About the Writing

About Black Days, Black Dust

Excerpt from BDBD

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24 Chapters


The Fun Side of Life ~ Chapter 6 ~ installment 3 (edited)

      One hot summer day Bill and I were almost home after picking our pails full of blackberries. Bill spotted an old decayed tree stump about two feet high and two feet wide. As he wrestled it up to his shoulder, he said, "This is perfect for the wood stove." Near our back porch Bill threw the tree stump to the ground to break it apart. To our horror, a five-foot-long blacksnake slithered out from the broken pieces. We cornered it so it couldn't get away. Our yelling and jumping around drew a big crowd of neighbors to our yard. Everyone marveled at how big it was. Some men said it was the largest blacksnake they'd ever seen.
      An old wives' tale circulated that if a person built a fire around a snake, its legs came out, and it walked. Bill and I had heard that tale before and, with encouragement from the others, decided to put our snake to the test. We gathered wood and built a ring of fire, placing the snake in the middle. Our blacksnake did not sprout legs and walk. As we watched with hope for a genuine miracle, that poor snake burned to a crisp right before our eyes. What a horrible sight! It stayed with me. More importantly, I never again put my faith in old wives' tales that promised miracles. After that day, if anyone mentioned the word snake, we had to tell about our crispy blacksnake.
      Some days a snake story helped get us through the work. Once a month over the summer our father insisted we hoe the cornfield. For at least a week, he awakened us at 5:00 a.m. just before he left for work. Each day we had to hoe weeds until noon. We goofed off and played in the cornfield quite a bit, but we also got a lot of work done.
      At harvest time this cornfield gave us six wagonloads of feed for the hogs. Night after night in front of the radio we shucked and shelled corn until the blisters came. We could quit for a few nights until they healed, and then we had to shell again. The word cornfield makes me weary, thinking about that brutal work. The only thing worse than hoeing weeds was shelling corn.

Printed from the book Black Days, Black Dust, by Robert Armstead as told to S.L. Gardner,
published by the University of Tennessee Press, 2002

Hope you enjoyed stories from chapter 6, "The Fun Side of Life." Now--don't you want to read all of Bob's stories?  

• Read Installment 1
• Read Installment 2