Tri-City Ledger -

By Earline Smith Crews
Guest Writer 

The day the farm kids formed their revolution


August 9, 2018

Circa 1955 we worked in our own fields everyday to fight the scourge of watergrass, bahia grass, smut grass, watergrass, ironweed, pursley, watergrass, sandspurs, sawbriers, crabgrass, nutgrass, persimmon bushes, watergrass and watergrass.

Let me explain watergrass.

Watergrass will double it's size overnight.

I know.

We would dig up a big old clump, shake off the rich soil that always hangs on those hairlike roots to lay them up ended to let the sun scald them into death.

Didn't work!

What happens with a clump of shaken off watergrass with exposed hairlike roots is a late afternoon rain shower would give it a second chance to double it's self and reattach to Gods green earth.

Even a suggestion of fog will give watergrass a go.

Next morning there it lays all green and vibarant with life.

Daddy comes grumbling by to snatch a clump up to show us how we slubbered our effort with watergrass eradication.

" Harrumph"!

If per chance we got the cotton rows all pristine like Daddy thought they should be then we could hire out to other farmers around the community so as to make some money for sending to Sears Roebuck in exchange for school clothes.

Whee frocks.

My older sister, little brother and I hired on to hoe cotton for a tenant farmer up the way from us.

He sent his shiftless old porch sitting son to haul us to his field of watergrass. Our job was to find cotton.

Discussion amongst us and other field hands agreed we would never get paid a fair price for the work expected.

We watched as the shiftless old porch sitting son put ideas into the tenant farmers ear because soon he was walking the field and muttering to himself.

The early morning mist had burned off, the cicadas were singing the hot air into vibrations. The heat index was rising, sweat was crawling down creases to find it's way to our private parts. Y'all it was hot and hotter.

Lazy Lawrence made the distance dance.

We chopped watergrass, shook off clumps of watergrass to lay it exposed to the sun. Cotton was found like gold nuggets.

"Hey, here is a stalk".

" Old man ain't gonna make enough cotton to pay his hands".

" Maybe he will grow some good Stone Mountains. They do well where watergrass grows."

We hoed and complained and moved down those grassy cotton rows like cold molasses.

Tenant farmer comes stomping up to tell us we need to tighten up or he will cut our pay.

Everybody wilts.

Big sister's hackles raised. She was our boss when Daddy wasn't around to do the job.

I tuned in to watch her and the tenant farmer glare at each other.

I knew something was coming, just not sure what.

Then the tenant farmer turns to walk away with making a comment that threw shade on our ancestory.

Big sister threw down her hoe, motioned for little brother and me to follow her.

" HeeDoggie"!

We climbed over the wire fencing right in between slack of the support post.

" Made it sag too, ha ha".

We walked out of that field and it felt good.

We discussed our rebellion.

" Daddy will be on our side when I tell him how that old man talked to us".

Me and Buddy knew Daddy would take her word.

Supper table talk that night had Daddy's attention of his kids going on strike.

Daddy agreed we had reason, but thought we needed to be paid for the hours we were owed.

We all load on to Blue Goose for a ride to the tenant farmers house for our accounting.

Old tenant farmer comes ambling off the porch followed by his shiftless porch sitting son and his raggidy ass wife to ask if he could help Daddy.

Daddy answered that he had brought his kids to get their money for the hours of work they had done.

The tenant farmer objects after spitting out a long stream of Bruton by saying,

" Wal, I hared 'em to hoe cotton and all they don was waller about".

Daddy said,

" You should have fired 'em right off".

Tenant farmer rebuttled,

"Wal, I onna giv 'em a chancit".

Daddy said,

" Pay my young'uns for three hours".

Tenant farmer says,

" I ain't got it on me now".

Negotiations settled that we would take our pay in those nice Stone Mountains and a few cantloupes.

We loaded the bed of Blue Goose with as many watermellons as we wanted and would come back for more after we ate these because we still had some credit due.

Smith kids went back to load up on prize watermellons several times because the market price would drop and we ejoyed the results.

Through the years we have enjoyed the drama of that great rebellion.

This all happened almost a decade before Cesar Chavez organized the NFWA ( National Farm Workers Association ) in California.

We were Activists in fair labor practices long before those field workers took back their rights for being treated with dignity and fairness.


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