A Short Story by Ruth A. Souther

Picture Album
A Clam for Maggie
Death's Midwife
Miracle Muskie
Tater Babe Trio - Episode One
Tater Babe Trio - Episode 2



Lake Arkabutla

The Sisterhood began right outside Coldwater, Mississippi on a scalding hot June afternoon in the midst of two thousand Southerner’s looking for a bargain. The three of us dropped our husbands, along with their Hobie’s, off at Lake Arkabutla and fled the scene in search of something – dare I say it? – more fun to do. Although the call of the Kayak was loud in our ears, more entertaining was the flea market happening a mere eight miles away.

“Just down the road”, Debbie had told us (Debbie, of Debbie’s Antiques – which is yet another story, but this one concerns the birth of the Tater Babe’s). She did not lie to us – which I’ve noticed, in the South, they tell you stuff straight up, no lies, if you can understand what they’re saying in the first place. Although, most of the time we couldn’t understand, so we weren’t sure if we were going eight miles or eighty, but what the heck, we had three days before we had to hook the boats back up. Our husband’s were looking for wind in all the wrong places, so we didn’t feel the need to hurry.

We found the flea market out in the middle of nowhere, spread across Hwy 51, with more cars than a tractor pull. We parked and ran for it, across the highway, down a steep hill, through deep grass with pockets of standing water, and finally along a little muddy path with a cardboard bridge into Wonderland: a place where you could buy a Double H bra (big enough – we swear – to put the hulls of a Hobie in it with no problem) all the way to a herd of goats. We tried to avoid the ‘livestock’ section right after we saw a guy carrying a plastic bag full of dead chickens around as nonchalantly as we carried our little treasures. Their little feet were pressed against the bag, and we looked for movement, but there just wasn’t any.

We just didn’t have the stomach to see that sort of thing, so we veered off toward the ‘pharmaceutical’ section where we saw mostly expired boxes of cold medicine and aspirin, and any kind of shampoo, cream, or sun block you could ever want. Of course, all of it was no less than two years old, or very weird brands, like ‘Really Stiff’ and ‘Almost Stiff’ hair gel, or ‘Brute Bug Repellant’.  We didn’t buy any.

There was this guy selling socks – nothing but white socks – who told us that he packaged them himself, and if there was anything wrong with any package of socks we bought, we should bring them back, because, after all, a guy has to take pride in his work. We believed him, and you know, those socks are some of the best any of us has ever had. Then there was the Folk Art Cat, that doubled for a candleholder, and the seventy-five cent, incredibly gorgeous Stargazer Day Lilies, the crystal Margarita pitcher and glasses, and the $20.00 Blue Boy and Pink Lady that was selling in a St Louis antique store for $75.00.

It seems Mississippi might be the Pork Rind capital of the world because there were several big booths that were churning out freshly cooked pork rinds, all flavors, just like we have Kettle Corn at the State Fair in Illinois. People were stuffing these things down their throats by the bagful while the three of us just stared. All of this happened before we even found the Tater Tent. See, the joke goes like this: because our husbands go to dozens Regattas, they have many, many tee shirts. Do you know what it’s like to discover that these men are constantly wearing matching shirts, while us women are standing there wondering if we should be questioning this odd little quirk. Is this a Hobie bowling league, or what?

We said we just might come back with matching outfits ourselves. As we made our way through the booths, we were watching for possibilities. Among the things that caught our eyes were black teddy sets with garters and cowboy hats, hot pink jumpsuits, metallic dress shirts, camouflage pants, short drawstring dresses – with pockets, mind you – and fringed western wear, all of which we actually considered, but ultimately decided we were nearing sunstroke and should just walk away before somebody got hurt.

It was a fluke that drew us to a shabby cardboard box full of short, black tank tops sitting on the ground in a corner by itself. They were inscribed with the legend “Tater Red’s” and weren’t half bad. The guy who sidled up to help us looked to be from the shallow end of the gene pool. We asked him how much, he said five bucks a shirt. We said, I don’t think so, and what’s Tater Red’s anyway? Oh, he says, it’s a nice place. Oh, yeah, we says, where is it? And he says with a wink:  I wouldn’t go there if I was you. But it’s a nice place.

Ok, that sealed the deal. After all, no woman wants to be told she shouldn’t go there. That’s fightin’ words. We told him a dollar a shirt, he said two. We said okay.

He says, there’s a dressin’ room out back, if’n we want to try them on, then he eyeballed us all and said, medium, medium, medium. We did not try them on; we paid the man and left.

The Tater Babe Trio was born just because ‘we shouldn’t go there’. So we went there anyway. The shirts have come to symbolize the courage to be who you are, and go where you want, regardless of the odds. We now know that Tater Red’s is a VooDoo shop down on Beale St. in Memphis, but that doesn't change anything.

We aren’t even a trio anymore – we’ve expanded our ranks to ten other States and three other countries - it seems a Tater Babe is indefinable, coming in all shapes and sizes and colors, with all kinds of ideas. A Tater Babe is unique. There are at least 50 of us out there, all celebrating our Babeness.

All you gotta do to be a Babe is to have some attitude.

And a really cool name.

A tank shirt with our logo doesn't hurt anything, either!

Respectfully yours,

Visqueen, Tyronza and Hernanda – the Original Tater Babe Trio


Ruth Souther, Author of the Immortal Journey series