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Bo's Stories, Page 7



“The Woodcutters”   

            There was a time, I believe it was the winter of 1942- 43, when the weather was particularly bad, with prolonged periods of unusually cold weather.  A number of people were out of firewood, both for heat and for cooking (everyone then had a wood-burning cook stove).

            Most all of the able bodied men had left the community, either for the armed services or for the shipyards and aircraft factories.  There was a tremendous need for workers. In fact my sister Monnie Bess, just out of high school was working in an aircraft plant in Ft. Worth.

            I don’t recall how the solution to the firewood supply problem first came to light.  But, myself and 3 or 4 other of the older boys in Brooks School were excused from school for the purpose of cutting wood.  We spent about two weeks going around the community and cutting wood for those who were in the most desperate need.  

            I remember some elderly couple, I don’t recall now who it was, that stayed in bed to stay warm for most of two or three days.  If you had good feather beds, as most everyone did in those times; you could always stay warm snuggled up in one, no matter how cold the weather.

            I took the team and wagon every morning and met the other boys and we would cut down a tree, saw it up in fireplace lengths (about 30”).  The larger diameter sections from the trunk of the tree would be split into several pieces (sometimes having to use a sledgehammer and steel wedges).  The number depending on how large the section was.  The smaller diameter limbs would just be cut into the proper lengths.  As we cut the wood we loaded it into the wagon and when we had a wagonload, usually two of us would make a delivery while the other two or three of us continued cutting.

            One good thing about cutting wood, even in very cold weather you could be pretty comfortable in the woods.  You were protected from the wind by the timber, and the vigorous exercise kept one warm.

            We always took some kerosene with us to the woods in a bottle.  A handful of green pine needles would be tightly forced into the mouth of the bottle.  This then became a spray bottle for oiling the saw blades to facilitate their movement through the logs.  Back then there were no plastic spray bottles or pressurized cans of lubricants.  I guess now they robably use WD-40 in place of the kerosene we used.  I bet it doesn’t work any better though.

            In addition to cutting wood for the fireplaces, we cut wood for the cook stoves.  For the stoves we always cut pine.  Of course this was cut in shorter sticks.  Most stoves took 12” or 16” sticks of wood.  Mama’s stove had a deeper firebox which would take wood up to 20”. 

            The technique for cutting this wood was as follows: Stand the cut logs on end and split them into slabs about 2” thick.  A good straight pine log is easily split into slabs like this.  Then the slabs are split every two inches, yielding sticks of stove wood about 2” square. For some reason I always found this a particularly enjoyable task.  There was something about the “tink” sound made when you tapped the slab with the ax to knock off another stick of stove wood, that was music to my ears.  I never tired of that particular exercise. Wood cut like this and seasoned (dried) will give a quick hot fire which is what you want for a cook stove.             

            We always gathered “rich” pine logs and pine “knots” for kindling.  The rich pine is the very core of the tree.  When a pine tree dies and falls to the ground, the outer layers will decompose pretty quickly (within two to ten years depending on the size).   What is left is the dense heartwood that contains rosin (I know rosin is not a proper word, but that is what we called the sticky, concentrated sap from the pine tree from which the turpentine has evaporated).

            This wood is very heavy compared to freshly cut pine.  After a time the nodes where limbs were attached to the trunk of the tree break off.  These are the knots that I mentioned above.  In olden times, pieces of rich pine were used as torches for light.  One of them will burn for hours.  Rich pine when cut into “splinters” is easily ignited and burns vigorously, giving off a thick black smoke.  With a handful of these splinters you can start logs to burning in the fireplace, or with a couple you can start a fire with pinewood in the cook stove.

            When we hauled a load of wood to the house, we always included a supply of rich pine kindling.  In that bad winter we boys went around the community cutting and hauling wood and kindling.  We cut the wood in the scope of timber nearest the house it was going to, regardless of who the owner was.  I might add that we did this work for no pay (I think a couple of the people did pay us a little bit), except for the warm satisfaction of a good deed well done.


“The Bicycle”

            When I was in the third grade, Junior Pollard got a bicycle.  It wasn’t long until others got them too.  I wanted one in the worst way, but there just was no money.  I might as well have wanted an automobile.

            Along about that time Ray’s prize Poland China (a breed of hogs) sow gave birth to a litter of pigs.  They were all healthy except for one. He was the runt of the litter and it appeared he would not live.  Ray gave the runt to me to look after and nurse along, which I did.

            It didn’t die, but it didn’t grow much either, in spite of all efforts and special attention given to it.  Months later when it should him been a large hog, it was still just a so-so pig.  Didn’t appear it would ever get big enough to sell or to kill for meat.

            In those days we had peddlers come through the country pretty often.  They would have all sorts of things to sell or trade.  Most carried needles and thread, salves and horse liniment, knives and all sorts of trinkets.

            On this day, a peddler stopped by our house.  As soon as I saw him I spied the bicycle hanging on the side of his truck.  It was, of course, well used, but appeared in fair condition.  It was blue and I could imagine myself riding it. If I remember correctly, he wanted $7.00 for it.  It might as well have been $700.00 because we didn’t have any money.

            The guy could tell how badly I wanted the bicycle.  He wanted equally badly to make a trade of some sort that was beneficial to him.  After looking at all the things he had, I think Mama traded some eggs for needles and thread and maybe some bric-a-brac.  The peddler asked if we had any calves or pigs to trade and I thought about my pig.  I consulted with Mama and she said it was mine to do with, as I wanted.

            I offered to trade my pig for the bicycle.  I could tell the peddler was real excited about the pig, but I think he finally decided to make the trade, partly because he felt sorry for me.  Had he known how sorry a pig he was getting, he would have kept the bicycle, but he didn’t.

            I put many miles on the bicycle before I traded it for a nice double-barreled shotgun, but that trade fell through.  I don’t remember now what I finally got for the bicycle.

            Not long after I got the bicycle, some other boys and I took off one Saturday morning from Brooks Schoolhouse.  I guess this was about middle of the morning.  It was two miles from our house to the school.  I met the other boys there and we left and rode to Fairplay, which is another three miles.

            Then we decided to ride up the highway to the County Line Road and down it to the road back to Brooks.  I don’t know how far this is, but I guess from Fairplay about ten or twelve miles all the way around.  And there were lots of steep hills to climb too.

            By the time we got to Mr. Claytie Jones’ store, we were pooped out.  It was way past our lunchtime and I was hungry as a bear.  We all were.  I don’t know who was living in the back of the store then, but I guess it was Mr. Claytie and his wife.  I don’t remember her name.  But, bless whoever the lady was.  We didn’t have any money to buy anything to eat. Not even, enough for a candy bar.  She could tell though, that we were hungry.  I think we asked for a drink of water.  She gave it to us and also cut a pan of hot cornbread and gave us slabs of that.  Up to that point in my life, I don’t believe anything had ever tasted as good to me.

            Refreshed, we made it back to Brooks and then I went home.  I never again went on any excursions on my bicycle just for the fun of it.  Maybe to go fishing, or pick chinquapins or something important like that.

            We always went to the sand hills, which lay north of Brooks toward Tatum, every October to pick chinquapins. These were wild, native chestnuts.  They varied in size from tree to tree, but with most being a little larger than the average shelled peanut.  They had a wonderful, sweet flavor and it was always an adventure to go find the trees and pick them up.

            Back then, few people minded you going onto their land to pick nuts, or to hunt and fish, as long as you closed the gates and didn’t do any damage.  We didn’t have anything to throw away, so we couldn’t litter.  How times have changed.

            By the time I was a grown man, the Chestnut Blight from Europe had killed almost all of the American chestnut trees, not only in our area, but all over the eastern United States.  There are very few if any chinquapins now.

            After I got the bicycle I rode it to school every day. I practiced riding it without holding the handlebars. Eventually I got to where I could ride all the way to school without touching the handlebars.  That was no mean feat on a dirt road.


“When We Tore the House Down”

            After Ray and Rita were married and he got out of the navy, they moved back home to live with us.  At that time Mama, Patsy and I were living on the farm.  Ray came back to take up farming the place again.

            We were very glad to have Ray home.   I suppose Patsy and I were jealous of Rita, and I guess Mama was too.  It was tough on Rita having to put up with us, but we made out O.K.

            I guess it was the following year that the decision was made to tear the old house down and build a new one in it’s place.  I know it had been a dream of Mama’s to have a nice warm house with indoor plumbing.

            I’m sure it would have been much better and surely cheaper to renovate the old house.  It was as sound as a dollar.  We could have leveled the floors, put in closets and a bathroom, insulated and painted and had a decent house at a fraction of the cost.

            Instead, we moved out and tore it down.  We didn’t have much furniture, so we moved what we had into the outside buildings.  We cleaned out the chicken house and made a room for Ray and Rita in it.  Mama and Patsy moved into the smokehouse.  I moved into the hayloft in the barn.

            We set the cook stove (at this time the wood stove had been replaced with a kerosene stove) and the dining table under the big pecan tree by the smokehouse.  The women cooked and served our meals under the tree.  We made do with what we had.  It worked out O.K.

            Ray hired Mr.Lewis Brooks who lived up near Grandpa Brown to help us rebuild the house.  He was supposedly a very good carpenter and I think he was, but very, very slow.  Too bad we didn’t have Uncle Roy and Uncle Willis, it would have gone much better.  Mr. Lewis had an “Adz”.  I had never seen one and to me it looked like a nice lightweight grubbing hoe, so I got it and used it for one and got into big trouble.  The adz is used to trim and shape timbers.  It works just like a chisel only larger and with a handle on it like a hoe.  Come to think of it, that is the only adz that I ever did see.

            I don’t remember how long we took building the house, but it seemed forever.  As soon as the new house was complete enough to accommodate us we moved into it.  This complicated finishing the work, but we had other things that needed to be done anyway.  Like putting in a crop, which we did.

            Mama really enjoyed the new house, even though it took two or three years to finally get the plumbing in for the bathroom and to get a pump installed at the spring to pump water to the house.  Before that was done I was in the Navy.

            The new house had a porch on each front corner.  Ray later added a room on the east corner where the porch was, and this was Mama’s room, I guess when Monnie Bess and her family were living there and raising chickens.


“The Boat”

            In 1942 My Uncle Willis Brown asked me to go on a fishing trip to Mud Creek with him and some other men.  Of course, always eager to go fishing, I agreed if Mama would let me go.  She trusted her brother Willis and didn’t want to disappoint me so she let me go.  Before we left she got a quarter out of the small drawer on the front of her sewing machine and gave it to Uncle Willis to help pay for the groceries we would need.

            I had never heard of Mud Creek, but was told it was over towards Jacksonville.  The morning we left we got what little camping and fishing gear we had, stowed it in Grandpa Brown’s 1932 Chevrolet sedan.  That is, all except the minnow seine, which was already equipped with poles at each end.  It wouldn’t go inside, but was laid behind the spare tire that was mounted in a well in the right front fender.

            The poles on the seine protruded from behind the spare tire onto the running board and blocked the opening of the right front door.  It had to be removed to open the door.

            One of the men who went with us was kin to Uncle Willis and me by marriage.  He was Buford Gossett, the husband of Mama’s first cousin Ruth Brown Gossett.  Ruth was the daughter of Grandpa Brown’s brother John Henry.  The other two men I didn’t know, and I don’t remember their names.

            Our trip was beset by problems.  When we stopped to pick up one of the men, the seine was unloaded to allow the door to be opened.  In thinking back on it, we picked this guy up along the road, not at a house.  He was there waiting for us.  How in the world that was arranged I cannot imagine.  Telephones were pretty rare, but somehow he knew when and where to be for us to pick him up.  Anyway we left the seine by the roadside where the man was waiting.  We didn’t miss it until we got to Mud Creek many miles down the road.  There was no thought of going back for it.

            Another problem was our flashlight.  We only had one and it quit working almost immediately.  So, there we were with no minnow seine and no light.  Well, Uncle Willis was always very resourceful.  He perfectly fit the old saying “Jack of all trades, Master of none”, but he was close to a master in several areas.  My boys have the knack to do some things that I know they didn’t get from me.  Must be those Brown, Johnson or Thompson genes or an amalgamation of those and the Woods ones.

            He gathered up some bottles from a trash dump up the road a ways from our camp.  He filled them with gasoline siphoned from the car, packed the mouth of the bottles tightly with rags and lit them for torches.  Those were very dangerous, but fairly effective lights.  Though after using them for awhile their faces were blackened with soot.

            The torches solved the problem of no lights, but we still didn’t have a minnow seine to get bait.  To solve this problem, Uncle Willis got some large cans from the dump.  Gallons I think, and cut the tops and bottoms out.

            The men would slip along the edge of the creek at night. When they found a small perch, minnow or crawfish in the shallow water, they would quickly set a can down over it. The bait was trapped in the can and they could reach in and catch it with their hand.  They caught all of our bait that way. 

            Mud Creek, at the place we were, was wide and clear. The banks on either side were level and just slightly above the water level. The banks were lined with trees.  Tree limbs extended way out over the water and most places they were too low to go under in a boat.  The best way to fish the creek was to tie drop lines on the ends of the limbs hanging over the water.

            There was a boat there in the creek where we camped and the men used it to put out hooks.  It was a fairly crude homemade boat, but was fine for the creek.  I didn’t get to go in the boat until the following morning.  This was my first ever boat ride.  I was scared and at the same time fascinated and excited.  Every chance I got I went out in the boat.

            I think we stayed there for two or three nights.  I’m not sure now. I don’t think we caught many fish.  But, we did meet up with an old guy there who had scars all over his legs.  He told us that he had been bitten several times by snakes and that’s what the scars were from.  True?  I’ve often wondered.

            When we left Mud Creek we went by a small lake on the way home.  There was a boat there also and I talked Uncle Willis into letting me go out in the boat by myself.  He knew I could swim like a fish, so there was little danger.

            Well, I was hooked on boats.  I absolutely loved paddling around in the boat.  I could really make it go very well.  Uncle Willis and the other men were really impressed with my ability to maneuver the boat.

            Uncle Willis also kind of got the boat fever.  After we got home he began to sketch out boat designs and decided that he could build a boat as good as the ones we saw on our trip. All of them were handcrafted and rather crude too.  He told me that if we could get enough money together for the materials, that he would build me a boat.

            He was as good as his word.  I saved up my money until I had I think six dollars.  That was a lot of money then.  I gave it to Uncle Willis and he built my boat.  It was made of pine boards.  He filled the joints with tar and fastened laths over them inside and out.  He then painted the boat black.  It was really nice and pretty.  It didn’t leak and handled very well.  I don’t know how much he actually spent, but would guess that it might have cost a little more than the six dollars.

            I was so proud of that boat.  I used it a lot on Smith’s pond and I also loaned it out to people.  I didn’t know of a single other person who owned a boat.  I did have one rule. If my boat went fishing, I went with it.  In other words if you wanted to use my boat you had to take me along for the ride.

            Once the Waldrop family went on a three or four day camping, fishing, family reunion.  I think that was in the spring of 1943.  I was nearly thirteen.  They wanted to use my boat.  I said O.K., but I went with them.  Mr. Gray Waldrop owned and operated the school bus, under contract from the Carthage school district, for the community.  He was a fine man and greatly respected by everyone.  He hauled the boat in the school bus.

            There must have been fifty people on that trip.  There were men, women, girls, and boys.  We went to Clear Lake, which is just northwest of the Sabine River and on the southeast side of the highway between Carthage and Marshall.  Out of the whole bunch, I think I knew more about fishing, in general, than any of them.

            Up to this point in my life, most all my fishing had been with poles and lines.  We had never trotlined except for one time on a lake near where the Tatum, Marshall highway crosses the Sabine River.  Once when my brother Lloyd was teaching at Brooks School, when I was about eight, he took his boys from school on a camping trip to the river there.  They put a trotline out in the lake, which had a boat.  I was not a participant although he took me along on the trip with them.

            Anyway, some of the men put out trotlines in Clear Lake. To get bait, they went out to the highway to seine the “bar-pits”.  With about fifteen or twenty men and boys bigger and older than I, I took the deep end of the seine.  I had done a lot of seining with Mr. Roy Gentry and with Lloyd, so I knew how to do it better than they did.

            About all I remember about the trip is going swimming in the river and running the trotlines in the boat.  Don’t think we caught many fish, but all went well with the boat.

            A year or two later I loaned my boat to Mr. Chester Brooks (in violation of my rule). He lived west of the County Line road at the turnoff to Liberty Church.  His son and my brother James were good friends, so I let him take the boat to use in his pond.

            He never brought it back.  A couple years later, I went to his pond and there was my boat, upside down on the bank.  He had let it fill with rainwater and sink.  After being in the water, probably over the winter, he pulled it out on the bank where it promptly rotted.  No more boat!

            The next year after Uncle Willis built my boat, he got the idea of building a boat of metal, which could be easier formed than wood.  He got some galvanized sheet metal and made a model about a foot long.  I wonder what ever happened to it?  The last time I saw it, Bobby Joe Gaston, my first cousin had it.

            After building the model, he built a full size boat out of galvanized sheet metal.  The boat was about eleven feet long (the same as the one he built for me), had a vee bow, but was mostly flat-bottomed.  He let Buford Gossett take it and put it into his pond.  I only saw it a couple of times. Probably was reduced to rust in a few years.  It was several years later, after WW II, when I saw my first aluminum boat.

“The Wasp Nest”

            As I’ve mentioned before, we worked wherever and whenever we could to earn a little money.  There were a lot of people around like that.

            I recall an incident that happened at noon one day on the Dunn Place.  The Dunn Place was about a mile from our house. Don’t know for whom it was named.  From the time I can remember the house was vacant.  I believe Mr. John T. Brooks was farming the place at the time this occurred, but I’m not sure.  Mr. John T. was the brother of my step-grandmother Sarah (Sallie Lee) Brooks Brown.

            A large bunch of people were there, either chopping or picking cotton, picking I think.  Everyone took a lunch of some kind.  We frequently had a lunch of a biscuit or two with a sausage or piece of bacon in them.  Maybe for dessert, we had a biscuit with syrup.  The way to prepare one of these was to poke a hole in the side of the biscuit with your finger.  Slowly pour syrup into the hole until the inside of the biscuit was soaked with the syrup.  At times we would take jars of stewed potatoes and peas and cornbread in our lunch.

            Back to my story.  The Dunn House had a large porch that ran all the way across the front of the house.  We congregated there in the shade to eat our lunches.  While we were eating someone spied a wasp nest up under the porch roof.  It was a large one. About the size of a dinner plate and covered with red wasps.

            The wasps were agitated from all the unusual activity on the porch.  They had their stingers in the air and were moving around a lot and buzzing their wings as they do before attack.  Everyone knew to stay clear of them, or risk getting stung.

            Mr. Coker Waldrop was there.  As everyone was talking about and keeping a wary eye on the wasps, Mr. Coker said, “When everybody finishes eating, I’ll get the wasp nest”.  Of course I and I suppose everyone else, thought he would get a stick or a rock and knock the nest down from a distance.

            He didn’t do it that way.  When we got through with our lunch we got off the porch.  Mr. Coker walked up to the nest, reached up with his hand and plucked the nest down like he was picking a peach.  Wasp swarmed all around him, but if he got stung, and he surely must have, several times, he never let on.

            That was one of the most unbelievable things that I ever saw a man do.  It’s strange, but many of my stories concern Mr. Coker Waldrop.  He was a neighbor, but not a very outgoing or friendly one and we saw little of him.  But there is no doubt that he was a rare man among men.  He was a poor farmer but, as I get older, I realize what a complex man he was.

“The Shotgun”

            When I was about nine, my brother Ray traded for an old single shot twelve-gauge shotgun.  We were camped at the old Mill Pond near Martin’s Creek at Waller Bridge.  The Mill Pond was not a pond at all, but was a slough about two or three hundred yards long.  When the creek flooded, a bypass flow went through the Mill Pond.  There was a natural depression at the West end of the slough which allowed the creek to overflow into the slough.  At some time in the past a channel about 200’ long had been cut from the upper end of the slough to the creek.  This allowed the creek to actually flow through the slough during periods of high water. 

            When the water was high, we caught a lot of catfish in the channel where water flowed from the Mill Pond back into the creek.  But, back to the shotgun.  My memory was dim on the subject.  I thought it was Lloyd that I was with, but Ray recently told me that it was him and I believe he said Drew, that were in the camp.  I believe I was there too, because I can see in my mind the man coming into our camp.  Is this a trick of my imagination?  Maybe so!

            Ray had killed a big swamp rabbit and it was there in camp when this guy walked up to the camp carrying the shotgun.  It was after dark and we were eating supper.  He had been hunting without success.  Before he left our camp, a trade had been arranged.  The rabbit for his shotgun.  At first thought it seems that was a one-sided trade.  It was not!

            The finish on the shotgun was in bad shape.  The bolt (the breech bolt) that originally connected the two sections of the gun together had been lost.  A smaller size stove bolt had been used to put the gun back together.  It was a loose fit.  There was so much slack in the gun that it would have been extremely dangerous to fire it.

            The fore stock was missing from the gun.  The barrel had been sawed off.  It was not a smooth cut.  It appeared a cut had been made from one side and then another from the opposite side.  Leaving about a quarter inch piece on one side where the cuts didn’t meet.  At that point the barrel had been broken off.

            Ray took the gun home where Uncle Willis saw it.  Being a natural craftsman, he took the gun on as a repair project. He bought a machine bolt of the correct diameter and length and put the gun together properly.  He carved a new fore stock, but lacked the hardware to latch it into place.  To hold it in place, he used friction tape wound tightly around the fore stock.

            With all of these repairs, the gun looked and felt like a pretty good shotgun.  The only other defect was a missing spring.  The firing pin had a recess cut into one side of it. This originally held a small spring that kept the firing pin retracted against the hammer.  With the spring missing the gun would sometimes misfire.

            To prevent a misfire, the gun must be held upright and shaken to make the pin fall back against the hammer.  With it in that position the hammer would drive it with enough force to explode the cap in the shell.  After I used it for hunting for a time that got to be a reflex action.  I seldom had a problem with it.

            Once, soon after I began taking the shotgun hunting, I went with Jimmy John Dunn and somebody else squirrel hunting.  I had only fired the gun once before that day.  It had a terrible kick.  I didn’t get a shot at a squirrel and secretly, I was glad.  I would have taken a shot, but I didn’t look forward to getting the bejabbers kicked out of my shoulder.

            Jimmy John and the other boy kept after me to shoot the gun.  I think they could tell that I was afraid.  They continually teased me on the way home, but I resisted shooting the gun.

            As we crossed our pasture Jimmy John said, “Let me tell you what I’ll do.  I’ll throw my straw hat in the air if you will take a shot at it”.  He had a new straw hat.  Well, I’d had enough of the teasing so I said, “Throw it as high as you can and I’ll take a shot at it”.  I got ready, he tossed it up in the air and I shot.  The blast riddled his new straw hat.

            I’m sure he got into trouble with his mom and dad, but he never told me.  I shot the old gun many times after that. And killed lots of squirrels and other game with it.


“The Goose Hunt”

            When I was in high school Ray and I had been to town in his pickup.  This was on a cold rainy, overcast, late fall day. Just before we got to the house we saw a large bunch of geese, low and circling.  We watched them and saw them land, we thought, at Smith’s Pond.

            We went to the house and got our guns.  Ray had Uncle Roy Brown’s sixteen-gauge pump gun.  I believe it held one in the chamber and five in the magazine.  I took the old single twelve-gauge gun.  I had it loaded with buckshot and had several extra shells.

            Smith’s Pond was about a hundred fifty yards from the road and about  twice that far from our house.  We went down the road even with the pond and slipped across the pasture toward the pond.  Our plan was to come up behind the dam and shoot the geese on the water.  This was not for sport, but for meat.

            We could hear the geese “talking”.  We were cold and about wet from the drizzle.  We didn’t have any rain coats.  We didn’t want to spook the geese so we moved slowly.  We got to the pond and the geese were not there.

            We were really disappointed, but got to listening and decided that the geese were out in the center of the pasture, out of our sight.  There was a scope of woods about three acres in size near where the geese were feeding.  We decided the best plan of attack was to circle around to the west and south to come up alongside the timber.

            That is what we did.  We were a little exposed, so we crawled through the tall grass for two hundred yards to keep from being seen by the geese.  We got to the timber and could hear the geese just beyond the trees.  We eased around toward them.

            As we got nearer we could see there was a small knoll between the trees and the geese.  The edge of this knoll was within a hundred feet of the geese.  We crawled on our bellies out onto the knoll.  We could see the geese through the grass.  They were getting nervous, craning their necks and looking.  Excitedly “talking”.

            When we got as close as we dared, Ray whispered, “Are you ready?” and I replied, “Yes”.  As agreed, we suddenly stood up together.  By the time we were erect and leveled our guns, the geese were all off the ground.  We opened fire. Ray emptied his gun.  I got off two shots.

            We killed seven geese.  These were large Canadian geese and we had a lot of goose to eat.  But, it was good and Mama and Rita fixed it in various ways to keep it appetizing.


            That was an exciting incident for me and I told the story so many times that I’m sure everyone got tired of listening to me.


“In The Coop”

            Whenever I had the opportunity to work and earn some money, I did so.  I worked quite a bit for Mr. Ben Weir.  He was Mr. Dennis Jones son-in-law.  Everybody liked and respected Mr. Dennis.   Mr. Ben wasn’t as well liked, but he was a fair man and a pretty good farmer.

            When he came to get me to work, I always went with him. On this occasion, we were going to the Faulkner place to plant cotton.  I think he owned the Faulkner place, but I’m not sure.  There had been a house there at one time and I believe a road had at one time gone by the house.  I suppose it was named after the family that settled there.  The house was gone since I can remember.

            To get there, we went through Mr. Ben’s pasture from the road at the foot of the west side of the Joe Williams Hill. Our house was on the eastside and down near the bottom of the same hill.  I guess it was about a half-mile maybe a little more through the woods to the place.

            The land had been disked and bedded up earlier and was in real good shape.  Mr. Ben’s plan was to cut the beds down with a disk.  Then run a fertilizer distributor down the row, following the kerf of the disk cut.  (The kerf is the narrow ridge left at the center of the disk cut.  That is at the center of where the bed was located).  Then run the planter down the furrow left by the distributor.  That way the fertilizer is about four to six inches deep and the seed about an inch deep, right above the fertilizer.

            To accomplish this, he put his team to work cutting the beds down.  He worked our stump-mouthed mule pulling the fertilizer distributor.  I planted the cotton with our horse John pulling the planter.

I need to explain, since probably none of you will otherwise understand about this.  Often when a team is working in a field pulling a piece of light equipment, it becomes bored.  They go into kind of an automatic, repetitious mode.  They know what to do, so they need very little guidance.

            Frequently, for something like pulling a light disk cutting beds down, a farmer would put a team to work unattended.  That is, he would be there in the field doing something else, but where he could keep an eye on them. 

            That’s what we did that day.  His team, by themselves, cutting beds ahead of us.  Mr. Ben was putting out fertilizer.  I could do that, but handling the bags was rough on me since I probably weighed less than seventy pounds then.  Too, fertilizer came in eighty-pound bags only, not forty pounds as today.

            Running the planter was a breeze.  You had to keep seeds in the hopper, but they were light and easy to handle.  You had to watch to be sure that seeds were actually falling into the furrow under the planter, because sometimes the seeds would plug the drop chute.  You could easily see them if you were attentive.

            All was going well.  It was a hot sultry day in May 1942.  I was eleven years old, almost twelve.  We worked all morning.  Then had our lunch under the trees at the old house place while the team ate and rested.  About mid-afternoon it began to cloud up.  The clouds built quickly and it got dark.

            I was not particularly afraid of storms, but this one looked really bad.  The clouds were low, dark black boiling and mixed with gray-green clouds.  I knew we were in for a storm and so did Mr. Ben.  We tied the animals up and looked for shelter for ourselves.

            The only structure left at the old house place was a chicken coop.  It was about six feet long by four feet wide and the top of it was about two feet off the ground. We got inside the coop.  Our quarters were cramped.  Mr. Ben was a very large man.  I would guess more than six feet tall and around 250 pounds.

            He was on his “all fours”(hands and knees), there was room for me to squat. We stayed there until the storm was over, probably about 30 or 45 minutes.  It didn’t rain a lot but there was some hail and the wind blew hard.  There were several spine tingling bolts of lightning accompanied by jolts of very loud thunder.  Mr. Ben appeared to be petrified.  I guess I did too.

            After the storm, the sun came back out and we finished planting the cotton.  This was just another day in the life of a dirt farmer.

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