On The Mudline
Depression Days Brought Willingness To Help Others
Today I will continue Mrs. Denham’s story of life as a “Sharecropper’s” daughter in the depression years.
Someone has said there were degrees of poverty in those years—“ Pur, Poor, and Po.” The way it was pronounced made very little difference in the fact that most folks had a lot of nothing except love for one another and the willingness to help others.
One of our readers has told me that she washed for Mrs. “X” (two whole lines of clothes) for 35 cents. She goes on to say that two washings gave her enough to buy material to make a dress.
The Cofer’s Pet
The next farm that I remember is the best one—Mr. Finus and Mrs. Mattie Moore Cofer. They were without children and us kids couldn’t get enough of their attention.
Mr. Cofer raised milk goats and they had a pet billy. Mrs. Mattie would ring the bell for us, or mother, and we would come up. Billy didn’t like me and I didn’t like him from previous experiences back in the corner with the other goats. But Billy was their pet and mother said for me to go. From habit I looked both ways and behind me—good, no Billy.
I saw Mrs. Mattie was on the porch waiting for me but at the same time I heard old Billy, “Baa, Baa.” The fence was high but I jumped and made it, leaving Billy on the other side. He just stood there looking as if he was laughing about the scare he gave me.
Mrs. Mattie made cookies for us and gave us milk and we would sit for hours talking and watching her paint.
Mrs. Mattie Remembers
In 1954 we moved to Truman, Arkansas. When we moved back, several years later, I learned that she now lived on Main Street in Water Valley. I found her phone number, called and asked if she knew who this was? After only a second she said, “Sure, you’re Annie Ruth, Christine’s daughter.” When I asked her how she knew who it was, she said that I sounded just like my mother.
On her 100th birthday, she gave a lecture on the Tabernacle at the Water Valley Church of Christ. I didn’t get to go but Dean, Ken and Gin Walker went and Ken made me a copy (of a picture he made). It is my priceless possession. I remember Mr. and Mrs. Cofer fondly. They were good people.
Camp Ground School
The next farm I remember was the Jones’ place. We lived in the house at the top of the hill and then we moved to the bottom of the hill into a bigger house. It was while we lived here that the river overflowed and the mules got stuck in mud up to their stomachs. Daddy unhitched them and left the plow in the field.
We would walk to Camp Ground School and gather the Rampey’s and others along the way. When we got to school we all went to the auditorium and the Principal, I believe, would read from the Bible and say a prayer to start our day.
My teacher was Mrs. Murphy who taught the fifth and sixth grades by herself. We had class pictures made and when they came, Mrs. Shepherd, Mrs. Murphy’s mother, was filling in for her. My sister and I didn’t have the money to pay for the picture and Mrs. Shepherd paid for it. I still have it and Mrs. Murphy’s picture.
Out back of the school we had a playhouse. We were allowed to bring certain things from home to put in the playhouse. We swept it with a sagebrush broom that Daddy and Mother showed us how to make. Tarzan was popular then and there were muscadine vines over a gully.
We had a good time swinging over the gully until the vine broke with me. Some of the teachers showed us how to separate (decorate) the different rooms.
Water Valley had a Christmas parade and Daddy took us, for they had real live reindeers. I asked Santa where his reindeer were. He told me they were tied up out back (behind the gym). You could see the smoke coming from their noses.
My children and grandchildren have heard me tell these things many times. Sometimes they think that I’m senile—but these are all real things describing my life as I grew up. They did happen—Water Valley, Camp Ground, people that my daddy worked for, the black people that were sharecroppers too—to a child growing up poor.
I was rich in people and things around me that I still remember fondly. We are/were blessed far beyond measure. Today our children and grandchildren need to know of the old time ways of life.
I (WPS) think that Mrs. Denham has done an excellent job in relating her experiences.
We hope that you have a good week. In reply to questions that you may have, I am doing great almost back to my regular daily routine.
You can reach me at the usual addresses.