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!!