During the summer, about once a month on Saturday, we would get to go to town. Mother would give us each a quarter and we would start walking the nine miles to town. Many times on our way to town, we would meet other boys going to there too. If we were lucky a car or truck would come our way and offer to give us a ride. They would take as many boys as their vehicle would hold. We would always let the boy that lived the longest distance from town get in first to assure him a ride.
Once we arrived to town, we would go to the nine cent movie. After that, we would go down to the Post Office Lunch behind the Statesville Court House and get a baloney sandwich, Moon Pie and a Pepsi Cola. We would have one cent left to buy a BB Bat sucker. Early evening we would head home. On the way after dark, we would stop and get us a watermelon from someone’s patch. All the farmers knew what we would do so sometime they would hide somewhere around the watermelon patch. When we got a melon, they would use their shot gun and shoot up in the air and the pellets coming down would scare us to death and we would run for about a mile or two to get away. We always carried our melon with us to enjoy when we were at a safe distance. Listen as I share this story.
Opossum hunting was a big pastime in our life back on the farm. We would put oil in the lanterns, stuff our pockets with cold biscuits and anything else we found we could take from the kitchen to eat, take the old hunting dog, and head out into the woods after dark. It was during the night when the opossums came out looking for food. Sometimes the dog would get on the trail of one of them opossums and run it for an hour before it would climb up a tree. It was at that time when we would climb the tree and get it down. Sometimes that was not very easy since we were fighting a mad opossum up in a tree while trying to hold on to keep from falling out and sometimes the opossum would win. After we caught one or two of them, we would put them in a pen and feed them for a couple weeks to fatten them up. When it was time, we would clean the critters and Mother would cook them. Opossum is one food that I never did get hungry enough to eat! Instead, I always told mom that I rather have an old cold sweet tatter but she always had something else for me to eat. She never did make us eat anything that we did not like or want to eat.
I was at Oakdale School when I realized that three of my older brothers were courting the three older sisters of my buddy Calvin Carter. I guess they met and got together when we lived at the Holton place. I was so young I did not know what was going on. Fred married Bona Lee and Howard married Narene. They moved to Kannapolis to work in the cotton mill since work was scarce in Statesville. When George married Beatrice and they stayed with us for a while. Beatrice had a job working in a hosiery mill in Statesville and George got a job cutting right-of-ways through the mountains for the power company. He had four men working with him and they would leave and be gone for about a month at a time cutting and camping. One time they were coming home for the weekend in an old Ford truck. It had no air so they had the windshield pushed up so air would come directly at them. As they were coming down the road they ran upon a swarm of honey bees. They said that they had about a million bees all over them! When they got home we just had to laugh at them when they were describing the situation and seeing all their stings.
Paul married Edith Kincade who he met in Kannapolis. J.D. married Colleen Stewart, from the west part of Statesville, a while after he was discharged from the Navy. J.D., Albert, and Paul would give Mother money to help her out a little while at the mill and after the three joined the Navy in 1939. The war was going on over in Europe and people were being drafted. They wanted to be together so they joined up to get what they wanted. After their basic training was over they came home. That is the first time in my life that I had white underwear: tee shirts, white shorts, and white socks. On that trip home, Albert took me to town to eat at Fraley's Cafe. He bought me a great big t-bone steak and taught me how to cut it up to eat. Albert later became Chief Petty Officer, a cook in the Navy.
During the fall at harvest time, we would gather our entire corn crop and make a big pile in the backyard. All of the neighbors would come over and help us shuck corn. Before J.D., Albert, and Paul left home, we had about a hundred bushels of corn to shuck. I remembered that my older brothers would put several small bottles of corn liquor and a few red ears of corn in the pile. When one of the boys would find a red ear, he would go and kiss his choice of one of the girls that were helping to shuck. The corn liquor would be saved and consumed after the shucking of the corn. The older women would be at the house cooking. They would make a big pot full of chicken and dumplings; the yellow chicken fat would make the dumplings really taste good. They would also cook fried chicken, all kinds of vegetables, and cakes and pies. Almost always after the corn shucking we would have a square dance. The corn liquor jug would be uncorked and passed around to the men in the group. We would take up the rug in the living room, put some corn meal on the wooden floor, and dance way into the night. At this time I was little and could not stay awake until the end so I don't know what went on after I went to sleep. The square dancing went on about every Saturday night at someone’s house but I did not get to go to those dances. We had corn shucking parties at about every farmer’s home in the area.
Winter was hog killing time and once again folks in our area would help other families. I remember the time I was old enough to be the one to cut the hog’s throat and let it bleed. J.D. shot the hog in the head and then it was time for me to be a man and do my job. I looked at the hog and handed the knife to J.D. telling him that I could not do it. That is the time that I found out that I was still a kid and not quite ready to grow up.
I learned a few lessons the hard way that have stuck with me throughout my life. As a man in his eighties, I am still learning the hard way. It makes me realize that I cannot do anything on my own and I need God’s help every day and without Him I can do nothing. Understanding that gives me no reason to complaint; even my bad days are good.
When my brothers left home to go back on duty, they gave us a 1931 Ford car. The used car cost them $25. Mark was fourteen at this time and he could drive it because back then you could drive all over the country on those old dirt roads without a license. If you decided you wanted a license, it cost $1.00 and did not have an expiration date. When we could get it started, we drove that old Ford to the store and church. We had to patch a tire about every time that we drove it; we got so good at it we could patch a tire without taking it off the car. We kept that old car for a couple years. Other than the tires, gasoline, and oil, I don't think we spent a nickel on it. Albert came home on leave and bought a 1936 Ford Coupe so he would have something to drive when he dated his girl, Nicki, who was one of Calvin Carter’s sisters; he did not marry her. When he went back off leave, he left that car with us to use. We sold the old 1931 Ford for $30.00. Cars were getting scarce about this time because everything was being made for the war effort. Every time one of the brothers would come home he would bring us more underwear, shoes, blue jeans, shirts and other things. Now we were really living! During most of the war we kept on farming the old farm. Mark and I made a pretty good team; we would fuss and fight a little but that just got us ready to fight when we went into the Navy.