Thursday, October 11, 2007

Don’t Run Away With the Cows, Unless, Of Course, You Don’t Want Anyone to Find You

In response to David's question of the week. :

P.S. This is a potential chapter in the potential book, which may have very little potential after all. (Can you tell all the rejections from agents are already getting me down?) So I figured when I saw David's post I'd not let it go to waste. I posted it here so at least a couple people could derive some form of entertainment from my writing. Pity party over. Thank you for joining me.

Dinner was served very early at my home. We usually ate well before 5 PM. We always ate dinner as a family, around the dinner table, using the proper utensils and good manners. My parents, both transplants to the Midwest insisted,

“Even though you girls are growing up in Iowa, you won’t learn to eat like you were raised in a barn.” I still do not know how people in barns eat, but I am very clear on how people outside barns are expected to eat.

For one, they always use the proper utensil for each food type. They use a salad fork for salad and not the entrée, hence the name. I’m certain it has something to do with lettuce maintaining its nutritional content when pierced with smaller tines compared to larger ones.

They never use their spoon to eat peas, even though it is much easier than a fork. Despite the round uncontrollable nature of peas, the left hand should remain in your lap at all times, and should never be used to help scoop up your food like you’re a monkey. Monkeys eat bugs out of other monkey’s hair, so no one wants to be confused with a monkey.

I can say with absolute assurance, people who eat outside a barn, should never stab their vegetables with a fork. After all vegetables are dead plants, without legs, and will not walk off the plate. So stabbing is completely unnecesary.

Eating your vegetables is so important; it must be done before you are allowed to serve yourself any potatoes, bread, or meat. Vegetables are best served slightly over cooked with no oil, butter or cheese sauce. You may add a prudent amount of salt.

There is a simple formula to follow in order to determine the number of vegetables you should eat. For larger vegetables like green beans or carrot chunks, you should eat one for every year old you are. Unless you are an adult, in which case you can max out at approximately twenty. (The sooner you learn that there are always different rules for adults, the fewer spankings you’ll get.) For smaller vegetables like peas and lima beans, you must eat two for every year old you are.

When your vegetables are eaten, or slyly stored under the lip of your plate, under the table, under your bum, or out the kitchen dining nook window, you may continue with the remainder of your meal. While there are alternate methods to disposing of your vegetables, eating them is by far the best choice. Being caught hiding vegetables, will result in a double serving of the disdained food.

At no time during dinner are elbows allowed on the table. In fact, resting one’s forearms against the edge of the table, even for the briefest of moments, is absolutely not tolerated either. In a barn that may be okay, it’s hard to say since most barns I’ve seen are not equipped to hold meals, let alone raise children, but it is certainly not okay at the dinner table.

No one over the age of two should ever grasp a fork like they are holding a dead chicken by its neck. Rather the technique is more akin to holding a pencil.

As far as cutting the food, that can be very tricky. Put your fork in your left, and knife in your right hand. Make certain you are not holding the fork like a dead chicken. Skillfully hold the food with the tip of the upside down fork tines and then saw slowly and gently with the knife. When you hit 1970’s mustard floral patterned Corelle, stop sawing immediately.

Don’t think you can cut the entire pork chop all at once and then chow down. You are allowed to cut only one piece at a time, switch hands with your utensils, put the knife down, eat the morsel of meat, and then pick up the utensils, switch hands again, and start all over. It is so complicated and time consuming, you understandably may decide eating the pork chop is not worth the effort.

Ah, but you better make that decision before you take the pork chop off the serving platter and put it on your plate. Once you have chosen the pork chop, it is yours to love and cherish forever. And you personally will be responsible for eating it.

But don’t worry, if you are unable to finish it at dinner, then it will remain on your plate, covered in Saran Wrap and will sit in the refrigerator until morning, when you will once again be presented with the meal for consumption. This time, however, it will be much cooler in temperature.

Having been thoroughly taught these dinner-time rules since before I could talk, I should have been wiser one summer evening as we sat down to eat in the dining nook of the kitchen.

After I uncharacteristically completed eating my vegetables without any prodding, I helped myself to some mashed potatoes and a slice of meatloaf. Jackie, assuming there was no possible way I could have devoured 14 green beans already, tattled,

“Debbie didn’t eat all her vegetables and now she has potatoes and meatloaf!”

I responded by grabbing my fork like a dead chicken’s neck, stuffing my mouth full of mashed potatoes, and in a dumb, muffled, potatoes oozing voice said,

“Debba dint et all ur begtables.”

This outburst was shocking and unprecedented in our family. Mom quickly excused me. She told me to take my plate and spoon and go eat in the living room. This made no sense to me, because none of the foods on my plate allowed for eating with a spoon, and we were never allowed to eat in the living room. She must have sensed my hesitation so she explained,

“If you can’t eat your food correctly with a fork at the kitchen table, you’ll eat with a spoon in the living room.” And then in response to Jackie’s snide snickering, she added,

“And, Jackie, you can join her.”

I was angry and humiliated. We both went to the living room. I stomped. Jackie skipped. We had never been allowed to eat anything in the family room except New Year’s Eve crackers and cheese, so Jackie gleefully starting finishing her dinner at the coffee table. I sat on the carpet with my plate and spoon on a side chair, too angry and insulted to take another bite. I wondered if my mother would ever stop treating me like a child.

Then, without thinking much about it, I walked out the front door.

I started running. I ran to the field behind our house, and continued passed the water tower and across the deserted road. Then I stopped to catch my breath. I was surprised to notice tears on my cheeks. This made me even madder so I continued to run passed the Legion Club, and fair grounds, and across a field of cows.

Looking back, the water tower was still well within view. So I kept running. Up and over another fence I ran to the top of a hill in another cow pasture. I finally stopped and sat on a bump in the ground. With the water tower in distant view I knew I could find my way home when I was ready.

It was a typical warm early summer evening as I sat in the quiet field. I cried over the seemingly unfairness of my life for a while. Then I grabbed a stick and poked at dried up cow pies. Next, I lied on my back and watched the clouds in the summer sky. Soon I noticed the sun was starting to go down, so I walked very slowly back home.

Just before dark, I entered the back door of the house and immediately saw my mother with bloodshot eyes and tear stained cheeks on the phone. She quickly told the police their help was no longer needed and replaced the receiver.

Her look was intense and painful.

“Where on earth have you been?” she asked and without waiting for a response continued, “Don’t you ever do that again. Go to your room!” I wisely obeyed.

I found out later that according to the police many teenage runaways go to the mall. Since the nearest mall was 40 miles away and I had not thought to bring my bike, that was out of the question. The next logical place to look, since I had not had dinner, was the restaurant in town and the two gas stations that also doubled as convenience stores. But since I had not thought to bring any money, those places were a fruitless search.

The next step was to call my friends’ houses. For my mom that meant all my friends and remote acquaintances. Mom called every single classmate she could think of. Some girls weren’t even really that good of friends. And then she called a couple boys’ homes too. Nothing could be more humiliating for a fourteen-year old. I can only imagine the dramatic tearful conversation.

“Debbie was eating like she was raised in a barn, so naturally we excused her from the table to eat in the living room with a spoon. Now she has runaway.” Pause for sniffle sounds, “Did she go to your home by chance?” Pause for nagatory response.

“No? Oh dear, I wonder where she could have gone.” Pause for loud nose blowing.“Oh yes, I am sure she is hungry, but don’t worry, we have her Corelle dinner plate covered in Saran Wrap in the refrigerator. She can eat it for breakfast in the morning. If we ever see her again.” Fade to muffled crying sounds before hanging up the receiver.


  1. Please tell me this is a chapter in your book. I will buy several copies to give to my family and friends.

  2. Stacy,

    You are awesome. When and if I ever find a an agent willing to help me find a publisher, willing to publish my book, you'll be the first to know. Maybe I can even add this to my query letter. "...Four copies already presold!"

  3. i love it. and i'm afraid that i sound a lot like your mean old mom!

  4. Agents, agents,

    HU-LLLLLLO? Agents? Why aren't you reading this post and beating a path to Debbie's door, irrespective of whether or not she ate ``orl ur begtibles''?

    Debbie, this is a terrific tale and I will buy the book.

    More to the point, I gre up half a world away from you, but the phrhase ``don't behave as if you were brought up in a barn'' is something my brothers and I heard many times.

    And we weren't allowed elbows on the table either!

    More power to your writing. .... not that you need it, o talented Duchess of Utah!

    Makes that several copies pre-sold.

    Keep smiling


  5. *howling with laughter and sobbing with the memory of eating double servings of brussels sprouts*

    brussels sprouts were always my downfall.

    Great tale!

  6. I hate eating with other people, the noises really put me off, off topic I know but another interesting fact about me. Lovely story though, when you said you picked back up the fork in the stabbing grip I thought the story was going to turn out... a little violent.

  7. Debbie, Debbie,

    You bring back childhood memories.. the funny thing is I tried to raise my girls the same way, table manners and etiquette was always very important to me... teehee! I should let them read this.

    You are simply funny...


  8. Are you sure your parents weren't British?

    The agent's are mad, everyone knows that. Believe in yourself - we do!

  9. I love it, it's wonderfully fun and so inviting. I too, would like a copy :)

  10. Hilariously Funny!
    I remember the comment about being told when I didn't shut the door leading into our home and asked to Shut the Door with the comment after that one was said, You act like you were rasied in a Barn!
    I no someone who lived in a Barn while their parent's were building their home.
    I also went and looked at a Rental Home that use to be a Barn. It was a lovely place.
    God Bless You and Looking forward to seeing you on the Best Seller's List!

  11. Beautiful narration. Let me call it an excellent literary composition. All the best with the book.
    celine :)

  12. Deb, had me laughing again. That is a gift!

    Try having to tell your kids to stop using their forks and to eat their finger foods with their hands!

  13. Hi Deborah
    I followed the link here from David McMahon. A very amusing post and a life style foreign to me.
    I grew up in an extended family and some of us were tatal savages at the dinner table, much to the "anguish" of my poor mother. She was a strong character but some how the control was lost when we had meals.

  14. This is very funny stuff! I laughed, so I don't know why you can't get a nibble. No taste, I suppose.

  15. Michal,

    Everyone at your house has to eat their veggies too, huh?

  16. David,

    Thanks for the call to agents. Hope it works!

  17. Ozlady,

    Which is worse Brussel Sprouts or Lima Beans??? I'm not sure they are both so equally awful.

  18. Pope Terry,

    My childhood was anythign but violent. Sorry to disappoint.

  19. Cecilia,

    Your girls would probably say alot of that sounds familiar, huh?

  20. Carol,

    British? No one in my family has been British since the 1500's. But they were. Once upon a time...

  21. Victorya,

    Thanks for the encouragement and for stopping by.

  22. Flassie,

    I hope your ESP senses are right on...

  23. Celine,

    What a beautiful compliment. Thank you! And thanks for stopping by.

  24. Max,

    You'd think I'd be better at family meals due to my upbringing, but I let them slide a little too often.

  25. I loved this. And I feel your pain. Only mine was over dust I missed while dusting the top of the china hutch.

  26. Have you considered self publishing?

    I could mention a few best-selling names who started that way, but some of their writing is just plain rubbish and I wouldn't want to be mean.

    But seriously good stuff Deborah.

  27. Oh no its not a dissapointment, it just would have been rather awkward if the story finished "And then my mother took my sister to the emergency room"

  28. C-Dub,

    I have thought about self publishing. But have not yet decided what to do. Eventually I may.

    No go get dusting!

  29. I'd never run away with the cows
    As for running away with the cowgirl, well it's all down to how good she is at milking

  30. Wow this is really good. I can't explain how i found you, it was a convoluted road through many blogs, but I have enjoyed what I found here and it reminds me in a a way of one of my lbogs in which i write of my childhood...though our childhoods appear to have been very different indeed! I would buy this book too if you found a publisher. Maybe you should add a buyers list to your sidebar?

  31. This is a wonderful, funny story which many people can relate to. That's why I think it would be a popular book. Reminds me of Erma Bombeck.

  32. I actually want to run away more now, as an adult, than I ever did as a child.

  33. I found you from Mom Blogs. I must echo everyone else...what a wonderful writer you are! Fabulous imagry (is that how you spell that word? Where is the spell check on these things?) and a great story.

    Please promise me you'll never come to dinner at my house. Way WAY too much chaos. I'm the one laughing and crying in the corner with spinach up my nose!

  34. Hi, Deborah:

    Sorry - nothing to do with this post, but I thought you might be interested. I'm running a small World Series contest at my place, and the deadline is 6am tomorrow morning, so I thought you might like to pop over and have a quick guess.

  35. Wow Debbie your fan base really seems to be growing. You'll definitely need to include pictures with your book. I can see the Sidney water tower in my minds eye like a beacon of my childhood. We've never talked before about our running away stategies but I use to use the water tower as my guide as well through the Iowa farmlands. What I found most interesting was that mom called the police. I must have run away from home dozens of times (I'm so glad my own children don't give me so much grief)but I don't ever recall Mom calling the police. Ah this confirms my childhood complex- They liked you more.

  36. We had a dog when I was growing up. He was the healthiest dog in the neighborhood. All from eating veggie rejects. Only got caught once, too.
    How come all the moms seem to teach their daughters, but never their sons? Mom taught me and today I'm glad. Don't think I was earlier in my life, though.


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