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Monday, February 2, 2009

Chapter 6 The First Wife

Chapter 6

The First Wife

"I promised your father that I would carry his load," Haywood said; "I'll stay with you-to the end, Everline." He did not know what he said. There was a wedding that very day at the city hall. They walked home hand in hand down the dusty road.

She went out, but came back shortly, freshly bathed, in her plain gown of off white gauze. The color made her appear angelic. As she stood by the window, the beautiful face and waiting figure came into full view. Nature had made the girl a rare sight. There were reflected lights around her; a gloss on her skin, a glitter in her eyes, no blemish on her soul. Simple and dark and pure, there she was, for God, and for her husband to conquer and understand. Her face was warm and full of color,-it warmed sometimes slowly from far within; her voice, quiet,--out of her heart; her hair, the true beauty of the girl, was glistening black, lay in dark, gentle curls on her shoulders.

Haywood himself was a small, clean, fair haired, blue-eyed man, much liked by everybody; although he didn't know much about reading or arithmetic, he understood and had a joke and kind word for every man or dog in Birmingham. As for women, the word meant nothing but Everline to him.

At once they went to work digging a cave in a hillside for a home. Everline helped him dig it- she was as strong as he was.The cave was big enough to hold a bed and a table. There were logs for a floor. When Haywood went out to work in the fields, Everline worked day after day, trying to make the place like a home. But on rainy days the mud would ooze up from the ground, and worms and even snakes crawled out of the walls.

She knitted his stockings and made his shirts for him, and he bought her a new dress every year in town . From dawn until night he was in all of her thoughts, and she was to him the only woman in the world. He never thought of any other. He had not told her that he loved her, it never had occurred to him to say that.

In the spring, Everline worked in the field for a month or two to help get food for them. Then their baby came, a plump, brown-eyed baby girl. Haywood wanted to name her Fanny Flossie Collins and they did.

How many men in every generation have taken to plowing with some dull blade, slaves for the rest of their lives to the needs of their children! Haywood worked for them night and day; he was always kind to Everline, but his heart was in his work and providing for his family.It was getting harder and harder-their saved money was almost gone. Haywood feared he would have to go back to the mines for work.

Haywood worked hard in the mines- and soon was offered a foremans job. He left home in the dark and returned home in the dark. They were soon able to move into one of the tents in "tent city". Everline wanted a house-little Flossie played in the coal dust all day long and had developed a cough. The black coal dust was everywhere-inside the tent, on all the trees, it settled on anything and everything.

Naturally, most women wanted their own house. Many men were big on motivation to build, but short on money to buy materials. So they looked for cheap building materials. Free was even better. By cutting willows along the river, and filling in the cracks with mud and manure, a shack could be built with no money at all. Haywood built them a shack out of scrap wood. Luckily, there were stacks and stacks of rough lumber around the mine.

This lumber was in the form of "boxcar doors." All the coal produced was hauled to market in boxcars. Boxcars, of course, have sliding doors on each side, and coal was loaded through these doors. The trick was, as the boxcar filled up, coal would spill out the doors. The solution was to put in temporary "boxcar doors". These 2 x 7 foot doors were made of rough lumber nailed together.

These wooden doors were stacked near the railroad tracks anywhere that boxcars were loaded or unloaded. They came and went, and didn’t seem to belong to anyone. And there were piles of them everywhere.

Best of all, this lumber was just the right length for a shack. So after dark, when not many people were around, Haywood would find his way to the mine and help himself to some materials for his building project. Once the main shell of the structure was up, he quickly tar-papered it to disguise it. Then he plastered and white washed the walls of their home.

A typical shack was 10 x 14 feet at the time, and just the height of boxcar doors. Two-thirds of the houses were made like this. The make do or do without generation saw everything as potentialy something else.

Once a week, Everline would heat up water on the coal stove for the bath. She had a big metal tub that she would put in the middle of the kitchen floor and then she would heat pot after pot of water to fill it. Everyone used the same water. The cleanest one went into the water first and ending with the dirtiest. The mines always had showers because the men would come out black from head to toe. All you could see when you looked at them were the whites of their eyes and their teeth when they smiled.

Haywood had developed a cough from being in the mines, he was tired of all the drunken brawls around town every Saturday night. People were getting shot every weekend and anytime someone got liquored up, there was trouble. It was a dangerous place to be with your family. Everline was with child again, he wanted to get away from all of this, to keep his family safe. The Great War was starting up, they were calling for all men to sign up for the draft. Haywood, and his brother Houston, went to Huntsville to register at the same time.

Haywood moved his small family to Mobile where he found a flat bottomed boat to rent. There were plenty more families just like them, they lived in a small cluster of families in an area called Bricktown along the river.They lived on that boat and used it to fish with and earn a meager living. A few months later, Everline gave birth to a tiny baby boy-they named him Artie Lee Collins.


Lana said...

I am fascinated. Still looking forward to more!!

♥georgie♥ said...

awwww Flossie and Artie....
a bath a week that sounds like reese took after Everlines side...
I am so loving reading this

♥georgie♥ said...

i am getting requests that you update the story hint hint