Life’s Lessons Learned
The Chronicles of Harold
As stated in the previous postings, life was not always as wonderful as it could have been. In the fall of 1955, an incident happened that would change how I saw and done things in the future.
I had been cutting trees, cutting logs to length and then dragging them up to the loading area where I would load them on the old IH truck to take over to the sawmill to be cut into lumber for contracts. I had been working all day and by afternoon I had a raft of logs to drag up to the loading area and load. I walked up to the shed and cranked up the tractor and took it down and started dragging the logs up to the loading area. On the fifth log, as the tractor was pulling hard, my brother suddenly ran up alongside the tractor and thrust a large branch into the engine compartment under the hood and yelled out at me that he was supposed to be driving the tractor.
This made the tractor stop since he had hit and damaged something under the hood. The tractor still belonged to my oldest brother at the time and he had never treated me civilly since he always agreed with Dad on everything, and he too cherished the younger brother who could do no wrong. I got down off the tractor and pulled the branch out and while I was standing there looking to see if I could figure out what had happened when he had shoved the branch in the tractor, my oldest brother, Dad and the younger brother came running down there where I was as my younger brother was telling my older brother that I had done something to the tractor to make it stop running to keep him from driving it.
My older brother knocked me down with one punch and started beating on me as my Dad and younger brother stood by just watching. He beat me pretty hard for a few minutes and then stopped to look at the tractor. I slipped away down through the woods having had enough and just kept on going. They caught me in Nashville, Tennessee and I got to tell my side of the story. They would not return me home, instead having me delivered to the Sheriff and requiring a hearing before I went home.
When my story came out, the Judge admonished Dad and fined the younger brother for lying and then fined my older brother heavily for beating on me. My older brother threw up his hands and said “I’ve had enough and I was only trying to protect my investment.” That got him three days in jail and he just transferred the tractor to Dad. They let me go home several days later and checked on me about once a week for six months or so and then let the matter drop.
It had not dropped for me. The substitute teacher, who recommended I leave, arranged for me to be enlisted in the Army as soon as school was out in the spring. She talked my Mother into signing permission since I would only be seventeen at the time. I had to promise a monthly allotment of thirty dollars a month for the folks to get this permission and my pay was to only be fifty-two dollars a month.
After returning home, I looked the tractor over carefully and determined that something had happened to the carburetor. I took the carburetor off and carried it into town when I went to school and after school took it over to the John Deere agency where I knew the mechanic. He found one of the needle valves had been broken off and was able to extract it, replace and bench set the carburetor and only charged me five dollars for it. I went back home and replaced the carburetor and the tractor started and ran just fine and I was able to finish the log delivery to the mill. I told the folks that evening that my brother owed the tractor shop five dollars for the damage he had caused and they would let him work it out. He refused, of course, and Dad settled it for him.
Things were very un-cordial around home from then on until I left. I was scheduled to leave as soon as school was out the first week of June, but Dad had asked them for a three-week delay because he insisted I had not set some fence posts I was supposed to do. This was the first I had heard of it and it turned out he had never told me, but had sent the brother to tell me and instead of telling me that I was supposed to do it he told Dad I had said, “Go to hell.”
That was what caused the beating around Thanksgiving that previous year that I had not known what it was about and cemented my decision to break with my family. I had to set some posts three feet deep every eight feet apart for a distance of 735 feet on the East fence line. It was dry and hot that year and I had to carry water in a five-gallon bucket to soften the ground to use the twist auger to bore the holes with. I finished the post setting on the thirteenth and left immediately to my sister’s in the city south of us where the recruiting office was where I had signed up. I stayed there despite repeated demands to return home until I left on the 21st of June, 1956 for St Louis Missouri to begin my military service. I will end this here and start a new posting for my military years.