I’ve been busy this week changing out the winter closets to spring and summer, and generally doing some spring cleaning. Because of the change in schedule, I will be offering a few guest columns as and when possible, including this, one from my collection of stories first published in a Florida community newspaper in the late 1980’s as a weekly column co-written by two of my uncles and called “One o’the Nine.” This one appeared August 6, 1987.
Children that live in the city today think that life on the farm is boring, but I can assure you that life was not boring when I was a boy growing up on the farm in the early thirties. We had to work too hard for life to be boring, and–another thing–we found things to do to entertain ourselves, such as taking an old bucket lid and nailing a handle on it and pushing it along for mile after mile. We even found excitement in our work.
I remember once Papa told my younger brother and me to go across the creek and bring some cows back across from the other side. We saddled the horse and a mule. My brother had to ride the mule; after all he was the youngest. We rode the horse and mule down to the creek bridge. Now we didn’t know the county road department had torn the old wooden bridge down to replace it with a new cement one. All there was left of the old bridge was two sills about fifteen inches wide. My brother said, “Oh me! We will have to ride two miles to find a place where we can get across.”
There were steep banks along the creek, making it impossible to cross on horses in most places. I told my brother, “I’m going to ride Old Georgia across the sill of the bridge.” He assured me that I was afraid to do it. Old Georgia was a very gentle horse and would go almost any place you aimed her head. I aimed it at the narrow sill and began to ease her across. I know this is hard to believe but it really is true. Old Georgia made it about half way across before one of her back feet slipped off the sill. I eased down from her back and stood on the sill in front of her holding the bridle reins in my hands and pleaded, “Don’t fall, don’t fall!” It was at least ten or twelve feet to the bottom of the creek and it was almost dry except for the soft mud. Suddenly, without warning, her other foot slipped and she fell flat on her back and the saddle stuck in the mud with all four of her feet straight up in the air. She groaned and tried to turn over, but she was buried too deep in the mud.
I was lucky that day. Thee was a black man about a hundred yards away on a bulldozer watching. He came running down to see if it had killed her. After seeing she was alright, he brought a big grass rope and the bulldozer, and after tying her feet with the rope he took the bulldozer and pulled her out. Other than being a little shook up and muddy, she was alright.
When Old Georgia fell off the bridge sill, the mule that my brother was riding threw him off in the road ditch and ran to the house as fast as she could run. It seems as though the mule was saying, “Brother, if you think I’m going to follow that, you have another thought coming.” I cleaned the mud from the saddlle and climbed upon Old Georgia’s back and rode her home.
About twenty years later my younger brother lived in Vero Beach and was talking to a black man one day. When my brother told him where he grew up, the man said, “about twenty years ago I was building a bridge in that area and I saw a white boy ride a horse across a bridge sill.” I don’t expect you to believe this, but it is true. It was the same black man that had taken the bulldozer and pulled Old Georgia out of the creek.
Boring? No, life was never boring on Papa’s farm when I was a boy.
Postscript: A bridge sill is the supporting structure, in the case of this bridge near my grandpa’s farm, made of wood. There was never a dare this uncle wouldn’t take, and this was one of the more dangerous ones. Somehow, he always managed to stay out of trouble though no one ever understood quite how or why. He grew up to become a southern Baptist minister after he grew up, which gave him another audience for his country stories and provided fodder for new ones.