Home remedies prescribed by her father and trips to the town dump filled tales of her childhood that Regi Carpenter shared Tuesday with members of the Shepherdstown community.
“My dad had a cure for everything,” the Clayton, N.Y., storyteller told an audience filling the War Memorial Building on German Street. Whether he was trying to economize, or believed that a butterfly bandage could fix most anything, Carpenter said, her father wrote out his own prescriptions for the ailments of his five children.
“If it’s good enough for a veteran,” Carpenter imitates her dad with a thick Northern accent, “it’s good enough for a Carpenter kid.” The butterfly bandage, which emerged as a cure-all from her dad’s World War II wisdom, could fix almost any wound Carpenter and her siblings faced.
By the time the Carpenter children had reached age 6, they all had scars beneath their chins except for Regi. Now, all the other Carpenters had their gashes sealed with butterfly bandages by their dad. When Regi finally got her beneath-the-chin cut, her dad wasn’t home.
Regi and her sister were playing cops and robbers, like they sometimes did. Regi was always the robber, and her sister was always the cop. After her sister tied her up with dish-rag handcuffs, she made her walk over to the couch to be put in jail. Just as Regi was making it to the couch, she tripped and her chin hit the edge of the couch, splitting it wide open. When she finally had her very own Carpenter chin scar to match those of her siblings, she still ended up being the odd one out because her mother took her to doctor to get her chin stitched rather than applying a butterfly bandage.
With five kids underfoot, Carpenter’s mother sometimes needed some time to herself, the storyteller remembered. On some Sunday afternoons, her dad would take his children on adventures around Clayton—often to the town dump, which the kids loved.
“Carl, don’t you want to do something with your children today?” Carpenter’s mom asked her father.
“I’m reading in the same room they’re fightin’ in,” Carpenter’s dad, Carl Henry Carpenter, replied.
While his response didn’t warrant any words from Carpenter’s mother, her dad knew he would need to get the kids out of the house somehow. “My dad spelled ‘fun’ t-r-o-u-b-l-e,” Carpenter said.
There was usually only one option when it came to Carpenter’s father taking the kids out for a fun Sunday afternoon, and that was adventuring to the Clayton town dump. Upon arrival, Carpenter’s father called out to the children in the back seat of the red Bonneville station wagon with the wood paneling duct-taped to the sides, “Kids, let’s go shopping!”
“Dante’s Inferno had nothin’ on the Clayton town dump,” Carpenter said. While everyone was rooting around in what her dad referred to as “one man’s trash, another man’s treasure,” he picked up a doll with an eye hanging out from her head and a leg almost completely detached. Regi imitates her dad, saying, “Girls, look at this doll. There is absolutely nothin’ wrong with this doll.” She recalls being the daughter who actually ended up with it.
At the end of the day, her dad had found a television set, yet another to add to the five already stacked in the living room. The kids heaved it into the back of the station wagon and they all headed home.
“I couldn’t even make it up. It’s all true,” Carpenter said.