Today I’m going to tell you a story about my dad. It came to my mind when someone a couple of days ago blogged about thier mother not cooking wild meat.
My mother and father lived about four miles north of highway 270 west of McAlester, Oklahoma on land where my great grandparents lived. There is a quarter mile drive off the main road to their house. When mama was a little girl her and her grandfather planted a pine tree at the corner of the main road and the drive. That pine tree remains alive and well to this day.
Back in the 1980’s my dad worked at the Navy Ammunition Plant at Haywood as a truck driver and forklift operator. He drove on and off the mountain at least five days a week. Mom would pack a lunch for him every day, which he would put in the refrigerator at the work office.
Everyday someone would get into the lunches in the refrigerator and eat things out of people’s lunch sacks. They thought they knew who the fellow was, but they couldn’t prove it. Everyone was frustrated with this guy.
One evening when dad was coming home, he got to the pine tree and thought there was a big limb in the road. He opened the truck door and that big limb coiled. Having a pistol under the seat he proceeded to shoot and kill a seven and a half foot diamond back rattler. He brought it to the house and skinned it out. Mom took the back bone meat and cut it into chunks and fried it. That’s what they ate for dinner that night. My sister said it was good eating and tasted a lot like chicken.
My dad decided he would take some to work the next day for his lunch. He never told a soul about killing the snake or what he had for lunch. He put it in the refrigerator as he always did and went out to the docks to unload a truck. Noon rolled around and all the guys were sitting at the table eating. Daddy’s lunch had been gotten into and about half of the meat had been eaten.
Dad began talking and telling the guys about the big rattlesnake he had killed the night before and how mom had cooked it up for him. He even brought some for his lunch. Dad said the man accross from him, who happened to be the man who they thought was getting into the lunches, choked on his food. His color turned pasty white and then he turned green and had to leave the room. They could hear him retching outside and all knew he was throwing his toenails up.
Everyone had a great laugh and guess what else. No one’s lunch was ever robbed again. The man got cured.
Daddy had that snake skin mounted and it hung over their television set for over twenty years. He would still laugh when he told that story about his big snake.
The day I found it, I knew beyond any doubt, He was real. That profound piece of knowledge is shown to me repeatedly through my life.
I am a mother of two children, now grown. I’ve been an RN for thirty-two years. Before I became a nurse, I spent years trying to survive and take care of my two young children as a single mom. I lived on food stamps and in public housing, and I hated every minute of it.
I’d always wanted to be a nurse and in fact started college right out of high school. I decided at that point I wanted my man, and put love above my education. I was married to my children’s father for nine years. He decided he wanted to play. I’m a selfish woman, I don’t share well. My marriage ended.
I was living in Vernon, Texas when my marriage crumbled, and my family was in Oklahoma. Everything about my world crumbled around me. I didn’t have a job, I had two small children, and I was an emotional wreck. I wasn’t dealing with my failed marriage well. I had my children wanting their father, and my family telling me the children needed their daddy. I actually swallowed my pride and asked my husband to move back home. I met him at the door, when he moved back. He gave me a kiss and I knew with that kiss something was missing. His being home lasted four days. He couldn’t stay away from his play toy. There was too much pain to handle. I packed up and moved back home to McAlester.
The subsidized housing we lived in was not bad, but the neighborhood could get rough. At that point, in time, which was in the mid 1970’s I, felt as if I were the only white-skinned person in the complex. My apartment was broken into a couple of times and once I made the mistake of leaving my month’s food stamps on the end table. They disappeared.
I rejoiced when I received a five-dollar increase in my welfare check. Every five dollars in my pocket helped. The rejoicing didn’t last long. The housing authority raised my rent by six dollars a month. It was a losing battle. There was no way to win.
We never had enough money to buy the non-food items we needed, such as laundry soap, toilet paper, and dishwashing soap. Times got so bad that my children would go to a service station and steal toilet paper for us to use.
Towards the end of the month, we would run out of food. Weekends and summer were the hardest, because the kids didn’t get their breakfast and lunch at school. I was blessed enough to have a mom and dad who let me and the kids come to their house for supper when we needed to. I felt like a failure from beginning to end. I couldn’t do anything right. I was supposed to have stayed married, and raised my kids with both a mother and a father. Instead, I felt like a moocher, even though I know they didn’t feel that way. The guilt I felt was eating me up.
I finally got enough of my mind back that I decided to go back to college and fulfill my dream of becoming a nurse. I couldn’t continue to let my children live the way they were living. My mom was so supportive. She encouraged me every chance she got. She wanted me to get the education she’d always wanted for me. I had to be able to take care of my children and myself.
My uncle teased me about not needing an education, because I now had two diplomas, Allan and Stephanie. He’d tried to talk me out of quitting school to marry my kids father, but of course being young and in love I didn’t listen.
Using Pell Grants, I moved to Wilburton and began college at Eastern Oklahoma State College. I made application to their nursing program and was accepted. The two-year program, which I took three to complete, was tough. I took all of my prerequisites one year and did nursing the next two years.
The kids and I lived in a two-bedroom house trailer on campus for the first year. I had a car but didn’t drive much except to go back home to see mom and dad. Mom would usually give me money for the gasoline. The problem of living in Wilburton and being in school, I no longer qualified for food stamps, because I received too much money from the Pell Grant.
We still had to eat and pay bills, so I took a part-time job at a local nursing home working as an aide. Since my family owned nursing homes, I was well qualified. I’d done everything from cooking in the kitchen to the laundry room. The down side to the job, it didn’t pay much more than minimum wage, and I had to pay for day care. It didn’t leave me much money. I worked whenever I could.
Through God’s grace, we made it through the first year. Due to almost freezing to death in that trailer, I found a walk-up apartment I could afford to rent. The kids’ day care was down the road from us about a block, and I could drop them off on my way to class without having to drive out of my way.
My second year of nursing school was the toughest. I couldn’t work many hours because of my clinical schedule for school. It got to the point one time when there wasn’t even milk for the kids in the refrigerator. I had nothing. I cried and I prayed and cried some more. I’d finally cried all the tears I could and I needed comfort.
Something made me pick up my Bible and I began reading in my favorite book of Isaiah. I felt comforted, as I always did. After my divorce, I slept with the Bible close to me. God was my comfort and my strength. When I turned, the page, what I saw astounded me. I began crying all over again, except this time with joy.
Stuck inside my Bible was a crisp, new ten-dollar bill. I didn’t put it there, which made it a miracle for me. It would let me buy food until my payday from work rolled around in a couple of days. I fell on my knees and began praising God. I knew then I didn’t have anything to worry about because He was with me. You know what, He still is. I worry very little because I know God has my back. I have failed him many times, but He has never failed me.
Times remained hard while I was in school, but I received my nursing license and my world turned around. I know I made it through with God’s help and the help of my family.