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On The Mudline

Depressions Years Were Hard, Fulfilling Times

Mr. Reuel and Miss Sadie

I do thank Mrs. Denham for sharing all the memories with us.  I am very aware that all the landlords in those depression years were not alike.  For example, I offer the following.  My father traded with this family because of the number of workers in the family.  When he told them that he had work for them, only one showed up.  

The reason given was there was only one full set of work clothes.  Dad, saying,  “That’s no problem,” sent the one home to get mamma and daddy with everyone’s size.

When they arrived Dad took them to town, (McClarty’s) and bought full sets of work clothes for the family, including rubber boots —with mamma and daddy (Gertrude and Ed) complaining all the time, “We’ll never be able to ‘pay out,’” but they did and were still there when I went into the service.  

Uncle Nace and Aunt Ivy had always lived in the house, on the edge of the second bottom, out behind the barn.  I think all their children were born there—I still remember all their names and spouses names except Mattie’s, whom I never knew.  I have a picture of Catherine, taken as she worked at a wedding reception I attended.

Everybody Worked

One of my afternoon chores was “getting the cows up.”  For several years, after I was old enough to go to school, my trusty companion was my first dog, Mickey.  Mickey was a Collie given to me by Rachel Johnson, a pup from her dad’s good herding dog, Jerry. Mr. Johnson could tell Jerry to go get Sam, one of the horses, and Jerry would put Sam in his stable.  

Mickey inherited this and taught me just how smart animals are—if you let them know what you want them to do.  In a short time Mickey began to take the cows that were not supposed to go to our barn out of the line.  Each of the families had one or maybe two cows so that they had milk.  

And All The Trimmings

If you have a cow you must have feed, so each family had a corn crop large enough to supply feed for the cow, one or several hogs and  corn for meal (Robinson’s Mill, was just over McFarland  Hill to the west), dependent on the family size.  Every house had a small plot for a garden and a barn for feed storage and animal shelter.  A well, usually in that second bottom area about thirty feet deep, was close to the back door of the house.

Sometimes there was a community Irish  potato patch where everyone planted, grabbled and dug potatoes together, storing their share in their own barn.  Probably the sweetest time of the year was sorghum making time.  All the farm help contributed and got a share of the syrup, cooked a lot of the time by Grandpa Swindoll.

A Tap Stick Rabbit

Some of the people, Joe Stribling for instance, caught coons and possums using a carbide light, mostly for the hides, as an extra source of income.  If they decided they wanted to eat a possum they kept it in a pen for a couple of weeks before using it for food.  Joe taught me how to find a rabbit in the bed.  If you can do this you can get that rabbit with a “tap stick.”   

Most years there was a field of peas—planted mostly for hay.  A part was left for hand harvesting when dry, on the halves.  These would be threshed, stored in barrels and treated with a weevil protecting material.  

Suthen Eatin!

How can you beat ham, tenderloin, bacon, buttermilk, sweet milk, cornbread and buttermilk, cornbread, butter and molasses, all kinds of vegetables.  I’m omitting the Sunday dinners Mrs. Denham told you about.  We might have been poor but we weren’t hungry.

Do have a good week.  Hope you do too.  Please remember our people involved overseas.   You can reach me most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, Mississippi 38606, 662-563-9879 or

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