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THE HOUSE SURROUNDED BY SUGAR CANE The Smith-Jenkins' Farm
By LEANNA WILLIAMS AuthorHouse Copyright © 2006 Leanna Williams
All right reserved.
Chapter One The Connection to Smith-Jenkins Farm
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The mailing address used by everyone that lived on Patoutville Plantation and surrounding areas was Route 1% Patoutville Store, Patoutville, Louisiana. The plantation was enormous; its main resource was the production of sugar cane. The company owned a sugar mill that was used to process its own sugar cane, as well as that of other surrounding plantations and farms that was also in the sugar cane business.
To maintain a successful crop continually every year, Patoutville needed a large number of hard-working employees. Finding them was never a problem because the plantation employed its own workers off spring's when they became adults; and had families. Which constantly escalated from one generation to another, it was a continuing cycle. The employer also provided homes for the employees and their families; they were given free housing as long as they continued to work for the plantation.
There were two groups of houses, with as much as four bedrooms, constructed especially for the workers. One group was located near the sugar mill, adjacent to the storage area which held the machinery that was reserved for the use of maintaining the sugar cane out in the field. The second group was very huge; its location was on the opposite side of the sugar cane mill, across the bayou. That part was referred to as "the quarters."
Numerous types of employment were available to the employees, such as machine operator and electricians. Some employees worked in the fields, using a shovel to keep the sugar cane rows free from debris that kept the water from fl owing out to the ditches whenever it rained. But the company's main type of employment was cutting down sugar cane when harvesting time began- which was done by both - women and men.
For some particular reason, the ladies (and some of the men) were responsible for cutting the sugar cane down one-by-one with a cane knife in certain areas of the cane fields. The majority of the sugar cane was cut down by a machine, which is known as a "cane cutter." There were some workers who had easy jobs (let's say "better jobs," such as working in the Patoutville Store). They were not out in the fields when the rain and raging weather developed or the temperature was hot or cold outside. Quite a lot of the ladies did domestic work for the overseers' families; such as taking care of their children and cleaning their homes.
Route 1% Patoutville Store, Patoutville, Louisiana was the mailing address for Smith-Jenkins Farm also, the farm had major connection to the plantation because of its surroundings. It was incredible and remarkable how Smith-Jenkins farm appeared in the middle of that plantation. The farm consisted of eight acres of land. There were three dirt roads that lead in different directions from the farm through the path of Patoutville Plantation sugar cane patches and out to Patoutville main gravel roads. Those main gravel roads led out to other plantations and towns.
The separation of the Smith-Jenkins property from the plantation's property was a deep ditch with a bridge across it. Patoutville dirt road was connected to the bridge on one side, and the farm on the opposite side. That one particular road was of great importance because it was constantly used to enter or exit the farm. Sugar cane fields were on both sides of the dirt road, whenever the sugar cane grew up high, nothing could be seen except straight ahead down the dirt road, until it was time for harvesting and all of the sugar canes were cut down.
Upon entering the Smith-Jenkins property, across the bridge, along the huge ditch on the left side was two beautiful pecan trees; through the path (directly from the bridge down the walkway into the yard and just a few feet to the left) was the barn that was used to store cotton. Behind the barn was another set of pecan trees; and behind those trees was a stretch of land that was used for planting potatoes, onions, beans, and carrots. From that boundary of land, a big black cherry tree separated the plantation from the farm. Of course, this was another exit from the farm. That exit was not used very often, except when we were going fishing, or looking for grass to feed the hogs or firewood for the fireplace.
Back to the bridge on the right side, along the walkway, was one big pecan tree. Following that path to the right of the barn was rows of fig trees; a short distance from those trees was the backyard and the back part of the house. In the middle of the yard was the water pump.
And now let's focus on the front part of the land. From the front of the house (quite a distance from the yard) was another stretch of land that was used for planting corn, cucumbers, cantaloupes, watermelons, and tomatoes. Those were the "happy foods," because whenever we wanted to eat them, we could, without asking permission. It was such a joy just to walk out to the garden and pull a tomato off the vine anytime you wanted then eat it on the spot. One good thing about living on the farm; we were never hungry, because there was lots of food available to us at all times. Just to the right of that land was a small ditch that was used for drainage into the large ditch. The small ditch and another dirt road separated the front part of the farm from the plantation's property. The road was seldom used except when the salesman came on Sunday mornings in his jeep, selling candies and different type of fruits and household items. He usually stopped at the gravel road connection and honked his jeep horn to let us know that he had arrived. That gravel road was used when we attended special events at the Baptist church, which was about a mile away.
The outhouse was located in the front yard, about twenty-five feet from the large ditch, and about seventy five feet from the front porch. The outhouse had to be distanced from the land where the vegetable was planted.
To the right past the front porch, yard, and the land where the vegetables was planted stood a group of beautiful trees of different kinds. Some of them were so beautiful that whenever the wind blew and the sun shined on their leaves, it made them seem as if they were outlined with silver. It was such a marvelous sight to see the wonderful glow it made. To the right side of the house were numerous fig trees that branched out toward the path of some orange trees. The orange trees were directly in front of the back porch.
As we ventured out toward the back side of the yard, from the back porch through the path of the orange and fig trees, everything seemed as if it was just put into place. The arrangement was beautiful. It was amazing, glowing with fragrance, the aroma was breath taken during the spring. It's surrounding of comfort and love could not be expressed with words.
Now, in the back yard were all types of trees; big and small ones, such as oaks, plums, cedar, oh yes, more fig and pecan trees. Just past the orange trees was the henhouse, and a few feet from that was two big cedar trees, those trees were very tall and full; during the winter, when their branches was covered with ice and snow, the wind could not blow though them; which made the branches move very slow, gently swaying back and forth, making beautiful sound as they slightly rub against each others.
A head-land opposite those trees separated the house, yard and all of the land around it from all of the land beyond that part of the farm. The land beyond the living part was about six acres left: that part was used for whatever the family decided to share crop every year. Usually, they would agree to grow cotton, okra, or sugar cane, but their main crop was cotton.
Chapter Two The House
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The Smith-Jenkins's house was a huge, three-bedroom home built of solid wood. The exterior never had a coat of paint: from its appearance, the wood had turned gray, showing signs of its long existence.
The windows were made of wood also, and could be opened only during the day, because it was not equipped with glass or screening to prevent the insects from entering the house during the night. Just before sunset, they were shut, but if any insects got into the house before bedtime, the house had to be sprayed with insecticide. This was essential during the summer because the bugs were very annoying, with the farm having so many trees on it. During the winter, that was never a problem because the windows were never open; the same process was done with the doors because they were not equipped with screens either.
The home was not equipped with electricity; the main source of energy was kerosene and wood. Kerosene was used in the stove for cooking and baking, in the lamps during the night to see, and later, it was used in the kerosene heaters to keep the house warm during the winter. Whenever light was needed to go outside during the night, such as going to the outhouse, or tending the livestock, the kerosene lantern was used.
During the summer, the house was never hot; it was always cool. But when winter arrived, it became very cold, only because of the farm being surrounded by many trees. The trees made it difficult for the sun to shine directly on the house during the day for a little warmth. Extra blankets and quilts were used on the beds and huge logs burned in the fire place day and night to keep the house warm. My grandmother made quilts for the families during the winter to help keep us warm. If we did not have enough covers for our beds, my mother made blankets out of grass sacks, which was a common thing to-do during those times.
The house consisted of three rooms an attic, a back and front porch. One of those rooms was the kitchen, which always kept a wonderful aroma of different types of food being cooked or baked. The large wooden table that only about eight people could be seated was in the middle of the room, there was more kitchen furniture place in different part of that room. The one piece of furniture I could never forget was the old wood-stove that stood next to the window, and how my mother stuffed the wood into it and started the fire burning to prepare our meals. From the window next to the stove, part of the back yard could be seen. There was a door that exit onto the back porch from where the kitchen table sits.
In the middle of the house was a double fireplace which was located in both of the other room. The one chimney was shared by both fireplaces. The room that was next to the kitchen was very large, part of it was converted into a living room and a bedroom. In the living room-part there was a couch that was used for visiting during the day and as a bed during the night. Two large sitting chairs; and a big old fashion table that held pictures of love ones; and the kerosene lamp to light up the room. The other half of the room was furnished with a large bed and "(Shiffer-Roll)" I do not know if that was the correct name for that particular piece of furniture, or was it given the name by my Creole family. The "(Shiffer-Roll)" was very importance and built with locks and keys. It was a large beautiful piece of furniture with drawers much like a dresser and a wardrobe. One part was used to hang suits and church clothes, whereas one part was used to store valuable items. Also in that part of the room was the stair's that ran up to the attic; and a front door that exit out to the front porch.
Describing the back room is very easy; because it was only a bedroom. There was two double beds, a "(Shiffer-Roll)", one couch that was used for a bed; an old antique table that we used when doing our homework; and the fireplace of course. This room also had a front door that exit out to the front porch; and a back door that exit out to the backyard.
Although the house did consist of these three rooms; the view of the house from the outside made it seem as if it was much larger than it really was because of its structure. Once inside it seem as if it should have been overcrowded because not more than seven or more individuals lived there at all times; but it never was because each room created a special atmosphere of its own, regardless; if there was seven people in one room; each occupied their own space.
The backyard was extremely the best place to do whatever there was to do, regarding work and play. Nearly all activities took place in the backyard or on the back porch. The many things that was done on the back porch was, disciplining, story-telling, and my family teaching us of their history, those times was special, after each ended it seem as if it bonded my family together a little more.
Work was done on that back porch also. The one thing we did was washing clothes. There was a long hand-carved bench placed against the wall of the porch, the wash-tub was placed on it, and filled with water along with a wash-board to start the wash. When the wash was done the tub and wash-board was hung high against the porch wall on nails for storage. The bench is than used during the evening by the family for sitting and telling stories.
When night approached all of the wooden windows and doors to the house had to be shut, when that happen the house became really dark without any light. Of course there was light, because the kerosene lamps were lit; there were two lamps to each room. Although the house did not have electricity still there was light glowing in the house. Not only just the light from those lamps to light-up the house, (but the kind of light that glitter in the hearts of each individual of the Jenkins's family who was resident in that home.)
Chapter Three The Change from Smith to Jenkins
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The maintenance on the farm revealed a visual masterpiece of excellent creativity and hard work; and the perfection of it was plain to everyone's sight. The property belonged to my great- great-grandfather, Mr. Smith; but when he passed away, it was inherited by his children, my great uncle David Smith and Amelia Smith Jenkins (who was my grandmother). Uncle David was the caretaker of the property; he shared generously with his sister. She and her family were entitled to have as much as they wanted of whatever grew on the farm; for instance, figs, pecans, and oranges. As for the share crop, everyone had to work hard together getting the land ready for the crop, doing whatever was necessary until it was time for harvesting. When that time came, each person who worked the harvest got paid for the amount of work he or she did, for instance, if he or she picked cotton, they only got paid for whatever amount of cotton they picked for that day.
My grandmother became a Jenkins when she married Oliver Jenkins, my grandfather. Through this marriage, they had several children. One of those children was my father, Livingston Jenkins. (His nickname was Libby.) I can not say very much about my grandmother, only what my father told me about her, because she passed away when I was very young. He said she was a very beautiful, proud lady, and that she loved her children very much. I know that love must have come from some where because love was all I knew from my father; he really did love his children. As for my grandfather, Oliver, I knew nothing about him at all. Only that he was a kind, hard-working man and did whatever it took to take care of his family.
My father's name was spoken with great admiration. He was not ashamed of being illiterate. For his signature, he made the letter "x"; but then, a number of people who lived on the plantation were illiterate and used the letter "x" for a signature. Although Libby may not have known how to read or write, he was not a foolish man. He was a very quiet man of great wisdom and compassion. No words could express the love he showed for his family.
My uncle David knew that Libby would be the right one he needed to run the farm now that he had become ill after the passing of his wife, Aunt Sarah. Uncle David also needed someone to take care of the housework, too. He asked my dad, Libby, and my mother, Noon, if they would consider taking over the farm. My dad was not too fond about the idea: it was my mother who made all of the decisions in their marriage.
My mother, Noon, whose real name was Reverta Key Jenkins, was a little Creole lady about four feet tall, but very out spoken. She was very much in love with my father. Noon had only a third-grade education; she was one of the lucky ones who did not grow up illiterate. To my dad, it seems as if she had a high school diploma, which was the reason he depended on her to make all the decisions.
At an early age, Noon was forced to quit school and go to work and help the family. She was the oldest of her sisters and brothers and her dad needed help to support his huge family of twelve children. My mom did not hesitate: she went right out to find a job. She started working for a white lady who was Creole and also a distant relative of Noon's family.
Excerpted from THE HOUSE SURROUNDED BY SUGAR CANE by LEANNA WILLIAMS Copyright © 2006 by Leanna Williams. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of ContentsContents Chapter 1 The Connection to Smith-Jenkins Farm....................7
Chapter 2 The House....................11
Chapter 3 The Change from Smith to Jenkins....................15
Chapter 4 Accomplishments Through Love....................23
Chapter 5 Exposed To Nature....................31
Chapter 6 New Lives Added and Major Changes....................41
Chapter 7 Living on the Farm but Working for the Plantation....................51
Chapter 8 Teaching and Training from my Brother....................59
Chapter 9 My Mother's Remedies....................63
Chapter 10 Visiting Mom and Pop on Bayside....................69
Chapter 11 Creating Recreation....................75
Chapter 12 Love and Sorrow....................85
Chapter 13 The House Begins to Deteriorate....................91
Chapter 14 The Big Move to Jeanerette....................99
Chapter 15 Strange Encounter in Strange Places....................107
Chapter 16 Finding Compassion and Love....................115
Chapter 17 Appearance with a Little Fun....................119
Chapter 18 Brother's Protection Ceased....................131
Chapter 19 New Additions....................135
Chapter 20 Losing My Best Friend....................141
Chapter 21 My Visit to a Large City....................153
Chapter 22 1963: The Year of Major Events....................169
Chapter 23 The Unbelievable Move to the Plantation....................177
Chapter 24 Shattered Dreams