FOR ONE THIN DIME

Copyright 1992
Sam Elmore


In todays world, the value of money has depreciated to such an extent as to become almost worthless; with some establishments demanding payment by credit card, rather than to accept hard cash.

Todays children, despite efforts to teach them the value of "old ways", seem to have little regard for the value of money. One reason might be that their parents, wanting to ensure that their kids "had it better than they did", over-did it. Kid's "allowances" have grown from the former "two-bits a week---IF you cut the grass", to several dollars..... for no effort in return.

My youngest sister has a shallow ditch in front of her yard which, over time, silted in to the point where drainage was hampered. Deciding to clean out the ditch, she first loosened the dirt with a roto-tiller. Taking a break, she stuck the shovel upright in the dirt.

As she sipped a glass of iced tea, two teen-age boys walked down the road by her house. She inquired if they would like to earn some money by shovelling out the ditch. The two boys looked at her as if she was crazy.

"You mean you want US to dig in that ditch with a SHOVEL ?", they asked, incredulously.

"Yes, but I aim to PAY you for it", answered l'il sister.

Their response goes a long way towards revealing the values of modern youth:

"Lady, we GOT money", they replied sarcastically.......and walked away.

My cousin (Julius Elmore, of Magnolia, Columbia County) provides a very good example of the value of money in "the old days", in this story he related to me.

His side of the family made their living as farmers, the same as our side did. In summer, after the crops were laid by, we were lucky to get a day-or-two off to go fishing, before the "other-than-plowing" chores demanded attention.

Julius (in his ‘teens at the time) and his dad were sawing a winter's-worth of wood for the fireplace and cook-stove. Hardly any breeze penetrated the dense woods, that hot Saturday afternoon in August, and the sweat was flowing. Deer flies, gnats, and mosquitoes made the task doubly difficult.

If you have ever been on the "business end" of a cross-cut saw, with the opposite handle manned by a full-grown, tough-as-leather, determined farmer, then you'll have a feel for what Julius was up against that day. Julius' daddy (my uncle Wordie) held to the opinion that stopping the cross-cut for a boy to rest, or get a drink of water, should NOT top his list of priorities.

This was during the hardest part of the depression years, and it was not infrequent that breakfast, at many a country table, consisted primarily of cornbread, "seasoned' with home-made molasses.

In those days, people grew or raised everything they needed to live on (except for baking powder, salt, etc.), and the only money they ever had came at the end of the year, when the "money crop" was harvested and sold. Cotton was the only money crop raised by our family, and, in many cases, the money had been borrowed to buy the seed for planting the crop....from the bank, or from the land-owner (in the case of share-croppers).

As Julius and his daddy sawed wood that afternoon, a local man (Slim Thomas) walked up to them in the woods. Slim was a 30-odd-year-old Negro who lived about a mile-and-a-quarter from Julius' house. He matched his nickname, standing over six-and-a-half-feet tall and, soaking wet, would maybe have scaled 150 pounds.

Slim was provided a house to live in, while he earned his keep doing various farm chores around the area. A day's labor earned him fifty cents, working from sun-up ‘til sun-down. During the planting and cultivating seasons, he could make as much as $2.50 or $3.00 a week. However, after the crops were laid by, and before harvest time came around, work (and money) were very hard to come by.

Slim related his problem to Julius and his daddy:

The next day (Sunday) was the beginning of the annual revival meeting at Slim's (Antioch Baptist) church. He had been assessed ten cents as his portion of the cost to pay the visiting preacher, and for church maintenance. Slim said that he didn't have ten cents, and, in all honesty, felt that he could NOT sit down inside the church and enjoy the preaching and singing, knowing he hadn't put in his portion. So, he'd come to see if he could borrow a dime.

Julius' daddy told Slim that he didn't have a dime either, and the only way he knew to get one was, perhaps, to borrow it from his brother (John Elmore). Uncle Wordie told Slim:

"If you'll take the other end of that cross-cut saw, in place of my boy, I'll send him over to my brother's place to see if he has a dime he can loan you". Slim agreed, and Julius took off across the woods for his uncle's house, about half-a-mile from where they were sawing. Although a one-mile round trip, during a very hot August, was not the best deal he'd ever been a part of, Julius didn't mind it a bit; as long as it got him a-loose from that cross-cut saw for a little while.

Upon his arrival, Julius explained the situation to uncle John, who happened to have a dime in his pocket. He gave it to Julius, who returned to the woods and handed it to his daddy, who passed it along to Slim. Later, Julius never did ask if Slim paid back the dime ....said that his daddy probably knew, when he gave Slim the dime, that he was donating it to Slim's church.

Julius also told me that, during that same period of the Great Depression, his own church (Philadelphia Methodist) once called for a special offering, to purchase a can of coal oil to burn in the lamps they used to light the church.

They didn't have an offering plate, so they passed around one of the men's hats. When the offering was counted, there wasn't enough money in the hat to buy a small can of kerosene, which, in those days, sold for ten cents a gallon. So, they passed the hat around AGAIN, and finally collected enough money to buy lamp fuel to illuminate the church.

(Now-a-days, if a boy was to see a dime laying on the ground, chances are, he wouldn't even bother to pick it up).