by Patsy "Baker" Hargrove
I was born across the state line in the little town of Lepanto, Arkansas, but my
childhood memories began down a dirt road in Southeast Missouri. My home
was about five miles down that road between a little spot on the road called
Maguire's Store, and the far end, which we called Little Walnut.
My dad was a farmer throughout
my childhood. He never owned his own farm, but when we moved to Missouri, he rented
land from a man names U. S. Holliman, where we raised cotton, corn, & soybeans.
I don't really remember Dad ever having any "down time" like the farmers have
these days. After the cotton was picked and the other crops laid by, we
still worked right up 'till Christmas. We would pick cotton bolls and Dad
would clean ditches, so that we could have Christmas.
I don't think you were ever too
young to not have something to do. Even before I started school, there was
no such thing as a babysitter. I would ride the tractors and trucks with
Dad. If someone was on a return trip from the gin or grainer, and Dad knew
he was going to be late into the night getting home, he would put me in the
truck with that farm hand to send me home. I even remember sleeping in the
floorboard of the truck when we were running late.
I also remember having a lot of
fun playing on what we called the sand hill. We would dig caves in the
sand by the side of the road. There were also some wild cherry trees that
we loved to get into. We would eat a lot and pick a lot more to give to
Mom to make jelly.
We had an old coal stove to warm
the house, which wasn't easy since you could see through the cracks in the
walls, but the old stove always kept the kitchen warm. Mom was a great
cook. I still remember the wonderful sugar cookies she would make.
She would dry orange peels to grate into the mix, which made that old house
smell so good.
During the days in the winter
months, the old quilt frame was dropped down from the ceiling, and the women
would listen to "Stella Dallas." Sometimes at night all of the families
would get together. We had wonderful uncles that would tell us tall tales
about the headless horseman that they always saw around the Indian graveyard.
From Maguire store down to the
sand hill was really our road. We had family that was close including
aunts, uncles, and cousins. After a day of playing, all of the kids would
end up together in a big washtub on the back porch, which by today's standards
would probably be considered child pornography. We didn't know what a
bathroom looked like. I even remember when we didn't have electricity.
Other fond memories were Easter
and Christmas. All of the families got together for Easter egg hunts and
opening presents. We always had big holiday dinners. Of course by
the time it was time for the kids to eat, there wasn't that much left. In
those days, the men ate first, then the women. Then it was time for the
kids to eat. You had better like wings and backbones off the chicken,
because that's all that was left.
I only remember living on two
farms down that old dirt road. About the time I turned 12 or 13 we moved
to the Fletcher farm. I believe we farmed about 280 acres. We had
cows, pigs and chickens, plus a garden to gather, and then can the vegetables.
As far as Dad was concerned there was no such thing as "girl jobs" or "boy
jobs." It was just a job that needed done and someone had to do it.
As a matter of fact my husband first saw me changing a tire on a trailer of
cotton! We had one day that we killed chickens. We would hang them
on the clothesline, cut their heads off, let them bleed, then put them in some
boiling water. Then we had to pluck all of the feathers off, wrap them,
and put them in the freezer. We also killed a pig so we would have ham,
bacon, sausage and pork chops. Boy! I thought we were so poor, but
now I look back on this as some of the best times of our lives.
I did not do very well in
school, but I loved every minute of it and all my classmates. A few of
my friends would come to the house after church. Before we could drive a car,
we would ask Dad if we could drive the tractor to the store or another
friends house. Sometimes we would just walk the railroad tracks. Mom
and Dad always loved when the kids came home with us from church and they
especially loved the kids calling them Mama & Papa Baker.
Mom and Dad worked hard and put
in long hours. Sometimes we didn't see Dad from one weekend to the next
because he was always in the field working 'till about midnight, then up and gone
back to the fields by the time we left for school. One thing is for sure
though, we always knew we were loved.
Dad fell on hard times, I
think around 1958 or 1959, when the weather did not let him get his crops
gathered. His allotment was due (what the Fletcher's allotted him to farm
on,) the gas for the tractors, and farm equipment. He struggled for a
couple of years and after a lot of tears and prayers, he and Mother left our
dirt road and moved to California. He got a job on an apple orchard
working the trees, driving the tractors, and getting the apples ready for the
cannery. He also worked on a dairy farm. Mom had never worked public
work before, but she went to work at the hospital as a cook. Between the
two of them, they worked and saved and paid off everyone they owed money to when
they left Missouri. When Dad passed away a few years ago, Jack and Pat
Fletcher stopped by to pay their respects and said Bill Baker was the only man
that ever owed him money, left the state, and still paid him every cent.
As a matter of fact, when Mom and Dad moved back to Missouri, Dad farmed for the
Dad also worked for Gideon
school district. He was a bus driver and a custodian. After he
had to retire from the school, he still worked for Jack and Pat Fletcher taking
care of their yard and swimming pool. Many thanks to the Fletcher's for
having faith in my Dad and giving our family a place to call home down a dirt
road that as far as I know is still a dirt road.
Most of all, I thank my Heavenly
Father for giving me wonderful parents that taught me that love is more than
just hugs and kisses. It means working together through hard times.
Even though I lived in an old farm house, down an old dirt road, and thought
that everyone else had so much more than I did, I had love from a wonderful
family, and friends that I went to the same school with for 12 years and the same
God that lived with me in that old house still lives with me today.