Be Back Dreckly

King George VI (shown left) with Eleanor Roose...
King George VI, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Queen Elizabeth--23 October 1942--Image via Wikipedia

My Crock-pot and I have just produced an absolute travesty of a pot roast.

No details. The experience is still too painful to discuss.

The short story course I’m taking online began today with a lecture regarding structure, followed by a brief exercise. So far, instructor Kaye George has managed to tear me away from Hamlet and set me on the road to genre fiction. Thank goodness.

Since yesterday’s post, I’ve been thinking more about retro words and phrases that must be saved. One that comes to mind is dreckly.

When my mother said, “Stay right here. I’ll be back dreckly,” my six-year-old cousin, a California native, asked me how long that would be. I was six as well, and I’d never thought about it. We worked out that dreckly probably meant ten minutes.

I thought we were the only ones who said dreckly, so at the age of thirteen, I was surprised to discover Scarlett O’Hara saying it. Margaret Mitchell, or perhaps her editor, spelled it terreckly, I believe.

That was about the time I realized the word was a mangled version of directly. Quite an epiphany.

I count myself fortunate to have lived among people whose language strayed outside the bounds of Merriam-Webster. I also appreciate having known people whose lives reached so far back in time.

Ethel Waller, my father’s aunt, once traveled with Cousin Tom McKenzie from Fentress to Fort Stockton, 365 miles, riding on a buckboard. That fact has always fascinated me, not just because of the means of transportation and the distance covered, but because someone I knew made that trip.

My grandfather knew an old man who, when he was a boy, saw General Robert E. Lee sitting astride Traveler. Dad told me that when I was ten. He didn’t have to emphasize its importance. We were Southerners. Knowing someone who knew someone who saw Robert E. Lee was a very big deal. Having that connection to Traveler was an even bigger deal.

Years ago I heard a scrap of a program on NPR about—I’ve forgotten exactly how it was, but it went something like this: Alice Roosevelt Longworth employed a gardener whose father knew George Washington.

That’s not even six degrees of separation. And consider the span. Washington was born in 1731. Alice Longworth died in 1980.

Taking my cue from Mrs. Longworth, I worked out how far and wide I could range. It’s a fun game to play.

My grandfather, Frank Waller, knew someone who saw, or for my purposes, knew, Robert E. Lee. General Lee married Anna Mary Custis, who was great-granddaughter to Martha Washington, who was married to George, who knew John Adams, who was married to Abigail Adams…

I could go in another direction, to Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson, perhaps, and come out who knows where, but Abigail Adams makes a fine journey’s end. (If only the Founding Fathers had listened to her.)

On the other side of my family—my grandmother, Mary Veazey Barrow, was kissed by President William McKinley (that’s another story), and President McKinley knew Theodore Roosevelt, and Theodore Roosevelt was uncle to Eleanor Roosevelt (another sensible woman), and Eleanor (aside from being married to Franklin) knew Winston Churchill, and Winston Churchill knew King George VI, who knew King George V, who knew Queen Victoria, who knighted Sir Arthur Sullivan (although she was probably not amused), who knew William Gilbert.

As in the previous case, if I were to branch off in other directions, I could bring in Lawrence of Arabia, Disraeli, Tsar Nicholas II, Rasputin…

But if I have my druthers, I’ll stick with Gilbert. Not a charming man, I’ve read…

To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock,
Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!

But he had a way with words.