Recently some of my extended cousins auctioned off their parents’ household goods. As the public looked at what they thought were dishes, I saw reminders of family gatherings filled with fun and laughter.
The guns that lined a table held memories of men sitting under shade trees reminiscing of a time they hunted for food, not wall trophies. It seems to be the Wix family tradition to auction off their possessions. It reminded me of my grandparents’ auction. On the day of their big sale of a few worldly goods, there were two items I was going to try and buy.
Their farm was small, only about 35 acres. It was very hilly and rocky. The soil was mostly red clay. The farm wasn’t the main attraction though. It was the occupants. The owners were my grandparents, Dennis and Ruthie (Ruth) Mae Ledford Wix. There was ALWAYS something to do on “my place,” as Daddy Wix called the farm.
The tasks were varied and many for such a small operation. There was hoeing to be done in the omnipresent garden. In the cool of the evening, while weeding, we listened to the chimes and hymns played from Red River Baptist’s carillon as we toiled. Here Daddy Wix taught me to whistle like a Bob White. I was overjoyed when Bob White answered me back. He also showed me how to cup my hands so I could make a train whistle sound when I blew in them.
There was also tending his small herd of cows, baling of hay, or working in the occasional tobacco crop he might plant. If all these failed to consume our waking hours, there was the chicken house that held 15,000 layers.
There was an infinite number of tasks to be done at the chicken house. The chicken cages were constructed in a manner so the chains that carried feed to the hens moved parallel to the walkway in a circle. The feed chains were a flawed design evident even to my young mind. The chain was too stiff to travel in a circle. Invariably, breaks would occur with the links. This is where the mementos came in.
When the feed chains broke, Daddy Wix would send me to fetch his pry bar and toolbox. His pry bar was one of his most used tools. It also doubled for a tamping bar when we were fencing. It was very heavy. When I was a young fellow, I had to half drag/ half carry it to him. Years later I learned that the pry bar was the front axle on a Model T that he had shortened. One end was tapered like a chisel. I never cease to be amazed at the resourcefulness of small farmers.
Daddy Wix had a screwdriver that seemed as long as a spear in his toolbox. I remember the first time he told me to tighten something with it. As I placed the screwdriver I realized I didn’t know which way to turn it. Seeing my embarrassment, he wrapped his hand around mine and said, “turn it this way to tighten and this way to loosen.” Every time thereafter that I picked up that screwdriver I could see his hand around mine.
As we herded the cows to take to the stockyard’s final sale, Daddy Wix was unusually quiet. When the last cow was in the pen, he slowly shut the gate. Like the Apostle Peter, I seem to find the right time to say the wrong thing, and this was one of those times. I said, “I sure won’t miss this.” With a tremble in his voice, he replied, “I will.”
Over time my heart has softened as my body has strengthened, and my memories have grown deeper and fonder about the Wix Place. After Daddy Wix’s passing there was something I just had to have. At the estate auction, his brother Horace Wix bought Daddy Wix’s tools to keep them in the family. I asked him if he would sell me the large screwdriver. I rummaged around in the tools until I found what I wanted. I paid Uncle Horace a dollar and made my way to the car with a blue handle screwdriver and an odd size pry bar.
On my desk at home is an aerial photo of the Wix Farm. When the pressures mount, I will pick it up and remember a much simpler time. Yes, Daddy Wix, I think I understand a little bit of what you meant when you said that you would miss it. Because I now miss it, too.