Lessons From The Gumbo
When I read John Grishoms The Painted House I saw so much similarity between my growing up in the River bottoms of Illinois and his in Arkansas.His of course took place before I was born but the river is timeless. Grishams family grew cotten Ours grew soybeans;and thats where our story begins.
My dad said that a farmer is judged by the straightness of his planted rows and the cleanliness of his bean field.Well his rows were always straight as an arrow and you didn't see a weed in our bean fields thanks in no small part to me starting when I was about 6 years old .Every summer my Dad would get some old broom handles and bolt a sickle blade to the end; and that would be your weeding stick for the summer.My Dad would roust me out of bed and down to the bottoms we would go 'weeding four rows at a time and our fiels were a half mile long most of the time you would get to the end turn around and get back to the truck by noon then eat the lunch my mom had made us; then one more round and it would be dark. Time to go home sleep and again tomorrow.We would listen to the St Louis Cardinals on the truck radio on the way home In fact I saw my first world series of many on the radio.My Dad didn't talk about the war much but every once in awhile When it was just him and me He would start talking as we worked cutting them dern weeds.I heard about flying fighter planes in North Africa All about p51 Mustangs,british spitfires,P38 called the flying tigers My dad flew all of them. He told me of flying to see my mom one sunday afternoon from st Louis The whole town came out to see him off;and when he took off he circled around and buzzed the airport just a few feet off the ground He laughed and said you should of seen them run.He got lost in the fog in Italy kept losing altitude pulled the stick back still dropping untill he dropped out of the clouds in a valley he was upside down and didn't know it ;He just rolled it over and followed the valley. He said God was definately his copilot .
I always had a great dislike for weeding beans,the sweat in your eyes.had to go barefoot because the black gumbo would stick to shoes and made you ten foot high So I didn't wear shoes much in the sommer (I didn't mind that much) Bugs that would bite and sting and the hotter and madder you got the more they would bite and sting Fighting through weeds a lot taller than me facing it seemed like unsurmountable challenges every day all day
But i'd give almost anything to spend a day in the bean field with my Dad