This sixth musical poem is about Aunt Lucille, a woman I came to know fairly well. We were all afraid of her at first, because all she did was sit on her porch and laugh when folks passed by. It was a husky laugh. And she could spit a stream of tobacco like any cow-puncher I ever saw. One day, I was just a boy, she called me over to her sagging porch and handed me a quarter, told me to go fetch her a “be-ah” from my uncle’s store. I never feared her again.
The accompanying photo is one of her shanty taken a few years ago. It sits right next to a 100-year old one-room school house, on the national register of historic places, where sharecropper kids attended when not working the fields. She had no electricity, no running water, an “outhouse” out back for “facilities.” Everyone called her Aunt Lucille. I wrote a short story about her where she has the power of “second sight.”
This is a series of several musical poems chronicling the sharecropper era. Fernando approached me with the idea of a series of little stories that tell a larger one, all put to music. I loved the idea. I had these little poems about the sharecropper era and he thought he could make them work. I think you will agree he did a brilliant job.
I spent all my summers in a little country town in very rural Mississippi called Fort Adams. When I say small, I am talking two streets – Front Street and Back Street. Wembley Stadium is larger. There were no more than 50 people in town, others lived out in the country – farmers and fisherman. A little one-room school house still exists where the sharecropper children went to school, when they were not working in the field.
My Uncle Cy ran a dry goods store and fishhouse there. He had everything from canned goods, to Nehi soft drinks, feed and seed, to work clothes and boots, and to sewing implements. The fish house processed the fish and chickens that were traded to him. He was a furrier, bought baby turtles to sell to pet shops, anything to turn a buck.
So, as child growing up in the 60s (born in 1956) I got to witness the last vestiges of this sharecropper era. While there are still farmers who work on a share, I am not sure any suffer as these people did. They lived in little one-room shantys that lacked electricity and water. The only heat came from a woodstove that filled the shanty with a woodsmoke odor.The children seldom owned shoes and a second set of clothes was rare.
We would enter town down what was called The Mile Hill Road…a winding road with deep ravines on either side. At one point it travels straight down for a mile in a steep grade. At the bottom of the hill was a row ofshantys pressed hard into the hillside. None had glass in the windows, or doors. The people who lived there sharecropped and lived hard-scrabble lives.
Hopefully these songs tell their story.
John Eagle (@marshmaster-1johneagle)
Lyrics - John Eagle
Music - Fernando Gonzalo
Mahogany the color of her laughing face
As if she had a secret no one knew
Her aged breast heaved when she chuckled
We passed her by, just not sure why
A timid wave brought a nod of head
Her eyes were bright as black beans
Her perch on the shanty porch
A near silent rostrum to looming hills
Where a tiny graveyard slanted down
To look over her wintry aura
She beckoned me on a summer day
When the hills smelled of honeysuckle
Smiling was I, my wary approach
To see knarled hands like crape myrtle
Go gets Aunt Lucille a be-ah, chile
She spat a stream of tobacco
Rolled the cud back in her jaw
Smiled and nodded as I left the porch
I could hear her chuckle down the road
A quarter clutched in my small hand
I never feared her beyond that day
And fetched many a beer to her perch
When I passed she waved and smiled
Her laugh familiar as her sagging porch
Our mystery solved, one quarter at a time
© 2013 John Eagle, Fernando Gonzalo