I could tell by the twig, but I never quite got the sound of the thump. We would thump away and act very knowledgeable about the sound, pull the melon and carry it to the edge of the field. We found a rock and dropped the melon and broke it open. If it was red, we ate. If it was not ripe, we hid it in the edge of the patch.
Dad didn’t care how much we ate, but he did not like waste. He warned us about pulling and wasting the melons. We got a good idea (we thought). We took a butcher knife to the field; rolled a big melon over, and cut a square plug out of the backside. If it was ripe, we ate it; if not, we plugged it back with the square and rolled it back over.
One day while eating lunch, Dad said to Mama, “Mother, I don’t know what is happening to my largest melons. They are all rotting in the field.” Of course that put a stop to our “plugging” the melons. We knew the price we would pay if we were caught causing this damage. It took years to realize Dad wasn’t dumb. He let us know that he knew and it was time to stop. We did.
Another day, Herman (a nephew who came to live with us when very young) and I were sent to a corn patch to drop pea seed at the base of the corn stalks. As Dad plowed to “lay by” the corn, he would cover the seed and they would grow and ripen just before the corn was pulled and stored. That was a smart way to get a double crop from the work and fertilizer.
We got so bored walking up and down, up and down the same long rows with our peas. We got the bright idea of filling stump holes with seed and who would ever know? If we ran out of seed, maybe we would be turned loose to do what we wanted to do. We had always heard the old saying, “Be sure your sins will find you out.” However, we got by for the time being, and what kid looks ahead to the future consequences?
Fall came and horrors of horrors! The laid-by corn had big bunches of peas growing around every stump hole in that “new-ground” field! My Dad was not one to forget easily. The hickory switch was just as easily used at a later date. After our life of similar tries, you would think we would learn a lesson, but there was always another time.
Blackberry picking was another fun time. The only curse is that snakes love to crawl up a bush, stretch out full length, and just wait to scare the wits out of us. We couldn’t seem to learn the lesson that they were more afraid of us than we were of them. Given a little time, they would slowly crawl down and slither away in the grass. We pretty well knew the dangerous ones and the harmless. The odd thing was that they were all dangerous to our welfare. We didn’t wait around to make their acquaintance. After a little time, we could return to our found treasures and pick.
The driving force behind all this activity was the knowledge of the wonderful cobbler pies to follow and the blackberry jam on Mama’s big fluffy biscuits at breakfast. Team them with the home-cured bacon, sausage, and ham, and we were living “high on the hog.
These were just samples of life on the farm in the 1930’s in Walker County. Good work ethics were learned (sometimes to the tune of a hickory stick), but always fair and the finished prospect went out into the real world with strong training for life. All the neighbors shared with each other, worked to help each other and together, tended to the needs of women and children in a situation of a husbands death or illness.
One thing I haven’t forgotten in old age is survival as many of us faced a long power outage, no stores open to buy food, nowhere to turn for help, no groceries bought ahead, or no heat to cook if we had groceries. We learned we could live without that hot cup of coffee in the morning, the steaming plate of vegetables at noon and night. We are a people of “make do.”
A neighbor brought a cup of coffee one morning, and returned later with a generator which he hooked up for a while to my freezer and refrigerator. Another took a can of soup to their grill and warmed it for a meal. We still find ways to minister to one another in times of need. That is the Southern way of life.
We are a “make do” generation and a “help your neighbor.” This is the Southern way.