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Etta and the Damn Rat

Story ID:6811
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Dillon Montana USA
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Still another "Etta" story...She was a never ending delight.

Etta and the Damn Rat…

My grandmother, Etta Hartman, who I have written several stories about was a great and very religious lady. Etta would never say an unkind word about anyone or even have unkind thoughts. She read her Bible faithfully and was always quoting scriptures. The furthest thing from her mind was a swear word and she would cringe each time my Dad would let go with one. As I remember, she had to cringe many times since Pop was raised on a cattle ranch in Montana and swearing was the norm. Nothing too bad though, just the occasional hell or damn now and then. She would never confront him but you could tell by her expression she didn’t care for it.

Etta lived with us for over 25 years in Bly, Oregon and supported herself by giving piano lessons to most all the kids in Bly at one time or another. I’m sure there are many kids who owe their first exposure to music to this dear old lady. One of her students was George Tillman.

Etta was walking down to the post office in Bly one morning to collect the daily mail and to gab with the other ladies in the lobby while waiting for the mail to be sorted. At that time, Bly had lots of wooden sidewalks on both sides of the street. This was handy because the streets were dirt and when it was wet, became very muddy.

Etta was walking toward Jack’s Place when she saw George on his hands and knees with his eye peeking through one of the spaces between the boards. She confronted him and asked what he was doing. He looked up and said, “Mrs. Hartman, there is a damn rat down there.” Etta immediately went on the defensive and proceeded to give him a lecture on swearing. I think she even told him he would not be given a gold star (which were given for good work) for his next music lesson. Poor George didn’t know what to say, he just keep on repeating, “No, there really is a damn rat down there.” The more he said it the madder Etta got and even threatened to tell his mother who lived across the street and might even be down at the post office waiting for her mail. George just couldn’t understand what the big problem was.
When Etta got to the post office she told everyone what George had said. Apparently it was OK to quote a swear word as long as she didn’t use one herself.

It wasn’t until sometime later we realized what George had really said. You have to remember that George and most of the people in Bly were of Southern decent and spoke with a pronounced Southern accent. What he really said was, “Mrs. Hartman, there is a dime right down there. Pity poor George, all he wanted was that dime and he was being chastised for swearing, in front of his piano teacher.

It wasn’t long before all was forgotten and I’m sure George got his dime and gold star after all.