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.
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HERE’S A STORY SNIPPET FROM FAT AND SASSY…
The last day on the road seemed the longest. The children were cranky and restless after being cooped up in the car for six days. The food was about gone. Only saltine crackers and two tins of Vienna sausages remained from what they’d left California with. Casey had counted the last few dollars in his wallet, hoping it was enough to buy gasoline to get them to their destination. Bea was tired of refereeing the children, keeping them from fussing and fighting with each other.
When Casey pulled off the main road and slowed down to navigate the dirt road ahead, the children gave a cheer.
Mae recognized what the moment meant first. “Goody, goody! We’re almost at Papa’s house!”
The car jostled and bounced down the road. A plume of dust followed, swirling around the car and choking the passengers. “Roll up the windows!” Bea hollered as she cranked the front window as fast as she could.
Mae got one window up in the back while Bill still struggled with the other. Mae climbed over Helen and started turning the window knob.
“Me do it!” Bill insisted.
Mae kept turning. “You’re not going it fast enough.”
Bea turned and asked her husband. “You remember where?”
“Oh yes. I can make this trip with my eyes closed. Seems like just yesterday I was makin’ this trip, pickin’ up a load of ‘shine from yore Papa. Yes, siree, I know the layout of this land back here.” He chuckled with the memories of an earlier, more footloose time. “Made the trip several times in the dark with no headlights on neither.”
The prim set of Bea’s mouth showed what she thought of her father’s backyard business. “I’m surely glad you ‘aint running his liquor back up into Missouri anymore. Don’t want you gettin’ picked up for running shine and thrown in jail. Not while you have a family to provide for now.”
“No reason to anymore. ‘Cept the money sure was good. I wouldn’t mind a pocketful of cash like that again.”
“No! Don’t even think it. The Good Lord will provide for us. You don’t need to go back to that.”
“I can leave it behind. Besides, I got the best end of the deal. I got me the purtiest little gal out of it. Comin’ down here that first trip and seein’ Sam Goss’s daughter for the first time…why…that’s the onliest thing that kept me comin’ back.” He glanced across the seat at Bea and winked.
“That was on Valentine’s Day, too. 1935. And six months later, we were getting’ hitched.” A blush rose across her cheeks. “My stars, Evan Lewis Jones! Four children later and you can still get a girl all worked up.”
Evan ‘Casey’ Jones and Beatrice Goss on their wedding day, August 4, 1935
He chuckled and patted her knee. “I know when you call me by name, and not Casey, you’re serious ‘bout what you say.”
“Truth be told…” Bea paused and turned her head to watch his reaction. “…there may be child number five on the way.”
Casey braked the car and it slid to a stop in the middle of the road. “Truly?”
“Far as I know. I don’t recollect having my monthly visitor. I was feelin’ kinda peaked there for a few weeks. I was a thinkin’ it was nerves. Ya know, worrying about the bills and the move and all. But now I’m a wonderin’ if’n I’m not in the family way again.”
A broad smile broke across Casey’s face. “Well, I’ll give a hoot and a holler. I’m gonna be a daddy again.”
Grinning, he straightened up behind the wheel and gave the car some gas. “Guess we’d better git the little mother on home to her Papa’s house a’fore the cows come home.”
Bea sat back in the seat and shifted Tom to her other knee. She was relieved how well he’d taken the news. What with money being so tight and food and necessities so hard to come by, she hadn’t wanted to worry him anymore than he already was. He was a good man and she was proud to be his wife. He was a good father and he loved his children. He was fun to be around and she was still as taken with him as she’d been since she met him. It wasn’t his fault that times were so tough and jobs were so far and few between.
They pulled up in front of a small wooden structure that was little more than a shack in other more affluent areas. Rough, unpainted planks formed walls. A tin roof covered the home and a small porch area off the front side of the building. The back doorway led inside, the threshold slightly tilted as if sinking on one side. The door stood open, the cook room visible to everyone in the yard. Chickens ran loose around the dirt yard and when the car pulled in they ran off in a flurry, clucking with all their might.
A slight frown settled on Bea’s countenance. “It sure looks a lot smaller and older than what I remember.”
A figure appeared in the doorway, sporting a well-worn, faded pair of overalls.
Bea fumbled with the door before Casey had the sedan in park. She scurried out of the car, hefted Tom up on her hip and hurried towards the house. “Sam!”
Sam stepped out, one slow step after another, in no apparent hurry. Bea enveloped him in a bear hug. “I’m so glad to see you. I’ve missed you, Brother.”
“Missed you too, Sis. Glad y’all got here in one piece.” He tousled the little heads that had followed their mother and were now hugging his knees. “Looky here, how big y’all have gotten.”
“Where’s Papa at?” Bea was anxious to see the familiar face of her daddy.
“He’s down in the holler, checkin’ on the mash.”
“I thought he gave all that up when Mama died. I thought he wasn’t gonna cook ‘shine no more.”
“I don’t know ‘bout that. He didn’t cook any up through the winter. This is the first batch he’s got going. ‘Course, that’s cuz it was so cold and he didn’t want to fuss with the mash that much.”
“Ayup.” Casey joined the brother-sister reunion. “I recollect one winter when it took him a whole month to run one pot of ‘shine. We had some antsy customers that year. Takes too much work in the winter. Once it’s below fifty degrees, the yeast just won’t ferment and then the alcohol content is too low. Not worth the bother.”
Sam tipped his head back and laughed. “And then we really have some unhappy customers!”
Bill tugged on his father’s pants leg. “What’s ‘shine, Daddy?”