Page 2 – Thompson Family
to hunt small animals at night and so loved his hunting dogs. He would
occasionally kill an animal, skin it, and sell the hide or fur. First
Monday in Canton was a special treat for him and for us if we were fortunate
enough to be allowed to go with him. If you found him in the company of
some men, he would not refuse you a nickel for an ice cream. At First
Monday, Daddy would sell, trade or barter everything from coon dogs to mules,
horses or cows. If they didn't work out he would trade them off the
following month. We love to tell what Doris, then four years old, said
when she was told she had a little brother. Her only question was
"what did daddy trade for him"? Daddy loved Norve, his second
son and youngest child, above and beyond all others put together. Norve
personified all that he ever wanted in a child.
Daddy's talent as an amateur veterinarian is noteworthy and so were his skill, ingenuity, and creativity as a mechanic and blacksmith. He could repair or fix everything and make what he did not have whether it was plows, horse bridles, or his Model T or Model A Fords. (He was just as likely to unfix something such as the carburetor if we were scheduled to go to some after school event and he did not want us to go. He would tell us that the car was impossible to start and would not fix it until the next day). It was his job to inspect the animals every morning and night, and when they were sick or had cuts, he knew just what to do. He recruited me to help at the birthing of the livestock. (I had early on expressed an interest in being a doctor, and he had found me a giant bullfrog to kill and dissect when I told him I wanted to get a head start on the sissies at school when I studied biology). And so, Daddy awakened me one night to go with him and hold the lantern or do whatever I could when Ruby the mare went into labor and his favorite foal was born. He let me name him "Smokey". When he was struck down with sleeping sickness before he was two years old, Daddy summoned the local Veterinarian who told Daddy to shoot him as he would die a slow death, and even if he didn't die, he would not be right in the head. Daddy refused to believe this, and he recruited me to help him with his own idea of how to save the young horse. Instead of letting the horse lie in a coma-like state, we prodded him to his feet at least three times a day, rubbed him down, and tried to feed him. About three weeks later, he was up, walking about, his mind was good, and he grew into a beautiful stallion. When the time came, Daddy broke him to ride, and later he held him out for stud and kept a book hidden in the rafters of the front porch on his stud fees. Smokey was indeed a handsome stallion, and Daddy rode him into town with great pride. He was Daddy's pride and joy and he never ceased bragging about how he had proved the Veterinarian wrong.
Mama was a beautiful woman with twinkling blue-gray eyes, a smile that brightened her face, light brown hair, fair complexion, of slight build, five feet three inches tall, modestly vain, but denied herself just about everything so her children could have. She was equally talented; but stoical and modest. Her loyalty to her parents and siblings was steadfast. Mama was a good cook; she was proud of her peach cobbler, original peanut butter/chocolate cake and cornbread dressing. Actually, she could make, cook or sew just about anything, and taught her eldest daughter these arts at a very young age. She was too busy, unfortunately, to teach the daughters who followed.
Daddy and Mama arose every morning before sun-up to start their daily chores on the farm when nothing had changed to make life easier for the last one hundred years. No electricity, no running water, no mechanical machinery, nothing had changed. Mama started a fire in the kitchen stove from kindling wood the first thing every morning, made biscuits and put them in the oven, went to the barn to milk a cow, and then came back and finished making breakfast. Daddy, in the meantime, would have been in the barn feeding the livestock. He never started to work without a breakfast of coffee, homemade biscuits, and gravy, plus eggs and bacon or ham, if they were available. Mama cooked a second meal to eat at noon. In the summer, we had fresh vegetables, corn bread and iced tea. On Sunday, we always had fried chicken. She always cooked enough food for us to have cold leftovers for our evening meal. She had a vivid imagination, could make soda crackers, fried fruit pies and even donuts. Despite our poverty, she always did her best to make sure we had healthy meals.
With this in mind, Mama cultivated a huge vegetable garden and everything that was not eaten on a daily basis was canned, preserved, or dried. She planted tomato slips, onions, beans of all kinds, carrots, cabbage, collards, cucumbers, English peas, lettuce, okra, peppers, potatoes, radishes, squash, and turnips. She could make a pattern from scratch from a newspaper or brown paper sack, and made all of our clothes on her Singer sewing machine from fabric ordered from Sears and Roebuck. Our cotton sacks were made out of duck cloth, extremely heavy cotton, every year and she even made special kneepads and straps for Daddy. She usually milked our two cows although I helped with this when I was old enough, and when the milk was skimmed, she saved the cream to churn for butter. She could make cottage cheese from clabbered milk. We had buttermilk from the churned milk, and nothing was lost. She could pack cabbage and let it ferment to make sour kraut, and take dried corn and make hominy. She could and did make sheets from muslin, pieced together scraps of material, and sewed quilt tops from scratch and then carded cotton to put between the top and the bottom and then quilted them for bed cover. She know how to knit, crochet, and embroidery. This she did in her spare time in between cooking, cleaning, ironing, laundry and milking. If we were sick from one of the many childhood diseases that plagued us from chicken pox, mumps, measles of every variety, whooping cough, influenza or roseola, she soothed out foreheads with wet cloths, made plasters for our chests of mustard, Vicks salve or asafetida, and got up every night to check that we had not tossed our bed covers aside and to cover us up. Many times she met us on our way home from school and her arms filled with sweaters and galoshes when a blue northern blew in unexpectedly or it rained unexpectedly during the day while we were away at school.