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Friday, September 11, 2015

Across Time and Space: A Chat Between Eddie and Hetty

Through some type of eerie, time-jumping technical cross-up, it appears a Victorian street urchin from my novel The Mud Rose, has come in contact with 1930s era boy named Eddie, who relates his real-life exploits in Marva Dasef’s Tales Of A Texas Boy. Neither Hetty nor Eddie seem aware that anything too strange had occurred, but Renee and I thought it was worth recording. I like it when characters converse within a book, but it's even cooler when they cross between books to chat.
* * *
Eddie Perkins, age twelve, Hereford, Texas, 1933.
I wanted ta talk with Uncle Harley ‛bout comin’ ta visit in the Spring. Since we didn’t have a telephone out at the farm, I had to use the phone here at the mercantile. I asked Mr. Brown, and he said it was okay longs I ask the oper...the lady what answers how much it costs. I picked up the earpiece, spun the hand crank to ring up, and talked into the horn. I said I wanted Mr. Harley Granger in Linden. She says fine, and I wait awhile. Pretty soon, I hear a some scratchy sounds and I yell, “Hello, hello. Is anybody there?”
Hetty Styles, age ten, London, England, 1888.
I was in the front hall when that telephone thing went off. It’s some new-fangled contraption what Mrs. Granger says Paige, Dane, and Jack’s Uncle Clive had put it a month or two back. I let it ring a few times thinking she’d come to answer it, but she didn’t, so I figured I’d better. I picked it up a bit ginger-like, and said, “Uh, um, London 2-1-6.” Think that’s what Mrs. Granger says. I’d never talked into one of them things before, so I figured they’d have to excuse me if that weren’t right. “Who’s calling, please?” That’s the other thing what she says.
Eddie:
This is Eddie. I’m tryin’ to talk to my Uncle Harley Granger in Linden, Texas, but I don’t think I’m talking to who I want. You don’t sound like a Texas gal. Do you know my Uncle Harley? He don’t have any young girls and you don’t sound like you’re any older than my sister. If you don’t mind, would you tell me yer name?
Hetty:
Hi-ya, Eddie. I’m Hetty, and I’m coming on for ten. I’m in London, England. And there in’t no Mr. Granger here, just a Mrs. You say you’re in Texas? That’s in the United States of America, innit? Hard to believe I can be talking to someone that far off. But then, lots of things has been happening lately that’s kinda hard to believe. Until recent, me and our Pip – that’s me brother, he’s six – was dossing down in a shed of a night, and going hungry more often than not, but now we’s staying at a toff’s house with lotsa grub, and feather beds, and everything.
Eddie:
Well, I was tryin’ to reach Linden, not London, but it’s okay if this is a Granger’s place. I don’t know any Toff’s, though I think it’s nice you got a feather bed. If ya can tell me who you are, maybe I can figger out how I got to talkin’ to ya.
Hetty:
Not Toff like in a name. Toff’s just a fancy word for rich people. Me and Pip’s staying here ’til we goes to Canada. The Barnardo folks is arranging for that. My Canadian mates say it’s freezing cold in Canada in winter, and blistering hot in summer. It like that where you live?

Eddie:
Well, Canada is pretty far away from our Texas farm, so it’s maybe not as hot. It surely is hot here in the summer. We can get frost and occasional snow though. I recall a midnight ride crossin' the prairie in moonlight when the frost was on the ground. I thought it a mite perty, even if boys aren't supposed to think about such things. Worst part was findin' our neighbor lady dead in her kitchen.

Hetty:
Pip and me’s seen a few dead folk lying in the street. You kinda gets used to it. It’s how things is in a big city like London. Not likely to be in a city once we gets to Canada though. We’s probably gonna be on a farm or summut. You like living on a farm?

Eddie:
Oh, yeah! A farm is a great place to live. You shouldn't fear that at all. Mosta my good times have to do with the farm animals. We got horses, naturally, and pigs, chickens, a coupla milk cows. Our big money comes from our jackass, Beau. He's a frisky fella and all the folks round here like to use him for a stud. Mules are very important to farmin'.

Hetty:
Our Pip’s mad for horses, so if we gets on a farm what’s got them, he’ll be over the moon. I knows about chickens, and pigs, and cows, even though I’ve not had much to do with ’em. Dunno that I’ve ever seen a mule. What’s a mule? You said jackass, too, like they was the same. Is they?
Eddie:
Well, a jackass is a like a male donkey, but lots bigger, and they breed with mares, that’s female horses. When the foal is born, it ain’t a horse nor a jackass, but a crossbreed what’s called a mule. We’re pretty busy what with all the animals to tend.
Hetty:
How’s about school? I didn’t take to it right off, but I can see where it has its advantages. We learns about reading and writing, and doing sums, and all the countries in the Empire. Them the kind of things you learns about too?

Eddie:
School's okay. We gotta ride the horses to school every day. We learn all the stuff you do, I 'spect. Readin', writing', and 'rithmatic. I would like to know about that Empire thing. We live in what's called a deemocracy.

Hetty:
Your school must be quite a ways off if you has to ride horses. We walks to ours. An empire’s all the countries what belongs to England, and has the queen on their dosh. Canada belongs to the Empire, but I don’t think America does. Our queen’s Victoria. Who’s yours?

Eddie:
We don't have no queens and kings. We got a President. Right now, that’s Mr. Franklin Roosevelt. He's kind of like royalty. His cousin, Teddy, was President, too, but we elect presidents every four years. Things are hard right now. Pa says the ee-com-onee got busted. Then the Dustbowl happened. Made a lot of people have to leave their farms to find work elsewhere. Some came down our way from Oklahoma. Pa hired some of 'em on, even though things are tough all over.

Hetty:
Guess your president’s kind of like our prime minister. They changes at elections, too. Can’t say as I knows too much about ’em. Don’t think they comes down the East End. The queen don’t, neither, but she do go out and about a bit now more’n she used to. Lots of people saw her during her Jubilee procession. You ever seen your president?

Eddie:
I ain't had the privilege of meeting President Roosevelt, but I would surely like to and shake his hand. Pa says he's doing good things to get the country back on its feet.
Hetty:
England’s supposed to be doing real well at the moment, since we’ve got the Empire and all, though I don’t knows too many people what’s flush. It’s pretty hard graft for most of us. Up ’til we had the Barnardo folk looking after us, me and Pip had to go out larking.
Eddie:
What’s larking?
Hetty:
Mudlarking. Picking stuff out of the mud down by the river and selling it on.
Eddie:
I don't quite understand that. We got mudflats around here, but there ain't usually much in those dried up arroyos worth havin'. Sometimes I can find a dried up frog, but that's about all. What kind of stuff do you find?
Hetty:
Coal, nails, rope, old dishes, buttons, and the like, anything what a rag and bottle shop might buy. Wouldn’t have no use for frogs, though Nolly once told me that French people eats ’em, but no one round here do.

Eddie:
My Pa told me about the French folks eatin' frogs and even snails! He was in France durin' the Great War.
Hetty:
What war was that?
Eddie:
Supposed to be the war to end all wars. I know Americans, French folk, and Germans were fightin’, but I’m not sure who else.
Hetty:
England’s been in a lot of wars. Last one I remembers hearing about was some place called the Transvaal. Don’t make sense, do it, people going all over the place just to kill each other. Not that they don’t do that right here, too. You heard about that nutter, Jack the Ripper, doing in poor working girls?
Eddie:
Yeah, I heard about that Jack the Ripper feller. Right gives me shivers thinkin' about it. Did they ever figure out who he was?
Hetty:
Not yet. Me and Pip think we might have seen him. Can’t get anyone to believe us, though. ’Cept our mates, of course. And him. Think he believes us all right. One of the reasons we’s going to Canada is to get away from him. Long ways from home though, so we doesn’t quite know what to expect. Your Texas sounds a bit similar, so talking to you’s been a help in that regard. Anything else go on round your way that we might find of interest?
Eddie:
Well, ain't nothin’ too exciting, lessen you think a tame bear, a pig which can fly, a chicken what won't stay out of the kitchen, or finding mammoth bones on the prairie are interestin'. Me, my best time was when I got to go on a real cattle drive.

Hetty:
Our Pip’d probably like that too, if he got to ride a horse. The rest sounds pretty good and all. Better’n what we was doing here, anyway.

Eddie:
Yer brother’d be right at home here. We always ride our horses everywhere. I could let him ride Sam if’n he wanted.
Considerin' the hard life you lived, seems like you wouldn't have much fun, but there musta been sumthing excitin'. What's the most fun things you got to do in London?

Hetty:
Oh, we has our good times, like the queen’s jubilee, and the Lord Mayor’s procession, though that were better last year than this. An even on ordinary days, there’s organ grinders with monkeys what does tricks, and Punch & Judy shows and such. Day or two ago we even went to the zoo and saw all manner of funny-looking beasties. Actually, I think we’s just about to go off somewheres again, ’cos I hears Mrs. Granger calling, S’pose I’d best get off this thing. Nice talking to you.
Eddie:
Nice talkin’ with you too, Hetty. When ya’ll get to Canada, maybe you and Pip can come on down ta visit sometime.
* * *

They hung up at that point, thus breaking their most unusual connection, but if you’d like to read about Hetty and Pip’s adventures in Victorian London, The Mud Rose is available at Amazon

Eddie’s Depression-era adventures are recounted in, Tales Of A Texas Boy, available at:





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