Rest in peace Cousin Dorothy Ray

By TIM BEELAND,

People with maturity around these parts – if you catch my drift — will remember long-time Scott County Times bookkeeper Dot Leonard. Dot left The Times well before I arrived here in 2009 and she left this earth for her heavenly home last Tuesday morning.

Dorothy Ray, as my mother so very southernly, syrupy, and properly since that was her given name, refers to her, was a sweet, gentle lady, of which, I dare say, no one ever spoke poorly. Most folks will tell you that she was loved by all.

“Very sad news. Wonderful lady,” former Scott County Times editor and publisher Sid Salter said when I sent him a note of her passing. And, that she was, but she was also a bit more when it comes to our family.

You see, the reason my mother so southernly — so properly — called her Dorothy Ray is because Dot’s dear mother, the late Sara Jane Underwood, was my sweet grandmother, the late Delia Mae Hudson’s sister. My mom and Dorothy Ray grew up together as first cousins.

Back then, as Mrs. Helen Cox said to me the other day when I was buying gas and told her of the death of an aunt of mine, who was her cousin, Edna Earl Beeland, “cousins used to play together all the time.”

She is so right.

Today cousins hardly know each other. Some don’t even speak. I suppose the difference is that we all move so far away from home these days that we seldom get back to visit, much less play, with our kin.

Back when I was a kid spending the summers at my grandparent’s house in Sebastopol, I looked forward to the weeks when my cousins would come up from the coast to spend a few days in the country. We did a large amount of playing in the early ‘70s.

We played in the barn, and in the fields, and up and down the red dirt banks and gravel covered old bed of Pine Gove Road.

We played in the woods, and in the corn crib, and in the milk barn, and just about anywhere else there was to play. We chased the lightening bugs, and popped maypops, and gathered up baby rats and other critters wherever we found them.

We drank water from a shared dipper, or right out of the end of the hose. Then we sprayed it all over ourselves and each other when it was time to cool off. At night we washed that red dust off of our feet in the bathtub — Granny always made you wash your feet — and then piled into bed and went to sleep.

When my uncle and aunt moved their family back to Sebastopol and built their house next to my grandparents’ house we played even more. Cousins were friends back then. Most cousins I know these days are just...well, I guess, they are just cousins.

Regular readers of this column  — if there be such — know that my wife, Danny, and I now live in that same house, on that same dirt road called Pine Grove. I still play in the barn a bit, and in that field out front, and in the old road bed too, I suppose one could say. A different kind of play, but play it still be. And, I still wash the red dust off in the same old bathtub that I did the same in 50 years ago.

Often Danny and I find ourselves sitting on the front porch, swatting flies and wasp, and reminiscing about the old folks that used to come visit and do the same thing on that porch, and on lots of other porches around town. A good many of the lady folk — seems most sometimes — had  double names like, among others, Delia Mae, Sara Jane, Edna Earl, Clennie Mae, Willie Charles and, of course, Dorothy Ray — you’ve got to pronounce it slow now!

Which brings us back to Dot.

One of my fondest memories of her, and one my wife and brother both can attest too as well, comes from a family gathering at the house near the end of my grandmother’s life in the mid ‘90s.

We had taken our meal in the yard that day, and for convenience sake used paper plates and plastic Solo cups. As we were gathering things up and the ladies were clearing the kitchen, Dot was standing at the sink with soap up to her elbows, washing up all those plastic cups.

“Why you washing those Solo cups,” me or my brother, one, asked. “We bought plastic so we could throw them away.” Dot, being Dot, turned and looked at us in her special way. I can see the expression on her face now. I’m not certain what she said, something like “well there ain’t nothing wrong with these cups, we might want to use them again,” I think.

I can’t remember exactly, but I do see her, I see that look on her face and that brings a great big smile to mine.

Rest in peace Cousin Dorothy Ray. You’d be happy to know that we’re still using some of those cups!