dale

When I was growing up my grandmother had an “old maid” cousin. Now wait a minute. I know that’s not politically correct but my grandmother said she was an old maid and this was in an altogether different society than what we occupy now. Besides, Miss Bessie would tell anyone who listened that she was an old maid by choice. So, she was indeed an old maid. As a matter of fact, she was the same fourth cousin removed whose kittens I baptized the summer I was an animal missionary-in-training. 

Not only was she my grandmother’s cousin, she was my grandmother’s older cousin — in her late 70s at the time. 

Miss Bessie was born with a proverbial silver spoon in her privileged mouth. Her father made a fortune in the cotton gin business. Well, it was considered a fortune in that day and time. Ownership of this spoon is probably the reason she never married. She was always afraid that any man who showed interest in her was after her money. Her father sent the young men apackin’ by the dozen. That very scenario happened a couple of times in her youth which proved her theory that no smart, modern-day woman needed to be married. 

After her father and brother died, my grandmother was her only living relative. So, Miss Bessie latched onto Grandmother and Granddad like a hungry leach. She only lived a skip and hop up the road from our bunch and the “grands” would check on her every day. After all, they were in her will.

Miss Bessie decided she needed to buy a car so that she would not have to call on Granddad every time she wanted to go to town. 

She bought a gigantic green DeSoto. Ugliest car ever I did see.

OK, she had her ride but she had never learned to drive. 

She decided at 80 that she needed to learn to drive her chariot. 

Granddad was elected by popular vote to take on the task. He sorta wanted an excuse to drive that big green boat anyway.

Now, Granddad teaching anyone how to drive was kinda like the blind leading the crippled across a busy street. Not a good combination.

We had a lot of four-way stop signs around Tupelo and Granddad thought that if there was nobody coming you didn’t have to stop no matter what the sign said. He lost several arguments with traffic cops about this very issue. He interpreted the rules in his own unique way and nothing anybody said could change his mind.

He was rather lenient with Miss Bessie’s drivers ed course. He taught her everything he knew. Oh, yeah. That scared my dad to death.

It took about six months for the word to circulate around the community. Miss Bessie went to the grocery store every Tuesday after lunch. 

Everybody agreed. You don’t tic off Miss Bessie. On Tuesday afternoons you get off the road and stay off. If you have an appointment, you change it. 

Miss Bessie only used half the road - but her half was right down the middle of the ditches. If you met her, the only safe thing for you to do was to either back up or hit the ditch.

There were lots of curves out in the country and she had sense enough to know that if you took the middle of the road around a curve there might be some surprises in store. Her solution: 100 feet before she entered the curve she sat down on her horn and didn’t let up until she was 100 feet out of the curve. That way, if you heard her coming — and you would hear her coming — and didn’t get out of the way, whatever happened was all your fault. 

You could hear her tootin’ all the way to town.

Long after Miss Bessie died, the flipping’ DeSoto lived on. It was inherited by my grandparents. When they got too old to drive, it was passed on to my dad. You couldn’t kill it. It wouldn’t even rust. It lasted about 35 years until Dad couldn’t find parts anymore and finally had to put her to rest. 

This man’s wife and daughter did not grieve for the demise of the Gruesome Green Road Hog.

‘Technically speaking, you drive like a rabid chicken who has hijacked a tractor.'        Sarah Rees Brennan

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