The Joys & Particulars of Country Life – Bill Arp, 12/9/1888

The Joys & Particulars of Country Life – Bill Arp, 12/9/1888

The black gum leaves are turning red, The sycamores are yellow; The farmer feels serenely glad, For every thing is mellow.
The earliest fires of the fall Have brightened up the room, The cat and dog and children all Have bid old winter come. The
wind is running at the nose, The clouds are in a shiver; By day we want more warmer clothes, By night we want more “kiver.” Persimmons and possums are getting ripe; the May hops have dropped from the vines; chestnuts and chinkapins are opening,
and walnuts are covering the ground. Crawfish and bullfrogs have gone into winter quarters, and snakes and lizards have biddon
us adieu. All nature is preparing for a winter’s sleep. Sleep for the trees and the shrubs and the flowers. I like winter-not six
long months of snow and ice and howling winds, but about three months interspersed all along with sunny days and Indian
summer. North Georgia is the place for comfort-the region of temperate climate and lofty mountains and beautiful valleys
and fast-flowing streams; where the hurricane never comes and the streams do not become stagnant nor the mosquito sing
his little song. It is curious that more of our Northern brethren don’t bid farewell to their snow-bound homes and settle down
in this pleasant land. I know that it is home where the heart is. The Eskimo loves his snow house and the Mexican his hacienda,
but there is many a shivering consumptive up North who would be happier and healthier here. I wish they would come and
look round and price our rich lands and analyze our minerals and inspect our water power and peruse our forests and bask
in our sun-shine. Then they would wonder that there was such a blessed land so near and so unknown. Our folks appreciate Northern intelligence and Northern energy, and we want their people to come down and live with us, and mix up and marry
and give us a cross that will harmonize the sections-you can’t convert the heathen by sending them literature-you have
got to go and live with them. So come along. Our crops are ripe. The corn hangs heavy on the stalks, and the fields are
white with cotton. The fodder is all pulled and safely stowed away in the barn. If facts are stubborn things, then pulling
fodder is a fact. There is not a redeeming circumstance about it on a hot September day.

It is working on a continual strain to pull it, especially to a short. legged man, who has to stretch his arms and tiptoe his feet
to reach the highest. blades. There is no fun in tying it up, and still less in toting it, ten bundles at a time, to the end of the row,
stepping like a blind horse over broken corn stalks and morning glory vines, and every now and then dropping a bundle, and
all the time so smothered up with the fodder all around your head that you can’t see where you are going, and not a breath of refreshing air to cool you. It is all a fact, a solemn fact, no romance, no poetry, no joke. Then there is the pack-saddle that stings
you ever and anon. Just like all the devil’s contrivances, it is as pretty as a rainbow, and when you touch one on a folder-blade
you think that forty yaller-jackets have stung you all in a bunch and with malice aforethought. And there’s the devil’s race-horse
that plies around about this time and, Uncle Isam says, “chaws tobakker like a gentleman,” and if it spits In your eyes you’ll go
blind in half a second. One day he showed me the devil’s darning-needle and the devil’s snuff-box that explodes when you
mash it, and one ounce of the stuff will kill a mule before he can lay down, so Uncle Isam says. Then there are some flowers
that he wears in his button-hole that he calls the devil’s shoe-string and the devil-in-the-bush, and he says they keep off witches.
I like farming. It is an honest, quiet life, and it does me good to work and get wet all over with a sweat of perspiration. I enjoy
my food and my repose and get up every morning renewed and rejuvenated like the eagle in his flight or words to that effect.
But there is always some trouble, some hindrance, some devilment going on. The caterpillar is meandering through my cotton
right now. They can’t hurt it, but the pesky things are in the way. Looks like there is always something preying on something.
Flies and bugs and rust prey on the wheat when it is green. Weevils eat it up when it is threshed and put away. Rats eat the
corn, moles eat the goober, hawks eat the chickens and chickens scratch up the garden seed. The minks killed nine of our
ducks in one night and the dogs killed three of the sheep. Then there are briars, and bull nettles, and tread-safts, and smart
weed, and poison oak, and Spanish needles, and cuckle burs, and dog fennel, and girnpson weed, and snakes that are
always in the way on a farm and have to be looked after carefully, especially snakes, which are my eternal horror and I
shall always believe are some kin to the devil.

I can’t tolerate such long insects. I have now been farming ten years and I like it. There is no profession that gives a man
such freedom, such latitude and longitude and such a variety of employment. Lawyers and doctors have to set about town
and play checkers and talk politics and wait for somebody to quarrel or tight or get sick. Clerks and book-keepers figure and multiply and count until they get to counting the stars as they walk by night and the flies on the ceiling and the flowers on the
wall paper when they are at home. The mechanic strikes the same kind of a lick every day and uses the same muscles, and
his life is a sort of tread-mill. No man who is dependent upon the public or an employer for a living has any time that he can
call his own. If you go into a factory or a work-shop or a printing office the first sign-board that greets you says: “Don’t talk to
the workmen.” Sociable crowd, isn’t it! There’s no monotony on the farm. There’s something new every day and the changing
work brings into action every muscle of the human frame, We plow and hoe and harrow and sow and reap and bind in harvest time. We look after the horses and cows and the pigs and the sows and the rams and lambs and the woolly fleece and the chickens and turkeys and historic geese. We cut our own wood and raise our own bread and meat; we can hunt squirrels
by day and possum by night, and it is nobody’s business if we stop work and chat for half an hour with a passing friend. I
may be mistaken, but it seems to me a higher grade of happiness to sit on the piazza with one’s feet upon the railing and
smoke the pipe of peace and ruminate upon the ways of the world and the rise and fall of Presidents and parties, and look
out upon the green fields and the distant forests and the blue mountains, and hear the dove cooing to his mate and the whippoorwill singing a welcome to the night. It is pleasant to (editors note: Unknown words) for them. They hunt hens’
nests and paddle in the branch and get wet and dirty, and I love to watch their penitent. and subdued approach when
they are nearing home, and their mother sees them and exclaims: “Mercy upon me-right wet all over-did ever a mother
have such a set? Will I ever get done making clothes? You put these right clean on this morning, and there’s not another
clean rag in the house.

Go get me a switch right straight-go. I will not stand it.” But she will stand it, and they know it. By the time the diminutive
switch comes the tempest is over, and some dry clothes found, and if there is any cake in the house they get it. Blessed
mother! fortunate children! what would they do without her? Her very scolding is music in their tender ears. The other morning
I heard her say to one of the little chaps: “I do wish I had a switch.” “There is one on the mantel,” said I, and she gave me
one of her unutterable glances, for she knew it was there as well as I did. Well, I am thankful there are some pleasures that
corner in the domestic circle that Wall street can not buy nor money kings depress. The country is the best place for children. Raise the boys to habits of work, and away from the temptations of the town or city. Habits are wonderful things. If contracted
in youth they will stick in manhood, whether they be good or bad. I’ve got an old mare that will quit a good pasture and let
down the bars to go into a poor one, and it is just because she has gottten into a habit of letting the bars down. Habits are
stronger than principles. They are not cast-iron, for you can break that, but they are more like green withs or new ropes-the
more you wet them the tighter they draw, especially if you wet them with whisky. Horace was a poet and a philosopher and he discussed the town and the country two thousand years ago and settled the mafter by saying: “After all, the city is the best
place for a rich man to live in, the country the best place for a poor man to die in; and, inasmuch as riches are uncertain
and death is sure, it behooves a man to go to the country as soon as he can get there.” God made the country and man
made the town. God planted the first garden arid Cain built the first city, and Thomas Jefferson said: “The influence of
great cities is a social pestilence.”

Last Updated on March 19, 2021 by Bill Arp

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