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

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Life On Bearhead Pt 1

The photo here is a shot of me and three of my four sister at our G Grandmother home on Bearhead. Taken in about 1965.
The only heat we had for inside the house on Bearhead was a fireplace. There was a butane tank in the back yard, because of the cost of butane gas back then {Abt. 25 cents a gallon}, it was only used for cooking and the hot water heater.
We spent most of the summer months gathering Pine Knots. Along with cutting and splitting oak fire wood, {so it would be dried before winter}, to get us through the winter months. If the oak was good and dried, you got way better heat from the fire than if the oak wood had been green.We did this not only for us but also my G Grandmother. So the work was doubly hard for us.
Everyone had big gardens. Every thing that came from the garden was used as food for the meals we had every day. Then every thing else was canned and saved for year round use. Fruit was picked and gathered to make jellies, jams, and pies. The fruit was also made into preserves. Those consisted mostly of Pears, Figs, Black Berry and Dew Berry jams. Some folks even raised sugar cane in this area back then . They would made syrup from the sugarcane. There is no better syrup on this earth than sugar cane syrup. I'll stake my syrup sopping biscuits on that. Some things were bought in stores, these items were called your monthly staples. It consisted mostly of, sugar, flour, black pepper, for some folks tobacco, snuff. Just mostly what you did not or could not grow at the house.
It never mattered who's house you were at, or what time you were there, there was always something to snack on, sitting on the table or stove, there would be usually one of four things. It was either biscuits, cornbread, baked sweet tater or cracklings. These things were always covered with a dish towel. Nothing else, a dish towel. To this day my favorite meal is squirrel cooked down in it's own gravy with rice, cornbread and a baked sweet taters smothered with butter. On a different subject.
One thing I can remember clearly, was when someone died in the family or a neighbor died. The body was always brought back to the home or the church. Everyone brought food and everyone sat up until late. Most would go home. But there was always someone {Usually 3 or 4} that stayed up all night with the body. There was no ifs ands or buts about it. Someone stay up all night with the dead. They were never ever left alone. That is still done not only in our family today. But in this area and this part of Louisiana. I have never known just why or how this tradition started, I just know that is what was done then and still to this day.
One other thing they did then, you never see today. The morning of the funeral, the men gathered at the graveyard and dug the grave with shovels and picks. Everyone of the men's wives would get up before daylight and fix coffee and lunches and off the men and boys went, they worked until the grave was dug.
My Grandmother {Who I am For Ever Quoting}said when she was a child the body was brought to that persons home or a friends house. The women would clean and dress the body and the men would gather outside and build the coffin for the decease. The funeral was usually the next day after the death. The reason for such a quick burial was that in those days, not many were embalmed. To Costly at that day and time. Louisiana is one state that still today, you are not required to embalmed a body, if you bury the body with in 24 hours.
Another thing I just remember . I had never heard of a nursing home or as some say an old folks home. In our families, the older person lived by themselves and if it got to the point were they could not take care of themselves they moved in with some family member or friend. Most everyone had a family church also. The church family played just as a big a role in ones life as their real family played.
We were very blessed when we were kids, we had not only a radio, but also a black and white TV. It was mostly used for news and a few programs we watched. One that comes to mind is ever Sunday night we always watch Wonderful World Of Disney. Daniel Boone, Tarzan and Old Yellower are just a couple of the movies that I remember seeing on T.V. then.
Growing up around so many family members and family friends that loved to tell outlandish stories and pull all kinds of pranks on one another, is most likely that that is the very reason I have loved comedy since I was a child. My favorite show at that time was the "RED SKELTON" show. He was my favorite.
When company came, it didn't matter if it was during the day or evening. If that TV was on and company came up. The first thing that took place, is the TV was cut off. Second, coffee was put on. Third, the house was cleaned in about 25 sec. hhaa It is amazing where you can shove and slide most anything when you saw company coming.
When folks visited the women and girls stayed in the house and did what they do best "Talk" . The men and boys usually sat on the porch or in the yard under a big old oak tree. They talk about what was happen in the neighborhood, who was sick, just what cow was missing and due a calf. When that happen, we had our BOTLO issued {Be On The Look Out}, just like the cops of today do. It just happen that ours was an animal.
This is where I got most of my stories about the older people. By keeping my mouth shut and listening and remembering these stories these men would tell. People are always asking me, How on earth are you able to know and remember as much as you do about these people and those stories? I tell them, when I was around these older folks, I kept my mouth shut and listen to them telling these old stories. Being that young and amazed at what they were talking about, my young mind was like a sponge. I soaked every thing up those people had to tell.
This is a good lesson still, for the younger crowd. You learn much more from listening than you do talking.

No comments: