By Otis Griffin
Daddy had been working at the Millington Government Powder Plant during the war making explosives for the military overseas. However the plant closed when the agreement was signed ending the conflict throwing Daddy out of a job. He waited for a period of about six months to hire in at the Naval Base which was going great guns. During this time, so we wouldn’t starve, he built a small three room house (sharecropper) for Mr. James Owens on Smokey Road (Donnell) all by his lonesome.
We were so ‘pore’ if it cost a nickel to walk we would have had to crawl. That’s bad. Just as soon as Daddy could, he surveyed a garden spot out behind the house. I was fortunate enough to review these structured plans years later during our many front porch valuable talks reliving the past.
He had the ground spot laid out but nothing to work it with. Our neighbors, Alex and Preenie Nelson, lived close and had been established for several years. Like everyone else during this era they depended on the soil to survive. They were very accommodating so Daddy rented his mule and all the equipment for the first two years. The charge was two dollars a day with stipulations in the contract of a half dozen ears of corn at dinner time, if he could eat fast, while Daddy grubbed and all the water long ears could lap up.
I was reminded that a farm day during his youth consisted from the break of day until too dark to see. Wouldn’t that just kill an eight hour working city slicker? He reminded me as I got older and craved sleep often that if that was the case the nights would be longer. This meant; get out of the bed and let me hear those feet hit the floor running.
Some of my brilliant senior citizens can remember when a boy was twelve years old he was considered a grown man by the philosophers. (actually yo’ parents). He put away those childish things such as a ball glove, bat, slingshot, b. b. gun, bicycle, and a mumble peg knife. Now time you grabbed a misery stick and go to chopping cotton, gutting a hog, skinning a yearling, shucking corn and slinging bales of lespedeza.
I’m not saying what was right or wrong but that was how it was. All my friends Arvis, Emerson, Tommy, Thurman, Big Paul, Wayne and Lynn had to learn the hard way; as they say now. We were all the same (pore) and didn’t know any different as this was a way of life and a country boy can survive.
I must have been a good assistant ’cause Daddy made sure I was right beside him every step of the way. I sho’ wasn’t out playing ball, frog gigging or blasting stop signs with my slingshot that I feared might attack me. Remember that is how you learn; by doing. You can’t tell anybody how to wring a chicken neck by reading out of a book!
That’s how I got prepared to ‘dress up a mule’ by traipsing with Daddy to Alex’s and drag a sled full of plows to our garden spot tugging on the fifteen foot sea grass. Just some good old Southern garden memories gone, but not forgotten….Glory!
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