It doesn’t seem like I should be 64 years old. When you count my 4 years in high school and teaching another 32 years in high school, I didn’t really graduate until 2006. By the math I use, I am actually 25. To imagine I was born in the first half of the 20th century and now I am here in the second decade of the 21st century sure causes me to reflect upon the changes I have seen.
Some of you may wonder why the picture of the squirrel? Simple, I like squirrels. You know, I feel better when I see a rabbit or a squirrel to start my day. I admire them because they have such a simple life. I don’t think the rabbits and squirrels try to dedicate their lives to being the most important rabbit or squirrel in the neighbor. We could learn a lot from a squirrel.
Yes, I can proudly say I was a cotton pickin’ southern boy. My Grandfather Hartline gave me my first paying job. I still remember the south of the 1950′s. I learned the value of hard work from my Grandfather. I also learned about how things are not what they always appear to be. I worked in those cotton fields with my brothers and black women. My Grandfather paid those women the same wages he paid me. Actually, he paid them more because they could do more. You were paid by the pound so the more you picked, the more you made. The most I ever picked was 200 pounds which translated into $6.00 for 12 hours of work. My Grandfather called all the women by their first name, i.e. Miss Betty, Miss Sally, etc. He was kind and gentle toward them and I never observed anything disrespectful. He also admired their work ethic. The women commonly picked 300 pounds per day in less time than it took me to do the 180-200 pounds. I didn’t get extra money because I was a Grandson. To outsiders it might have appeared that my Grandfather took advantage of the labors of those black ladies. He didn’t care what color they were, he just needed the cotton picked! He was one of the last cotton farmers that “hand-picked” cotton. That was a business decision since he got more money at the cotton gin for hand-picked cotton than machine picked.
I miss my Grandfather as much today as I did when he passed away in 1982. I learned about hard work, tolerance, and the value of a simple life. I feel sorry for kids who are growing up without a Grandfather in their life. Outside of faith in God, family is the most important part of any life. My Grandmother and Grandfather Hartline raised a family during the depression years. They passed the value of hard work and family to their kids. As I watch God and family disappear from American Culture I will fondly remember the days of my youth, spending time with a Grandfather that taught me so much without every saying a word. The powerful example of a young boy observing a real man making a living out of the dirt of the ground. Thank you Granddaddy…..