My thoughts on ‘Uncle Toddie’
by Ruth Baker
Jan 22, 2011 | 1966 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ruth Baker
Ruth Baker
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I have been enjoying a little trip into the past, re-reading old stories and remembering people who were my friends and are now gone. I thought about “Uncle Toddie” Bevill and started searching for my picture of him, tall and stately with his gray handlebar mustache. Of course, I didn’t find the picture. I spend half of my time searching for a picture or paper I just had in my hands. Don’t tell me that is a sign of old age, because I know younger people than I that are doing the same.

What I did find was a list of weather events in Walker County that was shared by the late Wayne Bevill. Uncle Toddie kept rainfall amounts for years and was a good weather man. He kept good records and they are a part of our recorded history as I have written many times about them.

In Wayne’s notes were facts about Alabama weather as reported by P.H. Mell, meteorologist and forefather to Alabama A&M and Auburn University:

In 1807, the sap froze in the trees and exploded the bark off, leaving the trees almost bare.

The year 1816 was a strange year. January, February and March were mild; April and May were cold. A passenger on a boat traveling from Mobile to New Orleans reported ice on the riggings on April 16. There was a killing frost in North Central Alabama on June 8. The report reads that there was a killing frost each month as far south as latitude 34 which is across Albertville and Cullman.

The year 1825 was known as the year without a winter. Cotton produced a second crop.

The Warrior River dried up in 1840 at Tuscaloosa causing a great number of fish to die.

In 1886, North Alabama accumulated 20 inches of snow in two days.

In the winter of 1935-36, there was a snow in Townley from 13 to 18 inches. The young men of the community got together and went to the elderly people’s houses and chopped wood for their fires.

In 1940, another snow fell in Walker County that was about 18 inches and stayed on the ground for 22 days. During these two different deep snows (at least for us), we were living at the Douglas Guthrie farm in Townley. The two huge fireplaces stayed full of logs. The chimneys were beautiful hewn rock. They were built by Van and Cody Slack, rock masons, who traveled across the South building chimneys. They contracted the two chimneys for $40.00 each. They cut the rock out of a quarry on the farm. It is told that these two chimneys were first in this area to be built with cement. The general material used at this time was clay mud. I can remember seeing daylight in other homes’ chimney when we visited.

During these snows, I went out with my brothers to track rabbits in the snow. They were fierce hunters and seldom returned home without rabbits for Mother to make stew. Her Rabbit Stew made with potatoes, onions, and sage was a favorite dish of the family. However, I never ate rabbit. I think I felt sorry for the little critters that were unlucky enough to get in the way of those determined boys. In fact, I could not eat beef for the longest of times. I still eat very small servings. As someone told me, “Never name an animal that you plan to eat.” Farm kids were notorious for naming pigs, calves, and chickens. Now, I never had any trouble eating chicken except the gizzard and the liver, YUK!

I look back from a vantage point of “X” number of years and am amazed at how we all lived and survived without running water, a bathroom, electric lights, central heat, air conditioning, crock pots, electric skillets, and all the conveniences of our day.

The fact was, we were healthier, had less colds, carried no excess weight, found our snacks in stacks of peanuts to be picked off and parched, popcorn to be popped in a long-handled wire basket over the fire coals, made peanut brittle out of sorghum and peanuts, and grew to be tough as a “pine knot.” The down side was that the life expectancy was not nearly as long as in this age with modern medicines. And that is another story.

Weather predictors say we will have a colder winter than usual. We have seen the indicators of wooly worms, corn shucks, and nut shells will be true this year. Could be that we need to get out the crosscut saw and axe and “lay in” more firewood and stove wood for the months ahead. Santa needed smoke coming out of the chimney to guide Rudolph and the motley crew in for a landing.

Aren’t you glad that you had your gas or electric heat going and could pass up on the sawing and stacking wood in the shed? The hardest part is to lose those easy heating elements and be left in a cold house with no way to get heat — then hardship really begins.

Stay close and stay warm.