Monday, April 28, 2014

Brought Up by Tanglefoot Weed (StoredStory #19)

Tanglefoot weed - (n). a shrub/tree native to South Carolina that my mother often referred to in telling stories of her childhood. Used for spanking naughty children, who are commanded to break the branch with which they are to be whipped. (I think it's mythical, maybe. Or a colloquialism that is specific to South Carolina).*

If Pip in Great Expectations can be said to be brought up by hand, my mother can be said to be brought up by tanglefoot weed.

Often my mom would tell and re-tell stories of being disciplined by tanglefoot weeds. When hearing these stories, I always wondered what they were. (I've never seen one in Tennessee).

Though mom would regale me with stories of whippings with tree branches, she never brought me up by hand or tanglefoot weed. I can count on one hand how many times she actually spanked me. For the most part, discipline from her was verbal. Spanking was the exception, not the norm.

But, when I did cross the threshold into unacceptable behavior, then I would get it. I don't remember the first time my mom spanked me, but I have heard the story. Apparently, we had gone to the grocery store, and I, wearing cowboy boots, decided to kick my mother. I'm not sure why I did it, but it got me into trouble.

Apparently, this spanking caused an exchange. Another customer who had seen the event threatened to call DHS.

"You go right ahead, lady!" my mom challenged.

Mom spanked me the second time because I had wondered off with my father up our mountain. We had twenty-two acres of wooded property in the hills of East Tennessee, and there had been a dirt road cut so we could go up one of the ridges in the truck. A friend was visiting Dad, and I went along with them up the mountain for a fun adventure.

However, the descent landed me in a seething pool of a mother's anger. She had not been informed about me going, so she'd probably imagined I'd been eaten by that panther she said lurked in the yard. Before there could be any explaining about where I'd been, she spanked me because I had wandered off.

The last time Mom spanked me was while we were on vacation in Cataloochee, a pioneer settlement that is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. We had ridden over to the Caldwell House, a beautiful two-story house in blue trim built at the turn of the twentieth century. To get to the house, you have to cross a gully by walking on a log foot bridge. While making my way across, I was "sassing" my mother, a crime I'd been accused of before but one which had no harsh penalty.

I think this time the sassing had pushed her too far, and there was an opportunity to connect me with the mythos of her past. The grounds around the Caldwell house had sprouted the mythical tanglefoot weed I'd heard so much about. Mom broke off a foot-long switch of tanglefoot and introduced me to it.

I recall nothing about the plant: its leaves, its shape, its color are all submerged somewhere in my past. But, its story lives on, and in an odd way, the tanglefoot makes me feel closer to my mom's childhood, though mine was not as harsh or severe as hers.

*I can find no definition or reference through Google or in a dictionary to an actual tanglefoot plant. There is a product called Tanglefoot used to protect trees from insects. There is also a musical reference to a tanglewood tree, but I can find no plant by that name.

No comments:

Post a Comment