By: Ronald Brantley


There was a fly driving me wild the other day so I picked up a flyswatter. It was orange and made out of plastic.

My mind went way back to my younger days when flyswatters were made of screen wire with a small cloth border and the handle looked like a clothes hanger bent into the shape of a handle. If you hit the fly a little too hard the fly would stick to the screen wire.

While I’m thinking of flies, my mind goes back to a fly sprayer. The fly spray and sprayer were two separate things. You bought the sprayer – there were two or three models – and you picked out the spray of your choice. None of it smelled decent. They didn’t care about such things back then. On top of the sprayer was a screw top and a container that held about a pint of spray. Fill up the sprayer and start pumping. If you sprayed in the kitchen you had to cover the food before spraying. Remember back then there was more open food than there is today.

People would buy B-Brand insect spray, which was in a powder form, and spray under the houses. Most houses were open underneath. Dogs and chickens got up under the houses, bringing with them fleas and mites.

I am sure most of you remember DDT. It was a blessing in disguise, but it turned out after prolonged use it was as harmful to us as it was the bugs.

One of the things I hated with a passion was to be busy doing something I enjoyed and hear mama holler “Ronald!” from the kitchen. It would be about eleven and dinner wasn’t due until noon, so I knew it would be a job that just wasn’t meant for me and yet I knew not to complain because daddy may hear me.

“You don’t mind keeping the flies fanned, do you?” mama asked. “No ma’am,” I would answer, but I hated it so much that my knees would go weak when I said it. She would hand me a towel and start the fanning that probably made for one of the longest hours of my youth.

In the summer cooking on a wood burning stove with just a small oscillating fan isn’t the most pleasant job plus having a boy with a frown on his face fanning flies doesn’t add to life’s enjoyment. The wonderful dinners mama cooked and placed on the table went a long way of taking the sting out of fanning flies.

Mama always gave me credit for helping. She would say, “Y’all come to dinner. Me and Ronald have got it ready.” Mama never put out two plates that matched. She had some good ones, but she was saving them. Just like the matching towels, pillowcases, sheets and bed spreads she was saving.

The food was good enough for me in the dishes we had.

dThe glasses we drank from came with a big box of dishwashing liquid. Filled with ice and cold iced tea, it was as good as glasses trimmed in gold.

Cornbread cooked in a cast iron skillet, big pocketbook butterbeans that soaked all night and cooked since breakfast. Fresh tomatoes from the garden in back of the house. Potato salad and eggs made in a huge bowl and mashed by hand. Meat out of the saltbox on the back porch that soaked for hours to get the salt out. Banana pudding or bread pudding that made our neighbors visit if they got a smell through the window. On Sunday it would be fried chicken that we raised on our yard.

All of this brought about by that pesky old fly flying around here. I kinda wished I hadn’t killed him with the plastic flyswatter.

I should have used a rolled up newspaper.