Memories of the Thirties

Stop the clock this very minute!
Turn it back. Don’t let it run!
Turn it backward to our childhood,
To the years when we were young.

Leave the present for a moment
While we visit yesterday.
We’re just going for a visit,
Wouldn’t want to go and stay!

We may solve some deep, dark mysteries,
We may shed a tear or two,
We may even find some humor,
In these things we used to do:

Gather eggs and feed the chickens.
Draw some water for the cow.
Feed the mules and mend the harness.
Take the slop out to the sow.

Take the bed off of the wagon.
Leave the running gear intact.
Take it out to the crosstimber.
Cut some trees and bring them back.

Put the tree trunks on the sawbuck.
Pull the crosscut to and fro.
Cut it up in little pieces
That will fit into the stove.

Bring in fire wood. Gather kindling.
Gather twigs, and chips, and sticks.
Bring in coal oil for the cook stove.
Fill the lamps and trim the wicks.

Spade the garden, plant potatoes,
Onions, okra, peas, and corn.
Rake the yard and grease the wagon.
Mend the fence. Clean out the barn.

Sharpen knives, and hoes, and plowshares.
Plow the ground and plant the seed.
Chop the grass out of the cotton.
Hoe the corn and pull the weeds.

When the green corn stalk turns golden,
And the ear is filled with corn,
Pull it off and fill the wagon.
Scoop it off into the barn.

Using corn instead of money,
Playing poker. Just a game.
Lose your corn and get your butt whipped.
One hard lash for each lost grain!

Draw some water. Fill a wash tub,
Leave it setting for a spell.
In the privacy of darkness,
Take a bath out by the well.

Seldom ever see a doctor.
Wounds will heal without a stitch.
Turpentine will stop a bad cough.
Grease and sulfur cure the itch.

Kill a hog and slice the loin,
Cut the bacon, salt it down.
Build a fire out in the smokehouse.
Cure the sausage and the hams.

Put the fat meat in the washpot,
Boil it ’til the crackling’s red.
Pour the lard into the lard can.
Put some cracklings in the bread.

Weekly wash day. Get the lye soap.
Fill the washtubs on the bench.
Scrub the clothes upon the rub board.
Put some bluing in the rinse.

The long hot Summer Day is dying.
Twilight falls, and night birds sound.
Children running, laughing, playing;
Grown folks gathered all around.

Pull the bow across the fiddle,
Gently strum the guitar strings.
Happy time out in the country,
We’re about to pick and sing!

Pull the binder ‘neath the shade tree.
Work on it ’til it will bind.
Grease the axles, chains, and sprockets.
Fix the knotter, thread the twine.

Catch the mules and hitch them to it.
Take it out into the field.
Trip the gear, engage the bullwheel.
Move the sickle, turn the reel.

Cut the oats and tie the bundles,
Leave them laying in a pile.
Set them up and make a big shock.
Sit down by it! Rest awhile!

Can’t rest long! The thrasher’s coming.
Hear it puffing down the lane?
Coming here to thrash our oat crop,
Separate the straw from grain.

Run and get the bundle wagon!
Stack the bundles high, and then
Pull it up there by the thrasher,
Pick ’em up and throw ’em in.

Watch the thrasher separate ’em
Blowing straw into a stack!
Watch the auger send the oats down
Through the pipe into the sack.

When the cotton bolls burst open,
Cotton’s hanging all around,
Get down on your knees and pick it!
Sack it up and shake it down!

Throw the sack across your shoulder.
Go and weigh it on the scales.
Empty it into the wagon
‘Til you’ve picked a cotton bale!

Knees are sore, and red, and swollen!
Back is hurting, stiff, and sore!
Neck’s sunblistered, fingers bleeding,
Got to go and pick some more!

Put the ridge pole on the wagon
If a cloud is in the sky.
Stretch the wagonsheet across it.
Got to keep that cotton dry!

Hitch the team up to the wagon.
Tramp the cotton. Pack it down.
Go now! Take that bale of cotton
To the cotton gin in town.

Hay is cut and raked, and ready,
Hay press setting on the ground.
Buck rake coming with a big load,
Mule is going round and round.

Pitch the hay upon the hay press.
Pack it down into the trough.
Press it, block it, punch the wires through;
Tie the bale and drag it off.

The decade of the thirties came
And left a great impression
Indelibly upon our minds.
‘Twas called the Great Depression.

Please don’t think that I’m complaining
About the places I have been.
Just recording recollections
Of the way it was back then!