|George Buster Singleton|
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “A glance at bygone autumns” was originally published in the Oct. 24, 1996 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)
Cotton wagons rolling,
Hickory nuts falling,
Fox squirrels calling,
Wild geese flying,
Golden leaves flaring,
Bed covers airing,
Autumn has arrived.
As I have stated many times in my writings, I think the youth of our country has missed a lot by not growing up during the closing days of the Great Depression. A form of togetherness among the country families was something that has long since disappeared from the scene. There was a time when the community families would come together and perform tasks for those older members of the community or if there was sickness in a family, all the community would come together and do whatever work was necessary to keep their farms going. Since autumn is my favorite time of year, I would like to back-step in time and recall some of those good times that I remember as a child, and growing up in the country.
I can see them now, the mule drawn wagons loaded with cotton on their way to the cotton gin. This trip to the gin would begin before the crack of dawn. The wagons had been loaded the day before and just before the early dawn streaked the Eastern skies, the mules were harnessed and hooked to the ready wagons. A small boy of five was going to be allowed to make the trip to the gin this day, so he had already nestled in a fluffy load of cotton for the trip to the gin. This young boy would sleep almost all the way to the cotton gin located in the town of Sweet Water. As the wagon approached the small town, an older brother or father would awaken the sleeping youngster, so he wouldn’t miss anything as the wagon entered town.
Already the loaded wagons from various parts of the farm area would be lined up in place for their time to gin. The line of wagons would slowly move toward the gin as one by one pulled under the shed where a long large suction pipe was swung over and the cotton removed from the wagon. Many times, the wagons that had arrived late would wait in line for several hours, even into the late hours of the evening. A wide-eyed boy would listen to the tall tales of the wagon drivers and sit spellbound for hours as the stories broke forth in the gathering of farmers.
One of the highlights of the day’s trip was at lunch time. To be caught in the line at the gin at lunchtime was something to look forward to. A father or older brother would remove a nickel from his pocket and this small boy would race down the street to Lewis Brothers Store. Here, he would purchase a stick of peppermint candy that had peanut butter mixed inside. This nickel stick of candy would be about 10 inches long and about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. There was nothing in the whole world that tasted better to this country boy of five than this candy. Eating this large amount of candy would take about three or four hours, and sometimes it would last through the return trip home. The height of peace and contentment would be the return trip home during the late hours of the evening while laying on the cotton seeds or the heavy bagging folded up in the wagon bed. Life just couldn’t get much better than this as a small boy lay there, licking his candy stick of peppermint and peanut butter. Usually, the trips to the cotton gin were made around the middle of the week and sometimes on Saturday. The trips on Saturday were usually avoided, due to the many wagons that was always there. And too, most times there would be a community cookout on Saturday afternoons. And surely no one in their right mind wanted to miss this get-together.
As the farming community gathered by the large overflowing well for the Saturday meal and time of fellowship, plans were beginning to formulate for a wood-cutting and community corn-gathering for a less fortunate family down the road aways. A time was agreed on as to when the corn-pulling would take place. The wood cutting and splitting could wait until a later date due to the weather; it would be awhile yet before the fireplace would be needed to warm this country home.
As a five-year-old country boy, I always looked forward to this community get-together with its mouth-watering meals of potato and pumpkin pies, not to mention all that pecan candy and sweet cakes. These wonderful treats always showed up at these corn-pullings and wood-cuttings. The wonderful memories of these golden days of autumn will forever dwell in the mind of this country boy, always.
Ripe pumpkins glistening,
Coffee pots whistling,
Night stars brightening,
Golden corn rustling,
Corn harvesters hustling,
Autumn has arrived.
(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)