Friday, January 5, 2018

The Art of Poormouthing by John Paul Barber

Growing up poor certainly has its share of disadvantages, but it does toughen you up and enhances your ability to improvise. 

I was the third of six children and my daddy was a chicken farmer. There can be a lot of ups and downs in that business so there was never a consistent cash flow into our home. The necessities were all we got. Treats and extras were a rarity. Partly due to our circumstances but mainly because my old man was such a skinflint. He was so tightfisted with his money, if it cost a nickel to shit, he'd throw up instead.

Unfortunately for me, my next door neighbor was a boy named Billy Suddreth who was the same age as me. Billy was an only child and his daddy worked for the railroad which was a good paying job in my part of the country. Billy never wanted for anything. I was constantly reminded of all the things I could be enjoying in life because Billy had everything I desired and I had to witness what a great life he had every time I passed his house and saw him playing with all his toys in his front yard.

But it wasn't Billy's toys that I coveted the most. As a boy, my favorite thing to eat was peanut butter. My daddy would never allow mama to buy any because "it cost too much money" and "Do you know how much pinto beans you can buy for what a jar of that peanut shit costs?"

Much to my disappointment, Billy loved peanut butter too and got to eat it whenever he wanted. Billy's mama went to the store every Saturday to get their weekly haul of groceries. She always bought Billy his very own jar of peanut butter every time she went. Because he loved it so much, Billy would devour the whole jar as soon as she handed it to him. It didn't take me long to learn this pattern.

I would patiently wait on Saturday for Billy's mama to get back from the grocery store. I knew about how long it would take for Billy to eat that jar of peanut butter. When I knew my window of opportunity was open, I'd go down to Billy's house, knock on the door, and ask if he could come outside and play.

Once Billy came out, we'd play around for a few minutes and I'd always find a way to pick a fight with him and make sure it turned into a wrestling match. Now, you might be thinking I did this because I was a mean and jealous child and I somehow wanted to punish Billy for having a better life than me. You'd be wrong in thinking that. I just wanted to get close enough to him to smell that sweet scent of peanut butter on his breath.

(c) 2018 John Paul Barber


  1. John, I really enjoyed this story.

  2. Thanks, James. I hope your beak and your brain are still on the mend!