Uncle Joe sent word he needed the boys to cut firewood one November day in 1934. He’d be ready about ten the next morning. They walked barefoot three miles through the woods, kicking at the fallen leaves, since it was a still a warm day as November often is in Nortwest Louisiana. Shoes had to be saved for school, but the opportunity to get a day’s work took precedence over school. They needed whatever Uncle Joe paid, whether it be a little money or food. Maybe they’d get a meal or some cast off clothes, too.
Uncle Joe pointed out a cross-cut saw, an ax, wedges, and a pile of wood. Bill and Ed knew well what to do.they attacked the wood pile, sawing up the logs, splitting, and stacking them in a woodpile next to the house. They worked diligently, knowing from experience, Uncle Joe wouldn’t mind taking a switch to them if he thought they were lagging. Clouds gathered and the wind blew as they worked on. Their six o’clock biscuits were a distant memory as their stomachs growled. They looked hopefully toward the house, hoping Aunt Ola May would call them in to eat. She was notoriously stingy, but surely she’d feed them since they were here working for the day. Their muscles were aching and their bellies were growling from the hours of sawing, splitting, and stacking wood.
About four o’clock it was snowing as they stacked the last of the wood. Barefoot and cold in their thin clothes, they went in the warm house to tell Uncle Joe they were through with their day’s work. A fire crackled in the wood stove as Aunt Ola May put a huge pot of beef stew and skillet of cornbread on the table. They warmed themselves in front of the stove, assuming they’d be eating in a few minutes.
“We’re through with with that big oil’ stack o’ wood, Uncle Joe.”
“Did you cut it the size I told ya’ an’ stack it real careful next to th’ house where I showed ya’? I don’t want it fall in’ on me!”
“Yessir, we done it just like ya’ told us.”
“Well, alright. I ain’t goin out in th’ cold to check right now. Well, y’all better git on home ‘fore it fits any colder. I ain’t got a quarter, so I’m just gonna give you some groceries. Ola May, what’ve ya’ got?”
‘I guess they can have this here bag o’ meal. It cost about a quarter. Now you boys need to git on home now!”
Showing the hungry, barefoot boys to the door, Uncle Joe and Aunt Ola May put them out in the cold, Not offering them a meal, shelter for the night, or loan of warm clothes or shoes, though they could have managed any of these. Their meager pay for a full day’s wood chopping was five pounds of cornmeal. The poor, hungry boys cried as they ran home three miles in the snow.