Volume 2, Number 11 - Spring 1967
A MAGNIFICENT FAILURE
My Grandfather was a failure. He had the fattest Berkshire hogs, the sleekest Durham cattle, the best-natured wife in the countryside.
But he never made any money. He farmed for fun. A great way to farm!
Hosea, that was his name Hosea Southwick.
Now that I am grown I realize what I only sensed in a befuddled way when I was a child that there was a kind of inspiration in the name. It was Hosea, who, 800 years before Jesus, taught a loving Father and a God of mercy to a people who down through the ages had heard of a jealous God, an avenging, narrow-minded God or a God of strict justice.
Hosea Southwick lives in my mind as a sort of modern replica of that ancient Hebrew prophet. Except that Grandfather never preached. Like the other Hosea, Grandfather was a man of some culture, of graceful and easy mien and behavior.
His early American ancestors were Quakers who found sanctuary in Rhode Island after having been buffeted about by intolerant Englishmen and stiff-necked Massachusetts Puritans.
Grandfather, then 37 years old, came to Missouri from Pennsylvania, by way of Michigan, in 1868. The farm that I know was the third or fourth that he had operated, a rocky 120 acres situated in the region of the Ozarks of Missouri where the rich level plateau begins to break into rounded limestone hills. The land was neither rich nor poor. It was just aggravating mediocrity. Forty acres was in native timber.
He was a livestock farmer in a small way. Cattle and hogs were his leaders and every year he raised a team of mule colts. But the margin of profit on everything was so small that he could never make more than a decent living for Grandmother and himself. Hogs never brought more than four cents a pound and cattle were just as bad.
Grandfather and Grandmother were in their sixties when they took this place. A man of that age lacks the vigor to push toward high material achievement. But Grandfather lacked not only the vigor but the ambition as well. He enjoyed good living and good reading along with his genuine enjoyment of livestock farming. A comfortable living with money for taxes and doctor bills was Grandfathers goal and he never fell short. He always had time for the Bible and Shakespeare, his favorite reading. If he lived today he would be classed liberal in religion and politics. Like the Quakers who were his fathers, he opposed war and capital punishment. He pitied wrongdoers. Their consciences, he thought, upbraided them and burned in their breasts. I think of him as living by certain verses of Ecclesiastes, his favorite book of the Bible:
What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. Better is a handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
A middle-sized man, spare-limbed, brown-eyed, with full white but rather closely trimmed beard, Grandfather could have fittingly played the part of a stern patriarch. Instead he was ever youthful and good-humored, always with a twinkle in his eye and a wit ever ready. His face expressed kindness and invited peoples confidence.
I think I may be partly responsible for Grandfathers failure as a farmer, I and my four brothers. It may be just a childhood fancy that sticks in my mind, the sort of thing that a spoiled child gets into his head as a result of having too much attention showered upon him. Grandfather isnt here to defend himself and I doubt if he would bother to do it if he were. He derived his fun in farming from creating a sort of earthly paradise for his five grandsons when they visited him during vacation. Going to Grandfathers was a great event in our household.
Old Mike, the family horse, had to be hitched to the family vehicle, a sort of buggy with a trick seat tucked under the regular seat. With the trick seat extended for use the buggy was intended to accommodate four persons but it always took care of six, sometimes more, for we included a friend or two when we could persuade our too indulgent parents. Father usually stayed home to look after his affairs, a fact for which I fear the five sons were thankful. Father was never a man for much foolishness.
So there we were all somehow accounted for, sitting, kneeling or hanging on the buggy, with good old Mike ready to try the arduous journey once again. Nobody would think of traveling such a road today. But all roads in the part of the country
were the same at that time. We didnt mind. It did seem a long way, though, filled as we were with anxiety to get there.
Leonards was the last house before Grandfathers. After passing Leonards it seemed forever before the persimmon tree in Grandfathers barnyard came into view. There were other trees in the grove but we never saw any except the persimmon, and when we saw it we felt as though we were there.
I dont know whether Mother ever told them we were coming. They seemed always to be ready for us yet always a little surprised. Rowdy, a friendly little toy dog whose dark red hair curled so tightly that I used to wonder if it hadnt something to do with retarding his growth, gave a little toy-shop bark by way of spreading the alarm. A peafowl perched on the ridge pole of the barn screamed and unfurled his gorgeous tail. Two frightened guinea hens flew over our heads into the near-by wood. A turkey gobbler, pleased to have something to make a fuss about, lustily warned his shy hens of impending danger. And there were Grandfather and Grandmother hurrying out through the garden to meet us. Such a kissing and hugging that followed! Lindbergh never had such a reception as we got every time we arrived at Grandfathers.
If it was early fallthat was when I liked best to be therethey would take us right up to the house, where we would find a big wood fire burning in the fireplace just as if we had been expected. I wonder how many cords of blackjack Grandfather wasted keeping his fire burning for the possible arrival of his grandsons.
The house a real two-room log cabin. I think they must have got it out of a story book. It is impossible to say which room was lovelier. And, like everything else on the farm Grandmothers garden was planned especially to please children. The evergreen shrubs were shaped to resemble huge fat hens and funny, pot-bellied bears. The flowers were the kind that delight youngsters demure daisies, droll snapdragons, gay forget-me-nots. In the vegetable garden were peanuts, for little children like to dig for them.
Grandfathers cribs and granaries were open season to all creatures. The birds and small game that thrived on his free fare were almost as tame as the chickens and domestic animals that were an orthodox part of the menage. That was in keeping with his plan to make his farm a place that grandchildren would enjoy when they visited it. Almost literally true was his joke that the way to catch a bird was to put salt on its tail. His birds were that trusting.
At night I would lie almost completely surrounded with a feather bed and take inventory of the next days possibilities. If there had been a frost, which was the sign, I might visit the persimmon tree. Earlier in the year it would have been the mulberry tree where one of my brothers swallowed the June bug that time. Or I might visit the spring where the watercress grew. On a warm day it was nice to lie on cool blue grass near the spring. It was just as nice on a snappy day in autumn to cover ones self with oak leaves and let the little music of the spring brook carry you off to far placesmaybe to sleep.
A week-end at Grandfathers then was as much anticipated as a trip to Europeor California now, and its realization worth more. A trip to Grandfathers farm was indeed a trip to another land, such a land as will never be again.
GRANDPA A NONCONFORMIST
When Grandpa was about 70 he found is impossible to carry on his farming operations, and sold his place and moved to Ozark. He and Grandma lived in the cottage on the northeast corner of our lot, and there a few years later Grandma died. After her death Grandpa lived with us. He had a strokedevestating cerebral hemorrhage it was soon after that, and he never fully recovered the use of his right side, and his speech was always thereafter affected. I helped nurse him through this illness, for I was by then a strong young fellow in early adolescence. I had to help him to the toilet, I remember, and although it was not exactly pleasant I believe I accepted the chore willingly because I loved him dearly. He died of pneumonia after his partial recovery from the stroke, and again I acted as nursemaid for him. I like to think that it was I who gave him the last worldly pleasure of his lifea hot toddy. Mother would not have approved, I knew that, so I mixed it on the sly. I held the drink to his mouth, and he drained the cup with apparent relish, thanking me with his fine brown eyes, for he was then too weak to speak. The day following he died.
Grandpa Southwick never belonged to a church, but he was not an unbeliever. He might have been a Unitarian if he had lived where there was a Unitarian Church. His nonconformity bothered Mother when she was a little girl, because her Mother was an Adventist. His lack of faith, so Mother thought as a girl, would send him straight to hell, whereas the rest of the family would be up in heaven. (The Grandma Southwick we knew was Grandpas second wife. After her first husband, a well-to-do doctor, died, she married Grandpa, several years after his first wife died.)
Grandpa Southwick was descended from Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick, who settled in the town of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1630. They were Quakers, and Lawrence was a glassmaker. He was possibly the first person to manufacture glass and earthenware in America. Grandpa Southwick be-
longed to the eighth generation since Lawrence. The names of the sires in each generation were: Lawrence, 1st; Daniel, 2nd; Daniel, 3rd; Jonathan, 4th; Jonathan, 5th; Nathan, 6th; and Hosea, 7th. Grandpa was Hosea, 8th.
All of these names except Lawrence are from the Old Testament.
Lawrence - spelled Laurence - was a Christian martyr of the Third Century, who was roasted alive in an iron chair in Rome. The Latin name, Laurentius, means "laurel-crowned." The festival of St. Lawrence is celebrated on August 10.
Daniel - "my judge is God" - understood the meaning of dreams, and by this gift he interpreted the disquieting dreams of King Nebuchadnezzar and mysterious writing on the wall. Later he was divinely delivered from the lions den.
Jonahan - "gift of Yahveh" - was a Hebrew commander, son of Saul and friend of David. "Then said Jonathan unto David, Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee . . . For he loved his own soul." . . . And David said to Jonathan, "Behold, the Lord be between thee and me for ever."
Nathan - "A gift" - was a Hebrew prophet of the time of David, a counselor and reprover of the King. Nathan was the instructor of Solomon and the official historian at the court of both Kings.
Hosea - "salvation" - the first of the minor prophets, preached chiefly against the Government, the Kingdom of Israel, but the sins of the people in all ranks were exposed and censured too. Hosea was said to have been embittered by the faithlessness of his wife!
Grandpa Southwick was born in 1831 in Pennsylvania, and there he married, in 1851, his first wife, Harriet A. Winston. My brother Jamie was named for her(Dr.) James Winston Rogers. Grandpas second wifethe one we all knew as "Grandma"was Jerusha Jones, of Kentucky.
Mother was the third (the middle) child. She had a name that she did not likeIvie Elvina. Practically nobody called her Ivie, probably for that reason. Father never called her Ivie. He always called her "Dear," and referred to her as "your mother" or, for other occasions, "my wife" or "Mrs. Rogers."
Only Mother and one sister, "Lettie," reached maturity. Tuberculosis ravaged the family. Only; Mother and Grandpa escaped it, for Lettie died of the disease too.
GRANDPA SAW NO FUTURE IN OIL
In Pennsylvania, Grandpa was a farmer and stockman, but he did take a flier in oil. After Colonel E. L. Drake opened his famous oil well at Titusville, Pa., in 1859, Grandpa took a wagon and team of horses to the oil field and hired out to haul oil in barrels, but only for a short time. He saw no future in the oil business, and decided to seek his fortune in "the West." First he took his family to Michigan, and then on to Missouri. He first farmed in Dallas County, near Buffalo, then moved to Green County, near Springfield, before he settled for good in Christian County, near Ozark.
Mother was born in Pennsylvania, June 23, 1861. When my father wanted to poke fun at her he referred to her home State as "Pennsyltuck," implying that she was "stuck up" about her origin, though that was far from the truth. (One of our neighbors in Ozark who came from Kentucky did brag about her blue chip origins in that State, and that is where Father got the last syllable of his Pennsyltuck.)
Grandpa was nearly 30 when the Civil War started. He was exempted from military service for physical disability. It was a chronic condition in one of his handsthe fingers of that hand were always stiff. When I was a boy I felt cheated because Grandpa was not an old soldier. Nearly all the men of his age belonged to the GARGrand Army of the Republicand donned the blue and marched to martial music on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. We had a fife and drum corps in Ozark. But Grandpa never marched; and Im afraid I cherished secret doubts of his courage, even suspecting that he may have been a Civil War draft dodger, or even a Copperhead, because, after all, he was a Democrat, and in Christian County nearly all of the handful Democrats in Christian County belonged to Confederate families. I am convinced now that Grandpa didnt fight because he simply was not physically able.
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