Friday, April 24, 2009

My Aunt Frankie

My aunt Frankie had grown up in Nacogdoches. She moved to Houston with her mom and dad when she was a young adult, but always seemed to hold onto the language of East Texas. She would talk freely about the "Newninted States", "newsing" a hammer to drive a nail, and mowing the "fron chard".

She was fifteen when I was born, so we were almost "kids" at the same time.

Early in my life, I learned that Aunt Frankie knew how to make a bird trap, and that someday she'd teach me how.

The big day came when I was nine or ten, and went up to Houston to visit Granny and Frankie for a couple of weeks. Aunt Frankie spent her working life at a box factory which was near where she and Granny were living at that time, and had brought home some wooden strips about 3/4" square in cross section. We used a hand saw to cut them to the desired lengths.

We nailed the strips together in a fashion similar to the "pens" we little kids used to make while playing in Granny's woodpile back in Nacogdoches. We tapered the sides toward each other, so that the result was a truncated pyramid. Then we closed the top with some strips nailed across.

Next, she took one of the sticks and cut a very small notch in it with a pocket knife. Next, came a thin flat board, which she leaned against the notched stick, which was placed almost vertically, but slightly off plumb, to prop the pyramid up. Therefore, one side of the box rested on the ground, and the other cleared the ground by about 4".

Then Aunt Frankie said, "That's it. You put your feed on here, pointing to the inclined board, and when the bird......" At that point I became extremely incredulous. What bird was going to come into that box if my feet were on that board? I quickly realized that she'd said "feed" in her own way. We set the trap properly, but never caught a bird. If a bird had approached, walked under the box, and began to peck on the feed, it would have knocked the flat board out of the notch, and the stick would have fallen, dropping the box over the bird.

I guess I'd probably have not the slightest idea what to do with it if we had caught a bird, but the experience of making the trap was a memorable time with my Aunt Frankie.

Sentimental addendum Feb. 1, 2012:

It must have been early in November of 2001 when my sister informed me that Sunday was All Saints' Day at Aunt Frankie's church in Refugio, and they were dedicating the service to Aunt Frankie, who had left us on May 21.  We felt a need to attend.  Although we had been to her funeral months before, Aunt Frankie deserves more.  I said to my sister, "You must be nuts!  All Saints Day was Thursday!", but then I learned for the first time that in the Methodist Church, the church I attended from age five until my first daughter was born, it is customarily celebrated on the first Sunday in November.  I must have taken my early religious training seriously, however inattentively.

On that Sunday morning,  while waiting for my wife to get ready, I happened to hear on the radio, a rendition of Eddie Arnold singing "Aloha Oe" (beautifully, of course).  We made the two-and-a-half hour drive to Refugio without incident, and arrived with plenty of time before the service.

I think that Aunt Frankie's favorite hymn, "How Great Thou Art", must have been sung at least three times during that hour, and each time, my subconscious said...., "Heeeyyy" ...and, often in the intervening years, I'll be going through a song in my head:
Then sings my soul,
My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!....
Aloha oe, aloha oe...., 
Until we meeet again.



Julie Holmans said...

When I was a kid...and asked probably too many questions...I asked my very dear Grandma, "Why does Aunt Frankie not have any kids?" My awesome Grandma explained as well she could...and my thoughts turned into action...I thought if Aunt Frankie does not have any of her own kids...I really want to show her all the love I can, so maybe she wont miss not having them quite so much...It was very easy to love Aunt Frankie...

Willie C said...

Well said, Julie. I will not try to relate what your Grandma may have said, but I'm sure that I know. Aunt Frankie deserved the gratitude of the whole family.

Julie Holmans said...

She has a special place in my heart...