Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Things Sure Do Change
Some of my fondest memories in life are the sleepovers when I was a kid at the Montgomery farm in the Crowell Community outside of Reynolds. Stan Montgomery was my childhood friend and classmate. We would roam the woods and investigate whatever we happened to find. I remember even sleeping on top of a wagon full of cotton one night. I also remember a large bell in the yard that would be rung to let everybody know when lunch was ready. Being a “city” boy (I use that word very loosely), I had the opportunity to experience a way of life that was different and much fun.
On most of my weekend visits to Crowell, we would eventually visit Stan’s grandparents. Actually both sets of his grandparents lived in the Crowell Community and really just down the road. You talk about a community made up of folks with generational relationships – Crowell was surely one of them.
I suppose because my focus was on playing with Stan at their farm and appreciating the fun at the moment, I was older before I really began to appreciate the wonderful way of life of folks like his grandparents, Lonnie and Sallie Mae Pierce. But I did see it. And I guess you can say to some degree I tasted it.
Sometimes I wish I could, as an adult, go back in time for just one day and sit under that big ole pecan tree in the Pierce’s yard and have a long chat with them about their simple life. Maybe we could shell some butterbeans as we chat. Or maybe I could get Mr. Lonnie to teach me how to peel a peach in one piece without breaking the peel. Or better than that, maybe we could sit around the table as we talk and partake of the feast that was always on that table. And before I was transplanted back to 2009, I would have to have a piece of Miss Sallie Mae’s fresh ‘nanna pudding that always seemed to be in a bowl big enough to look like it was meant for the school cafeteria. And somehow I would have to save room for a bite of her blackberry pie and maybe a couple of bites of her famous strawberry shortcake.
I can tell you I would leave very full from the abundance of freshly cooked farm food and over the top southern hospitality. I would also leave with much more wisdom than I have today.
To give you a little background, Lonnie Pierce was born a few years before the turn of the twentieth century. His wife, sweetheart, soul mate and best friend, Sallie Mae, was a few years younger. They produced five incredible children, four of which are still living – and had a wonderful life together for 60 years.
I know all their children and I am quite certain they are among the richest folks I know. The currency deposited in their accounts by their parents that made them so rich had nothing to do with money, although to my knowledge none of them have ever wanted for anything. But the currency consisted of much more important things such as hard work, honesty, integrity, selflessness, politeness, more hard work, laughter, commitment to God, commitment to the local church, commitment to the community, lovers of the land and soil, more hard work, close knit family, common sense, humility and more graciousness that you can shake a stick at.
They were simply made out of special fabric.
Mr. Lonnie never got sick or maybe he just refused to get sick. If he was feeling bad he would take a dose of mineral oil and keep going. He worked from early morning to sundown. One of the greatest compliments paid to him was from one of his former farm hands who said, “Mr. Lonnie was the hardest working white man I ever knew.”
But in spite of the relentless hard work - if you caught his eye, this man who did not have a curse word in his vocabulary, would raise his sweat stained straw hat to you.
The children remember the special treatment for their feet when they were cut from playing barefooted. Their mom would wash their feet in kerosene. The pain would increase but the healing would begin. They also remember the remedy for a dog getting bit by a rattlesnake. Take a tablespoon of cracked alum and mix it with two egg yellows and pour it down the dog’s throat. Both treatments worked very well, thank you.
Sallie Mae not only taught her girls to cook but also to sew… and fish. Chicken feed sacks made perfect dresses. And just because it started to rain didn’t mean it was time to stop fishing.
They grew whopper watermelons, the best tasting tomatoes you ever tasted, huge turnip roots, butter beans, squash and just keep naming. They drank milk from their own cows, ate their own chickens and ate sausage and bacon from their own hogs. They also shared the fruits of their labor with their neighbors. In fact, Sallie Mae was not only quick to share her vegetables, but she was known to delight in delivering butter beans to her neighbors - shelled, washed and ready to cook.
Sallie Mae suffered from asthma most all her life. One of the sons remembers leaving for school one morning and wondering if his mom would be alive when he got home because of the difficulty she was having breathing. He kneeled by a light pole on that particular morning facing the east and prayed that God would make his mama better. As a young boy, he saw a vision in the eastern sky as he bowed to pray that morning. When he got home that afternoon she was feeling great and was like a new person. He has been a believer ever since.
After all the kids were grown and married, they decided to pool their money and build their parents an inside bathroom. The children and their spouses came to the house to see the finished product and celebrate the occasion. When one son in law and his wife drove up that afternoon, Mr. Lonnie and his three sons were in the back yard cooking fish in a new Coleman cooker using the tailgate of his pickup truck as a table.
Mr. Lonnie greeted his son in law with this comment, "You know 'Billam,' we raised five wonderful children in this house, and we're proud of each one. We cooked inside and went to the outhouse, outside - now, here I am cooking outside and now we go to the toilet inside - things sure do change, don't they?"
Things sure do change.
But Lonnie and Sallie Mae Pierce and their family did just fine before they did.