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MOSTLY MEMORIES
Wednesday, October 28, 2009 • Posted October 28, 2009

Hay baling and snuff dipping

Author’s note;

In starting my Memory Wagon over again my first column will begin back in 1920 with my first trip away from home when I visited with relatives who lived on a farm near Menard. The next three columns cover a summer in 1928 when I was THE new boy in the little town of Eldorado, Texas, and in the following thee columns I will take you on a trip through seven states that my older brother and I took while looking for work back in 1932. But for now—lets go to Menard:

HAY BAILING AND SNUFF DIPPING

(Another rerun from the past)

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The first money I ever made was a dime and I made it the old fashioned way, I earned it. This happened when I was eight or nine years old (in 1919 or 20). I was allowed to take my first train ride, from Brady to Menard, to visit our uncle Tom and aunt Mary who lived on a farm about five miles out of Menard.

During my visit uncle Tom had to cut his hay and have it bailed and the man with the hay bailer had to bring his rig to uncle Tom’s farm to do the bailing. This rig had a hopper that the hay was pitched into - a long pole was attached to the hopper and a mule was hooked on to the other end of the pole. It was the mule’s job to pull the pole around and around the hopper, thereby compressing the hay into a tight bale which was pushed into a mechanism that tied bailing wire around the bale.(If this is not exactly the way it worked - don’t blame me - blame my memory, after all this happened 87 years ago).

It was my job to walk behind the mule with a whip in my hand and keep the mule moving at all times. If the mule slowed down I would hit him with the whip. So this was the way I earned my first dime, going around in a circle - all day long (and this, my friends, was long before the eight hour day had been invented).

But the story doesn’t end there - the man forgot to pay me the dime he had promised. I was one sick kid. Here I had earned the first money of my life and now I was getting beat out of it. Uncle Tom tried to console me by saying that the man would probably come over before I had to go home and I would get my dime. This did not give me much comfort because at this time I had what was called in those days a slight case of the “7 year itch”. While it was not really the 7 year kind, between it and the loss of my dime all I could do was grieve and scratch.

The day came for me to return home and the hay baling man had not shown up. So, Uncle Tom hitched up his team to the wagon to carry me into Menard for my train trip back to Brady. About one mile out of Menard who should we meet coming up the road but the hay bailing man.

We stopped to talk and he remembered that he owed me a dime. He paid me, and I was one happy boy. I don’t remember whether I got home with the dime or not, but right now I would bet a quarter that I spent it while on the train trip home.

(I often wondered how Papa could have afforded to send me to Menard by train - I found the answer two years ago while looking through a l9l5 newspaper - I learned that a round trip ticket from Brady to Menard cost $1.00.)

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Now I remember very little about Uncle Tom other than the fact that he was a very likeable man who chewed tobacco but my recall of Aunt Mary is still quite vivid. She was a snuff dipping, kinfolk kissing kind of a woman who held firm in her belief that kinfolk were required to kiss hello and good-bye. While we nephews and nieces loved her we hated to see her coming when she had snuff in her mouth.

While many snuff users of those bygone days tried to keep their mouths neat and clean Aunt Mary was just the opposite. In her old age the wrinkles around her mouth had deepened and were always colored with snuff drippings which did not seem to bother her enough to cause her to keep her mouth clean.

While it was quite disgusting for us to let her kiss our cheeks it had to be done because, after all, we were “kissing kin”. So after being kissed we kids would duck behind her back and wipe the tobacco slobber off our faces, then the kissing being over we enjoyed her visit until it was time for her to leave - then it had to be done all over again cause you just had to kiss your kinfolk good-bye!

In the early l930’s Uncle Tom share cropped on several farms near Brady and when our family visited with them this snuff dipping kinfolk kissing business was always the same except out there we kids had one more cross to bear. The drinking water!

Out in the country the drinking water, drawn from the well, was generally hung in a bucket on the front porch with a drinking dipper hanging on the side of the bucket. When we kids wanted a drink and Aunt Mary was not looking we would get some water in the dipper, wash off the imagined snuff slobbers, throw out that dipper full, and then get another.

At least we thought that was sanitary.

One day my oldest brother, coming in hot and sweaty from the barn, reached for the dipper to get a drink. Seeing Aunt Mary there on the porch he felt ashamed to wash off the dipper so he grabbed it in his left hand in order to drink from the opposite side, drank a couple of dippers of water and sat down on the porch to rest.

Then Aunt Mary, who was sitting on the porch in her rocking chair with her mesquite snuff brush sticking out of a mouth covered with snuff oozings said “Well I’ll swan Robert, I didn’t know you drank out of the same side of the dipper that I do”!!

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