Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Monday, November 7, 2011

She Walks Around Town With a Suitcase in Her Hand

Every town has a Delta Dawn. (You remember. "She's forty-one and he daddy still calls her 'baby'. All the folks around Brownsville say she's crazy." Etc., etc., etc.)

Well. Crazy is a relative term and used often when eccentric would do better. Having never spoken to Delta Dawn, nor being a trained professional in such matters, I can't speak to her case, but I have my opinions. I'm sure that comes as shock to everyone.

It wasn't enough for my town to have a Delta Dawn We had three, though I am pretty sure that by the time I took notice of them, they were a good bit older than forty-one and their daddy was long dead. They didn't look enough alike to be triplets but they were almost certainly stair step sisters.

They were tall and thin, and roamed around on foot wearing mid-calf length shirtwaist dresses and turned down white socks with canvas tennis shoes. (This was before the nineties, when it became the Muffy Matron thing to do to wear white Keds with summer cotton Laura Ashley dresses.) Their hair—mostly gray—curled at the tops of their shoulders and was held back with cloth stretchy headbands, though sometimes they wore French twists. Usually, they carried plastic flowered umbrellas to keep the sun off them. I once saw them carrying stacks of boxed Madame Alexander dolls. What was up with that? I wondered a little, but not much. Not enough to ever even discuss it with anyone I knew. I was busy dating, running the streets with my friends, then dating seriously, planning a wedding, and buying Keds and Laura Ashley dresses. Who had time?

I only remember having one conversation about them with anyone. I was in the checkout line of my little neighborhood grocery store and they were in front of me, each buying a stack of magazines.

After they had gone, I said to the clerk, "Do you know who they are? I've seen them all over town forever."

She said, "No, but they come in every month and buy the new Vogue, Mademoiselle, and Glamour. They all get a copy of each one."

"Why don't they just get one and share?" I asked her. That's a fault of mine. I ask people questions I know good and well they don't know the answers to. I can't help it. I keep thinking I might get lucky. And really, wasn't the bigger question why fashion magazines? I guess it made as much sense as Madame Alexander dolls.

It's been a long time since I've seen these women, a long time since I've thought about them. I'm not sure what made me think about them today. But I sure wish I knew their story. I'm going to ask around. I'll get back to you.

Whose story would you like to know?


  1. Back while I was in law school, I worked as a law clerk in downtown Birmingham. Every day I would park my car under the interstate, walk through the park in front of the courthouse and then up to Park Place Towers. And every day I would pass the most unusual woman I had ever seen. She was at least six feet five inches tall, black and barely wore any clothes. She always stood at the same corner. What was so unusual about her was the fact that her legs were so long I, at five feet two inches, could have walked between them without ducking. Her torso was short and she reminded me of a spider. I was fascinated with her. I went to lunch one day with one of the lawyers at the firm I worked at and we passed her. I asked him if he knew anything about her. He laughed and said she was one of the most notorious hookers in downtown. I would have loved to have learned her story.

  2. Wow, major eccentrics!! I grew up in a mining town, you'd have to be crazy to move to Northern Manitoba so I guess we were all a little nuts and eccentric. We had a friend who built a plane in his basement during the long, cold winter and then he flew it (it was a kit for a glider plane with a motor) during the summer (which lasts about two minutes). Cabin Fever can do weird things to the mind. Just saying.


  3. My hometown had a guy named Sam Goodman. My daddy said he would go to the nicest men's store in town, pay cash for a Brooks Brothers suit and then wear it out of the store without alterations -- including having the pants hemmed. He'd just fold them up or cut them off himself, leaving a ragged edge. My daddy also said he drove 20 miles to the big city of Charlotte one day and was standing outside the Cadillac dealership looking through the window at the new Sedan de Villes. One of the young salesmen decided to humor him and had him come inside to sit in one of the cars. When Sam asked the price, the salesman quoted it for him. And then Sam pulled out his checkbook and wrote a check for that amount. The salesman took the check to his boss who came out and tried to politely question whether there were funds to back up such a large amount even though he was sure there weren't. Sam told them to call the bank, and followed the boss into his office to make sure he did. Sam drove home in that new Cadillac that day because the bank president told Mr. Boss that not only were there funds to cover the car, there were funds to cover probably their entire show lot.

    And then there was the elderly man who roamed downtown with his belongings in a shopping cart. This was in the 50's and 60's before this became so commonplace. Rumor had it he'd been well-off but had lost his fortune in the stock market crash. Not sure how true that was, but I do remember his wandering around our small downtown with his cart. No one bothered him and even the local teenagers knew better than to play any pranks on him. I wonder if local shopkeepers gave him food. I also wonder where he slept. I guess I'll never know now.

    Great post, Muffy. ~grin~


  4. Thanks for the ear worm. :/ I'll be singing Delta Dawn all day now! My mind is blank this morning. I can't think of any odd characters populating my past that I want to know more about. I'm sure it'll come to me later, because there is no way I've gotten this far in life and not run across them.

  5. Our town had Peanut. He stood on the corner (that's right, singular) with the blinking stop and waved at everyone. He also helped "coach" the football team. He would give out towels and offer encouragement. I never knew his last name or even his given name. When I was really little I would call him "Mr. Peanut" and he really got a kick out of that.

    I need to ask my sister if Peanut is still around town.

  6. Thank you all for stopping by today!

    Cheryl--I got a mental picture that I just cannot expound on here. Wow.

    Christine--How did he get it out of the basement?

    PM--What a great story. I love Sam, even from just hearing about him. I hope the shopping cart man was as happy.

    Lynn--Sorry. Play it on Youtube and see if that helps. If you can't think of any eccentrics, come on over. I'll take you some places where they hang out.

    Stephanie--You, know my school had a coach helper like that too. He drove a riding lawn mower--right down the street. No on stopped him. No one would have. He was an institution.

  7. We had Buzz Black in the town I grew up. He had a bald head and was "slow", as polite company always referred to him. He walked every where he went, was seen all over town from early morning and into the evening. Most everybody in town knew about Buzz and they'd blow their car horns and wave whenever they saw him.

    In spite of being "slow", he had a memory like a steel trap. If he ever heard your address and phone number he would never forget them. In fact, every time he saw you we would proudly remind you that he remembered them by greeting you like, "Hello Sherri Austin. 913 Tulip Circle. 4527137." Of course that meant everyone in earshot now knew your name address and phone number.

    That was over 30 years ago and last I heard, which was fairly recently, Buzz is still walking the streets of my old home town.

  8. Town living reveals interesting characters. Eccentric people who were probably way ahead of the curve. ;)

    Nothing beats seeing Humpty Dumpty in Naples, Italy. Wearing bright red and bright lipstick, this woman sat on a wall in a stretch along a road leading away from the naval base. Story goes she was a prostitute who'd serviced men from WWII into the 80's. Yes, she was ip in years. And yes, when we saw her, she was still plying her trade.

    I wonder what stories she had to tell.