From what I can remember: 5- some thoughts about grandpa’s farm

When I decided to write this series, I realized that chronological order wouldn’t be the most important consideration, although I’ve maintained it fairly well to this point. When I begin to talk about grandpa and Sweet, my mind is flooded with countless images, colors, smells, sights, sounds. My senses are titillated, and a variety of adventures are splattered on the walls of my memory like a collage of magazine clippings from early 1950s rural Arkansas. The colors have no sense of chronology. For some reason, memories of my fraternal grandparents (Ulysses and Katherine) become less crystal at this point in my life. I do know that they died in the early 1950s. I’m not sure which order they transitioned. That’s certainly something I could research, but keep in mind, I’m writing this series based on my ability to siphon memories from my challenged memory engrams. My life experiences with my family, as I remember them is the important exercise here. Others, outside of my family, who might have tangentially influenced the journey will be mentioned only when necessary.

I do remember spending time with grandpa and Sweet. I remember sleeping on a bed they had in the living room. My mother would let me stay with them sometimes. With only three rooms in the house, they had to make good use of all the space that was available. It’s funny how some folks are making such a big deal out of the tiny house movement these days. It seems more a matter of lifestyle choice now rather than necessity. At this point, it was just the two of them living in the house. All their children are now grown and struggling to make a living on their own.

This would be a good time to tell you more about the little farming operation my grandpa managed. Lest you conjure up some notion that he must have been doing well, since he had a farm, I’ll say this from the start: This wasn’t an income producing venture that allowed grandpa and Sweet to have healthy bank accounts. Grandpa was farming eighty acres with two mules, while all around him farming had, and was, becoming more technology based. A white fellow, by the name of C.T. Gibbs, ran a huge farming operation that just about surrounded grandpa’s. Three of grandpa’s sons worked for Gibbs. Understandably so, the little eighty acres and two mules were barely enough for sustaining the lives of grandpa and Sweet.

Each year, when planting season arrived, grandpa would use all the meager profits realized during the previous year’s harvest season to by seeds. He also made it a habit of saving seeds from the previous year to plant truck patches (larger than back-yard gardens, but not large as a field of corn). These truck patches usually contained peas, sweet potatoes, beans, greens, and other staples.

Grandpa also had hogs, a couple of cows, ducks, and chickens. The fowl roamed freely around their little compound. These animals, along with canning fruits and vegetables, and storing smoked meats in the smoke house were the elements that provided a self-sustaining environment. In later years, I began to realize that their lifestyle had been influenced by a long history marked by the need for self-sustainability. These were people who had gone through the great depression, as well as the rationing of food stuffs that occurred during World War II. Grandpa couldn’t read or write. He made an X for his signature. Later, when I learned how to read and write, I would joke to myself that grandpa must have marked a unique X. How else would he recognize it as his later?

I do remember enjoying being on this little piece of land, which had been handed down from Sweet’s family. Life for these beloved grandparents was hard work, but I never heard complaints. Of course, I was too busy playing, enjoying one adventure after another. I had no idea that we were poor.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

5 thoughts on “From what I can remember: 5- some thoughts about grandpa’s farm

  1. catterel September 3, 2020 / 6:38 am

    To some extent, poverty and wealth are a state of mind. Children accept their situation, unaware of anything different so they don’t make comparisons. I often think back to my childhood visits to my grandparents. I know we all had beds, but when I think of the number of people in that tiny house I really wonder how that was possible!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Patti Couger September 3, 2020 / 3:00 pm

    So lovely. Thank you.

    Like

  3. rangewriter September 4, 2020 / 12:28 am

    Once again you’ve carried me off with your brilliant descriptions of a time long lost to all of us. You describe a hardscrabble life that I think was the norm, or at least the norm for a large number of people and probably for a majority of black people during that time. But hardscrabble didn’t seem to daunt their spirits at all, if they even realized it was hardscrabble. We tend to judge everything from today’s commercialized perspectives. But I suspect if those same people were eeking out a living today, the hardscrabble would be a lot less simple, a lot less happy, and a lot more troubled. (That’s not to say that they had it easy. Just that today’s pressure cooker of poverty, drugs, lack of access to land/property, and inherent racism makes every story even darker.) Good grief…please correct me if I say something offensive. I feel hyper-aware of words right now. Words can be swords if used inappropriately. But these words, in particular, tugged me deeper into your story: “When I begin to talk about grandpa and Sweet, my mind is flooded with countless images, colors, smells, sights, sounds. My senses are titillated, and a variety of adventures are splattered on the walls of my memory like a collage of magazine clippings from early 1950s rural Arkansas.”

    Like

  4. oldandblessed September 4, 2020 / 1:01 am

    Rangewriter, thanks so much for reading my stuff! I’m particularly grateful that you’ve taken the time to pen comments. My oldest child has told me to keep this going right up to now. I’m not sure that’s going to happen, because I’m kind of doing what they say in the church: Letting the spirit lead me (so to speak).

    Like

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