Biographical Non-Fiction posted February 12, 2018

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How eating peanut butter scarred me for life

Peanut Butter

by Henry King

In 1939, a few months before my third birthday, I began to realize my universe was larger than my mother's personal space. The prompts to that awareness were varied, dramatic and stand-alone events which occurred during a three-month period of my young life. Looking back, it's like watching Greek drama, one scene and then another. There was no linkage between those singular events.

We lived in Big Spring. At the time, it was the largest organized wide-spot in the road between Fort Worth and El Paso. Midland and Odessa were oil-boom towns. It would be a few years, before the rawness wore off and allowed those vibrant oil-patch communities to emerge. We lived at the edge-of-town by the "viyaduck." That's where the highway ran below the Texas, Pacific and Santa Fe railroad bridge.

We lived in a two-room clapboard house. The only rooms I remember were my bedroom and kitchen. There was a wooden porch and a fenced in backyard shaded by a Chinaberry tree. The yard contained a large friendly dog. Don't ask, I can't remember if there was a bathroom, living room and a bedroom for mom. My dad, at that particular time, was not a constituent of my small world.


The sun was down when my mother drove us to a movie in our pick-up truck. The movie had a lot of gun fire. Men were screaming because their arms or legs were being amputated. They were in rooms whose walls were sheets and blankets hung on clotheslines. There was a big fire and more shooting. People were running from men riding horses. The movie was "Gone with the Wind."

^ ^

A man put a wood-slatted crate, holding a white-feathered rooster, in the back yard. My mom said, "I'll wring its neck and stew it for supper."

Mom went into the house. The dog sniffed while I inspected the crate and its occupant. The rooster ruffled its neck feathers. Working its head through the slats, it tried to peck us. The dog raised its hind leg and marked the crate and rooster. The rooster had a fit. Now that was fun, I'll do it. Dropping my pants, scooching up as close as I could, I began my marking. The rooster, incensed, pecked me. I screamed. The dog began barking and clawing the crate.

The screen door slammed open. My mom came out, waddling as fast as she could. She was eight plus months pregnant. Thinking the dog bit me, she yelled, "What is going on? Where did it bite you?"

"The rooster bit me, right here."

I was pointing to my little "bit."


Saturday morning arrived. Mom had me all cleaned up. My dad took my hand, telling me,
"We have to get you a haircut. Your grandma from El Paso is coming to visit on Monday."

This was the first time I remember my dad being in my world. I readily went with him. Apparently he had been around for some time.

As we were walking to the barbershop, a cousin met us. He, on crutches, was missing a leg. The empty pants leg was folded and safety pinned. A brimmed high-crowned hat was on his head. As my dad and I went into the barbershop, our companion said he would wait outside in the shade.

The barber gave me a lollipop as we entered. After the haircut, I was given another lollipop. I can remember my hands sticking to everything I touched.

Dad woke his napping cousin. The hat, lying beside his crutches, had some coins in it. We walked to a drugstore, where my dad and I were treated to a cold root beer. The two men were still hungry, so we proceeded on our march to a coffee shop.

Already full of suckers and root beer, my almost three-year old stomach had a slice of apple pie added to it. I was sticky and tired. Dad took me to grandma's house.

Grandpa was sitting at the table eating his favorite snack, peanut butter with maple syrup. I asked for some. Grandma put a couple of spoons full of peanut butter into a saucer and stirred in the maple syrup. That was not enough for me and I let her know with a tantrum.

Grandma had given birth to and raised eight children. My dad was number seven. His four oldest siblings were older than my maternal grandparents living in El Paso. My paternal grandparents were graced with twenty-three grand children, I was number eighteen.

Experienced, grandma didn't put up with my tantrum. She set a bowlful of peanut butter and syrup in front of me and made me eat it all. I was bawling as we left my grandparent's house.

Dad, carrying me with my head on his shoulder, stroked my back. I vomited. Down his back ran the suckers, root beer, apple pie, peanut butter and maple syrup.


Three days later, I was on the porch playing. Both grandmothers told me to see if a stork flew over the house. They told me I must have missed it, because it brought me a baby sister.


The peanut butter incident was slipping from my mind. Except, from then to this day, I have not eaten and I will not eat peanut butter.


I thank Book Lotto for allowing use of the wonderful painting "In Times Past."
Viaduct is intentionally misspelled in the body of my story, because that was the way it was pronounced. Even though the viaduct has been dismantled for several decades, the "viyaduck" is still used as a reference point by some old timers.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by booklotto at

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