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"Bare Foot Dreamer"

 By:  CLIFFORD SPENCER

SET IN THE HILLS OF NORTHEAST KENTUCKY DURING THE “GREAT DEPRESSION,”

SPENCER IS AT HIS BEST AS HE TAKES THE READER THROUGH THE FIRST SIXTEEN YEARS OF HIS LIFE!

STARTING WITH GGGGRANDFATHER JOSEPH CHARLES SPENCER’S MIGRATION FROM WALES CIRCA 1760 TO VIRGINIA. HE TAKES YOU THROUGH THE GENERATIONS DOWN TO HIS BIRTH ON

JULY 1,1925

THEN YEAR BY YEAR HE HOLDS THE READER WITH THE “BARE FOOT DREAMER’S” ADVENTURES, SOMETIMES TRAGIC BUT SPRINKLED WITH HUMOR, AS HE DREAMS OF ESCAPING THE DRUDGERY OF BEING 

A SHARECROPPER’S SON!!

A MUST READ FOR THOSE PEOPLE INTERESTED IN OUR GREAT COUNTRY’S EMERGENCE FROM POVERTY TO OUR WORLD LEADERSHIP TODAY!

 

READERS UNDER EIGHTY MUST BE TOLD ABOUT DOMESTIC AND WORLD CONDITIONS DURING THE NEXT ELEVEN YEARS TO EVEN HOPE TO INDENTIFY WITH LIFE’S HARDSHIPS FROM

MID 1929 UNTIL 1940

THE STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE AND MAINTAIN A MODICUM OF DIGNITY WAS PARAMOUNT TO A POOR SHARECROPPER AND HIS FAMILY. UNFORTUNATELY OUR STRUGGLE WAS ONLY ONE OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WHO TILLED THE SOIL FOR A LIVING!

IN THE FALL OF 1929 “BLACK THURSDAY” OCCURRED AND THE STOCK MARKET CRASHED, IN THE NEXT 28 MONTHS, WHEN ON MARCH 6, 1933 NEWLY ELECTED FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT DECLARED A BANK HOLIDAY AND CLOSED ALL BANKS FOR FOUR DAYS, THE WORLD OF ECONOMICS WAS ALL BUT DESTROYED, INCLUDING THE FOREIGN MARKETS.

MOST FARMERS & SHARECROPPERS WOULD HAVE BEEN HURT BAD BUT MOST WOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO HOLD ONTO THEIR FARMS AND FEED THEIR FAMILIES.

LAME DUCK PRESIDENT HOOVER WENT CRAZY AND RAISED TAXES AND TARIFFS ON EVERY THING AND EVERYBODY. THEN PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT REALLY PUT THE DAGGER IN EVERYONE’S HEART. WITH AN EFFORT TO ‘KICK START’ THE RECOVERY HE ORDERED ALL CROPS GROWING IN THE FIELD PLOWED UNDER, NO HARVESTING ALLOWED, THEN MILLIONS OF SHEEP, CATTLE AND HOGS WERE HERDED INTO PRE-DUG PITS AND SHOT!!!

THERE WERE STIFF FINES AND JAIL TIME FOR PEOPLE WHO HID OUT FOOD OR BEEF CATTLE.

MORE THAN HALF OF THE FARMERS AND RANCHERS LOST EVERYTHING, NATION WIDE UNEMPLOYMENT STOOD AT 28.4 PERCENT!

THE BANKS THAT REOPENED WERE GLUTTED WITH FORECLOSURES TO THE POINT THAT SOME LOANS ON GOOD FARMS WERE FORGIVEN AND ON OTHERS THEY ACCEPTED A FEW DOLLARS A MONTH AND ALLOWED THE OWNERS TO KEEP THEIR HOMES!

CHAPTER 12 BARE FOOT DREAMER

1930 TO LATE SPRING OF 1931

We children didn’t know about world conditions but when we moved into the beat up house way down on a ridge far off the road near Mt. Sterling we knew things hadn’t improved for us. It was a clapboard three room shack with a couple of lean to rooms added for bedrooms. The only redeeming feature was a big pot-bellied heating stove in the middle of the living and eating area, the kitchen was a ‘lean to.’

2.

 Roads had not generally been named with county or state numbers they were known as the road that went to the next town or terrain features River Rd, Hill, Valley, or Cliff Road.

I think this Pike confusion is cleared in my mind about the pikes (roads) that we lived on. This house was on Paris Pike and to get to Mt Sterling you went up the road a mile or two and turned right on the Camargo Pike! Camargo is a little town six miles south of Mt. Sterling.

School age siblings walked to Moberly School which was about three miles away by going cross country, the well if there was one was dry and as previously described all water was sledded in wooden barrels from a creek about a half mile away, Mom washed her huge pile of dirty clothes in the creek every week, also a scrub board and rocks were her only appliances. They hitched up Old Betsy, a gray mare, and another old bay mare, named Nell, that Dad had acquired from somewhere, to the sled and left with the ‘laundry and water express’ early in the morning and returned at dark with their load of wet wash and water, Mom hung the wash on the clothes line sometimes by lantern light.

Once on just a quick water run, they left me at home alone, still asleep. I awoke a few minutes before they returned and was terrified. I ran through and around the house screaming for someone to answer me, Dorothea heard me when they were still quite far away and came to me at a dead run, I can still feel the panic and terror that I experienced that day!

School only ran for seven months, not nine as it is today but they were good schools and taught each child to the utmost of that child’s ability to learn, all eight grades were taught in one room so the bright 3rd grader, with his/hers lesson already completed, could listen to the fifth grade children learning basic algebra. Since most of the students could only hope to finish the eight grades the school board loaded the curriculum, when I left Kentucky schools in the eight grade I was solving plane geometry problems! Schools like that today would help our present day student to compete with even the much more advanced Japanese children!

After surviving the cold winter and muddy spring there was a lot of fun things done that summer of 1930. The kids were all at home and there is nothing that will attract young men and older boys like having four sisters! Margaret and Annie were too young to be serious about boys but Lucy and Dorothea were teenagers, and I noticed that some girls showed up too, John was eighteen and Archie although he was only thirteen was a good looking youngster! Under Mother’s watchful eyes all games played were innocent fun!

 Picture on the following page shows Archie peeking around the tree, at Dot & me.

3.

 

THE TREE, I THINK IT WAS A LOCUST, PROVIDED THE ONLY SHADE IN THE FRONT YARD, AND WAS RIGHT OUTSIDE THE KITCHEN DOOR.

AS THE BABY OF THE FAMILY I RECEIVED MORE ATTENTION THAN THE OTHERS, DOT WAS ALWAYS THE MOST ATTENTIVE!

YOU ARE LOOKING AT THE CORNER OF THE ADD-ON LEAN TO FOR THE KITCHEN NOTE THE SINGLE 2X4 THAT SUPPORTS THE TINY ROOF OVER THE DOOR, TODAYS BUILDING INSPECTORS WOULD GO BERSERK!!!

4.

We had a windup Victrola that played the old single sided records and the newer 78 RPM types. The music was country and if the recorded song was more that four months old all of the young folks knew ever word, so long before Karaoke we hand loud and good sing a longs! All of the girls played guitar, Lucy was far and away the best, and even I, along with Mother and all of the brothers and sisters, could play the harmonica!! For percussion we all played the spoons or bones  (bones were small strips of straight grained hard wood about 1 ¼ by 8”by ¼” thick) The spoons were played by holding their, you should pardon the expression, bottoms together in one hand and clacking them up to the other hand and down on your knee. Bones were held between the fore and middle and the ring and middle fingers, by holding the first firmly with a bent forefinger and shaking your hand just so, good timing could follow the beat of a guitar quite nicely! Necessity, being the mother of invention and all that!

We had visitors over the years that had fiddles, mandolins, banjos, twelve string guitars, and even one fellow that could play a mean ‘washtub bass’ So as you can well imagine with a dozen instruments playing together and 15 or 20 folks singing we rocked the hills with good old country songs that could be heard far and wide!!! A, full throated, rendition of “She be Coming Around the Mountain” would set even the slowest foot to tapping along with the music!! The fun thing about the previous song was that there was a verse in it that says, ‘we will have chicken and dumplings when she comes, we will kill the old red rooster when she comes,’ etc. Dad was hard of hearing by this time and thought the song said “we will kill the old red milk cow when she comes!” Everyone laughed when he told us, but politely he didn’t like to be embarrassed!

She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes,
She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes,
She’ll be coming round the mountain when , she’ll be coming round the mountain,
She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes.

She’ll be driving six white horses when she comes,
She’ll be driving six white horses when she comes,
She’ll be driving six white horse, she’ll be driving six white horses,
She’ll be driving six white horses when she comes.

Oh, we’ll all go out to meet her when she comes,
Oh, we’ll all go out to meet her when she comes,
Oh, we’ll all go out to meet her, we’ll all go out to meet her,
We’ll all go out to meet her when she comes.

She’ll be wearing red pajamas when she comes,
She’ll be wearing red pajamas when she comes,
She’ll be wearing red pajamas, she’ll be wearing red pajamas,
She’ll be wearing red pajamas when she comes.

She’ll have to sleep with grandma when she comes,
She’ll have to sleep with grandma when she comes,
She’ll have to sleep with grandma, she’ll have to sleep with grandma,
She’ll have to sleep with grandma when she comes.
 

THE WORDS ABOVE ARE DIFFERENT, WE AND OTHER COUNTRY FOLKS, ADAPTED AND INSERTED VERSES OR WORDS MORE SUITABLE TO OUR LIKES, NEEDS, AND SOMETIMES TO OUR MORAL STANDARDS.

5.

I remember that we played family versions of ‘Spin the Bottle, Musical Chairs, home drawn Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and others I am sure. We lived in a sub standard house but not in squalor nor did we exude a mood of defeat so except when Dad was grouchy it was a happy home and since there were no crops to tend that year there was plenty of leisure time. One of the Hughes boys, friends of Dorothea and John, had a ‘Tin Lissie’ or a ‘Skeeter’ it was a Model T with the body taken off leaving just the chassis, nothing but the steering wheel, motor and gas tank, he had built a seat, like that on a wagon, that seated the driver and two passengers, we all got to ride up and down the dirt road always with bigger kids holding on to me real tight, it was great fun for me!!

One of Pony Arnett’s relatives, a nephew I believe, had a beautiful small pinto horse which I got to ride, first with him and then with him leading the, big to me, horse! I was in heaven sitting way up there holding on to the horn and looking down on everybody!!! Twice that summer we went in Dad’s car to Mt. Sterling and went to the picture show, one movie was a Shirley Temple movie and the other was a cowboy movie.

The summer flew by and then school started, I am sure I drove poor Mother crazy being constantly underfoot because of being lonely. Then the rain, snows and cold came and what had been a wonderful place became a mud bound, leaky, and cold nightmare. That place in its contrast reminds me of the Italian saying that ‘If you laugh too much in the day you will cry before you sleep!’ Just so our happy summer turned into a life of misery by Christmas. Life did go on and I remember we had fun making Xmas tree decorations, foil wrapped cardboard stars and circles, strings of popcorn some white and some red, colored by soaking in beet juice. Mom surprised us with enough green and red Christmas rope to crisscross the room with a big red paper Christmas bell that folded when not in use!

In February both Margaret and I caught bad colds which quickly turned into pneumonia, we were moved into the living room near the stove but as I got better poor Margaret got worse, not being strong anytime she, as she became weaker and could not cough up the stuff filling her fragile lungs, she passed away in March of 1931.

Then and as I feel now, I am so glad she had a fun Summer before she left us…

 

 

Priced at $25.00 plus $5 S&H, also in read only CD at $15.00 including S&H.

Order from Cliff Spencer at palispen@prodigy.net or call him at, 760-789-5518

I have 4 copyrighted books, "War Years, Boy/to Blooded Veteran", "Bruce Hale in the Orient", ( a semi true novel about my escapades in Japan/Korea during the police action), "Bare Foot Dreamer", the very true bio of my childhood during the Depression in the hills of Kentucky, and for the grand and great grandchildren, a delightful little,read to, childrens book, "Nakao the Oak Tree Spirit."

Also Available in CD's

 

 

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