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Every Family Has A Cheapskate

Updated on June 23, 2011

Every Family Has One

Every family has one. A spendthrift, economical minded, financially gifted person. OK, so I mean tightwad, cheapskate, penny pincher! But, every family has one person who brings shame and embarrassment down on the family name. My family wasn’t any different.

Her name was Lena Brown, or ”lener” as folks called her. She was a 2nd cousin or something. I can talk about her openly now since she passed away a few years back… not that everybody in the small rural community of Mountainburg, Arkansas didn’t already know how cheap she and her husband Tom were.

They lived in a small cheaply made wooden house Tom had quickly thrown together. Their home was down past our family cemetery a short stretch on a dirt road in the Graphic community. Yeh, I figured you might have heard of them.

Get Rich Schemes

Lener and Tom would have been happy living in a lean-to if the county had allowed it. If there was a quick way to make a penny you could bet they knew about it. The Brown’s actually ran a chicken farm. But local residents always joked it was just a front for Lener’s get rich quick schemes.

It seemed nothing was beneath them if there was money involved. For example, they had taken in a foster child…mainly for the state money they’d get. Their child was a big, strong, husky, rawboned gal of 14. I think she was sweet on me, but I was married. Even so, she scared the dickens out of me. This country girl could toss a bale of hay with the best of them.

But I digress. Her name was Marilyn and Lena would hire her out to some local farmers from time to time. Her earnings were confiscated and she received a small allowance. Lena purchased second hand thrift store clothes for her. These, she resold as Marilyn rapidly outgrew them.

Tip Of The Iceberg

Marilyn also needed prescription glasses, which she never got. The Brown’s figured she could get along just as well with regular reading glasses.

This is just the tip of the iceberg with this couple. My wife and I had several dealings with them also. The first time I discovered the stories about them were not exaggerated was when we took them to a McDonald’s in Fort Smith. They had brought their own cheese slices so they wouldn’t have to pay extra for a cheeseburger. That episode was embarrassing, if not laughable, to say the least. But not all of their shenanigans were of such a minor nature.

My wife loved arts and crafts and made many dolls and other items she sold at work to supplement our income. Occasionally, she would buy something from someone else simply to get the pattern. And as luck would have it, she bought a cute country doll from Lener.

She Took It Apart

The doll sat in our house for several weeks before she had time to examine it closely. When she took it apart she discovered the wood used in its construction was full of termites. Lener had gathered the wood from a house down the road from her which had been torn down for that very reason.

We paid dearly for that, because the stuffed chairs in our living room had wooden frames. I plopped down into one after a hard day’s work one evening and it promptly crumbled under my weight. How much does a few small pieces of pine cost? Not nearly as much as having to replace my living room furniture I guarantee you!

Naturally, we never bought anything else from her. But, apparently they had no shame because they weren’t finished with us yet. When my grandfather died, Lener graciously offered to take up a collection from our neighbors for flowers. We should have known better then to accept.

At the funeral, we found grandfather’s casket draped in a cheap, plastic spray she had obviously gotten at a discount crafts store or WalMart. The grave was similarly adorned. They had collected over $100 but what they bought cost barely $20. What happened to the rest of the money?

She always planned well ahead. Lena married late in life to Tom, who was about 20 years her senior. It was obvious the plan was he would naturally die before she would. Lener purchased a sizable life insurance policy on him several years after their marriage. As expected, Tom did pass away first. Lener bought the least expensive burial package available. And several days after the funeral the community saw her driving a brand new customized Van.

Lener had her fingers into anything she thought she could profit from. One scheme was making family trees for different branches of our family. I bought the book pertaining to my family. At the time I didn’t know she had made the book covers herself. The glue on the book’s spine held approximately 2 weeks before it fell apart.

Nonetheless, I still had the information. Or did I? It was many years later when I got the genealogy bug and started our family tree I found out what she had done. I discovered half of the entries Lener had put in were wrong. Birthdates, places and even some names were incorrect. Fortunately, I’ve corrected all of that.

But, you know what they say about payback. We got even, albeit a little late. When we attended her funeral, Lener’s casket had the same spray she had bought for our grandfather!

Grandmother had saved it especially for that occasion.


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    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      It's not the money, just the principal. Actually, I was just trying to flirt with ya. Since you insist on me responding to every comment you make. On 2nd thought, that insisting bit reminds me too much of my ex. Forget the flirting part. LOL

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      LOL! Only 50 cents? You're too cheap, sir! You'll never get rich :)

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Thank you very much sweetie pie. Please send 50 cents for the cost of reading my fantastic story. :-)

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      I too know people like this. Fortunately not close family. They are actually.... mmmm.... disgusting? And so sad, they don’t realize it. They call themselves shrewd businessmen, economists and clever. Well-written hub, as always.