Remembering Papa by Annice Barton Graham

REMEMBERING PAPA

By Annice Graham 1913-2001

Papa saved his prettiest corn for seed to plant the next year. Some pretty corn was saved to take to the grist meal where it was ground into meal for cooking. We would shell the smaller grains off the ends for the hogs and cows. We used the corn sheller to shell the best grains off the cob to make corn meal and dropped the grains into a long wooden box. Mama kept a clean cloth sack to measure the corn into to take to the grist mill.

To keep rats and mice out of the corn, Papa kept a big rat snake in the crib. We weren’t afraid of it and it wasn’t afraid of us. Nobody was allowed to throw corn or anything else at it.

Papa went to town in a one horse wagon each week. He carried eggs and chickens and extra vegetables, too. Mama made butter, molded it into half pound circles, wrapped it in waxed paper, and kept it in a bucket in the well to keep it cool and fresh. It was then wrapped in quilts to keep it cool on the way to town. A trip from to Tuscaloosa in a wagon took all day. He left about 2 am and returned about 10 pm.

After he sold the produce in town he bought coffee beans. Mama would roast them and grind the coffee. Coffee was boiled in a coffee pot without a basket. She added on teaspoon for each cup and one for the pot.

We made our own syrup from ribbon cane or sorgum and found honey in the woods in hollow trees. When bees came to the yard for water and nectar from flowers, we watched them to see which direction they went. Then Papa and L.C., my brother, would search for the bee tree. In the late summer he raided the bee trees and collected the honey and combs. We shared the honey with friends.

Papa was talented in many ways. He was a carpenter who could build a house from the ground up. He split his own shingles to roof all the buildings on the farm. Houses, barns, and sheds were built with a steep roof so that water ran off and the shingles lasted longer. He built chimneys from rocks or clay and straw.

Papa was ruptured. He built the last chimney when he was in his seventies. He was working about 8 miles from home when he had to be rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. Although 20 inches of intestines were removed, he remained active and lived about 20 years longer.

When he was about 85 he fell and broke his hip. He recovered, walked again, and lived until he was 95. His last years were spent in Dr. Peake’s nursing home. He was happy there and entertained many visitors. He loved Dr. and Mrs. Peake. Lou Lackey who had married one of Papa’s nieces shared Pap’s interest in politics and carried him riding to see many of his political allies.

His mind remained clear and his memories sharp. The Friday before he died on Saturday he told daughter, Florence Quarles, “I have only enough money left to put me away, so I will die soon.”

The next morning the nursing home called the family in because his heart was failing. When family members arrived he looked around at the family members and said,

“I guess this is the day I will kick the bucket. Don’t know of anything else to get so many here at one time.” He continued to joke until his breathing was difficult, and died peacefully surrounded by family.

Weeks before he had told a grandson, “Years ago when your Granny begin losing her mind, I knelt by our bed and asked God to let me live long enough to take care of her. If I’d have known I’d live this long, I wouldn’t have prayed so hard.”

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