Two Roads Part 6

Posted out of sequence

Over the next six years, Neeley gave birth to three more children.  She was an indulgent mother to them and to Clara Bea.  For the rest of her life she said, “When your children are little they step on your toes. When they get older, they step on your heart.”  After three consecutive drought years with no cash crop, Eddie was way behind on his banknote and at the grocery store.  When he couldn’t even pay the interest on his loan, the bank refused him further credit.  The grocer had to cut him off, too.  Sadly, he lost the farm and had to become a sharecropper, a situation few could escape.  It was like falling into a vortex.  The only advantage of share-cropping was that the owner furnished seed, land, and lodging, a deal with the devil since the landowner charged seed and supplies against the sharecropper’s pay at the end of the season.  Even worse, some landowners paid in script which could only be used in trade at their own store.  Sharecroppers were unlikely to be privy to the crop price, so were easily cheated.  They just got deeper and more hopelessly in debt to the landowner every year, essentially becoming enslaved.  Should they try to abscond on the debt, they could be charged with theft.  Many had to steal away in the night, leaving the majority of their belongings behind.

The typical sharecropper’s cabin was unpainted and often had shutters instead of windows.  Likely, wire was nailed over the windows to keep varmints out.  A four-room shack with a porch would have been generous.  It was very common for shacks to sit in cotton fields with tiny yards and no shade trees.  It was common for several to be clustered together around one well. They depended on fireplaces and wood stoves for cooking and heat. Toilets served for sanitation.  Both blacks and whites worked as sharecroppers.  It was common for children to work alongside their parents at planting and harvest time.  “Them that don’t work don’t eat,” was a common saying.  Society looked down on sharecroppers, inferring that a man with drive wouldn’t find himself in that position.  Prejudice is always with us.

When the sheriff came out with the eviction notice, the banker sent Eddie word that his brother-in-law, Mr. Hathaway, needed a fellow.  One of his workers had moved on last week.  In desperation, Eddie said he’d take it. Neeley was mad.  “We can do better than that.  Ever’body knows what a crook he is.  Mary Jones said he ain’t paid ’em nothin’ for their crop last fall.  That’s why he’s got a spot now.  We can find something better.”

Eddie refused ro look further saying, “We got nowhere else to go. I ain’t  turning this spot down.”

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Did You Know? Number 2

Reblog

that little voice

This is Part 2 of the Did You Know? blog I posted earlier this week. Again, who knows if these explanations are accurate, but they are as good an account as any.

Personal hygiene left much room for improvement.  As a result, many women and men had developed acne scars by adulthood. The women would spread bee’s wax over their facial skin to smooth out their complexions. When they were speaking to each other, if a woman  began to stare at another woman’s face she was told, ‘mind your own bee’s wax.’ losing-faceShould the woman smile, the wax would crack, hence the term ‘crack a smile’. In addition, when they sat too close to the fire, the wax would melt. Therefore, the expression ‘losing face.

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Ladies wore corsets corsets-6, which would lace up in the front. A proper and dignified woman, as in ‘straight laced’ wore a tightly tied…

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Two Roads Part 5

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Image pulled from internet

Though Neeley’s marriage to Eddie did not start with love, they were good people who needed each other.  Both considered themselves damaged goods.  Neeley got a home and a father for her child, Eddie, a wife and mother for his young daughter.  They both had healthy appetites for life and love which made for a solid marriage.  Neeley loved little Clara Bea from the start, knowing how abandonment felt.  Both got a better deal than they expected.  During those days, divorce was almost unheard of.  Eddie had despaired of finding a decent woman to marry after his wife abandoned him.  He’d never even thought of approaching a young woman since she’d left.  It was remarkable that Neeley was the child of a divorcee who married a divorced man at a time when most people had never even met a divorced person, much less have a close link to two.

Since there was no whisper of Neeley’s liason with Joey, it was assumed Neeley was a foolish young girl who’d fallen for an older fellow.  Though it made for interesting gossip, it was not a real scandal since he’d made an honest woman of her.  Then, as so often through life, society felt the woman fell short, not the man.

In the Deep South of that time, a great majority of people still made their living as farmers.  Large landowners with sharecroppers or tenants were on the top of the heap. Small farm owners came next. About the least a man could support his family on was forty acres.  He had to have a mule and equipment. The rental farm included a house.  He most likely had to borrow money for planting and had debt at the grocery store most of the time and just scraped by.  Should they fall on hard times and not be able to maintain their credit, their only option might be to become a sharecropper.  Sharecroppers were set up by landowners and split the crop with owner.  It was often unfair and kept farmers in debt.  Many had to sneak off in the night when debt got too high.  Sharecropping kept farmers bound to place.

Eddie owned a small farm and had very little money long before The Great Depression.  They raised most of what they needed.  Along with their garden, they had a cow, hogs, and a flock of chickens and cultivated a few acres of cotton for cash.  The occasional sale of a hog and Neeley’s butter and egg money helped out.  All they really had to buy was coal oil for their lamps, coffee, sugar, flour, baking soda, a few clothes for Eddie, and shoes.  Women’s and girl’s clothes came from feed sacks.  Flour sacks were reincarnated as underwear.  Their’s was a subsistence life, not by choice.  It was the life Neeley was raised to expect.