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Monday, October 26, 2009

Old, Old Stories

My early years on the farm

While trying to sleep last night I began to recall memories from my early teen years at my grandfather and grandmother's farm where I spent many a happy day in my youth. Of course I heard them tell numerous stories, but only a few have stayed with me over the years. I have often heard that so long as a person is remembered they are not truly dead. I know when I pass on these old stories will pass with me so thought I would share a few. I've condensed them so they are very short:

The Ball of Fire
In the early 1950's when there began to be a lot of talk about UFO's I remember asking my grandmother had she ever seen one and to my surprise, she stated she had and went on to explain that as a young girl she and some friends saw something on night while returning from a dance. You must keep in mind this would have had to been around 1915. Anyway on the return home a distance of about 5 miles (nothing by today's standards), but a trip of several hours by horse and buggy then, the young couples were followed by what she described as a ball of fire. She said every time they stopped to look at the low hanging flaming object in the sky it would stop and when they continued it would move after them. This lasted until they reached home and then the object vanished. I would add, that I never, never knew my grandparents to lie. Seems like old folks just didn't lie like people these day do.
The Old Faithful Dog
While sitting on the front porch late one afternoon, I know it was late because that's the only time we set on the porch, my grandmother told be a very sad tale about a family she knew in her youth. Seems all the family would go to the fields to work from the early spring until the fall of the year. On this particular day they left the small baby on the back porch with the old faithful and trusted family dog(some type of bulldog) while they all went to the fields to work. After several hours the dog unexpectedly came running to the field with blood all over his mouth and other parts of this body. The family immediately thinking the dog had killed the baby---shot the poor animal and ran back to the house finding the small child safe in its crib and lying along side the crib a large dead and badly mangled rattlesnake. I think I saw a tear in the old lady's eye as she finished the story.
The Sea Monster
I don't remember how the subject of sea monsters came up, but grandfather related the story of the sea monster he once saw. As a young adult he lived near the town of McComb, MS. McComb was a small town located on the route of the Illinois Central Railroad that ran from Chicago in the north to New Orleans in the south. He said one day while in town he noticed a large crowd gathered at the train station and went over to see what all the fuss was about. And there he saw it, a great sea monster. The creature was so large that it took two flat cars to hold it. Well he said, the flat cars contained only a part of the great creature, he never knew where the rest was. I said, granddaddy, what part of the monster was on the flat cars--it's head, the old man smiled as he puffed his pipe and said, it's dick. He always referred to that part of a males anatomy as "Dick".
The Skinning
Another afternoon while grandfather and I sat alone on the old front porch he related a story which was unexpected and out of character. I don't recall how the subject came up, I must have been about 14 or so at the time. Anyway, he said as a young teenager his father rode up to the house one night and told him to get on the horse behind him (keep in mind this would have been around 1910-1915. They then rode to a secluded wooded area where a crowd of men had gathered with their torches to light the night. And there in the dim light he could see a black man tied to a tree. What he said next shocked me. He said, the men began to skin the black man alive. I recall asking, grandfather what did that man do? He reply was short and to the point, "he raped and killed a white woman and her child". Nothing else was said and I knew not to ask any more questions. I never knew if great grandfather was a part of that mob, or just a spectator, but I have learned over the years not to judge past events using today's standards---only fools do that. Grandfather was a good and honest man, but in many ways a very practical man. I'll always cherish the memories of him with that old pipe and sitting in his lap as a very young boy on Saturday night listening to the Grand Ole Opry on that big old battery powered radio, before we had electricity at the old farm.

6 comments:

Debbie said...

The story about the dog is very sad.

I remember my mother telling me about them working in the fields right after I was born. She would wrap me up and put me on a blanket at the edge of the field under a tree, then go about working in the fields.

I also remember one time she left me in my high chair while she was outside doing something. I somehow wiggled down and got my neck caught in the strap that was supposed to be between my legs to hold me in. I could have hanged myself, but she came back in and caught me in time.

It was a different era, people did what they had to do to survive, to make a living.

When I was three years old they moved to Cleveland Ohio to work in the factories, save their money, and ten years later return to Tennessee and buy their own farm.

As for the skinning of the black man, that too was a different time. My parents were good people, Christians, never heard them use a cuss word, or drink, or smoke, or anything. But on a couple of occasions I heard my daddy use the word "nigger". I cringed when he used it. So did my mother. He didn't mean anything bad by it. It was the term he grew up with for black people. As time went by I never heard him use it again.

Deborah F. Hamilton
Right Truth
http://www.righttruth.typepad.com

Ron Russell said...

In those days the word "nigger" was commonly used in my part of the country. Its seems as I have traveled around the country that in those areas with a large black population the word is used most. While living in the valley in CA about 20 years ago I was quite surprised when my friend who was born and raised in the Valley use the term "Okie Rig" when making a temporary repair on his car. If one recalls the history of CA during the depression you will recall that native Californians did not like the "Okies" coming in and set up road blocks on the roads coming in from the east. Point being every area of the country especially in days gone by has had groups that were looked down on for various reasons---this was common and not confined to the south and blacks. Many like to point a finger at the south in order to cover the actions of some from their own regions of the country. I used the "N" word many times and still use it today to refer to those blacks who go around with their hand out thinking I and others owe them something they are too lazy to make themselves.

James said...

One day just after I began to walk I was put down in my crib for my afternoon nap. My mother went off to begin her house work for the day before my dad came home.

Apparently, according to my mom, I did not go to sleep. I climbed up and over the safety bars on my crib and out our first story window to the ground.

Mom tells me about an hour and a half later there was a knock on the front door. She answered and to her shock was me and one of the black kids from next door.

I had gone next door and played with the other kids for that long!

The kid told my mom that he had to go in now and that he thought that I should be home too!

To this day I do not remember that day in Connecticut. My mom does though!

Speaking of being remembered after you are dead. My aunt Elaine, who was also my godmother died yesterday. She will live forever in my heart!

-j-
The Right Look

Ron Russell said...

Sorry to hear of your recent loss James. Its always good to remember those who have left us.

Teresa said...

Thanks for sharing all the stories. They were very interesting! The story about the dog was very sad. The story of the black guy in the woods seemed to me to be about justice. I wish there was a little more justice dealt out nowadays.

Storm'n Norm'n said...

Ref:"...the old man smiled as he puffed his pipe and said,..."

I thought you said your grandparents never lied...

Great story! ...too bad about the dog