Summertime and the living is easy … Whoa! Just stop right there. Out on the farm, the living was not easy.
The corn was planted in early April and the cotton not long after that. Then there was top-harrowing and side-harrowing and chopping and thinning and hoeing. Even on our little rocky, hillside farm, the rows would seem endless – depressingly so.
Oh, why couldn’t we live in town, I would whine. I could picture the coolness of the Rexall Drug Store, where Doofie made the best malted milks in the world. Why, oh why?
But there were moments. Out in the country, Mt. Pisgah didn’t have a Vacation Bible School, and there were no camps to go to. But there were revival meetings – protracted meetings, we called them. Nothing like these puny little revivals they have today that last just a couple of days. No sirree. These were two-a-day preaching services for a whole week with preaching that would sear the walls of the old building, packed at night, with babies on quilts in the aisles and the coal oil lamps flickering on their sconces around the room.
One more verse. Won’t you come, one more verse of “Why Not Tonight” or “Just as I am.” There’d be a baptizing of the new joiners next Sunday over at the creek in Cousin Bailey’s pasture.
And there were singing schools, where Lester Crowder, Hollis Collins, Zenus Stapp or some other noted gospel singer would try to teach us the rudiments of shape-note music.
I have a mental block. I am mentally unable to sight read, I mean fast, just like you’d read a newspaper. Can’t do it – would never be able to. But I understand the basic idea because of those two-week singing schools … and my later experiences with the high school band.
We’d play washers during the lunch break, kind of like horseshoes, except you tried to toss the washers in a hole. It was a two-mile walk to and from the church, but we ambled along together, not minding the walk too much, although if somebody (rarely) came along and offered a ride, we were glad to take it.
There was fishing. Me’n Ross tested Yellow Creek pretty thoroughly. I caught my very first bass one Fourth of July. Ross caught his first a few minutes later, just downstream from the Iron Bridge. Thank you, Hawaiian Wiggler #2.
Later on, now in our upper teens, we pursued girls as avidly as we had pursued bass. Saturday nights were hunting time, and our neighboring/rival town 10 miles to the north had an overflow crop of beautiful girls that summer.
And there were the western movies at the Lamar Theater, which opened when I was nine. What a monumental thing that was – what an escape from the cotton patch. I worshipped the old Lamar Theater, just up the street from the mule barn. I loved it even when its midnight show, with our old friends Dracula or Wolf Man or The Frankenstein’s Monster or the Mummy, or some of their sons or cousins, would cause me to be scared to death as I crossed the dark, ominous Valley of the Shadows on the way home.
Ah, yes. Escape (or easy) for a little while. But the cotton patch would still be there Monday morning.
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.