Learning the facts of life

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

While very young, Dad was once bedded down with a little Negro girl. Some visitors had her along and of course she had to sleep somewhere. Dad used to say that was the nearest he ever came to sleeping with a negro. He had a rather strong anti-negro bias, partly because the attitude was general and partly because the only negro adult that he ever really knew was not only untaught but probably moron. I remember he spoke kindly and behaved with a degree of consideration toward „one-armed Nigger Johnson’ who lived for a time near Orient.

He learned “the £acts of life” quite early in a rural background in the company of a bunch of Quaker children who discussed the subject with thee, thou, and thine. Quakers, I gather, were just as “fleshy” as other people. The people he grew up among, Quakers or otherwise, were not by any means all as straightlaced as some others and some indeed were truly “whited sepulchers”!

Among more respectable people, vulgarisms of speech were not commonly used and euphemisms were parried to the extreme. A bull was called an “Animal” and you did not castrate a calf — you “took care of it.”

Which brings to mind the horrible story of the little neighbor boy who, in willful ignorance and total lack of understanding of what he was about, also with Uncle John’s assistance, “took care” of a whole litter of new pigs by slicing them open with a sharp knife. The idea was definitely his but his father insisted that John was “the ring leadah.” The boy arranged for John’s assistance on the way home from school. Dad was present when the scheme was hatched — was too young himself to have done anything about it in any case, could not have known how ignorant the boy was. He was able, of course, to testify to John’s comparative innocence.

In later life, Dad himself was widely sought after by local farmers to do that kind of surgery, as well as to assist in butchering projects. One farmer insisted on him wielding his knife on a Sunday when he came by dressed in his best — he found him some old clothes, of course.


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