Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hard Times No. 5 - February 13, 2014

As published in the White River Current - February 13, 2014

Only twenty six more days ‘til Spring so I had better get on with my saga of life in the Rock House on Red Lane during the depression and war years.  I want to concentrate on two families in particular:  The Langstons and the Hudsons.  Sidney Langston’s family was our closest neighbor.  He had an older sister, Wilma, who was in my sister’s high school class, a younger sister (Ruby) and a younger brother (Jackie).  Sid had joined our church and was in my Sunday School class.  He was a year or so older than I and we were close friends.  Sidney was crippled.  When he was younger he severely injured his left knee in a running accident and a botched-up job of knee repair left him with a permanently stiff  leg that was a couple of inches shorter than the other leg causing him to have a very pronounced limp.  One Sunday, Sidney asked me if I would like to come over to their house the next day and help him “chop” cotton.  I accepted the invitation and next morning my mother fixed me a short-handled hoe and I walked across the field to the Langston house to begin a new adventure.  I expect I was about 8 years old at the time and knew absolutely nothing about cotton farming.  I soon learned how to thin out the small cotton seedlings so that the other plants would have more room to grow and, hopefully, produce a good crop.  Cotton was the primary cash crop for Izard County farmers in those days and it was a main source of income for the Langston family.  Crop rotation, terracing and other methods of land control were unknown then and the land was literally farmed to death with most of the top soil washing away leaving the poor hill land we have today.  I guess my help was appreciated because I was invited to stay for dinner (lunch).  The only thing I remember about the meal was the “clabbered”  milk that the family drank but I chose water which came from their cistern and had a bit of a “whang”  but wasn’t too bad.  A small patch of peanuts had been planted near the house.  I remember one occasion that Sidney and I pulled and shelled a few of these edible pods which his mother (Flora) parched in a small fry pan.  Once Sidney and I decided that we were old enough to smoke.  We started smoking grapevines at first then moved on to rabbit tobacco.  Neither of these proved very enjoyable and we soon gave it up.  In my previous column, I mentioned that I smoked cigarettes for a short period as a young adult.  The following incident occurred when I was in the army, helping to win the Korean conflict (it was never called a “war”):  I was at my post in the hospital laboratory, peering through a microscope, doing blood counts, when I noticed that I had three lit cigarettes in the ash tray on my desk (yes, we smoked inside the hospital then).  I was not aware when I had lit the smokes.  I took this as a “sign” and quit cold-turkey right then.  Anyway, back to the Langstons.   The family did not own an automobile but had a team of horses that were used to pull the steel-tired wagon that was their mode of transportation.  The horses were also used, of course, in the farming operation and many times I walked across the field late in the afternoon to meet Sidney and ride the horses to the upper pasture    I spent many enjoyable hours with this family.  Ruby, the only survivor, still resides in the Calico Rock area.   The Hudson family, Ulys, Bessie and their six children, lived about a half mile up the highway near the “fork in the road.”  They were members of our church and it was very rare then they were not in attendance.  It was often said that if the church doors were open, the Perrymans and Hudsons were there (I think I noted this in an earlier article).  The children, by age, were two boys and a girl, two boys and a girl.  The older girl was in my sister’s high school class.  I was pretty close to the younger boys (Charles and Dean) and we had many playful adventures together.  They were on the telephone party line with my folks but did not have electricity.  Our house was at the end of the electric lines until some years later.  I’ll continue my story about growing up with the Hudsons in a couple of weeks.  Bye for now.