started and I was excited about going but I knew that I was going to miss old Joe. Every afternoon as soon as I got home, I walked down to his house.
One day, he said “Miss Abby, did I ever tell you that I knows how to catch birds?” I said “you know how to catch birds?” Old Joe said “yessum. I sure do and I’ll teach you if’n you’re a wantin’ to know.”
I said “okay!”
Old Joe said “well, all you gots to do is go up to ’em and put salt on they tails.” I said “why do you put salt on their tails?” He said “they can’t fly with salt on they tails, so then you can catch ’em.” I said “really?” Old Joe said “yessum. Works every time.”
I couldn’t wait to try. I went home and got the salt-cellar off of the table and set off to catch a bird. I chased birds all over the yard. My grandpa saw me and came outside and said “whacha doin’?”
I said “old Joe told me that if I put salt on a birds’ tail, it couldn’t fly and then I could catch ’em.” My grandpa started laughing so hard, he had to steady himself by bending over and putting his hands on his knees. He asked me if I had caught any yet and I said “no, they keep flying away.”
He said “well little bit, it’s almost supper time so come on back in the house now.”
I loved the way my grandma cooked. She’d fry fatback and fix collard greens and black-eyed peas. She’d make cornbread and she and my grandpa would tease me because I would put so much butter on it. Sometimes, they would let me have a cup of coffee but only if it was half milk but we didn’t always have milk.
I didn’t know it then, but we were living through the depression. I remember hearing my grandma and grandpa talking about it but I always thought the depression was the hill I rode my bicycle down. It was called “Woolsey dip” and I thought a dip was a depression.
Winter was coming and I heard my grandpa tell my grandma that it was almost wood choppin’ time. It was also time for winter coats to be taken out of boxes that had been filled with moth balls. I always hated the smell but after a few weeks, it went away.
The next day, I went back to old Joes’ house and plopped down in the rocking chair. He said “what you gots that pout on your face about, Miss Abby?”
I said “I couldn’t catch any birds.” Old Joe said “well, maybe them was wise birds.” I said “what are wise birds?”
He said “wise birds is birds what have already been caught once and now they’s too wise to get caught again.”
I said “where can I find some birds that aren’t wise?” He said “I reckin they’s some out there somewheres but they have probably flown down South by now.” I said “why did they fly down South?” Old Joe said “birds fly down South when it starts gettin’ cold up here but they always come back in the spring.”
I giggled and said “well, maybe some not wise birds will come back in the spring.” Old Joe laughed and said “I reckon they might, Miss Abby.”
To be continued…………………….