Bits and Pieces

One subject that always resulted in loud guffaws was telling my children some the names of the children in the thirties.  There was a great proclivity to use of double names.  From friends of ours I recall Essie May, Ruby Lee, Annie Bell, Jessie May, Joy Bell, Connie May, and Omie Lee.  For the boys, single names seemed adequate, but some unusual ones were used, such as Yvonne, Otkell and Andre.

For some two or three years, a family lived on the farm just north of us.  They had children about our age, and we greatly enjoyed each other.  On one occasion, I was walking with a boy of my age, from our house to his.  We were side by side in the road, with me on the woods side.  When we were about half way there, he suddenly threw a rock over my head and immediately started running has fast as he could.  For seconds I was bewildered by his action. Suddenly I learned the reason when a swarm of hornets landed on by back, announcing their presence by stinging me several times.  When I caught up with him, he was laughing, thinking it was a great joke.  While stings had no lasting effect, I still don't think it was funny.  On my way home, I located a huge hornet's nest near the road that he had hit with a rock.

Since we lived in a rural area with much of the land wooded, it was a great habitat for cottontail rabbits.  Hunting them was not only a great hobby, but was also productive since it put meat on the table.  We had many delicious meals consisting of fried rabbit, gravy, and biscuits.  For real enjoyable taste, rabbit rivaled fried chicken.  Since they supplemented our diets, much hunting was done, much of it with the assistance of dogs.  But in very cold weather, finding rabbits in their beds could be more productive.  The rabbit, gray in color, would blend into the background of the bed and be difficult to see.  When it was very cold, the rabbit was reluctant to leave his warm bed.  Often, he would not move, even if you were very close.  With a rifle, if you could spot the rabbit, meat for the table was available.

Some people's eyesight made spotting rabbits easy.  I hunted with a neighbor who bedded some five rabbits in a relatively short hunt.  In some cases, I could not see the rabbit even when the neighbor tried to point him out to me.  On one occasion, my dad, brother Arvel, and I were in a wagon on the way to cut wood.  As we drove in the edge of the woods, Daddy spotted a cottontail in the bed.  Since we had our single shot twenty-two rifle with us, he proceeded to shoot at the rabbit.  He missed, but the rabbit did not move.  A second shot also missed, and still the rabbit remained motionless.  Finally a third shot produced fresh meat for sinner.  It was so cold the rabbit did not want to move.

Perhaps some further discussion of prices for farm products in the thirties and forties would be of interest.  As previously mentioned, I recall cotton at twelve cents per pound, and corn at a dollar per bushel.  A pickup truck load of corn on the cob on the cob would sell for twenty-five cents per dozen.  Imagine, a hundred dozen would bring only twenty-five dollars.  Eggs varied in price, but I recall fifteen cents per dozen.

Tomatoes were our biggest money crop.  We took three-gallon market baskets, wet them, and broke the corners making a rectangle.  Tomatoes were packed into the container with the greener ones on the bottom and riper on the top.  Such a basket contained about twenty pounds.  On a bad occasion, a basket would sell for fifty cents.  The packed baskets were stacked on our pickup with quilts between the stacks to prevent bruising.  A huge pickup load of a hundred baskets might bring only fifty dollars.

Pole beans would usually sell for five cents per pound, or about a dollar per bushel.  During one crop year, we had a relatively small bean patch in a low area of ground.  It was a very dry year, but the beans in the hollow had enough moisture and produced a great harvest.  In one picking, some five hundred pounds were bagged and carried to Birmingham.  Unbelievably, they sold for twelve cents a pound, with the load bringing the fantastic sum of sixty dollars.

One summer we had about an acre and a half planted in butter beans.  The yield was great, but the beans were selling for three cents a pound.  Can you imagine the effort required to a hundred pounds for only three dollars?  Except for what we could can, the beans were not picked.

We always had a large patch of watermelons.  The area to be planted was carefully chosen and well-fertilized with manure.  The melons would usually sell at the market at Birmingham for twenty-five cents each, with jumbo sizes bringing fifty cents.  A pickup load of a hundred melons might bring thirty-five dollars.

On the occasion previously mentioned,  when the five hundred pounds of pole beans were sold for sixty dollars, my brother and I were allowed to go to Birmingham.  This was our first trip to the city.  On the way, we encountered a severe rainstorm.  The truck was driven into the hallway of a barn to wait out the rain.  The barn owner, although a stranger, did not mind sharing his barn.  Not only did Arvel and I get to see the huge buildings, but after the beans were sold at such a huge price, we were carried to a café and told to order whatever we wanted.  Not being very suave, the only thing we knew to order was beef stew or hamburgers.  I ordered the stew, Arvel the hamburger.  This was not only our first trip to the city, it was also our first trip to a café.  He was about ten years old, and I was about eight.

In every farm kitchen an adjoining porch was the washstand, which included the water bucket and wash pan.  The water bucket had a dipper, which was the common drinking implement for every one drinking from the bucket.  In some kitchens and at most springs, there was a gourd dipper.  A gourd had been cleaned, the interior removed, and a hole cut to fill with water and drink from.

the wash pan was a metal pan, and nearby was a common towel on which every one dried their hands.  Every one I knew always washed their hands and face before eating.  The common drinking dipper could be a bit hard to stomach when you followed someone with a mouth full of snuff or chewing tobacco.

Fox hunting was a hobby that was greatly enjoyed by men.  I never knew of a female fox hunter.  The object was to carry the dogs to the hunting area and then listen to their barking as they chased the fox.  You experienced great satisfaction if your dog was leading the pack as it chased the fox.  Sometimes the dogs would get on the trail of a red fox. the red fox would cover a much larger area then a gray fox, who would usually seek some safe harbor.  The object of the hunt was just listen to the dogs- no one really wanted to catch the fox.  Probably another part of the hunt was to share a bottle of spirits or a container of home brew.

We always had at least a couple of fox dogs.  One of them, a black and tan named Rowdy, was an acknowledged leader of the pack.  My daddy got great enjoyment in saying 'There goes old Rowdy.'  He was once offered fifty dollars for the dog, at that time a small fortune.  Daddy declined.  It was probably just as well, for whoever offered probably did not  have the cash.  on many occasions our dogs would come home after running a fox all night, so beaten that their eyes would swell together and their paws would swell.  They would sleep for many hours.

As cars, trucks, and fences became more prevalent, fox hunting declined.  There was danger to the dogs.  Another outstanding dog we had was old Louis.  Louis was a very large walker foxhound.  One of our neighbors had several shepherds.  These shepherds had from time to time whipped our hunting dogs.  Not only was Louis a good fox hound, but he was a great fighter.  He grabbed the biggest shepherd behind the ears at the throat, picking him up and shaking him.  After this there was a period of mutual respect with no fighting.  There was always a piece of cornbread for the dogs, and they might also get some table scraps.

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