November 3, 2013

Amanuensis Monday ~ The Stories That Should Be Told, Part 21

The following transcription is from a series of recordings my father made in the early 1990s:
I remember seeing old man Will Peck riding his horse around the Peck Plantation.  Sometimes he would ride his horse to town and hitch it right there at a post in front of the bank.  The Pecks owned the bank.  Seems like every time I saw Mr. Will he would always be wearing a seersucker suit.

LtoR:  Will Peck, Estelle Woodward Peck, Will Peck IV, Lucille Steele Ogden

Old bank building left of C.S. Montgomery store
I also remember seeing William Vaught riding his horse to town.  He managed the Peck Plantation for Mr. Will back in the mid-1930s.
The crops they grew on the Peck Plantation were mainly cotton and some corn.  They planted the corn to feed the cattle.  The corn wasn't a money crop.  
Peas planted in corn field
Field peas were planted down in the corn fields.  That was some of the best peas I'd ever eaten. They were little bitty red peas.  Some people called them clay peas.  I wouldn't swap you a bowl of those field peas for a bushel of purple hull peas. Man, they were good!  I don't know what happened to that variety of peas.  I've asked some of the old colored people and they don't know what became of that variety of peas either.
One thing about those corn fields.  You could get lost out in those green, thick fields.  You could walk to the middles of the rows and you'd eventually come out at one end or the other.  But man, what a maze!

In the fall, the corn would turn brown and dry out.  That's when they gathered the corn.  I can just hear that corn, the wind blowing through that dry corn in the fall.  Those dry corn stalks would rustle and rub together.  
Sounds only country boys or somebody who has been raised on a farm or in a little village would know what I'm talking about.  Moonlit nights, walking down close to a corn field in the fall and hearing those corn stalks rustling and rubbing together.
They also planted oats for cattle.  There was always hay meadows, bermuda and lespedeza.  I believe there were some sorghum grown on the Peck Plantation.  People made syrup from the sorghum.  It wasn't anything to compare with ribbon can syrup.
Back in the 1930s and 1940s everybody had a garden in the spring and early summer.  It was just a necessity.  People planted sweet potatoes at the end of May and first of June.  They would dig them up in the fall and have enough to last them through the winter.
Cushaws and pumkins were also grown.  They didn't have deep freezers back in those days. People canned their food.  
Hot peppers were dried on long strings.  Some people dried okra but I never did know how that worked.  Everybody grew onions and they would store them to last through the winter.
Meat was smoked to cure it.  There was also pickled beef.  People took turns killing hogs and sharing with their neighbors.  One family would kill a hog one week and share with six or seven neighbors. Two weeks later, somebody else down the road would kill another hog and share that with others.
Mosquitoes would eat you up in the summer and the fall.  It would be miserable.  You couldn't sleep at night for those things stinging and biting on you.  
I don't know what was worse, the mosquito bites or that old Flit.  We used to have little spray guns with pump handles on them.  We'd buy mosquito dope called Flit and put it in the spray guns and spray it all in the house.  It would kill the mosquitoes but you could hardly breathe after it was sprayed.
Flit gun
William Peck, Will's oldest son, married my Aunt Nita.  William told me one time that back in the late 1930s and early 1940s there were about seventy-five families living down there on the Peck Plantation.  I didn't doubt it because I'd go to the store, the commissary, on Saturdays and there would be people there getting their pay for working the fields.  Good gracious!  There would be grown people and children everywhere.  I know it was 400 to 500 people coming and going around that commissary.

Store on Peck Plantation aka Ferry Plantation

Mostly black families worked and lived on the Peck Plantation.  There were as many black people living down on the Peck place as there were here in town.  
Here in the village, the largest black family was probably the Cooper family.  There were a lot of Coopers and there used to be a good many Saulsberrys.  I also remember the Thomas family and Bess McIntyre.
A few of the white families working and living on the plantation were the Bowmans, Howards, Matthews, Tews, Crawfords, Juneaus, and Thorntons.
The Bowmans lived on the Peck place behind the high school.  The Crawfords were living in the old Gillis house when it burned down.  A new house was built on the Gillis place and on up in the late 1930s or early 1940s, a fellow by the name of Frank Girault [brother to Emma Cordelia "Deta" Girault] leased or managed the Gillis part of the Peck place. 
Below are snippets from the 1930 U. S. Census for Ward 2, Sicily Island, Catahoula Parish, Louisiana. The first populated column is for the number of the dwelling house in order of visitation and shows the Crawford, Bowman and Howard families living in close proximity to Will Peck on the Peck Plantation.

Note:  Parts 1-20 of 'The Stories That Should Be Told' can be found in the Tags List on the right-hand side of this blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment