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Growing Up in Downtown Sango

Life on the Farm Life on the farm in downtown Sango TN. I was born in the year of 1948. I grew up on a 100 acre farm owned by 2 old maid school teachers. To get to our house from Clarksville you took highway 112 toward Nashville. When you got to Sango Road you made a left hand turn. At the end of Sango Road you took another left hand turn onto Sango Road. We were the 4th house on the left. My father was a share cropper. For those of you who donít know what a share cropper was I will explain how our deal was. We supplied the labor to tend the cattle and raise the crops. We also paid Ĺ of the expenses related to raising a crop. The owner of the land supplied the land, paid there half of the expenses and furnished us with a house to live in. The land owner supplied a team of mules and the equipment we used with the mules. My Dad bought a tractor and I think the property owner paid him some at the end of the year for the use of the tractor. We lived in a farm house that had no bathroom, running water or air conditioning. The house had 2 rooms, a kitchen, front and back porch. My parents slept in what was called the living room and all 4 children slept in the other room. The room was big enough for 2 beds. There was a big old coal stove in that room that we used when it got real cold. I donít think we used it when we were real small. The house had bat and board siding on the outside and tongue and groove pine boards on the inside. The living room/bedroom was heated by a coal fire place. You were warm on one side and cold on the other. When I was real small we had a wood cook stove. I can remember when we switched from wood to propane. Mr. Ben David Welch came over and installed the gas for the propane stove. The propane tank set in the mule pasture about 50 ft. from the house and we dug the ditch for the gas line by hand. Our first lawn mower that I remember was 2 mules. Our yard had a fence around it just like a cow pasture. We would open the gate and let the mules come in to eat the grass. We had a smoke house, a chicken house and an out house. I can remember my Dad digging a new out house hole. Our out house had a short seat for the kids and a taller seat for the adults. I donít remember anything about using a Sears and Roebuck Catalog for toilet paper but I donít remember using anything else either. The outhouse was out behind the chicken house and we used it until we moved. I was 16 when we moved away from that house. My family share cropped that farm for about 20 years. Our water supply for many years was a cistern out behind the house. We collected water in the cistern off the roof of the house. When it rained you had to have the gutter diverter valve turned to divert the water on the ground until the coal dust got washed off the roof. Then you would go out and turn the water into the cistern. I can remember my mother washing clothes with a washboard. We then got a ringer washer that sat on the back porch. We had one of those drop in the wash tub heater we used to heat the water part of the time. The rest of the time we carried water from the cistern to a lard kettle in the back yard and heated the water in it and carried the water back to the house. All the clothes were hung on the clothes line. In the winter time they would freeze on the line. There was no wash and wear so many of them had to be ironed. Baths were taken for many years in a washing pan. We took our baths in the kitchen. We did buy a sink for the kitchen and run the water out into the yard. I remember when we got the sink. My folks had ordered it from one of the mail order houses. My brother, dad and I went down to the rail depot behind the public square to pick it up. We were pulling a trailer and the sink was in a cardboard box. On the way home just as we passed Roosevelt school we met a trailer truck that bout blew us off the road. I turned around and looked behind the car and said to my Dad. The sink is gone. My Dad said a few things I wonít repeat here. We turned around and went back. Our sink was laying all over the school yard at Roosevelt School. We went home with a slightly damaged kitchen sink. It never had running water to it. When I was real small all we had to farm with was the mules and a jeep. I Dad got read of the jeep and bought a Ford Ferguson. We would break the ground with the tractor then drag it with a team of mules. That was my first job I had using the mules riding a wood drag all day long. I donít know how old I was when I started riding the drag. I know I was in the 4th grade when I started plowing the garden with a mule. From the garden it was on to the corn field to plow the corn. We used a harrow type piece of equipment we called a scratcher. We also used a rastes and a double shovel. Tobacco and the way we did it. For those who donít know what was involved in raising tobacco let me tell you how we did it when I was a young kid until I quit having anything to do with it. To start with we had to make plant beds to plant the tobacco seeds and get plants started that could be transplanted to the tobacco patch. There were several ways you could prepare a plant bed for planting. We did what was called burning a plant bed. We picked a spot where there was a lot of trees or brush. (usually on a steep hill side). We would cut the trees and brush and pile them up in a strip about 10 ft. wide and 60 ft. long. You had to have a lot of brush piled and it had to be piled thick so you could get a good burn. What you were trying to do was to kill the grass and weed seeds in the ground so they would not come up and choke out your young tobacco plants. We started out our cutting with axes and a cross cut saw until we were able to purchase a David Bradley chain saw from Sears and Roebuck. The fun part of burning a plant bed was the fire part and it was really nice when you did it at night. Some people used plant bed burners. With a plant bed burner you shoveled the dirt into a metal box that you moved across the area you wanted to kill the seeds in. You had a fire under the box. I never saw one of these used but I have seen this type of plant bed burner. Later on as I got older they came out with a gas that you could put down a plastic sheet and let the gas out underneath it to kill the weed and grass seeds. That beat the heck out of cutting and piling all that brush. Tobacco seeds are real small seeds you would scatter them out on the new plant bed and rake the around in the dirt. We would cut poles a make a rectangular frame on the ground around the are we had planted the seeds in. Then you would cover the bed with a canvas. When the seeds came there was always some grass seeds that came up too so the next job would be to pull the canvas back and pull up the weeds and grass. After the plants reached a height of 4 or 5 inches they were ready to set (transplant to the field). Setting the tobacco. When I was young and before we had access to a tobacco setting machine we set our tobacco by hand. We had what was called a tobacco peg. Some were made out of wood but ours had been made by a local blacksmith Mr. Blanks who had a blacksmith shop on Old Sango Road. We raised 3 different types of tobacco burley, one sucker and dark. When I first started setting dark tobacco we set it in check rows. That meant that the rows had to be laid out both directions across the field. These rows were usually laid out by my father with a 2 row cultivator pulled by mules. I can remember one time when the ground was real wet my Dad building him a frame with nails sticking down toward the ground and pulling it across the field to lay the rows out. He would lay out 2 rows at a time and had to go over the field 2 times to get the rows laid out in both directions. Each place the lines crossed in the field was where you set the plants. This checking was done so the tobacco could be plowed both ways. When using a tractor powered tobacco setter that was used after I got a little older and a few folks had them in the area farmers quit checking the tobacco. You were unable to do this with a setter. The first setter I saw was one being used by Ike Stanley in a field across from our house. This was the type of setter where you sit down close to the ground and stretched your legs out in front of you. You would stick the tobacco plant down between 2 rolling wheels. You had to do this at the precise time because the setter also dispensed water when it was time to set the plant. Setting tobacco was bend over set the plant move on to the next spot bend over and do it all over again. When it was real wet you set tobacco in the mud. When it was real dry you had to take your plants and dip them in a 5 gallon bucket full of mud so you would have some moisture at the roots. The dry was worse than the wet because you had mud all over your hands and when you poked your hole in the dry dirt your hole was always filling up before you could get your plant set. What came after setting tobacco? Now that you had the tobacco in the field and growing you had to keep the weeds and grass out of the field. We did this by cultivating with mules and a weeding hoe. As the tobacco plants grew you had to put poison on them to keep the bugs and worms out. We had a tin can nailed to a tobacco stick with holes in the bottom of the can and you would shake it over each plant to dispense the poison. We also used a flower sack when the plants got a little larger. They also made poison machines that you walked along and cranked a blower to dispense the poison. This was used when the plants were near full growth. Another way to get the worms off the tobacco was to pick them off and squeeze them dead. I was a girly boy when it came to this. I would knock them off on the ground and step on them. We raised 3 different kinds of tobacco. Burley, Dark, and One Sucker. Boy was that One Sucker tobacco a joke. I pulled a lot more than one sucker off the pants. Suckers are for lack of a better way to explain it are small tobacco plants growing on the main plant. If you did not remove them they were like leaches and would take the nutrients from the main plant restricting its growth. When the dark and one sucker was about waist high we did what was called topping it. You pinch the bud out of the top so the plant would fill out and make large leaves which created weight and you sold your tobacco by the pound. Once it was topped the suckers started growing and every week you had to go through the field plant by plant and rub the suckers off. We did this on the dark and one sucker only. The burley we sprayed with a chemical called MH 30 to prevent sucker growth. We would pull suckers for about a month. In the mornings when the due was on the tobacco we made aprons with fertilizer bags and hay strings. While suckering the tobacco we preformed a function called ruffling. This was rubbing the leaves off the leaf stem where it attached to the stalk. This was done to make the plant easier to cut when it came cutting time. Cutting the tobacco. We cut our dark and one sucker by splitting the stalk from the top to within about 6 inches of the ground. You would split the stalk then chop it off near the ground being careful not to get your tobacco knife in the dirt and dull it. After the plant was cut we placed it on the ground to wilt under the suns heat or ( fall as we often called it). This was done to let the plants limber up and not be brittle and break apart. You had to be careful and not let the tobacco lay in the sun too long or it would sunburn. Sunburned tobacco looked bad and did not have the quality in the leaf after it cured that it should have. In the winter you could lay the sunburned tobacco out and let if frost on it and that would help it take the sunburn out. Kind of a reversed process I guess. After the plants wilted you came along and slid them over what is called a tobacco stick. Now the sticks had to get to the field. Often the younger folks had the job of (dropping sticks). You were supposed to walk between 2 rows and drop a stick for the number of plants you were putting on the stick. I usually just dropped them end to end or about a foot apart. Too much trouble counting plants. Everybody would get in the middle of 2 rows picking up the plants and sliding them on the sticks. We then would walk to what we called scaffolds which were like 2 saw horses set up side by side where we would hang the sticks with the plants on them. The reason for using the scaffolds was so the plants would wilt some more and not break up as bad when you took the tobacco to the barn. Our schedule was usually cut the tobacco in the afternoon and put it on the scaffolds then the next day take it to the barn. On our burley tobacco we did what was called spike it. Here you cut the tobacco plant and slid it over a sharp cone shaped tool placed over the end of the stick called a spike. You had to be careful and not get your arm spiked. Spiking was easily done with a fast wrist action after you placed the plant on the point. There have been a lot of tall tales told about oneís ability to spike tobacco. Most of that talk was done when your were not around the patch and did not have back up your bragging rights as to how much tobacco you could spike. To the barn we go with a load of tobacco removed from the scaffold. When you got to the barn it usually took 1 man on the wagon to hand it up and 2 up in the barn to place the tobacco sticks on the tear poles. Why were they called tear poles because when I was young I had tears in my eyes because I did not want to stretch across them with my foot barely resting on them and bend over to catch the next stick of tobacco coming up. I donít know why they were called tear poles but my answer looks good to me and probably would to all the kids who had to do this job at a young age. Might have had something to do with the possibility of snakes laying on top of them at times. P

Raymond Bagwell, TN, entered 2006-08-11
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