Big Brother


Since the beginning of time, older brothers have proved challenging for their younger sisters. I hope you enjoy this story by my mom, the McAdoo Marvel.

Occasionally, someone voiced the opinion that they had always felt sorry for my brother, Reid, because he was the only boy and had all those little sisters. I always wanted to say, and sometimes did, “Ha! He had five little slaveys to do what he said. And if he couldn’t talk them into it, he bribed them.” I know I was at least partially right – that’s how he worked me.

He had a litter of pigs named for teachers. I remember Mr. Elder and Mr. Archer well. I believe there was also a Mr. Davis. There was a pair of pants in the Montgomery Ward catalog that Reid liked. The problem was, he wanted to know exactly how they looked. He promised to give me Mr. Archer, if I would get a fabric sample. Seemed a good way to get a pig for practically nothing, so I agreed.

I wrote the letter, mailed it, and received the sample. I remember feeling it and looking at it. But I’ll never know where it went from there; Reid said he never saw it. Of course, he could have been the last to see it. Because Reid had no proof that I ever sent the letter, Mr. Archer remained only a dream. We later found the pig dead in the bar ditch. Was that justice, or did the heat get to him?

A prime example of Reid’s ways was in his dealing with us about the human Mr. Elder. The agriculture teacher would soon be on his way to the house. Both parents and Louise were gone; just the younger kids were home (ages 6, 9, 11, and 12). What could a guy do with only a bunch of little girls? If he were Reid, he could make use of them. First, he put us to work. We cleaned house. Even though we thought it was already clean, but he made us get every room super clean, in case Mr. Elder happened to see it.

Then we got our instructions; we were to go to the cellar, and stay there until Mr. Elder left. Reid would say when we were free. We dutifully did as we were told. We were in the cellar as long as it took, then Reid announced we could come out. There was no explanation, and we made no complaints.

The cellar was fairly new, and represented a lot of work. Daddy dug it himself. He rigged up a couple of large wagon wheels with a device designed to carry a #3 washtub loaded with dirt. As he filled the tub, we rolled it off to an area that wouldn’t matter, and dumped it. Whether it was plain dirt or caliche, it was hard work. The cellar was deep enough to hold several shelves, room for sitting, plus room for a number of uncounted, standing people, six at least. It was well constructed – no water came in when it rained. We were safe down there.

In the years before we had our own, we used Uncle Rush’s cellar. We usually made it to safety before the rain began, because our parents had been up all night watching the weather. All it took for complete compliance was for our mother to walk in and say, “Get up, kids, and get your coats on.” There was something about how she said it that made blood turn to ice. All we wanted to do was hurry.

No matter where we were, it seemed we saw waterdogs mostly during storms. They were some type of salamander, judging from their looks. However, we didn’t call things by their proper names, so how did we know what they were? But, I recently learned there is a salamander called a waterdog.

We called a certain kind of lizard a mountain boomer. As I later learned, they were actually common collared lizards. One ran up Reid’s pants leg one day when we were exploring the big pasture, where the canyon was. He caught it before it reached the top, and held on for dear life. Jack and France happened by, and had a good laugh before they convinced him to let it go. When he finally did, it fell from his pants leg – dead. The poor thing had been squeezed so hard and so long, it had been asphyxiated.

There was a bird that came out at dusk, at least it performed at dusk, that we called a bull bat. It chirped as it went up and up, then made a sort of swooshing noise, with its voice, as it came diving down, eating mosquitoes along the way. Turns out there really is a bull bat; it’s properly called a nighthawk. So our nicknames did exist, and were accepted names too.