Notes From The Cactus Patch

Tall Tales and Ripping Yarns from The Great State Of Texas

Money In the Mail

A few days ago, while opening our daily mail, I was mildly surprised when I received a rebate check from my cell phone carrier. I have heard of such a thing, but in my lifetime, have never been the beneficiary of such.  It wasn’t much, just Thirteen dollars and change, but it jogged my memory, gave my old heart a tug, and made me smile.

My late aunt Bulla was a lady of many homespun country  quotes. She was Minnie Pearl before Minnie Pearl. One of her most memorable  was ” it’s always a sunny day when you receive money in the mail”. How right she was. The sun was out, and I was a smiling fool.

In Aunt Bullas  collecting career, one that spanned a whopping eighty-five years,  she may have received more cash and gift certificates in the mail than anyone in the state of Texas. I’m not for certain, but she may hold an unclaimed world record somewhere.

She was a prolific collector of coupons, rebates, cereal box-tops, magazine mail-ins and the like. She filled out every card and form for every measly contest she could find. She was an advertisers dream, and it rewarded her well.

In the summer of 1959, my sister and I were lovingly deposited at her Santa Anna farm house for a few days so my parents could have a reprieve from “us kids”.

It was a good trade off. Aunt Bulla let us eat every sugary delight we wanted, and my parents got a short break. She was a prolific but modest country cook, and set about making us a Ma and Pa chef’s  assortment of pies, cakes, cookies, and homemade ice-cream with chocolate brownies. We were on a constant jittery sugar high as our teeth slowly rotted from our greedy little mouths. Sure was good though. It helped keep our family dentist in business.

Aunt Bulla didn’t have an “Uncle Bulla” around the house. I can’t recall ever seeing him, or hearing a name mentioned at the various family gatherings. It was always just Aunt Bulla and her little Giblet, the ill-tempered, vicious three legged, blind and deaf Chihuahua.

She never had the customary farm animals, nor a tractor, or  grew crops. It was just a few acres with a nice little farm house and a garage that always housed a new Ford Fairlane 500.  She didn’t work, so we figured she inherited money from some distant friend the family didn’t know about. It was all very hush-hush within the family.

Our second day there, my sister and I were sitting in her sunny kitchen eating our “third”, but by no means final lunch of the day, which consisted of  “peanut-butter and banana sandwiches”, washed down with her high octane Cool Aid served in ice-cold genuine aluminum glasses. What a feast.

Our munching and slurping serenade was interrupted when Aunt Bulla staggered into the kitchen with a large canvas mail bag and proceeded to  dump the  entire content of the bag into the center of her shiny Formica covered table. The letters spilled onto the floor, onto our laps and into our lunch. There must have been hundreds of pieces of mail.  I thought she had robbed the postman! I had never seen so much mail that wasn‘t attached to Mr. Rhodes, our mailman back in Fort Worth.

She sat down and methodically began opening letters, sorting, making a pile here and one there. In about an hour, she finished sorting her booty, added everything up in her Big Chief notebook, and then announced that she “had only made two-hundred dollars today”.

My sister and I were floored. That’s more money than our family made in weeks! I thought of myself as rich when I had a quarter in my pocket. No one made that kind of money except Sky King, Roy Rogers or The Lone Ranger.

In my young eyes, Aunt Bulla was a millionaire, and was now, right up there in that elite league of my cowboy movie heroes . It was clear, even to this ten-year-old, why Aunt Bulla didn’t have a job, or ever needed one. She got “all of her money in the mail”.

When my sister and I returned to Fort Worth a few days later, we each received a letter from Aunt Bulla. Having never received a personal letter, we were so excited, my mother had to open them. Inside of each letter, folded in perfumed lilac stationary was a crisp twenty-dollar bill.

The accompanying verse, written in flowing cursive said: “it’s always a sunny day when you receive money in the mail, go enjoy yourself and think of me, Aunt Bulla”. She was right, it was a sunny day, and my sister and I were smiling like a couple of fools.

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