Saturday, January 19, 2008

Growing Up - Ages 15-16 – Part One

The summer after leaving Oakdale School, Fred was working in Charlotte at a place where they received surplus military items. He was able to get me some of the army khaki shirts and pants for twenty five cents for the set; this enabled me to start Cool Springs School wearing long pants with matching shirts. It was about time that I did not have to wear only overalls. The outfits lasted me a long time! When I entered the workforce through my time at the Charlotte Fire Department, I still wore the light brown shirts and pants. Fred also got the wood for the rabbit traps he made while working here.

My oldest brother George was the neighborhood barber. Every Saturday morning he would cut anyone’s hair for ten cents on the front porch of our house. One time Mark and I took George’s clippers when we went to get the cow from the field; she was staked there for feeding. Our plan was to cut each others hair; he cut mine and it looked so bad he would not let me cut his! I think this is the first time that I learned not to trust him so much. We had our ups and downs but if any one would fight one of us they had to fight the two of us. After George left to work for the power company, he was gone from where we lived for a month at a time. I became the neighborhood barber for the old folks that used to come to have George cut their hair. I was pretty bad at first but I got the hang of it real quick. Some Saturday's I could make fifty cents to one dollar for cutting hair.

During that same summer, Fred brought his five beagle rabbit dogs to hunt on our farm and farms around us. I don't think a rabbit ever got away from these dogs. The next spring he was going to give me the dogs. As he was loading them up in Charlotte to bring them to me, a man came by and wanted to know he was doing with the dogs. He told him that he was going to give them to his brother Glenn in Statesville. Right then, the man pulled our five hundred dollars and offered it to Fred for the dogs. Fred moved quickly on this business deal and put an end to my getting the five beagles. I was a young man but still I felt like crying when he told me about the deal. Quickly he gave me twenty-five dollars and that did the trick, I was not as sad anymore. This is the first time in my life that I had ever seen that much money in one pile.

A short time before Mark went into the Navy is the time the President Roosevelt's Welfare program was under way, mother would not sign up for it like our neighbors the Cooks. At that time, Mother began getting a pension for our Dad being wounded in the Spanish-American War. This injury played a part in his death. She was given twenty dollars a month to run the household and six dollars a month for each child under eighteen years old. The pension gave us enough money to start paying rent of six dollars a month on the farm rather than giving one third of the cotton crop. Since we did not have to plant so much cotton, we had more time to work for other farmers that needed extra farmhands. We planted enough cotton to have one bale to sell in the fall. We planted enough hay and corn enough to feed the mules, hogs, and cow.

Our brothers that were in service would send Mother money from time to time. Mark and I sold Grit Newspapers for a dime per copy, we kept a nickel and sent five cents to the Grit Newspaper Company. For a short while we had a real good thing going! We would walk about five miles every Saturday and sell about a dozen papers. We soon discovered that our sales were not enough to stay in business so we stopped selling the newspaper.

In June when I was fourteen, I got bit by a mad dog and had to get a shot every days for twenty-one days. The doctor said that I could not get out in the sun or get too hot for twenty-one days plus seven more days! Mark did not like this because he had to do all of the work for one month. Since I could not get out to run and play I would think back when I was younger and remember some fun times.

When I was very young, on a Friday or Saturday afternoon, we would load up the wagon for a trip to the river. We put straw in the wagon bed and took some pillows, quilts, and cooking utensils that we needed to boil and fry and then would leave for the river. When we lived on the Oswald Farm we would go to the Catawba River and when we lived on the Propts Farm we would go down to the Little Yadkin River close to Cool Springs School that feeds into the Yadkin River. We would get there a little before dark, start fishing, and build a big fire. We would always take a chicken with us and start it cooking in the big old black bean pot just in case we did not catch enough fish. If we caught enough fish we would take the chicken back home and have it for supper the next day. Mother would get her cast-iron frying pan out of the wagon, put in some hog lard, and fry the fish after we cleaned them. After frying the fish, she would make some cornbread in the same pan. Sometimes we would fish all night and have breakfast right on the river bank. As the little one I would always crawl up in the straw in the wagon and sleep until morning. Listen as I tell this story.

When I was five, six, seven, and eight, Mother would take me down to the creek that was about two miles from home so we could go fishing. I would have to follow her down through the bottom land where the hay had been mowed which left little sticks about two inches high below where they cut the grass. Mother had shoes so she was not fully aware of what I was going through during these trips. I would follow her with no shoes on and find tears in my eyes because my feet were tuff but not that tuff. I would try to tiptoe through the stubble but that did not help much at all. All was well when we finally arrived at the bank of the creek. I got my little pole with a hook, put on one of the red worms, then toss the hook into the water and wait for a fish to bite. Sometimes I would hook the fish and pull it to the bank and sometimes I would pull one out so fast that I would sling it about fifty feet back into the field. When I did that, Mother would make me go into the field and hunt it. I remember thinking that sometimes it was not worth hunting for it because it was so little. Mother would always say, “If it is big enough to have two eyes and a tail it is big enough to keep and eat.” It would take us couple hours to catch enough for a little mess. We kept every one of them even if some were only a few inches long. We took them home to clean and fry for supper. Sometimes we would catch enough to have some left over for breakfast the next morning. Fried fish for breakfast was a real treat. Listen as I tell this story.

Shortly after July 4th I was able to return to my active lifestyle. I remember it feeling so good to run and play. I believe that Mark was happier that I was that I could now do things outside. He made sure that it did not take me long to start doing all my chores.


Reggie said...

I'll be back. This is an interesting read.

Mike said...

I was unable to listen to your story, oh well maybe I can hear it laster.