This information was found in September, 2000, at http://www.laplaza.org/community/elders/. That URL was "not found" in September, 2000.  The LaPlaza server administration tried to help me find the appropriate contact individual, but we were unsuccessful.  Because the information is of interest to Sevier County researchers, it is posted here.  No copyright infringement is intended.  If someone can point the Webmistress to the appropriate person, she will request permission.


THE * CyberSenior * REVIEW ******* VOLUME 4 NUMBER 9 (#21) July 1999

by Glen Keener

Odd that even Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable does not carry the term "To make do" there between "To make bold" and "To make for."  No dictionaries have it that I have found, either.  It is a term much used in my family though, and it often came up in reminiscences of the years between WWI and the end of WWII.

My maternal grandfather lost his farm in Missouri to mortgage foreclosure just after WWI, due to bad crop years and depressed prices for broomcorn, hemp and pork.  He went to work for the trolley car company in St. Louis then, as a mechanic and driver for the executives (one had to repair the cars in those days to be a chauffeur) for a few months.  Grandad also played baseball for the St. Louis Browns farm team in spare time. After saving a bit, he moved to Oklahoma where my grandmother's sister lived, to farm again on sharecrop basis.  My mother was born there, just outside Gage, OK, in a sod house Grandad had "renovated."  They made do in the sod house for a couple of years, until he could trade his machinery repair skills for an old frame house, with the proviso that he move it away.  He did so, and attracted a crowd and the local newspaper by jacking up the house, putting some wheels under it, assembling a large team of horses with attendant hitching system and pulling the house down the road three miles to a new location.  This involved getting it up a grade where block and tackle was required for mechanical advantage.  At the new site he left the house on jacks until he could build a foundation to fit and simply let it down.  He had devised his own jacks, too, from large bolts and plates.

 The wheat crops didn't do too well in Oklahoma, either, so Grandad moved on to eastern Colorado, where the land was better and irrigation provided more return for the labor involved.  Five more daughters were born there, and finally a son.  There was also at least one stillborn child, and perhaps more, but that was never discussed with me.  Grandad didn't have the sons to help with the farm work, being still on a sharecrop basis, so he made do by teaching every girl in the family to ride, harness and handle horses, use machinery, do farm carpentry, and scoop sugar beets, just like boys.  He never really got ahead farming, but did better working as a mechanic repairing tractors and farm equipment.  None of the children finished high school though all of went on to have businesses or skills of their own.  I was raised in this milieu of strong, confident, able women.

Grandad smoked Prince Albert tobacco in a pipe a lot, to the point that it wore down his front teeth.  I saw him bite the pipe bit in two one day in a field:  He was trying to get a Ford tractor to run, despite oil fouling of the spark plug (worn rings and valve guides.....I know 'cuz I helped overhaul the engine, later) and had "made do" by inserting a piece of canvas between the plug and distributor wire to increase the gap to the terminal of the plug to increase the voltage of the circuit.  Well, the voltage was pretty high on those old magneto ignition systems anyway, and it hit him hard enough that he shattered the pipe bit with a bite reaction.  I laughed so hard that I barely managed the agility to dodge the dirt clods flung my way.

My father, from Tennessee, had left home at an early age because of a dislike for farming and the tight-knit (read intrusive) family and community of the East Tennessee hill country (Sevier County, home of Dolly Parton) and frankly, I deduced from some comments made that he had gotten into some kind of trouble as a young teen-ager,  best left behind.  For a couple of years he followed the harvest season with a threshing crew, which worked up from Texas in early summer all the way into the Dakotas in the fall.  He met my mother in Colorado. He came back to marry her and they moved to Tennessee then, where Dad worked in a rock quarry, at only a few cents an hour.  He made do by  taking home the boxes that the dynamite came in, to make cabinets and furniture for their home.  I was born in that sturdy little cabin on the Chapman Highway which runs from Knoxville to Sevierville.  I visited it in the early Fifties, and noted that the cabinets still had "Hercules" and "DuPont." printed on them.

The depression of the early Thirties required us to make do with some additional income whilst Dad was away on construction jobs.  I suspect he "rode the rails" a bit then, though he would not talk about it with me.  In later years I heard him, with his pals at late night poker, speak very knowledgeably about hobo jungles and how to catch the right train, make hobo stew and hide from the "dicks."  He was also a binge drinker and would go off on a "toot" for days or weeks at a time.  He was willing to do the dirty work of rock drilling and dynamite handling though, so followed construction jobs on tunnels and roads.  Mom had to establish her own basis of support for us, and she made do by doing what she did well....she grew vegetables and sold them from a roadside stand on Chapman Highway.  I recall getting very itchy skin from the irritation of Kentucky Wonder pole beans as I crawled and wormed among them to pick snap beans.  Mom also had a small  following of folks  who liked her "preserves" and would ask for them when they stopped.

I went to high school in northeastern Colorado, (Michener's Centennial country) living with my maternal grandad.  He needed the help on the farm and Mom and Dad were moving around quite a bit to follow construction jobs and I really liked farming.  It kept me out of the draft in WWII as I was the only male help the Grandad had when he was partially incapacitated with a heart ailment .... It didn't hurt that the owner of the farm was on the local draft board.

 Through some bad years Grandad had not even been able to afford coal to burn for heat or cooking and burned corncobs.  Corncobs also worked to smoke the pork.  I helped by trapping muskrats for a dollar and a half a hide (good ones) and I shall never forget those cold, clear, Colorado mornings, at three A.M., breaking the ice in the seep ditch to get stiffened rats out of the water.  Odd, I could never bring myself to eat them, although our Native Americans considered them quite palatable (I did eat the same type of animal in Vietnam....and it was goooood!).  There was bounty on coyotes, too and I could manage to get about ten dollars a week.  Five or so went into wartime savings coupons.  Eventually a bond could be purchased from them.  I felt bad about missing my duties in WWII and enlisted for the Korean Conflict, and Grandad retired from farming, quite broke.

 Grandad even then continued to work on machinery repair and would go around "horse trading" machinery, cars and trucks and dispensing advice on animal husbandry.  He also played banjo, guitar, fiddle and mandolin and was in a square dance band that played the Oddfellows Halls every Saturday night.  He was a good caller and was requested at other events.  He could put on a ten-minute soft shoe, too, in a vaudevillian hoofer style, which he said he learned as a boy in Missouri by practicing on a plank by a creek every day while he waited for the cattle to drink.  Grandad liked his wine:  He carried, in his overalls bib pocket, an old, slim Alka-Seltzer bottle, the kind that stacked one tablet on top of another, and in that bottle, Roma brand port wine.  He refilled it at noon and the ten ounces or so a day took him well into his seventies when he died of a heart attack.

Grammaw made do, too, picking greens along the edges of the fields and ditch banks (dandelion, lambs quarter, sourdoc, Russian thistles, and various other plants) I can't remember the names of.  She also made her own laundry soap, out of lard and Red Devil lye, as well as the numerous concoctions for any of us who fell ill.  I never had to wear an asafetida necklace, but I have had to drink my teaspoonfuls of kerosene!  She could handle horses as well as any man, and stick a bloated cow just the right place to save it.  Around the coal oil lamps at night, her voice was most melodious in singing those old hymns, accompanied by Grandad on the guitar.  I recognized a good number of her songs, too, during the folk music popularity of the Sixties and Seventies.  Her hands were never still: when not cooking, washing or ironing, she knitted, crocheted or sewed while sitting.  She made quilts for everyone in the family....mine was gold yellow and brown.

Dad never appreciated barbecues, as he said he did not like to stand around an open fire and eat and drink like a hobo, nor did camping out ever appeal to him.  This was a period of my father's life of which he would not speak.  He had a strong repugnance of being "on the dole" and would not take any charity or government assistance.  I remember he was rather grim about one relative who had done so and did not properly hide the government packaging of the flour, lard and cornmeal in her cupboards.  We were never totally out of food, but sometimes "made do" with fatback, hogjowl, beans and water gravy for days.  He would take any job for wage or payment in kind, as I recall.  Those southern boys were like that then, and furnished much of the labor for the dirty, dangerous construction jobs up north, where labor unions would not allow the locals to work in the bad conditions that construction companies thought necessary.  Dad lost his hearing from working in tunnels running pneumatic rock drills with no hearing protection and died from complications of silicosis of the lungs as the result of unprotected breathing of rock dust.  His lifelong addiction to Camel cigarettes did not help!

Making do has been so very important at so many periods in so many lives of the depression generation, I wonder that Brewer's does not have a definition for it.  I'd like to pen in a definition on the page margin... ...anybody have a succinct note for it?  Send it to me (and to Brewer's for their next edition).

Part 2  'Making do'  in Tennessee will be included in the next issue of The CyberSenior Review.  (not found on-line)

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