Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Family in Harmony

I remember how my pappa loved gospel songs. At sometime in his years, he had learned music. He taught all of us to sing in harmony. While we were about our chores, making beds, washing dishes, empting the pots, or sweeping, all of which we did every morning, someone started a song and all joined in around the house.

At his time my pappa was usually waiting for the stock to eat and planning out our day's work. If anyone anywhere hit the wrong note for their part, he stopped us and told us how that part went. He could sing any of the four parts, but he loved to sing bass the best. We sang in the fields as we hoed, plowed with mules, suckered tobacco, or picked corn. What ever we did, we did in harmony together.

My pappa had a way of making us feel important. To own land was important, but to be debt free was most important. He would say, "Owe no man. If you do, be sure to pay as you promised or tell the person you owe that you need time." He said most people will understand and give you time.

He believed that honesty is the only policy, not just the best policy. His honesty was well known, so he co-signed notes for many people. His signature was as good as gold. A few times he had to pay debts for others and was never repaid.

He was also generous. I have seen him buy furniture for his cousin's family after keeping them several weeks free - a family of seven. He helped them get a new start in a rented house, then he sent me there with food for their table.

I have seen him take hams or bacon by the slab from our smokehouse and also other food to my sister, Sadie, whose husband was out of work and down on his luck - enough to feed a family of four. She was the one that some have said my pappa loved best. My pappa said, "She showed her love for me the best." I loved her very much also. She helped me with my spiritual life and seemed to know the right words to say. I stayed with her a lot, and I was very hurt when the Lord took her away.

It was the custom in those days to keep a family's dead at home overnight without embalming. Although my girlfriend and I were young, we took the after-midnight shift to sit with Sadie. We had to keep baking soda cloths on her face so she would not turn dark before the funeral.

This was such a sad time, the day after Christmas. My pappa always seemed sad on Christmas after that.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Reading the Clouds

Another thing that is very vivid in my mind is how we were made aware to watch out for storms, which we had quite often. While we were in the fields, we were taught by my pappa how to "read the clouds" and wind patterns.

We knew almost exactly how long to wait to start to the house. We worked and read the clouds. Sometimes we knew not to go for shelter. And when we must go, we knew never to get too close to big trees during lightning or wind storms. When at home, we knew to sit on the side of the house facing the wind.

At night we were all awaken if my pappa believed the storm dangerous enough. We all came in to one room together, the one he thought strongest. We were very quiet until the danger passed and my pappa gave the word.

I felt so safe in my pappa's care, and sometimes he even let us stay in his bed the rest of the night. That was the kind of peace that many children miss now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Reverend & Mrs. Green

We were trained to trust and fear God, which we did. I have felt the care and love of God in my life since I can remember almost. I was converted and gave my life to Christ at a very early age. I was about 11 years old when I received Christ and followed in baptism in a nearby creek.

I will never forget our dear old pastor who baptized me, Reverend Green. He visited our home many times and stayed many nights. He brought his current wife sometimes. He had bad luck with wives. He lost three before he died. His fourth was a cute, dumpy little lady.

When he brought her, we got a special thrill. She not only was named Mrs. Green, but she made herself a green hat with a big brim and lots of huge green flowers. She dyed her hosiery green, her dress was green, her shoes and bag were green. The kids at our house really had a big laugh out of this. We did as always when company came to eat and the ladies put their hats on the bed in the front room - we tried on hats. It was a ball.

This Mrs. Green was also different in other ways. She caught and ate rats, or so the Reverend told us. We thought this was very weird. We never saw her eat one, but we took the Reverend's word.

Rev. Green, like most preachers, would preach at church until 12 or 1 o'clock in the morning. My mamma always took a quilt to church and put it in front of the pew. She would sit there and as we fell asleep, we would take our place on the quilt. Sometimes I would be so asleep I would not know when or how I got home in my bed.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Peddlers & Preachers

I remember how peddlers used to come by our house with huge loads of pots and pans, medicines, or whatever they could carry. They would put down a big cloth with all their wares on it, take it up the the four corners, and fling it upon their back. They would go from house to house selling things. I remember thinking, "Oh, how nice that would be! I might just like to be a peddler when I grow up."

Where ever they were a mealtime or night is where they were shown hospitality. They must have first and best choice at our house. You see, my pappa held the Biblical belief that one "might be attending angels unaware," even if they were bums. My mamma changed the beds afterwards, using a stick to carry the sheets to a pot of scalding water and soap in case of germs or lice.

But no one was turned away from our house for food or lodging.

Once we had thirty people for the night and Rev. Mosley came riding up on his horse for the weekend as he did many times - just one more to feed, sleep, and an extra horse to take care of. He liked our church and he would often ride fifteen miles or more to worship with us, take communion, and wash feet. He loved to sing. I have seen him get happy at a foot washing and start congregational singing barefooted.

He was a very good, spiritual old man. He always sat and told us lots of stories. We called him Josh, and he talked sort of through his nose. Sometimes he would bring part of his family with him to visit. My pappa always said, "Come on in. We can make room somehow."

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Raising Tobacco

Everyone big enough to work helped in the fields. Tobacco had to be worked a lot. After it was about grown, my pappa always did the "topping," breaking out the center top. Then the leaves that were left grew thick and were of a good grade.

But it grew what was called "suckers," two over each leaf next to the stalk, and many near the ground. We must go over each plant and remove each of these suckers by hand, being very careful not to break or bruise the leaves. It took several weeks for all of them to appear and several times of going over the field removing them.

During this process the plants ripened and were ready for cutting. My pappa tested for maturity, then he gave the word for cutting. Only he and experienced help did the cutting. He held the plant at the topping spot by the stalk, and with his special knife he cut carefully. Each stalk was cut precisely down the center to two or three inches from the bottom. Then he sliced across it slanted and laid it carefully on the ground.

The rest of us came behind with small sticks, about one inch in diameter by three feet long, split out of timber. After a short wilting period, we picked up about eight plants to a stick and strung them upside down, turning one end until full and then the other, never letting it drag the ground.

Then we hung each stick across a scaffolding of poles barely higher than the length of the tobacco. It was left there until very yellow and wilted. Then it was hauled by wagonloads to the barn and hung with fire and smoke under it until well cured.

Before harvest when we were taking care of the tobacco in the fields, it must be plowed and hoed at least twice. Then there were the bud worms to pick off or spray. As it grew larger, another big type of horned tobacco worm got on it. We picked these off too or sprayed them with a small amount of arsenic added to large parts of flour.

We often had fun killing these worms which were the same type that we tied thread to for pulling loads of pebbles. When we would find large, fat ones, we would pop them hard on the ground or rocks, and the would burst open. We thought this was so funny. It may seem cruel, but they ate up our money crop.

Once my sister and I were sent to spray a field of tobacco on Saturday morning. We did not like to work on Saturday. My pappa, as usual, knew the exact amount of poison to put in our cloth bags so we could shake one short shake over each plant. We decided to hurry and then go to Aunt Hattie's for a visit. We sprayed fast and buried the remaining poison under a big rock.

My pappa was very upset when he thought we had oversprayed. He checked out the field. "It looks okay," he said, but he knew we should have had poison left. We got by with that one until we were grown and told him about it.

My sister Sadie tried the same thing once with seed peas. She planted them all around a big stump because she was tired of planting. Guess what? They all came up! She lost on that one.