Christmas in Roebuck Junction (part 3)

How did you know it was not yours Aunt Roberta? Well, she turned up her nose made a face that would curdle fresh milk and said: “Because of this, this SNUFF”. Well being only 10 and growing up in the city I had no idea what snuff was except that I had seen commercials for something called Tube Rose Snuff on the Arthur Smith Show that I watched with my grandmother’s house. Now I had heard of snuff but only in old movies and it was something that men in funny costumes put on their hand, sniffed and then sneezed. I thought it might have been something for sinus problems. I made the mistake of saying: “You don’t use snuff Aunt Roberts”. “Young man, I’ll have you know I am a god-fearing Baptist. I would never use such stuff. Especially the way that Effie Bishop uses it. You would think that being a church going woman Effie would know that the Lord don’t take to dippin’ snuff. Especially by women. But I guess when you’re a Methodist, then it don’t really matter what you do”. She seemed pretty disgusted and I had no idea why. Several years later I was to find out. After she retired Aunt Roberta used to have to travel to the county seat to pick up her social security check, said she just did not trust the mailman. Effie took her every month to pick up the check, to the bank to deposit it and then to the J C Penny department store to do a little shopping. When I was 14 I spent two weeks one summer with Roberta and had to travel with her and Effie to the county seat. Effie drove an old, big Buick that Robert had bought with money from the life insurance policy on Robert. She used to say that it was just like in that movie Its A Wonderful Life, old Robert was worth more to her dead than alive. She was a little ol’ lady who could barely see over the sterring wheel. Well as soon as Roberta and I got in the car Roberta cries out: “Of Effie can’t you make just one trip with out using that snuff”. “Roberta”, said Effie, “I know you Baptist don’t take to snuff and your preacher preaches against it but my Bible says: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. – Matthew 15:11. So I will just enjoy my snuff.

Well at just that moment Effie took one of those small cans of Sweet Bee Snuff and dumped the whole thing into her lower lip! I could not believe it. She looked like a chipmunk storing away an entire winter’s worth of nuts in his cheek all at once.

Well anyway. Aunt Roberta knew that it was Effie’s because of the snuff. She said “You had better take this over to Effie and go get my real poke.” As she said that she took one more look into the bag and pulled out a thick envelop. She said “Oh, my” as she looked at it. She opened it and in the envelop were 40 $50 bills, Two thousand dollars! She sat down suddenly in the faded yellow, overstuffed chair. I thought she was going to faint. She kept mumbling, what am I going to do, what am I going to do? I asked her what was going on. She told me that each year Mr. R. J. Bledsoe picked one bag each Christmas to give a special gift of money too. It was totally at random (all the supervisors told them so) and there was no way of knowing who would get it. I could tell Aunt Roberta was wrestling with what to do about the money. She really needed the money. Her pay check at the mill barely made ends meet. Effie, on the other hand, was well off from Robert’s life insurance policy and she was well taken care of (never needed to worry about money for snuff). It was not even likely that Effie was going to go up and pick up her gifts and would never find out but Roberta’s conscience would not let her go. She put everything back in the bag and sent me off to Effie’s house and back to the mill. I knocked on the door and greeted Effie by saying Merry Christmas. She wanted to know what I was doing there and told her about the Christmas bag mix up but did not tell her that we had opened the sack. She thanked me for bringing it by and gave me a candy cane and wished me Merry Christmas. I walked back up to the mill and got back in line. When Mr. McIntosh saw me he told me “Only one bag per family little fella’ . I told him what happened and he went over and got Mrs. Traylor to come over and look at the remaining bags and she said: “He’s right Amos, this here bag has Roberta’s name on it. You really should get some glasses”. He handed the bag back to me and I raced home again. The contents of the two bags were about the same with the exception that in place of the snuff there were 4 pairs of support stockings (I learned those were the female items) and there was no envelop with $2,000. Roberta looked at me and smiled and said. I guess it will be just a simple Christmas this year.

One thought on “Christmas in Roebuck Junction (part 3)

  1. Sweet memory, Lee. The sort of story that brings Cold Sassy Tree to mind. Being born and bred in the north the stories I remember are so different in details yet one in being deeply human.

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