Note: This short prose may be a bit raunchy. My mother had a hard time growing up the oldest of nine children. However, the story is true and has been told to me by my mother many times. The mid-1920s was when people were no different than they are today. The difference was many lives were built on generations of secrets and lies. She was in her eighties when I last heard it. It made me smile then as it has today. E.
The Mountainside Whore
At my age, remembering the past is no small feat! However, my mother was the oldest of nine children, and with her daddy’s free field hand, she was made to quit school in the third grade.
She was allowed to go to Hartselle shopping on many occasions with her daddy. She had spoken of how these were the only times she felt free, alone with her daddy, free of taking care of eight children. Her mother was always pregnant. Being the oldest, she cared for the house, barn, and field chores, as a midwife and cared for the children.
Her mama came from money. She married money; within time, her daddy had sold off all the lands he owned to take care of his habit of drinking and women. Her mother was “lazy” when a child was born; Ruth’s duty was to raise them. Her daddy was also “lazy,” home long enough to get her mother pregnant, eat, and leave orders for Ruth to do while he was gone.
On that day, her daddy told her to stay outside the store, that he was getting something she could not know about.
“You sit outside, sister girl.” He mumbled between spitting the plug of tobacco that left permanent stains on the edges of his mouth.
She had always been called “sister girl,” he went into the Hartselle Mercantile, where he came out with a big box later during one trip. She thought he had bought something for her mama. She watched as he later hid it in the barn’s loft; he knew her mama would never go up there. She was afraid of snakes that sometimes crawled up there to keep warm.
Later, Ruth crawled up in the barn loft, digging around until she found the box. Inside was a beautiful red dress, shiny like a new penny. She put it back, knowing that her mama would be so surprised when he gave it to her. My mother, a scrawny little girl, turned into a demon the following Sunday. She could not hold her anger. She stood on the front pew of the tiny, whitewashed church, demanding that it was her mama’s dress and the “Mountainside Whore” was to take it off. Knowing what was in the box, the “Mountainside Whore” wore the red dress.
“Take that dress off, you whore; it’s my mama’s.” It felt like her voice was echoing throughout the Tennessee Valley.
The entire congregation turned to see who she was screaming at; mostly, they could see a red streak running out of the church with a scrawny little girl chasing her, tiny fist in the air. That was when the entire family left the church in silence. The preacher raised his hands to the choir, and instantly all anyone could hear was “In the sweet bye-bye.”
Her mama never returned to church again. Yet, it didn’t stop her daddy from visiting the Mountainside Whore in the red dress on Saturday nights. When my mother told this story, she would call her daddy a “Whoremonger”.
The young woman regaining her composure, went back to church every Sunday. She lived way into her nineties and asked to be buried in that shiny red dress. As she aged, she would often tell her life story on the mountainside; it was hard to believe as all most could see were the wrinkles and dark aged spots.
She was a beautiful woman and had a grand funeral from what she saved through the years, an open casket for all to see that she was the young girl in the shiny red dress. Who would want anyone who was only known as the “Mountainside Whore”? She is never married.
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