This is another childhood story. When I think back on it, all I can say is “oh my goodness.”
Growing up on a farm in south Texas is definitely different from growing up in today’s world. In fact, many things were different in those days, at least in my family. The men on the farm always did most of the shopping. The women seldom left the 160-acre cotton farm. Mama told me once that it was almost a year, on more than one occasion, since she had been to town for anything. I guess Mama had nowhere to leave us kids, except with Mamaw, who probably didn’t want all seven of us left at her house too often. Aside from this fact, Papaw always thought a woman’s place was at home, so Daddy was probably brought up to think so too.
I can only remember Mamaw leaving the farm a handful of times during my childhood. Usually then, it was for a funeral, or something like that.
Mamaw and Papaw went to two different churches and both of them, being very stubborn, could not agree on one or the other. Even though the churches were across the street from one another, when Papaw decided to go, he usually left Mamaw at home to cook Sunday dinner, as he wanted this ready when he returned. Once in awhile, she would go and he’d drop her off at her church.
Papaw was a short man, about 5’6” with thinning gray hair. He was very round in the middle, but otherwise was not fat. His would button his shirts to the top with an undershirt beneath, even in the sweltering summer months. He wore his trousers pulled up high with a belt. He always had on black shoes, or knee high rubber boots, depending on the weather. His glasses were old fashioned and he always wore a serious look on his face. He never smoke or drank. You can say he was a no-nonsense kind of person. He was protective too and didn’t want any strangers hanging about the farm. On a couple of occasions, he ran off traveling salesmen with a shotgun.
Rosenberg Papaw (My Grandfather)
Papaw was always ready to take advantage of a bargain, if it was something we needed, with food taking priority. In his later years, he was too old to do much work out in the field. He would spend a lot of his time in town chewing the fat with the other old farmers at places like the cotton gin, the feed store, or the grocery store.
He drove an old black Ford that smelled like an old car inside, but it was in good shape considering he hit every curb he went around. This is the only car I can ever remember him driving. All of us thought he would drive the wheels right off that car because he would make four or five trips to town in it every day. It seems he never let the car cool off, and he was off again. I guess he must have been bored, or perhaps he didn’t want to stick around too long for fear Mamaw would find some chore for him to do.
1950's - 1960's Grocery Store - Public Domain Photo
“Now I want ya’ll kids to go in the store one at a time and get them potata’s in the ten-pound sack,” he would say. “I think they’re on isle four or five. Don’t go talkin’ to each other in the store, or foolin’ around. Just go pretendin’ ya’ll are strangers.” We would look at each other.
“Just get the potata’s and go to different check out stands.” He would instruct us after he parked the car.
“But Papaw...” we would say. “We feel foolish. They know what you’re doin’.”
“No, they don’t know nothin’,” he would insist. “Now that comes to about 1.29.” And he would place the dollar and change in our hands.
We figured he must have already been in the store that day to know the exact amount.
He would open the car door. “Now get on with ya. And ya’ll don’t talk to each other in there, ya hear? And remember different check stands,” he would say.
We were off on our mission, one at a time until we reached the door, and then the next one would go. With this method, we wouldn’t all end up at the door at the same time and cause any suspicion.
Bags of Potatoes
He would usually wait in the car for us. All of us hated this, but we had no choice but to comply. We felt embarrassed knowing everyone was watching us, and knew what we were up to the whole time. The cashiers did, of course. After awhile, they recognized us, and they would smile when they rang up our order. Papaw always thought he fooled them. There was no telling him otherwise.
We would all be glad to get that over with, get out of the store, and back to the car for the ride home, dreading the trip to the store for the next sale.