George Worthy

Sometimes we forget how are mother’s guidance shaped our behavior. Nobody’s mother wants to see their children in trouble with the law or school. Yet most of the time we just simply forget and do stupid things that you hope your mother will never see. I have said often that I am one of four brothers. The other thing you need to know is that I was raised in the country. My dad was always a farmer and so we mostly lived on a farm somewhere.

Usually our family lived in a three-bedroom, one-bath house. This was one of the houses that the farmer had built for their workers. They were always ragged and nasty until my mom moved in. One of the houses had a rat population in the ceiling. You could hear them at night fighting with each other. We brothers thought we were pretty tough. You couldn’t dare one of us to do something stupid because we didn’t fear getting caught by anyone but our mother. She did not put up with stupid because she had high hopes for her boys.

Neither I nor any of my brothers had ever seen anyone that was related to us by blood. Just as soon as I put those words on paper, I remembered that we had a couple of visits from my dad’s mother. I was pretty young to have many memories of her.

All I can remember about her was that she dipped snuff and had the longest hair I had ever seen on anyone. The snuff, since she had no real teeth left in her mouth, would sort of migrate over to the sides of her mouth. I noticed that one day and asked my grandmother why she dipped snuff if it spilled out of her mouth and had a little trail down both sides where two little trails of snuff had to be wiped off occasionally. She looked at me and said, “You boys are so contrary.”

(According to my Funk and Wagner’s Dictionary, CONTRARY is described as: Perversely inclined to disagree or to do the opposite of what is expected or desired.)

She would always tell our dad if she caught us doing anything wrong. Then, at night while she was getting ready for bed, she would undo the big bun on the back of her head and allow her hair to fall down. I seem to remember that she was a small woman, a little bigger than me, but I was also pretty short because I was so young. I would watch her braiding her hair and pinning it up on the back of her head. I guess that’s what you did when you got old. I just wondered why my mom didn’t braid her hair too. When I asked her, she would just say her hair wasn’t long enough.

My mom did not get along with my grandmother because she would hear my grandmother tell us how contrary we were. My mom never struck any of her sons. Nor would she allow anyone else to discipline us. That was her job. The only time she would threaten us is when she would say, “I’m going to tell your dad on you if you don’t quit.” I can’t remember any of the things that would cause her to say that, but again I was pretty young.

I’m sitting here wondering why I am even writing about my grandmother. She and I, as you can see, were never very close. I can remember once when we visited her in her tiny house in Alvin, Texas. That’s where my dad grew up. I had to sleep with both my brothers (at that time my younger brother had not been born). I can barely remember that she lived close to one of those general stores that used to be in every town. They may not have sold everything like Walmart, but they sold everything you would need to survive in those days.

Most of my memories were of her visiting our family in Arkansas. She was not a touchy feely lady. However, she raised my hero: My dad. I tried to do everything my dad did except drink and smoke. I didn’t smoke until I was in high school, and only then when my buddy Keith would come over in his ’36 Ford and pick me up for school.

The first thing he would do is offer me a cigarette, a Kent cigarette with the Micronite filter because that’s what he smoked. I think they used asbestos in the filter. I didn’t know any of this when I was in high school, but then nobody seemed to know how deadly cigarettes were. So one morning I took one from him and even though I coughed and gagged, I finally finished the cigarette.

There is a second reason I had never smoked before. I couldn’t afford them. Maybe they were only 20 cents a pack at that time it didn’t matter. I couldn’t afford lunch money because we were living life one paycheck to another. Being broke does not exempt you from getting hooked on cigarettes, so I always smoked with Keith.

I would like to tell you that I quit smoking the day I enlisted in the Army. Nothing changed since you didn’t get paid until you finished basic training here at Fort Ord. I couldn’t afford cigarettes. Oh, I could bum one from another soldier, but no one likes a mooch, so I just didn’t smoke. I must tell you that one didn’t take up smoking because they had this effect of hooking you. One smoked because it was cool. Everyone wanted to look cool so they smoked to prove how cool they were.

After Basic, I went to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Again, I had no extra money for smokes and my buddy Keith was back in Wasco. That was my history of smoking. I would smoke when I had some money, but most of the time you don’t have any spending money. You were only paid once a month. I smoked a little and quit again. This went on for years.

I went on and off the cancer sticks until Sept. 22, 1971. That’s the day I quit for sure. Don’t ask me why. That smoking and the connection to cancer was not common knowledge, it’s just that I couldn’t run as fast or as far and I figured smoking might be the reason.

I can give you a hundred different reasons I truly quit, but mostly I think the only reason I was smoking was because I was so contrary. Like my grandmother said.

God Bless.

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