CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - A House Is Not A Home

(05/19/2001)

According to the Census, a house is not a home…

You may have seen the report that the last Census turned up only around 23 percent of what could be considered "traditional homes" in the nation. We're talking Ozzie, Harriet and their two kids, like in mom, dad, family circle, dog, cat and apple pie. As I once attended a leading university in the northern part of the state-my attendance was excellent; I just had problems with the structured programs-and I had been exposed to research methods I decided to conduct my own study in the Tri-Holler region and see how it fared with the country as a whole.

With notepad in hand-I still use pen and pencil instead of any electronic recording devices which probably puts me far down the Census list as a traditional reporter…but is the Hur Herald "traditional"?-I set out on my quest.

My first stop was at a nice brick house just off the main drag in Big Puf. I had seen several women milling around there and had figured it as one big extended family. When I walked up the steps onto the porch one of the young women met me with a great big welcoming smile. "What can I do for you, honey?" she murmured close to my ear. "Well, M'am," I stuttered, "I'm doing research and …." She stopped me with, "I ain't the Madam, she's over there," and she pointed to a rather stout lady who seemingly had overdosed on rouge. I walked over and politely asked, "Would you consider this a traditional home?" "This ain't a home, dearie, it's a house!" I heard giggling from the women and I felt that if people weren't taking my research seriously I would just move on.

Farther up a side holler I spied a somewhat rundown dwelling with kids running everywhere, screaming and cussing. I figured this must be one big hill family living in rustic harmony and would be traditional beyond doubt.

I was told to come in by a rather unkempt woman in curlers dressed in a robe and holding a cigarette in her hand. A man dressed in long johns sat at the table with a beverage that we Methodists have always rather frowned upon, but I was here not to make value judgments but to conduct impartial research.

When I remarked what a nice big family they had, the woman in a somewhat harsh voice and a wave of her cigarette said, "Most of them kids ain't mine unless you're from the welfare, most of 'em's hisn." He shot back, "Ain't no sich a thing, woman! They's two girls mine, the rest is yourn." She said, "Ain't so! The little blond boy is yourn by your brother's third wife." He replied, "What about that little tow-head? You had him by a Pratlow over on Blue Tick." She replied, "Well, what about that little red-headed girl? She ain't mine!" He said, "She ain't mine neither. Whur'd she come frum?"

Well, by the time they had things sorted out they determined that they had picked up the little red-head by mistake the last time they had visited Ohio and that she must belong to a cousin. I marked down "non-traditional" and moved on.

Over on a side holler I found a nice little cabin with curtains in the windows, flowers in the yard and no kids screaming and trying to kill each other. Newlyweds, I reasoned.

I was met at the door by a rather good-looking young man and when I told him my mission he called out to his "partner" and another young man with longish hair came into the room. When I asked where the woman of the house was they both giggled and winked. I began to feel a little uncomfortable and thought that I might be intruding. When I told them I would just be moving on as I had a busy research schedule they stood in the doorway holding hands, waving and I heard one remark that I was rather cute for an old guy. Well, I wasn't about to be distracted in my pursuit of scientific knowledge.

So far, I was having difficulty in finding that "traditional" household that the Census workers had discovered. But never daunted, I moved on.

Around a bend I came upon a neat little house. When I knocked on the door a little girl let me in. She called me "sir" and said she would fetch her mommie and daddy. The family had just sat down at the table and nothing would do them but that I must join them.

The little girl had a brother and he stood up when I entered. The father rose and shook my hand, and the mother hurriedly set a cup of coffee before me. Then came a slab of apple pie. When I remarked how delicious it tasted, the mother replied, "I just love to cook. Of course, next to cleaning and washing and ironing, and goodness, just all the fun things I can find to do around the house." The father replied, "Sure feels good to come home and be met at the door with my slippers and pipe after a hard day at the office."

The kids had finished eating and instead of jumping up and running from the table they asked to be excused as they had considerable homework to finish.

I sat there the longest time enjoying the comfort of the table. At last I poised my question. "Yes, I would say we are average," the father thoughtfully answered. "Just a typical American family." The mother smiled sweetly and said, "father always knows best."

By golly, I had beaten the Census figures by a good two percentage points and had proven that we hill folks are just as normal as the rest of the country.


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