Reminiscing – August 2017
By Bill Shepard
August is here, bringing memories from away back when. Has anyone noticed how fast time seems to be passing by? The older I get, the faster time seems to move and the slower I move. How would you define the word…time? Now that’s an interesting question! Someone said that time is the stuff that life is made of. If that is true and I believe it is, then time is our most precious commodity and the one we waste the most!
Someone wrote the following lines and I’m not sure who it was; they have been in my possession for a long, long time; they should be a reminder for each of us. Here they are….
“I have a tiny little minute,
Only sixty seconds in it,
Forced upon me, didn’t choose it,
I must suffer if I lose it.
Just a tiny little minute, but
Eternity is in it!”
Enough said about that, I’ve strayed from what I started out to write about, I’ll try again. August, with its hot and humid days are upon us. Thank God for air conditioners, electric fans, refrigerators, electricity, and the money to pay the electric bill when it comes each month! Only those who can remember a time when those items were not available know how to appreciate them. I remember! Imagine facing the hot and muggy days in August without the comforts we now enjoy at the flip of a switch on the wall.
I can recall as a boy following the ice-man through the village and gathering up small chips of ice that were made when he cut the large block of ice into smaller pieces. I think the kind old man made some extra chips on purpose to fill little hands that reached up to him. A nickel or a dime’s worth of ice would last a long time when wrapped with a piece of heavy cloth material. A glass of iced tea would be a welcomed addition to any meal.
August, when I was a boy was noted for an extra invasion by mosquitoes, gnats, and flies! With windows raised high and no screen windows, the above tormentors were free to enter at will! There was always an epidemic of the dreaded “sore eyes” that happened as certain as the month of August rolled around! Miss Fellows, the village nurse would be busy treating the children whose eyes would be infected by the dreaded disease. Ask anyone who suffered through a season of the sore eyes and they will agree few things could be worse! I’ve written about them and how I and other members of my family suffered with them, so I’ll move on to things more pleasant.
August was the time for picking cotton! The fields on the farms near the village would begin to show white and I and the other village children would have a watchful eye on them. Just a mile or two or three away, the rich farm lands owned by some wealthy farmers would be reaching harvest time. The children of the village would welcome the chance to earn some spending money, this writer included. Unlike today, the cotton was picked by hand and the process of gathering the cotton required picking the cotton as it opened. A field would require picking over three or four times during one season. The price paid for picking the cotton ranged from as little as twenty cents per hundred pounds picked to forty cents. We were lucky to have someone pay the top amount. As hard as the work was, I can truly say that I enjoyed cotton picking time!
The farms where I worked as a boy began just beyond where the mill village ended. The Smith farms, reached along the old Hartsville highway, along Smith Avenue, both east and west and north a ways. The W. P. Law farms began where the Smith farms ended and reached to the large W. P. Laws plantation farther on.
My clearest memories of picking cotton were made at the farm of Mr. And Mrs. Thomas Broach, one of W. P. Law’s share-croppers. As soon as the cotton boles began to open the village children would show up ready to pick cotton. Mrs. Broach would fit each child with a pick-sack and show us the field where we were to begin picking. Each evening Mr. Broach come to the field and weigh each person’s pickings. Saturdays were paydays! We would meet at the old courthouse on the square and receive our earnings. Not much, but a little went a long ways and made a lot of good memories.
A letter this week came from Mrs. Dorothy Martin, a life-long Darlingtonian. Dorothy’s father was owner of one of the farms mentioned in the above article. Dorothy writes that the site where the old mill once stood looks better since the recent clearing. Thanks a bunch for staying in touch!
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”. His mailing address for cards and letters is: Bill Shepard 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, S.C., 29673.