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Wednesday, July 7, 2010


You have heard the expression he’s quirky, meaning; among other things he does things that are out of the ordinary.  As a boy I knew a family named Quirk. To say the Quirks were quirky is not an overstatement. They were a family of five, the mother, two girls about seven or eight, and two boys about twelve and fourteen.

The father had long since died, leaving the mother to fend for herself, and for her children. I don’t think any of the children had any schooling if they did it couldn’t have been more than a year or two. These people were poor, so poor that they reminded me of the sweeper class in India when the caste system was used to keep people in there place.

The things, I’m saying about this family isn’t to be viewed as putting them down, it’s only telling it like it was. The mother had no money, that is none except a very little from what was called relief, money that the government gave her.

This is not to be confused with welfare, and all the other programs of today. What they got was almost nothing. I don’t know how they got the two dollars a month to pay their rent for a small two room house. Hygiene was something they were not acquainted with. To get water they had to take a bucket, go about two blocks, climb through a barbed wire fence, then walk through a field with prickly pears all over it. The prickly pear had sharp spines and fine hair like stickers on it. It must have been in the cactus family. You didn’t want to touch them or you would spend a lot of time trying to relieve the pain. They would then dip the water from a spring, and carry it home.

Now the girls tried to be friendly, and were seemingly happy, but I could hardly stand to look at them. They were raggedy, with dirty hair all matted, it didn’t look like they ever combed it, and besides that they appeared to me that they were ugly to boot. I always manage to look the other way when the girls were around.

The younger boy was worthless; he wouldn’t do anything to help their situation, which says it all about him. James the older boy hung around my uncle’s place hoping to get some work. He knew he could get some food at least.

James wasn’t very smart and to show that I will give you a “for instance.”

Even with all the exciting things that go on at a farm, like watching the roosters chase the hens, and watching the martin (birds) chase away the chicken hawks, I was bored.  So here I was chopping on the top of a stump, not doing anything just marking time.

James saw me and came over and put his finger where I was chopping and said hit it. I stopped chopping, and told him to keep his finger back or it would get cut off. You are probably far ahead of me at this point, but any way to continue; I started to chop again and he would put his finger on the stump and say hit it, over and over. I kept chopping at a rhythmic pace and apparently he didn’t have any rhythm because he put his finger on the stump on the down beat instead of the up beat, and I cut his finger off with just a little piece of skin still holding it.

This shocked both of us, he grabbed his finger and tried to stick it back on and ran to the house to show my uncle. After my uncle gave me some undesirable words, we went back to the barn and got some milk pads which were used for straining milk and were made of cotton and gauze. We used them for wrapping his finger back into position, no stitches, no antibiotics just the milk pads tied with string. A few days later he came over and my uncle removed the old covering and his finger looked like it was rotting.

About this time I decided to return to the city, and didn’t see James for two years, and when I did I asked about his finger. He showed it to me and it was a little crooked, but it was useable and didn’t look that bad.

Today when I hear someone speak about the poor, the vision of the Quirks comes into view, and there no comparison of the poor of today, and the poor of the depression age.

Theirs was a fight for survival while today it is battle for comfort.

I don’t know what happen to the Quirks, the last I heard, James had got a job working at the carbon factory and there he should have made a decent living wage.

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