We laughed a lot, Eloise and I, back in that other time when we were neighbors. Our children grew up together, riding bicycles on the dusty road, tying a piece of fatback to a stick and fishing for crawdads in Scarborough Creek that trickles across the farmland on both our places.
We shared many field trips with our children that were classmates at Huckabay School. Eugene and Tommy graduated together; were part of each other’s wedding ceremony; operated their own dairies; made Eloise and me grandmothers and then great-grandmothers. Life was good, very good on the farm. Our places were separated by a few strands of barbed wire. Then one day when the sun was shining its best, the good life started to slowly, ever so painfully, unravel.
The arthritis that Eloise had inherited, passed down from her ancestors, made walking a challenge, twisted her limbs and caused her to live in constant and ever increasing pain. She smiled in spite of the pain that enveloped her, from swollen feet to the tips of her slender fingers.
Then Chester got sick, was in and out of the hospital and finally passed on. We mourned with our friend. Left alone in that sprawling house, she soon decided to move to an apartment in town.
My son was killed suddenly one sunny afternoon in March. She cried with us. Then my Tom became ill and he too passed away. She shared my grief through this very hard time.
Last Sunday it was time for my friend to move on. After all that she had suffered as the disease for which there is no cure, twisted and bent that body and continued to deal her intense pain, I knew that she at last had escaped all that and was smiling and laughing in a land where there is no pain. Still, I could not let her go without remembering a few of the wonderful funny moments that my dear friend, Eloise and I shared.
Both our families operated dairies with enough stories to fill the pages in a thick book. There are a couple that involve Eloise.
One hot summer day she decided that what she needed most was a cold shower. Their house had a bathtub but no shower so she took a bar of Dove soap, a big white towel and went out to the dairy barn. The kids were at school and Chester was in the field so she threw a garden hose over one of the overhead pipes; took off her dress and turned on the water. She was singing and enjoying a refreshing shower when the dairy inspector drove up to the barn! When she told me about it we hugged each other and laughed and laughed! “After that, Chester had a shower put in the house.” She cried. Then we laughed some more.
The state milk inspector was always looking for something around the dairy barn to write on his report sheet and one afternoon he told Chester that the 250 gallon milk tank had milk-stone inside. It was the busy planting season so removing the milk-stone continued be put back another day until soon it was time for another inspection.
The next day, while Chester was in the field, Eloise decided to clean the milk tank. She gathered her cleaning supplies, went out to the milk room, climbed up the ladder and lowered herself inside the empty stainless steel refrigerated tank. After scrubbing the inside of the tank, it became extremely slippery and she discovered that she could not climb out. After awhile, the same milk inspector that found her showering in the stanchion room, came by and found her in the milk tank. He probably left the Ray Dairy with another great story to tell but he did stop long enough to help her get out of the tank.
Eloise and I laughed and laughed especially about the part when she was trying to climb out and got her legs tangled up around the steel paddles built to stir milk when the tank was in use.
One day I was at her house and she showed me a dress that she had bought. I thought it was beautiful and joking said that I wished I’d seen it first. She urged me to try it on and then I had to model it for her. We giggled like two school girls and she offered to let me wear her new dress to school the next day and I did!
She was my first friend when Tom and I moved from Dallas to the Huckabay community. Chester was president of the Huckabay School Board when I applied for my very first teaching position. We attended the Church of Christ at Huckabay and sat together, shared dinners and attended Homecoming every June. How Eloise did enjoy the homecoming dinners and programs but especially seeing old friends.
It makes me smile to think of my friend and that wonderful homecoming in her honor where she walks without pain everlasting.