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The Late Dick Hinson

The Late Dick Hinson

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Riminiscing - Read Different Books

January 3, 2007 Times Edition

Many of us who grew up in the South have lived in the same area for several generations. We almost assume that others share our opinions and values, and would enjoy and benefit from duplicating our lifestyles. These delusions were shattered during World War II. For the first time, many of us with rural backgrounds were forced to mingle with people from totally different environments and lifestyles who "read different books".

Decades ago, I lived for a while on an island in the Pacific. Our accommodations, courtesy of the Navy, consisted of a canvas tent with five cots. A short distance away was a rocky beach with a path cutting through the brush. This trail went by a native hut. One day I noticed a tall steel container behind the dwelling. It appeared to have been salvaged from a sunken ship. Since rainwater collection cauldrons were common, I didn't pay much attention to it until one afternoon I saw a splash erupt from the surface. Inside was a monster sea turtle, staring at me as he munched on table scraps floating about in the water . . . the captive was obviously to be featured at some future feast occasion. Meanwhile, the lack of refrigeration was not a problem. Hopefully, the owner remembered to invite all of his helpers in hauling the giant from the beach. I'll bet that finished product was of gourmet quality. I was disappointed that we had to move on before the banquet.

Appearing to be healthy and happy, with the bounty of the sea awaiting their ancient skills, the question is posed: "Are these a deprived people? Should their culture be destroyed and replaced by our own 'standards'"? Since they have performed rather well for a few thousand years, the answer should be carefully considered. Unfortunately, few isolated native groups remain.

Back on the local scene, we have our own claims regarding the sea: "The most beautiful beaches in the world!" I would agree that Gulf Coast would rank among this class. However, the same fine sand circulates under and through the water, diminishing water clarity. In other words, you can't have it all! Our Gulf waters, which we describe as "clear" with five fathoms of visibility, would not impress a swimmer in the South Pacific. He looks down through his face mask at a coral reef more than 200 feet beneath the surface. We should stake our claim on the beach and change the subject before getting into the water!

The Pacific Reef is not dormant. Sea life of various shapes, sizes, and colors pulses about the coral formations. As you glide far above this activity, it is about as close to the sensation of free flight as an earthbound human can ever experience.

You are jolted back to reality when a mature shark makes his inspection pass along the reef. His size alone commands your attention. He is aware of your presence, but not interested. Like most predators, he is most active at night. You are at the bottom of his dining preference.

The most graceful of all the sea creatures are the Rays. Their body extensions form a perfect set of "wings", which they use as expertly as an underwater hawk. The species range from hand-size to the Manta Ray, which has a wingspan similar to the length of a pickup truck. None are aggressive toward a clumsy alien human; they are simply curious. Except in self-defense, even the sting rays are harmless. However, it must be recognized that this species of the rays interprets being touched in any way as an "attack". Their barb is instantly used. They are such masters of camouflage in sandy areas of the bottom that it is often difficult to spot them until they move.

Back in Jackson County, those experiences in a "strange" environment are beginning to dim. Still, you can't avoid thinking about the wide range of individuals whom you knew and worked with. They considered a landlocked farming area to be a strange and alien world. All good people "reading totally different books". Perhaps the time has come to learn to live and let live on this basis . . .

Gene Talmage

November 15, 2006 Times Edition

The mid-term election is over. You probably won some and lost some, which puts you in the same boat with everybody else. Now, we need to grin and bear it, and move on.

As the curtain closes on the current political season, I close this series with a story from our sister state of Georgia. From the years of The Great Depression and into the 1950's, the political power of the Talmadge Family was legendary. The leader of the clan was Gene Talmadge, who rose to the Governor's office and stayed there. Other family members occupied state and national elective offices. It was a dynasty...

At a period when Georgia was ruled by rural votes, "Old Gene" campaigned in shirt sleeves and suspenders. He ridiculed his "city slicker" opponents to the delight of his supporters from the small farms. Years later, this story came from a member of the Talmadge family, and there is little doubt that it's true.

Talmadge was up for election to another term, and made his customary personal visit to every courthouse in Georgia. An advance team preceded him, made current inquiries, and advised Talmadge on the best person to represent him in the county. This time around, the advisors chose an elderly man known as "Uncle Bud." A native of the small County in Southeast Georgia, Bud spent a lot of time hanging around the little courthouse, and was well known and liked.

"Governor Gene" greeted him in a private courthouse room. After getting acquainted, he said, "Now Bud, I don't tend to other people's personal business, but I can't help noticing that you look like you might be a little 'down' on your luck. Could you use a good part-time state job?" Uncle Bud nodded in agreement. "How about Tag Inspector?" Talmadge suggested – "Oh Yes," Bud said, "That would be just right!" "Do you have a way to get around?" the Governor asked. Uncle Bud replied that he had an old pickup truck which still worked. "Then the deal is done" said Talmadge. "I'll be watching the returns...When we win, come to see me in Atlanta the next day." The two men shook hands and parted.

For weeks, Uncle Bud worked night and day, covering the county. Gene Talmadge received a record winning vote.

The following morning, the old man put on a pressed shirt, his best pair of overalls, and brushed his black felt hat. He climbed into the truck and pointed it toward Atlanta....

Arriving at the capitol, he had hoped to be greeted by Talmadge instead, he was met by a security guard who finally escorted him to a large room filled with people. He didn't recognize anyone. Uncle Bud sat and waited all day and well into the evening. At last, a guard told him that it was his turn to meet with Governor Talmadge---

The Governor came from his desk to embrace him. "Uncle Bud," he said, "I have the returns from your county before me. What a great job you performed! I don't know how I can ever thank you enough for your good work!

They discussed the campaign at length, along with the weather and local crop prices. The old man decided to get to the point. "Governor Gene," He said, "I know you're very busy and have a lot on your mind. I need to know what job you picked out for me. Tag Inspector would be fine, but I'll work where ever you say."

Talmadge was silent. His expression became serious. "Uncle Bud," he asked, "Did you look over that crowd out there?" Bud nodded. "Well, I promised a state job to every single one of them. It turns out that I miscounted. There aren't enough jobs to go around." The Governor rose
from his chair and walked in front of his desk. "Come to me, and let me put my hands on your shoulders." Bud did as he was told – "Now, look at me. When I PROMISED you a job, I told you and OUTRIGHT LIE!"

The ancient truck limped back to the remote Georgia village. After a day or two, Uncle Bud met with his cronies at the coffee shop. His friends applauded as he approached the table. "Well Bud, we've been waiting. There's no use for you to check our truck tags. They're all
up to date! Ha! Tell us when you start!"

"Boys," he said, "I reckon I got disappointed. I didn't get a job."........

"What!?!"...."Are you telling us that you did all that work , hauled all those voters, and now you get nothing!?! That lying sneaking old rascal ought to be horsewhipped!"

Uncle Bud considered that verdict for a few moments, but then said "Now hold on boys, and let me say this: Old Gene has his faults, but when all is said and done and it comes down to the end, that man will put his hands on your shoulders, look you in the eye and tell you the TRUTH!"

Reminiscing Nature

dick-hinson1October 25, 2006 Times Edition

At the end of his career, Albert Einstein was asked to identify the most complex subject that he had ever tried to understand. The group of newsmen settled in for a long and complicated reply. The one-word answer from the genius was: "Nature".

The reporters may have been puzzled, but those I have known who spent lifetimes working and living in the outdoors would say, "You're right. Welcome to the club, Dr. Einstein!" Meanwhile, the writer is still struggling to understand the roles that animals play in the equation.

My earliest memory is looking through iron bars. On the wall next to my crib was a painting of a sleeping boy who had gotten lost in the woods. Not to worry. Patiently sitting and guarding the little kid was the large and loyal family dog. You somehow knew that everything was going to be O.K. Day after day, I studied every detail of that picture. Thus imprinted, my lifelong close relationship with dogs has followed.

 

I point this out since some readers might see an example of animal cruelty in an event which occurred many years ago in Liberty County. Bear two facts in mind: 1) The incident involved an emergency situation, and 2) These were working animals. Totally unlike pets, instant obedience to commands are necessary for the safety of all team members.

Before the "fencing laws", livestock could be turned loose in the swamps and forest. It didn't matter who owned the land. If not fenced out from a particular
parcel, the animals had legal "free range" to roam and graze wherever they chose. From time to time, the cattle owners needed to locate and round up the animals for updated inspection and branding.

Offering round-up services were teams of men, horses and dogs. In Liberty County, there were two such teams, which competed for the jobs. However, to fulfill this unusually large contract, they decided to pool their resources and work together for the first time.

On the appointed morning, the two groups assembled. The leader of one team was a man named "SEAB". The other team was led by "Bill". One of the trucks contained a single cage large enough to transport all of the dogs. Each pack had one "catchdog", a special cross breed of bulldog with longer legs than the English bloodline. While the other dogs drove the herd, a bulldog might be assigned to catch, throw, and hold a particular animal which was disrupting the direction of the herd. Frequently, these rebels were large bulls with dangerous horns.

The star performer on SEAB's team was a famous catch-dog known as "Buster". He demanded respect from the "rank and file" dogs, including being the first to enter any transport cage. Not being aware of this procedure, a member of Bill's team began loading an unsuspecting hound past the bull dog. Without warning, "Buster" launched a savage attack, seizing the dog by the neck.

SEAB shouted for his bulldog to release! There was no response, with the powerful jaws shutting down harder with each command.

The men stood in tense silence, aware of the Liberty County protocol. It goes like this: In the West, you don't take another man's horse. In the South, you don't take or even Scold another man's dog! Bill, the other team leader, quietly asked, "SEAB, do you want me to make your dog release?" SEAB hesitated . . . It was obvious that the helpless hound's life was measured in brief minutes. "Yes . . . yes, if you can" SEAB cried. Bill leaned down and gave his command to "Release". It fell on deaf ears. In one swift motion, Bill picked up a long lightwood knot and swung it down on "Buster's" thick skull! The big dog rolled unconscious to the ground. Nobody moved or spoke. Then SEAB shouted: "Blast you, Bill . . . You have killed my dog!" Bill replied, "Well, if I did he wasn't much good like he was . ."

dick-hinsonBoth the catch-dog and the hound survived, and led long and active lives.

However, theincident was not totally forgotten. The men frequently commented that "Buster" was quick to follow any later instructions that Bill ever gave him . . .

Reminiscing Mule Trains

October 18, 2006 Times Edition

In the 1920's, farming operations in Jackson County were still carried on with animal power; horses, mules, and a few oxen. There were 13 dealers in the county. Tractor dealers "0".

A major factor for the use of work animals was in the high number of small farms. Many of these had been sub-divided from large plantations during the post-war reconstruction years of the late 1860's and 1870's. Most of these parcels could be tended behind a good pair of mules, sustaining continued ownership by individual farm families.

In Marianna, there were four livestock dealers, or "stables"; two in the west end of town and two in downtown. One of these was owned by a Mr. Holman in a structure south of Marianna Office Supply on Green Street, and the other by my father. His stables were at the intersection of Jackson and Green, a short distance from Holman and Company. In the peak season of winter, when farmland was being broken for the coming crop year, over two hundred head of mules would be kept in these two barns. Have times changed? Go to the City Hall for permission to house these 200 animals adjacent to the downtown business district. If you're lucky, you may escape.

Few mules were produced locally. The major auction markets were in St. Louis, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Locally, the L. & N. Railroad maintained unloading ramps and pens adjacent to Daffin Wholesale.

The transfer of these newlyarrived mules became a popular local spectator sport. Now we can’t compete with the annual “running of the bulls” in the Spanish town of Pamplona, but neither can they organize a “mule run”! These animals primarily four to six years old, arrived by train and didn’t have a clue as to their location. Since the distance to their new home was a short four blocks, trucking was not practical.

For equine reasons unknown, a disoriented mule will follow a horse. If a white horse is available, this is the best choice of all. After a period of riding alongside the penned mules, letting them get the scent and identity of the horse, the stockades gate was opened. None of the young mules were ever lost as they trotted up the streets into the stables. The spectators cheered. So much for entertainment in Marianna’s earlier days.

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