Editorial: Aunt Annie, an original female scientist; and renegade bicycle gang

Published 1:16 pm Tuesday, April 18, 2023

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Meeting one of the dozen or so neighborhood “moms” we all had while growing up brought back some memories. She was at an event last Saturday with her daughter, whom I had grown up with, and her son, who was a member of our ferocious bicycle gang (More on that later.)

She thanked me for something I had written many years ago, about Uncle Roy and Aunt Annie. Growing up, every mother within miles  not only had the right to discipline someone else’s child -it was expected. Uncle Roy and Aunt Annie were uncle and aunt to every child – and most adults. But they didn’t discipline – they encouraged.

Uncle Roy was the rock. Plain and simple. He was Aunt Annie’s rock. He was my dad’s rock. He was the rock for Oak Grove United Methodist Church. He was everyone’s rock; always willing to help and be a friend.

Aunt Annie was a snuff dipper. And she usually had a chihuahua who pretty much only liked Aunt Annie. When she talked, a cloud of snuff smoke would come from her mouth. But like Uncle Roy, she loved us.

And she believed in planting by the signs – astrological signs. There’s no witchery here, just ancient practices learned by man over the years. As a scientist put it: “The moon’s gravitational pull increases the moisture in the soil at the time of the new moon to the full moon, so it encourages germination and growth.” I doubt if Aunt Annie knew any of that, she just knew it worked. “The tides are highest at the time of the new and the full moon (waxing), and just as the moon pulls the tides in the oceans, it also pulls upon the water in the earth. The increasing moonlight creates balanced root and leaf growth.”

Wow. Aunt Annie was a scientist and never knew it. There’s no need to push for more women to become scientists, they’ve been among the best for generations. We just need to recognize it.

There’s conflicting reports on whether the practice of planting by the phases of the moon and astrological signs works. A lifelong gardener, I’ve never done it, and have had mixed results with harvests. It makes me wonder if those good years just happened to be planted under the right moon phase.

Just check your almanac, it’ll let you know when those phases are. That’s another thing of the past that was once essential. Although still somewhat of a technological dinosaur, I guess it is easier to just tap a couple of letters on  your phone to get an answer rather than look for that almanac … and wonder how long it had been in the bathroom.

• • •

Our bicycle gang was real.

We were a tough bunch. We could stop at a country store on a hot summer day and get a chocolate Brownie drink to wash down a large straw filled with sour, powdery candy. Now that’s tough.

There were six or seven of us who were gang members from time to time. We lived in maybe a two mile radius, so it wasn’t a next-door neighbor type of thing. We were too young to drive cars, and not old enough to be embarrased by riding a bicycle. But we had that ramblin’ fever.

It was on these tours we learned not to throw rocks at a hornet’s nest, and what happens when you toss your bicycle off a bridge onto I-40, which was being built and wasn’t open to vehicular traffic yet. After the workers went home, it was ours.

Some days, we would be gone for hours, stopping at country stores and counting change to buy a snack; or getting our story together before going in to buy cigarettes, which we always said was for our dad and always received. The store owner probably knew what was going on, especially after we had to ask for matches.

Of course, we got caught. Remember those moms? I’m not sure which one, but somewhere on the backroads of Davie County, one of those moms noticed and let our parents know. Our punishment? One mother bought big cigars and made us smoke them in front of her, thinking it would make us sick. They did, but we didn’t let her know, just pretended to enjoy them. We ran to gag after she got out of sight. We thought we had gotten away with it, but looking back, that mom knew her test had been successful.

The world needs more moms.

– Mike Barnhardt