By Butch Dale
At this time of year, most of you remind yourself of the things in life for which you are thankful. I have been guilty, as perhaps some of you are, of taking some aspects of my life for granted at times. But as cold weather sets in each year, I always become more appreciative and remember to thank the Lord for the following:
A WARM HOUSE The house that I grew up in was very cold in the winter. Those of you who grew up in an old farmhouse know all about this. We had a small fuel oil stove in the living room and a smaller stove in the kitchen. On a cold and windy day, the temperature downstairs might be in the upper 50s in some of the rooms. My brother and I slept upstairs, and the only heat that reached there was through a small floor vent. We could often see our breath, so in addition to our pajamas, we often wore hats, coats, and gloves, and we warmed our pillows on the stove before we headed upstairs. When I lay in bed at night now and hear the furnace kick on, I think of those days and thank God I am in a warm house.
AN INDOOR RESTROOM My childhood home had no indoor bathroom until I was around 8 years old. We had an outhouse that was located 50 to 60 feet east of the house . . . not a fun activity to trudge through the snow in freezing weather. And there was no tub or shower, so my brother and I took a bath in a small metal washtub, and Mom heated water on the stove. We were thrilled when our landlord had a tub and toilet installed in the mid-1950s! The house in which my wife and I live now . . . the farmhouse that she grew up in . . . has a tub and toilet upstairs, and two toilets and a shower downstairs. What luxury!
PLENTY OF FOOD Like many farmers in those years, Dad was a tenant farmer. When crops were not very good or when prices were low, it was sometimes difficult to provide for a family of seven. Like many other families, we received food from the USDA government program each month . . . cheese, powdered milk, beans, rice and a few other items. Mom also used a lot of “fillers” in certain foods to stretch the amount. Of course, we had a large garden, and she canned foods in the summer. We also always raised chickens, and I can’t count the number of times we had fried chicken for supper. Dad also took a hog to Darlington to be butchered on occasion. I do remember one time when we ran out of food. All we had in the cupboard was powdered milk and some boxes of cornstarch . . . our meal . . . cornstarch pudding! We never wasted food, as my parents told us hundreds of times that we had to eat everything served to us before we could leave the table. “There are people in Africa who are starving, you know.” And yes, today I still clean up my plate!
THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK I often hear people complaining about their jobs and having to work. I always think about what my Mom told me one time when I complained to her that I did not want to do a certain chore. In no uncertain terms, she told me that I should be GLAD I could work . . . that there were people . . . perhaps handicapped, or unable to find a job, or those forced to retire, who would give anything if they could work. She also said that there is one thing that is much worse than getting up and going to a job you don’t like . . . It was waking up and having nothing to do all day. I have always been happy to work, and I hope to keep working as long as possible.
Well, everyone is thankful for many things in life . . . especially family and friends. And for me some of the best things are the simple things . . . a warm house, food on the table, a steady job . . . and yes, a bathtub, shower and indoor toilet!
John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 32 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.