By Bill Shepard
I have spent a lot of time lately plundering among my plunder! I would wager that some of you readers haven’t heard the words plunder and plundering in a long time, if ever! Perhaps I should have said that I have been searching around in my clutter! We used a lot of words when I was a boy that are seldom heard these days. I am tempted to name some but for the sake of time and space, I will save them for another time.
While searching around in my clutter, it seemed I could hear my mama calling, “Bill, you better close that trunk and stop your plundering and get yourself here right now!” I knew that when Mama spoke with that tone of voice and used those words “right now,” she meant it!
I will be there “the reckley,” mill village talk meaning directly, I would answer and close the lid on my little trunk and hasten to the kitchen where I knew Mama was waiting. Mama spent a lot of her time in the kitchen, preparing meals for her family. When she was not in the kitchen, she could be found seated at the old Singer sewing machine sewing garments for her children to wear. Mama was always busy at something! She was a stay-at-homeroom, cooking, sewing, quilting; there wasn’t time for much more. Come summer, Mama would find time to help in planting and harvesting the vegetable garden that grew nearby.
I liked to plunder in my little trunk where I kept my plunder. The little trunk resembled the treasure chest that Long John Silver used to keep his treasure in. I read about Long John Silver in the book about Treasure Island, when I was a boy in school I have read the book several times since, and when the movie was made and I saw the treasure chest that the old pirate kept his gold, loot and plunder in, it reminded me of my little trunk!
l didn’t keep gold in my little trunk, but l did have a lot of treasures inside! For starters, I always had a tin snuffbox inside. I called it my money bank! I kept the money in it that I earned working on the nearby farms, picking cotton, working in tobacco, ploughing the fields with a mule or horse, and gathering peas and corn. During the summer and on into early fall, I could find a way to earn my spending money. Each week after being paid, I would go to town and buy the things I needed and wanted and the little that was left after my visit to town, I would put inside my snuffbox! My plan for that to be spent was when the County Fair came to Darlington, in early October. When the fair had come and gone, there wasn’t much need for the snuffbox, but I kept it until the next year. It became a part of my plunder! Long John Silver would have referred to it as his loot!
Among my treasures, there would be a roll of grocery twine, left over from my last kite that was used earlier that year. The kite was still blowing in the breeze at the top of a tall cypress tree in the nearby swamp, but the twine was in safe keeping until the next kite season. There would be a few marbles, a knife with one broken blade, a tin whistle attached to a chain, and as many as three St. Regis pocket watches that would not keep time! I bought one or more of the watches each year and when they stopped keeping time, I would purchase another. A dollar each at the dime store on the square was the cost. 1 never threw one away, even though I knew it couldn’t be fixed!
My little trunk was also the place where I kept my wardrobe! We did not have fancy pieces of furniture in which to keep our clothes, and closet space was limited in the small village houses. Of course, we didn’t have need for much space in the times of which I write.
I still have my little trunk! It has been mine for as long as I can remember and that is a long time. I think I should go downstairs. remove a lot of the plunder and see what I can find inside my trunk! I would almost wager that there is a slingshot, top, knife, and perhaps, an old watch that won’t keep time! Reckon?
Next time, Bill
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. He is the author of “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised”. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week. His mailing address for cards and letters is: Bill Shepard 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, S.C. 29673.