It seems we all take for granted the little things in life never once thinkin about what it’d be like to do without.
Hard times were a way of life back when I grew up and my parents had it even worse. Folks made do the best they could with what little they had. Just having food on the table, a bed to lay our head or somethin that we don’t even think twice about today, a pair of shoes on our feet was worth so much more. God’s blessings are poured down on us every day and we don’t know how fortunate we really are. If folks had to live like that today they’d never make it.
My parents grew up in a different time and learned to appreciate even more so, the little things in life. They raised us six young’uns the same way. My mama always said, “be happy with what ye got, there’s lots of folks got less.”And she also said, “all the finery in the world won’t bring ye happiness.” I came to find that out over time and sittin down to milk and bread for supper was a feast compared to some, or getting a new pair of shoes when school started in the fall. I’m a simple person and it doesn’t take much to please me.
We went barefoot through the warm months so much that we had trouble gettin used to shoes when school started. Our feet were as tough as a pine knot and rusty as could be at the end of day. But we knew to scrub em clean before we crawled under mama’s clean bed clothes or she‘d skin our hides good. When we got a pair of new shoes we wore em plum out or handed em down to the next one when we outgrew em. That seldom ever happened.
My mama told how she went barefoot not only in the summer but even after the frost. Her daddy worked hard to keep em fed and put clothes on their backs. She came from a family of ten young’uns. Back then they had big families and lots of mouths to feed.
She talked about walkin to catch the school bus on cold, frosty mornings and how cold her feet would get. When the bus finally came she’d jump up the steps fast as she could and sit in the seat with one foot propped on top of the other just to get em warm. She’d rotate em back and forth till she got to school.
When her daddy finally worked out enough money to get shoes, he’d buy for the ones that needed em the most and the others had to wear what they had till he earned enough at the sawmill. He’d cut a slim, straight stick and measure their feet with it and carry it with him to buy the shoes. All the others that had to wait their turn, he’d take a hammer and tacs and put the soles back together the best he could. He’d try to fix em so the tacs wouldn’t come through to their feet and keep the soles from flappin. He’d even put cardboard in between the shoe and the sole. She said, sometimes the tacs would work their way through to their feet but they weren’t about to tell their daddy or mama cause they had enough to worry about.
Back then shoes were a luxury and they were tickled to death to get a new pair even if they were brogans as my mama used to call em.
She said some of the other young’uns that were always blessed with new clothes and shoes made fun of em. It really hurt her bad and one evening when she got on the bus to come home, this one boy that had been makin fun of her for a while with his sniggerin and laughin met his match. She’d just got a new pair of brogans and she pulled one off and almost hammered his head through the floor of that bus. The bus driver had to pull over to get it stopped. She said what she was scared of the most was that she’d ruined her new shoes. When she got off the bus she looked em over good and decided that it only helped to wear em in. Needless to say, he never did speak to her anymore . She said he dodged her every chance he got.
It broke my heart when she told that story and now when I look back I realize that was one of the reasons she and daddy both worked so hard to give us more than they ever had. Along the way they taught us to appreciate it too, and never make fun of the less fortunate.
We may not have had the best of shoes or clothes and sometimes my brothers wore their britches with holes in the knees to school but one thing’s for certain, they were clean. My mama always said, “rags are honorable but there’s to much soap and water to go dirty.”
She sure learned early on in life how to patch a pair of britches to last. Of course, having so many brothers and then four boys, she didn’t have a choice. Even in later years folks brought their britches to her to patch em. She couldn’t turn anyone down. Mama had a soft heart for people cause she remembered her raisin. And she always said, “be proud of your raisin.”
She always got the Sears and Roebuck or Spiegel catalogs in the mail and every year and they had big back to school sales. She called em the wish books cause we’d look holes in em. She ordered a lot of our school clothes on time and made a small payment every month. She couldn’t afford to order much. We mostly wore hand me downs and since I was the oldest my hand me downs came from girls close to my age that lived in the neighborhood. That was after they found out it wouldn’t hurt our feelings none. Most people worried about that back then. When I grew out of em I passed em on down to my one and only sister.
One year I found a pair of the most beautiful, yellow sandals I’d ever seen in my life in the Spiegel catalog I wanted those sandals so bad that I could taste it. Mama didn’t mind ordering them but wanted me to have something that would keep my feet warm with frost fast approachin. All of my old shoes were worn out and there’d be none to fall back too. I kept on till she ordered em and I’ll never forget the day they came. I put those sandals on and pranced around like I was Cinderella.
Sure enough when cold weather came, I was in a mess. We had to dig out a pair of my best, old shoes and take em to the shoe store in town to see if the well known shoe repairman could do anything with the soles. That man was the best at making shoes look like new of anybody I’ve ever seen. He put the soles back together like new. I wore em till mama got her bill paid down some. She ordered me some warm shoes to do me the rest of the school year. I certainly learned my lesson. Pretty is as pretty does.
Needless to say, that shoe repairman was a God send. There’s no tellin how many shoes that man has fixed over the years.
He also had big racks of new and like new shoes. Daddy bought all of his from that little store. He claimed that was the only place he could find any that fit. Daddy liked his shoes a size longer. We all called them Clod Hoppers. I’ll never forget one summer after he’d grown older and was showin his age, we talked him into getting some men’s sandals. We told him they’d keep his feet cooler. We never dreamed he’d love em so much. He was comin in the front door one day and there was a step up ye had to make to get in the door and he stumped his toe and almost fell flat on his face. We tried not to laugh till mama said, “them Jerusalem Cruisers are gonna be the death of ye yet.”
Of course he and mama wore theirs till the soles fell off tryin to keep us in shoes.
When I look back on the many times I ran barefoot and stumped my toes nearly off, it brings joy to my heart and makes me wanna do it all again. There’s nothing that can compare to bustin a big mud hole wide open, even if we knew we’d get the toe itch. But as my mama used to say, “there’s nothing like being grateful for shoes when ye got none at all and ye feet feels like a block of ice.”
© Susie Swanson, 2016