Remembering an Old Friend!
By Bill Shepard
Happy Birthday, old friend! You have reached another milestone on your journey, and I joiun with many others in cheering you on! Take a quick backwards glance, have a fun-filled day and move on! I pray you will have smooth traveling, but keep an eye out for the bumps in the road! There probably will be some!
Heyward Gainey is a lifelong resident of Darlington, and will celebrate his 94tgh year of living in Darlington on February 6. Needless to say, he has beaten the odds! Happy Birthday, my friend, I wish you many more!
Heyward Gainey is among the very few that this writer can sit down with and reminisce about the happenings of our childhood together! That time dates back to more than fourscore years, wow!
Heyward and I sorta grew up together. We lived in houses that stood side by side on the same street, and on that part of the old mill village that was often referred to as “Over the creek”. Heyward’s dad and my dad had been friends before moving to the villiage early in the 1920’s. Both had been poor dirt farmers, called share-croppers. They had moved to Darlington to work at the big mill, known as the Darlington Manufacturing Company? Heyward and I, being almost the same age, became close friends.
When the big flood occurred in 1928, Mr. Gainey was one of the men who came to help the Shepard’s move to higher ground. Devastation caused by that flood can be seen in the Pictorial History of Darlington County by Horace Rudisill. I remember well the scene of destruction pictured on pages 76-77. The little house where this writer lived was spared when the railroad embankment gave way, allowing the water to flow through. It was a scary time for a six year old.
On long summer days, their work day at the mill being over, Keyward and his dad would often pay a visit to the Shepard’s house. The two men would sit on the porch and reminisce about their days back on the farm. Heyward and I would have a seat nearby. I think some of the stories that were told were made up, and meant especially for Heyward and me…and especially the ghost stories!
I have written before how the two men would negotiate over the price of the T-model Ford that Mr. Gainey owned and wanted to sell to my Dad. Mr. Gainey was asking twenty dollars for the car, but Dad wanted to buy it for eighteen dollars! I think they were just keeping their horse swapping skills alive. Anyway, Dad bought the car, and Mr. Gainey bought another one that was similar.
There isn’t space to write about all the stories that Heyward and I could share about our early years on the mill village in Darlington. The world was a much different place then than now. The old village where we spent many happy times together is now just a memory. Many of the houses that once stood, are now gone. Those standing are reminders of a time long past! On a recent drive through the village I relived memories of the village when I was younger! Today the narrow streets go lacking for the sound of laughter, and small feet to run up and sown them. They are no longer filled with happy children at play, as they were when Heyward and I joined in that number, long ago.
In spite of the harshness of the times, Heyward and I made our own fun. We made our own kites and sailed them in the skies above the village. We made our own balls and bats, and played ball in the open fields and pastures. We made our own slingshots and with our pockets filled with rocks from the nearby railroad track, we went in search of the small game that was plentiful in the thick forest nearby.
In the summertime, we waded and swam in the cool waters of Swift Creek, and with a short cane fishing pole in hand, we traveled well worn paths along its banks, stopping here and there to fish a while. If one of us said to the other, “Get a wheel!” we meant just that! We rolled a wheel or an old worn car tire nearly everywhere we went. We often had contests to see whose wheel or tire would roll the fastest. Of course, the speed of the wheel was determined by how fast the one pushing it could run!
Now it is your turn, old friend. To give your version of the tales I have told. I wish I was there with you now to hear them. I can almost hear you saying, “Bill, remember when,” and we are off to a place, time, and event that happened long ago! Thanks old friend for the memories!
Note: Heyward’s Dad moved back to the farm and after making a few visits there, our lives led in different directions. Years passed and then our paths crossed again. Now in our old years, we enjoy the times we can visit, and share the memories made long ago.
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. and 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