Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mistake continued 4

Thinking of those times, when it came to hard work in the hot Mississippi summers there was no racial segregation. There were blacks, whites and an occasional Native American or Latino. It was alright for us to work together, but the black kids couldn’t go to the same school that we did. Whoever was in the position to say, reluctantly said that it was okay for the Native Americans and Latinos to go to school with us. It was probably hard for any student that looked a little different.
A couple of my work friends played football for the black school. While in middle and high school, I played football for the white school. Both schools used the same field to play their games on. When my friends from work came to watch me play, they stayed behind the goal posts away form any contact with white people. When I went to see them play, I stayed behind the goal posts… same field. It seems funny, maybe pitiful now but back then everybody stayed in what was supposed to be their place; white people lived around the down town area and the black people lived in the “Quarters”. That was the way things were done and it was accepted.

( I let a friend read this. He told me the scene I described about standing behind the goal posts was in the book “My Dog Skip”. I don't know because I never read the book. What I stated about the ball games was probably true throughout Mississippi. ) 

Heat and sweat: the first day of football practice when I was fifteen years old we had a physical examination by a doctor. Part of the exam was getting weighed. I weighed in at exactly 165 pounds. We were issued our equipment and went to the field for our first practice of the year. July and August are usually the two hottest months of the year and it was August. The workout lasted approximately 2 hours. When we returned to the locker room, I decided to weigh again, because I knew I had sweated a lot. This time I weighed 154 pounds. I had lost 11 pounds. I suppose it was all water. I stayed at 154 the rest of the season. The games on Friday nights were fun, but it was barely worth it because of the practices.
We were not allowed any drinking water during practice. Over the school years I saw several guys fall out. I fell out when I was 14. As I stated earlier; I am rebellious. One time during practice to “get over” on the coach, I drank water from a mud hole while he was not looking. The water was clear, but it had “wigglers” in it. Wigglers are mosquito larva.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mistake continued 3

During this time in my life my father had made arrangements with the owners of a small trucking line for me to start working for them part time. The family that owned the trucking line was friends with my family. They made sure that I would not be put in a position of work that I could not do. I was young, the work was hard and the sun was hot. I started with them by loading green cross ties. After I was grown I found out it was against the law for me at thirteen years old to be doing work of that sort. They took care of me. Later I loaded and unloaded other things for them; slag, lime, drilling mud, etc.
The saw mills, or at least the tie mills, were different in this area from what they are today. Compared with my youth the mills are large and the raw materials are trucked long distances. When I was young, the tie mills were small and the wood was trucked short distances until there was no longer wood close enough and then the mill would be taken down and moved. There were no fork lifts at these small mills, so when the trucks to haul away the cross ties came to pick up a load we were with them to do the loading. The ties had to be thrown up and onto the beds of the trailers. The weight of the ties depended on the size they were cut and the type of wood they were made from. The lightest ties took two people to throw onto the trailers and the heaviest took four people. No matter what size, there were two people on the trailer stacking the ties. Of course it was dangerous, but no one got hurt except for a mashed finger or two when caught between the ties while stacking them.
Of course, I did this work mainly in the summers because I was in school the rest of the year and boy, was it was hot when we worked. At one mill the trailer had to be placed close to a pile of tailings that were being burned. Besides the heat of summer we had the heat from the fire to work in. When we pulled out from the mill the tail light covers on the trailer were melted. After work that hard for an hour or so with the temperatures that high, there is nothing as good as a cool drink of water. We have all types of fancy drinks now, but when I am that hot; cool, cool water is the best. When we were older the boss would buy us a beer if the work day was over. We thought the beer was as good as the water, but we were just young men trying to be “grown up”. Water is the best.

I hope I don’t have to work that hard again, but we had fun then. It was just a group of friends out making a little spending money having a good time. Most the time was spent traveling to and from the mills. Sometimes we would ride on the trailers. Going they would be empty. Headed home they would be loaded. We had a lot of fun. Oh, by the way, we each were paid $2 a load.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mistake continued 2

When I was about twelve years old, I was allowed to go to the swimming hole with my friends. During the mornings I would do the work assigned for me to do in and around the house. The afternoons I would go to the creek for some relief from the heat and there play with my friends. Actually, we tried to get to the road that went to the creek by noon to catch a ride with some one going that way. We had about a mile to walk to get to the road and if we got there after one pm we would usually would have to walk another two miles to the creek. Often if we missed a ride we wouldn’t go.
The water in this creek was colder than the other creeks around because it was narrower with large trees all along the banks keeping the sunshine from the water. As hot as the days were when we jumped into the water it was shock to our bodies. We adjusted to the cold water quickly by jumping. Wading in was tough.
Even though this creek was smaller than the other creeks, it had a small deep hole in which we could swim and play. The reason the hole was there was that sometime in what was for me was the distant past a small electric generating plant had been built there. That is what I was told. There were signs in the soap stone where heavy timbers had been anchored. The swimming hole was known as “The Light Plant”.
Having soap stone in the creek, there was a water fall. The water made a strait drop for three to four feet. In front of the falls there were always rocks that I would estimate being two to four feet in diameter. I would sit at the bottom and in front of the main water flow over the falls, put my feet on one of the large stones and lock my knees to brace myself against the current which was very strong. The water would be roiling all over and around my body. Because of the strong current I would be getting a complete body massage all at once with the addition of the tingling over all my skin caused by the air bubbles that had been taken into the water as it splashed over the falls. I have yet to find a whirl pool or Jacuzzi that would even begin to compare with that experience. Steamy hot Mississippi days, cold water and a massage, only through hindsight did I realize what a wonderful experience I was having.
The next summer I was allowed to stay the night at the creek if I was caught up with my work at home. One of my friends and I stayed two or three nights a week at the creek. We would take a couple of sandwiches for supper. If we took anything for breakfast it would be a couple of eggs, some bacon and bread. Cook the bacon. Use the bacon grease to cook the eggs. Put the eggs and bacon on the bread for a sandwich. It was a good breakfast and all that was needed was a skillet and a fork. An old sheet was all that I took for sleeping. Spread it on the ground and lay down. If I got a little chilled, I would pull the part of the sheet that I was not sleeping on over me. Lying on my back looking at all the stars, listening to the sounds of the night, it was joyful. Sleeping on the ground at my present age sound very uncomfortable. The water was cold when we got there in the afternoons, but it was extra cold at six in the morning. I don’t think I would enjoy getting in that cold water first thing in the morning now either.

It was not unusual for other friends to stay with us. There was one guy; I can’t remember his name that spent several summers in or around that small town. He was older. He had a driver’s license. One summer he showed up in an old Cadillac. It was six, seven, maybe eight years old. We were at the creek one night and it started raining. There were five or six of us there that night. We all ran for his Cadillac. That night we slept in his car. During another night he was telling us he wanted a convertible. We didn’t think much about it but the next time we saw him the top was gone. He had taken a hack saw and cold chisel and cut the top off his car. All things considered it looked pretty good, but there was no converting to it.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

"Mistake" Continued

About April or May, I would start “going barefoot”. The weather was warm and sometimes hot by then and having no shoes on helped us to stay a little cooler and I have always enjoyed the feel of different textures on the soles of my feet. Once I started, I wore shoes only on special occasions. The bottoms of my feet would get so calloused that I could run on gravel and not get bruised.
Early one summer (I thought summer started around the end of April because of the heat) a friend and I decided to walk the railroad tracks to a small creek. At that time a creek that small we called a branch. We had already started “going barefoot” but our feet weren’t as tough as they would get later in the summer. In walking railroad tracks there are two surfaces that are reasonable to walk on. One surface is the cross ties that the rails are on. The other is the rock that is between the cross ties. Being barefoot and our feet not calloused, we walked on the creosoted cross ties. We had a nice walk to the creek and enjoyed our stay there, but by the time we made it back to the house the soles of our feet were burning. We had chemical burns the soles of our feet from walking on the creosote. I have had my skin burned by the sun many times in my life, but that is the only time the soles of my feet have been burned.
We didn’t start school until sometime in the middle of September and we got out sometime in April through the fourth or fifth grade. We went only eight months out of the year so the children could help their parents with the farm crops. For the first and last part of the school year we were allowed to attend school “barefoot”. It was nice feeling the dusty ground and grass with the soles of my feet as we ran around the play ground.