A Hog a Day Part 9

Daddy took pride in being strict. ¬†‚ÄúSpare the rod and spoil the child.‚ÄĚ ¬†He was certainly never accused of spoiling the child. ¬†Many times I heard him say there wasn‚Äôt a kid or an animal he couldn‚Äôt conquer. ¬†During his hog-hunting days he acquired a hog-dog he was incredibly proud of. ¬†Sutter was a black lab/Catahoula Cur mix. ¬†When sicced on a herd of hogs, Sutter plunged in and fearlessly latched onto the hog‚Äôs ear not to be dislodged until the hunter dispatched the hog. ¬†The poor hog couldn‚Äôt slash Sutter as long as he hung on to the ear. ¬†The dog was in the greatest danger of being bitten as he rushed the hog. ¬† Hog-hunting was dangerous for men and dogs. ¬†I‚Äôve seen Daddy stitch his cut dogs a few times. ¬†He ¬†required stitches a time or two, but splurged on a doctor for himself.

Sutter worked cows with Daddy. One day, he chased a calf and pinned it to the ground where he held it by a mangled ear.  Expecting a kill, he wouldn’t release it.  Daddy pulled him off the calf, tied him off to a small sapling, and pulled off his belt to strap to him.  He got a couple of licks in before Sutter changed his belief system.  The enlarged dog ran Daddy up the sapling where he clung just out of the dog’s reach.   At six-foot three and two hundred forty pounds, Daddy was imposing on the tree.  It dipped from one side to the other as Daddy bounced side-to-side just beyond the snarling dog’s jaws.  I wondered if somebody would have to shoot Daddy if Sutter latched onto his ear. After a few minutes, Sutter’s temper cooled and he wagged his tail when Daddy spoke to him.  Daddy climbed down when Sutter seemed to have forgiven him.

Sitter was a very valuable dog.  Instead of shooting him as I expected, Daddy took the reasonable attitude that he’d handled things badly.  He and Sutter worked it out and the dog concentrated on hogs from that time forward.

Maybe I should have run Daddy up a tree.

A Hog a Day Part 7

Mr. Grady Rose traded hogs and raised watermelons, a brilliant plan. During that period, Bossier Parish, Louisiana,  had open range laws.  That meant livestock was free to roam, decreasing the responsibility of the farmer and making driving after dark a challenge.  Motorists were responsible for damages, should they be careless enough to hit one.  Black livestock presented a real challenge at night since they were cloaked in invisibility.  Passengers, as well as the driver, watched for livestock.  The ever present threat of livestock certainly cut down on speeding.  Contrary to what you might expect, accidents were rare.

The point of this story is that Mr. Grady was deeply involved in the hog business, a vocation that required a great deal of work, but little cash outlay.¬† Since he had captive labor in his four boys, it was an ideal career choice.¬† The hogs ran wild in the woods, feeding on acorns and other vegetation. ¬† In the spring he baited catch pens in the woods with corn and caught the sows with his mark in their ears when their litter was young.¬† He cut his mark in the piglets ears, castrated the males, and turned them loose to grow. It was a grave offense to tamper with animals with another man’s mark.¬† Marks were well-known by other hog farmers in the community, so word was passed on to neighbors what part of the woods a man’s hogs had recently occupied, making it easier to track them.¬† Of course, one couldn’t expect to harvest all the hogs bearing his mark, but it was a good crop.¬† No man wanted word to get around that his mark was found on young pigs following a sow with another man’s mark.¬† Men have been shot for that!

A few months later, the pens were baited again to catch the unneeded sows,¬† castrated males for slaughter or personal use, or take to market.¬† Uncastrated adult males, or boars were not good eating, due to their hormone load. Catching the hogs was dangerous business.¬† Adult males had sharp, curved tusks and fought fiercely, especially when penned up.¬† They’d also attack in the woods.¬† Hog hunting was considered fine sport by many.¬† Once captured, Mr. Rose penned hogs up in pens at his farm to fatten.¬† That’s where the melons came in.¬† They were a cheap, abundant crop, easily harvested.¬† The hungry hogs gorged on the fat melons that burst as they hit the ground.¬† It looked for all the world like a bloody battle as they squealed, grunted, and gobbled their way aggressively through the heap.¬† I never got enough of watching.

Mother usually bought melons from peddlers who drove through the neighborhood selling from the back of their truck.¬† One kid would flag while the others ran around like mad trying to find enough change to purchase a melon which commonly sold for a dollar, but if the peddler came at the end of the day and wanted to unload, we might get two for a dollar.¬† I never got satisfied on melon and would eat as close into the rind as possible, trying to get every sweet taste.¬† I was stunned to see Mr. Grady split a fine melon, pass the heart to one of the watching kids, and toss the rest to the hogs. I’d never experienced such luxury.

Crazy Charlsie Part 27


Mr. Grady had thoughtfully put his cow in with Ol‚ÄôBully before coming in for breakfast, an expedient decision, since Ol‚Äô Bully would have kicked the fence to get to her in her enticing state. By the time the men got back, the deed was done and Ol’ Bully was bumping the gate, anxious to get back to the tall, sweet grass and his bevy of beauties. A fickle creature, he had no further interest in the fair lady he’d just won.

Though Robert was anxious to get to work, Mr. Grady pulled a can of Prince Albert Tobacco from the bib of his overalls. Stalling, he offered the tobacco and pack of cigarette papers. “Help yourself, Robert, lessen you got some ready roll you’d care to share.”

“No sir, Mr. Grady. I ain’t never got the habit. You go ahead. Me an’ the boys got to git to work. I hate I ain’t got visitin’ time today, but we got a long day ahead of us.” Robert had lived on the farm next to Grady for years and never been invited to call him by his first name, though Mr. Grady and his boys had always addressed him as Robert. It still stung a little, though it was the way he’d grown up.

‚ÄĚThey is one more thing I need to ast you. ¬†My old mule died and ¬†I got to git my garden broke up. Kin I use your tractor, today?‚ÄĚ Mr. Grady patted the fender of the red International parked by the barn.

‚ÄĚMr. Grady, my tractor‚Äôs broke down. ¬†This one here belongs to Miss Geneva‚Äôs farm an‚Äô ain‚Äôt mine to loan, but I can loan you my mule. ¬†I‚Äôll catch him for you. ¬†He kind of feisty since he don‚Äôt got worked a lot, but I know them big ol‚Äô boys of yours can handle him.‚ÄĚ Robert offered.

‚ÄĚNaw, that won’t help me none. ¬† I done throwed my back out an can’t plow.¬† I can’t count on them boys.¬† Three ‚Äėem is off workin‚Äô somewhere’s, three‚Äôs a courtin‚Äô, and¬†one‚Äôs down with toothache. ¬† I can‚Äôt never keep up with them fellers.¬† I ain’t had time to teach young Tommy yet.¬† You real fortunate, a colored man with a fine place like this to work and fine equipment you ain’t got to buy.¬† Now, I ain’t saying you don’t deserve it, but you sure got a bird’s nest on the ground.” He didn’t look like he thought Robert deserved all that luck.

Robert knew where this was going.¬† He’d endured Mr. Grady’s whining before.¬† He had work to get to and knew it was best to stay on Mr. Grady’s good side.¬† “Tell you what, Mr. Grady.¬† I can be over about six in the morning to break up your garden, but if the boys show up sooner, just send them over for the mule.”

Things had worked out just as Mr. Grady¬† hoped.¬† “That’ll sure help me out.¬† Tommy, fetch that cow and we’ll get out of the way.¬† These folks has work to do.¬† My ole lady will have coffee when you git there.¬† Just tap at the back door and I’ll bring it out.”¬† He shuffled off with Tommy and the cow a few paces behind.

Charley held his question till they were out of hearing.¬† “Robert, why are you going to plow his garden?¬† Didn’t seem like he treated you just right.”

“Charley, it’s best to git along with folks if you can.¬† I end up plowing his garden ever’ year.¬† Neither Mr. Grady ner his boys is bad about workin’ and I hate to see his womenfolk do without. ¬† You’ll see when we git there tomorrow.¬† Let’s git to it, fellers.¬† We burning daylight!”¬† Their day had started.


Andrew and Molly Part 7

img_1779Master Reeve’s bondsman gestured for Andrew and Molly to follow while he bundled their order. He wrapped cord around the linsey-woolsey so it could be packed more easily. ¬†The rest of the items went into a neat paper-wrapped bundle of a weight Molly could manage, talking to the all the while. ¬†“I am Jeffers and bound for six more years. ¬† ¬†Wharton seems a hard but fair man. ¬†I hope to see you in town sometimes, or on Sunday when our time is our own. ¬†I wish you Godspeed.” ¬†With that, he hoisted and settled the heavy bundle of yard goods on Andrew’s back and loaded Molly’s arms with her parcels.

The two labored under their burdens as they made their way along the rutted track. ¬†The morning sun was already hot, the air muggy. ¬†Andrew hadn’t gone far before the weight of the pack ate into his shoulders. ¬†He rested his weary back by leaning against a tree a time or two, knowing he’d never get the pack back on if he took it off. ¬†Molly shifted her bundles frequently as she fatigued. ¬†After a half a mile, they rounded a curve to see the Wharton farm in a stump-filled clearing. ¬†A hearty stand of tobacco took up most of the cleared ground, a patch of corn and a kitchen garden the rest. ¬†Clearly, tobacco was the major crop. ¬†Early on, the colony had nearly perished when farmers opted to plant all their ground in tobacco, the lucrative option, rather than food crops. A law was passed requiring each farm to provide a portion of corn to the community storehouse, enabling them to feed themselves, rather than rely on England to import food.

The cabin was strictly utilitarian, a modest one-story dwelling of rough timber, a well in the dooryard. ¬†The garden plots crowded up to the house, no cleared ground wasted. ¬†A rough outbuilding stood to the rear of the house. ¬†The stumps attested to farmland wrenched from the forest. ¬†Andrew got a glimpse of his future beholding the forest eager to reclaim the cleared ground. ¬†Master Wharton would be granted an additional fifty acres each for paying the transport his servant’s passage to the colony, a good deal indeed. ¬†The colony was desperate for cheap labor to work the farms, relying on the indentured and enslaved. ¬†Sadly, only about forty percent of the indentured lived to work out the terms of their service.

Master Wharton was waiting as they walked up. ¬†A gray-haired woman and an emaciated man in his fifties stood with him. ¬†“This is my bondsman, Bartle and his wife Aggie. ¬†They are about to work out their time. ¬†He will be teaching you smithing and your woman will work under Aggie.” ¬†If he knew their names, he didn’t bother using them. ¬†“They will show you to your quarters and get you started after supping.”

Andrew and Molly Part 3

img_1740“What have we gotten into?” ¬†moaned Andrew after three days locked in the hold. ¬†“Why did we Ever do this? ¬†I’ve got to figure a way out.”

“No! ¬†We wouldn’t be here if we had any other choice. ¬†We were starving and near to death. ¬†Things will have to be better in the colony. ¬†We’ll be on a farm again and free with land in four years. ¬†It’s the only way.” ¬†Molly’s optimism was wearing thin, but she held out hope. ¬†“Listen! ¬†We’re moving!” ¬†Sure enough, the chains creaked as the anchor was lifted and they were obviously leaving the harbor. ¬† ¬†An hour or so later, after they were too far to swim for shore, the doors to the hold were thrown open. ¬†The incarcerated rushed for the door and stood on deck for a last, long look at England. ¬†Many wailed as land slipped out of sight, knowing they’d never see home again nor maybe even the new country.

Time on deck made the long journey more bearable, except for the miserable days of rain and storms. though it didn’t improve the quality or quantity of the rations. ¬†Fighting and attacks were common in the hold, though few had anything but weavilly biscuits to steal. ¬†Coughing and moaning broke their guarded sleep. ¬†Andrew never left Molly for a moment, knowing she’d be assaulted. ¬†Almost every morning, a cold body or two was pulled from the hold. ¬†The stench became more horrendous as the weeks passed. ¬†Neither suffered from sea-sickness till mid crossing when a storm raged. ¬†Both wretched miserably, not even attempting to make it to the bucket. ¬†Many of the emancipated passed and were slid into the raging sea. ¬†Andrew would have gladly sought death had it not been for Molly.

Finally, the weather cleared and they were able to go above board again, feeling hope for survival.  After seven weeks, a shout rang out. The Jamestown Colony was sighted!

Maybe they’d live after all!

Links to Parts 1 and 2





Two Roads Part 14

img_1697Over the next few years, their brood grew to include seven. ¬†The boys were tall and strong, a lot of help to Eddie, so he didn’t need Neeley’s help so much. ¬†A stern taskmaster, he was apt to take his belt to the boys should they dally. ¬†When Will, their third son was about eight, he was given the task of planting corn as his older brothers made up the rows on either side of him. ¬†The rows seemed to stretch on forever and his back ached with bending and planting four kernels per hills ten to twelve inches apart. He fell further and further behind. ¬†Desperate to catch up, he buried a big pile of seed in one hill and caught up to his brothers. ¬†It rid him of so much of the accursed seed, he repeated the process up and down the rows, finishing up in time with the rest. ¬†He thought no more about it, glad to be done with the onerous task of planting. ¬†Several evenings later, Eddie went out one bright moonlit night to check to see if his corn had sprouted late that afternoon. ¬†Indeed it had, but not all in rows like he expected. ¬†Big clumps of corn sprouts stood in patches up and down the rows. ¬†Infuriated, he knew immediately what Will had done. ¬†He strode toward the house, determined to set the boy straight. ¬†In their exhaustion, the three boys had gone to bed immediately after supper. ¬†Eddie stomped into the room snatching the covers back from the sleeping boys and started beating them with his belt. Though Will got the worst of it, the other boys suffered welts, too. ¬†Neeley heard the screams from the kitchen and burst in to stop Eddie. ¬†In his fury, he didn’t seem to notice her. ¬†Neeley .. ¬†got the fireplace poker and got between him and the boys, beating him about the shoulders. Finally, she stood him off. ¬†Threatening to crack him over the head, she assured him she’d kill him if she had to. In the face of her ferocity, he backed down, putting himself on one side of a wall and herself and the kids on another. ¬†This was repeated several times over the next few years, made worse as the boys’ hormones kicked in and Eddie aged. Neeley wondered if his meanness was due to his head jury or his nature. ¬†It could have been a combination since Eddie had learned violence at he hands of his own father, many years earlier.

Eddie didn’t deal a lot better with the girls. ¬†As they entered ¬†puberty, he suspected them of all manner of misbehavior. ¬†Always on the lookout for trashiness, they couldn’t smile at a boy without inciting his anger. ¬†In view of Eddie’s violent tendencies, Neeley¬†¬†always lined up on the side of her children, creating anger on both sides. ¬†As Neeley became more defensive, the boys became more undisciplined. ¬†Neeley had the girls firmly under control, determined they not be led astray as she had been. ¬†Though Eddie never voiced it, Neeley feared he’d make reference to her dalliance before their marriage. Like any mother, she wanted her children to hold her in high regard. It was an uncomfortable situation. ¬†Not only that, fearing more pregnancies, Neeley refused to have sex except immediately before or after her “curse,” increasing the tension between them.


It’s All Fun and Games till Somebody Loses an Eye

John Wayne“It‚Äôs All Fun and Games till Somebody Loses an Eye!”
I heard that warning so many times when I was a kid I could have sung it back to my parents before they’d finished, if I’d had a death wish. All I had to do was run with a glass, toss the scissors, or jump out of a tree on a kid to get them started. I was a smart, tough kid. I KNEW I wasn’t going to get hurt. I had the power of ten because my heart was pure. Well, maybe not pure, but I was sure I had the power of ten.
At any rate, only one time did I ever know of a kid to lose an eye from horseplay, and that circumstance couldn’t have been anticipated. Thankfully, I wasn’t involved. One of the neighbors had a large peanut patch. For those of you who don’t know, peanuts grow underground and have to be dug up. Mr. Jones had already harvested his peanuts and a group of neighborhood kids played in the field, an entirely harmless pastime. Had there been a crop left, it would have been a heinous crime, but the parents were sitting close by, drinking iced tea and watching the kids at their peanut war. They’d eat a few peanuts and toss a few. The greatest harm one would have expected would be a bellyache from too many raw peanuts. Unbelievably, a kid was hit in the eye with a peanut shell, scratching his eyeball. His parents rinsed it and sent him on his way, not thinking much of it. By the next day, the eye was swollen and infected. The boy ultimately lost his eye from that accident, a totally unexpected outcome.

Bossy, Budgetting. and the Raffle

CowI hate to give the impression I’m countrified, but I won a cow once!  How many people can honestly say that?  Way back yonder, when I first got married, I dipped deep in my grocery money to buy a two dollar raffle ticket from my little sister-in-law.  Her 4-H Club was raffling off a heifer.  She hadn’t had much luck peddling her tickets, so we sacrificed for her pride, left the pound of ground chuck ($.89), four ounces of loose tea leaves ($.29) ketchup ($.29), and a bottle of imitation of vanilla ($.69) off our grocery list. That brought us close enough that we managed to stay under twenty dollars, but I had to really shop the specials.  Mother helped out by giving me a dozen eggs, so we may have even come out a little ahead!

A couple of days later, I got the good news!  I won! I won!  I’d never won anything before.  My win including having my prize hauled to the farm of my choice.  Since I had no farm, Daddy said my cow could board with him, a fine, generous offer.  As I gloated in my victory, I got another call.  Tragedy!  Bossy had jumped out of the truck and was lying on the road with a broken leg, getting ready to become hamburger.  Fortunately for me, Farmer Brown, the original heifer donor was kind enough to put her out of her misery, scoop her up tenderly with his backhoe, haul her to the meat processing plant, and pay for her transformation into over five hundred pounds  of steaks, brisket, roasts, stew meat, and hamburger.  I loved Bossy so much.