In 1959 I was 7 years old.
In those years during tobacco planting time, kids would “carry water”. This was in the days before the tractor drawn equipment, when a hand planter, some called it a setter was used. It was fabricated from sheet metal and had a reservoir that would hold about 2 1/2 or 3 gallons of water with a cylindrical tube where the plants would be “dropped”. The bottom of the planter would be set on the ground then pushed into the ridge we call the ‘list’ where the fertilizer had been put. When the trigger was pulled on the handle, the bottom of the planter would open like a
fish’s mouth and release a predetermined amount of water with the plant.
Our family ran a little country store and there was an older gentleman who lived just up the road , Mr. Jess Knight.
When he came by the store on Sunday He ask me if I would carry water for them the next afternoon when I got in from school, he said he would give me twenty five cents an hour. When I got home that day one of my cousins got off the bus with me and we ran to ask Mr. Jess if he could use both of us. He said that he could.
On the back of the farm trailer he had three or four 55 gallon barrels filled with water. We would fill up our buckets and carry them across the field and pour them in the planters as they needed it, it took a bucket to completely refill the planter. I would pour my water in the planter and immediately go back and get another in order to have it there when Mr. Jess and his wife Miss Mag would run out. After a few trips I had it timed pretty good. Those buckets filled with water would probably weigh about 20 to 25 pounds and walking through the plowed land being off balance with the bucket was a little tough.
Mr. Jess was swapping work with his brother Hamp and his wife (Practically all who planted tobacco swapped work with another family to save money in those days) my cousin was to carry water to them. Several times he would get back and fill up his bucket then “bat rocks” (in those days all kids batted rocks, Just get a stick and pitch a small rock up in the air and hit it like you would a baseball. (I probably batted at least 25 dump truck loads while I was waiting for the school bus) Hamp would have to call him to bring water. I kept Mr. Jess and Miss Mag supplied.
We worked for 3 hours that afternoon and when we finished Mr. Jess called us over to “settle up”. As he reached into his pocket he called my cousin by name and said now I am going to give you what I told you I would, but I’m disappointed that Hamp had to stop and call for you several times; then he gave him 3 quarters. Then he said “Now Doug, I’m going to give you the seventy five cents I promised but I’m going to give you a bonus because we never had to call you once and you even filled Hamp's planter two or three times, you were there every time we looked around. He promptly pulled his billfold from his bibbed overalls breast pocket and gave me a clean crisp dollar bill.
That dollar bill was only a quarter more, but to have folding money, that felt like a lot more. Then he said “let this be a lesson to you boys“.
This was a wonderful early lessons that has served me each day of my life and I have Mr. Jess Knight to thank for it.