Odie Mae is what her closest friends and family often called her, but her name was Janie. She was short and round when I knew her, with a wide mischievous smile and eyes that twinkled. She was one of the original, consummate country women. If you entered Janie's home midday, you'd likely find her brushing her hair back from her face with her hand toward her bun and wiping sweat off her glasses on her apron.
Supper preparation would already be under way. At that time the least number of people who ate any meal at Janie's was six. And they almost always had from one to another half dozen or so stop in for lunch or supper. She'd cook a platter full of meat, five vegetable sides. Rice and pasta with most every meal. French fries always. And her fried cornbread. Janie could take spaghetti, a can of tomato sauce, a little onion and some seasoning and have you begging for another helping. They went through so much koolaide in a meal that she'd always mix up a double batch. And she didn't mind one iota handing you a bowl and tators to peel or some other task. If you walked into her kitchen, you had done enlisted. Of course it weren't no bother, as the conversation was always lively and you were finished before you knew it.
After everyone had gathered around the table, and said grace all the plate passing and bowl swapping began. Meals always had simultaneous conversations mingled with clanging dinnerware and clinking glasses. Then as each one finished, scraps from plates were immediately scraped off into a bucket for the hogs or the chickens. Dishwater was heated and the dinnerware was immediately cleaned up. Leftovers were stuffed into the icebox or covered and left out depending on their type.
Then with the rag she'd wipe off the table and towel dry behind it and if there were any four people in the house who knew how to play 42 dominoes, the box would come out and be set upon the table and Janie would pull out her chair. I enjoyed playing so very many domino games with them whether it was at the house on that kitchen table or at the camp in Bush Lake.
Bush Lake and Janie went together like butter and bread. She'd get up at dawn, squirrel hunt or deer hunt. Come back and cook pancakes for everyone and their brother. Then start working on lunch. After lunch she might catch a nap, or get her pole and head down to the aluminum boat to go white perch fishing. She loved perch fishing. Taught me the sport. Made me like it too. I haven't perch fished since Janie left us.
Me and her would load up in an black jeep Pete had jacked up by putting the springs on top of the axle. I could barely get one foot in the door to pull myself up with the steering wheel. Janie had to take a small wooden chair and step up on it and into the jeep. We'd throw the chair in the back. We'd run off and squirrel hunt or pick wild dew berries or whatever took Janie's fancy for that day.
Once there had been a very rainy, wet deer season. All the roads in and around Bush Lake were a mess. As likely to get stuck going and coming as not. Janie and I had been down the road for an afternoon hunt and headed back to the camp in the jeep. The fellows were headed out to go get on thier stands for the evening hunt. It was pouring rain. The road was narrow and a terrible mess. They met us in a 2 wheel drive truck and I got over into the messy part and let them have the good part of the road. Later when everyone was back at the camp they told the story and remarked how nice that person driving the big jeep was.....Pete hadn't recognized his own jeep in the rain and half fogged over windshield of the truck!
Janie was practical, impatient, forgiving, a fountain of wisdom. She died a number of years ago in a car crash. She was wrapped around her grand baby, protecting her. Now that I have one, I know why. But I miss her.
Thank God one day I'll walk down the grassy bank toward a shining river and find my friend sitting there with a cane pole in hand, shiner on the hook waiting for that heavenly white perch.