The Southern Agrarian

Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Tag: McGehee family

Clean it, Maintain it, Fix it


In a reply to a previous post, I was reminded of the need to learn to make do with what we have and to repair and maintain things. That brought to mind the two tools shown in the photo above – both tools have been in the family for several generations. The grubbing hoe is still in quite usable condition despite the handle being wrapped with a strip of metal that has been nailed in place. The axe, on the other hand, is just kept as a reminder of a time when tools were treasured and were not easily replaced.

One of life’s great lessons is learning that it always pays to buy quality and then maintain it. Quality tools, well cared for, maintained, and repaired as needed, are far better than saving a few dollars buying Chinese junk and then replacing it because it’s not worth repairing.

One of my routines is to always wash all of my garden tools and set them out to dry when I’m finished using them. Most of the time, that is all that is needed before hanging them in their place in the tool shed. If a tool should start to get some rust on it, I clean it off with a wire wheel or whatever is appropriate, rub a bit of oil on it, then put it away. About once a year, I go through all of my tools and use a file to sharpen them, but some tools get sharpened more frequently.

Wooden handles are too-often neglected. I use a rag to rub linseed oil into the wood handles of my tools. If they are treated with reasonable care and stored out of the weather, a good hardwood tool handle should last a lifetime and be able to be passed down to the next generation. Some folks prefer to paint their wood handles, but I’ve never had any desire to do that. 1) I love the look and feel of real wood, and 2) Paint can hide cracks and other problems that should be quickly taken care of.

The grubbing hoe in the photo probably came down with the family when they moved from Alabama to Florida in about 1921 – nearly a century ago. Although we usually associate covered wagons with pioneers moving west, that is how my grandparents moved their family and household goods down here. My grandfather built a covered wagon that was pulled by oxen. It was driven down what was called the Florida Short Route, marked by crude signs and tree carvings saying “FSR”. The cattle were carried by train, and some of the family was loaded into an old Ford, and off they went to find a place where the farming was easier than the rock-filled clay of McGehee Mountain in Clay County, Alabama.

Family Reunions

While some would consider family reunions to be little more than a quaint tradition carried on by the “less sophisticated”, Southern culture takes a very different view. Family reunions are an opportunity for one generation to pass along the family heritage to the next generation. They strengthen man’s oldest form of social structure and the foundation of any civilized society.

This past weekend, our family held our 59th annual family reunion. I seem to recall missing one of those reunions about thirty years ago, but I can’t be sure. Missing a family reunion without a very good reason is something that is just not done in our family. It should be that way in every family.

The reunion is held on the first Saturday in June, so planning and scheduling is never a problem. The location is the family farm of my grandparents in a house built in the early 1920’s – long before there was electricity available in that area. At exactly 12:00 noon, the dinner bell is rung by one of the small children (usually with help from the parents). That is the same bell that was used to call the farm hands in from the fields for their noon meal many years ago.

I hope you enjoy these photos from our reunion. Even more, I hope they will serve to encourage you to hold your own family reunion.

The Six Item Grocery List

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This past Saturday, our family had our 58th annual family reunion. The last remaining member of “The First Generation” (my father’s siblings) is my Aunt Evelyn. One thing she mentioned really caught my attention. She said that there were only six things that her mother bought from the grocery store:

  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Coffee
  • Rice

Everything else needed to sustain their family of mother, father, and ten children came from their farm in Newberry, Florida.