Barefoot Memories of a Hillbilly

The Hand that Built the Cradle

In his life, Pap had done many things to feed his young'ens, often working several jobs at once. He was primarily a small tobacco farmer, but ran sawmills- during and for a long time after the war. He drove a truck and hauled rock for road crews. He was a carpenter, a small farm dairy farmer, fired a steam boiler, broom maker, you name it, he'd do it if it meant putting a roof over head and food in his families mouth.

Pap was a quite man, and though he literally couldn't hear it thunder (from his many years as a saw mill man) spoke with a quiet voice. He had no vision in one eye (following a heart attack) and reduced vision in the other from retinal damage. He had a heart attack in his 60s following the end of baccer hanging season, and was left with enough heart damage that he had little stamina for the labor he'd done before. But he never gave up. With the help of Mom or one of us kids, he managed to do some gardening, firewood sawing and farm work and even some mechanic'ing. At first he could see well enough to use his hands and memory to do a lot of work, and as his eyes declined, we became his eyes and ears.

As he became less and less able to do labor, or jobs that required more sight than he had, he began giving himself chores and simple projects. He learn how to help mom to do laundry with the wringer washing machine, use the riding mower instead of his tracker, and he took up building miniatures from scrap wood. He would lie in bed at night working out designs he could do. He would cut his patterns, sand the pieces, assemble them with glue, pegs and clamps and mom would shellac the finished product. Then he and mom would duplicate the object 12 times, one for each of them and one for each of their 11 children. They made rocking chairs, plows, banjos, beds, wheat cradles, churns, stills, rolling pins, chairs, plows, sorghum mills and and a baby's cradle. Each piece crafted by a blind and octogenarian and his wife.

I have all my pieces, they are dear to my heart and to my soul. They were crafted by the love and persistence of two aging people who refused to give in or give up. They asked little from others and expected even less, but was always surprised by and thankful for the bounty they acquired. We should all be thankful for what we have, whether wealth, health or family, even if all you have IS all you have.

I wear shoes now, but sometimes I have barefoot memories.

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