The Landlady

Don’t Say “Tapioca” to Ruby.

My Dad calls this "Fish Eyes" Taken October, 2007 with 6275i Camera Phone
My Dad calls this “Fish Eyes”
Taken October, 2007 with 6275i Camera Phone

After my Saturday Walk-About to my parents’, I trotted back chock full of stories: “Aunt Blanche” stories… “Jimmy Prentice” stories… stories, stories, stories. I think my parents may be jealous of the “Ruby” stories getting all the blog-time around here, because I get one memory after another now, without even asking. I was all set to tell my mother’s “Aunt Blanche & the Peddler” story, or if not that one, her Jimmy Prentice & the Radio” story, or even my dad’s “Let Me Tell You About the Time I Fought the Bear and Still Have the Scar to Prove It” story, but Ruby blew them all away because of tapioca.

I will tell those others, but Ruby sure does seem to take precedence around here (seniority, maybe…?), so I’ll have to tell hers first, or, I guess let her tell it. Her “voice” is easy to fall into…

Did you have supper with your folks, tonight? You’d think you’d be a little fatter by now, with all the big meals you’re getting there on the weekends. But you walked there and back, didn’t you? That’s why you’re so skinny, you know; it’s ‘cuz you walk too much. Did you at least have dessert? What’d you have for dessert?

Me: We had tapioca.

Tapioca! Well! Don’t talk to me about tapioca! I ate tapioca as a kid, ’til it was comin’ out my ears!

Me: My Dad calls it “Fish Eyes”.

(Laughing) Well, it does kind of stare up at you, don’t it? ‘Course, now it’s all that instant stuff. The stuff *I* had to choke back had eyes as big as peas, it did.

You know I grew up in Northland, right? During the Depression? My Dad was the only man drawing a paycheck there then, except for the one hired hand he had, and then the extras he hired on in the summer – that’s when most of the maintenance on the track was done. We picked berries up the track all summer, and if we were lucky, there’d be a crew nearby and we could get a lift, berries and all, back home on a hand-car.

Well, my Dad was the Section Foreman. He had the 8 miles from Bellevue Bridge to Glendale, then it went on to Searchmont. We had the Searchmont Section Foreman to supper every now and then; he and my Dad were good friends.

Everybody else was on “relief”, but Dad got $2.35 an hour from the railroad. We did alright, on account of that, and we had the farm. My mother planted a huge vegetable garden every year. We had chickens and a couple of cows, and every spring, my Dad would buy two little pigs to raise for the summer. He’d slaughter them in the fall and we’d have bacon all winter.

Back then, being on relief was nothing like welfare is now. No, they had to work for it. The men had to work on building the road into Northland. Up ’til that road was done, the only way in or out was on the train. And at the end of the week, the government didn’t hand those men a paycheck, either. No, they got paid with a box of groceries.

Every week, all these groceries would come in on the train, and my mother would have to sort through them on the kitchen table, and divide them up into boxes for all the families to pick up. They didn’t get anything too fancy, either; canned goods, mostly, and stuff that’d “keep”. They’d get dried goods, like beans. And tapioca. There was always tapioca.

Now, my mother felt bad for anybody worse off than us, and really, we weren’t doing that much better, when I think about it. But some of these folks she felt real sorry for, and so when they wanted something a little different or needed something extra, they’d come to her and ask if they could trade for a pound of butter, or some eggs, or lard. And they always brought beans and tapioca to trade.

My mother needed more dried beans or tapioca like a hole in the head, but she never said no. She’d just put the beans and the tapioca in the pantry and hand over what they was needing. She had a little money to buy groceries at the store, but I don’t remember her ever buying beans or tapioca, not even once.

I swear, by the end of a year, there’d be a hundred pound sack of dried beans in that pantry, and we ate tapioca every damned night after supper.

Well! (Laughing) Don’t talk to me about tapioca!

Random Song for the Day: “The Man Who Sold the World” – Nirvana

7 replies on “Don’t Say “Tapioca” to Ruby.”

I love Ruby…she knows what is important in life, and you know a good story when you hear it. Thanks.

Les Says: I will tell her you said so, just to see her smile. Much as she says she doesn’t trust “that Internet”, I think she secretly enjoys the vicarious attention she receives from all my “imaginary friends”. Shhh! Don’t tell her I told you that. I’d hate for the stories to stop.

Hello Les,

I so enjoy those stories! And the way you write them.

You are very talented.

Glad I found your site.


Les Says: Well, thank you, Marie! I’m glad you found me, too! 🙂

A real story from Ruby. Far call from the government “help” of today. Handouts with no hope of making the donee self sufficient.
It’s a sad thing, but I loved the post.

Les Says: Ruby feels exactly the same way – help out those that need it, but not with a “free ride”. She feels too many people take advantage of it, and I suppose she’s right.

Welcome to Where the Walls are Soft, Catmoves. I’m glad you liked the story – Ruby’s memories are by far my most popular posts, I think. She’s garnered quite “The Following” among my blog-buddies, without ever having touched a computer herself. I wish you all could sit around her table while she talks to me – she is a gem, if ever there was one.

Hope to see you again, soon.

Hey Les,
It’s been way too long since I paid you a visit. I absolutely loved this story. Ruby sounds amazing! I need to catch up more. Hey, when are you taking that little vacation to NY? Hope you’ve been doing well. xo

Les Says: Ruby IS the most amazing person – 82 years old, and my best friend in all the world. I don’t know how I would get along without her.

As for that “vacation”, the second I can afford it, I’m so there. I’ve pretty much decided that once I’m there, I won’t want to come back, so I’ve set in motion several devious plans that may allow me to remain there… or at least get back and forth regularly. Can’t say how long those plans will take, but until some place looks better than NYC (is that even POSSIBLE?!), that’s where I’m aiming for.

You WILL play tour guide for me, right? 🙂 I really wanna see the subway rats…

Never eaten tapioca . . . not to my knowledge anyway.

But I’ve eaten more than my fair share of chicken and I’m still not bred of it. Maybe cos you can do so much with chicken.

What can you do with tapioca?

Les Says: Apparently, stare it down…

Whey-hey, Ruby’s back!! Sure have missed her gems of wisdom. I love the easy style and flowing way you write, it’s as though we’re actually sitting next to her at the kitchen table. Beatiful post hon, just as I’ve come to expect from the likes of you.. (grin)

Les Says: Awww, sweet words. Ruby is easy “to write” – I wish I was as able to put my Mom and Dad into their own voices as easily. The next post is one of my mother’s – but I wrote it third person. I’m not yet able to put her persona on the way I do Ruby’s.

Well, it IS kinda like fish eyes. The texture can be really weird if you’re not used to it.

Les Says: Textures in foods always intrigue me, although I’ve heard people say they don’t like something because of the way it “feels in their mouths.” Tapioca, now… I have to say I don’t really like it much – but it tastes “fattening”, and I’m trying like hell to gain weight. Experience has proven to me that if I eat something often enough, I’ll learn to like it. Of course, once I learn to like tapioca, they’ll quit serving it at my parents’ place. Guaranteed. 🙂

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