Meet Ruthie Hillard

Posted: July 18, 2017 in a story, art

Meet Ruthie Hillard was first published on Queerartist blog. Queerartist knew Ruthie Hillard growing up in Goon City.  Ruthie would always show with the young artists in town whenever there was a art exhibition. We asked Queerartist if we could re-publish this piece as Ruthie has a lot to say not only about art but about politics too.

Scrap Work, 2002

by Ruthie Hillard

Ruthie Hillard always had scraps lying around. Scraps of this and scraps of that. In Ruthie’s house there was a large room. On one end of the room was a large bay area with many windows. It was there that she had set up 3 old dining room tables. Ruthie never told us where she ever got so many dining room tables as in her dining room she had a nice oak one that matched her china closet and sideboard. Ruthie liked to walk and in her walks she picked up scraps. A scrap of paper, a piece of string, a piece of metal that had fallen off a car. She pulled a shopping cart with a few boxes in it. One for paper, one for metal, one for odd bits of this and that. Of course everyone thought her to be a bit off and according to Ruthie she was of course. Not like them at all. Won’t want to be. So sterile, so fit in the box,  so wonder bread. Little Boxes, Little Boxes the song was written for them. Straight out of the boob tube.

When Ruthie got home after a day of collecting supplies, she would wash her hands, make herself a nice cup of tea, and get to work.  Scrap work is a piece that she gave to my cousin with the instructions to give it to me. She was always working at making her art. I went down to Goon City and asked her, “Ruthie, can I give you a show on my blog?” Well at 88 she really didn’t know what a blog was confusing it with a bog as she was a bit hard of hearing. After explaining to her what a blog was she consented. I went out for a walk around Goon City with Ruthie and she showed me some areas that she thought highly of. “By all means take a picture and put it on your bog.” (she never got it) “These things are as much my art as the things I make in my sun room.” See that window there? If nothing else put that on your bog. So we did put a few of these things on this “bog.” Things that Ruthie pointed out and that I must admit were quite interesting.

A Window That I Admire.

We clapped for this art. It is called Bird King.

 

 

Ruthie and I have no idea what this picture was. But both thought it to be very beautiful and well worth it to include it in this posting. I told Ruthie that I think the photograph was taken when the camera was in the pocket of my coat, I slipped my hand in and my hand hit the picture button. We both loved that idea and I promised I would take some more pictures of inside my pocket for a later posting.

Got Something In My Pocket, art.

Last but not least this is a photo from our walk. It is of Jake’s Corner Store. You see posted on the door Jake is holding a sale of big hair. Come on in. Get your big hair. Soon Halloween will be here and big hair is nice to wear. Stick some birds in it. Maybe some flowers. Add some rubber snakes. Just wear some big hair and everyone will think that you are a star of something.

Ruthie wanted some of her out door work to be shown in this exhibition. She choose one that was done near the pond. At one time Boyce Hubbard had a cabin in the area. He worked for Ruthie’s father doing all sorts of work. The cabin burned down years ago but in digging around one could find broken dishes bottles, glass and all sorts of other things.  Ruthie mapped out the area and said, “anything that I find in this area will be my art supplies for the day.” Ruthie worked for a short time on Monday morning and then took a break and ate her tuna fish sandwich, and drank her bottle of apple juice. She always drank apple juice when out and about as she was afraid if she started on a bottle of wine that she wouldn’t make it home. That happened more than once and many times she woke up under the trees. Ruthie didn’t recall the date that she made these pieces but thinks it might have been sometime in the early 1970s.

Art out doors from Ruthie’s photo album

I asked Ruthie how could she just make some art and leave it out near the pond where probably the kids would wreck it if they came around. Ruthie didn’t seem at all concerned about that. “Well I do hope that they for a few seconds can stop and say, “what the hell is this stuff, and how did it get out here by the pond?” She only worked an area once and that was it. Didn’t even stop to take a look when she passed by the pond, on her way through the pine tree forest to the other side of town or on her way to visit Bessy Bates. One day in the Pine Tree Forest she found a dead black bird, dug a hole, buried it and sang a little song. Ruthie is like that, always mindful of other beings. You know I like the idea of bringing the “whats underground out and into the open, like some dig in ancient lands. My grandfather use to dig down by the river and had an amazing collection of arrow heads, stone tools and other artifacts. When Great Grandfather Bates was alive he could identify each and every thing that my grandfather found. The decision was made to give the whole collection to the historical society and the Bates wrote information about the Wongunks the tribe they belonged to for that section of Goon City history.

This is one of Ruthie’s String Works. She didn’t want any other pictures taken of the other string works in her studio as in her words, “there’s not one in the bunch that I give one rats ass for.” I am not very good at working in string but you can include one just so the viewers will know what I have tried string and couldn’t make a go of it. You know I use to take a good hard look at the cord attached to the vacuum cleaner and I tossed it from here and there. I liked the lines on the floor. I also liked the idea of what the vacuum was picking up as the whole part of this cord art. I tried this art years ago gee maybe around 1969 or so. Gave it up and hope someone else takes it up. I figure its drawing, sound art and disappearance art all in one. Sort of the opposite of painting, where one takes a nice fresh white canvass and mucks it up with paint. Here we take a dirty area and clean it up with the vacuum. Here today gone tomorrow. That’s a good motto.

The first collage is an untitled piece or just say “I have forgotten what it is called.” The collage on the bottom is of the famous accordion player Pauline Oliveros when she was in concert in Hartford Connecticut. Ms. Oliveros was on her back with a leg up playing the accordion. Pauline Oliveros was one of my favorite composers and I was delighted to have met her. In 1984 I went up to Hartford with Janet Owens and stayed for a week to attend the NEW Music America Festival. Pauline played there along with some of the greats in new music. What a week that was.  I will never forget at Center Church, Glenn Branca was playing.  The audience members were offered ear plugs as Glenn’s music was LOUD!! Well I said to the women passing out the plugs how in the world can I hear the music with these in my ears. “Oh, she said, just a warning you may need to tone it down.”  “Well,” said Ruthie, “I got eight fingers and two thumbs if I need to do that.” Sort of defeats the purpose of Glenn’s work. Its a wonder the alter didn’t fall down. Maybe we should move to the back, near the door just in case the rafters start creaking and the whole damn place comes down.  You know what, get a copy of some of his music and take a listen. Well I took Ruthie’s advise and decided that we should post a you tube video of Glenn’s work.

One of my all time favorites has always been Skip La Plante with his music for Homemade Instruments. Musical instruments made from trash. Skip said to the crowd that gathered and I remember his words well when I think about art, “Every object in the world is a potential musical instrument. Every sound in the world is one you can choose to use however you want to.”

Pauline Oliveros New Music America Collage, 1984

2 Tapings

Ruthie used a lot of tape. So much at one time in her collage making that Mr. Sweeny at Sweeny’s Hardware Store asked her if she had stock in any tape companies.

Collage works

The next work is called Landscape, Stripes falling in from the right. Ruthie says these were done when she was much younger probably around age 77. She keeps them wrapped up in the hall closet some of the few pictures that she has bothered keeping. Why keep them? All of them. My god I would have to move out of here and live out the a tent if I keep all of the art I make.  Throw it away, I can always make more. That’s the beauty of it. There is always more to come out. I don’t know why I kept these two all these years.

Untitled , Forsythia branches in a tub.  2009

It doesn’t matter if the branches are the type that will flower after being brought in the house or if they do not. I like to put water in the tub and float anything. Branches are the best. With 3 bathrooms in this house I have my pick. You know here is a funny story. My mother, god rest her soul had her bathroom done over, maybe around 1962 or so. She had all pink fixtures put in. A pink toilet, pink sink, (like the rhyme), and pink bath tub. It was her pink room. My aunt when she came to visit saw the bathroom and loudly exclaimed, “Pink, pink, you stink,” upon entering the room. That was her take on the pink bathroom room.  The photo below is a good take on the pink bathroom. You know one idea pushes another, maybe I will find some of those pink flowering branches and stick them in the pink tub and after the flower decorate that bathroom with them. Maybe.

Anyway this photo was taken in the downstairs bathroom where everything is white. I never use the pink bathroom but if you like you can take a look. Up the stairs to the left and down the hall, third door on the right. If you have to let one go do it in there in honor of my aunt.

Sticks in tub.

How about a little story with this art?

Some of my life

as told to queerartist by Ruthie Hillard.

I live in a Queen Anne House at the end of Hillard Court. It is a fine old house with turrets, bay windows, lots of cubby holes, and rooms, baby, rooms. This house has 14 rooms and an annex. The annex has 7 rooms, a baths upstairs, a large common room on the first floor and a kitchen. In latter years a bedroom was built for Mabel in part of the common room. She wanted to move out there to “keep an eye on the place.” Back in my grandfather’s day the annex was used for the farm workers, the common room for eating their meals and the kitchen for the putting by of their labors. I don’t remember the cook’s name but she made 3 square meals a day for the farm workers out of that kitchen. She also was in charge of the canning of vegetables, the curing of meats and the all around making sure that everyone was provided for. Mabel worked with her especially in the late summer and fall when things really got booming putting food by on our farm.  In the basement was a cold storage and a large root cellar I remember it packed with food from our land. When I was coming up the building was still in use.

I never ever have used all of the rooms in this house and couldn’t tell you anymore what is in all these rooms. Someday your cousin Nancy will have to come over and help me out. We’ll go around checking on these rooms and getting rid of stuff. Even when I was growing up we never used all the rooms. Now back in my grandmother’s day they did. Servants were up on the 3rd floor, farm workers out in the annex and my mother, her two sisters, Drucilla and Lucelle all had separate room. They enjoyed that, made them feel special. Now everyone is gone on to their rewards and I am the only one left in the family. Never had a sister or a brother. I guess my mother never wanted any children having lost her two sisters early on. Lucelle was only 10 and Drucilla was 12 when they went out riding in a row boat and fell in the pond and drowned. My mother always said a dreadful silence fell on her family from that day on and nothing that she could do would please her mother or father. “I was alone since I was 8 and that is just how it was, she told me. I use to sit up in my room and play. It is the only thing that I had beside Mabel. She was nice to me. Guess she saw what was happening and was sad about it.

I think about that, my poor mother, many times she said that she wished she had been in the boat with her sisters but went picking blueberries instead. Needless to say blueberries were never served in our house and I still don’t eat them to this day.

My mother brought that stand offish, that coolness into our family. Such a sadness. Guess she didn’t know any better. She was always cool to me and I can count the hugs on one hand. I always felt I had done something wrong, or that maybe I had a funny smell that I couldn’t shake no matter how hard I scrubbed. A kiss forget it. That woman didn’t know what a kiss was. She was a strange bird. Nice and sweet as a summer peach when she was out and about but at home she was as cold as a nun’s bun to me and my father. Always so gracious to others but silent and removed at home. We all probably should have moved out of this house way back then. To many haunts around this place, too many memories of her family and their tragedy. I don’t know. I’m just glad that I could escape her sorrow and not let it gnaw at me turning me into a bitter angry person. I grew up alone just like she did.  That’s okay. I entertained myself with all these rooms a person would have to be a half wit not to find something to do. That’s when I first started to make art using scraps of this and that. There was an empty room upstairs that I used for my studio. Just a table, a chair and two bookshelves. Mabel taught me to make glue using flour and water. She also gave me a needle and two spools of thread. I had pencils and crayons and could draw and color on any bit of paper I found. That is when I began my scrap collecting. Whenever I was out I would look for any paper that I could find. Guess that was my independent streak. Surely my family could afford a few sheets of paper. Mabel saved me the butcher paper that our meat came wrapped in. I like to work with the grease spots left on the paper. I wonder if any of that old art is around up there. Another thing to put on the to do list. *Find old art if there is any left.

Gee, I got to call your cousin and see if she will come over and help me out.  Her aunt Dottie and I went to nursing school together. She was a loner just like me. Never bothered to tie the knot.  Guess she saved up quite a bit of money, that’s what I heard. I know your cousin took care of her when she was sick all those years. Hope she left her something. I’m sure she did. She was like that, generous to people who she cared about and that cared about her. Life long democrat and wasn’t shy in telling republicans in this town where to get off. She didn’t like any thing about them and told me once “they make my Irish blood boil, and you know Ruthie when that happens they had better watch out.”

These old coots sure made a lot of trouble with young Hitchcock when he was a state legislator from this town and working in support of Social Security. They almost ran him out-of-town calling him a communist. But you know every one of those bastards today are living on Social Security and will tell you they are lucky to have it or they couldn’t get by.” I would like to pop them one right in their nose. What they put poor Hitchcock through. A bunch of them got together and boycotted his pharmacy.  One night some of them broke every window in the place. Now that’s how they treated a man who if you didn’t have the money for your medication he would let you slide and pay it off little by little. He played the trumpet on the side and even his band members didn’t like where he stood on Social Security and kicked him out. They told him, no one wants a communist playing at their dances. Well let me tell anyone who’s got ears, I’d dance with a Communist anyday before I would dance with the likes of them.

I never had a husband. Never saw the need for one. They’re all so needful. And I don’t need any needful following me around all my life. Most of them don’t know how to do a darn thing around the house except stink it up with cigars. Couldn’t wash their underwear or cook a meal if their life depended on it. I hear its better now-a-day. I hear a lot of men know how to do things to help out around the house. My neighbors Ben and Mary have it nice. Mary told me that Ben does the washing and ironing, he also can cook quite well and on the days that she is late from work makes a real good dinner. I told her, “well seeing is believing, you’ll have to invite me over sometime to try out his cooking. Well one Thursday under my front door came an invite. So I went over at the appointed hour on Saturday and low and behold what a fine dinner Ben made. We began our meal with delicious crab roll-ups, assorted cheeses and crackers, and a nice dollop of Thousand Dollar Relish. Of course since I wasn’t far from home I had a nice glass of white wine. The main course was a sight to behold. Ben came out of the kitchen bearing a baking dish with Eggplant Parmigiana. He served a lovely fresh salad from the garden and Italian bread from Belline’s Bakery. To top off this excellent dinner Mary made a Strawberry Parfait Ring. “Ben needed a break, and I wanted you to try this desert, she told me. The recipe is one that Elsie Brown gave me and she said it had been in her family for years.”

Humph, I told Mary at least the Browns did something right rather than pitch a fit over anything that anyone around them did. Why one time they called old Ben Turp when he was first selectman and told him they didn’t want any more cars passing by their property as the cars were leaving exhaust on their flowers. Everytime Elsie wanted a few for the house or to make an arrangement for the funeral parlor or her church she had to wash them losing petals and causing the heads to droop. Old Ben told them that they would have to buy the road and them maybe they could stop the cars from passing by. Well now every time that anyone gives me a ride anywhere and we passed by their house, I always tell the driver to toot, toot, toot the horn.  After eating that delicious dinner,I just gotta say that men sure have improved themselves from when I was young.

You know I get along well with people around here. Even the kids. They never bother me. Maybe they are scared that I am an old witch living in this big old house. But the house doesn’t look like a place a witch would live in. I mean there are no bats flying around, nothing is overgrown and I go out and about dressed nicely. Last time I looked I wasn’t green. So maybe its something else. Maybe their parents told them don’t bother that old lady. But folks shouldn’t  worry about me, I could be a mean old person if you rub me the wrong way. I can slap anyone silly in a second flat and come up the winner every time. I learned how to box from Sweet Pea Williams. He taught me everything I need to know about fighting and the rest I learned on my own.

Nope I don’t know what is wrong with these kids they have manners and don’t bother me a bit. 3 of them were in here just the other day. We all got a bit silly. Why one of them a girl named Sharon stood up on a chair and pretended she was a rocket to the moon. She passed some rather loud gas as fuel and jumped up as high as she could. How we all laughed on that one. I didn’t care if she broke the chair as I have plenty. Too many as a matter of fact. Let me write that down. Get rid of all these chairs. Maybe I should call up Harold Bradford to come and take a look at all of the stuff I got. There must be a few thousand dollars just sitting around here in this house. I could use the money for something. I don’t need it just like I don’t need all this junk. I could live in 3 rooms, my studio, kitchen and bedroom if I had to.

I hear that the Food Bank has bare shelves. So many people not working these days. Struggling to get by. I always buy extra food and donate to the Food Bank every Friday when Bobby Holloway gives me a ride grocery shopping. When I am out and about and I pass by Sids Market I get some things, tuna fish, peanut butter, can beans, bags of rice, bottles of juice and dropped them off at the pantry. I don’t mind. Ethel and Jean that run the place tell me it’s getting bad, they can’t keep up with all the people who need food. That scares me to no end. It just isn’t decent nor is it right that people in this country haven’t got any food.  So I buy extra food, gives me something to do. Now that would be the place to give the money to, I have gotta get working on that this week. Sell off all this old furniture and give the money to the food bank. I am sure that is what Daddy would want me to do. I have no one to leave this place to and lord knows that it would be a big mess for someone else to have to clean up. I’ll call both Harold Bradford and Bill Jones to come and take a look. I’m sure they would drop what they are doing as they know this old house is filled with some real good things that would sell well on the market. Some of the stuff around here has been in the same spot since my grandmother lived here.

Lordy I know what the great depression was like. The only thing that saved us was we had two big gardens out back, orchards of apples and pears and went into the woods to gather nuts, and berries. Further back on the property near a steam was a patch of blackberries. Never saw such big berries in my life. Daddy said a way back in the days there was a house around there and the people’s out house was near where the berries grew. So their shit was good for something. Mother said their name was Wilcox and that they were like hillbillies without the hills and they hadn’t 10 teeth between them all. Mr. Wilcox was a friend of my grand father and when Wilcox died our family brought the land from his wife. No telling where she went, “maybe,” Mabel said, “back to the hills.” Mabel’s sister had a goat that she was selling. It was a good milker so mother bought it. Mabel knew how to milk it so we drank goats milk. We got a second goat after we began to take in renters. If you look out the east window, right over past the annex that is where the barn stood. We had chickens in there and that’s where the goats lived. We also had a pig.

We took in renters too, they lived out in the annex. Old Mabel stayed in the annex her room was right by the front door. Kept an eye on them coming and going.  We had a family or two that had lost their homes and the men were working down around Salmon River with the Civilian Conservation Corps.  We charged them $10.00 a month for room and board. They also helped out in the gardens and keeping up the place. The  $15.00 that was left over each month, after they paid the rent from the money that their husband sent was for their living expenses. They were also expected to try to save a bit to help them get back on their feet. Daddy helped them with saving their money. He kept a big red and black book with everyone’s name in it. He faithfully entered all the facts and figures. We also had a few single men. Now those are the ones that you gotta watch like a hawk. They may get drunk, try to fool around and cause a ruckus. There was a house rule. No drinking and no drunks. If you were discovered drunk then Daddy would put you out by the seat of your pants. That’s it, no saying I am sorry give me another chance. Nope not in his house with all his responsibility he wouldn’t hear of  it. Daddy said these times call for sober men and women to get everyone through and back on their feet. Anyone lying around piss drunk was not contributing to the over all wellness of the people and he didn’t want them anywhere near the place.

You know I’ll tell you something else. Daddy had some money, cold  hard cash hidden upstairs. There is a little room that is behind the big walk about closet in one of the rooms on the third floor. One has to push on the wall a bit and presto the wall opens and you can go through a door and then into the room. A real hide-a-way. He had a great big safe in there, a table and a chair. His office as he said in, “I am going to the office now. None of us ever went into that room. He told me once that if I ever tried he would skin me alive. Daddy never trusted banks fully. Even though he was a business man owned a factory he delt with banks as little as possible.  He closed down the factory when the depression hit. “No one will want to buy many toys so there is no sense in keeping it open.” He told me once that the going wage during these hard years was 6 dollars a week. Pretty good money. If you could find a job and someone who would pay you. He couldn’t pay any one as no orders were coming in and if they did the orders were so small that it wasn’t worth his while. When all of this is over, I will re-open once again.

Daddy thanked his lucky stars more than once that he had grown up on a farm and knew about farming. He use to laugh when he told us that his father didn’t want him to be a farmer so sent him off to college. He took his knack for making toys and built up a factory around it. The toys were very popular wooden pull toys, painted rather beautifully. He had a good business going. But always came home and worked out in the gardens with the farm workers. That is where one would find him on Saturday and Sunday. During the good times he would truck his produce up to Hartford and sell it in the city. Working in the gardens, that was back breaking work. Many a day I was out in the garden with my mother, Mabel and some of the renters, weeding and hoeing. If you wanted to eat well you had to work for it. Taking care of the crops was a top priority around the place. Daddy paid 25 cents a day to old Ben Watson for the use of his mule to dig up the garden in the spring. We had to let our housekeeper, foreman on the farm, farm workers and cook go during the depression. Old Mabel who was the head house maids stayed on as she was like family. Mabel stayed on with me until the day she died. She was like a mother to me and I am still missing her now some 42 years later. One lesson I learned from those days was, Don’t buy anything until you have double the purchase price.

The depression hung on until 1941 and ended when America became involved in World War 2. This resulted in the drafting of the young men and the creation of millions of jobs in the defense industries. Terrible I alway thought that it would take a war to end this misery here. I just hope that they don’t do that today. The government already has more wars going on than they can handle. Now I read they want more troops to send to Afghanistan. That president  we have now sure fooled a lot of people with his hope and change. He’s just more of the same. A not as rough as Bush, a real smooth talker. He’s gonna get us in more hot water. How I hated that Bush.  So what is this new president gonna do. Send more young people’s to war to shed their blood for what? For the rich man? For oil? All this killing has got to end sometime. You know how can people believe that war is okay. It isn’t. Plain and simple. I don’t care what excuse the powers make up to get the people to go along with their games. No excuse is good enough for me and no killing is right.

Some say thank goodness for Roosevelt and the New Deal. No telling what might have happened. I’m sure that the people would have finally rose up and had themselves a good revolution. I always found it strange that they didn’t. Guess they believed that everything would be okay, that Roosevelt was going to save us all, (ha, tell that to the Japanese who were interned in the camps,) and when the depression was over we all would be in the money again. We were all under someone’s thumb and it was so hard to break out of it.

In 1948  I supported Henry Wallace  for president on the Progressive Party Ticket. Haven’t found anyone since then that I liked. Democrats or Republicans tip them upside down they’re all the same. So I don’t vote. But I can complain. Oh, yes I can and I will. These do goodies aren’t going to shut me down. When someone tells me be quiet, I talk louder. When they tell me to sit down I stand up. I’m going to keep talking till the day I die about what I see is wrong.

Guess I may be more of an anarchist in my politics. I don’t like the church or the state. The church really gets me. They always try to get us to come and join them. Well not me. My family was always Quakers, good people but never went to a meeting. But let me tell you that “good no fighting Quaker” never stuck to me at all. If you dare put up a fist to me I’ll go one step further and get the first and last punch in. I don’t have the time to be a pacifist, not in this world today honey. Daddy always said, “around here we got all of the outside, the streams, the meadows, the ponds, the woods and we sing out in the garden as we grow good food. We share with our fellow humans and give to those that ask us. What more can we want.”

To sit in a building called “God’s House,” and listen to the preacher drag on and on not me. You wouldn’t catch me alive or dead in such a place any more. I tried it a few times and that was it. They all just want to control you. Be sure to bring some money with you. Hell and damnation, be good, and off to heaven you will fly, come on to Sunday Service we have a nice social hour after the service. “Oh!!!!! Look at Minnie’s Hat. Wonder where she bought that? Now I’m no fool I know all the people who like to go to church aren’t all like that. They’re okay and try to be nice. But it is a chosen niceness. They sure fill up the place on Christmas and Easter. The ones that we should keep our eyes on besides the Catholics, are those mega church, jump up, hands in the air praise the lord, sway back and forth churches. You know the ones who lead the charge against gay people, against woman rights and anything else that doesn’t fit into their narrow little definition. They think they know how things should be but are really some dangerous and nasty people. Gotta watch them. They are far more evil than the government. I went with Lucy once to her church and that choir sure couldn’t sing worth a hill of beans. No, forget it, I am not going to continue to harp on about churches. Not gonna even give them the time of day. They do nothing for me and I want to do nothing for them.

I like the anarchists the best they seem to be the only group doing something. Don’t think I would make a very good one at my age. I like the ones that smash windows and the ones that run in the street looking like bandits. I like young people anyway they are full of good ideas on how things should be. I don’t know how anything is going to change if everyone continues to be nice? It just seems to go around and around and around and around and around and around. Well this is my tribute to the anarchists. It is called Come On OverAnarchist Campground With a Big A. Waiting For Some Campers. One day when I was out walking I passed under some of those fluffy pine trees and there were pine needles all over the sidewalk. A bunch of them had fallen and formed the letter A. That is where I got this idea for this art from, the Fluffy Pine Trees.

Come On Over. Anarchist Campground With A Big A. Waiting For Some Campers.

 

During the depression things were bad even for many of us that had something. So many people had nothing. Daddy told us that we had to help out people whenever we could. He planted extra crops and the surplus went to the workers relief kitchen downtown. That was the Quaker in him. Someone from the kitchen always came around to help with the gardens. He was thankful that he knew how to grow food and could do all sorts of things to get by. One lesson that we all learned was to share what we have, don’t hurt each other, help each other and pull together. It was a smaller town than today and everyone knew everyone else. Couldn’t let someone you knew starve. Now what kind of person would do that? Daddy even said, “if a hobo comes knocking on the door, give that man some food, let him wash up, and rest awhile.” Word got around and sure enough we had visitors coming to the door. Never turned one away. I remember once a family came knocking. They had walked from Providence on the railroad tracks. “Man down on the tracks told me we could get some eats at this place, we won’t eat all that much and then be on our way.” Well we served them up some good food. They had with them a young boy and a girl. They all took a good scrub in the tub. I gave the girl one of my dolls and a nice dress. I still remember that dress. It was blue with little yellow flowers on it. My daddy went up to the 3rd floor and got a horse pull toy and he gave it to the boy. The man told daddy he was going on to Middletown to see if they could stay with his wife’s family. Maybe he would leave his wife and children there and go out west. He heard that there is opportunity in California. Since night was falling we put them up, the next morning fed them breakfast, packed them a lunch and then they went back down to the tracks and continued on to Middletown. I wonder what happened to them.

It was such a sad time and now those times are happening all over again for a lot of people. I read tent cities are springing up all over the place and people are fighting to get a bed in the shelters. It’s a real mess. But some are living high on the hog. It just isn’t right. Those bankers are still getting a great big bonus. For what? Stealing other peoples homes? Some of these rich liberals have 2, 3, 4, 5, and more homes. Those are the ones who need a good shaking so they will learn how to behave. I know what to do with the other ones but won’t say it out loud for fear someone will come and cart you and I away.  Lord knows that is coming. Bastards just damn bastards.

In late November right before Thanksgiving my father and Bill Daley killed Bossy the pig. I cried when I found out that Bossy had now gone on to pig heaven . Bossy was just a piglet when he came to live on our farm. I had many a fun time playing around with that baby. Daddy let me go with him when he brought a fresh pork roast to the relief kitchen for the Thanksgiving dinner. That was some contribution. Now everyone can eat a part of Bossy. He explained to me, “Yes Ruthie, we could keep it to eat but Bossy gave us enough to live on and it is important to share what we have.” The rest of Bossy that we kept ended up curing and smoking in the smoke house. Mabel and mother canned quite a bit of Bossy and Mr. Clark Able came over and made sausage. One thing I didn’t like then and I would never eat now is head cheese. Mabel made it that year. It was out of Bossy’s head and I cried again. How many times had I kissed that cute little pig. He would get so happy to see me that he would pee. I would rather go without lunch than eat Bossy’s head.

Mabel taught us what  “weeds” over near our pond and fields were good to eat. She said, “one just needs to know when to pick them and prepare them.” Did you ever eat sour grass soup? Well we did. Put a picture on your bog if you can find one of a nice bunch.

Sour Grass

You know old Haddie Langdon, well she has every outfit she ever wore. It’s all in bags and boxes. Never threw away a dress. I don’t know what she is thinking as I would gather that the material in a dress would weaken after a time being and no one would want to wear a dress that could rip off just by merely getting up from a chair. There are lots of us old people who are like that. Your aunt Edith use to go out to eat and would bring home any of the little creamer packets, wooden stirrers, napkins, sugar packets, salt and pepper packets, plastic utensils and anything else she could get her mitts on. She had so much stuff that she dragged home that a shelf in her pantry was full. Stocking up just in case everything falls down again. I don’t know what anyone would call that kind of stocking up,  a crazy person’s I guess.

I went to nursing school up in Hartford when I turned 21. It was 1941. Daddy told me you had better get a career that is a withstanding one. No telling what may happen in the future. A nurse or an undertaker will always have a job. Well I didn’t want to be an undertaker so I chose nursing. I met lots of girls up in Hartford that liked other girls just like me. What a time we had. I did nursing up to the day I retired. I got a job over in Middletown at the hospital and worked there. So much illness in America then and it’s the same today. Try to call a doctor and see how long it takes to get an appointment. Then they send you for tests and more tests. Once I had one that told me, “I don’t know what you have Miss Hillard but I know you have something.” Now I could have told him that. The cost of pills is going out of the roof. I know a lot of old people around here who have to cut their pills in half and some who run out of their medications before they can afford to buy a new bottle. They call me up and ask what they should do. They know that I won’t yell at them like their doctor might. That is a real crime, today in America of 2009. I don’t trust any of those people down in Washington to get the job of Health Care done right. A few months back I saw in the New York newspaper that out in California there was a free health fair. Over a thousand people who had no insurance lined up for 8 days straight. That should tell everyone something about this land of ours. I’m angry about that. I should be. I’ve seen so much suffering in my life. Somebody had better get up off their butts and turn this country around.

I just bought some pills for Lucy Winsted the other day. I went to school with her and have known her all my life. She was like me a loner who had to find love any where we could. Her and I experimented together. Now I’m not ashamed to say that I loved her but she needed someone to take care of her. “Ruthie, she said, “I know I did it all wrong.” “I should never have married Jake, had a child and kept house all my life when there was so much more out there that I know you and I could have explored.” You should have listened to me Lucy and come up to Hartford and found a career, that is all I could say to her.  I stop by and see her once a week and help her when ever she needs help. Her son Robbie is no good. Doesn’t remember where he came from. Lucy says the last she knew he was down in Texas somewhere doing whatever men do in Texas. “I got one card from him last Christmas but that is all. I just hope he is still alive. I guess someone would let me know if he was found dead.” she told me. What a way to treat a mother. Not very nice if one asks me. If I found him I would box his ears. He was a nice boy growing up, always polite and always doing something. Never in any trouble that I remember even when some of the kids in the old neighborhood were hauled off to juvenile court. You remember that case of the freight train being derailed? Well I heard that Lucy’s kid got his ass out of there before those Johnson boys did the deed. Glad he stopped off to visit with old Mert Weir as that was where he was when the train went off the track. Even when the Johnson boys tried to blame Robbie, Mert Weir said, “Impossible, he was here in my yard looking at the gold fish in the set in pond.” Couldn’t  have been in two places at once. But I did see the Johnson boys running up from the switching station. Mr. Ed Palmer also recalled seeing the Johnson boys and said so. They caught one of them and he cried like a newborn baby. So the police believed Mert Weir and Mr. Ed Palmer and no one thought ill of Robbie after that.

I continued making my art.

I continued making my art through out my life. After everyone died off I moved my studio down here to the sun parlor. Look at this place. Nice big room probably big enough to hold a dance in if it were all cleaned out. I had Mit Jones take out the wall to the old living room. When I was growing up there were a pair of French doors in between the living room and the sun room. I sleep in the next room. Moved down here as I didn’t want to climb up the stairs any more. Its better to be all on one floor in this big house. If I were younger I would rent out rooms. Not that I need the money but people do need places to stay. There are some young men and women who come into town to work during the week and they go home on the weekend. They always need a comfortable, inexpensive place to sleep at night and somewhere to eat. But no, I’m too old now to bother much with all of that. I would have to hire someone to stand guard like old Mabel did back in the day as there is no telling what strangers may try to do when you let them in the house. I got a big heart but it isn’t that big. I don’t love everyone like the hippies told us we should. I use to let some hippies camp over near the pond. Told them don’t make a mess and don’t burn down the woods. They were very nice people. You know regardless of what some people say about hippies smelling, these hippies took baths in the pond. Naked as the day they were born all of them together. I didn’t find it at all shocking but I suppose if some of my nosy neighbors came around they would call the police.

You don’t see all that much art lying around here. When I get sick of any art I take a picture of it and then bring it out to the burning barrel and light it on fire. Once that nosy old woman Barbara Hall saw the smoke and called the Fire Department. Well they came sirens blaring down the street and pulled up in front of my house and came out back. The nerve of them to tell me that it was against the law to open burn anymore and that I would have to cut it out. I told them, “buster I got an idea, why don’t you go and stop all this big industry from pouting the air the way they do it. Ten times more smoke and dirty chemicals are set off into the air by them than by my burning up some old art that I don’t like.” Well to get rid of them I promised not to do it anymore so now I use the pictures to start my fireplace. That’s okay I guess as the firemen haven’t come around and put a stop to it yet. Still the same old smoke going up into the same old air.  Can’t for the life of me understand why the smoke from my fireplace or from anyone’s wood stove for that matter isn’t bad smoke. It’s all smoke. Well one time I was out walking by Building Bob’s house and I believe that I smelled garbage burning. The smoke was coming out of his chimney and lord did it smell. I know that smell as old Rat-a-Tat Taylor who took care of the dump back in the day use to set the dump on fire to get rid of the garbage.

So now being retired I continue to make art. I love to make art and I love to take walks. There isn’t any place around here to show my art but that’s okay. I don’t care much about that end of it all. Most of these old cronies painters who paint nice little houses, their kids, flower gardens, puppies and angels don’t like my art. They think I am a crazy old bat but not one of them would say that to my face. Some of the young people  like my art a lot. They call me grandmother and bring their works of art for me to see. I love them.

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