South Slope. Asheville.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Barbour County

Barbour County, Alabama

Growing up in the early '80s, my brother and I would often go with my step-dad (Charles) and mom to Barbour County, where we'd work on the farm, fish and even hunt squirrels. We'd take our dogs Snowball and Pepper, and they would enjoy the outdoors. My grandmother would even go with us sometimes. She especially like to sit on the bank of the fish pond, right where the bass and bream were most active. I put up this George Jones video, because there would be times when I'd get up in the tractor cab with step-dad, and country tunes would be playing. George Jones, Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, Kenny, Dolly and more.

Here are some notes I made a while back when I sat down one day and reflected on those times in Barbour County.  I will add more details later.

Barbour County
We'd ride up there on Charles’ orange Ford Bronco.  Often we'd stop at country story and get some chocolate milk and some onion rings.  Those were usually my favorites.  Sometimes I'd get Cracker Jacks.
We'd fish with cane poles mostly, and for bait we'd use wigglers or crickets.  My grandmother Dot, when she'd go with us, always liked finding a great spot, and she could sit and fish for hours.  My step-dad helped me get my first reel-and-rod, and I had some success with it.  I even got my own tackle box and learned to tie my own lures and put on weights.  Although I thought I was more professional with a rod-and-reel, I much preferred pole fishing. 

After fishing we’d help Charles clean the fish.  I scaled fish, and eventually learned to cut their heads off.  I didn't really like cutting off the heads since the fish were still alive at the time.  Charles would always do the gutting and fileting.
Often Miles and I would help do farm work.  We put up electric fences to keep in pigs.  We put up the stobs, ran the wire and everything.   We be down in the dirt, in our blue jeans, and we'd be using our hands and some tools.  On occasion I would jump up on the tractor with Charles  when he was out plowing in the fields or pulling the peanut picker or hay baler.   I liked the big tractor especially because it had an air conditioned compartment.  Charles would be playing country music - Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Kenny Rogers, George Jones and all the stars of that day.
The hardest job Miles and I had was picking up bales of hay that had to weigh 30-40 pounds and stacking them up on the trailer that Charles was pulling with one of his tractors.  We wore gloves but that wire and or string still made some marks on our hands.  And it was tough work, I thought.
Besides a good catch of fish, we’d bring home some produce picked straight from the farms.  Butterbeans, peas and corn were favorites.  Charles would pull up beside one of his corn fields.  Miles and I would follow him deep into the rows, stalks higher than my head, and he’d stack up ears of corn, shucks intact, onto our arms and we’d marched back out to the Bronco where Mom was waiting.  I remember running into the corn stalks and “branches”, and the husks and leaves would scratch my face and get into my eyes.  It was also very hot out on the farm.
We would take our dogs Snowball and Pepper with us.  Once Snowball jumped out of the Bronco to go after another dog.  Stunned Snowball a bit, but he survived. 
Lunch always was big.  I can’t recall the meat dishes, but we always had some of Teeka’s (Charles' step-mom) cream-styled corn, which had ¼ inch of melted butter on top.   We'd eat so much, and then take an afternoon nap before heading back out for some work or to fish.
Some weekends we would go for a day.  Sometimes we’d go for a night, and we’d stay in the “house on the hill” or in the main house with Charles’ dad, Colin.   I do remember we’d take long afternoon naps before going back out for the rest of the day’s work.  Sometimes the TV would be on.  I remember hearing preachers’ voices and football games.
When we went squirrel hunting, we’d use our 4-10 shotgun and shoot up into nests if we weren’t able to find a squirrel sitting still on a tree branch.  We’d take the squirrels back to Headland, where we’d dress them.  We'd eat them with grits and gravy.  Sometimes Charles would stuff the squirrel tails with salt so that we could preserve them and hold onto them - maybe like souvenirs.
Another thing we did was castrate pigs.  I remember holding a squealing pig, upside down, between my legs, while Charles would castrate them.  I would have to swing the squealing pig to get it into position!

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