Nov 30, 2006

Remembering Racine

In the late 50's my sisters decided to take accordion lessons. For a teacher, our Mother looked at the only place she ever considered at times as this - the local Bible college. There, she discovered Angelo. Angelo was the typical Italian boy from Niagara Falls, NY. He was a little too loud and pushy for this mid-western farm boy, but I accepted him as one of the family, which he quickly became.

Although Donna and I were newly married and had our own lifestyle and interests, we were expect to participate and support just about everything Angelo did. This included helping to start a little church in the community of Brown’s Spring. I never saw the spring, but assume there was one. At least it existed when the community was named and before the spring became polluted or dried up.

This is where we met Racine. To say Racine was a homely girl would be very flattering. She was probably in her 20's but it was hard to tell. Life had been hard on the gal. If it wasn’t for her Adams apple and knee caps, she wouldn’t have had any figure at all. And hair - remember Cousin It from the old Adams Family TV show? That was a short version of Racine - with hair to match. Her hair was parted in the middle - of her entire head! Not front to back or even side to side. Just in the middle. Her hair grew below shoulder length in all directions. She looked similar to a sheep dog with hair covering her eyes. And this gal had the longest arms I’ve ever seen, second only to an Orangutan. She was very nervous and shy. When she talked to you, she would wrap her arm around the back of her head and grab a handful of hair from in front of her nose and pull it back behind her ear. Instead of letting the ear hold her hair in place, she held on to it as though protecting it from the person she was talking to. Then, with the other arm she would wrap it around the back of her head and the arm, grab the remaining hair from the face and pull it back to tuck behind the other ear. I guess she didn’t know what to do with her hands, so she just left them there. She looked like a contortionist. I bet even Houdini couldn’t do that trick.

Racine wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. In fact, she was not only a few fries short of a Happy Meal, she was short the burger too. But what she lacked on the exterior, she made up on the inside. Her lack of looks and intelligence was replaced with an abundance of sincerity, love and affection and a willingness to help anyway she could. She had a heart of gold and it was impossible not to like her and feel quite sorry for her. Which presented a problem, especially with all the church picnics Angelo held. Never to turn down a free meal, Angelo loved to have church picnics on the grounds. What’s the problem? Church picnics are great. Everybody brings their best dish and the feast is on. Well, the problem is Racine always brought food also. Not that she wasn’t a good cook, we never found out because we couldn’t eat any. The reason? That brings us to her house. It was a house only in the academic sense. It had floors, at least in most rooms, and plastered walls. Some rooms even had plaster on both sides of the studs, but not many. They had doorways - no doors, just doorways. Even the exterior doors were missing. Oh, they had one screen door, not a complete door mind you as some of the bottom frame was missing. But this allowed the dogs, cats and chickens (yes, chickens) to have full access of the house.

I was only in the house one time, and Racine’s dad (or uncle, I never knew which was which) asked me to be seated. He even shooed away the red chicken perched on the chair’s back. But I graciously declined his magnificent offer. You see, the chicken had left her calling card on the chair’s bottom which would end up on my bottom. And that would verify what my new father-in-law thought about me. I can just hear him, “See, he not only is one, he’s wearing it on his pants”. But I loved him dearly and I think he loved me. However he never forgave me for marrying his daughter on the 27th of December as he lost a whole year of tax exemption on her. But that’s another story.

Describing Racine’s house, picture Granny Yocom’s house in Dogpatch, or the Clampett’s house in Tennessee before they struck oil. They were mansions compared to Racine’s house. Visualize the Green Acres farm house. It was the Taj Mahal compared to this place. I don’t believe I have ever seen such a dirty place in all my life, and that is saying a lot for the Ozarks. So when it came to church picnics and covered dish lunches, we always made it a practice to point out and brag on what Racine brought. Oddly, no one ever ate any of her food. She never understood why.

Racine lived with her dad and uncle. I don’t know where her mother was - I was afraid to ask. The relationship was strange to me, a young girl living with 2 old men under such dirty conditions. The three of them together didn’t have the IQ of a door knob. Of course they didn’t have any door knobs, didn’t need them. They didn’t have any doors.

I’m not sure what ever became of Racine. Many years later, my sister was traveling in the Brown’s Spring area and stopped at the local general store. Asking about her the store keeper said she was still around and living with her dad and uncle. She asked my sister if she knew Racine had a baby. My sister answered no. The shop keeper said she came in several times while she was pregnant. No one knew who the father was. Could have been a local farm boy but they doubted that. Probably was the uncle’s or even the dad’s. No one knew and I bet Racine didn’t even know. One day Racine came in the store after the baby was born. Inquiring about the birth, Racine explained she was walking in the woods when this bad pain hit her. She fell on her knees then all of a sudden, whoosh, out it came. The shop keeper asked about what happened to it and Racine answered in that sweet, matter-of-fact innocent manner of her’s, “Oh, the dogs ate it.”

This blog is dedicated to the Racines of this world. May God hold them in the hollow of His hand.