Today’s post by One o’the Nine was first published in 1986 in the Florida Free Press. I suspect the yo-yo event must have happened near Christmas time all those years before, as it was the memory he chose to share for the Christmas issue. I can imagine how much fun he must have been having with a real toy, only to be brought to his senses with the first lash of the cow whip. It’s hard for me to imagine the grandfather (his father) he conjures up for me as the one I knew many years later had mellowed somewhat. He had a reputation for being tough but fair, but what I drew from that years later translated to “mean.” He only expected his boys to do what he told them without being distracted by silly things. He’d probably had few toys of his own I imagine, and was very entrenched in the idea of bringing his sons up to be trustworthy and responsible, a feat he did accomplish. Read with me about one of the ways he managed to do this.
Today I saw a boy about twelve years old get off the school bus, go into his house where his mother was waiting with a dish of ice cream and cookies. When he had finished eating all this he went into the den, fell on the couch and began to watch television.Things were just a little different when I was a boy on the farm during the great depression.
I remember one afternoon my brothers and I had walked all the three miles from school, went into our rooms and changed our overalls. (We only had two pair.) Then we went into the kitchen and got us a biscuit, took our finger and punched a hole in it, then we poured in some home made cane syrup.
My mother then gave us the chores that Papa had left for us to do. My youngest brother and I were to go about two miles back to the river swamp and bring up a bunch of cows that had gotten extremely poor. We were supposed to bring them to the house and put them into a field of rye.
That day I had traded an old knife that I had found to another boy for a yo-yo. As we walked along I was having a good time with my yo-yo. We gathered the cows together and began to drive them toward the house. Some of the cows were just a little wild and began to run back to the swamp.
Like any true-blooded American boys, my brother and I had divided the cows. Half were mine to run after, half were his, and the ones that ran back toward the swamp were on his side. I stood on a tree stump about three feet high yo-yoing and called to my brother as he ran after the cows, “Hurry and get around them.”
I did not know my daddy had come back where we were and was riding a horse with a cow whip in his hand, until he had wrapped the cow whip around me. I started running as fast as I could to help my brother with his part of the cows and soon had them. If only there hadn’t been an old poor cow that couldn’t run and I couldn’t leave her.
My daddy was still behind me with that cow whip and seemed to be cutting me with it every jump. I had to do something. That cow whip was beginning to be too much for me to handle. I got my right shoulder under that old cow’s hind end and began to push.
I pushed so hard I lifted her back end up. I was pushing her so fast she looked like a wheel barrow with two feet. Now in all the excitement I lost my yo-yo. I never went back to find it, and for some reason I have wanted another one!
“Merry Christmas to everyone and may God bless you all,” from one o’the nine.
Postscript: How well I remember those syrup biscuits he describes. It was one of my favorite treats at Grandma’s house. She made biscuits twice a day minimum, breakfast and supper, and “dinner time” (lunch) if needed, that is if there weren’t any leftover from breakfast. She would poke her pointy finger to make a deep hole in the side, and pour it full of syrup. I taught my kids to do something similar as they were growing up, and Hubby and I still like to do honey biscuits for simple dessert. As I’m reminded of the “poor” cow, which in country venacular meant “skinny, or actually near starvation, I’m reminded of one of the things about farming that really bothered me–the treatment, or what I considered the mis-treatment of animals. I could tell you stories. But times were hard and if you were to survive, you had to learn to be hard too. So I do understand some things. As I never got used to it, I was happy to leave the farm behind when I was 16. My older siblings had all fled the farm by then, and Daddy no longer had free labor. He could no longer do everything there was to do on a 1000 acre farm with just Mama and me to help, so we moved away in 1958 when he embarked on a gas station franchise through Sunoco, which brought in far more money than the farm on a half/half share ever did.
On this Christmas Eve, as we embark on an uneasy journey into an uncertain economy, some say “depression,” I wish all of you find many yo-yos, or whatever it is that makes you excited to be living, in your stockings, and may you never feel the sting of the cow whip no matter how hard times get.