Once upon a time, long, long ago and far, far away, there was a little 20-acre piece of land that was, and still is, very special.
Daddy didn’t have a car at the very earliest I can remember. He had owned one, but he sold it to pay for this 20-acres he bought from Uncle Asa and Aunt Lessie. It was right across the road from their house.
Their youngest daughter was Willadine, about my age. She was my first playmate. While Daddy plowed in his new piece of land, Willa and I would play in the spot of sand in their driveway. Daddy taught us how to make frog houses. You put your foot down, then cover it with packed sand — a little moisture helps. Then you ease your foot out, leaving a nice home for a frog or toad. We made houses for many of them.
Once in a while, Daddy would holler for me to bring him a Mason jar of freshly drawn well water, and I would. It was one of my earliest jobs.
Another place of Willa’s and mine was at the top of the bank, a little further up the road. We’d lie up there and nibble on a little clover-looking plant called sheep sorrel. It had a sharp, tangy, but pleasing taste. From there we could hear spring arriving as Daddy and Mr. Reeves and Uncle Asa plowed their fields. Whoa! Gee, Haw … and, sometimes, “You sorry, no-good, good for nothing do and so, (deleted, deleted), I said, Haw,” and so on.
Still a little farther on the strip across from the 20, we’d climb way up in the three sweet gums that grew by and leaned over the road. We’d drop sweet gum balls on the occasional car or wagon that came by, giggling about the surprised looks on the drivers’ faces.
Later on, brother Jack and I can still laugh ourselves into helplessness when we talk about one of Daddy’s projects:
I don’t know where he got the idea, but he came up with this flamethrower business. You have to understand that the only thing Daddy hated worse than drinking and smoking and gambling and fishing on Sundays was Bermuda  grass. and it happened that there was a stubborn strip of Bermuda grass right along side the road.. When we’d plow by there, we’d be very careful to clean the plow of any Bermuda grass tendrils, because anywhere that tendril dropped off, there’d soon be a Bermuda grass patch.
Now the flame thrower: you filled the tank with kerosene. Then you pumped in the required amount of pressure. Then you opened the nozzle of the flexible hose and lit it, and “whoosh,” you had a blue flame about a yard long, making a noise like a jet plane.
You’ strapped that tank to your back and went to burning Bermuda grass.As I said, it was right by the road, so when people passed, we must have looked like Martians to them, especially those in the wagons. Picture this: the mules shying away, dancing nervously. Cousin Jesse, or somebody, trying to keep them steady, and trying, at the same time, to control his wife.
“Don’t worry, Madge. It’s okay. Easy now. Easy. Don’t make eye contact, whatever you do.” Whoosh went the flame thrower. Whoosh-h-h-h.
By the way, the grass loved it. It came back stronger than ever.
That’s where I did my first official plowing. I ran a John Deere planter, planting corn, the day I was eight years old. None of that hoeing with my special, short-handled hoe. I was a real farmer. As Jack and I marveled, from then on, we were regular farm hands, doing everything that farmers did. Not to mention the “thangs” that were always there to be done — the milking, slopping the hogs,bringing in the firewood and stove wood and water, etc., etc,.
Child labor? Whoever heard of such a thing?
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note. He can be reached at bobbypsanders@gmail.com.