Column: A good reason never to assume your visitor is blind

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 22, 2003

Lyle and Lillian Newcome and their 4-year-old twin daughters moved into the neighborhood when I was seven. Mr. and Mrs. Newcome were an attractive couple, a little younger than my parents.

Mr. Newcome was sent to Nebraska City as manager of the telephone company and in less than five years would receive another promotion and the family would move to Hastings, Nebraska.

While they remained, though, they brought drama to the neighborhood, a neighborhood already so full of conflict and ill-wishing that it seems almost impossible that anyone could add more.

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My family was not a particularly amiable set of people, but miraculously we were the only family in the block on speaking terms with every other family in the block.

There was instant rapport between them and the Newcomes. Mr. Newcome was a hunting and fishing man and owned one of those dogs, with reddish fur that looks like it has been finger-waved. The dog was the first problem.

Lad loved men and children, but regarded women as lawful prey and his family was constantly being hauled into court because Lad had sunk his teeth into the rear end of some unfortunate female.

Even he and Mrs. Newcome were not particularly friendly. There were days when she put out his food and raced to the house because he was growling at her.

In his dislike of women, Lad made one exception: He adored my mother. She was never afraid of him, but was somewhat less than gratified by his too-effusive affection. If she were sitting out on the porch in the porch swing, he would rush up to her wagging his tail and frantically lick her hands and if possible her face. Then he would lie down at her feet and growl at any woman visitor that chanced by.

Once when she was on her way to the dentist, wearing a two-pieced dress with an off-white silk top, Lad caught sight of her and rushed forward standing on his hind legs to lick her face and leaving his muddy footprints on the top of her dress.

Since my mother was extremely fastidious in her person, the dentist was somewhat taken aback. &uot;Looks like you have a friend,&uot; he told my mother uncertainly.

&uot;It’s more than friendship,&uot; she said bitterly. &uot;We’re walking out together.&uot;

Every Saturday night, my parents and the Newcomes played 500 together, either at our house or theirs. When they came to our house, the discussion between my parents always centered around who should partner whom. Mrs. Newcome played for blood. If she and her husband played as partners and lost, her emotions veered toward the homocidal.

If he was partner to someone else and won, her emotions veered toward the homocidal. I once saw her lean forward and scratch the blood out of his hand because, playing against her, he had won, and she said he was gloating about it.

Mrs. Newcome was a woman who loved scenes and if they were lacking she staged them. I only once saw her totally upset by one of her dramatic moments. She told us about it in great agitation.

The state institute for the blind was located in our town. The yound blind men studying at the institute were taught to make brooms. When the brooms were completed the students would go through the town taking orders for them.

Almost everyone ordered a broom. They were well made, lasting and only cost a dollar.

Mrs. Newcome had ordered a broom. Now all on a summer afternoon, she was getting ready to go out shopping when the doorbell rang. Fresh from her bath and wearing very little, Mrs. Newcome glanced from her bedroom door into the adjoining living room. The outside door had a glass window at the top, and through it she could see broom handles.

&uot;Ah, my new broom,&uot; she told herself, and seizing a dollar from her purse, not stopping to throw on a kimona, she rushed to the living room, and &045; dollar in hand &045; threw open the door to confront the Fuller Brush man.

To realize the horror of it, you have to remember that this was an era when swim suits for women still had sleeves instead of straps. Some women still wore long stockings with their swim suits. The suits usually had skirts on them. In some places, a woman could be arrested for appearing on the beach in a one piece bathing suit, no skirt.

Poor Mrs. Newcome, appearing in front of God and the Fuller Brush man in her scanties, was horrified. Everyone who heard the story was horrified. Except my father when my mother shared it with him. He laughed like mad.

&uot;It’s not funny,&uot; my mother told him. &uot;Poor Lillian was so upset that before she slammed the door in his face she screamed at the Fuller Brush man, ‘Oh my God! I thought you were blind.’&uot;

&uot;Well maybe by that time he was,&uot; Dad chortled. &uot;Remember what happened to Peeping Tom, when Lady Godiva made her ride.&uot;

Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursdays.