The Home Place

THE HOME PLACE
by
Annice Graham
 
       I don’t know if any of you remember how we happened to have this place. Grandpa  Graham was a sawmill owner. The sawmill was a whole village that moved from community to community as he cut. After much of the timber was cut he sold his mill but kept a store or commissary as it was called in those days across the road from his house. Aunt Lora, Grandma’s younger sister, worked in the store and was the local telephone operator.
Then came the Depression. Grandpa owed a lot of money and had borrowed on his land to pay his workers and his other debts. The farm was lost.
Although Grandpa farmed and later had odd jobs to help make a living, he was not in good health and being deaf made it hard to get jobs. Grandma boarded the schoolteachers and they went to the curb market for years, but never had enough income to hold onto their home. Some of their children weren’t financially able to take on the mortgage; others’ plans did not include taking on this obligation. Daddy Buster borrowed money from Mr. Cleveland Partrich and paid off all Grandpa’s obligations, and secured their home for the rest of their lives.
We bought an antebellum home at Lock 8 that the government was disposing of, tore it down and had the lumber moved to the place where we built the house where our children grew up. Grandpa Barton was in charge of building the house and it turned out to be a more modest style than the original.
Grandpa and Grandma continued to curb market and Grandma went to work as school lunch supervisor at Romulus school next door. Later she went to work at Jemison School in Tuscaloosa,
For several years we had sharecroppers. When John was old enough to plow, Daddy bought an older tractor and we farmed until I went to work as lunchroom manager at Romulus. When the elementary school in this area were consolidated to Fosters, I became the lunchroom supervisor at Myrtlewood.
When our children were going to school at Romulus the teachers would let then come home early to pick cotton, gather corn, or other crops on the farm like peas popcorn or peanuts.
Do you remember how I could help Grandma kill and dress 15 or 20 chickens to carry to curb market? We also helped gather and prepare vegetables and even flowers for market.
Water was always a problem on this farm. We had a 65-foot dug well, which proved to be unreliable. When Grandpa’s well went dry we pumped water up the hill for them. The well could not provide enough water for two families, so Daddy Buster had a 95-foot well bored.
Before that we had gotten water from the school well. The children carried water for the school a quarter of a mile for me to wash clothes the next day. I times I had to carry clothes to the well in front of the sharecropper’s house near the back field almost as far as the school house. It was about 20 feet deep with plenty of water.
With three small children I would hitch the mule to a ground slide, load the smallest children on the dirty clothes, and soaps to make the trip down the crooked trail through the woods to the well.
 
After getting the children to a safe area I would draw water out of the well to fill the tub and a big black wash pot while Dorothy was keeping the others safe away from the well. Small limbs and leaves were burned under the washpot to keep the water hot, hopefully boiling, in the washpot. Then I used a stick to pull the clothes out to the cold water in the tub to hand scrub, rinse and wring dry enough to hang on tree limbs, bushes and sometimes grass.
I carried a few biscuits with butter and syrup poured into a hole in the biscuit and we ate them for our lunch while the clothes dried. You could put pant stretchers in men’s pants so they would need little ironing before wearing. When clothes were dried we had to fold them, put clean clothes back in the tub, set the babies on top, and head back to the house to cook supper and feed up before Daddy got home.
When Dorothy was about 5, John 3, amd Mary was a baby not old enough to walk, we hung the clothes on the pasture fence. John wanted to help so he went to the wash pot and stepped on live coals and blistered the bottoms of his feet. For weeks I had two babies that could not walk. He soon learned to crawl to get his toys or something to eat.
That is why I loved my first washing machine so much. When we moved to Pascagoula, Mississippi, we bought a washing machine and I took in washing from our boarders and all the women who worked in the Engel’s shipyard. I would deliver the clean, ironed clothes in Johnny’s little red wagon with the kids following behind. I made as much as Daddy.
That is why I always enjoyed having a washer and dryer in my later years. It was a joy to have an easier way to do a necessary job.
 
Annice Graham
in My Memories
c 1989
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