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Earlier Generation Did Not Look For Handouts

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, I hope you’re having a good week.  We’ve been having some great weather after the bitter cold a couple of weeks ago.  In fact a small bush in my front yard must have thought it was spring because it started to bud.  I think it was Mark Twain who said that everyone talks about the weather but they never do anything about it.  

That also sounds like something that Will Rogers might have said.  At the height of the railroad boom in the early part of the 20th Century, most people in the Valley burned coal or wood for heating and cooking.  Some enterprising country people would cut wood and bring it to town in a wagon and sell it door to door.  

I’ve heard Papa Badley tell about how Charlie Ritter would do this, and he later became one of the largest land owners in the county.  Cornish Crews would cut up slabs from his sawmill and sell it for firewood.  Cleve Peacock did the same from his ax handle mill.  

Jim said that as soon as he could drive, he would haul wood to customers.

I’ve heard how my grandpa Cooper worked with a man named Ben Abbey, cutting cypress and making it into shingles to sell in town. Ben Abbey later was one of the largest landowners near Sumner in the Delta.  

John Low would pack a nine foot cotton sack with vegetables and throw it over his shoulders, walking from the Jumper’s Chapel community to Water Valley. He would sell the produce door to door.  There was a story about how someone wanting to be smart told John that he would buy some vegetables if he could break a $10 dollar bill. John reached into his overalls and pulled out a tobacco sack and counted out the change.  

I’ve heard Nannie Badley say that Miss Dixie Low would reach into her shoe and take out money when the collection plate was passed.  

Ben Blaker would kill a cow and peddle the beef around town.  Blaker couldn’t read or write, but he would extend credit having the customer enter the amount in his day book.  When they were ready to settle their bill, he would know exactly what page their bill was on and the amount.  

He told my uncle, Charlie Badley, that he didn’t believe that he ever lost any money doing it that way.  Over the years Papa Badley sold cream to the Creamery, shipped watermelons through the association and also sold door-to-door.  He also sold milk to the Kraft Cheese plant and I did the same as I got older.  

I also sold goat milk to people who believed it was good for their ulcers.  Over the years I’ve written about Tom Strange riding a bicycle and running a shoe shine stand on the street; how Wade Doolin still works part-time in his barber shop, long past retirement age; Tom Pulley, who travelled with his medicine bag cutting corns off people’s feet; Joe Goar selling Watkins products from a horse and buggy.      These examples illustrate the ingenuity  of the American people who, if the Government would get out of their lives, would bring us out of adversity.  

Lately people who have lost their jobs are opening up small businesses, which shows that in spite of what the media would have us believe, not all are waiting for a handout.  I’m sure that Papa Badley never realized that he was setting the stage for my career, when he went door-to-door selling his produce.  

I can remember that it was a thrill when I made a sale, and I went with him every chance I got.  Since that time I’ve taken marketing classes at University of Tennessee, and studied for my insurance degree at St. Mary’s in San Antonio, but I can still remember how great it was when I made my first sale.

 I encourage anyone to not retire unless compelled to do so. Working will give you a reason to get up in the morning, plus give you additional money to buy things you might pass on a if you have a fixed income.  My good friend, the late Hamric Henry told me once why he ran for Mayor after he sold his business.

 He said, “I don’t play golf, I don’t hunt and fish and I can only spend so much time cutting grass. When I was Mayor I felt like I was doing something for the community and helping people at the same time.”  

My sentiments exactly.  

My email address is or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.

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