Looking Back

By Dennis J. "Jack" Robinson

Iam glad you learned from that [ a message] the old-timers had to soak wagon and buggy wheels in water often. The wheels were completely made of wood, except for a steel rim around the perimeter of the wheel.  Soaking the wood of the wheel kept it from shrinking and letting the rim get loose. So every time the driver got a chance to drive his team and pull the vehicle into shallow water to soak the wheels, he did.

There were few motor vehicles around when I was a child down home. Most people used a wagon and a team, or a buggy with one horse, or sometimes two, for normal transportation around the community. The young men mostly used a horse and buggy to squire their dates around in. This reminds me of a yarn I heard back in those days about a shy young man who was talking with his mother about possible topics of conservation with a girl, while they were enroute somewhere in a buggy. He said, "What if the horse stops to relieve himself some night, what should I say?" His mother said, "Oh . . . talk about the moon and stars, or the big dipper." On the very next time out one night when he had the girl in the buggy with him, sure enough, the horse stopped to do his business, and the boy nervously begin asking, "Oh, where's the big dipper?" To which his lady friend answered, "You durn fool, that's not fit to drink!" I still remember Paul Fippin and Merle Anglin courting in a buggy . . . also Cecil Day and Irene Culpepper.

Speaking of buggies and wagons, the postman who delivered the mail to Pine Forest rural route from Como, a Mister James, had a rig that, to me, was sort of a cross between a buggy and a wagon. It had buggy-type wheels, and was pulled by a team of horses.  I admired that rig, and thought he must really have a fascinating job. I guess that caused me, for the first time, to consider being something besides a farmer.

There is something else I know about from those bygone days, and that is about making lye soap in a wash pot in the back yard. We raised hogs, and butchered the ones selected for that purpose after the first real cold front came through in the fall. Sometimes neighbors would come by and help out. Then at other times, we would go and help them out. The meat was processed . . . some cured, some cooked and packed in boiled fat (lard) in gallon-sized syrup buckets with lids. Then the "sow belly" fat was boiled in the wash pot, cut with lye, and then let cool. It was then made into bar-size chunks of soap. We used the soap for every cleaning purpose.

This material was taken from e-mail messages, and I have edited it somewhat for readability and transitions. Jack, whose mother was Robbie Minter, was born in Pine Forest in 1917 and spent his early childhood years there. He now lives in Houston, Texas. TJM