I was born in the south. I live in the south and will die in the south. This is only a small part of the memories I share.
Used by Permission From my Oldest Friend: The late, Curtis “Curt” Glenn, in the Shiloh Community, northwest Alabama.
And I helped to collaborate “Curt’s” thoughts and memories into text. (KA).
This is Why I Say
Doggone it, this cotton field is all but burned-out. The dirt is too dusty to grow weeds. I hate it when the landowner takes this cotton to the gin. The men at the gin will surely cave over with a huge horse laugh or two. I am not one to point a finger. I had to get on my sore knees and beg this landowner for a job just to get a piece of cornbread. You see? Those like me went down in history books as survivors who eked-out livings from day-to-day. And for me, I grew to be more grateful.
All that I can say is for all of the schemes, means, and no pinto beans, I will gladly stand on this harsh gravel road and trade food for dreams.
Seriously. The sweat on my back and head does not feel good when the hot southern breezes run past me. Guess it was a case of me being in the wrong thought and the right idea or something like that. At my age I cannot and will not purge myself from the many yings and yangs that have been with me since boyhood. I am now 76. And in a move of arithmetic, I have had and lost over twelve jobs since I began working at age 11. No. I did not darken one school house’s door. Now I think otherwise.
All that I can say is for all of the moonbeams, tasty milk cream, and a rusty dream or sos, I will gladly stand on this harsh gravel road and trade food for dreams.
One Might Think
that with bums like me show-up anywhere at anytime, we can hear “these” souls start shuffling down their pants and purse pockets to give us a quarter or a dime. Then say that they have given until it hurt. Who are we referring to, them or me? Like I said. I am 76. And some of the 12 jobs that I was glad to have was a newspaper delivery man; a milk man; a taxi driver; a dog trainer and the worst . . .I was put to cleaning-out outdoor toilets, or the privies as most in the early south had before inside plumbing. Privies were great. And sorry for the aroma. In a privy, you get to sample a lot of people’s stuff at one time. But I will tell you that there is a good side for me to be a privy-cleaner: I lost a total of 23 pounds in three weeks because the smell of a privy will deaden any appetite no matter how big it is. And if the smell of human dung will not get you, the awful aroma of lime and ammonia will certainly make a man without hunger. This one memory brings back those dreams when I would beg to be carried to the darkest areas of Africa where the tribesmen (who never ate) would teach me how to stay lean and never binge.
So many hot days have I lived life on my knees in the dirt clods, ants, and a few snakes crawling between the cotton rows where I would literally want to lay down and give my life to the summer sun, but the boss man, (a) “Mr. Harley Whitworth,” a pure white man from inside and out would truly curse me out and threaten to fire me from my 40 cents a day job. And truth be known, not many people, according to “Whitworth,” who would take such a tough job as picking cotton from daylight until dark. And for 40 cents a day that is two-dollars and 24 cents at a week’s end. Honestly, did quench my dry throat with several cold beers at “Simp’s” speak easy bar at the far end of Columbus, MS., during the rough years of 1924 through 1930. I called these years the “Empty Years.” Many would agree.
“Simp,” was a pure bachelor through and through. Meaning—sold on the lifestyle one hundred-percent. But I do declare when he and I were younger men, he would always manage to find a few friendly females who always hung around his establishment without the local cops ever putting them into jail. “Simp,” must have been born under a star or something.
I will elaborate as far as to say that “Simp’s” not having the best décor inside and out. The wooden sidewalk was always muddy thanks to the many cotton planters and pickers who loved to frequent his saloon and dirty inside from those same men who loved to “drink a bit,” (as an old, dear black friend of mine said years ago) and who could blame them? I didn’t.
Life was never easy for myself or the few cotton pickers black and white. When life got rougher, and brother, let me tell you, it did, I would dream of getting to ride in a cotton poisoning airplane and watch the black and white workers in the field and I would always remark to the pilot, look! There is our local newspaper on the ground. Get it? I won’t bore you. But us old guys, us old, wrinkled, thin-built guys who lived two notches above bums, got used to working our butts off and never seeing any scratch, and we lived. We lived several years and this time was made the longer simply by using our imagination.
All that I can say is for all of the rotted trees, stinging honeybees, and a pretty lady’s seams or so I will gladly stand on this harsh gravel road and trade food for dreams.
Sure, I Could Talk High and Loud
About my life that now has floated down a nameless river somewhere. I used to grieve about such things, but not anymore. And it took several years of hard-work, hard-living to open my eyes to see this one thing: poverty is just a polished way to say POOR. But for me, I am not ashamed of the work that these wrinkled old hands have done here in the master’s cotton fields. Just hope that my work has been good enough so when his corn is ready to pick, this old hobo man will be ready with open hands to help him. But I cannot beg him for it. Not at this stage of my life.
You see? I’ve lived longer than most of my family, friends, and enemies. Not many can say that. But in my early 70s, I got to be grateful for letting “Mr. Whitworth” hire me each time that he had corn to plant or maybe take up some apples. It was not a choice job for me. But it was a job. I know that here and there, a lot of folks would say that even now.
My year was passing the age of 70 and I felt that I had worked all that I wanted to do. Now all that I had to do was collect my weekly government check and sit back enjoying a cup of coffee or two and not hitting a lick at a snake.
And in summary, I can surely attest to the fact that my oldest friend, “Curt,” was more than one man. He was many. Philosopher, comedian, singer, and mostly store-teller, but I loved each segment of his life. No wonder he smiled everywhere he walked. He built his own home and paid for it so he never knew what a mortgage meant. He was up before the sun, and hired himself out to work for such and such a rate, then home, drink coffee and nap on his front porch. If I could have ever written a book, this story of Curt Glenn (Dreams For Food) would have been perfect, because of all the segments that he was, he was THE best hobo of all. Thanks again, Curt and those who will have read this. (KA).
Photos Used on This Hub Can be Found at . . .
Sept. 3, 2020_____________________________________________________
© 2020 Kenneth Avery
Dale Anderson from The High Seas on October 18, 2020:
A good read, thanks for sharing it with us.
Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on September 04, 2020:
Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on September 04, 2020:
Ah, Kenneth, you have your unique way of telling a story. It's precious. I can certainly envision a stand-up comedian using much of your material. Yes, seriously!
John Hansen from Gondwana Land on September 03, 2020:
This was a wonderful read, Kenneth. Thanks for sharing Curt’s story.