Grubbing Stumps

Stump Grubbing

I grew up in a cotton mill community. The mill was a family owned entity and after a union strike, the mill closed leaving all of its employees without jobs. Some of the men like my dad worked at odd jobs. Dad was always a hard worker and found a job working part time for a local contractor who at the time was building huge boat house on Lake Summit, a lake built by what is now Duke Energy and was used to power the hydro-electric plant at Pot Shoals on Green River just below the lake. The water from the lake was delivered to turn the turbines by a wooden flume line until recent years.

During the two year period before the old cotton mill was acquired by J P Stevens and many of the mill folks were able to return to work, dad had made friends with some of the folks who owned properties and houses on Lake Summit and occasionally did odd jobs for some. At the same time, my Uncle Clyde had gotten a job at the Tuxedo Community Store and knew most of the Lake Summit residents who patronized the store.

One day a resident came into the community store and ask if he might know a young man who could grub a stump at the end of his driveway. Uncle Clyde ask me if I would be interested in the job and I said I certainly would be interested. Later, the man who was from Spartanburg contacted me about the job. I had heard my dad talk about grubbing stumps as a young man for his Uncle Ulysses who was the caretaker and groundskeeper at the Captain Smyth's place which later was purchased by Lincoln biographer and poet, Carl Sandburg. Sandburg named his new home Connemara and soon following his death was placed in the National Registry of historic places.

Arrangements were made for me to come over on a Saturday morning and the man showed me the stump he wanted grubbed. It was an Oak stump about 12 inches in diameter and didn't look to b a very hard job. He would pay me 50 cents an hour to grub the stump and tke me home when I had finished the job.

From what my dad had told me, I should dig around the stump cutting the roots as I went and when deep enough, cut the stumps tap root and finish by pulling the stump out of the ground. I began to work and used a mattock and shovel to remove dirt around the stump. From the beginning the soil around that stump was hard and packed having been near the road bed with continuos packing. The first layer of roots were soon uncovered and cut but that stump showed no sign of becoming loose. I knew this was more of a job than I had anticipated.

The morning soon passed and I was invited to eat. They had BLT's, new sandwich I had never before eaten and it sure tasted good. I enjoyed sitting on their deck eating my sandwich and drinking a Coke looking over Lake Summit at all the boats, some pulling skiers behind them. Lunch time passed all too quickly and it was back to stump grubbing!

It was mid-summer and hot. My white cotton tee shirt was soaked with sweat and my hands and back ached. I had dug a big hole around that stump and cut lots of roots and it still adamantly was as rigid in the ground seeming to poke fun of my efforts. My boss came down from the house to check my work. I suppose he had correctly surmised I wasn't going to be able to get that stump grubbed and it would take a tractor to get it out of the ground. He thanked me for my work and then did something which astonished me.

"Have you ever been on a boat? I have a CrysCraft and if you want, I will take you for a ride around the lake." "No sir, I have never ridden in a boat and yes I would love a ride in your boat." We went down to his boathouse and there was a big boat. I had seen them when I had been fishing on the perimeters of the lake and hated when would would split the water creating huge waves, disturbing my fishing. It had never entered my mind I might one day be inside one of those boats.

He took me for a full tour of Lake Summit. At that time there were few houses or boat houses on the lake. Today, the entire real estate around Lake Summit is filled with upscale houses and the property values are surreal. For a mill village boy the boat ride was like going to the county fair and although I was somewhat timid and shy, I enjoyed the experience very much. The man paid me even though I wasn't successful in completely grubbing that mean old stump. I have grubbed a few other stumps in my lifetime and none have been easy. I remember my dad and the hours he must have worked at the Smyth place for only 10 cents an hour thinking maybe all that hard work made him the man he became, one who did not fear a hard days work.

The years that followed my stump grubbing job found me working other odd jobs for the summer residents who live on Lake Summit but none as hard as my stump experience. Today the removal of stumps and clearing new ground are made easier with equipment such as track hoes. bulldozers and stump grinders but there was a time this job was done with a mattock, shovel, an ax and backbreaking manual labor.


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Comments 2 comments

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 2 years ago

I love your stories. You grew up in a time when hard work meant something. No wonder you turned into such a good man! Up and awesome and interesting, too.


Fiddleman profile image

Fiddleman 2 years ago from Zirconia, North Carolina Author

Thank you breakfastpop. I so appreciate you reading my hubs and commenting. As you know already, most will not derive any benefit or gain any particular knowledge from the articles that I write. For me simply to writing my memories down, gives me a sense of satisfaction; especially if someone chooses to read what I have written.

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