When my mama was twelve she was cooking lunch with her sister in law, Ellen. Mama’s brother, Joe Bill, (his real name was Billy Joe but because he did everything backwards they called him Joe Bill.) and his wife lived with the family.

Ellen and Mama were in the kitchen cooking on the wood cook stove when Ellen said, “Joe Bill is drinking again. You know what that means.”

Joe Bill was drinking moonshine and when he drank he became violent. He’d knock Ellen around when he’d been drinking. They were all afraid of him.

He was out on the front porch with my grandfather. (My grandfather was dying and very weak.) Joe Bill was leaning up against the wall at the end of the porch with his bottle of moonshine next to him on the edge of the porch.

“Linda, go out there and get rid of that ‘shine.”

Mama went out onto the porch and grabbed the broom. She started sweeping the porch. Carefully, she made her way to Joe Bill and his bottle of ‘shine.

Woosh! Crack! She swept the bottle onto the French drain below. The moonshine was quickly soaked up into the dry earth beneath the pebbled drain.

That woke Joe Bill from his stupor. When he saw what had happened he lunged at Mama. Mama took off! Down the porch stairs and around the house. Joe Bill fast in her tail.

Mama was fast but Joe Bill had spent years running from the revenuers. He was just as fast. Mama made three laps before she started to flag.

“Ellen! Ellen! Help!”

Ellen came running. She tagged out Mama. Mama ran inside and started stirring the okra so it wouldn’t burn.

Mama saw through the kitchen window that Ellen only made it one lap before Joe Bill caught up with her. Joe Bill had Ellen pinned against the hip high porch floor. He was choking the life out of her.

Mama came a running. Seeing that Joe Bill was killing Ellen, Mama swung and hit him in the head. With an iron skillet full of fried okra.


He was down and out.

My grandfather said, “Go get me a looking glass. I think you killed the sum bitch.”

They held the looking glass to Joe Bill’s mouth. It fogged up. He was still alive!

Ellen and Mama managed to load up Joe Bill and Grandfather into the car to head to the hospital. Only, Ellen couldn’t drive. So, Mama took the wheel.

On the way to the hospital Grandfather said, “If he dies, someone’s going to the chain gang. If anyone asks, Joe Bill ran into a door.”

They got Joe Bill to the hospital and were waiting outside his treatment room. Mama’s nerves got the best of her and she went outside. There she overheard two doctors talking.

“What do you have?”

“Car wreck. You?”

“Some joker that got a kitchen lobotomy. He’s got okra hanging in his hair and all the family will say is that he walked into s door.”

Joe Bill was in a coma for a couple of weeks. When he awoke he grabbed his head and cried, “Aaagh! What happened to me?”

“You ran into a door, Joe Bill!” was everyone’s reply.

Joe Bill lost his violent tendencies that day by the porch. A lobotomy will do that to you. And you know what else? He never ate okra again.