"Addie, they're coming!"
Addie glanced at her sister. Deborah looked panicky. Addie looked past her sister up the dirt road to assess the reason for her sister's dismay. Pounding up the road, lunch pails clanking, ran the Maddox boys.
"We'll get switched for sure if they get our dresses dirty again!" Deborah wailed.
Addie sighed. Every day so far this week the boys had splashed much from the road onto the girls' faded, worn dresses. They liked to pull their braids and tease, too, but the mud was the big problem. No amount of pleading had been able to convince Momma and Poppa that it wasn't their fault. A hickory switch would surely be in their future if they couldn't stop the boys.
Running wasn't an option. The boys were bigger and faster than Addie herself, and little Deborah was much slower than Addie. They needed a plan.
Addie looked around. There were plenty of puddles in the road, due to the chilly drizzle they'd been having lately. There was no escaping, the barbed wire fences on either side of the road would snag and tear their dresses, insuring a switching. But there, in a fence row to the right, stood a big patch of stinging nettles!
"C'mon", she said to her younger sister and marched over to the patch of painful plants. Her first thought was to try to push the boys into the nettles, but she quickly rejected that plan, fearing she would end up in the itchy, burning leaves.
Handing her books to her sister, Addie fumbled in her jacket and got out a handkerchief. "Remind me NOT to use this later," she said as she wrapped the handkerchief carefully around the stem of the biggest nettle of the bunch. Grunting with effort, she broke the plant off from the ground, and held it behind her back.
The boys, Jesse and Kenneth were close enough now to begin taunting.
"Hello, widdle girls!"
"All ready for school, children?"
Their sing-songy chants grated on Addie's nerves. "Go on up the road," she ordered Deborah. She watched as, laden with their books, Deborah hurried on down the road.
Seeing her sister mostly out of the way, Addie began stepping determinedly around puddles toward the boys.
As she neared, Kenneth, seeing her deliberate tread, got quiet and stepped behind his older brother. Kenneth was a little scared of Addie. Everyone around knew she could shoot as well as any man. Jesse, however, didn't have enough good sense to be scared. He grinned at Addie and sneered, "Gonna get the soaking for the both of ya?"
Addie glared and shouted, "You leave us alone!"
Jesse's reply was to pull up his foot and hold it threateningly over the nearest puddle.
"You'd better not!" she hollered.
He laughed and stepped around the puddle but reached out and pulled on her braid, hard.
Addie yelped in pain and pulled the nettle from behind her back to slap Jesse clear across the face with the plant.
"YEOOOOW!" He screamed, letting go of her hair to grab his own face, which was already showing signs of a nasty rash in reaction to the plant's sting.
Addie waved the plant in front of him, and then his brother. "Now, you leave us along," she stated again, firmly.
And without a backward glance, she marched past, nettle still in hand, and walked on with her sister, in clean dresses, to school.
(This was one of my favorite stories my Grammy used to tell, about her childhood, in response to Mama Kat's writing post)