RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Time now for StoryCorps. We're hearing from everyday Americans across the country talking about their lives. Today childhood memories from the Mississippi Delta. Lucky Osborne grew up in Chula, Mississippi during the 1960s. He lived with his grandparents and he came to StoryCorps with his wife Debi to remember that time.
Mr. LUCKY OSBORNE: My mother and father divorced when I was seven and we went to live with my grandparents, Mama Willie and Daddy Charlie. It was in the country, it was really in the country. We had a swamp behind the house. I used to sit in my bedroom at night on top of my bed and shoot alligators through the window with a .22 rifle. And the road ended at our garage. If somebody was coming down the road, they were either coming to see us, or they were lost.
Ms. DEBI OSBORNE: Now, Ma Willie, I remember she was real feisty.
Mr. OSBORNE: One thing about Ma Willie, she had a wooden spoon that she carried all the time. She carried it in her apron pocket. That thing could telescope out to 50 yards, I know, for sure, 'cause if you messed up, you could not outrun that spoon. She would ping you right up in the top of the head with it, I don't care how fast you tried to run, that spoon would hurt.
And my grandfather, he was quite a man. I think he finished maybe the eighth grade, maybe. But he could do anything he wanted to do. He and my grandmother, they bought a little cafe there. It's just a little hole-in-the-wall-like place. And one day a guy, he was a sign painter, all right. He came in and he told my granddaddy, he say, if you'll feed me, I'll paint a sign, any sign you want on the front of your cafe. He says, just write it out and give it to me. So my grandfather says sure. So he printed out Ferrell's Cafe real nice and neat, handed it to the guy.
The guy goes out, a little while later he comes in and says, well your sign's ready, I'm ready to eat. My grandfather says, well let's go out and look at it. He went out and he looked and it was upside down. The man couldn't read. Whatever my grandfather printed on there, that's what he painted.
Ms. OSBORNE: Well, did he keep that?
Mr. OSBORNE: No, it stayed there for years. In fact when they sold the cafe, it was still there. And people used to ask him, said, Charlie, why don't you have that sign fixed? He says, nope, people come by here, then they'll stop and ask me why that sign's upside down. They always gonna drink a cup of coffee, eat a piece of pie, a hamburger, something. He said, it's the best advertising I ever had.
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MONTAGNE: Lucky Osborne with his wife Debi at StoryCorps in Jackson, Mississippi. Their story, along with all the others, will be archived at the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress. And you can subscribe to the project's podcast at npr.org.
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