On The Mudline

Farm Life Of Yesterday Was Hard, Rewarding

The Voice on the Phone

As I sat listening, the lady on the phone was telling me about life as I grew up from a different aspect.  Without hesitation, I asked her to write me a letter containing all the things she was telling me about and I would use it for a column.  Mrs. Annie Ruth Watson Denham agreed.      

Although I did not want to make any corrections, she asked that I do so. The following is the letter, or rather the second letter (she writes that she tore up the first one). In the first few sentences she thanks me for some pictures of Camp Ground School.  I will omit that part.  Mrs. Denham attended Camp Ground School about 20 years after I was a student there.  

The Letter

I was born and raised in Yalobusha County, Water Valley, Mississippi.  As a child growing up in the country as a sharecropper’s daughter, we moved around a lot.  

The farm I first remember was off the road about a half mile.  We walked it and at the road daddy built a little house for us to get in waiting for the bus.  There were goats,  an old store (closed) and an old tractor near the little house at the corner where we caught the school bus.  

On Minding Mamma

It was on this farm  that I got my first lesson on minding mother.  We had company and mother asked me to do something and I told her to shut up as I took off running.  I got to the end of the bank you couldn’t go down because of the goats. I turned around and there was mother with a peach tree switch.  Needless to say you know who won –mother!   I didn’t talk back or run.  I stood and faced it.

We Learn

Mother and daddy sharecropped for Mr. Ford close to the Mud Line.  It was here that I was taught how to make soap to bathe with and to wash with and how to make hominy. Boy, that was a job.  One of my jobs was to go over to Mr. Ford’s pasture and get the cow for mother to milk.

See if This Makes Your

Mouth Water

Back then you raised everything you ate:  Honey and sorghum molasses, preserves—pear, apple, water melon rind, peach, blackberry, muscadine, etc.  You had cows for milk, butter and buttermilk, hogs to supply meat for the winter  [put in the smokehouse and treated with hickory and sugar smoke salt]—hams, shoulders, side meat, backbone, ribs, sausage, and souse. There were chickens, hens for eggs and half growns (fryers) for Sunday dinners.  Winter time was getting around the fireplace with mother cutting out quilt top pieces and trying to teach her girls how.  

A New Farm

We moved to another place on the Mud Line. This one had  a silo.  We lived on the left of the gravel road.  Mother, at night, would  sit in a rocking chair holding the little ones and singing, when daddy was off wherever.  The black families that lived there too would come out in the yard.  They had a stump and some trucks that they sat on.  They would say, Mrs. Tom is sad tonight and ask her to sing the ones they liked.  Sometimes they would sing with her.  

The little ones would go to sleep and the black women would help her tuck them in. When they came out they would say, “Well, Mrs. Tom, tomorrow is a work day to make the man a dollar,” and leave.

I’m about half way thru Annie Ruth’s letter so I’ll have to say—To Be Continued. This lady called me trying to find out something about her family that still lives in the Water Valley area. She is listed in the  Oxford phone book (I believe they’re the only Denham listed).  

I have had a much better week than last.  Hope you have a good one. You can reach me most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606, wsissell@bellsouth.net  or 662-563-9879.

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