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First Day of Alameda School -1930
Times on the Farm Remembered

By Jeff Clark and Harlon Perrin

Ruins of Alameda School

Yesterday the answer came to me, near the end of a long walk through the woods. I've been blessed with a front row seat to a storied baton's passing. I received an email from a lady trying to get genealogy data about the Perrin family of the Alameda - Cheaney Community not too long ago. I forwarded her request to Harlon, who quickly answered her.
The woman lives in my world, her family history recorded with stray paper, ink, charts and computers. Harlon has lived the very stories she's searching for, his place forever at his family's table of fried chicken and potato salad, of bittersweet reunions, sicknesses and hard-fought victories. He heard the tales told by grandparents and fathers and uncles. And listened.
It's not always a smooth fit - these two generations that are trying to talk. The warming spring afternoon grows long, its early shadows strengthening, now more than just suggestions. A strong hand, wise, worn, wrinkled - well broken in and comfortable, reaches ahead to our future in a sweep so smooth I almost miss it. Just ahead a bright younger woman's footfalls slow, hang back for just an instant -- listening. It is in this moment - not yet a trailing off of the old, not yet a moving forward of the new, that we find ourselves. For that, I am grateful.

"It's September 1930, the first day of school at Alameda for nine youngsters -- six girls and three boys. We are gathered in the classroom of Miss Ruth Kirk, and we will be together for the next eleven years. During these eleven years we will be joined by several other students who will come and go, and some who will stay to graduate with us. We become close. Today as school graduation nears 78 years later, there are only three of these children still alive. Lord willing these three will meet again on May 3, 2008 for Alameda's High School Reunion.

Miss Kirk, who later became Mrs. Ruth Higginbotham, was with us throughout the eleven years we spent at Alameda grade and high school. Along with Mrs. Kirk there were numerous other great teachers who were instrumental in the formation of our lives: J. W. Turner, G.W. Lyons, Shafner and Beryl Rogers, to name just a few, who passed our way and pointed us down the right road.

Did you know that five of these girls formed the background of the basketball team at Alameda, who during the years of l939-40-41 were among the best of Eastland County?

Farming, during the years of 1930 - l940, was a hard way to make a living. Peanuts were our main money crop. At this season of the year, it is time to get the ground ready for planting. Peanut planting time is May and June. Harvest time is from September to October. A lot of hard work goes on during the time from planting to harvest.

Rural people had many ways to supplement their income -- milk, butter and eggs. We always had three to four head of milk cows and from the heavy cream of these cows, after it was churned, it was made into one pound blocks of butter. Calves from these cows were sold to Doc Calvert, who always knew when farmers had cows to sell. Doc was an honest cow trader, but it was always fun to watch the haggle between buyer and seller.

We raised chickens, too. Have you ever seen the mailman deliver 100 live chickens to a farmer, which would come in four cardboard boxes? We kept them in pens until the chicks were large enough to forage for themselves. It was always a job to keep those baby chicks warm, in food and water. When these chicks got to pullet size (half grown) some were sold, but mostly the roosters, of the group, made family dinner for Sunday visitors.

Turkeys were the best secondary income. We got the baby turkeys the same way, as the chicks, through the mail or sometimes we bought them at the feed store. We first raised single breasted turkeys, which were almost always white and did not get very heavy. Later, we bought the bronze double breasted turkeys, which were larger and seemed as if the market was better for this type of turkey. We always had our turkeys ready for the Thanksgiving and Christmas markets.

Domesticated turkeys, unlike their wild brothers, are the dumbest birds on Earth. It was always my job to get the turkeys home when there was rain on its way. A turkey will get in the lowest part of the land and hold its head towards the water and drown. How did I find the turkeys? They are a creature of habit. They would be at (almost) the same spot at the same time every day, and you could drive them just like a herd of cattle.

Today farmers are plagued with deer and wild hogs. Their secondary income is derived from the city boys who pay for hunting leases to kill these deer and hogs. Rabbits were the plague of farmers during the 1930-1940's and to control the population of the rabbits, rabbit drives were organized by the community. All the men would get together. Half would walk through the woods, while the other half were out in the clear with their shotguns and would kill the rabbits as they ran from the woods.

Mother would never let me go on these drives. Her excuse: you will be like Dick Weekes and lose an eye. Whether this is fact or fiction, I don't know. I suspect it was her way to keep me out of the way of the hunters. The drives did control the population of the rabbits.

We always had a garden. It is what I would now call a one mule garden, because we could not handle both mules working the garden. We worked the garden with a "Georgia stock" mule, which is nothing more than a smaller-sized middle buster. We also had a miniature planter. This furnished us with all kinds of fresh veggies, some of which were canned for the winter months.

Unlike today, where all of the farm is tilled by machines and rows of twenty feet or more are covered at one time, our land was tilled by a span of mules. You walk behind the plow, either that or a one row planter or cultivator. There is not much excitement in riding a cultivator watching the dirt roll to the plants. My favorite plow was the "Go Devil". I don't know where it got its name. A sled, with a seat and four discs on the rear, it was used to do the last cultivation.

The Jake Hamon Railroad Co. ran through our place and the engineers liked to blow the whistle when they saw us in the field. They did that one time when I was on the Go Devil and the mules ran and that was the last of the Go Devil. The next day Dad stopped the train and that the last day they blew their whistle.

Grass burrs, cockle burrs, and tumbleweeds -- I never did figure out what these were put on this Earth for. The one thing about cockle burrs was they provided shade for a barefooted boy when walking in the hot sand -- one could run from shade to shade.

Right now it is time for me to do as the tumbleweeds and that is to tumble out of here until hitting a fence row where I will stop. I left the farm in 1942, never to return again. Sometimes I wish I had stayed, because I always like to see the growth of things. I liked to see the seeds sprout and bear their fruit. Sometimes I wonder what life would have been like if I had returned to the farm from military service. But all together, life has been good and I would not change it."

By Harlon Perrin
Alameda High School, Class of 1941

Contributed by Jeff Clark -

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