19. November 2004 · Comments Off on The Night The Lights Went ON in Georgia: Part I · Categories: General

The year was 1944. War raged over Europe, and Americans were fighting not only that devastating conflict, but also a bloody Island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. It was a struggle to the death, and no one was sure at first that we would win; our way of life, our very civilization, was on the line. And there were no lights, or other modern conveniences in our house, just some 20 miles from where I now sit. But I knew nothing of all this. My world was rather small, as was I. In late 1944, I was still only around 18 months old, and my joys were primarily such things as pulling my puppy around in the bright red little wagon I had received for my birthday. One other happy pursuit was to sit in Mama’s kitchen and lick the spoon that she had used moments before to whip up a cake. Now, Mama made lots of cakes. We were a farming family and everyone worked hard, burning more calories in a day than most people burn in a week today. And everyone but me and Mama would be out in the fields during the day – with the exception of Junior, who, at the age of 16, had gotten Daddy to sign for him to join the Navy. He might could have gotten in without Daddy’s signature, he was a strapping, big farmboy who had muscles hardened by years of hauling around a plow behind a cantankerous old mule named Fred.

On Christmas day of that year, I received a present that was wonderful beyond my wildest dreams. A shiny new red tricycle! Now, for anyone in families like ours, the arrival of a new tricycle was a momentous event. We were, you see, sharecroppers. At least Daddy was. We would usually recieve only one present – that is, if we got ANY! The house we lived in was not ours, but the landlord’s, however we could live there as long as Daddy made crops and provided income for the man who owned our farm land. And Daddy was a good, no, a prodigious farmer. I never, as long as he lived, saw him fail to have a good harvest. Of course, sometimes we thanked God for a great crop, and then again, sometimes it was a battle against nature all the way. But we lived, we got by somehow, and here it was Christmas and I had a shiny new tricycle!

Tricycles are not meant to be stared at, so of course I learned right away how to ride the thing, and soon I had mastered all the secrets of advanced tricycle riding. By late spring of 1945, I was convinced that I was the all-time champ of pulling my little red wagon behind that tricycle, all around the neatly-swept fenced-in yard that encircled our big, old, unpainted house. Junior had been home on leave – they called it “furlough” in those days – and he had left again after only a couple of weeks, back to his mysterious Navy duties. I was outside playing as hard as I knew how, when the idea of the century struck me. I had, among other neat treasures in my pocket, three pennies, and all that money was burning a hole in that pocket. It needed to be spent, and I was just the fellow to do that! I knew then what I HAD to do. I would go to town and buy some candy for all those folks out in the fields! Moving quickly to set off on my journey, I untied the hapless wagon, it would have to stay behind for this trip: town was about 7 miles away, and I wanted to be home before dark.

This is how it came about that I left the safety and security of the yard, to go into the big city of Lumber City, a trip down a dangerous dirt road that would bring me nearly face-to-face with a huge rattlesnake, within only yards of a monstrous mudhole in the road where an old alligator had taken up residence, and thankfully, rescued by shocked neighbors who returned me home to a horrified mother. That part of the story will be continued later, in part 2 of “The Night The Lights Went ON in Georgia.”

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