A Change of Pace

May 17th, 2009

Near the end of last month my son and I drove down to the part of Alabama where I was born and spent part of my childhood. I say part of my childhood because as a kid I got to see a lot of this country. Alabama to California back to Alabama then finally to Michigan. I think diverse would best describe my childhood.

I feel that America was at its best during those years after World War Two. Life was gentle and innocent. A calm before the storm of changes to come.

Trying to revisit childhood haunts and find them unchanged is like hunting for the pot of gold at the rainbow’s end. Time had been less than kind to the land and old home places. Strip mining had left many once beautiful acres looking like a moonscape.

Lots of change takes place in fifty years. Of course one look in the mirror is all the reminder I need. At any rate I wanted my son to get a look at where his dad spent some of his life’s best years. Even with the disappointment of not finding things like I’d remembered them, my son and I benefited from the adventure.

Unlikely as it seems there was one place that had changed very little. The Tucker family owned about one hundred and seventy acres. Old man Tucker had split up the land between himself and his two sons. Both sons had gone off to war and got back none the worse for wear. In no time they built houses and settled in but all the harmony between the brothers and their dad was short lived.

Bobby, the younger son didn’t want to be a farmer anymore. So one day he and his young wife moved off to Birmingham, never to return. The older brother, Hodge, continued to farm alongside his dad. By the time my family moved on to forty adjoining acres, Hodge and his wife had four kids.

Hodge Tucker and his old man would always be needing help but never had money to pay until they had finagled and tried to barter with you first. The way them good old boys squeezed a dollar I figured they’d be living in mansions. That turned out not to be the case but I was surprised to see the place hadn’t changed all that much. I didn’t stop and talk cause I figure nobody there would remember me.

First gun I ever owned came about as a result of my haggling with Hodge after picking cotton for a week. He owed me six dollars according to his figures. I was payed by weight but I’d swear I was cheated. Anyway on this particular Friday afternoon Hodge payed all his adult pickers and then started paying the young folks. This was a standard practice in our area seeing as how grown people with families needed their money worse than kids.

I was last in line for pay cause I was the newbie. While the other kids had been learning to pick cotton I’d been laying out in the California sun. So Hodge says to me, “Mister Larry, I’m out of money”. I figure he is lying but what can a twelve year old do. That’s when he gives me the rifle sales pitch. He offered me his old JC Higgins single shot bolt action .22 caliber rifle and a box of 22 short shells as payment. I wanted that rifle so we shook hands and it was mine.

As it turned out, Hodge had tried to pawn that old gun off on every kid in the county. My feelings were really hurt when people made fun of it. It had more than a few flaws but I was able to hunt with it or shoot an empty tin can. In the many years since then I’ve owned a dozen .22 caliber rifles but none have equaled the old JC Higgins rifle of my youth.

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3 Responses to “A Change of Pace”

  1. Tom |

    As I read this, my mind wandered to my own memories of times past, when I was just a kid trying to figure out what life was. I’ve also gone back to places from those times, and while they’re obviously the same places, they’re just, somehow, different. Things are bigger or smaller, not located just where you thought they should be, or sometimes just missing. But the memories are still there, and sometimes the smallest things stay with you the longest. That JC Higgings .22 rifle is a perfect example.

    I still have a beautiful Remington .22 bolt-action rifle my father gave me when I was 13. I’ve had it restored, which it needed badly after many years of boyhood use, and I wouldn’t part with it for anything.

  2. Harvey |


    That was very well told account of your trip and peek into your childhood.

    I have never had a strong urge to revisit my roots (Chicago) and that is probably because a city kid (well, at least THIS city kid) doesn’t grow roots very deep. I have lots of memories, of course, but none compelling enough to draw me back to the old neighborhoods.

    I guess I envy those of you who were brought up in a rural environment and who have experienced live from that vantage point. I had often thought of settling down in a small town where things are (or at least seem) simpler and people grow closer — but it appears that that I might have waited too long.

  3. Brian Bagent |

    Harvey, it is never too late. It may take a little longer to assimilate, but it is still possible.

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