We All Drank From The Same Bucket

By Hazel Hughes Barnes

Do you want to know what life on the farm at Gravel Hill looked like in the 1930s? This is it, as I remembered it from Depression days and painted it several years later, after my husband Jim Barnes and I moved our family to Florida. I gave this painting to my sister Myrtle Lee Barker, who has it in her home in Searcy. I painted a similar scene for my youngest sister Myrtis. It still hangs in her home although she is gone now.

 I’ve always loved learning, and went to art classes. I discovered I could sell paintings in my beauty shop for $100 apiece. That helped a lot. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Let’s go back to Gravel Hill: Calvin Turpin has written about our Christmases at Preacher Hays’ country store… The men would play fiddles and guitars and we would all sing. Singing was a big thing at Gravel Hill. We had two churches there, a Missionary Baptist and a Free Will Baptist. Each church would have preaching once a month. They took turns. One church would gather for worship on the first Sunday of the month, with singing in the afternoon and preaching that night. Then two weeks later the other church would do the same. On the days this happened, a lot of times we would bring a dish of food or dessert. The men would put planks across sawhorses, and then the ladies would spread a nice tablecloth and put out the food. We would have a meal fit for a king. It was called “dinner on the ground” but it wasn’t on the ground.

My family lived next door to the Free Will Baptist Church, so that was the one we girls attended most of the time, at least for Sunday School. Since we were so close to the church the people would come to our house to get a drink of water. My Dad built a shelf on the porch by the well and we would put a bucket of water and dipper on the shelf. Everyone drank from the same dipper. The water bucket was one of those old oaken buckets with brass bands around it. I believe it had two, and every week one of us girls (we took turns) would take the old oaken bucket out to the sand box and scrub until it would shine, to get ready for church on Sunday. Sand was our scrubbing tool back then. We had a big German police dog that was an excellent guard dog but when the lights were turned on in the church he would lie on the porch and be as meek as a mouse.

One of our young men, Thomas Lawson, went to music school and came back to Gravel Hill and taught a lot of us how to read music and get up in front of the congregation and direct the songs. My sisters and I would sing a trio. Myrtle Lee would sing soprano and play the guitar or piano, Myrtis would sing alto and I would sing tenor.

One Christmas Dad was able to get the little red wagon Myrtis and I had always wanted. Preacher Hays had not been able to sell it that year so he let our dad do some work for him to pay for it. By then we were really too old to want one but it really came handy for Dad because Myrtis and I could carry the corn we had shucked and run through a corn sheller machine. We’d put it in a flour sack and pull it about a mile down the road to Uncle Bob Goodman’s gristmill, where he would grind it into meal. When we got back home, our mother would have a pot of black-eyed peas and a pot of turnip greens and turnips waiting for us. Then she would make the best cornbread out of that fresh meal, peel a big white onion, pour us a glass of sweet milk and that would be our supper. We made our own light bread also. We bought very few groceries at the store. We grew and parched our own peanuts and ground them into peanut butter.

Singing and eating were happy moments during hard times at Gravel Hill.