Well, Mable got mad at me because I wouldn't tell him that she already had another beloved in John Ashworth, but I didn't anyway. Anyway, he took me down home with him one weekend. He lived way down on Big Creek where Big Walkers Creek got to be a pretty good-size stream.
We got out there and caught a bunch of what we call red eyes, rock bass, small hand-size fish. We caught about a half a dozen or more of them, and he fixed up a trout line with a rock on one end and about eight or ten hooks on it and tied one end over to the bank and threw the other end out across the creek and the next morning, went down and had about a three pound catfish. It was really good, too, because it was fresh water there; there was no mud about it. And we cooked it and ate it.
We didn't lose entirely by having to make our own playthings. I'd have to make rabbit traps and made darts. We'd trim out darts shaped something like the darts you sell, only longer, and a longer, flat tail at the end. We threw them off of a pole. We'd take a fishing pole, you might say. Our fishing poles we cut out of the woods, trimmed poles, but we'd tie a short string, about 10 inches long, on the tip end of the pole, and on the dart, near where it balanced, we'd stick the knife in or cut it in until we could pull the string through the place we'd cut in the dart, take it back over our head like a man making a cast out on the river for big fish, you know. And sling that dart and send it across the sky for two or three hundred yards sometimes. We could throw it a long ways.
When we'd be working at the sugar camp at night, it would be dark, we'd make one of those and light the tail and throw it off of the side of the ridge across the valley, and it looked for all the world like a meteor going across the sky. The sling shots, the winding around and round and the throwing of these darts could only be performed out in country where there was plenty of room and no one that we might hurt.
We did make gravel shooters. We were able to get the rubbers for making these gravel shooters at Miller Thompson's store. He would get the big rubber bands -- we'd try to get as wide ones as we could and rather long ones. We could get them nearly an inch wide, and take two of 'em, and tie 'em together at one end with a piece of metal in between where we held the little stones or "bullets". We'd practice with them so that we could do some damage with them. Peery frequently would kill a rabbit with this gravel shooter, and he shot old man Bart Kitts on the top of the head -- old bald-headed Bart Kitts -- with a small bullet. He said it was very small. But it was large enough to have done some damage. Anyway, we had to hide the gravel shooter in the hay and everybody be innocent. Then, he came up to the barn after us at thrashing time.
Well, we made everything. Sometimes, we'd make tops out of spools. When Mother had emptied the thread off of a spool, we'd cut it from both ends in to the middle till we cut it all in top shape, and then put a stick through the hole in the middle of the spool and sharpen it and spin it, and we'd spin it quite well.
And we knew how to take a spool or two and put a stem through the middle and make wonderful soap bubble blowers. My sister and I would spend hours blowing bubbles, and I still like to blow bubbles. I like to see 'em float off in the air with the distant colors. I never had been anything but a baby anyway. I like to make bubbles now.
You'll have to pardon my talking so much about myself. I guess I am self-centered. But the universe that I know sort of revolves around me.
Well, I wish I could have carried you with me, though, as I was studying our family. One thing I became very much surprised about and interested in, was the way in which the people in the old times married. My great-great-grandfather and his brother married two sisters, and my grandfather Bruce and two of his brothers married three sisters, and I find that was the practice of many families -- for brothers to marry sisters. They seemed to know when they had found a good thing.
I guess there's no way to avoid being tied up with most of my memories. I remember very well when my mother took me beside her in a one-horse buggy and drove across Brushy Mountain to Hicksville to attend a church meeting. I guess the distance was about 15 miles but going across those Brushy Mountains, there were a lot the of hills and valleys -- or hollows, rather -- to go through.
But it seemed to me that we went around and around and around until we got to the top of the mountain and around and around and around and around until we got down to the other side. I tried my best to figure out how that could happen, but it did. I never could exactly figure it out. But I do remember to this day as we came back across the mountain, Mother singing out loud as we were going up the mountain, and how it'd ring in the mountain, (sings) "We shall gather at the river, the beautiful, beautiful river. Yes, we'll gather at the river." I remember that. I can hear her singing. It was beautiful, you know.
We weren't an especially musical family. I guess Mother had most of it, though sister Maude sang fairly well. But the rest of us couldn't. I didn't think I could play a French horn. And when I was camping out and was desperately in love with a girl Marsette (?), they wanted me to play the French horn while she danced with other boys, and I didn't want to do it. I don't think I did it very long.
I was able quite young to marvel at the difference in people. My father, if he made anything in the world, it had to be made just nearly perfect. If he built a fence, it had to be straight. If he made a chicken coop, it had to be like a piece of furniture. And Uncle Frank Petree, if he made a chicken coop, the chickens wouldn't stay in it. And if he built a gate, it'd fall down before he could get it up. Why they were that way I never knew. But people are born different; there's no question about that.
In the old house in which I was born, there was a bureau with a bookcase on top of it. And my father said he remembered when his father had the wall boards sawed up . . . (long gap in recording)
. . . and the little bell was tinkling as she came in and tinkling as she left, and I knew it was really Santa Claus, and that was all that mattered. Such a sweetheart.
Well, I suppose it is time I turned this recorder off and sent it and all the records I have messed up back to you. I have put too many "I's" in it, and I can't very well think without using the big "I" any more.
I used to be a confirmed optimist, but now I don't know whether I am an optimist any longer or not. I don't see how conditions can get much worse than they are today without blowing the lid off. And that may happen at any time. The next world war, and we may be in the suburbs of it now, if a war has a suburbs. Excuse my metaphor.
But if we judge by the preliminaries, things are going to really be bad when we get in the midst of this war. If anybody comes out, his skin won't be worth tanning.
No sir, I cannot well be an optimist any longer. I used to think we were going forward. I know that science has made leaps and bounds in my lifetime. I do not wish to go back and destroy these bounds, but I wonder if the people in the world have sense enough to use the discoveries of science wisely and not unwisely.
The love of money is the root of all evil, so they say. And I don't see how anybody can help but believe it today. They certainly have a lot of evil from some source in the world, I guess it's coming from the love of money.
So, I guess I'll leave the prognoses and the prophesies to you. You who are younger, maybe you see brighter days ahead. They shouldn't be harder to make brighter than they are. I myself am not at all proud of our present administration. I'm not proud of many of the highly successful money makers, and I'm not proud of the way we are handling our world affairs any more than the way we are handling our national affairs, but I must admit that I haven't a desirable recipe for the future to cook its meals by.
Anyway if there's anything I have said that will amuse you, I'd rather hear you laugh than to hear you weep. I would love to meet some of the young people who are related to me. I hear so many good things about them. I hope that they -- you who are hearing this recording -- I hope that you can help solve some of the problems. There is a solution. There is no reason why a race should commit suicide. But from my reading of the history of the earth, most organisms have had their periods and have passed. There was the day of reptiles; it passed. And there were different days and different periods. And I fear that the day of man is a period that will come to an unholy end. It's not necessary if we control the advice and the wisdom of the great scientists. The future could be good. But if we follow the politicians and the money makers, I am a___ (recording ends)
copyright 2001-2005 Lawrence J. Smith