Thursday, July 22, 2010

Being Poor in a RIch Land

We were poor growing up. We never thought of ourselves as pitiful. We just did not know what money looked like. I know Mom and Dad saw some green money once in a while. I do not remember having any 'folding' money until I was grown. I did work for another farmer sometimes in my late teens and I think he paid me with some green money.

I remember one winter, a long time after Mom and Dad had their problems and were living apart. Us children were with Mom. The children always went with Mama. You can ask someone else why. I hope we did not choose. I cannot imagine choosing between them.

Anyway, back to that winter. We rented a big old house. It was two story and was apparently missed by Sherman. Mama used coal to 'heat' it. It was always toastee warm right in front of the fireplace if no one bigger pushed you aside. It was in that old, cold house that I sat at the table at night to finish high school. I only needed a credit and half after the 11th grade so I went to work and finished at home. I remember Mama waking me up in the morning at 4:30 to go to work. I was still at the kitchen table with my pencil in my hand trying to write something for English literature.

One winter it snowed just before the coal truck was suppose to come to the house. Mom would order a half a ton at a time which was enough to last until the truck got back to town. Well, it was cold. I tried to get my old '55 Ford station wagon out of the drive but the snow was too deep and my sister kept yelling from the front door that I was going to kill myself.

So, I set to thinking. We were about to freeze. A few weeks before a storm had blown down the barn out back (which Sherman also missed). It was a considerable walk to the barn. They had to do that to keep the cows and horses from stinking up the kitchen. Anyway, I put on all the clothes I had and some old boots and broke trail to the barn.

The others were hovered around the one fireplace we had going. I did not have a saw or ax but I tackled that fallen down barn like it was the enemy. Really, it was our best friend on that day. I walked back and forth for all that day trying to get ahead of the hungry flames. It was easier after a few times, once I got the snow tramped down. I kicked and stomped and and bent load after load of that rich pine wood.

I don't even remember how many days I did that or if it was more than one day. The coal truck came and life went on. I don't remember much about pain or being cold. I do remember the banks of snow on each side of my trail and the blazing fire that I did not get to warm by.

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