Early Morning – Monday, August 18, 1919
A few miles south of Centerville, the morning sun sent its first rays onto the back porch of an isolated farmhouse. It showed all the promise of a sultry day in this part of Texas; only about a hundred fifty miles from the Gulf Coast. Jim Sinclair stirred under a thin cotton sheet and found that his perspiration had created a circle of moisture on the striped ticking of the mattress he had brought out from the bedroom the previous evening. He cast the sheet aside and raised his unclad, lanky body to a standing position. Across the entire south end of the porch was a rough-cut pine board at about waist high, containing an oaken bucket, a gourd dipper, and a speckled, enamel wash basin. Jim ladled some water into the basin and splashed it on his face, washed the sleep from his eyes, and ran his large, calloused fingers through his sandy brown hair. He would forego shaving this morning since he didn’t anticipate any social contact. He turned and lifted his overalls from a ladder-backed, cowhide bottomed, straight chair. Shaking the garment well, he looked carefully inside to be sure there were no stinging scorpions lurking there.
Jim had a comfortable home a few miles north, in Centerville, across the road from his mother and sister, but he looked for excuses to spend time alone at the cruder, old, family farmhouse. He was raised by a widowed mother and doting older sister, and he felt he never had any time just for himself. Perhaps that’s why, at age twenty nine, he had never felt the need to marry, though many a maiden in this agrarian community considered him a good catch.
Having slept later than he intended, Jim breakfasted on a couple of sausage-biscuit sandwiches and a jar of buttermilk his mother, Mary Ann, had insisted on his taking after Sunday supper at her house.
An early morning survey of one’s farm is a pleasant duty, especially in good times, but it is never more important than the few weeks prior to harvest time. Jim walked first thru the rows of cotton in the dry sandy land near the barn, then a half mile away’ to the loamy soil near the creek. Finally along the south edge where the ends of the rows suffered from the shade of nearby trees. He observed a sprinkling of late blooms and small bolls, but, by-and-large, he was elated to find a bountiful crop of healthy growing bolls bending the lush green-foliaged stems. Smiling, he acknowledged to himself that there would be way too much cotton for his small family to pick. Arrangements would need to be made for outside pickers.
For all practical purposes, twenty-nine year old Jim was the owner of the family farm. Jim’s father died a few months before Jim was born. His mother, Mary Ann, age sixty-five, was nearly blind with cataracts. Her arthritic fingers would not now allow her to do the heavy farm work she had done as a young widow, when Jim and his sister Carrie were little. Fortunately, there had been sharecroppers willing and able to till most of the acreage. Her share of the crops along with the increase in chickens, hogs and cattle afforded her enough income to keep the farm and livestock together, and feed the family. They raised most of the produce and meat they put on the table, however there was always need for sugar, coffee, flour, and baking powder. Additionally the general merchandise store in Centerville was the source for axel grease, oil, nails, thread, shoes, buttons, cloth, jeans, rope, cartridges, saws, axe heads and plow points. These purchases were usually on credit, to be settled up when the cotton was ginned and sold, or with chickens, corn, or cord wood.