The Capers Papers

The Capers Papers

Charlotte Capers
WITH A FOREWORD BY Eudora Welty
Copyright Date: 1982
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tvcrm
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    The Capers Papers
    Book Description:

    At last it's available again, and in paperback, the book that Charlotte Capers' hosts of readers have been urging back into print. One of Mississippi's most fascinating personalities and one of its absolutely best raconteurs, Capers can hold any reader of listener enthralled with her witty, delicious narratives. Here she focuses upon whatever seized her insights-mainly life in its ordinary gait-yet her reports of the smalltown scene are as alluring as the tales of Shaharazade.

    These delightful essays, as Eudora Welty says in the foreward, "were written to amuse, and they abundantly do so."

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-680-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-5)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 6-8)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. 9-11)
    Eudora Welty

    Charlotte Capers never thought to collect her papers. Her colleagues in the Archives have now done it for her, making their choices from a large number that go back for several decades. Here they are for our delight.

    We will all have to agree at once to this: they represent Charlotte but they cannot convey her. They weren’t written with that in mind, for they came about by circumstance. Many of them—some of the best, in fact—are samples of her warmly remembered Sunday newspaper column, “Miss Quote,” set down spontaneously in response to an occasion. The occasion would...

  4. Author’s Note
    (pp. 12-12)
    Charlotte Capers
  5. God and My Grandmother
    • God and My Grandmother
      (pp. 15-28)

      When Mother and I got to Columbia every summer, Grandmother would be on the front porch, waving and crying. The crying was because she was so happy to see us. If she had not been crying, I would have been disappointed.

      We usually left Jackson for Columbia the last week in June, and Father joined us in August if nobody in the congregation at St. Andrew’s was seriously sick. Somebody was always sick, as I remember it, and it seemed to me that all Episcopalians appointed to die did so in August. As pastor, Father saw his sheep in or...

  6. Pass the Pesticide, Pappy
    • Pass the Pesticide, Pappy
      (pp. 31-34)

      Long ago when we were growing up in a big old house we knew that rats and mice were real and earnest, that mosquitoes bite, and that moth and rust doth corrupt. We dealt with these pests with the resources at hand. Traps and poison were available to our side.

      The traps were baited and set by Father, who ducked no duties. Sometimes we would hear the traps go off, at which point the ladies would scream and hop up on a chair, and Father would dispatch the intruder. For moths, there were mothballs and frequent airings and sunnings, and...

    • Ivy League
      (pp. 34-36)

      The most fascinating mail we get is addressed “Occupant.” Recently we received an especially helpful lawn and garden guide. On page eight of the guide we are advised to “think like a rose.” Further investigation reveals that a thinking rose would have a lot to worry about. There are aphids, which feed on rose sap, thrips which attack it in summer, mites, black spot, rust and mildew.

      It is hard enough to think like a person, but if you add the worries of a rose to income tax payments, the vagaries of the stock market, Viet Nam, situation morality, the...

    • My Dog Holly
      (pp. 36-41)

      This is a little piece about my dog Holly, but it isn’t going to end “If I should hang from the highest hill, I know whose love would follow me still,” et cetera, et cetera. Because if I should hang from the highest hill, I know Holly’s love would follow the nearest can of all-meat dog food. We watch television together, and she has refused to have anything to do with cereal dog foods since she saw the Alpo commercial. Determination is the key to Holly’s character.

      I got Holly one Christmas, and named her for the season and because...

    • Moving Day
      (pp. 42-44)

      Next to a war, which shouldn’t necessarily happen in each generation, there is nothing so soul-shaking as a move, which generally comes once in a lifetime to all men. This reporter, recently packed in paper shavings, bundled up in a large moving van, and transported from scenes of childhood to new environs, has some advice, won the hard way, for all movers. As it is presumed that everyone is a mover, a potential mover or a past mover, perhaps the perils of the shared experience will fall on eager ears.

      First, don’t try to pack your clothes on M day....

    • Wreck
      (pp. 44-47)

      As I was hit by a truck on deadline day it was inevitable that I should write about my wreck. I am shaken, quaken, shattered and battered, but grateful I was able to walk away. My Buick Special was not so fortunate, and had to be towed away as a result of its encounter with a pickup truck from Lee County, Mississippi, on a peaceful Sunday morning in the spring. The truck was apparently lost in space after a Sunday drive on the interstate highways, and was trying to find the Baptist Hospital to visit relatives. Anyway, it turned up...

    • Not Speaking of Operations
      (pp. 48-52)

      Since my experience with surgery, it has been suggested by friends calling on the sick that I write a piece about my operation. The implication is that such a piece would be a howl. Certainly they always have been! My answer to such suggestions, graciously intended, is a categorical “No!”

      In the first place, I found nothing funny—I can easily refrain from saying side-splitting—about the removal of my gall bladder. This is a revolting allusion, but if President Johnson can mention his, I can mention mine. As the job was done with skill and as I was treated...

  7. The Pain of It All
    • The Pain of It All
      (pp. 55-58)

      When one of my best friends left the hospital during my operation before she heard whether I had lived or died, so she could get home in time to see her noontime television program, I realized the grip that soap operas have on the ladies of our land. Of course I did not realize it at the time, as I was unconscious. A couple of years later an eyewitness told me about it. Then I wondered what the soap operas have that I haven’t got. After a week of viewing, I am thankful to say, plenty.

      The week of viewing...

    • Be It Ever So
      (pp. 58-62)

      There is a good deal to be said for the comforts of home as opposed to the lure of faraway places. No matter how fancy the fare, there is something about your own personal bath and your own personal bed that can’t be beat on the European plan.

      We have a friend who goes alone to Riverside Park from time to time, cheese sandwich in hand. There she sits, nibbles the sandwich, and contemplates. Whether she contemplates the infinite, the swimming pool, the tennis court, or the sheer joy of being away from work, we know not, but we do...

    • Queen of the May
      (pp. 62-64)

      “Wake me early, Mother dear, for I’m to be the Queen of the May.” Long ago in Merrie England whence many of our customs came, a young lass was chosen May Queen to reign over the spring festival in her parish. Years pass, oceans are crossed, and in the New World, tradition survives. The queen thing really caught on. When the Royal Barge floats down the Mississippi River bearing the rulers of the Memphis Cotton Carnival, you may be sure a queen will float thereon. And the carnivals and balls and festivals throughout the South celebrating social and religious traditions...

    • Tell Me About Your Trip
      (pp. 64-66)

      Some very young people make some very sage remarks. For example, we know a nine-year-old girl who has just returned from an exciting trip to New York. There she saw many sights, went to some Broadway plays, and rode the camels in the Bronx Zoo. “You’ll have a lot to tell when you get home,” said her aunt, who took her. “But I may never get to tell it,” was the knowing reply.

      This nine-year-old knew that people practically never listen to other people, because she is a very observant child. For all her nine years she must have noticed...

    • Good Sport
      (pp. 66-68)

      The world of sport intrigues us. Lady athletes excite our admiration. When we began to grow, and continued to grow taller and taller, our parents said hopefully, “She will be a good swimmer!” From the first we were horrified of the water, and sank like a stone whenever placed in it. Later it was suggested that we were built like a tennis player. The result of this build was one love set after another, with us representing the love interest.

      In our teens, we went briefly to sea, in a sailboat. Sailboats are prettier from the seashore than they are...

    • Planning to Build?
      (pp. 68-70)

      As the ring of the carpenter’s hammer makes mighty music in the morning air, our heart goes out to builders of homes. This spring, more than ever before, houses will rise in our town, on hill and dale, by spring and lake, near bus-stop and super-market. They will be long and low and short and fat; they will be contemporary and they will be traditional, they will be conditioned against heat and cold and termites and small children, and a good many of them will be mortgaged to the hilt.

      But this is not why our heart goes out to...

    • There Go the Joneses
      (pp. 70-72)

      The joneses are hard people to keep up with. Time was when they entertained their friends in the family dining room, with fried chicken, rice and gravy, peas and mushrooms, hot biscuits, and ice cream with chocolate sauce, for company dinner. This pattern persisted until someone noticed the beauties of nature, and almost simultaneously scientists dealt death to night-flying insects, with the discovery of DDT. Forthwith the Joneses, long an indoor group, moved outdoors.

      The move involved outdoor furniture, which in the beginning of the patio phase was rustic, and a great deal of marching back and forth bearing potato...

  8. Apartment for Rent
    • Apartment for Rent
      (pp. 75-79)

      Home is where the heart is. In my case, it is where the tenants are also. This union of heart and tenants results in both joys and sorrows. Let me tell you about some of the sorrows.

      On a winter’s day I had a telephone call from my upstairs tenant. This is a bad sign. “The refrigerator is off,” he announced, “and everything in it is spoiling.” I rejected an unworthy mental picture of everything in it, which I happened to know was a TV dinner, and assumed my responsibility. I suggested that he call an electrician.

      Some time and...

    • The Tiny Tenant
      (pp. 80-81)

      You’re never too old to learn. For example, we have learned a lesson from a baby. The lesson is that in dealing with a baby, the baby makes the rules. For years we have felt that a conversation carried on in baby talk is unnecessary, even degrading. Why, we reasoned, isn’t it possible for grown people to speak pleasantly, even affectionately, to a baby in English? Why wouldn’t a baby be just as glad to hear, “Good morning baby, I love you, you are so sweet,” as “Dood mownin’ babee, I oove oo, oo toe tweet.”

      The fact is, he...

    • By the Dawn’s Early Light
      (pp. 81-83)

      A good many people have asked us what happened to the baby. That is, our tiny tenant who inspired us to a couple of dewy-eyed columns filled with vivid descriptions of two-month-old precocity. We haven’t written anything about him now for some months, and it seems that he has a public avid to hear about him.

      Frankly, the first rift has come between us. Without saying a word to anybody, he put himself on daylight saving time. Now at five in the morning, with the first straggling gray of day in the sky, the tiny tenant lifts his pretty head...

    • How to Get a Baby
      (pp. 83-84)

      “You don’t still write Miss Quote, do you?” we were asked by a nice red-headed young man who purports to read us. “Why?” we countered. “It just doesn’t sound like you,” he said. “Better or worse?” we asked. “It’s not that,” he answered, “It’s just that the person who writes it now has a baby.”

      Well, it looks as if we’d better clear this up. There are all kinds of ways to have a baby. You can have one, in the old-fashioned biological sense of the word, one can be given you, you can get one. We’ve got one. We...

    • The Little Wrecker
      (pp. 84-86)

      There is a baby bulldozer in our home. It occurs to us, that with his superior talents for demolition, we might make a deal with his parents to rent him out on a commission basis. We note that where there is a lot of building, there is also a lot of tearing down. This is especially so in commercial districts, where old buildings are wrecked to make way for new ones. After watching the little wrecker in our home, we are convinced that he has a great future, if we can get by the child labor law.

      Our idea is...

    • La Mere Goose
      (pp. 86-88)

      Today we are speechless. We make a statement, and no sound comes. For once the virus is not the villain. Back of this depressing state of affairs is Little Tommy Tucker. Back of Little Tommy Tucker are Bo Peep, Little Boy Blue, Old King Cole, and a host of fabled characters who follow in the train of La Mere Goose.

      And back of them all is the Tiny Tenant, man of the year in this department. As the Tiny Tenant has built up a following, and as his fans are constantly clamoring for word of him, we feel justified in...

    • Out of the Nowhere
      (pp. 88-90)

      You hear a lot about cruel landlords. There are, of course, two sides to this story. We cannot speak for landlords, but we know a great deal about landladies. We are one, as a matter of fact, in a small way. And to a landlady in a small way, anything can happen.

      For example, you can rent to two people, and then suddenly without a word of warning, there are three. This is exactly what happened to us. The third renter came to us from out of the nowhere, but he is certainly into the here in a big way,...

    • Summer is for Children
      (pp. 91-94)

      Summer is for children. I know because I have a friend who is five years old. She has lost two teeth, another is loose, and she can dial her telephone number. By these signs she knows that she is getting big.

      Another sign is that in the fall she will be scrubbed clean, her hair will be brushed until it shines, she will put on a dark cotton dress, black patent shoes and white socks, and she will present herself to Elementary Education.

      Meanwhile, she has Summer. This is a time of playing out, begging to go swimming, going swimming,...

  9. Fasten Your Seat Belts
    • What, la Peste?
      (pp. 97-98)

      We are standing with reluctant feet where the brook and the Atlantic Ocean meet, for having read with mounting excitement that this is the first summer we can fly to Europe on the installment plan, we are on our way.

      We make this announcement in the public press not because it is in any way newsworthy, but because we are going to take off for a week or so, and we want our readers to remain true blue during our holiday.

      The reason that our feet are reluctant is that some necessary preparations for overseas flight have depressed us. There...

    • Fasten Your Seat Belts
      (pp. 98-106)

      First, a word on the age of flight. Charles Lindbergh in theSpirit of St. Louis,some years back, was probably not nearly so nervous as I, settling into the TWA Constellation calledStar of Nebraska,that was to whisk us through time and space and deposit us at Orly Field in little more time than it takes to say Jacques Robinson. However, for tourists contemplating such a flight, I testify that it ain’t bad at all. Having a sack full of sleeping pills helped, for Ruth Forbes, my companion of the voyage, and I applied the barbiturates at Gander,...

    • Westward the Women
      (pp. 107-110)

      This is a story with a moral, and the moral has to do with grass being greener on the other side of the fence, and a black hard-top Cadillac convertible being more desirable if you’re not driving it 1,500 miles due west. To begin at the beginning, which is the best possible place, let us say that we still would like to have a black hard-top Cadillac convertible of our very own, one we had nurtured from its childhood and one whose habits we understood. But to be transferred suddenly from the quiet comfort of a Plymouth whose habits we...

    • Pawley’s Island
      (pp. 110-116)

      In these changing times it may be noteworthy that there is a small beach resort, four miles long and a quarter of a mile wide, on the upper coast of South Carolina, that flatly refuses to change at all. And the only ripple that disturbs the calm contentment of its summer colony is the ugly rumor, repeated now for several years, that “the developers are coming.”

      If there is one thing Pawley’s Island, South Carolina, does not wish to be, it is “developed.” Developed, to Pawley’s Islanders, means small cramped houses with plate glass windows unprotected from the sun, air-conditioning,...

    • Allison’s Wells
      (pp. 117-120)

      It is hard for me to realize that Allison’s Wells has to be explained, for it was such a special part of Mississippi life in the forties and fifties. The prospect of a weekend at Allison’s was enough to sustain me through the week; a thirty-mile drive from Jackson on twenty-five cent gasoline led to another world. There at the end of a winding gravel road off old Highway 51 the rambling resort hotel sparkled in summer with its seasonal coat of white paint, and in the kitchen an ancient black cook produced culinary marvels on a fragrant wood stove....

    • Autumn Light
      (pp. 120-122)

      About this time each year we have a terrific yen to go native. Native Mississippi, that is. So we get in our little gray car and we take a ride. This Sunday we would urge you to do the same, if the autumn sun is out, and we have a tour all planned for you.

      Mount your motor and head for the river. The old man himself. At Vicksburg, after driving through flat cotton fields and vine-covered bluffs, take a right on the river road, and head north. On Highway 61 you will pass plantations and cattle farms on the...