I come from a long line of juddywhackers.
From childhood on, I was surrounded by a bunch of grown-ups who had no problem stretching, embellishing and sometimes completely fabricating the truth if it suited whatever fable they were concocting.
Oftentimes, these scenarios involved a very naïve and gullible chubbikins, also known as yours truly.
It started with my dear, sweet Uncle Bobby, a man who would not hurt a fly but would pull my leg all day.
He was largely responsible for my round shape as a child, bringing me brownies, donuts, and candy bars on a daily basis.
And they always included an elaborate tale with them.
He saw my face light up one day when he told me he had got me something extra-super special as he handed me a cupcake with swirly frosting and sprinkles on top. A pastry far fancier than Granny’s sprinkle-shy cakes.
I oohed and ahhed over it; it was a cupcake fit for a princess. It was almost too pretty to eat but that wouldn’t stop me now and wouldn’t slow me down then.
“Is this for me?” I asked.
He nodded. “And you want to what else? I made that special – just for you!”
“You made it?” I exclaimed, frosted crumbs dropping from my lips.
“I did. They let me go in the bakery and make it just for you! I put all of those sprinkles on there, too.”
This was the tale he gave for every sweet treat he got me. According to his tales, that man was in more bakeries, candy manufacturers and ice cream shops than he was fox holes in Viet Nam.
And now that I look back on it, this whole “especially for you” is probably what contributed to me thinking nothing can make you feel as good as a donut or a dozen.
Granny’s tales didn’t involve food but were often used to either entertain me or dissuade me from doing something.
I was told fables of folly about how my face was going to freeze and I was going to have 10 little girls who were just as sassy and mean as me. That last one usually stopped me in my tracks.
She often spun her tales around growing up and doing things like picking cotton and keeping opossums out of the chicken house.
And one time, a bull was involved.
“I was told to go put the cows up,” she began. “So off I went. I headed out to the pasture where they were and had to herd them up. This was a tough thing for just a small child to do. I was younger than you when I did this.”
“How did you herd them?”
“I clapped my hands at them and told them they needed to come home because Mama was not going to rest until they did – and they knew how ornery she was. You know that saying, ‘til the cows come home?’ Well, I’ve never been given proper credit but I do believe I was the one that said it first.”
“And they all went back to the barn?”
“Yes, they did. All but one. And this one was out in this other field. I had to walk all the way over there – it was far, too. It didn’t seem that far when I was just a-looking at this cow but when I started walking it in the heat it was.
“Anyway, I was about halfway across the field when I realized something – that was not a cow.”
“What was it?” I asked.
“It was a bull! A great big old ill bull. And there I was, in this pasture with it, hooting and hollering for it come on home.”
“I’m telling you!” she exclaimed. “This bull, he was huge, maybe three times bigger than my Oldsmobile, and he was angry. He charged towards me and I knew I was a goner. I thought, that’s it. I am not gonna die at the horns of this bull. I am going to fight and get him back in the barn if it is the very last thing I do.
“He came running towards me and I went under him. Just dove straight down like I was going for the bases in baseball. I had a mouthful of dirt when I came up but I didn’t care. I had managed to get behind it and even though that bull was going probably 30 miles an hour, I grabbed hold of its tail and held on. He snorted and tore across the pasture and I was just a bumping along like a tin can in the back. He’d go one way, and I’d go the other.”
“I held on for dear life – I knew if I let go, he would surely kill me. And finally, I realized he would go the way I twisted his tail. So I’d twist it to the right and there’d he go. Or I’d twist it to the left. I got him back to the barn and when he went in, I let go and shut the barn door. Daddy always said I was able to handle that bull better than anybody after that.”
“You could have been killed, Granny!”
“Nah,” she said. “I was meaner than that bull. I couldn’t die.”
I asked her brother, G.E., once if it was true.
“I’m going to tell you the truth – as it is known to me,” he said, a serious look on his face. “It wasn’t just one bull, it was two. And Helen stared one down and made the poor thing run off – our daddy was still looking for that bull until the day he died. Sometimes, we would think we heard it booing –”
“Yes, child, booing. Cows moo, bulls boo. We thought we would hear it off in the distance booing but it never did come home. Helen had scared it that bad. Daddy may have lost a prize bull.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Truth?”
“You don’t think I would tell you a juddywhacker, do you?”
I honestly wasn’t sure. I had heard some mighty big tales.
And somewhere, in betwixt and between, there was some teeny, tiny kernels of truth.