The latter part of 1957 through the end of school year of 1959 were eventful times to say the least. As I indicated earlier, I missed most of the second grade due to illness. Years later, I questioned why the school didn’t provide me some kind of option for home study. I never got a satisfactory response to that question, so I dropped the issue. I know this may seem out of order, but I wanted to mention a practice that was peculiar to school systems in Arkansas during this time. Schools would break for a short period during the fall for crop harvest. During this time, children would be in the fields helping their families with harvesting the crops or working in some white farmers cotton fields for $3.00/100 pounds of cotton picked. I suppose the value of education was placed on hold for the local economy.
I don’t remember when, but at some point, during this time we moved to grandpa and Sweet’s little farm. I do remember my father moving a house that had been used as a grain storage facility to about three hundred feet or so behind grandpa’s house. Unlike when we lived across the way from Grandpa Ulysses and Grandma Katherine, this new place had no electricity. We used kerosine lamps for lighting. The place had a front screened porch, a large room considered to be a living room and a separate room for a kitchen. We had beds in the living room area, along with seating for spending time other than sleeping. It was during this time that I began to form a stronger connection with grandpa and Sweet. They had electricity and a radio. I remember spending lots of time at their place listening to the Lone Ranger, Amos and Andy and other popular radio shows. Grandpa loved listing to baseball games.
Images of running through grandpa’s fields and trapsing along behind him as he plowed with his mules are still fresh in my mind. As I said previously, I have no such images of spending time with my dad. My youngest brother William was born in November of 1958, giving my parents three sons, Larry, William, and me.
I suppose the fall of 1958 was going well for me in school. I think I finally got over repeating the second grade. It did seem, however, that the group with which I started elementary school was far off someplace doing things that third graders do.
The spring of 1959 was certainly eventful. There is one thing I do have an emotional response to even to this day. I remember playing in the yard one day. It must have been after school. Here’s where my memory gets cloudy. For some reason, I remember my mother being at grandpa’s house, out in their yard doing something. A pickup truck pulled up and shortly thereafter my mother gave out a loud cry. A few minutes later grandpa, Sweet and my mother sat me and Larry down to tell us that my father had been killed. He had been plowing in a rice field. When he proceeded to drive over a levy, the front wheels of the tractor flipped. The tractor landed on him, trapping him under its full weight. I was eight years old; Larry was three and William was still a baby. Although Grandpa Ulysses and Grandma Katherine had died before their youngest son, this was my first real emotional experience with death. At this age, I knew that death meant I would never see the person making the transition again in my lifetime. The Spring of 1959 was like the start of a new chapter in all our lives. My mother at twenty-six, was left with an eight-grade education and three sons to raise.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.