Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On the Haystack by E.D. "Shinbone" Smith, Bomar Oklahoma, formerly Indian Territory, or "IT"

When I was a kid, I reckon that we had the same kind of depression and such that I hear so much about these days. People got the blues and some people was jist plain bluesy all the time. Like everthang else in a small community, these thangs was noticed and occasionally commented on, but, for the most part, people jist kept going. They had to if they was going to survive, especially during the Depression. People didn't talk about such thangs when it came to themselves. I expect that some of the women would talk to old Doc Grey, but I doubt if any of the men I knew did. I never knew a man that would go to a preacher about such thangs, though he might if it was a spiritual question. Ever once in a while, the old men would set on the porch or a river bank fishin and maybe they would mention being down or discouraged. When I was a kid, I would hear this once in a while. It always took place in the dark and they always thought that being a kid I wouldn't be interested or understand what they was talking about. Truth is, I was always listening and interested, even when I didn't understand. I can remember their chicken-billed, hand rolled cigarettes aglowing in the dark when they'd talk. I expect they eased one another in this way more'n they knew. Kindly like the "therapy" they are always talking about today. And they wasn't any drugs, except the kind that comes out of a whiskey bottle or a Prince Albert can. Sure enough, some people turned to whiskey in such times, and some of 'em, turning, never turned back. I always figured that real troubles are not drowned in that way because real ones can swim.

I expect that some wives and children and not a few horses and mules suffered more from male depression than the male himself. And a few inanimate thangs have been beaten purty bad because they was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Female depression was probably more common and more tolerated because it could be chalked up to "female trouble," and I know that some women were as addicted to patent medicines as some men were to whiskey.

We had occasional suicides, men and women. People jist wore out and there are stories of rat poison and straight razors. It didn't happen very often, but that meant that it made a big impression when it did happen.

I reckon that people had other ways of coping, hard work being the main one. My old daddy used to say if a man got up early enough and worked hard enough, he didn't have any spunk left by bedtime to fret much. But, speaking of daddy, I have known him a time or two to go out south of the barn where there was a big sandy place and fall down and wallow around for a while, jist groaning to beat the band. The first time I snuck out and witnessed this, it scared me near to death and I thought he was having a fit. When I run and told Mama, he jist said, "Don't mention this, and try not to worry. It's jist your daddy dealing with his demons," which didn't help a bit because she chucked the devil into the thang. She also said, "And don't go sneaking around watching folk's business. It won't make you happy."

I remember one situation worth mentioning, now that I'm talking about this thang and that has to do with Old Man Killigrew and the haystacks.

Old man Killigrew was of the old school and didn't take no stock in modern thangs. Refused electric lights even after the rural electric come. Wouldn't own a car, but went to Thackerville in a wagon or on mule back when he needed anything, which wadn't often. Plowed and cultivated with mules and a goose-neck hoe. You git the picture. Now, long after most everybody else got hay balers, Old Man Killgrew still ricked or stacked his hay the old timey way. We kids used to jist love to visit the Killgrews because we got to play in the hay ricks, making caves and tunnels and slides down the side.

Well, ever now and again, the Old Man would get in a state and the old lady and the kids would say, "It's about time for Daddy to go up on the haystack."

And, sure enough, he'd git him an old bucket for his thunder jug and a blanket and a ladder and would climb up on one of them hayricks and jist stay for two or three days and nights. Never took any liquor with him or reading material, jist that bucket and blanket. And he'd sit and sit until he sat it out.

The old lady was amazingly tender about the thang. She'd take him his breakfast and dinner and supper up to him three times a day. She'd take him a jug of water and empty his bucket and bring it back. The memory of that old lady makes me kindly tender, jist thanking about it.

After the second or third day, Missus Killigrew would tell the children, "Daddy's about ready to come down from the haystack," and sure'nough, he'd come down, wash out the bucket, put the ladder back in the barn, fold the blanket and put it up, and go back to work, right as rain. Had himself a little retreat from ever'thang and was fine as frog's hair for a long spell.

Human beings are copers. They find a way to cope and survive- if they survive. It's one of the thangs I have watched throughout my life, and one of thangs I have enjoyed watching and studying.