Pre-sale discount on Amazon! (until feb 24, 2018)
Pre-sale discount on Amazon! (until feb 24, 2018)
A delightful look into the good old days in Dare County North Carolina. This charming book, told from the perspective of an 8 year old as she grows up in a large family and close knit community, contains stories and anecdotes about life in the days of the Great Depression and is full of old Dare County sayings. It is a great read aloud book to the elderly. It will bring back memories and they may even have something to share with you.
This book is not designed to make you feel that you haven’t lived if you haven’t conversed in “Pig Latin”, jumped hots, or shot marbles, but to share with you some of the experiences and emotions of what some might call “the good ole days”.
For some of my characters herein I have borrowed new names, for the sake of privacy, as well as to protect the guilty. I feel reasonably sure that my family and friends will recognize themselves, even though I have told them as I saw them through my eyes.
Birth, Death and Living
It was a cold day in January here in Dare County, North Carolina. We spent most of the day in the yard, bundled up against the weather. Mama was in the house having another baby. We were usually invited to Aunt Sudie or Aunt Nell’s house and when we came home we had a new baby sister, but that was not the case today.
The neighborhood was upset about Miss Ella, our next-door neighbor just across the field. She had had a baby before daylight that morning and it was born dead.
We gathered on the sunny side of the house to watch our brother, Lincoln, build a pine box to burry Miss Ella’s dead baby in.
Papa and Mister Oliver were no help at all. They had started drinking whiskey before first light that morning. They always did that when a baby was being birthed.
The bigger ones did their best to keep us busy. They had us pig-pen the wood that had been split for the kitchen stove. If we pig-penned it too high, it fell over and we started again. That was all right for a while, but we always wandered back to where Lincoln was building the box. Lincoln was our oldest brother left at home with us. The two older boys, Hodges and Luke, had gone on to sea before I could really remember them living at home.
Hodges, our first brother, had already helped to fight a war. The ship he had been sailing on was sold to the Colombian Navy and he had chosen to stay with it. It followed that the Colombian Navy did not pay him for his work, so he caught a ship to Rio and worked his way back home.
Hodges and Luke didn’t get home very often, so when they did, it was special. We heard exciting and romantic tales. We all sat around the wood stove, the little ones on a quilt near the stove, and listened to the stories of their adventures until we fell asleep.
After Lincoln came Stewart, Sister and Malcom. The last seven of us were girls, soon to be eight. After Malcom came Lillie, Rachael and I. Rachael nor I were never allowed to be nicknamed. Rachael was named for Mama and I for our father’s favorite grandmother. My five younger sisters were called Laura, Minnie, Lucy, Golden, and by afternoon a new baby sister was announced. We dubbed her Dolly.
We never seemed to know Mama was going to have a baby until the day it came.
Now that I remember back, I have heard Aunt Nanny Ross say to Mama, “God never put a bird here that he didn’t put a berry for it”. I suppose Mama must have been telling her, then, of a coming event.
Presently, Miss Lottie called us to the doorway to see our baby. She was a funny, wrinkled, little, pink thing, but she was ours and we knew, right away, we were going to love her. Now we were fourteen children in all. That didn’t seem extraordinary, since most families had a lot of children, those days.
Miss Lottie told us it was best for us to stay outside a while longer to let Mama and the new baby rest, for they had been through a tough job together.
Miss Lottie was a good neighbor, who acted as a midwife when she was needed. She was usually on hand to help Mama when our babies were being birthed, and our good doctor Hale was there to help bring the most of us into the world.
When something was seriously wrong with one of us, Papa hitched up the horse and cart, and went the mile to get doctor Hale. By the time Papa was back in the yard, doctor Hale would come rolling up in his funny, black car, wearing his black suit, complete with weskit (waistcoat), pocket watch and black derby.
He had a peculiar way of driving. He leaned up close to the steering wheel and worked it as though it took all he had to make it. We wondered how he could be such a good doctor and such a bad driver.
We were forever glad to see him. He always came to save us, somehow. He was what some might call an ugly man, but he was so kind he didn’t seem ugly to us. He stayed a long time at our house that day. When Papa sobered up he would take him a bushel of oysters or a toe sack of potatoes for pay. Papa seldom had the money to pay outright for anything. He most always paid in kind.
We all gathered back around the pine box. Different ones came to stand and talk. The tales from one and another were terrifying, yet we were attracted to them.
One told how a baby was born that would fit into a teacup, and a silver dollar would cover its face. Only love and care could save it. It weighed nine pounds at the age of two.
Another told about a baby being bitten by a rabid dog, and how they had to smother it to death between feather beds.
There was not much psychology used on children back then. Mama had never allowed people to tell things around us that might frighten us, but Mama wasn’t always there.
When the box was finished, the boys took it with the horse and cart, and went to help bury Miss Ella’s dead baby in a little graveyard at the back of the field.
It was a welcome feeling to have Sister call us into the warm kitchen, to share a nice supper she had fixed for us. We had stewed osh taters (Irish potatoes), hot biscuits, with homemade butter, and syrup to dip over a crumbled biscuit if we were hungry for something sweet. It was pleasant to be around the table with Sister helping us, after such an odd day, and such an odd meal at midday.
Lincoln had put a pot of beans on the cookstove to simmer during the morning. In all the confusion of the day, the dishrag had been lost. When we went to eat the beans, the lost dishrag showed up in the pot. So we had had bean soup, flavored with dishrag, and cold biscuits to go with it.
Our house was a story and a jump high, with the kitchen sitting separate from the big part of the house. In the big part of the house were the “settin’” room and the bedrooms. The boys gave up their room and slept in the loft when we had company. We crossed a walk to get from the kitchen to the big part of the house. We were glad to cross it that evening and go to Mama.
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Lucinda G. Baum was born in 1928 and raised in Dare County in a family with 14 children. They grew up in the days prior to the war, when everything was done "the hard way" and "it was all a matter of survival." Her book "Papa and Mama Said:" is a charming book, told from the perspective of an 8 year old, that contains stories and anecdotes about life in the days of the Great Depression and is full of old Dare County sayings.