Andrew and Molly Part 9

img_1779WhilesWharton had other matters to attend, Andrew and Bartles worked for hours that afternoon sawing trees with a cross-cut saw, chopping off branches with an ax, then piling the brush for later burning.  Andrew’s back ached and the muscles of his arms screamed.  At the end of the day, they were rewarded with a half-dozen stumps, a huge pile of brush, and a stack of logs.  The timber would be transported to a nearby sawmill for processing into lumber.  Wharton told Andrew he could take what he needed to fashion a room in the barn.  The remainder would be used on the place or sold in the colonies or shipped back to England.  Timber was one of the most important crops shipped back to England since her forests had been stripped.  Ship-building, an important trade, was always hungry for lumber. During a brief break, Bartles told him they usually worked the crops in the early morning, then split the afternoon between lumbering and blacksmithing as the need and weather permitted.  Blacksmithing was illegal in the colonies, but since their product was not great enough to impact the demand from England, they’d not had a problem yet.

Aggie sent Molly out with a pewter pitcher of beer and the men paused for a short break.  Battles spoke to the two of them.  When she turned to leave them, Bartles bade her stay. ” I came here as a bondsman almost four years ago.  I’d done blacksmithing on an estate in England.  Like you, my master died and I had to move on.  We’d have starved if we hadn’t bonded. It was a devilish passage we made, more than twelve weeks.  That’s when we met Master Wharton, but he warn’t no master then.  He was a sailor what broke his leg two days out and couldn’t work.  We took care of him or he’d have never lived.  When we got here, ship’s captain bound him over for lost work owed.  We was all bound to Mistress Ipswich when we landed, the woman that owned this farm. She was a hard, God-fearing woman, the meanest Christian I ever knew.  She took a fancy to Master Wharton not long after.  Once she was set on marrying him, he had no choice.  She meant to have him, one way or another.  He give up and married her after awhile, even though he didn’t have no fondness for her.  It was a hard bargain with never a minutes’ peace.  After a year or so, she fell out with a fit and died three days later.  He was Master after that.  When he found out I could smith, he got me a forge and helped me get a start.  I get to keep half I make.  He don’t have to let me keep nothing.  My time will be up in a few months and I’d be proud to teach you.  I’m telling you this so you’ll know you’ve got a chance.  Didn’t me nor Wharton have nothing when he got here.  Now he’s got a fine farm and soon, me and Aggie will be worked our time out an able to make a living.  Do right by Wharton and he’ll do right by you.  He don’t need to know we talked.  Lots of bondsman die before they finish their time, but you got a good place.”

Molly and Andrew were greatly heartened by Bartle’s story.  “I thank you for telling us, Bartles.”  Andrew told him.  “We are grateful.”  Molly flashed him a smile as she turned back to the house with the pitcher.

“I’d best get back in the house before Aggie skins me.”

“That she will,” chuckled Bartles.  “She don’t tolerate no slacking in herself nor nobody else, but she’s a good woman.”

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My Dad’s Early History

family3Back row Unknown 2nd Geneva, Edward, 1st Bill, Bessie Swain.

Bill Swain, my dad was born in 1924, fourth of seven children born to Eddie and Mettie Swain.  Eddie’s father, Thomas Swain owned a blacksmith and farm and was fairly prosperous.  His business was lost during the depression.  As he lay on his deathbed, in his delirium, he kept telling  his family he had hidden money under his bed.  None was ever found.  Poverty-stricken like so many others, Eddie made his way as a sharecropper,  moving farm to farm, hoping for greater opportunity.

Sadly for the family, Eddie died after four years of suffering with a brain tumor, leaving Mettie with five children under sixteen.  Much of the last couple of years, Eddie was either hospitalized at the Confederate Memorial Hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana, or in his mother’s care at her home.  His mother was willing to care for Eddie when he needed her, but did nothing for Mettie or the children.  The only help Mettie could count on was from her brother.  Brother Albert provided her a house and garden place on his farm when she wanted it.  Mettie was restless, sometimes moving away.   Bill was thirteen when his father died, Edward, sixteen.  Both boys had already taken to working away from home, more for something to eat than money.  They knew they needed to “get their feet out from under Mama’s table.”  If they didn’t havea place to live and work, they’d take a day’s work at a time, for what they were fed the day, or if they were lucky, a bag of meal, a half-bushel of beans, or some corn to bring home.  Bill lived most of the time with his Uncle Albert, taking work on other farms as well when he could get it.

Bill snagged his first paying job at fifteen as night-watchman on a drilling rig.  He was big for his age, able to pass for eighteen.  The site wasn’t too far from home.  He get hungry and slip home nights for something to eat.  From there, he went on to construction and operating heavy equipment, which he did till he went in the Navy during World War II.  He enlisted in the Navy, because he never wanted to be hungry again.

to be continued

I Ain’t Havin’ It!

Pointing finterJust this morning Mother told me this fascinating story.  Before she started school, she’d tagged along behind her father to the local blacksmith shop to have a bit of work done.   The blacksmith, Dud Baker, was fairly new to the community and newly-married.  His young wife was a widow.  She’d brought the men a cup of coffee.  As they were drinking and visiting over Continue reading

Too Much Time on Our Hands

Bud 3 

We are allowed to burn, so I put a few little scrawny vines that I didn’t want in the compost heap in our fire pit late this afternoon.  Bud was catching up on the Civil War and working  on his banjo playing when he heard me piddling around.  Having very little confidence in my ability to perform simple tasks on my own, he rushed out to save the world, Continue reading