The bright orange sun reflected in the tiny dust particles that flew from under the tires of the old Chevy truck. My body jostled about as we hit the large potholes in the old dirt road leading to my Paw’s simple farm home. The cotton was in full bloom, and it made it appear as a fresh dusting of snow had fallen across the farm fields, but the sweltering August heat quickly reminded you that it was indeed not wintertime. As I pulled up I caught a glimpse of a little red headed boy with freckles wearing tuff nuts jeans with the knees patched and a pull over shirt yelling “Annie over” toward the roof. For a moment I was puzzled, but then I saw a green ball whiz over the roof. He caught it, and I heard an echo of the same thing yelled back to him. He launched the ball over hoping to make contact with his sister on the other side. The sun had barely had time to rise, and he had already gathered the eggs and done some work in the family garden. It was time now to head to Steele Elementary for school. It would be quite a hike, but one he made daily. He grabbed his packed lunch and prized possession, a bag of shiny marbles. He was hopeful to come home with more, but knew it was possible to return empty handed. Playing marbles was serious business when you played for keeps.
When he arrived at the schoolyard they had a bit of time before the reading lesson started. His buddy challenged him to a game of marbles. When it was all said and done, he had kept all of his marbles and gained four more of the other boys.
They arrived to class still a bit rowdy from the game of marbles. It was a nail biter, and already being compared to the infamous match played three years ago, when a fourth grader cleaned everyone out completely. His teacher, who he claimed to be at least two hundred and eighteen years old, approached her desk from the back of the class. She noticed that the he was not doing as he was told and gave him a swift hard whack across his knuckles with the ruler that seemed to be permanently attached to her right hand. He rubbed his hand and grumbled under his breath. Hopefully she wouldn’t tell his parents when she saw them next. His behind would be much more sore than his knuckles from the spanking his dad would give him for misbehaving in class. When he was a boy you respected adults, especially your teachers. He reached into his wooden desk and retrieved his favorite book. He opened the history book that he had read over several times, but still couldn’t put it down. He loved the book so much because the pages came alive with stories of real people, and told the story of the past. Books were not easy to come by, but he didn’t mind as long as he could read the fascinating stories in his history book, his favorite lesson. He doesn’t have any books at home; he can’t afford them and frankly doesn’t have time while working in the cotton fields once he returned home. Other than school the only time for reading was a rare visit to the library. His teacher began her lesson for the day they would be discussing the current commander and chief, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
School was coming to an end for the day, but there was still lots to be done. Upon returning home he would head straight to the fields and start his job of picking cotton and carrying water for the farm hands. This job earned him a whopping 40 cents per hour. It seemed like a fair wage to a nine-year-old boy with nothing who wanted something as simple as a 5-cent candy bar. There was no such thing as minimum wage during this time in history. People today would riot if expected to endure such labor with barely any reimbursement. At the very least they would refuse to do the work.
It was finally Friday. His favorite time of day was upon him, lunchtime. He opened up his lunch satchel to find a bologna sandwich! He scooped it out and devoured it. Having such a fancy lunch was a special treat. At the end of a long workweek there would be no eating out in a restaurant. His family couldn’t afford such luxuries, and they lived 100 miles away from the big city of Memphis. No, life was simple back then. No TV and no telephone, only the endless fun to be had outside on a huge farm with an abundance of siblings. And so it continued as it began, life on the farm; born to his mother in their home in Lukesville, MO.
He continued to grow up a small town boy, thriving in Steele middle and high school as a member of the band. He played the tuba with perfection, receiving a lyre award. He would graduate and marry a beautiful young woman named Betty. They would have four children, their baby boy being my father. Life has changed a lot from when my Paw was a boy, but one thing remains the same his love for his family. I am thankful for the lessons he has taught me directly and through my dad.
Although his life may seem too simple and humble for many, he looks back on it fondly with this quote, “It was burgers, and fries, and cherry pies. Life was good back then.” Maybe there is something to be said for a simpler life.