A Sharecropper’s Family

Provided by Jon R. McKinnie
Written by Geraldine “Jerry” Aulds Howard (17 Jan 1929 – 11 Jan 2009) in 1999

“The Life of a Sharecropper was never easy, but they didn’t know it.”

Like most children, I see now that I did not appreciate my parents until they were gone. They instilled in us honesty, fairness, hard work and to always do our best. Oh, what I would give just to talk to them now. You see, I was 70 years old on January 17th 1999.
One of my first memories is that of walking to a little two room school at Antioch in 1934 out of Farmerville, Louisiana on my first day of school. I went a year early because my brother would not go alone. He was a year older than me. Mrs. Henry B. Smith was a teacher and Mrs. Ralph Harper also. Both are now living in Farmerville and Ruston respectively.

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We grew up fast, as there was always work to be done picking and hoeing cotton, pulling corn, gathering Irish and sweet potatoes, picking off peanuts and cleaning the yard and the house. My grandfather, Elgin Aulds, was a pioneer. The Elgin Springs on Sterlington Hwy La 2 was named for him. I barely remember him living on the hill south of the springs. People from everywhere go there now to get drinking water.

Daddy farmed the land nearby. One year he was really ill and I had to weigh the cotton that my three sisters, one brother and I picked. They would gripe, saying I took too much weight off for the wet sacks, but I had to answer to the Gin. We traveled to the gin on a mule drawn wagon and got to eat at my great uncle’s café in Farmerville. Oh, what a treat for us country kids!

Next we moved to Holly Ridge (about 3 miles north) where we farmed on Franklin lands. I remember staying out of school for four weeks to pick cotton (and I still had a good report card!). Mrs. Toombs was my principal.

Another thing I remember about that little home with the green stairs was the illness of my baby sister, Francis. She had diphtheria and we almost lost her. Of course, we had to stay home away from anyone else.

Our next move was to Zebedee out of Rayville, La. There we farmed the land of Mr. King Reeves of Marion. No one could drive to our house in Zebedee. The road was called Mud Line and we had to walk a long way to catch a school bus. Rattlesnakes were plentiful and I remember my mother killing a mother snake and five babies at one time.

One thing that stays in my mind was our lunch each work day. Mom would rise early and cook, pack it into syrup cans and come on to work in the fields. Nothing was better than eating good old peas, stewed Irish potatoes and baked “pone” cornbread while sitting on top of a huge pile of cotton.

We moved back home to Antioch at last! What a glorious day! Us kids had missed our grandparents so very much. I attended school back at Antioch as long as I could and then went to Farmerville in Grade 6. I graduated from there in 1945.

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The highlight of my life was meeting Kelton Howard. We married on December 15 1945 and had three girls, Karen, Pamela & Suzanne, eventually moved back to Rocky Branch. I have been truly blessed with a wonderful loving family over the years.

Originally published in Memory Lane Magazine Mar/Apr 1999

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Originally from Union Parish and a resident of Farmerville, Jon R. McKinnie enjoys writing and spending time with his wife, Phyllis Richardson Hall, two children and four grandchildren.

 

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