Sunday, February 27, 2005

A New Beginning

Shortly after that [starting school], the crops were ready for harvest. The maple sap was collected and cooked, a new one-time crop. Then my pappa bought back our own little house that he had cut logs for with his ax and built by hand.

One cold windy day we loaded up kids and belongings for PZ Ridge, about 3 miles away. As I sat upon the wagon full of our feather beds and stuff, we came to the big cedar tree above the old schoolhouse and I got a glimpse of my old house. That was the most beautiful sight - it looked like paradise to me!

My pappa started talking about repairs to the fences and barns and screens for the windows. I was so excited - it seemed that I had gotten back everything that I thought I had lost.

We started our life all over again. We never had the nice wooden beds and the bureau with the marble top that I remembered so well. Gone too was the dining room china cabinet. We had bare necessities. But we loved each other very much.

First Day of School

Soon after that [summer] my pappa came home to stay. He rented farmland in the river bottoms and half of Squire McIntosh's house, which was far nicer than our old home. It was two stories. We had a kitchen, dining room, sitting room with beds for my parents and the baby, and two large bedrooms upstairs for the other kids.

There was a second story porch all the way across, which came in real handy when Sadie came in from school with head lice. None of us could sleep together, so we all had private pallets on the proch for a while. My grandma came with her fine-toothed comb, and heads and hair were washed and combed a lot till all were louse and nit free.

This is when I decided to start to school. I was past six, but had not quite made up my mind to go yet. I went off to Paul's Chapel to Miss Bessie Amsley, the teacher. She made me very welcome that morning. This was not the beginning of the school year, so at noon time the other kids explained the little door under the stage was where all bad kids were put for punishment.

I took this very seriously and when the bell rang for the afternoon, I decided my headache was much too bad to stay in school. So, sure enough, I convinced Miss Bessie to send two kids to walk me home, which was several miles through fields, fences, and blackberry patches.

Well, that took care of school for a while. I never was made to go back there.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Return to the South

When the baby was three weeks old, my mamma took us kids and our belongings and caught the train back to Cumberland City to live with my Grandma Bullard in her three room house while my pappa stayed on to work at what we called public works.

Soon afterward Jennie came down with double pneumonia. My pappa was called from a telephone located at Squire McIntosh's house, this being the only telephone within four miles. My pappa came home in the T-Model over very bad roads. The 350 miles took around 24 hours to drive.

Jennie recovered and he went back, but that spring I came down with typhoid fever. I remember how the trees were budding for spring before I became ill. I was very sick all summer and the next thing I remember is walking across the breezeway when the leaves were turning autumn colors. I guess you could say that was a lost summer.

Life in the City

The flat I remember was downtown. Pollution was heavy from the steel mills. My mamma washed every day in the kitchen, heating the water on the coal-burning stove and using a washtub and board. It was very hard for her to dry clothes outside with all the dirty air.

My second sister, Sadie, was the one who did the running to the grocery store and the snuff store for my mamma. My third sister, Georgia, who we called "Took," could not be sent out with money. She always gave it to the Salvation Army and told us she lost it down a manhole.

My pappa brought home lots of goodies, like bananas by the stalk. My mamma loved them. She could eat six anytime. We took in two male boarders, both named Tommy. They helped out with expenses.

My pappa worked nights at the glucose plant. The job was too easy - he had always worked hard. But the money was good for 1925. His salary was good enough that he bought a new T-Model Ford and a silk-lined sealskin coat for my mamma. It was beautiful and cost $25, which was expensive then.

My grandma came during a snow so deep it was over my head. I was five years old at the time. As usual, we kids were all sent to a friend's house to stay while a new baby was born. This one was named Jennie.

The Move North

All of this [scandal], of course, led to a lot of gossip, so my pappa sold the farm and left, going to Granite City, Illinois, to work and make a place for us to come to.

When the news came that he had an upstairs flat, four rooms with cold water and an outside toilet, my mamma got six kids ready, packed the feather beds, quilts, and the sewing machine she would be needing to sew for the new baby expected in three months.

My pappa sent a friend to travel with us and help my mamma on the train. We traveled by night mostly. We all were dressed in our best coats and hats, and we had fried chicken lunches packed in shoe boxes for our all night ride. We had to stay in those shoes and hats all night.

That trip seemed to take us so far away from home, but to see my pappa at the end made it worth any sacrifice.

Friday, February 25, 2005

My Pappa's Downfall

When I was somewhere between the ages of 3 and 5, our neighbor decided she wanted our farm. She schemed to send her 18 year old daughter to seduce my pappa and to make him think he was to father a child.

My pappa was taken in. His way to deal with the problem was to supply his family with groceries and leave to take the girl where she could stay and have the child. While he was getting dressed to leave, I was under foot and wondering what was going on. I well remember how he dressed in his brown suit, had the T-Model shined up, and the gum he was chewing had such an aroma I can still smell it - teaberry.

After he left to take this girl away, I remember folks coming in to console my mamma. I was very small but had very "big ears." No one noticed that I was broken-hearted. I thought I would never see my pappa again.

Later my pappa found out he had been deceived, that her story was a lie, and that she had just used him. When he knew the truth, he left her behind and made his way home to us. This was the greatest moment of my life. My pappa was home!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Family

I can well remember back to when I was three years of age. My family members were small farmers living in a three-room wooden house on a dirt road, one mile from the closest store and four miles from the post office and doctor's office. It was about three miles to the Cumberland River and Cumberland City was the name of the nearest town. The high school was located there. The grade school from primer through eighth grade was in a one-room schoolhouse just a few yards from my home.

I can remember at three years old when my first brother was born at home, as were four other girls before me. I was very jealous at having a new baby take my place. When I saw his little head, covered with black hair, resting in my mamma's arms, my first thought was to feed him to the pigs. At the age of three I could see this in my mind's eye and it did not seem bad to me at that time. As time went by, however, I learned to love him and we enjoyed many good times together, as I will tell you later.

Within my next few years, I remember following my pappa around a lot. He was my idol. I followed him to the fields, to the woods, to cut trees for lumber, to clear new ground, to look over acreage for new crops, to smoke tobacco in the barns, to plow, to feed the stock and pigs, to shoe mules, to mend fencing, or just to walk and talk, which we did frequently. He taught me in object or comparison lessons. Even though he had only three or four years of schooling, his knowledge was superior.

There were more babies after my brother, three girls and two boys, eleven children in total. My mamma was always tending babies or expecting one, while cooking, washing on a washboard, milking, churning, canning, helping in hog killing, sewing, quilting, helping neighbors or birthing their babies.

My baby brother Gordon died at the age of 6 months, and my second sister, Sadie, at age 26. Sadie left three children; the oldest was 5 years and the youngest 10 months. We took these in to raise also. My mama took her paralyzed half-brother, Tom, in his old age and kept him three years before his death. She allowed my grandma, my pappa's mother, to move in and out several times before her death, even though she was very cross and bossy.

My mama just took it all and smiled as only she could.