When I was barefoot boy… continued
When I was a barefoot boy, there were no wars anywhere! If there were, I did not know about them. I did know that there had been one, a bad one! The folk I heard talk about it said it was bad! They called it World War One.
Some men that I knew would gather at the little store near our village and talk about the horrible things they had experienced in that war. Then they would talk about themselves and the other men that had served in the army during that war and couldn’t get any help from the government for doing so. They would talk about going to Washington to protest about it. I didn’t understand any of what they were talking about, but I would in later years. I did know that sometimes an old cripple man would come to our village selling something and saying he was an old veteran of war and asking for help. Sometimes they would have a sack of apples, or a box of pencils. Sometimes my Mama or Daddy would give them a small piece of money but never took an apple or pencil. I suppose most folks would do that. Everyone was poor when I was a barefoot boy, at least everyone that I knew, and I knew everyone on the village where I lived.
When I was a barefoot boy, all of the bad things happened in places far away. I suppose that folk that lived on our village were too busy helping each other to survive to do harm to them. It was a common thing when I was a boy to hear a knock at the door, and when I would answer, I would see a boy like myself and he would say, “Mama wants to borrow a cup of rice, or grits, or a bit of salt or sugar, and she will pay you back when she gets some.” If Mama had it, she would oblige. I never knew when I’d be knocking on someone’s door! That’s the way it was when I was a barefoot boy.
Like I said, when I was a boy my world was smaller and safer place to live than now. The bad things that happened were always a far ways off, and we didn’t know about them. We really didn’t live in fear of anyone! If a stranger appeared on the village, we were not afraid. We knew he was either lost and in search of someone, or hungry and wanting something to eat.
Folk didn’t lock their doors at night, much less in the daytime! If a man kept a gun in his house, it was used for shooting rabbits or squirrels to be used for food. My older brother had a rifle he used to shoot opossums with. Sometimes I would use it to shoot birds with, but most of the time I would use my slingshot. All of the boys on the village had a slingshot and knew how to use it. During the years when I was a barefoot boy, folk used birds, rabbits, and squirrels for food and were glad to have them. I can’t remember ever eating opossum, but I knew folk that did! They said there was nothing better than opossum cooked with sweet potatoes. I reckon if folk get hungry enough they will eat anything! Folk in America don’t know anything about that kind of hunger today, and we should all be thankful! I do wish that folk would use their guns to shoot wild things with, rather than people!
Like I said, my world was a safer place to live when I was a barefoot boy! Often during the hot summer nights I would sleep on our front porch, and on the floor. I wasn’t afraid of anybody harming me. I would spread one of Mama’s quilts over the floor and lie on it to sleep. It was much cooler than being on the inside with no fan in the house. I would be on one end of the porch, and often times an older brother would be on the other end. We didn’t need any protection but it would be comforting to know our dog, Pet, was sleeping nearby. If another dog or night creature came through the yard, Pet would let me know about it and chase them away.
When I was a barefoot boy and my world grew larger, it also grew meaner! I began hearing of happenings in New York, Chicago, and places that I read about in my schoolbooks. They didn’t bother me because I didn’t think they would ever happen in my world.
Time changes things, and I have lived to see many of those changes. Some for the better, some for the worse. One thing I know, much change has occurred since I was a barefoot boy! Now that I am old, I wear shoes everywhere I go. I like to reminisce about when I was a barefoot boy.
Note: Thanks to those who have written cards or letters!
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.