Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The James Thomas Smith Family - Part 2

Index for below: 
1. H. J. is Harry Joseph Elmore, Evelyn's husband. Evelyn was the daughter of Della Catherine Smith and granddaughter of James Thomas Smith.
2. G. O. is Gilbert Owen Cox, Sr., son of Eva Caroline Smith and Jasper Newton Cox.
3. Mildred Bolton is the daughter of Fannie Mae Smith and Everett Presley Taylor and granddaughter of James Thomas Smith.

Excerpt from Evelyn Elmore’s letter to me – July 25, 2010:

“Yes, I remember all us grandchildren would sit in the little hall and whisper (on the floor around the wall).  He (James Thomas Smith, their grandfather) couldn’t stand noise – we would hug him gentle.  He didn’t live too long.  I too remember Grandma telling him “OK.  Just a minute.”  She would go to the cabinet and get a tiny glass & pour something in it and give it to him.  We asked Mother what it was and she said it was to give him strength.  The Dr. said he couldn’t do anything more to help him.  He had a short time.

“The family was all by his bedside, and us children lined up along the wall in the kitchen.  Could hear him struggle to get his breath.  I was about nine or ten years old.  Remember them opening the casket by the gate to view him, and Aunt Mae (his youngest daughter) crying so hard they had to close the casket.  Now, I know how Grandma felt.  They were together 46 years.  H.J. and I were together 62 years when he left suddenly.”


Tape of July 22, 1978: G.O. told a story he remembered on the tape with Mildred Bolton, his first cousin, about how they had to work when it was raining and they couldn’t get out to the fields.  They would shuck corn, or fix the harness, or grind corn at the barn, and make repairs.  Grandpa Smith always kept them working.  “Pa was a great one for working.”

Tape March 7, 1977:  G.O. said, “Like I said, there was something to do from the time you got up in the morning until the time you went to bed at night.  And when night come, you was ready to go to bed.  You were give out because you had done worked.  You can’t believe how primitive they lived, compared to the way we live now.  If we want some beans, we run to the store and buy a little sack of beans.  But you raised your own beans then.  Planted them in the corn when you were planting the corn.  And then you had to take meal sacks, and flour sacks, and go down there and gather them beans off of those corn stalks when they got dry.  And then you took a stick and beat that sack and knocked all the beans out of the hulls.  And then you held them up and let the wind blow the trash out of them, and let them fall on a sheet.  Sometimes they stood on the barn, and let the wind blow the trash away.  And then you took those beans and sacked them up, and I forgot what…they had something to put in them to keep the weevils from getting in them, but I forget what it was.”

“But there was something to do all the time.  Just like when the peaches and apples was getting ripe.  You were either canning them or you was cutting them up to dry.  And Grandma had a lot of oil cloth, and you would get up on that smokehouse, and that was my job because I was a little boy and could get up on top real easy, spread that oil cloth out, and they would hand me up those peaches and apples, and I would spread them out on top of that oil cloth and have the whole top of that smokehouse covered with apples and peaches, drying.  Drying in the sun for food that winter.”


“The first freezing spell, Grandpa (called Jim Smith) would start killing hogs.  He killed eight or ten hogs at one time, killed hogs all day long and hung them up, so they would stay out in the cold that night and after he got them killed and hung up and they got the animal heat out of them and cooled out, well, the next morning you started cutting them up.  And that was a job…cutting up that many hogs. 

“And he had a great big old box that it took two, nearly, to lift the lid on because it was made out of rough lumber and it was full of salt.  And you put that meat down in there and you covered it with salt…and let the salt strike through it…left it in there.  It was right out by the well…in the back yard.  And it would just nearly freeze your hands off when you had to wash that salt off that meat when you got ready to smoke it.

“And I’ve been out there and you would draw that water and the more salt that you washed off, your hands would get so cold that you would just have to stop and rub them.  Then you carried it to the smokehouse.  My grandmother had a big old dish pan.  She took flour and sorghum syrup and red pepper for seasoning and mixed all that up in that syrup and made a paste out of it…a real thick paste…it would be about a quarter of an inch thick on those hams and side of bacon…just rubbed it, and then sprinkled it with flour.  Sometimes if it was a little bit thin, she put some more flour on there and rubbed it in with her hands.  That was to keep a little old bug out of there that they called the “miller” that would get in the meat.

“Then they had pieces of wire and a hole cut through the meat and they hung it up on the rafters in that smokehouse.  The smokehouse was dug out about four feet deep.    It had a bench that went all the way around the wall about four feet wide.  The dirt wasn’t dug out there.  It was just laid up there and that was to walk on.

“But they built a fire right in the center down in the pit in that smokehouse and had a good-sized fire, I’m talking about, out of green wood.  The old house had a…the smokehouse was made out of logs and all of it chinked on the sides with handmade shingles on the top of it, and that is the only place the smoke got out was up there through those shingles. When you went in there you could see the fire good, and tell how to tend to it and all, but up there in the top of that smokehouse, it would just be a fog of smoke and it would be coming out all day long under those wooden shingles.  And you kept the fire going day and night until that meat was smoked.  It seems to me like it took about a week or so.  It would be just as black as could be.  The outside of it with that syrup and all that smoke, it would look plumb black when you took it down.  But boy, my grandmother would take a knife and trim that stuff off.  Just trimmed it off to that fat.  And you talk about some ham with striped gravy… and that sorghum kind of sweetened that meat or something.  It was good eating.”

“Those hams and bacon didn’t spoil in the summer.  Shoot, they hung right out there in that smokehouse all summer long.  From one fall to the next…and that was your meat.  The way they done it, they had so much smoke on them and so much spices, it was so hot on the outside of that meat that bugs didn’t get in it.

“And that smokehouse I was telling you about.  He had great big five and ten gallon crocks filled with kraut, with big old wooden lids.  And it would be foaming and you could smell it when you went down in that smokehouse.  But there would be seven or eight or ten of those big old crocks all across the backside of it there…setting on boards, filled with that kraut.  Made their own pickles, too.”

Grandmother described their smokehouse, too – maybe in two places – but I accidentally erased over one taped story:

GM:  “Oh honey, it was just a building, with a platform as you walk in the door.  Out so far.  And the platform went clear around.  And then, the ground was left, you know, where they smoked all the meat up here.  They built a fire, and all the stuff was put in there.  And they dug a pit and built a fire to smoke everything hanging up.  And Charlie went out there one morning to get molasses where they had made syrup, and it was cold, and he turned the barrel over (with the spigot turned on, JB) to fill up his bucket.  It was sitting on a bench-like platform, and he come in the house and forgot about it, and it just poured out all over down in there (the pit), (laughing), and they had to get in there and dig all that stuff out and clean it up.”         

G.O.:  “And I rode old Barney, an old horse that was gentle, and my grandfather would pick me up and put a sack of corn in front of me and one behind me, and I rode it about six miles down to my Uncle Letcher’s grist mill and saw mill, and he ground it up into meal and I brought it back.”

“Grandpa Smith was a fox hunter.  My grandmother would make a great big pan of bread…that big a square (measuring) for them dogs.  Every evening.  And if he told her not to feed the dogs, I knew we were going to go hunting that night.  So they would run real good.  And he would put me up in front of him in the saddle and away we would go.  And we would meet four or five other fellows and they would have all their dogs, and boy, I’m telling you, the fox chase took place.  And we would stop and listen to them dogs, and they could tell which dog was in the lead…and where the fox was going to cross.  And we would get on those horses, and race to get there in the moonlight and watch the dogs cross with that fox.  It was thrilling…to a little boy. 

“It was a pastime to them.  He had the best dog there was in the country…my grandfather.  His name was Pullman.  I don’t know where he got that name for him, but I never will forget it.  Pullman, just like the Pullman car on the back of a passenger train.  And he had the best nose, and was one of the fastest dogs.  I know one night, we had started across a bridge over there at Chancellor Creek over a foot log when he was just a puppy, when my grandfather was training him, and it was a coon he was after instead of a fox, and when we got up there, that coon had a hold on that puppy on that log and pulled him off in that water.  And it was icy, mind you.  And Grandpa went right in that icy water and grabbed that pup by the leg and that coon was still holding on to him, setting right on top of his head.  And would have drowned him, too, if Grandpa hadn’t of got him out.  They will do that, a coon will.”


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