Arkansas moonshine and California citrus.
A stone church and an ironing board.
World War II.
Mix it all up. Add six children into the mix, three of each, and you’ve got a unique product – Bea Jones. A lady, when asked how she was, liked to retort, “I’m fat and sassy.”
Bea’s tale takes you on the ride from California to Arkansas – to Missouri – and back to California in the early forties. The family finally settles down in a small California town, Glendora, nestled at the base of the foothills. While they viewed Mt. Baldy every day, life also threw its own mountains in the Jones’ family path. Come along and join the family as Bea and Casey struggle to keep their family fed and clothed, with just a bit of Arkie sass.
Coming July 15th!
Only $10 by June 30th! (Plus $2.75 shipping)
STORY SNIPPET FROM FAT AND SASSY…
“Oil change. Nine-ninety-nine.”
“Next fuel. Seventy-six miles.”
“Be a Pepper.”
Bea read off the billboards, one by one as they passed. The miles ahead stretched out through the desolate desert, taunting and teasing of the long trip ahead.
“Arizona border’s coming up,” muttered Bea.
“Ayup.” Casey, a man of fewer words than his wife, kept his hands on the wheel as the green Chevy shadowed the U-Haul of them.
Bea’s head swiveled, watching every sight. Her right foot pressed tightly on the floorboard, as if she could monitor the breaking action from where she sat. “It’s a mite different trip than the last time we drove this route.” The tiny, flocked dog sat on the dashboard, bobbing its head in silent agreement, as if it knew.
Casey kept his eyes on the road. “Doesn’t seem like it was thirty years ago.” He chuckled in amusement at his wife. “And you read off all the signs along the way on that trip too. Although, back then it was mostly Burma Shave signs.”
Bea didn’t hear him. Her mind had retreated to the spring of 1942, when they’d made this same drive, following the same Route 66. Although much had changed along the way, including the signs she loved to read, and their transportation, it was still a similar trip. Without being aware of it, she started rocking as if one-year-old Tom were sitting in her lap instead of driving the U-Haul up ahead of them.
“Mama, Bill kicked me.” Mae was nestled in the back seat between her little brother, Bill, and little sister, Helen. The three children rode on top of a make shift pallet layered over the top of the families few belongings that filled the 1930 Chevy to the brim.
“William Houston Jones, you behave and stop pesterin’ yore sister.” At Bea’s bellow, Tom, the baby sleeping on Bea’s lap awoke and started wailing.
Bill responded by turning his face towards the window in a pout.
“You’re just a three year old cry baby.” Mae stuck her tongue out to reinforce her taunt. With the confusion and the crying baby, Helen, who had been dozing slumped against Mae’s shoulder, woke up and pitched in with her cries.
Casey stared straight ahead. His jaw clenched and the lines around his mouth tightened. Bea glanced at him and noticed the white knuckles gripping the steering wheel. “No look what ya’ done. Cuddle your sister and get her to stop crying.”
“But Mama, why do I have to cuddle her?” Mae protested.
“Because I can’t reach back there for starters. Because yore her big sister. I’m busy with the baby. Now go on…take care of Helen. She’s only two.”
Casey slowed the old Chevy down and drifted over to the shoulder. “It’s time for a stop. I can’t drive and concentrate with everyone a’ carryin’ on like this. I was hoping we’d make it to Barstow before we had to stop the first time.”
He turned the key in the ignition towards the off position. It sputtered and coughed several times before shuddering to a halt. Casey opened his door and stepped out, leaving Bea and the children I the car. He wandered off the pavement, heading to the open land that stretched out for miles.
Bea hollered out the open window. “Casey Jones, just where do you think you’re a headin’?”
“Now don’t get your knickers in a twist, Mother. I’m just attending to a little business back this way.” Casey replied back over his shoulder, but kept walking.
“If’n yore gonna go water a bush, then come take Bill with you.” Bea lowered her voice to a mutter. “Men…” She thought the sun rose and set on her man. But sometimes…
When father and son returned to the Chevy, little Bill toddling behind on his short three year old legs, Casey paced while the children ran, stretching their legs. Bea took the opportunity while stopped to tend to Tom, feeding him and changing his diaper. “Mae, keep an eye on Bill and Helen,” she reminded her eldest daughter.
“Why do I always have to watch them, Mama?” Mae stomped her foot in aggravation.
“Ona Mae, don’t be sassin’ me back. Want your mouth washed out with soap? You need to watch them because you’re the oldest. You’re five years old now.”
Bea turned around and called out to her husband, who had the hood up and was fiddling with the radiator. “Are you wanting some lunch while we’re stopped?”
“No, not yet. It’s too early. Maybe when we get to Barstow and fuel up. I need to fill the water jugs while we’re there too. I already had to add water.”
“How long are we gonna’ travel today?”
Casey slammed the hood shut. “I’d like to make it to Needles. If I recollect, there’s a good spot outside Needles where we can stop for dinner and sleep for a few hours.”
“That’s still in California. We’re not even gonna make it out of state today?”
“Not quite. We hit the state line a few miles after Needles. I want to be traveling through that area late night and get an early start in the morning to avoid the heat of the day.”
“At least it’s only April right now and it’s not later in the year. The desert shouldn’t be terribly bad yet.”
“That’s why I wanted to head out now, instead of when Mae was out of school. I didn’t want to drive through the desert during June, no siree. Why, it’s just barely April. It’s the first today.”
“Good thing Mae’s Easter break was this week. That made a good time to pull her out of kindergarten and travel.”
Mae tugged at her mother’s skirt. “But Mama…if Easter is in a few days, and we’re not at our house on Easter…how will the Easter Bunny find us?”
“Don’t you be worrin’ about that, sister. I’m sure the Easter Bunny has ways we don’t know about.”
Casey wiped his palms on his pants legs and headed towards the parked car. “Let’s get back on the road. I don’t want to be losin’ any more time. This trip just got started and we have a lot of miles to cover.”
Bea started shutting the children back in the car. They climbed up on the perch in the back seat. They’d piled all the belongings they could into the ageing vehicle. The trunk was stuffed full. The rest they’d filled in the back seat, and topped it with all the blankets, creating a raised level area where the three oldest children rode.
“A’yep. Papa’s gonna be countin’ the days till we get there.” Bea shifted Tom on her lap, trying to get comfortable.
Mae got settled down in the back between Bill and Helen. “Where’s Papa’s house? I forget.”
“In Arkansas. It’s the same house I was born in, along with all of my brothers.”
“Are all your brothers going to be there too, Mama?”
“Oh no. Only Uncle Sam. The others have grown up and moved out.”
After the brief stop, the ride was quiet for some time. By the time they were getting close to Barstow, all four children were dozing and Bea’s head bobbed and dropped to her chest.
The town loomed ahead on the horizon. Casey enjoyed the last few miles in silence as everyone slept. Passing the city limits, he nudged Bea’s shoulder. “Wake up, Mother. We’re in Barstow.”
Bea opened her eyes and started watching the scenery change. Her head swiveled back and forth. “The town’s grown just since we came through here last time.”
Casey pulled into a small service station on the main thoroughfare. “Twenty one cents?” His voice rose in surprise.
“Hush! You’ll wake the chillin’s. What’s twenty one cents?”
“Gasoline. Twenty one cents a gallon. Why, I declare, that’s highway robbery. It was only nineteen cents a gallon back home.”
“We’re on the road now. It always costs more on the road.”
“It hurts a man to pay that price. Why, it took me an hour and a half of work to make that much money. Just for a gallon of gas.”
“Shush. Here comes the attendant. Don’t hurt his feelings. He’s not the one setting the price.”
The young man approached the driver’s side of the car, tucking the back of his uniform shirt into his pants as he got closer. “Fill ‘er up?”
“Yes, sir. Gotta make it to Needles and don’t want to be runnin’ outta gaslone afore we get there.”
“No, sir. That stretch you want to make sure you’re full up. It’s not a friendly piece of road.” The attendant stuck the nozzle in the tank and lifted the hood.
Casey got out and stood off the side while the youngster checked the water and oil levels. “Shore not. ‘Coarse, the trip is much easier now that Route 66 is paved the entire way. I recollect a few years back when a lot of the parts were still dirt roads. Asphalt the whole way sure is nice.”
Moving to the rear of the car, Casey lifted the water jugs out of the back. “Have a place I can fill these up?”
“Over that a way.” The attendant pointed towards the north side of the building.