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Tizzie Too - An excerpt from, Old Cold Mountain Tales

By Maryon Wood Harper © 1985

Issue: September, 1985

About The Author… Maryon Wood Harper has lived almost all of her life within view of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. A wife, mother and grandmother, Mrs. Harper is proud of her mountain ancestry and has written this book to keep the family's many-told tales alive in today's world. Mrs. Harper is a retired teacher and lives in Amherst County, Virginia.

Copies of "Old Cold Mountain Tales" are currently stocked by Lynchburg, Virginia area bookstores and may also be ordered through any bookstore or directly from the publishers: Bargara Press, P.O. Box 3131, Lynchburg, VA 24503. The price of the hardback, illustrated book is $13.75. When ordering from publisher please add $1.50 for postage and handling (add .55 sales tax for Virginia residents). Please enclose payment with order.

"Tizzie Too," called Ella Sue Tomlin, "you come here and get this spoiled rotten calf out of my flower border."

"Yes'm, Maw, soon as I get his halter from the barn."

Tizzie Too was one-half of the Tomlin twins, Ella Sue had used up all her favorite girl-names on her five older daughters. The sons had been easy to name - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. All the children except John and the twins were now married and living in homes of their own.

The twins were not identical. Tizzie's hair was wavy, while Tizzie Too's was straight as a poker. Tizzie Too was taller and thinner than her twin, more of a tomboy.

While Tizzie sat under a tree arranging pebbles and pine cones in a pattern, Tizzie Too climbed the tree, shaking down loose needles on her sister's work of art. She also waded the creek in front of the cabin, chasing crawfish out from under the rocks and sending schools of minnows scurrying.

She accused Tizzie of being a sissy, and she herself was accused of being a tomboy. She was her brother's pride and joy, everybody's friend in Gaseytown and Paw's favorite.

Hadn't he given her the brown and white calf, Starlet? True, she had saved him when his maw rejected him, feeding him milk from a castor oil bottle with the finger from an old glove, which had a hole in it anyway, stretched over the mouth. She also shut him in the barn every night and fed him Paw's best hay.

"What you goin to do today?" asked Tizzie.

"I'm goin to put a halter on Starlet and lead him over to Aunt Minnie's and Uncle Zeke's and show them how much he's growed."

"You girls," called Ella Sue from the back porch where she was washing clothes. "Go bring me two more buckets of water from the creek. Your paw's and John's clothes were so dirty I've got to rinch them again."

"Aw, Maw," complained Tizzie, "I'm workin on my sampler. Let Tizzie Too do it." The sampler, ordered from the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog, showed a thatched roof, vine-covered cottage surrounded by varicolored, unidentifiable flowers above the words, "Home, Sweet Home."

"Some sampler," scoffed Tizzie Too. "The roof's fallin off. Looks like 'Home, Sour Home' to me."

"Maw, make Tizzie Too stop makin fun of my sampler."

"You girls stop that squabbling and get me the water. The men folks will be coming to dinner soon."

Ella Sue straightened her thin back over the wooden washtub. Drying her hands on the apron protecting her cotton dress she tucked some strands of graying hair out of her eyes, still bright in spite of life on a mountain farm and the rearing of eleven children.

"Maw, if I bring both buckets of water kin I go to see Aunt Minnie and Uncle Zeke today?" asked Tizzie Too.

"I reckon so. You can take your Aunt Minnie my Sunday shoes she wants to borrow to wear to Zeke's Cousin Cooley's wedding. But mind you don't stay late.”

With a triumphant grin at Tizzie, Tizzie Too grabbed both cedar buckets from the back porch and hurried down the path to the creek, wincing when she stubbed one bare toe on a rock on the way.

Passing Starlet, meekly nibbling leaves from a lilac bush to which she had tethered him after his banishment from the flower border, she gave him a slow wink. He seemed to wink back.

"Take care of my shoes," Ella Sue told Tizzie Too, handing her a pair of high-laced, black leather Ladies' Dress Specials. "Put that nuisance of a calf in the barn before you go and be back well before dark."

"Yes'm," promised Tizzie Too. At a safe distance from the cabin she tied the shoe strings together and hung the shoes around her neck, leaving both hands free to handle Starlet. In the front door to the barn and out the back she led him, stopping only long enough to change to a better halter with a loop in the end for her hands.

Starlet looked dubiously at the footlog across the creek. "Go on, Starlet," Tizzie Too urged him. "Ain't nothin to it."

"Maa-aa-aa," was his comment.

"Just put two feet in front of your other two feet," she told him.

Starlet, suddenly deciding this was no proper procedure for a two-months-old calf, backed up precipitately, upsetting Tizzie Too, and causing one of the suspended shoes to scoop up a small amount of red mountain dirt.

"Stop it, you spoiled rotten calf!" she told him.

Starlet did not stop it, Instead he plunged forward, bypassing the foot bridge, splashing into the creek, dragging Tizzie Too to her feet and then across after him. Her bare feet slipped on rocks. One shoe swung low enough to dip into the water, pouring, its cold contents down the front of Tizzie Too's gingham dress.

Apparently pleased with his solution of the foot bridge problem, Starlet set out down the dirt road at a rapid clip, forcing Tizzie Too to trot. One of Maw's shoes bounced over her shoulder and began to beat on her back while the other banged on her ribs.

"Whoah! you fool calf!" she hollered, then bit her lip because Maw didn't let them say "fool." "You slow down, Starlet, before I bust you wide open!"

Starlet slowed down, not because of her threat, but because they had turned a curve in the road and riding toward them on his bony horse was the Reverend John Wesley Carson.

"Good evening Dear Child," the Reverend Carson greeted her, pulling up his horse and wondering whose "Dear Child" she was. Caseytown was the largest community on his charge of four churches. "Where are you taking that beautiful calf?"

"Howdy, Reverend," said Tizzie Too. "He's kinda takin me. I want to show my Aunt Minnie and Uncle Zeke Tomlin how much he's growed. He's a contrary critter 'cause his maw wouldn't raise him and I've had to do it."

"So you're one of the Tomlin twins. How is your dear little sister?"

"She's comin down with the measles," answered Tizzie Too, crossing two grubby fingers behind her back, but keeping a firm hold on the halter with her other hand.

"Too bad, too bad," said the Reverend Carson, shaking his head and his reins. "Tell your maw and paw I'll be by to see them soon," and he rode on.

Starlet didn't give Tizzie Too a chance to think how she would explain the measles when this visit occurred but struck out at a brisk rate into what was the heart of Caseytown. Here some houses were less than a mile apart and the blacksmith shop was in clear view of the General Store & Post Office. The one-room schoolhouse was so close to the church that if the choir and the pupils had ever been singing at the same time, they would have drowned each other out.

Pausing apparently to admire the red roses on Miz Mamie Johnson's rosebush, Starlet would not budge until he had picked the biggest one, chewing it carefully before spitting it out. "Come on, pokey," urged Tizzie Too, fearful that Miz Johnson would stick her head out the window and scold them.

Progress was erratic down the next stretch of road with Tizzie Too and Starlet alternately leading. Suddenly Starlet came to an abrupt stop, causing Tizzie Too to bump into his rear. The shoes slid over her head and along his back, landing around his neck.

He had seen Miz Maizie Meadows' flower border, resplendent with hollyhocks, sweet williams, zinnias, nasturtiums and marigolds. Tizzie Too strained with all her might to turn Starlet, who made for the border just as Miz Maizie came out of her house, scissors in hand, to gather flowers.

Shying at Miz Maizie's red plaid dress and white sunbonnet. Starlet, began trampling out a path the length of the border. "Well, I NEVER!" declared Miz Maizie, staring at her prostrate zinnias and marigolds.

"Me. neither," gasped Tizzie Too, digging her bare heels in, in a vain effort to stop.

On they went, Starlet with a spray of sweet william stuck behind his ear and one of Maw's shoes holding a few mutilated marigolds.

Aunt Minnie's and Uncle Zeke's home was a neat, white frame house set back from the road under oak trees. In the backyard on clotheslines stretched between locust posts hung snowy sheets, pillowcases, towels, and various other garments white and colored. Starlet walked calmly up to the front porch and began to nibble a few leaves of the potted geranium plant beside the split-bottom rocker.

"Aunt Minnie," called Tizzie Too, "come and see how Starlet's growed."

Aunt Minnie appeared, wiping her hands on her checked gingham apron. She was not much taller than Tizzie Too, with fluffy white hair framing her pleasant face.

"Lord'a mercy me!" she exclaimed. "That can't be that scrawny little old calf his maw left. I wish Zeke was here to see him.

"Let him eat that old geranium. It ain't bloomin anyway. Lord'a mercy, look at your Maw's Sunday shoes!"

"I'm sorry, Aunt Minnie. Starlet got into all kinda trouble. You reckon you can clean 'em up? Maw is gonna skin me alive."

"Sure I can, honey. She'll never know. Tie that critter to the clothesline post and come in the kitchen. I'll give you some fresh-baked teacakes and milk."

So Tizzie Too tied Starlet to the clothesline post. Then she sat in Aunt Minnie's cheerful kitchen with the red and white checked curtains at the window, eating teacakes and drinking milk while Aunt Minnie cleaned up Maw's shoes.

Halfway through her third teacake Tizzie Too thought she had better see what Starlet was doing. Starlet was nowhere in sight! The empty halter lay on the ground at the foot of the clothesline post.

"Look, Aunt Minnie, Starlet's gone!" cried Tizzie Too, almost choking on a teacake. She ran out of the back door, followed more slowly by Aunt Minnie.

"Starlet! Starlet!" called Tizzie Too frantically, dashing behind the clothes on the line.

Halfway down the backyard fence stood an unperturbed Starlet, surveying the low platform on which sat Uncle Zeke's hollowed log bee gums.

"Starlet, get away from there!" called Tizzie Too.

Starlet investigated the plank top on the first of the six bee gums. Surprised when a bee flew out of one of the notches around the bottom, he backed off. Then, swaggering over to the next bee gum, he put an inquisitive nose down to one of the notches just as a bee was coming out. The bee, surprised by encountering a moist, cool calf nose, did the most natural thing - he stung!

All four of Starlet's feet left the ground at one time. When they came down he was already headed toward the house with the distraught Tizzie Too running behind him.

He swerved to miss Aunt Minnie, who had taken off her apron in hopes of snaring him with it. The clothesline loomed in front of him. He wound himself briefly in the first sheet, bypassed the second, skirted the pillowcases and towels, with Tizzie Too running behind him sobbing angrily to herself.

At the end of the clothesline, where Aunt Minnie's long white drawers hung, his hegira ended. His head went through the open seat and came out the open front; the two wooden clothespins held the binding tight to the line. There he stood, a captive, his nose swelling, the ruffles on both drawer legs just touching the ground.

Uncle Zeke, riding in from the General Store, took one look at the situation and almost fell off his horse laughing. He hunched his lank body over the calf, which Tizzie Too was holding by the tail, with a big grin on his bronzed, wrinkled face. Tying the drawer legs together to form a halter, he unfastened the clothespins and led a subdued Starlet up to the porch.

Here Aunt Minnie sat in the rocker, her small body shaking with laughter, mopping the tears from her eyes with her apron.

"I'm sorry, Aunt Minnie and Uncle Zeke," said Tizzie Too, trying to wipe the tears and sweat from her face with her sleeve. "I didn't mean to cause so much trouble."

"Never mind, child," gasped Aunt Minnie. "I haven't had such a good laugh since the night your Uncle Zeke went out to shoot a possum in the henhouse and fell in the watering trough, gun and all."

"I sure wish I'd had a camera to take a pitcher of your calf wearing your Aunt Minnie's underwear. They fitted him better than they do her," and Uncle Zeke went off into another spell of laughing. He put a chew of tobacco on Starlet's nose and fastened the halter back tightly.

"What on earth did you do to get your clothes such a mess?" Ella Sue asked Tizzie Too, as she dragged herself into the cabin just before dark.

"I helped Uncle Zeke and Aunt Minnie do some things," was Tizzie Too's answer.

"I bet you did," said her sister, who had met the pair at the barn after waiting most of the evening for their return. "How come Starlet's nose is swolled up so big?"

"He must'a put it somewhere he had no business to," said Tizzie Too and began calmly to eat her supper.