Monday, January 19, 2009

The Story of Rooster

Granddaddy and Grandma Pickens’ house, wasn’t anything to brag about, but we grandkids sure enjoyed hanging out there for the summer! The old white wood-frame house could sure get to rattling and rolling, with six grandkids romping throughout it!
Once the dinner bell was sounded, it was quit a chore sitting everyone-Granddaddy at the head, grandma at the foot, and mom and dad and we kids lined up and down each side of the table. You could not help but feel welcome and loved in Nellie’s kitchen. We all felt at home, and welcome, in granddaddy & grandma’s house, there at 1670 Ashport Road, Jackson, TN. However, something struck me as kind of strange, and caught my attention. Why did Rooster, another guest, have to eat on the back porch steps, and not get to join the rest of us at the dinner table? Grandma would fix him a plate, and hand it to him, to which he’d respond with a “Thank ya, Mrs. Pickens!”, then go about to sittin’ down on the back steps, and just consume that good ole soul food grandma was accustom to fixin!
Rooster, a young "colored" boy(common reference in the 60's), must have been around the age of fourteen, at the time. He was hired, by granddaddy, to help-out on the land. Granddaddy needed help around the farm with tasks such as, planting and hoeing home-grown tomatoes, turning the watermelon vines, and harvesting all the watermelons. Loading watermelons in the pickup truck was no easy task!
I being possibly 12 back then, was doing good to stand at shoulder’s height to Rooster. Even though he was much stouter than me, Rooster never took advantage of it, and seemed pretty nice. I suppose being strong was why granddaddy hired him to work around the farm. It wasn’t kosher to play with a hired worker, though, since he was hired to do chores, and not play with us grandkids. My grandparents payed him, which helped his poor family.
I never knew how Rooster ever took on the name “Rooster”. Maybe his mother nicknamed him that when he was born, but surely not! Possibly his fellow schoolmates tagged him with it because of his hair, who knows? I never thought, or got the nerve, to ask him though. He once told me his real name, which sounded like “Zephaniah”, or some Bible name, which at the time was difficult to pronounce.
Once, granddaddy and I drove over to Rooster’s house, somewhere near Oakfield Road, and Old Medina Road, just north east of Jackson, TN. Once we arrived at Rooster’s house, I couldn’t help but notice the swinging, tattered and ragged clothes were hanging from homemade clotheslines. The old wood-frame house looked to be built around the turn of the century, and was surrounded by a yard spattered with grass patches and dirt. I could not help but notice an old bicycle rim hanging from what was suppose to be a basketball backboard and pole.

The earth beneath could probably tell of some exciting games played there. I suppose Rooster’s family was just as happy as any of us white folks, for this was all they new in their little family circle.
Although Rooster was the only colored person working for granddaddy at that time, granddaddy had hired and worked colored folk for thirty years or so. He would tell us grand kids, “Colored folks always refer to me as “Mr. Herman”, or they won’t work at all!” He was a contractor and foreman all of his life, and we grand kids must have heard the same old story a dozen times, or so it seemed.
It sure was enjoyable at granddaddy and grandma Pickens’ house, why with all the good food, home-made hand-cranked ice cream, out on the front porch, and the fellowshipping around the table.
I guess I’ll never know what was going through Rooster’s mind, as he ate all alone on the back porch steps, maybe what was going through his mind was, “I sure wish Mr. Herman would let me eat and fellowship with everyone else.” I suppose I’ll never know…..


Brenda Truesdale said...

A story to make one think......on this MLK Day......maybe?? Our grandparents were quite different in their thinking than most of us....and especially those of our own children's generation. I'm not especially happy with Mr. Obama becoming our president tomorrow, but not because of the color of his skin. I pray he will prove me wrong. I'm so very proud for the African-American friends of mine in this country. I can't imagine how they have felt all their lives to never have had a president of their own race. God bless us......everyone!!

daphneANDshirley said...

what a great story, brother! Although I was young, I too remember Rooster..and ridin in the truck to take him home...course he was in the back. I think Grandaddy purposely made it a bumpy ride...thought it was funny. :) Rooster seemed ok with it...also remember goin with Grandaddy to loan the family some money..i think Rooster got himself into a little trouble with the law & Herman Pippy bailed him out.
Thanks for sharin! :) Btw...melanie has a great picture of the old'd be great for your trips down memory lane.