Velma Memory — A Quick Tale

Okay, so here’s a memory.

Velma would buy eggs from the one-armed bootlegger who lived out in the county. This would be post-war, WWII, late 1940s.

She would pack her car full of all the children in the neighborhood and let them ride out to his house with her. She told me a story about the bootlegger, how he had one arm and could “do” for himself but then he lost his other arm in a boating accident and had to have help — so he “adopted a half-wit negro man-child who was the son of one of the bootlegger’s delivery men”. (Velma’s words)

That’s one bit of the story and the second part is when the bootlegger died, someone had to care for the man-child so Velma adopted him. He became her “ward”, legally, all of it was above board. She managed his welfare payments, his disability and SSI, saw to him in every way until he died of cancer decades later.

I knew him.

He rode a bicycle whenever Velma couldn’t drive him and he had a house of his own. He didn’t live with her although she was responsible for him in every way. I can’t remember his name but I remember a lot about him. He usually had a cigarette hanging from his bottom lip as he rode by. He frequently pulled a lawn mower behind his bicycle, it was roped to the rear fender. He also transported his fishing gear by tying it onto the fender — if you live here, you know about the white bucket fishing we do.

White bucket fishing? One bucket for a seat, the other for the fish you catch. Hang the buckets off the handlebars, hold the fishing pole in one hand, ride your bike to the river. Probably one of the most dexterous acts one can commit and yet, people here have no trouble riding this way.