1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



Education, Alderson Style I

Jim Jones

As I was watching tributes to Carl T. Rowan, the deceased Journalist, his son told a story about how lucky Mr. Rowan considered himself in acquiring an education. He said that after his first semester at Tennessee State he realized he was going to have to leave school because he had no money for the second semester. He was downcast and while pondering this singular circumstance at a bus stop he spotted a twenty-dollar bill lying in the grass. The twenty enabled him to pay for the second semester. This reminded me of how fortunate I am to have an education.

I cannot recall when I realized that I was one of those who would have to acquire an education.

It may have been the influence of the Alderson people who contributed to our upbringing. Lots of Alderson folks help raise the children of the town. Certainly the teachers and principal inspired us to acquire knowledge but different town people would help by saying things like, "get yourself an education and no one will ever be able to take it away from you." Most of my skilled experiences of working with my hands told me it wasn't to be for me. I recall being in Frank McClung's high school shop class under the gym, not having a door-stop project completed and going into the unfinished portion of the shop where unsatisfactory projects of others had been discarded and picking up "my" best work to be turned in for a grade. My little hands just couldn't make those tools do good things. I was to later discover that those hands were for counting money, other peoples.

If I was to pick one instance that lead me to believe some education was required, it happened the first summer working for Earl Flint. First of all, I had lied to Earl to get the job. He asked about my experience, I told him that not only did I have experience thrashing wheat, putting up hay but I could also drive. That summer I was a rising high school sophomore and would have just turned fifteen years of age.

My first day to show how experienced I was took place in a wheat field most of you will remember being the town of Alderson baseball field at Glen Ray. Eugene "Hot Shot" Shaffer, Mr. Carines, who always watched the lower Cannery side gate at the football games, and Billy Joe Ayres were my instructors in shocking wheat that long hot day. They all covered for my ineptness.

It may have been the second or third day we were working hay at the Gwinn farm on the Summers County line when Earl said "Get that truck out of the way, take it through the gate." Not only did I not know how to drive it, I wasn't even sure how to start one. Well that wouldn't bother an aspiring top hand like myself. I jumped right up into the seat, jammed that clutch all the way to the floor with my left foot, turned the key to the on position, turned my right foot kind of side ways in order to simultaneously press the floor starter and gas. Man did it start with a roar. I don't know what gear it was in but as I popped the clutch, it kind of hippity hopped through the gate. As the truck's front was clearing the gate I turned it to the left for a parking spot by the fence and flat removed the entire gatepost with the rear side of the truck. Now that was not what told me that I needed the education. It came just a bit later.

After putting up bales Earl decided we would put some loose hay in the mow. He explained my job was in the haymow where I was to compress it while evenly spreading it out. He said I wouldn't have trouble keeping up because the hay would be on a hook that would carry it across this rail in the peak of the roof and when I saw a good place to store the hay without my having to move it around much, all I had to do was yell and he would release it. As soon as I got up there, must have been about two hundred degrees under that hot sun on the tin roof, I spotted an indented area in which to pack it, walked into this hole to stand and waited for the cured loose hay to get over the hole. Do I really need to tell you what happened next? About the time I yelled I must have realized the hay, the hole and I were all going to make violent contact. I tried to climb out but didn't make it. Earl and the other hands went on back to the field to get another load without knowing their top hand was under tons and tons of the hottest, stickiest, dusty, dirty old hot hay in the world. When I became disengaged from the pitch fork and was able to get enough of my head out to breath a little I couldn't see anything because of the dust in my eyes and couldn't really move much without severe pain from the briers down my back and the front of my pants. That's when I dog gone well knew an education was going to be a must for yours truly. I would have given up my farming career that very minute, just walked off if it hadn't been for all the money I was being paid as top hand and it was no doubt the only job I could get in Alderson that summer.

(To be Continued)

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