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Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

Your view: Things to remember

Friday, December 31, 2004

They say you can't go home again. I think you can with your memories.

A while ago, I drove out to the plantation where I lived from birth until my early teens. The three-quarter-mile dirt road we lived on (it's now gravel) had 10 or 12 farm laborer or sharecropper houses. Now there are none and no indication that anyone had ever lived there.

My first memories are of me being pulled on my Mom's 9-foot-long cotton sack as she picked cotton. I started picking at about the age of 5. I had my own tote sack (burlap bag). We picked from about August until January. We went to school on rainy days. We usually had cotton picking vacation for about six weeks, but if the cotton was in the field, we did not go to school.

I remember my brother dying as an infant and being laid out in drawer of a library table, and of Dad holding me up to see him for the last time. He was buried in the local cemetery without a permanent tombstone. I have searched for years for his grave with no luck.

I remember a mad dog coming through the farm and we didn't know which dog had been bitten, so the men started killing all the dogs on the plantation. I cried and cried, so afraid my dog was going to be killed. Daddy finally said we could put him up for 21 days and, if he did not show any symptoms, he would not be killed. So that's what we did. I visited him through the cracks of the shed every day. He did not go mad, so he was not killed.

I remember five or six of us kids walking home from school, which was about a mile away. We all talked ourselves into believing we saw a mad dog coming across the field, so we all climbed a tree and stayed there until it got dark. Some of the parents came looking for us and found us up there.

I remember when Harry Carey said the Cardinal shortstop was hurt and the Cardinals were going down to the farm for a shortstop. I lived on a farm and, in my mind, I played a shortstop, so my dog and I waited with my glove on, looking up that dirt road for the Cardinals to come for me.

I remember my Dad working his way up from farm laborer to a sharecropper. The work or pay didn't change much, but we got to live in a little better shack.

I remember Dad walking all day behind a plow and a team of mules. One of the proudest days of my life was when Dad let me catch and harness the mules and go shuck corn by myself.

I remember when we got our first radio (battery powered). We didn't have electric and we could only listen to the news and one of Mom's stories and, once in awhile, the Grand Ole Opry. We could only afford to buy a battery during cotton picking time and when the battery died, we could not listen to the radio until next fall.

I remember going to Grandma and Grandpa's house for Sunday dinner, going out in the yard and catching a chicken for Grandma to kill for dinner. After a good meal, we kids would sit on the porch eating homemade ice cream and listening to Grandpa tell stories about riding the rails, hoboing into all 48 states.

I remember carrying in coal and wood for heating and cooking. We used coal when we could afford it; if not, we cut wood. Dad said I could not use the crosscut saw right.

I remember putting up a square sign in the window letting the ice man know if we wanted 25, 50 or 100 pounds of ice.

I remember watching for Mr. Collier, the mailman, to see if we got any mail.

I remember trying not to miss Mr. Sikes, the plantation boss, come by because he always had a sucker candy for us kids.

I remember the 10 young men from the plantation going off to fight in the big war, and the one who did not come back.

I remember when we first got electricity. We had a single overhead bulb in each room and one outlet in the whole house. There was a flat rate per month up to a certain amount of hours used, and then there was an extra charge. Dad would keep an eye on the meter and when the hours got close to the flat rate, we could not use lights. If it got dark, we would use the coal oil lamp we used before electricity - or go to bed.

I remember all of the kids on the farm playing in the yard and up and down the road until it got too dark to see.

I remember, when I was about 11 or 12 and Mom and Dad were at work in the back side of the farm, I started the car and drove it down the road about a quarter of a mile. The motor died and the starter locked up, so I could not start it to take it back home. I was scared to death for Dad to come home, but he just walked to the car, used a screwdriver to unlock the starter, started the car and let me drive home.

I remember pumping water and carrying it to the house for Mom to heat and then wash our clothes on a wash board.

I remember when Mom got a used washing machine and we got our first electric radio. Dad bought them both and paid them off $3 a month. Sometimes he didn't know if he could get the payment, but he always did.

You may not be able to go home again, but I have these memories and a lot more. So, in my mind, I am going home again.

Leon Edwards