From the book about The Tennessee West Highland Rim

Saturday, Our Big Adventure

Submitted by Bessie Alma Oatsvall of Camden, Tennessee

Born 1929


         I was born Dec. 7, 1929, the Depression era, so I have seen and done many changes in my lifetime.

      My parents were poor sharecroppers. For you younger generation, you may not know what a sharecropper is, well, it is where you give the landowner a portion of the yield, which was hard on my dad, for with a house full of kids to feed he could have used the extra crop.

      We farmed on the Tennessee River bottoms, “Now Kentucky Lake” was about 5 miles from where we lived, and so, we would be gone all day. My mom would make us something for lunch and put it in a syrup bucket. The ants couldn’t get in it, being shut up all morning and it being hot, didn’t smell very good, but was hungry and tired so we was glad to eat whatever Mom fixed.

      Us kids worked hard all week and looked forward to going to town on Saturday. That was all we had to look forward to. To prepare for Saturday, we had to keep the wagon wheels wet so the wood rim would expand and keep the metal band on for we went to town in a wagon and pulled by horses. Naturally, we had to fix our hair to look pretty to go to town, so we didn’t have any hairpins or rollers. My mom “dipped” snuff so we take one of her snuffboxes and hammered the bottom off, then cut it open with the scissors, then cut it into strips, wrapped them with pieces of brown paper bags so the strips wouldn’t cut our hair. My goodness was it curly; reckon we looked like a poodle!

      On Saturday morning, we are up early getting ready for our big adventure, which really was for us country kids. Was about 5 miles to town on a gravel road and we didn’t have an umbrella, so what did we do to keep the sun off us? Well, Daddy cut a good size “bush” with plenty of leaves and we held that over us like an umbrella. Can you imagine how that looked riding along in a wagon sitting under a bush, but hey, it kept the sun off and we were going to the big city. After all, we had worked hard in the fields all week; we deserved this trip.

      Back then cars were few and if one did come by, Daddy would stop the horses and get out and hold their bridles, for they would be scared of the cars. And if a car did go by us the dust from the gravel road was so thick you could hardly see for a bit; after getting all “spruced” up going to town, now we are covered with dust. We didn’t mind, we was going to town and just maybe we could talk Daddy out of a nickel for a vanilla ice cream cone. What else does this country girl need?

      We would walk around and around the town square, probably looking for a “feller.” When we got tired, we just picked someone’s car and set in it until maybe they were ready to go home. They didn’t care we were setting in their car. Can you see that happening now days? Would call the police!

      The day would soon come to an end, back in the wagon and head home and another week in the hot fields with the next Saturday on our minds.

      My, how things have changed, some better, some worse, but I loved the good old days.

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