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My grandpa has a wonder southern saying he often used to make a point about planning. He used to say, “Every hello ain’t here and every goodbye ain’t gone.” As you can tell from the dialect, he was truly from the south.
Born in 1912, my grandpa was, raised on a sharecropper’s farm. For many of you, the term, ‘Share Cropper,’ might be an expression many of you are unfamiliar with in its meaning. A sharecropper was a farmer that worked another man’s land and in turn, the farmer and the owner would share the profits from the harvest.
During this period, it was common for the boys to be in the fields with their dad while the girls either helped their mom with the chores or worked the fields, as well. All together, my great-grandpa had twenty-four children by three different wives with my grandpa being the son of the third wife.
Another expression my grandpa commonly used was, “Now, I said that to say this.” His metaphor for why he set the stage for what he really had in mind of saying.
During the depression, it was common for carpetbaggers to travel all over the country in hopes of making sales to earn some kind of money to send home to their families.
One day, my grandpa’s whole family was out in the field working when my great-grandpa told him to head to the house and grab a stack of Johnnycakes and a bucket of water for lunch. (Johnnycakes are flatbread).
Anyway, my grandpa left the fields and headed to the house to round up the food and water, as he had been, told to. While he was gathering everything, he heard a knock at the door and went to answer when he saw this man standing there.
The man introduced himself and went into his sales pitch when my grandpa stopped him by saying, “Mister, we don’t have any money for your amazing mosquito ointment. Fact is, most folks around here, don’t. However, there is one family up the road about five miles from here. If you’re going to make a sale in these parts they are about the only ones with money, so try there.”
The salesman thanked my Grandpa and left. Grandpa said he was not trying to be rude to the man but he also knew how his dad was about them taking their time when they were told to do something and he needed to get back with the food and water.
Grandpa said he had not thought anymore about it although, he did take the time to point out to his dad why it took him a few extra minutes to get back.
That Sunday, the church was a having revival and grandpa said that someone had made a huge rain barrel full of lemonade. As the evening started to approach, most all of the lemonade was gone and he had a craving for the lemons floating around in the very bottom of the barrel. He tried leaning over the side of this big old wooden barrel, stretching to reach the lemons and fell in. By then, he knew his dad was going to tear his butt up so after he righted himself inside the barrel, sat there and enjoyed every lemon he could get his hands on.
During the course of enjoying those rare lemons, back then, he heard his dad walk up with a neighbor and said their conversation went along these lines.
His dad asked the farmer, “My boy sent a salesman to your place earlier in the week…did the man make it okay?”
The other farmer replied, “Yea, he made it alright,” with a slight chuckle. “He showed up and told me he had this ointment for mosquitoes that would keep a person from getting bit.”
“Yea, L.B. mentioned something about that,” great-grandpa interjected.
“As you know, mosquitoes are bad this year and I’m willing try anything as long as it works,” the man added and went on to tell the rest of the story while my grandpa sat in the bottom of the rain barrel trying to take in the conversation, and as many lemons as he could before getting caught.
According to the man, he made a deal with the salesman that if the salesman was willing to prove that the ointment actually worked, he would buy a whole case from the man. With times being what they were, the carpetbagger could not resist this deal.
The deal seemed simple. The farmer had the salesman strip down naked, cover himself in the ointment and spend the night tied to a tree. The farmer did not want the salesman trying to pull a fast one on him and that’s why tying the man to a tree had to be part of the deal.
Reluctantly, the salesman agreed to do this. The farmer led him out to a field where a tree stood by itself. Along the way, the farmer assured him there were no wild animals and that he would be back at first light.
So, the salesman stripped, covered himself in ointment and the farmer tied him to the tree and told him, “Now, I’ll be back first thing in the morning and anyone around these parts will tell you I’m a man of my word.” The farmer headed back to the house and got a good night’s rest.
Come the next morning, he hurried up, got dressed and headed out to the field to check on the man. When he got there, he saw that the man was there, still tied to the tree. Quickly, he looked the man over for any red marks and was, surprised by the fact that he did not see even one bite on the man.
“Well mister, I guess a deal is a deal…that stuff really works,” he told the carpetbagger.
The man did not say anything but moaned in a weakened voice.
The farmer, realizing the man was still, tied to the tree; the farmer quickly offered to cut him down. After he cut the man loose, the man collapsed to the ground and the farmer felt somewhat bad about what he had done to the salesman.
“Hey mister, didn’t you hear me, I’ll buy a case of that ointment from you,” He stated, hoping that might perk the salesman up some.
Instead, the salesman just laid there and moaned again.
Finally, the farmer reached down, rolled the man over and asked him, “Hey mister, I said I’d buy a case of your goods…are you okay?”
Finally, the salesman opened his eyes and told the farmer, “You didn’t tell me you had a suckling calf out here.”
My grandpa cracked up laughing from inside the rain barrel right up until his dad’s hand reached inside and jerked him right out. He said that was about the time he stopped laughing and very quick.
My grandpa did tell me that the farmer took the man back to the house, let him take a good hot bath, fed him breakfast and let him spend the day recovering from the calf incident. Fact is, he let the carpetbagger stay the night and get a goodnight’s rest before heading out the next day and he did buy a case of the ointment, as promised.
In today’s world, times are tough but let us hope times never get that bad and that we never get that desperate.