L To R, Josh Perkins, Elmer Willis, Solomon Doyle, Mae Ashworth Willis, Nora Ashworth Griffin, Shelby Ashworth

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Jobs For All Ages

This is a list of things we did to get spending money when I was a kid. Added in is also some of the work the men did back years ago before my time and during the time I was a kid.
Picking up coke bottles for the 3 cent deposit. This bought a many a piece of candy and gum for us kids.
My G Grandmother, {Maw} and I would walk the woods looking for and digging snakeroot during the summer. Snakeroot was just that, a root. Not a big root as one would imagine. It was more along the size of what they call angle hair. Very small and fine. It was a very pretty golden color and had a smell so sweet. It was the type of smell that even though it may be a time period of fifty years since one last smelt of it. The instance you smelled it again, you would know right off just what it was. Once we got home, we would wash it to clean it of the dirt that was still attached to it. The next step was to spread it out in the sun for it to dry. It was then packaged and shipped it to California. We were paid about 15 to 30 cents a pound for this. Sounded like easy money until you realized it took a pickup load, pressed tightly to make 5 lbs.!! The company we sent this to made some type of medicine from this root. The money earned from this was used mostly to buy school cloths and tennie shoes for your P.E. period.
My G Grandmother {Maw} and her sister Mandy {Aunt Tent} worked for people that had a large amount of land and it needed to be cleared of pineknots and brush. The would walk all day and pick up pineknots and cleared brush to clear the land for a dollar a day.
Her and my G Grandfather {Buster} had about ten or twelve acres of land. Maw would plant a very large garden. She used a plow and mule to do this. On a side note, I remember well seeing her plow her small garden with a mule and plow when I was just a kid. Her standing at just five foot and weighing about 100lbs, working that plow as good as any man ever could. She was about seventy yrs old at that time. The rest of the land planted, was in corn and Cotton. My Grandmother {Estelle} told me when she was a child. The cotton they planted every year amounted to one bale of cotton. My G Grandmother{Maw}, one year took that one bale of cotton to De Ridder, La. some twenty miles from Bearhead, in a wagon. Once there she trade the bale of cotton for a new battery operated radio, so they would not have to go to their nearest neighbors house to listen to the Grand Old Opera on Saturday nights.
When it came to cutting the grass or raking leaves and working all summer getting the winter fire wood. There was no such thing as being paid for that. That was just something that you did . Period. Charity work in other words.
One of my very first paying jobs I had was peeling fence post for my grandmother and grandfather. That paid 3 cents a post. I figured it out real fast I wasn't going to get wealthy doing that. The fence post was cut from pine trees. The were cut in eight foot lengths and was about three to five inches in diameter. The tool used to peel these post was called a pole peeler. The best way to describe it, is as being a hoe that had the metal part of the hoe being flat instead of the way a hoe is made. You used this to scrape the pine bark from the post. Sounds easy doesn't it ? Think again. The knots from where the limbs were would kill you. You could use all the gloves you wanted, you still kept blisters all the time while doing this.
One of the hottest jobs was hauling hay. But we were getting rich doing that, it payed a dime a bale. And that was split 4 ways, sometimes 5 ways. In later years when I was in my late teens I still did this in my off time to make extra money. At that time the pay had increased greatly. It then paid any where from twenty five cents to thirty cents a bale. Still split any where from three to five ways.
I have never really thought about this until my friend and cousin Lind Clark mention it to me. It is about the jobs that most of the Redbone men did back years ago. It seems no matter what job they did, it was usually the hottest, dirtiest, back breaking, work a person could do. Here are some of those jobs. Logging, as late as the 1930's they were still doing most of the logging with cross cut saws, mules and oxen to skid the logs out of the woods. Roughnecking on the oil rigs. This was in a time when they built there own derricks out of wood. Raising cattle and farming, shooting and hauling stumps, this involved using dynamite to blow the pine stumps out of the ground that was left after the logging process. These stumps were the only thing left behind. Pole or Piling peeling, same work as peeling fence post, but this consisted of full grown trees. Most of the trees were any where from fifty to ninety feet long and from eight inches to eighteen to twenty inches in diameter. Try doing that all day ever day. There was also roustabout work in the oilfield, on land and offshore.
I have did a few of these same jobs that they did, but with newer and more modern equipment than they had. I still can not imagine doing the same work they did, the way they did it . There is just no way.
They were a certain and very special breed of people that only comes along once in a great while. I know in my heart there will never be another generation compared to or equal to our ancestors.

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