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Written by James Needham Groom (1911 - )

I have been thinking about writing a few notes on how things were in my time, but the question always arose - Who would be interested in what I did or didnít do? Then I get to thinking about Elijah, Elizabeth, Needham York, Millage Short and Callie Groom, who are all gone. What I would give for a few lines written by them, how ever badly written? About how it was in their time! Maybe someone who comes after me, my Grandsonís children, will be interested, so without the expertise of Stienback or Mitchner, I will try to tell something about the 20ís, 30ís 40ís and 50ís.

Mother died when I was little over a year old, and I lived with Aunt Ethel and various other relatives and Dadís friends until I was three. My first memories are of my Stepmother and I walking thru some woods where she cut a small twig to make a snuff brush. She chewed one end of the green twig until about an inch of it became brushy, which she dipped into a brown jar of Levi Garret Snuff and put in her mouth. This wasnít quite up to watching John Hancockís signing the Declaration of Independence, but it is the first thing that I can remember and it is also one of the very few luxuries enjoyed by the working people of that era. Stepmother died less than a year after of pellagra, a diet deficiency disease caused by the three M diet - meat, meal and molasses. People who lived on farms then, either small land owners or the vast majority, share croppers, raised cotton, cane and corn. Cotton was the only money crop and except for World War I, it was very little money, if any.

I am going to try to tell something about how cotton was raised in those days before the large tractors and the Agri business era. All power was by teams of horses or mules. The very poorest sharecropper had one team, and the large farmer in West Texas had 10 to 20 head of work stock. Iíll not try to cover all types of farmers, just say a farm of 160 acres with two teams. Teams, like men, are at all stages of life, from young foals to those too old to work. They were usually broke-to work at age three, and with good care, had 15 year work-life. In order to keep four head in their prime, a farmer had to either buy young stock or keep brood mares. Either way was a problem. A good young team could cost three to four hundred dollars, which was a lot of money to make on ten-cent cotton. On the other hand, to raise a colt was a problem of food and pasture.

Teams were harnessed for plowing with a collar, a pair of hames, two chain traces, a back band, a bridle and reins. On TV, teams are always standing, already harnessed and hitched up, but it wasnít quite that easy. You had to go out into the pasture and drive them into the barnyard, which was called the horse lot. The horses knew what was in store for them and wasnít all that eager to go into the lot. Many times they would be nearly thru the gate when one of them would whirl and break for the back of the pasture, with the others following. I doubt if proper profanity has been invented to express ones anger and frustration at a time like that.

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