Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Wonderful Family Drama for Boomers, Especially, by Bette A. Stevens - Dog Bone Soup!

"Travel with Shawn Daniels through the guts and the glories of life. You’ll find them all in DOG BONE SOUP, a Boomer’s coming-of-age saga." Many of us will think of Huckleberry Finn when we consider this book, and it is indeed that type of story, but my first thought was of Opie to play Shawn. Why? well, we boomers will remember him and can picture him as the sweet boy that he portrayed on television. You'll find that same personality in Shawn Daniels, an intelligent young boy who happened to be born into a poor family with a father who drank... and a mother who did everything she could to keep her family together and fed...



Shawn Daniels now in the Army and on his way! But, he already missed his mother and siblings...and couldn't help but think back over his life as he moved toward the future...

There was a brook not far from the cabin. Dad crossed it most every day to cut logs. Sometimes he would take me down to the brook to watch him when he went fishing. It was my favorite place, until that day Mum got hurt. 
I was sitting at the table writing my ABC’s. Mum always had me writing something. She said that education was important. Told me that I was sure to be the smartest boy in my class by the time I got to kindergarten. I peeked over at Willie sleeping on a blanket in the corner. Mum smiled at me from the stove. “We’ll be having hotcakes with maple syrup for breakfast tomorrow. You just keep working on your letters.” I was back to working on my letters and stopped to draw a picture of hotcakes at the top of the paper when BANG— something exploded. 
Mum was in a fit bawling and screaming at me. “Shawn, go find your father. GO! GO, SHAWN!” I just sat there wondering what to do. “Run, son! SCREAM– BLOODY MURDER. Go Get Dad. SCREAM it LOUD and don’t stop screaming.” 
I ran out of the house screaming “bloody murder” at the top of my lungs. I ran and ran and kept screaming until I slid down the bank on the crusted snow and fell through a chance to say a word, he picked me up, put his cap on my head and stuffed as much of me as he could inside his heavy wool jacket. 
He carried me home while I told him about Mum. By the time we got to the cabin, Willie was on his feet thrashing around the room and screeching to beat the band. Dad picked him up and handed him to me. Then he bandaged Mum up and gave her a good bawling out. “Henrietta, sometimes you’re about as stupid as a stick. Don’t you know that a canner with a lid on is for cannin’ stuff, not for boilin’ down maple sap? You got to leave the lid off for that.” 
For a long time after that, Mum and Dad didn’t talk much unless it was about things they didn’t like. Mum didn’t like Uncle Hiram, said he was a bad influence. Dad didn’t like Mum calling him and his family “no damned good.” Mum cried a lot. By summertime, baby Annie came along and Mum stayed at home with her most of the time. 
Dad would take Willie and me down to the brook when he went fishing. He’d have his beer bottle in one hand and Willie hooked to his hip with the other. I was old enough not to need holding. I’d run ahead with Dad’s pole and find my favorite spot along the bank. I’d sit there, listening to the brook sing, looking up into those giant oaks and pines. On real nice days, the sun peeked through the branches and danced on the water. It was pretty much like being in church, only quieter. 
Late that summer, Mum made me my own fishing pole out of a maple sapling so I could fish alongside of Dad. She even made me a fish hook out of a safety pin. I loved that little pole...
~~~


Dog Bone Soup:
A Boomer's Journey

By Bette A. Stevens

It wasn't too long into the story before I began to compare my own background with Shawn and his family. The most telling was my memory of our buying chicken backs and necks in bulk when a local store had a sale... Oh how we hated to clean those chicken parts...But they made wonderful chicken and noodles which we had every Sunday...

So, too, could Shawn look back on the good times when he was younger and his Dad was more involved with the family. Even then, though, he drank a lot of beer and would think nothing of his verbal and, often, physical abuse of his wife...

But there came a time when it was even worse for the Daniels family. They had a small vegetable garden, so Shawn's mother would send him to the local butcher and beg for old bones for their dogs, supposedly... Instead, what she would do it scrape off any meat and cut the bones to pull out the marrow. That would become the stock for soup. No, it was not very tasty, especially when they had it night after night... But it kept them going, though they were still hungry most of the time...

“Tell the butcher we have a bunch
 of dogs and ask him for all the bones
 he can spare.” 
I could feel my neck and face heat up
 when I asked. Those bones stunk
so bad, t
hey nearly made me puke. 
Couldn’t believe I’d asked for those
 stinking things or 
that we’d be eating them....
~~~.
Mainly it all started when Shawn's father decided he wanted to save the money he was paying for rent and he tore down an old cabin and moved to a piece of property and started to build a home...He did grudgingly put in electricity, but there were no indoor plumbing and the water had to be carried from the stream... Until he finally built a well...

But Shawn's mother wasn't willing to have the family live like that and she started to scratch out a little money to save...thus the Dog Bone Soup... But one night Eddie brought home a television and acted as if he had bought it for the family... He had taken the money that was being saved to improve the house...

With his wife's reaction, he changed for the worse and sat drinking beer and watching television most of the time. Soon Shawn's mother was taking part-time cleaning and other jobs. But Eddie just accused her of running around on him...

And Shawn was affected in another way--he was made fun of at school about their being poor with no indoor plumbing... The lives of the other kids was so different to his that he had no ground to begin to develop friendships...
Then Buddy Wentworth and Timmy Doyle started singing, “Shawn has a pee pot, Shawn has a pee pot; a to-i-let, he ain’t got….” Buddy had his arm around Timmy’s shoulder, like they were best friends. Pretty soon, a bunch of other kids joined in. I couldn’t believe Timmy was chumming around with Buddy. Usually it was Buddy poking fun at Timmy...

While most of the kids in school were yackin’ about football games, dances and The Beatles, I kept pretty much to myself. I didn’t have a clue about what those kids were talkin’ about and I really didn’t care...



The only thing that saved Shawn was his determination to work to make a better life. He studied and got good grades and still spent time helping his mother with chores and the other children...

When it got so bad that, as a teenager, Shawn went in and got the rifle to chase his father from the house and protect his mother from further abuse, Shawn had to start thinking what to do. His grades were failing, he couldn't see any options, until... he was willing to risk being sent into the Vietnam War to find his own life...and move toward it...


For Boomers, it will take us back to things happening during this years we were young; e.g., the Kennedy Assassination...

But your age really doesn't matter because once you start reading, you'll be sucked deeply into the story and its characters that Stevens has presented. They are real, they live the life that many Americans have lived during those years, earlier years...and, yes, later years. Poverty and prejudice are not solely owned by Boomers... We all know that! So, I'm going to disagree that Boomers are the only audience... I recommend it highly to individuals who enjoy stories based upon the family... whether it's Little House on the Prairie, Or Blue Bloods... Only the setting has changed... Because it's a story of hope, of tenacity, and of caring for those we love... 

Only one scene disturbed me...when the church brought the foods for a thanksgiving dinner to the family, Mrs. Daniels refused to accept it, indicating they would take no charity. Shawn learned a lesson that day that affected him in later decisions... It was sad, because I was sure that part of her feelings was based upon how her family had been treated by church members during other interactions... Let us remember that everybody sometimes needs a little help...and there really is no shame in accepting... Help!


There is much to ponder, to think about how we would respond...and to help look at life's issues from a different perspective. Enjoy this as much as I did!


GABixlerReviews


Note: Several pics were illustrated by the author...
Inspired by nature and human nature, Bette A. Stevens is an author, retired teacher, wife, mother of two and grandmother of five. Stevens lives in Central Maine with her husband on their 37-acre farmstead where she enjoys writing, reading, gardening, walking and reveling in the beauty of nature. She advocates for children and childhood literacy and for monarch butterflies, an endangered species. Stevens's children's activity book, THE TANGRAM ZOO and WORD PUZZLES TOO!, was first published in 1997 by Windswept House Publishing, Mt. Desert, ME; a second edition was self-published by the author in 2012. AMAZING MATILDA, Stevens's second children's book, self-published in 2012 won a 2013 Purple Dragonfly Book Award (Honorable Mention for Excellence in Children's Literature - Ages 6 and older category) and also placed #9 on The 2013 Gittle List for Self-published Children's Picture Books. Stevens has written articles for ECHOES, The Northern Maine Journal of Rural Culture based in Caribou, Maine. In 2013, the author published her first book for the YA/Adult audience: PURE TRASH: The story, a short story of a boy growing up in rural New England and prequel to DOG BONE SOUP, debut novel released January 2015.

From The Author: 
"I love to walk and enjoy nature's beauty, whether at home or on the go. I'm passionate about the beauty in the world around me and enjoy jotting down notes and composing short poems. The coast is one of my favorite places to relax. I'm a nature collector: everything from seashells to birds' nests. When I was teaching, these treasures filled my classroom and provided inspiration for reading, writing and research. It was hands-on fun and excitement and I enjoyed every moment spent learning with, from and about my students. One thing I learned is that many children don't have an adult to read to them or listen to them read and talk about those books. Many of my blog and facebook posts will focus on how we can improve childhood literacy by reading to the children in our families and communities. My own childhood was filled with books and adults who shared and encouraged a love of reading. I've written some poetry and several short stories. I plan to write some adult fiction, including a coming of age story, and write reviews on some of my favorite books. I'll be sharing some of your stories, poems and tips on reading and writing, too. Let's have fun learning, living, sharing and loving language together." Bette A. Stevens