PEA-THRASHER

Copyright
Sam Elmore


On the farm, along about July or August, our crops would have already been "laid by", and we'd have finished cutting and hauling a "winters-worth" of wood for the cook-stove and fireplace. One of the last actions in laying by our corn fields was to "run out the middles" between the rows, loosening the soil with a Georgia Stock plow fitted with a scooter and a heel sweep.

Following behind Papa as he plowed out the middles, us kids would meander along, bare-footed, "broadcasting" Whippoorwill or Crowder seed peas onto the newly-turned soil. We enjoyed dragging our bare feet through that cool, fresh dirt, as we kicked a layer of dirt over the peas.

The fun wore off right quick, though, when the peas were ready for harvesting. Picking them dried peas wasn't NEAR as much fun as planting them. We would each be given a cotton-sack, and assigned to individual middles; more-often-than-not interspersed by a parent or older sibling, to keep a lid on the constant "argy-fying" that us young boys enjoyed.

One year, Papa got brand-new cotton sacks, in preparation for the late fall/early winter picking of the cotton crop. Now, I'm not trying to "pore-mouth" our financial situation back in the late ‘30's and early ‘40's; but money WAS scarce. I'm reminded of an old ditty: "use it up, wear it out; make it do, or do without".

That's what we practiced at our house. We took real good care of everything we had. When our cotton-sacks would wear thin on one side, Mama would reverse the strap location and we'd use the other side, until they jest plumb "gave up the ghost"; then, Papa would somehow "find" the money to purchase new cotton-sacks.

This particular year, we used the brand-new cotton-sacks to harvest the dried peas. When one of us kids would "fill" our sack, Papa would take it by the top and pound it on the ground, packing down the peas and leaving room to pick more.

When it seemed (to us kids) like the whole summer had been totally wasted, the peas were finally harvested. The sacks were hauled to the house in the wagon, and laid out in the back yard, in the hot sun. That's when business picked up.....that's also when I got into trouble!

Papa brought out several goose-neck hoes, from where he kept them under the back porch, and distributed them, one-per-each, to us kids.

"All right, now", Papa said, "y'all get after it, and thrash them peas".

The thrashing method was.....take hold of the hoe-handle, up near the hoe, and use the other end of the handle to flail the sacks, until the hulls were shattered and the dry peas were loose in the sack. After sufficient thrashing, the sacks would be emptied out onto one of Mama's old bed-sheets. We'd take hold of the sheet corners, and toss the contents up in the air, allowing the breeze to separate the hulls from the peas.

At first, it was sort of fun to "beat the dickens" out of that cotton-sack with a hoe-handle. We'd pretend we were beatin' up on the school-yard bully, or some other "mean-ie" that was ill-favored by us. After a while, though, the fun wore off and it got to be a chore; especially after the corner of that sharp hoe dug into my arm-pit a few times. Each time I'd get tired, and prop up on the hoe-handle to rest, Papa would holler at me:

"That hoe ain't for leanin' on, boy.....get after them peas".

He'd grin that little bitty grin in the corner of his mouth, and continue with his own chores. I suppose his grin was brought on by the fine crop of peas we'd harvested. I must say, though.....in just about every task us kids had to perform, Papa would find some way to make it "fun", and less of a drudge. He always sported that little grin, and pranked with us to relieve the tedium.

After several repeats of Papa telling me to stop leaning and get to thrashing, I'd had me a belly-full of that pea-thrashing business. I suppose what brought it all to a head was the last time Papa hollered, this time without his grin, and ordered me to:

"Get MAD at them peas, boy!"

That's exactly how-come that big slash come to be in Papa's brand-new cotton-sack. I was fed up with being "goodged" in the arm-pit by that hoe.....so, I reversed it; and started beating the sack with the "heavy end". How that hoe handle ever got rotated around ‘til the sharp side was pointin' down, is beyond my understanding. In my own defense, let me try to s'plain something:

First, I was given a direct ORDER to "get mad at them peas". I didn't need a whole lot of persuadin', because I was ALREADY mad at them peas; and also mad at who-ever-it-was that had planted the blame things in the FIRST place. Second, it wasn't ME that invented that concept of thrashing peas with a "loaded" hoe, filed to rapier-like sharpness.

Third, when the blade of that hoe sliced a wide path through Papa's brand-new cotton-sack, like it was made out of soft butter.....wa'al, I don't think the size of the hole (huge) actually merited the chastizing I got (MORE than huge).

Several years after that, I was filling out the enlistment papers to join the U. S. Navy. When I got to the part where it said: "list all the jobs you have had"......I did NOT put down "pea-thrashing" as my all-time favorite pursuit!