Old Times in Winston County Part II
Written by: Feneda Smith
I canít remember the year he died (Francis Bell), but I was about six years old, and we would go over there and sit up at night. His face was busted open; they had plaster all over his face and arms; his skin just busted all to pieces. We had a big cotton crop and we were having to pick the cotton, a hail storm had just come and blowed it out. We saw Uncle Virgil coming on the mare. Mama said I guess grandpappy is dead, and sure enough he come on up and he said that grandpap had died. Well, the next day they buried him at Old Union; back in them days they didnít embalm anybody and they had to get them in the ground overnight. We went to his funeral.
They lived at Lynn. The house sat on a bank, and you could go out there and look at the railroad below the bank. We would sit on the bank and watch the trains go by. Everybody would be waving at us, and that would tickle us kids to death. We had a ball sitting up there in the yard watching trains go by. Everytime we would hear one blow, we would run out in the yard and watch it. That place now has been cut down, houses has built there, and the old bank is gone. Itís not like it used to be. Julie (Francis Bellís wife) was a good woman; she sat up day and night waiting on him. Whenever he died, she divided the money up between his children and his childrenís children. Like if one of his children was dead, it would be divided up between the childís children. My mother got her part, because her mother was dead.
Grandpap (Joe Gann) said him and his brother, as young kids, had to stay at home on Sundayís, while their parents went to church. They had their yard fenced in. Well, they stayed at home and would steal eggs from their mama out of the nest, just one or two at a time to keep her from catching up with them. One Sunday morning, they got their eggs, brought them in the house, rolled them up in wet rags, put them down in the ashes, and put fire coals on them to cook them. About the time they got them all in the ashes, they heard the latch on the fence drop. Their parents had come home, as there was no church that day. He grabbed his old cap up, put the eggs in it; it burnt two holes in the top of his cap. They run down through the woods to hide them. So he put his cap under an apple box until his parents went to bed; then he layed it over on the wood pile next to the fire place. Next morning when he had to build a fire, he grabbed his old cap up, knowing what done it, said Mammy, the fire has popped out on my hat and burned holes in the top of it. She went ahead and patched it for him, and she never caught up with them.
One time, him and his brother tied two catsí tails together and turned them loose in the church house, got them scared, and they messed the church house up so bad. His mom and dad caught up to him and whipped him. Then they made him scald the church house and made them tote the benches out in the yard and scrub them and the church out. He said we never did that anymore.
He said Mammy and Pappy told us to never climb trees. Well, the first thing we would do when we got in the woods, we would get in the top of a tree and let it lean over with us; hickory saplings. He said his brother got in the top of a sapling, fell, and knocked the breath out of him. He said it scared us to death; we couldnít go back to the house and tell what happened, so we carried him to the branch, washed his face, and brought him to. He was sick two or three days after that, but we never told them what happened. He was always into something.
Winston County was a good place to grow up. We were never sick; we never saw a doctor until after we were married. We were all good and healthy, and we all worked in the field. Of course we were raised up with our relatives.
We would come up to Mamaís to the field where they were picking cotton, Frank (Fenedaís brother) and Helen (Fenedaís daughter) were little, and they would be playing up and down the cotton rows; Frank couldnít talk plain. He would say HednHedn, come heah, I found a dayhoppah; he had found a grasshopper and was talking to Helen. Mama would laugh about it. She would say that that was a grasshopper.
One time, when we lived down at the Hunter House, it came a snow, bigger than youíd ever seen. Papa was at work trying to make us a living. The sun was setting, it was cloudy, and had been snowing all day. Mama went to milk the cow, and we would have to dig steps with a shovel down to the ground all the way to the barn. Well, Mama started back to the house and had a big bucket of milk. She got to the edge of the yard where there wouldnít any more steps, and she stepped up on the ice. Well, she spilt her bucket of milk and went sliding down the hill I guess a quarter of a mile on her back just a flying and me a dying laughing. Mama said old gal, Iíll get it back on you. I said no you wonít. It didnít hurt her bad; just skinned her elbows a little. She said come on Feneder, letís go find some pine knots. It will be cold in the morning and we will need a fire. She knowed where some pine was at, over on the other side of the house on an old road that was swagged out. We started across that, and I slipped and fell and down that old road and down the hill I went just like she did. She had the laugh back on me. We had a lot of fun back when we was kids. We could get something on Mama, and it did us good. She was a good sport though; she would always laugh about it.
One time when Mama was little, Grandpap (her daddy, Joe Gann) was, I believe on jury duty somewhere. It came a storm and blowed the trees down in the flat where she lived and blowed the top off the house and blew the barn away. Mama said she was just 15 years old. The next morning she said that when it come daylight, the trees were just laying down across the road. Grandpap could only come so far before he hitched his horse and started coming across the trees hollering every breath, "are you alright?" "are you alright?" He could see that the top of the house was gone. Grandma took them all in the kitchen, rolled them up in a feather bed, and put them under the table when she seen the storm coming. No one was hurt though.
Mama said that the day her Mama took sick and died, Virgil and Grandpap said they were at the spring and had a new ground cleared and Virgil was working the horse to plow. Grandma had made Mama a blouse and Virgil and Luther a shirt apiece that morning. She said Virgil, Iím going back down there with you to see how you are breaking the ground. He let her plow with his horse, she made two or three rounds, and she said Iím turning blindÖI have to go down to Tobyís spring to get some water. When she stooped over to get some water, she fell on her face in the water. Grandpap picked her up and carried her on the horse to the house. She said everything that she seen was green. The whole world looked like it was green. She was dead by the time he got back with the doctor. She had wanted to go out and see her pretty garden and flowers. She got too hot and drank cold water. She told Mama, Marthy, you better stay at the house and work button holes in their shirts and put buttons on them and your blouse too; you may need them. Sure enough they did. They wore them to her funeral.
Grandma didnít believe in a woman getting up in church and opening her mouth. If a woman wanted to know something about the Bible, she would have to ask her husband and let him explain it to her. And that is what she believed. She lived a good Christian life, and Mama said she could sing, and that she went around singing all the time. Every Sunday she had a big old horse and a buggy ready to go.
Papa (Joe Martin) said he could barely remember his mother. He was crying after his daddy, and his mother laying in the house dying, and his daddy was going to the barn and Papa followed him saying he was sleepy wanting him to pick him up. Grandpap got a stick and almost beat him to death. The old woman who was taking care of Grandma went out there and picked him up and carried him back to the house. Papa told me many a times that he didnít even get to go to the funeral that he said he had such a high fever.
The old woman had just one finger and thumb on one hand and the others were cut off. They called her Peggy because of this. Papa said she was a good woman. His brothers put Papa up to throwing an old yellow cat into the fireplace. They would give him a nickel if he would do this and of course he did. It almost burned his poor old feet off. Peggy said I like the one who will tell me the truth about it, and I will give a quarter for the one who tells me. Papa spoke up and said that he did it; he wanted that money. Papa got the whooping for throwing the cat in there, but he got the quarter too.
It was World War I, Papa had passed, and was ready to go to war. He got ready one morning, had his suitcase packed, and was out to catch the train; all at once, the train that was supposed to pick him up, they had a load of soldiers on them that was coming home. Mama said everybody in Lynn was standing out looking and them boys, women, and men were all crying. They were all waving and proud to get home; the war was over, and Papa had his suitcase packed and ready to go, but he didnít have to go. I was 3 weeks old.