Volume 5, Number 1, Fall 1973
I came to this country in 1933. No one had any money, but everyone was friends. Everybody raised what they ate. There was a flour mill at Hammond. We took our wheat to the mill to get our flour. People came for miles to the mill with a team and high wheel wagon. The driver rode, but all the others walked behind. The road was so rough, we just jumped one rock and hit the next. We didnt have a road, just a trail through the timber.
My wife and a neighbor woman, Josie Allen, always went to market on horseback. I had a little grey mare, so balky she wouldnt pull anything, but she would carry a load as long as her ears
stuck out. The neighbor lady rode an old mule. They would take off to Hammond each with a sack of wheat behind the saddle, a can of cream tied on the side and a case of eggs across their laps. They always got there and back.
I was talking to Josie Allen the other day. She lives in Ava, is 94 years old, is in good health and lives by herself. Hard times dont hurt anyone.
We did all our farming with a walking plow, one horse, and a double shovel. We raised cane, stripped it, and hauled it to a cane mill to make our molasses. I recall one time when the neighbors had brought in about twenty different piles of cane. Everyone had from two to five dogs following them. Every dog had to "examine" every pile of cane as he went past. The cane was run through a mill pulled by a horse going around and around. The juice was smashed out, then it was strained through a cloth to get bugs and other things out. It was then cooked down in big open vats to make the molasses.
One man told me he would a lot rather see the men smoking around the open vats than chewing tobacco. But the molasses was good anyway and was all the long sweeting we had in those days.
I saw a bunch of boys hunting squirrel one day. They didnt have a gun, just an ax and a dozen dogs. When they saw a squirrel, they would begin to yell and the dogs would all start barking. The poor squirrel would get so excited, he would fall out of the tree and that was it. They could get more squirrels then, than they can get with a gun nowdays. That was their meat for the table. There werent any deer around then.
My father-in-law and I were up in the hollow one day and saw a small boy come by carrying a big ground hog. He had dug it out of a hole with a stick. I asked him what he was going to do with the ground hog, he said, "Cook him. I tell you, you have to eat if you stay in this world."
There were two adults and nine kids that lived back in the hills in a small cabin, 12 feet by 16 feet. The kids went mostly nude. My little boy came by there one day and saw them. He told me, "Daddy one of them kids didnt have anything on but his hair." This family finally made a go of it and they are well off today.
Times were hard, but we were all happy. People always stopped to talk then, now they just wave and go on by.
We used to have big gatherings with the neighbors and big dinners for their birthdays. We had a dinner for Uncle Bill Barnes on his 90th birthday. Everybody came, on foot or on horseback, and brought a basket of grub. We all ate until we were in misery. When we all started home Ebb Turner left out leading his old buckskin mule with his wife and four kids riding it bareback.
Everybody went barefoot at home. When they went somewhere to a big gathering, they carried their shoes until they were almost there, then stopped to put on their shoes.
Most everyone had to walk where they went, unless they had a horse they could ride.
Virgil Cooper, who was sixteen years old, walked 6 miles over to get his girl, then they walked four miles to church and four miles back to her house. Later Virgil had to walk on back to his place that night, for a total of 20 miles.
One night we passed them going home from church. We were on horseback, and there were twelve boys following them to see that they got home all rightall a foot.
There were some folks who lived across the road from the school house here in Thornfield, who had a girl who died in childbirth. The people at the school could hear her screaming for three days before she died.
Some people wish things were like they used to be. Me, I prefer it the way it is now.
This may seem crazy, but every word of it is the truth.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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