Enjoy our “Reflections” post — one of many vignettes and stories featuring memories of days gone by. This installment is from Betty H. Atkinson of Huntsville, Alabama, as seen in “The Oxford So & So.”
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I like to say that I was born in the cotton field. My daddy was a share cropper and before I learned to pick cotton, my brother John, who was six years older, took care of my twin sister and me while our mother worked in the fields picking cotton. Thank you Brother for letting us live. He did tell us later that he dropped one of us on our head. I really think it was both of us. Ha-ha!
My first experience picking cotton was when Mother made us twins cotton sacks (pick sacks) from old five-pound flour sacks. She affixed straps and sent us to the fields. I’m sure we didn’t pick a lot of cotton in those old flour sacks, but as an encouragement to pick cotton, we knew that what little money us twins made, my twin and I would have money to spend at the county fair.
Growing up in the country, taking care of chickens, hogs, cows, gardens and things did prepare me with the work ethics I now have. We were blessed with good friends and neighbors and no matter what folks need were, people would come to help you, be it cutting firewood, hog killing, or bringing a new baby into the world.
In times of trouble, whether it meant sitting up with the sick, dying or the passing of somebody, you had support of good people. Back then folks didn’t always have a doctor; most of the time no money for one, but thanks to the neighbors, they had some remedies for what ailed you, if it didn’t kill you first.
Some of those old remedies would probably shock folks now, like putting pee in ears for ear aches, and if a baby had Thrush, in the mouth, you would borrow an old shoe from a neighbor and pour water in it and have the child drink from it, never mind what kind of foot ailment the neighbor had or that the shoe had probably been worn in a dirty old barn. And of course the cure for everything was whiskey or home brew, that took care of coughs, measles, mumps and all sorts of ailments.
There was a neighborhood boy named “CC” that had something called “scald head” and as a cure for it he wore a woman’s old stocking on his head, and only God knew what was stuffed in it. As kids back then, we learned not to question these things, but years later at a school reunion, I saw “CC” and he had the prettiest head of black hair I had ever seen! Just think of the money we could save today if we still knew those old home remedies!
Life as I knew it back then was tough – scratching out a living, but was so much simpler, too. You still found the time for relaxing and fun going to church revivals, with dinner on the ground, sitting on the porch with women dipping snuff, or chewing tobacco, making homemade ice cream, using an old hand turned device, visiting with kin folk, and sleeping on pallets (old quilts) laid out all over the house.
Back then there were no digital games, not too many folks had TVs but oh how much fun us kids had, playing hide and seek, tag, jumping rope, shooting marbles, and swimming out in an old creek.
I feel so blessed and lucky to have had that time, even though the times were harder and so much simpler. We grew up learning respect for each other and knowing that we were loved.
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