Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Part - 15g & h - Will & George

On Will's Wagon

George called this one "Speckle Bird"



Will White didn't work much outside his little "pea patch" farm. He'd do some Cotton Choppin' and Cotton Pickin' for others in the Summer and Fall.

Mostly, Will hunted....Fox, 'Coon and 'Possum.
Many is the time that I've followed him through the woods, fox or 'coon hunting by the light of a "lightered knot" torch. I couldn't see anything but the light and immediate surroundings, but Will knew where he was going. He'd even see the one eye that a 'coon would show by the light of the torch.

He and his family used the game as a large part of their staple for meals.
If Will had ever heard you talk or heard a dog bark, he could imitate you.

He had very large, swollen glands at his neck and swollen lips, caused by a form of VD. He had only a few scattered teeth that would show when he'd tell a big tale and laugh. Everybody took a liking to Will with his easy manner and gift for telling a tall tale.


George started working for Daddy and Mother in about 1979 or 1980, when they needed help in feeding the cows. His wife, Annie Laurie, who once worked as a cook at the Healing Springs Hotel, began to cook for Mother from time to time.

George once suffered a stroke and had a weak left leg requiring him to use a cane in walking. This didn't hinder him from doing his job. Annie Laurie died a number of years go, but George came for a number of years after that.

He was so regular in coming each morning during feeding time that "you could set your clock by the time he’d get here!"
He loved "Our Cows" and loved to just stand by and watch them eat. It's about the only thing he had left that he felt a part of, and he looked forward to coming each day. He is about 89 now.

He would come three days a week during summers to put out feed for the calves in the "creep pen" and to check everything out around the place.
When he came, he looked all around the place to note that everything seems to be in place. If he noted anything unusual, he calls "Miss Sivvy" to let her know or call me.

Each day when he came to feed, he ran any cows that are in the lot out and shut the gate. Most mornings, if it wasn’t raining, all the cows are waiting for him outside the open gate.

After he put the "pelicans" (pellets) in the troughs for the cows and the all-grain feed in the calf pen, he’d let the cows back in the lot. As they are coming in, he’d count them to be sure each one is there.
Once, there were only fifteen total cows and calves. One morning he called Sylvia and said, "Tell Mister Jim that I couldn't count but sixteen this mornin'!" That was mine and his way of letting the other know that we have a new calf.

George and Smokey, the black and tan hound that Willie gave Mother a number of years ago, were a couple of clowns when they get together. Smokey stayed at Tom's house after Mother and Claire died. He'd come over some mornings. George would ask him to give him a foot. Smokey will turn his tail to him and kinda "whip" him with his tail looking like he'd grinning back at him. Finally, he'll turn round and shake with him. George would rub his head and ears. While George is rubbing, Smokey will stop his tail from wagging. If he stopped rubbing, Smokey's tail would really begin to wag, kinda saying, "Don't stop, it feels real good!"

Of course, when Foxy Lady came here he taught her to shake hands and I’d keep a brush out under the carport behind the garage so George could brush her.

He would always love it when any of the Grands would be here and go out and “help" him feed.” He’d get tickled at them with some of the questions they’d ask him. All along, he’d ask me about them and tell me that he liked to see um when they’d be here.

He loved to tell me “what the cows was sayin’ or what the calvies were saying! One morning, he called me in Mobile and said, “Mista Jim, I just had ta call ya to tell ya about a funny thing this mornin’” He said, “I was standin’ by the big gate at the end of th barn and all six of them little calvies said ‘J Ra’s (Tom’s Dog) been teasin us, les tease him, so they took him out acrost th paster to the road. JR would run from them and would go YOWLP! Then they brought him back. Then they said, ‘Les take him out one mo time!” He said, “Mista Jim, I had to hold on to th gate I wuz laughin’ so hard!” That was just one of Georges famous tales he’d tell.

During the month of February of that year, I came up about the first part of the month and knew that I wouldn’t be back again for the rest of the month, so I went ahead and paid him for the whole month while I was here. About a week later, he called me and told me that he just couldn’t do it any more ‘cause he’d have to take one step with the feed bucket, then drag his other leg up to take another step because his bad leg was hurting so bad. He was trying to work out the time he’d been paid for. He told me that he’d pay me back for the money he owed me. Of course, I wouldn’t let that happen. So I had to do some of the feeding myself and get Willie to help me out some.

Soon after that time, George had to have that leg amputated. He had to spend some time in a nursing home in Citronelle. When he got out, he was able to get one of the efficiency apartments in Millry. I saw him a few weeks ago and he said that his left arm is pretty much totally useless now, but he can still fix him something to eat and take care of himself and, if necessary, he can still drive his car.

I don't even like to think about not having George around when they are too old to come around the place.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Part - 15 e & f - Leatha & Willie



Leatha, Tommy's brother, never worked for Daddy much during the time we were growing up, but he, Tommy and Daddy completely "opened up" the place after Daddy retired and came back home permanently.

Daddy bought the 1964 Ford 2000 tractor, a bush hog and a chain saw. And the three of them turned the place into as beautiful a place as there is anywhere around. Leatha always called Joe and me "Captin'!"


Willie, Leatha's step son, would work some at different times over the years, but came to be our real "Stand by" after the time that Daddy, Tommy and Leatha died.

He first helped Joe to really trim up (Maybe "Skin up") all the trees around the house for Mother. He'd also do odd jobs for Mother around the place.

He cut pulpwood and firewood, built and repaired fences (Lot and pasture), bush hogged, trimmed shrubbery, mowed the yard, helped with hay, cut wood, trimmed fence rows, painted fences, etc. and did just about anything we have needed for him to do for a number of years.

I really depended on him to watch out for things around the place, especially since I was working out of town quite a bit and while we were in Mobile. Even though he'd had bypass surgery, he was still very strong and active.

He was so dependable at so many things. I just didn’t worry about things when we were away. He’d always take care of feeding Lady when we’d be away. All I had to do was to tell him when we were leaving and when we’d be back and we’d know that she was taken care of.

I used to tease him about the tires on his old truck being so slick that I could see the air in them. Also, if I came up and went out to the shop, I’d see a few tools missing and I’d ask him what he was building with my saw, or whatever I knew he had. He’d just laugh and tell me what he was working on. I had no worry about the tools being returned when he was finished with them.

A few times he’d come by when I was here with his tape player going loud. He’d be listening to “Amazing Grace” or some other songs that he’d heard Mother playing on the piano and he’d say, “I want you to hear this one. I sho Miss Nora would like to hear it!” Lots of time Mother would go in and play the piano some while he’d be working in the yards because she knew how much he appreciated them.

If we went on a long trip, I’d usually bring him back something from where we were. Once I brought him a bright red, flat cap just before Easter from Paris. He said, “I ain’t gonna wear this ‘til Easter Sunday.”

As his health began to go down, he spent most of his days down at Don’s Service Station watching out for, as he called them Rogues, from stealing things from Don while he’d be out working on tires, etc.

One day, I’d been at the hardware store and told Fred that I was going to go see if Don had time to find a very slow leak in one of my truck tires. When I got over there, I saw that Don had a vehicle on a jack so I didn’t stop. Had I stopped, I’d have found Willie dead in his truck. I saw one of his 36 chillun, Big Sam there as I passed and he found Willie dead.

Of course, Joe, Eleanor, JoAnne and I all had to be present on the front row at his 2 ½ hour funeral. Joe and I had to speak at the funeral also.
I surely do miss Willie with his bright smile with the gold tooth shining!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Part - 15c & d - Farm Hands - Dennis & Tommy



Dennis was a large, tall man that really didn't know his strength. He wasn't a "speed ball", but he worked steadily. Tommy was smaller, very strong, and worked faster than Dennis was. The odd thing was that, for example, if both were splitting wood, Dennis would wind up with the largest pile at the end of a day!?!

As noted above, Dennis had a large family that would work on the farm on an "as needed" basis, plowing, hoeing, picking cotton, pulling corn, cutting wood, etc.

I think he and Ludie had 3 girls and 3 boys. I never really knew Geneva, Francis and Nancy. Nancy was my age. She really wasn’t old enough to do much work while we were farming so she kinda hung by her mama’s coattails as she was so shy.

The boys were Bud, Clifford and Nelson (Nelse). They did work on the place. Once Clifford and Nelse had cut 4 pieced of a sweet gum tree that was about 8 inches in diameter and about 2 inches thick. Then they went in the old blacksmith shop and drilled a hole in the center of each circle. I asked them what they were making. Nelse told me that they were making some “sweels” (wheels) for their wagon.

Once Nelse has an old 47 Ford sedan. It had 5 radio antennae on it. Ford put one in the center just above the windshield and Nelse put one on each side at the front and back of the car. Each had a ‘coon tail on it. The funny part was that he didn’t even have a radio in the old car!!!


Tommy Land was the other one that worked the farm while I was coming up. At the time the house burned, he and his wife, Florence (We called her "Tommy's Florence" to differentiate from Andrew Turner's wife "Andrew's Florence."), lived in the old log house under the hill. They later moved over in the "New Hope Quarters."

There were no two neater people that I ever knew. They and their house were always just as "neat as a pin." Tommy would do his own sewing and patching on his overalls, etc. In later years as he got older, he got a little too familiar to the old “bottle” and his health wasn’t good after that.

Florence lived until she was up into her 90’s and looked just about the same as she always did, tall and slim. She seemed to be in good health even into her nineties. Sylvia would go by pretty regularly and check on her all along.

Up to the end, Tommy and Florence’s house was so neat you could eat off the floor.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Part - 15a.3. - Lucy cont & 15 b. - Lillie


15a.1.3 LUCY TAYLOR (cont)

In later years, when we didn't have the hands farming and didn't need Lucy during the week, she'd come most Sundays to cook dinner and one day to wash and iron.

She worked for several families in town, mostly washing and ironing.
She'd walk or "catch a ride" to town carrying her white fertilizer sack like her Mama's so she could bring home leftovers, things she'd pick up at the store and things she'd "Begged" for, etc. She would "beg" for contributions to her church, New Hope Methodist. She had helped raise enough to build the new building that stands there now as "The Greater New Hope AME Church."

Once, we wanted to get Lucy a nice coat for her to wear. She had gotten pretty fat then and weighed about 265. Joe and Bea found one that would fit her, but it was July 4th before we got together to give it to her, during a family reunion. We'd gathered in the living room and called her in. When she opened the box, she started jumping around, crying, put the coat on, danced around to each one of us, hugging us all and saying, "Thank ya, thank ya, thank ya!" She had to tell everybody to look what her chillun gave her!

When I was going to college in Livingston, I would go by her house on Sunday afternoon, on my way back to school, knowing she would have me a good, "made from scratch" cake made for me to take with me.

Lots of times, especially during World War II, sugar was rationed, so Lucy would make us some "sweet bread." She'd work up a cake batter and sweeten it with syrup. Mmm Good! It was, especially good while still warm with real butter in it and a glass of sweet milk. Now, don't that make ya drool a wantin' some uv it!!!

Two days after Joe was born (6 years before I was), the house caught fire. Lucy was sleeping on a pallet in the kitchen and woke up at midnight, with the house in flames. She jumped up and went running through the house calling, "Mister Sam, the house is on fire, the house is on fire!" Daddy got Mother up and carried her outside, Mama Wright got Claire and Sylvia and Lucy got Joe. She'd always beg a little something from Joe saying, "Ya know I saved ya from the fire!" Of course, Joe would give her anything he could anyway.

Unfortunately, our sweet Lucy died as the result of a blood clot in her leg a short time before the New Hope Church building was completed. Naturally, Sylvia and I represented the family at her funeral. Claire was in Tallahassee and Joe was overseas and couldn't come to the funeral. Her kids wanted her to have a vault to be buried in, so I paid for one, then Claire, Sylvia and Joe reimbursed me for a fourth, each.


Singing Lillie, Lucy's Mama would walk around with her white sack just singing gospel songs! In later years, I was working for the contractor paving the road that runs by the house, and JoAnne was by herself. She heard someone singing and saw Lillie coming. Lillie, like always, just came on up the back steps into the house. JoAnne talked to her a while, then Lillie left by way of the barn. I think Jo Anne was a little scared until I got home and told her about Lillie.

Lillie would go to New Hope Church, and when the preacher would make a statement, Lillie would say, "True!" in a high pitched voice all through the sermon.

We'd go over to New Hope sometimes and stand outside or go in and sit on the back row when they'd have "Protrative Meetings" (Revivals) and listen to the singing. There were some folks there that could REALLY sing well, such as Christine and Mulvoy Taylor.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Part - 15a.2 - Lucy (cont)

15.a.2. LUCY TAYLOR (cont)

Lucy would cook dinner every day, both for the family and for the field hands. When she cooked turnip greens, she would put a little pile of them on the corner of the cabinet, before she cut them up, for me to sample. Boy! Were they good!!!

Along about mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon, I'd get hungry. (Mother Minnie always said that she thought I had a "hollow leg" to put so much food in. Once she told Mother that I should drink a dipper full of water before I ate so I wouldn't eat so much.) In the morning I'd ask Lucy for a "hole-in-a-biscuit-with-'lasses-in it." This meant poking her finger into the edge of a cold biscuit and slowly pouring homemade sugar cane syrup into the hole allowing it to soak into the biscuit real good.

Afternoons called for "cornbread in buttermilk." Corn bread crumbled into a glass, then pouring home churned buttermilk into it and eating it with a spoon.

When Lucy had dinner ready for the family, she'd say, "Sonny, tell 'em dinner ready!" I'd tell the family, then go out the back door to ring the dinner bell for the field hands to "take out" for dinner. By the time the hands got to the house, fed and watered the mules, if plowing was being done, and they washed up, the family would be through eating, the table dishes cleared and re-set so the hands could come in and eat.

Lucy would have to cook a certain amount of food for dinner, depending on what sort of work that was going on around the farm. Most every day Tommy Land and Dennis Turner would be there for plowing, cutting wood, hoeing, etc. Then, there'd be times when one or more of Dennis' family (Ludie, his wife - daughters Geneva
, Francis or Nancy [Nancy was my age and usually hung on to Ludie's coat tail as she was so shy.], his boys Bud, Clifford and Nelson.) Sometimes Leatha Land and Willie Taylor would be there, too.

On the days when Lucy was churning for fresh butter and buttermilk, at least one of us younguns would be sitting on her big broad lap to look at the Sears Roebuck and Company or Montgomery Ward catalogs and dream about all the things we were gonna buy when we got big so we'd have the money to get them.

Or, Lucy would tell us stories. Also, she'd tell us stories or sing to us if we went up to the spring with her when she was washing clothes.

Lucy, like her Mama, "Singing Lillie" never married, but she had two children that grew up (Nora Lee, after Mother, and Sam, after Daddy), and one who only lived about a week or so (Minnie Jo, after Mother Minnie and Joe). She had a couple of miscarriages. Willie Taylor was the daddy of Sam and Nora.

Lucy would work the batter for biscuits by squeezing the flour, lard, baking soda and buttermilk through her fingers. Then, when it would stiffen up some, she'd knead the batter up and "choke off" nice sized "cat head" biscuits. Sometimes, she would roll out four little elongated rolls of batter to make each one of us younguns a "snake." (Mother would make us a "Billy Boy" similar to a "Gingerbread Man.”) Lucy's good ole biscuits with home churned butter, Daddy's homemade cane syrup, along with a good helping of fried, home raised and cured ham, and grits with "red eye" gravy and a glass of buttermilk, cooled all day in a syrup bucket hung in the spring was truly a feast that I'd sho' like to have, "rat now!"

Lucy would usually cook the breakfast biscuits and Mother the supper ones, as Lucy would go home just before dark. I'd go to the spring each day just before dark. I'd see the evening star and say the little saying, "Star light, Star bright, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight." Then I'd always wish that we'd have syrup, butter and biscuits for supper tonight. That way, I'd always get my wish!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Part - 15a - Farm Hands - Lucy Pt. a.1.





"Sonny tell 'em dinner ready." That's what I would hear each day, when I was a young boy, when Lucy had dinner ready.

Lucy Taylor was our "Mammy", "Other Mama" or whatever titles you wish to tag her with. In looks, she was almost a twin to "Aunt Jemimah" as seen on various baking products.

Why she called me "Sonny", I don't know. She is the only person to ever call me that. I asked her once, when I was about 10, what she'd call me when I was as old as Joe was. She said, "Sonny." I asked her what she'd call me when I got as old as Daddy. She said, "Mister Wood!"

Lucy had been working for Mother and Daddy since she was a spindly eleven-year-old girl; about the time Claire Louise and Sylvia Aliece, my two sisters came along. That was about nine years before me.

She was very special to all our family. On Mondays, she would load up some "lightered" (fat pine) splinters, wood, dirty clothes and the P&G and Octagon soap on the old wheelbarrow (with a 1 1/2" wide iron wheel), and push it up on the side of a hill, across the road from the house. There is an ever-flowing spring there. She would start a fire around the old black wash pot, pour buckets of water in the pot, add soap, and then put the clothes in that needed boiling. (Different colors at different times.)

When the water got hot, she'd take the "battling stick", (a board about 1" X 3" X 4') and punch and stir the clothes to "boil 'em clean!"

After the pot, she'd carry a "stick load" over to the wash tub sitting on a bench between two trees. She'd use the "rub board" to run the clothes up and down to get them real clean. When they were respectfully boiled and scrubbed, they went into the "rinsing tub" filled with fresh, clean water to rinse out the soap.

Clothes not needing starch would go back in the wheelbarrow. If starch was needed (most things worn outside), Lucy would have a pan of cornstarch mixed up to dip the clothes in so they would iron out real smooth and stiff.

When all the washing, rinsing, and starching was finished, Lucy would load everything back on the wheelbarrow and wheel it back to the backyard of the house. She would hang the fresh clean clothes on the clothesline to dry. If she had an extra big washing, she'd have to hang the overalls, etc. on the back wire fence.

Tuesday would usually be ironing day. Lucy would lay out each item that had been starched and sprinkle water on them by dipping her hand into a bowl of water and shaking it over the clothes. (Later, we got "up town" and got a little sprinkler that fit into a Coke bottle to use for sprinkling the clothes!) After she had sprinkled an item, she would roll it up.

Before any work started, Lucy would put two flat irons on the stove or in front of the fire in the fireplace, to heat up. After the sprinkling, she would wrap a thick rag around the hot handle of an iron, spit on her finger and quickly touch the bottom of the iron. If the spit "sizzled" the iron was hot enough to press the clothes. If the iron got cooled off too much, it wouldn't get the wrinkles out of the clothes. So, she had to put it back on the stove to reheat and get the other hot iron. There's an old saying, "Strike while the iron is hot!" This apparently was in reference to the flat irons cooling off, but could relate to a number of chores that needed to be done at just the right time.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Part - 14n - Fruit & Nut Trees



While there are only a few left in relation to when I was growing up, there were many different trees that produced goodies that we harvested and some made into some great cobblers, etc.

There were 5 sand pear trees out behind the toilet and chicken house that produced some good canning pears for cooking down to make semi-sweet toppings for biscuits. Then, down by the old garden, down the hill towards the pond, there were three what we called “eating pears” that were the best and would be the softest to eat when they got good an ripe. Then there was another tree that had what seemed to be a cross between the eating pears and the sand pears. That tree was loaded down every year. They never did get really soft to eat, but were so moist that when you’d bite into one juice would run down your chin. They were the best for canning and preserves. Those 4 trees were down by the old garden towards the pond from the house.

There is still quite a large area that is the pecan orchard that Granddaddy Wood planted with several varieties of pecans from small seedlings, to paper shells to Stuarts. These trees have never had much care and a number of them were lost when the orchard grew up in other trees before Daddy retired and cleared it back out.

In my part of the place, there are still about 23 trees. Only about half of them produce as I haven’t done much to fertilize, prune and care for the trees as they should have. In a good year we may harvest a couple of hundred pounds of nuts that we have cracked for our use and to give away. We seldom bother to harvest the hard to shell and hard to pick out seedlings.

Another type tree that still produce nuts are the two black walnut trees that are just outside the cow lot. One of these trees blew down and left a hollow stump about 8 feet high. One limb grew out of the top of the stump and still produces. The other tree stands tall and has nuts on it every year. We used to pick up the green ones that were about 2 ½ inches diameter and throw them at the cows if they tried to run away to keep from going into the lots during the summer months. I’d hate to be hit in the head with one of those green ones! The nuts are so hard they must be cracked with a hammer while holding the nut with some pliers. There isn’t much meat in them, but what is there is very strong. They’re particularly good in good ole homemade ice cream.

We never had but one apple tree. It was located about where Lonesome Pine is now. Seldom would any of the fruit on that tree ripen as we’d watch them so long and so closely that when the slightest bit of color came on an apple, it would be picked and quickly eaten.

There were 5 J-berry trees (Improved Mulberry) that were all around the yards. They produced very large, sweet purple berried about 3/8” diameter and up to about 1 ½ inch long. (Sylvia used to tell Lowery and me that they’d get as long as her hand!!!) They really made good jam and cobblers especially if a few were added in that weren’t quite ripe as they’d have a little more acid to them than the really ripe ones did. Of course, anyone could tell when they had been eating them as our lips and fingers would be purple. There is only one of those trees left and I have to keep it trimmed back as it is between the old shop and the new tractor shed.

There was one wild mulberry tree that was in the horse lot. It typically produced the very small berried and we seldom did anything with them.

There were a couple of fig trees out behind the smoke house but the chickens kept them eaten back to where we didn’t get much fruit from them. This is my favorite fruit grown in the area as they cook down into the best preserves imaginable.

The other fruit producer was and still is the two scuppernong vines. These vines were originally out back by the apple tree. In the late 40’s Joe and Fred moved them to the chicken yard that was located north of the old tractor shed. They kinda lay dormant for a couple of years. Finally, Mother told Joe to put some chicken manure around them and dig it in. The very next year they started to produce. Daddy built an arbor that was about 8 feet wide, 6 feet high and about 40 feet long. This was made by welding some of the old cattle gap pipes together into s “U” shape. Soon he widened it by another 6 feet. A couple of years ago, the old pipes and the net wire had rusted out, so I cut them all back and built a new vertical arbor from green house piping. They are much easier to get to for eating off the vine or harvesting some for making some good jelly. It looks like we will have a good crop this year. These scuppernongs are the old fashion golden colored grapes. There are a number of newer breeds that may be a little larger and in different colors, but are not as sweet as these are. I always look forward to about the first of September when they begin to ripen!

There is only one pear tree on the place now. We planted 4 trees about 8 years ago. Two died soon after they were planted. The other two produced until Katrina blew one of them down and left only one. It is loaded with this year’s crop waiting to ripen.

We tried to grow 6 fig trees in the “nasty garden” plot. Three died soon after planting, then a late freeze in 2008 severely damaged the other three. Also, we planted several blueberry bushes that failed to grow in the sandy soil of the nasty garden. So we don’t have lots of luck with newly planted fruit and nut trees.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Part - 14m - Crocheting



Back when Daddy was farming, during winter nights, when he'd not been working so hard, he would lay out patterns for table cloths, bed spreads, etc. on graph paper. Then, he'd crochet them while sitting by the fire and listening to the radio. One treasure I'll always keep; he made me a crocheted baby bed spread. (I slept in the baby bed until I was six because there just wasn't room for another bed.) He had designed twelve-inch squares. Each square had a different animal crocheted into it. There were dogs, cats, camels and horses in the squares of that spread. The middle square had "JIM" in it. There was a total of fifteen squares, plus the fringes around the edges.

An interesting thing about the way Daddy and Mother held their thread while crocheting was that Daddy held the middle finger of his left hand up to keep the thread tensioned properly. Mother held up her pointing finger up.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Part - 14l - Dirt Pits



The original pit was just at the top of the hill across the road where the old CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) pit, about two acres in size was located. This was primarily sandy soil. The CCC trucks had to be loaded by individuals with shovels. So it would take a WHILE to get a truck load. Then most of it was hauled to the old CCC road that ran from the top of the hill by Providence Church over to Highway 29 (now Highway 17). Not long after WWII, one of the very sandy hills on that road was washed out by heavy rains and the county never repaired it, and abandoned it.

We’ve always thought that it was a shame that they closed that road as it would have saved about 5 or 6 miles in traveling over to 17 and northward rather than having to go all the way to Millry and back north. Occasionally someone would get a load or two of that sandy soil to put on bad clay areas of the Millry – Isney road (now Sam Wood Road).

I remember once that Daddy and some of the Whigham men were trying to improve a bad place that lots of vehicles would get stuck during wet weather at the top of the hill north of the house. Daddy had some rough about 2 X 8 boards on the tractor wagon. They’d hand load the wagon, then pull it up there, flip the boards over to let the sand drop into the clay area. While they were working on that, I’d keep the crew supplied with a bucket of water and a dipper. Mr. Grace Whigham commented several times that, “Uncle Jim's a good water boy!”

There was a third dirt pit on the place. This one was located about ¼ mile north of Providence Church. It was strictly a Sand Pit. Emmett Wood had a concrete block plant on the south side of Millry and used the sand from that pit to mix with the concrete to make the blocks.

What was a large cotton field atop the hill in the cow and goat pastures across the road "grew up" in trees. Then when the county started to pave the road, they wanted to buy the fill and base dirt from our pit on top of the hill. At that time, only the

In 1959, the county took out over 43,000 cubic yards for the road. Since then, the county and lots of contractors have hauled dirt out and the pit has grown to about twenty acres in size. The pit is on the land that Sylvia inherited. The county trucks were still hauling, up to about the end of 2002, but were not doing a very good accounting job on the pay going to Sib for the dirt. The town of Millry and occasionally an individual contractor will haul some dirt from the pit. Most of the good, red sand/gravel base material has been hauled out of there leaving mostly sand, dense white clay and quite a bit of sand stone chunks.

One of the top uses for the pit nowadays is for little children and a few AU students to go up and slide down the banks and get good and dirty. I guess that fun thing goes back to when we were all young and would slide down the banks of the gully that runs along side of the pit. That ended when Sylvia slid down one day and stuck a sharp pine lightered know up into one of her feet!

After a sizable rain comes, the road up to the pit gets pretty badly washed up. So I try to keep it graded up so if anyone does need to get dirt they’ll be able to get up the hill.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Part - 14k - Goats and Hogs


We had another pasture, across the road from the house and alongside the cow pasture that Daddy kept hogs and goats in.

The goats were always a headache. They would stick their heads through the net wire fence to eat and would get their horns hung in the fence.
Every evening after we got in from school, we’d listen to see if we could hear a goat bleating, over the hill, get the "Jim Brown Pliers" (fence Pliers that had been ordered form the Jim Brown Catalog), and some hay wire, and go cut the fence to get the goat out. Then, we'd repair the fence with the haywire.

Several of the Colored People would come by to buy a goat just before July fourth to barbecue. We would usually butcher one along then, too. In later years, we'd have a big family reunion and barbecue one or two goats, a sheep, some ribs and chickens. Mmmm, Good!!!

At one time, we had twenty-seven goats in the pasture, and dogs got started to killing them. All in all, we killed eight dogs, including one of ours, people got rid of four dogs, and they killed twenty-five of the goats. The two remaining ones had gotten so wild that we couldn't get anywhere near them. One day James Turner, Old Bee's boy, stopped by to see if we had a goat he could get for "the 4th day!" I told him we'd have to shoot it to get it. He said okay, so we found both of them in the old CCC gravel pit. I killed them both, sold him one and skinned the other. That put us out of the goat business for a long time.

We always kept enough hogs for all the family and friends to eat and some lard to trade for groceries at Mr. Kimbrough's store. Usually, Daddy would take about four or five hogs at a time and put them in a pen at a time so they could be fattened up. Then on a very cold day, we'd have "a Hog killin'."

Daddy would shoot them right between the eyes with the .22 rifle, and they'd fall dead immediately. Then he would "stick them" by taking a sharp pointed knife and cut their jugular veins so they would bleed well.

They were taken to a place where boards were laid out on the ground and a drum of very hot water was tilted so the hog could be dipped into it, then pulled out and the hair would come off easily. If the water was too hot, the hair would "set" and you'd almost have to shave the hair off. When all the hair had been scraped off the hog, it was hung on the "gamblin' pole" with "gamblin' sticks" strung through a slit cut between the back leg and hamstring. Then, it was gutted and all the entrails saved for more work later.

After it was gutted and cleaned out, it was laid out on the "Meat bench" along the south side of the smokehouse to be cut up, and the fat parts cut up in about one to 1 ½ inch squares for making lard and cracklins. The meat was packed down with salt in large wooden boxes until it was time to start smoking it and curing-it-out.

Nothing was wasted from a hog except the gall bladder, the bladder (some folks would make a "football" out of the bladder), and the hard part of the hooves. Some say everything was saved from the "rooter" to the "tooter!"

Meanwhile, all the entrails were being attended to. The lights (lungs), heart and liver were prepared for cooking. The small intestines were washed and washed and washed to get all the "mess" out and they were used for stuffing sausage. The large intestines were cleaned similar to the small ones and prepared to be cooked as chitterlings.

The brain was saved and it and the head were used to make souse (hogshead cheese), and some of the brains were cooked with scrambled eggs for breakfast the next day. The feet were saved and "pickled" for good eating later.

The "scrap", mostly lean meat was cut up into small pieces to be run through the sausage grinder to make sausage after proper seasonings were thoroughly mixed into the ground meat. Later, some of the sausage was stuffed into the small intestines for link sausage and the rest was made into "patties" and placed into a lard can and sealed with melted fat or canned.

A day or so later, the big wash pot from the spring was brought down and thoroughly rinsed to remove any soap remaining in it. A big fire was built around the pot and the cut up pieces of fat were thrown into the pot to boil out the fat (lard). The lard was strained into large metal cans and allowed to cool. When it cooled, it set up into a semi-hard state and turned white.

After all the lard was cooked out of the meat, it became cracklings and were kept in lard cans in the smokehouse and used for making "cracklin' cornbread." Sometimes one or two of Florence Land's children would come to the back door and say, "Miss Nora. Mama say send her a nickel's worth of crackers!" That would be a gallon syrup bucket full.

When the meat had been salted down for a while, it and the link sausage had to be smoked. One of the hands would scout around and find a clump of "bear grass" (Palmetto) to be boiled, making the tines flexible and strong. After all the salt was washed off the meat, a slit was cut into the hams, sides of bacon, etc., the bear grass was run through the slit and tied in a knot. Pieces of meat and links of sausage were strung on poles and hung across joists of the smokehouse. Mother would build a very slow burning fire out of green oak wood, shut up the door and windows and let the smokehouse fill with the pungent oak smoke, seasoning and curing out the meat, giving it that good smoked taste.

No one was paid money to help during hog killing time. They were paid in meat. The last hog killing we had was on a January first. We killed eight hogs. More than one hog was given to pay the help.

Boy! Wouldn't it be good to go out to the smokehouse and thick slice one of those hams, fry it, make red-eye gravy for grits, have some good cat head biscuits cooked in the old Home Comfort stove's oven with home churned butter and homemade cane syrup, have a couple of fresh fried yard eggs, and a good glass of fresh milk and "Jest Dive In!!!!!"

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Part - 14j - Pets


14j. PETS

We had many pets while I was growing up. The first dogs I remember were Ring, an English Bulldog and Tip, a black dog with a white tip on his tail. Ring was just a plain one good dog. He’d “sic” on whatever he was told to do. He hunted possums and squirrels but wouldn’t bark at them when they treed. Finally one of us shot a squirrel in the rear end and when he fell out Ring went to it and it bit him on his mouse. That made ring mad and after that, when he saw a squirrel he’d bark at it. We knew that when he barked, he was looking at the squirrel.

I don’t remember anything about Tip except his name and what he looked like. He died while I was a little boy.

Uncle Oscar Grayson came up one day when nobody was at home but me and Lucy. He brought a little white dog that he said was named Ginger. Well, as soon as everyone got home his name was immediately changed to Jimmy. He was a good squirrel dog, but unlike Ring, he’d bark at the scent of a squirrel and we didn’t always find what he was barking at.

Jimmy loved to be near the tractor and would trot along all day long just out front of the right front wheel of the tractor while plowing or just going down the road.

Other dogs were Homer a part Jack Russell that was a good squirrel dog; Spot a good squirrel dog that a guy from Kiln, MS gave to Daddy. (I’d have to say that Spot was probably the best squirrel dog of them all.); Shan, a black cocker spaniel that was just a pet; and then there was Wags! Wags was part Manchester, black and tan little dog. We had gotten him in Mobile and once I had to go to New Orleans to a hospital so we left Wags with Mother. Well, he became her HOUSE dog. Mother was so attracted to him that she let him stay in the house. Sometimes she’d give him something to eat and he’d kinda turn his nose up to it. She’s tell him, “Eat That!” He’d roll his eyes around so sadly, but he’d nibble it until had eaten it all. Since she was so attached to him, we just gave him to her. She always said that he was so much comfort to her especially during the winters that Daddy would be working out of town.

Of course, we had many different cats. There was Daisy Mae a calico that got trapped in the oven once. Probably the best all around cats we had was Frieda, a yellow cat that was the best mouser I’ve ever seen. Several times Daddy would call her out to the barn and he’d kinda roll some of the hay bales around and the rats would run up the rafters and get just under the ridge vent of the roof and run westward to the end of the barn and down towards the southwest corner. Daddy would use a fishing pole to make the rats run. As soon as he picked up the pole, Frieda would head to the SW corner and wait on the rat to come to her and she’d nail it.

Once, there had been lots of bales of oats in the Big Barn. Daddy, Joe and I started to move the oats over to the old barn. As soon as we started mice started running everywhere. We called Frieda and her three half grown kittens over. There is no telling how many mice those four cats killed and ate that day. Once, we watched Frieda and she had one under each front paw and two in her mouth. She’d bite into one until it quit wiggling, then go to another.

Once, Andy rescued a yellow cat in the middle of Cottage Hill Road. A litter mate had already been run over and killed. We didn’t have a place for it so we brought it up to Mother and Daddy. If a cat would purr when he petted it, Daddy really took a liking to them. This one was no exception. One day, Mother started to go to town and heard a funny noise under the hood and the cat was under there and got caught up in the fan belts and killed.

Other pets included Nig and Brown, two big goats that Joe and I had and trained to pull a two wheel goat cart. One day two men came by and wanted to buy them. At the time goats were selling at about $3 or $4. They offered us $10 each for them and they were gone!!!

About the end of my senior year in high school, I won the “pig chain” pig. The way this worked was that when an Agriculture boy won the pig, he had to raise it, have her bred and give one of the first pigs back to the school for the next boy. Well, my hog had nine pigs. After about a month or so the sow apparently laid down on one of the pigs and broke it down in its hind legs and could only get around by dragging them. I put it in a little pen and fed it with a bottle. A little later, it got to where it could walk around with wobbly rear legs. So, I just let it run loose in the yards. It liked the dogs and would stay near them. If someone drove up and the dogs went out barking at them, the pig would go out squealing! I guess he thought he was a dog!!! As I was about to leave home for college, I sold all the other hogs to Mr. W.J. Brittain and gave him the pig. He also let it run loose in his yard. One day he couldn’t find it and notice an old wash pot had been overturned and found the pig smothered under the pot.

Soon after we moved back to the farm a pretty, long haired yellow dog appeared. In her face, she looks like a fox, so I named her Foxy Lady. She and a yellow lab had 3 litters of puppies and all of them were black!!! I gave away all the pups to folks that would have a good home for them.

Then on Thanksgiving 2007, Andy and Robin brought us a Dachshund that Robin’s brother Paul had in Texas. His little boy played too rough for him and they wanted someone to take him. JoAnne really didn’t want a house dog, but that changed that day he got here. He was named Winston, but we soon took JoAnne’s suggestion to call him Sport. He is completely spoiled rotten. He loves to spend time sleeping in either one of our laps and in his special chair in the den. He can almost talk to you especially with those big brown eyes. If I holler “Touchdown Auburn” he’ll start yipping and whining to celebrate with me!!! He has decided that my bed should be his sleeping place, so I put one of his little beds up on the bed and he curls up in it and sleeps all night. While we’re at the table eating, he stares at me all the time awaiting the treat that he’ll get when we finish eating.

He loves to get out and dig trenches across the yards chasing moles. I have used about 7 loader buckets of sand filling up those holes. Recently, I let him out one morning and when he started to come back in the reek of skunk odor hit me. I was on my way to work so JoAnne had to bathe him with tomato juice, then his dog shampoo. She got almost all of the scent off.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Part - 14i - Horses and Mules



For a long time, Daddy would round up the cows and drive them in to the Big Barn so as to check them over. He would ride "Pinto" or "Red", a Kentucky Saddle Horse (now called American Saddle horses.)

Daddy bought Red from Uncle Jim Granade, Mother Minnie's brother, as a young horse. Red was eleven days older than I was. Daddy tried to break him to plow, but he had too fast a gait to go slow enough to plow. During this time, Daddy "broke Red's wind," a condition that caused him to start panting for breath after just a short span of running. Once, Mr. Tom Whigham told me that if I would put some clay in a tub, then add water to it, stir it up real well and let him only drink that kind of water, it would give him longer wind. I thought that was kinda cruel, so I didn't try it. I did notice, or thought I did, when there had been heavy rains and the pond got muddy, Red would have slightly longer wind. Who knows!?!?

Once caught and bridled, Red would stay right where you left him and you could walk right up to him without a flinch. But, if he was turned loose in the pasture, he was VERY HARD to catch. I remember one Sunday, Daddy had chased him all over the pasture, got hot (mostly under the collar), had sicked Ring, our Bulldog, on him, and tried to catch him in every way he could think of. When Mother went in the house, got a tin plate with a couple of spoons of sugar on it, and walked to the fence and starting talking "baby talk" to him saying, "Come on 'den, come get some sugar," he would walk right up to her. So, lots of times when we wanted to ride Red and he was out to pasture, we'd call Mother to catch him for us.

Mother rode Red quite a bit. I think she tried to ride Pinto once and got scared of him. She would ride Red to visit Mrs. Mable Stokley, Aunt Ella Wood, Miss Eva Whigham, Miss Daisy and Mrs. Becky Grimes, etc.

In the summertime when the cows wouldn't come up for milking, Joe or I would hem Red up and catch him in the pasture, hold his mane and lead him to a fence or stump, get on him with no bridle or saddle, kinda slap him on the side of his neck to turn him, then drive the cows to the barn for milking. He'd wait just outside the lot gate for us to get him a couple of ears of corn as a reward for the ride.

Red and I went many, many miles together. In fact, I used to go see a girlfriend on him. There were 11 gates of wire gaps to go through in route. Sometimes you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face due to total darkness. When I’d get to a gate he’d stop. I’d feel around, get the gate open, let him walk thru, close the gate and get back on and going again.

One night, there was some moonlight, as I was headed just a little way past a gate, I saw something run right in front of Red. I kicked him in the side to get him running. The thing I saw darted off the roadway and I got one slight smell of the skunk! I’d heard that they had to stop to spray and it did prove it that night!

At the age of 21, I’d noticed that Red was kinda walking stiffly. Then one morning I went out to the lot and found him dead. I borrowed James Robert Whigham’s tractor to drag him off. A couple of years later, I found his skull and used it as a Halloween d├ęcor along with a mule’s skull.

We had mules to do all the plowing, hauling corn, wood, etc. with the wagon, turn the cane mill, hay bailer, etc.

Not all mules would work to the hay bailer as they had to step over a wooden beam about 10 inches square and at about the same time, the mechanism would snap to make the grass pack into the bale being made.

We had black mules named Jim (Daddy made 21 crops with him), John and Jack, a red mule named Nell and a Grey mule named John. We only had three at a time.

I guess I remember Jim, Nell and Grey John more than the others. Nell was always "seal fat", with almost a perfectly round belly. We'd ride her with the old army saddle quite a bit. Once, Fred was riding Red and I on Nell. When we got to the bridge crossing the branch by the pond, Red's hooves struck the bridge; Nell jumped sideways a couple of feet and stopped immediately. When this happened, the army saddle and I slipped all the way under her belly. She never moved until I got off and replaced the saddle on her back. I thought Fred would fall off Red, as he was laughing so hard.

Nell was so gentle that you could walk right up to her anywhere. Lots of times Joe would catch her, lead her to a terrace, tell her "Whoa." back off and run and jump on her back. Then he'd ride her to get the cows in for milking.

As best as I can remember, all the mules and horses that we had died here on the place except Pinto. Daddy sold pinto to a Mr. Smith.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Part - 14h - Cows


14h. COWS

For a number of years, Daddy owned forty acres of land in the "Prairies." This was about two miles NE of the house. The land was "gumbo" clay (very sticky and slick when wet) and had coral rock all thru it. (Someone said that, at one time the area was under the sea.) Daddy had arranged with Mr. Henry Williams to build a lane across the East side of his land so Daddy's cows could go from the "Big Barn" (an open barn with hay racks and troughs for feeding cattle.) which was across the road from the house. There was a pasture around the Big Barn with about 40 acres in it.

Daddy had a cattle-loading chute that was also a platform for a scale. He would know how much his cattle weighed before taking them to market. Of course, we all had to stand in the chute and be weighed every once in a while.

Things got tight, money wise, and cattle prices got low, so Daddy sold all of his cows except about six or eight for milking. Also, he sold the Prairie land to B. K. Smith.

One of the cows that he kept was named Sadie because he bought her from Mr. James Martin. One of Sadie's calves was reddish brown, and was named Rose. Mother and Daddy gave Rose to me for an Agriculture project when I was in ninth grade. Rose had May, June and countless other calves which were also mine. We kept May for a while, and I learned firsthand not to keep a cow's first calf. Her first calf was nothing but a spindly runt. June was Rose's second calf and turned out to be a very good brood cow.

Rose and June were probably the smartest cows we had, especially June. When she wanted to get out of the stall, she'd simply butt it open. If she wanted water, she'd take her tongue and turn the water on. (She never did learn to turn the water off after she got a drink!) If she wanted to go through a gate, she'd take her nose and slide the latch to open it. We learned to remove the handle on the water faucet, drill a hole in the gate and latch and put a nail through it to prevent her from sliding it, etc.

Sadie had developed a ruptured milk gland, so Joe took her and some goats to market, sold them and bought Frosty. She had the smallest bag and shortest teats and was the hardest thing to milk than any cow we had. Finally, Frosty died near the pond. We think someone was shooting at ducks or something and the bullet ricocheted off the water and killed her.

That left me with all the cows. When I left for college, I gave all them back to Mother and Daddy. Later, they gave me Easter, another reddish brown, mottled face cow. Her last calf was #25, which was Carrie's favorite. Willie found Easter dead down in the little flat when #25 was just a calf.

Not long before Mother died, Joe bought all the cows from her. He would spend quite a bit of time when he was home reworking fences, etc. Then, after Mother died, I bought the herd from Joe.

I've had as many as 37 head of cows and calves.

After owning the cows for a while, the bull I had started “shooting blanks” and I missed a whole year’s crop of calves along with a no good bull. So, instead of buying a bull and having no calves to sell, I decided to sell the heard to David Atchison and Joe and I leased the pasture land to him. Now, I enjoy seeing the cows grazing each morning down across the flat while I’m shaving. And, if I want to get out amongst them, I can.

There is one cow still here that has always been kinda special. George called me one Wednesday morning and told me that the cow with the long white face (Zella) had a new baby girl calfie. I came up from Mobile the next day along with Sonny and Bobby. I started looking for Zella while riding around the pasture. First, we found Lou with a new calf behind the dam. Then we saw Zella down by the creek, lowing. When we got down there, I found the calf lying in the edge of the creek. Apparently it had gotten too close to the bank and fell in. So, I got my boots, went in and toted the calf up the creek bank to its mama. She walked off with the calf following. The next morning, I noticed that the calf hadn’t suckled and was getting weak. So, I borrowed a calf bottle from David and for the first time in about 50 years, I milked the cow. I had to make a temporary “break” so she wouldn’t walk away. I fed the calf on that milk and another milking. By the time we started feeding her the bottle, the calf was almost blind from lack of nutrients that newborn calves need. Then I got some powdered milk and mixed up a bottle or two of that and gave it to the calf.

Zella was a big, gentle cow, but you couldn’t get to her to touch or pet her. She’d simply turn and walk away as you approached her. That Sunday morning, JoAnne and I went out to the barn to check on them. I put out some sweet feed in one of the troughs under the barn and Zella started eating it. Then, I got hold of the calf, pulled her up to her mama and put a teat in her mouth and she learned quickly what to do with it. Zella never even attempted to move or walk away.

I called George and told him to keep them in the lot for a few days and watch to see if the calf was suckling. On Tuesday, he called me back and said that the little calfie was really eating well and her eyes had cleared up. So, I told him to let them out into the pasture.

After that, any time I’d get near Zella, she and the calf would walk away. Then after about a month, I was out in the pasture and the calf walked up to me and I started scratching her head. I can still walk up to her or she’ll walk up to me and I’ll scratch her head! That cow is “Miss Priss.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Part - 14g - Gardens



Mother and Daddy always had a good garden full of scrumdiddliumptious veggies.

When I was little, the garden was down the hill from the side yard by the two pear trees and a big water oak tree. It was probably about ½ acre in size. They grew about any common vegetables common to this area of the South. Items such as corn, peas, English Peas (we didn’t get many of those cooked as we all ate them raw in the garden!), turnips, collards, mustard greens, onions, snap beans, butterbeans, and many other things.

Things like Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, muskmelons, and cucumbers were grown in one of the fields, mostly the “little new ground” that is in front of Tom’s house now.

Later the garden spots were moved in search of better soils for a garden with less sand, such as north of the old potato house, down by the pond about the northeast corner, down by the creek in the bottom side of the pecan orchard, down at the back side of the big flat near the dam, and finally the 50 foot square garden by the cow lot.

I made a comment about putting a garden there being very close to the lot, so Daddy always called that one “The Nasty Garden!”

It didn’t matter where the garden spot was located they managed to keep their freezer full of vegetables and provided all of us younguns with lots of good fresh stuff to eat. Daddy prided himself in being sure that JoAnne had plenty of Kentucky Wonder pole beans from the Nasty Garden.

We tried to have a garden a couple of years after we moved up here, but I guess my thumbs were too black and not green enough but we did have a couple of good years for growing. Then we got into some dry summers and everything starved for water and we didn’t get much.

We’ve had several dry years of late and I didn’t even try to raise a garden as I’d have had to water it about every day as that area is so sandy.
This season, we went to a truck farm near Lucedale and picked some good veggies there and Sib got us some corn from a guy in Copeland. That works better than stirring up the dry sand trying to grow our own!

Part - 14f - Games


14f. GAMES
Daddy and Mother really enjoyed playing table games such as Dominoes, Set Back, Canasta, Crazy Eights, Chinese Checkers, Rook, and Casino. Also, they enjoyed pitching horseshoes and playing croquet.

At one time we had lighted courts for pitching horseshoes and playing croquet at night. The croquet court was laid out in the back yard, near the steps. It was kept totally grass-free and graded to be totally level. (That was one game I really excelled in. I played so much by myself that I almost could not be beaten.)

When Daddy and Uncle George would get together for a short while, they would play "Casino". Uncle George kept a record sheet of all games won, points scored, the number of sweeps, etc. During World War II, he lost his wallet and the record sheet. So they had to start a new sheet after the war that continued until their last game a few weeks before Daddy died.

In July, 1969, "Big Three Dominoes" was started between Daddy, Uncle George and me. I kept records on that; only won/lost for a while, then added point records. Daddy had Green Dominoes, Uncle George had White, and I had Chinese red ones. Also, I had a Chinese red table so about all you could see were the spots on the "bones." Naturally, when any of us lost while playing with the other's "bones" we'd really fuss about those off color dominoes and accuse them of being an ungracious host. Big Three Dominoes ceased to be when Daddy died. I still have all the record sheets.
The final records for the Big Three Dominoes were: Games won - Daddy 306, Uncle George 316, and I 297; Total games played 919; Points - Daddy 183,040, Uncle George 178,105, and I 180,265; Total points scored - 541,410; Longest winning streak - Daddy 7, Uncle George 7, I 5; Longest losing streak - Daddy 26, Uncle George 17, I 14.

All the Wood clan enjoyed playing games. Family Reunions would usually have at least one table with Setback being played. Also, when four or five would get together, a "game-or-two" would be played. Aunt Lucy, Uncle Will, Uncle John, Uncle Percy, Aunt Lacy, Uncle George, Cousin Bill Grayson and Daddy would play every chance they had. They'd fuss about getting bad cards and quote Uncle John saying, "Let’s shuffle them cards!" Also, after losing while playing at least three games with each one being a partner, saying, "I sho' had a bad run of partners!"

While playing dominoes, Uncle Percy would play a small bone and say, "Lets keep 'em little!" and would keep the ends as low as possible.

Once, while we were living in Augusta, GA, Daddy had to have about three-fourths of his stomach removed. Uncle George, Joe and I would tease Daddy about how much fun we were having playing dominoes while he was in the hospital.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Part - 14e - Pond & Camp



In about 1942, Daddy participated in a U.S. Conservation Department program that allowed the County to build farm ponds. They built one, about three acres in size, and stocked it with Bream and Largemouth Bass.

The pond gave many days of pleasure for swimming, (all of us learned to swim there using two syrup buckets with a cloth strap tied to them for water wings) fishing, parties, and just good ole gatherings with the Greens (the principal at Millry School) and the Ezells (Pastor of Millry Baptist Church).

Later, due to erosion from hillside farming and two dirt roads, the pond had filled in about half way with sand. So, Daddy drained it, and we got Pee Wee Andrews from Mobile to bring in a dragline and dozer to rework it. I ran the dozer and together we widened the dam, put in a new spillway and built an island in the middle to keep from having to move so much dirt.

The island soon became a showplace, especially at Christmas time with a large, lighted tree reflecting in the water about seventy five yards from the road. Now, Azalea bushes, a couple of pine trees and Wisteria vines planted by Mother and Woodie turn it into a floral garden in the springtime.

Daddy built the camp house on the tractor wagon from left over scrap materials from a couple of jobs he had been on. It was 7 feet by seventeen feet with two single bed bunks in one end and two double bed bunks in the other. It had two by six foot long "flaps" on each side that could be propped open to let cool breezes blow through.

We first set the camp up just south of Bobby Dahlberg's fish camp at Bladon Landing, on the Tombigbee River. We built a three-sided lean-to for a kitchen and ate from a picnic table on the bank of the river. After a large flood almost destroying the camp, we took it home, cleaned it up and returned it to the river.

We jacked the house up about ten feet high between two gum trees, set cypress posts under it, built a kitchen on the end and an eight foot wide screen porch all the way across the front. Boy! Was that nice to sit on the porch with a cool breeze blowing, watching the tugs pushing coal, timber or fuel barges up and down the river.

We would keep two or three "Trot" (trout) lines all the way across the river most of the time to catch Catfish. It surely was good eating to clean and fry the catfish fresh, right out of the river!

Due to the fact that none of us had time to go to the River to use the camp, we moved the camp house from Bladon Landing on the Tombigbee back to the pond where it became the family gathering place on numerous occasions for Family Reunions where us younguns and the grand younguns would pick and grin, and all ate too much barbecue and homemade ice cream.

When we moved the camp house back to the pond, I took the tractor down the 25 mile trip to the river. We jacked the house up by rigging a come-a-long in a gum tree on one end and Daddy had the tractor pulling a cable on the other hooked to a roller in another gum tree. When they got it clear of the posts and beams, I took the chain saw and cut off the posts, then pushed the tractor wagon under the house. They let it down on the wagon.

I put a battery on the back top bunk and ran a wire to a flashing light on top of the roof. Then I headed for home right across US highway 84. While going down the old Henry Williams hill I let it coast for a little bit and it got a little “squirrely” and I really had to hold on to the steering wheel. Then when I got to the smaller hill just above Dunbar Creek, I let it go again and almost turned the house and tractor over. I really was sweating that one! I thought that it would be easier to hold it on that hill than the other one.

In June 1998, tornadic winds blew several trees across the camp house, causing irreparable damage to it. Maybe, someday, we can do something about getting another place down there.