Denvis Earls, grandson of

Leonard and Callie (Hunter) Smith

The Alley

I never wore my hair long enough to comb as I was growing

up. So, while I was in Navy bootcamp, for the first time in my

life, my hair reached a comb-able length. When I came home,

I wanted Grandma to see me in my sailor’s suit, so I spruced up

and drove over to Indiana. I had parted my hair down the middle

and looked pretty sharp.


When I asked Grandma what she thought, she looked at my

hair, and said, “Well, I always thought there should be an

alley on every block.”


Two-hole Outhouse

I remember that two-hole outhouse behind the house in

Metamora. One day, I asked Grandpa why he had a two-

hole outhouse. He studied a minute, then looked at me and said, “It’s just friendly, I guess.”


Tithe

I don’t know the truth of this matter, but it is a story I heard told from the pulpit more than once.


Grandpa Smith went to church with Grandma as often as she wanted. She believed that she owed the Lord 10% of the profits of the farm. One quarter, she was computing her taxes, and found that the farm had made a profit of $1400. She was writing a check to the church for her tithe when Grandpa asked what she was doing. When she told him of the profit and that they owed $140 in tithe, Grandpa said, “We got ours by hard work. Let the Lord get his.”


The next day, Grandpa went to the upper pasture to bring in the cows. He found a young steer, lying dead, in a gully. When he informed Grandma, she calculated that the steer could have brought close to $140. She said to him, “Well, the Lord took his share.”


Grandpa never said anything else about tithing.



Going Courting

One morning after chores were done, Grandpa put a chain in the ring on Cecil’s nose (his prized Hereford bull) and raised my curiosity. I asked what he was doing. He grabbed the end of the chain and started walking toward the back pasture. He said he was taking Cecil up to Funny Bates’ farm. I asked if he had sold Cecil. Quietly, he simply said, “No, Cecil is goin’ courtin’.”



A Last Note

I remember when Grandpa was in the hospital the week he died. Mother said that she and Grandma sat by his side praying he’d recover. Briefly, he awoke, and when asked what they could do for him, he replied, “I want a drink from my well.” Mom and Grandma drove through the night back to Metamora to get a Mason jar full of water from his well.


As I remember the story, he took a long slow drink, smiled, and passed away.

 

Snakes

George Caleb and I seemed to spend about every summer at Grandma’s at the farm on Haytown Hill. We were probably 10 and 12 when Grandma put us out in the yard cutting grass and trimming the bushes. Around on the back side of the house was a trellis that ran up the side of the house near the kitchen window.We knew that Granny was planning to climb the trellis to trim it back, and that she thought it was too dangerous for us boys to be climbing up there. We thought it would be funny to run a garden hose up behind the trellis and shake it really good while she was climbing there. Of course, we knew she was deathly afraid of snakes, but at the time, that is what seemed funny about it.


So, out she came with her funny hat and gardening gloves and with pruners in hand started to climb the trellis. She was 4 or 5 feet off the ground when George started shaking the hose and I yelled, “Snake! Snake!” Grandma nearly fell out of the trellis, jumping to the ground. George and I were still bent over with laughter when the switch she had grabbed began to tan our butts.



Can Pullets Swim?

Sometimes the things we did for “fun” were not as humorous as the snake story. Curiosity sometimes got the best of us. One hot summer day, George, Maynard (Ike), and I were down at the pullet house, feeding them, I suppose. We began to wonder whether pullets, like ducks, could swim.After trying a couple of them in the creek, it became obvious that the pullets don’t swim well. For this indiscretion, we went to bed right after our bath, and with no supper. A learning experience for sure.



Bull’s Milk

Grandpa was always grateful for any help we could give him on the farm. I remember him talking about butter fat, and milk weight and how sometimes he got paid by the hundred weight and other times by the butter fat content of the milk. It must have been a hundred weight week, but once, when we filled the milk cans, Grandpa told us to stop short of the top, and finish it with bull’s milk. We were young, but old enough to know that you can’t get milk from Old Cecil. Then, Grandpa explained the scheme to us as he topped off the can with a bucket of well water.



Jenny

In 1979, just a month or so after my daughter Jenny was born, Linda and I made a trip to Metamora so Grandma could see her. At that time, she was living in the house at the foot of McGuire Ridge. Grandma sat in the old rocker (that Aunt Jean now has) and rocked back and forth while she cooed at the baby. We talked a while and I told her that Jenny’s name was Jennifer Callie Earls. We had named Jen after her. Grandma began to cry softly. Then she said, “This is wonderful. I thought nobody wanted to use my name and it would just die with me.” For Linda and I, this is the most precious of our memories of Grandma.



The Circus

During that trip when we took Jenny to visit Grandma, we sat that evening talking about things. I was thinking that she really looked old, and I wanted to do something special for her. I asked, “Grandma, is there anything you’ve wanted to do that you didn’t get to?” She thought a minute and said, “I’ve always wanted to go to a circus.” I promised to find one and take her, but the next time I saw her was at the funeral.



Sun Porch

The big house on the creek had a full sun porch through which we normally entered the house. I suppose it was also a mudroom, because that’s where the boots came off, unless we came in the back door. I loved all the different plants she grew and the stories she told about each one. One came from somebody’s funeral, another was a gift from Mom, and the cacti were from Uncle Clyde. She probably never thought about it, but I learned a love of plants and trees from her. That is something I think about now and then. When I was up in the woods as Grandpa cut timber and fire wood, he use to make me guess what kind of tree it was. Sycamore was easy, as were oaks, but it took me a while to learn the others. I’m on the Arboretum Committee at Wilmington College and a lot of what I know about plants and trees, I learned from Grandma and Grandpa.



Bridge Building

Grandpa wanted to build a bridge across the creek between two fields on the bottom of his farm. The creek was deep there, but probably only twelve or fourteen feet wide. He cut a couple tall oaks for the main tresses. We went into town where he bought inch and a half thick rough cut lumber for the bed of the bridge and some of the biggest nails I ever saw. They were at least 8 inches long. When we (I say we, but frankly, I was a spectator) set the long poles across the creek, Grandpa walked each log, and using an adze, flattened top of the logs. Along the way, he explained to me what he was doing and why getting the logs level was important.


Then we laid down the planks across the main support logs. I remember he dipped each big nail in motor oil, before he began to drive them in with a 2 pound sledgehammer. He let me try, and using both hands, I banged the top of a nail and bent it over. Grandpa finished the job without my help. I don’t think Grandpa Smith ever raised his voice at us boys.


When he got done, I remember how proud I felt. Grandpa made me feel like I had build a bridge.



Making Hay While the Sun Shines

One summer we boys, George, Maynard, and I, and cousins, Judy and Sylvia, helped make hay with Grandpa. Those were the days before bailing.After Grandpa had cut, dried, and raked the hay, we climbed onto the big hay wagon and headed down to the field. While Grandma, Grandpa, and George pitched hay with their pitchforks, Judy, Sylvia and I walked the hay, tamping it down in the wagon. We had done several loads that morning and as the sun rose in the sky, it got terribly hot. We kids complained of the work.


That was when we noticed that Maynard had gone over under an old apple tree and laid down to take a nap. We complained to Grandpa that it wasn’t fair that Maynard got to rest while we worked. Grandpa just looked at us and said, “Let him sleep, Ike’s going to be a preacher when he grows up.”We understood and went back to work.



Shotguns and Squirrels

Grandma had a 1937 Winchester, 12 gauge shotgun, which she kept in the chef robe with her .22 rifle. One fall, I stayed with Grandma, and she had showed me how to shoot and use the guns. I decided I’d go collect us some game for supper. Grandma game me three shells, and off I went.

Before I left the yard, she advised, “Shoot squirrels in the back, rabbits in the head. We eat squirrel heads.”


Some time later, I came home with two squirrels and an unused shell. She admired my handiwork and my frugality, returning the unused shell to the box. When she died, I got her shotgun. It has been in my possession for twenty years. This year, at Christmas time, I asked my sons which of my guns they wanted. My oldest, John, said he wanted Grandma’s shotgun.He said he had played with it many times as a boy. That came as news to his parents. But, John now has her shotgun and plans to keep it in the family.



The Best Shot in Franklin County

Bragging or just for fun, I remember Grandpa saying that Grandma was the best shot in the county. She had taught me to use a gun, so I was prepared to believe that. Well, one event called that boast into question.


We often worked late in the cow barn finishing up the milking and cleaning pitching to the manure pile. I looked out the window at one point and asked Grandma what that was on the tree limb several hundred yards up in the pasture above the barn lot.


Grandma came over and looked at it. She said it was a chicken hawk. She told me to go into the house and get her rifle and some shells. I ran to the house and shortly returned with her octagonal barrel .22 rifle. The thing was still there as she lowered the rifle onto the window sill, took aim and fired. Nothing happened. I expected to see that old hawk collapse like a sack of potatoes, but nothing happened. She drew a finer bead, and fired again. Still nothing. Grandma was really upset with herself, that she could miss at that range.


We finished the milking and took the cows down to the pasture. I carried Grandma’s rifle as we climbed the hill to get a better shot at that old chicken hawk. As we drew closer, it became obvious that the hawk was actually an upright broken limb with two tightly grouped bullet holes.

All Grandma said was, “Psshaw.”



Watering Horses

Grandpa’s work horses were really too big to ride. I related this story to a horsewoman once, and she said, “Riding a Belgian is like riding a couch.”We never got to gallop the horses for fun, but when Grandpa came in from the fields, he always walked the horses down to the creek for a drink and to splash some water on them to cool them.


Sometimes, he would let us boys climb up on their backs and ride while he walked them to the creek. When they got to the creek, you had to really hold on to the hames. Their front legs walked into the creek almost up to their chests while hind legs were still on the bank. That created a steep
angle. One time, they were very sweaty as we rode to the creek and as soon as they stopped in the water, we slid right over their necks and into the water with a splash. The horses were startled, and probably would have stomped us to death had Grandpa not held tight on the reigns.

In varying degrees, we were scared, exhilarated, and soaking wet.



Winter Nights

I remember the cold winter nights at Grandma’s house. There was no heat upstairs, but the stove in the dining room, was a warm relief on those chilly winter evenings. Grandma and Grandpa and us boys sat around the radio (I think it was a Crystal set; I remember it had an antenna wire that stretched out through the window to the clothes line.) listening to our favorite radio shows while we washed eggs that we were taking to Hildebrand’s store to trade the next day.

We listened to “The Shadow”, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and Amos and Andy.

One night, Grandpa took us boys out into the field above the yard, to look at stars. He told us the name of some of the constellations and by looking at the Big Dipper, how to find the North Star.

One of the things I remember most was the full moon. As we sat there in the wet grass, we looked up at the moon. Grandpa asked us what we saw.I don’t remember what the others said, but I said, “I can see a man driving sheep and walking across the moon.” Many nights after that, I sat or lay in the grass watching the moon and the clouds and stars, and wondering what was there, and seeing things that I thought were there. A short decade later, men actually walked on the face of the moon.

I regret that I lost the ability to see what was happening on the moon.



How Cold Was It?

Grandma had a two-holer outhouse. That in itself was different enough for city boys, but getting to it, on a cold and snowy night was another matter.When we “peed” on the toilet seat, Grandma would make us get a hot bucket of water and some Pine Sol, and wash down the toilet.

Well, on cold winter nights, it seemed sometimes impossible to run all the way out to the outhouse. I remember stopping at the edge of the breezeway on a winter night, and thinking, “who will know? I’ll just pee off the porch.”

The next morning I was awakened by Grandma’s stern voice, inquiring as to who peed in the yard. It didn’t occur to me that night that the yellow snow would leave clues the next morning. Chastened, I always made it to the outhouse after that.



The Attic

The attic was off to one end of the room in which I always stayed. I was sure there were lots of ghosts in there, though I think I only saw one. Most of the time, Grandma made us stay out of there, but when Uncle Clyde got me interested in collecting stamps, I asked Grandma if she had any old stamps. She said there were letters in the trunk in the attic, and that I could have the stamps. I spent several afternoons cutting and pulling stamps off those old letters. Most were from the 1930s, but there was a series of letters to Grandma from Grandpa who was in the Army before they gotmarried. She also kept letters from some other guys. I asked her about them, thinking they might be relatives. It turned out Grandma had a lot of beaus to choose from, but she married Grandpa anyway.

Among the things she let me have were the Ration Stamps from WWII. I still have those.



A Good Willow Switch

Dad liked to dump us on Grandma during the summer. It was probably the only time that he and Mom got to get away from three rowdy boys. Besides, Mom still had two little ones at home. But, staying at Grandma’s was not always a “vacation”. Grandma would say that we needed to earn our keep, which meant that there was always some chore there that needed to be done. After about a week, one time, I decided to run away. I can’t recall where I thought I was going to go, but I planned to go far.

I said something crude to Grandma and started up the lane. She came walking after me, calling me to come back. I was crying and refusing to return, and somehow, it seemed my feet were so heavy I couldn’t makeany progress in getting away from that place. I could see that Grandma was going to catch up with me, for I had stopped in my tracks. She said she was going to whip me with a willow switch if I didn’t turn around.

I bent over and started throwing rocks at her, none of which met their mark.And, I was bawling like a baby. Grandma started laughing so deeply that she bent over, and had to hold her side. By that time, I was laughing too, and crying when I could remember to do so. We walked back to the yard where she splashed some water on my face, and I felt better. She still owes me that whipping.



Riley Birch

After Grandpa died, Grandma hired Riley Birch to help around the farm. I don’t know how old Riley was, but to me at 13, he seemed ancient. Riley had a pair of mules to pull the farm equipment. I was staying with Grandma that summer, and would be returning in the fall for the corn harvest. One day, Riley was out in one of the front fields mowing hay. Grandma told me to take him a jar of cold water. As I approached where he was working, I noticed he was laying down in front of the mower blade, and appeared to be trying to fix something. I didn’t speak until I got closer. It was then that I noticed he was in front of the mower blade, sound asleep, with his head on the sickle blade. Those two old mules just stood there. One looked around as if to say, “that old fool”, but shook its head and continued to stand stone still. I walked behind the mower and applied the brake, and then quietly shook Riley until he awoke. I told him I thought he could have been killed.He said, “Naw, them mules won’t move an inch if they don’t have to.”

With thought toward the coming winter, and the corn crop, and knowing I would not be available to pick the bottom 14 acres until late October (after football season), Riley began building a 30 bushel sled so that I could use the horse and sled to pick the corn when the ground was soft or even frozen but wouldn’t support a wagon. He soaked two 10 inch sassafras poles about 15 feet long in the creek for a week. Then, using fire, bent them to have an upturned front runner. The box was simple enough, and had four sides and a bottom made of rough barn lumber. We mounted the box to the runners with wooden wedges, and made a bounce-board to throw the corn against as we picked and walked the field. I don’t know what became of Riley, but that October, I picked fourteen acres of corn, hauling it thirty bushel at a time up to the corn crib, shoveled it into the crib, and then headed back to the corn field. I learned to use a corn hook and could shuck an ear, and throw it into the box all in one movement.



Granny with John and Bryan

Linda and I lived in a little white cape cod house on Twin Creek for a couple years. I spent a lot of time away from home politicking. I don’t know how we managed it, but Grandma came to stay with us for a few days. She was using a stick to get around then, but was always in good spirits. We had a tire swing where the boys liked to swing out over the creek. Grandma seemed to enjoy pushing them, and of course, they loved it. One of our favorite pictures is of Grandma walking around the front of the house using her cane with two little boys in tow.



Clean Off Tin

Grandma got a new stove. After it was installed, she sat and read the instructions. For a couple minutes, she was poking around, inspecting every part of the new stove. When I asked whether there was a problem, she said that she couldn’t fine the “tin”. I asked her what a “tin” was. She thought it was a part of some sort. We couldn’t find anything that looked like tin. Finally, she handed me the instructions. I read, “Clean often.”Well, problem solved.

Short Stories of Leonard & Callie (Hunter) Smith

by Denvis Earls

June 29, 2011

The Hunter History & Stories from Family members

Hunter Legacy - The Descendants of George Washington Hunter © All rights reserved.

The Descendants of George Washington Hunter ~ 1815-1880 

Leonard Smith - 1923

Callie (Hunter) Smith - 1923

Smith Farm at English Wolf Creek - 1943

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