My Remembers: A Black Sharecropper's Recollections of the Depressionby Eddie Stimpson
"I grow up a dirt farmer and retired a dirt farmer. Never got rich and didn't want to be. My childhood stomping ground is now concrete, stores and houses. I remember the good times and bad. It was not the money we made but how to stretch that last dime. It was not the wind, rain or snow. It was about the love that flow. It was not the hot sunshine nor the clouds that hung low. It was the grace of God that help us swang that hoe. I want my grandchildren to understand. My grands, your grands and their grands." In 1929, near Plano, Texas, Eddie Stimpson, Jr., weighing 15-1/2 pounds, was born to a 19-year-old father and a 15-year-old mother. The boy, his two sisters and mother all "grew up together," with the father sharecropping along the old Preston Road, the route used by many freedmen trying to escape Texas after the Civil War. His childhood was void of luxuries, but full of country pleasures. The editors have retained the simplicity of Stimpson's folk speech and spelling patterns, allowing the good-natured humility and wisdom of his personality to shine through the narrative. "Tough time never last," he writes, "but tough people all way do." The details of ordinary family life and community survival include descriptions of cooking, farming, gambling, visiting, playing, doctoring, hunting, bootlegging, and picking cotton, as well as going to school, to church, to funerals, to weddings, to Juneteenth celebrations. This book will be of extraordinary value to folklorists, historians, sociologists, and anyone enjoying a good story. "My spelling is bad, my hand writing is bad, and my language is bad," Stimpson writes. "But my remembers is still in tack."
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A Black Sharecropper's Recollections of the Depression
By Eddie Stimpson Jr., Burnice Breckenridge
University of North Texas PressCopyright © 1999 Eddie Stimpson, Jr.
All rights reserved.
Letter to my grands and your grands and there grands:
As you read this book, some of you may think it is not fair or rewarding to print such thing in this day and time. Especial when you look at what some minorities have been through. But remember in my case, in the area I spent my growing up days, it was before black children had the oppitunity to finish high school. My parent and relative, who were raise in the country, had not much chance to go to school and if they did, the fifth grade were as far as they went. English were not that important, and you might be fifteen or sixteen year old when you finish fifth grade. Work in the fields were more important than school. It was matter of survival and support of the famley, so word like "dis" and "dat" or "show" was common word.
You should see the book I learn from. It were ragged with page missing. My mother and father had to learn every thing out of one book. Two at most. Reading, math, and spelling was all they learn. This one of the reason I wrote this book, as reminder to those who can appreciate the advancement made. Not that we want to go back or look back. Remember Lot wife look back and turn to a pillow of Salt, Genesis 19:16.
How do you know where or how far you come If you don't know where you been? I wrote what I know and quote what the old men and women said and how they talk. Thank God they understand each other back then to get us where we are today. We did not get this far by our selfs. Some body did not know how to read or write, but they pray to God and He heard ther prays and had mercy.
2 Timothy 2:14–15 tell us to remember and study for your own self and your own good. It tell us don't cut corners with the truth. It all way bad when you get money in your pocket to think that you come from the other side of the world when you only come from the other side of town.
I think it would be a good story to tell if I could answer the questions I have been asked about my grand parents and ther grand parents. But I don't have much of an answer. As a boy growing up I asked my mother and in later years asked my dad and they could not tell me much. So I thought some day you kids might want to no about your folk and the folk that I grew up with and where and how we made it in my growing up days.
So this is my letter to my grands and your grands and ther grands. Be you black or white, yellow or red, you may have wealth, good health and education, but one thing for sure, you did not get this far in this world by your self. I want you to remember that time was not all way good. Kid hardly ever got past the seventh grade especial the black and the poor white kids. We had to learn early how to work for a living and by the time we got to the age of twelve to fourteen, we had to be able to take charge and care for our famley.
I am going to tell you a little about my life from boy to manhood. And then I am going to tell you some of my remembers, the stories about what was that came tumbling back in my mind. Time were not all way good. I want all of you and your grands to remember that the God that kept us going in the heat of the day through bad time and good time is the same God that keeps you going in your day and time. Remember boys and girls, especial you older boys, that you and I have seen some real bad time together. But the Lord knows and you boys know that I'm very proud of you. I hope and pray and you do the same, that thing will continue to be as good as they are. The best thing for you kid is to get an education. There is no more horse and mule days. There is no more chopping cotton. Education is the key to success. Remember to be obedient to your parents. Go to church and give God the glory. Remember who you are and where you come from.
Don't forget I love you and as long as I live I'm here If you need me. To Frances grand kids and ther grands, remember the heritage of your grand parent and I love you as much as I do my own. To all who read this teach your children something about your growing up days.
Love all way
Eddie Stimpson "Sarge"CHAPTER 2
My Growing Up Days
The best part of my life were my growing up days. I was born in 1929 in Collin County, Texas, in northwest Plano. If you look north of Spring Creek Parkway before the red light at Preston Road, there is some shade trees there. This is where I were raise from a boy of three year until fifteen year old.
There have been a lot of beautiful land mark destroy in Plano with many of good story behind them. This is one of the reason I pass by my birth place and where I were raise so I won't forget where I come from and how I got this far.
My parents, Eddie and Millie Stimpson, taught me the way of life. My mom taught me how to live. My father taught me how to work and survive, and by the grace of God I've live and survive three wars and a cruel world or you may say cruel problum of this world. God have gave me sixty-two and half years, and I've learned to love all and have patient. I went from a little house to a big house to no house. No matter what, whin or where or how, I'm still very proud to be the country farm boy of Collin County.
During my young year I was all way an out door person—a lover of the natural thing of the world. I suppose it begin back as far as I can remember whin about three years old, born to a fifteen-year-old mother and a nineteen-year-old father with a birth weight of fifteen and a half pound—yugley, meaning ugly and healthy. Being raise in the country, at three I remember out in the pasture running cows through tall weed. Whin my mother would be looking forme and calling, Junior, Junior, and in the evening whin Dad would come home from work and Mother would tell him about me out in the pasture chasing cows and he would get upset.
About that time along came my sister and I was getting in the way of the midwife known as the baby doctor, a small chershable lady name Mrs. Moody whom I had great respect for all of my young days and still do. I wish I could count the babies she brought into this world.
My mother being a young woman, we grew up together as mother, son, and two sister—four children creating games to play and have fun being a share crop family. There were never no money but plenty of food even if It was gravy and bread. Garden harvest were all way coming and in winter hog killing time. Rag ball with stick bat, mud ball fight, fishing, and walking through the wood was summer time fun.
In winter time checkers, cards, dominoes, snow ball fights, and cardborde sleds. In spite of pulling out all the clothes in winter to cover up with and stuffing walls with rags and paper, I was lying in bed with snow or rain dropping on my face or looking out through the top and counting stars or looking at man in the moon. Growing up in a close nitted family with God and love in our home.
It was a beautiful early age life with a father who was a good provider and a mother with love and understanding. A boy full of energy and all way into some devilish thing. A sister Ruth who were sly and slick with her doing and could con Mother and Dad into beleave anything. And a baby sister Bessie Lee who were as tough as boot leather and thought she could do any thing—a typical tom boy. Bessie Lee and me would create trouble. We would take dry cotton-leave, crumble it up and take any kind of paper and roll the crumble cottonleave into a cigerett and smoke it. We also would take grape vine sticks and smoke them like a cigar. The stem of the vine did have fine air holes in them. We stole my Dad Prince Albert tobacco until he told me if we were going to smoke we had to buy it. That broke us up. Along with the whipping my mother gave us.
My sister Bessie Lee was a tomboy and would do any thing to stear up trouble and had to be watch like a chicken watch a hawk. She would have to be made to work, even made to do her home work. She would hide whin there were something to do or play sick. Any time we went any where visiting, by the time we got ready to go home, she was all way lost, off playing, or getting into trouble. She got pregnant at sixteen and married, had two boys, got a devorse and married again and had two girls. She is now living in Brownwood and is a evangelist.
Ruth were different from us all. She was the type that would watch us get in trouble and tell mother what we were doing. Ruth did this because she was like a little mother with Bessie Lee and she would do thing with us but would all way try to protect us. She was quite pretty and a book worm. At the age of seven she was smart enough to go to the fourth or fifth grade so they stop her from going to school. The doctor said she was so smart it was effecting her brain. Whin she was about eleven Mother let her go to Dallas to stay with our grandmother and go to a private school. She came back to Plano whin she was in the eleventh grade but got pregnant and did not finish school, but she was well educated. From then on she did what God intended for woman to do: replenish the earth. She had nine kid. She now live in Edgewood, have thirty-two grandkids.
I was the stubborn one and independent. I did what I wanted to even if I got a whipping. Because I lost so much time working to support the family, I was two year in the fifth grade and two year in the seventh. But I did finish high school and taken some college course. I didn't mind working for money. I got out of picking and chopping cotton early in life. By the time I was ten I was driving horse and mules, even car, truck, and tractor. I never will forget at eleven or twelve I drove Ray Haggard Model A truck to Mt. Pleasant to pick up cotton pickers.
All my life I felt that I have been very dependable. I was station in Camp Leroy Johnson in New Orleans. During the three years stay there I meet a girl name Lillie May and married her. We had one child whose name was Wanda Jean Stimpson. This marriage lasted about three and a half years. We were devorse. After this devorse I began to correspond with my high school sweetheart of Plano, Texas. Her name was Willie Ray Kemp. I was still in the Army and in July 1956 we were married and we then had two children, a boy Ivory Tyrone Stimpson and Donna Michell Stimpson. My wife never did travel with me.
Whin Ivory turn twelve and Donna was ten and a half I was going into my twenty-one years of Army life. My wife Willie Ray told me it was time for me to come home and finish help raising my children. On July 30, 1969, I came home to my famley. This marriage lasted thirty-five years until my wife died in 1990.
My mother Millie, a self taught woman, married at thirteen and had her first child at fifteen, me. She was easy going, very humble, grew up with us three kids. She never drink or curse. She kind of live by the book. She would read the Bible, paper backs, hard backs, funny books, Sears Catalogues, anything she could get her hands on. A hard worker and like a mother hen to her kid. She made sure we went to Sunday School and church, even the few times she was not able to go. She read the Bible to us and made us pray every night, and made us work right along with her, what ever it was, in the field or at home. She raise Ruth first child, her first grandchild. She put up with my Dad until we kid were all grown and got a devorse after that. She move to Dallas. She work very hard all her life. She was sickly for a long time, but keep working and raising grand kids. She died in 1964 at fifty-five.
I suppose us kids had our worse time whin Mother had to go to the hospital in Dallas. She was pregnant with a boy. It died because she had malarial fever. She was gone for a month. We got to go see her one time. My dad did not take time to take us. We had to move to Plano and stay with Grandmother. She was good to us, but it was crowded with about six grandkid, four grown up in one little house, three bedroom. There were never enough food. We had plenty food at home, but Dad would not bring any to us. We had plenty chicken, egg, can good at home, but Dad only brought some chicken once. My Mother gave him Hell for it to.
There were several women grew up with my mother. They all care for each other children. There were one lady whom I respected and still do today, Mrs. L. V. Prope. I seen her very often from birth to three or four years. Also my popsye, Mr. Standberry, who I adopted as my second father.
Here are some of the up and down, good and bad, the beautiful and ugly. One of the good things about growing up was the location, a place about ten miles west of Plano, Texas along Preston Road. I knowed every hole where I could go and pull out a rabbit and every tree hollow where I could pull out a possum in a stretch about seven mile long and about three mile wide-never no farther from school than one quarter mile.
There were plenty of woods to hunt small game bird and find wood. There were fishing stream and fishing hole all around and live spring for cool water in the summer. Mother would make tea or lemonade whin there were lemon and sugar. If no sugar it was all way syrup. Any way Mother would fill up jar or jug and put them in the well or in the spring to keep cold for dinner and supper. The ice man would come about twice a week. Until we were able to afford ice box, we would wrap the ice in news paper and grass sack and the ice would last three or four days. There were one other way to keep ice and that were to dig a hole in the ground. We cook on a four hole wood cook stove and a big oven. We stay warm with a shot gun wood stove.
In the winter month whin Dad and the other nabor were not out hunting or cutting wood, we would sit around the fire and pop horse corn, which is yellow dent corn. While shucking and shelling corn, Dad would pick out the large grain, put them in a seprate container to make hominy. Dad would set up a board about a four foot by four foot, which was mostly a tailgate from out of a wagon, prop it up out in the yard, put corn under it, and run a long wire from the prop to the door of the house where we could peep out. Whin the bird, black bird or field lark, would feed under the tailgate, he would pull the prop and trap the bird and wait a few minutes for the bird to die, then go and collect the bird. Whin we had enough we would pluck and clean them. Mother would fry and make dumpling and corn bread. These birds were means of having a meal on the table. There were all way meat from the hog killing: fat back, sausage, and ham and dry salt (bacon that had been salted down).
Like I said before there were all way plenty of food, but to get out and kill rabbit, squirrell, bird, it was fun, plus they were good food with gravy and biscus and gravy and corn bread. It was all way the same thing year round. In the spring there were fish added to the menu. In the summer there were bean, potatoes, rice, fat back, corn bread, and biscus every day of the week. On Sunday chickin fixed every which way. Some type cake with icing or a flavored sugar dip or syrup or molasses. Every once in a while during the summer month we would all get stake or roast. Mother would save eggs, pick out some old hen, and carrie them to town and trade for meat, sugar, flour, and baking needs.
While on the subject of trading food in the city, I guess city life never did really take a hold of me and I still don't care for city life. I'm a farmer and out door life person. I don't care for the four wall or mall. So whin we would get to go to town maby two or three time a year, there were time whin mother and father would go to town and I would rather stay home, go hunting or fishing, watch the animal, birds, look for bug and snakes. Not that I would catch snake, but I would kill them, especial whin my dad learn me how to shoot the .22 rifle and bought me a BB gun—a 300 shot Daise BB gun.
Whin we would go to town I would all way observe how Mother would shop, especial the printed design flour sack. My sister would pick out the color because these were the sack mother would make there clothes from, including there under clothes. Most of the clothes we got were made of hand me down. We got one pair of shoes a year, maby a pair of ducking and flannel shirt. That were for school and church only. Trade day in McKinney was all way a good day to meet and see friend, eat hot tamale sold on the street from a push cart, and bring home some candy. My younger sister were all way good at hussling up some cookies or candy. She would share with us but gobble it up as fast as she got it. Me, I would take my time eating and Ruth would save hers until we had ate ours just to tease us, a day later passing it under our nose and not giving us any.
Ruth were the quiet type, while Bessie Lee and me were cooking up thing to do, making up game to play, catching bug and grass hopper, tying string to there leg, and making kites that would not fly. Mother would make rag ball to play ball with. We all like base ball because Dad was a good base ball player, playing ball at least once or twice a week, Saturday and Sunday. Dad was a pitcher and a good one. He was my ideal. He was good enough to go to the Southern Negro League. He and Shep Hutchang went and play about two month through the South—Lousianna, Mississippi, and Atlanta. I guess he got home sick, for the family and the farming was part of Dad life.
Excerpted from My Remembers by Eddie Stimpson Jr., Burnice Breckenridge. Copyright © 1999 Eddie Stimpson, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of University of North Texas Press.
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Meet the Author
EDDIE STIMPSON, JR., born in 1929, lived on a dirt farm while attending Shepton School, Allen Colored School and Plano Colored School. He spent 21 years in the Army, then became a farmer again after retirement. He was the father of three children, grandfather of seven, and great-grandfather of one; he wrote this book for them.
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