Saturday, February 18, 2012

Part 4 of Papaw's Remembrances

Buddy's brothers James and Brooks were paired up together. James was the oldest. In the summer when he was sixteen, he fell in love. Floy Safley was a pretty young girl from Russellville, Arkansas who came to Cruger, Mississippi to visit some of her family for the summer. She met James, and they immediately fell for each other. One night James, Floy, and Brooks got into James's father's old Model A Ford car and drove off to the next town where James and Floy got married. She was eighteen, and he was sixteen. Brooks said they had six flat tires on the trip. When they got back to Cruger, they took Floy back to her house, and James went home to his. Mrs. Chapman said she saw James crying the next day, and then he told her that he and Floy had gotten married. She helped them fix up one of the tenant houses so they could live there. Now both Malcolm and James were married and living at Avie Acre.

Evelyn and Bob moved to Shreveport, Louisiana where Bob had a job with Louisiana Power and Electric Company. Evelyn worked for a dentist. They would come home to Avie Acre every chance they could get. Bob was a mild mannered person with many talents. They used him to fix up things around the place. There wasn't much he could not do. He was also a good storyteller, especially about himself. Some of his stories were pretty unbelievable. The guys liked to tease him, and when they did Evelyn would hit the ceiling. Bob was a really good person, and he loved all the Chapmans.

The depression came, and the heavy rains in 1929 caused the Yazoo River to overflow. There were no levees to hold back the water, so the Chapman farm was covered with water. The water was so high it came into the houses. They had to put the furniture up on blocks to keep it dry, and they finally had to move out of the big house. They moved into one of the little tenant houses that was on higher ground. They lived in part of the house, and the pigs and chickens were in the other part. They drove the cattle and other livestock into the hill country. They lived like that until the water went down in the main house so they could move back in. They rode around the farm in a boat. The children rode a boat out to the road to catch the school bus so they could go to school. Bob Kelly built a big boat so they could transport food for the animals in the hill country. The water was so deep in the yard that the children could stand on the porch and catch fish.

Lucille and Florence were just kids, and they decided to take a boat ride. The boat overturned, and Lucille nearly drowned. After all the excitement was over, their mother gave them a whipping with a switch. Buddy laughed because they had gotten into trouble, so his mother whipped him for laughing.

Spring came and the water receded. James and Floy had their first little baby. It was a boy, and they named him Bobby. The work on the farm was too much for Floy, and she wanted to go home to Russellville to be with her family. She left James in Mississippi and went back to her family. Later James missed her so much he went to Russellville to be with her. He found work there in the coalmines, but he didn't like it there so he persuaded Floy to go back to Mississippi with him. They worked hard in the fields and making a garden, and then Floy had had enough. She took their little Bobby and went back to Arkansas. James followed her, and they made their home in Russellville, Arkansas.

Brooks, the maverick of the family was still at home. After having his way with all the girls in the community, even the black girls on the farm where he bought favors with stolen chickens, he was still single. When he met Lucille Layman, she won his heart. When they married they also moved into one of the little tenant houses on the place. All the family loved Lucille. She and Brooks had a little son, and they named him Joe Brooks, Jr. after this father.

Now there was a whole community of Chapman families living on the farm. They were a wild bunch; they liked to drink and gamble. They made their own rotgut liquor.They got the sugar and corn from the commissary, and they built a still in one of the vacant tenant houses. There they made "white lightening" moonshine whiskey. The little kids knew something was going on inside the house, but were not allowed to go near there. Buddy would sneak up to the house and peek through the cracks. He knew about the still. The guys would drink the moonshine liquor and shoot dice. This was during the Prohibition and both liquor and gambling were against the law. There was discord in the family among the young men. On one occasion Brooks threatened to split James’s head open with a double-edged chopping ax. There could have been several reasons for this, but it may have been from too much drink or jealousy over who got more from their parents. James moved his family to Russellville, and Brooks and Lucille got a divorce and she went home to her parents.

Big Jim Chapman began hanging around the bars more and more. He started "fooling around" with the owner "Miss Nellie Gray." The kids knew about this, and they would snicker about it to his back. Buddy would sing "Oh my darling Nelly Gray" and then he said he would run like "Hell" to get out of the way. His daddy was a big man, so he was sure to stay out of his way.

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