'Toughie' earned her name
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 5:00 PM
LINDEN, Texas - My beautiful sister Lila is now in her final resting place, and her earthly remains are high on the hill above Imlay, Nevada, the town she loved.
A few months ago, the family gathered on the mountainside overlooking Imlay, and spread the ashes of Lila, and her husband Bob. They were married on July 16, 1944, in Imlay by Justice of the Peace Annie Nevada Thacker, Bob's step-grandmother.
At an early age, back in the cotton fields of West Texas during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl days, Lila's moniker had become "Toughie."
Now, she was not big, not a bully, and fought only when she was forced to defend herself, or one of her siblings, usually me. She was strong as a boy and tougher than most boys. I resented her because she could both chase me down and whip my hiney, but only when I needed it.
Mom made her High Sheriff of mean little Roy, because mom was busy cooking and washing and ironing and making clothes for eight children. Toughie was good at her appointed job.
We were dirt poor back in those days, but we did not have a monopoly on being poor. Everyone was trying to just keep from starving. The banker walked to work because he couldn't afford a car. And living in the historic Dust Bowl country was a double whammy. All the farming was dry land - no irrigated cotton fields back then. And it forgot to rain for about ten years in mid-America.
So we, along with millions of others, picked cotton to buy food. No welfare back then - no workie, no eatie. Simple.
We worked barefooted. We did each have a pair of Buster Browns, but they were reserved for going to town. So we saved our "town shoes" by working bare footed. The cotton field's sandy loam got mighty hot in the summer time. So you walked in the shady side of the row, because the soil was cooler there. Never gave a thought that the rattlers hated the hot soil as much as our bare feet did. Cotton plant leaves are large, and provide excellent shade for bare feet, and rattlesnakes.
One day we were nearing the end of the row, where the trailer and scales were situated. That was a neat happening, getting under the trailer for shade, and also drinking our fill of cool water.
Suddenly, I heard a commotion going on where sister Toughie was. There were other pickers at the wagon. It was noon time and they were resting under the wagon. I saw the men running to where Toughie was standing.
She was looking down, with a look of horror on her face. I thought, it must be bad, for sister Toughie to be frightened. The thought of a rattler never entered my mind.
When I got there, she was standing on a small and very angry rattlesnake. Her bare foot was just behind the snake's head. He couldn't turn his head enough to bite her foot or leg, but he was sure trying to wiggle free so he could exact his revenge. Toughie stood firm, most of her body weight on that angry rattler. The men folk were running around, trying to find something to kill the deadly snake with. One scared guy was running circles at about 90 miles per hour, so frightened he couldn't talk.
Finally, one of the men killed the snake with the cotton scales. Toughie had stood her ground in that dire situation, and I admired her all the more for doing so. Had it been me, I would have went about six feet in the air, then planned my next move before coming down. Would any of you tough macho guys stand on a live rattler, barefooted? Don't say you would, because I wouldn't believe you. I'd call you a balderdasher, or twaddler.
In later years we talked and laughed a lot about that incident. I believe that was the day our older brother Jesse started calling her "Toughie." A name well earned, and a name I called her for over seventy years, until she left us a couple years ago.
Hey, girl, I'll be along in a few years, then we can reminisce once again, about all the daring things you did back in the good old days when times were bad. Back when businessmen were honest, most politicians were honest, and America had Congressmen the people trusted. I'm afraid those days are gone forever.
Jay Leno, on NSA surveillance: "We wanted a president who would listen to all Americans. Now we have one."
Roy Bale can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.