By A.H. Watson
Most dreams, both the reasonable and obtainable, as well as those well beyond the highest hopes of man, usually come early in life.
Some dreams become the path trod for a lifetime and last until man's soul again co-mingles with the Universe?. Some have led to the greatest victories of man over nature and increased man's health or made life less hard for all mankind - but that is not the norm.
Most dreams are so small and easily met they remaininsignificant. Other dreams, so vast they dwarf the intended vessel, are abandoned early.
There are those psychologists who postulate that humanity, happiness, and mental health depend to a large degree upon just how well, and with what level of understanding man treaties with his dreams.
One knows people at forty years of age who still harbor dreams far above their ability to achieve.
A number of years ago there was a man in a small Georgia town that felt, and told others, with a small break here or there - he could have been another Clark Gable.
There was continued question in town and around the pot-bellied stove whether the dear man couldn't see or even his mother had not told him of the wart on his nose? the size of a dime!
Around the same stove most days sat a man called "Pig" a name he had earned his freshman year in high school in which he had lettered as center on the football team? playing barefoot!
Certain to make All State, and surely a college scholarship to follow, Pig had not returned to football the next year as the school required (under the new rules) that he wear shoes.
Pig went on to become a failing tenant farmer; he even bragged about specializing in those crops the Government paid farmers not to grow.
His answer when asked was always the same?" I mostly don't grow corn, some cotton and plenty of "tobacky." I wants to get into peaches? but they take so long to not grow."
Pig would always end with a giggle then spit juice into the sand box next to the stove ? as the real farmers sat mute; no doubt thinking dark thoughts to themselves about Pig.
H & T Timber Associates
All young people dream about having sufficient money of their own, of buying what they wish? not what adults wish for them. It may be their desire for ice cream or even a fine shotgun for their dad.
It would take a great deal for me to not believe, that deep down in the secret mind, most children's real reason for such dreams is the desire, for once ? to tell other people, (other adults) what to do - to finally be the boss!
Timmy and Henry had grown up in a time adults allowed children to be children, but yet treating them as adults not sheltered from the rigors of daily life? when necessary.
Both of the boys had listened to many business accounts at the store and in the evening at home. It was only natural, as the boys perceived need for money increased, their minds worked at ways to meet that need.
"Mr. Tim," as a signal of their growing plans, the boys had started referring to each other as "Mr. Tim & Mr. Henry."This was, of course, only between themselves, among others they would have naturally been kidded unmercifully.
"Yes, Mr. Henry."
"Have you taken under advisement the suggestion we form a company? If we are to ever get the money to go to a Atlanta Cracker game by train, I cannot see our asking Poppa or your dad for the money."
"They are bringing county water down our street next month, Henry. I want to get a water heater for my mom for this winter. You think the firewood will get enough for us to do both?" Timmy had responded.
"Mr. Tim?. everybody else that starts a company makes plenty of money. By fall we can do what we want?. Maybe even skip school. We might not have time."
"That may be all right for you Hen?ah? Mr. Henry, but there ain't enough firewood in this here county for my ma and grandmother to let me skip school."
Timmy's mother and her mother ran the household. Tim's daddy traveled cutting pulpwood. He was often gone for weeks at a time. Looking back, it may have been the fact that neither Timmy nor Henry had a father around that kept them close, at least until Henry left for military school several years later.
While thinking back to those days, let me try to explain the powerful, yet sometimes hard to understand, relationships between blacks and whites in the South at that time. I can only speak of my family and those with whom we kept company.
White trash - those that did no or little work, despised blacks because deep down they knew the average black in the south was a better person. Trash NEEDED someone to hate and consider below them on the rung of life.
In a way this same feeling slipped over into the work areas where whites and blacks competed. But this was far from all such situations as many blacks and whites worked together in friendship much as today ? in fact, more so than you see today in many places.
You see - most of the jobs shared by both white and black were jobs outdoors in the heat of summer. The black, stronger on the average and much more accustomed to working in the heat at least genetically, far out showed the whites doing similar jobs.
Over years of slavery the black had learned, that in the flaming heat of a southern summer, work must be measured and slow or? the body would fail. As the white flailed away in the heat, his excuse for failure became that the black was slow and did little work. Like all humans this was true of some blacks, which led to the standard belief that blacks were lazy and hard to work.
In Jonesboro of the 1940's it was pretty much "go along-get along." Lower class whites put blacks down; the middle classes worked with and, if anything, were too paternal. The three or four upper class such as the cotton mill owner Mrs. Hutchinson looked down on everybody - white and black alike.
Timmy and I would sleep together in the woods; at his house, and some few times at mine. Grandfather rightfully worried that if the tenant farmers knew of this they would take their trade to Griffin some twenty miles distant, causing the store a financial loss that could not be recovered. Timmy and his family understood this situation.
Not only was poppa not a racist he would often stand in front of the stove over winter and tell his friends that he had never lost one dime extending credit to the black tenant farmers in the district. He said not one black had ever tried to cheat him out of payment as the white trash did weekly; that the only losses he had ever experienced from blacks had been due to death or the damn bo - weevil.
H&T Companies - The Firewood Division
Mr. Tim and Mr. Henry organized the company with Henry head of marketing and Mr. Tim head of operations. They planned to share the position of CEO on a bi-weekly basis.
A friend had received a semi-toy printing press for Christmas and had promptly traded it to Timmy for the return of 50 of his own marbles; this of course, included his two favorite aggies? the boy wasn't a complete fool!
Henry provided the paper for the business cards having lifted it from his grandmothers religiously hoarded fine notepaper. The cards turned out well?that is if one could getby the light purple hue and the faint smell of gardenias.
Much like the race thing being misunderstood, most city folks consider small towns to be little more than a cesspool of small-minded gossips. It is categorically untrue.The populations of small towns live with, at best, only "three degrees of separation."
Everyone in town grew up with; married; is kin to; does business with; or dislikes ? every other single person in the city limits. Nothing is, or could ever be unknown. And so it was with the new giant cartel of the kindling trade.
The two boys met and intended a trip up town to visit their money and to meet the head of the bank. The money was primarily that deposited for them by Mr. Carnes the Christmas before, as a gift for work well done.
Looking at the two of them it was apparent that meeting one's intended banker with a hole in one's britches, as in the case of "Mr. Tim," or with white tennis shoes, now a sorry brown, would not stir confidence in the new empire.Henry kept their shoes while Timmy went home to change clothes.
Still working over the shoes, Henry heard Timmy long before he reached the bench next to the wash pot.
"What on earth is that sound Timmy? You sound like Gene Krupa using the brushes on that Tuxedo Junction record."A few more "swishes" and Timmy responded, "You know my granny when she starches something ? it stays starched. I had to use a butter knife to get the legs open enough to get my legs started."
Henry looked up. Timmy was standing there in clean overalls washed to a light blue but with a sharp edged pleat running from Timmy's calf to his breast, well past the normal belt line. Standing there barefooted, Henry thought, damned if Timmy didn't look like an accordion that had been partially opened.
"Timmy, our tennis shoes were so filthy, lye soap did little more than spread the dirt around? so I have soaked them in Clorox for the last twenty minutes."
Shoes rinsed and partially dry, they were almost white except for the light yellow that now colored the rubber bindings and soles. Henry then marched the entire management team to the town barber shop and stood a 25 cent haircut for both budding corporate officers.
Living high off the new corporate hog, Henry even stood for additional 5 cent slugs of hair tonic for both. Seeing the richness of his new customer base, Joe, the barber, added several more "scugs" and "glorks" of tonic. Customers could always tell if they were being short changed in tonic by the unique sound a bottle of hair oil made as it was applied.
Even first time customers, such as the boys, knew the sound from watching the mysteries of the adults receiving a shave or haircut Saturday mornings; though both boys had been surprised to see that bowls were not first used to guide the scissors.
Shoes glistening in the sun; hair slicked down with a goop that could be tracked upwind in a force five gale; seemingly followed by a military band counting cadence to the sound of a snare drum tattoo, the boys entered the cool interior of the bank.
The Bank of Jonesboro was not a Federal Bank nor State but rather a County Bank. Its capital and reserves were for the most part the assets of the Hutchinson clan and the good will of the local depositors.
The bank did share marble floors much as the Bank of Morgan or most banks for that matter. The Jonesboro floors, however, were those white 6-sided tiles found in drug stores at the turn of the century.
All but a few of the downtown stores, including the bank, shared common thick brick walls. The Bank shared walls with Jonesboro Mercantile to the south and a furniture store on the north. Thirty feet wide and three times as deep?. the bank held no foreign debt or deeply discounted railroad bonds.
In spite of the Democrats closing all federally governed banks in the thirties in order to stop damaging bank runs by the depositors, the Jonesboro Bank never missed a day nor did the citizens of Jonesboro cast much worry about the strength of their bank. It was given that the Hutchinson family had more ready funds than the pittance held by each customer; or that given that need, the Hutchinsons would make good the deposits of the local families.
There are many valuable results of the complex nature that exists in small town personal relationships, but one was clear, no Hutchinson could let the bank fail and continue to hold their place or even live in the community.
The Hutchinson roots ran deep into the base rock of the town; to leave town - or to fail - would be a tragedy far worse than mere poverty. Each of the family knew this? in their hearts - the town knew it as well. People many times find fault, both real and unjust, with moneyed families, but when caught short never seem to mind the money itself.
On the right, as Henry and Timmy entered the bank, were two teller windows; facing them was the desk of the Assistant Manager; behind him, the door to President Sam Hutchinson's office. The banks normal staff was three: the President; his son Little Sam (presently on vacation in Cuba): and Miss Birdsong the teller and financial officer.
It was common knowledge that Miss Birdsong ran the bank. Even within the Hutchinson clan, "the two Sams," as they were known, would never be selected to cut butter.
Though the boys considered the dear lady ancient and near death, Miss Birdsong (age 32) quickly moved from the tellers' cage to the secretarial desk outside the President's office - a distance of some 20 feet.
Seeing the boys standing there like some Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell, Abigail Birdsong smiled to her self. How could you not love them for the evident effort they had made?
Fresh haircuts skinned far too high above the ears; clothes as proper as two boys could manage dressing themselves, and tennis shoes plainly used but so white they blended with the small white tiles of the floor.
Looking down it seemed if they had but one pair of socks and had decided to each wear one! A further look and it seemed that while one sock on each child stood tall the other had been eaten by the damp tennis shoes that upon further notice had left a damp trail from the door.
"Good morning boys, let me tell Mr. Hutchinson you are here for your appointment." Turning and knocking on his door, "Mr. Hutchinson, your 11 o'clock appointment is here."
Abigail noticed that Mr. Sam, though he had been in his vest and tie, had reached for his suit coat before he told her to tell them to enter. She thought to herself, "Well, I wonder if it is just force of habit or if he is giving these boys the respect they deserve."
Turning back to the front she told the boys he was ready for them. Again thinking to herself, "I?ll be damned? now they have four socks - they may just be smart enough to get in Ol'Sam's pocket yet!"
They had not asked for money at the bank. It had never occurred to them that they would need some, or that Sam had spent the entire preceding evening listing reasons he couldn't lend them any and had been mightily disappointed that they had not asked. So mad that he almost MADE them take some anyway!
The damp shoes continued to eat their socks every few blocks home where they then freed their feet to free range for the remainder of the day.
That same afternoon Henry made his first sales calls. His success had confounded even the optimistic production manager Mr. Tim. Ten calls had netted the Kindling Division ten pre-paid sales of weekly deliveries, by the next day the numbers had more than doubled; this alone should have suggested rain on the horizon.
The next day, borrowing heavily from his grandfather's store of axes, mauls, and wood saws, the production division, of which Henry now found himself to be fifty percent of the employees, began work.
Three small three foot pine trunks cut near to the ground had been all that the long afternoon produced?. A relative small amount of wood - weighed against the work required. The evening was used entirely in bringing the wood from the woods. The boys had learned early the true meaning of the words, "Dead Wood." Nothing lies "deader," and harder to move, than a pile of small granite gravel? unless it is a oil laden log deep in a pine forest? yards from even a field road.
For those that have never had the pleasure of gathering one's own Lighter Kindling, yet would like to show some knowledge about the matter - should you ever find yourself invited to gather wood with a friend or say an intended bow ? let me give you some basic necessary knowledge about the sport.
Visualize with me for a moment a typical mushroom as found in the local markets. Think of it as a substitute for the "lighter stumps" you shall seek. Place the mushroom with the rounded cap down on a flat surface; place your hand flat over the rounded part with the stem of the mushroom sticking up between your fingers.
That is what you seek, a stump in the woods with a contained root ball in which the smaller roots have rotted away and left a nice almost round ball of roots that can be dug.
The perfect roots will have a depression around the stump caused by the ground dropping when the lesser roots rotted thus leaving a large amount of heartwood that can be reached and cut with little actual digging. These types of stumps are not rare - but as science has proved ? they are only come upon when one is hunting deer or quail? never when seeking kindling.
The next day the boys walked the field road looking for lighter stumps. Across the drainage ditch, next to a rotted hog wire fence, at the edge of the woods they found a stump perfect to their needs; a stump long rotted, easy to access and perfectly sized to their limited ability to carry.
Even with near perfect conditions, it took the President and Marketing Manager most of the day to clear the stump, remove it from the ground and reduce about half of it to kindling. Resting in the shade, looking? and finding their efforts pleasing to themselves, they were somewhat startled by an unseen voice.
"You young fellows done a good job cutting my stump?. I'm much thankful that ornery job weren't left fer me?Last year I just never could git around to it? too damn much work - if yu'ask me."
"I sees you both get'n all riled up, but no never mind ? Once you crossed that rusted out fence line you's war' on my property and even two young uns knows what's private property. I'd thank you to just leave it for my wife and boy to fetch up to the house."
Timmy and Henry had been taught two things - they had to say "Yes Sir" and "Mam" to adults as well as be careful of other people's property.
Though young, both boys knew they were being cheated by a grown up - in that this was an act they had never experienced before - they had no words to defend their cause.
They had never seen the man now standing before them in town. His overalls were filthy and ripped asunder in many places. The places not ripped were polished and thin; the tiny copper rivets around the rear pockets rubbed flat with wear.
With disgust and some small fear, the boys gathered their tools and returned to Jonesboro.
To be continued?
©2007 A.H. Watson, all rights reserved.