Friday, February 29, 2008

Small Town Southern Man

There is a song out on the radio right now by Alan Jackson called "Small Town Southern Man." It's a country song, obviously, and in reality I don't really like the song (It's a little too country even for me) but tonight it came on the radio as I was on the way home from taking my Anatomy exam (yes, someone decided it would be a good idea to give an exam at 6pm on a Friday night) and for the first time I actually listened to the lyrics. It struck me that it describes my Granddad almost perfectly.

Born the middle son of a farmer
And a small town Southern man
Like his daddy's daddy before him
Brought up workin' on the land
Fell in love with a small town woman
And they married up and settled down
Natural way of life if you're lucky
For a small town Southern man

Harold Carrico was born, not the middle son, but the oldest son and third child of a farmer in Fancy Farm, Kentucky. One of ten kids (4 girls and 6 boys) he never graduated from High school--in fact he never went to high school, dropping out in 7th grade to help out on the farm. He married my grandmother, Mary Wilmuth Scheer and they settled into a small house on a corner of his father's farm.

First there came four pretty daughters
For this small town Southern man
Then a few years later came another
A boy, he wasn't planned
Seven people livin' all together
In a house built with his own hands
Little words with love and understandin'
From a small town Southern man

They had 11 children of their own, 5 boys and 6 girls, with my Dad being the sixth child and the third boy. Up until my father was in middle school, they all lived together in a two bedroom house with the girls sharing one bedroom, my grandparents in the other, and the boys sleeping upstairs in the attic. The house was small, with no bathroom (they used a two seater outhouse in the back yard) and a cistern in the front yard. They raised most of what they needed on the farm with cows for milk, chickens for eggs, and a garden for fresh vegetable in the summer and canned ones in the winter.

Later, he and my uncles would built a larger, six bedroom, 2 1/2 bath house on the next hill over, where my Grandmother and my Uncle Eddie still live.

Callous hands told the story
For this small town Southern man
He gave it all to keep it all together
And keep his family on his land
Like his daddy, years wore out his body
Made it hard just to walk and stand
You can break the back
But you can't break the spirit
Of a small town Southern man

He farmed for a large part of his life, but also realized that farming wasn't going to bring in enough to feed his family So he and three of my uncles built houses. My Grandfather, with nothing more than a seventh grade education, would figure out cost, square footage, and materials in his head.

They still farmed, planting tobacco, corn, and tomatoes and gradually down sizing as farming became less and less lucrative. As time went by, the farm became more of a large garden and my Grandfather sold pieces of the land to his children to start their own families.

As you might expect, with 11 children, he had several grandchildren as well (30 in all). With all that experience, by the time I came along more than half way through, he had the grandfather thing down pat. He was the kind of Granddad that every kid wants. He indulged me and my sister (and all of his grandkids for that matter) to the point of driving my mother crazy. More than once, we would disappear after dinner only to be found later hiding in the pantry with Grandad feeding us ice cream and cookies after dinner. He was always good for a hug or a cuddle, and could usually gain us a few extra minutes before bed time. He loved to fish and he loved to take us fishing and there was never a time that I asked to go fishing that he didn't agree, no matter how hot it might be.

By the time I came along, he spent most of his time working in the garden or in his shop where he built all sorts of self designed nicknack's. He loved working with his hands, and his "nicknack's" were a hot commodity in and out of the family. But as the years went by his weight (he had always, in my memory at least, been heavy) and his active life began to take its toll. He had knee problems, among other things, making it hard for him to move around. Still, he made time to be with his family, which was the most important thing to him. With so much of the family living so close, the house was always busy with people in and out. That was just the way he liked it. He loved his family and he loved having them around him.

Finally death came callin'
For this small town Southern man
He said it's alright 'cause I see angels
And they got me by the hand
Don't you cry, and don't you worry
I'm blessed, and I know I am
'Cause God has a place in Heaven
For a small town Southern man

Four years ago, about this time of year, his health finally gave out, and after a few short stays in the hospital, he died at home, surrounded by his family. It was a sad occasion. To have lost such a part of the family left us all with a hole that we didn't quite know how to fill. But he was a man of deep faith which he passed on to his family and we found comfort in the knowledge that he was with God in the end. For surely, if anyone deserved to go to Heaven, it was my Grandfather.

And he bowed his head to Jesus
And he stood for Uncle Sam
And he only loved one woman
He was always proud of what he had
He said his greatest contribution
Is the ones you leave behind
Raised on the ways and gentle kindness
Of a small town Southern man

This is my all time favorite picture of my Grandfather.

My Dad (on the left in the blue shirt), his siblings (minus his oldest brother), and his mother.

Me and my Grandad on his beanbag in the floor.

Making the Bar-b-que sauce for the meat at the Fancy Farm Picnic.

And with his hat (always cocked to the side) and his smile.

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