Thursday, August 4, 2011

Old Gillums Revisited - Conclusion

     Now lets look at my Dad. I think everyone in our branch of the Clan will agree, nobody shaped our branch of the family, in my lifetime, like Dad. I really don't know if Dad's WW1 experience affected him greatly. An early historian reports that he was in battles in France, and I assume she was in the know. All Dad ever told me about it was the trip across, getting close enough to the fighting in Germany to hear the guns before they were silenced, and his time there during the occupation of Germany. The Gillums were well off when Grandma called Dad back from the Oklahoma oilfields to run the farm when Grandpa Gillum died in 1922. In addition to land now a part of the Ouachita National Forest, which had to be sold off at $2 per acre during the Depression, there was bottomland that the government took when Nimrod Dam was built. The Gillum's also farmed lands down at Rover, also, I'm not sure if it was leased or owned. I assume leased, because of a story I recently heard. It seems once Dad was coming out of the Rover bottoms from his crop, and a Rover man hollered at Dad from his yard not to come back, or he would fix Dad good. When Dad stopped his wagon and got off to accommodate the man, the man went in his house. That was the end of that.
      Anyway, the gist of it is, the Gillum farm was thriving when Dad took over in pre-Depression days. Dad did little actual farming himself, but mostly oversaw the sharecroppers. But things started going bad in a few years. Nimrod Dam took much of the land, the Depression took a lot of it. Another problem to consider was, the land in Fourche Valley was beginning to play out, as far as crops went. Almost all row crops, except in the river bottoms now owned by the Government, played out by 1940.
After the sharecroppers had to walk, when the crops failed early in the Depression, Dad was left holding the note, with a lot of money to pay back, and no matter how hard Dad worked, that was a long slow process. Before the Depression, Dad was one of the Directors of the bank. After it, he never again borrowed money from a bank. With all crops failing, even feeding a family became hard. I remember Dad showing me how to build traps to catch quail, rabbits, and fish. He told me that during that time, if a rabbit ran across the road, chased by less than two people, one knew times were getting better. To my knowledge, after I came along, no Gillum in my family would ever think of eating a wild rabbit, because of bad experiences with rabbit fever during the Depression.
      Once the unusually dry weather was past, he was able to grow plenty of food, with a lot of hard work and foresight. Just spend no money not absolutely necessary, buy staples only. Once the Depression began to recede, Dad was never able to bring the farm back to the level it was back when his father died, no matter how long, and how hard, he toiled. I once saw Dad pass out in the hayfield, near the end of a very hot day. A great deal was lost to the Gillum farm, during his watch, through circumstances beyond his control. In his older days, his goal became: Work hard every day, keep the farm going, until Harold retired from the Air force and could take over for him. For the most part, only I saw how he pushed himself, far beyond what should ever be expected of him, as an old man. I did not fully appreciate this until now, when I am an old man myself. He kept this up until Harold took over. Then, suddenly it seemed, arthritis just flew all over him and shut him down. I now realize, there was nothing sudden about Dad's arthritis. Determination just simply just kept it beat back until the day he could relax. He met his goal. Then arthritis became his master.
      Dad once planned a fairly long trip to buy the finest herd bull he could find. A neighbor got wind of it, and told him to get him one too. Well, Dad did. The man then said he had changed his mind. Dad never had any use for that man again. From this kind of experience, and probably other experiences along the way, Dad began to get a general mistrust of most people.
      I think the factors I mention above combined with the strong “do right mechanism” Dad had always had shaped him into the man I met when I came along in 1944. Work as hard as you can, every day except Sunday; be careful about trusting people; don't buy food you can grow; save up enough food for years, the drought can return at any time; cut over every inch of land you have cleared, every year, or the woods will reclaim it. In the early 1950's, I was doing the pasture mowing. That was a very dry year, grass or weeds didn't grow much, but Dad insisted I mow every square inch of pasture, even though it looked exactly the same after as before. Don't think highly of lazy or wasteful people, lest you get like them; be honest, pay your debts first, before spending otherwise. If you feed a hobo, he will just be back tomorrow and the next day; keep your daughters away from men, until they are full grown; At least, as long as they live in your house; keep the sons away from honky-tonks, no good can come from that.
      I know much of this sounds extreme. However, if you look at the big picture, all six of his children, as adults, worked hard, were honest, fair, the do- right mechanism strongly in place. Dad was hard, but it worked. Can we ask more than that from a parent?
      I have a lot of questions rattling around in my head. Most can never be answered in this world. My Dad and I spent much time together in his older years, with very little conversation passing between us. How could I have been so wasteful? There are so many of the questions he could have answered, had I only asked. With only one more afternoon with Dad, now, I could find an answer to them all.
     Well, dear reader, as I told you when I introduced myself a couple of months ago, Our primary occupation is traveling the world. But, we are pore' people. So we have to let our bonus flier miles build up. Well, guess what! We have enough now to get to Copenhagen! (and back.) We have a car rented for 34 days, and plan to see as much of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway as we can squeeze in. No reservations made, so we can't get lost, as long as we make it back to Copenhagen when the plane flies out. I will pick up with my next story, "The thing about Water," about the middle of September. Let me just leave you with this little pearl: Average daily high, 72 degrees F.! Bring it on, Bubba!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Old Gillums Revisited

      Since I first started researching and reading up on the Old Gillum's a few years ago, I have done a lot of thinking. I'm very good at thinking. One of the major frustrations in my wife's life is that when she starts talking to me, often I do not respond appropriately, causing her to look more closely at me, then realizing, no one is home. I am off some where, just thinking. Not necessarily thinking with great insight, not necessarily productively thinking. Just thinking.
      With enough thinking, anyone, even one such as I, can begin to get some good insight. Even a blind hog finds an occasional acorn, if it roots around long enough. I don't believe anyone influenced a generation of the Gillum Clan more than Grandma Martha Jane “Mattie/Tennessee” Tucker Gillum, even though she was not born a Gillum at all. Lets take a look at her.
      She was born in 1859, so the first several years of her life was in the midst of one of the most horrible times in our country's history, our Civil War. And I suspect there was no more stressful place to be than the South. At 16, she and her sister were attacked late at night by an intruder, in their house, who was lynched within the hour by her brother and Harry Poynter, her sister's husband. For whatever reason, she left her Father's house and lived with that sister and Harry Poynter until she married John Wesley Gillum.Why? Was it just too difficult for her to return to the spot of the attack? Nobody living seems to know, but I suspect so. Harry Poynter soon became a central figure in the Pope County Militia War, and he took Grandma and her sister up to Clarksville and hid them in a cave. For how long? I don't know. Could have been two years, the duration of that war. Did her sister have babies that were taken along? Probably at least one. She remained very close to Harry Poynter all her life, close enough that two Gillum firstborn sons were named after him, at her insistence.
      I have gained a little more knowledge about Grandma's milk cow rustling saga since I wrote the book. There were 4 cows, not 2. The cows were ranging in the south mountains, not the north mountains, close by, as I had assumed. The south mountains are two miles away, across the Fourche River. Since it was a very dry time, very hot, most people probably had to let their livestock range out like that to keep them alive. My Dad once said, 1930 had 100 days over l00 degrees. And, I saw on TV, .01 inch of rain fell in July 1930. It was customary for those growing crops along the river to fence the fields because the bottoms were full of free range livestock. Did the cows of the Gillum Clan get into someone's corn? Did that someone decide to take the cows in revenge? Were all those free range cows too wild to be taken, except for the four milk cows? Anyway, information I already knew is covered in the second or third post of this blog.
      We know that Grandma's life was full of enough trauma to make her a very serious woman. She and Grandpa Gillum seemed to be good at business, because before Grandpa died in 1922, they had accumulated a lot of land, lots of sharecroppers, and were obviously doing very well .If you look back at the pic in my last post, you see telephone wires coming into the house. Ironically, the telephone wires appear to touch a hoop, probably used on their covered wagon they came to Wing in. An old culture touching a new culture! The year had to be around 1910. I would guess few mountain folks had phones in 1910.
      Their children were all very well educated, for the times. If you look at all of their children, and I mean every last one of them, you see nothing but honesty, integrity, and hard work. The “do right mechanism” was already firmly in place. Think that's rare in a large family? Look around you today. Grandma saved up enough money from chicken and eggs to buy Lula Belle a car. My sister Jonnie said that as a small girl, somewhat unhealthy, she spent a lot of time sitting close to Grandma, in her chair. Though I did not know her, she seems to me to have been a very strong, dominant, serious woman, capable of great love for her family, but probably seldom ever openly demonstrating it. Strong enough to take over when Grandpa died early in 1922, and continue to be a major influence in the clan for many years. Only one lady from Grandma's early life was present at her last birthday party, in 1941. It seems the connection of the Gillum clan to the Tuckers and Poynters died with her that year. If you wish to gain some insight into the impact of Grandma on my mother's life, look in my book at the 1920's photo of my mother, the 1941 group photo of her on Grandma's last birthday, and any 1960's photo of mom. It's all in the book, and, I think, it says it all. Mom seems to have come from a very gentle family, readily able to express their love for each other, never stern and serious natured. Her life became very hard living with Grandma.
     When I first learned how Grandma made life hard for my mother, perhaps the sweetest woman who ever lived, I reacted the way I would be expected to. I thought badly of a Grandma I never knew. However, as I found out more and more about her life, I think she was a very strong woman who came along in the history of the Gillum clan at a good time, adding rock-hard stability and integrity to the clan still in evidence today.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Frozen Time - Part two

     He was setting up THE PICTURE! Someway, somehow, I had been transported back in time to 1910! Thirty four years before I was born! I had not the slightest clue how this happened, but I decided to make the most of it. He snapped the picture, after telling them they had to be really still for a full minute. Then he said, “Little girl, you're smiling way too big. This is a serious occasion. And, if your smile fades, it will blur th' picture.” He snapped another. She still smiled, but tilted her head down to try to hide it. He gave up. I couldn't wait for lunch. Dinner, as they called it. I was really getting hungry. Finally, we all sat down. I made a point to sit beside John. I had a lot of questions for him. Maybe I could sneak in a few while we ate. We were eating catfish. Franz was talking. “John shore hit th' jackpot down on th' river yesterday. Caught 3 big cats!” I smiled to myself. I think I had heard this story, many years ago. “Two nine pounders, and a three, by any chance?” I asked. John looked at me in surprise. “'How’n heck do you know that!?” “Just a lucky guess.” Grandma was looking at John, hard. “You don't say no words like that, young man. You and I'll be visitin' th' woodshed after dinner.” “Yes ma'am.” We didn't hear much from John during the rest of the meal. Not that I blamed him. I had heard long ago what Grandma was capable of.
Anyway, when John and Grandma disappeared after lunch, I saw Uncle Arthur was about to leave. I walked out to where he was fastening his bag onto the horse. I wondered about Maude. “Is this all of the family?” I asked. “Maude and Lee are gathering corn today. They live over on Carter Hill.” “Over there?” I asked, pointing south. Uncle Arthur just stared at me. “Well,” I lied. “I saw a steep hill—with a house on it—on the way in.” I could now hear screams from around behind the house. Poor John!
“You're so young to be a doctor,” I said. “Yeah,” he said. “I just graduated from our new medical school last year.” He mounted the horse. “Sure is a tall horse,” I commented. “Bet that helps keep your pants legs clean, huh?” “Yeah, that's th' general idea. Someday, I'm going to get me one of those new cars. Sure would speed up my rounds, and keep me dry in bad weather.” “Cars will be getting cheaper, soon. Mass production is coming. Five years, and you won't need that horse.” “More like 15, I'd say. Well, I gotta go. Got to deliver a baby up in Wing.” “See you later,” I said, walking along beside him. “By the way, I said. “Be sure to spell the name right on the birth certificate. That's real important.” “Sure thing,” he laughed, cantering the horse away. I yelled after him, “And don't forget, Jerold is spelled J-e-r-o-l-d!” Too late. He was gone.
     I went into the kitchen. Aunt Hallie was finishing up the dishes. I approached her. “Are you married, Miss Hallie?” She turned around, looked at me, and laughed. “I'm way too old for you, young man! But to answer your question, no, I'm not. Dad says I'm too young, a professional woman and all. I'm only 23, just started teaching, an' all. Besides, the right man has not come around yet.” Thinking quickly, I said. “He will. And when he does, don't tell Gra- uh, your dad. Just elope. That sounds like it would be more fun, anyway.” She had forgotten the dishes, and had turned toward me, just staring. Maybe I had said too much. Since this strange thing was happening to me, maybe I could change the course of history. Who knows? At least I had to try. “You are indeed a strange young man. What did you say your name was?” “Just Pat. I'm not too sure about the rest of it.” “Well, it's nice to meet you, Pat Whatever. Got to go. Got some tutoring to do this evenin'.” She swished out the door, just as Grandma came in the back. She laid the long, keen switch in its place above the door. “Well,” she said. “If you and John are not just like two peas in a pod! John is goin' to be sulking awhile, but he'll be better in a bit. If you want to help him feed the horses and the jacks, I'll bet you two could get up a good game of ball. John just LIVES to play ball. You're mor'n welcome ta stay th' night. You can bunk with Franz and John. If you all lie crossways th' bed, you can all make it OK.” I couldn't figure out just how to approach this. Finally, I said, “Does John have a girlfriend?” “No, silly, he's way too young. But I've got my eye on one a th' Humphreys girls. She's just what he needs, when the time comes.” I had to think hard awhile before I could go on. Finally, I said, “Well, whoever he marries, just be good to her, especially if they live with you. She'll be missing her family awhile. You could really help her fit in, just bein' her good friend. I'm sure she'll look up ta you.” She seemed to be thinking that over for awhile. Finally, “We'll probably let John build his house in th' meadow, when that time comes. But I'll tell you one thing. If they ever live in MY house, she will do things MY way, I can tell you that!” This was looking like a lost cause.
     I went into the living room. Franz was at a small table, writing furiously. “Whatcha doin'?” I asked. He looked up. “I've decided I'm goin' ta write a poem. I've gotta hurry; Dad says some guys are supposed to bring some mares to be bred. I gotta help. Homer was supposed to, but he's off, courting Maggie, Saturday and all.” He went back to his writing, and I could see he didn't need my company.
     I went out onto the porch. Lula Belle was giggling and playing hopscotch, which was scratched out in the dirt. I thought awhile. “You are such a fun little girl,” I said. “Now, while you are young, is the time for you to really enjoy life. Make the most of it. You will be all grown up far too soon.” She looked up at me, and giggled. “You're one ta talk. You're just a kid, too. Why aren't you home having fun instead of running 'round, all over th' place? Ya wanna play jump board?” she asked hopefully. “Nah, I better not. My mom used to tell me, you could turn your liver over doing that. Besides, I'm too heavy for you.” She giggled again and ran off toward the bag swing. What could I say to this wonderful little girl? How could I tell her she would grow up, become cranky, survive a string of stillborn births, begin to treat her
husband so badly he would run off, and live out her life, alone and constantly at odds with many who love her, except me and the other kids? She always liked me, right up until the time I had to put Dad in the nursing home. But, I didn't want to think about those times right now. I couldn't do anything to change the way she was destined to be.
Da-uh, I mean John, came around the corner of the house. His mood was better now. “Hey, Dad's goin’ ta be busy with the mare breedin' and all at the barn fer awhile. Wanta play some ball?” I jumped right on this. “Sure,” I said. “I've been waiting for this, all my life.” “You're one weird feller, ya know that?” He ran for the old, worn out ball and the stick, which I supposed was his bat. We played pitch, warming up. As we threw the ball back and forth, I said, “Are there many fish in the creek?” “Yeah,” he said. It’s full of perch and goggle eyes. Maybe while we're feedin' th' jacks we can dig some worms, then give 'um a try.” I jumped right on that, too. “Yeah, let’s do! Down at the deep hole, under the hill?” He looked confused. “You came in from the southeast. How in –” He glanced at the porch. Grandma was still inside. “–HECK would you know about that?” He was looking at me strangely. I had messed up in my excitement. The deep hole was on the west. I was thinking fast. “Well,” I said slowly, “I was a little scared, coming in on strangers an' all. I rode around the place once, decided it was safe, then came on in.” He was buying it! Whew! “No,” he was saying, “Not the deep hole. Being Saturday an' all, the girls and Mom will be takin' a bath down there. “We'll have to go down in the pasture.” “Well,” I said, “ya sure wanta watch out for cottonmouths, taking a bath down there.” He glanced at the porch. “Heck, I'm not afraida no snake. I just run the suckers out, and jump in. They take off when I come 'round.” “Well, ya never know. My Dad used to tell me, “sometimes they will just come after a feller.” Somewhere, from far off it seemed, a sleepy voice called my name. “P-a-a-t!” I threw the ball back to Da-uh, John. John was fading out. Again I heard the sleepy voice, nearer now. “We've got to get up early tomorrow!” I saw John throw the ball, but it never came to me. By now, I could hardly see him at all. Then, I began to realize. My strange, wonderful visit was ending. “NO,” I yelled. “We haven't been fishing yet!! I've still got a lot more questions for you!! Everything was fuzzy now. I hollered, loud as I could. “Tell Grandma, Grandpa, and Hallie, I'll see them in heaven!! I'll be back!! Tell the others! Dad, you and I have lots more work to do together!!” I could barely hear him, just a faint whisper. “Mom! Come quick! The stranger's gone plumb loco!”
Suddenly, the haze cleared. I looked down. My left thumb was cut off, again. I was in my house. I stumbled to the mirror. I was an old man again. I stood there looking at that old man a long time. Maybe Barbara was right. Maybe I have been getting too deeply involved in the old Gillums. I should ease off a little.
     “I'm coming, Barb. Soon as I go to the bathroom. May take awhile. Go back to sleep. I love you! I crawled in beside Barbara. She was mumbling something about, “Have to get around early for nine o'clock church.” I just slipped my arms around her, and hugged her close—for a long time.
     This is a true story. Well, the first part, and the last. The place, the time, and the people are real. The rest of it—well, uh, I just sorta dreamed it up.