GARDENING · Southernisms

A Memory Garden

Dear Mr. Garden Guy,

Do you remember the day I had to hide Momma’s yard tools?

A few years earlier we had finally convinced my then 84 year old mother to stop cutting her own grass. “Convinced” is a nice way of saying my brother took her push mower away for servicing and never brought it back.  Over the next couple of years, I took over her yardwork.   Momma, not satisfied with my loose interpretation of hedge trimming would redo her bushes wielding the most dangerous looking pair of clippers you ever want to see in the hands of an unsteady octogenarian.

Thoughts of a horrid implement haunted family, friends and neighbors.

fi-clippers clippers

So I hid her tools.  An assortment of handheld clippers, hoes and rakes made their way to my house.  I told you about it Mr. Garden Guy.  We both felt sad that an avid gardener could no longer enjoy her work.

Then one day her neighbor pulled me to the side:

“Yo momma been outside cuttin’ them bushes again.”  She said in a concerned whisper.

“What?!  Bbbut I..I… took all her tools!”  I stammered in disbelief.

“Well she was.  An’ she had a pair of long, rusty lookin’ clippers.  I think they must have been yo daddy’s.”  The neighbor’s testimony rang true.

My stepdad had been dead for decades.  It never occurred to me that some of

fi-nate-brelsford Brelsford

Richard’s tools may still be around.  Momma never threw away anything.

It took me a while but finally – on the backporch, under the chaise, in a crate, inside a wooden box – a plethora of ancient handtools.  Found and removed.

Miss. Daisy was not pleased.

Today, age is beginning to slow me down.  One day someone will take away my tools.  And Mr. Garden Guy I’ll miss growing my veggies, canning my pears and cutting my grass.

Foreseeing such a time,  I’ve begun a “memory garden” afghan.

Rows of simple granny squares echo my gardening process.  Starting with brown and black squares symbolizing the composted soil. Then seed.  More colorful squares – reds, yellows, greens and even purples- flowering and fruiting.

The afghan’s rows repeat like the rhythm of the seasons. Its an ongoing project.  Finished only when it is big enough, warm enough to hold all my cherished gardening memories.

Vegetables Credit: & Christa Richert
CRITTERS ETC. · Southernisms


An earlier post, described my ongoing war with a mouse that had taken up residence at my mother’s house.  I knew that Momma, an Alzheimer’s patient, had been freeing the mouse from the live trap.  Then, I found carefully placed potato chips nibbled upon by tiny teeth.   Momma was feeding that little critter!  So the mouse became officially known Pringles.  A respectful nod to his preferred brand of chips.

The gloves were off!  I placed small traps under the dining table, near where I found the potato chips.  Yes.  She feed the mouse in the most antiqued furnished, silver-laden, crystal chandeliered room of the house.  Now that’s extreme Southern hospitality!   No matter – I caught Pringles.  Victory at last!  But I’d learned not to rest on my laurels.  I reset the traps.

Once Momma found the traps, though, she just wouldn’t leave them alone.  She would either disengage or relocate them.  Once I found the traps sitting on one of her dining room servers.

“Momma, why are the mouse traps sitting up on this server?”

“I don’t know.  I guess the rat must have put them up there.  Besides, those traps ain’t big enough for the rat.”

Ask a stupid question…but wait – was there really a rat or was it a delusion from my mother’s diseased brain?  I knew of course Momma moved the traps.  But a rat in her house was absolutely unacceptable.   Alzheimer’s or not – I trusted Momma’s words on this one.  So I went out and bought a bigger kill trap.  I ain’t gonna catch and release no nasty rat.

It didn’t take long before the rat got caught in the trap.  I stared in amazement. His body was as large as a burly man’s fist.    His fur was immaculate and patterned a lovely calico.  That rat looked so healthy!

guinea-pig-1408034 Davis

Think “pet shop” guinea pig with a long naked pink tail.  No doubt, Momma’s pet.  I wondered how many potato chips this bad boy had eaten over the years.  What other snacks he had washed down with some ice tea – honey buns, cheese bites, chicken nuggets anyone?  And did he have friends over?  Nobody likes to dine alone.

I reset the kill trap.  But again Momma would not leave it alone.  I often found the trap empty.  No bait.  No dead rat.  Then eventually, the tell-tell odor of an invisible decomposing rodent.

I was mortified to think my frail 89 year old Momma released these large rodents.  Visions of her fingers getting crushed by the quick spring action of the trap or worse her getting attacked by a confused and hurt rat, haunted me.  I gave up and removed all the traps.

This war was beyond my ability.  I needed special feline forces.  Momma reluctantly became a cat owner.

So how did that work out?  Check a future Critter’s post!

 Rat in Trash Image Credit: Davis



CRITTERS ETC. · Southernisms

The Mouse Buddy

Something darted across Momma’s kitchen floor.

What the heck was that?!

Momma was in her late 80s, and still living independently.  My siblings and I became her caregivers. That day I was helping Momma with general house cleaning.

I saw the movement again.  Momma didn’t say anything.  Was I seeing things?  I’d better ask –

“Momma, did you see that?”

“Oh that was just one of my buddy-buddies.” She giggled.

What the heck is a “buddy-buddy?”  I wondered.

field-mouse-1526371 Barker


“Momma, do you mean a mouse?”

“Don’t worry.  He just wanted to come out to see who was here.” She giggled again.

As if on cue, he passed by more slowly and deliberately a third time.  Was he checking me out?

Nasty little vermin, strolling across the floor I just scrubbed.  Acting like you live here.  Oh yeah.  That’s right.  You do live here.  Well enough of that nonsense. Its on now!  You so and so.

Thus began my personal war with Momma’s buddy buddies.

Before the onset of her Alzheimer’s disease, Momma used to detest rats and mice.  Large musk rats would sometimes find their way into our house from nearby fields.  But instead of jumping up on a chair and screaming hysterically, Momma chased and cornered them. Then she would beat them to death with a broom stick. Momma had other more gruesome ways of dispatching rodents but on these I must remain silent. Poor devils.

Now I had to do what Momma could no longer understand must be done.  Dispatch or destroy.  My husband Billy’s plea for leniency  suppressed my genetic instinct for overkill.   Afterall it was just a little field mouse.  I set a live trap.  A couple of days later, I could hear scratching inside the trap.  Yes!  Victory!  Billy and I carried him off to a wooded area far from Momma’s house.




Billy opened the trap.  A mouse jumped out and ran toward the woods.  Yesss!  But wait.  More were inside, hiding.  Billy gave the trap a  good shake.  Several mice leaped out.  But instead of running into the woods, they ran toward us, toward the car, toward the roadway.  I was waving my hands around and screaming like a girl.  Momma would have been shocked at my cowardliness!

How many “buddy-buddies” did Momma have?

We caught and released 12 mice that winter.  Then there was Mr. #13.  I caught him like the others.  But the trap was mysteriously empty when I checked it. Undeterred, I put in more bait.  Mr. #13 had his fill of cheese, chicken, peanut butter.  Each time he left behind a few pellets just to mock me.

“Do you think Momma is letting that mouse out of the trap?” My husband asked.

“Naw.  Not my Momma!”  But I began to wonder….

A few days later, I saw a little mouse strolling across Momma’s freshly scrubbed kitchen floor.  Moving as if in no particular hurry.  Was he the one that started the war?  Was he still around?

Momma saw the disgruntled look on my face.

“Oh don’t worry.  That’s just one of my buddy-buddies.  That’s the one y’all could never catch.”  Momma smiled mischievously.

The war was still on!