At the time my family lived about twenty-five miles southwest of Chipley, Florida, on Mr. Dempsey Brock's sharecropper place. It was located three or four miles south of Hinson's Cross Roads, on the road to Millers Ferry over Holmes Creek. Our house was at the north end of a large, elliptical-shaped lake known, appropriately, as Brock Pond, and was accessed by a lane up from the main road
Over across the main road, and about a quarter of a mile eastward from where the lane from our house met the road, lived the Ben Body family. Ben and his wife were about the same age as Mama, and had four children, three girls and a boy, the boy being the youngest. The oldest girl was a few years older than me, while the next oldest was about my age, and the three of us chummed around a lot, particularly down around the big pond where we had our own private hiding places.Ben's daddy was dead. His mother was a very old woman, but preferred to live by herself in the old family house across the road from Ben. I remember it because it really was an old farm house, and there were lots of old things in it.
Ben had built with his own hands the house in which he and his family lived, and in the spring of the year that we moved to the Brock place he set about to build a barn. He had already had all the lumber cut from some of his own timber.
So one Saturday morning in early April my stepfather Holly took Mama and we children, and went over to help Ben put up the framing for his barn.
As we approached his place the aroma of freshly brewed coffee floated out toward the road to meet us. Beyond their house, and over to the right, we could see Ben and his family seated at a long table near the site where the barn was to be erected, so we went on over and joined them, taking seats at the table while Ben's wife set out large tin mugs of the hot, black coffee which had been brewed from freshly roasted beans.The sun was just then rising above the trees, and cast long shafts of light through the lingering morning haze. The air tingled with the brisk freshnesss of spring, and the trees rustled softly under the caress of a light breeze faintly scented with the fragrant bouquet of a dozen different aromas. In this atmosphere an hour or so was spent in casual conversation between the grownups, while the children concocted certain adventures to be pursued during the day.
At length, after the social amenities had been sufficiently observed, Holly and Ben set to work, the first objective being to lay out the corners so that the building would be square. We kids all watched with keen interest but could not fathom the intricacies of the method, and were greatly relieved when Holly and Ben announced the completion of the task to their mutual satisfaction.Next, they commenced to set the blocks upon which would rest the heavy sills that would support the floor joists. These blocks were about two feet in diameter, and had been cut from large oak trees. One was placed at each corner, with three or four being placed between each corner block along the sill lines, and another three or four along a line down the middle for the sill upon which the floor joists would be joined.
Then they began placing the heavy sills upon the blocks, which was time consuming because each one had to be notched at each end so that all could be securely joined together. And so they continued, taking a short break now and then, until the sills were placed and all the floor joists had been joined.By this time Mama and Ben's wife had prepared a sumptuous dinner, so work was put aside for an hour or two while we feasted, and Holly and Ben enjoyed an extended rest while they discussed the finer points of getting a successful crop to harvest. In due time the subject was exhausted and they returned to the task at hand.
We kids, our interest in the project having waned somewhat, turned to our little adventures, taking time now and then to run down to the road to see whether an automobile might come by. And so we passed a pleasant and carefree afternoon while Holly and Ben labored diligently on the barn.
By sundown all the framing and bracing had been joined, and the little structure was declared sufficiently secure in its standing to await the continuance of the work on the morrow.
So ended a beautiful day, and after a final serving of hot, black coffee, the children having the option of lighter refreshments, we said good night to Ben and his family, and in the dusky twilight ambled leisurely down the road and back up the lane to our house.
Over the years I have often recalled the occasion just described, for it was an experience reminiscent of pioneer days, and for me it was the very last opportunity for such.
The event described above took place in April, 1944, about three months before my tenth birthday, and about two months before the Allied landing on Normandy (D-Day).