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Joe Remembers When, Part III

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December 1, 2010 by wcobserver

This week we continue with part three of a six part series about Joe Copeland.  I first met Joe Copeland this summer at the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Reunion at Devil’s Den State Park and soon learned he’d written a small booklet about his 90 years of life and offered to let us publish excerpts in the Washington County Observer . We hope you’ll enjoy a glimpse into his life in the Zinnamon area of West Fork and beyond.

Dad taught at various places in Washington County for several years; it seemed to me that most of the time he got $30 per month.  He would spend a while at the University each summer in order to keep his teacher’s certificate current.  We lived at Zinnamon all this time where all the other seven living children were born.  Some of the time during this period, I can remember that we could earn money to buy groceries by making railroad ties.  There were three grades of them and the best grade sold for 35 cents.  Of course, we always wanted to have all top-grade ties, and I would load 12 of them on the wagon and drive them ten miles to the nearest railroad where the tie yard was located.  The tie inspector would usually cull at least one tie in a load and he would offer 5 cents for it.  I would refuse to let him have it and would take it to him on the next load and he would probably accept it and maybe cull another one.  Once, after I had collected for my load and paid for all the things I had bought, I had a nickel left and decided to buy a “Coke.”   I believe that was the best I had ever tasted, but I couldn’t enjoy it for thinking about all the little mouths at home that had never tasted anything like that!

After my grandparents died and my Uncle Mike decided to go to California, we moved to the old home place where the rest of my siblings were born.  There was David Bruce in 1930, Leota born and died in 1934, Neva Joy in 1937 and Roger in 1939. One of the greatest tragedies of my life was in July 1934. We had just buried my stillborn baby sister earlier in the week and our house burned to the ground on a Sunday. Everything except a few clothes we were wearing was gone, and there wasn’t a nickel on the farm! We had the best bunch of neighbors that it was possible to have. One man even gave Dad $5! With no money on hand and no way to get any, we decided the only thing to do was to rebuild. We had plenty of timber on our place, so with help from the neighbors we cut timber and sawed it into lumber and built us a new house. Not much of a house, but it was home for some of us for more than 50 years.

Late that fall, Dad got a small clothing and food voucher from the Welfare Office and about the same time, got a job with the WPA for $28 per month. He worked on the road crew for a while improving the road from West Fork to Devils Den State Park. He was then promoted to a foreman and sent to Resettlement Administration at Lake Weddington where he worked in conservation and reforestation. There was a bad drought that year and we didn’t grow and feed so we had to sell our milk cows. We drove 7 of them to the local grocery store where we applied them to our bill at $3 per head then sold the rest of our herd to the Government for about the same amount. We had several dry years in a row. One year we had a fairly good corn crop prospect but there must have been a migration of squirrels that year and they went to work on our corn crop early! We had a shotgun and were able to get shells for it 3 cents each. I’m not sure where we got the money to buy ammunition with, but we got it. It was my chore to put meat on the table and I would leave the house early and head for the corn patch. Mama would listen and when she heard the third shot fired she would get the fire going and I would bring in the squirrels all dressed, peeled and ready to cook for breakfast. Fried squirrel, biscuits and gravy! Doesn’t sound very appetizing to me now, but it was royal fare then! To be Continued.

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