A Witchcraft Fourth of July
Ruby Regina Witcraft
My experience with fireworks was very limited as a child to watching my brother explode everything in sight. My mother’s prize roses, the door mat, the neighbor’s, cat if he could have caught it so I was happy with my sparklers. Daddy bought me 12 one day from the nearby fireworks stand and after burning two it got a little boring compared to my brother. I decided the 10 left would make a prettier display and lit the whole bunch. Of course, the handholds got hot and I dropped them and had to be content with watching the whole lot sparkle on the dirty sidewalk.
Chancy Witcraft, my husband’s brother, had a houseboat in the marina at Blue Stem Lake, on the outskirts of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The whole Witcraft clan would pour in from many far-flung addresses for a double celebration – Chauncy’s birthday and the Fourth of July on this great houseboat. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world as the whole family is more fun than a bunch of ring-tailed monkeys, so we drove up from Norman.
The top deck of the boat was outfitted with every kind of fishing gear, lounging amenity, beverage, paddle toy and inner tube you ever dreamed of and many that defied description. It was the Queen Mary of houseboats.
We lounged on deck barefoot and in our bathing suits, sipping cool drinks and just enjoying a beautiful summer, Oklahoma day. I commented to my sister-in-law Billy that it was such a treat to enjoy such a serene, peaceful break in my hectic, hustle-bustle life.
At this peaceful moment, a motorboat pulled up in front of the houseboat and a 40 (going on three) young man who was driving started making joking remarks to Jimmy, our nephew, who was also 40 going on three. It went something like this: “Jimmy Witcraft thinks the sun came up just to hear him crow.” Jimmy called back that, “Billy Bob (or some such Okie name) was welcome as a skunk at a lawn party,” and casually lit a firecracker and lobbed it into his friend’s boat. Naturally, there had to be reciprocation of some kind so the friend answered the challenge with like kind and, before we could blink, there was an all-out Redneck, cherry bomb, two-incher and bottle rocket war going on. This drew the attention of other friendly boaters and soon there was an armada of small boats lobbing every kind of exploding noisemaker onto the upper deck. Naturally, all the Witcraft men took up the challenge and fired back, sally for sally.
We ladies weren’t too involved and just shook our heads and retired to the back of the boat to set up a potluck lunch. Our brave men and the lads in the small boats jigged around on the deck, barefooted, trying to miss being hit with the explosive little missals. Boys will always be boys and they had a great time, strategizing, laughing and dancing around the explosions.
An overthrown two-incher missed its mark and exploded in the large dish of baked beans I was just setting down on the table. Talk about perfect timing! The guys thought the baked beans decorating my face, hair and bathing suit were a source of great fun as Jimmy yelled, “Hey, Billy Bob, you get 10 points for splattering baked beans all over my Aunt Ruby.” I called Jimmy a few choice names, picked the beans out of my eyebrows and hair and got off that deck faster than a June bug going through a duck. The ladies were right behind me and followed me down below, where we got into the innertubes and floated out onto the safe lake while the idiots continued to try to blow each other up. Billy yelled that we weren’t coming back to feed them until the mess was cleaned up.
The firecracker war finally reached a crescendo or they may have run out of ammunition when they missed us girls or got hungry. Jimmy rowed out to beg us to come back in and promised they were through with their nonsense. The beans weren’t in very good condition but were now cleaned up.
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful by comparison so we ate, lazed around until dark then took the boat out onto the lake to watch the beautiful fireworks reflection as they were shot out over the water.
It was a great fun day, which I’ll always remember. Mostly, because, miraculously, no one lost a finger or a toe.
When it comes to gardening, she is totally useless. Barbara doesn’t own one of these she sheds or any essential gardening equipment. She doesn’t know how to store equipment, how to construct a shed, and would need someone to come along with help to set one up. And that’s before we get to her greenery skills; It’s bad enough that she doesn’t know a flowering plant from a green plant, a shrub from a bush, an annual from a perennial, but her green thumb is so brown, she could probably kill a silk plant!
Many years ago, she thought that she would like to start a garden in her brand new home. While the husband toiled and spent countless hours in the nursery checking out plants, she thought that she would be able to just go outside and do this! So, unknowing about any “rules and regulations” of gardening, she went to K-Mart and bought a few packages of vegetable seeds. She dutifully read the directions on the back of the seed packages and planted accordingly. When the husband got home from work that afternoon, she proudly showed him what she had done. “Look here at my great job of planting!” she proudly announced.
When the husband looked and tried not to snicker, he noticed that she had planted five stalks of corn, five tomato plants and not just one hill of zucchini, but seven hills. Now for those of you in the know, zucchini grows like wildfire – seven hills, indeed!!
The corn got to be about two feet tall and produced nothing. The tomatoes grew into tall beautiful plants and had dozens of wonderful, tasty tomatoes.
But the zucchini!! For once in her life, she had truly succeeded in gardening! There was zucchini EVERYWHERE!! She made stuffed zucchini, zucchini bread, zucchini fritters, frozen steamed zucchini. She gave away TONS of the stuff! And the more she used, the more it grew, and grew, and grew. It was the most crowded garden anyone had ever seen. She almost won a prize for the biggest zucchini that had ever been grown – it was the size of a huge watermelon. It was tougher than nails and had to be thrown out.
Then her thumb started to change color. It went from bright green (remember the zucchini!) to a duller, deeper color. The following year she tried to replant the garden. Nothing grew. She blamed it on the soil. The third year, nothing grew and she started to realize that maybe it was something she was – or wasn’t – doing.
Inside the house, it was almost as bad. There was a housewarming gift of a lovely philodendron. The leaves started to get brown tipped, then brown bodied, then just plain brown all over. Six months after receiving the plant, it was in the garbage. This was the time of the macramé craze. If you don’t remember macramé, it was simply rope that was tied in a zillion knots and made into a hanging planter. There was a macramé hanger in the living room – with a living Boston fern. While Boston may be a beautiful city, this particular fern wasn’t beautiful at all. It, too, died a short life. The teenaged children decided to give Mom a surprise and got a silk Boston fern and “transplanted” it into the macramé hanger. She didn’t notice the difference and watered it daily as usual. The macramé hanger eventually rotted and broke and the silk plant came tumbling to the floor, spilling not dirt, but plastic filling all over. She had, indeed, killed a silk plant! Thus was the end of the gardening career of the woman with not just one, but two brown thumbs!!
I love the beach. The first time I saw a beach was when I was five years old and my parents rented a bungalow on the east end of Long Island, in a small town called Wading River. I don’t know how they found it as it was so far from our home in Brooklyn that it seemed as if it took hours to get there and probably did. This was before highways and expressways and before Robert Moses created the roads on Long Island. I remember the road, actually a turnpike, heading east had hills and dips and we screamed in excitement over the butterflies in our stomachs, just like a roller coaster. On the weekends family would visit; uncles and aunts, grandparents and cousins, all happy to be away from the hot city streets.
The beach on the north shore of Long Island is rocky, with not much sand and the stones were hot as I gingerly walked my way from the blanket to the water. This one day the tide was out and I saw my dad and his brothers bent over and raking something and then putting their catch in pails of water. They also had traps they were emptying with something mysterious inside.
Even though my dad and his brothers were born and raised in Brooklyn, they were surrounded by water and when young enjoyed fishing and being at the beach. Their beach was usually Coney Island or Rockaway Beach, and always crowded with city dwellers trying to stay cool. That’s where they enjoyed fishing and digging for clams and crabs that were plentiful, before water pollution changed everything. This day when they were finished digging, they brought the catch for the day up to the bungalow. I peeked in the pail and besides the clams there was this thing … a creepy crawly thing with claws and antennae and spiny legs, trying to climb out.
Too afraid to touch it, I watched as the adults went about their kitchen duties. My mother put a large pot of water on the stove and when it came to a boil she picked up this creature in the middle of its body and dumped it head first into the pot. She quickly put a cover on the pot.
As I watched, I could hear scratching inside the pot and was horrified. It’s trying to get out, help somebody, help!! Laughs and chuckles at my response came from the adults. “Just wait,” they said, “it will be all worth it.” This was my first introduction to a lobster.
Finally, it was done. Now it was pink, instead of brown and no more scratching can be heard or seen.
Butter was melted and put in a bowl on the table. Clams were piled up on a platter, steamed and raw. Hot sauce, lemons and butter all lined up. I saw them take nut crackers and grab a lobster claw and break it open, pull out the pink meat, dip it in the butter and … and … in my mouth it went. Utterly, delightful, delicious, delectable.
I’m hooked! A lobster lover forever with memories of family, summer vacations, the rocky, sandy beach and that sweet taste of my first lobster.