Southern Legitimacy Statement (redux): ’m a fifth generation East Tennessean. I’ve cleared fields, dug post holes, chopped wood, and hauled hay. Had a beagle named Clyde that wadn’t worth a damn. As a teen I worked at the local AM country radio station which was housed in a trailer where I hosted the Swap & Shop and Flea Market on the Air. I did live remote broadcasts from the county fair and interviewed the FFA Queen. Used to arm wrestle a fur trapper. Watched a possum crawling out of a dead dog and didn’t lose my lunch. One of my best friend’s most prized possessions was a 1969 Snapper with the original paint. Cartoons I drew of him and his Snapper were published in the Southern Lawnmowers Dealers Newsletter. I’ve been bribed many times with homemade chicken and dumplin’s – now ain’t that enough proof?
John asked “Can’t we feed them scraps?”
Belle replied “What scraps? We have nothing to spare. We do well to feed our own children and sometimes they go to bed hungry”.
“Do you think some of the neighbors might want any of them?” asked John.
“They ain’t in any better shape than we are. You know that, and some even worse. Let’s face it, we’re over run with them and it ain’t getting any better,” she continued “You know I love cats. One of my fondest memories is the kitten my daddy give me, but things change and more oft than not the hardest thing to do is the right thing to do. Can’t you see them kittens are starving because the momma cat’s milk is dried up? I’ve thought about this long and hard and tomorrow I’m gonna’ do it,” Belle said in a determined voice.
It was a clear day, not a cloud in the sky, and Belle sent her children out to do their chores. Then she put on her bonnet, grabbed the grass sack from the corner of the porch and walked down the steps. Belle placed some large rocks in it and then proceeded to put every stray kitten she could find put in the sack. As Belle was walking down the dirt road she could feel the sack vibrating from their cries. Some of the neighbors asked what she was doing and she told them – didn’t even try to hide it. A few even asked her to wait and fetched more for her to take. When she had all she could carry Belle walked to the creek bank, threw the sack in and watched it sink. She got home just as the kids were finishing up their chores and started cooking. Belle had always tried to have supper on the table as John walked in the door.
After the meal the kids asked to be excused and went outside to play. Belle and John walked out on the porch to catch the evenin’ breeze. When they sat down John asked “You did it, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” she said “Put some rocks in a grass sack, tossed them kittens in the sack, threw it in the creek and watched them drown.”
“Watched,” said John in a curious voice.
“Yeah, just stood there staring for a few minutes, even after the sack disappeared under the water.”
“Why?” John asked.
Belle replied in slow but steady voice “because I never want to forget it.”
John reached over and took Belles hand. They just sat there listening to their children playing in the distance and taking in the sweet smell of honeysuckle.