Memories of Oak Grove

Part Three:
Living and Working

by Goldman Dewitt Freeland
Reprinted with permission.

Living and Working

Occupations of the people of Oak Grove at that time were homemaker, doctor, farmer, blacksmith, carpenter, merchant, barber, preacher, teacher, mechanic, salesman, bootleggers, sawmill operator, deputy sheriff, and a homegrown veterinarian. You wouldn't think that this small community would have as many occupations, but it was true in Oak Grove as I grew up.

I spent some time as I grew up in the country store. My dad owned two separate ones. I also worked on our small farm. Some of the things on the farm growing up I'll never forget. Memories of some of these things cause me never to want to become a farmer, at least the type I attempted at that time on my dad's farm.

We had poor land, poor equipment, and not enough plowbolts. We used baling wire to wire up pieces of equipment. Plowing in new ground is an experience with "new ground colter" on top of a plow that cuts the roots and allows them to slap back against your leg as you move behind the plow. Grubbing sassafras and gum bushes, hoeing (particularly strawberries with runners and crabgrass among the runners), picking strawberries and blackberries, suckering and stripping tobacco were memorable.

We had what was known as a beef club. At the back of our barn down at the woods lot placed between two trees on a long 2 x 4 there were twelve meat hooks. The beef club consisted of twelve people. Twelve weeks in the late summer and fall, we had fresh beef. Each one of the twelve were required to kill a beef approximately a specified size, weight, etc. We had a butcher that butchered the beef and then placed it among the twelve hooks (in a selected known way that I never understood). Each of the twelve members had a specific hook and they got the meat that the butcher put on the hook and that was your meat for the week. I also remember hog killing.

There was sorghum making and molasses making. I didn't know anything about making molasses, but I did admire watching them make sorghum molasses. I also helped my mother can, build fires under kettles, and make lye soap.

We dried apples by cutting, peeling, slicing, and placing apples on top of the smoke house on a cloth so that the apples would dry. We could use the dried apples in the winter to make fried apple pies. My mother also sulphurated apples by placing apples in a cloth flour sack and hanging them in a barrel and above a small fire smothered with sulphur. The apples became sulphurated with this smoke. This eliminated worms and bugs entering the apples and purified, I guess, the apples for winter.

I remember my neighbor and my grandmother picking geese. They put a goose between their knees holding their neck with their left hand and squeezing the goose between their knees. They pulled feathers from around the rear end of a goose for a feather bed.

I also remember watching people shearing sheep with hand clippers. There were no electric clippers at that time. The wool was used for different purposes.

Riding horses and ponies was also an activity I remember doing.

Backing up a little bit and thinking about the goose down placed in feather beds reminds me of Granny's bed. She lived in the old home place where the 13 Sherron children grew up in a log cabin. The house where the 13 children lived was a T-shaped two large room log house. Upstairs over the living room was an area called the loft. Later, this house was framed in and an addition made to it.

The living room in this log cabin was large enough to accommodate two large beds with trundle beds under them to pull out at night for children in addition to chairs, benches, and other things. This room had a large stone fireplace at one end for heat. It sometimes served as a method to cook from iron pots hung over the fire by iron supports fastened into the wall of the fireplace or hooks hanging down from the chimney.

The kitchen was almost as large as the living room with cupboards and shelves on the wall. There were pegs on the walls and above a fireplace that was about the same size and built the same as the one in the living room. A large table was in the center of the room and seemed to always contain jams, jellies, preserves and was generally covered with a white tablecloth. A large wood cook stove sat beside the fireplace and its pipes were inserted in the same chimney as the fireplace.

On the outside near the kitchen door was a dead seasoned cedar tree, about 10 inches in diameter at the base, sunk in the ground like a fence post. The small limbs had been cut off to form 8-10 inch long pegs. Clean jars, buckets, etc. were hung there to sun.

You entered the one room loft or stairs through a door beside the fireplace in the living room. The small steps were steep and bent sharply to conserve space. Homemade wooden beds with wooden slats were sometimes used. Other times the floor served this purpose.

People slept on straw-filled bed ticking. Maybe you had a feather-filled bed ticking on top of the straw one - but this luxury was generally confined to the living room where the beds were covered with pretty homemade quilts or special made homemade covers. The pillows for these beds were of one-piece bolster, covering the entire end of the bed. The bed covering covered these one-piece pillows.

A smooth stick similar to a broom handle was used to smooth the feather bed which was no easy task. This stick could be hid under the pillow where the bed covering was tucked under the pillow.

Homemade cedar chests and "shiverobes" were used to store clothing of all kinds. Part of the wall in the living room and kitchen were partitioned off by curtains for hang-up clothes hung from pegs on the walls and hidden from view by curtains. The stairwell and loft were used for this purpose also. I remember a spinning wheel in this loft and Granny explaining how it was used.

Coffee was bought in bean form and ground by a small hand grinder that you could hold in your lap. I remember Granny grinding coffee early in the morning and the aroma of that freshly ground coffee. The grinder was a small box with a crank at the top. The base of the crank sat in a metal cup and was made to allow coffee beans to drop but get caught and mashed against the side of the cup as your cranked.

The women gardened and raised chickens and eggs for a living. The men farmed and raised hogs and cattle, trapped and hunted. One of my fond memories was riding on my Uncle Harrison's shoulders as he visited his traps in the morning.

Water supply was not convenient in the early days at Oak Grove, but the Sherrons were blessed with a good spring for drinking water. This spring was enclosed by a spring house where provisions were made to keep milk and butter by letting the water run around the container. The water for drinking and cooking was dipped from the spring by a long-handle gourd made into a dipper.

People who could not or did not locate near a spring were required to dig wells by hand and shovel. I never saw one dug, but there were several in Oak Grove as I grew up. Two of the popular ones in use at that time were Charley Cook's on the corner of Portland and Brackentown Road and the one at Albert Bradley's home in the center of Oak Grove.

I remember the Bradleys cooled their milk by lowering the buckets into the large well with cool water. I recall looking at the wide dug wells with their rock/mud walls and wondering how they dug them and how they lined those walls. Most families in my day had machine-drilled tile-lined wells. A long "bucket" lowered down the well by rope over a pulley was made to allow water to enter the bucket but would not empty until you pressed the button into your container.

Washing water was caught in barrels from the ends of houses when it rained. Creek and branch water was sometimes used for this also.

We have remembered and named Oak Grove people and the living conditions. Let's talk about some other things.

Part One: Preface, Forward, Oak Grove - Incorporated, and Growing Up

Part Two: The Sherrons, The Freelands, The Angleas, and The Others

Part Four: The Church and The Cemetery

Part Five: The Schools, The Stores, and The Garage

Part Six: The Blacksmiths and the Grist Mill, The Carpenters,The Doctors, Roadwork, Recreation, Health, etc., The Little Book, A Special Place

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