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I learned early on that you gotta have a back-up plan. I was also grateful that Grandma Evans lived on South Market Street and her house overlooked the L&C Railroad.
Talk about a busy place, there was always something going on at the tracks by those dark wooden warehouses which stretched about down to the Southern Railway Station.
We knew that section of town as the depot, but visitors just called it South Main Street.
It wasn’t just a train depot, though. There was a bunch of businesses around it, including Mr. Bailey’s grocery store.
Seeing how I was Grandma’s favorite, if I was spending the day with her, she usually gave me some spare change so I could walk down to Bailey’s place and buy a jelly roll or a can of Vienna sausages.
It was hard to beat staying with Grandma.
I got to sleep in the company bedroom.
It had a fancy bed, too. She brought it with her when she moved from Evans Crossroads. The guest bed didn’t have wooden slats like ours at home.
Instead, there was a long rope which ran through holes in the bed rails to hold the duck down mattress.
When you climbed in it, you didn’t move very much. When you sleep in that kind of bed, you really sleep tight. You sleep sunk down, too.
After one of these overnight stays, I got up real early. There were chores to do before walking to the depot.
I went outside and started randomly tossing scratch feed to her small flock of laying hens.
Grandma was always ahead of the times. Nowadays, you called these eggs natural or ranch, since the hens laid ’em wherever they took a notion. Gathering eggs at her house was almost like hunting eggs on Easter afternoon. To be honest, it was unusual to find an egg tucked in the short row of nests across the backside of the chicken house.
Grandma was up, too, and the smell of fried ham was seeping out from the kitchen.
Her cat head biscuits were bigger than a hamburger bun and were always piping hot when she slid them from the oven of her old wood stove.
In no time at all, I was downing ham, eggs, grits and hot biscuits.
After getting my fill, I headed outside to finish my chores.
Grandma went about hers, too. She might’ve been short and thin, but she was full of energy.
Grandma cleaned the house every day except Sunday.
She had scrubbed the kitchen floor so much that the pictures on the linoleum rug were faded.
In no time, everything was gleaming.
We sat down to listen to the noonday broadcast, which included the latest war news.
After that, the daily soap operas got her full attention.
Since she was tied up, I moseied down to the Depot to Mr. Ballard’s furniture store and the International Harvester-Farmall shop for a little look see.
That’s when I stumbled into a gold mine of discarded cardboard.
The light bulb above my head flickered brightly. This meant if my regular supply of building materials at Parr Brothers was gone, I had another place.
With the war going on, factories that normally made refrigerators and stoves were building tanks and army trucks. But every once in a while something arrived in a big cardboard box and I was making sure that I was the early bird to this stash.
Now, it just so happened that me and Billy Pipkins needed a new hideout.
We weren’t up to no-good, but boys need their own secret place to keep special treasures.
Behind the Williams’ apartments, where Billy lived, was a whole yard covered in high grass and blackberry briers. It was perfect.
After a little clearing work with our machetes, (old discarded butcher knives) everything was ready. I had already hauled some almost- brand new cardboard home from the depot.
Me and Billy dragged it through the trail in the weeds we had hacked out and started construction.
We spent all afternoon and finally, just before supper time, we were finished.
The next day we filled it up with an old rug, some good funny books and of course for protection, a couple of air rifles.
The rifles wouldn’t shoot, but they made us feel safe. Besides, that’s the main thing, isn’t it?
Now, as some of you may know, cardboard doesn’t hold up very good when it rains.
Thinking back about Grandma’s kitchen rug, I just remembered an old piece of linoleum in the plunder house.
Bless Pete, it was a perfect fit for our hideout roof.
We got our money’s worth from this batch of cardboard and old piece of flooring.
This hideout was built to last and proved to be just about the best one we ever had, not counting the old carriage house back in the bushes that was sorta hard to get to.
You know, hideouts never go out of fashion.
Today, grown men don’t use cardboard buildings to hide marbles and dull butcher knives, but you can find us hunkered down in shops, dens, man caves, or in one bay of a two-car garage.
They just don’t work as well, though. Our wives usually find us without too much trouble.