The idea of neighborhood has changed, at least in my mind over the years. Today when I think of neighborhood it is the subdivision we live in with houses and neighbors all around, most of whom I wouldn’t be able to call their name if my life depended on it. Growing up it was very different. The neighbors were the same people that had lived there as far back as i can remember. None of them lived close enough that you could see any of their houses. Even though you didn’t see each other all the time, it was very much the case that you came to each other’s aid whenever it was needed. Since most of the neighbors had children that were a lot older, most of whom were already grown or were girls, my brothers and I were often made available to help different neighbors when needed.
Every year until I had regular jobs that kept me from it I helped Mr. Omy prune his peach trees and then when the peaches were ready pick them, put them in the baskets and help him load them on his pickup to carry to sell. That was one of the better jobs. The one that came more often was to assist him in castrating his hogs when the time came. Mine and my brother’s job was to hold them still while Mr. Omy did the deed that no pig ever wanted. They weren’t willing to be still and you couldn’t give them something to make it easier. It was hold on and when it was completed, turn them loose and allow them to run, jerk and get used to a new way of life.
There were also times when we helped Uncle Murry with the same duty. But I remember more times helping him with hauling hay. For some reason I usually had the job of being up in the barn as the others threw the hay up and my job was to stack it from the back to the front of the loft of the barn. There are few places in the world that can match the heat in the loft of a barn that is being filled with hay. Of course there were other times when the job was more mundane, doing things like chopping cotton or picking cotton.
Another job that usually involved more of the neighborhood was when Mr Jordan set up his operation for making sorghum or Sugar Cane molasses. It was set up with a long pole and a mule attached to the pole going round and round to squeeze the juice out of the cane to have it run down a troth where it was strained and poured into buckets to be sold in town. Some folks came to see it being done and purchase their cans right there. Those like us who brought cane to be used would get so many can’s for the cane we brought both for our own use and to sell.
Another of those neighborhood activities usually involved killing hogs each year. It was an all day job starting with shooting the hog and dad cutting it’s throat. Then it was hung from a tree to be gutted and drained. We scrapped the hair from the hog. Then came the cutting of the parts of the hog for different uses. Hams were salted down and put into the smoke house. Sausage was prepared and run through the grinding machine. The greatest part of it was that you ate lots of fresh pork for the next several weeks. Most parts of the year the food was primarily vegetables and chickens. Most of the time chickens were reserved for Sunday lunch time. At some point it became my job to wring the necks of the chicken that mother would then take and prepare for cooking.
One of the neat things about growing up in that time was that if we went fishing or hunting whatever was caught or killed was prepared and cooked by my mother and it always seemed wonderful. When Joyce, my sister started dating and later married Hunter who was a fisherman and hunter to the core, He would take my brothers and me fishing at night up on the river near where he grew up. We caught lots of catfish which were great, but we also caught lots of ell. They looked more like snakes than fish. Likely most folks would have thrown them back, but we cleaned, cooked and ate them and with Mother’s ability to cook, they were actually good. The one thing i remember that Mother wouldn’t cook was rabbits. She thought they carried some kind of disease so they didn’t make her list of eatable animals.
Our closest neighbor through the years was Mr. Roll and Mrs. Addie. They had children but they were all grown when I came along. They never had a car that I know of. Mr. Roll was the only person i knew who had a slide that he pulled behind his horse and he rode it all over the area. If you aren’t familiar with a slide, it is a platform with runners on the bottom, instead of wheels. It would simply slide along the road like something one might use to slide down a hill packed with snow, except there was no snow. It just slide over the graveled road. You could always hear Mr. Roll coming. I never saw Mrs. Addie on the slide. But she could certainly have handled it.
One thing that went with having such a neighborhood at that time was that I wanted some way to make some money. Somehow I got the idea that I could sell Grit papers in that neighborhood and make some money. Well, the neighbors weren’t close at all and there weren’t many of them and most weren’t interested in the Grit paper so it didn’t turn out to be a great business endeavor. One thing I remember was walking over to the Smith farm and going up to the house to sell them a paper. There was a man I had seen at church visiting them. They were sitting on the porch when I walked up. The man said, “I will buy a Grit and give you an extra quarter if you will memorize these verses in the Bible. He quoted the verses and told me where to find it and I promised to memorize it. It was, “He that will love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from all guile.” I don’t know if that was the first verse I memorized but it is interesting that it has stayed with me all this time.
I miss that kind of neighborhood.